Wednesday, July 21, 2010

We're home!

Yellowstone Lake with smoke and fog
We left Western Yellowstone on Tuesday morning around 7:30 after packing up our tent.  We thought we would end up and camp one more night in Rapid City, but after consideration, we decided to go for it and try to get home.  At 1:30 am, we drove into Bell Ct.  Ryan had fallen asleep about an hour before we got home and Tyler was still awake since he had been watching a movie, Short Circuit.  When we got them back into their beds, they fell fast asleep and stayed asleep until 9:45 this morning, a record for both.  Since we hadn't told anyone we were going to drive all the way back so as not to worry family, I tricked my mom into coming down and "checking on something" for me.  She called me a little shit and then we spent the next hour chatting about the trip.  She needed to head to Omaha to pick up my sister, so we figured we'd have plenty of time to catch up and view the 500+ pictures we took!
I am so thankful for the great weather we had and the good fortune of a safe, loving driver, a well built Ford Explorer, and an all-round great family week.  I think my favorite part was the experience of camping in different places and experiencing these beautiful places as an adult.
Andy's favorite part was the beauty of the mountains and views of lakes, mountains, valleys, and different terrain.
Tyler loved the cave and Ryan loved being with family.  That was an "awwww" moment.  Really, I am very blessed to be able to do these things and I'm honestly grateful that we didn't have enough money to stay in a hotel.  Well, we have enough money but that's not what we can spend it on anyway.  We would have never thought to camp, especially in Yellowstone.  And the fact that we went to Vegas in June prompted me to think of taking the boys all the way to the Rockies.  Strange how one event leads to another!
Today has been filled with laundry, organizing, uploading pictures to make an album, and the boys playing with their friends FINALLY!
Tomorrow will be back to work, back to getting up early to jog, humidity (there's relatively no humidity where we were), and housework.  The best thing about living in a tent is that it's very easy to clean!
That's all for now.  I'll have more this weekend!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Day 6 - Sunday and Monday morning...

The answer to the last question of my senses overwhelmed by campfires, pine trees, and starts is YES. What a great night we had! We weren’t able to get Monday night at the same park so we’re now off to the west side of the park, where we’ll hopefully be able to get on wifi and upload my last five days.

Yesterday’s adventures were only beginning when we entered the park. Just as we got into the park, we saw tons of cars parked along a non-pullover area, which means there’s an animal to see and photograph. It was a moose and her baby!! Of course, I got as many pics as possible and thought it was as neat as can be. Yeah, we finally saw AND took pictures of all the animals we wanted to! We went immediately to our campground to set up our tent and what do you know, Bismark the Buffalo was right by our tent site. We knew he was close since when we checked in, they told us there was a buffalo roaming around the camp area. I was surprised, to say the least, that they would be roaming around the people and tents. When we talked to the lady at checkin, I asked about how often they see bears and she was very nonchalant when she said, “Oh we haven’t seen one in a week or so” like it had been FOREVER. I just said OK and we went on our merry way, making sure we followed the bear rules. We dumped the firewood out and went ahead and set up our tent, which was difficult since it was very windy. I was already questioning our decision to camp there. The boys ate their lunch in the truck while Andy and I set the tent up, watching Bismark get closer and closer. He just grazed, then took time for a dust bath, and had a good ole’ Bismark time.

Then we were on our way to the mud volcano. That was actually pretty unimpressive, because we ended up seeing the Dragon’s Mouth Spring first. It sounded like what you would imagine a dragon sounding like when he was blowing fire. I got a video, which unfortunately only sounds like the water lapping at the sides of the little pond. The concept of the Dragon’s Mouth Spring is a cave where gas is bubbling up and causing the waves and as the waves go back into the cave, it traps the gas and then the gas escapes when the waves to back out, sounding like dragon’s breath. Very cool. The mud volcano was similar to mud pots, just an area of bubbling mud. Neat, but again, after the other thing, pretty uneventful.

Around this time, we saw that there was a HUGE plume of smoke coming from the forest. Ok, NOT a good thing. It was quite impressive how it grew so fast and high into the atmosphere. It looked fairly close to our camping area but we thought that we would hear something if it got dangerous.

After about an hour walking around the dragon and mud volcano area, we headed to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. There were several pretty points along the way to the main one, so we stopped several times and got some amazing pictures of the canyon. The Yellowstone River goes through the canyon and it’s an amazing emerald color. The falls are about 310 feet and you can hear the roar of them from several thousand feet away. I thought it was neat that Andy and I got to see two Grand Canyon’s in a matter of months!

