Category Archives: Fun Stuff

Free Things to Do in Rapid City: Hiking to the Strato Bowl

Free Things to Do in Rapid City: Hiking to the Strato Bowl

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The Strato Bowl is the best of both worlds for us: Hiking for me, aviation for Mike. It was the such a fun Labor Day outing. We got some exercise, enjoyed incredible views and learned something new about aviation history.

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The Stratobowl is a small, flat valley completely surrounded by the Black Hills where some of the first early manned balloon flights were launched in the 1930s. In 1934 and 1935, the Army Air Corps and National Geographic Society launched manned balloon flights into the stratosphere from this location to a record 72,395 feet. The Explorer II flight proved man could survive the altitude in a pressurized capsule, an important part of the space program and our quest to walk on the moon. Since then, the Stratobowl has hosted aviation pioneers Ed Yost, Steve Fossett, Troy Bradley and others.

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The view is spectacular. There are few places where you will see such an interesting view including pine-covered hills, wide blue skies and the small stream that winds through that peculiar flat valley nestled between the Hills.

 

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Dogs are welcome on this  1.7-mile, moderately trafficked out-and-back trail. To get there, take Mount Rushmore Road into the Black Hills (16). Stay on 16 past Reptile Gardens and Bear Country USA. Just past the service station is a small parking area on the right-hand side (westbound), marked by powerlines.

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Free Things to Do in Rapid City: Storybook Island

Free Things to Do in Rapid City: Storybook Island

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We’ve been in Rapid City since the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Mike was doing some work at the Rally, and then we stayed to make repairs on our travel trailer. (More about that later!) Since our savings have been nearly exhausted with making repairs, we’ve been focused on fun, free things we can do in the area. And thankfully there’s a lot of that in Rapid City . . . especially if you ride the motorcycle to get there!

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Storybook Island is a super cool kids park that has a whole bunch of “sets” based on characters and locations found in children’s books. I was bummed to find out that we’d JUST missed their season when we got there (on September 17, 2016). The picnicking area is open all year long, but the theme park is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. But I still managed to snap some pics through the chain link fence.

Check it out to get a flavor of this place that’s perfect for the young and the young-at-heart.

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Morning Dog Walk at Burro Creek

Morning Dog Walk at Burro Creek

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One of the best parts of boondocking at Burro Creek was taking the dogs on their morning walk. We have never seen Eliza, our Chiweenie, so excited! She was hopping from scent to scent like a jackrabbit, ears up, pulling at the leash. We couldn’t stop laughing.

Meeko, our Rat Terrier, and Penny, our Chihuahua, enjoyed it, too, but being older, they were more restrained. 😀

From the picnic area, you can follow a trail down to the creek. You start by descending a very cool stone staircase. Then, ease yourself (and your animals) through an opening in a barbed wire fence and follow the path to the creek.

I thought I was going to fall into a giant crevasse – until I realized that the creek was reflecting the cliff. The reflection is extraordinary!

We didn’t have much time to explore this time, but we’ll make sure we’ve got a few days on our next visit.

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Boondocking at Burro Creek

Boondocking at Burro Creek

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Up to now, our boondocking – or drycamping – has consisted of overnights in Walmart parking lots and rest areas. We’ve always wanted to do more “real” boondocking, where we’re in some remote, beautiful area with no one around. But we’re always working! (Good problem to have, I know.) At first, we had to run all over the country for Mike’s training gigs and then the LiveWire tour, both of which required full hook-ups. Now, I have to be connected to keep up with my writing and social media business.

We were driving along I-10, en route to Austin for the #SmarterArtist Summit, when Mike mentioned that he’d always wanted to check out Burro Creek. Talk about perfect timing! He said it right before we saw a sign for Burro Creek campground. Sweet! One mile south of the Burro Creek Bridge, we exited the highway and followed a winding road down into the canyon.

This BLM campground’s mostly level sites cost $14 a night. Each has its own metal fire grill and a shaded picnic table. Up top, the sites are more spaced out, so there’s more privacy if that’s what you’re looking for. Most of the sites are back-in, but we camped in Site 13, which is a pull-through. There’s even a handicap-accessible site! Not to mention a group camping area and tent spots, too.

The restrooms have flush toilets and sinks. Yay! No showers, though. Boo! There’s drinking water and a dump station. Along with the hiking trails, there’s an desert garden to explore. It reminded me of those labyrinths. You know, where you walk and meditate? You could contemplate cacti in this one. It has a bunch of native plants, all identified with a brochure (you can pick up on site) if you want to know what you’re looking at.

Mike flew his drone, a Yuneec Typhoon Q500+, and got a couple of amazeballs overhead shots of the area, including the bridge.

