So We Did

I’ve seen it in pictures but it was one of those things that I have always wanted to see in person.

So we did.

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These are my kids in front of Mount Rushmore. What? This isn’t the real one you say. Oh yes, this is a knock-off at Wall Drug in South Dakota. Wall Drug is also another place I always wanted to see after I received a post card from a friend when I was 10 years old stating her parents took her to Wall Drug in South Dakota. In her postcard she didn’t state what it was or what she did there so I had no clue what she was talking about but to me it really sounded like a questionable place to take a kid. It wasn’t until many years later (like 2 years ago) I found out that it is a famous pharmacy in South Dakota.

It is best known for it’s 5 cent coffee, amazing doughnuts, a ton of crazy photo props and a huge T-Rex dinosaur that scared the bejiggums out of our 2 year old!

My husband being a good sport and posing with his 5 cent coffee!

My husband being a good sport and posing with his 5 cent coffee!

I'm pretty sure this is the only place in the world that you can have your picture taken with a huge jackrabbit with a saddle on it's back!

I’m pretty sure this is the only place in the world that you can have your picture taken with a huge jackrabbit with a saddle on it’s back!

This giant T-Rex that roars, his eyes light up and his head moves has turned my 2 year old into a dinosaur hater!

This giant T-Rex that roars, his eyes light up and his head moves has turned my 2 year old into a dinosaur hater!

Honestly though, I have always wanted to see the real Mount Rushmore. As an American it kind of seems like it’s one of those things you need to see before you die.

So we did.

My kids in front of Mount Rushmore

My kids in front of Mount Rushmore

It really is a sight to behold. I’m glad we went to see it. It’s amazing to me that someone not only thought about doing this so long ago but actually executed their plan and brought it to fruition. Absolutely remarkable in my opinion.

Isn't it spectacular?

Isn’t it spectacular?

Another truly great moment on our recent vacation! Two Mount Rushmores in one day!

 

 

 

 

 

Bad To the Bone

On our recent vacation we made a conscious decision to drive the more scenic routes, to take our time and really enjoy all that our beautiful country has to offer. I really wanted it to be a fun trip and at the same time educational for my kids.

A prime example of one of these scenic routes was the choice to drive through Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Talk about breathtaking! This was by far my favorite sightseeing stop on our trip.

The Badlands is 244,000 acres of eroded sedimentary layers of rock formations and canyons. There is a road going through the whole park but many places to get out, stop and explore. If I had to estimate how long it takes to drive through the park I would guess 20 minutes. My family spent 2 hours here. I actually would have loved to stay longer and done some of the more extensive hiking trails but I didn’t want to push my luck with three small kids.

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driving through Badlands National Park

I got a little giddy when we got out the first time and saw this sign:

Beware! Rattlesnakes!

I am crazy for nature and animals in their natural environments and would have loved to see a rattlesnake!

The park is home to other wildlife as well. Bison, pronghorn, mule, deer, prairie dogs, coyotes and eagles can often be seen by visitors. In this area many fossils have also been recovered of ancient camels, three-toed horses, saber-toothed cats and giant rhinoceros-like creatures.

Here are some of the pictures we took while there:

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Throughout the entire drive I was making audible gasps and squealing like a little school girl pointing things out. My husband also shared in my excitement. The kids however were a different story. They weren’t exactly yawning but their eyes certainly were not transfixed out the window and responding with excitement to everything I pointed to.

They did however like the times when we got out of our van and got to explore:

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We found one flowering cactus in the park! The kids thought that was super cool!

We found one flowering cactus in the park! The kids thought that was super cool!

And the very best thing we saw just as we were about to get to the end of the park was this:

A goat high up on one of the canyons

A goat high up on one of the canyons

Like I said before, Badlands National Park was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. There is no doubt in my mind though that it’s beauty was completely lost on my kids. As proof, about an hour later, driving down a regular highway, my 6 year old son, Bency shouts out, “Wow, look at that beautiful mountain!” I just happened to have the camera in my hand and caught a shot of what he was exclaiming about:

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My husband and I looked at each other and shook our heads in dismay. We had just seen some of the most beautiful rock formations and views and this little hill has our son all jigged up.

