Just for Fun · Uncategorized

Adventure North

Disclaimer: This is written to share with those who are interested in our adventures. Perhaps I’m writing our recent adventure out just so that we can remember the craziness, laughs, fears, and blessings we were afforded on this trip.
Anybody that knows the two of us, knows we fly by the seat of our pants when it comes to vacation. When we had young children, I strategically planned each vacation and have each day mapped out. Now that it’s just the two of us, we typically do not know which direction we are headed until we get in the car.
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This past week was no exception to our spontaneity and oh, what an adventure we had!  Initially I thought we would end up in the hills of Tennessee until I checked the weather and realized rain was in the forecast each day of our vacation. With little thought just a few hours before we left, we decided to visit Mount Rushmore! Nearly 1,100 miles, 17 hours, and an unplanned trip was in our future.
 
I at least had a few hours to call ahead and get reservations to sleep the nights we were planning on being in Rapid City, the nearest large town to the monument. We decided that we would drive as far as we could and then get a hotel to break the trip down a little.  And the adventure began..
 
The car was loaded, we were prayed up, and the wheels pulled out of our driveway. We left at roughly 8:45 a.m. from Dallas and were South Dakota bound. Yippee! Here we were, headed north for a grand adventure with a mix of feelings including happiness, tiredness and most of all togetherness. We could not wait for a relaxing week.
We didn’t spend a lot of time on stops. Lunchtime consisted of turkey on dry bread with chips that we ate in the car.  I always carry an ice chest with drinks, fruit and snacks, but we stopped for a break and purchased bread and meat.  The bare groceries served us well and we kept pushing northward. 
 
I have never traveled further north than Oklahoma City and when you get to Kansas and Nebraska there is a whole lot of nothing. DSC02750Honestly, the drive would have been a bit dull if I hadn’t been in the company of my best friend. When we are together away from the stresses of normal day to day stuff, we have more fun and laughs than one could possibly imagine.  For example, we stopped to get gas somewhere in Oklahoma and it had been raining.  When we got out of the car we smelled a strong fish scent and pondered what it would be like if fish were raining from the sky. Within a few minutes, we looked over and our eyes locked with two cattle trucks…of course there were no fish! We died laughing at ourselves, aware that we may just be the only people to find this situation as funny as we did. 
We stopped  to eat a quick dinner and made the decision to press on a few more hours. We were confident we could find a place to sleep about 4 more hours down the road in Valentine, Nebraska. We were never more surprised that every single room was full in every town we stopped.  We were beginning to feel a bit like Mary and Joseph, there was seriously no room in the inn!
 
After being on the road about 13 hours at this point and getting a little road weary,  I told Jim that I didn’t know how long it was going to take. My excitement was slowly vanishing. He replied, “We’re going almost to Canada, how long did you think it was going to take?” 
 
I then had Sarah on the phone and was expressing our fatigue and frustration. Thanks to modern technology, she joined me on the trip through tracking our navigation. She started looking up hotels and calling to see if she can help us find a room. We finally found one about an hour south of Rapid City and still had a few hours to go before we arrived. 
 
We reached a point where we just wanted to get there. We appeared to be the only ones traveling these dark, dark roads. There was nowhere to make a pitstop or get gas. We had to watch for deer, or any other animals for that matter, on the road. The bugs were no help, making it difficult to see out the windshield and we saw all kinds of critters on the road. Once, I could have sworn there was an elephant in the road…yep, we were tired!
 
One of our proudest moments was when we witnessed our children becoming parents to us. They were making sure we got to our destination safely. Sarah passed us on to Bryson by providing him with updates on our whereabouts since he was working all night. Finally, we were in a bed by 3:00 a.m. We were beyond thankful.
 
After about four hours of sleep we were excited to see South Dakota. We packed up and our plans were to see Mt. Rushmore first thing. 
 
We drove around the little town of Hot Springs, which is where we stayed and then headed to Rapid City.  On our way out of town our hearts were broken. We saw a SUV that had run off the road and down a cliff about 50-60 feet.  First responders were on the scene as we passed by. Our hearts were so heavy. We prayed for those involved and pleaded for God’s grace upon them as we were reminded of our blessings.
 
