Monday, August 11, 2014

For some must push and some must pull until we reach the valley-o!

About a month after we brought Malcolm home, our ward (church congregation) had an overnight campout. It was late May, we hadn't been camping this year yet, we really like camping, and having a dog on a camping trip just sounded like a fun thing to do. So, we signed up, bought a new and bigger tent to accommodate a third family member, bought a new foam pad, and loaded ourselves and the dog up and drove 30 minutes south to Pohick Bay.

For awhile, everything went great. Malcolm did pop off a unsecured tether and wasn't particularly good at recall yet, so we had to chase him down, but after that he enjoyed meeting new friends and we humans enjoyed roasting some hot dogs and marshmallows and visiting with our ward.

Then it was bedtime. Blake and I were tired and Mal was acting pretty tired too. We figured he would follow us into the tent, find a comfy spot, and go to sleep.

We were wrong. Instead, he followed us into the tent and immediately went a little crazy. He did lots of laps, chewed on our foam pad, whined, wept, wailed, and gnashed his teeth. It was clear he was not happy. We tried petting him and talking to him in a soothing voice. We held him and tried to calm him down. We prayed.

Nothing doing. So, at 1 AM, we broke up camp. We literally just stuffed our tent and everything else in the car, not even bothering to fold or repack, and drove home. Luckily, as previously mentioned, the drive was only about 30 minutes, we were all home and in bed by 2 AM and slept until 10 AM the next morning. That day, Malcolm was an angel, but we were still afraid we'd never go camping again.

Fast forward to this week. Malcolm has been learning even more how to behave around us and, even better, relax when he's tired. He's good at offleash recall and seems to be settling into our family much better. So I decided it was time to go camping again.  This time, we loaded his crate and blanket with our camping gear, hoping the smell and sight of something he calms down in or with would be useful in the unfamiliar tent among the sounds of the forest. We also went down to Pohick Bay again, since it would still only be 30 minutes home if everything went south again.

This time, we got off to a rough start. We left later than we wanted, the dog food didn't make it into the car, lighter fluid for our charcoal had been forgotten and not realized until the camp store had closed, and we were trying to set up camp and get food started as the sun was rapidly setting. We'd stopped at a grocery store for dog food about ten minutes before getting to our campsite, so I drove back to it for lighter fluid while Blake set up the tent. Once we got food over the coals and the tent was up, everything was back on track.

And Malcolm was a total champ. He helped Blake pitch the tent, sniffed around the campsite, and relaxed by the table while we ate and played Star Fluxx. Best of all, when it was bedtime, he went easily into the tent, straight into his crate, and promptly fell asleep. And stayed asleep, even when I disrupted everyone at 4AM for a bathroom run. (I hate going to the bathroom in the middle of the night at home, having to find shoes and a flashlight and hike to a "comfort station" in dark of night? No thank you. I was seriously considering if a burst bladder was worse than that plus maybe waking the dog and ending the whole trip.) After that, we all slept until 7 AM, which is actually sleeping in for us most days. It was glorious!
Malcolm at 11PM
Add caption

Still resting at 7AM

Pup tent!

So, after a tasty camp breakfast and campsite takedown, we celebrated our success by driving out to Bluemont, VA, for a dog days peach festival at a U-Pick farm. Basically, it was the height of peach picking and they had some dog related vendors and activities set up around the farm. Malcolm got to meet new friends, stare at goats and chickens, run an agility course (he did awesome - we'll definitely want to find more of those to do) and a confidence course, run around with some other dogs in a small off leash dog run, and even ride with us in the wagon to the peach trees and help pick. We all had a great time and got some tasty peaches, but Malcolm's favorite was probably leading a small pack of dogs into the duck pond chasing after a flock of ducks. He was wet, smelly mess after that, but we didn't mind.
A confidence course, less agility but still good for mental acuity and bonding

Mal's reaction to picking peaches

He looked pretty happy passed out in the car on the way home.

And we were pretty happy to all sleep in a real pile for an afternoon nap at home after showering off the camp smells. (Malcolm got a bath tonight.)
Naps are best in piles

This having a dog thing is going to be just fine after all.

