"if you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much room"

Friday, June 28, 2013

we had a "blast"!

Wednesday was the first of two scheduled night blasts here at Crazy Horse. This one was to celebrate Mrs. Ziolkowski's 87th birthday. Our shifts started at 1 pm with Rudee in the gift shop and me at the entrance booths. Things were a little busier then normal but not too bad, that is until after our lunch breaks at 5 pm. That is when the crowds started coming. At 7pm we quit charging admission and switched to collecting donations for the local food pantry. 3 cans of food per person got you through the gate and if you didn't know about the food drive you could make a cash donation of your choosing and enter that way. This is when the rush started. We had double the amount of workers at the gate and still the cars backed up for almost the entire 1/2 mile entrance road. We were collecting food and cash as fast as we could and the parking lots filled up fast. They had a plan though and switched to parking cars in the nearby rodeo arena and pasture. They would then shuttle the people to the visitor center. 
The family that runs this place are very giving people, they bend over backwards to help the local community. I was told that 1/3 of all the food given away by the food pantry comes from Crazy Horse either by the many food drives or by cash donations. Unfortunately I did get to see some of the "dark side" of people. One well dressed couple in a very new Jeep with tow bar attachments griped that they had to give anything at all. He did, eventually, pull out two $1 bills and handed it to me complaining that he was told admission was free at the RV park he was staying at. I just can't seem to get the image out of my head of this guy tooling around in a big Class A towing his new Jeep and staying in $50 per night RV Resorts and he is bitching because we ask for a small donation to help feed hungry kids! I hope I am wrong about him, maybe they are on a limited income and doing the best they can but I sure didn't get that impression. Another van full of people came in and said they didn't know about the food drive and thought it was just normal admission, I told them we would be happy to take a cash donation of anything they could offer. The lady then handed out 1 container of Teddy Grahams as their donation. The regular admission is $27.00 per car load so I'm sure they were really happy with the "deal" they got, of course 1 container of graham cracker bears sure wont help too many hungry kids!
On the flip side, I had several large cash donations of over $40 and one little girl who, after her Dad gave us two $20 bills, said she wanted to give too. Dad rolled down her window and she handed me a dollar bill she took from the little purse she was carrying. That put a smile on my face and reminded me there is still hope for our future generations.
The blast happened right after the laser light show ended. I was still at the entrance gate but had a great view. Rudee was on the patio by the gift shop and took these pictures (best she could do with the crowds and lighting).

The blast was pretty impressive and, even though we were busy, we had a great time. We even got a piece of birthday cake afterwards. Needless to say it was a great night.

We also had another "small world" moment when a car pulled up to my entrance shack. They asked if I was the Phil who wrote a blog? Yep, that's me! Turns out it was long time blog followers Russ and Debbie Davis who are just starting their full time adventures. Nice meeting you guys, wish we had more time to spend getting to know ya but I had to get back to work. Hit us up if you are still around (and reading this) and we can get together on our days off, either Monday or Tuesday.

I took the camera to work with me and wanted to show you the view from my "office".

Not too bad, don't ya think?
Here is my "office" and my view towards the Monument.

I'm not sure who the guy is in the bottom of the photo but he keeps following me around and mocking
me! If he keeps it up I'm going to have Rudee kick his butt because he always runs from me. :-)               

Today is "Hump day" for us and we are already looking forward to doing some more exploring on our days off. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

workin hard and playin hard

We have settled into our routine here at Crazy Horse and are getting used to working full time hours again. I know a lot of my fellow full timers would cringe at the thought of having to go back to the grind of a full time job but for now we are happy to have the work. The recent medical issues that slowed us down (see April 2013 posts) have wreaked havoc on our savings and we are working hard to keep our dream alive. Last week I had the opportunity to work a little over time, one day was even a 12 hour shift, and it kind of wore me down. I was pretty pooped when we got back to the motor home but since we are working the evening shift, and not really doing things in the morning anyway, I figured making a few extra $$'s was better then just sitting waiting for my shift to start.
Monday and Tuesday promised to be great weather wise so we planned some rides on the bike. Monday we headed to Wyoming which is only about 40 miles west of us. We stopped in Newcastle Wy. where we gassed up the bike. Rudee snapped this photo of their courthouse which was across the street from the gas station.

I pointed the bike North and we followed along the trail of the Cheyenne to Deadwood stage coach. Before the railroads were built in this area the only "mass transit" were stage coaches and this line was a popular one for the settlers. The stage hauled a lot of gold out of the area and there was always a danger of robberies and Indian attacks.

