Friday, June 24, 2011

6/24/2011 Hail, Hail, The Gang’s All…..


It was during out afternoon Mexican Train game that we noticed the breeze had picked up a little but it felt good. Then we noticed dark clouds off in the distance but they were far enough away we didn’t pay too much mind.

A little further into the late afternoon game the clouds got closer and darker and we were keeping a closer eye on them and we started playing a tad bit faster and talking a little less to insure we get our game in. Of course people started coming in off the road for a night or a stay and I used the dark clouds to my benefit. I met them at the street and told them what site to go to, to get set up before the storm came and then come back and get signed in. They thought I was the best thing since sliced bread! Little did they know they were interrupting my game and I have my priorities!

Overnighters were starting to come in one after the other, evidently they were listening to the radio, which we weren’t, and they knew to get off the road.

By now we are well aware a storm is coming and we shut the game down because we all had to batten down the hatches back at our rigs.


Some still had awnings out and once we got word from Outdoor Rec that we had 50 + mph coming the four camp hosts got it in gear and started going door to door to let the campers know what was coming. It’s times like these I’m glad we only have 30 sites.

Everything secure, I went to the office in case someone else came in. Bob was over at Gary and Shari’s, in all probability, talking about yet another storm coming our way.

I was standing in the door way and I heard a sound that I can only describe as a cue ball hitting another ball at the other end of the pool table. A sharp crack sound. Then I heard it again. And again. I couldn’t figure out what it was. I stepped out and yelled over to the three, “What’s that noise?” Before they could respond, I figured out the answer. Hail! Big hail hitting the road. I took a picture of the first one that landed close to me.


Bob ran home to pull the slides in but it was too late. The hail was coming down faster now. (double click to enlarge picture)


The noise was deafening. I had no idea what was to come or why the noise was so incredibly loud.

Gary & Shari ran over to get inside the cinder block building.

And it came down even harder.


Bob said when the hail was coming down the hardest all he could do was go to the fridge pull out a beer and sit back and wait it out. He said the noise inside the rig was just unbelievable. So loud. He said that had I been in there with him we would not have been able to hear each other talk and that in fact he was glad I was in the office because he knows it would have scared me badly being inside the 5th wheel.



Look at how big some of the hail was….look at the back leg of the tripod under the hitch….you can see one really big one.



Below are ones that have broken apart once they hit.


When I opened the front door, the pics above were taken from the back door, this is what I found.


Gary picked one up for size. Now not all of them were this size of course, but I can tell you a lot of them were!


Can you imagine the damage this has caused? I can tell you that not one RV/truck/car came through this hail storm without damage. Most had shattered vent covers on the roof of the RV’s. I don’t know how, but ours came through just fine. Lots of awnings had cuts in the material that was exposed in the rolled up position. Again, ours came through just fine. I think this happened to others and not us because our rig is new and our plastic vents haven’t spent years in the sun and our material on our awning is still strong. Our truck didn’t fare so well. We have a broken red light cover and dents. A lot of dents. Tiny. Small. Dents.

I found out after the storm and when everyone else was out that the deafening sound I heard was the storm coming towards us and the hail hitting the metal roofs on all the buildings on the base, they all have them. It sounded like three freight trains coming at us at once.

Jerry and Valerie, new friends of ours, were at the dining hall having dinner and they said watched out the big windows and saw this guy on a motorcycle stop under a tree, lay his bike down (I guess because of the wind) and go into a nearby building. He has to have so many bruises! I can’t imagine how much that would hurt being pounded by big hail. Thinking about the direction he was driving, he had to be riding into it. I sure hope his helmet had a face mask. Or maybe it WOULD be better without that mask.

We had heard about these hail storms in these parts but were really hoping we woudn’t experience one.

The local RV parts stayed open late because they had lots of calls about people needing vent covers, tarps and the such.

Hopefully this is our last storm like this. We are near our breaking point as far as this weather is concerned.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

6/23/2011 It’s BBQ Time in the FamCamp

There is a group of us here in the FamCamp that have gotten rather friendly. The women play Mexican Train during the day and we sit around in the evenings until the mosquitoes are so bad they drive us indoors. If one of us runs to the Commissary we ask the others if they need anything. We’ve formed a very nice little community.

