That’s the Way We Roll

In case this is your first trip with us, I’ll give you an idea about how we travel by sharing our Sassy Sister Road Rules with you:

* Talk to strangers, the stranger the better.
* Drive on two-lane roads as much as possible.
* Be off the two-lane roads before dark.
* Eat at local restaurants (not chains) for every meal possible.
* Always stop for ice cream, regardless of the hour.
* Start early and eat breakfast before you go too far…
* Check the tub before you get naked.
* If you think you should take a picture, stop, get out of the car, and take it. Go back and take it if you have to.
* Turning around is advised – you’ll always regret that you didn’t stop.
* Stop and see any attraction that costs less than $5, especially if it has great billboards.
* If there is an alternate route or detour, it’s worth a look.
* If it’s a national park, monument, lakeshore, or recreation area, it’s worth stopping for. That’s why you’ll want to have a national park pass!  And if you’re 62 or over, hurry up and get your lifetime senior pass for $10!
* Ask for what you want. Just because a place looks closed doesn’t mean you can’t go in.
* Keep your cell phone charged and handy, and have great apps downloaded and ready.  Just don’t expect to always have service or wifi or cellular data!
* Laugh loudly and laugh often, especially if you’re lost.
* Have an idea where you’re going and do your research so you won’t miss anything good.
* Be prepared to change your mind and your route at any time.
* Be flexible. Call ahead when you’re running late and make alternate arrangements.
* When you get lost, blame the mapmaker or the road signs or the GPS instead of the navigator or the driver.
* Be prepared. Travel with plenty of ice and drinks (always have one beer per person in the bottom of the cooler) and take your favorite snacks, too.
* Remember all the little stuff you may need – Tide to Go, TP, Sharpies, batteries, paper towels, pocket knives, GPS, etc.
* Have great music and play it loudly. And sing.
* Synchronize the date and time on all cameras.
* Blog or journal and download your pictures every day. It’s amazing what you forget! Use a tape recorder, too.
* Take a file for your memorabilia, maps, tickets, plans, etc. and use it.
* ALWAYS have a camera with you (especially in bathrooms!).
* 300 miles in one day is a lot to travel on two lane roads with lots to see and do. However long you think it will take, add several hours.
* Always have plenty of gas in the tank.
* Remember that the ‘rules’ are really suggestions – be safe and have fun!

If you know me at all, you’ll recognize the absurdity of at least two things – 1) I made a list and 2) it’s a list of RULES.  Everyone knows I lose lists and break rules, but you never know, this year might be different!  It’s almost time to start my engine….

and no, I haven’t started packing yet,


The Saga of the Sassy Sisters

Our road trip history goes way back – so far back that even we don’t remember those first trips.  During our formative years, in the Leave It to Beaver days, all of our trips and vacations were taken in a car.  I took my first plane ride when I was 16, when for some unexplained reason, Mom and Dad allowed me to go to Mardi Gras by myself!  Not completely alone, mind you, but I stayed with a girl I had met at Girl Scout camp the summer before and whose parents my parents had never met.  I’ll never understand quite what happened, but I took my $100 in savings, booked a Delta ticket from Paducah to New Orleans, and had $33 left for spending money.  And I lived to tell about it!

I’m pretty sure my next plane ride was a few years later when I took my grandmother to Boston for the Bicentennial.  Once I became a full-fledged adult, flying became more common, but when I have the time, I’ll pick a road trip any day of the week.   My sister Kim and I have fond memories of some of our longer family vacations – trips to Florida, a monumental trip out west (when we missed two weeks of middle school!), and the frequent journeys to see our grandparents – monthly trips to west Tennessee and twice a year (or more) trips to Knoxville.  We can still recite the names of the little towns we passed along the way, the names of restaurants where we always stopped, and how many times we crossed the Caney Fork River.

Since I went to college in Knoxville and then spent most of my married life in North Carolina, that route became one I could almost drive in my sleep.  Kim headed south to Memphis, so for her, those little towns in west Tennessee remained familiar friends.  One year, when our kids were in middle school, Kim and I decided they needed a road trip like the one we loved and remembered, so we hatched a plan.

