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BH2021: day 6 (last day boo)

BH2021: day 6 (last day boo)

boo, vacay is over!

but, stopping for a night in chamberlain on the way home versus booking it 10 hours in one day is a much easier way to end a vacation. you can meander a bit. you can take your time and get lost in buffalo gap grassland. you can stop at some places you wouldn’t have stopped otherwise. or you could visit wall drug a second time or stop at al’s oasis a second time. (we did not.)

the final morning, we got outta dodge early after a late night of pizza and ice cream the day before. it’s pretty weird how suddenly the landscape goes from grassland dakota to cornfield dakota once you cross the missouri.

one note about SD: NO RECYCLE BINS??? come on! none at the rest stops, none at the national parks. what’s going on there. i’m writing a letter. at the first rest stop in MN, i unloaded 5 days’ worth of recyclables into the bins.

we met up in luvurne for lunch at a fancy pant place, then said our goodbyes. i then headed to the brandenburg art gallery in town (which is shared with the world war museum – a stark contrast).

jim brandenburg is a luvurne native and national geographic photographer. i remember desperately wanting to be a NG photographer but it never really was something even slightly attainable in my head. but brandenburg’s works are wonderful.

check out his photos!

he’s taken a lot of photos of MN – both of the southwest and of the north. you can tell he enjoys the prairie and wolves.

the gallery is free and you’re able to purchase prints while you’re there. i recommend that if you’re ever in the SW part of the state, check it out!

then i was inspired, so i headed to the touch the sky national wildlife refuge, which i learned was founded in the early 00s by the brandenburg foundation! huh! learn something new every day. anyway, i took some pics.

after that, i headed northeast, making a stop at the upper sioux agency state park, which i had skipped on my way down. the last time i was there, it was raining and i hadn’t really taken time to learn about the park or take a close look.

this park is the location of the buildings that housed the white people who were there to assimilate the native people before the dakota uprising. thoughts on this park: it’s right by a reservation. the information building was closed, and it’s definitely run down. there were no people there while i was there (it was a thursday afternoon but still). it makes me wonder if the state will return the land to the native americans who surround the park. in fact, i would very much support that. there is a grave of a well-known leader on the park grounds, and there is only one historical building (the first duplex built in the state, which is no real treat). that’s my two cents.

then booked it northeast. i’m glad the speed limit on 23 is 60, which means everyone drives at least 60. most drive 68 or so. several signs were posted along the 2-lane portion of the road: “4-lane for you!” we’ll see how long that takes.

and past willmar, the trees started to pop up and it was like a sigh of relief. i never realize how much i miss the trees until i’m back in them. how glorious to come up north of richmond, right outside of avon, with the hills covered in trees in deep summer green.

BH2021: day 5

BH2021: day 5

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.

BH2021: day 4

BH2021: day 4

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.)

BH2021: day 3

BH2021: day 3

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.

BH2021: day 2

BH2021: day 2

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.

BH2021: day 1

BH2021: day 1

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.)

ah HSH

ah HSH

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!

trip takeaways:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
  4. always expect to spend more on food than you plan or want to.
  5. 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?
  6. crab>lobster

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.”

finals days: vacay time is close to done

finals days: vacay time is close to done

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.

day 4 & 5: it’s still wednesday!

day 4 & 5: it’s still wednesday!

somehow it’s still the middle of the week and i’m still on vacation! this is great. and you get a two for one because i forgot to blog yesterday.


newport was the playground of the rich in the late 1800s/early 1900s, especially the railroad barons, and they certainly like to throw their money at opulent, useless things instead of using it for good, like helping the poor or feeding peeps. so naturally, we wanted to see how the other half lived; we headed to the breakers, the “summer cottage” of the vanderbilts.

they imported slabs of marble form italy and an entire fireplace from france. i mean, good grief. the tour was worth it to add an historical element to visiting newport, but it was just over the top excessiveness on the part of the vanderbilts. plus, you drive down that area of newport, and there are a LOT of over the top, excessive homes. we give the tour 10 out of 13 stars but the excessiveness of the rich a 1. we may go back to check out the marble house on friday, but we’ll see. that one has a gold room.

