I don’t enjoy torturing my children, but who knew: apparently they needed it! My husband and I discovered this on our family trip to South Dakota.
Now to some people, driving 10 hours with two preteen daughters stuffed into a worn out minivan might sound like punishment; but we enjoyed the road trip while chatting, watching DVDs and eating copious amounts of junk food.
The torturing didn’t occur until we were somewhere on Highway 29 in Nebraska, no wait Iowa, no we are back in Iowa. Talk about an area needing an extraordinary number of “Welcome to…(insert your state here)” signs. But this wasn’t what got my girls’ petticoats in a twist.
They only have ONE BAR!!
I had to shake my head to remove my first thought. Why would they be distressed because a passing town only had one drinking establishment?
Actually, my youngest noticed the cellphone signal was slowly disappearing. The terror on her face was as if she learned she only had one kidney, but to a tween this was much worse: spotty cell service and we weren’t even halfway to our destination.
As the kind, loving mother I am, I reassured her we would have Wi-Fi when we got to our cabin. I knew the sacrificial screams of despair would arise if we traveled to a place they already didn’t believe was fun; so I rechecked the lodge’s website before leaving. My momma didn’t raise a fool!
After driving through the most boring scenery for hundreds of miles, I yearned for western Kansas. I truly never thought a landscape could be any flatter and barren than driving west on I-70, but South Dakota looked like a sandbox with a pained tree here and there. Tornadoes and bugs had really done a number on the greenery.
After counting 35 different state license plates and 1,000 miles of fast driving (80 mph is limit!), we arrived at the most beautiful place in the world: The Black Hills of South Dakota. Do you hear angels singing, too?
I lived there one summer 30 years ago, working as an actress at the repertory summer theater, the Black Hills Playhouse. College students from across the country spent three months working hard and relaxing harder — some of my most cherished memories.
However, after bragging to my family about the hills for years, I feared I’d unintentionally embellished my memories, as many artists do. Had I made that summer more exciting over time?
I’m happy to say, my memory did not fail me, for once!
We drove through the woods, winding through hairpin turns and watching for wildlife. We saw buffalo roaming alongside the road, while the deer and the antelope played – not together, mind you. After 30 minutes of admiring the terrain, we arrived at the lodge to check in.
The girls ran to the restroom while my husband and I checked in. The young gal behind the calendar gave us keys, a map to our cabin, and instructions on how to get around. Sadly my children, returning from the bathroom heard the gal’s final words, “In the lodge the Wi-Fi is spotty, and as you know there’s no Wi-Fi in your cabin.”
You could have heard a pin drop at that moment. Then sporadic gasps came, and from the girls’ ears seething steam filled the lobby. I swear at that moment my youngest girl’s eyes turned a glowing red, illuminating the lobby.
Some even claimed her head spun around a full 360. My family’s inner dialog sounded like this:
“I’m not staying here!”
“This is going to be a really long week.”
“How am I going to check my emails for work?”
“I’m sleeping with one eye open!”
The anger and disappointment only lasted a few hours. Since there was absolutely no cell service and we were unable to reach anyone, there was no choice but to give in to the quiet and enjoy each other’s company. Best vacation ever!
Don’t tell my family, but I’m already researching our next Wi-Fi- less spot. I’ve heard Walden Pond is lovely in the summer.
Stacey Hatton adores emails and can be reached at LaughingWithKids@yahoo.com.