We made the turn onto Spearfish Canyon Rd. and enjoyed another trip on this scenic highway. This time we were going the opposite direction from a couple of weeks ago.

Tuesday we decided to explore Custer State Park some more. Our VIP passes are supposed to get us in the gate for free but there was some confusion at the guard shack. The lady there said it was only good for a few specific days but the young man also working there disagreed. Seems the old policy was for only select days but there had been a change this year allowing the passes anytime with no restrictions. She was a long time worker and was not about to believe this young man was correct so to keep the peace I told her to forget the pass and we would save our limited visit for another time. She turned to go back into her guard shack and the young man quickly handed Rudee the free pass while she wasn't looking. :-)

We made a slow trip around the Wildlife Loop but didn't see a lot of wildlife. :-) The park is starting to get busy with the summer tourists and I think the animals are starting to venture further away from the hub bub. We stopped into the Game Lodge Campground where fellow bloggers Ray and Wendy are camp hosting. We caught them at home this time and had a nice visit. They are enjoying their time here and you sure cannot beat their location!

Leaving Custer State Park we followed Iron Mountain Rd. through the many switch backs and tunnels on our way to Keystone where we stopped for lunch.

Rudee finally got her "Mexican food fix" which we enjoyed at an outdoor table with a view of Mount Rushmore. Nice!
After lunch we headed to Rapid City to pick up our mail. We got notification that our last set of license plates (Motorhome) were in so we picked those up and headed back toward home.
We did make one more stop though.

Rudee hates snakes but was looking forward to stopping here. Go figure!
They have a lot of gators, turtles and of course snakes

They also have a lot of birds too. Look at the size of this owl!

Heading back to the motor home we stopped at Crazy Horse and checked our schedule. We both go in at 1 pm and have the same break time! They are having a "night blast" tonight and it is free as long as you bring 3 can goods per person to donate to the local food pantry. We are planning on a really busy shift and will be getting off later then usual but are both looking forward to seeing the show! I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Oh, the people we meet!

Yesterday I worked a variety of places at Crazy Horse. I divided my time between the entrance gate, welcome center and one of the museums. I kind of like that because it breaks up my day and I get to spend time talking with the guests more.
While I was manning the gate a group of Harleys came through. I collected their fee and one guy looked awfully familiar. I thought I knew him and asked where he was from. He said Tennessee and that just didn't jog anything in my tiny memory so I left it alone.
Shortly after that I went to lunch and while sitting in our break area I saw him and his group walking around the grounds and the light bulb in my head flashed on! That's Stu McNicol who is married to fellow blogger Froggi Donna! I dropped my sandwich and went outside to meet him. Sure enough it was Stu and he was on a bike trip with some of his buddies from his days at the firehouse in Maryland. This is what messed me up at the gate. I knew he retired from the fire department but forgot they bought some property in Tennessee.
We talked for a few minutes and then I left them alone to finish their tour, plus I was hungry. :-)
When I got off work I sent Donna an email about our meeting and she mentioned it in here blog here:
2taking 5th

This is the second time I have happened across bloggers by accident. The first time was in Indiana in line  to pay at the Camping World store and the lady in front of me looked awfully familier. Turns out it was Kit from http://www.kitandjerry.com.
I guess you just never know who you might run into while you travel around this great Country. Pretty cool stuff, don't ya think? I'll keep you posted

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

busy week

We sure had a busy week at work last week, the days seemed to just fly by. We are both getting more and more comfortable in our jobs and our bodies are starting to get used to the abuse of standing for hours on end.
Monday was our day off and we hooked up with Doug and Rand again for another bike ride. One of the perks of our job here is we are given a "VIP" pass to other tourist attractions in the area. You can use this pass for free (or discounted) entrance with the premise that once you see them you can recommend them to others who are looking for things to see and do.
We decided to use our passes and rode to the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, SD. Several years ago a contractor, while preparing the area for a housing development, unearthed some bones. They determined these were from a Mastodon and a new tourist attraction was born. They have excavated the site and found over 60 skeletons of prehistoric mammals. The story goes that there was a sink hole here that filled with water and the animals became trapped when they came to drink and bathe. The sink hole filled and was covered over time preserving the bones.

We took the guided "bone tour" and enjoyed it although I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it as much if I had to pay the $9.00 per person fee. :-)
Here is Rudee and Rand looking over some of the displays after taking the tour.