We finally arrived in Rapid City! And when I say finally, I mean finally! We could not wait to see Mount Rushmore, an American icon. But of course those plans got changed in a hurry. As we were traveling the highway into the mountains, we went from clear roads to nothing but fog in a matter of a of seconds. The fog was so heavy it was impossible to even see five feet in front of us. At least that is how it appeared to us Texans. Maybe South Dakotans are accustomed to driving in those conditions, but Texans are accustomed to fighting traffic not fog. Jim was clenching the steering wheel and I’m clenching my seat and the door.  It was pretty frightening to say the least. On the radio we heard “Holy Spirit you are welcome here” and “Oh what a wonderful name it is, the name of Jesus.” Perfect timing to focus on our Savior! We turned around as soon as we could.
 
We went to the next best thing, Bear Country.  Oh my goodness! It was the best thing ever. Bear Country is a drive-thru park, only it has free roaming  bears. We saw deer, elk, reindeer, wolves, goats, but nothing more impressive than the bears. They looked so cute and I wanted to just touch them, but I was told to keep the windows up. DSC02814
 
They also had a little walking path of babies on display. We saw bear cubs playing (again, I wished I could smuggle one in my car),  baby wolves, otters, mountain lions, porcupines and skunks just to name a few. I love all these creations by God. They are each unique and we just loved the whole experience so much!
 
The rest of the day we hung around Rapid City.
 
The following day the fog lifted, the sun was shining, and off to Mt. Rushmore we went! It was a beautiful drive through the Black Hills. When we got within viewing distance of the mountain, our breaths were taken away. It was absolutely beautiful. I cried, must like I did when I first saw the Statue of Liberty. This is an American icon!
 
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While we were there we went to the gift shop and met a man named Nick Clifford, who was an actual driller on the construction crew for Mt. Rushmore. We got our picture with him and an autographed copy of his book. We also enjoyed talking to an artist/painter at the gift shop that has painted some beautiful and meaningful portraits of American interests, first responders and the military. It was such a pleasure to visit with her and to get one of her prints called “Unsung Heroes.”
Our trip seemed full already!
 
After our morning at Mount Rushmore, we headed to Custer State Park.  One thing we have noticed through all of our trips into the mountains is that visitors are never  told what elevation one may travel or what the road conditions are. This was no exception…
 
As we traveled up the mountain we encountered “one lane tunnels.” Several of them. The first one was met with a bus coming from the other side. He could barely fit through the tunnel.  In fact, from my view point he may have had barely an inch to spare all the way around. When we got to the other side we started climbing in elevation and noticed there were not many guardrails. 
 
We came to the “Coolidge Overlook,” which is a one-lane dirt road and we figured, why not go? This was probably one of the scariest trips up a road we’ve ever taken. It isn’t one lane on each side, it is meant for oncoming traffic as well. We found that out as we met a car coming down. The elevation was almost 7,000 feet and there was no guardrail at all!!!!!  When I looked down, I saw straight down.
 
Jim and I started reliving a scene from Lucille Ball’s The Long, Long TrailerHe started asking me questions to take my mind off the fact that if a car is coming down the mountain too fast, they could knock us off the road. At least the trunk wasn’t full of big rocks that I had collected. Every other person we encountered on that road was scared. We couldn’t have been more thankful to see the bottom of that road.
 
Throughout the park we saw buffalo, deer, pronghorn sheep, antelope and some prairie dogs.
Fun fact: did you know that rattlesnakes will hide in prairie dog holes?! I didn’t either until the park ranger stopped to tell us and let’s just say that was the end of my adventure to see the prairie dogs. I don’t mind standing in a field of buffalo, but I won’t purposely put myself in the path of a poisonous snake. That is where I draw the line! IMG_4086
 
Later in the day, we headed to Deadwood. This is a neat western town where Wild Bill Hickox and Calamity Jane hung out. The town has been preserved pretty well. We watched a little gunfight in the street and Jim was disappointed when all the kids in the crowd were called out to take the deputy oath and I wouldn’t let him participate. He eventually got over itr.
 