We’ve been having some crazy weather lately and we’ve been wanting to have a BBQ for our group so we’ve been watching the weather for a nice day. The weatherman said Thursday was going to be nice, so we put the word out to the five couples, bring your meat and a dish to share.

It was beautiful today, sunny, warm, calm winds, nothing more than a gentle breeze.

At 5:30 everyone started gathering at our place.


Bob and Linda are from New York, he wants to full time,,,,she doesn’t want to leave the grandchildren.


At six the grills were fired up. Everything from steaks to pork chops to hot dogs to Italian sausage was cooked. Jerry turned out to be very good at the grill, mine came off perfectly cooked!


We had cheesy potatoes, cucumber salad, deviled eggs, macaroni salad, a tossed salad, a cheese/pineapple casserole, a veggie tray and I can’t remember what else. We ate like kings! As usual at these types of gatherings we had too much food.

Co-camp host Shari on the right and my new friend Valerie, married to Jerry above.


A good time was had by all and we’re already planning our 4th of July celebration and few other specialty dinners.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

6/22/2011 FamCamp is Expanding

The Famcamp here at Ellsworth Air Force Base has thirty full hook-up spaces and room to comfortably FIT twenty two tent sites. Needless to say that during Sturgis Week the tent site area over flows and they somehow expand it to forty sites. I can’t wait to see this!

Right now there is construction going on here during the day building seven new pull thru sites. The thirty sites already in place are back-ins.


Ellsworth has plans of eventually putting in eighteen new sites, all pull thru’s. Pull thru’s are good news for the motorhomes with tow dollies on the back that tow their cars because you can’t (shouldn’t) back up with your car still attached.


Hopefully, these will be functional by mid-July.


We do seem to have one big problem with our time here. Somehow, someway, someone screwed up the grass cutting contract for the Famcamp. Instead of having it cut when it reaches a height of 4 to 6 inches the contract reads 10 – 12 inches. Yes, the grass here is a foot high! Or nearly so. Everyone complains to us about the high grass and we in turn complain to Outdoor Rec. Its getting us nowhere. Our next calls are going to have to go the Base Commander if we hope to get this rectified. In fact, there is a new Base Commander and there will be a base inspection coming up shortly so you can bet the grass will be cut even if its only 8 inches high. Do I need to tell you how bad the mosquitoes are with all the rain we’ve been having and tall grass that never completely dries out. It’s the perfect breeding ground. When it comes to this we are not happy campers!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

6/21/2011 We Have a Garden…Almost

Bob was busy working on the house keeping up with maintenance things today since it was overcast and cloudy with a chill in the air.

This afternoon I took a ride into to town with Shari and while running errands we stopped at Lowe’s. There were some things in the garden department I wanted to pick up. Namely, veggie plants.

I bought a Better Boy tomato plant that was pretty big to begin with, a cherry tomato plant and two cayenne pepper plants.

Two weeks ago I bought two flower boxes and planted radishes and butter head lettuce.


My lettuce is just starting to peek through.


I just love fresh picked tomatoes!


Yep, its got tomatoes on it already!


Our cherry tomato and pepper plants.


I’ll plant them all in five gallon buckets, or larger if there is such a thing. Lowe’s had buckets but they were still in storage and I couldn’t wait for them to get them out. The plants are fine in these containers for the time being so I’ll get them the next time we go to town.

Monday, June 20, 2011

6/20/2011 Furniture Shopping

Bob wasn’t feeling really good when he got up this morning so we decided to not go on any sightseeing excursions today.

Towards the afternoon he started feeling better and suggested we go look for new chairs for the 5th wheel. So off we went to Rapid City. We visited five different furniture stores and sat in so many chairs it wasn’t funny.

With each store we went to we learned at little bit more from each salesperson as to what to look for as far as construction, material, mechanisms (we are recliner shopping) are concerned. With all this knowledge now we found the chairs we want. Actually, make that chair, singular. We’re going to replace our two pieces of junk that came with this 5th wheel with one well made chair and an end table and a lamp.

We found one chair that we both liked in the first store we went to. It was a recliner but it didn’t look like your typical huge, overstuffed reclining chair. It was simple and sleek and indeed did recline and was very comfortable. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a wall hugger which is what we want. It’s not off our short list though.

