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Hi, I am me... I am a mom with a great sense of humor, a kind heart, a giving spirit, a desire to please, and enough strength to keep on going even when life knocks me down... I am me... : )

Monday, June 23, 2014

Day 2, The Saga Continues, The First Vacation, Ever!!!

Day two began with breakfast. LOL. The place we stayed served a bit of a continental breakfast. So the kiddos went and picked up juice, cinnamon rolls, etc. We also had milk and cereal at our cabin so they filled up. We decided today was the day to go to Keystone and ride the 1880 Train, which is a 2 1/2 hour excursion trip and also to go to Mount Rushmore. We cleaned up, made sure Ashley Wilkes was comfortable in the cabin and headed out. The really great thing about where we stayed besides the friendly helpful staff, was that it was on Hwy 16 and it had really fantastic access to everywhere we wanted to go. 
This is Keystone. As you can see Elijah and Joseph are excited and ready to go explore. What I love about this is that yes, alot of the construction is probably somewhat new, but it still has a bit of the feel of an old mining town. 
You can see down Keystone's main street here. We parked near the museum at the end of the "block". I recommend parking down there, because while it may cost 5 dollars it is for all day. The free parking in other areas has a time limit and I think it is for 3 hours. You need more then that for riding the train. It is self served and the envelope for your money and the ticket for the dash on a small station at the front of the parking lot. Oh and be sure to follow the instructions for paying, because the police do drive through the parking lot and if that ticket isn't on your dash, there WILL be a ticket under your wiper. I saw a ton of people with them. Oh, and if you do decide to go ride the 1880's train, be sure you are at the depot early. Tickets must be purchased 45 min in advance. There is also plenty to see in the depot itself as well as a train museum nearby.
Elijah anxiously awaiting the train. This kid loves trains and was so thrilled that we were about to be riding one.
Joseph waiting as well. He was a bit more patient. He is not quite the train lover that Elijah is. Don't get me wrong he enjoys trains, too, LOL. 
We heard the train whistle which means it's getting closer and Elijah was thrilled about that. The nice thing about the train is they do allow food and drinks on the train. So if you wanted to pack yourself a picnic lunch and take it on board and eat lunch like someone traveling years ago, you can.  
It's getting closer so we are getting back into our group and edging up nearer the gate. From left to right here we have my oldest Jonathan, who seems to have quiet the knack for closing his eyes, each time I was taking a picture, LOL. Then my next to oldest David, then Andrew, Katelynn, my only girl, Joseph and Elijah. I am so glad that all my children were able to come on this vacation. As I think I mentioned on the Day 1 post. My children had never been on vacation. Their dad had other priorities in life. I am still so thrilled and pleased that I finally was able to take them on vacation.
We hear the train getting closer. We are now closely watching the tracks for our first view! 
It's here, yay!! It really is such a lovely engine.  
As you can see we are excited. LOL.
Joseph is ready to go and enjoy the ride. 
Here the engine is about to connect to the train. On the trip to Hill City it connects and pulls backwards. There is not the space for a turn around in Keystone. It was pretty neat to watch the engine pull up and connect. Quit a bump too. The boys were watching as it got closer and closer, LOL.
Looking back. On the way to Hill City, we were in the very first car right behind the engine. 