I drove my kids from Durham to Memphis, where we combined an Amtrak train/plane trip with a road trip in a 15 passenger club van.  We boarded the City of New Orleans at midnight in Memphis and woke up in Chicago.  We spent our six hour layover hitting the Magnificent Mile, Water Tower Place, and Navy Pier, then all six of us crammed into one taxi so we could make it back to Union Station on time.  The Empire Builder took us from Chicago to Glacier National Park in only two days, and Rex met us at the train station in Glacier after he flew to Calgary and rented the giant club van.

What a grand time we had!  We toured Glacier, Yellowstone, the Tetons, and places in between and then Rex flew home from Jackson.  Katie bar the door!  Kim and I took off, completely deviating from the plan as we criss-crossed Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana on our way to Alberta, Banff, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake, and then we flew back to Memphis from Calgary (via San Francisco and Chicago – go figure!).

While that trip was fabulous, Kim and I didn’t take another road together until 2005, when we ventured from Knoxville to Gulfport, Mississippi, to do relief work with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance after Hurricane Katrina.  When we survived that week – showering outdoors (or not showering at all), sleeping in a tent, on cots in a room with scores of snoring men and women, in sleeping bags in the back of a Suburban (in freezing weather), on the floor of a pantry, and in a prefab structure that we built – we knew we could road trip together and have fun doing it.  And so began the saga of the Sassy Sisters road trips!

The page below was made years ago, but I love it and the story it tells:

SS Newsflash

Natchez Trace MS 2009 Bourbon Trail to Bourbon Street

Time Travel

Have you ever wished you could travel back in time?  Back to a simpler way of life, to a slower pace, and to your childhood?  While I look forward to the future with anticipation and I can get nostalgic about the past, I love my life and being in the ‘here and now’ best of all.  That said, I think that one reason I love my Sassy Sister road trips so much is that they allow me that little peek into road trips of the past and the memories they evoke.

Road trips with Mom and Dad have provided my sister and me hours of laughs.  Every time we travel together, we re-enact some of the things that happened on our family trips and outings.  We giggle ourselves silly!  See, our mom loved flowers and plants and flower arranging and wreath making and dried flowers and weeds and (I could go on and on….)  We never traveled without clippers and gloves and containers that could hold living things.  We’d be flying down the highway, windows down (no AC, you know…), unbelted (no seatbelts), and Mom would spy some Queen Anne’s lace, or cattails, or teasel, or Joe Pye weed and she would say, “Dave!  Stop!  Look at that beautiful ________!” And no matter where we were, how busy the traffic was, how narrow the road was, how many big trucks or slow cars we had FINALLY passed, Daddy would pull over, backing up on the shoulder, until he was close enough to clamber out of the car, scramble down the hill, and let Mom direct him to the specimens she wanted.  Then he would dutifully cut as much as she wanted and bring his prize back to the car.  Of course, it went in the back seat with us, or later, in the back back of the station wagon.  Given that I am the one who is allergic to every kind of grass, tree, plant, etc., it was sometimes agony.  I have distinct memories of two horrible trips, one involving cattails and one with goldenrod.  Aa-choo!  I can’t even write about it without sneezing…

On our most memorable car trip ever, we traveled from our home in Paducah to Idaho Falls, Idaho, over a two week period in October 1968. I was in the 8th grade, and it was unheard of for parents to take their kids out of junior high school for TWO FULL WEEKS.  Heck, today I reckon they would call Social Services for that.  We went to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons; we saw Dinosaur National Monument; we visited the state capitols of Utah and Colorado; we spent the night in a cabin on the side of a mountain; we visited the Eisenhower Library; we hiked in Craters of the Moon National Park; we saw the Mormon Temple and Tabernacle and the Great Salt Lake; we spent a few idyllic days in a dude ranch in Wyoming; and we brought home more pine cones, seed pods, pinon nuts, weeds, and “interesting” plants than we had luggage.  There was barely room for Kim and me by the time we got home!  (I am not exaggerating!)

