My birthday treat this year turned out to be a vacation to South Dakota with my mother, the Dowager Empress, and four of my five sisters. It was the Greatest Show on Earth, the Williamson Circus descended on the Black Hills.
To ensure a problem free border crossing, I telegraphed the South Dakota Highway Patrol to tell them we were coming. I would have phoned, but telephone service in the Dakotas is spotty at best, and even if you get a connection, there is no guarantee you'll be heard over the static. We agreed to notify the highway patrol of our comings and goings as part of a plea bargain; things got a bit out of hand during our last Williamson family reunion.
This "vacation" was my opportunity to finally see our Deadwood vacation house for which I've been making monthly payments over the past few years.
"You'll love it, you'll love it, you'll love it," Kim drilled into my head over and over during the nearly eleven hour trek across the wastelands of Wyoming.
"Why do you keep telling me I'm going to love it?" I asked, questioning her motives.
"Focus on the road, watch the lines, focus on the road and listen to my voice...." Kim's backseat voice grew softer and softer. "Are you focused on the road? Do you feel relaxed? Listen to my voice and repeat after me. I will love the house." She waited for me to repeat the phrase. I had the strangest feeling she was trying to hypnotize me into liking this unseen house. It is no secret how much Kim loves the house and would hate to see it sold to recoup the investment. "Listen honey, you need to repeat after me, I will love the house," she continued. There were still nine hours left in the journey; I knew I had to play along or suffer through multiple failed mind control attempts.
"I will love the house," I replied.
"Good, now that we have that settled, I need to make a few phone calls." Kim took out her phone, tied it to her face and never took it during the whole trip except to charge it during the night. Mother stared out the window and nibbled on whatever she could find in her purse. I drove and did a little mental math.
"There are 24 hours in a day. We will be gone seven days. There are 60 minutes in an hour......" I mumbled under my breath.
"What's that honey? What are you saying?" Kim was on to me. If she knew I was counting the hours this trip would take there would more indoctrination sessions.
"I will love the house." My monotone voice was convincing. She went back to her call. I counted the stripes on the highway.
Get Out the Popcorn. Its Time for Home Movies
This digital family gathering wouldn't be worth your time if I didn't show home movies of our trip. Pull up some chairs, gather the kids around the screen, dim the lights and prepare yourself for something truly spectacular. The quality isn't very good. Each conversion lowered the picture quality one or two levels leaving us with the following YouTube upload.
Remember, after the movie I've got several photo albums full of pictures of the ordeal you'll not want to miss. I guarantee a throbbing headache before I'm done with you, so now would be good time to pop a few aspirin.
Now, hush-up; the movie is about to begin. May I present Against All Odds, a vacation survival story set in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Against All Odds told in photographs.
Kim and I are both early risers. We decided to take a neighborhood walk while the other slept.
These are pictures taken of homes on Williams Street and Forest Avenue, directly above us.
|Right cozy neighbors, wouldn't you agree?|
|Downtown Deadwood seen from Forest Street. You can see there is very little room for homes.|
|They still do things the old fashion way in Deadwood|
|The homes step right out onto the street. Children play at their own risk in Deadwood.|
|A perfect place for a leisurely afternoon. Know you're beginning to understand why we|
love Deadwood and the Black Hills. It is in our family's blood. This is Williamson country.
|Kim on Forest Street. Notice how narrow the streets are. It is one car at a time|
on these streets. Whoever has the bigger car has the right of way. I was constantly having
to back down with my little Hyundai rental.
|The old Deadwood Methodist Church once sat here. Now it is the Methodist Park|
|Great Uncle Walt and Aunt Frances lived in this home on Main Street.|
|Great Uncle Maurice and Great Aunt Josie lived in a small upstairs apartment in this home the early 1940's.|
Once everyone was awake, we loaded up the car and drove to Hulett, Wyoming to visit Lisa, Bob and to pick up Draker and Aidia. On the way through Belle Fourche, we stopped to visit Grandma and Grandpa Mattson's graves.
|It took quite awhile to find them. Luella had us looking in the wrong spot. The sprinklers were going, making|
the search even more interesting. We found them just moments before we were going to call it quits.
|Kenedee, Luella, Kim, Jilane and Grandma all together|
|We stopped in Aladin, Wyoming (population 13) to visit the locally popular general store.|
Kim and Jilane fit in with the general run down appearance of the place.
|Luella looking for a bottle of "Diet Coke" to get her through the day.|
Her pre-Mormon self comes out on these trips.
