Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mountain Rushmore

This past weekend we packed up our camping trailer and headed down to South Dakota.  The purpose of the trip was to see Mount Rushmore (or Mountain Rushmore according to Ollie), but we found SO many fun things to do along the way.  We will definitely have to visit again and stay longer. We left Thursday evening around 5:15pm.  We had a campsite reserved in Pierre, SD (the capitol) which is about 4 hours away.  We stopped a few times along the way and rolled into camp around 9:40.  We went right to bed because we wanted to head out pretty early the next morning.  It was nice because almost all the campgrounds we stayed at had playgrounds for the kids.  They played for a bit the next morning and we headed out around 9:30.  We visited the South Dakota state capital on our way out of town.

The boys liked checking out the ducks.  There use to be what was called the "eternal flame" in Pierre, but it wasn't very eternal because it burned out a few years ago.  That was why we stopped, oh well.  

Pierre to Rapid City (near Rushmore) is about 3 1/2 hours.  It took us most of the day because we took a few scenic routes and made a few stops.  Our first stop was the Badlands National Park.  We stopped there and made lunch in the camper and toured the visitors center.  We purchased a little National Parks passport that you have stamped at every park you visit.  I think it will make visiting National parks more fun for the kids, I hope :)

Grandma and the boys inside a teepee at the Badlands visitors center.

 We also took the scenic route through the badlands.  It was pretty cool, but there was construction so it added quite a bit of time to our drive and we probably wouldn't have done it had we known.  

For literally hundreds of miles we saw billboards for Wall Drug in Wall, SD.  It was insane how many billboards they have.  So we HAD to stop and check it out.  There was a lot to do there, and there were tons of people.  We got ice cream, walked around a bit and got back on the road.

Max and Grandma.

 Ollie being a goofball.

I think Max looks so mischievous in this picture.

He throughly enjoyed his ice cream cone.

 I had big plans for us on Friday but we didn't get to our campsite until about 5pm, so we decided to call it a night. We made raviolis with vodka pasta sauce (Jason's favorite).  It is so nice to have a little kitchen in the camper and it really cuts down on eating out costs (not to mention the extra calories of eating out for every meal).  We put the kids down and enjoyed a quiet evening of reading.

The next morning we headed to Mount Rushmore to beat the crowds and the heat.  It was really cool.  You can do a little .6 mile "hike", so we did that which took us to the sculptors studio.  We got our NP passport stamped, bought our Christmas ornament (we try to buy one in every place we visit) and headed out. 

Cute little guy.

 Close up of "the guys" (as Ollie calls them).

After Mt. Rushmore we drove through Custer State Park.  We stopped along the way (it was a pretty long scenic drive) and hiked around the "Eye of the Needle".  The boys loved crawling all over the rocks.

We had to drive through lots of little tunnels.

Along the drive we stopped and had lunch at Legion Lake.  It was beautiful.  The boys enjoyed watching people fish and watching the paddle boats.  

 From there we went to the Reptile Gardens.  They had hundreds of cool snakes, lizards, birds, turtles and alligators.  We watched the snake show, bird show and then the alligator wrestling show.  

Look at how huge this boa constrictor is!

 After the snake show, they got to pet one of the snakes.  Ollie was really scared at first but we convinced him to do it and after that he didn't want to stop.  Max had no fear :)

It was pretty hot on Saturday so after the reptile gardens we went back to our campground and went swimming.  It was a busy, but fun day.  

Sunday we attended the church services offered by the campground and headed out.  We had a long day of driving ahead of us so we wanted to get on the road.  We pretty much drove most of Sunday with a stop here and there for lunch and what not.  When we got about 20 miles from our campground in Mobridge, SD we noticed some serious storm clouds and lightning not far off.  When it looked like it was getting really close we decided to pull over and wait it out.  That was a smart move because it really came down and the wind was so strong.  The place we stopped was a little drive in with no indoor seating (we didn't have a lot of options).  They were nice enough to let us come in to stay dry.  It was a really cool storm with lots of thunder and lightning.  When the rain lightened up we finished our trip.

We really loved the last campground we stayed at and we plan on going back next summer for a longer stay.  It was right on the Missouri river so we walked down and let Ollie (Max was in bed) throw rocks in the water.  While we were down there it started pouring on us again.  By the time Jan, Ollie and I got back we were soaked.  It cleared up again and we went for another walk a little later.  

Monday we spent a few hours wandering around and playing in the water. We headed home and made it back later in the afternoon.

Eating breakfast.

Throwing rocks could entertain my boys for hours.

 Ollie was cooking with mud :)

My boys watching a train go by.

It was a really fun trip.  There is so much more we would like to do in the Rapid City area, next time we will definitely plan on staying a few more days to make all the driving worth it.  

