A nostalgic trip across Interstate 90

I wondered just what to title this post. In my mind, the nostalgia has to do with my driving today (Wednesday, July 27). I started on Interstate 90 at its western terminus on Monday. On Monday and Tuesday I drove from Seattle to Gillette, Wyoming. The nostalgia comes from the section covered today (just shy of than 500 miles, from Gillette, Wyoming to Sioux Falls, South Dakota).

The nostalgia is because of my Grandma Simmons, my first maternal grandmother. I say my first, as my biological mother (her daughter) passed away in 1957, and when my father re-married, I got a second pair of maternal grandparents. My Grandma Simmons lived in Spencer, South Dakota. We visited there several times when I was a kid. I was thankful that my father intentionally kept contact with her after my biological mother went to be with Jesus. I remember having some good times in Spencer, South Dakota.

For some strange reason, my memory of the very first time I tasted Dr Pepper (the ancestor of what has been my favorite carbonated soft drink over the last several decades, Diet Dr Pepper, was in Spencer, South Dakota. In a general store (was it a 5-10 Cent store or a drug store?) with a soda fountain, somebody bought me a soft drink (probably only cost a nickel, but I was very thankful), and I tried this drink I had never heard of before, Dr. Pepper. I remember the 10-2-4 for some reason.

I also remember visiting Mount Rushmore on a family vacation when I was a kid. Rose and I also visited it in 1976, while we were raising support to go to the mission field. We had come up from the southeast. I remember staying at a Hot Springs south of Rapid City, then continuing on to see Mount Rushmore. When I was a kid, I was aware that there was a Passion Play at Spearfish, South Dakota. Our family must have talked about going to it, but to my recollection we never did. A quick Google search tells me that the Passion Play ran there from 1932-2008 (a pretty nice run).

Before today, Rose and I had only come to South Dakota two times. The second time was in 1979 when we were on our first furlough from Chile. We made the trip to visit my Grandma, who was in a nursing home at that time. Our oldest child, Charissa, is the only one of our kids that ever got to meet her, as she passed away the very next year.

I have some cousins in South Dakota: Barbara and Jean. I haven’t seen either of them in decades, though I have had some communication with Jean. She was vacationing in the Branson area in 2019 when I had cancer surgery in Springfield, Missouri. She drove up to the hospital (I was still in surgery or in recovery), so she got to meet Rose, but we did not see one another. She is a candidate for the “Favorite Cousin” award, as she and her husband are Cub fans. In fact, she and her husband gave me a Cubs motif bird house on that trip. Jean, if you happen to read these words, there is a reason I didn’t stop to say hello when I drove into your neighborhood.

Rose and I had seen Mount Rushmore before, so we didn’t stray off of the interstate. We had seen the Bandlands, so we didn’t stray off of the interstate. In fact, except for the miles of road construction, it would have been a much faster trip. We stopped for gas, eats, and pit stops (let the reader understand).

Where the Missouri River crosses I-90 near Chamberlain, South Dakota is really pretty. We observed the beauty from the car, and kept on truckin’. Rose took a nap some where around Mitchell, South Dakota. We had both visited the Corn Palace on one of our trips to South Dakota in the 1970s. We just sailed on past. I believe my Grandpa Simmons (deceased in 1958 at the age of 67–when I was a kid I thought he was so old–now it seems to be that he died young) worked at Mitchell, so as I drove while Rose slept, I was thinking of Grandpa Simmons.

It is not that far from Mitchell to Spencer. As we got nearer to Spencer, I was wishing that Rose would wake up, as I was desirous of a pit stop (let the reader understand). I wasn’t really certain that I would recognize the turn off to go to Spencer, as it was nearly destroyed completely in a tornado in May of 1998. I saw the signs about DeSmet, South Dakota (one of the homes of Laura Ingalls Wilder–she moved around, locating ultimately in the Missouri Ozarks). It was shortly after DeSmet when Rose woke up. As we neared the exit for Spencer, I said, “If that’s a gas station up ahead, I’m stopping there.” Indeed it was, and indeed we DID stop. We saw the highway sign that indicated that Spencer was 4 miles to the north. We had our pit stop, got some cookies at the Subway there, and continued our journey. We did not make the drive to the town. So much of it was destroyed in the tornado, and so little has been built back up, I seriously doubted whether or not I could find where Grandma lived. It was about 65 years ago that I rode a tricycle in her neighborhood singin Jesus Loves Me! at the top of my lungs. I was somewhat directionally challenged at that age. I looked at a map of the city, and if I had to guess, I think that maybe she lived on Wilcox Street. Probaby, however, back in the 1950s and 1960s, her address was likely Edith Simmons, General Delivery, Spencer, South Dakota.

We made it to Sioux Falls, checked into the La Quinta Inn. I called Cracker Barrel for a takeout meal. It was as expected. Tomorrow we should arrive home in Carl Junction, Missouri. We made a quicker return trip than we had anticipated, seeing less sights than we had planned. It has been a good trip, but we will be happy to be home.

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