Mission Patch

After layover and replenishment, the Henry Bull departed home port Centralia, Washington on a voyage of exploration. Captain John "Bridge" Martin, his son, Navigator Dan Martin, and grandson Schuyler, Apprentice traversed several Western States, returning to home port, Centralia, on August 31, 2017.

Voyage of the
Sub-Mole-Rine

John "Bridge" Martin

As published in the ERB-apa


The Author's Vacation and Exploration
in Some Lands Known to
Edgar Rice Burroughs


Footnotes follow paragraphs where they appear.

1: Everywhere is ERB Country

While those in Houston and elsewhere were inundated by rising waters,* it was fire and smoke for the people in places like Montana, with half of the "Big Sky" canopy of The Treasure State a mass of grey that made the tops of mountains and distant horizons appear as if they'd been painted by a novice who used too much water in the watercolors.

* Referencing Hurricane Harvey

It was into this region we ventured in the Sub-Mole-Rine, seeking out Edgar Rice Burroughs's worlds of adventure, knowing that some of the things which were true of the many worlds of which he wrote would also be true of some wild regions of the United States.

We three were guys who happened to be related. There was Schuyler, not yet a professor but with a name that at least sounded professorish, and Dan, his father, the navigator. Me, I was the master planner, the head honcho, since I am the owner of the Sub-Mole-Rine and the chief backer of the expedition, which was designed to broaden the outlook of the recently graduated Schuyler, prior to his entry into further education.

And part of his education was that the name Schuyler itself is apparently reserved for those who do scholarly work and are too studious to venture into tourist areas. For at all souvenir stands along the way, where coffee mugs, key chain fobs or other items were for sale, featuring the names of everyone under the sun, including John and Dan, there were none to be found with the name of Schuyler. It was obvious that the manufacturers consider that people named Schuyler are too intelligent to purchase such tailored kitsch.

From Washington State, the trusty vehicle sped into Northern Idaho on I-90. The Sub-Mole-Rine, christened the Henry Bull, is a unique vehicle designed to enter the realms of Edgar Rice Burroughs, able to plow beneath the water, to places such as Caspak; tunnel through the earth, enroute to locations such as Pellucidar, and travel overland on the Earth, like Barney Custer, Tarzan and even ERB himself.

Idaho is one of only two states with a panhandle.* While Oklahoma's handle is positioned to be ready for cooking (though the bottom appears to have been left on the burner too long), Idaho's is upright, as if hanging on a wall. And a wall is a good place for it, since its shape is such that no one would wish to use it for cooking.

* In addition to Idaho and Oklahoma, Texas and Florida also have panhandles.

One-hundred seventy-five miles south of I-90 lies the broad bottom of Idaho, otherwise known as Edgar Rice Burroughs Country, where the great man dwelt as a storekeeper in the eastern Idaho city of Pocatello, a cowboy in the rolling hills of the Raft River area in central Idaho, and a city councilman in the western town of Parma. No, the adventurers would not be heading through that region of Idaho this trip, although there is plenty relating to ERB that has been discovered and plenty more waiting to be found there. While the ERB haunts of old in Southern Idaho, along I-80, have been explored by modern-day ERB fans, we have yet to find the exact spot where he drove tent peg holes along the Salmon River in the shadow of the Sawtooth Mountains, in which he and Emma could dwell while he built a cabin.

Even the Craters of the Moon National Monument, 75 miles north of Pocatello, seldom explored by modern ERB fans, were given the once- or twice-over in 2011 when John Tyner II and Joan "the V" Bledig visited it to reconnoiter for the 2011 Dum-Dum. And, during the Pocatello Dum-Dum itself, one of its ancient volcanic cones was climbed by adventurers three: Bill Ross, Mike Conran and J.G. "Huck" Huckenpohler.

They did not report seeing a vision of Nah-ee-lah riding a Va-gas across the rumpled landscape, but likely got some idea of the exterior of the Moon, within which dwell the invaders who will yet come to Earth and wreak a reign of terror and deprivation upon this world, as ERB has warned us in The Moon Maid trilogy. Alas, his warning goes largely unheeded.

