Extending Our Happily Ever After

"We do! Now let's live healthy and fit!"


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Three days in and around Custer State Park!

There is so much to do here! We have to come back to do it all! No complaints from us! When I was a kid, my dad took my brother and I on a cross country trip and I remember visiting Mt. Rushmore and thinking to myself, I would like to live here one day. Well, now that I am here again… I can see why I thought that. This area of the country is truly amazing. I honestly could picture myself living here. It is gorgeous! Clean air, hospitable people and the scenery is just breathtaking!
I haven’t done much planning on this trip, so when we were in the Badlands, I tried calling for a place to stay on the night of the 3rd and 4rth of July. What was I thinking??? It took us an hour to find something, and we finally found Jack’s Campers at exit 44 in Piedmont, SD on Hwy 90. They actually sell RVs, have a store and then have full hookups in the back for $17/night. So awesome! And we have an amazing view of the hills around us. We feel totally secure. We were able to get a third night as well.
Our first day, we drove to Sylvan Lake and did the one mile loop trail around it.

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Then, we drove to Crazy Horse… The head is finished… The museum is quite impressive with lots of Indian artifacts.

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Outside, on the viewing terrace, you can see the replica of what the carving is supposed to look like, then the actual mountain carving.

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Chris and I took a bus up to get a closer look at the mountain.

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Then, we saw some sculptures outside the park. The gate was done by the family and is a representation of every living thing in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

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We then drove up to Mount Rushmore… Being the third of July, they were having a Fourth Celebration… A concert with an acapella group and then the Air Force Band. Also, they swore in about 34 new recruits into the armed forces… What a special ceremony for them… At the base of the monument!

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A lady sitting in front of us was using her binoculars to take photos with her cell phone and let me try, too… These were the results… It doesn’t take much to impress me!

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Then at night, they illuminated the faces!

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Driving through the park on day two… We tried to go to the Jewel Cave, but the tours were sold out… The wildlife loop was void of wildlife…  The Needles Hwy.  Was spectacular, however!

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That is all for now, we are sitting in a Starbucks posting this, getting ready to start our third day in the park… So enjoy the pics, more to follow…
Our next couple of days are not expecting to be much… We are feeling a bit better, but we are going to start to head west and we are told that there isn’t that much to see in the middle of Montana… So we are expecting to get to my cousin’s ranch on the 8th on the west side of Montana…
Thanks for following our journey!

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Two amazing days in the Badlands of South Dakota!

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We left the city of Sioux Falls with me feeling very sick. All of us have been very run down on this trip. Possibly from the months of downsizing and the stress that brings on… With Christopher finishing off his senior year and going to awards nights and different events throughout, to my finishing off my ten year career with UPS-SCS. It was bound to leave us all a bit worn out.
We wanted to set up camp at the Missouri river for a couple of days, but those spots were full up… So we stopped there for gas and drove right on through…

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Ended up driving longer than either of us wanted to, but we were headed for the Badlands anyway, so we just got there a bit sooner. We were lucky enough to secure a spot to camp just outside the park in the small town of Interior, SD. Budget Inn campground.

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The views aren’t too bad and they have showers and laundry and water and electric for us for just $29/night.
The first night, we set up and then took a drive through the park and it truly is stunning!

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Then back to the campground for dinner cooked by us in our kitchen.

The next morning, we all took our showers, had a light breakfast, then headed out to enjoy the day. Our first stop… Wall Drug. In Wall, SD. You see billboards for wall all the way through SD on the Interstate and you just have to stop. It is on the other side of the Badlands loop, and it is a huge tourist destination. Coffee is only .05, free ice water, homemade donuts, too!… Stores galore and tons of gift shops and photos of the old west! You could stay for hours!

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We stopped for a piece of pie and the guys had some of that coffee (they have had worse, that you have to pay much more for) and I had my free water). Then it was back on the road to check out the park more.  

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Fun to see a goat! Very sure footed creatures out on this terrain!

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Bunnies, too!

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We just had such an awesome time, even found a great place to picnic lunch!

