Back in the saddle
I'm back from the Black Hills of South Dakota, having shaved my head, stood five feet from a (live) buffalo, poured a drink for Wild Bill Hickok, driven over a picnic table and sat outside the razor-wired fence of a Minuteman missile silo without being arrested.
I swear all of the above is true.
Four adults and four kids, we named ourselves the "Van Hellions" in honor of our trusty 15-passenger van -- and, of course, as a tribute to Eddie. Oddly enough, while we had an eclectic music selection -- ranging from Flock of Seagulls and Fleetwood Mac to Rush, Guns 'n' Roses and Nickelback -- Eddie was not among them. We mourned his absence.
We also attended the Corn Festival in Mitchell, S.D., eating dinner across the street from the Corn Palace while Weird Al Yankovic played inside. The weirdest thing about the Corn Festival is that it involved no actual corn.
Other highlights included a horseback ride through Custer State Park, touring a gold mine, driving the Needles highway, visiting Jewel Cave, Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse Mountain, and driving through the Badlands.
On the way back home we survived a night of overpacked horror at the Jellystone campground in Sioux Falls, jammed in cheek-by-jowl with hundreds of Labor Day weekend revelers. We thought the kids would like it; we'll never make that mistake again.
In the quiet hours I found time to read "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini -- a good-though-not-great novel that paints a vivid picture of pre- and post-Taliban Afghanistan, and life as part of the Afghan diaspora. Next on the list: "Thirteen Moons", the second book by "Cold Mountain" author Charles Frazier.
All in all it was a great time, and everyone got along great. We're already planning next year's trip -- probably a canoe-camping venture in the Boundary Waters.
While I enjoyed the time away from all forms of media, I'm glad to be back and will resume my regular blogging schedule soonest.