Friday, July 13, 2012

Tales From a 6 Day Road Trip...Part 1

Road Trip! I know there are a few out there who love that idea. I have to admit I'm not one of them. Actually, people who know me well will tell you I have a hard time with trips period, but road trips really not usually my thing. That changed when my husband and I were looking at flights for our trip to Minnesota to see a dear friend retire from the Air Force. After nine years of friendship I couldn't imagine not going out to see her say goodbye to her twenty year career, so I was determined to make it out there. I didn't think there would be much to booking a flight out there for a weekend. I was wrong. Even months in advance the airlines wanted almost (and for some flights more!) than what we paid to fly to Ireland a few years ago. Finding out that we could rent a car and drive for about what they were going to charge us for one ticket, we decided to save the money. So...Road trip!

Now, I am not a fantastic traveler. I guess it would be most accurate to say leaving home usually makes me go a little bit on the crazy side. Others who have had to travel with me might say it's a little more than a little bit. Family trips stopped for me around the age of 13 because my parents came to the conclusion that it wasn't worth it to make me go. Even as an adult, almost every trip has been proceeded by at least one freak out. This time around was no different. Wednesday afternoon I called the whole trip off while some good friends looked on when I found out Budget Rent-a-Car(yes, I'm naming names.) had screwed up our reservation. Never mind that we'd booked the car a month before, they told my husband that they didn't really have the mid-range, fuel efficient car we'd booked. And when I took a turn calling they weren't even all that sorry. After a fight with the sales girl who tried to convince me that a Jeep Grand Cherokee gets the same "or at least comparable" gas mileage as a Ford Fusion, I called the hubby and said "Fuck it. This is a sign we shouldn't go". Luckily for all involved he's used to these types of freak outs from me and he ignored me. By that evening he had picked up a last minute rental - thank you Hertz - and I'd downed some liquor, so the trip was back on and we proceeded to pack. (Always, always do that last minute. I don't know why. Went to bed with clothes in the dryer!)

We loaded ourselves up in the rental car, grabbed some coffee and breakfast, and started off. I was incredibly happy to have a rental car at all because I did not want to put the equivalent of a drive to New York on my new Explorer. I did miss my car a little bit though. The little Chevy Malibu wasn't bad. We were only the second renter so the car still kind of had "New Car Smell" rather than the overly sanitized "Rental Car Smell". I did have to laugh over the strings of glue coming out of the door handle on my side  and the hubby was annoyed by the shiny "chrome" button in the middle of the dash that reflected light back into his eyeballs throughout the morning drive, but it still beat putting the miles on our car. Or driving a Jeep. Or not going. Believe it or not I really did want to make it to Minnesota. But note to Chevy designers - ditch the reflective fake chrome on your dash.

The ride of the car was fine - better than I expected really. It took awhile to get used to being so low to the ground, but the road was smooth and the road noise was quite minimal the hubby said. Road noise isn't something I usually care about. When I'm alone or with just the oldest kid, the music is loud enough to make road noise a non-issue. And we're usually singing along because everyone knows we all sound awesome in the car. Everyone but the hubby, that is, who really doesn't care for singing in the car. We were able to find a good volume, bounced around the satellite radio selections and hit the road. We started on the beautiful drive up Parley's Canyon - good music, good coffee. Life was good. Then we hit Wyoming...

I'm sorry to the residents of all the states I may offend here, but I'm just going to be honest. Driving through the state of Wyoming sucks! We had driven through a bit of Wyoming before, on our way to Colorado, but this time we were stuck on a 2 lane highway with tons of construction for hours! The construction was most aggravating because in many areas that took us down to one lane, they taunted us with the pristine closed of section of perfect new road, all roped off with orange. Don't get me wrong though - construction is not what makes this section of Wyoming bad. This part of Wyoming makes Wyoming bad. For miles and miles of driving there is nothing to see but dead grass. We pretty much spent the entire day looking at this.... 

Wyoming....for hours.....

Except when we were looking at this....

Truckers enjoying being stopped for construction in Wyoming.

