Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wyoming Territorial Prison

The Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie was our family’s latest stop. For some strange reason our family seems to like exploring old jails. We loved Alcatraz, enjoyed the brig on the USS Lexington and we also had an enjoyable time exploring the Wyoming Territorial Prison.

The Wyoming Territorial Prison was built in 1872, with prisoners first incarcerated on January 13, 1873. The idea for the prison arose in 1869 when U. S. Marshal Church Howe complained to Washington of the increasing number of criminals in the Wyoming Territory. Soon after, the Legislature responded, passing an act in December 1896 to build a facility in Laramie City.

During our visit we learned about some of the inmates, including the most famous inmate ever to stay at the prison, Butch Cassidy! None of our boys had ever heard of him before, and the prison tour does a nice job of presenting the real Butch Cassidy, not the Hollywood version. We also learned about a famous local lawman, N.K. Boswell.

We got to see the infirmary and the chapel, where we learned about the first ever female chaplain that once served here. We got to explore some of the cells and see the warden’s house and the single guards’ barracks.

Our favorite part, however, was the broom factory. The factory was operational during the prison years where inmates worked and produced a usable goods to sell, brooms! They still make brooms here, however they are no longer made by inmates but rather by volunteers, dressed in prisoner garb. This was a special delight for Chase, the prison garb that is.

The volunteers were very nice and explained the broom making process to us, which is was actually fairly interesting. At least it was to us. It made us want to buy one of their handmade brooms, even though we don’t need one! This attraction is run by Wyoming State Park system and is free for kids and only five dollars for adults.

Cheyenne Cowboy

This is a prime example of the strange things that fascinate our family!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Campground review - AB Camping

We stayed closer to Cheyenne at AB Camping where we could explore around town!

Nearby attractions - 7 - Right in Cheyenne

Staff - 7 - Helpful staff. Gave us a refund on money spent in a dryer that didn't work.

Natural surroundings - 5 - Some trees and birds. Not a lot around in the way of city congestion.

Value - 7 - We paid $33 a for a pull-through with full hook-ups. This included cable that did not work very well.

Bathrooms - 8 - Decent and clean. New tiles in shower, but the water stream was a trickle.

Roominess - 5 - A little close for us, but about average.

Facility fun - 6 - Small playground and a BBQ restaurant on site. Patsy and I had some of this pit style BBQ one night. The boys had Kraft mac and cheese.

Cleanliness - 7 - Slightly above average.

Facility usefulness - 9 - Laundromat on site and propane for sale. Exchange library. Very fast wifi. Small camp store.

Overall - 7 - It was your average campground with good BBQ!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ole Cheyenne


You can now read this post and much more in our new book Napkin Dreams! Click here http://www.amazon.com/Napkin-Dreams-ebook/dp/B00AZR24LG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1358194928&sr=8-1&keywords=napkin+dreams


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Campground Review - Terry Bison Ranch

We had a tremendous stay at Terry Bison Ranch, just two miles north of the Colorado border and south of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Nearby attractions - 6 - Close to Cheyenne.

Staff - 9 - Very nice owners and staff members.

Natural surroundings - 7 - The campground is on the ranch, so you are on a western style farm. You can still hear I25, but not overly loud.

Value - 8 - We paid $24 a night for full hook-ups for two nights.

Bathrooms - 8 - Nice hot, showers and clean facilities.

Roominess - 7 - The sites are long enough, but not very wide.

Facility fun - 10 - If you want to pay extra you can visit their restaurant, go on a trail ride, take the bison viewing train, go fishing or get your picture on a jackalope! For free they have a menagerie of a farm to wander around and see farm an exotic animals and enjoy the grounds. They also have two playgrounds, one of them rated the best my kids have seen at a campground so far!
Cleanliness - 7 - Pretty good for a farm.
Facility usefulness - 7 - Bathrooms, cheap laundry (the dryers do not work well), a big store.

Overall - 9 - We had a lot of fun exploring Terry Bison Ranch

Terry Bison Ranch

By Patsy

I can’t remember ever writing about an RV park that we have stayed in, but I haven’t gone back and checked my notes to see if I’m right. This time, though, I will make an exception. Now through the states of Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, California, Utah and Colorado we have stayed in some pretty nice RV parks, we have also stayed in some that make you want to lock the door and keep a close eye on the children while they sleep. There are some really great state parks that have had amazing views and animals to see and there have been a very few that looked a little like a barren waste land. We have even stayed in our share of parking lots. But of all the places that I have stayed, none has been more enjoyable for our family than this place.

