Off the Beaten Path: Where's Waldo ... Beaver City, Mount Rushmore or Yellowstone?

You would think Maureen would jump at the thought of a vacation to Beaver City, Neb.

Particularly after I explained that a visit to the hamlet, along with nearby Riverton on the Republican River, would provide important research for my neverending book.

"You gotta be kidding," she retorted. "You call driving halfway across the country to look at a cornfield for book research a vacation?"

"But you haven't heard the really fascinating part," I insisted. "That's where Frank Brewster became the world's first flying doctor when he flew from Beaver City in his biplane to Kansas to perform emergency surgery in 1919."

Her groan wasn't encouraging.

"OK, get this, Edwin Perkins, who once lived near Beaver City, invented Kool-Aid in 1927," I added. "Just think about that for a moment."

More groaning. Obviously, Misters Brewster and Perkins weren't helping my case.

Nor was Waldo, our pooch from the pound. Among his lovable peculiarities are his impeccably timed yawns. My fascinating factoids brought out a long yawn.

He didn't even have the decency to stifle it with a hairy paw.

But when the dust from the negotiations settled, Maureen and Waldo were happy campers.

We all agreed the highlight would be meeting daughter Sara and son-in-law Chad and granddaughters Taylor and Niki in North Platte, Neb. They would be driving up from Kansas.

The wife and the boy — we refer to Waldo as "the boy" — conceded they would be willing to check out Beaver City and Riverton. Maureen was speaking for the boy, of course.

But there was a catch.

They insisted on a few side trips on the way back. Their return itinerary included Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

"You gotta be kidding — we only have eight days," I reminded them. "You call that a vacation?"

"You like to drive," Maureen reminded me. The boy yawned.

It's all kind of hazy in my mind now. Memories flash by like roadside signs. Eastern Oregon, southern Idaho and southern Wyoming whizzed past. There are recollections of stumbling into motel rooms late at night, of stumbling back out to the vehicle come sunrise.

We raced to North Platte by day three, had a great visit, then screeched to a halt in Beaver City, population 641. We found a pleasant little village wrapped around a beautiful town square.

Then it was on to Riverton, population 145, some 40 miles farther east. For those interested in vacationing in Riverton, it's exactly 1,703 miles from Medford.

That's when the real driving started.

After passing through Deadwood where we didn't pay our respects to the late Wild Bill Hickock, we dashed on the Crazy Horse Memorial and then on to Mount Rushmore.

The four stone faces were a bit underwhelming until they were lit up by brilliant flashes of sizzling lightning, followed by booming thunder and a torrential downpour.

We were huddled with several hundred people in the glass-walled viewing room when we remembered Waldo back down in the park lot. A park ranger at the door advised us to wait until the storm subsided.

"The boy is down in our pickup — alone," Maureen told him. "He's never been in a thunderstorm before."

"We need to get down there before he starts howling," I added as we rushed out the door.

Leaving the ranger to wonder about our parenting skills, we disappeared into the gray downpour and yellow flashes of lightning. We were soaked in seconds but we sloshed on, knowing the poor pooch was terrified.

When we arrived at our vehicle, Waldo raised his sleepy head to peer out the window. He was obviously wondering what kind of goofs would be out in that kind of weather.

Then he let out at long yawn.

We were largely dried out by the time we raced to Little Bighorn the next day. From there we sped off to Yellowstone where we saw a sow grizzly with two cubs in a meadow near the road.

Imbeciles slammed on their brakes and piled out of their cars. Two young teenage boys with a camera and tripod ran past our vehicle with their mom puffing at their heels.

"Get a good picture before the ranger shows up!" the dumb human sow bellowed to her equally dumb cubs.

A park ranger at Old Faithful later suggested the goofy behavior as Mother Nature's way of thinning the biped gene pool.

Driving 4,140 miles in eight days for a vacation may be another.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or at

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