Anyway, you can see how our Sassy Sister trips came to be – they were in-bred!  In case you are a new reader, these trips that my sister and I make involve highways (not interstates), local restaurants (no chains), visits to state capitols, museums, and off-beat attractions, stays at motels with real keys, and LOTS of activities crammed into our days.  We typically have a theme but no real destination.  We start somewhere and end there, making sort of a loop along the way.  Our most recent trip last month was our “Old Florida” trip.  We wanted to see the Florida we remembered from our childhood – not the Disney/Universal Studios Florida that appeases most people, but the one that offered us that glimpse back to a simpler time.  And we found it!

We stayed in places that had toilet seats and water glasses that had been sanitized for our protection.  We stayed in places where we could sleep with our windows open and where we could hear and smell the ocean.  We walked along trolley routes and watched the seemingly brain-dead people on the trolleys.  We sniffed out restaurants that would have food we didn’t expect and were never disappointed.  We passed billboards advertising some random attractions and turned around to go see what was there.  Always a gem!  We went to “hokey” places like Weeki Wachee and Speedy’s Air Boat rides and loved every minute.  We saw more cool animals, both in the wild and in captivity, than you can imagine.  We walked on beaches where the sand looked like sugar and the water was emerald and turquoise and teal.  We stayed in a Florida cracker house and we took a boat to Key West.  We felt what is was like to blast off on the space shuttle and we wandered through the streets of the oldest city in America.  We saw friends who welcomed us and kept us and fed us and joined us for part of our adventure.  We had our own monogrammed towels in our guest suite at Camp Naples.  We met people from all over the world as well as native Floridians.  We had dinner with Pixie Penny and her mom and went to Pixie Anne’s home town.  We even stayed at two different places where the owners weren’t home but let us stay there anyway! All in all, we not only found what we were looking for, we got bonuses!

Because I took a good number of photos and I wrote about our adventures, I’ll be able to put together a book that will let Kim and me relive our fun times.  I can make it as simple or as creatively crafted as I want, using my favorite FOREVER Artisan software and pixels2Pages Blueprints.  In fact, I can do some really fast pages (like the ones I’m sharing here) and I can do some more intricate, complex pages in the same book.  I love it that I have that kind of flexibility!  If only I had more time….

Old Florida

Old Florida 2014


It’s Been a Little Crazy Around Here!

I’ve been on the road again, and it’s gotten a little bit crazy, even for me!  Hop in, fasten your seat belt, and I’ll take you on a quick whirlwind trip…

It all started at the end of September.  I got in my little blue Prius and took off for Atlanta, where I was going to be doing a pixels2Pages LIVE event for some of friends who had hired me to represent pixels2Pages at their fall digital retreat, and I was so excited!  Armed with the audio book version of Winter of the World (second in Ken Follett’s newest trilogy – excellent series!), I was off!  Sadly, as usual, my 10 AM ‘want to leave by” passed my 12 Noon “hope to leave by” but I was pleased to get away at 1 PM before my “HAVE to be on the road by” 2 PM.  That meant I rolled into Montgomery, AL just a tad bit after midnight.  I was on the road early Friday (well, it was before 8 AM!) and made it to lunch with the gang before the food got to the table.

What a fun weekend we had!  Almost fifty digital croppers spent the weekend learning and practicing what they learned.  There were even a couple of women from Florida and two from South Carolina in attendance!  I did my best to help people learn their way around the brand new website.  And boy, was I ever glad the site had FINALLY gone live a few days before!

Before I knew it, the weekend retreat was drawing to an end.  I had such a good time visiting my old friends, meeting new ones, and sharing my love for pixels2Pages.  Thanks, friends, for having me!  Sunday afternoon I set off for Memphis, where my sister lives.  I finished the audio book just a few miles before her house – perfect timing!  I loved driving through north Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi on roads I hadn’t been on in years.  It was a relaxing drive through pretty country.

