If You Took A Blow Torch to the Corn Palace…..

Just How Much Salt and Butter Would it Take to Flavor All Those Popped Kernels?

…..or better yet, after all the locals and tourists of Mitchell, SD got together to gobble up the 275 THOUSAND ears of ‘hot popped corn’ (which costs over $135,000 to put together on the palace exterior~FYI~ HOLY POPCORN BUCKETS) just how long would it take to pull down all the bloody signs off the freeway advertising the Corn Palace? And don’t even get me started about already seeing signs ‘popping’ up for Wall Drug.  

I mean c’mon…. we were over 400+ miles away when we saw the first WALL DRUG sign.  And there is even one that says “WALL DRUG- SIGN IN KENYA, AFRICA.” Reeeeeallly? That’s just asking for a field trip ‘filled to the brim’ with disappointment….. And here I thought the Hoover Dam was waisted trip, imagine those poor Kenyan’s?

Even the ‘corn-dawg’ in me thinks this may be a a wee’ crazy bit too much. But enough with the Corn-rific’ references. The fact that we have made it now almost 500+ miles in the ‘Diva’ (oh yes, this ol’ girl got her self a name) is more then just an achievement, it’s mind blowing.

Today is Thursday, 5/12…..and just a week ago today we were putting ‘the little blue engine that could’ (because the last one couldn’t) into Diva (Dave our mechanic thought blue would be a lovely color for her ‘backend’) and just a few short 48 hours later, a few tweaks and twerks and ‘lots o’ curses’….. an engine was born. Ray could proudly beat his chest and acknowledge that he not only touched but replaced or rebuilt almost every inch of Diva the Dream Maker Bumper to Bumper. (alongside the watchful eye of Dave, of course.)


 Again, there is not enough acknowledgment in all this WORLD– scratch that UNIVERSE I can give to Diva Dave Kapaun~ our mechanic, our friend. So much so, that we wanted to make sure to have a piece of this amazing man whom put his life on the back burner to make sure our dream could come true. We will never be able to repay him… but we do always want to remember him. And this is how ‘Diva’ came to be the name of the Dream Maker. And what a Diva she has turned out to be… 😉

Vroom Vroom goes Diva…….

 We left on our adventure– our journey— our ‘new life’ on Sunday, 5/8. After handing over my first welding project constructed in Dave’s garage to my mum for her mothers day gift (very similar to the arts and crafts of a 7 year old of a leaky pottery coffee cup that turns into a pencil holder) we bid our farewells. Much easier this time as we were had an ‘extra’ four weeks that we hadn’t quite anticipated…. but did we ever have a riot with the Tom and Jode.  Thanks for every bonus second of it…. (Even Ray secretly enjoyed his Dancing with the Stars hours with you mamma… although he would never attest to it).

So onward we went towards Brother Bears and Kristi’s in Clear Lake, Iowa~ and as we headed down Betty Lane…. thats when it began. The nail biting- teeth clenching- breath holding- 140 miles towards the boarder…. just WAITING for something to blow…up…in…our…faces.

Hey, when you have been taken to your darkest moments- challenged beyond your wildest dreams and have spent an ungodly amount of the ‘green stuff’ on a -metal brick of wheels- well, some how ‘silver linings’- ‘look on the brightside’ and our favorite, ‘everything happens for a reason’ started making our eyes roll back into our heads…. If patience is a virtue then we would be dubbed ‘Thy Knights of the Virtuous.’ I really don’t think my back even touched the seat the whole way down 35E as Ray gripped the wheel and realized that the Germans didn’t discover aero dynamics until AFTER 1971. And it wasn’t until we pulled into Adam and Kristi’s driveway that evening and popped the champaign in the backseat that we realized our journey had truly begun….. OH, but Diva still had a few trick up her sleave……


But first, what a way to kick-off our adventure with the first two nights spent with my brother and his wife Kristi, catching up and finally settling in the moment and all the lies before us….We were finally on a high. How could we ever come down from this? As we said our goodbyes and couldn’t be more grateful for all that they did (tequila-shots-shish-kebabs-guitar-sing-alongs and all later–WHEEEEEE!  We love you!!) and off we drove into the warm 80 degree sunshine~ summer had snuck up on us! And as our white knuckles slowly started to finally regain their color and we relaxed into our drive down Hwy 18 across Iowa I sunk into my seat and started to enjoy the scenery and honked (more like a ‘TOOT TOOT’) at the farmers as the plowed their fields…..

And thats when it happened… 90 miles into DAY #2 all the sudden we hears a “POP”- “POP”- “POP-ITY-POP!” I hardly need to explain the look upon our faces. Confusion. Perhaps…. Devastation. You betchya! But defeat? Not in your life……

The next 5 hours on the side of Hwy 18 (yes, I nearly watched a farmer put in a whole days work into his fields) were quite possibly some of the most trying of all my 31 years. And 10 of those years have been with Ray…. so you can imagine how many ‘trying’ times I have gone through…. chuckle chuckle….


But in all honesty, there was a moment where I had to take a walk down a gravel path that we had pulled off of (while Ray was under the van working step #4 of why the engine may be “POP”- “POP”- “POP-ITY-POPING”) and have a little talk with ‘anyone’ who may be listening…. even if it meant that cow to my right. There was just too much invested. It wasn’t going to fall apart. Not here. Not now. Not on this cows watch.