As for the tent and cabin, we read in Robert Fenton's biography of ERB and Tarzan:

"Ed and Emma first went to Mackay and then to the Stanley Basin in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains, to work with his brothers in gold-dredging operations on the Salmon River."

He said they "...pitched a tent on a hill while he built a cabin, 'the construction of which was original and not too successful but timber was plentiful and I felled what I needed at no great distance from our cabin site'."

As for the remainder of ERB country in the south, one can search the term "Edgar Rice Burroughs Country" for my past articles at erbzine.com, as well as "The Burroughs Bulletin" Nos. 88, 89 and 90, which detail the findings of Tyner and Bledig, intermixed with actual photos and accounts of Bibliophiles members from the Idaho Dum-Dum.

But there are other worlds of ERB, or at least worlds reminiscent of ERB, and the reader is invited to follow the adventures of the crew of the Henry Bull.

2: Silver Threads Amongst the Gold

While Edgar Rice Burroughs sought to draw gold from beneath the eddies and currents of the Snake and Salmon Rivers in southern Idaho, miners in Wallace, Idaho, in the northern Panhandle sought silver.

The town of Wallace is proud of its heritage of silver mining as well as still pretty much dependent upon it, since the whole town seems to exist for the purpose of drawing silver from tourists simply on the basis that a silver mine was once there.

At the westernmost freeway exit stands an enticing area which resembles a miniature golf course although the various, brightly colored displays are of old mining equipment rather than windmills and other obstacles past which someone might try to maneuver a dimpled spheroid.

A building at the western entrance to the town is partly visitors center, where an enthusiastic native may attempt to persuade visitors of the wisdom of spending the rest of their vacation right there in Wallace, with the other part of the building having restrooms to cater to that other periodic need of explorers who aren't towing vehicles with all the comforts of home.

The town itself features a number of vintage-looking stores, some of which probably sell old ERB books, although we don't know because we couldn't stay long enough to explore them all (ripe pickings for someone else!).

Driving around several square blocks of the small downtown area, we were most impressed by the big sign on the store called Fonk's, which, in its window below the sign, encouraged us to examine Fonk's Fabulous Finds. So we did. Fonk's had some amazing things in its display windows but these turned out to be a Wallace, Idaho, version of clickbait, since the window displays featured the only interesting things the store had. Inside, 90 per cent of the fabulous finds turned out to be racks of little girls' dresses.

We moved from there to a pawn shop full of antiques and its rack full of comics that no one would want. Well picked over, it would seem.

Across the street, though, was the Mining Museum, and this we were determined to explore. It was well worth the token admission price and we marveled at a cutaway which shows how deep the silver mine actually was and convinced me that under no circumstances would I ever want to be a miner in such a place. I may be John, but I'm not Big John, and have no desire to grab a sagging timber and give out with a shove!

The museum also featured strange tools that, while enormous, did look as if they could be operated by one strong man or two or three less strong men and, if miniature versions exist, could well be found in a dentist's office.

But time beckoned us on and so at last we bid adieu to the charming town, not taking the time to also check out the railroad museum in the old depot or take the trolley ride up to the mine entrance. We did, however, make it a point to stop at a dairy bar to acquire, for each of us, a milkshake made with fresh huckleberries, a panhandle staple.

3: A Land Not Quite Forgotten

In pre-planning the expedition, I easily found places to go and things to see by googling the word "attractions" along with the name of whatever city we would visit. And so, when I googled Bozeman Montana attractions I found something called the Museum of the Rockies.

Thanks to research by ERB historian and scholar Alan Hanson, we know that ERB only actually mentioned Montana once in his writings. Quoting from Alan's contribution to ERBapa 56 (Part 2 of "ERB and the 50 States," Alan wrote:

"On seeing a huge creature in Caspak, Bradley observed, 'It's a tyrannosaurus. Saw picture of skeleton in magazine. There's one in New York Natural History Museum. Seems to me it said it was found in place called Hell Creek, somewhere in western North America.'

"Sinclair, a fellow American sailor, responded, 'Hell Creek's in Montana.' (from The Land That Time Forgot.)

Here be dragons, and giants, and their kin, at the museum, along with rooms of more common exhibits, such as a few vintage autos, old cannon, and so forth.