 

I Think We Entered the Twilight Zone

Memories are a funny thing.

It’s not always the best, most pleasant occurrences that stick with us; that lodge themselves deep inside our brain. Often times it’s something shocking, absurd and downright frightening that we seem to latch onto forever.

We had one of those moments on our recent cross-country trip. Even though we experienced plenty of really cool, beautiful things this is the memory that I know will be engrained in our minds as one of the “highlights.”

We were driving down the highway mid afternoon somewhere in South Dakota. No houses were in sight and very little traffic. Every little bit we would see some grazing land with a few beef cattle roaming in the distance. Out of nowhere we noticed a sign in the distance stating there was a general store at the next exit selling buffalo jerky. My husband is a big fan of dried meat so we decided to pull off and visit the shop.

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The place was called Buffalo Ridge General Store. As we stepped out we noticed things weren’t exactly in pristine condition. The building was a bit dilapidated and there was no other vehicles in the parking lot. However, we forged on with our mission to get some buffalo jerky for my husband.

The front of the store

The front of the store

As we entered the store I was dumbstruck. It appeared as though we had exited the year 2013 and were catapulted into a time warp from 1978. The merchandise scattered here and there had a thick layer of dust on it. Everything was dirty including the floors and shelves. I really had to go to the bathroom but there was no way I was going to explore the facilities that were located right up front with the door half off it’s hinges and the words “Bathroom” painted on in crude handwriting.

There was even a pay phone in the store for their patrons use! Who still has a payphone??

There was even a pay phone in the store for their patrons use! Who still has a payphone??

Two men greeted us. One was fairly old and the other was middle-aged. I’m assuming they were father and son. They were very friendly and asked where we were from. When we told them Wisconsin, they wanted to talk football and we enjoyed some banter with them for a bit. On the counter in front of them sat a bin of packaged buffalo jerky. We inquired about it and they told us that they make it themselves and that it’s the best around. We purchased $20 worth. The men then motioned to another door and told us there was another room that the kiddos might enjoy.

Here is what we saw when we entered:

Well, isn't this special?

Well, isn’t this special?

It appears that it is just another room filled with more merchandise that they are trying to peddle. Tucked away though in various corners of the room were life-size animated figures behind cages. When you put a quarter in the slot the rooms would light up, the figures would move and a recorded commentary or music would come on.

Here is an old saloon set-up:

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There was also one with a man tanning buffalo hide:

Notice the layers of dust on this guy!

Notice the layers of dust on this guy!

I think Iris is saying, "I can't believe we paid a quarter to see this!"

I think Iris is saying, “I can’t believe we paid a quarter to see this!”

And then we found the icing on the cake:

This one played creepy music and the gorilla's eyes lit up red.

This one played creepy music and the gorilla’s eyes lit up red.

The gorilla guy is quite possibly one of the freakiest things I have ever seen. I also think he scarred my children for life. Notice the looks on their faces while they are watching him:

Cesar is thinking, "No 2 year old should be subjected to something this scary."

Cesar is thinking, “No 2 year old should be subjected to something this scary.”

Bency is saying, "I am going to have nightmares the rest of my life."

Bency is saying, “I am going to have nightmares the rest of my life.”

It’s safe to say that Buffalo Ridge General Store is like nothing I have ever experienced. It will be a memory I will carry with me until my dying day. It’s not just due to the bizarre, off the wall nature of the store itself either. It’s because 3 hours down the road, my husband asked me to crack open that bag of buffalo jerky I purchased so he could give it a try. As I began to search the car I realized I didn’t have it. I must have set it down to put a quarter in one of those crazy animated shows and forgot it. My husband will never let me live that one down.

The buffalo pasture adjacent to the store.

The buffalo pasture adjacent to the store.

