S: West Bend and the Hills, July 11 - 15, 2012
FC: Our Vacation from | A to Z
1: After | After getting the camper lights working, checking on a neighbor's irrigation clock and delivering Reilly and the praying mantises to Grandpa Jim for safe keeping, we were on our way bright and early at ... 1:15 p.m.. Not as early as we'd hoped, but heading on vacation nonetheless. We arrived at West Bend around 4:45 p.m.. We set up the pop-up and the kids went swimming for a few hours before we grilled chicken, potatoes and corn. The breeze was minimal, but we were grateful for anything with 100 degree temps. Our streak continues! Every camping experience we have had over the past 6 years has encompassed some amount of lightning and rain. This time we only had heat lightning and the rain was a 3-minute sprinkling, but all the same our curse continues. Thankfully the night cooled down perfectly and the skies were soon clear enough to view all the spectacular stars overhead. The next morning, Steve made bacon and eggs for breakfast and the kids played some bean bags with Grandma Peggy. Afterward we took a walk down to the playground. Working our way around the campground, we saw a couple trees that a beaver had damaged overnight and then walked down the beach back to our campsite. We escaped the heat (over 100 degrees) and wasted the afternoon away in the water. | July 11
2: is for Alpine | A
3: Burro on the Wild Life Loop Balance on pop cans Bison on the prairie in 101 degrees Beaver damage at West Bend Bridge at Michele's cabin Bean Bags with Grandma | B is for...
4: Custer State Park
5: C is for... | Campsite at West Bend Custer State Park Crevice at Sylvan Lake Michele's Cabin in Lead
6: Can you spot the "d"? | Thursday evening Megan finally pulled Steve away from swimming to go fishing. They threw in a couple of lines off the point and each caught a catfish. Megan struck first and hers was also the biggest of the two. After having to send Peggy and Seth down to retrieve our fishermen, we started a fire (yes, even with the heat). Of course we had to have a fire to make s'mores! But first we grilled steak kabobs and green beans (from our garden) for dinner. That night didn't disappoint -- no rain! It cooled down enough that we needed to break out the blankets. The sky was even clearer than the night before, if possible. The sliver of a moon reflected across Lake Sharpe and the big dipper hung so perfectly over the trees it looked as if it had been painted in the sky. | July 12
7: Dad & Daughter | Steve and Megan caught 2 catfish
8: E is for Eating | F is for Farmland, | and Fans. | Fire,
9: Fishing for catfish at West Bend and... | ...for trout in Lead.
10: ... now you don't | Now you seen them | G is for Grapes. | Friday morning we packed everything...well, almost, we forgot our clothesline... and headed to Pierre. We had to purchase a few items that were forgotten at home before we headed west ( i.e. toothbrushes for the kids, underwear for Steve) and we needed to fill the gas tank. | July 13
11: ... 3 Generations. | G is also for Grandma and | Once we got settled at the cabin, we headed to Mt Rushmore and began our quest to find all 50 license plates along the way. Reminiscent of our last trip in 2008, we followed a thunderhead the whole way there and had to wait briefly in the food court for the rain to cease. Afterward we visited the Sculptor's Studio, hiked the trail up behind the amphitheater and saw a couple of mountain goats. We finished the day by eating at Lewie's just down the road from the cabin. | On to the Hills! We took a new route for us and it lead right into Sturgis. We drove by many bike rally destinations (including the Buffalo Chip) that would be teaming with bikers in the next few weeks, but were empty that day. We stopped at the busiest McDonald's in the country (so it seemed) and had a quick bite before continuing on to Lead.
12: H is for hiking. Peggy took the boys on a quick hike down the Mickelson Trail before breakfast. | We found 35 different license plates. After 5 dollars was offered to the person who spotted Hawaii first, Seth searched every vehicle at every stop we made. Sadly, he never saw one. | H is also for Herd.
13: I is for Identical spot. We took a picture of Steve and the kids in the identical spot on all 3 visits to Mt Rushmore over a span of 8 years. | 2004 | 2008 | 2012
14: J is for Jungle. On our trip through the Hills in 2004, Seth got "tired of the jungle" while driving on the Needles Highway. J is also for Jeanette, who finally made it into some vacation photos.
