Things are looking up.

Keeping consistent with the first day and a half being mostly a
disaster, the drive to ethan and laura's was pretty rough. We enjoyed
the landscape a lot, especially watching the lightning storms off in
the distance. It all went downhill when "off in the distance" no
longer applied. We watched as the storm closed in on us and rapidly

The rain, thunder and lightning were getting quite heavy when I
received this text message from laura: "just checkin to see how you
are doin. There are some tornado warnings in minnesota and I believe
the weather man's exact words were 'if you're near the iowa border,
take cover!'" Good thing we drove 2 1/2 hrs. Out of our way to
unnecessarily drive into iowa.

We tuned in to the radio for weather and realized we were driving
through pretty much every county that was being tornado-warned. We
debated at every undrerpass if we should stop for cover like many of
the vehicles who were out in this storm, but according to weather-lady
laura, we just needed to get north of it and we'd be fine. After
careful driving (and maybe a touch of hydroplaning) tom expertly
navigated the way to ethan and laura's house.

It was great to see them, catch up and see their cute new house. They
were beyond gracious as hosts, allowing us to shower, launder and eat
limitless amounts of ethan's homemade jam. (Not that there was any
risk of running out since ethan had slightly "over-picked" at the
strawberry farm, picking 30 unnecessary pounds of strawberries... but
no complaints here.)

We left 2 hours behind schedule. From a house. Without having to tear
down camp. Or cook our own breakfast. We are really bad at this
schedule stuff... But the kids got to play with coasters, and play
with ethan outside and even got to "butter their faces with an ice
cube," which is a guarenteed good time.

After a quick (slow) stop at walmart, we made our way to our campsite
in north dakota, now 3 hours later than the master itinerary suggests.
It was a neat little campground, where I met a woman with curly hair
and 3 daughters, named laura from rochester, Minnesota. (I'm Lara,
from rochester, ny, 3 daughters too.) It's like we're the same! Except
she DIDN'T have a son, and I am NOT a bellydancing instructor, but
other than that...

That night we cooked "mountain pizzas" and "hobo pies" over the
campfire in our pie irons... Having set up camp and prepared dinner in
the daylight! We felt proud and relaxed, and enjoyed the night
hanging around the fire, eating kinda burnt cherry pies. Everyone
slept great, and we departed this morning only an hour and a half
behind schedule!

We just crossed into south dakota and are driving through a town with
a population of 483 people. Tom has enjoyed interacting with the kind
of people who "square up in the mornin'" and has spent much of the
trip talking in a deep southern accent. Mostly when reading road
signs. This should be annoying, but strangely I still laugh every
time. He is currently in a deep, dark depression because all he has
ever dreamed for is to see a real live buffalo in the wild and has yet
to see any. He is certain that we somehow missed them ALL and is
having a really hard time letting it go. (Which could explain the
occasional complaint of chest pain, and the unusual appreciation for
the tidy rolled up cylinders of hay we see everywhere.)

We are on our way to night #1 in the badlands and are excited to be
there around 4:30pm if all goes well. If we don't see a buffalo
before we arrive, I'm jumping out while we are still moving.