Original Plan for Day 3, 7/26:
• Drive from Fergus Falls, MN to Bozeman, MT: 805 miles, approx. 13 hours with stops
• Stop in Fargo, ND and get picture taken in front of Paul Bunyan statue as a nod to one of my favorite movies (this is the ONLY touristy stop we are making)
• Explain to toddler that if he wants to watch “the bunny movie” for the 75th time, Mommy might actually go insane
• Put on “the bunny movie” for the 75th time, attempt to maintain sanity
• Travel into Mountain Time Zone, crack jokes over walkie talkies about going back in time
• Curse ourselves for making day 3 the longest drive
• Collapse into hotel room
After two days of leaving an hour later than planned and having much longer days than anticipated, we decided to get a jump on Day 3 and try to leave an hour EARLIER than planned.
Having been the only one that didn’t bathe the day before, I woke up at 5am and hopped in the shower. Mid-way through, everything went black. The power went out in the hotel and the entire surrounding area. It was pre-dawn, so there was literally NO light in our room save from a dim glow of a street lamp through the window. The bathroom was pitch black, I could not see my hand in front of my face. I did my best to rinse off, turn off the water, and grope around for my towel. By the dim street lamp I was able to dress while the Hubs was able to get to the truck and fish out a camping lantern and a flashlight. This is the bonus scenario of traveling with everything you own. You can fish out stuff like a camping lantern in the midst of a power outage! So, now slightly illuminated, we were able to gather our belongings and get out of our room. I tossed the keys at the bewildered desk clerk, saying “checking out of room 121!” He responded, “Uh, thanks for letting me know!” and we were on the road by 5:45am, which was even earlier than we hoped.
Breakfast on the road!
Again, I sped off ahead while the Hubs kept pace in the truck. We didn’t even try to catch up for lunch. Our pacing was going well so we just said we’d see each other at the hotel at the end of the day and keep up via cell phone. At this point, the walkie talkies have become useless and I was glad I got the cheaper ones. Early in the drive we hit the halfway mark as we passed through Fargo, ND. The original plan was to stop in Fargo for breakfast. I love the movie Fargo so wanted to see if we could find the statue of Paul Bunyan and take a pic as a touristy stop. However, with as long as the days were getting and since we hit Fargo right at morning rush hour, we decided that it was cool enough that it was the halfway point and that a stop there would only set us back. So, we drove on.
Now, I am normally not a very forgetful person, especially when it comes to essentials. But, traveling with 2 small children and making sure that the baby gets fed, burped, changed, and soothed as well as making sure the toddler gets fed, changed, soothed, given juice boxes, snacks, has “The Bunny Movie” restarted on the Kindle for the 9,000th time, all while making sure Mommy driver stays on the road, gets fed, uses the bathroom, has water and a steady stream of upbeat music to beat the boredom of the road… things like gassing up the car can sometimes fall off the radar. Such was the case in the middle of North Dakota. Where there are no truck stops. Most of the exit signs say “no services,” meaning no gas stations. There is also very limited cell service out there. So as I was cruising along and heard the foreboding “ding!” and saw the gas light come on, I immediately knew this was not going to be good. In lean times, we’ve driven that car pretty far after the gas light has come on and even had it down to a science as to how long we ACTUALLY had before we were out of gas. But, thankfully, it has been a long time since I’ve needed to know that information. However, it would have been useful at that very moment. No matter, I did what anyone would do, I pulled off at the next exit and thought “there is a town somewhere here with people that have vehicles. A gas station HAS to exist.” I also called the Hubs to alert him to the situation. He was about 2 hours behind me and our calls kept dropping. I didn’t even get to tell him where I was exactly so if I ran out of gas, I was going to be in the middle of nowhere with two small kids and no cell service. I just needed to BREATHE. So, I followed the signs to the town that was 9 miles off the exit, through rolling hills on which I had to accelerate and decelerate, further eating up what little gas I had left. It was the longest 9 miles of my life but finally I came upon the “town” of Almont, ND. No stoplights, 2 ½ square miles of a grid pattern, and no gas station in sight. I. WAS. PANICKING. As I drove around I came upon a nice man in a pickup truck who realized I was clearly not from around there and in need of assistance. I asked him if there was a gas station in town. He said of course, right as you come in, just a couple of blocks away. I had already driven past there so was confused, but went back that direction. Turns out, it was a little building with ONE diesel pump and ONE regular pump behind it. I thanked my lucky stars, pulled in front of the regular pump, and went inside to prepay as there was no credit card swipe on the pump. The girl inside told me I didn’t need to prepay and to just go pump. Wow. So, I did.
My savior: the ancient gas pump!
When I was done I went inside to pay and she asked how many gallons I had pumped… no clue so she went to find out and calculated my total on a piece of paper. At this point I was sweating, thinking “Oh please let them have a credit card machine” and cursing myself for not having any cash. She gave me my total, I gave her my card, and she took it. Phew. I got back in the car, said farewell to Almont, and made my way back to the highway. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more relieved. I think I’m in love with that little town.
Mid-afternoon it was time for a diaper change and potty break for the whole car. I pulled into a rest stop and rallied the troops. I thanked my lucky stars to see a changing table in the ladies room. You would be amazed by how many rest stops and truck stop bathrooms do NOT have a changing table. It’s always a joy to change your kid’s diaper on a dirty floor. Not this time, though. The Boo was up first, he insisted. Now, he hadn’t pooped all through the previous day. I know he was getting a little backed up. I got him on the table and encountered a little poop. He seemed uncomfortable and I asked if he was done and he said yes. OK, changed him, then got the Bean on the table. Holy poo-splosion, Batman! Cleaned her up, fresh diaper, change of clothes, no problem. Now, while I was changing her, the Boo was awful quiet and kind of crouched under the changing table. We were just about to go when I caught a whiff. “Buddy, did you poop again?” “Yeah…” So, back on the table, 2nd poopie diaper change for him, 3rd all told. It was The Stop of Poo. Back on the road.
There was a lot of roadwork that we encountered later in the day that slowed us down quite a bit. As I was driving through it, a rock got kicked up off the road directly into our windshield. We now have a lovely ding and the beginnings of a crack. Fabulous, we have a new windshield in our future. Exactly what need. I had to force myself to remember that the car almost died and I should be grateful that it has remained intact. JUST BREATHE.
The scenery in western North Dakota was absolutely beautiful, so it made for a nice drive. Eastern Montana was OK, a little brown and dry this time of year, but lots to look at. We made good time and arrived at the hotel when it was still daylight. The extra hour and leaving so early were in our favor. When we got to the hotel, we were told that we were the “guests of the day” and were given a free upgrade to a 2 room suite! Fabulous! Hubs asked if we should bring the lantern in just in case of a power outage but I had a sneaking suspicion that would be a one-time occurrence for this trip.
Tired from our travels and anticipating a very early morning ahead, we went to bed early and slept well, knowing our journey would soon be at an end!