The book is finished and sent off to several agents to be reviewed and picked up to present to publishers. I can't wait for that phone call. I was also able to get some self-employment/freelance work to help along the way. Both allow me to work from home, make money, flexible hours and work on my photography, writing and painting. But even then, I still need to get out of the house for a few days.
My book was complete and within a day or two ideas flashed in my head about future stories I could talk about with the same theme. A mysterious death with a parnormal twist which lead me to think about Montana and a place I haven't been too in a really long time, Glacier National Park. This also triggered an idea for a story and to help get the facts straight I decided to go and see the place for myself and this time I wouldn't be alone. Aria would be coming along and even though we can't hike any trails together the drive through the park will allow us to enjoy the time and scenery together.
Next came deciding the when and a review of the schedule, to go before or after 4th of July was the biggest question. It was decided, after seeing prices, it would be done before the 4th of July before hotels hit the peak of summer vacation and so did their prices. Even the prices now were a bit high but nothing I couldn't handle which also lead me to using my Choice Hotels points to help pay for a few nights and ease up on the cost.
Choice hotels can be a hit or miss property chain but for the most part their Quality Inns and Comfort Inn & Suites have been really good and a lot of them are dog-friendly and easily accessible to major highways and attractions. Choice hotels also has the easiest and most promotions for discounted stays that I have ever seen with any hotel chain. They also have the lowest pet fees so they are worth checking out. Plus their website is user friendly, with both email and text reminders of your upcoming stays and the notes you leave on your room reservation are actually seen and read by the hotel you will be staying at and if there are any issues they call you before you arrive.
Finally, those paid nights paid off and I was able to keep my room costs low. Even if you aren't a Choice Hotels fan, any chain you use reguallary I highly recommend getting onto their rewards program, check-ins are easier and quicker, your acknowledged and thanked for being a member by the staff and when prices are high you can use those point to reduce the rate or get it for free.
Well we all know that when the snow leaves, out comes the construction equipment and we often joke here in Wisconsin that the two seasons we truly have are Winter and Construction everything else is just fluff. So here I am, the end of June, before a major Holiday heading out to Montana and construction is in full swing. The first one occurs shortly after I leave the Twin Cities area and was given an alternate route by my Dad who travels the area frequently.
I'm still not sure how much time would have been added if I had stayed on the main route but this side route did add 20 minutes but it was through the countryside of Minnesota which for some reason always makes me feel happy and calm. The large fields and rolling hills, with an occasional small town to drive through with only a few buildings. Rain was always on the horizon and at times the pollen was blowing so thick it looked like snow.
This time of the year also makes it hard to regulate the temps. Humidity is high outside and inside the car it is eithr too hot and sticky to go without air or too cold to have air. It was put to the floor often to keep the inside and Aria cool. Once back on the main road and through the town I had entered I crossed over and eventually ran parallel to the Minnesota River. It was high. Northern Minnesota had experienced a lot of rain with washed out roads and it was finally flowing down to our area. A pullover area/park was completely under water and at times it was kissing the bank of the highway. Any large amount of rain would cause it to go over and another section of road would be flooded.
An hour or two later and I'm now entering into South Dakota. The trip is a little over ten hours but today I'm not tired and enjoying the views and the drive. Thoughts of my writing, photos and shop drift through my head and plans of the future flash before me. Everything is changing and I am open to receive it all. A quick stop in Mitchell, about the half way point to Rapid City, reveals that this area is still under construction.
It has been almost two years and this road doesn't look any better than it did two months ago, let alone over a year ago. Now this is an area that has no clue what they are doing except that they are tearing up the road and making it extremely inconvenient to get to the businesses along this route. I pull into a travel center which is packed, big surprise, it is early afternoon on a Sunday and everyone is either going home or heading out on vacation. I pull up behind one car that appeared to be moving from the pump, I wait and wait and wait and there is no indication that they are going to move. So I move along and around them to get to another pump only to have them move as I come around the bend. This now, of course, she does. Ugh!
But now there is another car that is turning into the same area and when she sees me come around quickly pulls in next to the pump, the one I was going to take, and parks. Now I'm in between two pumps and the one that is open is on the wrong side of my gas tank. Around the car I go and quickly pull in next to her and an open pump. I gas up, go in to stretch my legs and when walking out see a pick up with a camper trailer sitting in the parking lot in front of the door. I walk out in front of him and back to my car only to have him pull forward and block me from moving so that he can get the pump next to mine.
Oh, really? So because you have a truck and trailer you get to do whatever you want and not only block me but block others from parking and moving from the parking lots behind you. Well, alrighty then. I'm in no hurry to get to my final destination but I don't appreciate being forced to stay put while you wait for the lady who cut me off to decided whether or not she is going to move. Finally, she does and he pulls forward.
