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When it's Raining on Sunday

Rain showers delayed our Sunday plans.

But not to worry. The kids had an activity waiting on standby.

The Dakota County Line

There's a unique juxtaposition here; the wide open sky, the dirt roads, large properties, and yet it's located within the boundaries of a city with a population of over 55,000 people.

One one side of the road is Dakota County. The other, Scott.

And while there was a poor judgment call to straddle the county line without bike helmets, we set off to explore the quiet street on which we now reside.

One of our neighbors is a cattle farmer. His 'Private Property' signs became more and more illegible as you go along.

Security is pretty tight around here. Not sure how anyone will get passed that gate ...

Just up the road from our property, we stumbled upon this sign.

Here is the "Hobbit House," an adorable red cottage.

Crazy Horse Monument and it's Controversies - Crazy Horse, SD

I was 10 years old and preparing to enter 5th grade when my family road-tripped through the Black Hills. This was at the height of my Laura Ingalls Wilder obsession, so I insisted we stop at their burial plots. In fact, I'm fairly certain my mother still has the photos I took of the headstones ...
I digress.
Nick and I were able to give our children a similar Black Hills experience about a year ago. With the exception of visiting pioneer cemeteries, we visited South Dakota's famous monuments.
I was a little disheartened that it appeared little progress was made to the Crazy Horse monument in the 20 years since I last visited. But then again, this project receives no federal funding and relies solely on private donation.

I wondered why that is.
I began to dig a little deeper into the story and the history that surrounds the site, and what I learned was very enlightening and quite disheartening.
It's because there is a lot of controversy that surrounds this site. Polish sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski began work on Crazy Horse in 1948 at the request of Henry Standing Bear, who was chief of the Lakota. Standing Bear is quoted in 1939 saying that he wants the "white man to know that the red man has heroes also."
But, the descendants of Crazy Horse feel the Chief didn't have the right for such a request to be made. In 2003 Elaine Quiver, a descendant, said Lakota culture requires the consensus among family members and they were never asked.
No permission was granted for someone to carve Crazy Horse's image into the Black Hills, land that is considered sacred to the Lakota. Their burial grounds are located there. It's for this reason one can speculate Mount Rushmore also violates this. South Dakota's monuments are considered a desecration of native land. 

The Crazy Horse Memorial site includes a museum dedicated to preserving the rich history of Native Americans, which helps to fund the memorial. Knowing what I know now, I'm no longer sure if this was the correct way to honor Crazy Horse.
It's this quote regarding the topic that resonates with me most: in a 2001 interview, Lakota activist Russell Means said, "Imagine going to the Holy Land in Israel, whether you're a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim, and start carving up the Mountain of Zion. It's an insult to our entire being."

The Mystery of the Universe Could Be Answered in Lead, South Dakota

I read this article the other day, drawn by its headline, "Secrets of the universe may lie in an old gold mine in South Dakota."

Specifically, Lead, South Dakota, and at the very gold mine we stopped off to check out during last year's MEA Road Trip.

Related Post: Weekend Warrior: Driving Across South Dakota

This past week scientists have begun to work on the largest U.S.-based particle physics experiment at the old mine, suddenly breathing new life into a city 140 years after the Black Hills Gold Rush cemented its founding.

One thousand scientists from 30 countries flocked to this small town just up the hill from Deadwood, and they all seek to answer one question: Are mysterious particles called neutrinos the reason we are here?

I don't know. But I do know, it's been cool to follow a story connected to a place we've been to. I will be keeping my eye on Lead, and I will be interested to learn what the scientists discover.

Related Post: Deadwood, South Dakota

There it is - the open pit gold mine currently receiving International attention ...

Approximately, 41 million ounces of gold were pulled from the Homestake Gold Mine over a period of 126 years. It was so deep that I couldn't see nor even attempt to photograph its bottom.

Evidence of Lead's mining past still lingers.

... Which the kiddos opted to climb anyway.

Watch this space!

Deadwood, South Dakota

If there exists a city that holds my curiosity within its grasp, Deadwood is one of them.
Named for the dead trees found strewn throughout its gulch, this old 3.83-square mile mining town tells many a tale of intrigue, mystery and legend. Gold was discovered in them hills in 1874, and as we drove, we found gold seekers panning in the creek in search of their fortune.
As Deadwood preserves it's history, its Gold Rush-era architecture seems to follow suit. When you consider the infamous outlaws and notorious visitors who passed through, it's easy to see why there exists such an appeal to explore.
In fact, the entire town is listed as a National Historic Landmark District.

And like the gunslingers a century before us, we were also just passing through. We were on our way to Lead, a town founded to work its massive open pit gold mine.

