30 for 30 The Last 10 Days: Things that are Old are New Again!May 26, 2023
The last 10 days - the third decade…
Our trip home, the final stretch, was a time for Craig and I to really reflect on what a beautiful trip we had had over the past month. It also gave us some time to reflect on how we have matured as individuals and as a couple during the past 10 years - our third decade of marriage. This trip together was a pilgrimage of sorts.
Pilgrimages are traditionally thought of as a trip or a visit to a holy place. While Craig and I did visit some very holy places during this odyssey, we also received spiritual benefits that we believe will yield fruit in the future. By God’s grace we have already seen some fruit from our pilgrimage (more on that another time 😉). We are confident that this spiritual practice of pilgrimage which we are delving into will be a way that together we may deepen our connection with God and with each other as a sacramentally married husband and wife.
Craig and I held so many intentions with us as we travelled the interior of this great country. We also picked up intentions along the way from the many people we met and from the friends and loved ones who caught up with us on the “trail.”
We hope you enjoy this recap of the last 10 days of our 30 for 30 trip…
We were up at the sun to pray with Betsy‘s Rosary group back in NC. After a nice breakfast, we explored some more of the Badlands taking the 4x4 road - Sheep Mountain Table Road. The trail got a little sketchy and the four-wheel-drive van did well but it was a little too crazy for Craig and I!
After we got out of there, we made our way back to Buffalo Gap to our previous BLM spot overlooking the vast canyons of the Badlands. On our way, we saw pronghorn, bison, prairie dogs, and even some longhorn sheep! We got to our spot, and we set up for the night after a fun day of exploring, and taking care of things with the van. This was a fun evening as Craig and I both livestreamed for the Integrated Catholic Woman membership community. It was a fun hour outside, sharing life with the beautiful women of this community This was Craig‘s first experience sharing about our marriage from the perspective of faith, morals, and God’s design for marriage. (If you’d like to check it out become a member today)
After the livestream, our “neighbors“ came over, and we had a nice chat with Jim and Val before we enjoyed our dinner. We swapped stories about camping in vans, and they really were intrigued by what Craig had done with our van. Jim and Val had been together for almost 2 decades, and they were happy to meet a couple who had, in their words, “survived the 25 mark.”
After another amazing sunset, we called it a night!
Rose early in the morning to meet with clients on the East Coast while Craig did some more exploring around the Badlands. We had a nice breakfast after my clients, and we must admit that we kind of accidentally stumbled upon a new “favorite“ breakfast: we call it the "healthy hot pocket." It’s basically a breakfast burrito using a low-carb tortilla and then toasted to perfection! We got pretty creative with the contents, especially when we were getting close to the end of our food each week! Regardless, we had a protein packed breakfast each morning… And when it wasn’t a healthy hot pocket, it was some kind of breakfast or brunch that could rival, any well-known restaurants! Craig is quite good at making a delicious and nutritious breakfast.
After finishing up with clients, we made our way back into Wall, South Dakota. We had to make one quick walk-through of this “kitschy” landmark - Wall Drug. We shared a piece of apple pie a’la mode and then bid our farewell to the Badlands (we will definitely be back!), as we headed for Rapid City to stock up our groceries, fill our water tank, and get to a campsite.
Rapid City was a little bit of a shock to our systems as we had been virtually alone for almost a week… Yes… Virtually alone just the two of us, and when we ventured throughout the Badlands, we only ran into a handful of people. Now we were in Rapid City and it was a bustling town! The weather had warmed up just a little bit, and we needed to fill up with water and found a friendly auto body shop that obliged. They were so accommodating.
Then we made our way over to Acme bicycle shop. The folks here were also very kind and generous. They gave us some tips on some local mountain biking trails. Craig really went in there because he wanted a sticker and a water bottle -- why? you ask - because he said that all of the landscape in the Badlands reminded him of the Wiley Coyote cartoons that we grew up with. They gave him a sticker! And we walked out of there with two new water bottles to boot.
We made our way to the nearby mountain bike trails. Craig hit the trails while I set up for my last zoom of the day. Sadly, 10 minutes into the zoom, I lost my hotspot connection. The hotspot, I think was tired! Sadly, we couldn’t get it to work again for the rest of the trip.