Our situation, to say the least was grim. To put it as simple as possible- without going into too much mechanical detail- we had a ‘real complicated engine malfunction’ and if was all on Ray to be the -go 2 man- to fix it. So after 20+ phone calls to Dave our Mechanic (again, ROCK STAR for talking us through every step) and 9 stops from the passerby’s along Hwy 18 (and one free wrench later given to us from trucks #3– score!) ….. we were vroom- vrooming once again! Absa-tootly and completely surreal to think that Ray resolved this nearly impossible problem all on his own on the side of a Hwy as Dave talked him through it. All I kept hearing as the engine purred after was the little bald man from ‘Princess Bride’ shouting ‘INCONCEIVABLE!’ in his fantastic lisp…. Perhaps the cow was listening after all.

After that little mini adventure we decided to find the nearest campground to park the van and not press our luck….lets be honest, whatever luck we had left we wanted to keep zip locked tight and stashed in our glove box. Free wrenches from trucks don’t come round just every day you know….

So we settled on a nice campground recommended to us by the locals at a gas station outside of Lost Island Lake called Red Wood Resort. It was basically just us, the caretaker (whom gave a smashing rate of $15.00- a great plot on a caravan site AND free wood!), a summer resident Randy and his wife and a lot of empty caravans waiting to be filled for the season…. We basically had the run of the grounds but we were too pooped to bugger off and explore. We nestled into our chairs- lit our 1st fire pit (which was in an old washer machine drum no less- it lets out gorgeous lights and heat!) and soaked in the success of making it to this beautiful little corner of Iowa…. with one of the most brilliant sunsets I have ever seen no less! Regardless if it was only a ‘90 mile trip day.’ We were not defeated.



1st night sleeping in the van of course was sure to be just as unique as the experience preceeding it. That night there was a horrendous storm and I woke up to the booming of thunder. I peaked through the curtains to where we were laying our heads and I swore it was going to get all ‘Wizard of Oz’ up in here. Ray was immediately woken up by me (of course) and I believe all he had to mutter was (OH- cool.) before he was back to ‘sawing down half a sycamore tree.’ I just laid there for hours monitoring the situation making sure I didn’t hear the sound of a train…..(because that means a tornado is coming, Right?…ER? … or so I am told. I have been known to make things up before….or I believe it has been called ‘over-exaggeration….)



A Brisk Turn…..


We woke up on Wednesday the 11th rearing and ready to go…… as the skies cleared as we got closer to the boarder of SD~ (And let me tell you, their ‘tourism tune’ never sounded so good…. “Great Places, Great Faces…South Dakota!) BRING IT ON FACES! And sure enough…. the state that we near missed the day prior snuck up right on us (I swear it almost ‘RAZZLE DAZZLED BEFORE ME) and we even pulled off to make sure to touch that SD sign and acknowledge our triumphant FEAT.

….. of course it just wouldn’t be a DIVA DAY without one of her diva-licious moments. It wasn’t until Sioux Falls when we noticed she spat out some of the gas out of her gas can we had placed upon her roof rack that morning. The local HYVEE parking lot became our place of gas-clean-up “aisle-3!” Wherever we go, we certainly are becoming the show….. (I suppose whats new?)


Sidenote:We have learned one little secret to camping here in the good ol’ US of A. Not sure if this will work across county, but we are pretty self contained here in the Dream Machine. And the past 2 campsites we have just been able to claim ‘tent sites’ for $15. (The one in Mitchell we actually had to put up our tent, when obviously, we didn’t sleep in it– but it was county law that a tent had to be put up on the site. Whateva! As long as we saved ourselves $10 as the caravan fee was $25!) …..And I must say, our ‘tent-putting-up-skills’ are still just as quick as the day we left NZ. Whoop Whoop.



Our goal for Wednesday evening which brings me back to the beginning was the ever touristy-tastic’ Corn Palace. I just couldn’t wait for Ray to see this… Not because it was going to one of the seven wonders of the world by any means; we were actually more impressed with the ‘hand-cranked-souvenier-penny-maker’ that was inside of the palace, to tell you the truth. I think I was excited to see that Corn Palace because it reminded me of my youth, our family road trip to Wall Drug, Mt. Rushmore and all the stops along the way…. (regardless of the bazallion signs along the freeway reminding you that this kernel-palace was ‘free’ and Wall Drug had 5cent coffee). In fact, my father even had my brother and I keep small journals and keep our momento’s to remember the trip. Perhaps thats where the love of my travel writing came from…. From that trip down 90West through SD way WAAAAY back when.

Even Ray humored me…… And I am grateful for that, somehow he just knows when to throw on that charm. Just when I need it the most.

…..However, the weather does not. From 88 down to 48 within a day….and dropping. AND RAINING. Guess I should have really savored that sun. Right now its Thursday evening the 12th and I am typing up this blog in what Ray calls ‘solitary confinement.’ Nice. (He is describing our van at night without the top popped with the table out). Its now about 9pm and dark and we are just outside of the Badlands at a pretty dodgy campsite, but heck, it works. It has been raining all day and we have driven just about 250+ after a pretty late start. We are hoping for a marvelous day tomorrow as the Badlands is something Ray has been really looking forward to…. (he saw a picture on ‘Bing’ and thought it looked pretty).


So ‘naughty’- lands…… Ready or not, here we come.  I can’t imagine what Diva has in store for you tomorrow……. 












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