Friday, September 6, 2013

All Packed up and Ready to Go

A view from the back.
Day one, Monday, August 19
The goal was to leave at 4:00am, to get an early start. But by the time Joe and I finally had everything ready the night before, it was no longer the night before. It was 2:10 am. Time for a change of plans. Joe was all for getting the kids up, and leaving right then. So that we wouldn't have to drag ourselves awake after less than two hours of sleep. I was thinking more along the lines of postponing our departure time for couple of hours. So that we wouldn't have to drag ourselves awake after less than two hours of sleep.

I won.

It wasn't really a very big disagreement. I simply asked Joe, “Considering my chronic headache lately, I'd really like to sleep horizontally for at least a few hours. Could we please leave a little bit later?” He sighed heavily, grunted and groaned and carried on, and then said, “Sure.”

Not really. Really, he just said that it would be fine that way, too.

So we set the alarm for 5:30 and fell into bed. I think we were both sleeping before we hit the pillows. At 5:30, we got up. Well, I got up.

The plan was for me to make coffee and get the coolers filled. Joe was to empty the household garbages, and then get kids up and rolling.

I got up. I put the coffee on.

But alas!

I ran a nice pot of clear coffee.

And Joe fell back to sleep.

I thought I'd do up the last few dishes, and spilled dish water out the edge of the dish drainer.

The kids had trouble thinking, too, and wandered around in a somewhat clueless fashion.

We finally left home about 6:15. Not exactly our goal, but at least we were on the road.

All the happy kiddos!

Even with all our great cargo space, we still needed to have the coolers right inside the doors. It makes getting in and out a bit complicated. But lunches on the road are easier this way.
We also had to stop in Red Lake Falls to return library books that would come due while we'd be gone. I think we had about 30-35 to return. I had to keep reaching my arm into the little door and flinging the pile to the sides in order to fit all the books in. So, … I'm sorry, ladies, if I left a mess in there for you to pick up. I would have much preferred returning them the previous week, when you were open. We could have had a little visit. And we'd have not had to plan an extra stop first thing after we got going.

But I ran out of time.

Once we were on the road, everything went smoothly. It always does. We generally think of a few things here and there that we've forgotten.

But we were free!

Free of the everyday responsibilities of life. We're on VACATION! It's such a fun feeling to hit the open road. There's rarely anything we could forget that we can't either live without, or pick up along the way.

A few days before we left, in response to a facebook post about our coming trip, our friend, Sudesh (the primary mover and shaker behind this website and fund drive, by the way) posted a fun video. It was from an “Indian Beach Movie” from the 70s, Bombay to Goa. The scene he posted was of a busload of tourists, all looking a bit like Elvis or Annette Funicello, singing and dancing about their trip. The tune to the song was that of the Beach Boys' Help me Rhonda. “Bom-bay-bom-bom, Bombay to Goa! Bom-bay-bom-bom, Bombay to Goa! ...” and so on. The driver was swaying back and forth, and his steering wheel was freely swaying with him. We had all laughed as we watched it.

After we left home, somewhere heading south on I-29, I dozed off. But in one of those fun twists of happenstance, when Help Me Rhonda came on the radio, Joe excitedly woke me up so we could all sing and dance as we drove. Unlike the folks in the movie, though, we stayed safely buckled in our seats. And Joe only pretended to freely wave the steering wheel back and forth.

For the most part, the kids got along well during the entire drive. When the kids first started clambering for something on the radio, Joe hooked up his mp3 player to his little broadcaster doohicky so we could all listen to his audio files. But which would he choose? We never quite know with Joe. And he had that mischievous gleam in his eye.

It might be the New Testament in Koine Greek or modern Hebrew language lessons. It might be an audio book of classic sci-fi tale such as John Carter of Mars or something by H. G. Wells. Or it might be a podcast of anything from the Lutheran radio show, Issues, Etc, to Michio Kaku's Science Fantastic.

We were pleasantly surprised to hear that our listening entree for the morning would be an NPR radio theater production of Don Quixote. That title has always been on my to-read list, so I was kind of excited. But it turned out to be kind of only so-so. It really wasn't very enjoyable. We listened for awhile, but it just didn't capture any of us.

After lunch, we put on C. S. Lewis' The Magician's Nephew. The older kids have all heard or read the entire Chronicles of Narnia, but we've not done as much read-aloud with our younger children. So for many of them, this was a new story.

