There’s a creek right behind the tents on the “lower level” of our tent site. Luckily, we didn’t have any heavy rains.

We elected to camp in Moab, which might not have been the best idea. We didn’t think about Moab being at a lower elevation than the previous places we visited (Durango and the Grand Canyon), it being the month of July, or the noise we’d experience in a state that allows all sorts of personal use fireworks. More »

13. November 2012 · Comments Off on Camping and More Camping · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

Just before I took my October trip to Nebraska the family did a Cub Scout Family Camping Event near Defuniak Springs. This is our 3rd time going to a Fam Camp event, so this time around the family could be more laid back.

The Cub Scout family camp experience includes the same activities: fishing, swimming, boating, leathercrafts, archery, BB guns, model rockets and lots of hiking.  Our pack included a night hike and a game of lightstick tag after dark. The scouts can come and go as they please, and the entire family can participate, even siblings!

2 weeks later, while I was in Nebraska, Dave took the boys back to Defuniak Springs for a “Webelos Weekend”. Jacob is a Webelos-rank Cub Scout, and this weekend was designed for the scouts to earn from numerous activity pins. Jacob earned two activity pins in one day during the weekend.

Enjoy some pictures!

Our camp setup. The weather was really wonderful, so even though we just got a screen wrap-around for our shelter, we didn’t need it all weekend.

I was testing hand-cranked/solar powered emergency radios by Eton Corp. for GeekMom. This one included a cell phone charger, it’s truly a for-emergencies-only charger. We could get about 2% charge on the phone.

Fam camp isn’t complete with Patricia’s latest Dutch Oven cooking experiments. The first night’s dessert failed miserably (a peach cobbler that didn’t set). This is a chicken and rice casserole turned out really well.

The finished meal. Here’s the recipe: . Unfortunately, now that our sons eat adult-sized portions, the 10″ diameter Dutch oven is ending up too small. It might be time for a larger one. The recipe was designed for a 12″ Dutch oven and things were VERY full in the one I had.

The boys devoured it!

The Family Camp tradition is a huge bonfire on the Saturday night of the event. Everyone gathers for skits and music. The fire was ENORMOUS! The kids enjoyed the skits a lot.

This was the setup from Webelos Weekend. Dave and the boys did this with NO HELP FROM ME!

Jacob being handsome.

This is from the opening ceremony. Jacob is towards the back on the left, facing us.

Pensacola went without a minor league baseball team for a season while this ballpark was under construction. This the Blue Wahoos' inaugural season.

After a day of the boys playing baseball, we headed out to downtown Pensacola for an evening with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos — the city’s brand new AA Minor League baseball team. They had a team called the Pelicans until 2010, but for summer 2011, there was no professional baseball in the area. We’re excited to have a team to watch locally now.

About a month ago, the local Boy Scout Council announced that May 5th was “Scout Night” with the Blue Wahoos. Unfortunately, the first two months of games was were nearly sold out and even within an hour of receiving the announcement about Scout Night, I couldn’t get 4 tickets together for the family. So I went ahead and got two sets of two tickets.

There was a Scout parade at 6pm but we didn’t get to the park in time. Instead, we chose to stop for dinner.

The park isn’t that big, it seats 5,000 people, so there weren’t really poor seats anywhere. We were at the very end of the first base line…which still gave us a good view of the game itself, but we could barely see the scoreboard. Jacob, our statistics boy, was trying to track the speeds of the pitches. More »

12. October 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,

This past weekend our family headed to the Spanish Trail Scout Reservation near Defuniak Springs and had a weekend campout.

The scout council here calls it “Cub Scout Family Camp” and it’s a great weekend.  Three weekends in October were made available expressly for Cub Scout-friendly activities.  Any Cub Scout families could register for any of the weekends they wanted, but our pack in Navarre elected to go as a group to the Columbus Day weekend event.

Last spring I had to leave the camping one evening early so I could run that half marathon, but this time I got to enjoy the Saturday night bonfire and skit show.  What fun!!!

I made a cherry-dark chocolate dump cake (similar to this recipe that I did back in June, but with “dark chocolate” cake mix) on Friday night and was a hit with the families in Jacob’s den.

