2004 Midwest Trip


Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting, "...holy cow...what a ride!"

From July 10 to August 3, 2004 we were on an epic adventure to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers and to show them what a great and wonderful land this promised land really is. We loaded Robbie, Jeannette and her 3 children, Alex, Kenny and Cassie and Anita's 3 children, Michael, Chantel and Ryan and Shana's youngest daughter, Brittany, into our motor home - 11 of us in 250 square feet - for a 6,500 mile trip across the heartland of America.

We visited Fort Bridger and heard stories of the Mormon "soldiers" in Echo Canyon, we saw dinosaurs in Laramie and got bored traveling across Colorado and Kansas. We had to get the air conditioner fixed in Abilene, Kansas by a repairman who wasn't supposed to be in his shop that late. We weathered through a tornado warning (it really did touch down near Liberty) and terrible rainstorm in Independence, and we felt the spirit touch our souls in the visitor center. We were protected again when the freeway was shut down and we were forced to drive slowly back to the campground where we discovered that we had a flat tire on our dual wheels. We depended on miracles almost every day.

We marveled at Liberty jail and felt that familiar calm and loving spirit at Adam ondi Ahman. We learned again about that June day when the prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were murdered in Carthage Jail by a mob and found out that our Thornton ancestors had indeed heard the shots that killed their beloved prophet from the Thornton farm in Carthage.

Before we left Missouri, we spent a day at Hannibal, the home of Mark Twain. Everybody had a good time and we enjoyed an ice cream treat at Becky Thatcher's family drugstore.

The kids loved Nauvoo. Every day I still hear "Are we going back to Nauvoo today". We met RoseMary's aunt there who had done the research on the Thorntons and RoseMary's Davis ancestors who lived in Nauvoo as well. I visited with my cousin, Nancy Hutchison who is serving a mission there too.

We saw where the handcart pioneers built their handcarts in Iowa City and set off on their grand adventure, or terrible trek depending on your point of view and which handcart company we're talking about. We visited the pioneer cemetery in Winter quarters where one of RoseMary's relatives is buried, but we just learned of that today.

We saw the faces on Mt. Rushmore and taught the kids about the legacy that is ours because of those men. It was especially fitting that the sunlight sparkled on some of the mica schist in Lincoln's face, giving the appearance of beads of perspiration on his forehead and tears on his cheek. In Custer state Park we fed wild burros and drove through an immense herd of buffalo from the safety of the motorhome. We saw mountain goats, antelope, deer and lots of prarie dogs. We climbed through the Badlands in the daylight and by moonlight and the kids had their first taste of buffalo meat.

We saw the wagon ruts at Guernsey, Wyoming and the kids climbed Independence Rock. We waited out another lightning and rainstorm while Grandpa showed a video about the handcart companies at Martin's Cove. We took handcarts out for the "pioneer" experience and a few of us hiked all the way into the cove. We camped in the missionary village, bought books at "Muddy Gap Mall" and saw the sixth crossing and Rock Creek handcart sites that are so sacred to the descendants of the Willie handcart company. We found evidence that somewhere in this world there's a journal that was written by RoseMary's Great-Grandfather, Jems (James O.) Petersen where he talked about his experience in that company.

Our refrigerator blew out in Nebraska but we were determined not to let anything ruin it for us. Dry ice more than makes up for lack of refrigerant.

Along the way we heard about the Mormon Handcart Pageant in Nephi. We had to go see it and Donna (my mother), Cheri (my sister) and David (Cheri's son) tagged along. We decorated some family graves in Pleasant Grove on the way down and saw RoseMary's sister's new home in Lindon. The pageant is too good to miss. We felt very rewarded for having been there.

All too soon the trip was over, but the memories .... we've seen the Mississippi and the Missouri, those highways of years past. We've basked in the beauty of the Badlands and the Black Hills. We followed the traces of our ancestors and a nation moving westward to their destiny.

We've shared prayers, dreams, hopes and testimonies with our grandchildren. We've wept together and alone as our hearts were touched and we were reminded of truths learned in another life.

We laughed with each other, supported each other, climbed cliffs and rocks together and marveled at a profusion of wildflowers, animals and greenery, but most of all we were a family.

Please drop us a line:  dennis@heartslinked.com

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