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When we last saw our heroes, they were cramming themselves into a tiny SUV which should’ve been bigger. We now join them somewhere on I-90.
I’d only reserved two hotels for the entire trip. I had no idea how far we would travel each day and so I only booked for what I thought would be busier places: Rapid City and Nauvoo. The little towns by Mount Rushmore are basically shut down off season, so I didn’t find anywhere closer for a family of five.
With a waterslide.
Mount Rushmore was pretty cool, I thought. My husband had wanted to hike around it but all of the trails were closed because it had snowed the night before and there was ice. And the Department of the Interior does not mess around with ice.
The kids became junior park rangers and I learned a lot about Mount Rushmore that I hadn’t known. For instance, Teddy Roosevelt wasn’t originally planned for it. And dynamite was used to create 90% of it. And honeycombing isn’t just for bees.
Custer National Park was a highlight. We saw prairie dogs, deer, elk, coyotes, wolves, wild ponies, and bison. One bison started licking our car. We found out from another visitor that they lick the salt off the cars. I had just thought that was the bison way of being friendly.
Once you leave Rapid City, heading East on I-90, you start seeing billboards for Wall Drug. And then you keep seeing them about every 50 feet. There are big billboards and little billboards. Billboards offering free water. Billboards offering discounts to Vets. Billboards with obscure drawings that have nothing to do with Walls or Drugs.
By the time you’ve driven 5 miles, you are very curious as to why Wall Drug advertises so much. So we decided to stop.
(Which may be why they advertise so much.)
It was Easter Sunday and I wasn’t sure it would be open but THERE WERE SO MANY SIGNS we thought it was always open.
So we got off the freeway. And followed the signs to a GIANT store. It took up a whole block. It was amazing.
It was closed.
So instead, we went to the bar across the street and had the best burgers and fries we had eaten in a while. And fried pickle chips. I would like a lifetime supply of fried pickle chips.
I think the highlight of the trip for the kids (and for me) was Nauvoo. It’s a historical town where we learned how to make rope, bake bread in a brick oven (hypothetically), weave our own rugs and make a horseshoe. The kids like living history towns; we sort of make them like them because we keep taking them to different ones. It just makes it easier if they decide to enjoy themselves.
We learned a lot. We even ran into Susan Easton Black and George Durrant who were there on a very brief mission. We followed her around town and the cemetery (with her permission). We even stayed an extra day so we could hear her lecture.
And it’s a good thing we did because we then got to see the Carthage County Museum (or something like that) which was made from the collection of a biology teacher from the local college. She used to collect things. Nowadays we call that hoarding but I guess her stuff was interesting enough to keep her house as a museum. And that’s where we saw the pickle jar with the pickled two-headed pig. A true highlight.
We finished our trip in Independence Missouri. We spent the day driving to different LDS sites and then we went to the visitor’s center. We knew it had been a long day and trip and that we were done with it all when the missionary asked us what we should do before we pray and my 8 yr old said:
(The correct answer was some version of ponder… meditate, think, pause… Eat was an answer she hadn’t heard before.)
The whole trip was a good time. There wasn’t too much fighting (Thank you Tyler Whitesides for writing The Janitors series and reading it onto CD’s). By the end of the trip I think we were all sick of each other, but we all learned a lot.
I learned that my great, great grandfather Haight had a 16 day old child who passed away at Winter Quarters, Nebraska and that my great, great, great grandfather Higgenbotham had been a missionary from Nauvoo. I got a CD with their information and their wives’ information and I can’t wait to read what I found. Eliza and Louisa, their wives, did amazing things and wrote about it. I can’t wait to read their journals. It made Nauvoo a little more real, knowing my ancestors came through there. (I even know where their land was. I asked the owners if I could have it back and they said no. I didn’t even get my own parking space in the lot that was over Gpa Higginbotham’s 1/4 acre. Seems unfair.)
I think the kids learned a lot about U.S. and LDS history but they will probably remember the bison licking the car and the two headed pig the most.
But one day they will go back, wearing their prairie diamond rings, with the information we got this time, knowing their ancestors were there.