Sunday, July 25, 2010

Our First Family Vacation!

We left yesterday for our first real family vacation. That sounds kind of pathetic . . . you see, while we lived in NJ, all of Keith's time off was spent coming back to Kansas to see family. The girls and I did a few "field trips" together, but Keith was never able to join us. This is Kandt Klan Travel Experience Number One.

And it's going well! We've hit four destinations so far.

1) De Smet, SD -- the setting of the last five Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Personally, I was very excited about this. "Look! It's the Brewster schoolhouse! It's the huge, well-stocked pantry in the surveyor's house! It's the whatnot . . the china shepherdess . . the schoolhouse where Laura rocked the desk . . . the house Pa built after Laura left . . " Yeah, I was probably kind of annoying. There was more I wanted to see -- like, the site of Laura and Almanzo's first house, and the five cottonwood trees Pa planted for Ma -- but Keith was being very patient. We moved on to . . .

2) The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. A huge auditorium in the process of being decorated on the exterior with various local grains for a big festival this fall, as is done every year and has been for over a century, I believe. Kind of have to see this to appreciate it. And now that I've seen and appreciated it, I think I'm done with it.

3) The Badlands. Wow. Seriously, wow! They are beautiful! And we're going to drive back tonight to see them in the setting sun, with the shadows and all. But I did learn that I am even more afraid of heights than I realized. At one scenic outlook stop, you could walk out to the edge of the cliffs to look out over the valley. Keith and the girls kept going a little further. And a little further. And I kept saying, "Stop. Stop! STOP!" I really couldn't stand it. I had to turn around and walk away -- I just couldn't watch. Hyperventilating and heart palpitations. Ohhhhh.

4) Wall Drug Store. If you haven't heard of this, you probably won't understand us making a specific stop at a drug store in a small South Dakota town. But this is no ordinary drug store. It's an international phenomenon. There are signs for it everywhere, even in Europe. The place fills up a city block. A restaurant, a snack bar, an ice cream parlor and a fudge kitchen. Touristy merchandise, western clothes and artwork, cheesy photo op spots. A traveler's chapel, a bookstore, a jewelry shop, a place to pan for gold or precious stones, an animatronic T Rex that comes up to "feed" every 12 minutes. Kitschy and almost as corny as the corn palace. But it was still fun.

Tomorrow we do the Black Hills: Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, a tour of Jewel Cave, and a Chuckwagon Barbecue and Trail Ride. It will be a busy day, but I'm looking forward to it!

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