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Weekend Warrior: The Badlands


Dear Travel Diary,

They call them "fly-over states;" simply the patchwork view from an airplane window en route to Los Angeles from New York City.

Who'd want to live down there / in the middle of nowhere
Jason Aldean, "Fly Over States"

Without discrediting anything NYC or LA has to offer, we must not ignore the in between. If your only exposure to the middle of America is the view from an airplane seat, then please observe what you are missing out on ...


This perspective is absolutely stunning.

The next morning, we got up early in order to be on the road by 8:30 a.m. with the intent to drive through the Badlands.

Here again, we were treated to up-close views of the wildlife.



And here again, my son's geography lessons were brought to life as they explored, touched and climbed, while keeping an eye out for rattlesnakes.








We were home by 7:30 p.m. and crashed into our own beds at 8. It was a whirlwind weekend adventure, but certainly worth every minute.

Weekend Warrior: Driving across South Dakota



Dear Travel Diary,

We crossed state lines into South Dakota late Saturday morning, and drove through historic Deadwood. Known as the final resting place of the legendary Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane (in Mount Moriah Cemetery), Deadwood has become quite commercialized. Still in existence are the gaming halls, saloons and casinos once frequented by famous gun slingers, but they've all adapted to the modern era. It was kind of sad, in a way.





Deadwood was born out of the discovery of gold in the Black Hills in 1874, and the region's rich mining history is alive and well. Once we left Deadwood city limits, we drove through Lead, SD. There we stopped at an enormous open pit mine, where over 41 million ounces of gold was pulled to the surface. The mine was so deep that we couldn't see the bottom from the safety of the observation deck.





Even now, gold seekers continue to try their luck. We stopped to take pictures of a roadside waterfall and found two men panning for gold in the shallow creek.



We continued our travels to our next stop, Mount Rushmore.


The last time I was here, I was 10 years old and preparing to start 5th grade. The changes were vast and apparent, and I texted my mother about it when we were back in the car. Still, sharing this monument with my children and re-experiencing it through their perspective - it felt like life had come full circle.

The states of our nation were represented as we approached the monument.



A 250-stair climb was added, known as The President's Trail. We climbed, and breathless, we observed the artisan skill directly below the carved faces of our Founding Fathers. It was there we realized cracks were beginning to form in the monument, thus a renewed push for conservation. I was glad we were able to take the kids when we did, because who knows what could happen to this landmark in the future.



The Crazy Horse Monument was nearby, so we ventured over. My family also visited over 20 years ago, and I was a little sad to see there had been very little progress made. Crazy Horse receives no state or federal funding, so the project relies heavily on admission fees to advance its construction. The site had a museum of Native American history dedicated, and it was there we shared with the kids' that they shared this heritage.


We left as the Crazy Horse site was closing for the day, and made our way to Rapid City, where we booked a room for the night. The adventure continued however, because wild life had begun to feed. We were able to get within feet of a herd of elk and a few bison! The bison especially were equal parts cool and terrifying.




Trust me, it was a relief to return to the Interstate as night fell.

Weekend Warrior: The Wild West


Dear Travel Diary,

Every second was a fresh perspective, a break from our “normal,” and a true escape from the hustle-and-bustle of the life we live back home.

It was short but sweet for certain. With both kids in school, we are confined to our zip code for most of the year. When a break is scheduled, like this one for MEA, we take full advantage. We also had a personal family matter, the details of which I won’t express here, but we had the added benefit of spending time with relatives not always seen. 

Related: Our 2015 MEA Week Adventure

On Friday, October 21, the kids and I flew into Billings, Montana.
We arrived late, so we only saw the outline of the city and its surrounding plateau. However, there must have been a cattle sale or show of some sort because there were cows e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. Bull racks clogged traffic, which made for an interesting change of pace.

We drove two hours into Sheridan, WY bound for the hotel where we had zero troubles falling asleep.

The next day we said goodbye to our relatives and began our cross-country road trip. But first, we enjoyed the stunning Bob-Ross-painting-like views of the mountain scenery ...



Few things announce your presence out West like a roadside skeleton -


Ascending a mountain with a necessary bag of Cheetos? Nah. We found an interesting wall at a gas station in Gilette, WY and decided to create an illusion.



(She also lost a tooth!)

To be continued ...


My Second Hair Donation to Pantene Beautiful Lengths


Dear Diary,
 
I've long held the belief that little things can add up to really big things.

Take for instance, my hair. To me it is simply that. Hair is just hair.


... Until it isn't.
 
I fully empathize with the fact that there are situations where hair comes to represent so much more. When a life-threatening disease like cancer claims a person's hair, it can also claim their optimism. When a patient is in the throes of the fight of their life, any bit of normalcy can boost their confidence and resolve to keep moving forward.


So I donate my hair.
 
It is a small way of showing I stand with those fighting the good fight. It is my way of standing up to cancer as research pushes towards a cure.
 
The purpose of this post is simple - it is not a call for a pat-on-the-back, but rather to inspire. Think beyond the pocketbook to get involved because it all contributes to the big picture. Even the smallest of gestures add up in the end to paint the beautiful masterpiece that is a cure.

Blurry smart phone photo and all ...
 
I donated my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. For more information on how you can make a donation - 8" or $8, visit their site