We ended up at the Canyon Village and had a yummy root beer float made with Old Faithful Root Beer. It didn’t stand a chance between the four of us!

We started our way back to the campsite, thinking it wouldn’t take long. Wrong. There was a huge traffic backup, so I’m thinking an accident, bear, or something like that. It took a good 30 minutes to get to where Bismark’s friends were meandering along the road like they owned it. It was pretty funny to see. What are we going to do, honk? I think not. I think they wanted us to be sure that THEY were in charge! It’s funny that when we first got into the park, we were sooo excited to see buffalo and by the second day, it’s no big deal. Oh, another buffalo, whupdeedo.

We saw helicopters taking water and dumping it on the forest fire, one of which filled up it’s bucket very near us in the Yellowstone Lake. It was neat to see, but sad to think about the beautiful forest being burned, especially since so much of it has already been burned in the last 22 years. The worse fire got over 50% of the park in 1988 and can see the regrowth of the trees. Some areas look like they aren’t growing anything at this point. Very sad to see, especially since a lot of it was caused by people being careless with fire.

We went through another storm, no hail this time, and got back to a damp tent. Only a few small areas on two sleeping bags got wet, so we got them out to dry. The sun came out and the wind was gone, so we were pretty happy about that. We all walked to the little store close to our camp area and to the lake where we could play in the sand a little and get our hands wet. Boy, was it cold!!!

We got a good campfire going after dusk and asked the neighboring campers if they wanted to join us for roasted marshmallows since they didn’t have a fire going. They came over when the fire died down and we had a very nice visit with them. They are from Wisconsin and had been traveling from the Tetons and through both loops of Yellowstone. They were going to head back home, which takes them a LOT longer than it takes us! They had two teenage boys and one 3 year old boy and were fun to talk to. I just don’t have any idea how they packed all their stuff into a minivan with a small luggage carrier.

Oh, we just passed a tiny little pond with lilly pads and frogs, cute!

The night went well, wasn’t windy nor did it seem exceptionally cold. I got warm so took off my extra socks and gloves. The boys slept well too. The only problem is that Andy and I both had our ears wide open and kept thinking that we heard wild animals. Who knows if we actually heard anything, but we both thought there was a wild dog in there somewhere! You can hear EVERYTHING in a campsite so that’s been an interesting adjustment when you’re used to a very quiet house.

We went to see Old Faithful again (that’s THREE times for me and Tyler) while we waited for the only building in the area with wifi to be cleared from the fire alarm.

We’re looking forward to our next adventure tonite. We have plenty of fire wood and marshmallows, so I think we’re set!

More pictures to come soon.....after we find the cord to upload them....

Day 4 (Saturday)

Today’s drive started with Ryan digging for gold in his nose. I don’t think he’s struck actual gold, but he sure is trying. We’ve offered to give him my dad’s little shovel from the professional group “The Shovelers”, which is an real looking tiny metal shovel. I think he’d use it and damage himself, so it’s remained a joke, although he has seen the actual tiny little shovel. We started out from Cody around 8:30am and headed to Yellowstone. It was a beautiful drive. Ryan and Tyler were taking pictures of each other and me. We didn’t stop along the way since we were eager to get there. We had originally planned to camp at Bridge Bay in Yellowstone but didn’t cancel nor bring our stuff to camp, so we stopped there first. Because I really wanted to camp for “real” and the smell of pine was intoxicating for me and reminded me of all the Minnesota fun times I had as a kid and all the camping trips I had, I had really wanted to camp where it was real, not in the middle of town as it was in Cody and Rapid City. I don’t know if it was Andy’s idea or mine, but we were both game for giving camping in Yellowstone a whirl. Our tent doesn’t insulate well against breezes or rain and the temps will get down in the 40’s, but we brought enough stuff that I think we’ll be ok. The worst thing that can happen is that we sleep in our Explorer. Which brings me to bears. After we changed our camping reservations for Sunday night, we went on towards Old Faithful. A bunch of cars were pulled over on a non-pullover area so I asked the guy with a camera what was out there. BEARS! I saw a real, wild bear! Andy saw two of them and we both thought that one was pretty young, maybe even a cub. We saw bears! That was cool.