Leaving the Mammoth site we headed next door to Wooley's for lunch which was only mediocre. When we came back outside we could see the storm clouds building. A quick look at the radar on my phone showed a large storm had just passed through Custer and was heading east with another storm building behind it. We headed back to the campground with the hope we could make it back before the second storm hit. The closer we got the worse the skies looked. The first storm looked really nasty but was moving out of the area as we traveled through. The next storm was bearing down on us but we made it back and got the bike put away before it hit. Whew!

Tuesday was errand day so we decided to take the truck and head for Rapid City. Our first stop was Best Buy where I returned our Mifi unit, the unit still worked but the screen had quit lighting up. They took a look at it, took the battery out for a few seconds then re-installed it and that fixed it. :-)
We also used the $50 gift certificate we got for purchasing the Mifi to buy a new, small camera. I like having a camera that Rudee can use while we are riding and the larger Nikon is too bulky for her. We found a nice Samsung on sale and also got some money off by applying for their charge card (which we will never use!) and ended up only paying $2.50 for the camera. :-)
We also stopped by our "home", America's Mailbox, and picked up our mail. We have one more title and registration to transfer and our "move" to South Dakota will be complete. We had to wait for the RV title to arrive from Indiana which caused a delay but looks like everything is ready now so we dropped off a check to pay for it all.
Lunch was at the Great Wall Chinese restaurant and was really good. We shared a lunch entree that came with soup, appetizer, fried rice and the entree. All that for under $7.00 and it was very good to boot!
Next stop was the grocery to stock up on food for the next week and then headed home. On the way back we used our VIP card for a free drive through Bear Country USA.

We saw Elk

Mountain Lions

and lots of Bears

Another $32 admission fee saved by the card, pretty cool!
Once we got back to the motor home and got the groceries put away Nathan and Jan came calling. They both work in the gift shop with Rudee and we had made plans to go to dinner. We hopped into their SUV and headed for the Alpine Inn for another steak dinner. Hard to beat a filet minion dinner for $11.95! After dinner we went in search of ice cream and ended up in Custer at the Flintones Bedrock City. We enjoyed our treats and had a great time getting to know Nathan and Jan.
Today is our Monday and we head back to work for another week. That's OK though, we are having fun here in the Black Hills! I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

First day off

Yesterday was our first day off from work here in the Black Hills. The weather forecast made us optimistic that we would be able to enjoy a nice day and we were not disappointed.
We started out by riding the bike into Custer to run a couple of errands and grab some breakfast. Once those chores were done we headed back to our campground to meet fellow work campers Doug and Rand. They both ride their own Harleys and invited us out for a ride. Doug drives one of the on site tour buses while Rand works in the Welcome Center. They have Sunday, Monday and Tuesday off so hopefully, if our days off stay the same, we can have a lot more motorcycle adventures together.
They hopped on their bikes as we pulled into the park and we headed out. Our destination was Sturgis, South Dakota. Yep "that" Sturgis. :-)
The last week of July until the middle of August Sturgis is a motorcycle Mecca. The "official" bike rally is the first week of August but there are still a ton of people, bikes and activities for the week(s) prior to and after the rally.
We will make a ride over during the rally just to experience it but wanted to get a "before" view of the town and surrounding area before the masses arrive.
The ride over was nice with "picture perfect" weather and smooth roads. :-)
We passed through Deadwood and arrived in Sturgis. After a quick tour of Main Street we stopped for lunch. We lingered over our meal, talking and getting to know each other better. Doug and Rand have attended the rally a couple of times and acted as our tours guides around town. Once lunch was finished we headed out to the campgrounds just outside of town. The campgrounds sprang up when the rally outgrew the small town and people needed additional places to camp and party. Right now they are just large open fields with cattle grazing in them but come July the cows will be gone and thousands of bikers will be camping here.
We made a stop at the Full Throttle Saloon which is a bike week landmark. They even film a reality TV show here during bike week.

Today the place was mostly deserted except for the "locals"

Why is it that some people must make an ass of themselves when they drink? :-)

We left Sturgis and made our way to Spearfish Canyon, a beautiful scenic drive. The road follows the twists and turns of a small fast flowing river. We love to ride these type of roads and I'm sure we will make this a destination several times during our stay here.
At the end of the canyon we turned back toward home but not before stopping at a small diner for a break. I took the lead for the last leg of the trip. Riding along through the National Forest you never know what you may see. We are always alert for Deer, Mountain Goats, antelope etc. While riding I saw a very large bird flying above us and quickly recognized it as a Bald Eagle. What a sight that was against the blue skies framed by the tall pine trees, gorgeous!
Back at home we put the bike to bed in the cargo trailer and relaxed the rest of the evening. What a great day off here in the "Hills". Here is the view from the campground behind our motor home.

