lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
Yesterday was a lot of driving. I didn't end up posting anything last night because we didn't stumble in the door until after 8:30 pm (we left Rapid City at 7:30 am. Now, there is a time change in there where we lose an hour, but still that's a LOT of hours on the road.)

We did some classic stuff. We stopped both at Wall Drug and the Corn Palace.

the corn palace

450

We started to see a few more families on the road at Wall Drug, but Mitchell could have been a ghost town. Shawn and I both remarked at how several store fronts were closed and/or empty in Mitchell. It's June. This should be the beginning of the tourist season for them, I'd have thought. We were there right at noon and I had a BLT from the one place we found to eat. That was the other thing, the 'historic' downtown didn't have a lot of places to get food. You'd think it would be more like the other tourist towns we travelled through, like Cody, which is just lined with diners and burger joints and pizza places. Something for everyone, as they say. All of that interspersed with trinket shops.... but no, they seemed to have department stores and... furniture? Not something you're going to haul the rest of the way across country with you.

This actually made me wonder if the over-the-road tourism is down in this part of the country. Okay, well, a quick Google tells me that my anecdotal sense is WAY OFF. Apparently, tourism numbers are up, according to the South Dakota Tourism Industry Information for 2016.

Maybe we were just lucky? Because we planned this trip so early into summer vacation?

I don't know. Interestingly, Wikipedia tells me that the largest draw to South Dakota is actually the Sturgis Motorcycle rally. Maybe that's the thing that's shifted? The demographics of the people traveling across country? We certainly saw a ton of motorcycles all throughout our visit both to South Dakota and to Yellowstone.

Also, I'm super curious why so many of my fellow travelers were white. It wasn't 100%--but there was a shocking sea of white faces waiting for the geysers to blow. Why is that, I wonder? Or is this another anecdotal misinterpretation of mine? I couldn't easily find a demographic statistic for the visitors to Yellowstone, though I did see that 2016 was a record-breaking year for them. So what do I know?

We did stop at the Minute Man Missile Site (Delta-09). That was kind of spooky cool. There was a fence around the site that had this sign:

cows out of missile site

It says, "Help us keep cows from entering this area. Please close chain as you enter and exit." There's a lovely little center icon of a big red no symbol over a cow.  

One of the missiles is preserved:

missile in launch pad

As a kid of the 1980s, I found this very chilling, frankly.  Mason looked at us and said, "And how do you think I feel, knowing that 45 has the launch codes?"  

...

Right.  So, that left us all feeling a bit... freaked out.

Otherwise, I have to say that the thing I'm noticing now that we're home is that I still have my tourist eye on everything.  I kind of wished that I'd had my camera this morning when I went for coffee because I had a sudden yen to photograph the neat old houses that are in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood. Maybe this is something I'll have to start doing as an antidote for all the depressing politics.

I thought about going out to Pride today but I just couldn't muster the thought of fighting crowds after all of the fighting crowds at Yellowstone and whatnot. Good news: I'll be gay all year 'round.

lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
Today was day two in South Dakota. Today was the day we decided to do a lot of the typical tourist stuff. Shawn had read in the guidebooks that the very best time to go to Mount Rushmore was early in the morning, so we were on the road again around 7 am. On the other hand, the guidebooks were right. We had the place to ourselves.

Here is our postcard perfect shot of Mount Rushmore.

The classic shot


Turns out Shawn LOVED the museum at Mount Rushmore and we spent a lot of time looking at the exhibits. Today, over dinner, she said that Mount Rushmore was one of her favorite parts of today, in fact.

Mason looking up at Mount Rushmore

I like this shot because it highlights one of the things that first struck me about Mount Rushmore. Most of the pictures you see look like the one I took, so you never have the sense that these faces are just carved out of the top of a mountain. When Shawn and I traveled here in the 90s with Karl from Czech, that was the thing I most remembered: that Mount Rushmore was actually just a tiny fraction of the mountain. For some reason, I had somehow thought someone had carved an ENTIRE mountain.

This time I was able to be more impressed.

From Mount Rushmore we took Iron Mountain Road "backwards" towards Custer State Park. If you go the other way, several of the tunnels have been cut to perfectly frame Mount Rushmore. Having done it the right way with Karl, we didn't feel we needed to do it that way this time. Iron Mountain Road is famous for its pig-tail bridges and switchbacks. There are also one-lane tunnels cut out from rock. We stopped at one of the overlooks.

Mason on the rock

The road was really fairly beautiful, lots of tall pines and jutting rocks. We've been having amazing weather, too, the wind was actually chilly this morning. You can see that the "sky was not cloudy all day" as the song says.

After getting off 16A, we turned toward Custer State Park. There is an entry fee to the park of $20 per vehicle. We stopped at the Visitor's Center and heard the park ranger telling tourists that there was good bison viewing off Fisherman's Road. To get there we took off on Wildlife Loop. Shawn and Mason were pretty convinced we'd never see any animals because most of the view consisted of miles and miles of this:

desolate Custer State Park

We started making jokes about a government conspiracy to hide the wildlife, especially the elk (which we kept mispronouncing elf). However, we did turn off on Fisherman's Road, which was dirt and gravel. But, that was where a lot of the wildlife was (no elf,) but we did see a huge herd of bison (including babies) and more pronghorn.

And my favorite: PRAIRE DOGS.

praire dog

I love how this one is just sitting with its feet in the air.

prairie dog lying down on the prairie

Then we got a classic bison blocks the road moment:

bison in the road

And, then, the "tourist" burros. Apparently, the burros are not native to South Dakota, but they were left in the park by workers. They are super friendly, looking for hand outs, and will stick their heads in your car.

burros

Unlike some people, we didn't get out of the car or feed the burros.