Once we got to Old Faithful after a very long drive, we made some sandwiches for lunch and got some Diet Coke, and enjoyed our lunch while we watched the geyser steam. In the distance, we saw another one, Grand Geyser, spew. It was pretty far away, but made quite the show. Old Faithful started sputtering about 15 minutes before it actually started We loved watching the eruption! The boys both took pictures and I got some good ones. It’s interesting how quiet geysers are. Ryan thought it was going to explode, but really, it’s just water erupting, nothing much more. I was disappointed that many people started to leave as soon as the highest parts were done, but it went on for another few minutes. People! You came all this way, it’s not like it takes all day for the thing to erupt! Wait a few minutes and just enjoy the view!! So we sure did!

One thing I have to note is that a huge portion of the park was burned in a forest fire in 1988. You could still see the burned trees, but in many areas, the pines were filling in nicely. It’s very sad to see acres upon hundreds of acres of burned trees.

We then walked on the boardwalks around the area of Old Faithful, which is part of the Upper Geyser Basin. There are geysers and hot springs all over the place! It’s so neat, fascinating how you can just be walking along in the forest and all of a sudden, there’s a pool of bubbling water! All over the area, you can see the most beautiful blue pools of steaming water and mini volcanoes where you get hit with a pocket of warm, humid, sulfur air. We learned that there are things called “bacteria mats” that go along with the springs. Of course I wanted to touch everything there, but I knew better. Once we were done with that walk and got our souvenirs at the gift shop, it was just at the time where Old Faithful was going to erupt again. Tyler and I ran to see it while Andy and little hot Ryan went back to the car. It was great timing since it started erupting just as we walked up. Old Faithful twice in one day!!! It was awesome. Thanks for being such a trooper and running with me, Tyler.

While driving along towards the paint pots, which are cooler than cool, you can see areas where it’s steaming. I guess it’s because we never EVER see that at home, so it’s more interesting, but I certainly don’t remember this as a kid. Driving along in a meadow basically in the forest and you see areas of steaming ground. Cool, very cool.

The paint pots look like boiling mud, which I think is one of the neatest geothermal activities past geysers and hot springs. It’s really air being released in a mud made by the lack of water, but I could have watched those things for a few hours. It’s like the tiny pools of hot springs that appear to be boiling but is really air being released into the water. It looks like boiling water, so I just sort of want to believe that it is boiling water.

I think I got about a hundred pictures of these things too. Maybe 150…I think that’ll do.

Now we are driving back to Canyon Village and get some grub (see, I’m a camper, I say “grub”…does it count when we buy it???). Speaking of campers, I’ve never seen so many RV’s and campers, EVER. That’d be a nice way to travel. We’ve been very lucky with our nice weather and friendly people.

I have been telling Andy for a very long time, probably five or so years, that I would love to get in a shallow river and just play. I did this so many times as a kid and thought the boys would have the best time. So, while I was spacing out, Andy found a spot and pulled over on the Firehole River in Yellowstone. It was PERFECT, the best stop along the way. We got out and I put my foot in, expecting it to be absolutely freezing since there’s still a little snow on the higher areas. It was at first, but probably because my feet were so hot. It was warm! So we got in and walked around scoping out rocks, throwing some, and had a good time. Ryan ended up getting completely wet and Tyler got mostly wet. We skipped rocks, dug with our feet, and splashed. Thanks for that stop, Andy! Now if we could just find somewhere like that on our side of the park where we will be staying. Ahhh, it couldn’t get a whole lot better.

After our very fun and spontaneous stop to play in the river, we were stopped in road construction. Boy, THAT’s fun when the worker guy comes and says that it’s going to be another 20 minutes and your kid says, “Man, I REALLY have to pee”. He waited, thank goodness but he sure did make a beeline to the bathroom when we got to our destination, almost 40 minutes later! We drove along in a meadowy area and ended up seeing tons of buffalo. They are so neat! One group of not-so-intelligent people were walking up to the group of three buffalo while two of the buffalo were just munching on grass and the other was walking towards the morons. What don’t you understand about the sign “WILDLIFE DANGEROUS! DO NOT APPROACH” and the bright yellow paper you get when you enter the part that clearly states “WARNING, MANY VISITORS HAVE BEEN GORED BY BUFFALO. These animals may appear tame but are wild, unpredictable, and dangerous.” DUH! I was watching like I was going to see a horrible car accident, but the buffalo decided the string bean people would be no match so he went along and started munching on the grass with his friends. Along that stretch of road, we saw buffalo just lounging and some in groups, but there weren’t more than just a few together at a time. It reminded us of a book the boys have, called “Underwear”. A grumpy buffalo, Bismarck, was just grumpy and wouldn’t laugh and have fun like his friends, Orpho the Orangutan, Egor the Egret, and Zachary the Zebra, who really enjoyed going to underwear festivals and even wore ALL their underwear at once. Bismarck was SO grumpy, the bugs even left, so he was left all alone. They challenged Bismarck to say “underwear” ten times without laughing. Bismarck tried but ended up in a pile of laughs, began to enjoy life, and even, GASP!, wore underwear. The bugs came back and all was good. It’s a cute book, really.