Today we have to run some more errands and will have to take the truck. We need to stock up on some groceries and may make a run into Custer State Park to look up some blog readers who are camp hosting there. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Today is our Friday and once we finish work this evening we will be off for two days! Thank goodness, we are both stiff and sore from all the standing we do. I know we will get back in shape soon but it has just been too long since we have had to "man a post" for 8 hours at a time. :-)

The other morning I heard a loud "BOOM" that made me jump from my chair. It came from the direction of the Memorial and this view confirmed they were blasting away some rocks.

You kind of forget this is a working sculpture and they are blasting, chiseling and shaping almost everyday.

I got an interesting email yesterday. You might remember we had contracts signed to work in the bookstores at Mount Rushmore. When Rudee was diagnosed and started treatment we called our supervisor and explained our difficulties. She was very nice and told us they would "work with us" and gave her our new arrival date of June 1st. Ten days before we were supposed to leave she sent us an email that our jobs had been filled and she wished us well and perhaps next year would work out better if we were still interested. We were both looking forward to working in the Black Hills and the job sounded interesting as well. We were very disappointed and kind of felt like we were getting kicked while we were down. We scrambled to find another position for the summer which led us to Crazy Horse. Anyway, I got this email from the supervisor at Mount Rushmore. She told me that our replacement had turned in their notice and she was looking for help and was hoping we would consider leaving here and coming to work for her. Hmmmm, took us about 2 seconds to decide what to do on that request. :-)
I sent her an email back, thanked her for her interest in us and explained we were grateful that the Crazy Horse Memorial give us positions and were loving our new jobs and no, we would be staying and working here this summer. I think Karma must have struck! :-)

We are looking forward to our days off so we can do some exploring. We need some "wind therapy" on the bike to heal our aching feet and backs! I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

first day at Crazy Horse

Yesterday was our first day at work. We started by doing all the paperwork one does when starting a new job. We then took a tour of the facility and saw the movie in the visitors center. We then met our supervisors and were assigned to our "trainers for the day". Rudee works in the gift shop which is located in the main building adjacent to the visitors center, museum, restaurant etc.
I am working at the ticket gate which is a line of booths halfway up the main entrance drive. I exchange the visitors "dead presidents" for entrance tickets. The entrance fee is $10 per person or $27 for a car load, motorcycles and bicycles/walkers get a break of $5 per person. There are several "discounts" for Military (both active and veterans), boy scouts in uniform, Native Americans etc.
I had several people feel like the fees were too high and we try to explain there is a lot more to see then just a big rock being carved. There is an impressive museum with thousands of artifacts as well as Native American vendors selling their hand made wares. They have Native American dancers entertaining several times a day. You can even get free coffee and a free rock (with authenticity) that was blown off the mountain.  We were very impressed with the facility and could spend 2-3 hours looking over everything. For an additional fee ($4) you can take a tour to the bottom of the mountain for a closer view of the carving and every night there is a laser light show on the side of the mountain. You end up getting a lot for your $10 admission (in my opinion) plus you can get a "pass out" and return for free anytime in the next three days.
I enjoy talking to the folks driving in, even though it is brief. I had a small motorhome pull up with Indiana plates and talked to them as they were deciding whether to pay or turn around. I told them how I was impressed with the facility and they decided to give it a try. A couple of hours later they came back out and stopped near our booths and motioned me over. I thought they just had a question so walked over to help. They were all wide eyed and thanked me for talking them into going in! They said it was the best place they had stopped in the Black Hills and had to drag their teenage daughter away from the place. They also said they got a return pass and were coming back tomorrow. I had a big smile on my face and it sure was nice of them to take the time to stop and thank me, it made my day!
Rudee and I both liked our first day and our co-workers. I think we are going to have some fun here. One thing is a little odd, the wife of the original sculptor is very much involved in the day to day operations. She is 87 years old and some of the rules are a little "quirky". I met her yesterday and she is such a sweetheart. She makes the final schedule and it is not posted until late in the day so you really don't know exactly what shift you will be working tomorrow until it is almost time to go home today.  That's a little weird but we have been told we will have the same days off together and they will be consistent from week to week. She also lives on site in the original cabin her and her husband built when he first started the carving. Her cabin is attached to the museum and you even go through part of it that they still use for family gatherings. When I met her (and one of her daughters) they welcomed me to their "home", that was kinda cool and their attitude is that we are all a big family not just employees. :-)
Rudee works the day shift today and I go in at 1pm and work until close (around 9:30 for us shack dwellers LOL). The atmosphere at work is laid back, fun and upbeat. Just what we wanted after such a bad experience last year at the KOA. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

last day of "freedom"