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We are ready to hit the road again. We obviously are not planning anything out… So we spent about an hour the morning of the 2nd trying to secure a spot to hook up for the third and fourth… Just wasn’t thinking of the holiday weekend.
Finally found a spot, but it is outside of Custer State Park, so we will have to drive in… We are ok with that. No bathrooms or showers, but full hookup, so big time relief in that one! We pass through Rapid City, so we are stopping for supplies and drinking water… Should be good! We haven’t been getting wi-fi, so daily posts aren’t happening, but stick around for location posts.
Thanks for reading of our travels… We are having the time of our lives, even though we are doing so without voices our coughing through it all. 😉

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Sioux Falls… Park is a must see!

We left Dow City, Iowa. We truly enjoyed our time there. We know we want to return to that gem of a place in the heartland of America!

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Christopher was not driving today, as he is just wiped out. I feel ok so far. Ivan is still coughing up a storm. Oh, to be sick on the road. What fun!
We knew we were in South Dakota at the first sighting of a teepee.

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I noticed on our travels cross country that Sioux Falls was on our path. I googled it to see if there was anything to do there and Falls Park stood out. We are so glad we stopped! Such a beautiful park! I wish I could see this beauty every day of my life!

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After our stroll through the park to get all of these amazing photos… We went for dinner at the Pizza Ranch, which came highly recommended by our camp hosts. A buffet that costs 10.98/pp including drink and desert. Pizza, fried chicken, salad, macaroni and cheese… What more could one ask for? It was great. Chicken was delicious, so was the Pizza.
We drove back to the park to catch the trolley for $1/each.

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It took us around the city and showed us the sites. Lots of lovely building built with the quartzite that this area is known for and they are all so beautiful. Also, there are so many sculptures throughout downtown to look at, as well. It was raining… It gives us a reason to come back to visit again.

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These were just two in Falls Park.

A lovely visit here! We will remember this as a wonderful day!


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We will return to Iowa!

What a relaxing trip! Visiting with friends that seemed more like family! Christopher and I, unfortunately woke up feeling under the weather and this was the perfect stop at the perfect time. Veronica just cooked up a storm, letting Christopher take a nap on her couch and I ended up taking a few hour snooze on the other one myself. We woke up to lunch and then we visited and her children and grandchildren stopped by for an amazing dinner.
Her grandson, Tyson, took a shine to Christopher and just played with him all afternoon!

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After dinner, Marty took us to his workshop to show us his hit and miss engine he built and the firehouse he volunteers at and their Main Street. Such a step into the past for us.

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See how desolate hwy 30 was on a Monday night? I was able to stand right in the middle of the road for minutes for photos without getting hit.
I am so not used to that.

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Just a good ol’ town!

We will miss our time spent here.  It was peaceful, relaxing and spent with loving friends.

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We will definitely return!

As Tyson put it… “travel safe, Chrissy!” “Bye, Chrissy… Catch more pirates (they were playing pirates)” As he hopped in his Daddy’s car and drove off.


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Iowan hospitality!

We are at the Nelson Park in Dow City, Iowa currently.

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Friends of ours that we have known via an online word game called Acrophobia for about 16 years now live near here. Ivan and I met playing that same word game. We pulled into their very small town of about 1,200 population yesterday (Dunlap, Iowa) and it was like stepping into the past. Stores shut down, due to it being Sunday. The nearest Wal-Mart is 18 miles away in Dennisen, Iowa.
Our friends, Veronica and Marty, invited us into their home after our travels… By the way… What a beautiful state Iowa is! The rolling hills are lovely! The wind turbines are mesmerizing, as well. And huge!

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Veronica made us a lovely fried chicken meal with mashed potatoes and gravy and sweet, locally grown corn. Delicious!

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I feel like she is part of my family, I have known her so long! We were offered to do our laundry, which was much appreciated! We talked till our eyes couldn’t stay open.
This morning, back at our campsite, we decided to take a quick morning walk to check out our surroundings. Found the prairie trail…

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We are going back to Veronica and Marty’s today to hang out and relax. She is inviting her children over to dinner tonight for a great meal and we will head to Sioux Falls, SD tomorrow.
Christopher and I woke up with sore throats this morning, but hope to stay on top of that. Ivan is still sick, so we are sure he is the one who graciously shared his sickness with us. Need to get meds on way up to SD tomorrow.
Having a great time here in the heartland of America!