From here we drove up Needles Highway (aka Highway 87). I... could have used a few more guardrails on this drive. The roads were super-duper narrow and there were sections where there was just a tiny bit of asphalt between me and the cliffs.

needles highway

guard rails are a thing, South Dakota!

This scary-ass road culminates in this:
Needles Eye

The "eye" is so narrow that as our car went through, Mason could stick his hand out the wind and touch the wall of the tunnel. I have no idea how some of these big-ass trucks that kept passing us on the road got through that thing without scraping off their rearview mirrors (at the very LEAST.)  
I was really sort of surprised that the rangers that took our money did not measure the width of the car.  

Even though I white-knuckle drove this, I think it was probably my favorite part of the day.

We then stopped at a Subway in Hillcity for lunch.  Subway has become a weird go-to lunch place on the road. Shawn used to hate Subway, and now she's like, "OH LOOK, A SUBWAY!" I think because the food is always consistently decent and there are vegetables.

After this we turned towards home base.  We dropped Shawn off at the hotel, and then Mason and I took in a round of mini-golf at the pirate themed mini-golf course just down the street from our hotel. From there, we tried to go back to our creek, but it had been discovered by some frat boys (and one girl) who brought pizza to the rock, so we went across the road and found a new creek to wander around.

creek in black hills

And explore, we did:

Mason in river

I call this one "uh, Ima, what do leeches look like??!?"

From here, we turn towards the home fires. Probably taking I-90 through Wall Drug.
lydamorehouse: (ichigo hot)
 Originally, we'd planned to spend three days here in South Dakota, using Rapid City as our "home base." We decided today to cut it short. Our family is just plain tired of the road.  There's a ton to see here, but today proved that we're pretty close to saturated with "scenery."  Tomorrow will be our last full day here, then we will do the huge drive home.

This morning we let ourselves sleep in. With the time zone difference (we're in Mountain Time)  that really only meant until about 7:30 or so. Then, after fueling up on the hotel breakfast, we headed down 79 for Hot Springs and the Mammoth Site.  79 is not the most scenic, but Shawn snapped a picture.  You can't tell from this picture, but it really looked like it was going to rain on us.  A huge dark cloud loomed in the west.  

South Dakota hills

However, when we got to the Mammoth Site, we had a great time.  The site itself is interesting because it's a working paleontology dig.  When we were there, in fact, we saw people excavating.  At first, we thought it was going to be a bust because we had to buy a ticket for a tour that didn't start right away and they told us to "enjoy the gift shop." By the time the tour started, Mason was muttering about capitalism.  But, we had an amazing tour guide. He could not have been more than 12? Maybe 13?  He looked younger than Mason, but he did a phenomenal job. He was incredibly knowledgable.  

Plus, we got to see mammoth bones!

mammoth skull with tusks

I learned that there are actually mammoths other than woolly mammoths.  Apparently, the majority of those found at this site are of a kind known as Columbian mammoths.  Also, we aren't supposed to call these fossils because they have not turned to stone.  They're actually just dried bone.

There were also a ton of other animals that were discovered in this sinkhole, including another extinct mega-fauna, the short-faced bear.

short-faced bear skeleton

I have to admit that since Mason was very much focused on the Cambrian Period, I never learned that much about the age of mammals. I didn't know that llama used to roam here, as well as some kind of now extinct camel, something called a camelop. That's pretty cool stuff. 

We left the museum pretty enthused for the rest of our day.  I have to say, too, though we didn't get any pictures of it, Hot Springs seemed like a  neat town. I sort of regret not exploring it a bit more. There was a Pioneer Museum that we could have checked out, and a very cute downtown made mostly out of red sandstone.

Instead we drove up 385 toward Wind Cave National Park.  We didn't have any intention of actually going into Wind Cave.  What I wanted from the park was prairie dogs!  I love prairie dogs.  If I had a fursona, I think it would be a prairie dog. I mean, look at them. They fat, sort of cute, a bit territorial, social, and enthusiastic.

prairie dog town!

I literally could have spent the rest of the day watching the prairie dogs popping around, zipping from hole to hole, and chirping at things that annoy them.

SO ADORABLE.

As we were cruising through the park at low-speed and my family was getting really tired of me happily chirping, "Oh! More prairie dogs! Let's stop!!" we spotted a group of pronghorns on the side of the road.  Perhaps you already know this, but I was able to wow my family by telling the that the "antelope" of the song, "Home on the Range" with the line "where the deer and the antelope play" is actually referring to the pronghorn.

pronghorns, America's antelope

I really did not expect to see pronghorns in the wild on this trip.  Just as I did not expect bears.  We also saw what we figure was a marmot sitting on a fence post in Wyoming. 

From this park, we'd hoped to cross over into Pringle and head up towards Custer, but... we were caught in a time loop and could not escape the buffalo.  Seriously, we must have circled the interpretive center three times trying to find our way out.  However, we did see this lovely buffalo a lot:

buffalo in wind cave national park

Thanks to the compass that is built into our car and a very helpful park ranger in the interpretative center we managed to escape the gravity well of Wind Cave.

Custer, of course, is a tourist trap of a town.  We got out there, though, because we were all getting really kind of hangry and I needed to pee. Shawn was really, really, REALLY done with crowds, though, so finding a place to eat that wasn't wall-to-wall tourists was hard.  We managed to find a sit-down place that had decent food and we were all in a much better mood after chatting with our server, Joseph, who was from Tennessee originally and sort of found himself stuck in Custer, having been brought here as an army brat.

