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Archive for the ‘Driving’ Category

Okay, keep the noise down.  I know, I haven’t written in a while.  Where have I been, what have I been doing?  Not much that was different from before.  I was just trying to manage my energy.  Sometimes fibromyalgia requires that.  So I have been doing the most urgent things and putting the rest out of sight and out of mind.  But my energy seems to be returning and I hope to be “spouting off” on a more regular basis again.

To begin, let me tell you where I am.  I flew to Florida yesterday to visit a dear friend in Leesburg.  I’ve written about him before though you would not have known it.  But he’s having tough times and needs to be cheered and encouraged.  I flew into the Orlando airport from the airport in Hartford, CT.  This is only the second time I have traveled solo; the prior time was last month when I went to SD for the blessing of my friends’ house on Pine Ridge Reservation.  I will say that was easier, even though I had to cross the entire O’Hare Airport to make my connection.  Both flights were pleasant enough.  The difference is driving.

There are far too many drivers for my liking in Florida — definitely more than in South Dakota.  I’m not a big fan of traffic!  But I made it safely and not too stresses.

The images I’d like to leave you with are the ones that greeted me as I drove from the airport.

The first was the sun.  It was just above the western horizon as I left.  It looked huge, at least three times the side the sun usually appears.  Due to the slight haze in the sky, it appeared as a gigantic orange ball.  However, it did not have the glare that the sun usually has as you drive toward it.  So you could actually look at it and appreciate the beauty.  I wished my camera was not packed.  The sky was amazing shades of blue and what we, as children, had called “sky blue pink” for lack of more accurate color names.  Perhaps you know the colors I mean.

As the sun was dipping in the western sky, the full moon was rising in the eastern sky.  It, too, looked immense.  It seemed to fill the sky.  It was simply beautiful and very bright.

I am a big nature fan and it almost felt as if these beauties were God’s gift to me for daring to take this trip and travel alone again.  I knew I was grateful for the gift.

I think it is so important to accept the gifts we are given, especially when we aren’t expecting them.  When ;you are a giver, it is important to remember how to receive.  It helps you understand the other person, the recipient of your own gifts.

Time to run.  But I promise there will be more to read now.  I’ve missed writing.  That too is a gift.

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I am not in California but I have had my fill of California drivers.  Please don’t get me wrong.  I like people from California; I even have friends from California.

But California drivers DO NOT BELONG driving in the country.

I am on what should be a relaxing, pleasant vacation in Yellowstone National Park.  It is not my first time visiting Yellowstone.  I am back for the third time because it is one of my favorite places in the country.  I traveled all the way from the East Coast to be here.

Since I am familiar with Yellowstone, I am familiar with the “rules of the road” as well as “bear jams,” “buffalo jams” and “any other animal or interesting sight jams.”  Typically, people are relatively courteous about where they park and how they drive.  But not the California drivers we’ve seen in the past 3 days.

There are many RV’s and campers traveling through Yellowstone.  Yes, they can be a nuisance since they take up so much room on the roads and in the parking areas.  However, most campers are very courteous.  They use the many pullouts that the National Park Service has created to avoid traffic back-ups due to hill-climbing large vehicles.

Apparently, this rule of courtesy does not apply to California RV’s and campers.  The only vehicles we have had to follow at speeds well under the speed limit, often in caravans of a dozen or more cars, have been vehicles from California.  I’m all for taking the time to smell the roses but this time I could have walked ahead, picked a bouquet of roses and gotten back into the car when it caught up to me!

California drivers are the only drivers who have cut us off when pulling out of turnouts.  They are the only ones who have not signaled their turns.  I have seen California drivers nearly cause numerous rear-end accidents.  Some have done this by suddenly jamming on their brakes to see an animal.  Others have done it by paying more attention to the sights than the car in front of them.  Either way they have caused the kind of adrenaline rush that is not supposed to occur at Yellowstone.