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This year and where we are headed…

This is the big year for us.  The year we head west.  So much has happened for us in the past six months…

Ivan is now training for his CDL License and the training should finish in about 7 weeks and then he should be looking to be hired with a trucking company.  We are hoping for a “on the road” company so that he can get paid pretty well.  We will see.  It will be quite an adjustment for us, as we are sort of glued at the hip.  We are always together.  However, we met online and we are both great with technology and this might be a revisit to our past where we are communicating through technology again.  It will be interesting.  We will see how it goes.  A means to an end, though… he and I are real good about things like that.

Christopher is doing amazingly well in his Senior Year.  He has put applications in at 9 different colleges/Universities for next fall and already is four for four for acceptances.  He’s had acceptances from Pitt, LeMoyne (with scholarship), Lycoming (with scholarship) and University of Sciences (with scholarship).  We are waiting to hear from USC, Carnegie Mellon, Berkeley, University of Washington and UC San Diego.  We probably won’t hear anything til the spring now.  Pitt is leading the pack.  He fell in love with Pittsburgh when he attended Carnegie Mellon for the PGSS (Pennsylvania Governor’s School of Sciences) last summer.

Chris was also placed third chair (for Baritone Horn) for the PMEA District 9 Band Concert, which will take place next week.  We are quite proud of him.  He’s been keeping quite busy with the Crystal Band, which has just wrapped up their Christmas Season of concerts. There will be many senior activities coming up for us to attend before his graduation in June.

His senior portrait that we picked for the yearbook is this… which I took myself.  I opted to take the portraits myself to save some money for us.

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We are going to start the downsizing next week pretty aggressively.  We must.  We’ll be looking at purchasing our RV around graduation time and there won’t be much room for anything, so operation DOWNSIZE is upon us.  Such a huge task and not one I’m looking forward to.  But, it must be done and I am looking forward to being DONE with it.

As for my parents (the reason for all of this)… Around Thanksgiving, my mother did not sound well.  I had made two phone calls where she just was NOT connecting with me over the phone.  She wasn’t able to get her words out, which has never happened before and it was very upsetting to me.  The first phone call, I was somehow able to offer her words and she was like “Yes” so I am still connected to her, but to hear her not be able to express what she wanted to say really was quite unsettling.  Our second phone call, that was actually ON Thanksgiving and we just weren’t connecting at all.  She was talking over me and so we weren’t sure if she just wasn’t waiting to hear me or couldn’t hear me, or what it was, but again, no real connection was made.  Since then, though, our phone calls have been better.  She has been talking to me as usual… knows our names, talks as she always has… these are never huge, thought filled conversations, they haven’t been… just basic things, like the weather and how are you, stuff like that.  The need I feel to get out there, though, is stronger than ever.  It’s a huge weight.

I’m starting to get rid of some of my anxiety over many things this year… things are starting to lift.  You’d think the closer I got, the worse I’d feel… but at the beginning of Christopher’s senior year, it was horrible.  Christopher was feeling it, I was feeling it.  I was crying almost daily.  I think that his acceptance (the first one) was a huge weight off his shoulders and when he felt better, then I started to feel better.  Leaving my son is no little thing.  It’s been weighing on my mind for years now… and yet, I knew it was coming.  I felt in my heart that he was an East Coast kid and that I was always going to go back to my parents to care for them.  I was taking this all too literally… I left my parents 18 yrs ago when I got pregnant to raise my son nearer his father and now I’m leaving my son to care for my parents.  When I need to just let go of the guilt.  That is hard!  You’ve NO IDEA!  My son is going to college.  I’ll always be there for him.  He is ready now to make his mark in this world.  He’s already achieved so much and I’m so very proud of him.  I know he’ll be fine and he do great, no matter where he goes.  I want to be there for my parents, I miss them so much.  I don’t feel obligated, I feel privileged! I am who I am in this world because of them.

Anyway, that is my update on this New Year’s day.