Kim and I were taking a road trip to Mackinac Island, Michigan, at the invitation of p2P fan Kathleen.  We were so excited – we had never been there before!  Kim was supposed to play in a golf tournament on Monday, but it rained, so we decided to head up the road to our hometown of Paducah, Kentucky, that afternoon.  As luck would have it, our friends saw from our Facebook posts that we were headed that way, and before we got there, we had dinner plans with the girls and a place to stay!  We met our friends Judy, Mary, Mary, and Jan at Doe’s Eat Place where we wolfed down good eats and shared the famous Chocolate Cobbler.  Oh my, it is so good!  Judy got us tucked in and then out the next morning (after homemade blueberry waffles!) and our northern adventure began.  Did I mention it was in the 90’s when I left Tiki Island?

Our route took us up through western Kentucky and across the Ohio River at Owensboro.  We stopped in at Santa Claus, Indiana, in hopes of finding some Frozen Hot Chocolate at Candyland, but it was closed.  Sad face.  On we went to Indianapolis, where we would be staying with Pixie Carolyn.  First, a detour to Nordstrom for Kim to try on her mother-of-the-groom dress and for me to buy some appropriate clothing – warm PJ’s, a pair of Uggs (I had flip flops!), and some socks.  We met Carolyn for dinner and then spent a lovely evening chatting at her house.

The next morning, once we finally woke up (!), we had breakfast and headed for northern Michigan.  We quickly realized that we would not make the last ferry of the day, so the pressure was off.  We were able to relax and enjoy the beautiful fall foliage, and we stopped in Lansing to visit the Capitol and we even made a side trip there to visit an old high school friend.  We stopped in Grayling at Dawson & Stephens Diner and Coke Museum (what a treat!) and it was o’dark thirty when we rolled into Mackinaw City.  But bright and early the next morning, we were on the ferry and meeting Kathleen on beautiful (but foggy) Mackinac Island.

We spent a lovely day exploring the island by foot (no cars allowed – bikes, feet, or horses are accepted modes of transportation) and the sun came out and the temperature was pleasant tee shirt weather.  We met Janice, Katrina, and Connie, and we were loving the slower pace that Mackinac offers.  Carolyn and Tameka arrived after the cold front the next afternoon.  By the time they got there, I had bought a warm windbreaker, a couple of long-sleeved shirts, a scarf, and a hat!  Good thing I wasn’t flying!  I’ll share the rest of the Mackinac adventures on my pages – at this rate, we won’t get far!  Suffice it to say that Kathleen’s hospitality is boundless and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay!  Thanks, Kathleen, from the Sassy Sisters!

By the time we left the island on Sunday, it was still cold but the trees were GLORIOUS!  We took Highway 119, aptly named the Tunnel of Trees, and ate delicious pot pies at the Good Hart General Store.  We parted ways with Carolyn and Meka and made it to Kankakee, IL, in time for my weekly p2P call.  We made it back to Memphis the next day, after detours to the Corvette place in Effingham, a hike in the woods at Fern Clyffe, ice cream at Parker’s Drive In in Paducah, and a stop at mom’s house (wish she were still there….)

The next day was all business for me, as I needed to be back on Tiki before Rex got home (about an 11 hour trip!)  I made it with 15 minutes to spare, and then we turned around and drove into Houston for dinner with some of his college friends.  At least I had time to change clothes and freshen up!  You’ve probably lost count, but it was now Tuesday evening, 9 October, and I had four high school friends (from Paducah!) coming in for the weekend on Thursday!  Needless to say, I did laundry, went to the grocery, cleaned house, cooked, got a haircut, and checked in on mom.  And I was ready when they flew in Thursday afternoon!

As always, we had a fantastic time and the weekend came to an end all too soon.  Last Monday morning, when I took the girls to the airport, my flight left before theirs (only 15 minutes!).  What flight, you ask?  Well, I was headed to Tucson, Arizona, with my dear NC friend, Jenny, for a meeting of women entrepreneurs called ‘The Secret Energy of Money”.  I arrived at the Phoenix airport about an hour before she did, then we picked up a car, stopped at Z Tejas for lunch, and hightailed it to Tucson.

We had a fantastic week, learned lots, ate lots of Mexican food, and even got to spend a lovely evening with p2P Peep Martha!  She saw my Facebook post and came to our hotel for a drink and a bite to eat!  Thanks, Martha, for making the effort!  On our last day in Tucson, we took a walk up to a really cool waterfall on the hotel property and wished we had an extra day or so just to enjoy the Southwest scenery.  But no, we drove back to Phoenix Thursday night so that we could make our before 7 AM flight on Friday!

