As most of you know, last week, I was gone on a sort of vacation. I say "sort of" because for the first part, I was (happily, just unexpectedly) a personal attendant for my friend, E, at her wedding, and the second part, I was partially there just to do whatever my Mama needed while she is still recovering from her recent surgery.
When I got into FAR on Thursday night, the bridal party and some miscellaneous friends & family were hanging out by the pool (bride & groom had a poolside room that night). I finally got to meet her man, her 10 yo daughter (K), and her soon-to-be daughter (A) who is 7 yo. The girls are wonderful and I adore her husband! We all finally got off to bed at midnight, but had a lot of fun.
Friday (wedding day) was extremely busy, of course. Hair appointments, room set-up, make-up, dresses & shoes, pictures, and (of course!) the wedding itself! I'm pretty sure that had I not been glued to E's side, she would have forgotten her veil, forgotten to eat, and punched the photographer in the nose. Luckily, I am a VERY organized person, and kept her in check while making sure her bridal party were where they needed to be (and when), her shoes were clean (I should have smacked the photog myself), and her hair/make-up/nails were perfect. Minor hitches, but the end result was beautiful -- traditional mixed with military... awesome.
Dinner was served afterward, speeches were made, and then there were many hours of dancing. I think that all of us ladies temporarily misplaced our shoes more than once that night, but we had a BLAST (and I <3 E's other friends, too). After the DJ closed up shop, a bunch of us pitched in to de-fancify the hall; we all dragged ourselves to our rooms at 1am.
Saturday morning, E called me at 830a and had me meet them in one of the conference rooms; it was present-opening time!! Many photos and cups of coffee later, and it was time for me to go. Her hubs told me that since they all get free (standby) seating on military flights, they'll be coming out here for a visit next year; he's never seen the beach! I reminded him about the family's beach house, and said that I'd LOVE to show them around the area!! That would be fantastic; our daughters would totally have a blast together!
I met up with Ace in DEN (a wedding is never a good time to meet someone for the first time, and, not only did he have to work, but, as busy as I was, it was a good thing he wasn't there; he'd have been bored!) and we headed to RAP to visit my parents. Dad met us at the airport and we drove to his campground (www.fortwelikit.com -- it's a GREAT place). He gave us one of the cabins and a car, so we had full mobility during our stay.
Dinner was Chinese food that night, from Mama's favorite place. For those who aren't aware, she has been going through some medical issues and just got back from a serious surgery a couple weeks ago; making her very tired. This trip was somewhat just to see for myself that she was on the road to recovery, and that she wasn't going to die any time soon. When I originally got the news of her diagnosis, I was very scared, and had a good, long cry. This woman means the world to me; she's been my mama for almost 30 years!
Anyway, eating that night tired her out. It literally took her four tries just to finish a plate of shrimp fried rice! She's lost too much weight, and has to be reminded to eat on a regular basis. She takes a two-hour nap every day. It's not pretty, and I am even more in awe of my father for not having lost it yet.
Oh, forgot to mention, up until early August, Grandma had been living with them (age 96). Grandma's mental health has been slowly declining for the last 6 months, so they moved her into their place (instead of the cabin she'd had, across the path from their house) and got her hospice care 2 days a week. Still, with the campground busy (and currently for sale) along with mama's recovery, she was getting to be too much, so my aunt came to get her (she's a nurse) and took her back to Texas. There, she gets 5 days a week hospice and my aunt can leave to go to work (and escape the exasperating behaviors).
Ok, back to our visit. So, the other half was, of course, to see some sites we hadn't before. The last time Ace was out there was 2003 (when we did some tourist-y stuff, bought my engagement ring, and he asked my dad for his permission to marry me). The last visit I went was with Princess in 2005 for a mini-family reunion. There's been some expansion, but not a great deal, so the area is still beautiful, and most towns still have the small hometown feel to them.
Sunday, we had about 3 1/2 hours to kill before meeting up with my parents again, so we took a drive through Custer State Park. The lake there (Sylvan Lake) is beautiful (took a short walk on the path)! Then, we drove through part of the Needles Scenic Highway; two tunnels in this part are only wide enough for one car to pass through it at a time. The Wildlife Loop took us another 45 minutes, and we saw bison ("tahtanka" to the Lakota Indians), longhorn (mistakenly called "elk"), burros, etc. What a beautiful drive; definitely a recommend if you ever get out there (remember, though, the state park has a day use fee).
We then met up with my parents back at their house, and drove together to my sister's and her bf's house, back in Rapid City. J has a very nice house (as he should; he's paid very well for what he does)! They made a lot of food, and it was all good. Then, sis broke out the photo albums. Apparently, the parents gave her all their old photos to organize as she had the time and energy to do so. With a full time school schedule, as well as her job, there's not much of those, but she's put together a wedding album for my parents, a baby album for herself, and has started albums for all six of us "kids". I can't wait 'til they're done!!
When we got back, Dad went to close up shop at the office, so Ace and I went to the store for a few things. We knew there was a storm headed in, so we were fast about it, but still... as we left the grocery store, the wind kicked up and knocked a bunch of carts all over the parking lot! We picked them all up and got them corralled, then headed back to our porch to watch the storm. SD storms are different from storms in the Pacific Northwest, so it's always a joy to get to watch them. I even got a little video!
Monday, Ace and I had the whole day to ourselves. After getting our morning mochas, we started our little road trip with a helicopter ride over some bison and got a full-on view (from both sides of the copter) of the Crazy Horse monument. I'd never been in a helicopter before, so that was cool; I even got to sit up front and got some great photos!
We then took the main north/south highway to the main highway loop, and hit (among other things) Pactola Lake (pontooning there is fun), and the cities of Lead, Sturgis, and Deadwood. Along the way, there were waterfalls, wild animals, and a lot of windy roads. Ace decided that next time we go out there, we're bringing our motorcycle! This time, though, it won't be so long until our next visit!
Side note: Sturgis is just another small town when the Rally's not going on... but we still spent a good 2 1/2 hours there, checking stuff out. Lunch at the Loud American Roadhouse was AWESOME, and I highly recommend stopping there to eat, then heading over to the Motorcycle Museum before you leave. We finally returned to the campground at 530p; in good spirits.
Tuesday morning, we meandered downtown Custer and met up with the parents about 2 hours before our flight left. Both parents joined us on this leg, and it was nice to have the time to chat with them. Dad, of course, would love for us to move out there, but with Ace's two kids still in h.s., that's just not going to happen. Maybe when his kids are grown... we'll see.
Anyway, it was a good sort-of vacation. I got to see a long-distance friend and watch her get married, and I got to see my parents, which doesn't happen nearly as often as we'd like (Dad did mention, btw, that he likes this husband a thousand times better than the previous one; I, for one, have to agree). Next visit, we'll bring the Princess (Grandpa's orders!).