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Old 09-15-2008, 08:55 AM   #1
bethbuchall
Had to make sure she was in Disney World on her 40th
 
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Our Excellent "Out West" Adventure

Our Excellent “Out West” Adventure
Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and More with lots of photos

Introduction

Who:
Me – I’m a 44 year old SAHM (well, not quite…I teach preschool 3 days a week) to 3 wonderful kids. I am the one who comes up with all these “bright ideas” and spends hours and hours making the plans. So much better than a full-time job, right?

Dh (43) – The love of my life for the past 25 years (20 of them married). He has a tendency to want to know the final price tag for all my “bright ideas” and holds his wallet closed as tightly as he can. Unfortunately for him, I know how to slip inside that wallet despite his death grip.

Boy – Our oldest child who was 17 on this trip. He’s a senior in high school now, so I really was feeling like this could be one of our last family vacations. When I first started talking about the trip, he was the most enthusiastic. His main contribution to the planning, however, was to tell me that he wasn’t going to use more than 2 weeks of his summer vacation on this trip. Admittedly, we did have a very short summer break this year…7 weeks from the last day of school until he needed to be back in cross country practice.

Girl – Our middle child and only girl. She can be a bit of a princess, but she really is sweet and fun to be around. She and I get along very well together. Girl is also a bit reticent, especially in new situations. Once you get past her walls, though, she is warm and great company just about anywhere. She was a month shy of 15 on this trip. Her main contribution to the planning…NO CAMPING (you may get eaten by bears and wolves, you know).

SmallBoy – Our baby who isn’t a baby any more. SmallBoy is 9 years old. He is the most easy-going of the group (probably sheer survival instinct!) and is usually up for pretty much anything. He can be reserved and quiet, but like his sister he also has a warm inside. His main contribution to the planning was, “Tell me when we’re ready to go…”

Daniel – Our Garmin GPS without whom this would have been more difficult. That’s not to say he didn’t have a few misleading directions, especially in South Dakota. Fortunately, his lapses didn’t come at any critical times. Our friend, Daniel, also always knew how to get us to food and gas and kept us entertained with readings of the last two Harry Potter books. We grew awfully fond of Daniel on the trip. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen much of him since. Poor guy shut up in a glove box and forgotten most of the time.

What:
A two-week road trip from our home in central New York State to Yellowstone via many interesting locations. The initial planning included 4 weeks, more states, Disneyland, and more money than I could wrench from dh’s wallet. Then there was that declaration by Boy that 4 weeks was more family fun time than he could handle…

When:
July 17-31, 2008

Why:
I went to Wyoming when I was in high school to visit my uncle, aunt, and cousins with my grandmother. I have always wanted to go back. I have also always wanted to take a long road trip. We celebrated our 20th anniversary in May, and Boy was going to enter his senior year of high school. We had a lot to celebrate, and I figured this trip would be the perfect way.

How:
A blue Honda Odyssey, miles and miles of road, many hotel rooms, and that poor, squeezed wallet.

Next up…Day 1 (We’ve seen all this before) and Day 2 (Get me out of here!)
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Old 09-15-2008, 10:23 AM   #2
bethbuchall
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A little of the pre-trip planning…

This particular “bright idea” of mine began sometime around our 19th wedding anniversary in 2007. I really wanted to find a way to celebrate our 20th anniversary, and I’m always looking for an excuse to take a trip. Those two seemed to settle together like two puzzle pieces in my strange, little mind, and the “bright idea” was born. As usual with my “bright ideas,” I needed to mention it several hundred times before dh realize that I was serious. About a year before I planned to take this big adventure, he finally consented that I could start planning if I could figure out where the money was going to come from. Silly, man, I already knew where the money was going to come from…our bank account. That’s even harder to get into than the wallet, but I had my ways.

My planning started BIG! I wanted to drive from our home in central NY to St. Louis and then take old Route 66 to Anaheim. Yes, everyone outside of my immediate family that I talked to actually had to ask me what’s in Anaheim. (They really should know better by now!) From Disneyland, we were going to go through Nevada and Utah to get to Yellowstone. I wanted to be gone for 4-5 weeks. Ummm…too BIG, too expensive, too much time. Ok, let’s scale back a bit. Unfortunately, the only real way to scale back a bit was to realize that I wasn’t going to see Disneyland quite yet. Ok, 44 may not be young, but it’s not old. I still have time to get to Disneyland.