The scenery was beautiful. We saw different peaks, and deer, and beautiful log cabin homes. There were some buildings still standing that were built so many years ago for the miners. 
These tracks are some remaining tracks for the narrow gauge line going to the mines. 
Elijah looking ahead. The ride was really nice. You can purchase drinks and snacks on the train if you would like. We purchased some popcorn for the kiddos. In Hill City there was a snack bar as well as a gift shop. The lines were somewhat long, and it looked like it was going to rain so the younger children, my daughter and I got back in line under the large covered waiting area, and I am glad we did. Shortly a thunderstorm rolled in. It was chilly, and as we had left the cabin with kiddos in t-shirts and shorts, we sure felt the breeze. 
The rain was coming down pretty good. It was actually pretty neat to be up in the mountains during the storm. I was under the waiting area and couldn't get any good shots. The thunder and lighting were really awesome. Thankfully it wasn't to violent of storm. We decided we wanted to sit in the same car we were in before, and we also were really sure we didn't want to get stuck in the open cars. While they had rolled some plastic window covering over the openings, you know it had to be cooler in there as opposed to an enclosed car. So while most people loaded through the nearest car due to the rain, my oldest kiddos hurried into the last car to get our seats, while I herded the younger kiddos through all the cars. We got the same seats and sat down for our return trip.
I opened the window for a couple of shots. I had the window seat this time. Joseph was cold and tired, he and Elijah actually fell asleep for part of the return trip. 
Even though it was cold and overcast, it was still so pretty. I saw deer but usually too late to catch a picture of them. The streams that were near the tracks were really moving as the rain had been coming down quite hard. At the highest point of the trip it actually looked like their might have been a bit of snow on the ground, I am not totally sure on that. There was also some hail a bit lower.

As you can see the rain was still coming down. The views were just gorgeous on this trip and I highly recommend taking the 1880's excursion train trip. The kids all had a great time and it will be a fabulous memory later. For me it already is. I am so amazed and pleased still that I was able to do this for my kiddos. When we got off the train it was soooo cold we could see our breath. Probably should have taken some jackets or hoodies along. I will remember next time.
A walk along the shops. There were a lot of interesting shops. Restaurants, candy shops, of course souvenir shops, etc. Katelynn purchased Andrew a Mount Rushmore hoodie in one of the shops as he was the most chilled. The younger two boys keep moving so much that they were warming up faster. And honestly it did warm up after a bit. Not hot mind you, but nearer 70. Now here is the public service announcement. DO NOT EAT AT THE KEYSTONE HOUSE FAMILY RESTAURANT. The food was worse than what you can find in a frozen dinner. In fact I think most of it was frozen. We figured it couldn't be too bad, although in hindsight, there was a reason it was the only place NOT busy. Instant mashed potatoes, frozen chicken strips that were foamy pucks not actual chicken pieces, etc. Wait for the nicer places across the street. I refused to eat, but the kids were starved so they ate. 
Mount Rushmore. I have told the kids about going here so many times, they were excited to be here. Despite the looks on some of their faces, LOL.
The last time I was at Mount Rushmore, there was not this flag area or the amphitheater. There is a flag for every state in the United States, which is pretty cool.
Up closer, LOL. No that is not a live raccoon being carried by my son David. And also I just noticed this picture is a bad representation of the height of my children. Jonathan, my oldest, in the middle is not quite that short. Granted David is @ 6 feet tall, but Jonathan I think was about 3 feet back so it makes him look barely any taller than my 10 and 12 year old kiddos. Yes, Andrew is a little guy. I am thinking that Elijah and Joseph may top Jonathan though. They are both almost as tall as I am.
A bit of a zoomed in view. I am still amazed as much today as I was as a kid when I look at this. I don't understand how someone was riding their horse along and was like "hey, I think that mountain needs 4 faces of presidents carved into it." It is such an amazing awesome thing. The sheer size of these is just amazing in itself. 
I am not sure what this is, kinda looks a bit like a tunnel. I also love the striped rocks. There is also an amphitheater now that was not there the last time I visited before I took my kiddos. They have a program in the evenings, sadly, I had a kiddo with some contact issues and we needed to leave. We did stop and all the kiddos got some ice cream. It was apparently very very good. 
On our way out as we were walking down the steps I noticed another tunnel. We drove through a tunnel in the mountain on the other side heading into Keystone. It is pretty neat. I know the kiddos thought it was pretty awesome actually.
One of the few pictures documenting the fact that I was actually there, LOL. This was taken out front of Mount Rushmore. So, HI!! It's me!!
The view of the Black Hills from Mount Rushmore. It was so lovely. The view was amazing. We drove back and had dinner at the cabin. The roasted hot dogs and had smores. Word of wisdom, do not buy the new square marshmallows they are now making for smores. The do NOT taste right. AT ALL!! They enjoyed the fire for awhile and then we were off to bed. We all slept pretty good after all that fresh air and exercise. 

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