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Old 08-19-2008, 03:31 PM   #1
estherhead
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4300 miles of love: Yellowstone Tetons Style with LOTS of photos

Hopefully this is the right place to post my T.R. I wrote it live while we were living it, so even this is post-trip it will be in the present. I'm going to use my normal TR names from my Disney TR.

Perla: (previously, me!): I chose to be a girl mouse from Cinderella along with my sister as we are two parts to a whole when it comes to planning anything. We adore planning things together. Anything from weddings to kidís parties to vacations to weight loss. Weíre pretty good alone, but together I canít think of a skill weíre missing. Iím crafty & good with my hands, full of enthusiasm & endless ideas. She is organized, practical, clever with the internet, and excellent with a stretching a dollar. We both are full of energy & smart & (thank heavens) weíre both adaptable (since we have 7 kids). Weíre a good team.

Donald Duck (previously Dh): Total Disney-lover. Really up for any vacation I suggest as long as it isnít with crazy people (yes, weíve tried that: choose travel partners with care.) Adores spending time with his three girls, loves swimming. Chose Donald Duck because Donald is a pretty awesome duck, ready for any fun Mickey, Minnie, & Daisy can dream up but he can be a bit cranky. Though on this trip, his inner Donald mostly stayed inner.

Mulan: Our eldest: 7 on this trip. Serious, but loves to laugh. The best helper ever. Bossy, typical older sister. With a heart of gold.

Ariel: Our middle: 6 on this trip. Sunny, sunny person, sings constantly but things hurt her feeling very deeply. She is obsessed with thrill rides. This trip to Yellowstone was for her as she is a huge nature lover & I wanted her to have an outdoor adventure.

Boo: 17 months on this trip &. The most observant baby of all of mine. LOVES animals even more than her sister Ariel. With her powers of observation & her love for animals she was a perfect companion to have on a nature searching trip. She spotted animals before any of us! Even tempered as can be. Good sense of humor.

Added to our trip were my parents:

Dad: 62, entrepeneur, great sense of humor, great cook, great driver. Large wealth of knowledge of all kinds of things (which is helpful.) Notable on this trip was he was having some blood pressure issues and got sick so his energy was very low.

Mom: 62, now retired, adores her grandbabies and was looking forward to getting to know her introverted grand daughters better. Good at crafts, LOVES, LOVES nature. Great at watching kids & entertaining kids.

So that is the crew. We also had Sheila. Our trusty GPS gal. We all rode together in our 2006 Honda Odyssey. I love this van and I love it even more now. Very versatile vehicle. We also had a car top carrier we bought at Sears. All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better set up.

OK, are you ready for the beginning of the journal? It's more of a journal than a TR.
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Old 08-29-2008, 06:25 AM   #2
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I'm waiting for the rest of it!
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Old 08-29-2008, 06:57 AM   #3
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Glad to see someone's reading! I'll be back to post more soon. My dh & I helped throw a 50th wedding anniv. party for his parents and then we've had a little flood in our basement so I've not had time but after my fantasy football draft tomorrow, I should have time to update. Maybe even today! We'll see...
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Old 08-29-2008, 07:24 AM   #4
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Old 08-29-2008, 07:56 AM   #5
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Day Two: What happened to day one?

Day Two
July 27th, 2008

You would think after driving 1400 miles I would have some of my journal written. But it is just as difficult to concentrate in a van with your children as it is to concentrate at home with your children. And there is just as much to do. Even as Iím typing there is chaos around me. Boo is playing with Mr. Frog, Ariel is talking to me about who knows what, & Mulan is looking out the window at Donald who is digging through the car frantically because I lost my keys this morning and he lost his phone just now.

That doesnít make this road trip sound very fun, does it? But in truth itís been very fun. And the children have thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Even Boo is giggling and laughing and having a grand ole time. She has been an absolute angel. And weíre not even close to the best parts yet.

Friday, the 25th was packing day. My life has been so insane lately at work & arranging a friend's wedding and everything else going on, that we had not packed or cleaned anything. Thursday had been very frustrating as to pack up 5 people for a road trip would require a lot of stuff. And a lot of stuff makes a big mess. Which I wasnít allowed to do because we have a Bible study in our house Thursday evening so I felt like I kind of lost Thursday.

