Thursday, July 31, 2008

A disturbing news day

Haven't done a blog roll of news headlines in a while, but today was a doozy.

First we had this one from CNN: Bus passenger beheaded seat mate, witness says. Because really, I needed another reason NOT to ride Greyhound.

And speaking of cutting things up, the Australians would like us to know that Designer vaginas blacklisted. I didn't even realize such a thing existed. Clearly I'm not watching enough Dr. 90210.

But luckily Pravda is on the internets so we can lighten things up with the news that, apparently, George and Laura Bush to divorce after election because of Condi Rice? Did not know that. You'd think news like that would have come up in the big "smoking pot with the President" scene in Harold & Kumar 2...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


So I'm watching Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, and it's reminded me that Neil Patrick Harris is totally fucking awesome. Actually, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog reminded me, but this has cemented that reminder. Because without this movie I wouldn't have known that the "PH" in NPH doesn't stand for "Patrick Harris", but rather for "Poon Handler". Which I wouldn't have guessed, what with him being gay and all.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bachelor boy, night 2

So the wife and kids are down in Oregon visiting the grand parents, which means I'm on my own. I can do any damn thing I want. I could go to a movie at 4, another at 7 and one at 10. I could go to Blockbuster and rent a bunch of crappy violent films. I could sit in a bar and drink beer all night. I could go to one of the four remaining strip clubs in town and pay $8 for a coke.

So what did I do with my evening? I watched TV. Sad, really...

Tomorrow, though, I'm not just going to watch TV, I'm going to watch OnDemand TV. 'cause apparently (at least according the guy on Attack of the Show tonight) Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is the Citizen Kane of stoner movies. Not that I'm a stoner, really, but I do find it funny. And apparently there's a scene at a "bottomless party", which is well worth watching...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Stupid popularity...

So the big plan was to go to see "Dark Knight" tonight at the ol' Imax theater, but lo and behold they're sold out. Until next Monday. Every freaking 7:00 showing for the next 7 days is sold out. Which either means it's a good movie or the fanboys are going repeatedly. Or both.

So that pretty much ruins my plan for a Dark Knight review blog post. Sigh. Tomorrow I might go see Hellboy II, unless that sells out too...


Kind of forgot to post anything yesterday, mainly because I was being lazy. Hard to remember to type love notes to the internets when you're sitting around the house doing nothing. Well, not exactly nothing...I was writing up a week's worth of TV Party for the mighty KYA, since we can't have the Ocean Shores retirees not knowing what to watch during Shark Week. Oh, and I played some Rise of Legends and listened to a few episodes of You Look Nice Today.

Yeah...pretty much doing nothing.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

WALL-E review

So we went to the WALL-E tonight. Being a die-hard Pixar fan (to the point where I think they should do a Pixar version of Die Hard...) I expected to like it. But the review from the guy in the next cube was "it was OK..."

Now normally I'd discount that, because hey, what does he know about movies anyway? But he agreed with me on Speed Racer (rocked) so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. And really, I couldn't not go see it, 'cause the kids wanted to. So go we did.

And I must say, I enjoyed it a lot. There's something refreshing about a movie where the two leads say all of what, four words? "WALL-E" "EVE" "directive" "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO" And really, how can a movie where Fred Willard plays the President of the World be bad? It can't, that's how. And when you throw in a HAL-esque autopilot and an obsessive-compulsive cleaning robot you've got animation gold.

So. If you like the Pixar and you like the Fred Willard, you should go. If you don't, well, you should go anyway if only so Pixar will have more money and can finally make their version of Die Hard. Starring that cute Luxo Jr. as John McClane.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Derby recap, a week late

So in the whirlwind of finishing the Travelblog I skipped the recap of last Saturday's Roller Derby action. So here it is, assuming I can still remember what happened...

