Apache Camper Blog

  • Published on Sep 03, 2015
    What Everyone Needs

    Mary Z. is back at it again this time with a great group of memories of a trip to the Black Hills!

    It’s Monday and we are heading out to Custer for our second annual family camping trip.  Our group consists of Me (sometimes referred to as the arbitrator or arbiter, or the Grandma who needs a spanking), my husband (known as Grumpy Grampa), our daughter Rachel,  our son John, his wife Julia, and their three kids - 7-year-old Frankie, 4-year-old Lucius, and Lucius’ Irish twin – 3-year-old June.

    Son John is traveling in our Honda CRV because he is too cheap to buy a road worthy car that will make it more than a hundred miles on the road.  When John takes a long trip, he pops for a rented car.  (Dave Ramsey would love this kid.)

    Lucius and Frankie are traveling with us (the arbiter and the grumpy one) when the driver asks (that would be Grumpy Grandpa) :  “ Does anyone need to go to the bathroom? “

    Now Grandpa and Lucius have been sharing a can of diet Dew but amongst the car load of people there is complete  silence.
    Rest stop comes and goes.
    Lucius:  (0.5 miles later) I have to go poop! 
    Driver: Lucius!  We just passed a rest stop!  I asked if anyone had to use the restroom!  ( problem: no one asked LUCIUS if HE needed to pee or poop)
    Arbiter (to driver): its ok.  You can generally tell if you need to pee.  A poop can come on when you least expect it.  Let's just stop at the next gas stop and you can gas up as well.
    (Gas stop is finished.  Arbiter arrives at vehicle to a distraught Frankie who has been told by the driver that he is just going to have to finish his car ride in the heat because the driver is not going to run the air conditioner.  "Frankie," the arbiter intercedes, "don't you know by now that the driver never tells the truth?"
    Frankie: Can we stop at the Corn Palace?
    Driver: "No!"
    Arbiter: We'll see.
    Driver: if we stop, we'll NEVER make it to Custer!  We'll stop, but I'm just going to sit in the car.
    Arbiter: Fine!
    Later the trip to the Corn Palace is completed.  The driver did come in after all, but mostly to use the bathroom.  (Remind me:  Why is it that our grandkids enjoy camping with us so much?)

    Then it was ”on the road again” - the drivers favorite song while we travel – the only time in our lives we listen to country music.  (My favorite is the one with the lyrics that go something like – “Come and be the queen of my double wide with the polyester curtains and the red cedar deck”.  But we don’t have that one in our country music collection.)
    300 miles left to our destination and we pull off to gas up at which time son informs us that he has no air conditioning.  We are sitting outside a gas station and it is feeling hotter than blazes.  We go inside  and purchase Icees for the kids.  We go back outside, as there is standing room only inside.  As the kids are enjoying their Icees, a motorcycle driver walks by and states that it is 108  degrees on the highway.  At least it is a dry heat.

    And so began our first encounter with motorcyclists on our second annual family vacation.

    The second day was spent  getting the air conditioning fixed on the car.  I will spare you the details except to say that the part was under warranty.

    The third day, John took his family to Old McDonald Farm and Bear Country or – as we refer to it – Bear Prison.  You will know what I mean if you have ever visited.  If you haven’t visited, imagine 200 bears on an acre of land with the baby bears separated from their mothers and confined to a 100x50 foot chain link enclosed area, bawling all day long.  You would think the mother bears would be there tearing down the chain link.  But they are not.  Maybe those baby bears are really old enough to be teenagers in real life – but I digress.

    In the meantime, Karl and I took Rachel to see the Needles and Cathedral Spires.  When we arrived at the Needles, there were a couple dozen Native American Indians at the parking area.   Rachel and I asked some of the females what was going on and they told us they were having a ceremony.  We asked if we could watch and take pictures.  They told us we would have to ask the chief.  So Karl found the chief and he told Karl, no we couldn't watch or take pictures and he told us he would appreciate it if we would just move our truck. 