Montana is a rich archaeological area, as Bradley and Sinclair alluded to, and the claim was made that many of the assembled skeletons, or parts of skeletons, came from digs in that very state, although I suspected some of them had actually been acquired in Caspak or Pal-ul-don.

There was T-Rex himself and, in addition, a couple of extra T-Rex heads which were about four feet high from bottom of jaw to top of head. One bite would just about take care of a human, as was the case for poor John Tippet, the Englishman who was killed by a tyrannosaurus in 1916, as reported in The Land that Time Forgot.

Here too was the RV-size gryf that Tarzan had encountered in Pal-ul-don in Tarzan the Terrible. The scientific name for these beasts is Triceratops, and if the specimens in the museum were not actual gryfs they were at least close relatives.

Tarzan's more common foes were featured in another vast cavern of the museum, with various crocodiles, some stuffed, some real. Crocs don't move unless they have to so it took a bit of examination to determine that some of the beasts in this area were not simply stuffed, but actually living. Fortunately, the croc in the center was not alive, for he was not caged, and would have wrought terrible destruction.

Overall, the museum visit was a terrifying experience, yet satisfying, to think of the brave ERB heroes who had come across and battled such behemoths and leviathans.

Finally, there was the museum's Planetarium, where one could gaze skyward and imagine himself streaking through space to Mars, the world of ERB's Barsoom novels. And once that scene had been played on the large, round overhead screen, it was easy to shut one's eyes and dream of John Carter and Ulysses Paxton, each of whom soared to Mars, and it was also easy to allow one to drift off to much needed sleep for the remainder of the half-hour program to recover from an hour or two of walking around the museum complex.

4: Realm of the Cave Bear

Besides the variation in weight, what is the difference between a 300-pound grizzly bear and an 800-pound grizzly bear?

Not much. Not much at all.

Bella and Brutus were two of the five bears who live at Montana Grizzly Encounter, about 11 miles east of Bozeman, Montana. Bella, said the keeper, weighed in at 300 while Brutus, her friend, was an 800-pounder. But to look at them one might have guessed a differential of 200 pounds, not 500. The point is, a mature grizzly bear looks like it's about 800 pounds, whether it actually is or not.* And a 300-pounder could just as easily rend a human victim from limb to limb as its bigger counterpart.

Bella and Brutus were out in the large "yard" at Grizzly Encounter when we arrived. We didn't see the other three bears, or even Goldilocks for that matter, since they were secured in their "den," as the bears are grouped with whichever other bears they get along with. Otherwise, bear fights can break out and while they might be entertaining for spectators they are not healthy for the bears themselves.

After Bella and Brutus have been out in the open air long enough, their den door is opened and they go back in when they're ready, lured by food and the opportunity to do one of the things bears enjoy — sleep. There is no one who goes out with a whip and a chair to encourage the bears to go inside. They go when they're ready, and not until. Then, and only then, are the other bears allowed to come out.

These two bears, along with the bears at Zoo Montana in Billings and the ones at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in the town of West Yellowstone, are reminiscent of the prehistoric cave bear bested by Tarzan in "Tarzan at the Earth's Core."

The Canaveral edition of that book is an important part of one's collection. Henry Hardy Heins, author of "A Golden Anniversary Bibliography of Edgar Rice Burroughs," points out that the Frank Frazetta illustration opposite page 158 of the Canaveral shows one stage of Tarzan's battle with the cave bear on the cliff ledge, while his color cover for the Ace paperback, published a couple of months later, shows the final stage. (Heins, pg. 72)

The battle was one which took all of Tarzan's skill and used every one of his weapons and was helped along by a little bit of luck.

First, Tarzan shot four arrows into the beast, then hurled his spear at it. The apeman then ran down the ledge, the wounded bear in pursuit. He used his grass rope to snag its lasso on a projection above and started climbing. (Then, the chapter ends and the reader has to wait until the end of Chapter XI The Cavern of Clovi, for the finish of the fight.) As chapter XI begins, the rope broke, dumping Tarzan onto the bear's back, where he was able to finish it off with his knife.

No exact poundage is given for Tarzan's bear, probably because Abner Perry had not yet invented a scale big enough to weigh it, nor was Perry handy at this particular time to even pull out his homemade tape measure, but the bear is described as "huge," "giant" and "mighty."

