Friday, July 31, 2015

The Black Hills

We headed west from the Badlands and into the Black Hills where we spent a few days seeing and doing as much as possible. After the time in the boatyard and thousands of miles of corn we were gung ho for more sightseeing. Our visit to the Black Hills more than made up for it.

We made a stop in Rapid City to get new dancing shoes for Ginger. And since it took so long it gave us time to find used bikes for the kids on craigslist. They were so excited! 

Our timing couldn't have been better since it was the last day of the Days of '76 Rodeo in Deadwood. 

The Rodeo was the real thing with many competitions.  

During the show the emcee was asking if anyone in the crowd was from one state or another. He'd receive lots of loud cheers when he mentioned Montana, Illinois etc. But when he asked if anyone was from New York, a lone "woo hoo!" came out of Andy's mouth. Of course that drew the attention of the rodeo clown and, after much anticipation during timed competitions that determined Andy's fate, he ended up having to dance in front of the entire stadium. If you've ever seen Andy dance you know he laid it on thick. The crowd went absolutely crazy once he started smacking his butt. Dang liberal New Yorkers.

There were a few reenactments of the shooting of Wild Bill Hickock. It was really fun and the horses are amazing to watch. 

The clown was pretty funny and we couldn't believe how docile this horse was.

Downtown Deadwood and another reeneactment. We had a drink at the original saloon where he was shot and enjoyed browsing the antiques and learning a little snippet of history.

Our campsite in the Black Hills. It was nice and cool in the shade of the trees and very quiet. It was our first campsite where we didn't have any "hook-ups." That means no electricity, water or sewer. But after living on a boat, conserving water and tank space are second nature. And then you have a chance to be in the woods rather than in an RV park. We used the generator to make coffee in the morning and charge the battery. 

We drove the Needles Highway which is amazing.

Sometimes we weren't sure Fred was going to fit through the openings. Everyone has to take turns. I had to shut my eyes a couple times when the drop off was scary.

We visited the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs which is an archaeological dig of well preserved bones of mammoths who had likely slipped and fallen into a hot spring and couldn't climb out of the steep sides. 


Fully intact skull.

On our way back to the campsite we drove the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park. First we sighted these pronghorn. 

Then we got right up close to these wild burros who were unphased by our presence. 

We had the classic "stuck behind a herd of bison" experience. Here's a baby. 

The huge herd was on the move crossing the road to a different meadow and there was no going anywhere until they were all across. Every last one of them,

Caught in the act! Even wild mommies don't get to poop in peace.

Some of the males were massive and the noises they made were so gross. We saw a couple big bison fights break out. 

It was a very long day but we made it to Mt. Rushmore in time to get a family photo. 

There it is kids! Now let's go home. We're exhausted. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

South Dakota: Sioux Falls to the Badlands

We covered as much ground as fast as we could between Indiana and South Dakota. We were tempted to take a couple of diversions but decided to just head straight West. Our arrival in Sioux Falls, SD sort of marked the start of the trip we wanted to be on. We still had a couple days of endless crops but with great stops in between.

Sioux Falls, SD. 

The mist from the falls felt good on a hot day.

Somebody told Andy to make sure we get plenty of pics of all four of us. Here's our first!

And our second. I don't know why we stopped at the Corn Palace. It's really terrible. Sorry, Corn Palace.

Yes, corn is in EVERYTHING!

Seriously flat and endless. Corn corn corn corn soybeans corn corn soybeans soybeans tractor soybeans cow corn.

West Bend on the Missouri River. This was a really great spot and a welcome break from the endless endlessness.

First thing in the morning the carp came right up to the shore. 

Got one!

While we were just hanging around Churchill Clark, a descendant of William Clark, paddled ashore in this canoe he carved from a cottonwood tree. Churchill does reenactments and also followed the path of the Lewis & Clark expedition on the 200th anniversary. He's now on a journey of the Missouri River. His website is! 

We had Churchill over for dinner. He was super nice and I liked that he wears his reenactment garb as his regular clothes. 

On the way to the Badlands is this cool preserved homestead. We learned all about the Homestead Acts and started reading one of the Little House books together.

Prairie Dogs are the cutest things on the planet. It's always fun to see one even if you've seen 10 a few minutes before.

The kids really loved the cozy house and imagining what it would be like to live there. Fine on a summer day but hard to imagine the winters. 

Built into the earth, it stays cool in summer and warm in winter.

Approaching the Badlands. The change in topography is sudden and amazing. 

Overlooking the amphitheater where we listened to nightly Ranger talks with the campsite in the background. 

Sunset over the campground. 

The mercury hit 101F that day. I think Drew is pointing out a little toad. 