Craig had a great ride on the trails and we met several fellows who were locals. Doug, Jeff, and Shane were all natives of the Rapid City area! They were a hoot….
We met so many people like this during our trip and they were all so excited to know about our travels and our marriage, it seemed that wherever we went we ignited a little flame of hope in their own marriages. God's grace in action!! What a privilege that He used us!
We made some sandwiches in the van for dinner and then we headed out for our campsite. We spent the night at a trail head near the Sturgis dam.
We actually slept in since we had a little bit of an interruption in our sleep that night… Jupiter decided that he needed to get up and go to the bathroom at 2 AM! That’s the first time that has happened! We took him out and then getting back to sleep took a hot minute. The weather was getting warmer during the day, but at night we were still getting a really nice cool breeze. No, it was a breeze not wind!
After waking up a little later, and having some breakfast, we decided to make a short hike up the trail where we were parked. We met a nice Ranger, and had a lovely conversation about California - he was from Southern California (another native like us that got the heck outta there!). He told us about the changes in the Sturgis area and gave us some ideas of some things to see, and was intrigued by our trip as well.
As we hiked towards the Sturgis dam, we put Jupiter up in his little pack and we noticed there was a lot of poison ivy, so we had to be really careful! thankfully Jupiter, being in his pack kept him away from the wicked plant too. If you don’t already know, I am a gardener… I really like to find out about the regional flora and fauna.
The night before while Craig had been mountain biking he saw what he described as a wild tulip on the trail. When we were discussing the wild tulip with our new pals, Doug, Jeff, and Shane, they said that it was not a tulip, but in fact, it was the pasqueflower, the flower of South Dakota. The pasqueflower only blooms for a very short time each year and sometimes they’re very hard to spot and many people miss them. Craig felt very fortunate to have seen one, and I will admit that I was a little bummed that I hadn’t seen it!
As we made our way up the trail towards Sturgis dam, I couldn’t believe it… I saw the pasqueflower! Not only did I see one, but I saw more than a half a dozen! Each one of them blooming at a different point in their short lifespan. I took a bunch of pictures, some of those photos will be in the slideshow! As we neared the first peak of our hike, it began to lightly sprinkle and we had a feeling that this light sprinkle was going to turn into heavier rain… And we were right, so we scurried down the mountain back to the van. We don’t mind hiking in the rain, however, we were not too confident in South Dakota weather in that we had already been through quite the ordeal in Oklahoma. We didn’t know what to expect in South Dakota! So we played it safe got back to the van and decided to drive to Bear Mountain and hope that the if the rain had cleared we could go on another hike there.
Sadly it was still raining so we made our way to Deadwood, SD.
We got into Deadwood in the afternoon and since it was Friday, we stopped at a little local pizza joint and had a three cheese pizza and chatted about our trip with some more locals that asked us where we were from… again, there weren’t very many people in this small town… Yet! Apparently, this little town is a hotspot for people in South Dakota to escape the heat of the summer and enjoy the blooming spring. We caught it at just the right time as the shops begin to open up from their winter break. (Just a few weeks before it was -40 degrees with the windchill!)
After a little walk around the town, peeking in to some of the shops, having a little espresso, we climbed back into the van, and made our way to an amazing camp spot on a peak overlooking Deadwood… It was amazing!
We had a nice easy evening of cards and chatting, while looking forward to seeing our friends the next day!
We had a really peaceful night's rest on top of that mountain. Craig made an awesome yummy breakfast and then we had fun filming the van going down the really steep hill!
As we made our way into Deadwood, we saw more beautiful, longhorn sheep! we park the van at the Mickelson Trail head, making sure that we were in a spot where we could gather plenty of sunshine since we had had a couple of days of spotty sunshine. We unpacked the bikes, checked the tires and with Jupiter, all snug in his little pack we hit the Mickelson Trail. It was a very leisurely ride for us. The trail is about 109 miles of rails to trail and runs along the river, the scenery was lovely. We saw old mining equipment, and we even saw the entrance to some deep shafts. There were stops along the trail with benches and information about the area… and even clean bathrooms!
