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Day 26, Wednesday June 14, 2017:
Hot Springs, South Dakota -> Scotts Bluff, Nebraska -> Chimney Rock, Bayard, Minatare -> Scottsbluff, Nebraska

The wind died down overnight and we were off for a new day. The first destination was The Mammoth Site. It was just down the road, nearly in sight of the hotel. After a movie we were in for our tour of the site. The theory is that there was a pit, perhaps a warm hot spring that mammoths would visit and fall into. For some reason, every mammoth identified so far is a male. It was another dig site in a building with overhead boardwalks for visitor viewing. This was a led tour. The tour guides were scripted but very polished high school age youngsters. It being a shallow site these bones are not fossilized. Aside from the tour we were able to wander the dig site afterwards, visit the museum section including a trip down to the preservation lab and then the inevitable gift shop blocking the exit. The gift shop even offered reproduction bones, have your own mammoth skeleton, just collect all the piece! There was a map and it was surprising to see how widespread mammoth finds have been, including Maine.

We had noticed small signs beyond the shoulder that said THINK and they were often surrounded by memorial shrines. I had been noticing them through or time in South Dakota. The state of South Dakota posts such a sign for each motor vehicle highway fatality to remind people that bad things happen when we don't think about what we are doing while driving. The sign can be removed at the request of immediate surviving family but otherwise it stands for its life or until major work changes the roadway.

Travelling into Nebraska we go onto a section of the Bridges to Buttes Byway. We missed the bridges but did pass through a few small places and saw a lot of grasslands that led us to our destination. At times it seemed that the grasslands went to the horizon in every direction. The view would occasionally be broken by a roadside tree line but nothing you'd call a wooded area. Trees when seen were usually part of the landscaping of a property, present or past. The sights were occasional: an older often abandoned home or business, some hay bales waiting to be taken or a dozen or so head of cattle. The lay of the land and feeling of place does seem to change with each state line. Some of this is probably perception but it's still odd to sense man made lines of demarcation as having this effect.

Early afternoon brought us to the town of Scotts Bluff Nebraska. It a small city of 15,000 or so with other surrounding towns. We were looking for lunch someplace unique and local when there stood Scotty's Hamburgers, an old school Drive-In hamburger joint. Carport, outside tables, dining room and cool flying saucer thingies above the signs, back to the 60's! We showed up in the midafternoon slump but there was still traffic and lunch was good the Scotty Burger was good and I can see how a place like this has a local following.

It was time to get to Scott's Bluff National Historic Monument on the edge of town. After checking in at the gate it was up the summit road. Carved into the side of the bluff with 3 tunnels and sheer rock walls alongside many parts it was a nice ride. This is another site that was a monument used by westward pioneers to travel by. We parked, walked the summit rim trail and took pictures without getting blown away by the stiff wind. They do know how to make wind out west. The museum had lots of exhibits of the history, a 3D model made by a local school from precision cut layers of cardboard that were stacked and glued to form a 3D relief map model. The video showed more history of the site including it's role on the Oregon Trail.

Back in town we found our room then dinner at Whisky Creek, we both found what we wanted on the menu and it was good and the atmosphere restful.

What is one to do in Scotts Bluff on a long late spring evening? Go sightseeing of course! Chimney Rock is to the east and tomorrow we head west so it was now or never. 25 miles east on State route 92 and down the access road and there it was. The place was closed but it's hard to hide what looks like a small volcano that has a pointed phallic symbol as a topper. It is the Chimney Rock National Historic Site, a Nebraska State Historical Society operation. We got out to stretch, take some pictures and read the sign warning that rattlesnakes were common in the area.

On the way back we enjoyed the trip sightseeing. I found a cool shot of a windmill over the railroad tracks and through a grove of trees. There were Pony Express, Chimney Rock and Oregon Trail historic markers that we stopped to read. There was an array of buttes that were ripe for imaging with the western sun playing on them.

Something about the name Minitare made we want to go down the road to this suburb of Scotts Bluff. The little town of less than 1000 is mainly agriculture. With the railroad, grain elevators and a large feed distributor seeming to be the industry along with general agriculture. We got to watch a long train of coal pass at the crossing. The village had many simple homes on modest properties. The downtown looked old with many vacant spaces. The highway space seemed similar with closed motels and restaurants. If felt like this town became just another extra small place between the bigger stops.

With that it was a stop for gasoline, ice and snacks before retiring at the hotel for downloads, back-ups and the last round of laundry!

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Created June 14,2017