HOT SPRINGS, SOUTH DAKOTA — THE SOUTHERN GATEWAY TO THE BLACK HILLS

Before we purchased our motorhome we rented one, just to see if we would enjoy RVing as much as we thought we would. And, to no one’s surprise, we loved it. That trip took us to Yellowstone National Park and back, with an overnight stop in the Black Hills.

We made the obligatory visit to Mount Rushmore and the girls earned their Junior Ranger Badges, but we had time for little else, leaving us longing to return to southwestern South Dakota.

Fast forward a few years and we were back in our own RV. This time, we set up camp at the KOA in Hot Springs, the southern ‘Gateway to the Black Hills’.

Though I had a few attractions on our itinerary, this trip was more a ‘let’s explore and see what we find’ adventure, with plenty of pool time for my water babies in the evenings.

 

 

My girls are a bit horse crazy – most girls are, I think — so I had initially planned to take them to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, but tours to view the herds were booked full. With the help of the Hot Springs visitors’ bureau I learned of Windcross Conservancy, a Spanish Mustang Preservation.

 

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CAMPING AT BAYLOR

For the past several months I have taken a break from blogging for a very good reason; my wonderful dad became very ill at the end of the summer. One of the perks of large families is that in a crisis, it’s “all hands on deck” and that is how it played out with my dads illness. My five living siblings and my late brothers sons all rotated shifts in Texas assisting my mom with household jobs, getting prescriptions filled, attending doctors appointments, shopping for, preparing and serving anything we could get into my dad whose stomach inexplicably quit working in August. Having been surrounded his whole life with “kids, kids and more kids”,  being alone never sat well with my dad. He didn’t like being overnight in the hospital by himself and so we never left him there alone, not even one night of the over two months he spent there.

I was on a Texas shift when it was determined that Dad needed a feeding tube and this “slam dunk” procedure was the way to go. I was all set up with one of those cozy hospital chairs that turns into a really narrow and hard “bed”. Dad was uncomfortable but predictably stoic and upbeat. Complications set in and what was suppose to be a two night stay turned into three weeks. I entertained my dad with  slide shows of my vintage trailer overhaul projects on my laptop and my cowgirl adventures in Wyoming last August.

We got a routine going. I got the paper first thing in the morning and then secured two cups of coffee although, Dad never really could get the coffee down. I got him one anyway and kept telling myself, “It’s the new normal”. We talked about our family vacations and our favorite campgrounds. We talked about our favorite memories and the silly stories that became family legend. Fundy on Sundy, not Mundy, referring to our trip to the Bay of Fundy. Rest stop picnics and peaches from roadside stands. Endless hours of singing rounds of 99 bottles of beer on the wall and Hey Lidi Lidi Lo. “Let’s keep it down to a college roar” was just one of my dads favorite phrases, frequently repeated for my moms sake more than his.  Dad always seemed impervious to noise. So many wonderful memories surfaced as we killed time,  instinctively knowing it was to be treasured more than ever.

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ANOTHER EPIC JACKSON FAMILY TRIP FROM TENNESSEE TO COLORADO FOR THE GOPRO GAMES

I have always had the desire to travel. I remember the 4 and 1/2 hour, 222.5-mile trip from my childhood house in Woolrich, Pennsylvania, to my parents’ hometown of Leetonia, Ohio, starting in the old Appalachian Mountains and twisting through to the open farms and rolling hills to my grandparents’ house.

As I got older, whitewater kayaking became my primary passion. By the time I was 20, I had moved to Bethesda, Maryland and was training full time with the USA Team in hopes of becoming a team member myself. The kayaking events we competed in took me to Europe and around the mountain areas of the US. I was beginning to see parts of the US and the world I never knew existed and my passion for travel was fueled once again.

At 24 I married my wife Kristine (then 18) and made the USA Team for slalom kayaking and the following year my daughter, Emily, was born. Traveling around the country started getting harder as the long drives in a car were more taxing with a young child and two Dalmatians. Kristine started staying home for more of the training camps and other trips that we enjoyed so much together just a year or two before. I made the Olympic Team in 1992 and did much of my training in Barcelona without my young family.  In 1993, we had our second child, Dane, and I also won my first World Championships. It was becoming increasingly more difficult to keep the family together and truly enjoy the trips that I planned for kayak training, racing, and pleasure.

A good kayaker friend of mine had an RV that he traveled in and recommended that I consider RVing. I hadn’t really thought much about it at the time. However, in 1997, when the kids were 4 and 7 years old, Kristine brought up the RV option as a better way to travel and keep the family together and happy. After a few long discussions about it, we both agreed that it was worth a try. We didn’t dabble, however, we went “all-in”.  We had a yard sale and sold everything we owned over a weekend in October of 1997. We purchased a Type A motorhome and planned on spending a year or two in it to try it out. We realized that we could cut our monthly expenses by about $1,100/month if we lived in an RV and that was precious cash for a full time kayaker. That was the beginning of being spoiled….

 

 

We had no idea how awesome traveling in an RV was going to be. From the moment we pulled out of our suburban neighborhood in Bethesda, we felt free and like we were on an adventure. Life was simple. We had less stuff, less stress, and more freedom than ever before.

 

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THE BEAUTY OF IDAHO’S SALMON RIVER

 

Situated along the banks of the Salmon River in North Fork, Idaho is where one can find the picturesque Wagonhammer RV Park. As we pull in and head to our site, we notice that this park has it all, including beautiful manicured landscaping, ample and very accommodating sites for RVs of all sizes and a general store complete with a charming gift boutique.

 

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KENTUCKY: HOME TO THE WORLD’S LARGEST BAT AND LONGEST CAVE

 

A state known for its bluegrass pastures, horses, fried chicken, baseball bats, and caves, Kentucky is rich in history, culture, and nature. A few weeks ago, we had driven right through the Bluegrass State on our way to visit family in Indiana. After our time in Indiana, we decided we couldn’t head north without first turning around to give Kentucky some love.

 

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