Welcome back, Readers, to the adventures of the Cunningham family!
If you’re following along, we ended our last adventure blog wrapping up a big sight seeing day in South Dakota! It was our last day in the Black Hills and as I mentioned, the last day in hills of any kind for a long, long stretch. From our perch just West of Rapid City, we could clearly see what lied ahead… for miles and miles and miles…
I have to admit that this made me a touch nostalgic, given that for the past two years, I could look out any window of my house in Genoa, Nevada and see the great Sierra Nevada mountains. One of my favorite things about my house there was that I could even see the mountains while I showered. How cool is that? I do believe I’ll miss the mountains the most- outside of the people of course. Moving to Genoa was the realization of a dream for me. We lived kind of in the mountains, but not enough to have to use chains or shovel snow. We got to SEE the mountains AND the valley. And we also had that sweet, tiny town feel there.
So why on earth would I be moving to Tennessee? I’m glad you asked:
Other than the answers described in the blog or vlog (in the blog) above, another answer would be this: You may find that your biggest dream, is just the base camp of your next biggest dream if you’re courageous enough to never stop dreaming.
So anyway, back to the adventures at hand!
The morning we left the hills, we only made it to the far side of Rapid City before we stopped for another museum. I told you we love ourselves some museums! We had planned to pop into a drive through Dinosaur exhibit- by this I mean a park where someone back in the 30’s crafted every dinosaur you can think of out of cement- but it was closed for the season! We’ve been running into that a lot- everything being closed for the season. Being from California, where even the ski resorts come up with ways to be open in the summer, this is so confusing to me. But either way, we missed the cement dinosaur park, and headed to the Air and Space museum on Ellsworth Air Force Base.
Gage fell asleep in the 20 minutes it took to drive across Rapid City- no offense to Rapid City- and so I sat in the car with him and worked while Thomas took the bigs in to explore. So although I didn’t get to confirm that it was a good museum, the kids seemed to be very impressed and Tom said it was worth the stop. Merit has told me many times since, that he was brave and went underneath an airplane. So in the very least he got to flex his brave muscles.
Loaded up, we headed for the far side of The Badlands National Park so that we could make our way through the park towards Wall Drug- a must stop says every sign ever. Upon entering the Badlands, we saw this sign…
I don’t know about you, but that’s alarming! The Plague? I mean, like the real Plague? Look at the sign! They even italicized the word to be sure that we were alarmed! And I’m ALWAYS alarmed by italics. And wouldn’t you know, just before we approached that sign, we had been discussing a potential picnic. Can you imagine the mayhem one little picnic stop could have caused the human race? Doesn’t that sound like the plot to a Steven King novel?
An unassuming family, just out for a trip through the Badlands, found themselves a sweet little Prairie Dog…
Only maybe 10 miles beyond the sign, there was a viewing area where no one seemed to be concerned about the Plague at all anymore! Everyone had forgotten the warnings and were out hiking and enjoying themselves, basking in the (hopefully) Plague free sun. It would have been nice to have seen a second sign letting us know we were in the clear as far as the Plague goes, but alas, we took our chances and stopped to join the rest of them. Just like anything else, there is power in numbers, right? If we all stuck together, surely no one would get the Plague.
But really, the Badlands was worth risking a painful death. It was stunning. So unique and different. In the middle of the great wide nothing, there is this Grand Canyon like terrain all of the sudden.
I wish I would have read a sign or something to maybe shed some light for you as to how it’s there, why it looks like it does, or what give it it’s name, but I did not. That’s why I like museums- all the learning.
However, if you’d like, I will share with you our speculations on why it’s called the Badlands. We figure that if you were crossing the country by wagon or even horse back, and you came upon this area of the country, seemingly out of nowhere- it’s a very contained terrain change- you would really try to communicate back to the people behind you that they would really want to avoid that section of countryside if they could. To stress the ‘badness’ of the area in terms of cross-ability, we decided that they started to refer to it ‘the badlands.’ Of course this is not in any way historically backed. The ‘they’ we refer to here could be settlers, could be Indians, could be dinosaurs for all we know.
Again, just the things we think about on the road. Always trying to gain a different perspective from the one that I have. It ALWAYS makes me feel grateful that I’m not moving across the country in a covered wagon. I am certainly grateful that whenever I need to use the restroom, we pull over and I use the one I’m towing behind us. And I LOVE the fact that I get to take a shower with warm water when all I’ve really been doing is riding in a car and I’m not even that dirty. I try not to take any of these things for granted. And it’s those quick moments at the Badlands that help me remember how dang good we have it. I tell you, perspective is everything, right?
Did I mention our truck doesn’t have a radio?
After the Badlands, we headed to Wall Drug!
Thomas and his family have talked about Wall Drug since I’ve been a part of the clan. Ironically, when Thomas was a young boy, his family moved from Illinois to California- so he’s seen a lot of what we’re seeing- and now we’re taking our family right back across the country again. I find that kind of funny. But because of their move across country, Wall Drug was a stop for them years ago, and has been seared into Tom’s brain as a must stop for us as well. I mean, I get it. It’s not so much about how impressive the stop is, it’s more about taking your kids to a place where you were a kid.