    Rachel and I did a quick hike up in the Needles and then got in the truck.  The Indians were directing traffic through the tunnel and for some reason the area seemed really busy and congested like I have never seen it before.  There was even a fender bender in the tunnel when someone tried to back up.  It seemed like the Indians were making things worse with their directing.  We continued on down to the Cathedral Spires and started taking a hike along the Cathedral Spire trail.  Rachel discovered mica and thought she could do some art work with it so we spent some time collecting mica.  Shortly, Karl came down the trail and whispered in a loud, conspiratorial way: "We got to go,  the Indians are coming!"  And sure enough, there they were.  So we stayed a little longer and got some pictures before taking off. 

    As we were getting ready to get in the truck, (Karl was already in the truck ready to go as usual) a fifty to sixty year-old man approached Rachel and asked if she would take a picture of him and the five other men in his group as they lined up behind a gleaming black Harley Davidson motorcycle.  (And so began our second encounter with motorcyclists.) She consented and pretty soon she had three cameras in her hand so she handed one to me and I left the safety of the truck to go help her.  I wasn't sure what we were getting into.  As I went to take a picture with the camera I had, I advanced on the group so they would fill the screen and someone in the group said, "Oh, she's a professional."  Then one of the guys asked, "Do you live alone or with your parents?"  I pretended to ignore that comment.  When we had all the pictures taken, one of the guys asked if we wanted our pictures taken with them.  Rachel and I thought, "Why not!"  And as we lined up, the same guy asked again, "Do you live alone or with your parents?"  I was not exactly sure who he was asking that question of! But finally, as Rachel and I stood with our arms around each other for the picture, I said, "She lives by herself and I live with my old man."  Then I said to Rachel,so they could hear, "Your father is sitting in that truck watching us and he is really jealous of that Harley!"  Then the guys all started laughing, and one of them said, "Her Dad's in that truck and he's watching us in the rear view mirror!"  At which point, Karl got out of the truck and joined us.  (They didn't ask Karl to have a picture with them.). Rachel and I had already found out that they were from Milwaukee and had retired from the Harley Davidson factory.  They all took early retirement when the labor union gave them an offer they couldn't refuse.  Then they had a discussion about the neighborhood where Karl spent the first 4 years of his life and how Karl and I would really enjoy riding Harley's across the US, and we could get a Harley trike for more stability.  I honestly thought Karl was ready to sell the fifth wheel and buy a Harley.  The Indians were there silently pushing us out, so we took our leave.

    The following day, John made reservations for us all to take the 1880's train from Hill City to Keystone round trip.  The ride was an hour each way so we couldn't have traveled any faster than 20 miles an hour.  They had a person talking on a loud speaker telling us about the wild life, flora and fauna and how we should conduct ourselves while on the trip.  They collected our tickets enroute and near a steep drop off along the way they told us that that is where they give those without tickets a gentle push to encourage others to always purchase tickets.  We were instructed that when we saw people on the street, we were to smile and wave, because, of course, we were happy because we were on the train and those on the street should want to be on the train. (When in all actuality, we are happy because we were rich enough to purchase tickets to be on the train.) They had popcorn and candy for sale along the way.  Whenever the train whistle would blow, Karl and Frankie would yell right along with it - noisy! 

    On Friday, Karl and I rode our bikes on the Mikelson trail, Rachel accessed the wi-fi  at the Legion Lake Lodge and did some work,  John and Frankie climbed Harney Peak, a 3.5 mile climb to the top.  They did their climb in 5 hours.  Our bike ride was up hill for the first mile, then downhill for the next 3 miles.  When the descent did not show any signs of stopping, we decided we better turn around, because we knew we were going to have to ride our bikes back up hill for 3 miles already and any more than that just seemed like too much.  On most of the downhill part, I didn't even have to pedal.  When we got off the trail, and loaded our bikes into the bike rack, I noticed that my front tire was completely flat.  (I thought that last mile down hill was not as easy as it should have been.) The afternoon was spent in the cold waters of Sylvan Lake.