There are trails to hike but the park allows a lot of scrambling off trail. 

We found this fossil in the layers. Can you see the shape of the bone with the marrow in the middle?

The kids taking their first Junior Ranger oath after completing all of the activities. 

A view as we drove out of the Park to the west. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Trading Keels for Wheels

Andy was quite the superhero during our couple of weeks in Fajardo. He worked on the boat by day, planned everything by night and still managed to squeeze in nerf gun fights and pool time with the kiddos. I helped with the boat projects, cooked, gave pep talks, and built massive forts in the apartment. Massive. He arranged for us to rent a (f&cking awesome) truck in Texas and we found the perfect little trailer in Wabash, IN. Why couldn't we just get a trailer in Texas? Because, well, we're REALLY picky.

At the eleventh hour, Andy booked us on Spirit Airlines from San Juan to Dallas, TX via Ft. Lauderdale. This is us not catching the spirit in a stupidly long check-in line minutes before boarding was scheduled to start. We had to RUN to the gate and were the last to board. But it was really exciting and scary to sit down on a plane and realize everything was out of our hands. The boat was left behind and we were hurtling toward a random place where we hoped to rent a truck in order to drive to a place where we hoped to buy a trailer. So we celebrated by sharing a Spirit Airlines combo meal: two bottles of Jack Daniels and one can of coke. 

With two flights the kids each got a turn in the window seat. Teds and Flour enjoyed the trip, too.

After a late arrival we collapsed at the lovely Red Roof Inn. Bonus - we found two cans of Mountain Dew on the dresser! In the morning we got a ride from the truck rental place to pick up our gigantic truck, Fred.

Back to the hotel to pack up, run a ton of errands around Dallas and hit the road! Here we are dwarfed by Fred. Yes, we are wearing the same clothes we traveled in. Typical. 

Our first full day in the US involved breakfast at Denny's and lunch at Chik-fil-A. Someone who shall remain nameless had one of those "buy something so I can use the bathroom!" emergencies at Starbucks. It's always good to have kids and dogs around to blame things on. We got as far as Yukon, OK that afternoon and learned how to use Hotwire to get great hotel deals. It really works! We ended up in Yukon to buy a Honda generator someone listed on craigslist. I feel like we're always just winging it. Every single day. The next day we wised up and stopped someplace more civilized for lunch. It's so chic and popular it doesn't even need a name.  

One of our favorite movies is National Lampoon's Vacation. And one of our favorite scenes is when they drive past the St. Louis Arch and then get lost in downtown St. Louis. Watch it again. Hilarious. 
Outside of Indianapolis we went to Target and stocked up on a bunch of essentials. Then this sky developed and we had to shove everything into the backseat with the kids. We could hear them but couldn't see them.  

Three long days of driving and bad road food brought us finally to Zoomer's RV in Wabash, IN! Here's Andy learning the ropes on Ginger, our "new" temporary home! 

These guys loved setting up their cozy bunks. The bottom one has been set aside for the stuffed animals because we never go anywhere without 400 of them.

Fred and Ginger hooking up for the first time.

It wouldn't be a USA road trip without picking up a gun from Walmart. And some groceries. And using the loo.

Our first campsite! We were so excited. This was the first time in months that the kids were more than 5 feet away from us. 

Breakfast outside on a nice summer day is always made extra special by the presence of delightful short people.

We liked the campground so decided to stay another night and see the local amateur circus. 

The performers are all younger than 18 and it's a big deal in this small town.

It was hard to get pictures but some of the performers were really little and some were really daring. A few go on to perform in the big traveling circuses.

Saying goodbye to Boots at Honey Bear Hollow. We really miss having a kitty! 

Day 2 and we already got pulled over! The temporary registration wasn't properly displayed. We got away with a warning. 

Indiana has some really nice rest stops! We were driving as far as possible every day to get West and to the sites we wanted to see. It's really helpful dragging your house everywhere you go. You can take food, bathroom and leg stretching breaks whenever you need to.

Andy was still getting used to driving and towing and these huge truck bays made it easier. 

If you look back at our post from Salinas you'll see the wind farm we visited. It was so cool to see the parts of the same exact turbines we had visited trucking along the highway. Look at the size of that blade!

How can one go from hating to loving Walmart in the course of a week?? Pushing your grocery cart from the store right to your house is AWESOME. Unless you live under a bridge and then it's terrible.

Andy likes taking these vanity shots of Fred and Ginger. 

Another great midwest Rest Stop to take a break and have a picnic. This one in Iowa overlooks Nebraska and South Dakota. These little things were helping us get through endless fields of corn, soybeans and cows. 

Cubby and her bunnies went all the way to the top.