Left Bend, Wednesday 19th June. Up at 6am and in the car and off at 7am, destination Idaho Falls. It was a big drive, 9.5 hours, I wanted to make a dint in the mileage. The kids were great.
Next day we headed for Yellowstone National Park. Of course I took the wrong turn so instead of taking the most direct route, I in all my glory took the long route. So off we toddle, through the Grand Teton National Park, which was beautiful. Brent tells me there was only about 30 miles between the fast route and the slow one. The slow one was also windy, single lane, slow going - all round. I think it added another couple of hours to our trip at least.
Yellowstone was pretty cool too, thousands of people, watched a movie about the geyser and they mentioned New Zealand of course with the Pohutu geyser in Rotorua. Waited and waited for old faithful to blow, it was about 20 minutes late, but it was pretty spectacular. Left via the north entrance, which was where it was all happening. Beautiful colours, a few bison off in the distance. Mammoth hot springs seems a good base if you wanted to spend a few days. One thing that did surprise me was that they don't do the yogi bear thing. I know it wasn't strictly Yellowstone, its what I associate with it though. Paid $4.01 for petrol, the highest price it can get up to in Bend. Thought it wasn't too awful.
Stayed the night in Billings, Montana. What I really loved about the highway there is that you can travel at 75 miles an hour, that's 120km! You can gobble up a lot of miles at that speed. I felt like rubbish (crook/sick), by the time we get to Billings, full of sinuses, and it moved quickly down to my throat and chest. So stayed two nights there, which was right up the kids alley and gave me time with plenty of naps to get on top of it.. We were in the 1st KOA (Kampgrounds of America), it was a pretty nice set up. Beautiful warm swimming pool, great facilities, they even cater at night if you don't want to cook or leave camp. Plus they sold icecreams at an outside venue until 9pm.
Oh yeah they also had these bikes, the kind where you sit at almost ground level and peddle out front, little steering wheel etc. Well our girl had her heart set on riding one of them. $6 for half an hour (mean mother that I am) said that is way too much, and there are many things you can do with $6. Well she said, when I heard it was $6 my hopes were up to here (waist height) and then when I went to bargain with him and offer $3 for half an hour, my hopes were sky high. Then he said he would like to but he wasn't allowed, then my hopes were dashed. I said oh well, you know what? I think that would be a great project for you and dad to work on, that's right up his alley, figuring out how to do it with you. So she quickly replied, well I'll need pen and paper and I can do some designs, we can get an old bike from the goodwill (hoko hook/second hand shop) and ..... So she was happy again, and she and her dad now have a project to work on.
Discovered that petrol is really cheap here, because this is where it all comes from. Cheapest we paid was $3.50 although we saw $3.22, I had already filled up though. Next destination Little Bighorn Battlefield Monument in Montana. Wow, really loved it. They had a great descriptive movie showing with Indian tribal relatives and historians. The Indians sure got hard done by. The memorial stones really created a somber atmosphere and the Indian tribute was pretty neat too, except they were filming someone interviewing a member and no doubt descendant of one of the Indian tribes, so we didn't get to hang out there for long. Quite a highlight of the trip so far for me. Loved it.
Next destination, South Dakota, Mt Rushmore, just in time as the rain really set in.
We're happily driving along and hear a bang, something like a stone hitting the car. A quick look around us reveals nothing. Next minute we were surrounded by hail, about the size of peanut m&m's, totally covering the road, it looked like it went from rainy to thick snow all over the road, thick and completely white. Bizarre. Cars pulled up all over the place. Hazard lights flashing. Bradley remarked, mum, this is where your skid car training comes in! I agree.
So sheltered up from the weather in Moorcroft, Wyoming the first place or little town we could find in the middle of nowhere, in a little motel room, clean, comfortable, warm and out of the weather. We got sprinkled on during out last camping night, so we're also drying out our camping gear. The weather looks better tomorrow and we'll continue happily on our way. A little behind schedule and we probably won't make it to Vermont, however we'll have a good time along the way.
Apparently the weather IS going to play hardball with us. Lots of rain expected, so yet again we are sheltering in a motel. The Rodeway Inn, Austin, Minnesota. Not the cheapest I could find, the next. When we pulled up to the first place the children both went no. So this one I thought ok, lets just do it. And what a lovely surprise. It is spacious and freshly painted, carpeted, new covers, beds feel good. Strong internet, nice bathroom. It's a great deal and we are all happy.
Continue on to South Dakota, Mt Rushmore and really enjoyed viewing the four carved Presidents. Rather interesting to see that the majority of the carving was created with explosives, and somewhat sad that the German designer and carver died before the final dedication. Pleased he pretty much saw it through though. 17 years is a good portion of ones life. They were an impressive feat, especially when one considers the technology they had at hand, and what we have nowadays.
Next stop, Mitchell and the Corn Palace. Stayed in the nicest KOA campground. The first ever KOA seemed to charge for everything. This one was run by two older men, they made fresh coffee in the morning and offered it, just as a nice thing to do. They left the golf clubs out so everyone was able to help themselves when they wanted, no charge, AND something that was right up Reagan's alley, they offered the same bikes for $3.50 a half hour. She was stoked, and Brent encouraged her to take a ride (then she'll really know if she wants to make one). So the kids swam, played golf and had a bike ride. Of course we rounded the night off with a family golf competition, I really thought I was going to take it, until the final hole, that was a tough one. In the end, we were all pretty even. Good fun.
Only did a drive by of the corn palace early this morning, it was quite impressive. 5th of June they had stripped and replaced all the outer picture panels. Loved it, I wonder how long it takes to organize these huge panels all constructed with corn, husks and all (which makes these beautiful cream/tan pictures). Nativity scene, soldiers, patterns etc, quite amazing.
On the way to Wisconsin Dells, which I'm thinking I can drive in one day, I notice a sign. De Smets, South Dakota, Laura Ingalls Wilder. So when I stop for fuel, I ask one of the girls, who obviously has no idea about much, but she points me in the direction of a man who does. He said it's 50 miles north of here (in the wrong direction for our trip) and it's worth it. So off we toddle. Wisconsin Dells is out the window. However we did do a wonderful Historic Homes tour, with the original surveyors cottage the Ingalls Wilder family lived in. The surveyors cottage must have felt like heaven after seeing what the size of a shanty would have been, I'm estimating 10ft x 10ft. We also got to see the school the Ingalls Wilders went to and then the final house that pa built. So interesting.
This evening we have already had thunder, lightening and rain. Just checked the forecast and they are expecting flooding in southern Wisconsin, which was where we were heading - to go to Wisconsin Dells and the largest water park in the USA. Have decided that we don't need to get ourselves caught up in flooding, so we'll head further north and bypass the Dells. Reagan is disappointed, maybe we'll fit it in on the way home instead. So next stop Michigan and Lake Superior.
The kids have been great, I really think that they think this road trip is cool. All it took was to get going. We have been so lucky and seen so much. Just makes you realize how much more there is to see.