Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mt. Rushmore @ Night!

Last night, we ventured out to the monument again for their regular ceremony.  They do this every night at 9:00p.m.  It was a surprise to me, how many people came.  I just had NO idea how popular or sought out this ceremony was!  Indeed, it was worth going. 

A boy scout troop from Wisconsin came to lead the pledge, and then a Ranger gave a 10-15 minute talk about each President represented in the Monument.  She was fantastic.  Afterwards, as the sun was going down, (yep, here in South Dakota, it is not dark until 9:30!), they showed a 20 minute film, 'Freedom', which also focused on the 4 Presidents.  By the end of the film, it was totally dark, and Mt. Rushmore was glowing.  Truly a special moment.

The Ranger asked all past and present military to come onto the stage, so they could be recognized.  Immediately, people were clapping and cheering and whistling; giving thanks and appreciation for their sacrifice and service to our nation.  It was so exciting.  :)
As they stood on the stage, we all sang 'The Star-Spangled Banner.'  Then, the Wisconsin boy scouts lowered the American flag to 'Taps' on the bugle.  Just, chilling.....patriotically AWESOME!  :)
Can you tell how pumped I am??!!  Love it!!
Then, the crowd cheered and clapped again for several minutes as the service men and women left the stage and we were all dismissed.  I found myself, not wanting to leave, it was that good. 
This ceremony brings to mind all the freedom, we as Americans, possess, and many times take for granted.  We are blessed to live here, able to worship, work, and learn in such a beautiful land.  I am more thankful today, than I was yesterday, that is for sure!  :)


Mount Rushmore!!!

As we drove to the National Monument, it was quite the ride.  :)
There are beautiful views of the area with towering trees and peaceful valleys, but then you come to some VERY narrow, winding roads that lead to this tunnel!  It is literally wide enough for only ONE vehicle at a time, so you have to honk to warn anyone that may be on the opposite side coming through.  UG!  Pretty cool, though, and it sure created great anticipation.  :)
Once you park, and walk up a few stairs or use the elevator, you are welcomed by concrete entrances and collumns, a visitor center, and the Hall of Flags....All centered with the monument.  I was just amazed.  We were all just amazed!  You cannot help but stare and smile.  It was just wonderful!

There are many rocks to climb on and a President's Trail that gives many great views of the Black Hills as well as the Monument.  Zach was excited to walk on the trail and recognized the same spot from the film, National Treasure II!  :)

On site, there is THE Sculptor's Studio, where Borglum did much of his work.  The artist also had two other studio locations.  One down the mountain, and one in the nearby town of Keystone, so he could look at the "job site" from far away.

Here is the actual model that Borglum constructed for the project.  He never finished to completion, however, I am in awe what he and the determined crew of workers were able to accomplish in only 14 years!  In that 14 year time span, it was really only 6 years that they were able to actually work, because of snow or money.  6 years.....It is said, that the faces on Mt. Rushmore are as smooth as a sidewalk!  :)

Inside the studio, a Ranger gave a great talk about the history of the area and the man, Borglum.  He did a really good job, and also showed the kinds of tools used to make the great monument.  The kids could actually hold them and get a "feel" of what it might be like dangling from ropes in a metal chair, hundreds of feet in the sky, with a 40 pound jack-hammer!
Ofcourse, we did the Jr. Ranger program, and I must say, it was the MOST challenging for Tanner!  His age group has quite the workbook, and demands a true "search and study" inside of the museum.  He finished the task, with out sweat or tears, however, we were all a little pooped by the end!  ;)

They even had a book for little Parker to earn a badge, so he was thrilled!
Good job!

This experience was just awe inspiring.  I feel SO blessed and proud to be an American.  I am so thankful for the patriotism and love of country that this place pours into its visitors.  :)
I want to encourage any family considering a trip, to come here!  Last year, there were over 3 million visitors!  It is SO worth the time and cost of travel to come to the Black Hills, and experience the magnitude of Mt. Rushmore! 


