When I learned that Devil’s Tower was on our route to Glacier National Park it became a must-see destination. Devil’s Tower features prominently in Close Encounters of the Third Kind which is one of my all-time favorite movies. Needless to say, as soon as it came into view on the horizon we had to pull over so I could have a total fan girl moment.
Devil’s Tower is still considered a sacred place to Native Americans and others so, if you visit, please be respectful by staying on the trails and not disturbing the prayer bundles and prayer cloths you will see in the trees and shrubbery.
One of my favorite memories of The Great Road Trip of 2019 comes from our visit to Devil’s Tower. As we hiked the trail around the base of the tower we had one of those “it’s a small world” experiences; we met a man from the Atlanta area, just a couple of hours north of our hometown and a young man and his son from South Carolina. (We have family in both North and South Carolina so we were familiar with the area from which the young man hailed.) We all chatted, then went our separate ways. Each time our paths crossed, we would stop and visit again. Finally, the young dad asked, “Does everyone here keep apologizing to y’all for the humidity?” We all had a good laugh. Indeed, one of the park rangers had expressed concern that our visit was occurring during such high humidity. Y’all the humidity level was 25%. For native Southerners, 25% doesn’t even register on our humidity scale. As far as we were all concerned, the air was downright dry.😂
Sadly, no UFOs made an appearance during our visit but Devil’s Tower did not disappoint.🛸
It was The Great Road Trip of 2019. We were driving through Arkansas and were getting tired and hungry when we noticed a sign for the town of Toad Suck. After confirming that we did both, in fact, see the words “Toad Suck” we pulled off in Conway and found a restaurant. Our server was happy to tell us about Toad Suck, where to find it, and the fact that there is now a Toad Suck festival every spring. Once we had eaten and were feeling human again, we made the drive to Toad Suck. It should come as no great surprise to anyone that there’s not a lot to see; it truly is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town. (Surprisingly, there is an Army Corp of Engineers campground in Toad Suck.) However, there is a sign perfect for selfies and a convenience store (which was brand new in 2019) featuring Toad Suck themed souvenirs.
While we were struggling to get a somewhat decent selfie in front of the Toad Suck sign, a battered, older Toyota truck pulled over next to us, and the driver called out through the open window “What in the world are y’all doin’?” I explained that when you see a sign with the words “Toad Suck” you have to stop and take a selfie. He followed up with “Y’all ain’t from around here, are you?” we assured him that we were not and proceeded to have an enjoyable conversation. I know that Arkansas is considered a Southern state but mentally I don’t think of it as one. I have to admit I didn’t expect an Arkansan to sound way more Southern than I do.🤷♀️😂
The next day as we motored though Missouri, we came across signs for the town of Peculiar so, once again, we had to pull over and take pictures. I think of Peculiar as a fairly typical older, small town – with an unusual name. As a matter of fact, I didn’t find out how the town got its name until after we got home.
There are so many beautiful and unusual things to see in this country of ours. It’s important to take the time to stop and smell the roses, check out the town with the strange name, and take the bad selfie. (I know, it’s not always easy when you’re towing a travel trailer. During this trip, we weren’t.)
I have a love/hate relationship with cooking. It doesn’t come naturally or easily to me and it’s never been something that I have particularly enjoyed. That said, I did the cooking for the first few years of our marriage; Kenn took over a few years in. (I think he was tired of watching me stress out over every meal, bless his heart.) However, once I retired, it was only fair that I take over the responsibility once again. Less than a year later, the pandemic hit and eating out was no longer an option. Cooking may not be fun for me, meal planning is even less so. We had used the Hello Fresh meal kit subscription a few years ago and decided to sign up once again. Using Hello Fresh works for me on two levels: one, it gives us a chance to try things we normally wouldn’t and two, that’s two less meals I have to plan each week. Surprisingly, I’ve also discovered that I enjoy the prep work; I don’t mind getting in the kitchen and zesting, chopping, an mincing up a storm.
Now, we are planning our first long road trip with the travel trailer which means meal planning without the assistance of Hello Fresh. It also means meal planning within the limited storage of a travel trailer. We sat down and listed a few of our favorite meals and the ingredients of each. I know we’ll eat out occasionally during our trip. After all, part of the travel experience is trying new/regional foods. (My love of all things huckleberry is a direct result of our 2019 road trip. It’s too bad we don’t have huckleberries here in the South.) However, we know that we have a tendency to repeat the same handful of meals over and over. Pasta also features frequently since it’s so easy to prepare.
So, dear reader, I need your help. What are some of your favorite meals to prepare when you’re on the road? Do you have any cookbooks or online resources to recommend? (Insert puppy dog eyes here)
“Where the heck is Wall Drug?” When driving across South Dakota you’ll see numerous signs asking this question. SPOILER ALERT: Wall Drug is in Wall, South Dakota. Wall is just outside of Badlands National Park so we decided to use it as our base of operations for a couple of days while we were in the area. Since our hotel was just down the street from the famous Wall Drug Store, we decided to have breakfast there before spending our day in the Badlands.
I thought the breakfast buffet was a little pricey but at least it was tasty. Wall Drug still sells coffee for 5 cents per cup and honestly, it was some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. I’m a big fan of rustic decor and the dining area has it in spades.
