South Dakota trip Part 1

Now that we are home from our trip to South Dakota, I wanted to post some things that I had typed on my computer while I was gone. Let me just say for anyone that may be interested in reading this that though it is a writing of my journey into the west, it is also a continuation of my journey into grief. So, just know that going in. So here it is in several parts. I’ll probably post it in one part each day til done.

Part one

6-18-13 10:00 a.m. Central Time

Well, here we are on day 4 of our travel to South Dakota. We planned this trip of a lifetime 5 years ago, and then had to cancel due to Allyn changing jobs then and he no longer had enough vacation time. Then I changed jobs and we really had no time to go then. So this past winter, we decided that we would make plans and take 2 weeks off from work and just go. So we planned it for this June. We have a motorhome and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and we had always dreamed of going to South Dakota to ride all the beautiful roads in that area, see Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park, see the buffalo that were somehow rescued from extinction years ago, see Crazy Horse monument that is in progress, ride the Badlands and Black Hills. We had made reservations for a nice campground back this past winter and we were set. The trip of a lifetime, just waiting for us.

Then 4-11-13 my beloved Kaitlyn took her own life and nothing else was important anymore. I feel like my life ended right there and I might as well have been put in that grave with her. But I had to go on to do the things I had to do. But we cancelled our trip because we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that there would be no way we would be able to go as grief stricken as we are.

However, a couple weeks ago, I decided that I had to get away from home. Not so much as to go have fun, because fun is something I don’t think I will ever have again, but to escape. I can’t outrun this horrible grief and sadness, but maybe a change of scenery would do us good. Besides, we have been trying to sell our motorhome and this will probably be our last trip with it.

We have never traveled this far west. Our travels have always carried us up and down the east coast, and many times to the mountains.

We have had an RV of some type or other since 2002 (mostly toy haulers) since we bought our first motorcycle in 2001. This combined our most favorite pastimes, RVing and motorcycling.

So, here it is, years later, there’s no longer a favorite anything. Just an existence full of pain and sorrow, but I feel a need to make this trip. It’s taken me these 4 days to realize I can still type about my feelings on my Word on the computer and save it to when I can post it online when I get home. Internet access is just here and there at some rest stops, Denny’s and different places so I’ve not been able to check my Facebook very much and did not post I was gone for obvious reasons.

So, here I am, day four riding down these long interstates in this long rectangle. We’ve been through states I have never been through before; Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa, and we are currently going through South Dakota and we have to go clear across to get to our destination, Hill City, SD. We are going to stay at the Rafter J. Bar Ranch Campground right in the middle of everything there is to see.

Our RV

Ordinarily, I would be very excited. I’ve always loved to travel and go to new places and ride our motorcycle. But now I’m on an endless highway that is filled with every second of thinking about Kaitlyn and how I’ve lost someone that was so very important in my life. This is all I see. I’ve carried Kaitlyn through the mountains of NC onto the plains of Iowa so far, she’s everywhere and in everything.

The Arches of St. Lewis

Yesterday, we stopped at a Cabellas (this is a fancy outfitter place like Bass Pro Shop), because you can stay in their parking lot overnight in your RV. So we walked around in there and the overwhelming thing that hits your being is the great amount of stuffed animals, and animal heads that fill this entire place. Beautiful animals from tiny muskrats all the way up to the Alaskan Moose (which is HUGE) and everything in between. Beautiful animals, that someone somewhere sometime, conquered and killed and felt proud and displayed. Somehow this loses its charm on me. (Sorry to those that love to hunt, I’m from a family of them).

Then as we are there, killing time, we walk past the sports area that has all the running shoes, and the back packs that hold water for long distance runners and the sadness hits me full force since Kaitlyn had the best running shoes and a backpack such as this and shopped for them at specialty stores. All I can see in my mind are her shoes and pack that I packed up and sent away. It was all I could do to get out of there before bursting into tears.

Then, since we will be getting to our destination tomorrow, we decided to go ahead and buy the food supplies that we will need for the next few days at camp. So we went to a Super Walmart to the food section. The sections we went to reminded me of the sections of the Food Lion in Whiteville where I bought Kaitlyn’s special food the day before she came home for Easter, the day she finished her Step 1 medical board exam. I walked by the salad blend packages, the squash, the peppers, cucumbers, the whole wheat bread, and all that stuff and all it did is remind me of her. This was even more painful and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. You see, I’ve not bought groceries since she died. We exist on our food supplies we bought from Sam’s and Allyn went by himself the last time, and I may stop by for a gallon of milk or loaf of bread at the grocery store from time to time, and I get in and out of there as fast as possible. After the Walmart adventure, I promptly went back to the RV with Allyn and cried my heart out until I was spent, temporarily, with that ever question “Why?”