After we drove through the buffalo, we stopped at Canyon Village when it began to POUR. We saw extremely heavy rain, hail, and lightning. Thankfully, we didn’t have a tent put up in the area and we could sit and be dry in the truck. Ryan was NOT happy at the storm for sure.

We picked up some dinner and headed back to Cody. Along the way we saw some park rangers and people stopped at a really pretty point along Yellowstone Lake. Then Tyler yelled, “BEAR!”. What??!!! So I told Andy to stop so I could see another one. I got out with my camera and watched the park ranger push people away from a certain area and back to the parking lot. I couldn’t see the bear at that point, but after talking to a girl there who was excited to get an Iowa plate on her list, the bear emerged a little closer than what I thought it was. So I got some good pictures, let Ryan see it, and we went on our way. BEARS!! When you have a vehicle at your disposal and are fairly far away from them, it’s all good. I do enjoy a good thrill though and that’s about all the thrill I want when it comes to bears.

We got back to a dry campsite and a nice cool night. One other camper who looked like a very nice gentleman (I really mean redneck) was light off fireworks. One tipped and blew up close to another camper so at least the “Hey, knock it off!” worked. No more fireworks. I can’t imagine that lighting them in a very dry area filled with people was the best thing to do, hence, the rule of “No fireworks in city limits.” Seemed like a no brainer to me. The boys finally got their s’mores and we all crashed around 10-10:30. What a day!! And so much more coming our way, too. I love this trip.

Day 3, Part 2 (Friday)

Day 3, part 2 started out with driving through Sturgis and Sundance, just to say we did. Sturgis is a neat little town and there sure weren’t many bikers there yet. We’ve seen so many bikers along the way and in the Rapid City area, dressed in many different things, many with a lot of leather. And tattoos.

We then headed to Devil’s Tower. About 13 miles away from it, it emerged on the horizon as a smokestack looking thing. The boys thought it was cool already. It’s funny how these huge things look so tiny from a distance. Once we got into Devil’s Tower Monument Park, we wound around and ended up just below it. I told Tyler to turn around and take a look and once he did, he again said, “WHOA, that’s cool.” We walked around a little bit and could have walked around the entire monument, but little Ryan couldn’t take the warmth and kept asking when we were going back. That was our cue to not go any further and just head back to the car and get going. We had several more hours of driving to go. I did learn from a park ranger there that Ponderosa Pines smell like candy. And boy do they! I had to give it a sniff.

After several potty stops and one gas stop right before we started climbing to just be sure, we finally made it to the Bighorn Mountains. Again, we saw them emerge from about 30 miles away and the kids thought it was really cool to see snow on top! Then they went back to their movie watching.

I did a little white knuckling it and pushed the imaginary passenger brake several times as we were taking the switchbacks to get up the first mountain. Andy did such a great job driving through the areas he’d never driven before and I’m very thankful he’s a calm driver. I did accidentally say “Hey, look at that!” then immediately took it back so he wouldn’t look and we would plummet to our fiery deaths on the cliffs below. We did see a moose on our way through and I REALLY wanted a picture, but it wasn’t in a good place to stop (i.e. going downhill at about 50 with someone on our tail and no pullover). We didn’t go on the scenic pullovers until I saw one with something different. I didn’t know what it was until we got in, but it looked interesting. It was Shell Falls. Wow. It was absolutely beautiful. We walked around it a little bit, which was a nice break from the long ride. The falls had actually been in a different location and had moved due to erosion, which I think is fascinating.

I do have to note that the boys have not been behaving on this trip. They were fighting pretty badly at home and after threatening them with taking all their toys away and actually taking some, they have been a little better. They are best buds, then worst enemies, best buds, enemies all day long. My patience wore thin on the sudden bursts of anger and the taunting they do to each other to get the other one either mad or in trouble, or both. Their mother doesn’t have any tolerance for this and we both get so tired of them getting angry and either stomping off or just saying “Well, then I’m not playing” then having the other one say “He just said he would NEVER play with me”. It could go on for centuries all the stories I’ve heard them complain to me about. So because of their rotten behavior in the car, they’ve had their s’mores taken away this entire trip so far. Each day they start fresh and each day they’ve been threatened to knock it off or there’d be a consequence. Well, it’s obviously not working since there’s been no s’mores. Maybe tonight….but by the looks of Ryan’s sleepy eyes already this morning, I don’t think it’s a huge possibility. We did give them both cameras so they could take their own pictures, thanks for the idea from Beth. That’s another consequence if the fighting gets out of control. It’s a mystery to me but others with grown boys of their own tell me it could go on forever. What?!