How To Play A Game With Goose Poop

A little over a week ago, my family decided to hop in the minivan and drive to Chicago for the day and visit the Shedd Aquarium. Although it’s a 3 ½ hour drive for us, this is merely a blink of an eye to me. I love road trips and a spontaneous adventure is right up my alley. However, we have NEVER attempted a road trip with this long of a drive with all three children spontaneously before.

I grabbed a bag of pretzels, goldfish crackers and a change of clothes for each family member and off we went at 7:30 a.m.

The first 10 minutes of the trip were absolutely wonderful! We sang, we talked about how much fun we were going to have and I passed out a few crackers to everyone.

15 minutes into the trip the question of “when are we going to get there?” began. My husband and I looked at each other with questioning concern wondering if we had just made the biggest mistake of our lives.

We somehow managed to make it to Chicago by 11:00 with little to no major problems until our 7 year old daughter, Iris exclaimed, “I think I’m going to throw up.” I quickly made my way to the back of the van where she was located and grabbed the first thing I saw which was her winter coat and held it in front of her.

This left us with a little dilemma since the weather was pretty chilly and we had to park 2 miles from the aquarium. I did have a sweatshirt in the car that I put over Iris’s shirt but it still left her a little underdressed for our long jaunt. She was a trooper though and didn’t complain at all and her upset stomach had quickly disappeared.

We approached our destination and saw the big building looming just a short distance. We were all excited and relieved that our long car ride was completely worth it as we anticipated our next few hours of fun!

The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, IL

As we got closer, our excitement was soon overcome by shock, disbelief and horror.

The line leading up to the aquarium stretched and winded 200 yards back. My guess is 3000 people were waiting in this line. We are from a small town. Even though a NFL stadium is 10 minutes from our home we do not understand the concept of waiting or large crowds for anything. If the checkout lane at the grocery store takes more than 5 minutes; we get impatient and think that something is going terribly wrong.

I thought the line I was witnessing for the aquarium surely had to be for something other than just seeing a few tanks with fish in it. I thought, perhaps they had just flown in a whale and it was giving birth inside or that Jacques Cousteau had come back from the dead and was signing autographs. Certainly, no one would stand in a line this long, with this cold temperature just to get a peek at a few sting rays.

The line was so long, I couldn’t even fit it all into the picture!

I questioned a few people in line and they told me it was in fact just for the aquarium. They didn’t seem the least bit concerned that they were potentially waiting 2 hours in a line to see jelly fish and sea horses.

I didn’t know who was crazier at this point… the people happily waiting in line or me, who should clearly have investigated this outing a bit more thoroughly.

At this point, my husband and I began whispering what we were going to do and what other alternatives of fun we should do instead when I noticed another door to the side of the building. It said “accessible.” I ran over to find out what this was all about and discovered it was the entrance point for anyone in a wheelchair or who had a stroller.

There has never been a point in my life that I have been happier to have a kid in a stroller until this moment. I showered our 2 year old with kisses and said, “Thank you so much for getting your family in the aquarium with no wait time!”

We spent the next couple of hours going from tank to tank looking at all the sea life. The place was really crowded so it was hard to get too close to anything but we managed to see a fin or two!

After we felt we saw everything we could possibly see we headed out and started our long walk back to our vehicle.

We cut through a park and noticed a huge flock of geese. The kids began chasing them and trying to get them to honk. After they had their fill of running amongst the geese we held hands and walked along the pathway that was dotted with goose poop every few steps. I began by calling out “Goose Poop” to alarm every one of the potential danger so they wouldn’t step in it.

Bency and Iris chasing after the geese

It turned into a game of who could spot the next droppings first and call out loud enough so that all of Chicago was alerted. Stepping over the droppings wasn’t adequate. Wild jumps and hops were in order to clear the areas of mass destruction. Laughing and giggling rang out on this cold walk and our tired legs were forgotten as we enjoyed this best part of our day.

The most amusement of our day!

There is an area 5 minutes from our home that contains walking paths and where I have spotted huge flocks of geese hanging out. The next time we need a little excitement in our lives a quick drive over there should suffice as we happily play our game of “Goose Poop.”