Thursday, July 31, 2014

Winding Roads, Wildlife, Dinosaurs and Stories- DAY THREE

See? I'm back! More adventures were to be had on day three. Probably our most ambitious day as far as being a tourist in South Dakota, for sure.

This was going to be the day we did the Buffalo Jeep Safari tour and the Cowboy Dinner. Other than that, we had kind of planned on seeing whatever we could fit in until 3:30, which is when we had to be at the State Game Lodge. So on the recommendations of basically everyone, we set out to do all three of the scenic byways.

First up was Needles Highway. I'll be honest, I let Matt drive because we were told right at the entrance of Custer State Park that it's kind of difficult if you've never driven switchbacks. I hadn't so I let Matt take over because he's drive out in Nevada and the mountainous terrain there, so I figured we'd be good. And thank god because later on I was so grateful to not be driving.

There were quite a few tunnels on this byway and another one we did later on, which were kind of terrifying but cool. This one was the least scary.
But what we didn't expect were a TON of areas to pull over and explore. So we did some climbing on rocks and just taking in the gorgeous landscape.

I even climbed up on a rock. AND got down without assistance and without falling. WIN.
 Can you spot Matt in this picture?
 The kids thought climbing rocks was easily the coolest thing in the whole world.
Lots of this kind of stuff.
So after driving for awhile, we decided to stop and have lunch. Which, this place was kind of cool but terrible service. And kind of terrible food. I'm SURE I asked for a beef hamburger and I'm SURE I got buffalo. I didn't take more than three bites and called it good. For as much  money as you spend, it's not a lot of food and what you do get isn't that great. Then I found out this is the place that prepares the meal for the cowboy dinner we were scheduled to go on.
 So while the kids were pretending to be weird statues, Matt was calling to cancel our cowboy dinner reservation. Initially, Jackson was upset until I promised I'd buy him a cowboy hat (because we were supposed to get on on the dinner ride) and then he was fine. But we still wanted to see buffalo, I knew we couldn't leave without seeing them, so we switched our Jeep Safari tour to 1:00. That gave us an hour to get there and the woman on the phone assured us we were 30 minutes away. Easy. So we got in the car and hauled ass figuring getting there early meant everyone could pee before we embark on our tour.

The fastest way to get there was to continue on the byways but this time we got onto the Wildlife Loop. Which isn't nearly as hilly but equally beautiful.
I wanted to put this guy in the back. Matt said absolutely not. See? This little guy even looks sad about it.

So we're trucking right along and bam- road block. I'm talking maybe 30-40 cars in the road and we see a visitor center building and black dots on the road. As we approach, Jackson just about lost his shit in the backseat.
I wish I had thought to take video of him, but he was screaming, "MOM!!! We have to stop! They are all over!" And sure enough,
buffalo were everywhere. Honestly, there had to have been hundreds. Some were as big as I thought and a few were as big as my Ford Escape, I kid you not.
I did take video of the noises they made (not included here, sorry), but I should have recorded Jackson telling us they knew he was here and they were talking to him.  Honestly, he's such an odd little kid but I absolutely love it. He really WAS thrilled. This was probably the best day ever for him.
Couple of things. 1. Buffalo are huge. I felt really scared for the three people on motorcycles in front of us because the one that was as big as my car came up to them a few times. I would have peed my pants. 2. There was a Range Rover with Florida plates who drove in the grass to get around buffalo and some of our cars to take a picture of the largest one. I really wanted to ram into them because a woman was practically hanging out the sunroof taking pictures. 3. Then a guy got out of his car, walked along side us and tried to pet a baby buffalo, like an idiot. That got a little dicey and we all rolled our windows up because as Matt said, if shit was going to go down, he's not getting in our car.
But we sat for quite awhile watching them. Mostly because they were blocking the road. Coincidentally, we missed the buffalo tour and we saw them drive by us. SO, we saved our money and saw the exact same buffalo.
And this guy tried REALLY hard to get into my window. No thanks. If you were a goat, most definitely.
After our exciting times on the Wildlife Loop, the buffalo started moving and we continued on our way. Now that we weren't doing the dinner or the safari tour, the rest of our day was wide open. So we decided to continue to the third byway, Iron Mountain Road. Which, I'm going to tell you right now, if you are prone to car sickness? Avoid it. I am not prone to that and I got car sick.
But it was so worth it because it had maybe the best views ever.The tunnels were far scarier. There are signs telling you to honk as you go because oncoming cars cannot see you and they are only one lane roads. One of the last tunnels had no signage, but there was a woman taking pictures and she was screaming at us to  honk because nobody can see you. Not only is it really long, but there was a bit of an incline and that alone says "head on collision" all over it. Thankfully, we never met any cars in them, but that one was particularly terrible because right as you get out of the tunnel, it's almost an immediate U-turn to the left otherwise down the mountain you go. But at the end, I could tell Matt's nerves were shot. It's a really difficult road to drive. The little town you come out in, I think it was Keystone, had stores along a boardwalk, so we stopped. We each got a shirt that had the Iron Mountain Road logo and on the back it says:

-17 miles
-314 curves
-14 switchbacks
-3 pigtails
-3 tunnels
-4 Presidents
-2 splits

It says 4 Presidents because out a couple of the tunnels, you get an amazing view of Mount Rushmore. Totally worth the ride despite the fact I thought I was going to lose my lunch.

After that, we decided we still had time to kill, so we went north to Rapid City.
And went to Dinosaur Park. Which, not going to lie, was kind of stupid. So we only stayed for a few minutes. Then, we went to Storybook Island.
Which turned out to be really great. THIS is the kind of park every city should have. It was free, really clean and well maintained, and the friendliest people working there.
All of the play areas are straight out of children's books so the kids had a fun time going through all of them.
After killing an hour there, we let the kids pick where to go for dinner. Sadly, Jackson found a Chuck E. Cheese. Admittedly, neither Matt nor I had ever been, so we agreed. $55 later, and those kids had enough pizza and game tokens to make them squeal with glee. Maybe the best part about this is that I schooled my family on Skee Ball and nobody got near my 31,000 score. Best ever? No. But it was far better than anything any of them were doing! HA! After that, we decided enough was enough for one day and headed back to our camping cabin. Finished off the last of the smore's ingredients and got ready for bed.

We made a last minute decision to cancel our hotel for the next night in Mitchell and instead, we'd do several things on the way home but just drive straight through. I'll let you imagine how that went. I'll post about that tomorrow.

BUT, you'll be happy to know that on night two in a camping cabin, I did not pee my pants. No sir. This big girl made her husband walk with her to the bathroom, with a flashlight, around 3 a.m. He sees better in the dark than I do apparently.


Don't panic, day three of our trip will be a post later on tonight! I just have a few book reviews I'm working on and then back to photos and stories.

Invitation - Christina Hoffman
Can the love of a good man bring you back to life? Dr. Liam Mason wants to try...

Madison Spencer is a focused medical student, concerned only with work and paying the bills. She hides her beauty and once passionate spirit behind a quiet plain Jane facade. Since she was drugged, stripped, and photographed by a vengeful ex, she has stayed away from men and kept her heart and body safe. But the loneliness is becoming more than she can bear.

When heart-stoppingly gorgeous Dr. Liam Mason walks into her world, she knows she's in trouble. The attraction is instant, but Madison expects her past to be a deal-breaker.

Instead, Liam offers to bring her back to life. No love, no commitment, just straight-up fun. Madison's sensible mind resists, but her body is willing. Together the young doctors explore love, and all its many obstacles.

Deep inside, each wonders if they've found their perfect match. But their fears threaten to destroy the world they're building together. 

Will they each be strong enough and brave enough to risk their hearts to have it all?

*Please note: this title contains adult situations and is not intended for readers under 18 years old.

Any book that comes with a disclaimer urging readers to be 18 years old and beyond, is going to be good right off the bat. It's particularly good when you find yourself home alone for a full weekend day. Which is glorious all on its own. 

Madison is a bit of a square, a really focused square with a really terrible history. Obviously steering clear from men because of a pretty horrific incident that I don't think many people would come out normal from, when she meets Liam she's knocked on her ass. It's like heat of the moment, drop your drawers intense and Madison isn't sure what to do. Fortunately for her, Liam also is looking to be commitment free so they embark on a friends with benefits type relationship, which ends up being messy and not at all what they wanted. 

There are some fairly explicit scenes in this book, which you can imagine with the disclaimer given. The key here is that if you are a little freaked out about the BDSM trend and  you don't get any of that at all and it kills a romance novel for you? You're in luck because you won't get that here. It's straight vanilla scenes, albeit steamy in their own right. Another thing about this novel I enjoyed is that if you aren't a huge fan of romance, this actually might not be a bad start for you. Mostly because unlike traditional romance novels where the characters are maybe more difficult to relate to (because how many billionaires do you actually know?), these are "normal" people with baggage. They could be anyone, basically. 

Can we also mention this is a debut novel? For as solid as this book was, I am still surprised it's a debut. Christina writes as if she's been crafting this for a while, and maybe she has in her spare time, and the hard work has certainly showed. I was hooked from the very beginning and easily finished this in an afternoon. 