We are gearing up to head to Lake Powell next week and then home to CA.  I can't believe the summer is almost over.  
As an aside, we have really enjoyed watching the olympics this summer.  It brings back lots of memories of four years ago during the olympics.  I can't believe so much time has gone by, and I really can't believe my baby is four years old!  More on that later.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Honey Hub of Gackle - A Cyclists Respite

Posted by Jason

I've always had dreams of one day opening a small bike shop somewhere in California, sometimes opportunity comes knocking in strange ways.

Over the last month we have noticed dozens of touring cyclists passing through Gackle, and they all came into town asking the same questions, where can I shower, eat dinner, do laundry, use wifi, and put up a tent? The problem was that there wasn't a place in Gackle to do all this. So I started talking to a few of the cyclists and discovered that there are three main routes for crossing the US on a bike, the Southern Tier, the Transamerica route, and the Northern Tier. For the last 20 years the Northern Tier went through Northern North Dakota, however with the recent oil boom in ND those roads are no longer safe for cyclists. So about 3 months ago Adventure Cycling (the company who publishes the maps for these routes) changed the Northern Tier route so it passes straight through Gackle ND, this got me thinking...

And it wasn't long before I realized we already had a lot of things in place for opening up a small cyclists oasis here at our house. For example my dad is a partial owner of Honey Stinger nutrition, so I have access to all the nutrition products I could need, and our house has a finished basement with a bathroom, laundry, wifi, and a bedroom, all accessible via a separate entrance from the house.

Fast forward to this week when we officially opened "The Honey Hub of Gackle - A Cyclists Respite". Our first week we have hosted 3 cyclists passing through, it has been really cool hearing their stories and the motivation behind their cross country (or in some cases cross-world) treks.

Is my new business venture going to have us retired at 40? Probably not, especially since I only charge $10 per bed, $2 for laundry, and most cyclists aren't interested in buying many extras due to weight. But at least it will make for some cool experiences for both parties. So next time you are biking across the country make sure you schedule a stop at The Honey Hub of Gackle, it is definitely the coolest bike shop in Gackle.

Arba, our first overnight guest. 

Jessie and her dad making the trip together, it is her second time crossing the US on a bike.
I used my amazing graphic artist skills to create this awesome poster which I hung around town.  I also have large outdoor signs coming this week to put along the highway, but so far most are finding us via internet and word of mouth.
I have a few bike essentials (tube, patch kit, lube, etc) and Honey Stinger nutrition products (waffles, bars, chews, gels) available.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

4th of July and Aberdeen, South Dakota

 We have been seeing signs and posters advertising Gackle's fourth of July celebration since we got here.  So needless to say, we have been looking forward to it.  We started the day off by packing and getting things ready to go camping over the weekend.  We then took the kids to the craft day at the Lutheran church by our house.  They had lots of cute patriotic crafts for the kids to make.  After that we headed to the craft/bake sale.  We got a few things including Jason's favorite German dessert, Kuchen pie.  North Dakota has a strong German influence and so we have been sampling all the German food we can.  Last weekend in Bismarck I even tried cabbage rolls (they were ok).  Jason's mom makes good German food and I am determined to have her teach me.  Anyway, we came home and everyone but Ollie took a nap.  Then it was time to get ready for the parade.  Miller Honey had a "float" (there weren't any actual floats, just cars that were decorated).  Ollie rode in the Miller Honey truck.  

Getting ready for the parade.

 Family fourth of July pic.  I really should have bought my kids cute, matching, patriotic outfits, but as you can imagine the shopping out here is limited, so they represented American super heroes :)

Me and Jason watching the parade.

This guy used the firehouse to squirt people, it felt really good.

 Miller Honey donated this truck to the City of Gackle a few weeks ago, it is now the cities newest fire truck.  It broke down right in front of us during the parade, haha.  They had to push it off the road.  Anyone else want an old truck from MHF?? 

 I'm pretty sure the parade was the best thing to ever happen to Max.  He was able to run out into the street without me freaking out, and he got tons of candy (which I later gave to our friends kid).  He had the best time.

 The parade went down Main St, turned around and went back down.  We grabbed Ollie the second time around so he could enjoy some of the parade.  There was SO MUCH CANDY, and not a lot of people to get the candy.  Miller honey threw out honey sticks, very appropriate.

 After the parade we headed to Valley City for a BBQ some friends from church were having.  It was a lot of fun and nice to get to know people from the branch better. 

 The family hosting the BBQ has 6 kids, so their house had all sorts of fun things for the kids.  Fourth of July also happens to be their favorite holiday so they had TONS (five large crates) of fireworks.  Here is Ollie with his cute little friend Havyn.