During one of our stops, we met a nice woman from Wisconsin. We had a nice chat with Colleen and it was during this conversation that she told us about an awesome resource! Our sprinter van is a diesel powered van. Before this trip Craig replaced the standard fuel tank with a larger one. With this tank, we can travel further without making as many stops, but also giving us the opportunity to find better deals on fuel prices. As we were discussing this with Colleen, she mentioned an app called mudflap. This app helps find stations which offer discounts on diesel fuel. we were so excited to give it a try. Check it out here and get a discount!
We continued along the trail for about 6 miles. Then the weather changed again. We turned around and came back into town and decided to go into the town of Lead (pronounced leed). We picked up some more groceries and bottled water. We decided to go back to the Mickelson Trail head and make hamburgers for lunch.
After lunch, we took a nap and got cleaned up and made our way back into deadwood to meet our friends Kristy and Dave who had arrived from Southern California.
It was such a great time to see them and have some laughs as we watched the Kentucky Derby in an open air casino, and Get all caught up! They had exciting news to share with us as they will be grandparents this year! We are so excited for them!
We enjoyed dinner with them at a sports bar in the Deadwood Lodge. And then decided to park the van in the RV parking and sleep there for the night.
We got up with the sun had our hot showers and then made our way into Rapid City for holy mass at immaculate conception. The lovely FSSP chapel which we had visited the week before. The sunshine during the morning Drive was so lovely! We got to use the mudflap app for the first time and we saved over $11!
After mass, the pastor of the chapel stopped us and asked us if we were new parishioners… We had a good laugh as we explain to him that we were traveling and asked him for a blessing, which he so beautifully obliged.
We headed back to deadwood to meet Kristy and Dave along with Kristy’s dad, Paul and his wife Marge We had a nice snack with them and then Kristy, Dave, Craig and I spent the rest of the day exploring Spearfish Canyon!
And all the years that Kristy has visited this region of South Dakota she had never been to Spearfish… Craig and I fell in love with it when we had come through on our way to the badlands and couldn’t pass up another opportunity to see it AND it was a bonus to share it with them!
We had mostly sunshine and cool weather as we enjoyed the waterfalls, took pictures, and enjoyed a late lunch at the latchstring. Sitting near the window, and seeing the awesome canyon while enjoying the company of lifelong friends, was truly a gift! The blessing of time to delight in friends is truly a gift from God and a balm to the soul - and to do it in such a GORGEOUS place made it all the more special.
After dinner, we walked around a little bit more, but then found ourselves sitting in the van, having tea and talking about the ups and downs of the past few years. Sharing about the loss of family and friends. Consoling one another in our sadness, but also recognizing the healing power of forgiveness and the depth of God’s mercy.
The sun began to set. The colors in the canyon, began to dim and dark end, and we made our way back into deadwood. We dropped off Kristy and Dave near their hotel and we went back to the lodge to park for the night since we knew that we were going to be connecting in the morning, we didn’t want to go too far, so as to stay on schedule.
Day 25 & 26
We were up around seven Craig and I had a relaxing morning. We enjoyed a cup of coffee because we knew we were going to be heading out to breakfast with Kristy and Dave. Before we met up with them we hit Jacob's brewhouse for coffee and Wi-Fi lol, I had a few little work items to take care of before breakfast.
We met up with Kristy and Dave at the Franklin hotel and had an amazing breakfast at Legends steakhouse… Again, our conversation was rich with memories, hopes, struggles and lots of love and support.
After breakfast, we said our goodbyes as we hit the road for Sioux Falls and they were going to be meeting back up with Paul and Marge for the afternoon. As we walked back to the van, we had another little coffee at Jacob's and then had some tight hugs as we fought back our tears ...
Our way to Sioux Falls was marked with a couple of stops one at the Missouri River where we got to see a gigantic Sacajawea sculpture… Which, by the way, my friend Kristy is a distant relative of Sacajawea - Crazy right?!? About an hour or so after this stop we made a stop at a traditional rest stop - had a coffee in the van and then rolled into Sioux Falls around 7 PM.
We not only rolled into the Brueggman farm but also into a beautiful and lovely warm welcome from Spike and Robyn. Their farm is right on the border of South Dakota and Iowa and has been in Spike’s family since 1911.