The key bout, the one I and the rest of the Throttle Rocket Mafia were interested in, was the quest for Intergalactic Domination over the Derby Liberation Front. Things did not go well. Well, they did for a while, and then not so much. DLF took the lead pretty much right out of the shoot, but the Rockets kept it close the entire bout. They tied it up with a minute or two to go in the first half, which I think shocked DLF a bit, but weren't able to capitalize on it. The final score, as you can see from the board the lovely Sara Problem is carrying, was DLF 126, Throttle Rockets 96, which puts the Rockets out of contention for the league championship thanks to their loss to the Sockit Wenches. Here are a few other shots from that bout that I liked:

Blonde an' Bitchin'
takes on Burnett Down

Mommacherry and JoWanna Ass Kickin'
share a tender moment

Half-time entertainment this month was provide by Pure Kaos, a group of scantily-clad fire-eating chicks who are apparently part of Pure Cirkus. It was definitely entertaining, and definitely puzzling...I'm tempted to research how the heck you stick a flaming torch in your mouth for a few seconds without melting your tongue, but I think that would take some of the mystery out of the whole thing. So instead, here are some photos:

Fire eating and fire spanking. What's not to like?

The other, less important (although still entertaining) bout was between the Sockit Wenches and the San Diego Derby Dolls all-star travel squad. It wasn't a shock that the Wenches dominated San Diego. It was a shock that Femme Fatale had left Grave Danger and joined the Wenches. And I must say it's going to take some getting used to, but it should definitely help the Wenches in their quest to win the league championship. Again, some shots:

Sugar N' CreamHer and
Raven Mad prepare to jam

Moe YaDown clears a lane
for Rebel Belle (I think...)

There are more photos in the Picasa album if you want to see 'em!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Travelblog episode 13: Walla Walla and home

The final day of our monster road-trip dawned sunny and warm with a good touch of humidity (humidity for Spokane, mind you, not for places with real humidity. We hit the Super 8 continental breakfast (which wasn't nearly as good as the one at the Ramada in Black Hawk...the biscuits were dry, the donut selection was weak, and the cereal options were limited), loaded the cars, and hit the road. Our goal: lunch in Walla Walla.

Why Walla Walla, when it was plainly several hundred miles out of our way? Well, three reasons. First, we wanted to show Megan, Molly and Matthew around Whitman College, 'cause their Mom went there. Second, their Mom wanted us to introduce them to her friend (ex-boyfriend, actually) Douglas. Third, we wanted to see our old friend (my ex-girlfriend, actually) Sarah and her husband. Oh, and fourth we were going to stop at the Ice Berg for a shake, 'cause when my sister went there (and somewhat when we went there) it was the only game in town shake-wise.

We made pretty good time, taking I-90 west to US 395, that down to the Tri-Cities, and US 12 out to Walla2. I called Sarah and we agreed to meet at some outdoor tables on campus with our lunches, which in our case meant another stop at Subway. One thing I'd forgotten about summer in Walla2 was how dang hot it gets. OK, I hadn't so much forgotten as I had smoothed the couldn't have been that hot, could it? Yes, yes it could. But hey, at least we were sitting in the shade...

After lunch we met up with Douglas who gave us a brief walking tour of the campus, showing the kids the new media center (which in my day was an underused building with overflow offices for professors) and the fancy-pants new campus center (the former Student Union Building, or SUB, which had been housed in an old carpet store). He let us in the bookstore (which he manages), and the kids got some souveniers (or, in Maya's case, some tiny tape dispensers). And finally it was time to get back on the road.

The trip home was as uneventful as alway. The boy car stopped in the Tri-Cities to pick up some fireworks, the girl car drove pretty much straight through. The only excitement came as we crossed Snoqualmie Pass and drove in to yet another set of thunderstorms. At least these ones had mildly normal Northwest rain...We pulled in to Grandma Chicken's drive way around 7 or so, had some spaghetti, unloaded the various pieces of luggage, and went home to sleep, finally, in our own beds.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Travelblog episode 12: Goodby Yellowstone, Hello I-90!

