Day #15: Billings, MT to Rapid City, SD

During breakfast at the hotel, Ellie and I saw a commercial for Olive Garden, offering a card that gives you pasta for a year, for $300. This story was on the local news because they had not sold out all the cards, and Ellie was beside herself thinking that someone would NOT have bought them all up already. We left the hotel this morning at 8am after eating breakfast. Looking back, today was the worst day we had in the car. I felt exhausted, Will was ill, Garrett was cranky, and Ellie was giving the death stare to anyone brave enough to make eye contact. She reminded me of the little baby on "The Croods". It was obvious that we were all trying to avoid conversation with each other, and yet at the same time, we were all very vocal about our annoyances with the each other. We were treating each other like a Newton's Cradle (the little steel balls that knock each other back and forth). Since Will doesn't care to drive but I love to drive, I have driven almost this entire trip - and that works for both of us - but this morning something just set both of us off, regarding directions and our end goal for this trip. After about 10 minutes of mindless banter that solved nothing, one of us finally addressed the elephant in the car -- we are all ready to be DONE with this trip. Each one of us agreed .... Find The Fastest Route To Alabama From Here!!

We were supposed to be headed north to Medora, SD today and then on to Bismarck for the night. But we switched directions and reservations, and went due east on Hwy 212 towards Rapid City, SD. We drove through the Crow Indian Reservation and the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, and just loved that terrain. It is just rolling, beautiful hills, without the terror of roadside cliffs and rockslides. The kids thought it was a little boring but I was so wrapped up in the history and just reveling that I was able to pass through places like Little Bighorn Battlefield, Indian Arrow, Garryowen, Lodge Grass, Lame Deer, Sundance, Spearfish, and Black Hawk. One day, we have to come back here and focus on all the Native American history that we are just blowing past today. It is a bittersweet passing, because our foundational thoughts today are that we are ready to get out of this car for more than just a night or two. I am ready to unload it and get my car detailed somewhere. I bet there's a complete Subway sandwich stuffed bit, by bit, in several tiny crevices in the backseat. Not that my kids are dirty -- no way, not my kids - but they don't call them "crumb crunchers" for nothing.

We only got few pics today. We were pretty efficient in our stops. We would wait until someone needed a potty break (which you know, with kids, can be hourly) and then we would run around like a race team at Talladega, getting food from the cooler, refilling water bottles, throwing away trash, and taking a quick photo as we slammed the door and peeled out to make up the time we had just "wasted". We knew that the time we spent on the road would come directly out of our allotted time to swim or go to the fitness room - and neither of those could possibly be skipped on this trip.

I can't tell if my ear medicine (iso flavanoid) is helping so I had to ask Will to drive about an hour away from our hotel. The roads here aren't quite flat and they are just hilly enough to make my ear pressure change constantly. We saw lots of antelope in Wyoming and South Dakota. I pulled over to try to get a video and realized that each time we opened/shut the car door, they could hear it all the way out where they were (not close to the road at all), and it would send them running. When we pulled over, they were close to the road but by the time I got my phone ready, they had gone too far to get a good picture.

We all had total mood changes, once we decided to change routes and book it Bama. Will and I got in some much needed conversation about houses in Holtville, potential jobs (he doesn't have one yet), and what our future will look like in general. He has a job lead, where he will need a Visa so we got started on that. He is a believer in not shutting doors until he knows which all ones will open up in time. So we don't see it as potentially wasting time, but instead as turning over all the rocks to find our options. I love that about him. He never just focuses on one "basket" and he always, always, always has a Plan B, Plan C, and probably more that he just doesn't tell me. While he went in Walmart to get his Visa photo, I filled up with gas and got a code for a free carwash (that is truly needed). We'll get it later, since we have to go pick up Will.

We got to Rapid City, SD and it's a nice enough town. We are never really impressed with "towns" anyway and we don't care much for city infrastructure, so I guess I'm not the best person to rate how nice cities are -- they are all just too busy for us. We aren't too much of city snobs to turn our noses up at some restaurants we have been without, though, so we headed to Applebee's. Their power was out so we went by the bookstore and then to Chili's. These are all new places for the kids and it's so cute to watch them ogle the menus and compare places. They love to watch Guy Fieri's "Diner, Dives, and Drive-Ins" and I chuckle to hear them (so seriously) say things like, "I love the cozy atmosphere inside, as well as the rugged stone exterior of the building. It really accentuates the smoky grilled steak choices and the gourmet cheeses offered." Then, when the food comes, I hear, "Oh Ellie, try the crunch on these fries! They are phenomenal when dipped in the house sauce." That may be a bit of an exaggeration but it's close!. i

We plan to leave at 6am tomorrow, so we all tried to go to sleep by 10. As usual, it did not happen like that and we stayed up until almost midnight. We'll pay for that tomorrow.

In all today, we drove 343 miles and were in the car for 8 hours.