Blog 1815 – 09.12.2020
One of my favorite holidays comes in the late winter that feels more often like spring in South Texas. For several years when my son Jonathan was still in school, Saint Patrick’s Day fell in the middle of his school Spring Break so as a family we would hit the airways or the roads for a little time away from our Houston home.
Most of those Irish holidays we spent with extended family in Tennessee or South Carolina. But, after Jon became a teenager, knowing that he soon would no longer even be grudgingly willing to spend so long with parents on a trip we aimed our excursions west and northwest to see those parts of the country with our son.
From a boy, Jay knew that he had a little Irish blood in him from both sides of the family and I would often recite a funny little Irish poem that I had committed to memory. Perhaps it may seem to some an odd choice, a poem about a day in October for a holiday in mid-April. But then it is the Irish thing, the Gallic accent, the punch line, and hopefully the wild Irish rosie smile that are really the point of the poem.
One of the fondest memories that I have of our Saint Paddy’s day adventure is of a week we spent logging 3500 car miles together, Houston to a Native American Reserve near the Little Big Horn in Montana, and all points in between, the long way there and back. I had originally planned the shortest fastest route from Houston, Texas to Rapid City, South Dakota and back, the goal being to see as a family the four Presidential stone carvings at Mount Rushmore. But, my lovely wife Linda whose motto then and now is, “Life is not about the destination but the journey” modified that plan and our route along the way. Mid-way across Kansas she suggested a detour to see Denver on our way to South Dakota. And since she was driving, she always did back then, control freak, but then aren’t we all a little, she drove every one of those 3500 mile, Jonathan and I really had little choice as we were just now voyagers along for the ride. That journey ended up being a far more wonderful one than any of the three of us had imagined it would be.
Oh, we did finally make it to see the Presidents, but not before we had seen miles and miles of the snow capped Rockies, the Black Hills, herds of buffalo, antelope, deer, horses, elk, and a poor little Native American casino. Montana was the farthest north we were to drive. From there we made our way back south where we stopped for the night in Sheridan, Wyoming, there a couple that we met in a heated motel swimming pool (It was very much still winter in Wyoming and that warm pool felt great) told us to be sure to take a short detour off I-90 to see the Devil’s Tower National Monument before leaving Wyoming.
We did make that breathtakingly beautiful stop, took pictures from a distance (I include this one featuring the tower and a posing fifteen year old Jay)
and had a friendly snowball fight in the shadow of Devil’s Tower. J and I later laughed our hearts out at Linda near a road side community of prairie dogs where she had to stop and get out of the car to take pictures of the wily critters. The sign said not to bother the prairie dogs but she, ever the rule bender if not breaker, looked like she was playing Whac-a-mole with them and her camera trying to catch at least one good picture of one before they one after another popped up and back down. Good thing she was using fast film or she never would have gotten a picture. The memory of her trying so hard still brings a smile to my face. Jon’s to I think.
After an afternoon at Mount Rushmore south of Rapid City we drove to Custer, South Dakota, and spent the night in one of only two motels opened that time of year, the tourist season being May to October. The next morning we drove nearby to see the in-progress Crazy Horse monument and from there back north to the historic town where Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back of the head holding a poker hand of aces and eights, since then referred to as a deadman’s hand. William Hickok, famous gambler and gunfighter is buried there, we saw his grave stone, in Deadwood, South Dakota. After spending the night in Deadwood where our gambling girl Linda fed the slot machines (the whole town is now one big casino) we drove back up to I-90 and headed East where we got off for a drive through the magnificent vistas of Badlands National Park and then later we also stopped briefly for a buffalo burger at the famed Walls Drug Store with its many showrooms filled with a seemingly endless stock of souvenirs. There we added one or two to our ever growing supply.
We crossed all of South Dakota on I-90 and spent the night in Sioux Falls, South Dakota which had six or so inches of snow on the ground. Jon and I had a last snow ball bout before turning the car south where we drove through parts of Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma on our way back to Texas and home. It was wonderful if a bit of a whirlwind trip.
I have written and told this story many times, but, as my great story telling dad taught me, the really good stories only get better with retelling. I hope you enjoyed our 3500 mile week long family St. Paddy’s Day and Spring Break outing to so many places we had never seen before but highly recommend all to see.
Your friend and fellow traveler,
My Irish Poem