ERB wrote: "Tarzan's first impression was that in all his life he had never gazed upon such a picture of savage bestial rage as was depicted upon the snarling countenance of the mighty cave bear as its fiery eyes fell upon the author of its hurt."

Internet sources describe the weight of an average prehistoric cave bear as between 770 to 1,320 pounds, with exceptional ones achieving as many as 1,800 pounds. So the beast Tarzan faced was at least the size of Brutus and perhaps several hundred pounds more.*

* The Alaskan Kodiak, a brown bear, is physically the same size as prehistoric cave bears, though perhaps 100-200 pounds lighter.

The bears incarcerated in various facilities in Montana are not simply captured to become freak shows but usually have somewhat of a history that makes it impractical for them to be released into the wild. The only alternative other than a life in a compound is euthanasia.

The people in Montana seem to love their bears, though, and take good care of the ones who have to be placed where they cannot hurt anyone.

Coram, one of the bears at Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, West Yellowstone, had begun making a habit of visiting people's homes to eat everything from dog food to garbage. Efforts to return him to the wild — far, far from civilization — proved unsuccessful. Like the cat who came back, Coram found his way cross-country back to where people live.

The Discovery Center also employs its bears in a useful activity designed to help other bears. The Center constantly experiments by placing a "food reward" inside a "secure" container, such as a special ice chest or garbage can, and leaving it in the bear arena. These containers are provided to the Center by manufacturers who try to develop bear-proof food and garbage containers.

When the bears are released, they can smell the treat inside (fresh fruit, fish, or similar reward) and they attempt to open the container with claws, their teeth, their weight or any combination of those things. Many times, the bears are successful. But sometimes they are unable to open a container, and the Discovery Center then is able to inform the manufacturer that it has found a way that homeowners can secure garbage or other edibles outside that will discourage bears from thinking of homes as a place for free food.

On the day we visited, one of the bears worked for about 30 minutes on a well-protected cooler and never did get it open while we were there. After we left, who knows?

In the stone age world of Pellucidar, food is probably highly valued because it is difficult to come by and so the Pellucidarians are not likely to have many leftovers to toss in the trash and, thus, camp followers, whether cave bears or smaller fry, are less likely to seek such settlements out for their trash, although they might indeed wish to haunt them for fresh human meat.

5: Riding with the 7th Cavalry

Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickok, George Armstrong Custer and Edgar Rice Burroughs were all linked in one way or another with the U.S. 7th Cavalry. The first three were contemporaries and acquaintances or friends as well. Cody and Custer both served in the 7th Cavalry. Hickok served Custer as a scout during Indian wars and later related to the 7th Cavalry in a different way when he wounded one Cavalryman and fatally shot another in self-defense in a bar fight. That was in the decade of the 1860s up into the 1870s.

A few years later, in 1896, Edgar Rice Burroughs came along and served with the 7th further south, at Ft. Grant, Arizona, for a couple of years, chasing Apaches.

Custer and Hickok were both featured in television series, Guy Madison playing the marshal in "The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok" from 1951 to 1958 and Wayne Maunder playing "Custer" for 17 episodes in a short-lived series that ran in the fall of 1967. The historic Buffalo Bill never got a TV series, although there was "Buffalo Bill Jr.", no relation to the buffalo killer but named for him, in a 1955-56 series starring Dick Jones. There was also a 1983-84 series called "Buffalo Bill" but it was about a modern-day egotistical talk show host played by Dabney Coleman, as opposed to an egotistical westerner once played by Paul Newman in a movie.

Edgar Rice Burroughs never had a TV series about his life, but he certainly had shows about his most famous character, Tarzan of the Apes, as well as radio shows and movies. Wolf Larson, Ron Ely, Joe Lara and Travis Fimmel have all donned the loin cloth for Tarzan TV series of varying quality, and Gordon Scott shot three episodes of a proposed series that was combined for a movie instead.

ERB's cavalry career was undistinguished and he spent a lot of his time in ill health, but it served as a resume enhancer for the man who would eventually become one of the most published authors in the world.

Burroughs was undoubtedly aware of his outfit's defeat a quarter of a century earlier at Little Bighorn. His familiarity with the name of Custer may or may not have been from where he plucked the names of Barney and Victoria Custer as protagonists in two of his books, The Mad King and The Eternal Lover."

