Thursday, June 30, 2016

the red road in our backyard

I'll just say it: We lucked out with our house...rather, we were blessed. It suits us and our needs perfectly. As Noah says after a long (or more often than not, a short) time away from home, "I can't wait to get to home sweet home." We love everything about it... Until now:

The day the bike trip began, Monday, June 13, I came home after running some errands to the sound of chainsaws. It didn't really register in my brain to think anything out of the ordinary was going on until I went upstairs to my room and saw this out of back window - the National Guardsmen cutting down the beautiful pine trees from from the small hill behind our house. Our back yard backs up to the National Guard land and even though we can't go back there, it was just lovely to look at and amazing not to have neighbors behind us. 

Once a year in June the National Guard hosts a Golden Coyote Exercise in the Black Hills and, essentially, our backyard, across the barbed wire fence. It's always been fun to see the Guardsmen landing helicopters back there, or walking/crawling around the hill playing their war games, or even hearing their artillery. 

These helicopter photos are from mid-April and we had wondered if our new friend Josh was one of the pilots. Tragically Josh died on Ezra's birthday this year. We will never forget him when we see those helicopters landing and taking off from there.  

So, I texted photos of the trees being cut down to my family and wondered what on earth they were up to. I was saddened that they would cut down our own little beautiful piece of the Black Hills. This is what it had looked like before... :(

After lunch the chainsaws stopped and I heard a different sound: Large machinery. I looked outside to see them bulldozing the entire hill!!

By the end of the night, after Terry and Noah had left for the bike trip, our little idyllic hill was there no longer. This was our new view... 

I went out to the barbed wire fence beyond our pine trees and took this shot

Then I hiked up the hill along the easement and took in the full view of my poor demolished hill. I wondered what on earth they were doing?!

It got worse. By the time the bike trip was over and we all returned home, it was to see them extending the dirt further out behind our house and even up the hill beyond our neighborhood.

I was taking photos when these Guardsmen spotted me and came to talk. They asked if I had any concerns and apologized for the mess (our house, cars, everything is covered with red dirt). I didn't want to seem to seem ungracious but I blurted out my concern over what they were doing. They said they were building a road! They didn't know why but our neighbor said one Guardsmen had told her that they wanted access to a neighborhood up Nemo Road, Westberry Trails, that had only one way in or out, which had been a problem when there was a fire up there a couple years ago. I'm not sure how accurate that is though. These guys seemed to think this road might be accessible to the public and some of the land would be for sale. Again, not sure if that's accurate. I should really call someone. They already have a road out there that is parallel to this one and goes up the hill so it seems unnecessary to me. I did find this post online and it seems like the information I learned is at least partially true. So much for our private backyard.

"The projects include constructing a parking lot for the obstacle course, building a new road for civilian use and clearing a gulch to provide better vehicle access to training sites."

All this to say, our backyard view is now this:

When it used to look like this:

 Last summer this was our view beyond our trees.

And today this is what we see.

It had been such a pretty little hill, hiding us behind it like we were a part of a secret garden.

I guess we are still hidden, except we're behind a road three levels high of red dirt.

The road stretches up beyond what I can see. On the right you can see our gray house and how we are situated in the lowest part thereby giving us the largest view of red dirt.

I know it's not a huge deal and there are bigger things to worry about in the world and I don't mean to complain, but I'm bummed out by the changes.

It had been beautiful in the winter... the spring...

...and summer.

But this is our view now and I wish I could change it. I hope they will improve it at some point in the near future.

Such a bummer! Ever since the Golden Eagle Exercise ended our part of the road has had no more progress. I can only hope they finish the job and plant something in all that dirt. 

MS bike trip 2016: Triumph

Monday June 13 through Friday June 17 was our biennual (every two years) Middle School bike trip. Terry and I were talking afterwards about how this had been his third trip and wondering how many times it's been done in the past. He only came into the tradition of this trip in 2012 after we had just moved back. He then did it a second time in 2014

I spent the better part of an afternoon researching the following Middle School bike trip information. My youth pastor, Mike, came in 1999 and set up the very first bike trip in the summer of 2000. We're unsure, but he might have (or maybe not) done it again in 2002, but definitely in 2004. Next my brother Nathan and Jeff did the trip in 2006. The youth pastor before us, JD, organized the trip in 2008 and 2010. Finally, Terry has done 2012, 2014, and now 2016. So, the trip has been done eight or nine times. Quite a legacy! Now I want to see photos from all the years. How fun this trip is.
Spoiler alert: They all made it.

Every year we forget how small the incoming 6th graders are, but it was brought home to us in a whole new way since Noah was one of them! To give the little guys practice for the trip Terry organized two big group rides of 15 miles or so...

Here we are for the first ride at the top of Cleghorn Canyon Road where we turned around. 

Here's the group a couple weeks later at the top of Park Drive. Evie did both rides with them, and even though she's three years younger she crushed it (but was very tired). 

Finally the trip came...and I was sick! Here's Noah, Rob, and Paul setting up their tent at the Deadwood KOA on Monday, June 13.

The following day, Evie and I went shopping for Terry's Father's Day/anniversary gift - a french press. Afterwards we went to lunch at Qdoba and shared some $3 after coupon nachos. Though I was sad to be sick and not participating in the biking, it was nice to have a girls date. 

