Our Weekend

7.30.2003 Last weekend was one of the best weekends I have ever had. Saturday, Tam and I spent the afternoon in the historic town of Custer. The town was celebrating their anniversary. According to the newspaper there were supposed to be several activities going on, but we did not see much going on and most of the booths were in the process of shutting down. Possibly it was because we did not get out there until after 3 o’clock. So we just looked around in the various shops along Main Street. We really enjoyed the art gallery. They had this set of prints that were actually two prints in one. On the left of the print was a picture taken during General Custer’s exploration of the Black Hills area. On the right was a picture of the same area as on the left, but taken within the last ten years or so. What amazed me the most was the lack of forest and trees in the picture on the left. Whether it was due to fire or just the way the land had been back then, there were hardly any trees. But when you looked at the same picture taken just a few years ago, the same hill top would be covered by tall trees, looking like the forest we all know and love. After spending a couple of hours in Cutster, we grew quite hungry and tired. Leaving the town proper, we traveled east to the entrance of Custer State Park. Since we had purchased an annual pass last month, we just asked the ranger if there were any places close by in the park we could picnic at. He told us just around the bend was a day use area. We were quite surprised to find another beautiful lake surrounded by tall pine trees, and the best part was, there were almost no people there. Looking on a map we discovered the name of the lake to be Bismarck Lake. The grounds were clean and manicured and the water clear. Having most of the area to ourselves, we found a table in the shade and proceeded to dig in to our sandwiches and potato salad Tam had made earlier in the day. Several ducks with a couple of ducklings came by to sample our bread. We had such a good time feeding them. They would come right up around our feet and Tam was brave enough to actually touch one just for a second. We spent maybe an hour at the lake and then decided to go for a drive around the wildlife loop. We have been told in the past that evening time is the best time to do the loop as that is when all the animals are close to the road. And I have to say they were right. Several hundred bison were loitering around the area, with quite a number of baby calves. It seemed the calves and the old males were making the most racket. We were surprised at the sound the old bulls make. It really sounds like a lion roar, or at least what I hear from a lion on tv. The sound was a deep throaty grunt. A mile or so into the loop we came across a second, larger group. Here all the cars were stopped, especially on the other side of the road. And this is where I will get plenty of fodder for my other blog. The rudeness of people is something I will surely rant on for a long time. The line of cars on the other side coming towards us must have been 10-15 cars deep. The first vehicle in line was a mini-van and two kids were perched on top. Can you believe that?! After reading just last month about a Dallas man getting gored in the park because he got out of his car, I was quite concerned for the welfare of these children. I promise you one big whack by an old bull and those kids were going to be tumbling off of the vehicle. That was stupidity and rudeness. The next guy in line was a case of pure rudeness. He was driving what looked like a quite new Jeep Grand Cherokee, black in color. He was parked on the other side of the road, but with his vehicle pointed in our direction. His tailgate was open and at first I could not see the owner at all. But shortly later I had my answer. He was either a professional photographer or he was a man of means. When we finally pulled even with his vehicle, I saw that he had an expensive photo rig. I did not get a good look and the camera itself but I did see what looked to be a 1000mm-1600mm telephoto lens and the tri-pod it was mounted on. He was out of his vehicle, walking around, sitting back down and just generally being a pain. Being an amateur photographer myself, I do not condemn him for shooting pictures, but I do think it was rude to hold up everyone the way he did. If he indeed is a professional, I am sure he could find a better time, like during the week when it is not near as crowded, to get his shots. If he is another tourist like most of the people in line, he just needs to get the shot and move on. If he has enough money to afford his rig, he has enough to come back during the week and get his shots. But I will rant more on this on the other blog, that is what it is for. This one is just to let everyone know what we are doing. Back to the subject. Once we got through that mess, we continued on, not seeing much more in the way of wildlife. We saw a few pronghorns, I am not sure what they were but they were not white tail deer. We finished the trip and returned home around ten o’clock. On the way home we decided to spend the next afternoon at Sylvan Lake. Laura had to work the 11-2 shift on Sunday, so we planned to go after she got off work. We arrived at Sylvan Lake around five in the afternoon and even though there were a number of people there, we had plenty of picnic tables to choose from. Once we got all our stuff moved to the table and I started grilling, it of course started to rain. We decided to move to another table that seemed to be more sheltered from the rain. It really was not raining very hard and I did not even turn off the grill as I moved it. The drops sizzled off the lid but it kept right on cooking the steak that had been marinating all afternoon. Hundreds of people left as the rain was falling so that when it quit 20 minutes later, we nearly had the lake to ourselves once again. I tried something new on the grill this time. We took our potatoes and sliced them lengthwise in half and put them on the grill with some butter rubbed on the skin. After about 20 minutes I removed them and let me tell you, that was some of the best potatoes I have ever had. I had no idea that you grill spuds straight on the rack, but it worked great. We are going back to Sylvan Lake this Friday to watch the sun set and see if we can see a clear night sky full of stars. This time we are going to do home made burgers but of course I am going to do the spud thing on the grill again. They were just too good. Since Laura had put my camera equipment away, I had to make another trip to the vehicle (it is a good 150 yards to the parking area) to retrieve my stuff again. But I am glad I did as not one but two rainbows formed to the east. I took 2-3 shots of the rainbows hoping one will turn out. At that time it started to rain a bit again so I just put all the stuff away and Tam and I just walked around a bit. We did climb on top the boulders that jut out into the lake. They are at least 40 feet high but Tam had no problem with it. It was a bit hard on her with her leg still being quite sore, but she toughed it out. Laura was getting bored and since we both had to work the next day we decided it was time to leave with maybe an hour of daylight left. We took some new roads home and discovered some new places to visit in the future.