To view the photo gallery, click HERE.

You Can Go Home Again

I love to travel, especially by car.  I’ve been to all fifty states, most of them more than once.  In fact, I think Alaska is the only state I’ve only been to one time.  I’ve been to a lot of state capitols –  gone through security (for the few that have them!), signed their guest registers, taken tours, taken tons of photos, and marveled at the grandeur of some and the simplicity of others.

I’ve lived in four states – Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Texas.  A couple of years ago, my sister and I, who grew up in Kentucky, went inside the Kentucky state capitol in Frankfort for the first time ever.  Care to guess three other state capitols I have NOT been inside?  Bingo – Tennessee, North Carolina, and Texas! Why do we do that?  Why is it that we make it a point to see the unfamiliar while we ignore what’s in our own backyard?

I’m on the road again, with my sister, and we spent the past day or so touring eastern Kentucky, traveling on roads through counties we’d only heard of (our whole lives!) but had NEVER been near.  We sat through a traffic jam (due to a bad wreck) in Hazard (yes, that same Dukes of Hazzard Hazard!), stopped at farmers’ market in Corbin (home of the Colonel Sanders Cafe and Museum), sat down and listened to Loretta Lynn in Butcher Holler, gazed at the strip mines and the stuff that came out of them, passed through towns like Eighty-eight, Rowdy, Sassafras, Seventy-six, and Dice, and we started our day the best way – admiring a spectacular rainbow caused by Cumberland Falls.

We traveled on US highways, state highways, county roads, roads with four numbers that are barely over two lanes wide and are very curvy, parkways, scenic byways, and even a few miles (less than twenty!) on interstates.  We dodged critters – deer, dogs, cats, and raccoons – and saw (and smelled) plenty of evidence of those that didn’t get out of the way fast enough.  We delighted in the thousands of lightning bugs we saw last night, and we noticed that even the smallest of towns in eastern Kentucky seemed to have Dollar General Stores, Arby’s, McDonald’s, Subway, Long John Silvers, KFC, and of course, Wal-Mart.  A dismal commentary, in my mind!

We traversed the Daniel Boone National Forest, much of which probably hasn’t changed since Daniel Boone passed through, and we rode up the Country Music Highway.  We have a new appreciation for the other end of our home state, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we come back some day.  So what’s in your backyard that you haven’t explored?  What is it you don’t appreciate or that you just take for granted?  I’ll bet that if you made it a point to treat your home town or state as an exotic location, you’d find jewels just like we have!

SS KY state capitol

Kentucky State Capitol, Frankfort, 2009

20 States, 31 Days, 8453 Miles

I love road trips!  I mean, I really, really love them!  I just rolled in from my most recent one about 10:30 last night after being on the road for a month. and I already miss the feeling of waking up and not knowing what the day will hold for me and anticipating new and different sights, activities, weather, and foods.  I miss driving just to drive and seeing what there is to see; I miss the grandeur of US Capitol Buildings and the ordinariness of small town squares.  I miss wide open spaces, purple mountains majesty, amber waves of grain, and fruited plains.  I miss hearing the robotic, yet lyrical, electronic voice of Lee, our Australian Garmin guy and I miss the laughs my sister and I shared.  And I really miss the cool weather!

For the past five years, my sister Kim and I have taken a road trip, and this year’s was one of the best.  Of course, they’ve all been great fun!  This year’s was a little bit different for me, as I tacked on a couple of other trips on the front and back end.  First, I drove my cute little red Prius, Scarlett, from my home in North Carolina through Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin on the way to Showcase in Minneapolis with Pixie Anne riding shotgun.  Along the way, we stopped off and spent the night at Pixie Carolyn’s house in Indianapolis – it was so nice of her to have us, especially since she had never even met us!!  She even went out and got some super yummy desserts for us and put up with our late arrival and early departure.  Since Anne and I had a destination in mind and a timeline, we had to drive on the interstates and not make too many random stops, but we still managed to have a few adventures, share some wonderful road food meals, and get in plenty of laughs.