The bad news? There was barely any cell signal. I was able to send and receive text messages on my phone, but I didn’t have strong enough wifi to do any work. Honestly, it was a welcome break. I work every day, even if it’s only a couple of hours. So a little forced time off was appreciated.

We ate dinner outside at the picnic table with a gorgeous sunset for our entertainment. Then we popped on our headlamps and walked the dogs. (Gotta see to pick up the poop!) After the exercise, and with utter quiet and no light pollution, we slept like babies.

In the morning, before we left, we took the dogs on a walk down by the creek.

Boondocking at Burro Creek was fantabulous! We’re looking forward to camping here again for a longer stay.

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Creating an RV Patio

Creating an RV Patio

RV Patio: folding chairs, indoor/outdoor rug, white picket fencing for a dog pen

Even in the most spacious motorhome, things can get tight. Creating an outdoor room lets you spread out and also take advantage of nice weather. We’re back in Milwaukee right now, and it’s still only in the mid-40s. 🙁 But for a little while, we were in Florida at Sun-n-Fun, volunteering and hanging out with our aviation friends. It was the perfect place to create our first RV patio.

RV Patio: folding chairs, indoor/outdoor rug, white picket fencing for a dog pen

We popped over to Home Depot and headed straight to the garden section. We bought an indoor/outdoor rug ($69) and a stretch of white picket fencing (25). The fencing made a nice pen for the bark babies. Sadie and Meeko used to have a back yard to lounge around in, and they don’t get nearly as much outside time now that we’re in the rig. So it was wonderful for all of us to be outside together. The folding chairs we’d bought for camping a few years ago went really well with the rug, and we didn’t have to worry about ants or grass stains on our toes.

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The best part of our RV patio was chilling out as a family with friends every evening. And when the fly-in was over, everything rolled up and fit into our basements.

Videocast: Sun-n-Fun and NASA with a little mud thrown in

Videocast: Sun-n-Fun and NASA with a little mud thrown in

Whew! It’s been a whirlwind few weeks! Mike’s visited his daughter in Savannah. I’ve been to Spain and done a mud run. We’ve volunteered at the Sun-n-Fun fly-in and toured NASA. It’s taken us a while, but we’re finally getting caught up on our videos and blogging.

Thanks for continuing to be patient with us on the video stuff. We’re getting better at the audio, but there’s still lots of room for improvement. We bought new microphones, which has helped, but this time, the mic is too far away from Mike, and he’s hard to hear. We will get it right soon. Promise!

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the latest installment!

Videocast: Fun in and near Cedar Key

Videocast: Fun in and near Cedar Key

Episode three is out! There’s so much cool stuff to do in and around Cedar Key. We’ve shared a few of those things, like kayaking, snorkeling with manatees, the tiki bar. We hope you enjoy it, and please share any other fun things to do that we might have missed.

Kayaking on the Gulf Coast

Kayaking on the Gulf Coast

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

We only stayed in Cedar Key, Florida, for a week, but we packed it full of fun stuff. One of our favorite things was kayaking out to Atsena Otie (which means cedar island in a tribal language). Mike and I shared a kayak and accompanied guide Mandy Davis and three of her friends on an awesome daylong adventure.

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

Mandy is an accomplished, seasoned naturalist and guide who’s recently set up shop in Cedar Key. She runs Hidden Coast Outdoors, and the Atsena Otie adventure is one of many tours she offers. Not only did Mandy show us how to kayak, but she also educated us on the history of Cedar Key. We learned that the city of Cedar Key was located on Atsena Otie Island. Cedar Key was an important port. Two mills on the island produced ‘cedar’ slats for shipment to northern pencil factories. Economic decline began when Henry Plant’s railroad to Tampa began service in 1886, and a devastating Atlantic hurricane in 1896 was the final blow.

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

We made the short hike to the now-closed pier and the cemetery. Mandy brought along paper and crayons so we could take headstone rubbings. I chose a grave marker with my name (except with a Z instead of an S). What a unique souvenir! We then kayaked further east for lunch. Mandy prepared a homemade, gourmet Mexican meal for us, and we ate on the beach near eaglets and other water birds.

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

It was a glorious experience, so much fun and a wonderful workout.  $90 (per person) VERY well spent!!

‘Quick Hits’ Video: an overhead view of Sunset Isle RV Park in Cedar Key

‘Quick Hits’ Video: an overhead view of Sunset Isle RV Park in Cedar Key

We’ll have a more detailed post on the delightful Sunset Isle RV Park in Cedar Key, Florida, very soon. Until then, we wanted to share a quick video of our rig, the park and the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico area – taken by Mike with the Phantom DJI.

The rig next to us is a more modern version of ours. Our motorhome is a 2000 Holiday Rambler Endeavor, and our neighbor’s is a 2006. How funny that we’re parked side-by-side!