The next two stores had nothing that even remotely interested us and we didn’t spend long in either of those stores. However, the 4th store had a chair that Bob just fell in love with. I hated it. Don’t get me wrong, it was a beautiful chair but it was so darn big it would have sat a family of six comfortably! I had a hard time convincing Bob that the chair just wouldn’t fit with our small home. Finally, with the aid of a tape measure he saw the light.

In the fifth store we hit the jackpot. We had sat in a lot of chairs in this last store and nothing appealed to us until we were walking out of the store and in a living room suite that was set up we saw another recliner that wasn’t in the regular recliner chair department. Bob sat in and announced, “This is it! This is the one I want.” So we found a chair and I have my eye on an end table I saw in another store. We have to find a lamp and we’re set. The saleslady said it was new stock for the store and it could very well go on sale in the next few weeks. We’ll keep an eye on it and when it does we’ll pounce on it.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

6/17–6/19/2011 Back to Work

Its our three days on again. Each day the park fills up a little bit more so this tells us that the vacation season is starting.

Bob and I have figured out a work schedule that works for us since we both don’t have be on duty at the same time.

During the week we get up between 6:30 and 7:00. Usually closer to seven. We have a our normal morning routines and at eight he walks out the door to go open the office and the laundry room. A half hour later I’m out the door and I head to the laundry room to play a game of Hand and Foot on the folding table with Shari, my co-worker. Around ten or so I take care of what I have to do in the ladies room and I make sure the laundry room is in good order and then its home for me. I spend the next hour and twenty minutes doing household stuff.

The office shift happens at noon when I go the office and Bob goes home. I’ll take my laptop over most days with me and play Scrabble or read the blogs I follow or even write this one, There isn’t much going on in the office until later afternoon. In fact, most afternoons at two the friends I’ve made here in the park and who have been here for the last two weeks gather at the picnic table under the tree and play a game of Mexican Train.


The daytime weather has changed for the better and the temperatures are getting where I like them.


The office is at its busies between 8 – 10 in the morning when people are leaving, extending their stay and leaving. It picks up again around 4 when people are coming in to get off the road and that continues until 6 when the office closes.

I’ll keep the office going until five when Bob comes back so that I can go home and get started on dinner. So that is pretty much our day here in the FamCamp.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

6/16/2011 Journey Museum

After visiting Chapel in the Hills yesterday we went to the Journey Museum.


I took note of this unusual bird house on our way in.


Now I have to be honest with you, sometimes we make bad choices. After we paid our entrance fee and were in this museum for about 15 minutes Bob looked at me and said, “Snook, it’s a beautiful day outside, one of the few we’ve had, what the hell are we doing in here? We should have saved this for a rainy day.” It was truly a palm meet forehead realization. “Well, we already paid the sixteen bucks, we might as well see it now” was our justification for wasting a great afternoon for being outdoors.

We went to the first exhibit which was titled The Duhamel Exhibit. We stayed in this part of the museum a lot,,,read that as A LOT, longer than we anticipated because the volunteer there wouldn’t let us leave. She was a sweet lady and told us some great stories of years gone by but she went on and on and on. The woman was in tears at one point telling one of her stories. It was too much for me. So we learned a lesson here, do NOT go into a museum exhibit when you are the only ones there. Wait for a crowd to walk in with, and leave when they do. All kidding aside, she was very sweet and interesting. Just long-winded.

So back to the Duhamel’s. If I’m going to tell you about this I guess I had better start at the beginning.

Peter Duhamel, a Canadian by birth, (1838) came to America with an abundance of ambition and $70.00 in his pocket seeking fame and fortune. He worked tirelessly building a cattle empire which turned into a banking empire which became a downtown Rapid City business called the Duhamel/Ackerman Company. It eventually became the Duhamel Company which operated the Duhamel Trading Post.


Peter and his wife, Katrina, had eight children including son, Alex, who ran the Duhamel Company in its early days. Their daughter-in-law Helen, a natural businesswoman, was instrumental in getting the company through the lean years of the Depression. Two more generations would work in the now iconic store but their interests also shifted to radio and television broadcasting.