Then on Friday I had invited my best friend over for lunch because she was having a terrible week and I didnít want to leave for two weeks without seeing her. But because I lost Thursday I didnít have everything done and I left the house for a few last minute things & completely forgot about our lunch date. When she called me, she sounded so disappointed she might cry. So in spite of the fact that I had not one thing packed & I felt like everything was in shambles, I met her at her house for a chat. Which ended up working perfectly. The girls simply couldnít tear themselves away so I left them there & got my hair cut and finished up the list. By 3:00 p.m. we were home and truly ready to get packing. Donald met us at home and mayhem commenced.

While it was still daylight, perhaps around 8:00 p.m. we had the car top carrier loaded and were ready to go. I colored my hair and took a shower. Mom and Dad brought there stuff over and by 9:15 I was watching Monk & Psych. By 11:00 p.m. I was asleep.
And by 3:40 a.m. on the 26th I was being awakened by an annoying alarm clock bursting me out of a dead sleep. Donald was asleep on the couch, as was Boo with her butt half hanging off. He awoke very slowly. I woke up the girls & could tell we were never going to make our 4:00 am appointed time. Donald mentioned coffee & I went to make it at 3:56. Finally, (it felt like forever) it was done and by 4:20 we were at Mom & Dadís. We left at 4:30 a.m. in good spirits (though Iím pretty sure Dad was a bit irritated with our late departure time.)

Donald had played with the GPS a bit while we were packing & had added all of our stops for our first day. Weíve taken to calling her Sheila and sometimes we trust her, sometimes we donít. But I will say this, Iíve certainly not looked at the map as much I usually do. Sheila can adjust to whatever speed you are driving so the arrival time on her is completely accurate. I love that. Sometimes when Iím on a driving trip & I print out Mapquest times, I feel like Iím racing to beat the time it says I could get there. Itís like itís a challenge to me to live up to its expectations. But Sheila adjusts. If you stop to use the restroom she simply says, ďRecalculating,Ē and a new arrival time is in place. Itís as if that original time never existed at all. So there is no need to race. And no need to look at a map for general stuff. No expectations. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. Sheila will take care of you.

The open road ahead of me (me in the mirror) and our trusty new best friend: Sheila:


But we did find a few times when following Sheila surely would have been a bad idea, or in our first case, her directions were fine, but not the directions I had intended. Our first stop was at Kickapoo State park in Illinois. I had intended on pulling off at the second exit as it was an easy on, easy off. But I wasnít paying attention & Sheila directed us to the first exit. Fortunately I had printed an accurate Kickapoo state park map off the net (it was not easy to find a Kickapoo map, let me tell ya) and Mom was able to get us to a playground fairly painlessly.

It was nearly 10 a.m. to us (though only 9 in central time) and we stopped for breakfast. Dad pulled out his basket of food (very pretty & quaint, but in my honest opinion, and after the strawberry incident earlier today, not very practical) and his campstove. I pulled out my tablecloth (pretty and practical, thank you very much) which was packed in a Wal-Mart bag (not pretty at all but exceedingly practical) with the paper plates, napkins, and plasticware. Boo & Ariel & Mulan went down the slide over & over again while Donald jumped rope and Mom looked for cicadas. We took a little jaunt into the woods (a very little jaunt) but scared off all the cicadas by being way too loud.

Breakfast was great. Toad in a hole made with sourdough bread served with bacon and fresh berries. I had eaten a Kashi bar earlier and didnít really feel like eating anything so I pretended to eat & Dad fortunately didnít really notice. Donald had two, Mulan gobbled down hers, and Ariel didnít really like it. It really was more of a Mulan breakfast versus an Ariel meal. Then the slide a few more times, a potty break in very old but clean bathrooms, and we were on our way.

Kickapoo picnic:


Our next stop was supposed to be the Mississippi Valley Welcome Center. Here, yet again, Shiela led us astray. And yet again, I was absorbed in entertaining children & before I knew it we were headed away from our scheduled stop. There were two ways around the city and we went the south way. The Welcome Center was the north way.

So we ďrecalculatedĒ from a map and managed to find a delightful scenic overlook with great facilities, a beautiful overlook of the Mississippi, and low & behold: a playground! There had been some kind of flood even more recently than the actual flood of Iowa of 2008 and there was debris & fallen trees everywhere. And the Mississippi looked so powerful. Dad made us ham & cheese grilled sandwiches with delicious homemade hummus & pita chips. Yummy! Mom & I peed in the woods and then spent time cleaning out the van. Then, we were off again. Kids happy and adults ready to move on. It was a great little park and lunch and it was really easy to get on and off the highway there.