We enjoyed our time of exploring both of these sites which are somewhat loosely related to ERB himself. The Little Bighorn Battlefield is in Crow country and the Native Americans continue to celebrate their victory with the presence of a large souvenir-shop and eatery next to the battlefield. In addition to sections commemorating the fallen cavalrymen, the area also features memorials to the Indians who fought there, some dying, for their own way of life.

A visitor will find a museum and national cemetery at the bottom of the hill upon which Custer had his last stand. The 25-minute video presentation in the museum is good to watch before exploring the battlefield, as it puts all in context. There is also a live ranger talk on the shaded museum porch beneath Last Stand Hill but it covers the same history as the video and the video does it better.

One-hundred fifty miles south and west of the Little Bighorn Battlefield, near Hardin, Montana, lies the town of Cody, Wyoming, named for Buffalo Bill himself and a gateway to the eastern entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

This was a footloose and fancy free trip, with decisions made day by day. Our original plan didn't include a visit to Cody, as we planned to enter Yellowstone from the south. However, advertising signs along I-90 persuaded us that Highway 16 was the "most scenic" and "safest" route, and it was, especially through the Bighorn mountains and National Forest. But it was also the most boring stretch of road from Worland, Wyoming, to Cody. But it was worth it. Once in Cody in late afternoon, and seeing the attractions available, we lined up our motel for two nights instead of one so we could spend a day looking at everything, and even then a day was not long enough.

Cody has a western flavor to it, including an attraction called Old Trail Town, which is a couple of city blocks of authentic pioneer buildings, most of them disassembled elsewhere and moved to this location, including the cabin used by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in their secret hideout in Hole-in-the-Wall of the Bighorn Mountains in Johnson County, Wyoming.

Not only have some buildings been relocated, but some bodies have been dug up and reburied there as well. The Old Trail Town cemetery has seven graves, all with markers far more ornate than the original ones probably were. I hadn't heard of most of the people although they all achieved their own degree of fame or infamy in the west. The main grave was that of Jeremiah Johnston, also known as Liver-Eating Johnston because of stories that he killed 300 Crow Indians over a period of time and ate their livers as revenge for them killing his wife. The Crows believed a man had to have his liver in order to make it to the afterlife.

But the big attraction in Cody, as far as we were concerned, was the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. One big plus was that it was air-conditioned, whereas Old Trail Town was definitely realistic in that it baked in the hot sun. However, the Buffalo Bill Center is a premiere attraction, with outstanding exhibits on Buffalo Bill's life, and a section with multiple weapons used by the armed forces, old west personalities and TV cowboys. It also included large sections on Native American life as well as the wild animals of the region.

6: The Thunder of Old Faithful

"The first intimation of it was a sudden lightening of the sky...." Water "commenced to boil...Vast clouds of steam arose.... Enormous clouds of steam blotted out everything.... They rose to the clouds, dimming the sunlight. ....Clouds of condensing vapor whirled and swirled.... there was nothing to see but billowing clouds of vapor."

That could well be applied to Yellowstone's most famous geyser, Old Faithful.

But it was written by Edgar Rice Burroughs in chapters 1 and 2 of "Escape on Venus," describing a storm that Carson and Duare survived while their airplane was buffeted about by a sudden, fierce storm over Amtor.

Old Faithful is probably the most-photographed natural phenomenon in the world, most likely because it shoots steam into the air from 21 to 23 times a day.

There are huge parking lots to accommodate all of the vehicles of park visitors. Depending upon how large your local Walmart is, put five or six of their parking lots side by side and you get an idea of how large the parking area is, and even then I might be underestimating it. I know something of the size of it because both times I have been there I have dropped my companions off as close as I can get them to the geyser and then looked for a parking place and walked back. This time the far end of the furthest lot was where I found a place to park and the walk back was a good 15 minutes. Fortunately, unlike the first time I did that several years ago, I was in plenty of time to see the next eruption. The geyser itself, which has its opening atop a wide, low mound of volcanic earth, lets out steam most of the time but shoots super-heated water anywhere from 100 to 180 feet into the air with each eruption.