Jacob took a fall from the stack of palettes sitting behind our campsite (you’ll see them pictured below).  A group of boys was playing and too many boys ended up on the palettes and Jacob fell into our camp chairs.  There are suspicions that he was pushed, but no one saw for sure so there’s little we can do about that.  He got bruised up, but we had the doctor check him out earlier this week just for good measure.  All is well.

The members of our pack who came on the Saturday morning group hike.  Jacob’s on the far left, Timmy’s in orange.

There’s a “monkey bridge” across a creek.  Miss Chris (one of the den leaders) is in the water playing spotter.

I’m so glad neither boy fell into the water…although Timmy dunked his shoes into the water later on after crossing the bridge.  He had some closed-toe Keen sandals that he wore the rest of the weekend.

At the BB Gun range.

Dave helping Timmy.

Timmy was able to earn his BB Gun belt loop this past weekend (and Archery too!)

Timmy with some other Tiger Scouts (and a soon-to-be Tiger).

Dave making dinner.  We’re glad we brought the shelter, it did sprinkle on us some Saturday night. Note the palettes stacked behind us (they’re for Boy Scout summer camp).  Note the kid standing on them on the left right.  Note the Dad with the laptop — listening to the Virginia Tech game (it was a SQUEAKER!)

Getting ready for the evening skit.

Nice photobomb, Timmy!

Fried potatoes and onions — can’t go wrong there!

I made tacos for Saturday evening dinner.  I never thought to do it on a campout before, but it’s amazingly easy — all you have to cook is the ground beef!

This is the evening bonfire, the kids are dancing around it.

My only glimpse of Timmy — and my phone’s battery died after that.  Not bad…it stayed alive for about 40 hours.
17. August 2011 · Comments Off on Challenger Soccer Camp · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Earlier this month the boys enjoyed a week-long Challenger British Soccer camp put on at the Navarre Youth Soccer complex up the street.  My sister’s oldest son had attended in North Carolina in the past and really enjoyed it.

The week was VERY hot, and the first day was pretty hard on the boys.  But by the 2nd day they were really enjoying the skills-building, mock World Cup, and new friends.  I wonder if adding some Gatorade to their drink coolers helped things out for them.

Enjoy some pictures I took on the last day.

Jacob’s team won the mock World Cup — they’re lifting the pretend trophy into the air.

A nice group shot of the whole camp — this is only about 2/3 of the kids who started.  I’m guessing a lot of kids had a tough time with the heat.

09. May 2011 · Comments Off on Hiking Stick Project… · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

When we were in South Dakota last May, the boys picked up branches to use as hiking sticks.  There was ponderosa pine all over the place, and it wasn’t hard for the boys to find something in their sizes.

The boys begged to bring home the sticks as “souvenirs” from their trip.  How could I say “No” to such a cute idea for a souvenir???  Dave and I had promised for months to “finish” the sticks and make them more permanent: sand them down and coat them with some polyurethane.

We even took the sticks with us to Colorado last August for hiking at Rocky Mountain National Park!

11 1/2 months later, I finally finished this project.  A camping trip to the Green Mountains next month inspired me to get this done.  It was only the cost of the polyurethane and sandpaper.  I fear they might outgrow these pretty quickly though.

YES, we moved the sticks from Nebraska to here.

The sticks last week as I retrieved them from the umbrella bin where they’d been stored since we moved here.
There’s termite or carpenter ant detail in Jacob’s stick.  I’m pretty certain the bugs aren’t there now, but the detail gives some character 🙂
I used some 220 grit sandpaper to sand it all down.
I had to break out a Gerber tool to whittle off the remaining bark.
I then used a foam brush to apply 4 coats of Minwax polyurethane.
The finished products.  Complete with Scouting medallions on J’s, and leather tags on both J’s and T’s.

Love the detail here!

I’ll add on some pictures of the boys with these later this week.  I finished this after their bedtime tonight, and I don’t have my good camera (still with Dave on his railfanning trip).  Stay tuned!

08. June 2010 · Comments Off on Memorial Day 2010 Road Trip 2: South Dakota Days 3 and 4 · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

This is a continuation of the previous blog post.

During the day Saturday, the sun was peeking in and out of the clouds. It was remarkable what a temperature difference there was when the sun was out vs. not out. Perhaps due to the elevation? It’d be in the mid-50s when it was cloudy, and suddenly when the sun came out, it’d peak up in the mid-to-upper-60s! We were putting on, then taking off our jackets all day. But there was no rain, and we were thankful for that.