Besides getting food into our stomachs, the smartest thing we did was peel off 385 and head down Sheridan Lake Road toward Rapid City. Hardly anyone was on that road and it was GORGEOUS.

black hills with rocks and trees

Having seen pronghorn, however, we started to really hope for elk.  At one point, our entire family spontaneously attempted an elk call, which was sort of a terrifying bellowing groan in our estimation.  :-)

Sheridan Lake Road

As we were driving along here, we spotted a pullout and decided that what this burnt out family really needed was an hour in the woods just sitting and reading and exploring.  There was a small pat that led us to a stream that had a ton of small fish and crawdads.  

Mason dipping his toes in the stream

my big fat butt in the river

I managed to drop my phone in the water.  Ironically, I'd been very careful and taken it out of my pocket and set it in my shoes, but when I sat down to put my shoes back on... bam! It tumbled into the water.

Classic.

However, I managed to turn it off right away and it's apart, drying right now. I have faith it will recover. Otherwise, Tracfones are cheap. This is why no one buys me a smartphone. :-)

Tomorrow, we're going to hop up early to see Mount Rushmore before the crowds and then do the wildlife circle in Custer State Park.  Then, finally, we shall head for the home fires!
lydamorehouse: (temporary incoherent rage)
 Shawn dragged us out of bed at 5:30 in the morning because she read that it's best to hit Yellowstone early in order to avoid the crowds.  Turns out there was another bonus, which was, morning is when the animals are the most active.  We've been staying at AmericInns the whole way and they have continental breakfast that isn't horrible. Cody, like Beulah, sports two coffee shops (possibly more, but two were easily seen from the main drag) and so I went out at 6 am to try to find a decent brew. I found someone who would make me a latte, but it was fairly awful. Tomorrow, I will try the Mudd Shack or whatever it was called.

It's about an hours drive between Cody and the east gate entrance to Yellowstone. We passed through mountain tunnels, which is always cool.  This is the reservoir made by the Buffalo Bill Dam.

on the way to yellowstone

The landscape up to Yellowstone was very similar to a lot of what we'd seen in Montana.  No trees and a lot of scrub leading up to rocky outcroppings.  Shawn and I both confessed that this was pretty much what we were afraid all of Yellowstone would look like (oh boy, were we WRONG.)  In fact, once we got to "cruising altitude," as it were, things looked a lot more like the landscape around Bearskin. Shawn said, looking out at all the pine trees lined up along the roadside, "This looks like home." (Grand Rapids, MN.)

Are we in Montana or Wyoming?

But this is Wyoming/Montana: scrubby.

We passed a lot of horse ranches, too.  I joked that where in North Dakota it was all, "I found a cow!" in Wyoming it's "I found a horse!"

Shawn had made a big deal about finding us a hotel room at all in Cody this time of year, and so any time we saw a "vacancy" sign on any of the dude ranch/hotels, we teased her saying, "Oh, sure, you couldn't find anything open! We could have stayed here and had pony rides!" Luckily, she's a good sport and used to us ribbing her.

Even before the official gate, we saw people pulled off to the side of the road.  This is what's known in the Yellowstone area as a "bear jam," aka the kind of traffic jam that happens whenever wildlife is spotted.

Here's what everyone was looking at:

buffalo in sage grass

I really love the contrast here between the brown/black of the buffalo and the silvery green of the sage brush.  This shot seems almost stereotypically Wyoming, don't you think? At first I worried that this big guy was sick being so far from a herd, but Shawn read that male buffalo are loners. Mason said he clearly saw that this fellow was male.

The flowers were really lovely.  There were pearly everlastings growing here too (which remind me of deep woods northern Minnesota):

pearly everlastings

One we were in Yellowstone proper, the road grade started getting significantly steeper.  I worried a lot about our new/used car, but it performed like a beauty.  Pretty soon there were snow caps in the distance.  We had to pull over to take a picture. (We tried selfies, but we kind of suck at them.)

Shawn and Mason with snow-capped mountains in the background.

We took a ton of pictures as we moved higher and higher into the mountains.  But here are a few of the more interesting shots we got:

Slyvin Lake

snow capped mountains at Yellowstone


top of the world


Then came the most amazing thing. We saw a traffic jam ahead and I jokingly said, "Hey, maybe there will be bears at this bear jam."  GUESS WHAT??!! THERE WERE BEARS.

bears!

A pretty good shot considering that Shawn (being non-suicidal) took this picture from inside the car, the window rolled down, with telephoto.  There were many more morons who were out of their cars, setting up tripods, and milling around.  It is possibly not obvious, but these two are GRIZZY BEAR CUBS.  The one in the foregrounds still has a bit of white baby fuzz.  There is a mama grizzly somewhere near and, unlike the stupids, we were long gone before she showed up.

We saw dumber people, though.

There was a whole contingent of stupid walking across a grassy plane towards a giant herd of buffalo.  Buffalo can run 30 mph.  People can not.  There were idiots with children doing that.

Sigh.

It does make me wonder how many people die from wildlife every year.  Especially since you can get great shots from inside your car. Like this:

deer

And this:

buffalo herd

Then, we did what every tourist to Yellowstone must do. We went to visit "Old Faithful."  OMG. The visitor center near "Old Faithful" is a massive complex and it is ENTIRELY JAMMED WITH HUMAN BEINGS. I don't normally mind crowds, but I do not like being elbow-to-elbow with that many sweaty, impatient people.  Mason had the right idea. He put on his Moose Hat (which he picked up at the first gift shop) and read:

moose hat

But we didn't have to wait that long for the big eruption.  For all that, the actual geyser was nifty.  Mason and I managed to score some good seats right next to the walkway's edge.

old faithful erupting.

But our stop here was one of those times when no one knows what to do--should we try to eat here? Do we just grab cereal at the convenience store? Get in the car again and subsist on potato chips?--and we were all h-angry and hot.  Luckily, I had an epiphany in the bathroom and that was that when the guidebooks told us we needed to practice patience, they didn't mean on the road, they meant with each other.  So, we suffered through the long lines and got some real food. (Actually, I made my family find a seat and I waded through the food lines).  After that, we felt much better getting out of there and getting back in the car.  

