Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The Journey to the Black Hills

Hello to you all from the sunny and gorgeous Black Hills of South Dakota! We're having a lovely time, TODAY in and around Custer State Park. Let me catch you up to speed. Please sit back with a nice cup of coffee or glass of ice tea and let us begin. Now sit right back and I'll tell a tale, a tale of a fateful trip...

Instead of leaving Monday as originally planned, we left on Sunday right after church. We thought it would be nice to break the nine hour day into two days instead of just one long day of driving. Well, first we had to go home, change clothes and pack up the truck with everything we had ready to go. Then get Zoey from Mandy's and then to storage to hitch up the camper. About 15 miles up I-29 I couldn't find my project bag with my socks in it. Now, you all know that's a disaster. All we could think was that it fell out of the truck at the storage place when we were hitching up. So we turned around and went back. All while pulling a 30 foot trailer! We got there and nope, it wasn't on the ground anywhere. I went to climb back into the truck and guess what was wedged somehow between the seat and the door. Yep. The Bag. Only 45 minutes and 30 miles or so wasted. Oh well. Dennis didn’t say a word. He is the absolute BEST husband. It was even his idea to turn around and go back. I just said to forget it.

So on we journeyed. As we continued up I-29 toward Sioux City, the water kept getting higher all around us. Yep. The Mighty Missouri River is flooding big time. As we went through Sioux City we saw lots of things underwater including a whole bunch of campers at a campground, with water up to the air conditioners on their roofs! The interstate had water almost to the road on both sides too! Onward we persevered. I started to feel like an explorer and adventurer when I saw trucks full of sand between Sioux City and Sioux Falls S.D., a stretch of about 70 miles or so. They were taking it to fill sandbags to put on the river dikes. Mandy called and apparently the interstate was being completely closed right behind us as the water had gone over the roadway.

We did make it to our campground in Mitchell, SD and had a nice dinner of leftover pizza from the night before. Congratulating ourselves on the fact that we outran the flood, (that is now threatening Omaha and points further south), but I digress.

We left our campground around 8:00 Monday morning to continue on our approximately 4 hours left to our campsite in Custer.  We thought we would be there by 1:00 easily, giving us lots of time to set up, explore a bit and relax. Well.....

that's what we thought. About here, in the middle of nowhere South Dakota, about 40 miles from the nearest big/small town of Wall...

This happened. (See Photo below.) A flat tire you ask? Nope. A blowout on the truck that scared me half to death. Have you ever had a BLOWOUT happen while you're pulling a 30 foot trailer? It's nothing like getting a plain old flat tire, let me assure you. Dennis handled it like a champ. He got us off the main lanes of the interstate and turned the truck off and turned to me. The first thing he said was, "Good thing we got AAA". We have never, ever had AAA before. In all of our travels we never did. A flat tire? He changed it. Anything that came up? He handled it. About two months ago we got some junk mail from AAA asking us to join. Dennis said maybe we should think about this if we're planning to camp and travel more. So we did. Best $35 we ever spent.

Remember, we were in the middle of nowhere. He called AAA, where a very nice lady said we would get a text soon, (very soon, while he was still talking to her.) Dispatch had it and would call. He hung up and within a few seconds the next call came from dispatch. She said it had been sent to a tow truck driver, asked a few questions about the truck and said he would call. Yep. He was calling before Dennis hung up with her. The driver said he was about 50 miles away, (big surprise, remember, we were in the middle of nowhere), but that he would be there ASAP. He asked if the truck had dual back wheels. If we were safe or if he should send police to guard us with their lights. We said no to both and sat back to wait. Forty-five minutes later he was there. He was the nicest young man. He refused a bottle of water or diet pepsi. Did I mention it was HOT out? We couldn't run the truck while we waited because we had planned to get diesel in the next town and we didn't want to use it up.

He had the tire changed in about 45 minutes to an hour. Of course it was driver side tire with all of the traffic whizzing by. I couldn't believe how many people didn't get over into the left lane while he was lying on the ground. Even if it had been a flat, there was no way Dennis could have changed it. It took both of them to get the spare out from under the truck and the blown tire into our backseat. They're heavy! Plus, he had a super heavy duty jack that just pumped the truck up and Zoey and I sat inside the truck for the entire time.