The Mississippi:


See all the broken trees? It was worse than this looks. But Boo looks unconcerned.


THe mighty Missouri. It was actually really beautiful but by the time we got out camera out, we had mostly missed the gorgeous part & just got the bridge enterance. Oh well, I remember how pretty it was & that's the important part.


From there we headed straight to Des Moines where our first mandatory overnight stop was. A La Quinta in Clive. It was nice. $58.00. An indoor pool. And less than a mile to a Rockbottom Brewery and a Barnes and Noble. What more could one family need in a hotel? We went swimming. We filled our bellies with beer, steak, enchiladas, etc. Then we cruised around the Barnes and Noble. And then we CRASHED! Donít forget, my alarm had gone off at 3:40 AM! Zoicks! I went to sleep at 9:00 pm and never woke up once until 6:00 am. It was an amazing nightís sleep. Well deserved after logging over 750 miles in one day.

Day Two:
Which brings us to today! Over 600 miles logged today and in additionÖ

The La Quinta where we stayed had a free breakfast. They had hardboiled eggs and freshly made waffles along with normal continental breakfast things. It was nice, the girls enjoyed the waffles very much, except for Boo who was too busy rushing around with excitement to eat. HYPER! Donald packed up the van and I realized I didnít have my keys. Itís a little scary as now we only have one set and that is not good.

We started off with a five hour drive. The baby fell asleep, I was driving, and Donald played Civ 4. Iíve yet to do anything more than load it & look around. But I think Iíll love it. Anyhow, I was driving & the first 5 hours were painless. I was concentrating on not wasting gasoline which kept me busy keeping my RPM on target & trying to talk to my deaf father over the loud music which was not too successful since I myself am deaf and background noise exacerbates our already challenging communication. But despite giving the second row good laughs, I think he & I did just fine.

We stopped to fill up for gas, giving Sheila a heart attack, and Boo ran around the gas station store like a maniac. Iíve never seen so much squealing in delight at peanuts and Pringles and suckers, etc. The rest of us used the facilities and then we made another unscheduled but well needed stop at Taco Bell. A side note, I had found a book at the library called The Next Exit and it was very helpful. It lists the main highways of every state and then has every exit on those highways with every single thing at each exit. It makes finding an exit with what you desire less of a crap shoot and more of a sure thing. Very helpful.

Anyway, from there we followed Sheilaís directions and arrived at our destination unscathed, the Corn Palace. I wasnít sure what I would think of the Corn Palace, but it was an enjoyable break. It is fascinating to see the corn art, especially after our 1000 miles of driving past relentless corn fields. And the inside offered another potty break & a fun little gift shop.

Donald trying to get a good shot of the girls in front of the palace.


Corn Art, the theme this year is hometown heros, so this is teachers:


And parents, my favorite:


Inside the gift shop some buffalo attacked Boo (she looks scared, too!):


And desire attacked Donald:


On our way back to the car we made a little stop for homemade ice cream.

Ice Cream from the friendly people in Mitchell:


We then drove for another three hours to the Badlands. We stopped about two hours in at a little information center where Boo found a puppy to be her friend and Mom found some tour book brochures.



One thing she found which interested her was a Petrified Garden. So we added that to our to do list (but we didnít tell Sheila) and hopped off on the right exit. We thought we would have a little picnic there and paused briefly to buy some beer first.

When we got to the Petrified Gardens it was a little shanty and there were no picnic grounds. Not only that, but it was 96 degrees out in blazing sun with high humidity, not exactly picnic weather. So we popped the beer into the cooler and went into the strange little building and fenced in garden and hoped for the best. It ended up costing only $25 for all of us and was very enjoyable.

The family who owned it had been collection fossils and petrified would and beautiful rocks since the 1930ís all found in the badlands. It was interesting and quite the little collection, and interestingly displayed. They had all these tacky little hand written signs which ended up being informative.

An actual printed sign:


Mom & Mulan, I swear it is rock and not a tree, see all the funny signs behind them?:


From there we made a lovely stop at a prairie dog town. I was a bit nervous about this stop just like I had been about the Petrified Gardens as it looked like holes in the ground and dirt and I was just sure no prairie dogs would come. But Mom & Dad had been there before so we stopped. I went to buy prairie dog unsalted peanuts ($.50 a bag) it turned out to be delightful. Mulan and Ariel started feeding them and they kept getting closer.