Long day ahead

have only been sleeping 4-5 hours a night this past week. woke up at 3:30 this morning and have nothing better to do than tell everyone this. i need more sleep so i can finish my website. i was doing so well with it but have not worked on it for 2 weeks. oh well, it will get done wihen it gets done. laura wants me to take pictures of her with sponge bob today in deadwood. i am always up for an opportunity to shoot film, but i will have to sleep when we get back. got everything to finish my bike, hopefully that will happen this afternoon. not much else going on right now. nite everyone


No Respect

People just have no respect for other peoples things. you know, i was taught that if someone loans you something, take better care of it than it is was your own and return it the way you found it. and some people wonder why i never like to loan my things out. i really don't mind but when you get burned enough times, you just don't turn the stove on anymore.


An Easy Day

Friday, July 4, 2003 Today was going to be a short day at work. Tam was only working 9-3, and Ben Franklin was closing at 4. Since I had taken Thursday off, I was not aware that we were not opening until 10 o’clock, so I had an hour to kill. Since I had not eaten breakfast, I mosied on down to the cafĂ©. There, I found a great deal. The special of the day was biscuits and sausage gravy with coffee for $1.99. I could not pass that deal up. After eating I read my book some and then walked back down to the store to wait for someone to open up. Since it was a holiday, we could work as long a time as we wanted to. Joy only worked till 1 p.m. I was going to work till whenever Tammi got off work and picked me up, I figured till about 3:15 or so. Wouldn’t you know it, when she got there I was in the middle of filing and decided to finish before I left! Made her wait another 10 minutes. But I don’t think she minded as she always likes to look at the beads and try as she might to figure out what one’s she wants next. Even though we had seen a great fireworks show the previous day, we decided to go see another one. Rapid City was having a show at Memorial Park, which is near the convention center located in the north central part of town. Instead of going to the park, we decided to drive up Dinosaur hill and watch from up high. Quite a number of people had the same idea, too! We did not go all the way up, but instead parked on this one curve that has a retaining wall on the outboard side of the road. There were around 10 cars already parked on this small patch of land on the inside of the curve, but there was enough room for us and a few more cars. Tam set up her chair on the 3ft tall wall, while I put my tri-pod and camera on the wall directly behind her and prepared for more photos. You know me, can never have enough pictures! Laura and a friend took off walking, too much energy to just sit there and wait for the show to start. Speaking of the show, it was to start at 10 p.m., so we had another 20 minutes or so to wait. While waiting, these ignorant butt heads pulled up beside us and instead of parking their car and watching like the rest of us by standing or sitting at the wall, they covered half the lane with their car, just so they could keep the air conditioner going and not have to get out. I mean come on, the temperature at this time was in the low 60’s so that was not even needed. There was quite a bit of traffic in both directions so I was just waiting to see what would happen when cars would come from both directions at the same time. And sure enough, when that happened, the cars could barely get through. That prompted our idiots to move to another location and that my friends made me feel better. Too many cars in too small of a space and sooner or later you will have an accident. The show itself was pretty good, not as good as the day before, but never the less, pretty good. The best part was there were fireworks going off at two different spots so you had like dueling shows and I was able to get both in my lens at the same time. If I am worth my salt as a photographer, I will have some really good pictures to show everyone. That is once I get my film developed. We have 17-18 rolls that need to be developed, so I have to get busy and get them sent off soon. All in all though it was another good day for us.