After Showcase, my sister flew to Minneapolis so that we could begin our long-awaited Pacific Northwest road trip.  Every year we have a route in mind, but not really a ‘destination’.  We have places we want to see and sort of an idea how we’d like to get there, but we’re very flexible.  We also try to have some sort of theme for the trip, and this year was no different, as we decided to visit as many state Capitols as we could along the way, hence the name of this year’s trip: “It’s a Capitol Idea!”  We also wanted to make sure we got to Washington and Oregon, as those were the only two states (of the lower 48) that Kim had not visited.

To make a long story short, Kim and I headed west through Minnesota, drove across North Dakota, dipped into South Dakota, peeked at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, spent a few days in the Big Sky country of Montana, lost our hearts to the beauty of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, crossed Washington, criss-crossed Oregon, crossed the southern part of Idaho, relaxed in the Tetons and saw the rest of Wyoming, traversed Nebraska, barely touched Iowa, went north to south and west to east in Missouri, and caught a corner of Arkansas before I dropped Kim off in Memphis.  We toured Capitols in St. Paul, Bismarck, Olympia, Boise, Cheyenne, and Jefferson City; we stopped at (but didn’t get to tour) the capitols in Salem and Lincoln; and I drove through the capitol cities of Charleston (saw the dome!) Indianapolis, and Madison, and we had already toured the ones in Helena, Pierre, and Nashville.  I even got my daughter Kim to tour the Arkansas state capitol in Little Rock on our way home from Texas!

Along the way we got to visit with several CM friends and benefit from their wonderful hospitality (major shout outs to Melode, Pam, and Nancy for their incredible hospitality!!) and we met lots of wonderful people who shared their love of their towns and states with us.  We tend to avoid interstates, so we get lots of chances to see the things that most of you tend to drive right past without even knowing they are there.  We went on hikes, saw waterfalls, learned all kinds of trivia in all kinds of museums, gawked in renovated hotels,  floated down a river, hiked up a mountain, had a close encounter with a rattlesnake, petted alpacas, spotted bald eagles, saw giant animals sculpted out of junk, panned for sapphires, watched a laser light show on the face of a dam,  toured abandoned underground cities, bordellos, and prisons, walked across and over an interstate, were awed by incredible sunsets, and ate way too much delicious food.  In short, we had a BLAST!

And for me, the fun wasn’t over when I dropped Kim off in Memphis – I drove on to Little Rock and caught a flight to Houston, where I got to spend a few days with my husband at what will soon be my new home near Galveston.  After that, I flew back (with my daughter) to Little Rock and then we drove back here to North Carolina.  As I write this, the car has been unloaded but the suitcases are not unpacked, the mail hasn’t been touched, and the fridge is still empty.  But…just over 3000 digital images have been sorted, ranked, and edited in Memory Manager, and many of them have been shared on facebook.  The hardest part of the job has been done!!

ND Enchanted Highway

Three States, Snake, Center, and Tower

Wednesday, 4 August  2010

Medora ND to Gillette WY  ~390 miles


While I worked on the computer this morning, Kim went for a walk around the old West town of Medora.  While out, she spotted a good place for breakfast, which was right behind our hotel.  The Cowboy Cafe is known for its sour cream raisin pie, which is evidently a local favorite.  We haven’t tried it yet, and today would not be the day, either, as they hadn’t made the pie yet.  But we were here for a substantial breakfast, and we got one!  We each had eggs and meat and shared a fruit bowl, then we sat on the terrace of the newly restored Rough Rider Hotel and Conference Center and wrote some postcards to Mom, since we were right next door to the post office.  And then we were off to explore nearby Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