Yesterday we were driving through a herd of buffalo – they were on both sides of the road.  There was a convenient pullout that most others had used to stay clear of the buffalo while still having an excellent view.  Then a car from California came barreling along.  The folks in that car jammed on the brakes at the end of pullout in the center of the road, jumped out of their car and ran up to within 50 yards of the buffalo.  You might as well wave a red flag in front of the bison.  Then they stopped, took pictures and literally ran back to the car.

It is the kind of moment that gives park rangers nightmares.

When you enter Yellowstone National Park, the ranger gives you a newspaper, which has really good information on how to behave around various animals, as well as information on their temperaments.  Either these folks from California cannot read or, more likely, they did not take the time to read and learn about what they were seeing.  If they did, they’d have known that buffalo can run as fast as horses, have hair-trigger tempers and fall tends to be mating season for most of the large mammals, making them more irritable than usual.

Today put the exclamation point on my opinion regarding the California drivers.  In the morning, on our way into the park, not one but two vehicles from California could not be patient.  They decided they had to pass the vehicle in front of them (gratefully we were behind them).  That would not seem to be very irresponsible — unless you saw that they were passing on curves!  They did just that.  Two fairly close calls occurred.

The topper was the young woman from California whom we followed out of the park this evening.  She tried to pass the first time but had to pull back into her lane because there was a curve and the road was quite narrow.  She passed three other vehicles, one at a time, all on curves.  She made a right turn from the left lane.  She attempted to pass again on a straightaway — right at a pullout where many cars were stopping to view the elk along the river.  Fortunately she was able to pull back into the lane before she hit the car that was several vehicles ahead of her.  It was making a left into the pullout and she’d have T-boned the driver’s side of the car.  She exited the park about 10 seconds before we did.

I was glad when we no longer had to follow her.  I could breathe again!

I will add a final disclaimer, of course.  I am definitely speaking about vehicles with California license plates.  They could be rental vehicles with drivers from anywhere.  But then why would it be only California vehicles making these rude and foolish moves?

Ah well, at least we know which cars to watch out for when we’re on these roads.

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One of the things I made sure to do while I was visiting Pine Ridge rez in June was to go grocery shopping.  No, I didn’t need groceries — okay, except for the crackers I bought because I needed a snack to hold me til dinner.  What I needed was information.

I’ve been in the convenience stores on the rez before.  The prices for items are generally a bit higher than you’d see elsewhere.  But that’s the case with most convenience stores, isn’t it?  You are paying for the convenience for which they are so aptly named.

This time I went grocery shopping at the “supermarket” or “supercenter” on the rez, Sioux Nation Shopping Center in Pine Ridge, SD.  I would ask you not to confuse this with a market that you would find in a more urban setting, such a Wegman’s that I’ve seen on the east coast.  This is more like a rural “mom & pop” type market with a general store attached.  It doesn’t even come close to a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Sioux Nation is the only grocery store on the reservation and I have been told often that their prices are much higher than in a “real” grocery store — that is, a chain market.  I decided that it was a good idea to verify it for myself.  After all, it isn’t unheard of for people to exaggerate a bit, right?

Thursday, before the Crazy Horse riders returned, my husband and I parked and went into the store.  The first difference I noticed was that the front entrance was set up in a less that attractive manner — it was set up for security primarily.  There was a turnstile to enter the store and the doors were the only glass at the front of the store.  There were no windows to let in light and attract the shopper from the exterior.

Once inside, it was clear that this store had not been remodeled since it was built.  For us, it was a bit like stepping back in time to our childhood, before the big chain stores were in competition for your family dollars.

Sioux Nation carries Shurfine products as their “store brand.”  I remember that brand from when I was a child, in some of my local markets.  Sure can’t find it at home anymore.

I had brought my husband with me on this adventure because he is something of a “human calculator.”  He remembers numbers the way you and I remember song lyrics or family birthdays.  I knew he would recall the prices we pay at our market for the food items we looked at.  He did not fail me on this assignment.

The first fact about the prices was that, except for the sales, most prices were indeed higher than home.  Most sales were on processed foods and snack foods — but that isn’t much different from grocery stores everywhere.

