South Dakota (continued)
One thing about all this stuff, I confess I would have forgot what days we did what, but GPS rocks. Since I marked a few points (like Donus, Home, Grandpa, "Mall", etc) and set my GPS to record where we went (then, of course, remembered to turn it on once in a while) and now I have a pretty good record of where we drove to, on what days, and at what time.
Anyway, Friday morning was pretty mellow (however I did go get donuts). Then in the afternoon we got a cool tour of a Cold Spring Granite quarry. They have a quarry about 6 miles out of town near a Dakota Granite quarry. We arrived and talked to Pam (one of Char's daughters) and her boss had agreed to take us on tour. He took us to one hole in the ground and we talked about how deep things get and how 85% of the rock is wasted. (I thought I was a perfectionist!!!) We watched as a big loader moved around some approximately 25-ton chunk of rock (his estimate not mine) and watched some drilling from afar. Then we talked a little about how the rock is cut out of the quarry and what the different jobs are that people were doing.
We then went to another quarry where we drove Sparky's truck down to the bottom to get a better look at the equipment and everything (GPS and our guide both said it was about 100 feet down and it was a really steep drive down). Needless to say it is noisy down there. The cool side is that everyone seems to have these little chairs or booths they can sit in and watch their equipment. Part of it is a "sound shield" and a lot of it is loud. On our way down some of the other workers on the radio indicated they where going to complete a blast. We got an explanation on the different kinds of blasts they do. Apparently, they do one to just knock rocks off the wall, but they also do ones where they blow stuff up just to get rid of rock. I confess I think that could be a pretty cool job – but I probably couldn't drink as much caffeine as I like to.
Anyway, we left before things started blowing up. I also found out that if you have a 4x4 you want to be in 4-wheel drive on the way out or the granite can shred your tires. Never thought of it before like that. We returned to the first hole and drove to the top of a waste pile (which GPS put at about 150ft high and I forgot to ask our guide). It was quite windy up there, but you could see forever. I foolishly didn't take a picture.
After getting home, some of Keith's hunting buddies stopped by and Keith and I went with them. Keith and Buddy got a few shots and got one pheasant. It's pretty funny the way the pheasants will come out to the road for rocks and everyone just drives around and looks for them.
That night we drove into town and ate at one of the local pizza places. I can't remember the name, but it was quite good and the people there were pretty cool. Not super busy or anything. Aiden, of course, ran all over the place. But since there weren't a lot of people in there it was fun to chase him around.
Of course, we picked up some decoys from one field that night on the way home and Keith kept them for the next day (he and Buddy were going hunting).
Saturday, morning, Keith went hunting. I'm pretty sure he came home with a goose. That afternoon we loaded up and went to the "mall" and then off to North Dakota!!!
We reached the SD/ND border along I-29 and went to the casino where Richard lost at everything he tried to do. Apparently gambling is not going to be one of my strong suits. Keith decided to try out one of the one-arm bandits and started with 3 coins, then 2 coins then 1 coin. Of course, on 1 coin he won $45. Eventually, they told me to get Aiden off the floor so I went to the front desk area and hung out for a while. In the meantime, Dawn started winning at black jack. She showed up with her winnings of 15 minutes (about $30) and I went and lost some before we decided to just go eat some lunch. All in all (and according to GPS) we stayed there about an hour and a half. Aiden loved the neon, lights, sounds and even the lobby where we waited for mom and Grandpa Keith. I believe this was the Dakota Magic Casino.
We headed out for Fargo. Everyone fell asleep and I drove. Funny thing about highways in ND (well, at least this one). It is kinda bumpy. Its all concrete (no asphalt toping like we have around here) and they go up and down a little too much. If you are in the slow lane it isn't too bad, but the fast lane at anything over 60 is just way too much bounce. Of course, being in a 3/4 ton truck probably didn't help much. But I stayed out of the fast lane most of the time (not much traffic).