The truth of the matter is, my whole world is filled with Kaitlyn. She is in every single thing I do and see. Every little girl I see, every teenaged girl I see, every young woman I see, every college girl I see smiling down from the billboards advertising a college, every mile of the interstate makes me think of our many trips down I-95 to Disney World. Even all the things I never shared on this trip with her are filled with the thoughts that she will never see them.

I told Allyn yesterday, that I did not mean to sound like a defeatist, but my life is absolutely ruined. I see no true happiness left to be had. How can I be happy when someone I loved so much was so sad she had to take her life? How could I have been so blind as to not see that my daughter was so unhappy? How can a world be beautiful without her in it?

So I ride, now the scenery is changing from the plains to some hills, past endless signs of Wall Drug, I take you with me Kaitlyn. I always take you with me.

Wall drug
Wall Drug sign on the Plains

12:45 pm

Still driving over the vast prairie land of South Dakota. Grassland, cows, smooth hills, as far as the eyes can see; an occasional creek here and there. As I ride down this road my mind wanders to what it would have been like in the 1800s and be heading west to a new life in a covered wagon. What courage it took to do that. I can’t help but think of the women that lost children along the way because there was no medical treatment along the way for a sick child, they sickened and many times died, having to be buried and left along the trail; left never for the mother to even ever be able to weep by their grave again. Even once they reached their destination, not much in the way of medical help was there. I often wondered how parents could bear this burden. Children often just fell off like flies back then from childhood diseases. I didn’t know how the women could stand it. It took great courage for people to leave civilization and everything and everyone they knew to go across this land, probably never to see what they left behind again. Since the beginning of time, of mankind, there has been hardships. Only the kinds of hardships change. The only thing that makes things bearable is hope, hope for better. If there is no hope, hardship is not tolerable. My hope is laying in a graveyard 1800 miles behind on this trail.

5:45 pm Mountain time

We arrived at Rafter J. Bar Ranch Campground around 3:30 pm. It’s a very nice campground and everything that the website says it is. It’s very highly rated. We have not camped in so long, it felt good to set up camp and walk the campground and admire everyone’s rigs and the layout of the campground like we have always done. It is peaceful with plenty of room here.


Kaitlyn is in this RV too. We bought this motorhome in 2006 when she was 16 so she didn’t go on that many trips with us in this one as she liked to do her own thing a lot by then, but there was the week long trip to Disney World with one of her friends with us. I’ll never forget when she came in from the pool; she was still wet and sat down in one of our cushioned seats at the indoor table. I fussed with her for doing this because it would stain the seat. She said “Momma, it’s only water, it won’t hurt it.” The stain is there to this day on the spare seat we keep in the closet. We had a wonderful time on that Disney World trip and stayed at their campground on their property. It was wonderful. And there was the time after she graduated high school we went to Washington, DC. It was me, Allyn, his momma, and Kaitlyn. I remember going to the art museum at the Smithsonian. This was her favorite. We saw the Lincoln Memorial and walked a billion miles to get there it seemed. He was not as big as I thought he was supposed to be. So Kaitlyn is all through this RV and when I did some cleaning and putting supplies back into the RV after a long period of not using it, I cried the whole time because her memory is filled in this RV. Her memory is in everything I do, see, feel, taste, and am.

We got our first RV which was a toy hauler back in 2002 (this is a camper that also has a garage built in for our motorcycle). Once we left the motorcycle at home, took Kaitlyn with us to the mountains of NC and TN. We stayed in Cherokee. I remember once we got to our campground I had a horrible headache. After supper I had to lay down in bed immediately after. In a few minutes I heard dishes clanking and water running. She was washing the dishes for me without being asked because she knew I felt so bad. I think she was about 12 then. That was the year we took her to mine for gems. I still have that jar of gemstones she mined. The other day I got a handful and laid on her grave. My sweet baby’s grave. I would have never thought they would wind up there.

About gatito2

My name is Rhonda. I'm a registered nurse, for the last 20 years, that has not been able to work since the day I learned of my daughter's death by suicide 4-12-13. (She actually died 4-11-13 and her body was not found until the 12th) Me and my husband have been married for 32 years and he's a wonderful man. We grieve in different ways. He works, I write. This is my journey through this horrible land of losing a child..
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2 Responses to South Dakota trip Part 1

  1. Ida says:

    I’m glad you made the trip; yes there was a lot of crying but, this is another step taking you forward in your life. Kaitlyn would be proud of you. Stay strong, you will make it. ❤


  2. gatito2 says:

    Thank you Ida.


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