Sunday the 21st was kind of a strange day. I found out that a friend had passed away in a hang gliding accident. Bertrand was such a bright spirit, and I struggle to understand why it always seems to be those bright spirits that are taken from our lives so early. I've known Bertrand and Sami for a few years now, and I seemed to bump into them everywhere I went. They traveled more than I did, and we had a lot of friends in common. Bertrand could always be counted on to be upbeat and positive, pour you a glass of wine and cook you one of the best burgers you'd ever had. He was full of life and love, and I always admired that about him. He will be sorely missed.
So, that Sunday I had a lot of information to process. I woke up in Chadron, NE in a deserted trailer park - there were plenty of trailers but no people, except for one guy who happened to be next door to me and seemed a bit lonely. It was pretty windy, and I debated whether I'd leave...my next-door neighbor certainly tried to convince me to stay by listing all the local sights I'd be "missing" if I left.
|My first real-life tumbleweed|
But I thought about it, and I really wanted to get to Mt. Rushmore. I was only 2 hours & 15 minutes away, and this was the first major goal I'd set for a trip with very few stated goals. I thought about what Bertrand would think I should do, and I felt that he would want me to seize the day and get whatever I could out of it. I also figured that, if the winds really were too high, I could always stop and wait it out...but at least I would have made some progress. So, I pushed on and I got to drive through some really beautiful country. I stopped in Custer, SD for lunch and found Bitter Esters Brewhouse, which not only brews its own beer but makes its own sausage. After some friendly service and good food/beer, I was still in a daze. I continued on and stumbled upon Wind Cave National Park, which I was literally driving through before I realized it even existed. It was a beautiful landscape, though, and cool to see bison roaming freely.
I didn't go into the actual Wind Cave - the only way to go in there was to join a guided tour, and I just wasn't in any shape to be socializing with strangers. So, I pushed on again towards my base in Wall, SD, near Badlands National Park. I opted not to drivge past Mt. Rushmore at the time because it was getting late and it would have made my drive significantly longer. I figured I'd hit it later in the week. At that point, I just wanted to set up camp and relax. I checked into the campground, checked out Wall Drug (super famous but basically just a really big gift shop), went grocery shopping, drank a couple of beers, caught up with another friend who was processing the news about Bertrand and went to bed.
The next day, I was still in a bit of a funk and I wasn't feeling great physically - sort of foggy, combined with coughing and congestion. I really needed to check out the Badlands though - I was in dire need of some outdoor time and physical activity. So I took a drive through the park, which is pretty freaking awesome. And then I went on a quick hike - just enough to get my fix but I was able to turn around when I started feeling tired. It's this crazy beautiful landscape that makes you feel like you're walking on the moon. I rested for a while and then went back that evening for the sunset...and at the end of the day, even though I felt worse physically, I felt somewhat better spiritually. For me, getting outside really helps me to reset and recharge mentally & emotionally. It's my version of self-medicating.
I woke up the next day feeling terrible. I'd only had bronchitis once before, about a year & a half ago, but the coughing I was doing was giving me flashbacks. I had to drive into Rapid City, about 45 minutes away, to go to an Urgent Care Center, but not before I spent a good hour on the phone with Aetna to get them to process an exception since there were no in-network providers within 300 miles. They gave me a bunch of drugs and I figured it'd be another couple of days before I started feeling better. Like a good little girl, I laid low the next couple of days, streaming Netflix on my phone and watching DVDs when I got tired of looking at the tiny screen. It kind of sucked being alone and being in a strange place, far from most modern conveniences. The only food around that I could easily just pick up, without having to cook, was Dairy Queen. There were definitely a few tourist trap restaurants in town, but none of the reviews were compelling, and I just wanted some soup. Dairy Queen doesn't have soup, though, so I ate some iceburg lettuce - I didn't have much of an appetite anyway. Thursday morning, I still didn't feel any better, but I had an appointment in Rapid City to get my new awning installed and thought it would be cool to set up camp a bit closer to Mt Rushmore & the city for a couple of days, which is all I figured I'd need before I'd feel well enough to move on again.