    On Saturday, since John and family had not toured the Needles or Cathedral Spires, we all decided to make it a family endeavor.  We drove through the Needles, hiked a little in the Spires, got someone to take our family picture (which looks like little people in a large outdoor space), then headed to Hole in the Wall for lunch.  As we finished setting up our lunch, a Honda tricycle motorcycle pulled up with a sixty to seventy year-old man in a visor with a Guy Fieri hair style and a woman with dyed red hair riding on the back.  As he pulled into his parking space, he removed his visor and all the hair on the top of his head came with it - he was totally bald but with a beard that matched the hair of his hat!  Karl yelled out, "I like the hat!"  And the guy called back, "I have to keep it covered!" 

    We watched as the red headed lady rose from her seat.  Her hair looked like she had just stepped out of her favorite salon. She was dressed in the latest ladies' designer play clothes and sported a large pendant necklace and an I-Phone on another chain around her neck. As she stood she was holding a perfectly coiffed miniature poodle with a rhinestone studded leash.  She stepped out of the Honda motorcycle bucket as gracefully as a seventy year-old can standing erect.  She dumped the poodle on the ground, barely bending over to assist it on it's descent.  As we all watched this scene unfold, I make a comment consistent with my sarcastic, dry sense of humor: "I wonder if that's her sugar daddy?"  To which Rachel responds: "being wealthy does not insure good taste." (Hmm – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Perhaps I could learn a few things from my progeny!)   Karl later reported that the red-headed lady was” Guy Fieri's” fiancée.  They had come to South Dakota to get married during the Sturgis Rally and were here a week early to meet some of Hell's Angel's one percenters.  He told Karl that Hell's Angel's one percenters were members of Hell's Angel's who were so infamous they were not allowed in Sturgis city limits during the Sturgis Rally days. 

    The plan for the rest of the day was for Rachel and I to climb Harney Peak while everyone else drove the  Wildlife Loop.  We would then meet up at Sylvan Lake.

    Rachel and I climbed the mountain much slower than John and I had last year.  We made it to the top without falling though I will say I had a few frightening episodes but was able to maintain my balance each time.  We stopped for frequent rests.  Occasionally we would ask climbers who were on their descent, "How far is it to the top?"   The closer we got to the top, the answer varied widely depending on the age of the climber.  One of the groups we met to whom we posed this query were a group of 65 plus year-olds, each equipped with a walking stick and panting as they descended, informed us that we had a long ways to the top.  Seconds later we met two elementary school-aged girls who informed us that it was just a little ways to the top.  I thought the middle-aged group had a much more realistic answer - it was a ways more, but if we made it this far we would have no difficulty making it the rest of the way.  Well, the good news is, we did make it to the top, had a few pictures taken, took a few pictures including selfies, made it back down the mountain, full bladders but face intact.  We even signed the log in the look-out tower.  (Last year’s attempt necessitated a trip to the ER which, surprisingly, did not end up with me being assessed for abuse when Grumpy Grandpa arrived.  Probably because he wasn’t with me on the climb.  But that’s another story.)

    We met back up with everyone on the beach of Sylvan Lake.  Frankie had captured a crawdad and was requesting to take it home as a pet.  His mother refused to even consider it. "Oh!" Frankie wailed.  "You won't EVER let me have a pet!"  As we left the parking lot of Sylvan Lake, we spotted Julia holding something out in front of herself between her two fingers.  She stopped to show us the crawdad she was returning to the lake.  She discovered Frankie still had it because he kept looking down at something in his hands as he sat in the back seat. 

    For dinner we had walking tacos.  We finished off the marshmallows and started the doleful task of breaking up camp.  All the grandkids were in the fifth wheel and John was teasing June and Lucius through the door and they were all having a good time.  When Frankie observed Lucius' mirth, he stated: "I don't know why you are so happy.  This is the last day of camping.  NO one should be laughing!" 


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