A pair of Pronghorn Antilope

Monday evening we got out the maps, assessed everyone's interest in further sightseeing, and made the executive decision to jam for home. Since we didn't have the wonderous Internets to help us plan, we busted out the ol' AAA maps and tried to guestimate how far we thought we could get the next day. We planned to head out the West entrance of the park, then take US 191 north to Bozeman, Montana where we'd pick up I-90 and race west as far as we could. We figured we could make it to Spokane for the evening, where we would again treat ourselves to a motel room at whatever inn had rooms available (and, naturally, cable TV and free internets).

On the way out of the park we got a final, highly appropriate, Yellowstone send-off: a lone bison walking down the road. Fortunately he wasn't on our side...he was walking serenely down the center of the lane, leading a looooong parade of cars entering the park. And he showed no interest in getting out of the way. Paige slowed down and told various drivers farther back in the line why they were going so slow, and reported that the farther she got from the offending bison the hotter the tempers got. Nor surprising, really.

The offending bison, ambling along

The drive from West Yellowstone up to Bozeman was lovely. We were skirting through the foothills of the rockies, rolling through non-controlled parts of the Park and various National Forest areas, with occasional ranches and farms and a couple small villages (most notably Big Sky, an island of rich ski resort in the sea of rural America). After lunch at Taco Time in Bozeman and a stop at a gas station to fill up it was on to I-90 and back up to our average cruising speed of 80 mph (have to love states with a 75 mph freeway speed limit!). We hit a couple more thunder storms as we rolled through the Rockies, slowing us down significantly thanks to the extra-heavy rain, but they were short lived and didn't affect our overall pace too much.

After a brief coffee and gas stop in Missoula we headed straight for Spokane, and with only one more brief stop to relieve some of the coffee-induced pressure we rolled in to town around 7:00 PM (thanks to gaining an hour as we crossed the Idaho border). The Super 8 was our motel of choice, being conveniently located just off the freeway and offering two rooms on the same floor at a AAA discounted rate. And not a moment too soon, as about a half hour after we were settled in and watching TV another thunderstorm blew through, this one with huge rain, strong wind, and some sweet lightning. It was quite an event for Spokane, with the local stations breaking in to Jeopardy or whatever to tell us to stay the heck indoors so we didn't blow away or drown. The highlight in our room was watching a guy pull in to the parking lot in his dump truck, maneuver it in to a parking space, then open the gate and tip up the bed to empty out a great volume of rain. Although it would have been fun to see how much water would have accumulated if he'd left it closed and down, I'm sure the Super 8 people appreciated not having a dumptruck-load of water dumped on their parking lot all at once...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Travelblog episode 11: Yellowstone day 2

We woke up Monday morning raring to go and ready to see some geysers. The plan for the day was to take the south loop road out to Artist's Point to see the upper and lower falls of the Yellowstone (the north loop was closed), then continue down along Lake Yellowstone to the Grant Village visitor's center so we could see the movie about the big fire of 1988. We'd then continue on to Old Faithful, watch it go up, see the other geysers around there, then work our way to the Madison campground for the night.

The morning was bright and sunny, and the trip to the falls was great. When we were in Yellowstone back in 2006 I was fighting a stomach virus and didn't want to walk anywhere, so we skipped the "Uncle Tom's Trail" walk. This time, with five energetic kids in tow, we didn't. The hike down to the Uncle Tom viewpoint near the base of the falls was gorgeous. The hike back up? Strenuous. I didn't count the stairs, but there were many of them. And the fact that the falls are around 8,000 feet of altitude made the climb even harder. But the benefit of having to walk slowly was that it gave you time to take more pictures...

The upper and lower falls of the Yellowstone

A rainbow in the mist of the lower falls

A chipmunk (photo by Logan)

A small rivulette named "Kitty Falls" by Logan,
and Logan drinking from the Lower Falls

The gang with the Lower Falls

As we drove down the lake we started to see dark clouds in the distance. This didn't bode well for the rest of our day, since we were planning on being out of the cars for quite a bit. And sleeping in tents. The clouds continued to gather as we checked out the Grant Village visitor's center and, on this 20th anniversary of the big fires, watched the "Yellowstone: 10 Years After" movie (which we're hoping they update with footage from 2008). And by the time we got to Old Faithful it was clear that a storm was in the offing.