When Boo finally figured out what was going on she was in hog (or dog) heaven. At first she followed one dog and when it went down a hole she was very sad and just stayed there waiting for it to come out that hole not realizing the holes were connected to undergrounds tunnels and that the prairie dog was never coming out of that hole again. She simply would not leave that one hole.

Come out little prairie dog, come out.....


But then she figured out he was never coming back and there were other dogs to be had. She clapped and dance and giggled and squealed. Prairie dogs were the absolute best and she had no desire whatsoever so leave them. Dad had to carry her and when he set her down near the van, she turned right around to go back.

Once we cajoled her into the van we briefly stopped at a dugout prairie house which was interesting to think about but we didnít want to spend much time there.



We were ready to see Badlands. To be honest, I didnít enjoy them as much as I could have. Boo was absolutely exhausted and wrestled with me instead on sleeping so my viewing was obstructed. It was way too hot to take any of the walks to the overlooks. And the girls were not that interested in the badlands so we had to keep yelling at them to turn off their little TVís. It was incredibly beautiful there in the badlands and I think in other circumstances I could have stayed a long time looking at the scenery.

Boo flying over the badlands:


Mulan a little nervous about the edge of the rock:



But I was done rather quickly and ready to just go to the hotel. Mom took pity on me and took Boo who screamed and wrestled with her but finally succumbed to sleep and then the badlands were behind us and Wall drug with its omnipresent signs was in front of us.

I actually enjoyed Wall Drug. Mulan & I split up from Donald and Ariel and we took lots of pictures and saw the sights, bought Mulan some hair clips and a puzzle for all the girls, and were back in the car.



Did you say jackalope?


Next stop: Watiki water park!!! We knew it was too late for us to swim this day but at least we would be at the same spot for 2 nights. Finally a break from the driving, driving, driving.

Which brings us to the lost phone. Donald found it under the bed in our room. The search and stress had emotionally exhausted him. He had a beer, took a shower, and went to sleep. Things like that are so frustrating as you know for a fact that it canít be lost and yet it is. And youíre too tired to deal with it simply. That phone is his life. Losing it isnít really an option.

After his shower, I showered myself and typed this trip report and now am off to bed. How absolutely luxurious to lay in a soft bed with two warm girls wrapped around each other and ponder over our trip so far.

Itís been lovely to travel 1300 miles with 3 little girls and my parents. It has been. No one feels they must fill dead air so there is companionable silence as well was pleasant conversation. The girls have so many activities there has been no whining at all. And Boo has been very good. Who knew?
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Old 08-29-2008, 09:25 AM   #6
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Day Three
July 28th, 2008

It’s now 8:32 p.m. Our plan was to be at the water park till 3 p.m., then go to Mammoth Site followed by Mount Rushmore and the laser show at Crazy Horse. I woke up around 6:30 a.m. and laid in bed a bit. It was very nice. Then I got up & went to the breakfast area to get the family coffee and breakfast. It was empty and I grabbed 2 waffles, 4 donuts, 2 coffees, and a yogurt. We chowed down and then by 8:00 am were at the water park. Like at Disney World, the earlier, the better. As we passed the breakfast room there was a huge line, but we were well fed. And the park was empty. We ran up the stairs & rode slides over and over again for an hour. I rode until my legs and arms (carrying the double tube) burned. By 9:00, I was already done. So we told the girls another half hour and that we would come back later. It left us the entire day for sight seeing.





Dad had already been to Wally World to get us lunch so we packed up & left by 11:00 a.m. for Mount Rushmore. Unfortunately, we packed up so quickly that we didn’t really pack up at all. We forgot the cooler first of all, which Tim had to run back and get. We forgot a bottle opener. But the worse thing of all we forgot comes later in the story.

We drove the relatively short distance to Mt. Rushmore. There were no picnic grounds so we parked outside the parking garage and found a short wall in the shade. Dad pulled out the camp stove and we had chicken burritos (Mulan had quesadillas) with diet sodas (because we couldn’t open our beers with no bottle opener.) It was very nice except for the irritating Harley Davidsons passing us every once in awhile. They scare Boo to death. So that put a bit of a damper on our peaceful lunch.







After that we threw a beginning to get cranky Boo into her stroller and we rolled toward the monument. We took the obligatory photo which with the internet seems silly since I could down load one exactly like the one I just took, but still. Inside the museum Mom accidently told the girls that one of the presidents was James Madison and got set straight in no uncertain terms that it was Jefferson. People at Mt. Rushmore are VERY patriotic. And relatively vocal about it. For me Mt. Rushmore was interesting more because of the sculpting & artwork. It is an amazing piece of artwork.