If you go ahead and read this, you can discuss your thoughts on it at the PUYB Virtual Book Club over at Goodreads (HERE). If you want to purchase this book, it's currently available at Amazon (HERE).  
raflhref="" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Caves, Crazy Horse and Cabin- DAY TWO

I was probably the most excited about day two, myself. We had lots on our agenda for our trip but it came down to fitting things in when we could.

 So this was the day we were going to go to the Rushmore Cave. I was most excited about this because, fun fact, I was a bit of a geology geek in high school. Totally loved it. I've gotten rusty and I always wish I could just take classes for fun. Oh well, someday.

The cave turned out to be super cool. It's all limestone so you can't touch any of it otherwise it turns black and dies. I mean, who wants to kill it? So the kids were really good about following the rules.
Jackson was most impressed when our guide, Brady B., told us how far under ground we were. He thought that he was a real explorer.

Some of the areas were very narrow and steep. If you are at all claustrophobic, probably not the best thing for you. But we managed to get through the entire tour without incident.  
We had a pretty great time in there. Afterwards, we bought the kids a bag of dirt with rocks/gems in it that they could "mine". That lasted maybe a full two minutes, but they thought it was pretty cool.

After that, we got in the car and headed towards the Crazy Horse Memorial.
Which was pretty stinking massive. It's not completed and honestly, at the rate they're going, it won't be finished in my lifetime. Probably not even my kids' lifetimes. While I appreciate the whole "not letting the government help out" thing given it's a memorial for the Native Americans who basically had everything taken from them because of the government, it's hard to appreciate this for what it will be when it's not even half done. But it is huge. Mouth Rushmore is smaller than Crazy Horse's head.

Matt helping Jackson get a better view.
This is the mold they are using for a guide. So, it'll be pretty impressive. Someday.

Surprise- Jackson found another buffalo to take his picture next to!
After Crazy Horse, we were all kind of exhausted. We had spent most of our day in the car going back and forth between places so we decided it was about time to check out these camping cabins.
 Honestly, they weren't awful. They were pretty small. The beds were hard as hell even with the thing they are calling a mattress. Which was really a glorified nap pad for kindergartners. There were towels on the windows and they called those curtains. The bathroom was just under a 1/4 of a mile up the trail. So, it was doable.
You can tell by Olivia's face she was not impressed when we informed her that her and Jackson had to share a bed. Granted, there were more than enough beds but I had only brought one fitted sheet for our bed and one for theirs. I didn't have room to pack more than that so they had to share. Overall, that worked out pretty well.
So we did our hot dogs and beans on the grill.  We made ourselves a little picnic.

 And we obviously did smores.
We took the kids and showered up. Not as terrible as I expected. I mean, it could really have been far worse.
 We got ready for bed..

 ...even me.
And we went to sleep.

Well, the kids did. Matt and I lay there sweating our fucking asses off. Because at that point, it was about 92 degrees in the cabin. We had the windows open, no breeze. We were literally baking in there. Around 2 a.m. though, Matt had drifted off and I had to pee. I had to really pee.

I debated on holding it. Quickly dismissed that when I sat up and realized my bladder is as full as it gets. I had to take action. I was able to find my sandals, but not the flashlight. A quick check out the door and I figured, it's not that dark. I'll be fine. I'll just pay attention and hustle.

So I set off.

I only make it half way there when all of a sudden, I go down.

I go down hard.

I know I made a "umph"  noise. I honestly thought I broke my ankle. I wasn't sure what I had done. Was it an animal? Was I going to be mauled in a weird "campground" on the god damn highway?


It turns out to just be a hole. A dangerous hole that has ruined everything.

Because you see, by this point, all hope was lost. I started laughing. Which means in that exact moment, I started peeing.

Oh yes.

This girl, age 32, peed her god damn pants while sitting in a hole, laughing, in the middle of night, in a weird campground on the god damn highway.

And I really peed. I peed enough that I honestly considered just stripping down right there and running back. But then I saw some guy pissing out of his camper, and while I realized how genius that was and wondered why didn't I just do that, I decided to not streak through the campground.

Instead, I waddled back trying to not drip on my sandals.

I got back to the cabin and changed into new underwear. Decided that maybe not having pajama bottoms was a good thing because it was so hot in there, and went to bed.

Rather, I lay in the dark and ridiculously hot room for another few hours until others woke up.

Needless to say, my first night in a camping cabin was kind of eventful. Even more so when in the morning, on our way to the showers/bathroom, we all noticed my giant puddle of urine. Matt asked if anyone saw my face or which cabin I went into.