We left just after noon on Monday, July 2nd, gassed up, grabbed Culvers and started driving. We headed up to Wausau and then over to Eau Claire and Minneapolis, finally stopping for dinner in St. Cloud at a McDonald’s with a playground. We stopped at two McDonald’s before calling around and finding one that did have a playground and going to that one. Yes, we are tools. Did not know – you need socks to go in one of these fast food playplaces. Sure, 98 degrees – let us dig them out of a suitcase. There were mysterious puddles in the toddler area – THAT’s why you need the socks, so whatever it was didn’t get on Braden’s feet. Just soaked through his socks.
We drove until the Middle Spunk rest stop (great name) and everyone went to the bathroom and the little ones were changed into their pajamas. They mostly were confused. They fell asleep, and stayed asleep until we made the mistake of going into a brightly lit Holiday Station to gas up and get ice and snacks in Moorhead-Fargo. Sarah came back to the car to find Braden screaming. He cried and threw a tantrum for about 20 minutes after we got back on the road, and then Noah woke up and said his stomach hurt. The complaining persisted for a while, then both kids feel asleep again. Around 1 am, after Matt had drank 2 coffees in a row, Sarah decided the kids were going to wake up again soon, and besides, her neck hurt from trying to sleep in the car with no pillow or blanket. We pulled into Bismarck, ND and had to try several hotels before we found one that had a room. Kind of like Mary and Joseph on Christmas and all that. Except Matt tried to find vacancies by running in through the hotel front doors and yelling “any rooms”. He did discover that all night hotel managers are doing the exact same thing at 1:00 in the morning, though – laying on couches watching TV. He got lucky on the third one. Of course the kids woke up and were all excited and jumped on the beds and basically destroyed the room before Matt got a chance to lug in the 18 pieces of luggage from the car.
We all slept soundly (well, Sarah did, Matt kept having to replace Braden’s pacifier) until 6 am when Noah woke up and kept requesting to play Angry Birds. That only pacified him for a while and then he demanded breakfast. We all got up, put on the same clothes as we wore the day before despite having our 58 pound suitcases in the room, and ate donuts for breakfast with coffee. Lots of coffee. The kids made sure to drink plenty of juice and water, knowing they would be in a car traveling in a state where the average length between rest stops is 118 miles. We headed out and after about 4 hours decided the slogan for ND should be: “Pretty, and pretty boring”. We did stop at Teddy Roosevelt National Park (Sarah thought it was a pretty rest stop and was shocked to find out it was a national park) – very nice, the badlands. Noah wanted to know where all the buildings were. Matt did meet a guy who took our picture for us who was traveling with his family from Pittsburgh to Glacier.
Back on the road for seemingly endless driving. Between Miles City and Billings stopped at a rest stop and saw two people dumping water onto a cat from a water bottle to cool it off. License plate: MN of course. The temp reached 106 degrees. We pulled into Billings and ate at a Burger King because it had a playground. It was pretty sketch – kind of like eating in the ghetto of Billings. Noah loved it. We then got off the interstate to drive up to Great Falls. It appears that most of the road was under construction, although there was no evidence of workers or equipment or a reason for it. But we were diverted onto gravel roads. Nice. THEN, between Lavinia and Harlowtown (or something like that) – (keeping in mind “town” means 1 block of abandoned buildings and some people drinking beers in recliners in a garage – so kind of like WI) – the car started to make some hideous sound. We could barely hear the sound over the incessant sounds of Bubble Guppies (which both of us will still hear after they commit us to the asylum) – we pulled over, Matt looked in the wheelwells and Sarah inspected underneath the car and saw nothing. Shrugged our shoulders and started driving again. Made hideous sound again. Matt was going to look under the hood, and balked at Sarah’s suggestion to turn the car OFF to do so. So she turned it off for him. He stared at the engine (or whatever is under a car hood) for a minute and shut it and said it looked fine. Sarah suggested we might be out of coolant because it was so hot, and he stared blankly at her. So we called Andy, Sarah’s brother, who is a mechanic. He was pretty concerned, and while Sarah talked to him, Matt started randomly thumping on things on the outside of the car and thumped on the rocketbox. We got in and started driving and the sound didn’t come back. Andy sounded pretty worried about something called “calipers” but we lost the cell phone connection and the sound never came back, so we’re sure we are fine.
We made it to Great Falls alive and are staying in a luxurious suite. Sarah found a stain on the sheets, but we are too tired to care. It’s pretty small and who knows, maybe one of the kids caused it somehow. Time for bed! After our “Howard’s Pizza” arrives. Apparently it comes in a bag. Well, they were open. As of now, we’ve driven 1318 miles and spent 21 hours in the car.