We timed our visit to Old Faithful completely wrong, arriving about 5 minutes after an eruption ended. So we killed some time by getting ice cream cones and heading over to the Old Faithful Inn to check out the insanely cool architecture (which I, for some reason, didn't photograph this trip). The wind was picking up, and there were a few drops falling from the sky, so I agreed to go back to the car to get coats for those who wanted them (Maya and Logan...Paige, Matt and I already had ours on, and Megan and Molly apparently didn't care). The rain continued to increase, but never more than a mild Seattle drizzle.

I headed for the Old Faithful lodge, mainly 'cause it was closer to the car, and there I met the family. They'd wandered over and were, mostly, dry. We still had 20 to 30 minutes to wait before the geyser was supposed to go off (or rather to the beginning of the window of expected eruption...). We hung out under the awning of the lodge, watching the wind blow the flags and the rain sputter, then decided to head down to the benches around the geyser. Which, of course, is when the storm decided to get more interesting. While there wasn't any lightning in the immediate area, we could see bolts on the hills and hear thunder. The wind also picked up, the temperature dropped, and the rain increased. All of which led to some cold folk standing around waiting for a geyser to blow.

And, eventually, blow it did. One thing to know about Old Faithful, should you chose to go, is that it's got a good 15-minute "juke" period where it bubbles up, looks like it's going to erupt, then settles down. I think it did it around 4 or 5 times before it finally blew. Of course, by then I was so cold and wet that I only snapped one shot, and not a good one.

Once the show was over we, and everyone else standing around, retreated to the lodge to dry out and warm up. And while we were there, we went in to sample the wonders of the caffeteria, figuring it was way easier to pay for a hot dinner we could eat at a dry table in a warm building than to go to our campsite and potentially eat cold food in the rain. Because really, what's the point of having a credit card if you don't use it to eat in a warm, dry room?

After dinner we hopped back in the cars and headed for Madison. Our plan was to set up camp, then either drive to the Artist's Paint Pots that night or in the morning on the way out. Well, as we were checking in to the Madison camp ground I saw a sign saying "Artists Paint Pots Closed". "Hey, why are the paint pots closed?" I asked the reservation lady. "I'm not sure, but I heard some thermals shifted and someone got burned." We later confirmed this from a Ranger. Ouch! So instead we set up camp, played some games, and hit the sack.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Travelblog episode 10: Yellowstone at last!

Sunday morning we got up, broke down the tents, packed up and headed in to Cody for breakfast. The plan was to eat a big brunch, then just snack for lunch and have a "real" dinner (Spaghetti, salad and bread) at our camp site in Yellowstone. Based on the ads in the map the KOA people gave us we headed for a place called "Granny's." Our hopes were high as we pulled in, but we'd forgotten one crucial detail: It was Sunday morning. Which means, in addition to travelers we'd be fighting the post-church crowd. And fight them we did. The restaurant was the standard diner setup with booths and tables, but they also had an outdoor seating area. So, we said, "we'd be willing to sit outside..." to which they replied "that's fine, but we don't serve out there so you'll have to order to go." Which we did. And I must say, for not serving the outside tables, they provided pretty darn good service, carrying out our food for us and offering to pick up the garbage. Very nice, but it would have been nicer if we could have had real plates and silverware instead of eating off of styrofoam with plastic forks and knives.

Once breakfast was done it was off to Albertson to pick up food for the next couple days, then west in to Yellowstone. The drive in was beautiful, driving up into the Rockies and across Sylvan Pass where there were small snowfields down at the level of the road (and numerous tourists stopping to walk on the dirty, dirty snow). Our first stop in the park was an overlook of Lake Yellowstone at Steamboat Point. There were a couple thermals there - enough to cause some stink, but nothing exciting to look at. The view of the lake, on the other hand, was worth looking at!