When we arrived in Fargo, the first place we went looking for was the Harley store. I had noticed some signs on the way in that indicated where it was at and we headed in that direction. I marked a tourist information area on the GPS as we drove by and figured we would return to it.
In the Harley store, little Aiden picked a cute employee to flirt with and she stopped folding clothes and started playing with him. Soon he had quite a bit of attention from a few women. I confess that I would be more jealous if I was younger. He picks the hotties, too. I don't have a clue how he does it, but he always flirts with very attractive women. Of course, I didn't notice this at all until his mother said something about it the other day . We bought a few things (shirts, etc) and headed into town towards the INFO marker.
What we found first was a Krispy Kreme!!! So, knowing they may be coming to Medford, I had to stop. Poor Keith wasn't completely familiar with our vacation travel methods (more of a take a 3 year old attention span and put it in a 33 year old man and let him go nuts somewhere that he has never been). We made an order for a dozen. I was hoping to compare something to the Long Johns. NOPE!!! NOT EVEN CLOSE!!! I was sadly disappointed. I think we left about 8 untouched and they made it all the way back to Keith's where they sat on the counter hoping Sparky would take them. Who knows if it was just my expectations had become so incredibly high and there was no way they could win or what.
After Krispy Kreme, we drove by this Space Alien restaurant. Which is basically across the street. I had to stop there!!! Kinda a cool place they had various games and lots of kids running around which Aiden was really into watching. We had some drinks so that we could get space alien to-go sippy cups and then we headed out.
When we finally found the information center, it was closed. So we headed back home. Of course, we forgot to get gas. So on the way home we were looking for someplace because Clifford (Sparky's truck) was saying he had 30 miles or so. We ended up in Breckenridge (thanks in part to information on the GPS about the population of the town, etc). Also this would put us on 75 which we were told was a good way to go. Oh it definitely was. Asphalt toped road!!! Yeaaa. Much smoother.
Sunday morning we went to the "mall" to see about getting a mocha since there would be no fresh donuts this day. The mall was closed and we settled for yesterday's donuts (they still rock). Later we went out to Kevin's to watch the car races and drink beer. I ended up running back to the house to get Keith's laptop since it had all our pictures on it and never could hook it up to Kevin's broadband. I remember we'd had problems with the Ethernet port on Keith's computer, but I couldn't remember if we ever fixed it and apparently we didn't.
Emily and Aiden and I ran around making a bunch of noise and hitting each other with pillows and towels and had a bunch of fun. Dawn talked with the women at the table about Kevin's new house, life, cheese and whatever all else.
For supper (aka Dinner) we went to Keri's house where Aiden went back and forth between his parents and Emily and I continued to rough-house, make noise, pester normal folks and scream a bunch. We definitely made a bunch of noise and probably drove the regular people nuts!
I tried to do the family photo thing with everyone, but I forgot to get my camera out of Clifford when we arrived so when I did get it, it fogged up and was useless. Oh well.
I did get a few pictures later that night of Keith and Aiden.
14 hours later (aka Monday) we went to get donuts and headed to the mall for some mocha action. We also double checked for some interesting shirts for Aiden and looked around a little. Then we went looking for a geocache.
This was an odd little idea, but we figured it would be interesting to just drive around a little bit. I had downloaded exactly 2 geocaches for this expedition. The first one near Milbank identified as GC7806 was a private graveyard (I guess) that had been discovered recently in a clump of trees. We went there and explored the area, but never found anything.
We returned home where questions about our eBay adventures had shown up so we decided to get a lot more pictures of the tractor so that we could post answers. Then Keith, Sparky and I ran out to Big Stone City to get pictures of a motorcycle Sparky wants to sell.
Then we went to go see Grandpa for the last time before we returned home.
After that, we stopped by the Catholic Graveyard and took some pictures of some of the headstones here which include Dawn's grandmother's gravesite.
Around 3:30 Dawn, Aiden and I ran out to get some pictures at the South Dakota/Minnesota border of Aiden being in those states.
