Custer, South Dakota

We arrived safely at Custer State Park in South Dakota. We settled in quickly at the campsite and went out to explore. Mom found a buffalo duck and named him Buffaduck. He is our new mascot. Of course we went to drive the loop and it started to SNOW. Really? This is two days of snow in a row. This time it was sticking! 
We were excited to see that the buffalo were already dropping calves for the year. Boy were there a lot of them! These two big boys were 6 feet off the campground fence. We took a Jeep tour and got to enter some of the off the beaten path areas that park guests aren’t allowed. We had to wait for baby bison to clear the road several times. The part has over 1000 head of bison currently. After the tour we headed on the loop road again and then around the park. We found lots of snow to play in. We opted for longer pants today and that was a good choice. Dad trying to break up the snowball fight. What a spectacular view! The Black Hills dates back to the precambrian. It was part of the Laramide Orogeny. Most of the rock is shale, slate, limestone and granite with bits of sandstone and quartzite. There was some gold found in the hills but nothing majorly notable. Our loop took us through the Needles Highway, sorry no photos this trip and ended us in Hill City.We scoped out a place called the Alpine Inn for dinner and had to wait a while for it to open. We passed the time wandering town.  I got thrown in jail! Our meat at the Alpine was amazing. I had bacon wrapped filet. The menu only really has three options, a small filet, big filet and spetzel. The dessert menu was longer than I am tall! I opted for peanut butter pie, it was GIANT! Mom had butter pecan ice cream brownie. She could only eat less than half! Bread pudding for Dad. On the way home we saw some of the big horn sheep just nibbling grass in the cracks of the road. The next day was a trip to Wind Cave! We took a backroad through the hills versus the main roads. It was totally worth it. We got to see the bison herd of the NPS. We had a great tour of the caves and then headed back for more driving and visiting animals. Tomorrow hiking day. Since Mom is still kind of lame with her foot injury Dad and I went on a long hike without her and Emmerson. We geared up, packed snacks and water and stole the jeep for the day. Mom and E went on a scooter ride and rerouted a few times due to bisonon the trails. Dad and I parked the car and headed out across the terrain.The hills were a bit much for us flat Florida people. We made it to the end of the trail and headed back. We had a few run ins with bison where we had to reroute or wait them out. Better watch your step!  We approached the jeep to find it surrounded by Bison. We had to wait them out. This is the time of year when they are trying to rub off their winter coats. Unfortunalty they did this on Mom’s car! Happy Mother’s Day, we got your car BUFF’d!

Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Sioux Falls was just an overnight stop on our travels. We arrived as it began to snow. No major accumulation but still a novelty for Florida kids.  It is May. We went outside and tried to catch snowflakes but the icy rain and snow were piercing and we only have sweatshirts for our vacation. We lasted 20 minutes and called it quits for hot cocoa. Mom managed to find a pizza place that delivered so we didn’t have to unhitch the car. This was one of our longer drive days so we were all ready for food we didn’t have to make! 

St Louis, Missouri

We are officially on the road for our “Greatest Hits” vacation. We picked some top places we have been and a few new National Parks for this trip. I am taking geology class at SPC this summer and am eager to find some of the things we are learning about. Our first stop of the trip was St. Louis. We stayed out at Casino Queen across the river. We were shocked to see the flood stages of the Mississippi River and how much was underwater near the St. Louis Arch.

We visited Lone Elk Park again. This is always a favorite on the list. They had a photography session at the park when we were there so they put food out for the animals close to the road to ensure you could get good photos. 
We saw more Elk then ever! The bison were waiting at the gate. Mom bravely drove in very slowly. After the park we went to the Wild Bird Sanctuary but a lot of the birds werent out yet since the weather was chilly. We made up for the missing birds by having fun. We even saw a captive HUMAN! We stopped off at the NPS Grant’s home. We took a tour, learned a lot about Ulysses S Grant as a person and president. Julia Grant on homeschooling! We earned another NPS Jr. Ranger badge. Then off to the City Museum for a day of chaos climbing and cookies. The art center moved and it didnt seem as fun but was still cool. Dad was sad his favorite machine was broken, this is the one he pushed the button on that may or may not have started the smoking disaster of a few years ago. I think we all got hurt in the skateless park. We certainly wore ourselves out! Mom took us to the zoo one day while Dad worked. We loved the cooler weather and overcast skies. What a break from the Florida heat. I thought this was hilarious! It was a box that someone shipped a live coral snake in! Never too old for the carousel!
Well, maybe not!