We did decide, though, that if someone wanted a cheap version of Old Faithful, you could crush into the bathroom, let someone like me who has stinky farts let out a good gassy one, turn on the hot water faucet, and then everyone cheers. Because that's something that's never in any guidebooks: geysers STINK. They smell like sulfur, like rotten eggs. In fact, the whole "clean pine forest" smell up in Yellowstone has a whole undercurrent of "who farted?"

At any rate, after all that hassle, we decided, in fact, that we didn't need to see any more geysers. If there were a lot of people gathered to see a "site" that wasn't wildlife, we would just pass that site right on by, in fact.

I think we made a good choice. We did see these "painted pots" however:

painted pots

After that we mostly just pulled out in spots where there were hardly any people.  Thus, Mason got some time to contemplate nature on the Summer Solstice:

Mason and Yellowstone

The very last thing we did was look at the giant falls... that I've forgotten the name of.  Because you know what else I wasn't prepared for in Yellowstone? How BAD the signs are... and the maps.  I think a lot of tourists would be a lot less cranky if there were better signs directing people to places. But, we had to do a complete 180 at one point otherwise we would have missed these.  And, they were pretty darned spectacular, too:

falls!

That was Yellowstone.  From here, we turn east towards Mount Rushmore and home.... though it will still be a few more days on the road.

Right now, I'm off to avail myself of the hot tub. My shoulders are aching after all that white knuckle driving on the roads.  Going up had me worried about the engine, going down had me freaking out about the breaks.  I could use a massage, honestly.

Tomorrow? MORE DRIVING.  We go from here to Rapid City, hopefully going past Devil's Tower. 
lydamorehouse: (nic & coffee)
We got up bright and early this morning and headed west. Today was a day of heavy driving, not a lot of stopping, though we did manage a few. I made Shawn stop and take a picture of cows on our way out of Beulah, though. It was such a familiar sight that I had to have it immortalized.


cows on the hill (ND)

That's North Dakota to me, right there.

Ww stopped at a rest stop that overlooked Theodore Roosevelt National Park, aka the North Dakota Badlands. After we left that rest stop we lamented not taking a picture of the picture of the buffalo wandering around in front of the Interpretative Center. We did see a giant cow pie on the grounds, so we know that it was accurate that buffalo occasionally invaded the rest stop.

ND badlands

This picture doesn't really do the badlands justice. They're such weird places, actually.

As we entered Montana, we discovered that Shawn really does not like the landscape of Montana. "Alien," was what she categorized it as, and, "Dead." As the driver, I have to disagree. I found Montana fascinating. The colors are so different, everything is legitimately sage colored and the trees are replaced by scrub. It seems flat and uninteresting, but when you're driving, you become hyperaware that you're constantly going UP at a fairly steep incline.

But there's not a lot to look at, that's for sure. Here's typical landscape:

flat of Montana

You can see why they call it "Big Sky Country," though.

My family and I had a long discussion about "Big Sky" and what other mottos Montana could have used. Pretty much all of us were in agreement that really, if it were us, we'd advertise the fact that there are DINOSAURS bones everywhere. I'd have put "The Land of Dinosaurs!" on the license plates, but that's just me. When we were arguing about whether the landscape was interesting or ugly, I muttered, "Well, it's prettier than Indiana" and Mason thought that would make a good state motto, too: "Better than Indiana."

The thing about Montana is that for all the weird, scrubby flat stuff, occasionally stuff like this will randomly jut up out of the ground:

random rocks of Montana

This is Makoshika State Park. We stopped for the Interpretive Center which had some dinosaur bones in it. We wandered around a little bit, and I was kind of tempted to drive around in the rocks, but the woman in the center said there was only a couple of miles of paved road before it became unpaved switchbacks. So, yeah, no. Not with our car.

Mostly we didn't stop except to pee, but all the the rest stops there was this helpful sign:

sign for rattlesnakes

The only place we spent any really amount of time was at Pompey's Pillar. This is where Clark left some graffiti on a rock. There was a really nice set of stairs we climbed to see it and there was an elder tour bus there, so we didn't have to feel badly when we had to stop a lot to take rests. Pretty much at every perch were some nice older folks who admired Mason's hair and asked us where were from.  

Clark's graffiti

Here's a shot from above:

pompey's pillar

Then there was more driving... we saw mountains in the distance, but happy stayed between the pass all the way to Cody.

Tomorrow, Yellowstone!
lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
 ....I finished Closed and Common Orbit last night!  

Yesterday was a busy day.  I got up early and took our car to Dave's to make sure it is road worthy for our big trip West (starts tomorrow!)  I always feel so "urban" whenever i take the bus/train combo to get there and back again.  The car was done around 10 am, and by the time I got up Mason was sniffing around for lunch ideas. One of the other trip tasks was vacuuming the car, so I talked him into helping me with a promise of Subway.  While we were sitting at Subway, Mason looked up from the manga we were reading (we're both reading Haikyu!!) and said, "Do you want to go on an adventure?"

Adventure in our family can mean anything from a hike in the woods to a road trip to Crystal Cave.  We opted to head over to Minnehaha Falls and take a walk along the paths by the creek.  The falls were AMAZiNG. Of course, because this was spontaneous, I didn't have my camera. (For those of you who don't know me well, no, this does not mean I left my phone at home. It means I don't have a smart phone. My flip phone technically has a camera, but yeah, no.)  The falls were super huge thanks to all the rain we've been getting. The creek had even washed away a lot of the usual paths. Everything was walkable yesterday, but we could clearly see water lines where the water had crested the trail in places. The whole creek was very fast, too. It's very rocky and rushes like a rapids.  We stopped in that first little wide spot where a lot of people go swimming and Mason and I watched one kid on an inner tube have the time of his life letting the current whip him downstream. He'd hop out, splash back up, and do it again.  I took off my socks and shoes to dangle my toes. The water is still very cold. It felt good on an 80 F / 26.7 C day.  