But seriously, what is up with me being sick during bike trips?!!! Last year when the high schoolers biked the Mick in two days (verses three like here), I got sick the day we left, biked the first day, and felt so terrible the second day that I couldn't keep on. I had STREP THROAT! Since I missed half of the ride last year I was looking forward to completing the entire Mickelson plus I had wanted to see the portion of the Mick and we had ran for our half marathon the week before. But yet again, I fell sick and didn't feel well enough to ride. So frustrating. I'm allergic to bike trips I guess. I went to the doctor that day and was negative for Strep. It was a possible sinus infection that she gave me antibiotics for. It could have been viral too since it took me two and a half weeks to get better.

Here is the group only a few miles into their first day of riding. Tuesday, June 14. The mile markers count down from 109.

Terry in front of his name with Noah.

Their first day of biking was the shortest but also hilliest and most challenging. Noah had a rough time on the second hill. But in the end they all made it in very good time to Rochford where they set up camp (and hammocks).
Zoe, Lindsey, Natasha, Emma, Ella

I didn't feel terrible like the previous year and had enough energy to drive, just not bike, so I took us all up to see Daddy and Noah. Here we are at the Rochford Mall, a small store where they always stop for ice cream but I had never previously arrived early enough to take part. 

Since the group made such good time we had a lot of time to sit around and wait for dinner from Melody. Some people, including Evie, explored the creek.

I wouldn't let the littles go in.

Evie, Terry, Jack, and Zeb walked up the creek to the bridge. Terry lost his flip flop but Zeb quickly rescued it, despite me and Jazmin's valiant efforts. 

Beyond the bridge.

These were Emma's hammocks and they very much wanted us all to sit in the top one. I needed all the help I could get and am quite sure I did not look graceful in my attempt. It was fun though.

David was kind enough to take our picture with his nicer-than-a-phone Go-Pro camera. Such a fantastic shot!

After dinner, a game of Mafia, and Ezra successfully pooping in the hole in the ground "vault toilet" and then peeing in his car seat, I took the kids home. Side note, Ezra has much improved in his potty training attempts. He hasn't had an accident in over a week.

Everyone woke up much earlier than normal the following morning, perhaps because they were so cold in addition to the sun coming up at like 4:45am. Therefore they were able to leave camp by about 8am, a record. Much credit for the smoothness of the trip goes to Paul, who trailed them in the van and trailer providing food, water, sunscreen, etc., but more importantly he always set up breakfast and lunch so people could eat as soon as they got up or stopped biking. Because of this everything went quicker than usual. It sure helped out Terry not having to handle those things. 

This part of the trail with the three tunnels is the most fun but it was also the part that I felt the most sick last year. It's become a tradition for the people in the front of the pack to climb up on top of the tunnel and pummel those coming out with pinecones. They rarely hit anyone though.

Noah did much better after the first day. He sort of just set his mind to the task of riding and silently went to work.

Father and son.

Halfway there, somewhere near Custer.

Alex fell, not while riding, but while walking. :D

Lindsey and Zeah were riding next to each other when Zeah spotted a squirrel on the trail ahead and swerved into Lindsey to avoid it thereby causing one of the only crashes of the trip. 

She scraped up her shoulder a bit but the whole thing was rather funny and became a joke.

The group made it to Custer in record time and after setting up their tents some people (who shall remain nameless though not faceless) put Zeb's bike in a tree. Don't worry, he deserves it. ;)

I "helped"... Okay, I watched, Todd and Frannie made dinner for the group before riding up to Custer in the Envoy. 

Frannie's burritos were delicious!

Paul being helpful yet again by starting a campfire.


Terry made this bike helmet cross the following morning. 

The last day was mostly downhill or flat so I decided I could handle that. Evie spent the night with Elle and then my folks, the littles went to the ranch, and I camped with the group. Here we all are ready to go Thursday morning.

The beginning of the ride was lovely. But by the time we got to the Minnekahta trailhead we ran out of trees and the sun was beating down on us. It was a high of like 96 or 98 that day! It felt pretty rough biking through the barren hills towards Edgemont because there was no shade and the wind felt like an oven. But we all finally made it successfully! We triumphed!

After resting on the grass in the shade, we loaded up and drove to the Cottonwood Springs campground where we set up our tents. Then we loaded up once again and went to a park north of Evans Plunge in Hot Springs where we all had Pizza Hut pizza. Andrew got stuck in a baby swing and David further lodged him in by swinging him. Funny!

Following our pizza we went to Evans Plunge to swim, something I had not really been looking forward to. But it was awesome! We rode the fast slides over and over and then tried to get across the rings over and over. Sadly I have no photos from that night. There is some footage in the video at the end of this post though.

Everyone slept rather well that night and in the morning we packed up and headed home. Andrew and Emma did a great job snuggly packing all of our camping gear into the back of the trailer. 

Then we posed for one last Triumphant group photo...

...and a silly one :) Another successful Middle School bike trip in the books!

After every trip, we are always so glad to be home. The littles played together beautifully, not fighting, which is a big deal for them, while Noah and Evie just wanted to read. My heart was full.

Terry's video is quite entertaining, especially the last bit from Evans Plunge. I just laughed and laughed. Just watch past when the song ends.