Checking out the various hives at the Monsanto Insect House.
I inquired about African Giant Millipedes and this awesome staff member came out and brought these for me to see! All about the insects! I think I want this giant puppet but it was $80!
We went out to custard one night and got some to go as well. They packed it in dry ice which led to more interest in playing with the dry ice than eating the custard. Our campsite in relation to the St. Louis Arch. We checked out the science center and new Ag display. I think the harvester was a little big for my liking! Driving the Mars lander looking for life on Mars. I was in charge of the drill to check for minerals and chemicals in the rocks. Checking out some classic video games. We went to the Budweiser Bottling Facitily. Emmerson got a HUGE Clydesdale horseshoe ! We saw the horses. We saw the old wagons and coaches they used to develiver their products. We saw the Beechwood Aged Cellars where they brew the beer. The barrels were MASSIVE! they had 72 of them! The entire facility was ornately decorated. This was the bottling part of the tour. We could see thousands of bottles whipping by on the belts below. I said the whole thing made me think of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was cool yet creepy. We learned more about the process and what goes into brewing the beer. Mom and Dad, who aren’t beer drinkers, tasted a few samples. The consensus was that they are not beer drinkers! St. Louis wore me out. I was completely tuckered and slept most of the travel saw towards South Dakota.

Crazy Week Before Departure

I have been busy wrapping up my SPC classes for the term. Still holding on to my 4.0 grade point average. I hope to apply to the honors college and start taking a few honors classes in the fall. Mom and Emmerson have been keeping me fueled with donuts. I snuck away from studying to enjoy the end of the year 4-H party at the ice skating rink at the mall. We had a lot of fun and skated for hours until we all his blisters from the worn out skates. I wore my big bang socks. The capes stuck out of theretop of the skates! Sad to see the original Earth Explorers fade away but happy to know my friends will be coming over to archery with us. We celebrated Ellis’s 8th birthday with lasertag and video games. We all had a wonderful time. Happy Birthday E!  We went to see the Avengers End Game. We did have to arrive early since the crows were expected to be huge. Glad we did, it was sold out, but we were first in line! We got a bit goofy waiting but passed the few hours quickly. Say HI to Nero. Isn’t he just the fluffiest! He has the softest fur out of all of the hamsters! Plus he is micro! He weights less than a ounce! I had to remove this frog from Luna. It must have hopped on when a palm frond came down. I netted it and went to show it to Emmerson and it quickly hopped out of the net and into the garage and hid in the shelves! I had to go study for my test, so Mom and E had to hunt it down and get it out of the garage! Success! We leave right after my final for my Chem lab this week. I get to exempt my Cham class final because I got As on all my quizzes and tests this term. That means extra time in St. Louis on the way north! 

Yard Work… Ugh

Dad said that the backyard needed cleaned up a little bit before we left on vacation this summer. We all went to work pulling out all the dead palm fronds. We haven’t done this in a few years because of the owls, but the owls haven’t been around lately. So it was time… I worked my butt off! Emmerson played but did help some. Mom and Dad kept pulling more out for the piles!

The resulting pile was MASSIVE! This isn’t all of it! I hauled the branches around for 4 hours! The yard looks amazing now! Oh, it was also Easter this weekend. We didn’t do much. Just hung out on Sunday and relaxed and build Legos. I did get an Ikea bunny, I had to assemble it myself! Well played Ikea!