It is just outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming and it’s called Terry Bison Ranch. Now, if you know me, you know that I have a thing about buffalo, so that is probably why my husband first chose this place. However, the huge herd of buffalo has only been a side note for our stay here. (Yes, they are out there where everyone can see them. Ben Affleck must be done shooting his film.) But the real draw for us was the fact that this place is really a working ranch. And guests are allowed to roam around and enjoy all the animals and wide open spaces.

They also have a store, cafĂ©, Laundromat, wagon rides, horseback rides, train rides, and a giant jackalope. Yep. It’s here and it’s gigantic! In fact, I have to say that in all my years of stuffed jackalope sightings, I have never sighted one this large. It’s a beauty! Also the Laundromat is one of the cheapest we have found since we hit the road and that makes me happy…happy…happy. Sadly, the boys are not interested in the laundry facilities. They are impressed with the two playgrounds located in the midst of the campgrounds. No little pre-formed tubes here. These are big, unique and fun. I can hardly keep the boys off of them. (Including the big boys.)

One of the things that we read about in this place and wanted to see was something called a chicken bus. Having no idea what this thing could possibly be, I went into the office to ask where it was located and if I could take the family to see it. Dan (whom I believe must be the owner of the ranch) told me that it was a school bus converted into a large chicken house for the 150 chickens they have. However, the chickens are too young to be on display to large crowds. I was just about ready to thank him and be on my way when he smiled and suggested that our family wasn’t large enough to be considered a “large crowd” and he would be happy to take us to the chicken bus so the boys could see it firsthand. First of all, that was one of the only times our family hasn’t been referred to as a “large crowd” and secondly, I was blown away by the fact that this man was willing to make exceptions and take time out of his schedule for a total stranger. But I happily took him up on his offer.

We planned our tour of the chicken bus to co-ordinate with some pony rides for our three youngest boys. We realized they had never been on a horse or pony other than the ones that are tethered to a pole and walk in a circle and this pony ride was going to be taken through the open fields. They were ecstatic. We got our tour of the chicken bus (which was so adorable) and then we were asked if we had seen the baby camel yet. (We didn’t even know they had a baby camel.) We were taken to the pen where the mother and baby camel were staying and loved it when the baby came right over to the fence to visit with us. Then we had to see the peacocks, lamas, cattle, horses and miniature horses. The baby miniature horse was absolutely the tiniest, cutest little horse the world has ever known. It also stood on its wobbly little legs and came over to sniff the boys’ hands. They were all amazed that its little nose felt like velvet. Then they were all giggling when we were told its name is Booger.

Next two ponies were trotted out and our little boys were given helmets and helped up into the saddles of Rainbow and Teddy. My husband and I were allowed to walk along with the boys as they took turns getting their rides. Chase was slightly on the cautious side. He wanted to know everything that his pony was doing until he was comfortable with his ride. Brendan never said a word, which is really a testimony to his excitement. He is never quiet. David did talk about his pony, which says quite a bit about his attitude, because he is usually the quiet one. All three loved the ride. But what were their big brothers doing?

Well, it seems that there was a pen with some interesting goats that caught Blake and Tanner’s attention. They wandered over to get a better look at the goats. It seems that while they were looking, Tanner accidentally touched the top wire of the fence for a split second. He wondered if he had felt a little shock, or if the wire was just rough, so he asked his brother Blake if he thought it was an electric fence. This was a mistake.

Blake does very few things half way and this fence was no exception. He decided to give it the “real test”. At this point he says he grabbed it with both hands and held on. (The guy that was walking Rainbow with Chase happened to see the episode and claimed that he had never seen anything so funny in his life.) It would appear that even though Blake’s voice is changing and getting much lower, he can still scream like a little girl. I believe he also did a little dance number that was quite a hit. I didn’t see this first hand, and it’s probably a good thing. With my son, I find that the saying, “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” has become something of a life motto. It is best that I find out about most of his episodes after the fact, when he is safe and I can’t have a heart attack watching. But, by the time I saw him, he was laughing and rubbing his elbows.

But despite the electrocution, we will all be sad when the time comes to move on. This is really a great place. It’s good for tents as well as RVs and also had cabins to rent. If you are ever vacationing in the Cheyenne area, this is a place you will want to look up.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Campground review - St. Vrain State Park

Our final Colorado campground was St. Vrain State Park near Longmont. We also celebrated Chase's fifth birthday.

Nearby attractions - 7 -Within sixth minutes of Denver, Boulder, Ft. Collins and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Staff - 7 - Typical state park staff.
Natural surroundings - 8 - Not many trees in the part of park we stayed in, because it was a newer part of the park. Still we were parked right on one of the several pond/lakes and enjoyed hikes through the parks and sunsets on the distant Rockies.