It was fun to see the kids notice the parallels to the Biblical texts. Aslan creating Narnia of course, being the primary one. Some of the younger kids have read or been read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was fun to see the lightbulbs come on as they pieced together who the characters were in the Magician's Nephew, compared to those in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

That story took us across the eastern end of South Dakota, from Watertown, to about Pierre.

The South Dakota Capitol in Pierre
At Pierre, we drove past the capitol. It's a pretty building. I like the contrast of the dark colored dome.

The fields of golden sunflowers holding their heads up toward the sun, or the heavier ones drooping their darker heads toward the ground was one of my favorite views of the day. There were many places where the dusty golden bales of hay in adjacent fields contrasted nicely with the bright yellow of the flowers and the deep green of their leaves.

Not a very clear picture, since it was taken as we were driving.  But it gives a little taste of the pretty colors.
Later as we got into the more arid landscape of the west, we saw some very pretty draws. The grasses were a light, almost silvery green, and the treetops of what was likely primarily cottonwoods tufted out of the meandering shadows in a dark green. The sandy color of the ground where the soils had eroded added nicely to the texture of the landscape.

After Pierre, we quizzed the kids on the number of state capital's we've driven through or been to. John remembered having been to Bismarck and now Pierre, but he didn't remember the others until we prompted him. “Where do Aunt Kathy and Uncle Joel live?” “Olympia?” “What about Boise when we went to see Aunt Beth?” “Oh, yeah, Idaho!” “Or what about driving through Iowa when we went to Aunt Aimee's?“ “Hmmm, Des Moines!” “Where do Kristi and John live?” “Or how about when we camped with Lisa Hecht?”

Gradually they named Bismark, Pierre, Boise, Olympia, Des Moines, and Madison. The older kids weren't in this conversation, but some of them also might have added Lincoln, Wichita, Springfield, and St. Paul. We live quite far from all of my relatives, so most of our vacations have been road trips to see the Aunts and Uncles. That's one reason why this trip is such a treat. We'd be seeing different areas of the country. Areas we'd not usually have the luxury to choose to explore.

When we were done talking about the states, the bigger girls asked if we could hook up Rachel's iPod, so they could hear some country music. We jammed to Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw and others. Singing and swaying just like the tourists in Bombay to Goa. I was driving at this point.

I, like Joe earlier, avoided swinging the steering wheel like the driver in that movie.

Instead, I simply let go and let the car go where it wanted on the empty South Dakota highways.

Louisa had asked recently, when we were also singing something or other, “When you and dad were first married, did you drive him a little bit crazy always singing?” I'm glad he's patient with us girls. Because we sure have fun with our music. But I suppose he and the boys do, too. Or all of us, even, really. Just different music among different family members. Earlier in the morning when Joe had been listening to oldies, we were all singing along gustily to Joan Jett in I Love Rock and Roll.

Another kind of tradition we have fun with on vacations is something perhaps unique to families living in areas as flat as northwest Minnesota. When we go up and down big hills, we wave our arms in the air like we're on a roller coaster and holler, “Wheeeeeee!” Inge's a little young to have much memory of that kind of hills, since they're so rare in the areas we generally drive. When several of us waved our arms on one biggish hill, most of us yelled, “Wheeeeeee!” But Inge instead started singing “Like the ceiling can't hold us, like the ceiling can't hold us,” a line from the song by Macklemore that she's heard her sister playing.

We stopped for a quick trip at Wall to fuel up and to look around. It turned into an hour, of course, since it's hard to stop quickly at Wall Drug.

Later, we were wending our way through the Black Hills on the way to our campground, I told the story of when we had come this way on a different trip long ago. We had just four kids then, and we were camping in the area overnight on the way out to Washington to see my family. We had checked out books on the area from the library ahead of time. We had read about Mt. Rushmore and the artist, Gutzon Borglum. We had talked about the presidents and why Borglum might have chosen each of them to carve into stone, representing forever our great Land. As we got nearer and nearer the Monument, the excitement was building in the older boys. Finally we came around a curve that gave us our first glimpse of Mt. Rushmore. Matt was so excited, he couldn't get the words out fast enough. “Rount Mushmore. Mount Borglum. Gutzland Rushman!” It took him five or six tried to finally get the right words out. “Mount Rushmore! Gutzon Borglum!”

We drove a slightly different route down to Custer this trip, and only had a tiny glimpse of the mountain this time. But we'd spend a day there later in the week.

We arrived at the very quiet and peaceful National Forest Campground, Comanche Park. We breathed deeply of the heavy scent of pine. The kids and I set up the tents and sleeping areas, while Joe made supper.

Then we tucked ourselves in and slept like babies. 

The camp is set up

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