So off we went, after giving him our unending gratitude and multiple thank you's. We did get fuel in the next town. Oh, I forgot to tell you that he told us where the nearest tire dealer was because he felt we probably needed to get it replaced very soon and get the spare off. Just as we were leaving the highway in Rapid City, SD., the truck started shimmeying and shaking again. We crept the remainder of the 4.8 miles to the tire place, praying the entire time.  Oh my goodness.

The guys there were amazing. They had all of our information in their system because we had just bought tires for the CRV a few months ago at their store in Omaha. A nice young man came out to look at the blown tire with Dennis and couldn't believe we didn't crash. There was virtually nothing left on the rim. THEN, he looked at the front tires with Dennis. We couldn't believe it. They were both ready to blow with big blobs of rubber coming out the sides. Again, he couldn't believe we made it there with those tires. So, to end the story, we ended up purchasing four VERY, VERY expensive new truck tires.  Very frustrating because the ones that blew? Only had 10,000 to 15,000 miles on them. Apparently the extreme heat is causing this to happen quite often. The tires had separated inside and just literally blew apart.

They got all four new tires balanced and remounted and on the truck in about 15 minutes. No joke. I couldn't believe it. Again, while Zoey and I sat in the truck with the camper still attached.  As we continued down a different highway toward Mt. Rushmore, neither of us could believe how nice the ride was. It was so smooth. We had been bouncing on those blown up tires for two days and had just gotten used to it.

Here's the tire as we sat on the interstate waiting for AAA to arrive. I HIGHLY recommend them. From Dennis's call to them, to the dispatcher calling and then the driver calling couldn't have been more than three or four minutes! We are so grateful we got it and we'll never let it lapse. It was a great experience, well except for the actual flat tire. :-)

This is how we ended the day. All set up at Fort Welikit in Custer, SD. We've been here several times over the past couple of years and it's become our favorite campground anywhere. Close to everything and very quiet. Although it IS the place where Dennis broke his hand last year. :-) I got a different spot this time to try to make sure he didn't repeat the experience.  Oh, instead of the leisurely dinner I planned to make, grilling pork chops, a salad and potatoes. We ate the last of the leftover pizza and had the pork chops tonight.

This is the back of our campsite. Even with all of the jolting around, nothing was broken in the trailer and all of the drawers and doors were still closed. Unbelievable. 

Today we drove through Custer State Park and relived some memories of when the kids were small and we camped at Bluebell Campground every year. 

This is Stockade Lake.

Isn't it gorgeous? We adore the Black Hills more than anywhere else in the world that we've been. Since Dennis has traveled the entire world with his work, that's saying something.

Tonight, in the late evening we drove the Wildlife Loop Road. The best times are early morning and evening because the animals are much more active and boy were they. We saw bison, deer, antelope, prairie dogs, wild burros, mountain goats and something else I can't remember.

Literally hundreds of these big guys.

So close I could touch them if I stuck my hands out the window. Which I did not.

Oh so many baby buffalo with their mama's. They were so cute running after their mama's. It was like they were saying "Wait for me, my legs don't work too well yet." We saw a couple of the babies trip over their own legs and tumble over and over. So cute.

Zoey was very interested in all of the animals and watched everyone of them without making a sound. I think she was a bit intimidated by the size and sheer numbers of the bison.

This antelope was right next to the truck too. 

The wild burro's...

who like to be fed by the strangers coming to gawk at them.

The scenery goes from mountainous with trees to prairie around the corner.

I thought this cloud was beautiful. Most afternoons it rains for a few minutes in the Hills.

Just as we were leaving the Wildlife Loop we saw this Mama antelope with FIVE babies. They can't all be hers can they?

We also saw a Mama deer with her fawn and several other deer near our campground, but I wasn't fast enough with the camera.

Sorry about writing a book tonight, but I didn't know what to leave out. As I said, we can't say enough good things about AAA. If you've been on the fence about using them, don't be. Just do it!

