Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Paternal Insanity - in a naturalist sort of way

As we approached Chicago on June 12th (Day 2), we had a choice. We could take the “southern route” in I-80 and arrive at Jackson, WY as quickly as possible according to our GPS. Or, we could take the “northern route” via I-90 through South Dakota. We were planning to return via I-80, but we also realized that we probably would be screaming back to Ohio with little time to take in the sights.

It wasn’t much of a decision. After our trip to South Dakota last year, we had returned without the coveted Junior Range Badge from the Badlands. The Badlands required that the children attend a specific Ranger Program that we could not make happen. My children love the Badlands (remember Andrew’s birthday party last year?). And, they also take a tremendous pride in their collection of Junior Ranger badges.

We took I-90.

Of course, you cannot take I-90 through Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota without experiencing the roadside culture. That would be disgraceful.

In Wisconsin, you must visit the Great Cow of Ehrenbacher’s Cheese Haus.

In Minnesota, one should never miss the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth.

And, if you are going to stop, you should take in a gourmet meal from the DQ. We wouldn’t miss it, I assure you.

Before the close of business in Minnesota, I called the Badlands.

“The next Junior Ranger Program is at 10:30am tomorrow?” I repeated it back to the Ranger on the phone.

“That’s right.”

“Thank you.”

I looked at Jay, who pondered the information. “I only really need six hours of sleep. We’ll sleep in the car and I’ll set an alarm.”

I nodded my head. I expected as much. You would think we were on a road trip chasing down a rock band. I am sure people have been branded as ridiculous for merely standing in line for tickets to see a Disney princess. We hauled our trailer across three states and slept in the car in two truck stops (same night) so our kids could receive their Junior Ranger badges in the Badlands.

I’ll call it paternal insanity, knowing I am guilty as a full accomplice.

I never relish sleeping in a passenger seat in a truck stop. I suspect I am too old for such ridiculous behavior, and probably even setting a bad example for my brood.

On the other hand, I recall reading somewhere that the Western Prairie is often poetically described as a ‘sea of land.’ I have driven across the prairie a few times, and flown over it many, and I never truly understood the analogy. It is pretty flat like an ocean, sort of. If you see grain, it does ‘wave’ like an ocean – well, sort of. I always thought it was a poetic exaggeration.

I saw it with my own eyes at about 5:30 am. My pictures do not do it justice. When it comes to the emotion of a landscape, no camera will ever do. The picture is merely a bookmark for my memory. A 360 degree sea of fog with small hills that look like islands or even waves.

It is so difficult to describe, but I won't forget it.

It almost made me forget that I slept in a truck stop.
From then on we watched the sunrise unfold.

After our incredible morning, we found we had made good time, so we stopped at a diner for breakfast. Since there were eight Ford trucks in the parking lot, we were sure we had made it to the right place. The folks inside confirmed that for us quickly.

And, yes, we made it to the Badlands National Park in time for the kids to receive their badges – before noon on Saturday. George will show you his badge.


Gladys looks cool and nonchalant. After all, it is barely noon on Saturday and we just left on Thursday evening. All she had to do was eat snacks and sleep in her car seat - and she even got a badge.

Life is soo good.


AreWeThereYet? said...

Speechless. You slept in the car and not even the trailer? My back hurts for you.

Badass Geek said...

How cool. I want to meet the Jolly Green Giant.

Aunt Juicebox said...

This is seriously awesome!

*Moi* said...

OMG. A giant COW? I suddenly know where WE'RE going this summer!

Indy said...

What great memories. I love the comment about all of the Fords in the parking lot.