We headed to the produce section to check out the fresh food.  The variety that was available was extremely limited, the quality was so-so.  The prices were definitely higher.  I am not talking a few cents higher here — I wouldn’t even bother to tell you about a few pennies.  I’m talking about 50 cents to a dollar per pound higher for fresh fruit and vegetables.

Next up, dairy — higher.  Let’s check meat — higher prices, with less variety and poorer quality than we are used to seeing.  There were very few lean meat choices available but there were plenty with high fat and sodium content.  (I’m starting to understand the local diet and the reason for the raging epidemic of diabetes on the rez.)

Interestingly, the generic soda/pop prices were about the same or lower than in our area.  Since the juice and milk prices were significantly higher than we pay, it made that gap in cost larger than usual and explained why so many children are raised on soda/pop rather than milk and juice.

Overall, prices averaged 20% higher than off-rez prices.  I understand the reasons for this from a business perspective.  Sioux Nation Shopping Center is run by the Oglala Sioux Tribe.  They cannot buy in bulk the way the big supermarket chains do.  They also must truck everything in to a rather remote location.  Just like “mom & pop” stores, you would expect their prices to be a bit higher (though if the tribe were run more soundly and in better fiscal shape, I would hope they would subsidize the costs for their people since they know well about the 80-90% unemployment . . . just sayin’).

What does this translate to in real life?  If you spend $100 for groceries to feed your family shopping off the rez, it will cost you $120 for the same groceries on the rez.  If that is a week’s worth of groceries, the $20 per week difference would add up to a whopping $1040 per year.  It already sounds like a lot, but when you consider that the average per capita income on the rez is in the $3000 range, you can see that it is a significant portion of your income.

Thus the fact is that those who can afford it least are paying most.

It is a fact that many, if not most, residents on the reservation receive Food Stamps.  Food Stamps (also known as SNAP benefits under the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program”, although I think that is a misnomer) are part of a Federal government aid program to provide those who meet certain poverty requirements with “help” to be able to afford food.

I looked up the requirements (US citizen, less than $2000 in resources unless you are over 60 or disabled, if so then under $3000 in resources).  Resources don’t include your home or the land it’s on, SSI or TANF benefits.  A vehicle depends on its use and value (not typically a problem on the rez).  Income limits vary based on household size and can change each year.

There was a tool to see if you might be eligible.  I put in information as if I was a young couple on the rez with a couple of hundred dollars in cash and 4 children (ages 6, 5, 3 & 1) to feed.  This imaginary couple rented, had to pay for heat and electricity, were both unemployed and did not get any SSI or TANF benefits.  They had a car valued at $500 (basic transportation).

The family qualified for $942-$952 per month as an estimated benefit.  That would be $947 per month if averaged or $157.83 per month per person or $5.26 per day per person.  That’s $1.75 per meal per person — wow, that’s gone up from the $1 per meal per person was a little while ago.  Personally, I’m not sure it’s gone up as much as food prices have in the same time frame.

If I were to feed a family of 6 like that imaginary family a nutritious diet where I live, I would estimate that it would cost about $250 per week or $1000 per month.  By nutritious, I mean a healthy diet with fruit and vegetables, milk or formula for the children and lean meat.  So that would actually put the government in the ball park — for a person living in an urban or suburban neighborhood with access to chain grocery markets.

BUT . . .

Let’s recall that we are on Pine Ridge Reservation.  We must shop at Sioux Nation Shopping Center or we must travel over an hour to reach a chain market.  If we shop at Sioux Nation, with the average of 20% higher prices, our cost for this family will be $1200 for the same healthy diet.  If we travel off the rez to shop, the savings in food costs must justify the gas used at a cost of perhaps $3.75 per gallon — in a car that definitely doesn’t get good gas mileage!

Another negative — we can’t carpool to the off-rez market.  I asked someone about that once and she laughed.  When you are shopping for a month for 6 people, there is no room in the car for extra families and their groceries too.  So you can’t defray the cost of the travel by car pooling.