Then we watched the movie which was nice. But Boo had pooped during the quiet and dark of the theater. It was at this point that I realized the important thing I forgot. Her diapers! She really, really didn’t want to sit in her stroller or van in a poopy diaper. Who would? So I decided to do the logical thing. I wiped her tushe with the wipes & wrapped her in paper towels & then put her shorts back on. It was only 1 mile to Keystone so I was pretty sure we wouldn’t have an accident.

We easily found a convenience store and diapers in the right size. Boo was consoled with the paper towel being removed and a real diaper on her bootie. We turned around and headed back past Rushmore on our way to Wind Cave which is the longest cave in America. The ground above the cave was beautiful with antelope and buffalo and prairie dogs. It was so gorgeous. Which ended up being a good thing as Wind Cave ended up being a dead end for us. We had missed the last tour and were going to have to wait 45 minutes for the next one and it was an hour and a half tour. Boo was getting tired and we knew she would not be fun in 2 hours with no stroller in a dark cave. So we listened to a park ranger talk about buffalos and headed to Hot Springs to see the Mammoth Site.

Our drive by viewing of Crazy Horse



Boo fell asleep about halfway and slept through the entire Mammoth Site tour which was amazing for us, or should I say me. It was the neatest thing! It is a sinkhole from thousands of years ago that mammoth slid into and couldn’t get out of. The bottom filled with limestone which hardened surrounded the dead mammoth with rock & turning them into fossils. When they discovered it they decided to build a building around it and excavate it right there without removing the bones but instead preserving them where they had been found. Very interesting. And confusing as far as earth creation/flood time line. It was confusing with an evolutionary time line too. Quite confusing no matter what time line you place on the earth. And the scientists don’t really even try to put it in a timeline. There is a generic one in place at the beginning but there are really a lot more “maybes” and “possiblys” than “this is when & what happened.”







After that we drove back to Rapid City to find a place to eat dinner. It was tricky with all of our desires and restrictions. We really wanted Italian but finally decided to settle on TGI Friday. Well, Donald was in the wrong lane and ended up turning into a mall. The exit was all ripped up in construction so we couldn’t do an easy turn around. To be honest, I was a bit ticked. I was getting really hungry & it felt like we were driving in circles. But Donald insisted that somewhere in the mall parking lot would be something great to eat. He was sure he had spotted a Don Pablo’s so we headed in that direction. But as we got closer: it was an Olive Garden! Perfect.

They told us it was a 20 minute wait which made me sad but there wasn’t a real choice so we settled in to wait. Well, low and behold, we were seated in less than 5 minutes. The soup, the salad, the wine, the pasta, it was all delicious. Mulan was the only one disappointed as they brought completely the wrong meal. She was so hungry she accepted it but really wasn’t happy with it. Chicken fingers are a bit disappointing when you are at Olive Garden.

We moseyed back to the hotel and changed and went back to the water park. I took photos and played with Boo. She enjoyed herself way more this evening than she had this morning. I think to wake up & be thrown into gushing, rushing water is just too much for her. But after a summer day… that was pretty fun. I think she entertained half the place.

Now I am laying in bed watching the Mole. A load of laundry is going which Donald is graciously taking care of.

Tomorrow: Cody. In 6 hours worth we will go from prairie to foothills to mountains to mountain plateau. Sounds like an interesting 6 hour drive.

Last edited by estherhead; 08-29-2008 at 09:32 AM.
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Old 08-29-2008, 09:25 AM   #7
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Old 08-29-2008, 01:31 PM   #8
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Day 5: Yucky yuck.

Day Five
July 30th

Yesterday was fairly uneventful. OK, so that isnít exactly true. It was just our least pleasantly eventful day so far. We woke up around 7 am and I went to get breakfast while the girls put on bathing suits for their last hurrah down the waterslides. I did a bit of packing and we were there at 8 am ready to splish and splash. I told the girls they had an hour.

When I went back up to the room it looked the same as it had: a mess! But all of us working together managed somehow to pack us up & by 10:30 we were on the road. Ariel had told me sometime during this whole process that she wasnít feeling well and that her tummy felt like it had butterflies in it. I didnít really give it much thought.
But 5 minutes after getting in the car we made a quick stop at Hobby Lobby for more balloons and I heard Ariel say something.

Balloon animals are fun for everyone!


