Greetings from the land of Larry Craig, who is not and never has been gay.
On our way to bury my brother, the XX-chromosome van wound its way through Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Idaho. Soon we'll be on our way to Utah. We shared the road with about 500,000 bikers on their way to Sturgis.
South Dakota is still my favorite. I like the lumpy hills in the east and the Black Hills in the west, and the Badlands are fun to jump around in and so alien.
My mom always told me she hated the Badlands. I could never understand why, and when we got there, she said, "I've never been here before." She doesn't know what she thought of as the Badlands, but she had the wrong place in mind. I don't know how much she enjoyed it, but she was interested at least for a little while. Kelsey and I could have stayed all day.
I was worried about my mom. She's 83, overweight, can hardly walk, and was terrified she was going to die getting out here. She didn't want to do anything fun, but when I said that meant driving through Nebraska, she changed her mind.
She might change it back after driving through Wyoming. I was fortunate the last time we drove through Wyoming, as it was dark much of the time. Wyoming is mile after mile of a nearly unchanging landscape. Ugh. It's interesting at first because it's so vast and so different from anything at home. But after several hours of hills and sagebrush, it gets pretty dull. At least in Nebraska there are cities and traffic. Wyoming is just desolate.
Take, for example, Lost Springs, Wyoming.
The last time we went through here, the population was 4. I wonder what happened.
Anyway, we also hit Wall Drug, Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park while in South Dakota. When I was a kid, the Wall Drug bumper stickers said, "Where the HELL is Wall Drug?" Now they say "heck" instead.
Kayleigh ragged about going to Mt. Rushmore. She wasn't too impressed when she saw it when she was younger and hated how touristy it was. My niece Estelle, however, said it was the most exciting thing she'd done all year. I had always wanted to see it as a kid, and my brother Clint, the dead one, said, "It's just a big rock." I guess now I think it's interesting to see, nowhere I'd need to return to, and nowhere I'd really spend a lot of time. I'm glad Estelle got to see it, and my sister, too. My mom stayed in the car.
We drove past the Crazy Horse monument. It's not done, and they were going to charge us $27 to get in. We said no thanks and turned around.
The highlight of the day for me was driving through Custer State Park. We took the Needles Highway through some spectacular rock formations and fabulously twisty mountain roads. We saw loads of wildlife – buffalo, pronghorn, deer, prairie dogs. We had a picnic by a little lake, where Kelsey ate Fritos and a nasty Little Debbie cake and declared she was going to barf. She did not barf, thankfully.
Finding a place to stay was hard with all the bikers around. And because all the bikers were around, prices were jacked up. We drove and drove and drove, hoping to find a place cheaper down the road. We finally got on the phone to Eric at home who called every motel in every small town in southeastern Wyoming. We got gouged, but we got to sleep.
My mom was pretty beat, and I worried. But she seemed to recover pretty well over night. We arrived in Bennington, Idaho, the following evening, grateful to see our family.
And then the real fun began....