We'll stay here a few more days and then head to our son's in Montana. We're staying at a KOA there and we cannot wait to see our grandkids. It's been a year and that's way to long for this Grandma.

Have a wonderful Wednesday and I'll hopefully be back with much better stories to tell soon. Love to you all.

Blessings and hugs,

Friday, June 21, 2024

Oldies but Goodies

We made it to Friday! Have any of you melted? I hope you don't fall over in shock since I've posted twice this week.  I have some photos from when I went to a big antique store about 30 miles sw of Omaha with my sister a couple of weeks ago. We had such a great time.  First we went to the huge candy store where they sell the old fashioned candy from when I was little. Remember the wax bottles of kool-aide and candy cigarettes? They have almost every candy you can imagine, but the majority is made right here and it's called Baker's Candies. Oh my goodness. The dark chocolate mint is fabulous. I had Dennis hide it from me or I would have eaten the entire bag within a few days. He gives me a few every night. I'm so pitiful. No self-control at all.

I thought I would share a few pictures I took at the antique store.  Christmas in June!

Precious Moments anyone? There were hundreds of figurines.

Hundreds of Hummel Figurines too. Oh look! They're on sale!

All of the white and blue hobnail dishes were on sale in this booth.

I fell in love with this teeny tiny piano that actually played. It had a bench that went with it.  I tapped out "Mary Had a Little Lamb" but it was out of tune.

I really like this Raggedy Ann and Andy mirror. Wouldn't it be perfect in a baby's room?

But the bottles were what amazed me. They were in booths all over the store. Some Coca-Cola bottles were over $20.00! I saw Grape Knee-High bottles and many different root beer bottles. I wish I had thought to keep our old pop bottles. Maybe we could have funded our retirement. lol

There goes Melanie. As I said before, we had a great time. We've never been able to do things like this until we moved back three years ago. Can you believe it's been three years? I can't. We still miss Spokane terribly, but I absolutely love being able to spend more time with Melanie. Thirty years ago, before we moved to Spokane we were both working full-time and had little kids. Life kept us really busy. She's still working, although she is of retirement age, but she still likes working. She also volunteers at least 2 days a week, usually more, at the University of Nebraska Med. Center. She rocks babies in the NICU and the nurses love her. She's been doing that for years and is known as the baby whisperer there and at church. But she has lots of vacation and other days off and we try to get together often. We also go to church together so I get to see her at least once a week. I sure love her. She's a WoNdErFuL big sister. She always protected me as a little girl too, although for some reason it was okay for her to beat me up. :-)

Here's the almost obligatory photo of the girls. Tuesday when I took Piper to tennis camp they played so hard at Mandy & Brad's that they both crashed in Mandy's office while she was working. She said they were exhausted. Always together and I love how they love each other. Sisters forever. 

Piper did great at tennis camp. They told her she should be moving up to the next level in the fall and then the final level is tournament play.  She's been taking lessons for several years now. I spent awhile watching her play at the camp and thought she did very well. Lots better than Grandma. Dennis and I used to "play" when we were dating 47 years ago! Well, actually he hit the ball to me and I never returned it. I mean I missed it every. single. time. To say I'm not athletic would be a huge understatement.

This is the project I'm working on now. It's another wheelchair blanket to donate. I'm using Caron Jumbo Ombre in the faded jeans colorway. No pattern used. Just one row dc and one row 3 dc shell. I hope to finish it before we leave Monday morning, but time is passing and I really need to start packing. Since we'll be gone over a month there is a lot to take. I'm planning to take small projects like socks and dishcloths to work on while we're driving. 

I think I posted this verse before but it was my Mom's favorite verse and I've been thinking of her a lot. She would have loved to spend the day with Melanie and I. She had an amazing sense of humor and literally everyone who met her, loved her. I honestly don't know anyone who didn't like her.

Okay. I'll stop for now. I'll try to post while we're gone as much as possible. Of course a lot will depend on WIFI. Take care and stay cool.

Blessings and love,

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

April Tornado Damage and France?