We had a lovely little parking spot just on the edge of one of their fields and they invited us in for a nice simple dinner with their lovely family. Spike and Robyn still have four of their seven kids at home with them on the farm.
This was the first time that we had met in person as I’ve got to know Robyn through the Integrated Catholic Woman community. Over the past months, Robyn has been working on getting a unique ministry/apostolate off the ground in her diocese - it’s this work that led her to invite me to be a guest on the podcast that the diocese is producing for this ministry.( More on this soon!!)
Robyn, being the consummate hostess, generously invited Craig and I to park on their farm while I was there to record the podcast episode with her. It was beautiful how the Holy Spirit really orchestrated the whole meeting and connection… Craig and I were amazed at how, even though we only spent about, a total of a day and a half with this beautiful family we felt like we had known them for years! Our Catholic faith was the fertile soil for which this friendship would begin to be cultivated.
After we recorded the podcast, we had a lovely small docent tour of Saint Joseph’s Cathedral by the Rector, an opportunity to have some quiet time in the cathedral, as well as inside the Sacred Heart chapel located on the cathedral grounds. This was a way for Craig and I to collect our thoughts and really process the last few days.
Robyn headed back to the farm and we headed over to Falls Park. We took Jupiter for a long walk as we enjoyed the beautiful balmy weather, saw some more historic sites and then we ended up back at the farm for dinner where Robyn was preparing steaks outside on the grill from the cattle that they grow on their farm.
Craig and I had the opportunity to learn more about their farm and the animals from their sons Blaise and Carter. We were truly delighting in this family that God, in His Providence, had permitted us to meet. After dinner we all played cards, Craig gave all the boys the van tour and through it all we had some laughs and some really good conversations.
We prayed night prayers together and lights out! It was sooo late!
I was up early working and I let Craig sleep until about 8:30. We got up and got going, and Robin came out and gave us a tour of the rest of the farm and then sent us off with a thoughtful, charcuterie tray, fresh sausage from their pigs, fresh eggs, and then the family came in from the farm, and prayed us out! What a GORGEOUS way to depart from our new friends.
We headed out to Norfolk, Nebraska. The drive was… You guessed it, windy! As we made our way south from the Brueggman farm the sun began to come out and the temperature began to go up! Our batteries got their charge!
We pulled into Sara and Jason‘s house around 4 PM and had the opportunity to spend some time with their three darling sons and then have the awesome surprise of them expecting another little one in September! Seeing Sara with her “bump” was such a treat!
We have known Jason and Sarah for several years as they used to live in North Carolina and they both were part of a small group of people who helped to start a Fraternus and Fidelis Chapter at our parish in North Carolina.
What a treat it was to break bread with them and see just how beautiful their young family is growing and to see how they are both settling in to their beautiful vocations as husband and wife AND parents!
After dinner, we played outside with the boys and Jupiter… This boy mama really enjoyed being with those boys. It brought me back to the days of running around with my own small ones! Those days go by really fast! I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Sara’s yummy sourdough chocolate chip cookies! I’m so proud of Sara because she is a mama who is really striving to give her family the best… the best of her time, her creativity and her heart!
We all headed to bed as the sun went down and it was a warm night… quite a change from the cool/cold nights we were accustomed to.
I had a client in the morning and Craig was able to have breakfast with Jason, Sara and the boys. After breakfast we all had a chance to play some more in the yard and watch their middle son begin to learn how to ride a bike!! It was so exciting to see him discover his balance.
After some tight hugs and final pictures we got in the van and headed to Gretna/Omaha, NE.
We pulled into Gretna at lunchtime and we had an opportunity to park, have showers and lunch. Then make our way to the Holy Family Shrine. This was a nice respite and we met a lovely Catholic potter Eileen Rooney.
Next stop - Jonathan & Amanda! He rolled into the burbs and had a lovely visit with Jonathan and Amanda Teixeira of “Wallet Win” - Jonathan is also the brains behind the ICW website!! It was so great to meet them and their lovely daughters!! Another fantastic growing young Catholic Family who ALSO like to travel on the road like us… we had a nice time swapping stories and having an opportunity to meet! (They invited me to be a part of the incredible Catholic Money Summit which will be launching soon.)
