apparently i did not take the advice of “CONSTANT VIGILANCE” as well as i should have. because it applies to driving as well as running ragnar!
we broke camp this morning pretty quickly; we were packed up and on the road out by 10 a.m. liz and fam were on their way to go ziplining, and mom and i were going to check out the badlands. instead of hauling it on I90, i wanted to check out an alternative route. so first we headed up to check out pactola dam, then went into rapid city via hwy 44, which we were supposed to just stay on the entire time.
except i didn’t! i don’t know what happened, but somehow i ended up on 79 instead of 44, and we ended up going 20 miles (!) south before realizing it. i blame bad signage in rapid city. we were even checking out landmarks on the map to make sure we were going the right way! i’m sure i missed a sign or something.
so, by the time i realized i was going the wrong way, we sure weren’t going to turn around. instead we traveled maybe 30 miles on gravel roads to get up to the road we were supposed to be on to come into the badlands from the south.
the good news is that i saw the buffalo gap national grasslands and parts of the badlands that i’d never seen before. bad news? it probably ate up an extra hour or so of the day. oh well. at least i didn’t have to call in for a 2 p.m. meeting!
once we got into the main loop, the badlands were badlands-y like always! the highlight for me was seeing the vault toilet that was available right away after we entered the park. we’d planned on being able to stop at one the towns on the route we were supposed to take.
but the badlands were looking good!
we hit up the dining area and gift shop on the way out. i’d forgotten how great that gift shop was! and the food wasn’t bad (nate and i had not tried out the food the last time we were out).
it was SO HOT. it was close to 100º while we were driving across the prairie. after the badlands, i kicked it up to 85 and we made it to chamberlain after losing an hour crossing from mountain back into good ol’ central time. i don’t know that i’ve ever stopped at chamberlain on the way back – i’ve always just booked it across SD and MN in 10 hours to get back home. it’s not bad to meander sometimes.
If I never drive the wildlife loop again, I may be ok! We headed out earlyish to catch breakfast at the hill city café before a day of driving several miles at slow speeds through the scenic black hills. The hill city café has moved to a buffet only style eatery! I’m not sure if this is due to covid, due to short-staffed-ness, or due to it’s just easier. Either way, it gives the people in front of me in line the opportunity to load up their plate with the remaining bacon. Nate is right on when it comes to buffets: people suck.
We headed out on needles highway, which is always a treat. Mom and I drove separately so I could find wi-fi for a work meeting I had to attend, so of course I was wasting brain power on keeping track of the time and where I could find at least a bar of service but better yet wifi so I can call in for this meeting at 2 p.m. with my dirty hair and sweaty clothes.
But until then, we checked out a couple of the custer state park lodges, which are just great. (we wanted to camp in custer but they were booked.) the air was cooler the higher we went (of course), and it was a nice reprieve from the hot we’d been experiencing. We stopped at a couple of overlooks, and I gotta say, wildlife bingo was pretty much a bust this year! I was about to give up because all we’d seen were a couple deer and a turkey, which I can see any old day wandering across my back yard. But, vindication when we drove past the prairie dog field! At least we say some p-dawgs. Then I managed to see some burros from afar, and then the coup de grace! A bison herd! That was pretty great despite the idiot drivers who couldn’t figure out how to move off the road to get their pics. And those who got out of the car! Good grief.
(as an aside, there were also bicyclists on the road, like riding in a race or something. So you had people driving 10 mph across a straight road with nothing happening on the wildlife front, bicyclists, people driving jeeps who didn’t know that a cattle grate wouldn’t hurt their giant tires, and in the middle of it all, mom and I just kept complaining about it to each other hahahahahahha.)
So, no more wildlife loop. At the end of the loop, I had to find wifi, and luckily, we stopped at the visitors center, and down the road was the game lodge, where I set up camp for an hour, eating dessert and zooming in to this meeting using their wifi. I left a $14 tip on a $22 bill.
We finished up the drive through iron mountain road, with the pigtail bridges and the tunnels that looked out on mount rushmore. The road back to camp took us through hill city, so we stopped for a bit to check out the shopping there, which was pretty mediocre for me, but mom found a couple things she was looking for.
Then I decided, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and after seeing a bunch of junky trump paraphernalia, I broke down and bought a Sturgis hat. At least it looks pretty! And if nate had a bike, I’d probably go to Sturgis too. At least once.
