Saturday, September 22, 2007

Invisible Buffalo

Invisible Buffalo
Originally uploaded by fairygodmotherchristy

Very pretty but I prefer my buffalo visible. Really.

Who You Callin Turkey?

Who You Callin Turkey?
Originally uploaded by fairygodmotherchristy

More from Custer

Custer State Park

Custer State Park
Originally uploaded by fairygodmotherchristy

Mule Deer

Vacation Wrap Up

The last two days of vacation, I started jotting things on the Treo for later blogging. The time has come to post:

  • I highly encourage a visit to this area; it's one of the standard trips every American family should make as there's really nothing quite like this part of the world: Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer National Park and the surrounding towns. There's something for everyone from the hardiest 'outdoorsy' type to the couch potatoes who prefer to pull up to the curb of the next attraction. The communities around Rushmore and Rapid City really know how to entertain you (and separate you from your money).

  • Mount Rushmore itself has been updated. Though I miss the old cafeteria of North By Northwest fame, people of any age and ability can move around the site easily and appreciate the monument. The drive in from Rapid is beautiful but the Custer highway has some tunnels specifically designed to frame the mountain as you emerge. Very spectacular.

  • The motel in Gillette lacked such amenities as working A/C and clean bathrooms and sheets. I'm sorry to say I missed the highlight of the facilities, the shower in the kids' room. Cheryl reported that the shower curtain smelled 'like Will farted!' Will declared he had done no such thing but agreed the curtain did have a certain tang. I wouldn't recommend it to anybody so will not link to it here.

  • The Grand Gateway Hotel in Rapid City was nicely decorated, comfortable, clean and fun for everybody. Two for one bar drinks for Mom and Dad went along nicely with swimming for the kids. The pool area even had a 130ft water slide into the dinosaur footprint shaped pool!

  • Mount Rushmore National Park's surrounding forests were decimated a few years ago during an especially bad fire season (or two). Though I had delivered a lecture not thirty minutes previously about the life cycle of forests and how forest fires are a natural part of this process, I still cried when I saw the devastation. I hadn't been to the area since I was 17 and had forgotten about the fires. I cannot believe how different the area looks. I did feel much better the next day in Custer State Park, where everything was as I remember (except for those Invisible Buffalo.. read on).
  • When playing the License Plate Game, the parking lots of major National Monuments are fabulous. At Mt. Rushmore, I was declared the winner (by my own authority) when I found one from Alberta, Canada.

  • The area around Rushmore also is the summer home of a number of visiting international students. We were served ice cream by kids from Poland and Russia. Our darling redheaded waitress in Keystone was named Ieva (pronounced Eva) and came from Lithuania. My mother's family being from that area, she could have been a distant cousin judging by her coloring and facial structure (and willingness to talk!).

  • Custer State Park is very pretty at dusk, as you drive along the wildlife loop. You can enjoy the wild turkeys, mule deer and buffalo. It's fairly secret right now, but we imagine sometime in the next few years, they'll announce something new.. which we may have been the first to discover: INVISIBLE BUFFALO! You can't see 'em but you know they're there by the chips, which are not invisible. In all seriousness, it was disappointing, but the closest we got to the big furry guys (aside from numerous signs warning about the danger of charging buffs), was about 1/2 mile away from a group of about 100.

  • At some point during nearly all visits with my parents, I find myself apologizing for something I did as a kid. This time it was giving the impression that I didn't enjoy the last trip to the area. Apparently, I was a little hard to read as a teen and perhaps slightly surly. The impression was that I hated every minute and was determined to spread the feeling. I corrected that forcefully: I've always remembered the area and what a great trip it was. I did manage to block out a shouting match in the car when I apparently told my parents to 'pull over' because I was going to 'walk home' which took place somewhere outside of New Castle, Wyoming (a couple hours BY CAR from my home at the time).

  • First Word to the Not-So-Wise: when dealing with highways in South Dakota and Nebraska, don't always trust your instincts. We took the more logical (but wrong) turn out of Hot Springs, South Dakota. As a result, we missed the turn back into New Castle or Torrington and ended up driving the width of Nebraska, North to South. We calculated that the drive itself worked out to be roughly the same number of miles, only a little bit longer drive time; state highways vs interstates. However, I HATE being lost and for about an hour, we were good and LOST.

  • Second Word to the Not-So-Wise: Do not be distracted by the tempting, fatty, salty glow of the giant M as you enter Chadron, Nebraska from the North. If you fall into McDonald's fast food clutches, you'll miss the turn for the ONLY HIGHWAY headed your way and might have to back track as far as ten miles after you discover you mistake. Not that we fell victim to such an obvious trap...

  • Third Word to the Not-S0-Wise: Even the best Sprint Broadband service doesn't work in the more rural areas of Southern South Dakota and most of Nebraska. Technology will get you lots of places but it's always a good idea to have a good ol' paper map for when Technology has 'No Service.'

Eric, you are correct, Sir. I got good mileage out of this event. I may even have one more post in me about everything I saw. Certainly I shall post a few pictures, as I can't figure out how to embed them from but have set up photo blogging from between Blogger and Flickr.