Anyone up for camping?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Meet me in St. Louis, Louis!

Saturday morning, we had to leave town bright and early. Fortunately, a local custard shop owner opened early just for us to have breakfast. Belgian waffle with lemon custard and strawberries? Yes, please and thank you.

There had been some major flooding in Illinois and Iowa that week (even some of the sites in Nauvoo were in danger), so our journey had to be rerouted a little. We also ran into major road construction and baseball game day foot traffic. This made our next stop, the St. Louis Gateway Arch, a little tricky.

When I was thirteen, we went to the arch as a family, but I was in a cast and dealing with either a wheelchair or crutches and the arch is not accessible. My family refused to go without me, so I was thrilled when Blake suggested we go on this trip. However, we had timed tickets and with all the detours and travel difficulties, we were late. The lines were long and all seemed lost, until we made some phone calls and found some very understanding people who were able to get us up with the next group. It was a journey 17 years in the making and totally worth it!

The door to the pod that took us up the Arch

Finally made it!

Our final touristy location was the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory in Kentucky. We met my uncle there and caught the last tour of the day. They take you on the actual factory floor! It was cool to learn how they make their bats and get a mini-bat of our own.

That night, we stayed with my aunt and uncle in Indiana and enjoyed visiting with them. Sunday morning we headed out and made our final push to home. When we weren't stopping and touring, we enjoyed a good 40-50 hours of drive time together. As promised, I napped, but we also had lots of time to talk, listen to (maybe even sing along with) the satellite radio the rental car provided, and listened to an audiobook together (House Rules by Jodi Picoult). It was an amazing time and I'm so glad I got to spend it with my wonderful Blake!

City of Joseph, City Beautiful, City of Joseph, Nauvoo!

My dad's cousin, Bruce, lives in Des Moines, IA. My dad's family has been in that area for generations. In fact, we helped settle the city and had a farm south of town. Now, we have a street named for us.

My grandfather, his parents, and his sister and her husband (Bruce's parents) are buried in Des Moines as well, and we made sure to visit them as well.

Our next stop was a little farther south, in Riverside, IA, where, in a couple hundred years, Captain James T. Kirk will be born. He will go on to captain the U.S.S. Enterprise and boldly go where no man has gone before. The town visitors center doubles as a Star Trek museum and was staffed that day by two adorable little, old ladies. We checked out their exhibit and then took a few minutes to properly reflect on the future.

The ultimate destination that day was Nauvoo, IL, where the Mormon Trail began. Several original buildings are still standing or have been restored, and there is a lot to learn about our church's and my family's history. (Blake's family joined the church about twenty years later and journeyed to Utah by rail.)

Our first Nauvoo destination was the temple. The original temple in Nauvoo wasn't even complete before the first wagon companies left in February 1846, driven from the city. It was dedicated in April 1846, sold in March 1848, set on fire by arsonists in September 1848, damaged by a tornado in 1850, and completely demolished in 1865. In 2002, it was rebuilt. I've been there when it was just an empty lot and when it was under reconstruction, but it was a blessing to able to attend the completed Nauvoo temple and feel a connection to my ancestors who had attended a century and a half before.

That night, we watched the sunset over the Mississippi River.

On Friday, July 4th, we celebrated Independence Day by touring Old Nauvoo. We started with a wagon tour of the city to get an overview of everything. Next, we stopped at the records office to look up where my family had owned property. We now have a map with a few properties noted that were where my ancestors. We didn't have time to go find those sites on this trip, but now we know for next time! Then, we went to the Joseph Smith sites, which are currently owned by the Community of Christ, where we saw the Homestead, the Mansion House, and the Red Brick Store. We had a little time left to stop at a few more places, including the tin shop and bakery (which gave out gingerbread samples - yum!), but I think Blake's favorite was the Jonathan Browning home and gun shop.
Seen behind the Nauvoo Public Library

Late that afternoon, we went to Carthage, IL, to visit Carthage Jail, where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were martyred in 1844. There is a somber, yet hopeful feeling there, and definitely worth visiting.
Joseph fell out of the highest window after being shot four times

We then joined Hancock County's 4th of July celebration at the local high school. It wasn't the same as watching fireworks at the base of a monument in D.C., but watching them while looking over a cornfield in a small town had a charm all its own.