It's downtown is a mix of the historic and the modern, which clashed as we drove up the main street.

I look at this picture, and feel that cars do not belong here.

Deadwood's most famous story focuses on 'Wild Bill' Hickok. Within these city limits, this Old West lawman and gunslinger met his demise while playing poker at one of the saloons. There were quite a few signs pointing the way towards Mt Moriah Cemetery, where he is buried.

Long before the Gold Rush and its fortune seekers, Deadwood began as an illegal settlement on land that had been granted to the Lakota people. In fact, many of our nation's main tourism draws in South Dakota are located on sacred Lakota land.

That very brief introduction will become ever more important in the near future, when I talk about the Crazy Horse Monument in a future post.

In total, we probably spent 10 minutes in Deadwood. It was a brief introduction, but still a conversation I hope to continue soon.

Kemah Boardwalk - Kemah, Texas

I mentioned recently that ValleyFair reminded me of the Kemah Boardwalk, so I thought I'd explain why. We spent the day in Kemah as part of our October 2015 trip to Texas. When the school calendar offers a long weekend (especially as the weather turns in Minnesota), you take advantage!
Located just 20 miles from downtown Houston, the Kemah Boardwalk opened in 1997. It currently operates 15 rides, plus an arcade and a Midway on 35 acres beside the sea. It all translates to a fun, family environment that was named one of the top 10 American boardwalks by in 2009.
See? Not even in the park, and the kids are having a blast!

The 65-foot Ferris Wheel is a ride our family enjoyed a few times.

But for Madelyn's money, the park's 36-foot double-decker carousel was a must-see. I think the ride operator mentioned the ride opened in the early 1900s.

We also toured the grounds via the park's novelty train.

The Boardwalk Tower has the best views of the bay, the boardwalk and the surrounding area.

The Boardwalk overlooks Galveston Bay, which was docked with plenty of fishing and shrimp boats.

The Boardwalk Bullet is an all-wood roller coaster that opened in 2007. It's 96 feet tall with a 3,236-foot long track built on a 1-acre footprint, making it one of the most compact roller coasters in the world.

We left the area filled with the rides and made our way to the Midway.

With its proximity to Galveston Bay, its coastal influence was felt in the architecture of the area. There were quite a few seafood restaurants, and the 'hurricane evacuation zone' signs reminded me of how ruthless Mother Nature can be some times. For our stay, she was really showing off with beautiful clear skies and warm sunshine.

The is a 50,000-gallon aquarium on site, and adjacent is Stingray Reef where visitors can touch and feed live stingrays. Nope, I did not participate. Admittedly, I was freaked out by them. Nick of course held no reservations about feeding them. Have we forgotten what happened to Steve Irwin?

If you go:
215 Kipp Ave, Kemah, TX 77565
*There is no charge to walk around the Boardwalk but individual or all-day ride passes can be purchased.

JDRF Family Fun Day at ValleyFair - Shakopee, MN

A promise Nick and I made soon after Madelyn's Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis was to not let it hold her back from anything. It should empower her, not hinder her. Though the disease comes with challenges, we do our best to put her childhood first. I feel content that we are still able to participate in fun activities and travel.
One such example is our recent visit to ValleyFair. JDRF hosted a Family Fun Day on 8/2, which also happened to be Nick's birthday. Unfortunately he had to be in Las Vegas for training.
ValleyFair is a 125-acre amusement park located in Shakopee. Opened in 1976, the park now features 75 rides plus a Midway and arcade. There is an on-site water park included in the admission price.

This picture cracks me up. There is a water ride at the park, which obviously creates a massive splash that soaks the ride's occupants and those who stand on the observation bridge. I don't think the kids expected such a splash. Landen was swallowed up, while Madelyn failed to outrun it.

I'm fairly certain they rode the swings at least 10 times.

Fun Fact: Valleyfair appeared in a scene in the baseball movie Little Big League, with the Corkscrew, Enterprise and High Roller rides visible.

The park is located so close to the Flying Cloud Airport that the FAA imposed a 275-foot height restriction on the rides. In fact, as the kids and I walked around, there were many a vintage warplane and helicopter flying overhead.

In a way, ValleyFair reminded me a lot of the Kemah Boardwalk in Texas, which we had visited in October 2015.

The carousel came from the Excelsior Amusement Park, which closed in 1973. Though the High Roller roller coaster is one of the first rides constructed at ValleyFair, the carousel is the park's oldest having been established in 1925.

The weather was perfect, sun was warm and the day was fun! I'm certain we will return, but probably with a picnic lunch. My only reservation was how expensive the food was and how slow the service seemed.

If you go:
1 ValleyFair Drive, Shakopee, MN 55379
Parking starts at $17 and ticket prices start at $35