DAY ONE: Not so hot.
Tuesday morning, I got up early for a short maintenance run of about five miles. I averaged a 10 minute mile, and it was an easy, enjoyable run. I thought about going around again, but thought the better of it, as I needed to get back and help everyone get packed up for the trip. My most important contribution was helping Rocky in his panicked search for our second tiny fan, which I found in the guest room. Apparently, it was going to be so unbearably roasting hot that we were going to need both of the fans. I also double-checked the boy’s packing jobs and made sure they had everything, including the single cool-weather outfit one should always pack just in case it gets cold, however unlikely it might be.
Day one of our South Dakota adventure began rather inauspiciously with the discovery that one of the wheels on the pop-up camper was vibrating. A quick trip to Tires Plus in Eden Prairie confirmed that we had a bent rim on the driver’s-side tire. The helpful young manager, Tim, swiftly changed out the bad rim of the tire for the good rim of the spare. Then, he switched out the good rubber on the tire…so now our spare has both a bad rim and bad rubber, but the tire we are using has a good rim and good rubber. He didn’t charge us for this service, and sent us on our way.
The rest of the first day was rather uneventful. I read aloud from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. We arrived in Mitchell, SD in plenty of time for Rocky’s meeting with the local user group. We were staying at a campground with a heated, outdoor pool. The boys and I enjoyed that despite the chill that was in the air. I read some more from Harry Potter while the kids warmed themselves up with some cups of hot chocolate that I cooked over the camp stove. Rocky came home, briefly bemoaning the fact that he had failed to pack a cool-weather outfit, and wondering if we shouldn’t have brought our tiny portable heater. As it turns out, our sleeping bags were sufficient despite the temperature dipping down into the 50’s.
DAY TWO: Home economics wasn’t so dumb after all…but I still would have preferred to take small engines.
Rocky suggested that perhaps we could have doughnuts and coffee from a near-by truck stop rather than having me make breakfast. Feeling lazy, I agreed.
Unfortunately, the coffee from the truck stop was disastrously bad.
What do I mean by “disastrously bad” you ask?
Well, I will tell you. It was so bad that both Rocky and I found our coffee desires completely unsatisfied, and I decided to make some coffee real quick before we struck camp and started for the Black Hills. When the water was heated, I grabbed a small dishtowel and used it as a hot-pad to pour the boiling water into the grounds-filled filter perched atop a coffee cup. As the coffee drained out the bottom of the filter, I tossed the towel into a dishpan on the bed, and continued to help organize the kitchen things in preparation for packing up. I’d moved a few things around when I saw movement out of the corner of my eyes.
“Holy crap!” I yelped, grabbing the towel, and rolling it over the flames, to smother them.
“What?” my startled family asked in unison.
“The towel was on fire.” I replied, examining it carefully to make certain it was completely extinguished.
Rocky said noting about the inadvisability of using a dishtowel for a hot pad, and I tried not to think of all the times I had complained of the injustice of having to take home-economics where the most useful stuff they tried to pound into your head was stupid stuff anyone should already know…like “never use a dish towel as a hot pad.”
The fire had almost completely melted through the dishpan…but not quite, so no harm done.
We proceeded to strike camp and got under-way, with some car-cups of excellent coffee in our hands, I might add.
It was absolutely essential that we take the scenic badlands highway, and pay the small fee to do so. We stopped and hiked some trails and enjoyed the scenery.
We put an end to the badlands exploration, however, when I noticed that Grasshopper’s face had the bright red-and-pale-white blotchiness that usually precedes heat stroke. Half-and-hour of air conditioning and ice water later, he was as good as new.
Of course, we had to make sure to approach Custer State Park via the Iron Mountain Highway. There’s just no other option for real vacationers out to see scenery and wildlife. Sure enough, we soon found the narrow, winding wilderness road blocked by a herd of feral burros, one of which stuck his head in Grasshopper’s window to beg for treats and allow himself to be petted. We did not feed them, as that’s just not the thing to do…but we found out later that it IS allowed to feed the burros as they are not indigenous and therefore not protected by the rangers. Still, I think its best not to feed them.
We got to the park and after some frantic searching, found what the ranger on duty assured us was the second-to-the last camp site in the park. We grabbed it, despite the fact that it was a tent site, so we had to park our camper on the paved loop that surrounded the campground. It was better than nothing, after all.
We set up our camp, cooked and ate dinner, and Rocky and the boys rode their bikes to Legion Lake Beach and went swimming. I stayed behind to do dishes, build a campfire, and read from my current book The Confusion, which is the second book in The Baroque Cycle trilogy, and is written by Neal Stephenson…whose skull is obviously a Tartus because there’s no other explanation for how his brain fits inside of his head.
The boys came back, with tales of a wonderful beach and lovely lake.
Rocky had an interesting experience as he was riding below a steep rock outcropping. A young boy, about thirteen or so years old, had been running around on the rock, and evidently didn’t realize how close the edge was. It crumbled away beneath his feet, showering Rocky with bits of rock. The boy regained his footing and managed to avoid plummeting over the edge and having his 15-foot fall broken by a six-and-a-half-foot tall man on a bicycle. All-in-all, a big win for all involved. We read some Harry Potter, ate some s’mores, and the guys watched another Full Metal Alchemist, and we fell asleep.