We were back on the road heading south to Kansas! We took country roads south! We traversed farmland, rolling hills, beautiful vistas, and sporadic rain and… wind. We rolled into St. Mary’s Kansas around 9:30pm.
We were up at 6 in order to be ready for 7:15am. What a gift to be able to see such an incredible church. This particular church was just dedicated a week before we were there.
After Mass we had breakfast and then went back into the church to take a closer look. We made another friend, Laurie Payne. She is such a gem! She took us into the choir loft, into one of the the bell towers, the upstairs cry room and loaded us up with all sorts of memorabilia from the dedication. She walked us out to the van because she wanted to see it… after a quick little van tour Laurie gave us some awesome tips and suggestions about things to do in the sweet little downtown. We exchanged hugs and phone numbers and again our shared faith paved the way for a new and rooted friendship.
We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon on Main Street in St. Mary’s. So many darling shops, a little park for Jupiter to get his “smells” and a fantastic lunch spot where we shared fresh trout!
The weather was in the 80s which was a little shocking.
After our yummy late lunch we made the 70 minute drive to Atchison- Benedictine College.
We rolled into Olivia’s neighborhood about 5 and walked to campus to find her family. What a delight to see dear friends as we wrapped up our trip with an opportunity to share in Olivia’s graduation from college. We hung out with them for a bit and then enjoyed a walk back to the van with some more friends from Charlotte- Teresa and Brett (their daughter Emilia was also graduating).
We spent the rest of the evening chatting with Olivia and her family. I spent a few more hours with Olivia as we had a chance to connect since we hadn’t seen each other since January. Her housemates came and went and it was such a gift to connect with each of these young women as well. They are all so fortunate to have built such a beautiful community during their time at school together.
It was another warm night - the threatening thunder never produced any rain… just some humidity. I got up early to prepare for a livestream with Mother and Home and also be ready for the graduation. Craig got up so he could snap some pics of the ladies for me.
After the livestream we met Olivia’s siblings at the graduation and settled in for the exciting event.
The ceremony was lovely, the messages delivered timely and impactful! Truly an authentic Catholic college!! After the ceremony we grabbed some pics with the graduates and made our way to the van for a snack and a quick change of clothes - we were on our way to Nashville!
It was a looong day and night of driving as we rolled into Nashville at almost midnight!
We parked in a safe place and slept hard!
Day 31 - Mother’s Day
We were up at 6:30 - Mass at 7:30 at the Assumption Church. It was a rainy morning.
Another fantastic homily by a faithful and holy priest. I ran into a friend, Rachel, from Fidelis at Mass too!
After a quick bite and a quick change into some comfortable driving clothes we hit the road for the final 6 hours of our Odyssey. The trip was quiet except for the periods of reading where I was reading aloud articles from a magazine. Reading aloud is something I have done on road-trips for as long as we have been married. During this trip I read 2 books and several articles and essays to Craig. This has been a great way for us to have meaningful conversations during our road trip.
We pulled into our driveway at 5:30pm Eastern time after swinging into a favorite little restaurant to pick up some dinner to eat at home. We walked into our house which Vianne and Juliette kept good care of for us... and couldn't believe we had been gone for THIRTY DAYS... we ate our dinner and our oldest son, Curtis popped over with flowers and a Mother's Day hug... a beautiful way to "come home."
We're home... and I must admit -- this was the most difficult blog to write because I TRULY do not want to let go of the amazing trip we had! But... I am called to cling to my hope for Heaven MORE than this beautiful trip with my husband... so, I want to leave you with this (for now) - treasure, and I mean TREASURE the time you have been gifted by God to cherish the people who are in your life NOW... maybe even stop reading this aloud to your spouse and hug him/her and tell him/her how much you enjoy being in their presence. You don't need to go on a 30 for 30 trip (although, we HIGHLY encourage it!) to realize how important your marriage, family and friends are.
Take some time today to connect with a person you are truly grateful for! Thanks so much for riding along with us on our 30 for 30 odyssey! Watch for the slideshow coming soon!
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