Monday, June 29, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dortha!

We've been looking forward to this day for some time now. Actually, since just after Christmas, when Dortha and Mark were at our house for dinner and got to use the electric pepper mill that Jim got as a gift from his aunt. Dortha nearly took it home with her then and has been looking for one ever since. A couple of months ago, we ordered one for her birthday. We've had it all wrapped and ready for weeks. Finally, the day arrived and we were excited to give it to her when she and Mark and Caden came over this morning. But not nearly as excited as she was when she opened it!

That got our day off to a great start, and then we continued the fun celebration of Dortha's birthday with a buffalo burger lunch at The Wrangler in downtown Custer. This is a restaurant that has recently reopened in a new location after a fire destroyed the previous one.

A trip into Custer State Park was next on the agenda, so we could ride paddle boats. Well, some of us got to ride paddle boats. It seems Legion Lake has a restriction on how heavy people can be and still ride in the paddle boats. Both Mark and Jim are just a little bit over the limit, so they stayed on shore to take pictures while Dortha, Caden and I paddled out.

This duck flew in and landed just a foot or two away from our little boat!

That's a workout! I'm sure we earned several "activity points" with that ride. After our water adventure, Mark wanted to see if we could find some buffalo picture opportunities, and off we went. Success!

Dortha mentioned taking one of the side roads off the Wildlife Loop in the park, and we started off. We'd gone maybe a mile or so up a gravel road when Mark noticed he was getting pretty low on gas. Oops! That was the end of that exploration, as he turned around and headed back to town. Whew, we made it without having to hike.

When we got back to the rv park, we visited with Larry and Geri up on the porch for a little while before enjoying the cake I baked for Dortha, along with some fat and sugar free ice cream.

What a fun day! For more pictures and Dortha's account of the day, check out RVing With Poppa. Happy Birthday, Dortha, I'm so glad we got to enjoy the day with you!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Having a Blast

Jim and I took our walk yesterday morning, did a little cleaning and hung around the campground during the day. Mark and Dortha both had a few things they needed to get done, like washing their motor home inside and out, while they were getting settled in.

Around 4:00 it was time to gather ourselves together and head up to the office porch for our usual afternoon happy hour.

I think Mark and Jim were ready!

Larry'd already got his boots off and was enjoying a break while he was waiting for happy hour to get going:

Around 5:00, Clayton arrived with his chuck wagon, dutch ovens and all the food. He starts from scratch and gets the meal put together and seved in about an hour. We had steak, potatoes, beans and peach cobbler. Everything but the steak is prepared in the dutch ovens, the steaks are grilled over the open fire. I think this was the best meal of the 3 we've had prepared by him.

Yesterday was June 26, a significant day in this area for 2 reasons. First, it is Ruth's birthday, and second, it is the anniversary of the Battle of The Little Bighorn. Now, you might be wondering, who is Ruth and what significance does her birthday have? Ruth is the widow of Korczak Ziolkowski, the sculptor who worked on Mount Rushmore and initiated the idea and the reality of the Crazy Horse Memorial. She continues to be very involved with the work on the sculpture, which will be the largest in the world when it is completed. The memorial does not accept any federal funding, although Korczak, as he's known, was twice offered $10 million by the government. He felt the intent of the memorial would have been compromised by government intervention and declined the offer. All of the funding for this massive work is provided by donations, fundraisers, and entrance fees.

These two events are celebrated at Crazy Horse Memorial with free entrance to the regular evening laser light show, followed by a ceremonial blast of dynamite. Mark and Dortha decided to go with us, and ended up driving. We left right after dinner and got up to the memorial a couple of hours before the scheduled laser light show. Good thing we did, because, as it was, we were parked nearly a mile from the visitor's center. It was a chilly evening - we could have used heavier jackets and even a blanket or two!

We were able to get this picture of the Crazy Horse sculpture as it got dark. The sign attached to his arm says, "Happy B' Day Ruth". She turned 83 yesterday.