And it’s not just Thomas. Since posting this picture on social media…
… I’ve been reading people’s comments from all over my life, who have pictures or memories on top of the same jack-a-lope. I think that’s cool. And one day my kids will be able to speak fondly of the many adventures their awesome parents took them on when they were young.
For reference, you should see this…
But other than the jack-a-lope, Wall Drug is pretty random. Okay, I should say IN ADDITION to the jack-a-lope, Wall Drug is pretty random. Thomas had tried to explain it to me before we arrived, because I asked several times about what I should expect there, and he really couldn’t describe it. I find that I’m having the same problem now. Yes, there is a drug store! But there is also everything else! Need hand made, authentic leather shoes? This is your place! Handmade ice cream? You’re good! Indian artifacts? They’ve got that too! Maybe it’s a set of pj’s, socks or even a cowboy hat that you’re after. They’ve got you covered. It’s basically store after store after store- all connected… once you go into one, you’ve basically gone into all- of all the little nicks and nacks and arts and crafts and things that you could ever want to look at.
Cay and Merit each got to pick out one toy for the trailer. Cay picked out a horse trailer and truck to use with the dozen or so mini horses she already has in the trailer. Good pick, I’d say. Merit chose a revolver that shoots darts. If this doesn’t sum up my kids, I don’t know what does.
In the ‘backyard,’ as they call it, there you’ll find the jack-a-lope, and many other climbable, photo posable animals, trains and the like. Isn’t it funny how when kids are left to their own imagination for days on end, they automatically see an area full of things to climb on as the wild west, and an amazing adventure story begins to unfold as they run around from thing to thing. Cay was yelling about the cows getting out, as she bolted across the patio towards the horse statue. She climbed on top and threw her rope arm up in the air and started to round up all the cows. Merit preferred to use the train to collect the escaped cows. It was fun to watch.
I know my kids a week ago would have been bored within minutes of being in the same backyard because of the nature of their play at home- unfortunately too many screens are involved.
But THIS is how I used to play. An acre backyard was the biggest expanse you could imagine. My cousin, my sister and I would play cowboys and Indians for HOURS, and hide and go seek would never end. My bike was my car. The play structure was a boat and we were lost at sea!
Kids don’t play like that anymore. And those are some of my favorite memories as a kid. That’s the whole point of the farm that awaits us on the other side of this crazy journey. We think we’re on an adventure now? The real adventure awaits…
While the kids ran around and made up a new world in their minds, and while Gage tried desperately to keep up, yelling his own little language after them, I sat on a bench and did a virtual product demo from an app on my phone. As much as I want to limit technology, man does it allow us the freedom to just be wherever we are. How funny that I watched my kids unplug and come alive, while I KNOW that it’s because of the very thing I’m unplugging them from that we’re able to do what we’re doing. Kinda crazy. Perspective man, it’s a doozy.
We snagged an early, and underwhelming dinner there before we hit the road, but as Wall Drug fell into our rearview mirror, we got to experience a beautiful 360 degree sunset. Because it’s just so dang flat our here, the sun lit up the sky in every direction like I’ve never seen before! It was really quite remarkable. Even though we were heading East, we could still enjoy the many colors of God’s masterpiece.
We rolled into Chamberlain, South Dakota around 10pm that night. The boy’s were asleep, but Cadence was still firing on all cylinders. It was not as late as it seemed for her, as we had lost another hour at some point as we drove. We’re now officially on our NEW timezone- Central time. So to Cay, she was only up about an hour past her bedtime and not two. But to me, because it was the last day of the month- my most important working day of the month- I was SO ready for her adorable stream of questions to end so I could focus and work!
These kids are just learning so much as we drive. They have 83746 questions.
“Mom, what are cars made out of?”
“Dad, what are people made out of?”
“Mom, what are trees made out of?”
And so on…
After we finally decided on a campsite near the park and the Missouri River, we popped the exhausted kids in their beds, took showers and I set up camp on my bed to work well into the night. Because ‘end of month’ is midnight Pacific Time, that means that I’ll be hanging out until 2am once a month from now on. Bring it on, baby! You see, I could think of that as an annoying part of what I get to do in my business, or I can see it as a bonus TWO more hours of time that I didn’t used to have to complete goals and make the magic happen! Perspective!
April was the biggest month we’ve ever had in my business in the eight years that I’ve been with Arbonne. We reached just shy of $600,000 in sales in my organization that month. I think it’s amazing that I was able to help support the people in my organization to get it all done, from a bed in my camper in Chamberlain, South Dakota, while my family snoozed around me. Sometimes I’m just struck with how absolutely blessed we are because of our road less traveled.
I get to be a present mom, on an epic road trip with my family, as we fulfill a dream of moving across the country to a farm, and I still get to be an entrepreneur, a provider, and an example to my kids that you CAN and SHOULD design your life and not default to it. I think that’s just so cool.