Mount Rushmore Independence Day Celebration

Thursday July 3, 2003

Our big day is finally here. All three of us scheduled to have today off so we could go to Mt. Rushmore for the 4th of July fireworks show. Even though it is on the 3rd. I had wanted to get out to the park by 7 a.m., but Tam felt 10 o’clock would be early enough. We still had to wait in our car in line for an hour, but more about that later. I got up around 7 and went to the store for last minute supplies and for gas. As we were getting everything ready, Laura informed us that she would not be going with us, instead she was going to spend the day with her friends. That was fine with us and we left about 9:45, heading for the hills. We arrived in the town of Keystone, which is just a couple of miles from the memorial at the base of the mountains, at around 10:15 and were stopped by a roadblock of state troopers. From there it took another hour of stop and go crawling before we arrived at the entrance of the memorial. With military personal around everywhere toting m-16s the ATF were using dogs and mirrors to check every vehicle. They did not search the inside of the vehicle, but rest assured they would at a moments notice. What did upset me somewhat was the fact that we had to buy a parking pass. They cost $8 and ours from last year had expired. It bothered me that the people that would come later and park along the side of the highway would not have to pay, and they would not have spent the day in the boiling sun. We had not planned on paying for the parking, but what could we do? So we paid and went on in to the park.

Once inside we had no problem finding a parking spot. I do not know how many cars the garages hold, but it has to be in the thousands. We parked on the 2nd floor so the car would be in the shade and proceeded to the amphitheater to stake out our spot. Approaching the entrance we could see a diagonal device set up that contained several metal detectors. Anyone entering the park had to go through them. We were not worried as all we were carrying was a blanket, pillow, chair and my camera equipment. To my surprise I still set the detector off, it was the steel shanks in my hiking boots. We did not encounter any problems though, they just did a quick search with the wand and we moved on. It would turn out to be the first of many trips through the detectors for me. We noticed ropes had been setup to funnel everyone to the middle of the walkways. Upon further study, that was so people could camp out with folding chairs and blankets on the sides of this wide walkway. We went on to the amphitheater and found our spot about halfway down on the right side. The best seating in the center was roped off and reserved for the sponsors and their guests. After getting our blanket spread out and situating ourselves, we decided to walk back to the front and check out a bit of the live music playing. It would turn out to be our only time to walk around together. I was starting to feel antsy that someone would claim our space, so we returned. Tam’s leg was hurting her anyways. Over the course of the next 3 hours I would make 3 trips back to the car for more supplies. The original idea had been to return to the car in the late afternoon for lunch, but plans had changed. Now all we had to do was sit and wait. It was quite hot, not as bad as when I took Jessica to the fireworks show at the horse racing track in Grand Prairie, but never the less, quite hot. And the sun was just beating down on us. One time, late in the afternoon, a tremendous cloud moved in front of the sun and shaded everyone for 30 minutes or so, but that was the only time we received any relief from the sunshine.

At pre-designated times during the afternoon, different types of aircraft would do flyovers. The first were 4 F-16’s, then later 2 Blackhawk helicopters followed by another F-16 paired with a P-51 Mustang from WW II. Apollo 8 commander Frank Borman flew the Mustang. The last flyovers were a B-52 from Minot, N.D., and a B-1 from our own Ellsworth AFB. Using the 3x converter I had purchased on E-bay the week before, I tried to get some close-up pictures of the flyovers. As I have not yet developed the film, I do not know how they turned out. The B-52 and the B-1 were very impressive. Growing up, I saw many b-52’s flying but I had never seen a B-1 this close up. The sun was just going behind the mountain at this time and the temperature cooled off considerably. Only one hour to go now till he fireworks show started.

All through the afternoon and emcee played different recorded music and had events at the bottom of the amphitheater for the smaller children. Hoola-hoop contests, dances, and stories to keep them occupied. At 5 o’clock, a children’s entertainer took the stage to sing and dance with the little ones. His name is Phil Baker, and he is supposed to be somewhat of a celebrity with the children. I have to admit he was good. Later, another entertainer, Gary Mule Deer, performed, singing and playing the guitar while telling jokes. He is a comedian and native of South Dakota. We really enjoyed him. He has been on Letterman and Leno and does an act in Las Vegas. Next was the Air National Guard Band of the Central States, based in Missouri. They played a variety of patriotic songs and generally kept everyone from falling asleep after such a long and drawn out afternoon. Finally, the time we had all been waiting and suffering for, had arrived. The 22-minute fireworks show definitely was worth the wait. The display, along with the music played in time with the fireworks, brought a lot of ooh and ahh’s from the crowd. I snapped frame after frame, hoping I get at least one or two decent pictures. I feel that I got more than that, but that is what I would settle for.

