I should probably mention that while we were in Grove City, Julia had realized that it was going to take a lot of time to drive me back down to North Carolina. She and Elin were still planning on driving out to Yellowstone, but I wasn’t going to go with them, since I was still hoping for a job. Julia told me that it would save us time and money to go straight out west. I resisted the idea at first since I didn’t have any money, but they generously offered to pay for my portion of the gas. I hadn’t heard back from anywhere that I had applied, and so after calling my parents and letting them know I wouldn’t be home for a few more weeks, operation “Yellowstone or Bust” (as Julia called it) was a go.
After we had washed our faces at the incredibly sketchy camp bathroom, we typed in “Rapid City, South Dakota” on the GPS. And it said "27 hours."
And like that one song, we hit the road, cat. We drove through many states, most of which I don’t even remember. Ohio, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin were in there somewhere, though. We drove through all of that day, taking turns sitting with our legs up underneath us in the backseat with all of our bags and blankets billowing around us. I didn’t have a license, let alone know how to operate a manual, so Elin and Julia took turns driving.
We jammed to our complimentary CD of Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk, which Julia had won in a “dance competition” at the wedding. We read aloud from “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne. We bought Stevie Wonder and Creedence Clearwater Revival CDs at Wal-Mart. Stevie was, surprisingly, a letdown, but Creedence kept us coming back for more.
A good 10 hours into the drive, I decided to take a sleeping pill, ensuring that I would get some shut-eye. I am not accustomed to taking sleeping medicine, so I was unprepared for what happened next. For the next hour I was feeling good. “This silly drug has no power over me,” I scoffed. But then things started to get weird. I began slurring my speech and my eyelids became very, very heavy.
Listen, Becca Price has come unstuck in time. The next thing I knew, Julia was pushing my head against the side of the car, where her pillow was expectantly awaiting my face. “That was nice of her,” I thought absentmindedly before falling asleep again. What time was it? Where were we? Did I want water? So it goes.
It wasn’t until the next morning that Julia told me that my head had been floating from side to side in my sleep, and had finally rested against my shoulder at an awkward, broken-like angle. I realized that that was why my neck was so sore. Julia also informed me that during the night she had offered me some water. “What for?” I had asked. Then I freaked out: “WHAT FOR? I don’t get it, Julia! Why?!” I do not remember this incident.
Elin had been talking on the phone for a good couple hours during the night, and anytime she started laughing or getting excited about something in the conversation, I thought she was pointing at something in the blackness outside the car. I, thus, began to freak out and asked, “WHAT? WHERE? Elin, WHAT?!” every time. This happened several times.
I finally awoke in a more conscious state. The sun was starting to rise. I was riding shotgun, so I looked to my left and there sat Elin, hunched over the steering wheel and staring vehemently out at the prairie. “I hate the prairie,” she told me. We talked about how we felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder for a bit, but then the flatness continued and we became entirely disenchanted. We ushered in the new day with Etta James and her husky vocals.
We came upon some lame hills, and finally, glory be, the bustling metropolis of Rapid City, South Dakota. We decided to go to a Starbucks so we could charge our phones, check Facebook and let our parents know we were alive. The GPS took us to a Target, and we finally discovered that there was a Starbucks therein. We went the bathroom first to feel less homeless, as we hadn’t washed our faces since Erie, New York.
“Wouldn’t it be funny if someone came in while we were here?” I joked as I donned my stretchy, red Under Armor headband that I used to keep the bangs out of my eyes as I washed my face. Elin and Julia giggled in response, half asleep.
Probably eight women walked into that Target bathroom while we were at the sinks, washing our faces, brushing our teeth and plucking our eyebrows. I laughed the whole time.
We got into the Starbucks and discovered that they, quite scandalously, had no wireless. So we proceeded to drive around for another 30 minutes, finally finding another Starbucks. After charging our phones and writing emails, we hit the road again for Custer State Park, which was about 30 miles outside of town.
Not 10 minutes into the park, we saw a herd of buffalo walk right past our car. It was simultaneously terrifying and magical.
We finally arrived at the campsite, pitched our tent and decided to go to a swim. Julia insisted on calling it “bathing” and not “swimming” the entire trip. The lake was frigid, so I just washed my clothes with body wash before hitting the conveniently heated showers.
Elin and I then volunteered to cook dinner as Julia hung up our clothes on her hammock strap, which was strung between two trees. For some reason, we decided to mix rice and tuna together. It turned out tasting like dog food, and we ended up putting most of it in a plastic bag and tossing it in the dumpster. We decided that should we open a wilderness restaurant later in life, it would be called “Elin ‘n’ Becca’s Pit Pot.”
Thankfully, we had also fried up some potatoes, hot dogs and onion, which we soon polished off. After dinner, a random woman, who had just come out of the outhouse, came up to our campsite and said that she had a single boy and girl around our age. She then told us that she would send them over to our site because they were bored. We’d just been joking that we hadn’t seen any of our “peers,” and that there were just young families and old people at the campsite.
Anyways, they never came. They were probably intimidated by how awesome we were, with our makeshift clothesline and our dog food dinner.
We had to tie one side of the tent up to a tree with ribbon that we had acquired somehow, and it made growling dinosaur noises every time the wind blew through it. There was thunder and lightning most of that night, so it’s good that we had a tarp that the boys had found on the ground in Grove City.