Good morning! It’s a dreary Wednesday morning with more rain in the forecast today. I’m not going to write a lot this morning because it’s an overload of photos. We haven’t been near the areas that were hit by the tornado at the end of April because we wanted to respect the cleanup process. But on Monday morning I had to drop a book off at a friends who lives very, very close to one of the hardest hit areas. I snapped just a few photos to show you how devastating it was. If there were people working at a house, I didn’t take any pictures out of respect for them.

The damage ranged from roofs gone to entire houses disappearing from their foundations and ending up who knows where?

This was a brand new home that was scheduled to have its new owners move in during the next week or two. How sad.

Lots and lots of power poles were bent in half or completely down. On Sunday for Father’s Day we drove to a small town in Nebraska about 45 minutes away. Brad’s dad was born and raised in the small town of Malmo. He chose the restaurant and my goodness it was wonderful. Small town dining at its best. All along the way, we could see the path of destruction that the same tornado caused. It was on the ground for over 150 miles, which is a long time for a single tornado to be on the ground and at times it was a mile and a half wide.

Now on to happier things. Brad, Mandy and Piper were in France for two weeks. They’ve been back home for a week now. The first week they spent in Beziers, France with a friend and his wife. You may remember me talking about uncle Shane and aunt Angie before. They aren’t really relatives, but they have adopted Piper as a granddaughter. Shane has been friends with Brad for years and years and has been a work mentor to him.

Gorgeous ! And there’s Piper!

Wouldn’t you love to live on this street?

So beautiful.

I think this is the street that their actual Airbnb was on.

My princess. I don’t think she fully understands how amazing it is that she gets to experience all of these things at such a young age.

Uncle Shane and Piper playing around!

Oh my goodness!

After the first week, Alex, “T” and “baby J” flew to Nice, France to join Brad, Mandy and Piper. Oh how I wish we could have been there. It sounds like they had a wonderful time exploring, eating and just enjoying time as family.

Here is Brad playing around but look at that food! Yum!
This is around the corner from their Airbnb. I think I may have mixed up some of these photos. Some of the first ones were during the second week, but since I wasn’t there, I’m not sure who was where! Lol.

Piper has had tennis camp Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week. Yesterday, since Papa was volunteering at the mission, it was my turn to take her. Afterwards we went to Panera for lunch and did a little bit of shopping. Then we went back to their house where Piper gave me a foot massage and a manicure.

She also pretended she was the dentist. I’m going to regret putting this photo out on the Internet, but I have nothing to hide. :-) She gave me her headphones and iPad to watch cartoons just like she gets at the dentist. A paper towel was my bib and I have no idea what she was doing with the floss hanging out of my mouth. Within reason, I’m willing to do just about whatever this little girl wants me to do. I guess that’s part of being a grandma and I love it. I’m sad that I don’t get to do the same kinds things with “Baby J” because she’s so far away.

Well that’s it. You made it to the end of the huge photo dump. I hope you enjoyed the photos of the scenery in France. I sure did. Every day Dennis and I got many, many photos from all of the kids. They were so good at allowing us to be part of their trip even though we weren’t there. Most of them have photos of “T” and “Baby J” in them, and as you know, I can’t put their photos on the Internet because of the security of her job. But oh my gosh! She is the most photogenic baby next to Piper that I have ever seen.

Now it’s Dennis’s and my turn for a vacation. Next week we leave for a 4-5 week camping trip across the west and back. Our first stop will be the Black Hills where I hope we don’t have a repeat of last year when Dennis fell.  😬 Then it will be on to visit our son and almost grown grandchildren in Montana and then to Spokane for two weeks. Since we moved from Spokane, we only get to see Jamie, Kyleigh and Caleb this one time of year. We try to make the most of it. After that, we have reservations at the Oregon coast for four days before starting the trek home. We’re sure looking forward to it. I hope to take you all along with us. 

I hope you are all doing well and I’ll see you again soon.

Blessings and love,

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

This and That

Hello my friends. It’s Wednesday and already June 12! Where is the time going? We have had a busy few days here.  I’ll tell you all about it, but first let me show you what has been on my needles. I finished these plain vanilla socks made with Paton’s Kroy sock yarn. Unfortunately I threw away the label before I wrote down the colorway. I’m very happy though, that I finally got a pair to match almost exactly.

