Monday, November 14, 2016

Dale's birthday trip

The definition of a first world problem: when your trips pile up and you don’t have time to finish blogging about one before the next one starts. I wish I had that problem more.
As previously mentioned, Dale turns 50 this month. When trying to come up with ideas on how celebrate, I thought about what he loves most. And the answer I came up with was: his family (I hope), travelling, and maps (and RVs, but we've already been down that road - literally!). A long road trip was out of the question due to school/university and most of Dale’s vacation days have already been used up. Instead, I convinced the kids to take off a day of school (ended up being a half day due to prior commitments) this past Remembrance Day weekend so we could go on a mini-road trip. About three weeks before the trip, we told Dale what our gift was and gave him the trip money I’d saved up. I would have loved to make it more of a surprise, but he loves the planning part so much; looking at maps and figuring out routes, etc. His 40th birthday trip had a lot more of the “wow!” factor. I was feeling bad I wasn’t able to think of a way to make it splashier but then someone told me, “Forty is a bigger deal; it’s more exciting and we all have more energy.” So true. I’ve been struggling with ways to make this birthday special and it’s a relief to me to admit and accept that I’m just tired. It doesn’t mean I love Dale any less; it just means I don’t have the mental energy to go all out.
Anyway, Dale was pleased with his gift and had fun thinking of places to go in a short time span. He decided on Rapid City (Black Hills/Mount Rushmore). Even before the election, he was second-guessing his choice and thought about going to Banff or Edmonton instead. The appeal of going to the US plummeted even further after the election results. Like most Canadians (and a lot of Americans), we have lost interest in spending our time and money in a country who decides a racist, sexist, fear- and hate-monger is the best person to lead their country. But in the end, due to various reasons, we went anyway. To South Dakota, which is one of the states that loves Trump the most. You gotta love our strong moral convictions.

Just how we like our Donald ... silent and one-dimensional.
It wasn’t as bad as we thought. No one we talked to loved Trump but they had their reasons for voting Republican. And I guess it’s a free country. Dale was very distraught about the election results, so I tried my best to limit his exposure to politics while we were down there: only about 15 minutes of wi-fi a day and no political shows on TV. When we went for McFlurries one night, I even turned off the big TV in McDonalds because Fox News was on.
But the positives of the trip far outweighed the negative. We had an awesome time. Family trips with all five of us is not something we take for granted anymore. When you add another adult (Chloe) to the mix with her university and work schedule, things get complicated. So we all enjoyed it to the fullest and had some really great family time.
We made a point of stopping in our favourite town - Ellendale, North Dakota. You can click here for the same picture, taken nine years earlier.
We stayed in Aberdeen for night. We booked a room on air miles and they upgraded our room to a 2-bedroom suite, which was pretty sweet. Hunting season was in full swing and many businesses had tires at the front door with "Welcome Hunters" written on them. I thought it upped the class factor at our Marriott.
The next day, we stopped at the Badlands. We'd never been there before and it was definitely worth stopping for. We hiked around a bit, which was a lot of fun. Especially since the weather was ... 20 C! In mid-November!

We had lunch at Wall Drug (if you've never been there, you'll have no idea what I'm talking about) then headed to our hotel in Rapid City.

Wall Drug

We swam, shopped, and went for ice cream. The next day we headed to Mount Rushmore.

Then we headed to Deadwood to walk around and eat lunch. We went to a museum about the town's history as a gold rush town filled with crime and debauchery. True story: brothels were only outlawed in 1980. We also explored the cemetery where Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are buried. We would have liked to stay until 8:30 pm for the ghost tour, but we headed back to Rapid City for a bit more shopping, eating, and swimming.
We drove home on Sunday. We took back roads pretty much the whole way home. Let me tell you, there is a lot of nothing in South and North Dakota. Pretty much eleven hours of nothing-ness. The most exciting thing we saw were tumbleweeds. I’m not even joking. It was kind of freaky how they would suddenly come rolling across the road. Bathrooms were very hard to find. Not even a tree to hide behind. Our only break from the no-mans-land was a stop in Bismarck for lunch and Starbucks. Bismarck seemed like New York City to us after hours on the road without seeing a living thing.
On our way home, we stumbled upon this iconic spot in Rugby, ND.

It’s always sad to come home after a vacation, but it felt like we were away for much longer than just 3.5 days. If you’re looking for a little getaway, I’d highly recommend the Black Hills. Unless you’d rather stay in Canada, in which case I heartily applaud and envy your convictions.


Daniel said...

First world problems indeed! What a fun getaway! Always love the Ellendale photo. And so neat to look back at that previous trip!! Happy Birthday Dale!

Anonymous said...

Oh gosh. 'Merica.

I. Can't. Even.

Happy Birthday, Dale. As if you're 50.

And yes, we had more energy when we were 40 (I'm 42 and already feeling it).


someone said...

I was highly entertained by the old blog post!! How LITTLE everyone was (well, the kids...not you and Dale...)!

Sounds like a super fun trip. But I hear ya on the whole US thing. I have no desire to go to Hawaii this year. Although we DO talk about Universal Studios again for the Harry Potter World. Sigh. Stupid Trump!!

xo Sio