Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Taking the Bitter with the Better

Before my first trip to Europe many years ago, my Aunt May gave me this advice: “Take the bitter with the better.” Plans sometimes go awry. You may experience disappointments, delays or cancellations, she said. I guess I took her words to heart because more than forty years later all I recall are the wonderful memories.

“Take the bitter with the better” has been my travel mantra ever since. On my recent trip out west, the advice was well taken, especially when a forest fire at the eastern gate of Yellowstone National Park and a few road closures meant a detour and a long ride to the western entrance. Disappointed? Of course. But as a result of the detour an unplanned and a relaxing day at the Old Faithful Inn allowed the opportunity to take a tour of the hotel and learn about its unusual history and design by an untrained and inexperienced architect. The seventy-six feet height of the inn lobby is supported by lodgepole pines. There’s even a tree house high above the lobby and a huge fireplace.

One of my main reasons for selecting this tour was the chance to raft down the Snake River but snow and cold cancelled the plans. “Take the bitter with the better,” I muttered.

Overall, of course, the trip was wonderful. After all these years I finally saw Mount Rushmore up close (which, in actuality is not really that close unless you zoom in with camera or binoculars).

The Crazy Horse Memorial is an amazing monument that’s been in construction for 60 years with no apparent timeline for its completion. Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear, upon seeing Mount Rushmore, declared “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, also.” A sculptor named Korczak Ziolkowski was hired and today his family continues his work.

The Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana is quite moving. The battlefield memorializes one of the last armed efforts of the Northern Plains Indians to preserve their ancestral way of life. In 1876, more than 260 soldiers and U.S. Army personnel, led by Lt. Col.George Armstrong Custer, met defeat and death at the hands of several thousand Lakota and Cheyenne warriors. The battle is often referred as “Custer’s Last Stand,” Although the Indians won the battle, they subsequently lost the war against the military’s efforts to end their independent, nomadic way of life.”

The rest of the trip took us through glorious vistas and the amazing expanse and beauty of this country.

My traveling companions and I did not let the “bitter” overtake the “better.” Changes in travel plans often don’t really matter. Sometimes, they’re a blessing.