Spectators take advantage of a boardwalk built a respectful distance from the actual opening, where they are not only safer but also can get a good view for taking pictures of the whole eruption. In all, the area surrounding the geyser vent and the boardwalk is, itself, the size of a couple of those big parking lots.

When I got back, I couldn't see Dan or Schuyler in the crowd, so I sat down on a small log which was in the middle of an open area between the boardwalk and the souvenir shop. The sky this day was a bit gray, so photos would probably not be as good as ones that would show the steaming eruption against a clear blue sky, but I took several anyway.

As it became obvious that the eruption was about to take place, thunder sounded from nearby. I couldn't hear him, but my son later told me that a ranger was walking along the boardwalk recommending to people that they seek shelter from the approaching lightning and rain. But virtually everyone ignored him. Not only were they there to see Old Faithful, but this was a unique opportunity to experience it with the accompaniment of lightning flashes and rumbling thunder.

I'm not aware if Edgar Rice Burroughs ever visited the Yellowstone geysers, although he certainly loved to travel and camp in many places of America. It would have been interesting to see how he would have written up a description of an eruption, but the closest I think he comes is parts of his description of the storm on Venus although that involved other dangers not present in Yellowstone National Park the day we were there, Aug. 30, 2017.

Burroughs wrote in an imaginatively descriptive way of the flora and fauna of the worlds populated by his characters and sometimes wrote of the weather as well, especially when it served as a vehicle for moving his characters from one plot situation to another, as was the case for the storm which launched the couple on Amtor into a series of captures and escapes. And who did not fear for the safety of Tara of Helium when her small Martian flyer was carried by a stubborn storm to a world of exotic adventure in ERB's The Chessmen of Mars?

ERB wrote:

"The air was filled with dust and flying bits of vegetation and when the storm carried her across an irrigated area of farm land she saw great trees and stone walls and buildings lifted high in the air and scattered broadcast over the devastated country; and then she was carried swiftly on to other sights that forced in upon her consciousness a rapidly growing conviction that after all Tara of Helium was a very small and insignificant and helpless person." (Chapter II, "At the Gale's Mecy."

And perhaps ERB came up with no better description of a thunderstorm than that found in "The End of Bukawai", Chapter VII of Jungle Tales of Tarzan.

It went this way:

"And all over lay a sickly, pallid ocher light through which the scourged clouds raced....

"Now he heard a low moaning, far away. 'The lions seek their prey,' he murmured to himself, looking up once again at the swift-flying clouds. The moaning rose to a great volume of sound. 'They come!' said Tarzan of the Apes, and sought the shelter of a thickly foliaged tree. Quite suddenly the trees bent their tops simultaneously as though God had stretched a hand from the heavens and pressed His flat palm down upon the world. 'They pass!' whispered Tarzan. 'The lions pass.' Then came a vivid flash of lightning, followed by deafening thunder. 'The lions have sprung,' cried Tarzan, 'and now they roar above the bodies of their kills.' "

Then.... "...the rain came — not as it comes upon us of the northlands, but in a sudden, choking, blinding deluge. 'The blood of the kill,' thought Tarzan."

7: From Mountains to the Earth's Core

The expedition in the Sub-Mole-Rine included ancient rock carvings and formations, mostly in the region where Wyoming and South Dakota meet. One, on the side of a mountain named Rushmore, south of Rapid City, features four human faces, only one of which is depicted with the upper half of a period costume, wide lapels and all. Further south of these is the face of a Native American named Crazy Horse protruding from the top of another mountain, with related sculpture work going on below his mug. Crazy Horse became famous for helping to kill off a bunch of ERB's predecessors in the 7th Cavalry at Little Big Horn, about 300 miles northwest of where the war chief's image is being sculpted with dynamite and chisel from a mountain.

These were both reminiscent of the Great Tur in "The Master Mind of Mars," at least as far as the size of the heads was concerned. The carvings on both mountains were said to have been in unfinished states. The Great Tur, however, was finished, in more ways than one.

Next door, in the state of Wyoming, stands what is said to be a large formation of volcanic material which pushes up from beneath the Earth. It is known by the locals as Devils Tower and, sadly, it is not a real geologic feature but just a large movie prop that was never properly dismantled after playing a key role in 1977's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."*

*National Parks Service disagrees. Meanwhile, Devil's Tower, Wyoming is not to be confused with Devil's Tower, Montana, a 5,095 ft. peak in the Big Belt Mountains.