The light show finally got started a little after 9:30 and was pretty interesting. Just as it ended, the blast started. Wow, it was really loud. There were actually a series of blasts that went up and down the sculpture. It was impressive.

Mark did a really good job getting us out of the parking lot and back on the road after the event, even though there were a lot of people trying to get out. We got home before 11.

This morning I walked, but Jim didn't make it out to join me. He was still feeling the effects of sitting on a wooden curb for several hours last night.

Around noon, we all piled in Mark & Dortha's jeep and took a drive through Custer State Park. We headed towards the wildlife loop, and took a short detour to go up to the Mount Coolidge Lookout. Wow, what a view! From the observation deck, you can see Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore, and much of the Black Hills area.

Here's Caden, posing on a rock, with the hills in the background:

Caden bringing Mop and Pop down from the observation deck:

On the loop, we saw a few pronghorn antelope, a few prarie dogs, and finally, just at the intersection of the loop road and the park's main road, a small herd of buffalo. On the way out of the park, we saw a few bighorn sheep.
When we got back, I fixed a King Ranch chicken casserole and salad for dinner. Dortha provided the dessert, strawberries over angel food cake. Yum! I'm really glad to have my meal prep partner back, we always seem to come up with such good meals, and have a good time doing it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friends Arrive!

Last time we posted, Dortha and Mark were just getting ready to leave Fort Worth, and planned to be here today. They got out of town on time, and decided they wanted to be here so much that they did the drive in 2 days. They pulled in yesterday afternoon around 4:30. Since their site next to us wouldn't be vacant until this morning, they took another site for one night.

We made dinner for them and started getting caught up on the news. It's great to see them again, and we're sure looking forward to our summer travels with them.
Early this morning, the site next us opened up, and Mark got them moved in within a short time. They are starting to get settled in, Mark has already washed the motor home!

Dortha and grandson, Caden, happy to be out of the bus for a little while!

On Wednesday, we packed up our swimming gear and visited Hot Springs for a little pool time. Many years ago, the hot springs here served as healing waters for the Indians. Now, it's pretty much a summer tourist destination, with indoor and outdoor pools, complete with water slides.
The town of Hot Springs has some very interesting buildings:

And a pretty water fall:

Yesterday was our day in the city, time for Weight Watchers meeting and running errands. Geri needed us to pick up some items at Sam's Club, as well as an order of T-shirts and hats for the campground. We're happy to be able to help out, just so it doesn't become a "job"!

Tonight there is another chuck wagon supper here at the campground, which Mark, Dortha, and Caden get to enjoy with us!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Days Flying By!

Even when we don't seem to be busy every minute, these days in the Black Hills seem to be flying by especially fast. The pace of life here is much slower, so in a way, it doesn't make sense to me that our time here is going quickly. We've spent some time relaxing, taken some drives, done some shopping, and generally enjoyed the cool weather and laid back attitude here.

Sunday morning, Connie Snyder, who is staying here with her husband, Jim, while they are having a house built in the area, baked several pans of delicious cinnamon rolls for everyone in the camp. Wow!

Connie is seving a roll while Geri looks on:

Yes, I had one, and savored every single bite!

Thank you very much, Connie! They were wonderful!

After our breakfast, we took a drive and ended up on Iron Mountain Road, heading to Mt. Rushmore. This is the view from one of the tunnels:

Jim took this picture, calling it "George Playing Peek-a-Boo"

Yesterday was a day mostly at home. Jim took the laundry to town while I washed and groomed the dogs.

This morning we took a great walk before breakfast. We decided to go on another drive, and I downloaded several geocaches that looked like we might be able to find without too much difficulty.
Here I go with the dogs, up a hill towards what we thought was the first location:
A find!
Yes, Jim did do some hiking:

The drive was beautiful, and we found 3 caches.

A new adventure in dining today - we decided it was time for us to try a buffalo burger. We agreed to order one buffalo burger and one other item and split them both. That way, if we didn't like the buffalo, we'd have something else to fall back on.