We kind of tabled the whole trip idea for a while. Gas prices had started to rise, and it just seemed that no one in my family believe we were actually going to go through with this. Basically, if the trip was going to become a reality, I had to stop asking the rest of the family for suggestions, and just plan it. We finally decided that we were really going to go ahead with the trip in May. Yellowstone and Grand Teton lodging books a year ahead. I was looking for lodging in May for July! Yes, it’s a little crazy, but I called and the woman was a great help in finding me three consecutive nights in Yellowstone. These dates pretty much set the rest of the trip. The next phase of the planning took months as I decided on a route and then discarded parts of it in favor of another route. I finally decided where we were going to go and started searching for hotels. I am a nervous traveler in some ways. I need to know that I have a destination at the end of the day, and I need it to be reasonably clean and comfortable. I spent hours and hours on TripAdvisor and other sites to make sure that I could find hotels in my price range that were going to be places that we really could fall asleep at night. During this phase, I continued to refine the route (Wait! Let’s go through Colorado instead of Nebraska.) We were planning to come home through Cedar Rapids until the flooding, and I also had a last minute desire to see Chicago. Even with all the planning and hotel reservations, it still didn’t seem real.

I started to make great journal pages for the kids like this one.



Unfortunately, I kind of ran out of time. See, there were other people in the world, and their plans weren’t all revolving around my trip. Hard to believe but true! Girl’s synchronized swim club co-hosted the USA Synchronized Swimming Age Group Nationals. That meant for 10 days at the end of June to beginning of July I was at a pool from early morning until late at night. Also, SmallBoy’s swim club hosts a 3-day swim meet every July. That meant three more long days at a pool the weekend before we were going to leave. There were many little things that I wanted to do for the trip that I didn’t get done. You know, though, that it didn’t really matter once we were on the road. We had a great time!
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Old 09-15-2008, 12:49 PM   #3
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Look forward to reading more Beth!
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Old 09-15-2008, 12:51 PM   #4
bethbuchall
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Look forward to reading more Beth!
Thanks! Days 1 and 2 with photos are coming up...
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Old 09-15-2008, 12:55 PM   #5
bethbuchall
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Day 1: Home to Dayton, OH (We’ve seen all this before…)



We awoke bright and early to finish loading the van and have a simple breakfast before hitting the road. We all felt slight dazed and still couldn’t believe that we were really doing this. Our excitement at leaving was tempered slightly by the fact that our 9+ hours on the road would get us only as far as Dayton, OH. We’d been there before, so there was nothing really new ahead of us for the day…

…except Chick-Fil-A. This restaurant has been quite the topic of conversation on the DDA thread on the Creative DISigns board. I had never tried Chick-Fil-A, but there was one in Erie, PA which was a great place to stop for lunch. As unhealthy as it is, we had planned a lot of fast food for this trip. It fit the budget and time constraints well. We did also plan to stop for groceries and do our own easy picnic foods. We made a plan to never eat at a restaurant that we could eat in at home, and we did pretty well sticking to that. Who knew how many of the chain fast food places we don’t have here?! Many of our hotel choices had a breakfast included, but we did bring along a few prepared breakfast foods (ok, they were Pop-Tarts, Cocoa Krispie Cereal Straws, Nutrigrain bars, and granola bars…still nothing healthy) and fresh fruit (there, that’s a little healthy). We also brought a case of water. We don’t necessarily like the waste of water bottles, but sometimes convenience needs to win out.

There isn’t much more to tell about Day 1. We started at home, had lunch in Erie, and arrived in Dayton around dinnertime. We stayed at Country Inns and Suites-Dayton North. It was a clean, comfortable room in a clean hotel in the midst of other hotels. We were glad that we hadn’t chosen the Knight’s Inn located right behind our hotel.

In the interest of preserving the bank account and wallet as much as possible, we decided that we would all stay in one room and bring a couple of air mattresses for the kids. Although the limit of people in most of the rooms we booked was 5, rollaway beds were an additional $10-$25/night. The kids decided that air mattresses were definitely comfortable enough. Sleeping arrangements varied depending on the size of the room and the mood of the kids. We had a second bed for at least one person, a twin sized air mattress, and a double air mattress. Boy and Girl quickly decided that SmallBoy was way too wiggly to sleep with, so many nights we did have both air mattresses in use.



Dinner was another fast food option that we had never tried before—White Castle.



We swam in the little indoor pool for a while, and went to bed to prepare for another day of travel.
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Old 09-15-2008, 01:14 PM   #6
bethbuchall
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Day 2: Dayton to St. Louis (Get me out of here!)



This was one of our shorter driving days on the trip. We had calculated it to be about 5.5 hours from one hotel to the next, which was about 20 minutes outside of St. Louis. We awoke early and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the breakfast room of the hotel. Here we were introduced to another new food…Biscuits with sausage gravy. Oh, my! Those were good even as I felt my arteries clogging and hardening. Ok…now we’re on our way to the first “real” stop on the trip! We were going to see the Mississippi River and the St. Louis Arch for the first time ever. Technically, I had seen the Mississippi River from a moving train on that trip I took when I was in high school, but that was way back in the Dark Ages.