I checked into a campground I really liked - this one was in the woods, so it actually felt like I was camping in nature instead of a parking lot (which is what a lot of RV parks feel like). I had an appointment for a massage that afternoon (my birthday present from Janice) so I figured I'd drop off the trailer and then go get massaged. But - I had neglected to ask about a pull-through site, so when I pulled up to my designated camp site I was disappointed to see that it was, indeed, a back-in site. This is not the end of the world, but I really hadn't practiced backing up the trailer very much, and my general strategy thus far had been to just avoid it whenever possible - which, I'd found, was pretty much all of the time. So this would be my first attempt to actually back into a campsite. Just to make things even more fun, this campsite was built on a hillside, so as I'm backing in, I've got a hill in front of me, sloping up from left to right. I've got a big tree directly behind the spot where the trailer needs to go...there's a picnic table to the right of the spot where the trailer needs to go...AND there's a steep dropoff directly to the left of where the trailer needs to go. And I'm still sick as a dog.
So, do I go back to the office and ask for a pull-though site? Hell no, I can handle this. I'm the mother-effing Honey Badger. I start by pulling forward, attempting to get the trailer reasonably straight. This isn't really possible due to the configuration of the place, so I start backing in...and jumping out of the car to check that what I think I see in the mirrors is really what I see, and I'm not actually about to throw the trailer over the side of a cliff. Back in the car, back up a bit more in the other direction, jump out and check. Back in the car, back up a bit more in the original direction, jump out and check. I do this a few times, and I'm just getting back in the car to pull forwards again and straighten it out a bit more, when a couple of the maintenance guys come by and offer to help. I tell them I'd love some help, and thank you very much. Within a few more minutes we've got the trailer in pretty much the perfect spot, and one of the guys is reiterating what I've heard from basically everyone who has ever towed a trailer - the smaller ones are harder to back up because they change direction super quickly. I tell him I'm sick, it's the first time I've ever had to back it up, and I'm sure I'll get the hang of it.
Now all I have to do is disconnect the trailer from the truck, and zip on over to the inn where I'm getting my massage. I disconnect the chains, pull the lighting cord out of the socket, and start raising the trailer. This will get the trailer's hitch high enough that I can just pull the car forward and go. Only the damn thing won't come off the hitch ball. I keep cranking it up, and it's pulling the truck higher and higher along with it. I jump on it, I shake it, the fucker won't budge. I let it back down and try jumping & shaking. Nothing. I am almost crying at this stage because I am literally sick and tired and I am this close to a relaxing massage, if I can just get the car separated from the trailer so I can drive to the inn. At some point I notice that the lock on the hitch is raised, but not completely. I raise it fully, start cranking up the trailer again, and hear the satisfying sound of metal on metal that means the hitch ball is separating from the coupler. Hall-freaking-llujah! I'm free! I feel like I just won a million dollars.
If I'd had the energy (and the place hadn't been like 15 miles away), I would have skipped over to my massage. But, I had a nice drive through the mountains and arrived at the completely adorable Summer Creek Inn & Spa a half hour early. Had a lovely cup of chamomile tea outside on the patio while I waited, and then had a relaxing massage even though I was coughing through most of it. Thanks Janice!
At this point, I had hardly slept that whole week. I was in a daze, and everything was harder for me than it needed to be because I was just so completely exhausted. I was getting maybe 40 minutes of uninterrupted sleep at any one time. I was really hoping that I'd get a decent sleep once I was so relaxed, but because the coughing always got worse when I laid down, I was doomed to repeat the same coughing fits that had kept me up the rest of the week. By Friday morning, I was so frustrated. I had been laying low, thinking that would help me recover, but not feeling any better and getting more and more bored by the minute. Mt. Rushmore had become a joke in my mind - I'd been in the area for 5 days and still hadn't seen the thing. I wasn't super excited about seeing Mt. Rushmore, but I felt like it was the kind of thing you should probably see at some point in your life, and since I had the time and was in the area, it needed to be on the list. I drove by Mt. Rushmore and took a couple of pics just so I could cross something off my list and feel like I was doing something. I didn't feel like it was worth paying $11 to park, so I just did the drive by and moved on.
|Yup, there it is...|
And then I went back to the Urgent Care Center and cried at another doctor that I was so frustrated. She gave me a Z-Pak and some cough syrup with codeine, and I exhaled. I went home, watched 3 more DVDs, and I actually slept that night. I got a couple hours at a time, maybe a total of 5 hours...which felt like a LOT of sleep compared to the none I'd been getting all week.
I was scheduled to check out the next morning, but thought one more day of true rest would be good for me. However, I would have had to move to another campsite. Since that means disconnecting power, water, and sewer, hitching up, unhitching, and reconnecting all of those things anyway, I decided to just move on. And boy, was I glad I made that decision. I'll tell you all about it in my next post :)