Today is our last "free" day before starting our jobs at Crazy Horse. We got an email yesterday that our one day orientation class has been postponed until there are more participants. Sounds like we are the only couple starting work this week. We should get our schedule sometime today and will start doing OTJ ("on the job") Training.
The weather has been nice enough for us to enjoy some time on the bike. Yesterday we rode through Wind Cave National Park and ended up in Custer State Park. We saw quite a bit of wild life and did our best to "steer clear" of the Buffalo as they crossed the road. :-)

We have been very pleased with our AT&T Mifi purchase. We have been getting a consistent 4g signal  with our cell booster antenna and have been enjoying the faster internet speed compared to our old Virgin unit.

One question we have had was why we picked South Dakota as our domicile state. We had maintained our Indiana residence while we were still working our fulltime careers by using a PMB (personal mail box) at the local UPS store. This worked fine for an address but Indiana is a very conservative state and does not recognize that as being our "legal home". We had a very difficult time registering to vote. The people at the courthouse finally got us registered as "homeless" using the address for the courthouse on our registrations. What a pain! We decided since we were no longer working in Indiana we would research alternatives and that led us to either Texas or South Dakota, both are very "Fulltimer friendly". Both states have their advantages and disadvantages. Neither have a state income tax but Texas does have vehicle inspections and require an endorsement on your drivers license to operate a large motor home. South Dakota does not require either and the process of changing domicile seemed easier in SD.
Our vehicle insurance dropped a noticeable amount when we changed to SD as well.
Please don't just take my word or experiences on something as important as changing your residency. Research what state works best in "your situation" as everyone is different. You need to research what impact this could have on your health insurance as well as any property you may own or other income you may have.

Today is supposed to be kinda cool around here so we are planning on taking it easy. We may venture out to run some errands but will probably just rest up for our first work day tomorrow. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

settling in for the summer

The wind was wicked Friday night, the weatherman said it should die down after midnight. Didn't happen. I would have pulled the slide outs in had I known just how long and strong it was going to blow. Instead I was up before 5am because I just couldn't sleep with the noise of the wind blowing the awning on our bedroom slideout.
The gusts finally stopped shortly after dawn and the blue skies returned to the Black Hills. This is what we have been waiting for! I ventured outside and begin the process of re-positioning our rig. When we arrived the weather was just so nasty that we just parked the rig so we were off the road saving the final set up for better weather.
I unloaded the bike and unhooked the trailer, with Rudee's help we moved it out of our way. We weighed out our parking options. Our pull through site is plenty long enough but not real wide. We tossed around the idea of parking both the cargo trailer and the truck behind the motor home but this seemed too narrow. We settled on moving the motor home back about 10-12 feet allowing us to park the Dakota in front and keep the cargo trailer in back and use it as our "Harley garage".
While we were working we got to meet some of our co-workers who were out walking their pets, taking out their trash or just coming by to see what these two nutty people were up to. :-)

Once we got all the vehicles in their "proper" position we began to "build our nest" for the next several months. I got our clothes line rack mounted on the rear ladder, set up some of our patio carpet and even got our grille out in case we wanted to do some outside cooking.
We don't have a huge amount of "patio space" and there is a small pine tree that seems to be in the way no matter how we would have parked.

The view of our "boss" from the campground is kinda nice though!

We finished up our chores and took our first bike ride. The weather was a little cool so we stayed on the winding roads where we could keep our speed down and enjoy the ride. Our route took us past Mount Rushmore and into the town of Keystone. We checked out the camping spot we were originally assigned back when we thought we would be working there. Not bad but our view is better at Crazy Horse. :-)
We walked through some of the tourist shops at Keystone but really had no interest in buying anything. Back on the bike we road to Hill City following along the tracks for the 1880's train ride.

We took another break in Hill City since we didn't want to overdo Rudee's first bike ride since surgery. She did great though and we are looking forward to doing a lot of exploring on the Harley. I think we are going to like it here. :-) I'll keep you posted.