The girls reading abou the
underwater thermals in the lake

Looking across the lake at
snowcapped mountains

After a brief stop at the Fishing Bridge visitor's center it was on along the Yellowstone river toward the Canyon Campground. We stopped along the road to check out the Mud Volcano and it's mud-spweing sulpher smell. Maya and I didn't walk up to the top to see the other thermals (or the bison sitting by the path), but what the heck.

Farther down the road and around a few corners we came across a herd of bison grazing, napping and drinking. So naturally we had to stop and take pictures:

Logan with the camera

A close-up shot of the adult and
baby bison relaxing by the stream

And that wasn't the end of our wildlife shooting for the day, 'cause a mile or two farther up the road we ran across this guy (well, not really across him...he was 40 yards off the road, but still...)

A black bear doing what bears do

We finally got to the Canyon campground, set up the tents, loaded all the bags in to the Sebring, and headed for Mammoth Hot Springs, by way of Tower Falls. Mammoth, if you've never been there, is weird. No geysers, just hot pools bubbling out mineral-laden water and creating these bizarre terraced hills, and the occasional tree that has been overcome by the mineral flow

Tower Falls and a dead tree

More dead trees on the hillside

Close-up of the edge of the Canary Spring

Dead tree being encrusted by the Canary Spring

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Travelblog episode 9: West into Wyoming

The new tents worked fine. Kept out the bugs (no rain that night) and didn't collapse under the moderate wind gusts. They didn't keep the sun out either, though, which meant it was another early morning. Which was fine, 'cause we wanted to get on the road early and head west to Cody, Wyoming. Along the way, if there was time, we hoped to detour off I-90 and check out Devil's Tower. The farther west we went, the hazier the sky. I don't know if there were wildfires somewhere nearby, if it was some freak global warming smog thing, or what, but the visibility sucked. And since we had a long way to drive we decided to skip the 90 mile detour to Devil's Tower. Which, I suppose, gives us a reason to go back to eastern Wyoming.

The drive through eastern Wyoming is nothing special. I mean, it's not hideously ugly or anything, and definitely has that "open range" feeling that you get in that part of the country, but that was about it. And I figured "well, the rest of the day will be pretty much like this..." Boy, was I wrong.As we passed Gilette, Wyoming we started seeing signs for "US 16, The most scenic route to Yellowstone". Hmm...when we first started planning the trip we were going to head that way, spending a night in Thermopolis and checking out their hot springs before driving down the Wind River Canyon in to Cody. Today we were planning on the more direct route of I-90 to Sheridan then US 14 west to Cody. So, I guess we were going to miss the scenic scenery. Oh well.

The closer we got to Buffalo, where I-90 starts heading north toward Montana, the more the scenery started to change. There were now mountains in the the near distance. "Huh," I thought. "I didn't realize the Rockies came this far east..." This is when a Wyoming map might have come in handy...all we had was the AAA "Western States" uber-map, not the specific Wyoming map. So we didn't realize we'd have to drive through the Bighorn Mountains. Not that that would have changed our planned route, but we would have had something to look forward to.

We stopped in Sheridan for a coffee break and to fill up on gas, then headed west on US 14 in to the Bighorns. The path up the east side of the range was a long series of s-curve switchbacks that put a serious strain on the ol' Sebring. Fortunately there was a car in front of us so I wasn't tempted to drive too fast...Paige would never have been able to keep up in the more top-heavy Jeep. The middle portion of the range was like any high mountain area, but the descent on the west was gorgeous, winding down a deep canyon with a sheer drop-off off the right side of the road.

Once we were out of the Bighorns it was back to the standard high desert / plains environment for the next 50 miles or so in to Cody. And, more importantly, it was flatter and straighter so we could make up some time and get to the camp ground in time to have some dinner and play some games!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Travelblog episode 8: A cave of jewels, a Crazy Horse mountain, and the first night in the new tents

Friday morning came earlier than expected to the ol' Kamping Kabin. I had foolishly hoped we'd be able to sleep in, what with a roof overhead, mattresses under us, and the relative dimness of small curtained windows. But it was not to be, not with five kids sleeping in one room. Not sure what time they got up, but it was earlier than I wanted to. Ah well.

