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Black Hills National Forest
One of South Dakota's treasures, the Black Hills National Forest offers splendid opportunities for hiking, biking and camping. The areas most notable attraction, though, is the Crazy Horse Memorial. Rising out of the foothills in the southwestern corner of the state, the memorial consists of a massive statue of Crazy Horse, the Sioux leader famous for orchestrating the demise of General George Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn. The statue, carved out of the mountainside, already dwarfs Mount Rushmore, while providing a revisionist twist to the latter's celebration of dead white males. Begun in 1948, the memorial is still in progress. There's a museum at the site, which is just north of the town of Custer.
Once infamous for its 'burning river' of the 1950s and '60s, Cleveland has overcome its image as an environmental disaster area and now boasts one of the country's most all-American attractions: the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Among its displays are Janis Joplin's Porsche, a kaleidoscopic, candy-colored acid trip on wheels, as well as Elvis' black leather 'Comeback Special' suite and Ray Charles' sunglasses. Why Cleveland? 'Cause it's the hometown of Alan Freed, the disk jockey who popularized the term 'rock and roll' in the early 1950s.plus some heavy lobbying by the mayor. If you're a fan of IM Pei, you'll love the record-player-shaped building.
If the strip-mall chintz of small-town Arizona leaves you dry, drop in on Flagstaff, a cultural oasis in this otherwise arid landscape. The historic downtown area, harking back to the town's early days as a railroad whistle stop, comes as a welcome relief from the region's dusty motels and truckstop diners. In this neighborhood, antique inns sidle up against vegetarian cafes, and you're more likely to hear strains of a local jazz combo than any rumble of RV traffic. And as the novelty of nontouristy downtown wears thin, there's always a visit to the Lowell Observatory, where in 1930 the planet Pluto was discovered, or a stroll through the 200 blissfully green acres at the local arboretum.Flagstaff makes a great base for day trips, since the Southwest's greatest attraction, the Grand Canyon, is less than a two-hour drive away. Within an hour of town you can explore ancient Anasazi and Sinagua Indian pueblos; marvel at the site of a mile-wide meteor crater; hike, bike and ski some of the state's most pristine mountains and forests; and even have your chakras realigned in the New Age mecca of Sedona.
Out where the Sierras drop straight down into the sagebrush of eastern California's Owens Valley, truckers, hunters and road-trippers cruise Hwy 395. Though the road runs several thousand miles from the northern fringes of the Los Angeles basin to the Canadian border, the best leg stretches 250mi (400km) between Lone Pine, in the shadow of 14,500ft (4350m) Mt Whitney, and Carson City, Nevada. You can reenact scenes from Gunga Din and How the West Was Won, both shot in the Alabama Hills just west of Lone Pine, where's there's a film festival every October.The Manzanar National Historic Site, about half an hour's drive north of Lone Pine, consists of the remains of one of the infamous 'relocation' camps in which American citizens of Japanese descent were imprisoned during WWII. A little farther on is the funky Eastern California Museum, a mixed bag of displays on natural history, Paiute Indian basketry and ancient Milk of Magnesia bottles. If you've still got a nest egg left when you reach Carson City, east of Lake Tahoe just over the Nevada border, let it ride at one of the town's many casinos.
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