|Kenedee, Aidia and Draker on the Devil's Tower Walkabout|
|We're walking about|
|Karen, Luella, Karen's Husband and Kim|
This day started with a visit to Spearfish's Walmart to pick up a few things. Jilane and the girls went to Spearfish's water park. I dropped Kim and Luella off at the Spearfish Park. Draker and I went in search of the local Dairy Queen. It was one of those days where the two guys needed to get away from the six girls to regroup over a mammoth chocolate dipped cone.
|On our way to Spearfish Park we drove by Charles and Luella's very first home right after|
they got married in June 1956. They lived in this home's small basement apartment. This was their
entrance. From here they moved to Deadwood.
|This was the Spearfish Mattson home. They lived here after selling their Montana ranch.|
This was where we visited Grandma and Grandpa Mattson the whole time we were growing up.
|The back of the Mattson home showing the detached garage. Dad, Mom, Kim and I lived in|
a small trailer parked right in front of this garage for awhile in 1958 before moving to Rapid City
|The Mattson backyard. We loved running and up and down that cellar door and peering|
at everyone through the kitchen window.
|We found Kim at the park. She was on her phone 24/7.|
|"This is literally my favorite place in the world. I could sit here for hours just taking in the nature.... Hold on,|
I've got a call."
|Kim and Draker enjoying Spearfish Creek.|
|Luella enjoying her Aladin "Diet Coke"|
|Her reaction when caught and challenged|
Kim's phone rang right after I snapped this candid photo of Luella. It was Jilane asking for a ride to the park with the girls. They were water parked out. Kim insisted I pick them up with Draker. She was too wrapped up with nature.
"I don't know where to go," I complained.
"Draker knows where it is. So go, and bring us back some drinks and food," Kim strongly suggest while taking aim at my head with a rock.
It turned out Draker didn't know where the park was. We drove up and down the freeway several times looking for the right exit. We finally got Jilane one the phone. She gave us bogus directions, directions she was being given by a local boy who happened to be listening in on her conversation.
We finally found them and had to listen to her ragging about it all the way back to the park. Her tone softened after we stopped for pizza. I've learned that's the best way to deal with her moods - food.
|Earlier that day, Kim and I drove to the land my brother Kevin and I own just outside of Deadwood.|
Lot 39, with a forest so thick walking is difficult.
|Found this gem growing on one of the trees.|
Kim and I got up early and drove to Lead for a morning pick me up and a few cinnamon rolls for the kids.
|We found Great Grandma Vercellino's old home next door to the coffee shop.|
|Great Grandma Vercellino dropped dead of a stroke while sweeping this porch in the late 1930s.|
|Lead's dance hall. Grandma Elda snuck out of her house to come here dancing when she was a teen.|
We drove to Mt. Rushmore.
|Aidia, Draker and Kenedee|
|Draker with two of his loving aunts, Jilane and Kim|
|Jilane, Janice and Kim.|
Janice flew in to join us. She didn't want to miss out on all the fun.
From Mt. Rushmore, we drove to Rapid City to look at our old homes.
|39 East Signal Drive. We lived here from 1959 to 1966.|
Kevin, Janice, Jon and Jilane all joined our family when we lived here.
|Kim and I spent many a summer day as kids sliding down this grassy hill on cardboard .|
|Jefferson Elementary sits at the bottom of our hill. Kim and I went to school here up until 3rd grade.|
|The main hallway. My 3rd grade classroom was up on the left. I|
|My kindergarten classroom.|
|From Signal Heights we moved to 210 N. 42nd Street. We lived here from 1966 to 1968|
|From 42nd Street we moved here to 2214 38th Street in 1968. |
|We went to Canyon Lake Park for a bit|
|From Canyon Lake Park to Story Book Island|
|While there Janice found the brick I purchased when we were in Rapid for the Williamson Family Reunion, 2007|
|Wouldn't you know it was right in front of the restrooms.|
|The debate on what to do next begins.|
We got up early for a nice long hike around Lead.
|Back to the house so sisters could get themselves ready for the day|
An hour or two or three later........ It was back to Rapid for shopping and other things.
|After time wasted at the mall, we drove up to Dinosaur Park. This is the view of west Rapid City from the Park.|
|This is directly north|
|And directly east and downtown.|
|The kids introduced planking to South Dakota over the dino's tail|
|Draker feeling accomplished|
|Kim read while the kids planked.|
|Next stop, Stavkirk, a replica of an old Norwegian church originally built in 876 A.D.|
|Draker, let loose in the gift shop|
|Janice and Kim. The Video describes what you're seeing very well.|
|Draker spent the last hour or so under the blanket texting his girlfriend|
|Aidia enjoying the afternoon|
|And the vacation ends with Lisa looking very upset over the loss of her new iPhone.|
It slipped from her bra strap and into the drink. She was not a happy camper