Once the show was over, it was like trying to leave a crowded movie theater, only much larger. We did not even try to leave the amphitheater for 20 minutes and then it was still very slow going. Whereas it had only taken me 10 minutes to walk back to the car earlier in the day, it was now a 30-40 walk. But that was not the end of the wait either. There were signs posted in all the garages to not start your vehicle until told to. In an effort to control the mayhem that could have ensued, they were letting all the vehicles that were parked on the side of the highway go first. Then they would unload one parking level at a time. It was a good hour from the time we returned to our car until we started it and left the memorial. But we did not waste that time either. There was a live band playing in the parking lot and a kiosk selling ice cream. After such a long and hot day, the cool mountain air combined with the sweet taste of ice cream made for such a nice ending. I do not know if we will go back next year, but we will return eventually. With some hard earned knowledge, we will do things a little different. The most important is to arrive early and park you chairs on the southern side, where the tall trees provide shade all day. Other than the harsh sun, it was a perfect day to celebrate what so many of us take for granted: the very right and freedom to assemble. There are not too many places in the rest of the world where 20,000 people can come together if that is what they choose to do. What a great time to be alive and what a great place to live. We must never forget that, nor let our children forget the sacrifices made by those that came before us.


Sylvan Lake

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Today was going to be a day of relaxation and rest. Well, I don’t know if we relaxed and rested, but we had a lot of fun. All I knew was that I wanted to start on the bike I had bought the day before. About noon I started working on it. I know that bike chains have a link that is different than all the rest and that is where you take it apart. Well for the life of me I could not find it. I soaked it in 3-in-1 oil and looked for more than half an hour. Tam even looked, but we just could not find that dang link. I was going to soak the chain in oil for a week or so, but after all that I decided to just use the 3-in-1 oil instead. While I was doing that I also started oiling all the other parts of the bike. After soaking the brake and shifter linkages in oil, they worked beautiful. The only part that I have not tried as of yet is the shifter levers. But I have no doubt they will work fine also. While I was working on the bike, Tam informed me that she did not want to sit around all afternoon, that she wanted to go and do something.

After cleaning up from messing with the bike, Tam decided we were going to check out Sylvan Lake. We had been told by quite a number of people that it is a beautiful lake. And they were not kidding!! It is a small lake, but the water is so peaceful and quiet. There were a number of large boulders the size if houses sticking out of the water and along the shoreline. Because of a light rain falling, I was not able to take very many pictures and eventually put my equipment back in the truck. Tammi and I decided to go for a walk along the trail the circles the lake. We started out on the west side, moving south, passing the large boulders that form most of the west shoreline. There were quite a number of young people fishing, and they were having good success. As we reached the south end of the lake, the path turned towards the east. Several boulders towering 100 feet above the water form the south side of the lake. As we walked through what seemed an almost enchanted forest, we rounded the corner where the large boulders started. The air grew quiet and the light dimmed with the shade of the tall forest trees. After a few minutes of walking through this, we came across what at first appeared to be an insurmountable obstacle. A small jagged hill with no apparent pathway over was in front of us. But with a little investigating I found the trail once again and we continued on our journey. Once we were on the other side of the hill, you could faintly hear the sound of running water. Not sure where it was coming from we proceeded until you the sound was loud enough that the source had to be close. To our amazement, in a crack in the huge rock, there was a water fall. The water was actually coming from the other side through the rock and falling some 30 feet to the ground. As I showed this to Tam, I asked her if she remembered the old cartoons, where a character takes on rock from a dam and the whole thing collapses. Her eyes grew large as she realized that the water level was above us on the other side and she literally turned and ran to higher ground!! What a chicken baby!! Once I had caught up to her we could see the small dam on the east side of this wall of rock. It was 30 feet wide and maybe 50 feet tall, with a walkway and railing in top. A trail leading deeper in the forest continued south, but that is for another time. We were not properly outfitted for a long hike, and you don’t want to see everything the first time or there would be no reason to go back. We turned the corner and moved back towards the lake. By hugging the rocks and stepping on small stones that form a path, it is possible to stand on the dam. The view was wonderful. Of course Tam was not going to get on it, with her fear of heights. With her leg hurting, we decided it was time to head back to the truck and we still had the second half of the lake to walk around. All in all, it was a wonderful and fulfilling afternoon. We are planning to go back for the whole day in two weeks, where we can sit and watch the sun set, thinking about how glad we are to be alive and to live here.

to view my own homebuilt website visit: http://midco.rap.net/pauliemac

Well it has been 4 months since i have logged into blogger and posted anything. and a lot has changed since then. we made it to texas and got our things, laura as moved up here, and i have learned how to build my own website, among many other smaller details. we have been to 2 concerts in deadwood, saw the fireworks show at mt rushmore last night and have been feeling a bit of a heat wave. the temperature has been rising to the mid 90's but once the sun goes down, unlike in dallas, the temperature goes down too. in the coming days i will make it point to properly update this site and get all the details in order.