All of the markets, Sioux Nation and off-rez alike, stay open very late on the day that Food Stamp benefits are placed in the EBT accounts.  But I am told that whichever you shop at, you need to shop early if you hope to get what you want.  Since everyone gets their benefits on the same day, nearly everyone shops on the same day.  Stores run out of staples, I’m told.  They can’t restock shelves quickly enough, if at all.  It sounds like a good way to make shopping even more stressful than it already is, especially on a limited budget.  I’m no expert, but it would seem that issuing benefits on a rotating schedule alphabetically (e.g., A-G week 1, H-M week 2, etc) would ease that problem.

As an aside, we need to remember that Food Stamps (and WIC, for that matter) covers only what can be eaten.  So food stamps do not cover: cleaning products for the home; personal hygiene products like soap, shampoo, conditioner or toothpaste; feminine hygiene pads or tampons; diapers.

My shopping excursion at Sioux Nation proved that prices on the rez are definitely higher than in off-rez stores.

All of this explains why I get so many calls from families who are running out or have run out of food for the month.  This is especially true when you recall that my imaginary family had 4 toddlers.  If you changed that to 4 teen or preteen children (especially boys, who have been known to eat you out of house and home as they grow), how much faster would you run out of food without the ability to “run to the market for a gallon of milk” whenever you need it.

It also explains why families are very pleased when their sponsors can order them food through the ONE Spirit food program.  The program, working with a South Dakota farmer, provides fresh produce and meat as well as a few other items, delivered to the door.  What a wonderful way for a sponsor to supplement the food the family can afford.  I have heard that ONE Spirit is working on a way to allow families to use their EBT cards to purchase food for themselves (they can already do this with cash, if they have any).  That would be an interesting development.

In the meantime, the choices remain the same:  higher prices locally or lower prices at a distance.

It’s a lot like being between a rock and a hard place.

 

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Yes, we kicked off our visit to the rez with a road trip.  After all, we wouldn’t be doing much driving on the rez, right?  Not!

For the uninitiated, the rez is Pine Ridge Reservation in the southwestern corner of South Dakota.  As they say in real estate, it all comes down to location and that is true in this story because the rez is located near nothing.  That’s right, really, nothing is close to the rez . . .  and of course, nothing on the rez is close to anything else on the rez either.  With 2 million acres to spread out, I wouldn’t necessarily want close neighbors myself.

Our trip actually began in Hartford, CT the morning of Friday, June 3 when we boarded an early, non-stop (yes, a miracle) flight from Hartford to Denver, CO.  I continue to be pleasantly surprised by Southwest Airlines.  They do need more newer planes, as we discovered on our return flight, but this plane was new, clean and comfy.

We arrived in Denver much earlier than you’d expect — oh that’s right, there was that thing with the time changes.  Gaining 2 hours in your day can be helpful.  After gathering the baggage, we went to choose a rental car.  My husband, the rental car genius, had reserved an SUV that was going to cost us the exorbitant price of $20 and change per day.  You are not seeing a typo – we had a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee for that price.  Genius, right?

The drive to the reservation was going to take us about 7 hours, so it was good that we had gained those 2 hours crossing the country.  It was a pleasant drive for the most part.

On one of our stretch breaks, we happened to be passing Carhenge.  I did not misspell Stonehenge.  Carhenge is a quirky, arty adaptation of the “henge” idea.  Located right along County Road 59 in Alliance, NE (http://www.carhenge.com/), there is no charge to view the art – there is, however, a shop for snacks and souvenirs, aptly named the “Pit Stop.”  It was a good place for a break.

We entered the Pine Ridge Reservation from the south, which necessitated passing through White Clay, NE (of which I have written before), that bastion of sobriety and icon to American greed.  That last is sarcasm for those not familiar with White Clay, NE.

It took nearly an hour to reach our motel, the Lakota Prairie Lodge Resort in Kyle.  This is in the northeastern part of the reservation.  We checked in and settled in, then called our Lakota friends to let them know we had arrived.  They are now living in Allen and invited us over.  We drove to Allen (about half an hour) where we had a wonderful reunion.  They are the kind of friends you can pick right up with, even if you haven’t seen them in a year.  We finally left about 10 pm, realizing that our bodies thought it was midnight.  Since we had to pick them up in the morning to start driving to Salt Lake City, some sleep might be a good idea.

