When I was nearly nine years old, my family (including a few relatives from Australia) took the road trip of all road trips. Essentially, we covered over half of the United States in about three weeks. My parents love to tease me about that trip, because as an individual prone to car-sickness, I spent most of the trip lying down in the back of the van. My mom says that she had to wake me up to see all of the important American landmarks. "Look Mardy, the Mississippi River. . . Wake up Mard. It's the Statue of Liberty!" Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Well, since that time, I've tried to find a way to visit all fifty states. I think I've done fairly well since that original road trip, and as of June 26th I only have 2 more to go. But. . .more about that later. Let me start at the beginning of my latest adventure.
On June 20th I headed to Spearfish, South Dakota for a week at the Northern Rockies Fellowship of Christian Athletes Sports Camp. My high school track coach/health and PE teacher, Mr. Mecca, joined the FCA staff a few years ago and invited me to summer camp as one of the basketball clinicians. I attended last year, and agreed to go again this summer. Once again, I brought along an athlete who wanted to attend. Jordan is great kid and she went for golf this year. She's one of the huddle leaders at our high school, so I'm thrilled that she came along. FCA camp is a wonderful experience and a time to get spiritually renewed and re-energized. In addition, Spearfish and Black Hills State University is a beautiful place. Hopefully, I'll be able to go again next year. Here are pictures of our camp band: Sky Collide (they're pretty awesome), and our basketball coaches and huddle leaders. Good times!
Oh, I almost forgot. . . on the way to Spearfish, Jordan and I stopped to experience the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD and Wall Drug. Now, if you've never heard of Wall Drug. . .all you need to do is drive across South Dakota. There are billboards everywhere and the place is, well, famous. A tourist trap, yes, but a fun cultural spot nonetheless. Here are some of our pics from Mitchell and Wall.
On that childhood road trip I mentioned earlier, we stopped at Wall Drug. It's pretty silly and hasn't changed all that much in the last 20 or so years. You won't really believe it until you see it for yourself--or you can read about it at this link (the official Wall Drug site) or the one above. The history of this piece of "Americana" is worth the read.
After FCA camp, I decided to drive north to one of the states I had yet to visit: North Dakota. (That leaves only Alaska and Louisiana on my list.)
I figured I would find a golf course to play, then head west to Montana to stay with friends. So, I looked up the closest 18 hole course and drove to Medora, North Dakota to play Bully Pulpit GC. I got in a bit late to play golf, so I found a place to stay (imagine if you will a place called The Bunkhouse) and woke up early to play 18 holes.
The accommodations weren't much, but the golf was pretty sweet. I saw a deer on the second hole, nearly hit a hole-in-one on 15 (not that anyone would have been able to verify that), and played two balls on each hole so that, essentially, I played 36 holes of golf.
I basically had the course to myself, and because of all of the rain, the course was green and beautiful. My first trek through North Dakota was quite enjoyable. Now, because this blog is a full-service educational experience, here are some interesting facts about the 39th state.
North Dakota became a state in 1889. Its capital is Bismarck, although Fargo is the largest city. The quirky, dark comedy of the same name stars Frances McDormand (who won the Oscar). It is one of the only movies to portray its main character as pregnant throughout the whole movie, without actually having her give birth. (Interesting-huh.) And for North Dakotans, the accent and the sayings in Fargo (the movie) have been associated with the state since 1996. (I'm not sure if they're offended by it or don't mind all that much.)
The state bird of North Dakota is the western meadowlark (like about 4 other states), and there are 17 state parks, one of which is named after President Theodore Roosevelt.
Like Alaska, Delaware, Montana, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, North Dakota only has one representative in the House of Representatives. Some famous North Dakotans include, basketball coach Phil Jackson, famous NY Yankee Roger Maris, and the writer Louis L'Amour. (And with that, your ND lesson has ended. . . I just don't know much more.)
So, after my golf outing, I was off to Montana. Bridger, MT to be exact and a night at the house of Rachel and Houston Finn, friends of mine whom I met at FCA camp last summer.
I thought it best to avoid this exit. . . you'd think a name change was in the works--wouldn't you?
Here are the Finns. Their daughter Dani is a talented athlete and Joey is quite a character. They were very sweet to let me stay at their house for a night.
Then it was off to Bozeman, Montana for a couple of nights. A number of former Wyomingites have relocated to Bozeman, and thankfully, they allowed a nomad like myself to crash at their house. I stayed with Kenneth and Emrie Ann Miller for two nights--and their house is right on a golf course, so you know I was going to take advantage of that.
I've known Mr. and Mrs. Miller since the mid-eighties. Emrie Ann worked for my dad for the 9 years we lived in Dubois, and lucky for me, Mr. Miller was my 4th grade teacher who I also had in 7th grade. (Yes, I had him twice. . . and feel blessed to have been able to learn and grow in his classroom.) Just one story: in 4th grade Mr. Miller helped us build a full scale model of a covered wagon which we outfitted with all of the necessary supplies a family would have needed to travel on the Oregon Trail. We even pulled the wagon from his house to the elementary school, then disassembled and rebuilt it inside the school as a display. It was so cool!
Here are my pics from a golf outing at the Bridger Creek Golf Course. It's quite a nice little 18 hole course, with a great view of the mountains from several vantage points.
While in Bozeman I also had the pleasure of visiting with some other folks from the past. My classmate Jamie Bottcher and his mom Dian were kind enough to let me stop by their offices to chat on a couple of occasions. It was fun to reminisce and hear all about their families and the successes they've experienced in the last 15 or so years. (The Bottchers build some incredible houses. You can check them out online here. I hope they don't mind a little press-not that my blog gets too many readers.)
So, then on June 30th I left Bozeman and backtracked across Montana to Billings where my mom was flying in from Oregon. Our plan was to head south into Wyoming eventually ending up in my hometown of Dubois for a few days-at least through our country's Independence Day. I picked Mom up at the airport and we drove to Cody, WY for the night.
Now, Cody is an interesting spot. Located near the eastern entrance to Yellowstone Park, I spent K-2nd grade in Cody--so I feel an affinity for the town named after the most famous character in the history of the West: Buffalo Bill. Cody calls itself the "Rodeo Capital of the World" and I did see my first rodeo here as a kid.
The Buffalo Bill Historical Center is an excellent museum where I spent quite a bit of time as a kid, you know, on field trips and such. So, naturally, I made my mother accompany me on another tour of the this cultural center. I remember one particular painting that captivated me as a kid. The painting by W.R. Leigh depicted a buffalo drive led by a group of Native Americans. They were running the buffalo off a cliff where down below the women of the tribe were attending to the dead bison. I'm not quite sure why I was so drawn to this painting as a 7-year-old, but I did get a little excited when I saw it again. As I was leaving the section with that painting, I noticed a sign that asked folks to refrain from taking pictures. . . so, I won't be able to show you the painting--at least not here on my blog. Wouldn't want to break the rules. :)
We left Cody after visiting the museum, then stopped in Thermopolis, WY to visit Coach Mecca and his wife Cindy before heading to Dubois. We had lunch with the Meccas at their house (mmmm, sloppy joes, great comfort food) and visited for an hour or so. We enjoyed our chat and I look forward to seeing them again (hopefully) at FCA camp next summer.
Well, Dubois was our next stop, but I think I'll need to devote an entire blog post to my "hometown;" so I'll post this one then get started on that. Hope you are all having a wonderful summer; thanks for "accompanying" me on this blog road trip. Be back in a few days.