2012 by Ellie S. Thomas
No way around it, we were
travelers- vacation takers… and while most had been
successful, others… not so good. Our last venture hadn’t
been much of a pleasure with five people and a caged canary in a
small camper trailer; however, hope springs eternal and here I was
again: sewing vacation clothing at a furious rate.
Much of our time was spent
trying to decide WHERE to go this time and we all made foolish,
untenable suggestions until the baby probably made the funniest.
Cade’ she offered. We stared at each other in bewilderment. It
DID have a familiar ring but we just couldn’t quite put our
finger on where it was until her next older sibling interpreted.
means Cape Cod,’ we were informed scornfully.
Of course! We’d gone
there recently and since we all had such a great time, she probably
thought it might be smart to go again. The problem was, the older
children had been studying their country and its history, so we
thought we ought to take advantage of their new knowledge.
Yellowstone here we come!
We crossed into Canada in
mid-June and headed towards Ottawa, travelling route 17 west. There
was all sorts of construction going on and Murphy’s Law
prevailed and we soon had a rock bounce off a huge truck and it
almost went through the windshield. Luckily I repeat ALMOST as it
didn’t quite penetrate all the way through but we were stuck
with a worrying almost-hole for the rest of our trip.
The children were getting
bored by this time and our son KNEW he wasn’t going to like
this at all until a bear appeared in the ditch. That made him sit up
and take notice! They scanned for more bear and would willingly have
settled for a moose, or any other wild animal and while the
excitement lasted, we were able to make 400 miles.
We found a site, bone
weary travelers, and while the youngsters ran for the shower rooms
and lavatories, I prepared our evening meal. Since lunch had been so
sketchy, (torpedo rolls filled with cheese slice and cold cuts and
enhanced by a pickle courtesy of a supermarket along the highway,) I
wanted something more wholesome for us tonight.
I’d cooked and
frozen foods for days, packing it in milk cartons rather than
bringing ice and it worked. Tonight our chili was thawed out and I
made noodles and a salad and Bob’s your uncle! Before long the
sounds of sighs and snores were all that broke the silence.
The next morning we
awakened to rain and a landscape impossibly dreary. If I never get to
see a lunar landscape it won’t matter because this area was
surely its replica. How anyone could live, or yet, anything grow on
these slag heaps defied imagination. Perhaps it was as well that the
rain continued to slash down because who wanted to look outside? We
endured much of the same until afternoon when we crossed into
Michigan at Sault Ste Marie.
We found an enchanting
spot at the J.W. Wells campgrounds and knew we would never have
gotten it had the weather been fine. The spot was idyllic: a
gigantic, spreading tree and breakers rolling right up to our
doorstep! Throughout the night it was hard to distinguish between
the surf and the crashing thunder and when morning was just a repeat
of the same, we pulled our sodden rig down and headed out. At Green
Bay the rain came down in torrents and it rained so hard we feared
going on but daren’t stop in case someone rear-ended us. Where
was the road??
We plowed forward until we
reach Red Granite and quickly checked into the closest slot and
slept away the rest of the storm. The next day the skies cleared and
we continued on only to make camp early. Everything needed to be
aired out and dried and we needed a nutritious meal so while the kids
went for a swim, I began to peel potatoes.
My mind roamed idly back
home and I wondered how everyone was doing and I continued to peel.
My mind registered a lot of hooting and hollering in the distance,
some sounded like cries for help and I thought ‘someday
do that once too often.’
That’s when I saw my
spouse coming with a bedraggled girl under one arm and her ashen
faced brother tagging along behind. My knife dropped to the floor.
I choked out.
They’d gone for a
swim in a cup-shaped little farm pond and the ground was gone beneath
their feet before they expected and she’d panicked. Now I had
to squeeze water out of my husband’s driving license, money,
etc and hang same over the curtain rods to dry. I endured a lecture
about not-responding while I changed into MY suit and insisted she
get back into the water. No phobias here, thank you!
The next morning we
started out, bolstered with the finest resolutions: the youngsters
were going to be much more careful, I would be more alert and respond
immediately, and my spouse would be more patient and understanding.
We hadn’t got five
miles down the road when the wildest caterwauling broke out in the
rear. It was our youngest member and she was in a fury that nothing
would satisfy. My husband grimly turned around and we started back.
E.R. was missing!
Surely most families have
possessed an E.R. This one had started out as a lovely, fluffy,
well-stuffed Easter Rabbit and he was an indispensible member of our
group. Certainly he was unrecognizable now, his stuffing had leaked
out despite many darnings and patchings, he had lost one of his glass
eyes so the missing spot was embroidered over, and he was grimy
looking, his fuzz all worn off and he was really a disreputable
item…but we could go no where without him. Now we were headed
back to rescue him and pray that no one had thrown him out.
After The Rescue, we
started our journey once more and had a fairly calm afternoon. We
were now headed southerly and entered South Dakota. Once more, we
fought through severe storms and detours so we camped early, eager to
get off the road. The hectic day had taken its toll and we were
tucked in out beds in record time. Alas, rest was not for us this
We’d barely closed
our eyes when someone tried to tear our door down. ‘Tornado
alert, tornado alert,’ he roared, going on to awaken the next
residents. ‘Everybody up to the office!!’