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Badlands & Minuteman Missile

Last weekend, we came to the Badlands National Park, and were struck by the beauty of this area.  Driving through South Dakota, you see many miles of prairies and rolling hills, and then, WHAM!  Huge cliffs and mountains!  Really neat stuff.
There are wildlife here, buffalo, deer, birds, prairie dogs, but it is a very rough terrain for humans.  The strong winds that seem to never stop, strong storms, and blizzards are what make the Badlands special.  :)

We camped here for one night, in the National Park, but decided we needed to head out the next day so that Todd can have the much needed internet and cell service required! 

The Badlands also has a great visitor's center with a museum, video and Jr. Ranger program!  Yeah!

What was also nice, is just a mile down the road, was ANOTHER Jr. Ranger program at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.  The kids were able to earn 2 badges within a days time!  Whoo Hoo!

Keep up the good work Golden Gang! :)


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wall, South Dakota

On our way out of Rapid City, and onto our next National Park location, we HAD to stop in this VERY touristy, and very cute little town! 
On a block of this town, there are so many shops just beggin' you to come and spend your money!  Careful....there are actually some really cute things too!
We just strolled around, and enjoyed all the shops and atmosphere.

This pic made us all laugh out loud!  Just too cute!

Yes, we gave in to the temptation!  They had some very yummy icecream at a reasonable price, and we also bought 3 t-shirts, for a TOTAL of $10.00!!  Now, that is a good deal!  :)


Sweet Provisions

While we were in Rapid City, Sd., staying at the Cabela's for a couple of nights and visiting the fun waterpark, we met the sweetest family all the way from Washington state!  They have been on the road for a while and have four children.  The kids literally bumped into each other at the waterpark on the slides, and hit it off right off the bat.  :)

The Lord is just SO good.

Last August, when I started praying about this traveling lifestyle, one of my concerns was the kids not having a regular or "normal" social experience.  I was honestly concerned that they would not have many opportunities to "play" with kids their own age.  Yes.  I know that I have 5 children, and they always have SOMEONE in the family to "play" with, but I also know how important friendships are, and how they affect our lives.  The kids have some WONDERFUL friends back home in Texas, and we are trying to keep in touch by writing letters and sending postcards, but they DO miss them!

The Lord has truly provided in this area of ALL of our lives!  We have met some of the most interesting and friendly and generous people on this trip!  I am amazed how many Christians the Lord has put in our path.  How many great churches we have visited.  I could go on and on....

The kids are making friends in almost every RV park we have stayed.  We have exchanged phone numbers and addresses with people from all over!  It just amazes me, that the Lord would work out so many little details for my family.

For anyone praying about this lifestyle, I want to assure you, that you are going to meet A LOT of people.  Your children are going to meet A LOT of children.  Just as in a sticks-n-bricks home, you have to get involved, and get out of the house to meet people and make relationships, it is exactly the same, if not easier to meet people on the road!  People are just itching to get to know you, and find out where you're traveling too, and where you came from.  Conversations just flow, and before you know it, you're making great friendhships. 

Tapio family, we can not wait to meet up again in Washington!!!  It was such a blessing to meet you!


Monday, June 27, 2011

Water Park Fun, Rapid City, SD!

Our time in Rapid City was so much fun!  This is the first time we have gone to a waterpark as a family, so we were all looking forward to it!  The kids just LOVE swimming!  We parked for a couple of nights at the local Cabela's- FREE dump and drinking water and very friendly to RVers. :)
This is an indoor waterpark with some awesome slides, a lazy river, basketball pool, and a wonderful "little" kids play and swim area. :)

We spent almost the whole day here, and really enjoyed it.   :)
Parker's favorite, was the basketball pool.  He literally shot hoops here for over an hour straight!  Other kids seemed totally content just handing him the ball over and over, to see him shoot!  HA!