Fun with a sparkler.

 What you don't keep your glow sticks tucked in your pants??  Reminded us of Napoleon Dynamite.

  We took our camping trailer to the BBQ and spent the night in it so we could get going in the morning to Aberdeen, South Dakota where we were camping for the weekend.  Aberdeen is a really family friendly town that we have seen advertised a lot and it's only 2 hours South of us.  We stayed at Wiley park which is pretty much the coolest campground/RV park.  Storybook land which is one of the main attractions in Aberdeen is part of Wiley park as well as go cars, bumper boats, miniature golf, biking trails, a lake, and lots of playgrounds.  We called earlier in the week hoping that we could get a spot but not really expecting anything to be open since the place is booked most of the summer.  They had an opening for Thursday night and said we could try one of the first-come-first-serve spots for Friday night.  When we got there Thursday the people in our spot had not checked out so we went about our day.  When we got back later in the afternoon, one of the first-come-first-serve spots was open so we took it and we were able to stay two nights in the same spot.  

 We knew the weather was going to be cold and rainy on Friday so we decided to head to the Aquatic Center on Thursday.  At Jason's triathlon a few weeks ago, I met a girl from Aberdeen who had given me some tips for what to do.  She recommended a restaurant (she couldn't remember the name but said it was something tropical).  When I found the Palm Garden Cafe I figured that was it.  It was delicious. I was so glad we went.  It was also a chocolate shop and their sea salt caramel and caramel pecan turtles were divine.  

I told Jason half way through lunch that I didn't want to jinx us but it was the best dining experience we have had with the boys in a really long time (they are usually really, really difficult). 

 We headed to the Aberdeen Aquatic Center after lunch.  It was a really fun.  I think I have mentioned before that our boys take some time to warm up to water and that was the case here.  It was a little disappointing because there was so much to do, but eventually they had a good time.  There was a lazy river, tube slides, a huge splash pad and a large swimming pool with multiple diving boards.   

This is the only picture I got, and it is a cute one.  I love this boy!

 In the evening we made a pizza in the camper, and put Max to bed at 6:15 because he had stayed up really late the night before watching fireworks.  Ollie and I went on a walk and got a treat.  

 We took Ollie's bike so he could ride around the campsite.  He loved it.  This night he rode by another guy on a bike and said "Hi Sir, I'm riding a bike too".  It was really cute.  That night there was a pretty big thunder storm with lots of rain, thunder and lightning.  We always get rained on when we camp, and up until now we have tent camped, so we were very thankful to be in our trailer.

Since our children are early risers, we had to occupy them in the morning so they wouldn't be rude to other campers.  We took them to feed the ducks/geese. 

We then played on one of the 6 playgrounds.  Jason took this picture of his three kids :)

Going down the slide with Ollie.

We killed some time in the morning by walking around the seriously lame mall, we went to a cowboy store, the Hitch N' Post and got lunch at a yummy BBQ place (we are suckers for good BBQ).  Then we came back and I attempted to get Max to nap (I was unsuccessful in case you were wondering), while Jason and Ollie went to an RV store nearby.  When they got back we headed to Storybook Land.  It is a really cute, free, little theme park.  There were nursery rhymes and fairy tale creations all around the park, as well as a few rides.

I loved this mural.

Riding the carousel.

Here a few example of the kind of stuff they had.

There was a lot of attractions that had to do with the Wizard of Oz (which Jason has never seen, I am still not over that).  Ollie outside Dorothy's Kanas home, in the corn.

Max kissing a munchkin.  He loved having little statues that were his size.

Here is another time when Ollie asked me to take his picture.  He was pretty proud of himself for climbing up there.

Sliding out of the "Little Old Lady Who Lived In A Shoe".

Ollie and Humpty sitting on a wall.

The boys loved the train.  It went for a mile loop around the park.  They even have a little zoo there with deer, reindeer, buffalo, and llamas.  We didn't have time for the zoo but we saw all the animals from the train.

After that we walked back to our campsite and got dinner ready.  It was pretty windy and Jason was pretty proud of his fire set up, good thing he is an Eagle Scout :)

Another picture request from Ollie, silly kid.

Max went down again at 6 that night, and Ollie about 7 so Jason and I had nice long evenings.  Each night we went on long walks around the campsite.  

The next morning the boys played together on my phone.

On our final day we had hoped to rent a surrey, and ride the go carts, but nothing opened until noon and we were planning on heading back around that time. We definitely plan on coming back so we will have to do those things next time.  We did go back and ride the train one more time.  I love Max's chubby little hand on my leg.  The ride was pretty empty since we went on the second ride of the day.  

It was a great weekend.  We love our camping trailer and look forward to our next trip in it...Mt. Rushmore!