Of course, we had gotten one surprise when we arrived that evening.  Our original plan had been to take my friend and her husband to visit her daughter who is currently in a treatment facility near Salt Lake City.  She had not seen her daughter since Christmas.  Salt Lake City is a long way from home for a young Lakota woman.  We love my “goddaughter” and know how much she misses her family.  She has been through so much in her years, much of which I have written about and won’t repeat here.  Suffice to say here that her anger has real roots.

We knew our Lakota friends did not have a working car and could not afford to pay someone to borrow a car to drive there or pay for the gas.  So we had thought it would be something we could give them, what with the almost free rental car that, by the way, had unlimited mileage.  It would be like the honeymoon they never had, room and board paid for as well.  So we had thought.

Our surprise was that, in addition to our friends, we would be taking her 20 year old daughter and another daughter’s 5 year old son.  We had 3 adults and a 5 year old in the back seat.  Talk about tight quarters – especially since my friend’s husband is over 6 feet tall and wears 3X shirts.  Enough said?  I was particularly concerned over the lack of seat belt use and sort-of held my breath on this whole trip.  So grateful my husband is a careful and wary driver.

We stayed at Hampton Inns on this part of the journey.  Good prices and good accommodations.  They 5 year old particularly enjoyed the pool every evening – a rare treat for a rez kid.  Our first stop was Casper, WY.  Some might dare to drive the 12 hours in one long ride, but this gal, having fibromyalgia, knows her limits.  6 hours sitting in one place in a car or twisting around to converse with the folks in the back seat is plenty for this body.

We arrived at South Jordan, UT on Sunday, June 5, in time for a visit with my “goddaughter.”  It was a tearful reunion for mother and daughter.  I stood back and observed, not wanting to insert myself into what was an intimate and private moment.  I looked at my “goddaughter” – she’d grown since I’d seen her last.  She will be 16 years old in July and is starting to look like a young woman.  She looked healthy and beautiful.  Some of the stories she told were less than pretty, though.  When you are living in a center for troubled youth, many things can occur – fights, bullying, etc – that the staff cannot always control.  But she is working hard to learn what she needs to and hopes to be home soon.  I pray she succeeds.

Monday morning, June 6, we returned to the center for a final visit.  Then midday, we had to leave to return to the rez.  Although the initial reunion had been tearful, the leave-taking was stoic.  Not easy, to be sure!  But strong in a way I have seen many Lakota people endure difficulty.

We stayed in Rawlins, WY on the way back to the rez, then completed the trip back to Allen, SD  on Tuesday, June 7.  The return trip always seems to pass by faster, regardless of where we travel.  That certainly was the case here.

After we dropped our friends off in Allen, we still had about an hour to drive to get back to the hotel we would stay in for the remainder of our vacation.  Allen, as I said, is in the northeastern part of the rez and our hotel at the Prairie Wind Casino and Resort is just west of Oglala, in the southwestern corner of the rez.  If you could drive directly from one to the other, it would be a diagonal – the hypotenuse of the triangle, which we former math teachers know is the shortest distance.  But there is no road that does that.  As they say in Maine, “You can’t get they-ah from he-ah.”  At least not directly.

We finally checked in to the hotel.  People who want to travel to the rez often ask me about accommodations.  Choices are minimal.  There are a couple of bed and breakfasts – which I have not tried yet.  There is the motel in Kyle and the hotel at the Casino.  I have written about the motel in Kyle before.  This was our first stay at the Casino.