Karon, we thought of you when we stopped here at the Slate Creek Grill in Hill City - remember, this is where we ate when you took us out driving last year:

As it turns out, we both liked the buffalo! We will probably buy some meat and grill our own now.

We've talked to Mark several times in the last day or so, he and Dortha are gearing up for their departure from Fort Worth tomorrow. They should be arriving sometime on Friday. We are looking forward to our journey together, safe travels, dear friends!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Black Hills Living

And a fine life it is! Yesterday we made a city run - about an hour's drive to Rapid City. Before we left the campground, we stopped to see if Geri needed anything from Walmart. Yes, she did, so it was a good thing we offered to pick up a few things.

There is no Weight Watchers meeting in Custer, so I decided that if I was going to travel to a meeting, it might as well be to the city, and that was the main purpose of our trip. We arrived in town and began looking for the meeting location, which turned out to be a little more difficult than we anticipated. Finally, we stopped at a hospital nearby, and I went in to ask directions. The receptionist knew exactly where the meeting was, so that problem was solved quickly. We then drove across town to locate the Walmart, and back towards the meeting. Then it started raining - really hard. At one point, we pulled over under an underpass because Jim couldn't see the road at all. Finally, the rain let up a little bit and he dropped me off at the meeting and went to do the Walmart shopping.

After the meeting we stopped for lunch and a little shopping, then got back to the campground late afternoon. We spent the evening relaxing.

This morning, we were up early, because I was going with Pat and Mike McFall on a hike and some geocaching, while Jim was going to do the laundry. I was at the McFall's place a little before 8. It was a beautiful morning, and the hike was fun and not too challenging. We found 2 geocaches before calling it a day. At the second geocache location, we met a couple from Iowa out doing some geocaching too, and they told us about a woman they met at another geocache who has something like 16,o00 finds. Well, some people just need to get a life! I can't imagine being so engrossed in this hobby, but to each her own!

A drive into Custer State Park occupied a couple of hours this afternoon. Buffalo and deer were around, and of course, we got some pictures to share.

The big event for the evening was a chuck wagon supper at the campground. Steak, beans, and potatoes, finished off with a peach cobbler. The people who do the cooking are a young family, husband and wife with two very young children. They bring everything with them, from the chuck wagon to the fire ring. Food was delicious, and the company was great! Pat and Mike came over, and we also met several other couples who are staying here.

The chuck wagon is all stocked, and the fire is going:

Pot of beans on the left, steaks on the grill, peach cobbler on the ground with coals on the pot lid, and a pot of potatoes, about ready to serve:

Jim got Larry and Geri, campground owners, to stop their busy work for just a minute. They really work hard every day to make sure all their guests are happy:
Wow, did I say how much we're enjoying this?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Geocaching Adventure Day

Getting settled in and relaxing was the order of the day yesterday. We made a quick run into Custer to pick up fresh salad fixins' and stopped on the way to visit with Pat and Mike McFall for a few minutes. We got to meet their sweet cat, Ms. Megabyte2. You will have to check out their blog for her story, she is truly an angel kitty.

Then later in the afternoon, we took ourselves up to the porch at the office and sat awhile with Larry and Geri for an informal happy hour. We visited with them for nearly 3 hours, just telling stories and getting better acquainted with them. In all of our travels, we have never met any better campground owners. This past winter, they were able to do some traveling of their own, with a nice trailer they'd recently purchased. Larry was telling us that they were amazed by how some campgrounds are not clean, neat, well-run, etc. I told him I wasn't kidding when I said they are honestly exceptional in this business. As we sat there, a couple of rigs came in. As the people came up the steps to check in, Geri walked over to them and introduced herself and welcomed them. Every one who came up to the office was greeted warmly. It really is an outstanding campground, but don't tell everyone because we want to be able to get a space here every summer!

This morning, Pat and Mike came over to go geocaching. They've never been, but wanted to see what it's all about. Here at the campground, there is a 3-part cache. Jim and I had located the first 2 parts since we've been here. The last part is located about .3 mile up on top of a ridge behind the campground, and we saved that one for today. The 4 of us hiked up the ridge, and Pat found her first cache!