Duhamels was famous for their saddles. They were made in the basement of the building and they made more than any other saddle maker in western South Dakota. There were approximately 15 different models and each was hand tooled and customized to the buyer.


Duhamel saddles were made from the early 1900’s to the early 1950’s and were touted as the “best on earth”. Many cowboys and ranchers agreed. Records weren’t kept so no one knows how many were made.

In 1985 discount stores (think Walmart’s, K-Mart’s and the like) were cutting into the profits of the Duhamel Trading Post. To compete, the quality of merchandise would have had to be brought down a notch or two or three and this is something that was just not acceptable to this company. They held a sale -- the first since the Depression -- and eventually went out of business.

Their photographed and cataloged collection of 1000 + Indian arts and crafts was donated to the city. The collection was given to the Minnilusa Pioneer Museum for curating purposes. When the Journey Museum was built in 1997 the Minnilusa Pionner Museum was designated as one of the entities within the larger museum and this is how this extensive Indian collection became a part of the Journey.

Not all 1000+ pieces of the collection are on display and I certainly didn’t take photos of everything that is, but here is a sampling of this extensive collection.

The beadwork on this clothing is so intricate and I couldn’t see any beads that looked crooked or out of place.


The top of this child's dress is done in beads. No spaces between them that I could see. I can only imagine how heavy this dress would be for the little girl who would wear it.



The Story of the Broken Rope Panels


The picture you see above is one of a series of paintings made in Duhamels Trading Post by artist Godfrey Broken Rope.


Broken Rope, having overcome an addiction to alcohol, became a self-made minister of the gospel.


He traveled throughout the western states in the 1950’s demonstrating his self taught style of painting using muted tones of house paint on wallboard.


He expressed his philosophy on art, life and spirituality by saying, “I do not speak the white man’s lingo unless you want to buy a picture. But if you want to talk about Jesus Christ I will stop my painting and visit with you.”


These panels were painted directly on the walls of the store and when it closed they were carefully cut from the walls and preserved in the Duhamel Collection.


Duhamel Trading Post staffers, often Duhamel family members themselves, told tourists the story of the Battle of Little Big Horn by referencing the painted panels.

We were finally able to break away from the kind lady who was protecting with her life overseeing the collection.

From the Duhamels we went to dinosaurs.


W don’t really have a fascination with dinosaurs so we just kinda, sorta took it all in as we strolled through this section.

The next exhibit was all about Indians of this land and how they lived.

Again, not a lot of interest from us on this exhibit, its like ,,,see one tee-pee you’ve seen em’ all.


However, this one was a little different. You sat on the benches in front of this one a hologram would appear, in this case an Indian woman, and she tells you about life back in the day.


We were just so anxious to get back outside we rushed through the stuffed animal exhibit, well, not really stuffed animals as one thinks of stuffed animals, think taxidermy. Same with the geology exhibit, rocks and dirt, no interest.

Journey is a nice museum and would have been much more appreciated on a rainy day.

The day isn’t over yet!

We have come to learn that dinosaurs are a huge thing in this area. Bones and fossils are always being dug up around here. It seemed only logical that we would take in the Dinosaur Park next.


So we climbed the steps, what seemed like hundreds of them because they were so darn steep.


Had I known I wasn’t going to see anything more than cement dinosaurs in much need of paint jobs…..



We certainly did enjoy our day away from the FamCamp.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

6/15/2011 Chapel In the Hills

Before I get into this day’s adventure let me tell you this first….



The littlest robin flew away today. The adult birds were on the ladder constantly trying to coax it out and finally it took to flight. As soon as we noticed it Bob ran out and took the nest down and removed the ladder.

So today we had a perfect day weather wise. The absolute bluest of blue skies, an occasional puffy WHITE cloud and the temps soared to a very comfortable 82 degrees.

We had a plan in place and after stopping to pick up our mail we were on our way.

First stop….Precision Eyeware to pick up my new prescription sunglasses. Wow! Trees aren’t just a green mass anymore, there are individual leaves!

Now to our day’s adventure. First up was….


We drove up the tree lined lane and took in the perfectly manicured lawn. Not a dandelion to be found here. However, its said that the grounds are well maintained but not perfect because we are not a perfect people. The "unperfect" parts must on another part of the acreage because we sure couldn't see it.