15: K is for Keystone ...both the town and the beer! | Always Smooth
16: Saturday morning, Jeanette made bacon and eggs while Steve fished for trout in the stream right outside the cabin and Megan watched from the bridge. Peggy, Seth and Nathan took a short hike down the Mickelson trail. | Once breakfast was done, we were off to Custer State Park. Yet again we forgot something ...a cooler and snacks. It was another scorcher and we could have really used the supplies with us. | Our route took us down Needles Highway. We stopped at Sylvan Lake, took a short hike and bought an ice cream treat for each of us. | Then we trekked down the Wild Life Loop. Bounties were made for the first of each animal spotted; each bounty was $1, except for the mountain lion... its bounty was $10. (Seth was still searching for Hawaii's license plate which had a bounty of $5 and he was calculating his possibilities.) | a boulder tunnel at Sylvan Lake | Needles Highway
17: After another long day in the car, we were ready to head back to the cabin. The kids ate leftovers from Lewie's, while the adults grilled hot dogs. Of course we made s'mores again using the electric grill. The area had a complete fire ban due to extreme drought and heat. | Deer, prong horns and antelope were spotted early on. We were almost to Iron Mountain Road when we finally found the Bison herd. They were grazing on the prairie with little shade in 101 degrees. | Finally we got a cold drink and a greasy snack and browsed a few shops. Grandma Peggy treated each of the kids to a souvenir --Seth found a 12" ceramic rattle snake, Nathan selected a necklace with two Buffalo Head nickel charms and Megan found a cuddly stuffed buffalo with a South Dakota heart brand on its rump. | After we left the Wild Life Loop, we headed to the Presidential Alpine Slide in Keystone. Peggy played photographer as the rest of us headed up the ski lift and then down the slide. | July 14 | Bison on the Wild Life Loop | Needles Highway
18: L is for... Little Steve and Steve on the beach Fallen Log photo-op Lewie's in Lead; where Peggy treated us to dinner.
19: M is for... Megan, of course Marshmallows roasted to perfection and... | Sylvan Lake
20: No trip to the Hills would be complete without the ultimate M... Mt Rushmore | Mountain goats at Mt Rushmore | 1927 - 1941 the carving years 400 number of workers $989,992.32 the total cost
22: Napping on the way to the Hills. | Nathan | Nate swam so much at West Bend that he lived in his swimsuit. | Nate eating s'mores at the cabin.
23: Needles Highway | One Way Tunnel | the view from our truck as we drove through the tunnel | O is for...
24: P is for Pop-up we borrowed from Jerry and Jill | Megan in the Pop-up | Playing at the playground | Three Pyromaniacs
25: is for ...Quagmire (n.) A difficult or precarious situation; a predicament. Our trip ended in what can best be described as a quagmire. Sunday morning we were homeward bound by 10 a.m.. The first hour was fantastic; the kids slept, the wind was from the west pushing us home and everything seemed like we'd get home in no time. Suddenly within a matter of minutes, the ride took an about-face. The kids started rousing and getting antsy, the wind switched to the south and started ramping up and next thing we knew, the pop-up was popping-up as we drove down the interstate. Steve pulled over and we realized one of the boards had rotted. There wasn't much we could do. We drove slowly down the road to the next off ramp and weighed our options. "Where's the clothesline?" Yup, the one we forgot on the tree at West Bend would have come in real handy right about now. There were two in the camper though, so we popped up the camper, dug out the packed belongings and crawled in to find the right cupboard. Once the camper was back down, repacked and now tied with a clothesline, it was back on the road,,, slower than desired, but still moving toward home. Of course, the clothesline didn't hold, so down the road a very short distance we stopped again at the next off ramp. This time the clothesline was tied differently and held a little better. Now the white-knuckled drive began to make it to the next gas stop and search for a set of ratchet straps. Of course, we were in the middle of South Dakota between Pierre and Chamberlain -- not a lot of options. And the temperature was registering 107; glad we were still moving down the road, but it felt like at a snail's pace. We found our first rest stop and ... strike one. Second stop... strike two, but we did fill with gas and get food at the busiest Dairy Queen in the country (again, so it seemed)... Third stop and this time in Chamberlain at an Alco and ... success! Finally, ratchet straps secured and back on the interstate traveling the speed limit. Just outside of Mitchell it dawns on Steve that he didn't remember putting the crank away when we lowered the pop-up after retrieving the clothesline. Yup, we lost the crank. Had we not forgotten our clothesline, we would not have had to open the pop-up, thus not needing the crank. Who knew forgetting a simple strand of rope at the campsite would be such an issue. By the time we dropped Peggy off and picked up the praying mantises and Reilly, we arrived home after 6 p.m. -- a very long 8 hour day! | Q | July 15
27: R is for... Reiter family Steve and Peggy relaxing by Lake Sharpe
28: Nate up top | Nate down deep
29: is for Sharpe & Sylvan. Lake Sharpe was our swimming oasis at West Bend. We walked along Sylvan Lake while in the Hills.
30: S is also for... Sleeping in the Pop-up S'mores!! Megan playing in the sand and of course, Seth & Steve
32: Rest your feet up on the dash. Leave your toe prints on the glass. ~ Days like This by Jason Aldean | T is for... Toes & Technology | ...toes in the water, toes in the sand not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand Life is good today. Life is good today. ~ Toes by Zac Brown Band | specifically Nathan's sweaty underwear complaints and forgotten underwear. Guess who forgot to pack theirs? | (pictured above) We stopped in Pierre to buy two items that were forgotten during packing -- kid's toothbrushes and underwear for Steve. | is for... | Underwear | mp3 players and Kindles kept the long drive bearable
33: Z is for the Zipline that was a big fat Zero. We chose to spend the $9 they were charging for a ride over a parking lot on a souvenir instead. | V is for... Vacation full of memories | ater | X is for... the eXtreme heat we endured on our long drive home. | Y is for... | Yahtzee we played on the ride to and from the Hills.