When we got to our campsite, we found out how false advertising works. The campsite really looked nothing like the pictures on the website. I’ve never seen so many campers crammed so close together and the huge “gift shop” wasn’t exactly what I was expecting either. Our bathrooms were port-a-jons, which I do have to say is better than 1) an outhouse or 2) finding my own “bathroom”. The teepee that we reserved was right next to about 200 teens in tents and a highway, so we picked out a tent site that was close to the river and NOT near the highway, down a VERY steep slope in a valley. It’s very quiet and you can see so many stars. Camping isn’t camping when you hear semi’s driving by….We are lucky enough to get real showers in the mornings, so I guess our version of camping is a little softer than what others do. But that’s fine with me! The guy running the campsite said that at dusk, we’d see deer coming down near our spot. When we came back from getting Ryan his camera and more tent stakes, guess what we saw? A very pretty deer with fuzzy antlers. Nature!!!

We went to Kmart to get Ryan a camera since Tyler had one and sharing was an issue. No biggie, Ryan can have one! We also needed some metal tent stakes since the ones we had were bigger plastic ones and the soil at Ponderosa Campground was as hard as a rock. The metal ones worked great. Thanks to civilized camping!

We’re off to Yellowstone today to see Old Faithful and maybe some mud pots. We’ll see what the day holds for us, but I know we won’t be driving 400+ miles! Yippee!!!! I’ll be free to drink Diet Coke without worrying we’d have to stop 563 times in 100 miles so I can go.

The sunset in Cody was amazing. Purples and pinks with white…very pretty.

Goodness, here come the cameras. It will be interesting to see the trip from their perspective!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Day 3, Part 1

This is a sign we saw in the Badlands.....

We are heading to Cody, WY, this morning. We loved Lake Park Campground! Great shaded campsites, a bathroom RIGHT next door, quiet, an owner who comes and talks to us. I do appologize for my son clogging the toilet though.... We'll see you on our way back through towards home.

We made a few adjustments to our plans, but that's what we concrete plans, just wing it. We're very excited to see what nature has to offer...see something new, have an adventure.

It's funny, we woke up this morning and it had been sunny for a while. We waited and waiting, then looked at the clocks...WHAT???! It's 5:55??? Strange. It's a good feeling. Much better than finding that it's 9 am and you have a huge drive ahead and need to pack up a house worth of things into an SUV. Ahhhh, Andy the engineer at his best! I am so happy that he's driving too. I am wary of the hills and curves and other people flying by us (going the other way) and he just drives. I can navigate and he gets us where we need to go....a good partnership!

Well, boys are playing in the car already. They're "driving" and catching bad guys. We just took the trash out and I guess a bunch of the bad guys were thrown out with the trash. At least the good guys are with us!

Ryan did have a funny comment this morning. "Steamin' hot chips are really hot, and so am I". not sure where he was going with that one, but we chuckled. Steamin' hot chips are jalepeno potato chips. His friend got some without knowing what kind they were and came running up to me "These chips are steamin' hot!!!". Now jalepeno chips are called steamin' hot chips.

Well, hope to have an update tonite on the Bighorn Mtns and our travels across Wyoming! And that bird from yeseterday is sure singin' me a tune this morning! Love it!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 2

Pictures are in reverse order of course, but the first one is of us going off to see the Wizard at Storybook Island. The next is the inside of the train car. I love the windows!!! It was built in 1913 and looks what I assume is about the same, except paint and seat covers. The next is during the train ride. You can see the steam engine. And the last is the broken column at the cave. It broke recently then the bottom part sank because it was so heavy. Cool.

Day two of our advenure began with me waking up to a beautiful sunny morning and an unidentified bird singing a pretty song. What a great way to wake up!! I woke up to this bird and the feeling that I need to go for a jog and enjoy the pretty morning, which doubles as therapy. I got ready without waking the boys up and jogged for about 45 minutes around the lake here and next to a very nice golf course. My legs were tired from walking yesterday and the hill jogging the past few days. It was so pretty and I didn't want to stop, but thought I needed to get back to camp.