But Saturday night it got quite rainy. From dinnertime until bedtime, we were mainly dealing with very light showers…we’d sit under our 10′ x 10′ shelter and were fine. At bedtime, right when we said “Goodnight” to our boys and zipped them into their own tent, it really started coming down. It was a cold, raw rain. It probably rained for about 30-45 minutes, not super hard. More than anything, raindrops falling on a tent are LOUD. Between that and the creek that was rushing past our tent site, there was plenty of “white noise” to put us all to sleep pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, Dave was pretty cold all night. That damp cool air can really chill you to the bones!

On Sunday we spent the day in Custer State Park. If you ever plan a trip to Mount Rushmore or the Badlands, don’t forget to visit this beautiful park! It sits right on the boundary between the Black Hills and the prarielands that are most of South Dakota. We drove the “Wildlife Loop” road around the park, along with some off-roading that took us past some magnificent wildlife views.

From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking

There are several lodges on the park itself, and they all had restaurants. We found one that specialized in buffalo fare and it was great!

From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking

After lunch we drove over to the far northwest part of the park, near the Needles rock formations, and did some hiking around Sylvan Lake and Harney Peak. We hiked for nearly 3 hours, the boys were great, and you’d have never known that Howie is now 10 years old…he was running up and down those boulders like a puppy!

From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking

After the Sylvan Lake loop, we headed up on the Harney Peak trail, which had much more terrain.

From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking
From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking

Dave and I brought our ancient trekking poles from home, but each of the boys found walking sticks among the felled ponderosa pine. We even brought the sticks home. The boys want to sand them down and decorate them.

From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking

After that big day of hiking, Howie was EXHAUSTED:

From 2010 05 30 Black Hills Day 3: Custer State Park & Hiking

On Monday, it was time for an early start — we had broken camp and were packed up by 7am! We hit the road at about 7:20am. Our plan was to drive through Badlands National Park on a road called the “Badlands Loop Road” and hop right back onto I-90 and continue home. Sort of a “drive by” tour of the park.

You don’t know how much we wish we could have spent more time here. We made several stops on the route to admire the scenery, and lamented that we couldn’t stop on several of the hiking trails to climb further up on some of the peaks. The geology is fascinating and the colors of the rocks on such a sunny day were breathtaking! As it was, what we planned to be a 45 minute diversion turned into almost 2 hours! We got some beautiful pictures, at least…and Jacob (our science weenie!) had so many questions for us about how the rocks were formed.

From 2010 05 31 Badlands National Park

There were a couple things of note. First of all, we drove past several “prairie dog towns” which are flat areas where the prairie dogs can dig their tunnels and establish communities. We pulled off to the side of the road and caught some close ups of this little guy:

From 2010 05 31 Badlands National Park

I love this picture! We saw several prairie dog towns in Custer State Park the previous day, but none were this close to our truck!

Then Howie started barking out the window…that same prairie dog then did this:

From 2010 05 31 Badlands National Park

Yes! He’s playing dead…or at least trying to get low to the ground in hopes that his potential predator can’t find him. I thought that was the coolest thing in the world!

I also attempted to capture the many flowers I saw at the park:

From 2010 05 31 Badlands National Park

And finally, we saw a lot of construction on the Badlands Loop road, and a lot of it was to deal with the wind erosion that was taking out some of the roads. It’s predicted that the Badlands themselves are only about 500,000 years old, and might only last another 500,000 years more due to the vicious wind erosion. In geologic timescales, that’s a pretty short time.

From 2010 05 31 Badlands National Park
From 2010 05 31 Badlands National Park

About 300 miles past the Badlands, we got home. Our plan was to stop at the Chick Fil A at this mall in Sioux City, Iowa for dinner. All 4 of us were SO EXCITED about stopping there, our first Chick Fil A in nearly a year! We get to the mall at about 5:20pm.

The mall was CLOSED. Wait a second, it wasn’t Sunday. We made sure of that before we even considered Chick Fil A for dinner on this trip. So why was it closed? Because the mall closed at 5pm for Memorial Day. There were no signs indicating such. I had checked on line and figured that at worst, the mall would have Sunday hours for the holiday, which meant it would have closed at 6pm.

We were all SO MAD. Man…so we had Jimmy John’s subs instead. Another fast-food choice we all like.