We sat around the office
until the sheriff came in and gave us the procedures and ‘if it
comes this way, I want you’al to get across the road and down
in the ditch!’
Now I am willing to comply
with almost anything from an official but this I would not do.
take a chance on a tornado rather than snakes in a muddy ditch!
Luckily, I wasn’t tested. Wearily, we decided there was little
use trying to sleep any longer so we had a quick coffee and left the
As we drove, we tried to
figure our mileage and how we were doing. Did we count the backward
loop we made to rescue E.R.? That certainly had added to our mileage
although we hadn’t gone forward at all. It was puzzling but we
finally agreed, it had taken time and cost us extra gas, so we added
it in. And now for the Badlands.
This was what it was all
about- we studied the fossils, looked at the ice cream sundae
striations in both landscape and huge logs lying about and snapped
picture after picture. And on to Wall-
In Wall, the sparkling
cold water, the mannequins of old time desperadoes lurking in the
corners, the Indian craftwork. What an anti-climax after a week of
worry! And we slept at the foot of Mount Rushmore; how can you top
that? You haven’t lived until you’ve viewed the four
Presidents by night. It was difficult to pull ourselves away but Old
We lived on the edge of
excitement as we watched a mother moose and her baby....and what a
baby. And then another big bear sitting in the ditch appearing to
welcome us. And people stopping to hand out bread and yelling
jam, bear jam!’ We drove on away, not wanting to see someone
We drove on past the
Devil’s Tower when there was suddenly a voice from the rear
‘I can tie my
shoes,’ E.R’s mother called excitedly. ‘I can tie
that anticlimax, we looped up and down, back and forth, the car
chugging and steam coming out of the radiator in a dismaying spurt.
Now what?? We wanted to hurry down to Sheridan but there were no
guard rails , only a dizzying drop below. No place for hurrying-
Sheridan was a true-blue
cow town, getting ready for a rodeo and we were welcomed and urged to
stay. A wannabee mechanic announced there was nothing wrong with the
car, we simply didn’t have the right thermostat for the
enormous heights we’d just passed through. It should be ok now;
and it was.
The following day was
memorable: route 14 through Greybull and the BigHorn Mountains is
breathtaking. We travelled through stupendous canyons with sparkling
Bridal Veil waterfalls starting way up out of sight only to drop in
shimmering cascades a couple feet in width to depths far beneath the
perilous roadway. The car was still heating up but, high in the
mountain pass, we waved to a family playing snowball on this bright
We descended through
coruscated canyon walls of pastel tint. Ribbons of mint green and
cotton candy pink alternated with beige, off white and sky blue on
the serrated cliff edges. A tumultuous little creek raced along
beside us, leaping and dancing over fallen logs. There was a certain
reverence about this place, so awe-inspiring; surely hallowed ground
to Native Americans.
The highway seemed to
follow narrow ledges, goat trails high on the mountain sides and we
heard the children continuously ‘braking’ as we swung
around curves, doubtful that we’d ever make it but continue
straight out and on forever into eternity.
Late in the afternoon we
reached Yellowstone and were greeted by a huge black bear sitting in
a snowbank like a one man welcoming committee. A bit further on, a
bull moose stood knee deep in a pool of water. He shook his huge
rack as he swallowed a dripping mass of vegetation. Down the road a
mother moose anxiously herded her calf across in front of us and into
the bushes. We were delighted- until we reached the booth and were
told all the camp sites were taken!
What now? We hadn’t
come all this way to be so easily intimidated so we drove around
until dark, photographing Old Faithful and many bubbling caldrons.
After dark, we pulled into
a picnic area where we were joined by several others and although it
was off limits, no one bothered us. We ate a sparse supper and
crawled into our chilly beds. No one dared go outside after seeing so
About this time, we’d
decided we were pretty well worn out from our vacation and decided to
turn backwards towards the east.
We descended to Grant
Village where we disconnected the trailer so we could drive over the
park at ease. It was wonderful; strange and awe-inspiring and we
enjoyed every minute but time was running out.
Next morning we left the
park and found our way to route 80 and headed home like lemmings go
for the sea.
It was strange: now that
we’d decided to head for home, we were hit with a feeling of
nostalgia. Were we making a mistake, cutting it short NOW when we
were so close to the Grand Canyon, and other things we’d been
dying to see? Would we ever get this far West again? Or should we
save some for another time?
It hadn’t been a
total loss, we comforted ourselves. We HAD seen Mount Rushmore, the
Badlands, Wall Drug Store…and our youngest HAD learned to tie
her shoes (by holding her tongue towards Grandpa’s, she
explained away her sudden success,) and we were all weary…it
And so ended another
vacation. By the time we’d gotten home and reported our save
arrival to all and sundry, collected the pets from long-suffering
friends, and got everything aired out and put away, we’d
decided the end was just the beginning of the next one. What’s
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Ellie's Story List and Biography
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