“All Aboard” the 1880 Train

One of the longest running steam trains remaining in service, the 1880 Train, was on our VIP pass, so we spent a few hours taking the 20 mile round trip from Hill City to Keystone. Ticket prices are $28.00 round trip for adults, and we received complimentary passes.

1880 Train Hill City, SD

1880 Train Hill City, SD

All Aboard

All Aboard

The train travels through the scenic Black Hills Forest where you can see many rock formations, Harney Peak, and (let’s be honest) a lot of run down trailer homes with a ton of junk in the yards.

Harney Peak from the train

Harney Peak from the train

the other scenic views

the other scenic views

 

The train has your choice of open air cars and cars with windows. We opted for the open air car, as it was a nice day outside. The 1880 Train was used in the filming of the Gunsmoke television series. Our engine was number 104, which was built in 1926. They use water and oil to power the engine, which creates a lot of white smoke.

white smoke

white smoke

 

Since the Black Hills has many changes in elevation, the train has to maneuver 4 – 6% grades, which is very difficult for any train. After we departed Hill City, the train quickly encountered a steep 6% grade, and we were barely moving on the tracks. Many of us in the back began chanting “I think I can, I think I can” to encourage the train to make it up the hill! When going up a hill, they add sand to keep the engine from overheating. This creates a brown smoke.

brown smoke going uphill

brown smoke going uphill

We had an enjoyable time on the trip, and it was interesting to see how the “well to do” traveled back in the early 20th Century.  There were remnants of old buildings along the way.

old mining building

old mining building

 

There are some old telegraph poles along the way, with their glass insulators still intact.

telegraph poles

telegraph poles

 

When we arrived at Keystone, the engine unhooked, moved down to the water tower to refill, and then drove around the train to hook back up in the front.

water tower

water tower

 

"refueling" with water

“refueling” with water

The engine we had for this trip was built in 1926 and was restored by the 1880 Train company.

Engine 104 from 1926

Engine 104 from 1926

When we completed our round trip back to Hill City in just over 2 hours, the engine was again disconnected and taken back to the shop for maintenance before the next departure.  They seem to take good care of these antiques.

back in Hill City

back in Hill City

I firmly believe that you are only as old as you feel, so I couldn’t resist heading to the “kiddie” train area for some fun.

I can fit in this

I can fit in this

We had a nice time, the weather was perfect for the trip.  If you love trains, this would be a good trip to take.

Quote for the day:  “The introduction of so powerful of an agent as steam to a carriage on wheels will make a great change in the situation of man.” – Thomas Jefferson

Mammoth Site

We headed down to Hot Springs to visit the Mammoth Site (cost $10 for adults, free with our VIP pass). In 1974, a developer was beginning to clear land for a housing development when the bulldozer uncovered some bones.  They discovered the bones were from Columbian Mammoths, estimated to be 26,000 years old. Through local donations, the site was preserved and declared a National Natural Landmark in 1980.  A building was constructed around the site, and is open year round to visitors.

It is believed the site was a giant sinkhole, fed by natural springs. Mammoths, bears and other animals entered the watering hole, but were unable to get back out due to the steep embankments, and eventually drowned or starved to death. Mammoth Site is the only in-situ (left as found) site for mammoth bones in the United States.

Mammoth Site

Mammoth Site

They are continuing digging at this site, and have discovered many more bones over the years.   A tour guide explains the many points of interest on the site, and then you are free to explore on your own in the indoor excavation site, as well as an exhibit hall. We found this to be a very interesting and informative exhibit. At the time of our visit, there were volunteers who were painstakingly digging through the dirt. The buckets of dirt they would collect would be carefully washed, to discover any small remains.

overview of dig site

overview of dig site

 

They have left most of the bones where they have found them.

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They unearthed a large mammoth that had no head, despite digging all around it.  The Paleontologist have no explanation as to what happened to the head, and named the mammoth Marie Antoinette.  When they discovered the mammoth was a male, they renamed him Murray Antoinette, in keeping with the be-headed theme!

 

volunteer diggers

volunteer diggers

These are the tools that the volunteers were using.  It is very tedious work.

Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

They had some body parts on display to give you they idea of how big the bones are;

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mammoth mandible

mammoth mandible

human v mammoth

human v mammoth

This is part of a pelvis that is left intact in the grounds.

mammoth pelvis

mammoth pelvis

In order to determine what types of mammals they are, the scientists study the angle of the tusk (yes, another Math lesson).  There is something called Schreger Lines, which will determine if the tusk is from an elephant (obtuse angle – greater than 90 degrees) or a mammoth (acute angle – less than 90 degrees).

elephant tusk

elephant tusk

mammoth tusk

mammoth tusk

And then there’s the histogram on the tusk angles. (okay, enough math!)

histogram

histogram

We enjoyed our visit, and would recommend this place if you are in the area, or visiting nearby Wind Cave.

Quote for the Day:  “There is no good scientific reason to bring back an extinct species.  Why would one bring them back?  To put them in a theme park?” – Hendrik Poinar

 

 

Just catching up

We had a busy 3 weeks while “home” in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, it turned out to be more of “we need to get this done,” than a social visit. After running around to several dealers, we did receive an acceptable offer on my car, so that is one more personal item that we have disposed of! The de-cluttering continued with going thru all the drawers and cupboards in the camper, and getting rid of more stuff. There is still a lot more that we would like to dispose of, but we will save them for our next major clean.

We did manage to get in some family time, as we made it back in time for our nephew Kyle’s 30th Birthday party. It was nice to see all of the friends and relatives at his party, and we can’t thank Dan’s sister and brother-in-law enough for letting us park our rig at Camp Meyer during our stay!

Happy 30th Kyle!

Happy 30th Kyle!

We drove down to the Milwaukee area and spent a few days with my sister Margie, husband Greg and niece Molly. They have 2 dogs and 2 cats, so Makena was a bit nervous. Although she did manage to make her way up to their bedroom each night and crawled under the covers with them, much to the anger of their cats!

Easter weekend we drove up to Minnesota with Dan’s sister, for our niece Brooke’s Bridal Shower. Dan’s brother and sister-in-law Gary and Julia are looking forward to Brooke and Chris’s wedding later this summer! It was a brief visit, but we enjoyed getting together with family.

Brooke's shower

Brooke’s shower

A bridal fanny pack?

A bridal fanny pack?

 

After many months of searching, Dan found a bicycle, and I had a long overdue tune-up on mine. We will be right next to a 108 mile bike trail in South Dakota, so we hope to ride a few times a week (have to get back in shape!) We did find time to have lunch/dinners with friends Angie and Dave; an excellent fish fry at Beer Belly’s in the Milwaukee area with friends Mike and Karlyn; and a great lunch with a former college roommate, Mary. We also were able to squeeze in a night with Jonell’s brother and sister-in-law Brian and Annette along with our Thursday night Bible study group. It was great catching up with everyone!

We also had dental visits, truck maintenance and a veterinary visit for Makena (just routine, no problems). We were able to make a spur of the moment surprise visit to our former neighbors Brenda, and the Kierzeks. On a sad note our friend Mary Jo’s mom passed away, and we were able to attend her funeral in Shawano.

We are thankful to have the time to do all of these things, although we still left a lot of “until next time….” We were hoping to have time to stop in Dan’s hometown of Oconto Falls to visit with his parents and other friends and spend more time in Milwaukee to visit more friends and former co-workers. Originally, we were planning on attending a rally in Indiana in mid-September after we finished working at Crazy Horse on September 12. However, the Packers schedule came out, and the home opener is September 14, so we are now thinking of going back to Wisconsin for a week or two until we start back at Amazon in the fall. Hopefully, we will be able to complete some of our “until next time …..”

We arrived at our “summer home”, Crazy Horse in Custer, SD on Wednesday May 8th. Thanks to the generosity of Phil and Rudee of workingrvers.blogspot.com, we have a booster antennae so we can post our blog. AT&T put a new cellular “tree” up (yes it is a tree, not a tower), so they get excellent service. We have Verizon, and were barely getting 1 bar of 3G. We are now up to 3 bars, thanks to the booster. We will be looking into purchasing one soon.