We got cold last night and we all woke up several times, but after getting more blankets, we were fine. It got me really concerned about sleeping in Yellowstone, so Andy and I have figured that we will probably NOT do that, and just keep camping outside the park where it's not as high of elevation so not as cold. I am enjoying the camping so far although I do realize that it's day TWO of seven. We have a long way to go!! I just wish I could bring this weather with us to Cody and Yellowstone...a dry 80-85 during the day, clear, and nicely cooled off at night. And I guess if pigs flew they wouldn't land on their butts every time they tried to fly either.

Today's events began with of course, the nice run, and we took off to Rushmore Caves outside a little town called Keystone. It was pretty much all tourist attractions there but was a cute town. None of us have been in a cave before, so it was a neat experience for all of us. Ryan was done about 3/4 the way through but remained patient the rest of the way. Tyler loved looking at all the rocks and crevices the water had made. Seeing the stalagtites was so neat...many were broken off from all the non-guided touring done in the 1960's time where people felt it necessary to break them off and take home. We went into a "Big Room" (which is what they called it, how imaginitive), where there was the biggest stalatite pretty much anywhere. It was a broken column actually, but was amazing. I guess it was about 10 tons but was the size of my two little boys put together. It made me wonder about all the people who had discovered these caves and the gumption it took to dig into the ground and explore INTO the mountain. It's just not my style, but I admire and appreciate the people who do that for the rest of us to enjoy.

Right after the cave experience, we went to get tickets for the 1880 Train. It's a steam engine that takes us from the town of Hill City to Keystone and back. I've never ridden a train before and have always wanted to, so this was a great time. The sound of a steam engine whistle is so romantic to me, so the fact that we had to cross the highway about 17 times EACH WAY was perfectly fine! We did meet up with the same truck several times and I realized that people do like to wave to trains. Of course we waved back. The train about rocked me to sleep and the boys fought their sleep very hard but they livened up after we were done. We got a really cool train car that was built in 1913. I loved the stain glass on the top part of the windows. It creaked and creaked as we clicked along and it made me wonder who had ridded the car before and more importantly, what were they wearing? How do they survive in those wool outfits and hoop skirts? Or was this the time of the shorter wear of the 20's? The whole entire concept of a steam engine amazes me...I don't understand how burning coal and boiling water to create steam can pull this huge engine up a 6% grade. It's like physics, you can explain it all you want, but I'm never gonna really get it!

The last event of the day was taking the kids to Storybook Park. Oh goodness, this place was amazing...AND FREE! They had little houses, slides, swings, sets for about any kids book you could imagine. They ran and ran for about an hour. My favorite thing was seeing Pooh Bear's tree. Well, I liked the Cat in the Hat's house too, with the kids (Sally and I) peeping out the window for their mom.

After that, it was just after 5 pm and was time to get the grill started for dinner. The boys decided to argue and pick at each other for the next hour, so we took their s'mores away AGAIN for the night. They weren't happy about that and Tyler sang a sad song (cried in the tent) for ten minutes after I made the decision that yes, consequences do apply during vacation, especially when they tease/hit each other right in front of us. It's obvious that we ARE spending enough time with them, so who knows why they are doing this so badly right now. All I know is that it'd better not last forever or I'm gonna...we'll, I don't know what I'll do, but I sure won't like it!

As for the people that we've seen here, we've seen plates from 38 states and four provinces of Canada. Pretty cool! And we're not even to Yellowstone yet! I think we may drive through Sturgis just to say we did and have "been" there, and we are thinking of going to Devil's Tower. Because of the adjusted plans of NOT camping in Yellowstone, I think we should just drive and see it.
Well, it's time to get some very dirty kids cleaned off and to bed. I never knew that pea gravel on our tent site could be the main entertainment for them, but they're having a ball with it. It's making them very dirty, but who cares???!!!
I would like to mention that as most of you know, I am a partner of Siouxland Paw Prints Rescue. Vacation never stops the cat rescue business so yes, I'm checking my emails and checking in with Beth as to the adoptions and things going on. She told me that we saved yet another victim of a car and he had surgery on his leg today. I am asking anyone and everyone that if you feel inclined, Paw Prints would love to have assistance with the $350 vet bill with this cat. We have already received some donations for him, but this is a heafty, although discounted price to pay for one cat. His name is Daytona (after a car who hit him) and he's already neutered and declawed. He is a pretty tuxedo color and just hit the lottery when the person who found him injured in their driveway called us at Paw Prints. Donations are tax deductible and can be made to us at Siouxland Animal Hospital or sent to Beth or me (made out to Paw Prints of course) and sent to 2025 Bell Ct, Sioux City, IA 51104. We appreciate every single cent we get.