for a late lunch, we headed to the wharf to one of the fancier places just to say we’ve eaten at the wharf. unfortunately, this is the second nice place that just wasn’t great. our server was new or something and couldn’t figure out how to take our order. there was construction going on in two sections, loudly in one of them, and service took forever. i had some tuna tacos that i thought were going to come in a tortilla and came in a wonton instead. what. the food was ok, but service was really poor. 5 out of 13 stars.

we came back to the condo and everyone had a lie down before BAR TRIVIA woohoo. best service of the trip so far! AND we won third place, which was a $10 gift card to the bar. we had pizza, wings, crab cakes, and some local booze. bar trivia night was good, though the tab racked up quickly. 12 out of 13 stars, only because we weren’t paying attention to our tab. (boo on us.)


woke up to some fog this morning.

boston! lori got us out of the house by 8:30, and we headed to braintree, ma, to catch the metro train into boston proper. we got off at the freedom trail, which is a walking tour of several important sites during the revolutionary war. it’s just hard to fathom for a lowly midwesterner like ourselves the kind of history that the east coast has (and it’s hard for any american who immigrated to fathom the history of europe). we saw old buildings, a cemetery where sam adams is buried, lori and i toured paul revere’s house, the boston massacre site, the tea harbor, little italy, and a lot more. the only downsides to the day were that the tea party museum was closed and it was HOT – 90º oof. but boston is fun. the architecture is great, the history, the cobblestones. my dad would hate it because the streets aren’t straight, but who cares. that adds to the charm! i give the freedom tour 11 out of 13 stars. maybe it would’ve been more if it’d been cooler or things were open.

for lunch, we stopped in a dining hall that had several restaurants in it, and i got my lobster roll!

i also got a cup of clam chowder with it, and i’m not normally a clam chowder kind of person, but that was delicious. a lobster roll was my goal this trip and i hit it. i give my lunch a 12 out of 13.

the drive home from boston was definitely sketchier and more frantic, traffic wise, than the drive there. it was close to rush hour, and again, east coasters can’t figure out how to drive. well, they drive differently, i guess. after we got home, we ate the food we actually bought from the grocery store for our snacks, and then played some games before checking out the full moon! full moon gets 13 stars. heh heh heh.


east coast: day 2 (beach day)

east coast: day 2 (beach day)

beach day!

the day started off HOT and sunny, so we knew this was the day to head to the beach. but first, we had to prepare for the beach, which meant a trip to pick up a couple beach towels and a beach umbrella (and good call on the beach umbrella because it really helped with the warmth). we brought snacks and bev with us, and after that detour, we headed out to the newport “second beach”, which had a parking lot that was absolutely packed. but we found a spot and then were able to breath in that sea salty air!

the beach gets 12/13 stars. there were a lot of people there and it was SUPER windy, but it was still the ocean. and my first time seeing the atlantic!

we spent about 2 hours on the beach and then headed back to our condo, at which point we learned that our toll pass on our rental cars didn’t work with the newport bridge. of course. we paid extra on our rentals so we didn’t have to worry about tolls, and now we have to figure out how to fix that; that’s our mission tomorrow. that and to hopefully swap out the cigarette smelling car. that brings my rental car rating down to a 5. the car rating is definitely fluid at this point.

got back to the condo and made plans for supper at simpatico here on the jamestown side so we didn’t have to deal with tolls at the moment. lori and i went on a quick driving tour of the town (i also wanted to scope out running routes), and after driving through the very small downtown, we decided on simpatico.

started out sitting outside, but a small squall rolled in and we headed indoors. liz and i shared a lobster mac n cheese, liz and lori shared a paella, and doug had fish n chips. mmmm it was delish! topped it off with tiramisu for dessert, and i am definitely going to need to run tomorrow! the decor was great and vibe super awesome. service was awesome too! i think i’m going to roll out 13 stars for the restaurant and food this evening. so far, food has been a win this trip. but the week is young.

(i also think i’m going to stick with crab here on out. lobster’s fine, but i like crab better.)

after a little stroll on the wharf, we headed back to the condo, where i did some yoga outside and then we wrapped up the day with some games! now it’s time to sleep because unfortunately tomorrow is the “deal with the car rentals” day. ugh.

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