Wish You Were Here: Cross-Country Road Trip

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The Aptly Named Badlands

Day 5: Following the Lewis and Clark Trail, we're heading west in a covered SUV as I read aloud the story of Sacagawea, the Shoshone translator who, eight weeks after giving birth, traveled through the wilderness with Lewis and Clark and their band of unbathed explorers. Attempting to ignore the human farting contest being conducted in our backseat (courtesy of the three-bean salad we forced the kids to try at lunch), I consider what it must have been like for Sacagawea to be the only woman in a large party of sweaty, malodorous men.

Day 6: We're approaching the highlight of the trip for me: The Ingalls Homestead, in De Smet, South Dakota, immortalized in Little Town on the Prairie. Papa is navigating; the kids are intent on their GameBoys; Haywood, fighting gale-force winds, is trying to keep the Giant SUV on the Prairie somewhere near the middle of the road; and I am reading aloud from the gorgeous prose of Laura Ingalls Wilder. No one is listening but Grandmother.

Day 7: The Badlands are aptly named. The barren landscape might have been imported from Mars -- or hell. It's beautiful and terrifying, and the children can endure the heat and the relentless wind for only a few minutes before they pile back in the car, refusing even a potty break at the visitors' station. We've allowed a day for hiking in the national park, but clearly that's not going to happen. Our guidebook points out a nearby attraction: a giant cement prairie dog and convenience store. "I hope they have Icees," says Henry. "I hope they have a swimming pool," says Sam. "I hope they have a bathroom," says Joe.

Continued on page 4:  Three Generations, Seven States


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