Another thing new thing for me on Day 2 was the increased speed limits! I have never been somewhere that I could legally drive more than 65 mph. How great is that! We tracked the gas mileage for the van, and, really, we didn’t lose that much mileage at the higher speeds.

There goes Indianapolis…





We arrived in the St. Louis area mid-afternoon. Guess what?! We were given a whole extra hour today! Logical dh didn’t see it that way, but I sure did. We get to have an extra hour of fun!

We checked into our home for the night, Fairfield Inn-Fairview Heights, IL. I was once again quite pleased to find it very clean and comfortable. This one was even nicer than the Country Inns and Suites that we had left in Dayton. We spent some time getting the air mattresses set up and relaxing a little, since we knew that we probably wouldn’t be back until relatively late. We had Arch Tram tickets for 7:30 pm and wanted to go to Ted Drewe’s after we saw the Arch.

We decided to ask Daniel where we should have dinner. We had passed a Sonic (yes, those were completely new to us, too) on the way in, but it was pretty far back. There was a Joe’s Crab Shack near the hotel, but none of us really like seafood, and we didn’t really want to spend too much time eating. Daniel showed us a Popeye’s Chicken that was close to the hotel and in the same direction we would need to go to get to the Arch, so Popeye’s it was. We thought it was ok, but I guess we prefer the KFC that we grew up with.

It was time to cross the Mississippi River and head to the Arch. I think I was more excited than the kids. We’re a pretty low-key family, though, so maybe they were just containing their excitement.

Here are our first glimpses of the Arch. Yes, it’s there…you need to look for it.




This is the first time Daniel confused me a little. Maybe I’m just easily confused, because dh said that he knew which way we were supposed to go. Unfortunately, he didn’t speak up in time for me to get there. I don’t remember exactly what I did wrong, but I think there were two bridges with basically the same name, and I was on the one that Daniel didn’t choose. This made directions once we made it to the other side a little tricky, and I think Daniel may have been almost as confused as I was at times. He doesn’t always seem to realize that some roads are elevated, and you can’t just turn on to them.

Anyway, we did see the Mississippi River…









And eventually even found our way to the Arch.








(If you look closely, you can see the itty bitty windows up there.)

We went inside the visitors’ center, and I caught a glimpse of the tram that we would be riding to the top of the Arch in. It looked miniscule. I am a very large woman, and I was suddenly convince that there was no way that I was going to fit in there but too embarrassed to mention it. The only thing that kept me from completely freaking out is that each tram seats five. Since we had five people in our family, there would be no one else to witness my shame. I wish I’d taken a photo of that tiny tram car that was on display. We lined up to await our tram. As we were waiting, I realized that I wasn’t the only one becoming nervous. Girl apparently does not like elevators or small enclosed spaces. She has never really made an issue of this before, but when I think back on it, she almost always looks for stairs instead of an elevator. She wasn’t too nervous, but I could tell that she wasn’t completely comfortable with the whole idea. I asked if she wanted to leave, but she said that she wanted to go on. Here is the door to our tram. See how tiny it is? I really was worried about fitting through that door with hundreds of people watching me. Well, I had nothing to worry about. They are small, but they aren’t nearly as tiny as they look. Girl, on the other hand, apparently had a lot to worry about. She did not like being in that tiny, hot, creaking box at all. In fact, I think all she said about it was, “Get me out of here!” Now, we were already moving in that tiny, hot, creaking box, and there was no way to get her out of there. That was about the longest 3 minutes of my life (and hers, too, I’m sure).









But we made it safely to the top!


It was so crowded up there, and the windows were tinier than the little box that we’d made that perilous journey in. We were patient and waited our turn to take a look out over St. Louis and the Mississippi River.


What great views!












4 out of 5 family members surveyed thought it was well worth the trip! Girl realized that we weren’t going to be able to walk back down and steeled herself for the ride. They split our family between two different cars. Dh and Boy were in one with a group of three. Girl, SmallBoy, and I were in another with a couple. We probably could have waited to go together, but we didn’t want to add to the confusion or spend any more time up in the crowds.