Once everyone was up we scrounged up all our left-over laundry quarters and headed down to the big feedin' tent for the KOA $2.50 all you can eat pancake breakfast (meats and drinks extra). I went first with Logan, Maya and Molly and we just beat the rush. Paige, Matt and Megan came a bit later and ended up waiting in line for about as long as we'd been eating. Suckers.

The cakes were quite good, I must say. The guy cooking them had it down to a science, using a huge batter-holding trough thing on wheels that spewed out 4 or 5 streams of batter when he opened the valve, then rolled on to spew out some more. He must have had 40 or 50 cakes going at once. And didn't burn or drop a one. Far better than I'd do, I must say!

After we'd eaten our fill we loaded the cars, drove over to the main building, checked out of the cabin and checked in to our tent sites for the night. Then it was off to set up tents, load all our crap in the Sebring, and head out again in the mighty Commander for lunch and the Jewel Cave. Lunch was OK: Subway and random groceries. The Jewel Cave was better.

While Paige had done a bunch of cave tours in her youth, the closest thing to a cave the kids and I had been in was a lava tube on the Big Island a few years ago. Jewel Cave was nothing like a lava tube, but then it wasn't really like what you imagine when you think "cave" either. No giant halls of stalactites and stalagmites, no bats, and an elevator entrance. Well, to the part we the "natural entrance" there are bats, and no elevator, but still no big ol' stalagmites. We did see some tiny ones, and lots of the "jewels" (I forget what exactly they were...some kind of feldspar, I think). The highlights were probably the "flowstone" features and Bacon. Because really, who doesn't like bacon? Even 10 foot tall stone bacon? No one, that's who.

Some weird cave formations and the mighty Bacon

After the cave tour was over we piled back in the Jeep and headed back through Custer to the Crazy Horse Memorial. Which, I have to say, is pretty damn impressive. It's about 3 times as expensive as Rushmore to get in ($27 per car rather than $10), but then they aren't taking any Government money for the project. The visitor center is huge and fairly new, the "introductory movie" is shamelessly self-promotional and donation-requesting, but the mountain is crazy impressive.

Crazy Horse mountain

Close-up on Crazy's face

Logan, Maya and Molly pose with
the 1/34th scale model of the mountain

During the movie we learned that the "night blast" that we'd heard the night before, which we thought might be a standard thing to go with the evening laser show, was in fact a twice-a-year event. So we should have come up the night before. Ah well...

Eventually we'd had our fill of giant stone carvings and Native crafts and arts and headed back down to Custer for some pizza for dinner, then back to the KOA so Matt could do laundry, the kids could swim, and Paige and I could relax a bit. Which we did, until Maya got lost coming back from the bathroom and had to be delivered, in tears, by KOA Security...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Travelblog episode 7: More Rushmore, some swimming, and a Kamping Kabin

So, the next morning we got up...boys relatively rested, girls not so much. Another check on the ol' weather forecast showed that there was a chance of thunder storms again that night, but that it would be gone the next night. Hmm...we didn't really want to drop another $200 or whatever on a pair of motel rooms, so we decided to try our luck with the KOA Kamping Kabin. Luckily for us the Hill City / Rushmore KOA had one with two rooms that they claimed slept 7. Perfect!

Rather than rush out of the hotel we took advantage of the free continental breakfast at the Ramada, the girls went for a swim, and eventually we checked out and headed in to Rapid City to buy tents and get lunch. The tents and some other essentials were procured at Target. Lunch was found at the Fire House brewery brew pub thing. Word of warning: don't order the taco salad. Why? Because while there's plenty of taco, there's no salad. Big ol' chip bowl thing, about six chunks of lettuce, and half a pound of ground beef. Paige had to ask for more salad. Seriously.

After lunch we headed back up to Mt. Rushmore to get a look at it in the daylight, and surprisingly it looked just like the postcards! Well, kind of...they had a bunch of wires hooked up to help haul up fireworks for the July 3rd fireworks show (why not on the 4th? No idea.)

