We went to Black Hills National Park in South Dakota last week and maybe at some point in the near future, I will tell how this trip, via a minivan, was just as shockingly expensive as a trip, by plane, to Disney World.
However, this post is about two things I thought I could avoid exposing my children to…wait, make that one thing. Maybe two. I’m not sure. How about a compromise? Two things that revolve around ONE thing: pee.
There are several places to pull over to take in the amazing views when you take the Interior Loop through Badlands National Park (and you most definitely should at least once in your life) and we did just that. There are very few amenities, which is probably why I liked the Badlands – no tourist traps. At one of the stops we made, there were bathrooms, but they were nothing more than permanent outhouses (no flushing toilets). The kids were both so excited to explore and climb in the area, that we headed straight out. In fact, I hadn’t even noticed the little concrete building when we parked the car.
The kids (and Sparring Partner) gave me mini-strokes as they ran for the rocky edges with sheer drop-offs that were no less than a hundred feet straight down, and usually into another series of pointy edges before dropping off again. There are a few barriers but they are basically token attempts at safety. The rest of the paths probably started as bighorn sheep paths, from what I could gather. I took charge of looking after Aitch who kept pulling me behind her while I had a deathgrip on her hand. We had almost reached the furthest point one could go on foot when she stopped to inform me she had to go potty.
If it had been possible, I would have shuffled her off behind a bush or boulder, but there was nothing. That’s when Sparring Partner told me there’s a bathroom back at the parking lot. I turned to look from where we had come and felt my shoulders slump. We were making a sprint back that way, and Aitch is doing the international sign for “I gotta pee!” (hand between legs), which is slowing us down. So I pick her up and ask her not to pee on me. She said she really, REALLY had to go. We reach the steps. There are only about a thousand to climb (maybe just four or five floors, but still). I put her back down and we make it up the steps in record time and miraculously, to the bathroom without an accident.
This only has one thing to do with exposing my kids to something I really had hoped to avoid, and that one thing is that while Aitch used the bathroom before we got back on the road, Doodicus did not.
We loaded up and headed down the road a little further to take in another scenic view when Dood announced HE had to go to the bathroom. It happened to be in one of the areas there was no where to go. There were no safe places to hike to that would obscure him from public view. He’s about to bust and there’s no way of knowing if there is anything at the next stop so I do something I never imagined: I emptied a gatorade bottle, sat him in the van with the doors closed, and told him to fill it. And to make sure the top was on TIGHT when he’s done.
Rest assured that at the next stop, the bottle was disposed of quickly.
A few days later we were on the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park. FYI: pretty but a little stressful with two children who are bored and tired and dad who won’t let them color or play video games for fear of missing the herd of buffalo. For what it’s worth, one does not simply “miss” one of the largest herds of bison in the world. There are no bathrooms on this route, but there is little traffic, which equals more privacy. So there we were, right in the middle of the 18 mile trek when Aitch announces SHE has to go potty. Our only option? Show her how to “cop a squat”.
I had her take off her shoes – for obvious reasons – and explained the concept to her, assuring her that I would hold her so she wouldn’t fall…and then that was that.
With those two experiences (and now I have the lyrics, “If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I’d like to do…”), you can rest assured that I am arming them with the skills to survive in the wild.