We are finally back in Utah….we arrived home last night at 5:45. When I got out of the RV I saw how overgrown the weeds in the flower beds were and immediately attacked them. Then I decided I’d better mow the front lawn, too, before people wouldn’t be able to find our house in the long grass. 🙂 After all that and two days in the RV, we all really enjoyed taking baths and showers!
The drive home was very long. The kids were all pretty well behaved for the most part but we were all just so tired that it seemed to go on forever. Thursday and Friday night John and I would drive till about 12:30 or 1am, then pull over at a rest area (I grew up calling them “waysides”) and sleep till 6 or so. We were glad we left Thursday night because it was nice to get about 5 hours of driving in and be south of the Twin Cities before we stopped that night.
Friday morning we were on the road again by 7 or so, and enjoyed our drive straight south to the bottom of Minnesota where we got on I-90. We stopped for lunch at noon and let the kids run around at a wayside, then piled back in and were soon in South Dakota. It isn’t much to look at along I-90–hundreds of miles of straight prairie everywhere you look, with no houses or anything. The towns along the freeway are few and far between. We did see several miles of sunflower fields, though–that isn’t something I remember seeing before. Maybe we’ve all eaten sunflower seeds from those fields! 🙂
I wanted to write a blog entry from South Dakota but the internet connection wasn’t cooperating. It would’ve been titled and started like this:
Trouble Along a Windy Road
We’ve been attacked by robbers! As we pulled over to let the kids run around, masked bandits galloped up on their horses and demanded our valuables at gunpoint. They made off with the digital TV and cameras, all the cash in John’s wallet, and our bag of magnetic rocks from Arrow Gift Shop in Eagle River. Luckily, though, Kaatia just happened to be sitting on a pillowcase full of the REALLY valuable stuff–our supply of fresh Wisconsin cheese.
Just kidding. What actually happened was that John was taking a nap in the back while I drove and Kaatia talked to me to keep me awake. I’d noticed the needle on the gas gauge edging toward the empty side but the sun was glaring off the gauges so badly that I couldn’t see it very well, and we also hadn’t passed any gas stations for the past 100 miles or so. There was seriously nothing but prairie as far as you could see. (I wish we could’ve visited Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home town of De Smet, South Dakota, but it would’ve taken 3-4 hours we didn’t have.)
So there we were, rolling merrily along, when all of a sudden the RV gasped, coughed, and died. I said “Oh no!” and steered it over to the side of the freeway which wasn’t easy because it’s a heavy vehicle and hard to slow down even when it actually has power. We managed to get it off the road and then woke up John, who took one look at the gauge and said “You ran it out of gas!” He was not a very happy camper. Luckily, thanks to Brother Wade, John had modified the generator to pull gas out of a separate gas container instead of the engine gas, and we still had about two gallons left in there. He told us we had to get the RV farther off the road so the cars and trucks and semis whizzing by at 75+ miles an hour didn’t hit us, especially since the gas tank was on the same side as the road.
John got in to steer while Kaatia and I went behind and pushed. (And the wind almost pushed us over. Boy, was it ever windy!!) We were sure we wouldn’t be able to budge it an inch but to our surprise, we moved it several feet! My shirt got lovely brown stains all over it from the spare tire mounted on the back but at least we got it farther off the road. It took about 20 minutes to siphon the gas out of the container into the tank, and when we got back in I held my breath, hoping and praying that it really was just a gas problem and not something major. Sure enough, it started up right away, and in answer to our prayers we found a single gas pump next to a tiny casino in the middle of nowhere a mile or two away.
After that little hiccup we drove several more hours without a problem. We stopped at Prairie Dog Town (usually loaded with prairie dogs popping out of their holes to eat unsalted peanuts out of your hand, but this time there weren’t very many and they wouldn’t come over to us) at the start of the 40-mile Badlands Loop road and decided to pay the $15 for a pass through Badlands National Park. The Badlands are very unique and quite different from most other things I’ve seen in my life. I think anyone who’s been to some of the national parks in southern Utah will have seen similar rock formations, but the Badlands are still very cool. The kids loved climbing on and around them and we got some great pictures.
The Badlands Loop ends right at the famous town of Wall, home of Wall Drug, a several-blocks-long store that started out 100 or so years ago as a pharmacy. Supposedly they survived the Depression by serving free ice water to people passing through, and now they are several stores full of touristy stuff plus restaurants and cafes and picture galleries and a fun place in the back outside called the “Back Yard.” They have all sorts of fun stuff for the kids like a jackalope statue for kids to sit on, covered wagons and stagecoaches, a caboose, a teepee, and a giant T-Rex head that roars every 12 minutes. It was quite fun to watch–I’ve got it on video and the kids made me play it for them 3 times today. It’s got flashing lights, smoke coming from its nostrils, lightning, the head moves and the dino rears up and shows its claws; the works. Kaatia’s youngest two got scared. It was extremely entertaining to watch all 6 kids’ faces as they saw this big thing rear up and roar.
By the time we got out of there and had some dinner it was getting pretty late, and we had to face the fact that we weren’t going to make it to Mount Rushmore that night. If we stayed overnight and waited till morning that would make our journey several hours longer, so we opted to continue driving. We got the kids all ready for bed and they all went to sleep while John and I drove to Rapid City and then left I-90 and turned south to go around the Black Hills. Right after we got on the highway, maybe ten miles from Rapid City, we ran into a major traffic jam. It was 10pm and pitch dark with a line of cars and trucks stretching two miles at least. We sat there for 45 minutes while all sorts of emergency vehicles raced past on the shoulder, including Search & Rescue and some other weird ones. When the line finally got moving we were extremely annoyed and wanted to know what caused all the commotion, but never saw anything! It was really weird.
Finally about 12:30 that night, shortly after crossing the border into Wyoming, I prayed that we’d find a wayside. Both John and I were on the point of falling asleep every second. Not five minutes later we saw one (the only one we’d passed or would pass the next day for a few hundred miles) and very gratefully pulled in and went to sleep. Unfortunately, we had to park on a slant and poor Kaatia had a terrible night’s sleep because she felt like she was falling off the bed all the time.
Saturday we were on the road again by 7 and after a very long, tiring day and 11 hours of driving, pulled up at our house. We were all so glad to be done with all the driving! I didn’t sleep the best last night because I kept dreaming that we were still driving and I had to wake up soon and take my turn. 🙂 It’s good to be back! I have lots of terrific pictures and will post some tomorrow, if I have time. I’m going to the zoo with the kids and some friends and we’ll see if I have any energy when I get back.