The decor and bed were excellent.  The bathroom was . . . well, amusing.  The plumbing in the shower had been installed upside down and backwards somehow.  Typically, to turn on the shower, the lever arm is attached at the top of the regulator and is lifted to turn on the water.  In this shower, it was attached at the bottom of the regulator, was already in the lifted position and had to be pushed in to turn on the water.  It was a bit like learning a foreign language.  Amusing.  The water is very soft and it takes quite a while to feel that you’ve rinsed off the soap or shampoo properly.  Of course, that is only in part due to the soft water.  It is also due to the very low water pressure from the showerhead.  Between the soft water and low pressure, I’m sure it took me 3 times longer to shower than it usually does – which sort of defeats the purpose of water conservation, don’t you think?

It was a good night’s sleep that night, however.  After I stopped feeling like I was still rolling down the road in the car.  Strange feeling to be stopped after so many miles on the road.

Denver to Kyle                 371 miles

Kyle to Salt Lake City       717 miles

SLC to Kyle                      717 miles

Kyle to Casino                  79 miles

TOTAL for 5 Days          1884 miles   (approximately)

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Everyone wants to know if I enjoyed my trip to the reservation.  But there is no single answer to that question.  They ask if it was “successful.”  But that answer depends on your definition of success and what you were trying to accomplish.  They want to know if I had fun.  Sometimes yes; sometimes no.  I really don’t know how to answer those kind of questions.

Right now, I’m home.  I’m catching up on chores and errands – the laundry is all done and gratefully I didn’t have to do it all by hand.  I have the luxury of doing laundry at home and can do other things while the machines do the work.

I’m also trying to “process” my most recent visit to the Pine Ridge Reservation and some who live there.  I say that I need to “process” the visit because there are always many layers of experience to any visit to the rez.

This visit was different from any of my prior visits because the first four days were spent traveling to Salt Lake City and back.  It was a very exhausting way to start the visit.  But visiting the rez can be tiring for me in itself, because it’s necessary to travel so many miles to get from one place to another, regardless of where you stay or who you want to see.  When you add in the amazing amount of road construction being done on the county roads with the delays that causes, it becomes a daunting task.  In the three and a half days we were on the reservation, we covered 611 miles – primarily traveling in and between the settlements of Oglala and Pine Ridge, with a side trip to Kyle and Wounded Knee.  None of that was “highway” miles, of course.

The following was our itinerary for the 10 days.  In the next few days, I’ll be writing more detailed accounts of some of these items.  I hope you’ll bear with me as I try to get my thoughts organized.

Day 1:  Flew to Denver, CO; rented an SUV; drove to Kyle, SD and checked into the Lakota Prairie Ranch Resort Motel and Restaurant; drove to Allen, SD to visit our Lakota friends then back to Kyle, SD and our room

Day 2:  Drove to Allen, SD to pick up our friends; drove through the reservation and headed to W Jordan, UT (just outside Salt Lake City, UT); stopped in Casper, WY for the night

Day 3:  Finished the drive to Salt Lake City, UT; visited my friends’ daughter at the facility in which she currently resides; stayed overnight in W Jordan, UT

Day 4:  Another visit with my “goddaughter” in the morning; headed back to the rez; stayed overnight in Rawlins, WY

Day 5:  Drove the rest of the way back to the rez; drove to Allen, SD to bring our friends home; drove to the Prairie Wind Casino, Hotel & Restaurant west of Oglala, SD to check into our room and get some rest.

Day 6:  A late start after some much needed sleep; met with Davidica Little Spotted Horse, the driving force behind Independence Through Music and her mother, Jean Belt; made many calls to try to set up other visits; visited a disabled elder; enjoyed dinner with a ONE Spirit volunteer who lives on Pine Ridge Rez and one of her co-workers.

Day 7:  Spent some time at the Heritage Center located at Red Cloud High School in Pine Ridge; explored the Sioux Nation market and checked prices; visited a new mom to whom I had given a sponsor for her children; visited the Pine Ridge CAP office; ate a tasty dinner at the Lakota Cafe in Pine Ridge; watched the return of the Crazy Horse Ride riders; met with a father to whom I’d given a sponsor to see his artwork; attended the free concert by the young people involved in the Independence Through Music project from 6 – 9 PM.