Happy 4th of July!

Friday, August 1, 2014

I can mash potato, I can do the twist

We stayed our first night in Gillette, WY. That rock, paper, scissors sculpture is probably the most exciting about that town. An hour farther north, however, was our first planned tourist stop - Devils Tower National Monument.

Fun Fact - Devils Tower, without an apostrophe, is the proper spelling because of a typo in a newspaper that stuck.

We started our day early, since the website told us there would be a guided ranger walk at 9 AM. Alas, the signs at the actual park indicated the walk was at 10 AM. So, we started the hike on our own at 8:30. It was a beautiful morning and the park was relatively empty (we could tell it was really picking up when we got back to visitors center), so we were alone on the trail most of the time. The formation itself is fascinating and incredible, but the views overlooking the surrounding valley are also gorgeous. It was a heck of a morning walk.

Native American prayer flag

Appropriately, the cost of my souvenirs (a keychain and a postcard) came to $6.66.

After a few hours in the car and crossing into a new state, lunch was sandwiches in a parking lot. A parking lot that we paid $10 to park in.We paid $10 to park so that after lunch, we could go see Mount Rushmore.

 I found this classic showcase of American patriotism beautiful and awesome. I am thoroughly impressed with the ability to sculpt a mountain and all that hard work it took to make that happen. I'm glad we got to see it.

We did try to go to the Crazy Horse Memorial, but it was a little pricier than we expected, so we just saw it from a distance.

As we headed back out of region, we saw signs for Dinosaur Park. Why not? We took a left off the main drag and drove on the appropriately named Skyline Drive looking out on the thriving metropolis of Rapid City until we found it.

It was better than we hoped. Dinosaur Park is a small collection of cement dinosaurs painted green. We compared it to our trip to Dinosaur Land in West Virginia, which had also been totally amusing. The best part about the Rapid City Dinosaur Park? Turns out it was a Work Project Administration project. The federal government decided that a way to give people jobs in the Depression was to build a park of cement dinosaurs. Yes, please.

For dinner that night, we stopped at Wall Drug, the trappiest of tourist traps on our trip. We had some time to kill, and it was a silly way to do just that. Dinner was tasty, Blake found some new shaving soap to try, and I rode a giant jackalope.

As the sun set that evening, we drove through the Badlands, which were nothing short of amazing. We did take thirty minutes out of our way to see Roberts Prairie Dog Town, for reasons that should be obvious to those who know us. Sadly, we saw no bison, but the views were wonderful. We want to go back another time and do some hiking as well as driving. We had hoped for a ranger led stargazing event, but once again, I had been misinformed by the website, so we made sure to pull over and look at the stars on our own before getting to our motel that night.
It's me!

The motel in Kadoka, SD, was less than amazing. Many amenities were broken (including the tap and the pipes under the sink, they tried to put us in a smoking room, and we could hear our neighbors on the inside and a cow lowing outside. Neither one of us took off our socks except to shower the next morning, but it had been a long and full day, and we were still grateful for a place to rest and the lovely sight of an incredibly ugly deer made of rusty car parts on our way out of town.

Wednesday was a little less eventful. We were able to have a far too short visit with my high school friend Joy in Omaha and make the quickest of trips to see Winter Quarters, another Mormon Trail historic site. One of the coolest parts of our trip was that one or both of us had never done whatever activity we were doing, so it was all new to someone. I'd been to Winter Quarters before, and had ancestors who came through it (and one who died nearby), but Blake hadn't and I enjoyed sharing my family history with him. Neither one of us had seen the temple that is there now, which was small but beautiful.

That night, we were hosted in Des Moines, IA, by my dad's cousin and his family. They had a delicious, home-cooked meal for us and we enjoyed a relaxing evening, catching up and getting to know each other. I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen this cousin, but it's great to have family to rely on!

Coming soon - more Church and family history and proof that we're a pair of lovable geeks!