Also, I gathered up a lot of my small balls of worsted weight yarn that I’ve never been able to throw away and I used some of them in another wheelchair blanket. I think it turned out okay. It does still need washed and blocked.

Next on my needles - this morning I started a new pair of socks, again trying to use up some of my scrap balls of sock yarn. Cindy at the "Delighted Hands" blog has inspired me to try helical knitting. When you knit this way, it doesn’t leave a jog between the stripes. The cuffs, heels and toes will be gray, that actually looks brown in the photo and a turquoise and purple for the stripes. I have also never used these tiny circular needles because they’re so fiddly, but the helical stripes are actually easier on them. They are 9 inch Hiya Hiya Sharps. They seem very short and tiny in my hands and will take some getting used to. It’s very slow going at this point. I'm used to knitting sock legs and feet fairly quickly and that's not happening. It's fun to learn a new technique though.

Our friend Jenny from Spokane has been on a cross-country trip. She flew to Maryland from Spokane to visit her dad‘s cousin who is 98 years old. There she rented a car and drove to South Carolina to see two of her sisters, then to Nashville to visit a friend for just a day. Then she drove all the way to Omaha from Nashville in one day and was supposed to be spending a week with us. However, a very good friend of all of ours passed away in Spokane and she had to leave a few days early to go home and do the PowerPoint and photos for the funeral. She left early this morning to drive to Minneapolis where she’ll catch a flight to Spokane. We are disappointed that she had to cut her time with us short as we had lots of plans, but we also know that it’s important that she be there for the funeral and to help with the plans.  We are disappointed that we won't be able to be there.

On Monday, Dennis took Jenny to the zoo and they spent over four hours there and actually were able to walk around the entire zoo! Because of the heat I wasn't able to go with them but they had a good time. If you remember, Jenny and her husband Neal went on the cruise with us in January. We’ve been best friends for over 30 years. She has heard so much about Omaha‘s Henry Doorley Zoo that she didn’t want to miss it again on this trip. 

Then yesterday, we had some adventures of our own. After we dropped Piper off in a town about 30 miles away for a 4H project, Jenny and I drove to Elk Horn Iowa, where there is an authentic Danish windmill. It was disassembled and each piece was labeled and was sent over to the small town where it was reassembled without any blueprints, just a small model. I think this was in the late 1970's. All of the people who rebuilt it were retired farmers, a retired engineer and a retired architect. Dennis and I visited it in 1982 when Mandy was only two years old. This was my first time back since then and they’ve done a lot more to the grounds. The windmill is fully operational and they still grind wheat in it. If you're driving down I-80 through western Iowa, it's definitely worth a stop.

There is a very interesting tour and a nice size gift shop. This is the room on the second floor, where the grinding is done.

I chose not to climb up to the top two floors, but Jenny was more adventurous. She kicked her flip-flops off and proceeded to go up and down the ladders. There was also a catwalk around the outside of the 2nd floor that we were able to walk around the entire windmill on.

They have a tiny, tiny church, where we were told actual weddings are sometimes held!
This is the inside with four seats and an pulpit.

This sweet little gnome house was in the middle of the lawn. I snapped a photo of it for Valerie at the "Wanderingcatstudio" blog. I immediately thought of her when I saw it.

They also constructed an authentic replica of a Viking house. Note the grass on the roof!

The inside of the house is set up as a Viking family would have lived. Everyone slept in the same room in bunkbeds, and the cooking was done in the middle of the floor.

This particular Viking was a blacksmith and he had his shop right outside the doors of the living area. The kitchen is to the right in the photo. There were lots of informational signs all over the property, telling the story of each building.

We also visited Boys Town for a very short visit. We were quickly running out of time in the day, so we just visited the museum and father Flanagan’s burial spot. We plan to explore further next time she comes.
This is also a must see place to visit if you're ever in Omaha. It's just down the street from us a mile or two.
I hope you're all having a lovely week. The world just keeps on getting crazier and crazier, but we just stay firmly planted with our faith in the Lord of Lords. He is our great protector and provider.

I'll see you all again soon.

Blessings and love,