No doubt the 800-foot tall attraction was left standing to aid the local economy, which specializes in selling postcards of the image, small paperweight reproductions, and various alien souvenirs.

In addition to the belief of some that it was formed by igneous intrusion, the other popular "origin story" is that was a rescue by the Great Spirit of five little Indian girls (or a couple of boys, depending on which story you hear) who were trying to escape from a giant bear. In answer to their prayer, the landscape arose to a height of 867 feet from its base and the vertical striations in the rock are from the claws of the big bear who tried, unsuccessfully, to scale its heights.

Local images of the bear reveal it has a tail to match the tale:

Devils Tower is actually made of a specially engineered, durable rubber and is kept inflated with the exhaust from automobiles of tourists who drive their cars up the winding road from the Belle Fourche River basin to the base of the tower. The exhaust is sucked off by vacuum tubes cleverly designed to blend in with the roadside verdure, and piped to the base of the tower itself.

Nonetheless, it is a spectacular attraction through not specifically related to ERB as one cannot claim with any degree of accuracy that it was his inspiration for the nom de plume of the Apache Devil, as applied to Shoz-Dijiji, protagonist of The War Chief and its sequel.

It was from this area that we ventured on to Cody and Yellowstone and, after that, northward back to Montana and an entrance to Pellucidar.

The Lewis and Clark Caverns, just south of Butte, Montana, are not advertised as an entrance to the inner world but what other purpose could these caves, and others like them, serve, if not as gateways to Pellucidar — if one knows how to negotiate them.

Shenandoah Caverns, Virginia, is apparently another entrance to Pellucidar and was explored, under the direction of David Critchfield Von Horst, during the 2010 Edgar Rice Burroughs Chain of Friendship gathering.

Access to Lewis and Clark Caverns is at the top of a winding road and consists of a parking lot, a gift shop, an eatery, restrooms and the interpretive center at which one purchases tickets for the cavern tour. I bought one for each of us, and listened to the last part of the pre-trip lecture which had already started before we arrived.

"Let's go spelunking," said the tour director, and everyone turned, not toward a doorway that led to a set of steps going down, but to a trail which ascended further up the mountain. In fact, its route could clearly be seen as ascending about a mile up the side of a mountain and who would know how much further it would go after it, like the bear, went over the other side of the mountain? I took about 10 steps before making the type of wise decision for which I am known and which qualifies me as the master of the Sub-Mole-Rine. I said to my son and grandson, "I don't think I can make it. I'll wait here."

Yes, the best chance I would ever have to find an entrance to Pellucidar, and I turned it down, primarily due to a heart condition. The ticket seller said they would be gone a couple of hours but it turned out to be about 45 minutes longer than that because they had the slowest of the guides, I found out later. My son, upon his return, said the guide had a pet name for about every rock that they found in the cave.

As for me (during their exploration) I went to the souvenir shop and examined colorful postcard images of the cave's many rooms, and then retired to the eatery and ordered, and then slowly ate, a chili dog, while catching up entries in my captain's log.

Alas, when my son and grandson returned they had seen not a clue of an entrance to Pellucidar. But, they are not ERB fans to the depth that I am, so they probably just didn't know how to look.

That night we slept soundly in a Super 8 motel in Butte and rose at 6 a.m. to hit the road for home, back across the Idaho panhandle and through Eastern Washington. I had planned to turn south at Ellensburg and cross the volcano-riddled Cascade Mountains over the White Pass Highway (U.S. 12) but got engaged in a conversation with my son and we missed the turnoff. So, I decided I'd just stay on I-90 and cross the mountains at Snoqualmie Pass, then turn down the Highway of Death (U.S. 18) to get to I-5.

This proved to be the hairiest part of the trip, not because of the Highway of Death but because it was Thursday, Aug. 31, and many were on the roads, getting an early start on the Labor Day Weekend. But, with true grit, I expertly weaved through the freeway traffic and lost little time, despite the clogged roads.

Home, at last. Time to relax with an Edgar Rice Burroughs book!