We hiked all the way to the river, reliving a lot of memories of the bog walk, the cliff section, etc., along the way. Near the river we found a good spot to sit and Mason read while I watched the mighty Mississippi flow.  We were visited by at least one Great Blue Heron, who flew overhead, and several coots (which I first thought were loons, but they had no spots).  I waded in the water and watched the super-tiny baby fish as they inspected my toes.  There were a lot of them, but they were needle-small, and none of them were brave enough yet to take a little taste of me, like the bigger ones will do.   

I always think it's fun to take the flatter route back, but it never is, though a chipmunk dashed across our path at one point.  Then, we stopped at Se Salt for ice-cream in the park and OMG I wanted fish fry (all the plates passing us looked SO, SO tasty.)  Mason got "salted caramel," which I had a couple of bites of.

A nice day.  As Mason said with a big grin on his face on the drive home, "THIS is summer vacation."

Indeed it is. 
lydamorehouse: (Default)
I picked up Mason early yesterday and we headed over to HPB in Highland. He really wanted to see what they had for GOOSEBUMPS and STAR WARS. We picked up a Kevin J. Anderson (Heir to the Empire series?) and the two Horrorland Goosebumps they had. Then I asked Mason where he wanted to go, and he suggested Bass Lake. But he burst into tears when he realized he'd left his stuffed bunny, Sirralbuoyadoh (named after a girl in his class) behind. After a little back and forth, I agreed to turn around for her. (He needed to change out of school clothes for a woods romp, anyway.)

Mason has NEVER been much for stuffed animals. People have given him tons over the years, but he's never seemed to understand what to _do_ with them. He tends to prefer toys he can build things with or otherwise manipulate towards some _purpose_. Ms. Sirr is the one exception. She is a very realistic rabbit hand puppet (though Mason asked us to sew up the part you put your hand into, and asked if she could have anethesia for the "surgery.") He actually talks to her and plays with her, which is kind of a relief to me.... because I remember doing things like that with my various stuffed animals as a kid and Mason never seemed, like I said, to get it.

Anyway, turns out it was important to get Ms. Sirr because she had been "asking" Mason to take her back to her roots, aka the forest. He'd read on her tag that she was a Dutch rabbit, and kept asking me if I thought these woods were enough like those for her to feel at home. Mostly, though, once we got to Bass Lake he got more into tromping about and getting full of burrs. We tucked Ms. Sirr into his hoodie and she rode along, kind of like a baby in a Bjorn. I got some really cute pictures of the two of them.

Last night, I actually took a short break from writing (what? I deserved it! I wrote 3,000 words, which, for me, is HUGE for one day's work) to watch "Wolverine" with Shawn on DVD. I enjoyed the movie in the theater, but I forgot who the true Wolverine fan was in the house. Shawn collected all the Wolverine issues when he spawned off his own title in the early 90s.

All through the movie, she kept shaking her head. We both lamented the lack of even a MENTION of his time in Alpha Flight and the lack of Domino in Weapon X. But while she really enjoyed the opening, Shawn just couldn't brook with all the liberties taken with the timeline (and who knew whom and when). We both agreed, however, that it was surprisingly pleasant to discover that Liev Schiber inhabited the role of Sabertooth in the same way that Hugh Jackman is Wolverine.

And she did appreciate a lot of the visuals (ehm, who wouldn't like more naked Hugh Jackman??) but also how satisfying it was to see him come out of the adamantium tank-thingie with THE CLAWS. There were a lot of "ah, the jacket" and "OMG! The belt buckle!"

She did point out that the setting is actually kind of confusing. Is it supposed to be the 70s throughout the movie? Wolverine is in the Canadian rockies some few years after Vietnam and sometimes the fashion seemed very late 70s, but then there were Hummers and all sorts of other anachronisms.

Ah well.

Anyway, speaking of writing, I'm behind so I must go write, write, write.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Our dinosaur hunt was quite successful. Mason and I bagged several of the elusive and mighty bryozoans (they're about the size and shape of Cheerios.) Actually, we found one that looks like a watch gear, and it's completely free standing, as it were. No surrounding rock. It's nifty.

For the uninitated, the park was somewhat hard to figure out. I had a map courtesy of the Park Permit folks, and the same one was posted in a larger scale complete with helpful images and information all along the trail, but I spent a lot of time wondering: "Is this it?" There were several points where actual places were labeled with large wooden posts, ala, "The West Clay Pit" or some such, but if the Park folks were going to go to the trouble of put up a sign for that, you'd think a helpful "fossil area" would be useful too. Still, it kind of added a treasure hunt aspect to the whole experience.

There were a surprising number of people just wandering about, some were there with tools, like us, but others just seemed to be walking their dogs or otherwise enjoying the trails. The trails themselves were cool, honestly. Some were clearly "official" and others... well, Mason and I wandered around in the wetalnds area probably following deertrails (I sank in some serious muck at one point), but we had a great time pretending to be on a mission to rescue Princess Leia from the remnants of the Empire. Because this park is on the Mississippi bluff area, it was very reminiscent for me of the Hixon Forest trails in LaCrosse. Steep! Several times I slid down areas on my butt (watchful for my wallet slipping out.)

