Well, we are finally off and on our way to a new life in the middle of nowhere, Idaho. Of course, this trip is not without its share of stories.

To begin with, we were supposed to leave Maryland as soon as Erin was done with camp. I gave her until 2:00 and we were pretty much packed and ready to go by 3:00. We locked the cats in the bedroom so we wouldn’t have to go looking for them, but they knew something was up and were trying their best to escape. Pumpkin got out several times, but we always managed to catch him and bring him back. But when Erin went up to the bedroom to pack the final items, Pumpkin escaped, ran downstairs and then back up. And then he disappeared. We searched all the rooms on the third floor and found no sign of him. There was a possible sighting of him running outside, so maybe he ran back down without notice. Erin wouldn’t leave without Pumpkin, so we were stuck at the farm waiting for him to show up. We were prepared to spend the night, hoping he would come back in for his can of wet food.

So we waited, and waited, and searched all over the farm with no sign of the little furball. It was near 8:00 when Erin was in the bathroom on our floor and heard a squeaking in the wall. Sure enough, Pumpkin had run upstairs and vanished, just as I originally suspected. He had run into the bathroom closet, which has a huge gaping hole in the wall, and managed to hide within the walls of the house for the entire afternoon. So, with time to spare, we decided to load all the animals into the car and get a head start on our journey. We made it to Mars, PA, just north of Pittsburgh.

We had a long and fairly uneventful drive on Saturday involving five states. We drove all the way from Mars, PA to Waterloo, IA, pulling in after midnight because the Motel 6 in Dubuque was completely full.

Yesterday, we drove a record 800 miles from Waterloo, IA to Gillette, WY driving through Minnesota and the entire length of South Dakota. To break up the drive, we took a detour off the interstate to drive through the Badlands National Park. Somehow, the vast and endless prairie is abruptly broken with a series of desert-like sandy cliffs that are eroded into canyons and neat formations and have earned the reputation of the Badlands. We stopped at some overlooks, made it to the visitor center before it closed, and continued through the park. We made it a little ways down the road and stopped to walk the fossil trail. We have to leave the car running so that the animals don’t get too hot, but we’re never far from the car anyway. We get back and the doors are locked. The dogs must have knocked the button and subsequently stranded us outside the car. In our infinite wisdom, our cell phones and spare keys were inside the car. Great!

Another visitor let us borrow his phone to call AAA. Now the Badlands aren’t really near anything. There are a few small (and I mean small) towns at the entrances, but the nearest major population center is Rapid City, about an hour away. But within a half an hour, AAA had someone out to get the doors open. Meanwhile, we had missed sunset and drove the rest of the park in the dark.

We were tired and ready to quit for the night, and Rapid City was a good place to stop. But it turns out, there is a massive biker convention going on this week and all hotels were booked. The next Motel 6 was 2 hours farther in Gillette, WY. I would have camped, but Erin wanted to be able to let the cats out to roam around freely, so Gillette it was. Here we are in Wyoming getting ready to head for our next destination, Missoula, MT. Since we have a shorter drive, we should be able to get in at a reasonable hour and maybe even stop to see things along the way.

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