Value - 7 - We paid $28 a night for full hook-ups for three nights, which included $7 a day for state park entrance fee.

Bathrooms - 6 - Decent and clean, but you have again have to pay 75 cents for four minutes. We can get four minute showers in Howard.
Roominess - 8 - Nice sized parks with not many people here during the week.

Facility fun - 5 - Hikes around the park and fishing if you have a license. Boys also enjoyed throwing rocks in the lake and shooting their sling shots into the lake as well.

Cleanliness - 9 - Very nice!

Facility usefulness - 4 - Bathrooms, but not much else.

Overall - 7 - Nice park, lots of birds and love the lakes. Close to I25 with easy access.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

One Way Street

Our family finished our Colorado ministry tour by stopping by One Way Street. This was a unique stop for us because it is the "birthplace" of Blake's alter ego, Kevin Shutterbug. One Way Street has a been a supporter of our traveling ministry, Kidology to Go. They are primarily a puppet making company, but they also have skits, books, DVDS, illusions, props and other kids' ministry aids that they sell.

It was pretty cool for our kids to see all the puppets, including the ones that were in the process of being made. We also enjoyed taking a look at their warehouse which had boxes and boxes of different puppets. I spotted several puppets we have used through the years, including the heart puppet and a Bible puppet. It made us nostalgic for the days of working hands on with kids! Children's ministry can be so much fun. Then I remembered all the recruiting and the volunteers that never showed up and I was cured of my nostalgic moment!

Still One Way Street is a great organization helping outfit children's ministries across the United States and the entire world. Of course Kevin Shutterbug had to do a live report from One Way Street, which included a little talk with One Way Street President Todd Liebenow!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Campground review - Boyd Lake State Park

We really needed a wide open space after our tight quarters in Colorado Springs. We parked Howard at Boyd State Park in Loveland, Colorado.

Nearby attractions - 8 - Within 60 minutes of Denver, Boulder, Estes Park.

Staff - 6 - State park professionalism.

Natural surroundings - 8 - Right on Boyd Lake with lots of trees and birds. Amazing sunset there Saturday night.
Value - 7 - Paid $28 a night for electric only. This included $8 daily pass fee.

Bathrooms - 6 - Decent and clean. You have to pay for showers, 75 cents for three minutes.

Roominess - 9 - Nice big sites, with plenty of open spaces to run. We played catch and the boys played swords without disturbing anyone else.

Facility fun - 8 - Two playgrounds, a walking path, boat dock, pretty lake.

Cleanliness - 8 - State park clean.

Facility usefulness - 7 - Laundromats on site. Dump site. Water on each loop.

Overall - 8 - Love state parks for the wide open spaces. Wish this one had free hot showers and full hook-ups.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Group Publishing

We drove up to Loveland, Colorado to visit Group Publishing Headquarters. As a children's pastor I used lots of resources provided by Group including their VBS curriculum, their Hands On curriculum and I was an avid reader of Children's Ministry Magazine, which they produce. I was also thrilled to be able to write an article for this magazine last year.

So it was a great joy to stop in and see where the magic happens! As you enter the building you hear applause, evidently there glad you came! The first thing you notice is a huge moose head hung on a big brick fireplace. If you stand there looking at him pretty soon he will start talking to you. This was an abundant source of amazement for out little guys! As you walk further in you see the hind-end side of the moose on the other side of the fireplace! The entire decor of the lobby and much of the building is one of our favorites - Adirondack.

We were treated to lunch by the head of the Children's Resourcing department at Group - Chris Yount Jones, and some of her staff. They have an incredible cafeteria with a world class chef at the facility. The boys had pizza and cookies and Patsy and I had paninis. We felt so honored as Chris and her staff "picked out brains" about current trends and needs we have seen in children's ministries across the continent. We felt flattered that they would seek our opinion!

After lunch we gave a tour of Howard and then Chris gave us a tour of the headquarters. It was cool to see how Group is striving to make a creative workplace to encourage their employees to think creatively themselves. The entire place just made you feel ready to come up with brilliant ideas! They had lots of little gifts for our kids there too, which they loved and they felt very special as well.

Group continues to be a great organization for churches on so many levels, and I can tell you they have a heart to equip those ministering to kids and really want to stay connected to what local churches are needing to be successful in their mission! Be sure to check them out if you are not familiar with their organization.

Campground review - Goldfield RV Park

We stayed at Goldfield RV Park while we toured sites around Colorado Springs and Canon City.