Day 8:  Visited the daughter of a ONE Spirit sponsor – the daughter and her family live in Oglala; visited a couple who have a sponsor in France and saw their artwork; visited an elder who recently got a sponsor; attended the Veterans Powwow in Pine Ridge.

Day 9:  Left Pine Ridge Reservation and headed back to Denver to fly home the next day; spent time in one of my favorite places on the way – Estes Park, CO.

Day 10:  Returned the rental car and flew from Denver to Nashville to Hartford.

Day 11:  Wait a minute . . . I’m home . . . chores . . . that’s right, I started this post on Day 11.

It would be Day 14 today and I’m finally getting it finished!  I haven’t written as much as I had hoped by now.  But I have downloaded and edited all our photos.  I’ve edited some of our videos.  I celebrated my daughter’s 32nd birthday. I watched the Bruins win the Stanley Cup!

I hope to get the videos done and do a lot more writing in the next few days.  You’ll be in for some treats and a few hard tales when I do.

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No, not the book Flatland written by Edwin A Abbott, which I thoroughly enjoyed when I read it many years ago.  The actual land that I saw much of the day in my second day of 6+ hour drives.  The problem with driving that many hours when the land is flat, as I’m sure many long-haul truckers would agree, is that what was interesting and fun becomes boring and tedious after you are too far into the drive to turn around.

Yesterday, after rising at 5 AM Eastern Daylight Time, we flew to Denver from the East Coast.  It was a great non-stop flight and we were again pleased with Southwest Airlines.  We picked up an SUV rental (my travel-genius husband got us this car for $20.10 per day with UNLIMITED mileage) and headed up to Kyle, SD on the Pine Ridge Reservation.  The land flattened out about the same time my body started to rebel against all the sitting I had been doing.  But with stops to stretch, we persevered.

We got to our room about 7:30 pm Mountain Time (9:30 pm EDT).  Then we went to visit our Lakota friends for a while.  We left there about 10:30 pm because we finally realized our bodies thought it was after midnight!  Besides, we had to be up early today.

We are taking my Lakota friends to Salt Lake City, UT so they can see her daughter who is in a program there.  If you’ve read my stories about my “goddaughter”, you know the kind of issues she has had.  If you’ve read my posts about Pine Ridge Reservation and my friends, you know there is no way she could make that 12 hour trip to see her daughter if we did not take them.  We found out last night that in addition to my friend and her husband, we were taking her 20 year old daughter and her 5 year old grandson.  Very tight quarters – if we’d known ahead of time we might have rented a mini-van instead!

We picked everyone up about 9 am and set off through the rez, with its many road construction projects, headed for Casper, WY.  After the fourth hour or so, the land began to flatten out quite a bit.  While the incredibly long freight trains, many hauling coal, were out some interest initially, there are so many trains that even they could not keep interest from waning as the vista of flat land began to tire our eyes.

Tomorrow we have a six and one half hour drive, not including pit stops.  The first couple of hours may be flat but the final hours will be through the mountains – a better way to do it in my opinion.  It will wake us up with varying vistas as we tire of riding rather than the other way around.

After a visit and overnight stay, we’ll have to reverse course to get back to the rez.  12 more hours of driving over 2 days.  It will be interesting to see how my fibromyalgia reacts to 5 straight days of  riding 6+ hours in a car.  I know, I can hear you saying, “But all you’re doing is sitting on your butt in a car.”  Absolutely true.  But that can make my muscles just as unhappy as doing some physical activity too long.  I don’t know why!  But it is a fact and I usually try to balance my activity better than this.  Sometimes you have to do what you have to do and deal with the consequences afterward.

I think the change from flat land to mountains will be good for my brain, my eyes and my fibromyalgia – at least I won’t be sitting as still in one place.  I don’t think I could ever live where there was nothing but flatland.  zzzzzz………

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I have  never known anyone who had a child abducted before yesterday – by his or her own parent or a stranger.  Now I can’t say that any more.