Wapiki Indoor Waterpark was a real treat!  Thanks Rapid City!

Red Trail Campground Review

While we were in Medora, we stayed at the Red Trail Campground.  The nice thing about the campground is that it is within walking distance of the town.  Unfortunately, I can not recommend this park as a place to stay.  :(

With our Good Sam discount, it was $27/night, which is a little pricey for only electric and water.  The bathrooms and showers were AWFUL!  I had to clean them each time we went!  I don't think the management has even attempted to clean since the park opened.  Not good!

There is a playground, but it was also very dirty and unkept.  The equipment was not very sturdy or safely built.

The laundry room was also filthy.  They only had 3 washers and 2 dryers, which caused a lot of confusion when you had several people trying to get their laundry done in a timely manner.  The machines did work well, but with a large rv park, they really need at least twice as many washers and dryers to accomodate the campers.

They have an onsite "store" with a few essentials, but you have to spend a minimum of $25!  The owner of the park was also not friendly or helpful at all.  Very disappointing.  Here is a town of maybe 70 people, with out a grocery store, you would think that the convenience store would have essentials at a reasonable cost.  They charged $3.29 for ONE loaf of BREAD!  Robbery, in my opinion.  The closest store is in Dickinson, 40 miles away. :)
If you plan on visiting Medora, come prepared! :)

It really is unfortunate about this rv park.  It soured our stay in Medora. 
We met some of the sweetest people, and had some amazing experiences; horseback riding, the musical, the city park, but if we were ever visiting again, we would definitely stay somewhere else.


New Friends & the Medora Musical!

Here we are with our new friends, after they performed their free "Wild West" show in the town of Medora.  It was short and sweet, but fun!  It was so great to meet Cathy, Jerry and Jimmy and spend time on the ranch.  Thanks SO much!

Later that evening, we went to the Medora Musical.  On Wednesday's it is FREE for kids under 18, so we all went for a total of $35!!!  Very affordable for a musical admission!  :)
The muscial seating is set in a beautiful valley.  There is a cool escalator that sends you down to the stage and consessions.  We saw elk roaming in the background behind the set too!

Before the show, they ask the kids to go on the stage and sing with some of the cast.  The little ones thought it was pretty exciting. :)

The musical was just wonderful, and we really enjoyed it!  It ran for almost 2 hours, but it didn't seem that long, though. :)  Part of the performance also included a world famous ventriloquist, Sylvia.  She was hilarious!  The crowd was involved and we all laughed out loud!

Overall, it was a great show! 

In Medora, we met some of the nicest people!  This man is actually a "hometown hero" of Medora.  Though, we did not know that at the time of this picture, but they introduced him during the Musical.  He is the cowboy that rides his horse down the mountain, during the musical, and has been doing it for 35 years!  He has only missed ONE show in 35 years!  Yee Haw!


Friday, June 24, 2011

Theodoore Roosevelt National Park...It's "Bully!"

Last week, while we were in Medora, ND., we were able to earn Jr. Ranger badges at this beautiful park.  We have been reading a really interesting biography, Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt!, by Jean Fritz. 
Teddy was known for a lot of things; of which, was the saying, "Bully!"  It just means, very simply, GREAT!

At the National Park, they have a great set up with a video, museum and outside is THE AUTHENTIC log home that belonged to Teddy when he lived in Medora.
Here is a horse and "Teddy" made completely out of small wood pieces.  The body is dressed in Roosevelt's clothes.  I can not imagine how long it took someone to build this beautiful tribute!
This is his log home!  Too cool.
Inside, were some originals, and other pieces of the time period.  They have done a beautiful job preserving everything, especially recently with all the flooding, they had to build dikes around the property.
This is Roosevelt's writing desk.  :)

Here is his travel trunk. :)

One of the rangers gave a nice talk as she guided us through out the house.
YEAH!  Golden Gang!  Another Jr. Ranger badge!  :)