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by April

July 2016 Trip Wrap Up

July 29, 2016 in 2016 Upper MI and Black Hills SD by April


Days Traveled: 24

Ending Mileage: 123,382  from 119,517

Miles Traveled: 3,865

States Visited: Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan

Average Miles Per Gallon – 15.0

Worst MPG – 11.55

Best MPG – 17.73

Total Gas Cost – $601.84

Average Price Per Gallon – $2.26

Lowest/ Highest Gas Cost – $1.90/ $3

Total Gas Used – 267.19 Gallons

Most Expensive Camping – Chippewea Flowage, WI  $42

Least Expensive Camping – Lake Jeanette, MN $10 (One of our absolute favorites)

National Parks and/or Historical Sites Visited (New Parks Starred): *Voyageurs, *Minute Man Missile, Badlands, Mount Rushmore,*Theodore Roosevelt, *Keeweenaw

Other Parks: Fort Wilkins State Park, MI; Porcupine State Park, MI; Peninsula State Park, WI; Kohler-Andrea State Park; Chain O’Lakes State Park, IL


Cody – “The campsite with the big rock.” – Lake Jeanette, MN and after hearing Brooke, “I liked the stream too!” – Spearfish, SD

Brooke – “I liked the stream.” – Spearfish, SD

Scott – wearing sandals every single day, Lake Jeanette, Mountain Biking at Copper Harbor, MI, the new cargo tray

April – waking up and starting the day with family snuggle time, ice cream for lunch, sunsets, escaping swarms of biting flies to find the perfect refuge and sunset


Favorite Lines Said – “Emergency Smokey!” “Did you earn your t-shirt today?” “Chippewea Blowage!”


Favorite Family Activities – digging, skipping rocks, throwing rocks, breaking rocks (do you notice a theme here?), junior ranger badge books, potty talk (much to the Momma’s dismay), campfires


by April

July 28, 2016–Day 24–Mitchell, SD to Home

July 29, 2016 in 2016 Upper MI and Black Hills SD by April


The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD


They were mounting some flags on top of the Corn Palace so we were able to watch the fire engine ladder and crew.


Back to Interstate 90 straight east.

We stopped at the Outdoor Campus  in Souix Falls and just happened to get there right at 10:30 when ta class on BB guns was starting.  Class was from 10:30 – 12.


Scott and I checked out the Outdoor Campus and even a Butterfly Garden across the parking lots while the kids were in class.


Lunch was hot dogs under a unique picnic shelter in the middle of six different parks.

IMG_2947IMG_2949IMG_2952IMG_9680Brooke showed me a sundial. We could have easily made an entire day out of this park if we had more time.

Much to the kids’ dismay we had to leave Sioux Falls around 1pm to head home.


Brooke read her Series of Unfortunate Events and Cody played on his tablet and with Legos.  He was happily playing with his Legos and making sound effects when I asked Scott to take a picture since I was driving.  Cody doesn’t like photos so the cute sound effects stopped since he now knew we were listening.  The kids created a fort in the van.  The gets did fairly well being in the car close to ten hours in one day.

Official Arrival Time: 11 pm

by April

July 27, 2016–Day 23- Badlands,SD to Mitchell, SD

July 28, 2016 in 2016 Upper MI and Black Hills SD by April


Scott woke up at 6:00 to get tickets for the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Tickets weren’t even being given out until 8am.


The idea was that the kids and I could sleep a little longer while Scott stood in line.  We did get about a half hour more sleep, but then two crows decided it was time for us to get up.  Once I was able to get the kids out of the tent they played on the playground.  Scott came back about 8:20. We snuck in a quick shower and breakfast and headed to the Minuteman Missile Site Tour.


The bedrooms in the Missile Site upstairs.


All meals were made at a nearby Air Force Base and delivered via an armed guard.


The middle picture was of the security center which also had the locked door that provided access to the elevator to the basement.  The spelling on the ever important emergency exit on the top of the tiny six person elevator wasn’t spelled quite correctly.  Hopefully they won’t ever need to use it, but let’s hope it works better than the emergency escape hatch from out of the command center down below.  When they decommissioned the missile command center they discovered the escape hatch had collapsed due to the frost.