Truth be told, I have no idea what she said but I knew it was serious from the inflection and started barking orders left & right. The doors flew open, Mulan hurled Arielís shoes at us, and Ariel & I were rushing out of the van. We were out maybe 3 seconds when her entire breakfast came shooting out. We ran to the bathroom, finished the process & cleaned up. I donít think it was butterflies!

Mom & I knew we were in big trouble, being moms we know the intensity in childrenís voices and looks. We had a 6 hour drive up 6,000 feet of mountains. Not good. We stopped for supplies (and I bought more junk food) and we started our journey. Ariel puked off and on all day & Mom & I guiltily littered beautiful mountain roads of Wyoming with Wal-Mart bags of puke. Sorry, Wyoming, but there was no choice. At one point I asked Donald to do something & I guess Mom said she would do it & I didnít hear her so I panicky & loudly said his name again which made him bite my head off. That did NOT make me happy & I tried desperately the next few hours to get over it.

Mom had Ariel lay down with pillows & keep her eyes closed. I think she slept maybe 2 hours, which is a lot better than Boo who simply stayed awake & wrestled with us while we attempted to look for wildlife in the gorgeous scenery. The people here in Wyoming are so friendly itís amazing. They arenít bitter or suspicious of tourists at all. Very welcoming & gracious and we experienced that from the moment we crossed the South Dakota border into Wyoming. Not that South Dakatons were unfriendly but the Wyomingís were SO friendly that it made it seem that way.

Finally, we made it to Cody around 6. It seemed like FOREVER. But it really was 6-7 hours. The hardest of our whole trip. We didnít stop for lunch, we just ate as we went.

I had told the family to expect a sharp downgrade from our hotel choices. The chain hotels and restaurants I had left behind in South Dakota, both because of price and personality. I had researched carefully and was confident in my choices, but they were simply not prepared. My choices forced us to strip away our old Eastern selves and immerse ourselves in the West. Wait till they see the Yellowstone cabins!



Anyway, the Big Bear Motel is on the edge of Cody between The Buffalo Bill Museum and the Cody Night Rodeo. It is a family owned place and I got a suite for all of us to stay in together. I was nervous about snoring or Boo crying but last nightís sleep was completely uneventful.

When we were checking in the owner told us a cowboy singer would be there at 7:30 p.m. Dad & Mom ate in the room and had a little silent time. Our family went to a local BBQ joint. It was jam packed and had no air conditioner. It was perfect. The hostess was harried at best and the wait staff worked their butts off. The food was delicious and I actually took photos of it. I tipped over 20% and gave the hostess a tip too. It was worth paying them. They worked hard.



Then we came back to enjoy the nightly Big Bear antics. There was the ownerís daughter & her horses. The cowboy singer who talked a lot more than sang, but he was good and was the real deal. Originally from Texas he rarely stayed in anyone place longer than a year. When I asked him what had brought him to Wyoming, he said, ďA blonde.Ē So he wasnít a cowboy as in a wrangler of cows, but a person who never settles for sure.



We played on the playground and petted the motel cat. It was relaxing and quickly made me forget the dayís frustrations. Ariel had eaten a big dinner and Iíve heard nothing else from her tummy so Iím not sure what was wrong. Iím hoping it wasnít a bug which will hit someone else as we drive back into more mountains tomorrow.

The owner's horse:


I did want to add a little note about Harley Davidsonís. I hate them. The Sturgis Bike thing is this coming weekend. I carefully chose our week to avoid it all. But today was a crossover day & lots of them are still in Cody. Tomorrow they will go to South Dakota. The real problem is they are really noisy. Really, really, really noisy. We have these wonderful Adirondack chairs on a porch attached to our room. Weíve spent a big portion of last evening and today sitting here peaceful as can be. Until a Harley goes by. Or two or three. Every few minutes. Kinda ruins the relax factor. So, I now hate them. Not the people who ride them, Iíve yet to meet an unfriendly biker, but the bikes themselves are very unfriendly. And I hate them. Whatís wrong with a Honda bike? Anyone?
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Old 08-29-2008, 04:26 PM   #9
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I just love this. Looks like you are having a blast.
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Old 08-31-2008, 06:47 PM   #10
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I just love this. Looks like you are having a blast.
Hi guys! More soon, I promise. Maybe even tonight.
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Old 09-03-2008, 02:03 PM   #11
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Day Six
July 31st, 2008

Itís 6:00 am and Iím laying in bed with Mulan and Boo. Weíre all a little cold as the window a/c is right above our head and blasting. Itíll be a miracle if we donít all get sick as weíre stuffed up for another reason too. Smoke.

