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The Getaway


Sun, Dec 17th, 2000
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Monday, December 11, 2000

My wife and I like to take a short trip every year after Labor Day. We decided that this year we would return to the Black Hills and see how the work was getting on at the Crazy Horse monument, visit Mount Rushmore and camp at our favorite spot in the Bismarck National Forest near Custer. It would be a nice “GETAWAY” and since school had started, the place wouldn’t be cluttered up with tourists; we’d have the place to ourselves.

I began to load the van with provisions for a week and as I was placing a bag of dogfood and Sam’s dish in the van, my wife wanted to know what I thought I was doing with Sam’s dish and dogfood.

I told her that we would have to take Sam along this year and that he wouldn’t be any bother. She wanted to know why Sam had to go along and why wasn’t I leaving him at the kennel? I told her that I couldn’t take Sam back to the kennel. I told her that I had promised the man that I would never bring Sam back to the kennel again.

She said, “All right, let’s have it; what is the story about Sam and the kennel?”

I had to tell her that Sam had tipped over a few things, had knocked the man down a couple of times and was considered by the man to be a bad influence on the other dogs.

The three of us got into the van, my wife behind the wheel and after some discussion, Sam got into one of the back seats.

We were on our way and all went well for the first two hours until we came upon a road construction crew and traffic was reduced to one lane at a speed of thirty miles per hour. After a couple of hours, we came upon a rest area and took a lunch break. Our break was cut short when Sam slipped his collar and tipped over some garbage cans. I got Sam back into the van, and picked up the mess as best as I could and we were on our way again at thirty miles per hour. At last, after what had been the longest day, we arrived at Chamberlain, South Dakota and set up camp on the west bank of the Missouri River.

The next morning we got up for an early start, determined to get ahead of the road gang. As I let Sam out of the van, he spotted a cat and took off after it. The cat ran into some one’s tent and Sam went in after it. I do not know the details but there was a lot of yelling going on and part of the tent collapsed. Apparently the cat escaped and Sam got tangled up in a sleeping bag and dragged it out of the tent. Then the largest man and woman that I have ever seen came out of the tent and started throwing pots and pans at Sam. Sam managed to shed the sleeping bag and ran down the road out of harm’s way. Then the very large man asked me if I knew whose dog that was. I said that I wasn’t sure and that I had just happened to be walking past when the cat and dog entered the tent. I told them that since they weren’t dressed, that I would be happy to try to catch the dog and find his owner.

I went back to the van and we drove out of the park, picked up Sam and drove down the interstate as fast as the road repairs would allow.

After an hour or so, we finally left the construction zone and resumed a normal speed. Since Sam had upset our schedule somewhat, we hadn’t had breakfast. We pulled into a small town and found a municipal park. I tied Sam to the van and set up our campstove and was getting some bacon and eggs out of the refrigerator when it started to rain; it was a cloudburst.

I put everything back into the van, untied a very wet Sam and we drove off eating potato chips for breakfast while Sam shook himself dry. Have you ever traveled in a car with a wet dog? There is no smell like that of a very large wet dog unless it would be some sort of landfill or dumping station for very old wet gym socks.

We were approaching Rapid City and discovered that our exit ramp was blocked by an overturned tractor-trailer and we had to go on to Sturgis. Sturgis is not all that large, but since all of the north-south streets were torn up and under construction, we got lost. After a half hour of frustration, I asked some fellow if he could tell us how to get to Custer.

Well, I never thought that I would actually hear this but he said, “You can’t get there from here.” He did tell us that we could get to Deadwood and from there we stood a good chance of getting to Custer.

We drove out of Sturgis on a narrow, winding, uphill road behind three heavily loaded logging trucks and chugged along at about twenty miles an hour, top speed. Since Sam had been cooped up in the van for quite awhile, we let his out and he trotted alongside the van for a few miles and got some exercise.

Eventually we reached Deadwood, turned right and drove off into the sunset towards Custer and our campsite in the Bismarck National Forest. We finally got to Bismarck, set up our campsite as well as we could in the dark and went to bed hoping for a better tomorrow.

Sam got us out of bed at six in the morning and I started to make breakfast for the three of us and then it began to rain. We got back into the van and drove back to Custer for something to eat. As we left the restaurant, the rain changed to snow and when we got back to Bismarck, we were in a blizzard.

We loaded up our gear and headed for home as fast as conditions would allow. We drove out of the blizzard and as we approached Chamberlain, the sun was shining, the birds were singing and that tent that belonged to those two very large people that wanted to get their hands on Sam and his owner were still there in the park.

We drove on to Albert Lea, stayed over night at the state park and returned home the next day. Well, you could say that we had our getaway, but so did Jesse James, the Daltons, the Younger Brothers and John Dillinger, and what did it get them? Whoever it was that said, “there’s no place like home”, knew what they were talking about and Sam really wasn’t that much of a bother.

--John Flaherty

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