Mike was getting ready to head down while Pat re-hid the cache:

We came back down to the office and talked to Geri a few minutes, and she told us about another cache located not far from here. This one would involve a more serious hike, so Jim decided to do a few things around here instead. He wanted to get the front of the Castle cleaned up and get some things organized. I got the coordinates entered into my gps, then Pat, Mike and I took off in search of Beecher's Pillars. We sure had a good and challenging hike! This one was about a mile off the road, up some very steep, rocky terrain. It was quite an adventure, and I sure hope the McFalls enjoyed the outing, because I sure did. It felt great to get out and do some hiking and introduce them to the fun of geocaching. There are hundreds of caches in this area, and I plan to find a few more while we're here.
Pat and I on the trail of cache #2:
Beecher's Pillars:

Wow! What an incredible view from near the top:

Mike was scoping out the possible hiding place of the cache:

Pretty flowers on the trail:
This afternoon has been busy with us resting. I've heard people talk about doing nothing, but never getting it finished. That's how I've felt this afternoon. I'm trying real hard to do nothing, but can't seem to get it completed. Maybe tomorrow! I'll keep trying...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Custer - We're Here!

Yesterday morning seems like a long time ago. I know it was just about 450 miles ago. We pulled out of the Colorado Springs KOA around 9 a.m. and headed north on I-25, not sure how far we'd go the first day.

We passed by Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver:

And got a last look at the Denver skyline. Just hours later, a funnel cloud stopped the Colorado Rockies game for about 45 minutes.

A new state for us in the Phaeton:

We made a last minute decision to stop in Cheyenne for the night, and went to AB Campground. Luckily, they had a spot for us.
Very early this morning, we fired up the Castle's engine and got on the road. Afternoon storms are common in this part of the country, especially this year, so we thought it would be a good idea to get settled before that.
South Dakota, revisited:
An early view of the Black Hills, and we started to feel very comfortable and at home.

Our friends, Doug and JoAnn, talk about the feeling of places. We notice that too, every place we go has some sort of unique feeling to it. Some we like more than others. The Black Hills is one place that has a very special and wonderful feeling for us.

We arrived at Broken Arrow Campground a little after noon. On the road out from Custer, we passed Pat and Mike McFall's place and gave them a "shout" from the Castle's air horns. Got a wave from them, we'll be getting together soon, I hope.
We checked in and visited with Geri, one of the campground owners, a few minutes before proceeding to our site. Here we are, at home in Custer. Hey, Mark and Dortha, your site is waiting next to us, can't wait till you join us!

I had a crockpot going today with a favorite recipe, Crockpot Stroganoff Chicken. It's really a simple and delicious meal, just mix together a can of low-fat mushroom soup, a 16oz. container of fat-free sour cream, and an envelope of dry onion soup mix. Place several frozen chicken breasts (about a pound, or 4 to 6 breasts) in the bottom of the crockpot and pour the sour cream mixture over them. Cook on low for about 7 hours. I added some sliced, fresh mushrooms at the end of the cooking time and let them heat up for a few minutes. Serve with rice or pasta.
We ate that and a salad once we got set up. Now we're waiting until the nightly ice cream social for dessert. What a day, a journey! We're happy to be here. Our plans for the next few weeks are to enjoy the quiet, get back in the habit of eating at home and going for our walks, and enjoying the quiet. Oh, did I already say that? Oh, and there will be visiting, I know. But we're ready for a slower pace, for sure, although it was a very special time with our kids, grandkids, family and friends in Colorado and we'll miss them.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Even More Visits

It seems like yesterday I was asking if it's time to go yet. Now, all of a sudden, we're leaving the beautiful Pikes Peak area tomorrow morning. It has been a full week, that's for sure.

We've spent some time on the Castle, making sure everything is road-ready again. The pantry is stocked, including dog food. We have plenty of books to read, and of course, the Wii games to keep us occupied. We have fresh haircuts, and I have a new pedicure. I think we're ready.