The heads in the daylight

The gang with the mighty mountain

George peeking over the trees, Megan rocking it
in my cheap gas station cop shades

Once we'd had our fill of all things Rushmorian we headed back down the mountain to the Hill City KOA where we checked in to our Kamping Kabin. While the woman I'd spoken to on the phone that morning had assured me it had bunk room for seven, it turns out it was only six. But she was nice and let us sneak Maya in to sleep on the floor. A tight fit, but a roof, windows with bug screens, and electric light. We weren't complaining.

While the girls and Logan headed off to the pool Matt and Paige hit the internets while I ran down to the store to get quarters for laundry. Because, you know, you need clean clothes once in a while. Especially after a week on the road.

Once the laundry was started I grabbed my book and headed down to the water slide / pool area to read and watch the kids slide and swim. As I walked up to the water slide area I heard something along the lines of "whoah..bump bump...waaaaaahhhhh!!!!" and thought "I bet that's Maya." It was. I swear, that girl can hurt herself without moving, so when you combine running, a wet water slide mat, a hill and brambles you get one scraped up girl. I helped her back down the ramp, walked her over to the shower building, got her rinsed off, then sat with her as she soaked away the pain in the hot tub.

Eventually it got dark, the pools got closed, and we headed back to the Kabin for some Kamping. On the way back we could see some lightning in the distance, and hear thunder. And then we could hear something that sounded like thunder, but was way more sustained. More like, oh, a series of explosions. Well, I thought, it's getting close to the 4th of July...maybe people are setting off fireworks. Right? Wrong. One of the girls cleared up the mystery by saying that a kid at the pool said that she was going to Crazy Horse that night for the "Night Blast". It sounded like a doozy...we'd find out how "doozy" the next day.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Travelblog episode 6: Badlands, Wall Drug, and in to the Black Hills of Dakota

So, as I mentioned before, at 6 or so we pried ourselves out of the cars and assessed the damage. Our tent was definitely hosed, and went straight in the trash. The girls tent was hosed for now, but possibly fixable since the two broken poles were only broken in one segment. And better still, the tent itself seemed to have held together. So it was possible we'd only have to buy one tent. But since there were more storms in the forecast, and since other than Logan none of us had slept well, we decided to spend the night in a motel. And thanks to the fine folk at the Ramada Inn in Black Hawk, SD was the motel for us!

But first it was time to do some touristing. We headed back up in to the Badlands National Park, stopping to walk up to the "Door" and "Window" and take more pictures.

Cool rock formation...

Cool dried out mud...

Cool kids posing in the "door"

And some crazy cool Badlands!

Then we drove down through the park heading for Wall, where Matt introduced me to "You Look Nice Today" podcasts, which are high-larious and led to far too many exhaustion-enhanced fits of giggling. Which make it hard to drive, I hope you know.

Our next stop was in Wall. First at the Wall Dairy Queen for lunch, then on to Wall Drug for yet more craptastic Americana. I'd been to Wall Drug back in the '70s when I was a boy (and possibly the '80s as a teen), but I had no recollection of what a carnival of kitch the place is. Oh my God. They had it all. Well, all except replacement poles for tents. But they did have big bins of shiny rocks for kids to buy, and funky earrings for kids to buy, and post cards for kids to buy, and ice cream and pie for parents to buy for kids. And it was air conditioned, which is always a good thing.

After we were crapped out we got back on the road and rolled through Rapid City up to Black Hawk and the Ramada, checked in, then piled in the Commander and headed off to Mt. Rushmore to see the lighting ceremony. The ceremony, as I mentioned before, is both inspiring and cheesy, both patriotic and almost jingoistic (although I'm sure I'm using that word wrong...). But the mountain looks really cool with the lights on, as you can see from the photo:

Finally, we made our way down the mountain and back to Black Hawk where the boy's room fell asleep and slept soundly, while the girls' room was filled with snoring (from Paige) and sobbing (from Maya) and non-sleeping (from Megan and Maya, and Paige since they kept waking her up telling her not to snore). So our night of motel rest worked for half of us, but not so much for the other half. Ah well...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Travelblog episode 5: Corn Palace, Badlands and Bad weather

