Quite the cast of characters | SD Camping Trip Part I

Our two eldest kids are in the midst of studying U.S. history–one of my passions, as well. ‘Perfect time to take our *new* camper to the “other Dakota.”

We met some great characters.

First stop, of course, was Wall Drug. I’ve always loved the story of how billboards for free ice water salvaged a young family’s business in remote Wall, S.D.  Read the story here. Today, the billboards help pass the miles. And look who was there when we did stop in:

Julia and a Jackalope
Truth in Advertising
The 100's of miles of billboard advertising held true.

 “Rabbit” City

We set up camp at the Rapid City KOA, a tidy, cozy, convenient place on the edge of this pretty town. Caroline was devastated, a few days later, to learn it wasn’t “Rabbit City.” We’d see lots of bunny friends on our hikes around the campground, and it seemed to fit : )!
Character breakfast
Far more unique than Disney-style, we had personalized pancakes from Cowboy John each morning. A real-life bronc and bull rider and now a cowboy poet, John grills up all you can eat flapjacks every morning. Edible creations:
The girls and their horses | That's Cowboy John in the background.
For those of you who don't know, Matt wears 1 of 3 shirts. Two are red Chicago Blackhawks Jonathan Toews versions; One is the same T, in black. Cowboy John did the logo on a whole new medium!
The kids loved devising new shapes for Cowboy John to grill. He never disappointed. A few more:
for Soccer Girl Julia
Hoops action
George, Tom, Theodore & Abe
The morning after our rodeo experience, Cowboy John told Matt and I about his bull-riding adventures. During one ride in Calgary, the bull broke its leg and landed on John, leaving him in a coma for 8 days. When he did wake up, his first words: “Is the bull okay?”  Old West tale? Maybe, but it made for a great breakfast conversation.
 
Evening poetry
Two evenings during our stay, John shared stories, poems and songs. Caroline and I snuggled up for the first show; Greg even went with me the next show (!). More about Cowboy John.
 
Pool in the backyard = date nights
Literally. The pool was in our backyard, and the kids met friends there from all over the United States, Canada and Europe. They played tag and other games all over the campground, while Greg and I had a little “date” campfireside. Nice.
 
Yeeee-haawwwww!
 Part of the reason we chose this time for this trip was the PRCA Black Hill Roundup in Belle Fourche. It was a great way to spend Independence Day. Cowboy and ranch life is all about truth, justice and the American Way. Of course the festivities all began with a parade:
 
We’d never seen so many horses — and the kids have never scooped up so much candy!
 
Ro-de-oh
Then it was off to the Rodeo Grounds, adjacent to the baseball field, where we imagined Twins player and Belle Fourche native Jason Kubel learning his craft! Must’ve been tough to wield a bat in spikes when most boys wielded a rope in boots…
 
Matt, always the ultimate compromiser, at our trail ride later in the week:
 
After a very moving, patriotic opening ceremony, including a flyover by a hometown boy in his B1-B before he goes back for another tour in Iraq, the rodeo began. First up: bronc riding. I had more fun watching the kids’ faces. They had fun taking it all in, from the clown to the behind-the-scenes manueuvering. The highlight: After 58 riders had tried, 1 cowboy from Texas stayed on his 8 seconds and won $10,000. What a character!

Ain’t our first rodeo (well, Julia’s second…)

As Greg and I watched fireworks on the hills around our campground during an evening hike, the kids played in the pool. Again. They also had some serious checkers games at the huge board:

By bedtime, we were all lookin’ to the next day, fixin’ to take in s’more western action…

Caroline in her parade souvenier: Tshirt from DFL Senate Candidate Stephanie

Next up: Deadwood.

….post to come…. 

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