I just want to start by apologizing that this wasn’t published Friday morning… Nolan and I finally got out for an adventure on Thursday, and I had planned to share it with you Friday. By the time Nolan was asleep Thursday night, though, I was too pooped to form a complete sentence.
Had I written Thursday night, you probably would have gotten something along the lines of: Drive- Iowa- Poops- Just, no- Waterfall- Road Construction. Instead, I now get to write with the added advantages of a couple of days’ time for recuperation, a helpful cat friend by my side and another ice cream stolen from Kirk (maybe instead of designating them as his when I bring them home, I should give up the charade and just call any ice cream in the house fair game at this point…)
Anyway, it’s been months since Nolan and I have gone anywhere notable (for obvious reasons). And if you’ll recall, Nolan and I love to take adventures (okay I love it—and I assume he’s at least okay with it…). I took Thursday off of work because Kirk knew that he would have a lot of work to get done. With Nolan not currently having any services (except for music for 45 minutes/ week) or school, Kirk has exactly zero time to work while I’m at work. So I took the day off for Kirk to get his work done.
I started the day thinking it would be nice to take a short road trip with the kiddo, but also knowing I didn’t want to push him too hard… He’s been out of sorts lately with no school routine and hormones doing their part to sabotage the attitude of what was an otherwise perfectly lovely kid. Part of me wanted to get some car time in hoping that it would help with the extra stimming and anxiety that Nolan’s been struggling with lately. The other part of me didn’t want to make it any worse or end up stuck an hour from home in a bad situation.
My plan of action: Hit the road and see how far we got.
About 20 minutes from home, Nolan used his iPad to ask for a bathroom stop. So we stopped at a familiar Kwik Trip in Minnesota to empty bladders and grab drinks (caffeine for me) to fill them back up again. He did well in the store (though an employee did poke her head in to the bathroom to make sure we were okay after she heard Nolan yell—he yells just to yell when he pees sometimes… And no—I don’t understand why), and we headed back out to my car. He was moving slowly and didn’t want to get back in. So I waited him out. He asked to go back in several times, and I had to just keep telling him, “No—we were just in there… You just used the bathroom and you should have done what you needed when we were in there.” This is a new stall tactic of his that I’m still trying to navigate my way through—so far this seems to work as well as anything else.
But we played this game for at least ten minutes. At one point, he even took off his shoes and refused to put them back on. Honestly the longer I waited the more stubborn I started to get about this road trip. We are GOING on this drive, and we are going to have FUN, damnit!
When he figured out he wasn’t winning this battle, he finally got back in the car. I expected to be asked to use the bathroom every time we passed through a town on the way there, but he didn’t ask until we were nearly to our destination: the beautiful Decorah, Iowa.
We’ve been to Decorah twice before—both times to visit Dunning’s Springs Park. The first time, we only made it as far as the parking lot. Nolan spotted a dog and decided that this was not a place he wanted to be. The second time, we brought Kirk along and actually got into the park.
This time, I thought we would add another stop at Pulpit Rock. I’d spotted this a few days earlier on Google Maps of all places… I was trying to figure out how much time I would add on to the trip if we came home up the Great River Road for part of the way when I spotted it and looked it up. It looked awesome, so we made that our first stop.
There are stairs at Pulpit Rock that are cut directly into rock leading up to the lookout. The stairs at the bottom are aging and uneven, and Nolan wasn’t feeling particularly safe in his crocs… So he made it clear that he was done before we were more than a handful of steps up. I didn’t push it because it was clear that he was stressed out about those stairs. When we got back to the bottom, I noticed he’d scraped his leg when he’d slipped on one of the steps, so I was glad I hadn’t tried to push him. Let’s not close the door on the possibility of going back another day…
Our primary stop was at Dunning’s Springs, anyway. Since we were last there, they’ve changed the parking, so we had a longer walk to get to the main part of the park. Luckily, that didn’t seem to faze Nolan. The big feature here? A big gorgeous waterfall along with plenty of opportunities for a little hike.
Seriously, this park is amazeballs...
The last time we were here, Nolan crossed the stone bridge to the other side of the waterfall, but he was hesitant to head up the stairs and trail that lead to where the falls start… This time, we walked all the way up the first set of stairs and part of the trail to stop above the main part of the falls that you can see from below.
The view from the highest point of our hike.
We were way the heck up here!
I was super proud of him, and it served as a good reminder for me that sometimes the only way to get where you want to be is through baby steps.
My favorite part of the whole day was just watching him physically and emotionally relax the longer we were in the car. The time we spent in the park only made him happier, and it was really nice to have my happy kid back after watching him be so anxious for so long. It was sort of like when you finally use your inhaler and get a real breath of air during an asthma attack… Even though I knew it wouldn’t likely last forever, it was exactly what we needed when we needed it.
I even got a smile!
Eventually, Nolan let me take him home, but he did just dawdle and explore parts of the park he hadn’t seen before. We still have plenty of park left to explore, though (baby steps, remember?), so I’m sure we’ll be back. Maybe next time, we’ll actually make it to the look out at Pulpit Rock, too.
For now, I’m thinking about what other road trips we can take while maintaining social distancing… In our neck of the woods, I don’t think we’ll ever run out of options.