In Search of the White Power Ranger

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By Kay Helbling

With my family back in North Dakota, it means yearly trips travelling 20 hours to cover the 1,200 miles. This 4th of July was no exception. But as we headed out, my husband and I realized we’ve come full circle. Our first trip was just the two of us and 25 years later, as empty-nesters, we were once again alone. The only difference was the cars we drove. The first trip was made in a little Chevy Vega hatchback and this one in my husband’s 911 Porsche.

We reminisced on how our boys had grown up on these trips. They were born just 17 months apart, so as infants we didn’t know what to expect. On the first trip, with fingers crossed, we hit the road hoping they’d be the kind to sleep by the movement of a car. We’ll just say, one of them arrived fully rested.

As toddlers we knew their attention spans would be a challenge. We gave ourselves an extra couple of days to reach our destination, scheduling stops every couple of hours so they could burn off energy. There were playground stops in Oregon, slides down water tubes in Washington, trees to climb in Idaho, and many splashes in sparkling streams in Montana. As we crossed the North Dakota border, there was one last stop to see buffalo at Teddy Roosevelt’s National Park.

Through their elementary years their development could be measured by the latest toy collection obsession. The side trips my husband dreaded to Fred Meyer, K-Mart or Target for a pack of Pokemon cards or the latest Beanie Baby, the quest for the Ninja Turtle “Raphael” and the prized White Power Ranger.

My husband was the Master at searching out great side trips for the boys to enjoy through their middle school and high school years. We watched Old Faithful blow at Yellowstone and caught land-locked salmon at Lake Koocanusa. We were intrigued by the tales of Custer’s Last Stand at the Little Big Horn, searched for the white albino buffalo at Jamestown, ND and checked out Wild Bill Cody’s gun collection in Wyoming.

To cool off we stopped by Evan’s Plunge and spelunked in the caves by Mt. Rushmore. Then there was the amazing find to watch a paleontological dig uncovering wooly mammoth in South Dakota, and viewing one of the most spectacular lighting and thunderstorms nature could have ever produced while hiking the grand Tetons.

Through all the years, our riding time was spent reading aloud the “novel of the trip”. We travelled to Narnia, walked with the Hobbits and followed all the adventures of Harry Potter.

As high school students, the boys got pretty good at reading custom license plates. Our last trip was memorialized by a plate they spotted on a pretty pink Mustang we assumed was owned by a gal named Penny. Unfortunately, Penny’s greatest strength was not in spelling, and evidently the plate slipped by the DMV censors. As she drove past us, with her blond hair blowing in the wind, the boys read the plate that kept us laughing to the end of our trip. It read “PENNIS”.

Kay was an insurance adjuster and executive for 15 years, a small business owner, and a teacher for 10. But, her most fulfilling work has been as a mother of her two boys. She is now enjoying an empty nest with her best friend—her husband.