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A week with Team Brown

Luverne, USA
Friday, September 27, 2013

Day 250!

After a sleepless but uneventful night on the train we arrived in Omaha shortly before 5:30am and after getting our bearings in the dark we made our way over to the bus station so that we could pick up our onward bus tickets to Chicago. We arrived at the bus station and were told by the unhelpful ticket clerk who didn't take her eyes of the TV once, that the printer was 'broken' but if we came back at 7.30am it would be fixed. We thought it was a bit strange but as it was only a short time later, we decided to come back after picking up our hire car.

After killing a bit of time we collected our car, and to our surprise managed to bag a fantastic Ford Escape a 'crossover' which is somewhere between a car and a 4x4. After spending about half an hour trying to fathom out how everything worked, we are not joking, forget our beloved Spaceship we left in New Zealand it had nothing on our new found love, the dashboard was more like the Star Deck of the Captain Enterprise and the steering wheel had more buttons on it than the steering wheel of an F1 car. After trying (and unsuccessfully) syncing our phone and media player to the on board computer it was already 7:30am and time to head back to see the unhelpful ticket clerk at the bus station.

Fully expecting to have to wait for the printer to be fixed Ross asked 'can I get my tickets now?' and without taking her eyes off the TV she pressed print, lent underneath her desk and pulled out two tickets. It is still a mystery to what was 'broken' and how she managed to multi task without ever losing eye contact with the TV but we got our tickets and we were ready to hit the road.

It has been many years since Ross has driven on the 'wrong' side of the road so our first goal was to get out of the city centre and into the suburbs so that he could get used to driving away from the surprisingly busy roads of Omaha.

Strategic Air and Space Museum

After negotiating ourselves away from the many one way roads we headed to a museum on the outskirts of town called the Strategic Air and Space Museum. It doesn't have the most inspiring name ever but it was a cool collection of 'old birds' that really made a difference to the shape of America. We arrived before the doors had even opened and we were so tired from our short night's sleep, we were tempted to take a quick cat nap but we decided against it because we knew it would only make us feel even worse. Luckily we didn't have to wait too long for the museum to open and we spent a good hour or so walking around the building and looking at all of the amazing planes including the superfast Blackbird, the massive B51 and the conquering B52 bomber. The museum was slightly surreal with two massive hangers full of old birds but located in the middle of nowhere without a runway to be seen. Apparently all the planes have to be transported via the local interstate you can just imagine the conversations 'why are you late for work?' 'I got stuck behind a plane on the interstate!' The museum was definitely worth a visit but it only took us just over an hour to see all of the exhibits.

After looking around this fascinating museum we decided to get straight on the road to Yankton where we had booked ourselves a neat little cabin for the night, situated by the lake front. But not without a customary stop at Walmart to pick up a few essentials and of course more clothes for Sonya but as we are now operating on a strict one in, one out system to ensure we finish the journey with less luggage than we started, Sonya was definitely more selective than she would have been especially as she is still rejoicing in the fact she now fits into 'junior' clothes.

As we drove along mile after mile of straight highway we couldn't get over the straight roads and endless land that surrounded us and although we couldn't compare it to the views we came across in New Zealand, it still had its own charm with the vast amount of farmland and pretty houses. We stopped at some of the gas stations along the way to grab some hot water and it was really nice to chat away to the friendly staff. They would go out of their way to make light hearted conversation, especially when they heard our British accent. When we arrived in Yankton we were quite surprised by the size of the town as having driven for mile after mile through small towns we were expecting something a lot smaller.

After grabbing the keys to the cabin we decided to be really naughty and grabbed some yummy pizza which we ate whilst watching a beautiful sunset over the lake. We were quite tired by this point so after a quick shower we were more than happy to crawl into our bed to catch a few zzzz's before meeting up with Miles, Mary and the kids at the MX track the next day :-) We've been really excited about meeting up with the whole family because we haven't seen them for 3 years and we haven't seen any family since way back in Australia.

Team Brown

The next morning we packed up and drove over the humongous Gavins Point Dam that had spectacular views over the Lewis and Clark Lake. We would have liked to have visited the information centre but the morning had run away from us and it was time to head over to see Team Brown in preparation for race day. It didn't take long for us to spot Team Brown complete with 2 dogs, dirt bikes and massive truck and trailer.

Team Brown consists of:

Team Manager - Miles
Team Mom - Mary
244 - Brenna
296 - Zoe
78 - Tom
178 - Zach (Mr Determined)
278 - Liam (Zach wannabe)

After hugging everyone in sight we were shocked to see Toms face and thought he had already fallen off his dirt bike but were 'reassured' he had only been riding a push bike. It has to be said he certainly did a good job of looking the part and his lip was about twice the size that it should be with massive scrapes and scratches covering one side if his face. Ouch! He is either tough or just plain competitive, but after a quick lie down he was up and riding the dirt bike like nothing had happened.

We hadn't seen the kids for 3 years but still couldn't believe how tall they all were and it only made Sonya feel even shorter than her 5 foot 3 (and a half!) inches. We had a great afternoon watching the kids come and go with their dirt bikes and it was the perfect time to catch up with everyone apart from Brenna who wasn't arriving until the next day.

One thing that we learnt right from the off is that all of the Brown kids are super competitive in everything that they do and it doesn't take much to work out where it comes from, it's called the Brown gene! It was lovely to see and we spent lots of time with the kids playing the memory game which was strangely addictive. Zach and Liam were absolute superstars and they constantly made us laugh with their witty charm and the funny little faces they pulled whenever they won. It was really great to get to know them a bit more and before the day was out Sonya was thinking about adopting them, but she didn't think that would go down to well with everyone else (including Ross) Ha Ha!