We had a great time. Like any good fossil hunters, we got sun baked and dusty. A success for most six year old boys, I should think. I think it helped that Mason knew the sort of things we'd find yesterday. Despite all my big talk about hunting dinos, he did *not* have his heart set on finding T-Rex. Like I said, he knows more about the Ordovician period than I do, so he was quite content to dig a few holes and admire the clam shells and petrified "seaweed" that we found. (In fact, unlike most kids I know. Mason seems much more interested in PRE-dinosaurs anyway. I think it goes to his general fascination with sea life. The marine biologist in him likes the Cambrian period when, as he puts it, "all life on Earth existed in the the ocean.") Mason was in a great mood for it yesterday too. He kept reminding *me* that it would be okay if we didn't find any fossils. The adventure hike was good enough. Note: Mason isn't usually the patient one in the family.

The rest of the day was spent back to school shopping. Mason has outgrown his school pants and shoes, so we had to make a stop at Kohl's. We also had a successful hunting outing there. We bagged us several tan pants and a few black. He also got some shoes (on sale!), so I think we're ready. We have the open house at Crossroads tomorrow. I'm looking forward to meeting Mason's first grade teacher and seeing the classroom. Mason informed me this morning that there would be no more "cubbies" for his things. First graders, apparently, have LOCKERS. (This was spoken of in a near mystical tone.)

Well, I'm hoping for a writing date with Eleanor today. I need to get ready for that.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Just a quick note before we head off... I got up this morning at quarter to seven and headed off to the Park Permit Office on Hamline Avenue North and picked up my official license to hunt dinosaurs! Okay, really, it's just a permit that allows Mason and I to pick up and dig for fossils at Lilydale Regional Park, but I've be referring to it as my dinosaur hunting permit. :-)

Mason is excited because we might find things that were alive in the Ordovician Period... and, like, he could instantly name three or four creatures alive then. (I couldn't if my life depended on it. Briachopods? Triobites? Sponges?) Anyway, even though our license doesn't allow us to start digging until 11:00 am (foolishly I thought we'd want to hang out or something before going), Mason is anxious to get there and get started. The map to the park is kind of confusing, and we need to get our list of tools together:

bottled water,
trowels,
toothbrushes,
plastic bags,
tissue paper (for the fragile peices),
magnfying glasses,
camera,
and adventure log notebook.

Pretty exciting, no? Apparently, also at this park they have a bat cave. Not like in the comicbooks, but just as cool, I think.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
So yesterday was supposed to be my "idea" day, but I got sidetracked by the excitement that is Hidden Falls. I don't quite know why kids love Hidden Falls so much, but they do. It's actually not terribly remarkable to the grown up eye, IMHO. For one, it's man-made. A lot of concrete and gravel... but they did a nice thing making a series of "falls" that are kid friendly for climbing over and building dams over, etc. It really is just a street sewer run-off grate that tumbles down a bit of a sandstone that then leads to this elaborate man-made falls system. But... both Mason and his friend Dalton spent two HOURS just clamboring and spalshing and generally doing boy stuff in the woods.

At one point, the boys were tossing rocks into a big pool, and Dalton said, "This is great! I've never done this before!"

At first I thought, "Are you kidding?" Then it occurred to me that, you know, this is what that book LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS is talking about. It used to be, in the days of much more undeveloped property, that it wasn't far for a boy or girl to roam before they found some hidden creek or whatever where they could just do unstructured play. Those days you could just roam, too. No parent had to accompany you everywhere. Now, you have to have a play date, and then usually it's off to some clean, "safe" park with rules about what you can and can't do. Why would someone in this day and age have had an opportunity to just throw rocks into the water? (Rock throwing is usually a no-no. It's specifically not allowed on our beach, Lake Josephine, for instance.)

I'm glad Mason and I were able to share that moment of discovery with Dalton. And I'm super glad his mom packed Gatorade. I'd meant to bring along water, but I totally spaced because Mason and I ended up playing laptop pinball right up to the moment we were meant to pick Dalton up. (I'd thought I might stop at the store to get bottled water at least, but time had run out.)

Anyway, it was a great day. I also had a wonderful time at Wyrdsmiths last night. We all got quite carried away, as we often do, brainstorming improvements for [livejournal.com profile] naomikritzer's already pretty awesome story. There were arguements about pterasaurs and Thunderbirds and a whole boatload of awesome. It didn't inspire me specifically, just generally. I was reminded why I love those guys and why I keep going to Wyrdsmiths.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
It's been a busy week, which explains my absence from the Interwebs you kids hang out on. It's also been kind of strange, but I'll explain.

First of all, may I have a moment of silence while I speak the benediction? "Gucci, Gucci, Garnet. You were a good series."

Yes, Garnet Lacey is no more. The book I finished this year, HONEYMOON OF THE DEAD, will be coming out in May of '10 as scheduled. However, my editor turned down the proposals my agent and I sent for books 6, 7 and 8. As far as I know, all the previous books are still in print. I haven't heard that they're going to be remaindered right away or anything.

Yesterday was my day of mourning. I wailed and gnashed teeth. But it was a rather less dramatic affair than you might imagine because I *am* still contracted for three books in the new young adult series. And, as I told Shawn, we're not really _out_ anything, since, most years, I only write one book a year anyway. More to the point, Penguin was actually quite gracious. They told my agent that they're interested in possibly seeing a new series by my psuedonym. So it's not like they said, "And don't let the door hit you on the way out." In fact, quite the opposite. It's hard to be too depressed when this really does feel like an opportunity to propose something fun and fresh. My editor would like to see contemporary urban fantasy, but that's a mighty wide pool. I'm kind of excited to start pondering ideas. I think I've mentioned this before, but I actually really, really LOVE writing proposals. Most people dread the synopsis, but I rather embrace it. It's a funny thing.