Tuesday we were woken by the sun and the birds. We got up, ate some breakfast, and hit the road for South Dakota. First stop that day was at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, a building that is entirely deocrated by corn and grains and advertised for miles around by bilboards with really corn-y jokes. The history of the Corn Palace dates back to, um, the early 1900s. or maybe the late 1800s. One of those. Anyhow, they're on their third building now, after a couple wood ones burned down. The current Palace serves as the city's (and possibly county's) convention center, sports arena, and tourist trap. Every year the exterior is decorated in a series of murals around a central theme, all done with corn.

The exterior of the wonderous Corn Palace

On the inside there are more murals, these designed by an artist back in the, oh, 1930s or so, that show the ways the Native Americans and white settlers viewed the land and how they work together to preserve it. Or something. All I really remember was that it's made of corn and looked kind of cool. We bought some corny souveniers, and headed off to find some lunch and a grocery store for more ice. Once that was done it was back to I-90 and further west in to South Dakota.

Interior corn murals and the spacious corn-y gift shop

Maya and Megan picking the nose of a sculpture across the street from the Corn Palace

We pushed on across most of the state, finally pulling off the freeway at the exit for the Badlands. We were heading for the white River KOA, just south of the park. it was running about 95 degrees out, and we weren't really looking forward to getting out of the cars. But we did, once we got there, and set up the tents. Since none of us were hungry for dinner yet, we decided to split up: the girls and Logan changed in to their swimsuits and headed for the pool, and Matt and I went off to take pictures of the Badlands. And here are a few:

We met up back at the campsite at around 7, made some spaghetti, slapped more bugs (no-see-ums now in addition to the mosquitos), and spent some quality time with the internets. Said internets showed that there was a good chance that we'd see a thunder storm that night. "Well," I thought, "the tents have good rain flies, so we'll stay dry...I'll just make sure everything gets put away in a car before we go to sleep." Here's what the nice, clean camp site looked like:

We got in the tents at around 10, and Paige and I lay there watching the lightning in the distance. Maybe we'd luck out and the storm would stay to the south...No such luck. The wind hit at around midnight or one (I didn't check my watch). This was my first wind storm in a tent with fiberglass poles. I'd weathered a few storms in the Timberline, but not one like this. The wind was howling - no idea how strong it was, but I'd guess 60 or so on the higher gusts - and every time it gusted hard the tent basically collapsed on top of us. So I pushed on one pole with my hand and the other with my foot and tried to keep everything standing up. After 5 minutes of this or so Paige got up to check on the girls and I got up to make sure the guy lines hadn't pulled out of the ground. The girls evacuated their tent and came in ours, but with noone pushing out on the poles they were basically as well off as if they'd stayed in their own tent. And then...snap! one of the poles on our tent broke. And by "broke" I mean "split in two and punched a hole through the tent and the rain fly." Crap. Then snap! Snap! two poles in the girls' tent broke. Double crap. And then one corner of the timberline that the boys were in pulled free, which wasn't nearly as craptastic as broken poles, 'cause Matt could tie it to the conveniently nearby picnic table.

But by now it was raining. Hard. And even the timberline was getting wet inside thanks to the wind blowing the rain fly up against the wall of the tent, so we all retreated to the cars.

If you've never spent a night in a car in the middle of a thunder storm, I don't recommend it. Really. It's not comfortable. You have to crack a window so it doesn't get totally stuffy and hot, but then the rain drips in. And you can't recline the seat, 'cause either the back seat is full of crap or full of another person. So you can't really relax, and you can't really sleep, you can just doze and get dripped on. Which we did for another hour or so, until the storm had blown through. By then Logan was asleep curled up in the back of the Sebring, and I sent Matt back to the Timberline (which, even at 25+ years old, had weathered the storm just fine) to sleep on the dry side). I took the passenger seat, reclined it as much as I could without squishing the boy, and dozed until about 6. Not the best way to spend the night, but hey...we weren't dead!