Got back to camp and I decided that just 2 days in the hills is just not enough. You need at least one more day to just putz around. We smashed a lot of stuff into two days! We wrapped up the day by burning four bundles of firewood because why not. Then of course there were winds that night, and the fire we’d put out had popped back up. Luckily, my mom was up and around and saw it. (by up and around I mean we’re in a tent and if you have to use the bathroom in the night, well, it’s off to the vault toilet with you.)
Woof I don’t know why it’s either feast or famine when I’m sleeping in a tent, but last night was not a good sleeping night. But today had a lot of stuff happening and I managed to get roll out of the cot at 7 a.m. to have coffee. Lots of coffee.
We had reservations for the 1880 train at 10:15, so we headed to keystone to catch the train! That was fun. It was warm out, so we weren’t worried about freezing or getting rained on. It was an hour to hill city and an hour back. I haven’t been on the train since I was 9, so that was pretty fun!
We decided to forgo keystone because it was just a giant mass of people, so we headed back to camp for lunch and a nap, then to mount rushmore! You know, I think I could be done with seeing mount rushmore. We did get ice cream cones, so that was probably the highlight of the trip.
After that, we headed back to camp, again, where I made campfire pizza. Way too much campfire pizza, I might add. But it was pretty decent!
So now I sit in front of the campfire waiting for bedtime and hoping that I sleep like a log tonight. Tomorrow’s a nice driving tour and then I have to call in to a meeting at 2 p.m. eye roll.
This morning we headed out after a reasonable continental breakfast and checked out the lewis and clark rest area and dignity statue before heading west across the prairie to tourist city (aka wall drug).
My mileage tanked on I90. I was doing 85 and had the AC on. I think I got 24 mpg on that stretch! After a stop for caribou coffee and then a pit stop at a rest area, we rolled into wall and it was like a wall of mouth breathing delta variant. And of course with a nice trump trailer to greet us. I mean, I knew to expect this but still!
Wall’s ambiance is pretty good, but man the food is just not that great. Not that I was expecting haute cuisine, but the past few times I’ve eaten there have been meh at best. (however, I am kind of salt deprived out here because it’s so dry, so I am wolfing everything down due to the salt content.) the thing about going to these touristy places is that I simultaneously want nothing and everything, which is really interesting. But this time, I spent some real money on black hills gold and got a nice ring. Then their tshirt game was on point this summer, and I got a cosmic jackalope tank top.
Then we headed out to the hills! Usually I prefer a nice campsite at custer state park, but reserving spots is a nightmare this year, and we had to change dates due to my cousin’s ill planning for our family reunion, so we are at a primitive campground at Sheridan lake, where everyone with an RV has decided to show up and run their generators all night. *eye roll* get a tent losers.
Before rolling into Sheridan, mom and I stopped in hill city to get an ice cream sundae, which was good because we needed sustenance to set up camp. A front rolled through a little while later with some big winds and a piddling amount of rain, but it passed pretty quickly. Now I’m hanging by the fire listening to my mom rustle around in the tent and the hum of generators in the distance. Ah, the great outdoors.
Also, there are some nasty gross bugs out here that are like a cross between a giant beetle and a junebug and so far two have divebombed me and omg omg omg.
Hello from SD! It was time to head out to the hills again. Last year, liz and I were going to go, but, well, pandemic, so we postponed. Who cares if I’ve already been on a week’s vacation this year? I have vacation up the wazoo, so why not use it.
I left on Saturday morning, heading down good ol’ 23 down to the SW corner of the state. Along the way, I decided to catch a few state parks, so I stopped at Camden state park, split rock creek, and blue mounds. Blue mounds was still excellent, as expected. I wanted to check out the touch the sky prairie, but I ran out of time. Good news is that I will be able to check it on my way home!