After a few short hours of sleep, we were all up and doing our morning. It was a shower the kids day. I’ll be honest, the whole showering thing doesn’t happen on the road for the kids as much as I would like. For one, it’s a giant pain in the butt to try to shower three kids at the same time. Two, it’s not often that a campground shower is clean enough where you don’t feel like you’re doing more harm than good. And three, did I mention it’s just a pain in the butt?
This shower in particular, although clean, was the first push button shower that I’ve come across at an RV park. You know the kind, where you have to push the big button in and you get an allotted amount of water before the button pops back out? They have them at most beaches. It’s NOT a suitable way to take a shower. It causes anxiety. Imagine fearing that your warm water will be shutting off at any moment. When I showered here the night before, I found myself re-pushing the button about 3 dozen times during my 5 minute shower, just to be sure. And with this method of showering, you also don’t get to decide your temperature. I’m someone who prefers to come out of a shower bright red from the hot water, but in an attempt to gain perspective, I have to admit that hot water is hot water, regardless of HOW hot. And I’m grateful to have it in any capacity, at my disposal.
So, anyway, showers ensued for all! Clean, dressed children then played at the campground park until we were packed and loaded and ready for the next thing.
We made a quick stop at the Akta Lakota Cultural Heritage Museum, and then grabbed lunch at the local diner on main street. Is it just me, or was this entire country built in a decade? Have you ever noticed how every single ‘downtown’ of every single town anywhere is the exact same design? Every town, big or small, has one street, if not many, where there are a line of brick store front buildings who likely had their heyday in the post war era. They still exist all over the country in some form or another. Some have been embraced and updated, and some look like an older, decayed version of what they once were. But they’re there. It reminds me of how small the world really is. The generations before us were pretty much able to spread themselves all over this country and build up the society we now know and take for granted. We’ve got it so easy.
On our way from Chamberlain to Lake Okoboji, Iowa, we made a brief stop somewhere in Minnesota just to let the kids play and take a break from the car. And it was just long enough to realize that I’m not eager to return to the bitter cold of that state. I can’t judge a state by it’s Walmart parking lot, but MAN was it brisk!
Onward towards Lake Okoboji- a destination that was recently recommended to us by a bartender in Las Vegas as a hidden gem of Iowa- we rolled into town right around dinnertime and found our intended campground, only to discover that it wasn’t so much a campground but a boat loading area where you COULD camp if you were crazy. And we just weren’t in the crazy mood and so we pulled back onto the road and called the place down the road.
“I’m sorry sir, we’re booked… for the season.”
Oh dang! Booked for the season, huh? This could be interesting.
We started driving down away from downtown, and found what appeared to be a fairly legit RV park…
Closed for the season.
CRAP! I wish I could say that this NEVER happens. There is always last minute drops ins available wherever we go! But as we’ve learned more than once, unfortunately, high trafficked, popular locations do tend to need a reservation. Just word to the wise for you plan ahead-ers!
So we pulled into the ‘closed for the season’ RV park because it was about half full and we figured maybe they’d make an exception for just one night. The host was not available, but a live in RV-er came out of his camp and let us know that he knew the owner and thought it would be just fine if we came in for one night. So we did. We parked, brought the kids in and started cooking dinner.
The phone rang. Turns out the camp host really wasn’t down with us just coming on in for a night. He wasn’t rude about it, but he wasn’t feeling very hospitable either. As a friendly gesture, he offered to call around on our behalf and find another place for us to go. I thought that was nice.
After only a few minutes, he said he had called the place that was booked for the season and they were willing to squeeze us in. I mean, are you booked or are you not booked? I guess it’s a fluid situation. So we literally took the taco meat off the stove half cooked, wrapped it in a towel and positioned it safely on the floor, while we loaded the kids back up and drove down the road again.
Upon inspection of the ‘squeeze us in’ scenario, we realized we really couldn’t make the spot he wanted to fit us in, work. Thomas is an excellent trailer backer upper. I’ve seen him do pretty dang impossible things with our rig, but this was just not going to happen. So, we were now officially a strike out on three out of three RV parks so we took to good old google again, wondering if we were really out of options. We found ONE more place that was closed for the season, but they did answer the phone and they did say they could ‘squeeze us in.’ What on earth is with all the squeezing RV’s places? But we decided we had to go take a look.
As it turns out, God had a beautiful plan for our night as always, and we ended up in a wonderfully, grassy site, RIGHT on the lake, just as the sun was setting over the water. It was absolutely worth the trouble and the exact blessing we were hopeful would be at the end of our crazy goose hunt.
Thomas finished cooking the tacos, and we ate together as a family as the sky lit up with colors. The kids played with the dogs and chased the geese as the day came to a close.
Thank you, Lord, for another perfect day together. And thank you for our safe passage on this trip thus far. It has been full and it has been wonderful and we are grateful. We look forward, as always, to what’s ahead on this crazy road of life.