We got home from our trip at about 7:30pm, which made our return trip just over 11 hours…and that included the Badlands Loop Road.

This was a great trip for us! Dave and I used to take similar overnight road trips routinely before the kids’ schedules got too busy. Whether it was to Houston, New Orleans, Cedar Point (Ohio), Ann Arbor, Sorak National Park, or the mountains of North Carolina. Sometimes with friends, sometimes with just the family. We love seeing what our great country has to offer!

I have a pretty big “before I leave Nebraska” to-do list. I know a lot of it won’t get done, oh well…such as a trip to Yellowstone National Park, or Winnipeg, Manitoba. But I’m looking forward to trips to Colorado and the Nebraska Sandhills later this summer. Perhaps a weekend Amtrak trip to Chicago this fall?

06. June 2010 · Comments Off on Memorial Day 2010 Road Trip 1: South Dakota Days 1 and 2 · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,
From 2010 05 29 Black Hills Day 2 Mt. Rushmore/Crazy Horse

From before we even moved to Nebraska (Dave learned we were moving here about 10 months before we arrived), I’d been bugging Dave for a family trip to Mount Rushmore. Just one of those things that I think Americans should see if able.

I was really hoping we could make the trip around Labor Day of 2009, but Dave had his gall bladder surgery around that time and his health wasn’t really going to support such a long drive. For the most part, it was me bugging Dave to make the trip. Dave’s mind was pretty full of work and trying to stay healthy, so he left it to me the take care of the logistics. I figured I could make this a camping trip.

Which I did. This past winter, I inventoried our camping equipment and used our REI dividends to get a new tent for the boys and some camp cooking equipment. I reserved space at a campground in the Black Hills about 15 miles from Mount Rushmore for Memorial Day weekend. Mount Rushmore is a pretty simple attraction, you can see all of it in just 2 hours, so we found out there was so much more to see in the Black Hills and we added Crazy Horse, Custer State Park and the 1880 Train to our itinerary.

We could bring Howie! Howie hasn’t traveled much with us in Nebraska, so he’s begun to think of a car ride as a bad thing: he was either going to the groomers or to the vet…neither of which he likes.  Dave and I were thrilled to include him in our plans.

Dave’s organization granted a 4-day weekend for Memorial Day, so last Friday morning, we were off! We left around 7am and had a rather uneventful drive. We took I-29 north about 3 hours to Sioux Falls, SD, then turned left onto I-90 for the remaining 320 miles to Rapid City. From Rapid City our campground was about 20 more miles south. It was a challenge to choose a lunch option, though. We planned to stop at a restaurant for lunch, but with temperatures in the upper 80s, we couldn’t leave Howie in the truck for long. We stopped at a Culver’s in a town called Mitchell, SD…which apparently is home of a Corn Palace. We didn’t go to see it, though…we wanted to press along on our trip.

For most of our 320 miles on I-90, we’d see these little billboards for a place called “Wall Drug”. I didn’t think to take pictures of the billboards, so I will refer you to this nice blog post that captures these little billboards well. I begged Dave to hop off the interstate so we could see this “Wall Drug” that taunted us for over 300 miles…and bless his heart, he did! I might have threatened Dave with Dave Barry’s story of how he didn’t stop at Wall Drug and his wife still reminds him constantly about it.

Unfortunately, the place is a couple miles off I-90, and it was so crowded, we’d have had to park several blocks away and walk over. It was in the upper 80s by this time (about 3pm) and we were worried about Howie. So we drove past the place, but didn’t stop. I was okay with that.

From 2010 05 28 Black Hills Day 1

We had a nice treat at a Flying J truck stop in Rapid City, right at the exit to turn south towards the Black Hills. Parked over near the semi-trailers were several vehicles from the VORTEX2 Field Study. I won’t spend a lot of time explaining this (click on the link), but it’s the largest tornado research field study of it’s kind, and I was excited to see several of the research vehicles parked right across the lot from where we were getting gas. I was also a bit nervous: VORTEX vehicles typically follow the severe weather, right? Did that mean our tents would be obliterated by a tornado Friday night???