The four foot thick door had a little humor painted on it, “World-wide delivery in 30 minutes or less or your next one is free.”  From SD over the North Pole it would take around twenty minutes to reach Russia. The middle picture was of HICKS cable that connected all the launch and command sites. The picture on the right was of the largest rebar we have ever seen.  There were nine layers of the rebar circling the command capsule below the ground.


The picture on the left is of the capsule covered in cement.  There were only two officers in the capsule.


If this green light ever lit it meant a missile had been launched.


The inside of the four foot thick door to the capsule.  The elevator shaft.  The security vehicle with bullet proof glass and armor.  The security officers said the vehicle was miserable: no heating or air, no power steering, and the seats only reclined all the way back and would not sit straight up.  The doors were so awkward the soldiers had to grab onto the seats and pull themselves up inside.



The middle picture is the classified document burner.


The Minuteman Missile Site looked like a long ranch home and was easily seen from Interstate 90.  In fact, all missile locations are within 15 miles of Interstate 90.


After seeing the Missile Command Center Scott was in hot pursuit to find the missile silo eleven miles away.


The little blue hatch contains a keypad that allows the large blue hatch to open for maintenance.  It took many hours for the hatch to open.  The white tip is not the tip of the missile it is the radio antennae that connects to the command center.


Next stop: the visitors’ center. The kids earned their Jr. Ranger badges.



We went for a very short overlook hike in the Badlands.


We ate a quick lunch while Cody finished up his Night Explorer Jr. Ranger book.  We had already earned our Badlands badge a few years ago.


The Badlands Visitors’ Center included a mini paleontologist lab.  The paleontologists were very friendly and willing to share information.  The ranger in the room talked with Cody for quite a while about teeth found on fossils. Sharp teeth meant a carnivore and flat mashing teeth meant a plant eater.  An organism with sharp and flat teeth is an omnivore like us.


After leaving the Badlands we headed West on Interstate 90 to Mitchell, SD. We stayed at the Mitchell City Campground.  Brooke suggested taking out the blue tooth speaker and listening to something besides country music as it seems to be very plentiful in the middle of nowhere areas we have been staying. We danced while we finished up dinner.


by April

July 26, 2016-Day22-Custer, South Dakota to Badlands, SD

July 28, 2016 in 2016 Upper MI and Black Hills SD by April


Scott woke up at 7 and was in line by 7:15 to buy tickets at 8 for a Jewel Cave Tour. When Scott arrived there were already five people in front of him.  At 8am when he left the line was crazy long.  When we arrived for our 10:45 tour the line was still long.  When we finished our tour there were no longer any tickets left for the day.

While Scott was in line the kids caught a few more minutes of sleep. See how peaceful and innocent they look asleep?  If only I could rewind to these moments an hour into a cave tour in a few hours.  Back to real time – I was ready to take the tent down and cook some pancakes when a thunderstorm rolled through.  Brooke did a great job of helping me wrap up the chairs, clean up the campsite, and put on the fly as the large raindrops fell. Scott arrived back with the van not long after the rainstorm finished.


Wind Cave tour.


We were able to see popcorn, flowstone, bacon, stalactites, and stalagmites.



We entered and exited the cave through an elevator.  The kids wanted to earn their badge at Wind Cave again.  The ranger who presented our cave tour also gave a ranger talk on predators in the area.  I was a lot more of a pleasant experience working on the Jr. Ranger books this time with the kids being a little older.


So it was about here that the kids started to get a little too giggly.


Literally five minutes after this photo was taken the kids had reached their maximum time of standing still and listening, just ten minutes short of making the whole hour and a half tour.

Our next stop was recommended by more than one tourist we have talked with on the trip.  It was well worth the stop.

The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, SD

The Mammoth Site sinkhole formed when limestone eroded and collapsed. Mammoths became trapped attracted by the ninety degree hot spring water and grasses growing along the banks.  Once in the sinkhole mammoths could not escape. Sediment eventually filled in the sinkhole providing The Mammoth Site that was discovered in the 1970’s when a developer brought in a bulldozer. The site has sixty-one Columbian and woolly mammoths. Woolly mammoths had small ears and a short tail to reduce heat loss. Elephants, distant relatives of the mammoths, have larger ears depending on the climate in which they live.  Elephants’ ears act as a cooling system for the elephants.