When I turned my computer on right now it was absolutely covered in ash as are all surfaces around here. The forest directly to the west is burning, 6 square miles of forest, and the smoke is so strong you canít be outside, or at least you couldnít last night. Weíve yet to see about today. But more on that later.

Yesterday we got up and Dad ran to Wal-Mart to get breakfast things. We had a busy day of touring planned. The girls got up and dressed and went to the playground while the adults sat and lingered over coffee and Dad made breakfast. While we were all putzing about, Donald and Ariel went over to check out a little Trading Post across the road from us. Later in the day, based on their good word, we all ended up going over there as it had a meticulously put together Western village and trains that worked. It was really cool. And all kinds of stuffed animals and other interesting items. Many, many Indian artifacts. People here in the west love the history of the place and there seem to be many private collections that are worth seeing.

Neat stuff:




We started our day off at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. It was a history of the west with a lot of science, guns, and Indians. It was interesting and the girls really enjoyed it. For me, I find the history around here disturbing. Man can be so cruel to both animals and other men. And justify it with all kinds of reasons.

Some stuffed cats:


The pretty gardens:


Trying out a heavy bear coat:


Artwork:


Room replicas:


I forgot to take any photos of the guns but believe me, if you are into guns, this museum is a MUST! I've never seen such a collection in all my life. Huge, huge informative collection.

We then came back to the Big Bear and Dad made mac and cheese and the girls had a swim. Donald had them race up and down the pool and really tuckered them out. Boo looked adorable in her little water wings. I don't have a photo of this. Sorry, wish I did cause she was super cute.

We got ready again and headed to downtown, after a quick stop at Wal-Mart for sleeping bags. We ate at a Mexican place called Zapatoís. It wasnít the best Mexican food Iíve ever had, but it was yummy. Mom and I got strawberry margaritas and the girls got strawberry smoothies. There was a candy store in the restaurant and Boo could see it from her chair. It took a lot of smoothie and chips to keep her seated through the meal.

A little residential sidetrip had us see these:


After that we did some shopping as we walked back to Irmaís hotel where a gunfight takes place every night. It was a free event and you could tell. After a half hour of advertising their sponsers they finally started and boy was it lame. My little family of playwrites back home could have written that in 5 minutes and made it a lot funnier. Mulan, however, enjoyed it thoroughly, and was sad when I made her leave early. But I had stood their long enough and the family had abandoned us long ago. I wish I had done more shopping and less standing at the lame gunshow. Afterwards Donald & I had a big discussion about how we forget when we are at Disney how lame street entertainment is elsewhere.

The strange cowboys:


The crowd willing to watch the strange cowboys (they must not go to Disney!):


We hopped back to the Big Bear to kill some time before the rodeo. Donald and the girls walked to the rodeo and the rest of us took the van so we could make a quick escape. It was about ľ of a mile from our motel, maybe a half.

The view while you walked:


Lassoing outside the stadium:


I very much enjoyed the rodeo, as did Boo. During the elaborate National Anthem, Donald took her down to see horses up close and personal and a cowboy chitchatted with them, ďThatís a mighty purty smile you got there,Ē he said to Boo. When they were back in their seats with the bucking horses and the calves being chased and roped, Boo couldnít get enough.



All the kids got to chase calves, Mulan & Ariel had fun:


But we left the rodeo early too. Because it was so smoky we couldnít see or breath and Boo kept rubbing her eyes so much I got worried. Not to mention you could see the fire from our seats! The announcers were pretty funny and talked about the smoke and the fire. But as it got thicker and thicker we were just done. So we missed the last half hour, but I do think we got a good taste for it.

What sun?:


Fire & smoke:


We came back to the Big Bear and kept the door closed on our room so no smoke would get in. Mom, though, took a computer to find the story on getting into Yellowstone today. It looks like there will be no trouble. Theyíre used to forest fires around here and treat them with respect, but not much mind. I did a load of laundry which required me to keep walking across the yard in the smoke. Which brings us back to the stuffiness and junk inside all our heads. My skin is cracked, my nose hurts, and Iím so thirsty.

