For many people, 30+hours in a car driving 1600 miles might not seem like a fun thing to do, and for anyone with MS might seem like a horrible nightmare created by a terrible sadistic being out for the worst form of torture, but for me was the beginning of the greatest vacation I have ever had in my life.
My wife and I hopped into my SUV at 2030hrs (830pm) last Sunday to begin a 4.5 hour drive to my father's house in West Virginia. This drive took us over many mountains in the dead of night, at speeds that angered other local drivers who are used to such winding and treacherous roads, resulted in me taking a 5 hour energy shot that was so absolutely disgusting that the memory of the wretched taste kept me awake more than the promise of "5hours of energy," as well as delivered us to my father's house on a road that TomTom insisted did not exist. Once there, we loaded all of our bags into his pickup truck and began the 1500 mile trek to South Dakota.
Prior to this trip and with the uncertain knowledge of how such a trip might affect my MS my doctor and I conferred about some medicinal changes that might assist with alleviating the pain and stress from the journey. He placed me on a Butrans transdermal patch, gave me a weeks worth of Ativan, and I brought my script for Zofran in case the trip and the medication gave me any bouts of nausea.
My father, who has made this trip several times on his own, welcomed the addition of 2 drivers who would be able to assist with the burden of making such a long drive alone. However, to be honest, he did 90% of the driving. We set out at 1am for South Dakota with my father behind the wheel, me dozing off in the passenger seat, and my wife battling nausea in the back seat. It was very early on Monday morning and we knew a storm was heading for our final destination and hoped that we would be able to beat its arrival.
We stopped around 8am in Illinois for breakfast. At this point I put myself in the back seat and my wife took the wheel for a little while allowing my father to attempt to get a little rest. We traveled through West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, and finally South Dakota. I took the wheel around 2330hrs (1130pm) somewhere outside of Souix City, SD. Around this time the snow began falling. However, we still had another 360 miles to go and nothing was going to stand in our way.
We arrived in Rapid City, SD with several inches of snow on the ground around 130am and immediately switched into 4 wheel drive. Snow is nothing new in South Dakota and as we are planning on moving there this summer, we know that we must get used to snow again since it has been awhile since we have seen any real snow storms. Already however, this storm seemed a little different.
My step-mother had recently purchased her new home and none of us had seen it. We quickly learned that it is atop one of the mountains in the Black Hills and found the drive up the steep grade to be rather fun in this environment. Thankfully I am fully versed in driving in snow without 4x4 capabilities, so doing so in a 4x4 vehicle was no problem at all. We finally arrived in her driveway at 2am Tuesday morning with at least 8" of snow on the ground.
The snow did not let up that first day and Rapid City set a record for snowfall in a 24 hour period with 24" when it finally stopped accumulating. To say the least we did not venture out of the house on Tuesday other than a short drive to the grocery and liquor store. Hey, necessities are just that, necessities. We did however learn how to play a new form of Dominos and all had many good laughs during the game. Since I am not an indoor person, I did take my step-mom's Jeep out for a drive later that night with my wife to show her a little bit of the town. What good is a 4x4 if you don't use it during a record breaking snowfall?
The next day the wife, myself, and my father took a drive out to Mt. Rushmore. My wife and I had never been there and my father had not been since he was a wee lad. Since South Dakota is no stranger to snow storms, the roads were clear and practically dry. The 17 mile drive there was uneventful though we did get to see all the touristy attractions along the way that we kept in our mind for when we move their and have the kids with us.
Once at Rushmore, we found that the actual parking lots were being plowed and were mostly clear, however a 4 foot wall of snow blocked all of the entrances into them. Good thing too since it is around $7 to park there. So we continued up the mountain and stopped at an overlook allowing a great view of the wooded valley as well as an unobstructed view of the Presidents. We took several pictures, and since snow was still falling, were able to get several photos of amazing snowflakes. These flakes looked just like the paper cutouts you used to make during the Christmas season when you were in primary school. It was amazing to see the crystallized formation of the flakes. I have honestly never seen them like that before. My father took this as the opportunity to remove the snow from the top of his truck via throwing "blind" snowballs resulting in us ducking for cover. On our way back down the mountain, my dad stopped along the side of the road and jumped up onto the back of his truck in order to take a few more pictures of Mt Rushmore as my wife stuck her head out the window and gobbled up all the snowflakes that would land on her awaiting tongue. It only took about 3 minutes for the Police to arrive behind us and instruct us to continue moving along.
We returned to Rapid City to grab a snack before dinner with my step-mom and sister. At this point we found that pretty much everything in downtown was closed due to the storm. With the exception of the gun shop. I guess it is important to be able to defend yourself during a blizzard. We were finally able to locate a restaurant to eat at and enjoyed some delicious appetizers and coffee before meeting everyone for dinner. We then went to Liberty Tax to finish the tax return that we had started in Virginia, always an important thing around this time of April. We then met everyone for dinner at an amazing, and I mean AMAZING sushi restaurant that my step-mom and sister frequent rather regularly.
