- Day One of our Wild West Road Trip
Most years, we take a family vacation. Trever loves the West while I tend to prefer the Appalachians and the South. When we were deciding where to go for vacation this year, we agreed that it was his turn to “go west”. We originally planned a long road trip going all the way to Yellowstone but lack of time (and financials) forced us to pare down our adventure to something that could be managed in about a week that allowed us some time to explore without driving constantly.
After knocking around a few ideas and binge watching episodes of HBO’s Deadwood, we decided to spend some time in the Black Hills/Badlands area of South Dakota and then drive down into Colorado. Because time was of the essence, we planned a long first day – covering over 800 miles – from our house in Arkansas to Valentine, Nebraska.
We planned to leave at 5:00 a.m. and considered ourselves timely to have left by 5:25. The back of the Durango – as always – looked as if we were moving. (Traveling with two teenage girls is space consuming). Our first stop was at McDonald’s for some breakfast and I promptly dropped an entire medium soft drink that I was handing back to one of the girls! Luckily, it only spilled on the floor and center console, and after a few minutes we were on the road.
As I have traveled from Greenbrier up Highway 65 to Missouri approximately one million times, I did not think I would be missing anything if I took advantage of some sleeping time. Dozing in a car is never comfortable but I managed some sleep and awoke at Trever’s first pit stop and favorite store – Menard’s in Hollister, Missouri. The drive up through Missouri was uneventful – no dramatic change in scenery or major points of interest. It was close to lunchtime when we stopped at a Casey’s General Store for a break, and I remembered that I hadn’t brought any bread to go along with the deli meat and cheese I had packed so gas station pizza it was!
After working our way through and around Kansas City, we drove briefly through Kansas and then into Nebraska. At that point, the scenery began to change. After we were off the interstate, we passed fields, farms, and barns and drove through a lot of small towns. Our only stop on the first day was Kenefick Park in Omaha Nebraska so that Trever, a train aficionado, could see the locomotives on display.
We knew the leg from Omaha to Valentine would be tiring – it was around 5 hours but we wanted to get as far as possible before we stopped for the night. So on we went, stopping only in Norfolk to grab some sandwiches to eat on the road. As we drove westward, the sun began to go down. Due to the the geography of the area and our location (only a couple of hours from the time zone line), the sunset lasted much longer than we expected; it was a highlight (literally) of our evening to watch the sun as it slowly went down over the horizon.
We finally reached our destination of The Niobrara Lodge in Valentine, Nebraska at around 9:50 p.m. It had been a long day – 872 miles and over sixteen hours in the car together. As with all family vacations, there were moments of stress and bickering brought on by exhaustion. But I know from my own experiences growing up that travel and family vacations create memories that last far beyond the trips themselves. I treasure the time we can spend together…and I learned that the sun sets for hours in Nebraska!
Traveling in the company of those we love is home in motion.-Leigh Hunt