Thanks for the plug...we are not able to get things published in the Journal for things like this so I'm using my blog....

Anyway, I look forward to our Bighorn adventures tomorrow. What will the kids say when they see BIG mountains???? What will they do when they see the teepee we will be sleeping in?? We shall see, we shall see!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 1

7:30 am today, we left Sioux City. On Time!!! We packed up our entire house, minus our cats, and went on our way towards Rapid City, SD. We observed some interesting things along the way while enjoying each other and the fact that this is really our first "real" family vacation. Andy lost his voice in the night, although it sounded rough last night. This morning it sounded like he tried to smoke about a thousand stogies. So not a whole lot of conversation with him, but we could still talk some. It was 80 degrees when we left and the windows in the house were dripping with humidity. We were happy to head out of town for sure! By 8:30, it was already 85, but cooled down once we hit the cold front coming through.

*On our way to Sioux Falls, we encountered the worst UHaul driver EVER. She was driving in the fast lane and would consistantly go into the right/slow lane. Andy was not positive that passing her on the right would be safe for us, so we stayed behind her and watched her almost crash into several other vehicles, of course while making fun of her. Thank goodness we turned onto I90 and she didn't!

*Another strange thing we saw was, gasp!, an open weigh station! You just don't see that very often.

*Is the corn palace in Mitchell worth all the hubbub? We didn't feel any need to stop and see it.

*When we turned onto I90 in Sioux Falls, the signs for Wall Drug, 200 miles away, began. Was that worth the hubbub? It began to be very clear to me that they had absolutely everything so we must just check it out. So we were reminded of the different things they had about every mile from Sioux Falls on. Yes, Wall Drug did have everything you could imagine we found out after going through the Badlands Loop. It was interesting. I enjoy those touristy things once in a while, but they really all do sell the same thing.

*We saw a lot of bikers on their way to Sturgis. It's neat to see and the kids really enjoy motorcycles. We think we're going to swing through Sturgis just to see it when we leave here on our way to Cody.

*A funny sign that we saw, too late for a picture but would have been worth the stop for a picture, was for Dick's auto service near Mitchell, SD. "We can toe 24 hours a day". Really? You can "toe".

*Ryan mentioned that his leg was sore. "It's a dino-sore, Mom" he said. Classic Ryan.

*He also had me take a picture of him on a tiny little mound of dirt in the Badlands. He said it was the ant's badlands. Pretty clever again, isn't he?

*A funny sign we saw right before the Badlands was "Gas now or gas can later." I guess that means to fill up. So we did!

We got into Rapid City in very good time, even after spending a good 90 minutes in the Badlands, so we decided to head to "The Big Heads", or as adults call it, Mt. Rushmore. I think the boys were pretty worn out, but they enjoyed taking the small hiking trail around the park area. I enjoyed seeing this as an adult, since the last time I'd been there was probably when I was about 13. I do remember it clearly, but it's different as an adult. Also, I saw the Badlands when I was on the same trip as a 13 year old. I remember them being VAST. When I saw them this time, they were beautiful, but it wasn't as huge as I remember. I could see plains and the hills/valleys/crevices didn't seem so all-encompassing. Tyler's reaction when we walked over the hill to see the Badlands was "WHOA". But I think that they just wanted to throw rocks over the hill. Andy's reaction was that it was very different: you come over the edge to a completely new world. Nice way to put it, my very-good-driver-of-the-day-although-you-don't-have-a-voice.
So tomorrow, we're going to ride the 1880 Train and hang around the campsite, see Storybook Island, visit the Dinosaur Park, or do absolutely nothing except grill some food and have s'mores. That's all we're out for, a good time. We've been successful so far! I've had people tell me to put the stupid computer away, but this is a good way for me to record things as I see them when they're fresh. I could write on and on, but I do know that SOME people are going to read it, which I appreciate! I have a feeling that the "good" part of our trip hasn't even begun. It's going to get more and more interesting. The boys are running around having a blast together tonite, Andy and I are going over the possible tour things to do tomorrow, OH, visiting a cave may be one....that intrigues me to no end....but we're going to just hang out and be together. No agenda except get to the train on time.

Ok, here's a few of the top ten cowboy commandments:
1) Just one God

2) Honor yer ma and pa

3) No foolin around with another fellow's gal

4) Don't take what ain't yers

5) Don't be hankerin' for yer buddy's stuff

Monday, July 12, 2010

Are we CraZy????

