Yesterday afternoon Susan and I drove the girls to Badlands Ministries south of Medora. They attended Bible camp there last summer (remember?) and had a blast (chronicled here, here, and here), so they've been looking forward to returning for camp again this summer. The length of time that one is allowed to stay is determined by one's age. Suzanna stayed five nights last summer and will again this week. Abigail stayed two nights last summer but will stay the whole week with Suzanna this time. Hillary couldn't stay overnight last summer (attending for a few days but requiring us [well, Susan] to drive back and forth dropping her off each day and picking her back up each evening); however, this summer she will stay two nights (the same session that Abigail attended last year).
For us to get to the camp, it's a quick half-hour drive via Interstate to Medora and then just a few more minutes south via gravel roads surfaced with bright pink clinker/scoria, driving past the Bully Pulpit Golf Course and alongside the winding Little Missouri River. The camp is surrounded by the rugged Badlands of southwest ND and features lots of trees and, of course, the river just a few yards away--it's a terrific setting. And all the people there were so friendly and welcoming, from the camp counselors standing beside the road waving at cars as they drove in to the staff members helping campers with their bags and leading them to their assigned cabins.
When we arrived, we went to Bethlehem (the camp's dining hall) to check in, and the camp director told our daughters, "I'm so happy! We've been waiting all summer for you girls to get here!" (He also happens to attend our church, where he has told us that he hopes our daughters will someday be camp counselors themselves. They must have made quite an impression on him!) As we walked around the grounds getting the girls checked in, hauling their luggage and sleeping bags to their cabins, avoiding slithering snakes (which freaked out a counselor far more than our daughters, whom she was leading to their cabins), taking photos, and saying goodbyes, our daughters kept stopping to greet and hug counselors and fellow campers whom they met last year or whom they know from our church or from school. I have the feeling the girls are going to have fun at Bible camp again this summer!
In the days preceding camp, Suzanna was on the telephone with a friend also attending this session (the owner, in fact, of the pink sleeping bag to Suzanna's left), making plans and sharing their excitement RE: this week. Here is Suzanna on the top bunk that she chose holding a sign that says "Suzanna's bed!"
In her cabin, Abigail chose a top bunk beside a vacant top bunk that she was reserving for her friend, with whom Abigail had earlier made plans for the week. Susan and I saw that friend's parents when we were out shopping today, and they told us that their daughter was as eager for camp as our daughters were. What a compliment to Badlands Ministries!
While Susan went back to the vehicle to grab something and I delivered suitcases to Suzanna and Abigail's cabins, Hillary found her own cabin, set up her stuff, and left again before Susan and I got there! We found her back at Bethlehem hanging out with a few friends and counselors. We got her to pose for a pic in front of The Well (the camp's chapel).
After getting the girls' photographs and giving them hugs and kisses, it was time to leave them in the very capable hands of the camp staff . . . and the girls clearly had no qualms about being left by their parents, so it wasn't so hard as one might expect to drive away without them. Susan and I had no particular plans for our couple days without children (Hillary's camp session ends mid-day Tuesday), but it started out with our taking an unusual (and scenic) route home from the camp. At a particular intersection north of the camp, where we could have turned north and returned to Medora, I turned south and took a scoria-covered road that wasn't even shown on the road map in our glove compartment. It took us alongside creeks and railroad tracks through grasslands and beside buttes and valleys so gorgeous that I even stopped at one point so that Susan could snap a few photos, including these:
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We turned off the gravel to drive through the sleepy town of Fryburg and then took old Highway 10 into Belfield before returning to the Interstate to head back to Dickinson. We picked up a few items at the grocery store* to make a light supper once we got home: crab and shrimp salad on a bed of mixed greens, beer cheese soup, crackers, pomegranate blueberry margaritas (that we already had ready in our freezer), and lemon sorbet for dessert. We cuddled up on the couch in the family room and caught up on some of our television viewing, snacking on popcorn and emptying our DVR of programs recorded way back last autumn (not even kidding)!
After sleeping in this morning, we picked up some tasty coffee drinks at Serendipity Coffee House and then went shopping. For dinner, Susan made turkey avacado BLTs, which we ate with watermelon. For supper, she has made Swiss steak using some of the venison that I had thawed for yesterday's Scandinavian meal; with it, we'll eat more of the potato/parsnip/sweet potato gratin left over from yesterday, and for dessert we'll have fresh blueberries atop the blueberry cobbler ice cream that we bought at the grocery store last night. Supper's not ready yet, so we're each enjoying a glass of rosé with crackers, some topped with seafood salad and some with artichoke parmesan dip. Tonight we may watch a movie. Woo-hoo!
Much as we love our children, it is nice to have the house to ourselves for a couple nights. Stay tuned to Pensive? No, Just Thinking for post-camp updates from the girls.
* At the grocery store, we visited with two women (sisters) whose daughters were my sister Sandy's classmates in high school. One of the women still lives in Tioga and was visiting her sister, who now lives in Dickinson. When they asked how we like living in Dickinson, I mentioned how much friendlier we find people to be here than in the last place we lived, citing grocery store check-out clerks as one example. Sure enough, as we were paying for our groceries just a while later, the store employee engaged us in small talk, asking us about the sorbet that we were buying and recommending another flavor that she likes. Where we used to live, we were accustomed to hearing nothing more from a store employee than the price that we owed. This is a change for the better.