HIT THE GROUND RUNNING: Always take the trip!


In July 2004 my husband, Chip, and I set out on an adventure in the west. Our itinerary flew us to Las Vegas for a few days, then drove us to Yosemite National Park, and ended us in Los Angeles. 

Right before the trip, I found out I was pregnant with our oldest daughter, Nora.

Giddy with the news, we were even more excited for our last trip before becoming parents.

Chip has talked about this excursion ever since – our visits to Hoover Dam and Red Rock, our hikes through giant Sequoia trees, our funny-waste-of-money celebrity tour in LA, along with many other points.

If I’m honest, I don’t remember much from that 2004 trip – maybe I was overly exhausted from creating another human or distracted with the idea of motherhood. 

At any rate, in 2020 – in the midst of the Covid Pandemic, Chip proposed we recreate the trip to Yosemite with our girls in 2021.

He reasoned their ages of 16 and 12 were perfect for long hikes and appreciating the beauty of nature. 

As he planned the trip, he got a little skittish about the cost – planning a big excursion for a family of four in 2021 was much more costly than planning one for a young couple in 2004. 

Watching him smile as he looked through our nearly two-decades-old Kodak pictures, I knew we had to take the trip.

“The money will be spent whether we take the trip or not,” I told him. “The reality is, we will not regret taking the trip.” 

So that’s what we did.

We didn’t recreate the pre-parenting trip exactly – we had an 8-hour layover in Vegas on our way out, where we took the opportunity to rent a car and take Nora and Eve down the Strip and through Red Rock. We spent 4 days in Yosemite exploring a variety of trails, staring in awe of those Giant Sequoias, and even getting a chance to see a few bears.

Chip’s sister, Jessie, was working in LA, so we took advantage and stayed with her for a few days, complimenting our nature hikes with jaunts down the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the shore of Malibu Beach, and Griffith Park.

As we made our way back home, Chip looked at me and said, “You’re right. We are never going to regret this trip.”

And we haven’t. In fact, through this year, we have often reminisced back to those days when it was just the four of us taking on California.

Which is why, when December and Christmas shopping rolled around, we both agreed that giving another trip to our girls would be worth far more than physical presents.

Chip spent that month investigating trip ideas for Nora and Eve to vote on. 

On Christmas morning, we presented the girls with four possibilities: Colorado, Maine, Arizona, and South Dakota.

Chip explained the beauty we would experience at each one and said we would decide as a family….although, the Dickey girls could tell South Dakota was clearly his choice.

“Watch Dad light up when he talks about South Dakota,” Nora said to me before we voted.

She was right – and that’s how South Dakota became the choice for all of us for our 2022 adventure.

We landed in Rapid City, SD, on Tuesday, July 19, not really sure what to expect, but eager to explore it together.

I’ll admit, I was hesitant – I mean, I haven’t really heard a lot of people rave about their trip to South Dakota.

Yes, I doubted that it would measure up to all the wonder of our California experience. 

We checked off Mount Rushmore the first night, hiked Cathedral Spires and Little Devil’s Tower the second day, trekked through various terrain at Wind Cave National Park on the third day, and conquered our fear of heights at the Badlands on the fourth day. 

We also fed prairie dogs, got up close to about 200 buffalo, saw a mountain goat, got hung up at Wall Drug, and tried buffalo burgers. 

Yes, it WAS different than California, but it was also different than Waynesboro.

The only similarity? 

We were all in it together. It was just the four of us venturing out without much cell service, without other distractions or obligations.

It was just us.

And that was the best part of all.

As we took postcard-worthy pictures, got lost on dirt roads, and prayed we didn’t get poison ivy, I looked at Chip and said, “You’re right. We aren’t ever going to regret taking this trip.”

Friends, always, always, always take the trip. 

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