This stretch of the journey was so empty that at one point I realized we hadn't even passed any road kill. Apparently nothing wants to live out there! After a few hours, we had sucked down the coffee and collected enough bugs across the windshield to require a stop, so we hit a little gas station. I wish I could tell you where but all I can say is we were in Wyoming. Waaayyyy into Wyoming. The hubby filled the tank and washed windows while I "used facilities" (reluctantly). I had to do a double take when I went back outside. The old local parked next to us sat in his truck, at the pump, window down, sucking away on a cigarette while waiting for his wife who was still (quite loudly) using the "facilities". A little on edge because I was on the road, and a little terrified because of my genetic ability to see all forms of danger, I immediately jumped into an "F" word tirade about being blown up that Gordon Ramsey would have been proud of. The hubby realized I was agitated but not why, so all he said was "What?" - this of course meant I had to repeat myself! The old man didn't seemed too share my concern. Or maybe he wasn't too aware that I was talking about him - I can't say. I can say that by some miracle none of us blew up and we hit the road again!

There is something amazing about Wyoming that I imagine everyone who has ever driven through there has noticed. The moment you reach the border of the next state you can tell. Even before we came to the "Welcome to South Dakota" sign we knew we were finally out of Wyoming. It's like the scenery suddenly comes to life - there are trees and green stuff, hills started to appear - it's amazing.  Check it out if you don't believe me; you can even see it on Google Maps 3D! And the beginning of South Dakota was quite beautiful. We drove through the Black Hills area towards our first stop, Mount Rushmore. The whole idea of Mount Rushmore has never made sense to me. I didn't care one way or another if we stopped for it, but the hubby said he wanted to mark it off his list, so we stopped. What surprised me the most about Rushmore once we got there was the size of the monument. It's so much smaller than I thought it was! I wasn't overwhelmed by anything as we stood in the visitors area and snapped some pictures while little kids ran around, and two old guys talked about Sturgis. Our 15 minutes at Mount Rushmore was all I could see anyone spending there, but the mountains were pretty and now that it's off the list we never have to go back. :)

Hello South Dakota! This is the instant change I was talking about. No, we didn't visit The Flintstones.

So - I was a little underwhelmed by Rushmore like I said. I only snapped one picture. I know there are a few more on the real camera but here's what I got. It was really about this impressive...Maybe it was because I'd been in a car for 10 hours by this time, but either way it's been checked off the list.
Yeppers - that's it.

Unfortunately, the rest of South Dakota is not as pretty as the Black Hills. It's no where near as bad as Wyoming, but the Black Hills were beautiful and lush and winding although oddly littered with billboards. Throughout the rest of SD we did see a lot of cows and some antelope, but mostly just flat land and slow drivers. Drivers in that part of the country really seem to be in no hurry which did not mesh with the hubby's driving style. He had somewhere to be and needed to get there. Everyone else just seemed out enjoy the drive.(It was the first trip I've seen max AND minimum speed limits at every post!) Eventually though we made our way to our first hotel, which was awesome. Not just because the room was nice, but because I wanted to know we were landed for at least a bit. I was also really hungry. I get so anxious to get to the next stop that stopping in between becomes unnecessary. Other than our Micky D's breakfast and some Pringles from the gas station, we hadn't had anything to eat.

Rapid City was interesting little stop. The people were friendly. The high school mascot is a "Cobbler" which is even worse than my "Beet Digger". The place has a typical small town feel and a cute main street from what we could tell by the time we got down there. I'm not going to name the spot we stopped at for dinner because it really wasn't very good other than the coffee. The coffee was awesome. I was a little surprised by a few things - teens in swimwear playing in the fountains at the town center for one. Hubby and I agreed if we were to tell our teens; "Hey, put on your suits, let's go play in the fountains downtown." they'd tell us no. The other thing that took my by surprise was how busy The Walmart was at 11:00pm on a Thursday! We had to stop by for some meds that I forgot to bring along and the place was packed! It seemed like this was where the teens went when the were done getting wet.

Around midnight we were finally cleaned up and in bed. Day one of our road trip behind us. Another ten around drive ahead.