I hooked up with liz’s fam and my mom at the first rest stop in SD and mom hopped into my car to get to the corn palace. Always just a kitschy stop! Ah well. It was entertaining. Then we headed to chamberlain for the night and had al’s oasis for supper. My hot beef sandwich was excellent. I mean, you can’t beat a good old hot beef commercial. The hotel had a good looking pool and an after hours lounge. (I got a beer right before he closed up, so that was fortuitous.)
my uncle greg has extolled the virtues of a thermacell for years. so yesterday, i bought one at scheel’s. of course i looked it up beforehand to check out reviews on amazon, and of course there were people on there saying stuff about breathing in the “chemicals.” (like, seriously, everything is chemicals. your thoughts are just chemical reactions.)
so i wondered, how does breathing in the thermacell scent compare to spraying yourself liberally with deet? liz was skeptical that there were no viable internet results when she did a quick search, so i decided to do some basic research for you. i’m no scientist or chemist, so take my armchair research with a grain of salt.
tried and true deet
we all know deet – bug spray has a percentage of deet on its cans so you can decide how strong you want to smell and how strong you want the spray to be. but what is deet?
it was originally tested to be a pesticide but entered military use in the mid 40s, followed by civilian use in the laste 50s. the most highly used place was in the vietnam war. originally, it was 75% (!!!) deet and 24% ethanol (???). from what i can discern, this is because it didn’t last very long. later on, a new version was created that was more like a slow release with less evaporation.
deet basically covers up your mosquito-attracting pheromones. so that’s why the different concentrations are available, from 10-almost 100%. the more deet, the longer the protection. 100% deet lasts for up to 12 hours! 20-30% will last 3-6 hours. and kids under 2 yrs shouldn’t wear deet (as an aside, they also shouldn’t eat honey, so use that as your control).
what happens when you put deet on? well, it’s advised that you don’t put your bugspray on damaged skin or under clothing, and that you should wash it off when you’re done hiding from the mosquitoes. it can cause some burning eyes or headaches and, despite the prevailing thinking about deet on our skin, absorbing into our bloodstream and causing cancer/infertility/lasting damage of some sort because dang it smells so awful, a 2002 study contends that deet is pretty safe, when all is said and done. it’s been subjected to a ton of scientific scrutiny, has been used for more than 60 years, and has a really large human testing pool every year.
the results of that ginormous pool?
in 1998, there were 14-46 -potential- deet-related seizures.
people with extensive deet exposure were more likely to have insomnia, mood swings, and brain fog. (extensive: working in the everglades.)
deet is about common sense. just like acetaminophen (i read a comment the other week about how if tylenol were to come to the FDA today, it would NOT be over the counter).
so what’s in a thermacell?
you get a little device, insert a small butane fuel tank, and light it up to release the smells in the blue mat, which lasts about 12 hours. this one that i got will repel mosquitoes in a 15′ radius.
the main ingredient in the mat is allethrin, a synthetic compound based on pyrethrin, which is found naturally in chrysanthemums. allethrins are used in household insecticides like raid, and in mosquito coils.
weirdly enough, allethrin is toxic to fish, slightly toxic to bees, and also cats. so i guess i’m making sure the cats aren’t around while i use this guy. (i checked, and chrysanthemums are also toxic to cats.)
the WHO did a study, and the levels of allethrin the mats and also mosquito coils are so low that it’s basically a non-issue.
but what about the butane?
the butane burner in this is teeny tiny, and i think you’d have more problems breathing in campfire smoke than the residue from a thermacell. it burns and gives of carbon monoxide, so make sure that you’re in a properly ventilated space. and while the allethrin breaks down easily outdoors, you may also want to avoid using it indoors (especially with the kitties). i’m assuming that mosquito repellant is mostly used outdoors, but if for some reason your indoor space is seething with the skeets, then default to the bugspray.
considering that both of these are pretty safe to use, i’m fine using either of them. citronella is always hit or miss for me, so having something stronger is helpful. if the thermacell works, even better so i don’t have to stink like bugspray.
i have yet to use my thermacell in a mosquito-infested area, due to this summer being dry and more dry. but once i get to a buggy place, i’ll let you know the results. i already know that deet does the job.
and if you’re pretty healthy and still worried about the *gasp* chemicals? well, i’d be more worried about mosquitoes carrying diseases than harm from either of these used correctly. those diseases are much worse chemicals than deet or the allethrin. heck, booze is a worse chemical for you. and sometimes your thoughts are the worst chemical for you! stop overthinking about bug repellant and just avoid mosquitoes.
