Greetings, dear reader!
Our Pilgrimage to Phoenix is on the road! I write to you from Rapid City, South Dakota. It has been a long day indeed. My alarm went off at 5:45am this morning, and I was at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Minnetonka in Wayzata, MN around 6:45. We finished loading up the last items around 7:00, and then we did our morning ritual for the trip:
1. Read the Group Covenant
2. Check In
4. Stretching Exercise
5. Sing “This Little Light of Mine” *
* (In our excitement, we actually forgot that last part. But we made up for it by singing “Home On the Range” at the top of our lungs as we drove across Buffalo Gap National Grasslands and saw antelope and bighorn sheep.)
Our friends and families surrounded us with waves and cheers, and we climbed into the vans and drove off into the dreary, cloudy morning.
Most of the day was driving. Our Expert of the Day was Julia, and she fearlessly led us out of the Twin Cities and across South Dakota. As we moved west, the sky cleared up, and we were able to enjoy plenty of sunshine at Badlands National Park! Text messages from home let us know how lucky we were — because Minneapolis was experiencing a hail storm right around the time we were hiking around the ragged peaks and wiping sweat off our brows.
We paused for about ten minutes every two hours along the way, at which point we also switched drivers, and drivers switched vehicles. The youth had a good balance of noise and quiet, because at every stop, two youth had to move into the minivan, which only has room for two adults and two youth. By the end of the day, everyone had a chance for at least two hours of relative quiet, and every adult had a chance to be in both the large and small van, and both the driver and passenger seat.
Before we got to the stopping point in Rapid City, we got to stop at Al’s Oasis in Chamberlin, Badlands National Park, and Wall Drug (among others). I think we all would have liked a little more time to stretch our legs during the day, but we really wanted to make it to Rapid City in time to enjoy a picnic dinner with our home hospitality families.
By the time we made it, we had been traveling for the past thirteen hours. Boy are we all tired!
But we received such a warm and enthusiastic welcome from the open-hearted folks of the Black Hills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship that we were infused with a new burst of energy! Of course, it helped that they had lots of smiles, plenty of delicious food, and a breathtaking view in the back yard. (The giant trampoline didn’t hurt either.)
After such a drive, we couldn’t have had a more perfect end to our first day on the road together. The six girls are all having a slumber party with a BHUUF youth who will also be attending GA (and now she has a bunch of new friends to look forward to hanging out with!). The four boys are also having their own slumber party at another house with two BHUUF boys. And the four chaperones got divided into two quiet homes with no youth at all! It couldn’t have worked out better if I’d planned it this way.
As I wind down for the evening, I write to you from a bedroom in a beautiful “straw bale home” with a view of the Black Hills from its front porch. I was told that if the house were just a little higher, we’d be able to see Mount Rushmore from here! We’re spending the night 20 miles from that famous mountain, but sadly we just don’t have the time to go out of our way to see it. That will have to be another trip!
And so I bid you good night, dear reader. Today was the most grueling of the trip in terms of driving, so the plan is to have a little more time in the days ahead to enjoy being where we are before we have to move on. We’ll pick up the girls and boys in the morning, and then we’re off to Yellowstone!
If you would like to leave a note for any of our travelers, write a comment below, and I’ll make sure it gets relayed to the right person. We would love to get some “letters from home” while we’re on the road!
Many thanks for your support as we move deeper into our Pilgrimage to Phoenix!