And today Mason and I off to Hidden Falls with a friend from Crossroads. He and I have been neglecting our big explores, so I'm glad we have the excuse of company to get off our quickly expanding back sides. It's funny how easy it is to get wrapped up in doing stuff around the house even when the temperatures are so gorgeous. It doesn't help that a new Netflix "Loony Tunes" volume arrived, and Mason has been watching it on a steady loop since the little red envelope appeared yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday, I was also mourning the loss of Senator Ted Kennedy. Foolishly, I made an off-hand comment about Senator Kennedy and health care reform in my status bar on Facebook yesterday that exploded in a huge (for me) aguement among all my liberal friends and my one crazy Republican friend that I only friended because he was the game master of the AD&D game where I first met Shawn. Without him, there would be no Shawn and Lyda. Too bad he's on the wrong side about the public option in the health care reform debate.

I gave up on the book by Mike Resnick that I took out of the library. It was the third in the series and it didn't quite grab me, alas. I've learned that, with my mild dyslexia, if a book doesn't drag me into it instantly I usually can't sustain the energy it takes for me to finish a book. Unless I'm on vacation or other mitigating factors (like it's the last "new" book in the house, etc.) I like the idea of the series, though, and might see if the library has the first one. I remember enjoying other things that Resnick has written, and I'm still craving more, more, more in the reading department.

Tonight we pick up our next CSA box and it looks like another good one. There will be more corn and... (drum roll, please)... WATERMELON. I'm really excited. Plus, Shawn and I bought into a sunflower oil share and another bottle may be waiting for us! Yippee!

It's also Wyrdsmiths tonight and I can't wait! For various reasons (mostly trips up to the cabin), I've missed a couple of months worth of meetings. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again and get back to the habit of critique and production.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
As you know, Bob, the main entrance to the Minnehaha creek hiking paths is closed for construction. I believe the Parks & Rec folks are taking advantage of the drought to do some support work on the crumbling falls. Apparently, they’ve also widened the paths, because some of the sections I always sort of held my breath as Mason clambered across on the “cliff section,” as I like to call it, are now quite a bit leveled and widened. It looks a lot less natural, alas, but the part of me that’s a concerned parent likes it well enough.

On Wednesday, Mason and I packed our adventure bag (binoculars, magnifying glass, camera, notebook, pencil, sun screen, bug spray, field guides to “critters” and trees, and a brown bag lunch) and headed to the park. We got there at around 10:30 am, and found the new entrance to the park, which is just beyond the usual and brings you down on the other side of the first stone bridge. The park folks have really improved that first wide rapids spot. They added a relatively natural looking amphitheatre type structure out of field stone for adventurers to sit on, and removed the rather dangerous rebar and cable that used to stick up around at the shore. I think, perhaps, they realized that people are going to use that area as a swimming hole, so they might as well make it a bit safer and easy to access. A ton of kids were in the water when we arrived, all screaming and shouting about “crawdads,” which, alas, we never saw. We did wade around a bit, though the creek has dried significantly and is really little more than a trickle -- where there used to be roaring rapids.

Mason and I made the hike all the way to the Mississippi beach. Here, we had lunch (peanut butter sandwich for me, ham and mayo for Mason, chips for both, and plenty of icy, cold water.) Mason wanted to throw his crusts out for the sea gulls, but I asked him to wait until we saw the birds again because that beach is already so trashy I didn’t want to litter, even something as biodegradable as that. I’m glad I did.

Not too much later, a family of ducks came ashore – a mother and her half dozen or so yearlings. A mean kid threw a stone at them and nearly hit them, but they were quite determined to come to land at that spot, so they circled around and waited for him to leave. When the mean kid left, they waddled to shore, hardly caring that three fishers were casting lines right there. They seemed quite used to people in general (if not mean ones in particular). One of the fishermen started handing out his lunch, and I thought, “Hey, I have those crusts!” I tried to coax Mason over to help, but he was intent on a sand castle, so I fed the ducks. They were tame enough to take bread right from my hands.

Further along on the beach, Mason discovered a large dead fish. As he later told Mama, he thought it had been there long enough that flies had “colonized” it. I don’t, however, think he saw actual maggots or fly eggs yet, but he did investigate with a magnifying glass, and I stayed far away, so who knows? It had certainly been there a long time.

Mason in the woods is an awesome thing to behold. As intent as he gets reading, so he is when he’s exploring. Usually, the hike is a lot of sprinting ahead and circling back saying “C’mon” and other helpful things (ala “Tigger” in “A House at Pooh Corner,”) but when he’s laying on the beach staring at the sand or sitting in a field of plantains, he’s in the zone. You can hardly move him. I’ve learned to just find a comfy spot and wait. Sometimes I sit for a half hour or more while he talks quietly to himself and does whatever it is he’s doing.

Processing, maybe. Having a mental downtime. Communing with nature. I don’t know, but it seems to do him a lot of good.

While he did his thing, I saw a hawk, two loons, and a chipmunk. Plus, I got a little mental rest too. It was nice. After the hike, we stopped at See Salt and I bought Mason a “Squid Ink” ice cream cone (really black cherry, though it was defiantly an ugly gray color.) I had a little taste. Despite its off color, it was quite yummy. Still very clever, as I think they make their own ice cream there and the color was probably a goof. Calling the ugly color squid ink, I suspect, sold tons of scoops to kids just like mine.

On Thursday, we thought to head to the zoo but got derailed. Mason really wanted to read more back cover copy of the “Goosebumps” series, so we started on another book hunt adventure. This time we started at Midway Books in our own neighborhood, then off to the HPB in Saint Louis Park, where we hit the jackpot. Mason even managed to spend his coupon on a new “[Blank] from the Black Lagoon” book that he spotted after spending a half hour pretending not to enjoy the “Goosebumps” books.