We've had some wonderful visits this week, starting with our youngest Granddaughter, Kellie. She lives in the Denver area, but has spent the week with friends in Colorado Springs. We picked her up on Tuesday to go to lunch and do a little shopping.

Here she is, after our shopping:

We made a trip to the Denver area on Wednesday to see Zach, our oldest son. His birthday was Tuesday, gee, he's catching up with me! Hope you had a great day, Zach!

Then we got to see Kellie's sister and brothers, our oldest Grandkids. Cameron, me, Elyse, and Calib: (oh, you noticed, I'm the shortest one!)

It was a very happy day for us to spend with this family!

On the way home, we saw this rainbow. It was actually a double for awhile, but I couldn't get a good picture of it. I love rainbows! I'm sure the pot of gold at the end of it is right at our door.

We also went out to a special dinner on Tuesday evening. In addition to Zach's birthday, it's also my sister, Ann's (and Bob's) wedding anniversary. We were able to join them and their daughter, Tami and her husband, Tyrone, for a delicious German meal at The Eidelweiss, a local restaurant.
From the left are Tyrone, Tami, Bob, Ann, and Jim:

The other main activity this week has been dodging the frequent rainstorms that have moved through the area pretty much every day. The weather radio has gone off every day, I think. Luckily, we have not had any severe weather, just a lot of rain. From looking at the weather in the places we're heading, I have a feeling we should keep our jeans and long-sleeved shirts, along with our rain gear, handy!
Travel day is tomorrow, yay!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Is It Time?

Most fulltimers know the symptoms. A feeling of restlessness. Anticipation. We look around the campground, noting how familiar each row is. The workampers all know us, and we recognize the other long-term campers. Is it time to go? Well...almost! We're heading into our last week in Colorado Springs. We've had the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family, to catch up with the health maintenance tasks that are so important to us. We've relaxed some, worked some, explored a little, and enjoyed a lot. The official term for our condition is known as hitch-itch, and we've come down with a case of it. There is no permanent cure, but we can ease the symptoms by cranking the Castle's engine and heading whichever direction we want to. Patience, patience...

In the meantime, we've continued to do the things we do.

Friday, Robin and Jacob came for lunch. We promised her a grilled shrimp meal, so this was the perfect opportunity, since Josh doesn't eat shrimp. We pulled out the last two pounds of large gulf shrimp which we'd carefully frozen when we bought it fresh in Rockport. Jim fired up his new favorite grill and I put together salad, potatoes and squash. Jacob got his favorite - a cheeseburger, since he's not a big fish eater either. We sure enjoyed that meal! Robin and Jacob visited for a while after lunch, but had chores they needed to get done.

Dinner was at Ann and Bob's, where we had more grilled shrimp and grilled scallops. We played cards, our regular games of cribbage, canasta and spades. The most noteworthy moment in the card event was the last hand of spades. I'm not a very good player - most often I'm the one with the lowest score. I'd had my usual hands through the whole game. But on the last hand, Bob got a monster hand and bid six or seven tricks. I had no spades at all and bid zero. That always throws everyone off, since the object then becomes to "set" the player who has bid zero. Well, I managed to pull it off and got 100 points, winning the game.

Saturday morning after the Weight Watchers meeting, Jim and I had breakfast with friends Gary, and Deb and Al. We all worked together and try to get together when we're back in town.

Then in the afternoon, we gathered up steaks, salads, veggies and cheesecake and headed off to Josh's house. Jim had the opportunity to use his old grill that he gave to Josh when we sold our house.

This is Josh's house:
Here it is - the old Weber!:

Our sweet grand-dog, Tayla, who is Josh's:

Robin looked on while Josh and I played guitar hero and Manda (Josh's friend) read a book:

Jim and Josh shared kitchen duties:

Manda's son, P.J. and Jacob played a round of guitar hero:

We had a grand time eating and playing and visiting. But finally, it got to be time to come home and rest up.

Today, more adventure waits.