Nearby attractions - 9 -Right by Manitou Springs and all Colorado Springs attractions.

Staff - 7 - Nice guy helped us check in and gave us lots of ideas for things to do.

Natural surroundings - 4 - There are a few trees, close to major road.

Value - 9 - We paid $18 a night plus electricity for a pull-through with full hook-ups. Ended up being about $20 a night.

Bathrooms - 8 - Decent and clean.

Roominess - 2 - Very tight and packed in close.

Facility fun - 2 - City playground close by, but nothing really do at RV park.

Cleanliness - 7 - Slightly above average.

Facility usefulness - 7 - Laundromats on site. Exchange library. Propane close by, but you have to go there. Wifi and cable cost extra.

Overall - 6 - Cheap, but basically a gravel parking lot with showers and hook-ups.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Compassion International

Colorado is home to many para-church ministries and charities, and we are taking some of our time here to visit them and expose our kids to their mission and purpose. Today we visited Compassion International, also headquartered in Colorado Springs. In the lobby they have some statues of kids from Latin America, Asia and Africa coming to a statue of Jesus. They let kids crawl up in the lap of Jesus for a photo. Pretty cool!

We have been big fans of Compassion for years and have supported a little boy named Jerson from Honduras through this ministry for about six years. The tour was very nice, we were the only ones on the tour. They show a little shanty that represents what many kids in third world countries live in. They also have a sample mission school from Latin America that shows where kids who have Compassion sponsors might go to.

I have always felt that kids of the world were the most marginalized group of people in history. The sad fact is they receive very little of the aid and charity that is often meant for them. Parents use money for drugs and alcohol, governments take huge portions of it via graft and corruption and so many charities take big chunks of their donations for administrative costs. Compassion is one of the best charities in terms of percentage of donations used for administrative costs and they do everything in name of Christ, teaching and preaching the Gospel to every child they help out. They also do a great job working with national churches and employing local people to work in their field offices.

This is truly a class organization doing an amazing work with eternity in mind. Consider sponsoring a child or even two! It is a great chance to teach your own kids or grandkids about how blessed they are and how God wants us to be grateful and generous with these blessings!

At the end of our tour we stopped by Patsy's Candies in Manitou Springs for a photo op and a bit of chocolate. We also took a taste from one of their famous natural springs. We thought it was gross!

Focus on the Family

We have always loved Focus on the Family, especially Jim Dobson. His book "Raising Boys" helped shape my parenting style and philosophy. We have consulted their books and websites for issues ranging from ADHD, adoption, dyslexia and attachment disorder. We love the Plugged-in page and consult often when choosing movies and games for my family. We even have the Plugged-in app for the iPhone. Their pastoral ministry has often helped us through tough times. And of course our kids (and dad and mom) have loved the Adventures in Odyssey radio programs. We have mostly listened to them as sets while driving on long trips. We have also gobbled up many of their audio dramas such as the Narnia series and Screwtape letters.

So it was a great thrill to visit the Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs. I am pleases to say they really do have something for the whole family here.We started off by taking a guided tour of the headquarters building. This was very interesting and our guides were very kind and asked lots of questions about us the participants.

Then we went over to the welcome center and explored the world of Odyssey! Actually we started off launching the kids down the biggest slide they have ever been on, a three-story slide that requires the use of elbow socks and potato sacks! The boys loved this and went down the slide multiple times. Once again the attendants helping them with their gear and safety checks were exceptional! At the bottom of the slide is a wonder world for kids. The WW2 plane from the Last Chance Detectives awaits to be explored along with an indoor playset. A real-live Whit's End is ready to serve up some ice-cream and of course their fan favorite Wodfamchocsod!

Traveling through some canyon tunnels you can stop by a large theater room and watch Adventures in Odyssey under the stars or move unto another room full of kids activities. Here the kids can dress up, put on a play or puppet show and watch the Lionel Train travel around the top of the room. Families can also sign up to record their own Adventures in Odyssey show. Down another hall is a recreation of main street Odyssey with different rooms for toddlers, birthday parties and other activities.

Then there is the bookstore upstairs, one of the seven wonders of Colorado. We could have spent a thousand dollars here easily, but we had to restrain ourselves. We did find a great deal on a series we have been reading with the kids called Passages and a couple more audio adventures for road travel. There is a lot more to see here at the headquarters! Be sure to stop by the next time you are anywhere near Colorado Springs.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pikes Peak

We are so sorry, but this post has been removed becasue it is a aprt of our book Napkin Dreams that details our trip around America!



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