Just like famed explorers Clark, Ellen, Rusty, and Audrey Griswold, we decided it was time to load up the Wagon Queen Family Truckster ("You think you hate it now, but just wait until you drive it.") and head out on a vacation. The only two differences between our vacation and the Griswold's family vacation are that 1) at no point did we have to strap a dead aunt to the top of our vehicle and 2) our vacation isn't rerun on cable television 47 times a month.
So about a week ago we packed up and headed to the Black Hills of South Dakota. The purpose was two-fold. First and foremost, we were heading to a wedding for my good buddy Dave. I'm all about a free supper, even if I have to drive 400 miles and stay in hotels for three nights to get it. Second, we wanted to take our very first family vacation for the same reason everybody takes family vacations: we are apparently insane. There is no other rational explanation and since we've returned I have been considering both therapy and prescription drugs.
We drove out of our yard at the crack of dawn Thursday morning with my old friend Sarah leading the way. Sarah is the name I gave our GPS a few years back because it has a woman's voice that tells me repeatedly, "Perform a legal U-turn at the next available opportunity." Nicole says the same thing, but not in as gentle of phrasing. After a couple days on the road it is nice to hear a friendly woman's voice, and the only way a married man can have that is if he buys a GPS.
Digression alert: When you get to the destination Sarah was programmed to get you to, she says "You have arrived," which is fairly boring. Actually, everything Sarah says is boring. It didn't take long for us to come up with the idea that celebrities should lend their voices to the GPS companies. For instance, whenever you cross a state border, Judy Garland should say, "I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." Or when you disregard what the GPS tells you and turn the other direction Jack Nicholson could yell, "You can't handle the truth!" or Strother Martin could snarl "What we've got here is a failure to communicate." If at one point you zig instead of zag on a bridge, Roy Schneider would say, "You're gonna need a bigger boat." Or if you decide to take a road that's not in the GPS, Clint Eastwood could demand, "You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?" Of course, when you get back home Judy Garland would speak again saying, "There's no place like home. There's no place like home."
Digression complete: Sarah led us past Hensler, through Center and Hanover, south to New Salem, and then west to Dickinson. This is farther from home than I have been in three solid years. The kids were both still happy, thinking we must almost be there. Nicole was still happy, mostly because the kids were still happy. I was worried wondering about how many years it took for those old warrants in South Dakota to expire.
From Dickinson we headed straight south into a land where, as one person who took the same route told me at the wedding, there are still wagon trains lost. It is some desolate country. Once we got five miles out of Dickinson, we didn't see any cars for miles. For a while we didn't even see cows.
But then we hit the mostly metropolitan state of South Dakota, and, much to our surprise for a long while didn't see people, cars, or cows there either. There was an occasional stray sheep wandering about, which is hardly a sign of civilization.
But finally, after hearing "Are we there yet?" nearly 6,000 times (To tell the truth, I was the one who kept asking. The kids were content with the trip. On the way down. Not so much on the way back. More on that later) we arrived in Spearfish. Compared to the two hundred miles north of Spearfish, the city looked like New York or Paris. Then again, Hensler would look like New York or Paris compared to the desert north of Spearfish.
Anyway, that's all the room I've got for this week, so we will continue this trek in next week's paper. As my Arnold Schwarzenegger GPS would say, "I'll be back."