DSC_0311 dsc_0313

This park is the northern reaches of the Badlands, which stretch all the way to southwestern South Dakota.  The park was dedicated in 1949, and it is a real monument to Teddy Roosevelt and his love of the Badlands of the west.  We found it prettier than the Badlands in South Dakota, probably because there was more vegetation here. It is very close to the interstate, and there is a 36 mile loop (two way, thankfully!) that you can drive, stopping for photos, hikes, or whatever.  Just after we began there was a huge prairie dog town, so we stopped for a minute or two to listen to the chattering animals and watch them peeking up out of their burrows.  We got some good photos from several of the scenic pull-off areas, and then we decided to take a short little ‘nature’ hike.  Little did we know what an exciting National Geographic moment awaited us…We were just ending a delightful, not too hard Ridgeline Nature Trail walk – on the steps on the way down to the parking area, when right next to my right foot (clad in open sided Keens, not hiking boots!) I heard the unmistakable rattle of a you know what.  So what if I’d never heard it before or that I couldn’t see anything – I skeedaddled!  Behind me, Kim (wearing sensible hiking boots and socks) actually SAW the source of the noise and stopped.  And backed up!  So now we were separated by a snake!  Just as Kim finished telling me it was a small one, it decided to cross the path.  Suffice it to say that any snake that is as long as the path is wide does not fit my definition of small… Kim changed her mind, too, both about ‘small’ and about crossing the path anytime soon.  I, of course, took the opportunity to get some really great photos!  Once the snake decided to stay put (it actually acted like it might cross again, and at one point Kim reported it was in ‘strike position’) Kim got brave and scampered down the path.  We quickly alerted the family with three young kids coming up the path to the danger, and they opted for another fun activity.  The dad tried to get some pix, but the snake was no longer cooperating.  So down we all went to the parking area, where I was able to at least share the pictures on my camera.  We finished the rest of the loop without incident (and without getting out of the car!) and then went to Painted Canyon, another part of the park several miles east of the main entrance.  We had been told not to miss it, but we were underwhelmed.


Leaving the Badlands behind, we retraced our route toward Dickinson, ND, and turned south towards the geographic center of the United States.  In 1959, the US Coast and Geodetic Survey officially designated a point 20 miles north of Belle Fourche, SD, as the Geographic Center of the Nation.  While we drove right past the actual point, we stopped in Belle Fourche (pronounced ‘Bell Foosh’) to see a newly built monument.  It was the map of the US mounted atop a compass and surrounded by flags of all of the states, and it was made of South Dakota granite.  It was in the back yard of the Tri-State Museum, so of course we checked it out, too.  The ride down here was the most boring so far.  Kim kindly drove and I unkindly slept!  But it was my turn back at the wheel, as we were off on another detour.


We should have known better, but we were lured by the promise of a fun, funky, fifties roadside attraction called Boondocks, just south of nearby Deadwood, SD.  Since we skipped both Deadwood and Sturgis when we were out here three years ago ( we decided to give it a try.  And why should we have known better?  Because we know that the first Saturday in August is Bikers’ Week in STURGIS, SD!!!  And this was on the first Wednesday of August…we may as well have been invisible, arriving as we did in our Prius, which makes NO NOISE.  All told, we could have done without Deadwood (now officially designated as the Sassy Sisters’ Gatlinburg of the Badlands) and we had to drive through it TWICE, and we sat in a diner at Boondocks for easily ten minutes without being acknowledged (or finding anyone who cared) and yes, it was open.  But, we got some pix and we can say we have been there, done that and we never need to wonder if we have missed something good!  Onward we went to Devil’s Tower, which we did miss the last time we were near.  However, due to our time wasted in Deadwood, we decided not to actually go into the park, as we figured we had seen what we came for!  We were so hungry by now (breakfast being a LONG time ago now!) that we even ate at the KOA Kampground.  Not worth wasting words on, but at least we were no longer hungry and they served beer.


The sky had been gorgeous all day, but it was clouding up.  While that meant we might get a beautiful sunset (and we did), it also meant we likely would not get to see the Northern Lights (we didn’t) on the last night possible.  It also meant there was a big storm coming, which we really wanted to avoid.  We had heard at the Tri-State Museum that they had had six INCHES of HAIL the day before.  If you follow along with us regularly, you know that we attract hail like some attract lightning.  I think my insurance company would get suspicious if I asked for a third hail repair…So without further ado, we made a beeline for Gillette, WY, and shelter from the night at a Hampton Inn.  We got there just before the sky opened up!

Tomorrow will be another fun one!


Day 3 Medora ND to Gillette WY