Next to the travel center is an area for dog-walking and pull in for Aria to stretch her legs before we finish the last part of the road trip. Not far away from this area is a small picnic area with a couple of picnic tables and an older woman with what appears to be a sheltie sitting next to her feet underneath the tables. I walk back to the car and as I do she turns in my directions and I ask her if that is a sheltie, she says yes and Aria peeks her head around the side of the car. The two dogs quickly lock eyes and begin pulling us towards each other. Aria is on the large side of "the average" sheltie size scale and upon a formal greeting it was determined that this one was too. Both are full-blooded shelties and for the first time ever Aria was able to look her own breed right in the eye. They enjoyed their greetings and did a light play before we went our seperate ways.
Its always nice to meet nice travelers along the way and it was a good change of pace to the day. Now I had to weave myself through the construction in order to get back out to the Interstate. It wasn't as bad or took as long as I had feared but it was still a pain in the butt. We're back on I90 and heading West towards Rapid City. For the most part the drive is uneventful and a blur as I drift in and out of my thoughts and listen to the music and radio stories I have playing from my phone. It isn't long before I pass the small town of Murdo, SD which is about halfway through the state and about 3/4 of the way to the hotel. A few twists, turns and miles later I come over a hill and before is a sky so dark blue that it almost looks black. There is a flash of lightning which confirms I'm about to head into a storm. A few quick shots and I grab hold of the steering wheel and get ready for what is about to come.
A glance over at the dashboard shows that in the last ten miles or so the temperature has dropped 15 degrees and is still dropping. A look up at the clouds has me checking my phone for any alerts, only a notification that rain will begin around 310p, it is now 253p which means...the rain starts now. A large amount falls on the car and it is heavy only to have it stop a few feet later, this happens for the next couple of miles until it finally decides to keep a steady and heavy downpour for the next few miles.
I tap on the brakes to cancel the cruise control because as we all know people don't get cautious in these situations, they get stupid and dangerous. The rain falls so hard at times that visibility turns to zero, the wipers can't keep up and I can't see the lights on the car a few inches ahead of me in the lane beside me. People are starting to slow way down and some I think even pulled over but I know it is going to end soon and I can still see the yellow strip of paint on the road . I keep going. Then it lifts and cars can be seen as well as the road before us.
This happens one more time before I'm finally free and clear of the storm. Warnings of flash flooding fill my phone but nothing about tornados, thank the Universe. I'll never understand the tow trucks of South Dakota. Twice I came across a tow truck helping someone out and either they or their tools were sitting out in the lane. Are you looking to get hurt or cause an accident? All it takes is one person to not be paying attention and all of you will be severly hurt if not dead and the second was just after a major storm! Anyways, I digress.
The wind has picked up and is pushing my car towards the side of the road and a few raindrops occur the rest of the way. I don't mind driving in the wind but it is killing my gas mileage and admittingly I am taking advantage of the 80 MPH speed limit unfortunately no one else is. So as I'm fighting a strong wind I'm also canceling my cruise control every mile or so because no one goes even a mile over 80 and always want to stay in the left lane. Truly, I don't know who your trying to fool because I know that you are the same driver who is doing 80 in a 65 so why are you not going that fast now? Maybe you don't have a long drive ahead of you but at this point, I've been on the road for over 8 hours and I will do all that I can to safely make this trip goes as quickly as possible. In other words, MOVE OVER!
Finally Rapid City begins to show itself in the far distance and so does the indicator on my dashboard saying I'm low on gas. Tough! We only have a few miles left before we get to the hotel and then I will fill up and you WILL get me to the hotel without issue. We're at slower speeds with a decreased wind it will make it just fine. I decide before I get to the hotel to pull into a fast food place and get supper, this is not without a bit of a growl from the car. The hotel is a block away at this point, calm down Ella.
As it is in most places I'm once again staying at a Choice Hotels Property, this one is another Quality Inn. I've stayed here at least two or three times in the last year or so and I can honestly say that everytime I do the place keeps getting better. The staff is always friendly and efficient, the hotel is near resteraunts, downtown Rapid City, about an hour from Mount Rushmore, and a nice grassy area to walk Aria. The beds are comfortable, rooms are clean and the neighbors are quiet. It doesn't get any better than this. It will also be my first night using my reward points.
I stated in another blog the benefits of being a rewards member and today is no different. I got a hotel snack on arrival which was trail mix, snack cookies and bottled water. My room was already held on the first floor as requested and when entering into the room realize I had been upgraded to a jacuzzi suite. Sweet!!
Even Aria had to do a double take on the room. Needless to say once I was unpacked and we had eaten our supper I fired that baby up and enjoyed feeling the jets on my back after a long day's drive. The only other thing that would have been better would have been an herbal massage. But I will gladly enjoy this jacuzzi tub.
The night ends with one final trip which is over to Culvers for a custard cookie dough sundae. Hey it is humid out and we're going to be having storms throughout the night. I think I've earned this special little treat, although, if I knew it was going to take almost ten minutes to get it I might have reconsidered....
Driving across country can bring about some interesting situations. Broken down on a day by day basis enjoy my adventures and set backs along the way to some beautiful destinations.