The next day was race day and we woke up to the chitter chatter of excited children (and adults) getting ready for their practice session. Team Manager stepped up to the plate to make sure that everyone was where they should be and whilst he was running around like a loony, Team Mom stayed behind to cook everyone delicious pancakes that are a tradition on race day and they certainly went down a treat..

As the day progressed there was a couple of accidents and Miles and Mary were usually the first on the scene which made good use of Mary's nursing skills and Miles' medical skills from his volunteer work at the fire and ambulance service. It was a quick reminder to everyone racing just how careful you need to be on the track. We had a great time running around like photographers trying to snap some good shots of the kids racing and before we knew it, the racing had come to an end and it was time to drive to Luverne where we would be spending the next few days catching up with everyone away from the track.

A week in sleepy Luverne

We really enjoyed the next few days with the family and we tried our best to fit in as much as possible during our stay. We visited the school to watch Tom play (American) football and it was lovely to see how involved he is with sports on top of the dirt biking. We enjoyed watching Tom play regardless of the fact that we had absolutely no clue what was going on. Sonya struggles to understand English football so trying to learn the rules to American football wasn't going to happen.

Sonya also visited the school with Brenna as it was home coming week and they had a coronation to announce the new homecoming King and Queen, which turned out to be two of Brenna's friends. It might have been a cheesy American evening which is more akin to a movie but Sonya loved every minute of it.

Miles arranged for us to visit some of his farming friends that we had met at the race track. We made our way over to their farm and as soon as we arrived we were greeted by Harold and his wife Nancy. It wasn't too long before Ross was climbing into a huge tractor with Harold and he was like a kid in a sweet shop when he got to drive it himself. Ross absolutely loved driving the tractor and he could have played with his new toy all day long but unfortunately Harold had some work to do, but not before giving us a tour around the rest of the yard and the hog houses.

We also got a chance to visit Miles at work and it was great to finally see what he actually does for a living. We knew that he worked with grain but we didn't fully understand what he did with it. As soon as we saw the massive silo's we could see that he was actually trading huge quantities of grain.

When we were standing at the side of the silo's it was hard to imagine what the views from the top would be like and just as we were thinking this, Miles asked us if we wanted to climb to the top! It's safe to say that Sonya was more than a little bit eager to sit this one out but she didn't want to look like a total chicken so she gave it a go.... and promptly stopped when she had reached the first level because Ross shouted down that she would hate it so she took his advice and slowly climbed back down to the safety of solid ground. However the boys both made it to the top because if Miles can do it then so can Ross (even though he later admitted it was pretty scary) but hey that's just the competitive Brown gene coming out to play.

Everyone knows we are both quite accident prone and although neither one of us are that scared of heights we are so close to the end of our trip without breaking any bones and we want to keep it that way. We really enjoyed walking around the whole site and we thought it was especially cool when Miles showed us around the fire station where he volunteers. He has put in an amazing amount of his free time to become a certified fire fighter and is now going through the same process with the ambulance service and we really admire his dedication to the community. We can only imagine how hard it must be on some occasions but we are sure that it must be really rewarding too and we could see how much Miles loved doing it.

The next day Mary had booked us an appointment with a local historian who agreed to take us on a private tour around Hinkly House. This was one of the first houses in Luverne and it was built in 1892 by a man called Mr R.B Hinkly. The house is built out of Sioux Quartzite which was quarried and hauled to Luverne from the Blue Mound Quarry which is north of Luverne. We really enjoyed looking around the many rooms in the house and the attention to detail on some of the restoration work was really amazing. After taking a look at all of the different rooms we made our way down a staircase and into the basement which was full of old tools and a huge rock collection that was left by a teacher who used to rent one of the rooms in the house. We then moved even further under the house to some tunnels that led to three alcoves and it was at this point that we started to wonder why there was a tunnel? Our guide went on to explain that Mr Hinkly used to store his dynamite down here to keep it cool! But then he did think ahead and built the tunnel with a slight twist to it so that if the dynamite did explode hopefully it would protect the house. Plain crazy!

To finish off a wonderful week Miles and Mary organised for the grown up's to go out for a meal which didn't go down too well with the kids.... until they realised they would be getting pizza delivered instead :-) then it was smiles all round. We were picked up by Adam and Chris and we also got to meet Joel from New Zealand, all three are into dirt biking too. We had a lovely evening at a great little restaurant on the outskirts of town and the food was really nice.... just not as nice as Team Mom's home cooked grub! We ended up being spoilt rotten the whole week with yummy home baked pizza, homemade granola cereal and the best chocolate chip cookies we've ever tasted to name just a few so it's back on the road for another few weeks until we can taste some more home cooked grub.

During the course of the week several people mistook Ross for Miles and it was pretty funny to watch their reactions, especially when they started to call out 'Hey Miles' before doing a double take and saying 'ah you must be Miles' brother' this usually kick started a conversation about our travels and one thing that was always mentioned was how lovely the whole Brown family are and how much Miles does for the community, which was really sweet and made Ross extra proud of his big brother. There is a real community spirit in Luverne and we really loved spending time in this lovely town that was full of friendly people. We have to admit we thought that it was going to feel like it was in the middle of nowhere after visiting San Fran and Denver and although it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea (or coffee, we are in America now) we enjoyed our time in sleepy Luverne.

So next stop the Windy City, roll on Chicago it will soon be October which is scarily close to the final leg.

Ta Ta for now.

Team Chip

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