Nostalgia and a New Family Member...
On July 5th, I finally arrived back in my hometown of Doland, SD. This also marks the halfway point of my trip (I've crossed the 2000 mile mark) and my first extended break from riding. When I set out from Phoenix, my first goal was to reach Doland before my niece's wedding on July 11th. If I could beat that by a few days, then I could take a little longer break from the road. Arriving a week before the wedding was perfect as I had a chance to relax for a few days, then enjoy the wedding festivities and then hit the road for the second half of my journey.
Before getting to Doland, I passed through Huron. When I was a kid, my grandmother lived here and I used to spend a few weeks with her every summer. Her house was my favorite place on earth as she spoiled me rotten and lived on a street filled with other kids to play with. For a farm kid, it was paradise! I was happy to see that her house has been well cared for. The family that bought the house from my grandmother about 30 years ago, still own it. When I rode by, I was lucky to meet the son of the family. His father died a few years ago, but his mother still lives there and he comes home on weekends to help her and take care of the house.
In Doland, I spent a bit of time (it doesn't take much) walking around to see how things have changed. I normally visit at Christmas time when the town is covered in snow and the air is bone-chillingly cold. With my thin Arizona blood I don't tend to get out much on those visits, so it had been a few years since I had really seen the town. While it was nostalgic for me, most of my comments about places began with 'That used to be...' The school is still open but, over the years, most of the businesses in town have closed. Some of houses have fallen into disrepair and many of the empty ones are now owned by people who fill them with hunters during deer and pheasant season.
Driving out to the family farm is even more of a shock. Today's farmers rarely use barns for storing hay or sheltering animals. Many of the old barns are collapsing under high winds and winter snows. Both my uncle and my father chose to move into Doland decades ago, so the houses are in no better shape. But, the land where my great-grandfather homesteaded in the 1880's is still in our family.
The highlight of my trip home was certainly my niece, Sian's wedding to Mike Dill. Sian, my sister-in-law Jean and my brother Jeff put on a lovely wedding and reception. Sian was beautiful in her wedding dress. Her sister, Sascha, was the maid-of-honor and her brother, Sepp, was one of the groomsmen, so they had a great family photo opportunity. The reception was also a lot of fun and I even managed to (gasp) dance a couple of songs! :-)