Our first glimpse of the Chapel in the Hills.


The parking lot was all but empty and we were greeted by Linda, dressed in Norwegian garb at the "Stabbur," which is an authentic grass-roofed store house, built in Norway and assembled on site. It serves as the visitor center and gift shop.


Linda points out the intricate woodwork on the building to Bob.


Linda was very informative and answered any question we threw her way. You can just tell she enjoys volunteering here. A peek inside the gift shop gave us a look at things, books and pictures with a Scandinavian theme. We didn’t see anything that was calling our name so we left without purchasing anything.

The next building we went to was the Museum.


We were greeted at the door by Ole….


….and Elena


This log cabin was built and owned by Mr. Edward Nielsen of Norway was born in 1843. Mr. Nielsen came to the Black Hills in 1876 in hopes of striking it rich while prospecting for gold. His home was originally built in Palmer Gulch. He died in 1925 and is now resting in a cemetery in Hill City, not too far from Rapid City.

In 1987, the log cabin was bought at an auction and dismantled, moved to its present location and reassembled by volunteers.

The museum is dedicated to those of Scandinavian descent who brought a part of their heritage with them to America. By using their skills with wood, they designed and built the furniture and tools for use in their homes. While no home would have all the things displayed in the one room museum, everything is something that would be found in a village or settlement of Norwegian, Danish or Scandinavian immigrants.

A look inside….



I bet with good padding on the seat this chair would comfortable.


Now I don’t know who chose the mannequin in the picture below but somehow,,,it just doesn’t fit in. I don’t know if it’s the expression on its face, and maybe its just me, but this young guy looks to be having a real hissy fit to me. Do you see it?


Did you catch in the beginning of this post that the gift shop building was described as grass roofed? Well, that’s how they built them back then, I’m assuming for insulation.


I wonder if you have to water your roof in the summer? Would it have dandelions?


It was now time to move on to the Chapel itself.

This beautiful Chapel is an exact replica of the 850 year old Borgund Stavkirke located near Laerdal, Norway. The Norwegian government gave permission and supplied the architectural drawings for the chapel.


This Chapel was built as the home for the Lutheran Vespers radio program and was completed in 1969. The Chapel sits on 30 mostly treed acres along with the original house which housed the radio studio and traditional Norwegian stabbur, or storehouse for those of you not up on your Norwegian vocabulary.

In the picture below you see the front door or what is known in this culture, the men’s door. Women and children entered a door on the side of the building, and once inside, the men stood on one side and the women and children on the other. Just a sign of those times.


The intricate carvings on the building were done by master carvers in Norway to match those of the original Stavkirke and shipped here.


If you look carefully at the picture above you will notice the carving is of snakes and dragons representing the battle between good and evil. The Vikings, being pagans, considered dragons to be good luck and is why dragons are on the prow of their ships.

The dragon heads on the Chapel are also from the pagan beliefs. The newly converted Christians were not quite ready to leave all their beliefs behind but the fact that the crosses outnumber the dragon heads proves their confidence in Christianity.


There are 16,000 shingles on this roof.


The extraordinary amount of craftsmanship is evident in every shingle, carving and stave in place. The pieces were not only cut and put in place, each one was molded for its structural function. Even I could appreciate the talent that went into building this church.



Inside? Wood. Nothing but wood.



This is a close-up of the men’s door.


The door locks are an exact replica of the original Borgund locks. The large ring on the front door served two purposes. First it was a doorknocker and it was also known as a Sanctuary Ring. At the time the Borgund church was built outlaws could be killed by anyone, but if the outlaws could get to the church and grip the ring no one could touch them. Folklore says many outlaws starved to death holding the ring!

Although this church has no congregation church services are held every night for anyone who wants to attend during the season. The church is only open from early to May to late September. During this short season about a hundred weddings will take place here. If you are inviting 250 guests this place is not for you. The church seats only 70 on low wooden benches. They do rent chairs if you are having a larger wedding on the beautiful grounds.

The bell tower in the back of the church.


Random shots.




Bob and I thoroughly enjoyed our time here at Chapel in the Hills.