By the time we finished looking around the visitors’ center and gift shop (I bought the cutest little Arch that I’m going to hang on my Christmas tree), it was close to 9:30 pm. We had discussed calling someone that I “talk” with on the DDA thread to meet us at Ted Drewe’s but it was so late. I really don’t know how that much time had passed so quickly. Maybe I didn’t get that extra hour after all. We did head out to Ted Drewe’s. We enjoyed it, but I am sorry to report that we really weren’t all that hungry, and we were really tired, so we didn’t enjoy it as much as we could have. I think that baseball game that we saw from the top of the Arch must have finished about the time we were heading back to the hotel. Traffic was a bit crazy which was a little intimidating in the dark in an unknown area, but I made it back without incident. It certainly helped that Daniel was being a little more cooperative. We pretty much fell into bed.

Next up: Day 3 (Diners, Drive ins, and Dives!)
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Old 09-15-2008, 01:31 PM   #7
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You never had biscuits & gravy before They are yummy

I love your map showing where you are going, reminds me of National Lampoon's Vacation

Keep it coming
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Old 09-15-2008, 01:47 PM   #8
KristineN

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Your arch pics bring up some funny memories when I supervised 50 8th graders...I will NEVER forget riding up in that tiny contraption!
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Old 09-15-2008, 01:53 PM   #9
bethbuchall
Had to make sure she was in Disney World on her 40th
 
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Your arch pics bring up some funny memories when I supervised 50 8th graders...I will NEVER forget riding up in that tiny contraption!
I have a couple of pictures of dd that I knew better than to post. She wasn't even happy that I had the pictures, but her little brother took them, not me. In the first, you can see that she looks like she is about to pass out, and in the second, her head is buried in her hands. It was a stressful trip up!
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Old 09-15-2008, 02:46 PM   #10
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Oh goody! I can relive some of my trip thru your photos. We didn't do St. Louis this time. Dh had never been in the arch & really wanted to go but my parents & I really didn't. We remembered the elevator & my mom is afraid of heights. The museum in the basement is worth the stop, and the view is great. But I just wasn't feeling it this trip.

I think sometime in the next 10 years I'd like to do a Memphis/Nashville/St. Louis trip.

Looking forward to more!
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Old 09-15-2008, 02:59 PM   #11
babytrees
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Who has a big toe the same size as the rest of their toes??? I know I don't have uniform feet
 
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Never had sausage gravy and biscuits??

I love your descriptions of the kids...I so see them in the descriptions!!

Ummm.....if you are a big woman than I am an elephant but I also would have given my ticket up after seeing the arch. Between claustrophobic, afraid of heights (espescially over water) and a truly big girl you would have needed a crow bar to peel me off the ceiling
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Old 09-15-2008, 03:04 PM   #12
bethbuchall
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Never had sausage gravy and biscuits??

I love your descriptions of the kids...I so see them in the descriptions!!

Ummm.....if you are a big woman than I am an elephant but I also would have given my ticket up after seeing the arch. Between claustrophobic, afraid of heights (espescially over water) and a truly big girl you would have needed a crow bar to peel me off the ceiling
Theresa, you are definitely smaller than me! It does sound like you wouldn't be happy going up in that elevator, though. My guess is that dd will never do it again either. She definitely wasn't playing it up. She was truly terrified.
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Old 09-15-2008, 03:05 PM   #13
bethbuchall
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Oh, and apparently the Northeast is the only region to not have that wonderful treat of sausage gravy and biscuits. I think I need a recipe for that some weekend after cross country season is done. The kids definitely can't run after eating that!
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Old 09-15-2008, 03:17 PM   #14
babytrees
I hate when you've been salivating over something and then it disappoints!!
Who has a big toe the same size as the rest of their toes??? I know I don't have uniform feet
 
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Oh, and apparently the Northeast is the only region to not have that wonderful treat of sausage gravy and biscuits. I think I need a recipe for that some weekend after cross country season is done. The kids definitely can't run after eating that!
it's easy peasy....just ask on the thread and we'll share our recipes. Mine is so hard:

biscuits

sausage brown and crumble

white sauce/gravy

viola!!

We don't eat it very often but as a once in awhile treat it's good...it's all the butter that will kill me but what a way to go!!
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Old 09-17-2008, 10:48 AM   #15
bethbuchall
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Originally Posted by estherhead View Post
Oh goody! I can relive some of my trip thru your photos. We didn't do St. Louis this time. Dh had never been in the arch & really wanted to go but my parents & I really didn't. We remembered the elevator & my mom is afraid of heights. The museum in the basement is worth the stop, and the view is great. But I just wasn't feeling it this trip.

I think sometime in the next 10 years I'd like to do a Memphis/Nashville/St. Louis trip.

Looking forward to more!
Our trip is "backwards" from yours. It's been a lot of fun reading how you did it. I wish that I would have read more TRs like this before we went, but maybe it was better that we just did it our way.

Memphis/Nashville/St. Louis sounds good!
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