After dinner, we returned home for a little relaxation. Again, being that we are not indoor people we had planned on going out to enjoy some of the local nightlife (ie. karaoke) but with our bellies full of the most delicious sushi known to Dakota, we decided to make it a night in. My wife discovered the Wii and we all decided to play Trivial Pursuit on the Wii. I didn't even know the game was available on the Wii and thought it strange when she pulled it out rather than a box containing cards and the game board. To say the least, we had a blast playing 1 game which lasted about 3 hours. The greatest part being a question my wife received showing a picture of The Rock (Alcatraz) with 4 choices as to what the picture was of. My father and I jokingly shouted out Azkaban, which my wife made as her answer. To say the least she did not live this down for the remainder of the trip!
The following day (Thursday) my wife and I took my dad's truck out to Sturgis. Neither of us had ever been to Sturgis, but since we no longer own any motorcycles we have no intention of going out there during Bike Week so figured we would take a gander during the off season. We went to the Full Throttle Saloon to see the World's Largest Biker Bar. I have seen an episode of the TruTV show about the bar and just had to see the place in person. We hung out with one of the employees for about 30 minutes, bought a T-shirt and a shot glass before making our way back out of town. Not really anything to do there when it is not tourist season. But, the saloon was an awesome spectacle.
That night we picked up my sister, my cousin Christopher and his girlfriend and went to a local karaoke bar. Ok, it was not a actual karaoke bar since those don't seem to exist, but rather was a casino that offered karaoke on this particular evening. We stayed at the bar for all of 5 minutes before we discovered that my sister (who is the same age as my wife) did not have her ID and they refused to allow anyone in the casino/bar without an ID. We dropped everyone off at my sister's house and rather than go home, Tyonna and I decided to go bowling. Four days later and I am still incredibly sore from this decision, but we had a blast throwing some balls and knocking down a few pins. Very few pins.
The next day we decided to go back out to Rushmore to visit the Presidential Wax Museum. Hey, wax figures, history, Mt Rushmore, who could possibly resist. We took the Jeep out which made for a very bumpy ride and my body hated me for it later, but it was still a beautiful drive. Unfortunately for us, it's not tourist season, so upon our arrival at the wax museum we discovered that like the rest of the town in which Mt Rushmore is located, it was closed. We drove back to Rapid City. I discovered on our drive down one the mountains along the way that the constant up and down of mountains seemed to have began affecting me and I almost had to pull over because I thought I was either going to be sick or pass out. Very strange feeling that I have never experienced before nor care to again.
Upon returning to Rapid City, we stopped at the Firehouse Brewery in downtown which is actually located in the former Rapid City Fire Station. To say the least, as firefighters, we absolutely loved the atmosphere! The food was amazingly delicious and reasonably priced for a city that caters to tourists. The service was excellent and the historical firefighting apparatus and gear was truly above expectations. We have certainly found our favorite restaurant in Rapid City other than the sushi place and we look forward to frequenting the establishment again.
That night we stayed in and watched a couple movies with the family. My sister came over and gave some haircuts since she is in cosmetology school. I offered to let her cut my hair, but she didn't take up the offer to buff my bald dome. But Tyonna got a trim and dad got a trim, so everyone was happy. Earlier in the day we finally got to see the inside of our new home, even though we could only see the upstairs portion of the house since the current tenant is unaware of his pending relocation upon our purchase of the house when we move to South Dakota. However, from what I see upstairs and can imagine of the downstairs I am absolutely in love with this house and look forward to spending my remaining years there with my wife and kids.
Saturday morning we hit the road at 10am for the beginning of the long journey home with sunshine in the sky which had been very elusive during our stay in Rapid City. We made it back to West Virginia at 1130am Sunday and then began the 4.5 hour drive back to our house in Madison, Va where I am writing this blog from. As much as I loved our trip, and my first real vacation in 15 years, I missed my children and my pets very much. I can't wait for us to finalize the move out there. Even with the cold weather that we experienced during the trip, it was a mostly pain free week where I rarely used my cane and was able to enjoy the trip without much pharmacology. I highly recommend the trip to anyone looking for a great vacation spot with plenty of scenery and options for entertainment. I especially suggest anyone with MS to take a trip to the Midwest where the weather is a little easier on those of us who have a sensitivity to the changes in weather.
Although not everyone may benefit from the long journey out west, may not enjoy crowds of tourists, or the weather, it truly was a wonderful experience that left me wanting a much longer vacation in such an amazing area. My life may not be your life, but it is something like it...