Is Wall Drug a tourist trap? You bet. Is it a fun place to spend some time? Absolutely. There is actually a pharmacy at Wall Drug but it’s only the beginning. (You know the place is big when they give you a map.) We spent a couple of hours wandering around and buying souvenirs – including cowboy hats from the western wear store.🤠
Since Kenn was still working at the time of our 2019 road trip, there was a lot of go-go-go mentality involved. Our trip to Wall Drug was unplanned but it was not only enjoyable, it gave us some much needed downtime.
I’m still journeying down memory lane with this post but, I’m also telling on myself. I had what is probably the biggest brain fart of my life while driving through South Dakota.😂 There are a couple of places you see a lot of signs for: one is Wall Drug, the other is 1880 Town (which is where the brain fart came in).
I was driving when a small town came into view on the horizon. Kenn said, “Oh, that must be the place we’ve seen all the signs for.” Additional signage confirmed that he was correct; we were approaching 1880 Town. My response was “Oh, it’s eighteen eighty town!” I then had to explain that for the entire drive I had been reading each sign as “1-880-Town”; I had even gotten a little annoyed, wondering why they didn’t just put the name of the attraction on the sign instead of a phone number. (Yes, I know that’s not enough numbers for a real phone number but that’s still how my brain was interpreting it.) *facepalm* Kenn got several miles of laughter out of my revelation. I hope you get a good chuckle too.
It’s hard to believe that our last big road trip was in July 2019.😮 Our post-retirement plans were to have 1-2 “big” road trips every year in addition to our smaller trips. Our 2020 road trip was to culminate in Maine with a variety of stops up and down the eastern coast of the US. However, COVID had other plans so, not knowing which states and campgrounds might be closed, we canceled our much anticipated trip and rescheduled it for September of 2021. As the time for this year’s trip draws tantalizingly closer (and life throws in potential roadblocks) I’ve been looking through my photos from our last trip and decided to share some of my favorite memories with you.
The ultimate destination of our 2019 trip was Glacier National Park. However, on the way, I fell in love with the entire state of South Dakota. Seriously, I was ready to pack up and move. (Kinda still am.) One of the first things we learned is that Oklahoma is not the only place where “the wind comes sweeping down the plains.” The wind started blowing when we crossed the Iowa/South Dakota border and didn’t stop the whole time we were in the state. At some point we lost one of the little plastic rain shields Kenn had installed over the windows and we had to pull onto the shoulder of the interstate so I could remove another one that had started flapping in the never-ending “breeze”. One of our first stops was at the South Dakota welcome center where a very friendly woman whipped out a map and marked several things we should see while we were in the state. This is where we learned that there are actually falls in Sioux Falls South Dakota. Who knew?🤦♀️ (I know, I know. It makes perfect sense, my brain had just never put two and two together.) We hadn’t been planning to visit Sioux Falls but we changed our plans and I’m so glad we did.
I was instantly in love. Kenn gets a kick out of the fact that I love rocks and Sioux Falls had them in spades. (I think I should have been a geologist.)
It was an overcast day and rain threatened the whole time we were at the falls. Fortunately, other than a few drizzles, it held off. There was a small gift shop and a few buildings to visit but the actual falls were my favorite part. I also liked the buffalo sculpture named Monarch of the Plains. It was difficult to get a good picture of the sculpture because of the construction going on behind it; I wasn’t crazy about having all of the cones, etc. in the background of my pictures. On another note, I loved all of the different colors that began appearing in the local rocks once we reached South Dakota and continuing all the way to Montana. Some of those colors are apparent in the Monarch.
Thank you for joining me on my trip down memory lane. Be sure to join me again next week for more. Until then, stay safe and happy trails!
I didn’t get to travel much when I was young so Kenn and I wanted to make sure our boys had a chance to see a little more of the world. We couldn’t afford to take them on cruises or jet off to international locations but we could at least get them out of the house and introduce them to the sort of places that we love. (They would probably say we took them hiking far too many times, LOL.)
Time and money management were always important on our trips so I planned everything down to the nth degree. I researched the locations we were planning to visit, booked the hotel rooms/cabins, and planned out our activities for each day. Looking back, I may have occasionally over-planned, but it was a labor of love.
Keeping up with details, planning, and organizing are just a part of me and have served me well both at home and at work. However, I think the last four years of my day job sort of burned me out. I enjoyed what I did but it required an extreme amount of organization; my days were ruled by a schedule that was usually booked at least a week in advance. Now that I’m retired, I’m enjoying having flexible days without having to account for every minute of my time.
Somehow, without our even discussing it, Kenn came to my rescue because he is now the one doing most of the planning for our trips. We decide together where we are planning to go and when and he handles making the reservations. I’m still the money manager but I’m happy not having to deal with all of the details.
We cancelled our road trip plans last year due to the pandemic but this year we are fully vaccinated and ready to hit the road. We’ll be taking a trip up the east coast this fall. This will be our first time traveling long distances with our travel trailer so I’m sure we’ll be learning many lessons along the way which, of course, I’ll share here. 🙂 As proof of his new role as Chief Trip Organizer, we already have reservations at a campground in Maine. Go, Kenn!