Sunday, August 17, 2008

Back from South Dakota

Just back from seven days on the road with two seven-year-olds, two six-year-olds and one three-year-old. It’s enough to challenge the endurance of even the sturdiest of human beings. The only thing that spared me from a complete breakdown was foam earplugs.

On day two I hear from the rear seat -
Chelsey (6) - “Bet I can make you blink”

Wyatt (7) - “Bet you can’t.”

Wyatt - “Owah”

Chelsey - “Made you blink.”

Wyatt - “Ya but you can’t punch me in the face to do it - stupid.”

My wife, bless her soul, suggested that we pull into the nearest hardware store and get some ear plugs. She’s a genius. The insertion of ear plugs transported us instantly into a state of serenity and renewal that rendered us immune to all by the bloodiest of fights and the shrillest of protests.

Driving to South Dakota was like stepping back in time. They still have country schools and Drive in Theatres. They have towns with names that had, literally, one house, one trailer, and fuel pumps that hadn’t been used in ten years. The town of Deadwood has got to be America at it’s smarmiest.

My favourite place name? "Lame Johnny Creek."

My goodness what beautiful country greets you in the Black Hills. The “Needles” highway and highway 87 South with it’s hairpins, switchbacks, loops and one-lane bridges and tunnels was one of the best drives of my life. Climbing into, or more specifically out of Wonderland Cave was almost the end of me. I’m in terrible shape. I’ve got to do something about that come New Years.

Hotels were cheap and fuel was cheaper. All the people were nice, right down to the first humane U. S. Boarder Guard that I’ve ever met. I should have warned him that he had the right to remain silent. As soon as he answered Riley’s “Are you a police officer?” and Walker’s “Do you arrest bad guys?” he was hit with a fusillade of questions from all five of them that sent him running to return our passports and hurry us on our way. It's not quite true that all the people were nice. I left a book on the counter in our room when we checked out of one Hotel in Dead Wood. When I called back no one in housekeeping would fess up to having taken it. It was a really good book too. Grrr.

If you’ve never been to a Hot Springs, you might enjoy the one in South Dakota called “Evan’s Plunge.” However, if you’ve ever been to a different one, especially ones like Fairmont or Banff or Radium Hot Springs in the Canadian Rockies, the one in Dakota will be a deep disappointment. The sign says it was built 100 years ago and I'm sure they've never done any upgrades since that date. Nevertheless, the kids enjoyed it.

The passion play too, desperately needed a new sound system and a musical score that was written within the last millennium.

I had an interesting exchange with an Air Force dude just back from Iraq. I met him at Mount Rushmore, the place where they chipped out the faces of four guys on the side of a mountain. Honestly? Even though three million people a year go there, it wasn’t that great. Don’t get me wrong. Drawing faces with dynamite and jack hammers can’t be easy. And they did a pretty good job. I just thought it would be bigger. Anyhow, this guy asked me what I thought of Mount Rushmore. I guess I wasn’t enthusiastic enough in my description. His face wrinkled and he teared up as he explained it’s meaning. The meaning of Mt. Rushmore, at least for this guy is Freedom. Leaning a little too close for my comfort, he asked me how we Canadians came to attain our freedom. Hmm. I didn’t then and still don't have the foggiest idea. When I told him that he seemed disgusted with me. I said that I think that we just assume that any government with any brains gives it’s citizens the freedom they need to feel ok about being alive. The people that we elect to government seem to agree with that idea and we just kinda take it from there. I don’t think I was an acceptable representative of Canadians for this guy. I would have told him that there’s much, much better Canadians than me but he walked away before I got a chance.

All and all it was a good trip. So, like, thank you South Dakota for your hospitality and thank you science for foam ear plugs.

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