There is so much to see and do here in the Black Hills of South Dakota. We plan on more frequent blogs. As always, we thank you for following along on our journey. If you are planning on coming out to this area over the summer, please let us know. We would love to get together!

Quote for the Day: “I am so busy doing nothing…that the idea of doing anything – which as you know, always leads to something – cuts into the nothing and then forces me to have to drop everything.”  Jerry Seinfeld

 

Chilly days and chili cookoffs

Sunday turned out to be a beautiful sunny day, and we were able to meet many more folks that were out enjoying the weather.  The campsites here do not have fire rings, but you are allowed to bring your own.  Our gracious hosts for the Packers/49ers game had an interesting fire ring.  When they sold their house last year, they decided not to include their old washing machine, and instead took out the tub and brought it with them in their RV.  It makes an excellent fire pit.

a laundry tub

a laundry tub

We did put the game on pause, to take time out to watch the sunset.  Cedar Key has some colorful sunsets, and I hope to be able to post many more photos like this:

DSC00109

 

After the game, another couple entertained us with their wonderful musical talents, playing a harp (yes, they travel with a harp!) and a Hammer Dulcimer.  I have never seen such an instrument, but they played many beautiful songs.

DSC00125

 

By Tuesday, the weather turned cold, and one of our fellow campers decided we should have a chili cook-off.  We had many different styles of chili, from your traditional meat and beans, to vegan and gluten-free recipes, and one with buffalo meat.  I decided to try something new, and went to my favorite source for recipes, Taste of Home, (http://www.tasteofhome.com/) and found a white chicken chili recipe for the crock pot.  It was very easy to make and very flavorful.  All the chilis were very good.

The chili crew

The chili crew

And as happens so often, another impromptu musical session broke out after we all stuffed ourselves.

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One of the couples has a 4-year-old daughter that kept telling everyone, “everyday is a great day”, and to “be happy and kind to others”.  Good advice!

Quote for the day: “It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” – Charles Spurgeon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camper Crisis and hearing voices

I’m baaaack!

Hi there!!

Hi there!!

We have arrived in Florida, and my parents are busy cleaning out the camper and other odds and ends, so I thought I would do a post!

We are in Lake City, FL until Thursday, when we leave for Cedar Key, FL.  I did have a major crisis the other day, when my parents left to go run some errands.  They usually give me 1/2 of a small Milk Bone when they leave, which I love!  However, when they left, instead of eating the treat right away, I kept it in my mouth and ran to the back window to watch them leave.  Then I dropped the treat behind the couch!  Oh, it was horrible.  When my parents came home an hour or so later (hey, I can’t tell time), they knew something was wrong when I didn’t greet them at the door.  This is what they saw:

crisis!

crisis!

My mom looked under the couch to see what I was staring at, but didn’t see anything.  But I kept whining, so she got a flashlight and looked under the couch again.  I helped point out where my treat was.

I can't reach it Mom

I can’t reach it Mom

My dad remembered that the couch folds forward (it folds into an air mattress I guess), so they were able to reach my treat, and all was well with the world again!

For awhile, that is.  Then I kept hearing voices, familiar voices, but I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from.  I would run around the camper, barking, and then I would hear laughter from those familiar voices.  I asked my mom if this is why people go get a CAT scan?  She tried to explain that those voices were from the Face Time and Skype that they were doing with our families for the holidays!  I’m a dog, I don’t understand all this new technology stuff, but I know they both appreciated being able to see and talk with their family (even if Skype turned my mom’s family into purple and green blobs!!).

Other than that, I am really starting to enjoy this camper life.  We have been on the move a few times in the past week.  I know that when I get out of the crate in the truck, I am always at home.  Same bed, same location for my treats and dog food, just a different view.  I am really settling in nicely, and am enjoying the sunshine along with warmer weather!  I hope all is well for everyone out there!

I think my parents will start posting again when they get to Cedar Key.  If not, I will keep you updated!

Quote for the day: “If you think dogs can’t count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then give him only two of them”  – Phil Patoret