i gotta say, so far i was enjoying our relatively humid-free summer. even though it has been HOT, it’s been pretty dry, and i’ve been at least not dying on my runs. some highlights from the past month, which i’m really sad that i hadn’t written about earlier:
ragnar sunset was in early june. liz, jane, doug, and i relayed and each ran 2 loops of about 4 miles. while jane was out there, it hit 100º. and the sun was bearing down! to prepare for the run, i bought a long-sleeved white wicking shirt and a light colored baseball hat. both EXCELLENT purchases. the long sleeve white really does make a difference; it keeps the sun from hitting your skin and eliminating radiant heat. my first run was pretty unshaded, so yes yes yes. my second run of the day was more shaded and it actually got a little cloud, so i pulled out a run tank for that one instead. i also chugged pedialyte, which i’d never tried before. that was an excellent choice. good news on this race: we FINISHED and we were hydrated.
outrun bigfoot was the third week in june, a virtual on-your-own race. basically you had to run a distance in the top 2/3 of all the runners registered for it over the course of 4-5 days (can’t remember). the top runner ran more than 100 miles during the days, which is insane. i managed to run 27, which was pretty insane for me. that week was probably the most miles i’ve run in a week ever. i ran the 27 and then also 4 miles the day before it started. i’ve been just chugging through my running shoes these days.
i’m signed up for the firecracker 4-mile on the fourth of july down in la crosse, which should be a breeze. the only downside to it is that it starts at 7 a.m. which i will be grateful for at the time because of the high of 90º it’s supposed to get to that day, but still, 7 a.m.?? good thing the adrenaline of a race sort of wakes me up.
then it’ll be time to start training for ragnar trail! oof duh.
yesterday i went for a run. after a month of dry runs, i’d gotten used to the non humidity. but last night it was 70º and humid. i thought it’d be great with the 70º, and the temp WAS great. but my run clothes were just sopping wet from my sweat that wasn’t evaporating. thanks to my mom’s sweaty genes. anyway, that was a gross thing to share, but something that is pretty typical if you run and sweat.
that’s all i’ve got! i might actually head out for a run right now!
may is glorious in its sudden greenness with the new growth taking over after months of dormancy. the weather is finally warm, and there are days when you finally feel like you can take off a couple layers while outdoors instead of adding layers. the month ends with (for many) the first paid holiday since january. it’s the “start of summer” even though still technically in spring.
july is bold and bright, snagging the limelight with the bold and bright independence day holiday. july is the height of summer, though summer continues on for another two months afterward. it’s warm and hot and green and steals the spotlight. if there were ever an extroverted month in this country, july would be it.
in between nestles june, silently warming up and taking may’s bright green and mellowing it out into summertime greens. the holidays are mellow as well: flag day and father’s day and now juneteenth. the most exciting thing about june is the absolute pinnacle of light during year during the summer solstice and the two weeks of long light on either side of the date. at the beginning of the month, the frogs are still croaking at night and delicate spring flowers bursting, but at the end, june has fully settled into summertime crickets in the ditches and hardy flowers that will hold blooms for the next couple months.
and somehow, june slips by so silently and fully that it’s hard to remember that just a month earlier, we were excited by the new growth and springtime. we don’t notice when the frogs stop and the crickets begin. last year’s cattail remnants were swallowed up by the new sometime in the past three weeks. we’re still in the blush of springtime with eyes on summertime.
every year i tell myself that i will slow down and enjoy june. every year i miss it.
a final wrap-up to the east coast trip! our flight left at 12:30 on saturday, so we headed out at 8 a.m., expecting not great traffic and a long bus ride to our terminal. turns out, the drive was ok (minus the rain – ugh driving in rain is the worst. except rain and dark), rental return was fast, and the bus to the terminal took no time at all. so we were 3 hours early for our flight. i was going to get coffee or breakfast or something, and all the eateries were closed til 11 a.m. bizarre, considering they all open up at 4 a.m. at MSP.
(the more i fly, the more i realize how awesome MSP is and it totally deserves its best airport designation.)
lori tried her hardest to get on our flight, but it was full, so she had to fly into detroit, then MSP, then bismarck. and they lost her luggage. what a way to end the trip for her!
lori, doug, and i would do well on an itineraried trip. liz and jane would do well on a sit-at-home and do-nothing trip.
i dispelled wisdom to lori about helping liz and jane get out of the house to do stuff. (aka: make the plans yourself, then tell them when it’s time to get ready to go. but casually.)
looking at my ancestors’ grave markers in the albany cemetery, with dates in the mid to late 1800s, is NOTHING. i have no concept of old.
always expect to spend more on food than you plan or want to.