Stay Tuned!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wonderful Wyoming (Windy!) Wedding

Alex and Deena W___ were married at 2:00PM, August 31st, 2007 at a ranch that's been in Deena's family for six generations. It was hot, it was dusty, windy, it was beautiful! This is Wyoming, people!

I have no shots of the ceremony itself: the kids had a very talented photographer to do that for them and mine would pale by comparison, but I do have highlights and a few nice photos from the rehearsal dinner and the reception:
  • The setting: grazing land amongst the sweeping plains of North East Wyoming with a view of the Black Hills. The boys had created an arch of iron(?) with linked horseshoes for the couple to stand beneath. I didn't realize it until later, but the horseshoe motif was very clever, picture two horseshoes entwined, or crossing one another. The symbol of two becoming one works very well, it's also the first letter of their last name (W).
  • The Gents: four groomsmen dressed in black cowboy hats, top coats (Alex, correct me if I'm wrong, k?), vests, white shirts, black jeans and boots.To say it was sunny would be an understatement, no rain for our newly-weds' day. The must-have accessory turned out to be sunglasses.
  • The Ladies: a quartet of Deenas' closest friends, each with a pretty purple dress specially designed for her. Despite the wind, hairdos held up, make-up stayed fresh. The flowers made it through the ceremony; good thing they had extra for the reception.
  • The Little Ones: The ring bearer, a cousin of Deena's, I believe, was darling. He was dressed just to match the Big Boys and did a beautiful job, standing still without complaining through the ceremony. Cheryl looked darling with her hair in loose curls and a wreath of baby's breath. Deena's mom, Luanne, designed her dress so that the bodice was made of the same material as Deena's dress and the skirt of the same material in the Bridesmaid's gowns. She carried a tiny white basket filled with pink rose petals remembered it was OK if they blew away.
  • The Honored Guests: we were very fortunate to have so many members of both families join us. Besides both sides of Alex (and my) family, all of Deena's grandparents were able to attend, including her grandfather whose health has been declining. Poppop and Uncle Rick were there, representing the W's, along with my mom's sister Karen. Best of all, the same uncle who married Bill and I also performed the ceremony for Alex and Deena. Both Alex and Deena had unexpected friends show up from far away, both at the ceremony and the reception.
  • The Groom: Alex smiled. A lot. This is big. Alex smiles at Mom and Dad, he smiles at me, at Cowboy, he smiles quite a bit at Deena, and even at his friends. That afternoon, Alex smiled and smiled and smiled. But not during his vows. Maybe it's a sign: both Alex and Cowboy said their vows with faces set in stone, men of their word, they took it seriously. When it came time for him to say the "I take you Deena" part, he was also loud enough to be heard in Utah! When this guy makes a vow, he says it so everybody can hear.
  • The Bride: Soft blond curls floated down Deena's back, her delicate tiara sparkling in the sun. As I think on it, every inch of Deena's ensemble was created or set by someone who loves her very much. The dress was made primarily by her mother, but Deena's whole family helped with various parts. The tiara I mentioned was made by an Aunt in Texas just for the occasion, her hair carefully set and prepared by a long time friend of the family, her flowers arranged by the sister of one of her best friends, even the cake prepared by someone close to her. I gave her a handkerchief that had belonged to our great-grandmother, Miriam to carry as her borrowed thing. Alex and Cowboy said their vows the same way; Deena and I did too. We both sniffled just a bit in awe of the moment.

It was so bright, the wedding party wore shades but I didn't feel it detracted at all. Afterwards, everyone piled into the vehicles for the drive back to town and the reception. Tons of barbecue chicken and beef, fabulous potato salad, tons of ice tea and lemonade and a keg. Cowboy felt it part of his groomsmen duty to assist in the draining of the last, and had enough to make him the best dancer in the room. No really, he gets better with a little beer.

Some other highlights from the reception:

  • Mark (the best man) gave a fabulous toast that really did capture the heart of Alex and his bond with Deena. It also captured Mark's bond with Alex.. which mostly involves horsepower.
  • Alex and Deena are darling together. During their dance, I cried.
  • My parents danced. In my memory, I can't recall ever having seen them dance in a formal setting. I cried.
  • Patrick danced with Deena, as did Bill. I didn't cry, I got pictures.
  • My mother didn't stop dancing the whole night. She danced with my dad, then she danced with Deena's dad (more than once, actually, I think), she danced the hokey-pokey, the chicken dance and the conga. It was awesome!
  • The cake was handmade by one of Deena's friends and turned out beautifully; she'd never worked with fondant icing before but she did so well!
  • I got to dance with my husband. I think it's been close to five years since we had danced and I forgot how much I missed it.
  • Will caught the garter. Not sure how happy I am about that...

Last but not least, the best thing about the whole day.....

Alex did NOT have to work!!!

Congratulations, Alex and Deena. It was a privilege celebrating with you both!

Check out the album I created for this on Flickr (boy I hope this works!)

Wedding Album