This is Sinbad, a fiberglass reproduction of a Columbian mammoth skeleton.  The kids took part in the Junior Paleontologist Excavation Program. Since digging is one of their favorite past times, this was a perfect program for them.  Our guide worked really well with the kids.  Cody had a lot of the answers to his questions.  Watching the kids was hysterical though.  Brooke wanted to work independently and not as a team with her partner. Although after Brooke uncovered a tusk and a toe bone in record time she decided to help her younger partner uncover a giant bear skull and thigh bone. Cody was happy digging away savoring the process, and then he decided he had more fun helping his partner uncover her discover of a tooth.  Then she helped him uncover a giant jaw.  Cody seems to have much more fun helping others and Brooke seems to want to be the first with the most.


The family loves to tease me for my bear-phobia.  Although I didn’t sleep with bear spray even once on this trip. Although I did agree that I probably would not have wanted to meet the Giant Short-Faced Bear at 1,500 pounds and a reach of 15 feet tall that lived during the time of the mammoths. The middle picture is of a mammoth bone house usually found on the plains of Ukraine.  Some of these bone huts contained as many as one hundred and forty-nine jaws.  The picture on the right is of Napoleon, a Columbian mammoth.


Scott needed a snack break mid exploring the exhibit hall.  Cody took the opportunity to throw some rocks off a giant rock pile.  The picture on the right is of Lyuba, a frozen and mummified baby woolly mammoth discovered in May of 2007 by a reindeer herder in northwest Siberia.  The one month old mammoth is believed to be about 40,000 years old.  It still had undigested mother’s milk and scat in its stomach.  The dung was believed to contain the microbes the baby needed to help digest any plants it might eat. The baby most likely died following its mother across a melt water stream.


These photos…well let’s just say I told Brooke not to touch the bone replicas.  She argued that there wasn’t a sign telling her not to touch the bones.  I kept telling her no and finally I walked away to observe the lab where they were working on microfossils.  I turn around to see Scott taking a picture of her trying to beat me upside the head with a bone.

Next stop – Badlands campground right outside the Badlands National Park.  We stayed here a few years ago and also arrived at almost ten at night.  The sunset on the way was incredible.

by April

July 25, 2016–Day 21–Spearfish, South Dakota to Custer, South Dakota

July 28, 2016 in 2016 Upper MI and Black Hills SD by April

Scott fit in a two hour mountain bike ride before 9:30. He said he liked the trail, but next time he is going to have me drop him off at the top since he said most of the time climbing up.



The kids played in the stream while I packed up the tent and got breakfast going.


Brooke made boats out of wood and… a flip flop.  While Brooke was telling me about her boats Cody came into view and started mushing something up and down with his feet.  I looked down to see the muck he had dug up yesterday.  When I looked at him with a funny expression he looked at me right back with a quizzical expression.  In Cody’s world it is perfectly normal to enjoy squashing muck between your toes. Cody created a dock for Brooke’s boats to bring supplies to.


The fish hatchery was out last stop before we headed out of Spearfish.


This is the Yellowstone Boat that transported fish from the fish hatcheries.  The free D.C. Booth Hatchery also had a replica fish railcar.


Mount Rushmore


We had heard that the Thomas Jefferson ice cream was incredible.  So…another healthy lunch of…ice cream!


Even better while we ate lunch we had a great view.


We went through the visitors’ center and watched the park video. We were just here a few years ago, but it was a summer goal of Brooke’s.


We even went to the sculptor’s studio and listened to the ranger talk that was exactly the same as it was two years ago.



Comachee Campground 5pm – Once again we lucked out.  Scott went around the campground twice looking for a site he liked.  The gentleman who had reserved site 25 that Scott kept going to, couldn’t fit in with his trailer, so once again Scott was able to get the site he liked due to sheer luck.


The kids were in heaven with the white quartz and rocks everywhere.  Then I happened to find mica on a rock at our campsite.  I told the kids how much fun it was to peel apart the layers of mica and then Brooke was on a hunt for mica at every rock in the campground.


Dinner – hot dogs and s’mores over the fire.


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