Then we headed back to the geocache to see if we could find anything else (sometimes with those it helps to go twice). We still didn't find it!!!
Realizing that it was getting late and I was going to have to try and get the picture data back home, we went into town to go to Nate's Net and instead ended up at Tyler's Computer Service. There after a quick conversation with Mrs. Tyler we returned home to grab the laptop and began transferring data via the compact flash cards. This allowed Mrs. Tyler to burn a CD. She rocked and was nice enough to finish the job after we left for dinner with Keith and Char.
Our last meal in the town of Milbank would be at the Lantern Inn. Aiden had to flirt with a waitress, but that was all to be expected. From here we ran back out to Kevin's for a last ditch effort to take some photos of family.
Then we had an old fashion, authentic, South Dakotan, child-toss.
These turned out great and by the time we left it was getting too late to stop off at Keri's house. So we returned to Keith's, packed all the bags, and went to bed.
Next morning we headed out to Watertown. When we got close we decided we had enough extra time to look for the 2nd geocache that I had downloaded. This one apparently contained a travel bug that was hoping to go to Oregon. It had no restrictions regarding it's method of travel (sometimes people prefer their bugs only visit by ground) so we figured we would search it out.
This geocache, GC76B9, was easily found (probably won't be once it snows). Keith and I returned to Clifford with the prize in tow and discovered that a fellow cacher by the name of "Cash Machine" had recovered the prized bug only 3 days earlier. We instead took a small game and left an Oregon hat that Keith still had. Then we drove around looking for some good coffee.
When we did make the plane all was good and grand and Aiden was seeming to get kinda accustomed to this flying thing. We left Watertown for Minneapolis/St. Paul on time and everything was going great. In Minneapolis/St. Paul we goofed off for a while knowing we would have some hours to kill. We quickly grabbed a bite to eat at some pizza stand then decided on dessert/whatever at TGI Friday's. Aiden wondered around the restaurant a little bit with his dad in close tow. He played some hide-n-seek games with one of the employees and we eventually got on our plane.
This plane poked along towards Seattle via Wyoming and a few other odd areas at the incredibly fast speed of about 310 mph. All this did was make us incredibly late. I asked the only male flight attendant if the fact that it was 4:30, we still hadn't landed, and our connecting flight leaves at 5:00 if that was a problem or could we do something about it. He indicated they would hold the flight and it wasn't a problem at all. Since our flight would be through gate C10 or whatever, just go to the Shuttle gate 1/16 and get on the bus to go to the main area. Foolishly thinking that he was a knowledgeable person, I agreed with him and thought nothing off it, at first. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. When was the last time you saw a flight being held? Last one that came to my mind was the time then President Clinton got a hair cut on Air Force One! Was this guy kidding?!? Obviously we would have to hurry. I let Dawn know I thought he was nuts and we explained some of our situation to nearby passengers, all of who were sympathetic and happy to let us go ahead of them.
We ran to the bus, ran off the bus, ran to our gate and the lady told us they had just given up our tickets! Oh joy. There was the plane still connected, not left, door wasn't closed, they were still loading passengers, and we were not allowed on. Why? Because, although we were standing right there ready as ever to board, our tickets had been handed off to someone else!!! My personal thinking is that I had paid Northwest/Alaska Airlines X amount of dollars and now, because our Northwest pilot thought we should have a Sunday drive I was going to be stuck in Seattle forever. The lady at the gate told us to go to Special Services counter. Annoyed, pissed off, and generally not as happy as I could have been, we went down the concourse to the Special Services desk.