I, of course, managed to pick up a new JMS “Spider-Man.” This one is #5 of the graphic novel collections, “Unintended Consequences” (#51 – 56), of which I already read and reported on #51/492 “Digger” and #52/493 “Dig This” single issues.

Finally, we ended the great book hunt at Red Balloon here in Saint Paul, but the “Goosebumps” pickings were slim. Mason did get “Bad Kitty” a book he fell in love with years ago and has been trying to find since, and a couple more of the Black Lagoon series by Mike Thayer (illustrated by Jared Lee.) All and all a successful book hunt. We conquered many a book!

Today, it is raining (hopefully all day). I wonder what we'll do?
lydamorehouse: (cap)
Mason and I discovered a new favorite hiking spot last Saturday: Bass Lake. Bass Lake is part of the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Preserve, and it actually right around the corner from the Mall of America. It’s not very large. An intrepid explorer could easily see the entire trail in under an hour, but Mason is a wanderer and a lingerer, so it’s actually quite perfect for us. We also happened to go on a day when the Fish and Wildlife folks were setting up stations for a fishing camp for kids, and we got to help one woman set up her station by using a net to see what we could get out of the pond. Mason netted baby fish (fry), a tadpole, lots and lots of bugs, duckweed, and other things quite fascinating to a six year old.

We also tried to spend Mason’s three dollar coupons at HalfPrice Books, but Mason was the king of indecision that day. We’d earlier gone to the library, where he read the back copy of all the Goosebumps books that they had there, but then claimed to not be interested in them and put them back on the shelf. While I was waiting for him at the library, I picked up and started to read a manga they had there: HIRARA NO GO #6 (Yumi Hotta / Takeshi Obata). Of course, coming in on the sixth issue, I didn’t really know what it was about except that there was a major “go” (strategy game involving black and white stones) competition, a ghost (?), and a rivalry between two boys (one professional level, the other just starting a special “go” school). I found it engaging enough that I may check out the next one in the series, if they have it. Alas, they seemed to have a spotty collection.

At HalfPrice Books, Mason dithered over their Goosebumps, while I scoured the shelves for more JMS. As it happened, one of the employees had hauled out a huge box of graphic novels and was rearranging the graphic novel section. She kindly let me look over her shoulder at the Marvel titles. I picked up FANTASTIC FOUR Volume 1 (#527 - #532) by J. Michael Straczynski and THE AVENGERS: Disassembled (#500- 504 “Finale”) by Brian Michael Bendis.

When I started reading the FF, I realized I’d actually read a couple of these at some point because I remembered the whole arc where the child protective services woman comes and tells Sue Richards that maybe the life of the superhero parents isn’t all that great for raising kids, and that maybe Franklin and Val would be better off in a foster home. Of course, as they’re talking all sorts of crazy is happening at the Baxter Building. Again, it’s that kind of “real life” moment that I appreciate Straczynski for.

The larger story wasn’t as compelling for me, although Straczynski does try to explain one of the great mysteries of the FF universe – why did four people all bombarded by the SAME gamma rays end up with different powers? And why were these gamma rays so dang special anyway, since Earth is hit with gamma rays all the time?! (Oh, and he also tries to answer the BIG question of how did the universe start, but...) I’m not sure I bought his answer -- that the gamma rays were actually communication sent by an intelligent life form? And the power of Creation, ie, “The Word” of Reed Richards picked out personality traits that colored each person’s power? But, you know, it was a fine installment.

I’d been sort of on the look out for Bendis’ AVENGERS: DISASSEMBLED since I fist read about the aftermath in NEW AVENGERS: BREAKOUT.

If you don’t know the story, the short version is that the Scarlet Witch, a mutant whose powers are reality-altering “magic,” flips out. A pregnancy scare by Jan /“The Wasp” (who, apparently, was sleeping with Hawkeye at this point) triggers a memory for Wanda that involves some children she completely invented, literally out of thin air – because, you know, she married an android. He might be a lovin’ machine, but Vision ain’t no baby-makin’ machine.

Anyway, perhaps because the Avengers conspired to make her “forget” the whole baby incident, she decides it’s time for the worst to happen – she’s going to kill them, kill them all. Unbeknowst to the Avengers, crap starts happening. Tony Stark seems to have a drunken ramble at a UN meeting where he, among other things, insults the diplomat from Latvaria (Dr. Doom’s homeland). Some dead dude shows up as a human bomb and the mansion blows up. People die. Vision appears and launches a zillion Voltrons. The She-Hulk goes ape-sh*t. The Kree seem to invade --except SHIELD can’t pick them up on radar at all. More people die. Things are getting like crazy-insane. Even the Avengers have to admit that maybe this is more than just a really, REALLY bad day.

That’s when Dr. Strange’s astral form tells them that this has all been magic. (What? You were expecting a telegram?) Oh well, that’s great, everyone says, you can just wave a wand and fix it. Nope, he says, this is real. It was just caused by magic, special mutant magic... *cough*like Scarlet Witch’s*cough*

Everyone goes into full denial mode that all this could be caused by one of their own, and this leads to one of my favorite moments, where Spider-Man points out, as I did above, that, you know, she *did* marry a robot. How sane is that? Everyone stares at him like he just insulted their mother, and he mutters in a very Spider-Man way about how he’s sure people talk about the stupid things *he’s* done. It made me laugh. Actually, it made me poke Shawn in the ribs and read it to her. (Which she ALWAYS appreciates, I’m sure.)

Anyway, it reminded me that I like a lot of Bendis’ work. I just couldn’t cope with the Skrull invasion.

Yesterday we had a great time at Minihaha and I'll have a report on that, as well as comments on the new stuff we picked up today as part of our grand book adventure day!

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