4 days is too short. 7 days almost too long. would the sweet spot be 6 days? 5 days? maybe it’d be different if i were with nate?
the flight was a flight. i read. i snoozed. i enjoyed my silent seatmates. i was happy with the shorter-than-expected flight time. as we descended, i popped up the window to check out what was going on. (oh yeah – totally got a window seat.)
i checked out the good ol’ midwest just as we were crossing the big river, then caught a glimpse of the lakes, and as much as i like checking out new places, and as much as i like looking at big water, i sure do like coming home where i have a lot of little water.
saturday after the drive home, i took a nap, then that evening i sat on my patio with the cats strolling outside, my outdoor light game top notch and lit up, the green the GREEN, frogs croaking, my irises in full bloom, peonies about to bust, and little neon shoots starting to poke their way up through the black dirt in my garden, and lo and behold a faraway loon call. welcome home.
so, of course, it’s time for my coming-home quote from michael perry:
“…to this day my two favorite things in the world are solitude and motion. I’ve found them in the next county, in a semi crossing the Nevada state line, on a Hungarian train, and on a bus approaching the Guatamalan border. In times of trouble, motion is my morphine. But as much as I love to run, I love even more to come home. At every latitude, my compass swivels to point back here, to little old New Auburn. This place is my true north. A stray dog running, as it turns out, is just circling the rug.”
they died like they lived – dancing to lori’s playlist! (only bops and bangers on her playlists.)
since i failed to blog yesterday, here’s an update!
our list of things to do really dwindled down as the week wore on. the thought of sitting in a car for “norm wallace” hours was not too appealing, so we scrapped out state tour trip. while disappointing, it also meant that we weren’t driving around for 8 hours on thursday. instead, we opted for visiting connecticut for supper. but before that, i ended up going for two runs, and liz and doug and i drove into newport to check out the little shops while jane and lori lounged around the condo.
that evening, we drove – sans lori (who had a headache) – to stonington connecticut to the breakwater restaurant and had one the best meals of the trip! i have spent more on food this trip than i had ever expected. but while you’re on the east coast, you’ve gotta eat seafood. we were on the ocean and the sunset was fantastic.
had scallops with risotto, then a blueberry bread pudding for dessert. delish!
that dining experience was a 13 stars. decision to not go on a state tour that day? 11/13 stars. i would’ve liked to have been able to say i’d been to those states and to see salem, but it was a lot to do.
oh no!! last day!
we briefly entertained driving up to salem, but that would’ve been a long day. in the morning, we headed to see the marble house, another gross display of opulence at the turn of the century. the gold room, below, was lined with 14karat gold leaf.
i appreciate visiting historical landmarks like these, but man it’s just a testament to excess and makes me wonder what people could accomplish if we were a little more socialist. marble house was a 10/13 historical experience, and a 2/13 life experience.
lori and i took a walk to down town jamestown. met a crossing guard who helped us across a couple streets to the post office to buy some postcard stamps. on the way back, we stopped at a graveyard that had gravemarkers from the 1700s. we checked out a couple shops where i FINALLY found a gift for nate. thank goodness! lori found a couple pups to pet. our place is in a really out of the way place on a dead end road, and somehow there was a traffic jam 300′ from the driveway! a landscaper was on parked, then an uber showed up, and the USPS truck decided to make an appearance. then lori and i were in the middle of it all! i’m giving that traffic jam a solid 13/13.
the last place we checked out for food was flo’s clam shack, a true seafood dive. we got so much food! but we ended up trying conch, and got some crab legs and tons of fried foods. plus two pitchers of beer, so it was a really good way to finish up the trip. 13/13.
now we’re packing! i had a much better packing experience this time than when jane and i were in CA. i only had to dig around for one shirt after i had packed it. that’s always the worst, but always bittersweet. as i was walking along the beach today, i thought about how i was missing the frogs croaking in my pond and backyard, the peonies about to pop open, my normal running route. my bed. sigh.
but i do think i’m going to find some zone 4 hardy azaleas 🙂 azaleas get 13/13.