From 2010 05 28 Black Hills Day 1

I couldn’t help myself, while Dave was getting gas and making a restroom stop, I walked over to the students sitting in the vehicles and said hello. The students were from the University of Massachusetts and University of Oklahoma, and we discussed the severe potential in the Black Hills. Fortunately, the team was just on a rest day, and were planning to head into western North Dakota. I would love to have been part of this type of thing, but alas, I have a responsibility to my family. I would never take my kids tornado chasing…they can do it when they’re older if they wish. I’ll just have to wish these kids luck instead. Dave took a nice picture of me with this part of the team:

From 2010 05 28 Black Hills Day 1

So…9 1/2 hours after we left Bellevue, we pulled into our campsite. There was some musical-tentsiting that had to occur, since there was a flash flood 4 days prior that washed out about 10 of the sites. We ended up at an area with shared water instead of dedicated water, but that was okay…we were right next to the playground, the boys loved it!

From 2010 05 28 Black Hills Day 1
From 2010 05 28 Black Hills Day 1

We enjoyed burgers and brats for dinner, and s’mores for dessert!

Sunrise in the Black Hills was around 5:20am. We were on the far eastern edge of the Mountain Time zone. As sunlight started peeking into the tent on Saturday morning, I had glanced at my watch and saw 5am, I was flabbergasted! So I was out of my sleeping bag by 6am, I took Howie for a long walk up in the hills on the edge of the campground, then got breakfast going: bacon, pancakes and coffee (the coffee for Dave and me, not the boys!).

From 2010 05 29 Black Hills Day 2 Mt. Rushmore/Crazy Horse

By 9am we were on the way to Mount Rushmore. We took the scenic “Iron Mountain Road”, which was so incredibly beautiful!

From 2010 05 29 Black Hills Day 2 Mt. Rushmore/Crazy Horse

At Mount Rushmore, we took a tour with the park ranger.  I’m so proud of how well Jacob was paying attention — he was even answering questions about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln!  Timmy could take or leave the experience, he’d probably tell you his favorite part was climbing on the boulders!

From 2010 05 29 Black Hills Day 2 Mt. Rushmore/Crazy Horse
From 2010 05 29 Black Hills Day 2 Mt. Rushmore/Crazy Horse
From 2010 05 29 Black Hills Day 2 Mt. Rushmore/Crazy Horse

The first hour of our visit was pretty cloudy and drizzly, but by the time we finished up our park ranger tour, the sun was coming out and the temperature got warmer.

From 2010 05 29 Black Hills Day 2 Mt. Rushmore/Crazy Horse

I also couldn’t resist getting the boys to pose for pictures of them picking George Washington’s nose:

From 2010 05 29 Black Hills Day 2 Mt. Rushmore/Crazy Horse

We drove down into the touristy part of Keystone for lunch, and then we were planning a drive over to the Black Hills RR station in Hill City to walk around and perhaps see the train. Because of Howie we couldn’t ride on the train, but that was okay. We found a small mountain road that seemed to parallel the tracks, and just before we got to Hill City, we heard the steam train whistle! Dave turned around and we followed the train almost all the way back to Keystone! Dave really enjoyed himself doing this, although the rest of us were happy after intercepting the train 2-3 times.

From 2010 05 29 Black Hills Day 2 Mt. Rushmore/Crazy Horse

After we followed the train for a distance, we went back to Hill City and visited the South Dakota Railroad Museum, and then went on to the Crazy Horse Memorial. Luckily for us, we got into the memorial for free because it was Memorial Day weekend and military members were admitted for free (a $27 savings)…to be honest, we probably wouldn’t have driven all the way in otherwise. You can see the memorial from the main highway for free. But it was nice to spend some time at the Native American Museum just the same.

From 2010 05 29 Black Hills Day 2 Mt. Rushmore/Crazy Horse

We drove back to camp via the Needles Highway. Like the Iron Mountain Road, it’s very windy, full of hairpin cliffy curves and the boys thought it was so much fun! They called these drives “roller coaster” drives!

From 2010 05 29 Black Hills Day 2 Mt. Rushmore/Crazy Horse

Dinner was chicken and rice topped with biscuits cooked in our small dutch oven — yum!

From 2010 05 29 Black Hills Day 2 Mt. Rushmore/Crazy Horse

I was going to attempt to document our entire trip in this one Blog Post, but I won’t kill you that way — I’ll cover the 2nd two days in a separate post. Now that I’ve figured out how to make photo collages on iPhoto, I can really compress some of the pictures too and make these posts more succinct. Enjoy!