I was a single parent for 10 years.  In the early years I worried a little – not that the kids would be abducted by their father, but that he would try to take them away from me in court.  It was a foolish little fear fueled by insufficient sleep and poor health because the truth (which I knew most of the time) was that he would never have done that.  He wasn’t that interested in having the children with him.  But it was still a terrifying thought when it came!

However, as I said, abduction by the non-custodial parent never crossed my mind.  The only time I’ve thought about it is when it makes the news, which is gratefully infrequently.  So you can imagine my shock when I was told the following story.

I had a message from a grandmother on Pine Ridge Reservation.  She left the message Thursday, stating it was an “emergency”.  Unfortunately I was out most of Thursday (it was St Patrick’s Day) and did not get the message until Friday morning.  I called this grandmother back immediately.

She told me one of her grandchildren had been abducted from the Head Start program.  I asked when.  March 14th, she told me.  Four days ago.  Yikes!

I asked if they knew who did it.  Yes, they did.  It was her dad.  The little girl is 4 years old.  I asked if they had any leads on where she was.  Again, yes.  After 2 trips to Rapid City (2.5 hours one way) to be there when the police thought they had found her, but had not, they finally did find her in Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne River Reservation.  They were going to pick her up after she took down the missing child posters at the Head Start program and several other places.

I asked how I could help her.  She asked me to contact their new sponsor and ask her to call them after 5 PM, when they should finally be back home.  She told me that, with the cost of gas for all the running around, she had no money for diapers.  I assured her that I would contact her sponsor.  I asked her to let me know if there was anything else I could do.

After advising the sponsor about this, I could not stop thinking about the whole episode.

It is a frightening event for any parent to have a child abducted, even if it is by someone they are relatively sure will not harm the child.  But what is it like on the rez?  Is it any different?

Of course it is.

Why?  I know that’s the question you were going to ask.  It comes down to money.  No, not for ransom.  Money to do the running around to try to locate the child.  Hopefully you have a car and only need gas money.  But on the rez, you can’t assume that the custodial party has a car.  There are plenty of people on the rez who don’t have their own cars.  If the custodial party has no car — and I use the term “party” intentionally, because it is just as often a grandmother or aunt as it is mom —  he or she must find a car to borrow or “hire” to get around.  This is not always an easy task, though I would like to think it would be easier in a case like this.

Even “just” gas money is likely to add up when you consider the distances on the reservation.  Traveling from the settlement of Pine Ridge on the southern border of the reservation to Kyle in the northeast takes at least 40 minutes and to Red Shirt in the northwest takes nearly an hour.  To get to Rapid City, you need to add another hour from Red Shirt or one and a half hours from Kyle.  They say time is money, and in this case it is because more time in the car means more gas used.  I’m sure you are aware of the rising cost of gas!

Imagine being in this situation:  Your child, who was abducted, may have been located.  Of course, you want to be present when the authorities go in to get the child.  You find a car to borrow, fill the tank with gas and travel the 2.5 hours to get there.  But she is not there any longer.  You return home, another 2.5 hour drive.  You get another call telling you that you need to go to a different location to pick up the child.  You travel those same roads again and return on them empty-handed – another 10 hours of fruitless driving.  Finally, you find out where the child is . . . and you know the drill from here.  Except now you have to travel 216 miles (taking about 4.25 hours) — one way!! You also have four other children in the home you care for.  They are all younger than the abducted child.  Ages?  3,2,2,1.  Their primary needs?  Food, diapers and warmth.  You have food and heat – but no money left for diapers.

How does that feel? It doesn’t matter whether you use disposable diapers which need to be purchased frequently with that many young ones or cloth diapers which need to be washed frequently (which requires plenty of laundry detergent).  The fact is you can’t afford either.  How does it feel to not be able to provide adequately for the children in your care?

I hope you said it feels lousy.  If not, I am very sad for you.  You have no empathy, which is also lousy.

Gratefully, this grandmother has a good sponsor and I am certain the sponsor will do whatever she can to help out.  Not every grandmother or aunt or mother or dad or uncle or grandfather could say the same.  I wish they could.  You probably do too, because then I would write about lots of other things that are far less painful to read.

 

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