Our trip to Las Vegas spurred an idea to drive past our original destination of Rapid City and head to Yellowstone.
One of my favorite things to do in Las Vegas is to walk around and be a part of the crowd. This picture was taken in the original heart of Vegas, close to the Golden Nugget. It's called Fremont Street. Looking forward to going back...may have to be an every two year thing!
Well, this next week should be an interesting one! On Wednesday, my two kids and husband and I are leaving our four cats alone at home and driving to Rapid City. By the following Wednesday, we will have hopefully made it to Yellowstone National Park and then back home safely via Cody and Rapid City again.

My kids, who are 7 and 4, do not always get along well. Some days, I can get five minutes out of them and some days they can be best buds the entire day. Lately, it's been closer to the five minute one. So how do I solve that???? Put them in a car together for eight days in a row! We'll see how THAT works. We do have a DVD player in the SUV and lots and lots of movies to play.
We have books, toys, coloring books, crayons, markers, and games. Then after a while, we'll have scenery. We may be crazy, but I think we'll be ok in that department. We'd better be anyway.
Andy can't read in the car without getting nauseated, so he will be doing most of the driving. Which leads me to my next concern....Andy driving in the mountains. Ok, given his great track record we should be fine. But just yesterday, on our way to drop something off at our friend's house, he missed the turn to their neighborhood because we were talking about something. What happens when there's MOUNTAINS to look at and curvy roads with no room for error? Should the boys and I refrain from saying "look at that!" or I just sit with the boys in back and whisper to them so he doesn't get distracted, drive off the curve, and we plummet into a gorge twelve billion feet below? What do we do? No, really, I trust Andy and his driving, but just think that maybe I need to pay attention to what HE is doing and be a very good passenger: NO pointing across his face, NO sudden outbursts "WATCH OUT!!!!", "OMG, LOOK AT THAT STEEP SLOPE WE'RE 12 INCHES FROM!", "STEP ON IT, THERE'S A BEAR FOLLOWING US", or things like that. I should probably also not offer him a snack during the mountain switchbacks either. And if I drive, which I plan to some, I should probaby not drive in the mountains because, knowing my "love" of heights, I would use the lane closest to the mountain and furthest from the drop whether it's the correct lane or not. That could lead us into another notebook of issues, so I think I'll just let Andy drive most of the time. I also wouldn't want to have to pull over and let him barf from reading the map in a moving vehicle. And I don't want to be reading the map WHILE driving either.
Besides being a little nervous about the cold nights while camping, yes CAMPING in Yellowstone, I am very confident we will figure this trip out. We had originally planned to take the kids to see the "big heads" at Mt. Rushmore only. Then as Andy and I flew over the mountains on our way to Las Vegas, I got the crazy idea (Andy can now verify that the five scariest words that I can say are: "Honey, I have an idea!") to just keep driving and take them to Yellowstone and the REAL mountains. So he took a few extra days off, we figured out our agenda, and figured the only way we could make it happen is to camp because of the high price of hotels. One night in a hotel is about as much as the seven days of camping, so we're pretty happy about that. We don't really have an agenda except for where we are going to spend each night. We are bringing plenty of bedding, clothes, and some food. We'll have to get some while we're there to grill and I know we'll eat at restaurants while there. We plan to be very laid back, see the sights, and just be together.

We've had a lot of feedback from others and have been told how fun it will be and that we'll create some wonderful and priceless memories. I hope it will be good! That is why I am going to blog every day with our adventures or misadventures, however the chips may play out. If I can't get wifi, I will post two or three days in one day.

Anyway, just check it out Wednesday night, probably late, or Thursday morning. I'm hoping to provide some entertainment, and maybe even spur ideas of your own for vacation fun!
Yeeeee Haaawwwww!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Lots of little things

1) I obviously took some time off blogging. Needed a rest and really didn't have that much interesting stuff to talk about.
2) Keeping busy with the kids, going to Vegas with hubby last week, summer's going too fast.
3) Excited that our summer is turning into an adventure. Next week, we are leaving Sioux City and heading out west. I am hoping to blog every day and will post when I can. Some of our campsites have Wifi, so can post when we get to those.
4) I'm afraid of bears.

**Event at Siouxland Paw Prints Rescue on Saturday, July 10th, 10am to 3pm. There's going to be cars, bikes, food, stuff to buy, and a lot of fun. Come join us, see our available kitties and our adoption center.