Dawn started to tell the story, but just started crying in frustration. Deciding in my own little mind that this wasn't getting us anywhere I asked her to let me handle this one. The Alaska airlines guy working the desk was brilliant. He consistently reminded me of the fact that our flight was late and that it was a Northwest flight. This conveniently directed my anger, frustration and general sense of hatred towards Northwest and away from him. He found a flight 4+ hours later with seats scattered on the plane (not that it matters since they aren't big planes), but at least on a plane. Now we would get home about 11pm instead of 6:30pm. We were directed to go talk to the Northwest counter agent about the connecting flight difficulties (note this is on the other side of security)
At the Northwest counter, I explained the situation drawing particular attention to the jerk that told us "no worries, they'll hold the flight". The sympathetic counter agent offered us the wonderful gift package for our troubles. This consisted of a $5 phone card (who doesn't have a cell phone these days) and a $5 off any meal in the airport. I almost lost it. Here we are in an airport about to kill 4+ hours with an infant that has been up since 3am local time and you want to give us a $5 gift certificate for food and a $5 phone card that I'll never use. Are you nuts?!? Do you not have children?!? Is this on some flowchart behind the counter and I now have to say the magic words for you to get realistic?!?
I filled out a comment card saying something along the lines of the following: "If we are supposed to, by Federal Law, obey these flight attendants, I would strongly recommend training them not to lie to the flying public. This could certainly create a situation whereby a group of passengers could get fed up with the lies and beat the crap out of the flight attendants and do whatever they wanted." I took the wonderful gift package and left.
We went back through security where the nice guard "recommended" I take off my shoes before passing through the gate. Grrr. We went into a restaurant and sat down, opened a menu and discovered that the only thing less than or equal to $5 was a salad (dressing would be extra – not really, but sarcasm was on special at that moment). I ordered a double Skyy martini up with a twist. It came on the rocks. With two olives. I had to laugh.
At this point, I called Barbara to let her know we might just extend our vacation, get a hotel for the night, rent a car, drive around Seattle and make our way slowly back home. She said it sounded like fun, don't worry about a thing everything looked good. We laughed. I cried on the inside. I hung up and ordered another drink it came screwed up again.
Dawn, being the sober one, recommended that we try to get on the plane and see what happens if it doesn't work out, we'll get a room and go from there. I ordered a pizza (they make me fat, but it is a weakness). Aiden played for a little while and was getting very tired. We wondered around the airport and bought a few of those tall shot glasses (I love those things) and a little Seattle outfit for Aiden.
When we returned to the new gate to kill a little time, they announced that the plane was running late and that they hoped to have everyone on board about 30 minutes late. I called Dad since he was picking us up at the airport and let him know that Alaskan Airlines had lost their plane and through no fault of their own had created a huge rift of stupidity in the world. This had reached a critical mass and developed into a singularity centered on our approximate location. The event horizon was apparently somewhere outside of Seattle and all intelligent thought was being sucked into it and compressed into some kind of stupidity that would prevent anyone from being able to actually get us home. I hoped that he would remember us when we were intelligent and that we would try to get out of the black hole.
A while later (I wasn't able to read my digital watch anymore) someone announced in a loud voice "Plane, plane, plane" over and over. We formed a line like small lemmings and walked into a big hallway. Evidently we had boarded the plane and left the vortex of hell behind.
Upon landing (at 11:40 – now a little over 5 hours later than planned) the wonders continued, 2 out of 4 of our bags were there. Needless to say at nearly midnight there aren't a lot of people running around the huge Medford airport waiting to see if they can help you find your luggage. Fortunately, the guy that unloaded the luggage came through a door and I asked if there was any more he might be hiding back there. He said no and that he would be at the counter shortly to help us fill out some nice forms for lost luggage. Oh, I love this stuff.
We went to the counter and a lady came out (whoa, two employees) and asked if she could help us. We explained the situation and described our luggage as she checked for the proper paperwork. She then disappeared where she apparently played a few games of solitaire and re-applied her nail polish before realizing that the two suitcases next to her were similar to the description we gave her. We collected our stuff and went home.
I would say that all in all our vacation rocked up until the very end when we had to rely upon the competence of numerous monkeys who have, through a series of random actions, created a system commonly known as an airline. South Dakota actually was quite fun and very relaxing.