Next, we drove on to Spearfish.  It was a beautiful drive through a canyon full of Ponderosa Pines. We saw a natural waterfall and once again had our breaths taken away. 
 
We headed back to take a helicopter tour of Mt. Rushmore but due to the weather it had to be cancelled.  I was initially disappointed but thankful that God was watching out for us.  According to the locals, the weather in the Black Hills is a bit unpredictable.
 
Our last big trip was to Badlands National Park. I cannot even explain the phenomenal beauty of this place. The natural architecture of this place is fascinating.  The formations are like sand art. There are lines of layered colors adorning the formations. The park is truly indescribable. We did see some wildlife while in the park along with those annoying Rattlesnake warning signs. However, I didn’t let them rob me of enjoying the beauty of this place.
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Last stop before we headed home was the Wall Drugstore. What a sight to see. Wall Drug is an old drugstore that became a sort of mall. Coffee is still sold for five cents and passersby stop in for free ice water and the restrooms. It was such a fun little place to eat lunch before hitting the road towards home.  Jim was fascinated by the toy store and begged for a bow and arrow, but I reminded him he hadn’t even played with his army men from the Alamo yet. He is such a big kid but I guess we both are at heart with our constant desire to laugh and simply have fun.
 
Sadly, vacation was over and we had to head home. The plan was to drive about half way and spend the night so we didn’t find ourselves in the same situation again..but once again we didn’t have a set itinerary. Our goal wass to stop somewhere across the Kansas border.
 
We’d been on the road several hours and the weather was beautiful and sunny. We had just traveled through Broken Bow, Nebraska when we looked out the window to the left and noticed storm clouds forming. One of the cloud appeared to resemble a funnel. We decided to turn the radio on and sure enough, we were under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning. We figured we could deal with rain so we kept trekking along. Then we hear that loud beep……Tornado Warning!  What?! We are again one of only a few on the road and in between sprawled out towns. Oh no!
 
As carefully listened, we heard every town that we just passed being hit with rain, golfball and tennis ball sized hail. We saw a gas station and ran in to ask what they know and tell the clerk where we are headed.  She said we should be good if we keep heading south to southeast, which incidentally, is the exact direction of the storm. However, it appeared we could stay ahead of it. 
 
Jim gets a sandwich and we get in the car and decide to continue on. I was a nervous wreck and he was worried about putting mustard on his sandwich. Really!?  The clouds looked really bad and the sky was getting dark. Nobody was on the road and no town was in sight. There’s that long beep again, ugh. Are we going to have to dive into a corn field? I thought. We were both quite unsettled. Our GPS was taking us the fastest way, which means highways, but Nebraska highways are sometimes two lane roads. It was dark and we were still about 30 minutes in front of the storm while being routed on smaller roads. One of our turns was for four miles. Jim said, “Honey, this will be the fastest four miles you’ve ever seen,” and I believe he was correct.
 
Once again, we talked to the kids and they were tracking us to assure us we were still ahead of the storm. 
 
Thankfully, we got a room booked while on the road for Concordia, Kansas. We finally arrived at about 11:30 p.m., safe and sound. What a ride that was!
 
This trip proved to be one of our all time favorite road trips.  It came with a few challenges and lots of fun.  We saw so much of God’s beautiful handiwork. The landscape of the hills of South Dakota are magnificent and more unique than I could have imagined. Seeing the natural and historical sites we did made us even more proud to be Americans. We also now know we can’t hide from our kids. We are so grateful for God’s blessings on us as we went up the Coolidge Overlook, got caught in the fog, ran from the path of destructive tornadoes and storms. Most importantly, we enjoyed every minute of being together.
 

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God is so good to have given us this time away. We recognize His handiwork in everything we’ve experienced and are grateful for His provision and protection.
 
Can’t wait until the next adventure!
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2 thoughts on “Adventure North

  1. What an adventure! First let me say how happy I am to see you blog again! I missed it! Thank you for sharing your fun and crazy and SCARY moments. And how great that you acknowledged all the beauty God placed before you. Something we forget to do in this crazy fast paced world we live in! So happy y’all had a great time and was able to get away and LAUGH! And of course I’m glad that y’all are back! Love you, my friend!

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