And weíre yet to see a big, open night sky. Weíre hoping that will happen soon. Iím bound and determined to see the wide open skies of Wyoming and Montana. Today we finally reach our destination: Yellowstone.
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Old 09-06-2008, 08:15 AM   #12
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Great trip report, with terrific pics! You're getting me excited about ours next summer, to many of the same places. Keep'em coming .
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Old 09-06-2008, 08:13 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roadtripper View Post
Great trip report, with terrific pics! You're getting me excited about ours next summer, to many of the same places. Keep'em coming .
Thanks! Soooo much fun! You can ask me any questions as I'm always thoroughly reseached before trips (see, I can obsess about things other than Disney!)

More to come soon....
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Old 09-06-2008, 08:59 PM   #14
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Day Six, Part 2

We are now in Gardner, Mt after quite the eventful day. We actually managed to get breakfast, pack up, and check out by 8:30 am. The smoke was still thick and we were grateful to be driving away from it. There is a road closure near our hotel tomorrow because of fire so weíll be back in the smoke before long, but all day today was clear, clear skies.

We drove up the Chief Joseph Scenic byway and saw gorgeous views and drove on crazy switchbacks.









We saw the most amazing waterfall at Clarks Creek



and before we knew it, we were in Cooke City, just miles away from Yellowstone. It was a neat little town, population 300 in the summer. Mom found me the turquoise belt I was looking for and I snatched it up. We bought some bug spray, used the porta-potties, and after a 15 minute pause for road construction were back on the road.




Because of the construction all the cars were jammed together & arrived at the gate together. After being delayed so long I was very impatient with the long line. Would I NEVER be allowed in Yellowstone? Dagnab stupid motorcyclists!

But then this very nice lady came up & asked if we had a senior pass already. Well, low & behold we did just happen to this magical pass. She glanced at it & waved us around all the cursed traffic. Yippee!!!! Thanks Mom & Dad! We were in Yellowstone.



Our first site was Soda Butte. It was interesting, but the cool book Yellowstone Treasures which was our guide told us behind it were these neat birds. They were very neat, and we would never have seen then without the book.



See their nests?


Not too far up the road we stopped at a picnic area and waded for 1-2 seconds at a time in the frigid water of the creek. Boo stayed in the longest. She didnít seem to mind too much. I think her toes would have frost bite before she freaked out.



Dad made barbeque beef sandwiches and we ate looking out at the creek. Boo ate cold baked beans and got them EVERYWHERE while mixing in a fair mixture of dirt. It was rather disgusting and after we were done, I changed & wiped down her whole body, much to her consternation.



The potties there were spotless & odor-free despite being pit toilets. I guess Yellowstone really knows how to do pit toilets.

Half the fun of Yellowstone is looking for animals. I was hesitant to be excited about this part as I donít often have luck at finding animals and rare flowers or birds. Getting excited about such things, in my experience, only leads to disappointment. However, in our first 2 hours in the park, at mid day none-the-less, we managed to see a coyote up close! It crossed the road right in front of us!



We saw lots of buffalo, a pronghorn antelope, and elk. It was pretty cool, but I refuse to get my hopes up for seeing bear. And Iím not going to go out of my way either as that will surely lead to disappointment.









Our real goal for the day was to see the Mammoth Hot Springs, and my secret goal was to get there by 3:00 p.m. for the Fort Yellowstone ranger talk. I didnít share this, though, as I didnít want pressure on any of us. Oddly enough, our timing was perfect. We got there at 2:30, used the facilities and bought the girlís ranger booklets. We looked at the little pamphlet and then sat down for the ranger talk. It was very interesting about how the Fort and Army had to be brought in from keeping settlers and tourists from ruining the park. Had they not, the park would be nothing like it is today.

Our ranger at Fort Yellowstone:


We then went to see the fascinating travertine terraces that neither my words nor our photos will do justice to. Iíll just say it was cool, really cool. Mineral water bubbling from the ground creating hills.









On the way from there to our hotel, I started getting ill and by the time I got into our room I was very dizzy and a bit nauseous. I havenít completely gotten over it & there is an edge to my internal voice. This motel, though, is very nice. The pool was amazing! Donald took the girls to look at it while I was briefly laying down & Boo screamed & screamed when they left, so we very quickly unpacked & headed there. It was lovely, as was the hot, hot shower I took afterward.

We couldnít decide what to eat, but Mom graciously offered to go to Subway. I was more than happy to let her & Donald logged on so I could look at the menu & choose food for all of us. It was delicious. She also did a load of laundry. Who would guess weíd do a load a day? We canít even get away from laundry in Yellowstone!
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Old 09-07-2008, 04:16 PM   #15
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OMG that is stunningly beautiful.
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