Monthly Archives: June 2009

Great Yellowstone Adventure 2009, Days Eleven and Twelve.

Loveland, CO – Day Eleven was another sunny day brought happiness to our family as they left Casper, Wyoming.

“Well, it was that and the fact that we were leaving Casper,” Michelle said. “Casper was well and fine, but dusty. And we were really looking forward to a state park campground. We much prefer them over RV parks.”

Along the trek, our family stopped at some of the historic sites from the Oregon Trail.

“Laurel loves playing Oregon Trail on the computer, and I played it when I was younger, too,” Greg noted. “It was only natural that we planned our route to encompass some of the more notable sites.”

Included in their journey were still-visible Oregon Trail wagon ruts and Register Cliff outside Guernsey, Wyoming.

Greg was doubtful about the authenticity of signatures on Register Cliff.

“Anyone could have carved anything on that,” said our skeptical patriarch.

“True, and I’m sure they did, but look at some of them – some of them use letter stylings we no longer use, like the way that ‘J’ is formed, and others use name abbreviations we don’t use now, like ‘Go.’ for ‘George,’” Michelle pointed out. “Oh, and look at that one, that one is engraved with such care it looks like it was done by someone who set book type or something.”

Michelle probably had more sleep than Greg the night before.

It was hot in Wyoming, sunny and dusty. Still, the family soldiered on to Fort Laramie National Historic Site, another Oregon Trail notable site. There, Laurel earned her fifth Junior Ranger badge.

“I just eat this stuff up,” Michelle noted. “We spent a lot more time there than we really intended to spend, which meant we had to eat hastily-assembled sandwiches in the truck after walking all over Ft. Laramie, but it was just too cool to pass up.”

The family arrived in Loveland, Colorado just after 4 p.m. and set up camp. Shortly thereafter, a cool breeze started blowing and the family started bickering. It took two attempts before the family could leave the campground without a meltdown.

“Everyone was hot, tired, and cranky from all the dust and driving – but it was a beautiful evening,” Michelle said, “Of course, then we got lost in Loveland and Ft. Collins. We were relying on Google directions and they left something to be desired. Thank god for Greg’s phone and Google maps. I think Greg hates Colorado now.”

Even so, the family had a decent dinner, then returned to camp and fell asleep.

Day Twelve dawned with more perfect weather. Michelle awoke early and went for a run near the lake.

“My lungs weren’t killing me at 5,000 feet the way they were killing me at 8,000 feet,” she said. “I was still slower than I am in St. Louis. Not that I set any land speed records there.”

The family members took their time getting up and around, but then made their way into Rocky Mountain National Park.

“We drove the Trail Ridge Road,” Greg said, “and then I carried Ethan on my shoulders from the Alpine Visitor Center up to 12,000 feet. Michelle thought I was going to die.”

“True,” Michelle added, “but he’s not the only one. I remarked that I sounded like John Henry’s hammer suckin’ wind.”

Despite the difficulty of high elevation climbing, the family agreed it was wroth the trip. “We had never been in the Alpine Tundra ecosystem before, and marveled at the different plant life. We also got a family photo of us at 12,005 feet. Very cool,” Laurel said.

Very cool was right. It was pretty chilly

After their Rocky Mountain National Park adventure, the family returned to Estes Park, Colorado, and rode a big slide.

“It was scary,” Ethan remarked. “I stayed on my bottom and on my blanket but it still scared me.”

Michelle added, “After riding down that slide, I understood why they asked patrons to refrain from sliding if they had back trouble. As is usual with me, I ignored the warning and felt a little twinge on the way down.”

Next, the family rode up the aerial tramway, built in 1955. It fit about 12 people at a time, and went up and up and up.

“I did better if I faced the direction we were going. Things weren’t so great when I looked back behind us,” Michelle said.

The family eventually returned to camp for the evening. The children played on the playground next to the campsite, and the adults relaxed in the waning light as the temperatures cooled significantly.

“It’s really very pretty here,” Michelle said, “and it doesn’t bother me that we’re downwind from both beef AND dairy operations, or that the people in the campsite behind us are playing really shitty music!”

Current tripmeter reading: 3149 miles.

Photos:

Day Eleven:

Content with his DVD Player and stuffed bisonTrail Ruts SignOregon Trail Ruts 1Oregon Trail Ruts 2Oregon Trail Ruts 3Family at Oregon Trail Ruts

Register Cliff SignCliff swallowsRegister Cliff on Oregon TrailRegister Cliff on Oregon Trail 2Register Cliff on Oregon Trail 3Examining Signatures for Authenticity

Ft Laramie from Parade FieldFt Laramie Surgeon House - Store - etcGuard House and prison at Fort Laramie National Historic SiteOld prison at Fort Laramie NHSLaurel in solitary confinement

Colorado signSunset over the Rockies

Day Twelve:

Long's Peak, Rocky Mountain National ParkMountaintop GrazersAlpine Tundra from afarElkThe little trail that winded us all at 12000 feetHigh on a mountainLoungingHappy family at 12000 feetAlpine Tundra plant life

Aerial Tramway 1Aerial Tramway 2View from the top of the tramway

Great Yellowstone Adventure, Days Eight Through Ten.

Casper, WY  — The family has internet access again after a couple of days of drought. If you know our family, you know this is a heavy burden to bear.

“Whatever,” Michelle retorted when this reporter read her the opening paragraph. “I don’t know why you have to print crap like that.”

Day Eight was flanked on both sides by rain and nobody in the family save Ethan was really dressed properly for the chill weather. No matter, our indefatigable family continued their tour of Yellowstone.

“Indefatigable? That’s a big laugh,” remarked Greg. “I think one or more of us were exhausted at this point. Crappy, overpriced meals in West Yellowstone were not helping the situation.”

The family toured the south loop this day, including Old Faithful, Fountain Paint Pots, and Yellowstone Lake. Laurel and Greg attended a ranger program while Michelle entertained Ethan at a park marina.

“I GOT TO FISH AND GOT MY JUNIOR RANGER BADGE!!!!” Laurel exclaimed while she twirled and fidgeted.

“God, will you SIT STILL ALREADY?!” cried Michelle.

“See what I mean about ‘indefatigable?’ Greg smirked.

Ethan entered the fray. “DONUT!” he yelled. “DONUT DONUT!”

The family spent the entire day touring the southern loop at Yellowstone and allowing Laurel to fish. The highlight was when Greg fell into the lagoon while trying to use a tree trunk to cross to the sandbar.

“That was so awesome,” remarked Michelle. “I didn’t have the camera ready, though. We’re all very disappointed.”

“I didn’t FALL into the lagoon,” Greg whined. “I STEPPED into the lagoon. And I was carrying a cooler in one hand and Ethan in the other, dammit.”

“Whatever,” Michelle responded. “Nobody told you to do that. You still fell into the lagoon.”

Laurel did not catch any fish but learned a lot about the fishing regulations at Yellowstone.

“You have to pinch down all the barbs on your hooks,” she instructed everyone. Everyone. “And you can’t use lead sinkers. And anything with even the faintest red slash on the throat is considered a cutthroat trout and you had better NOT be caught with one of those, you have to release it.”

After a full day in the park, the family returned to West Yellowstone and had their first decent meal – barbecue.

The next morning, Day Eight, the family rose and shone and headed south to Grand Teton National Park. Greg in particular was offended by the fact that after paying $54.00 for an RV site, the family would have to pay for showers.

“F-it, Greg, who cares?” Michelle said. “I’ll just be dirty. I don’t care. I totally agree, I’m not paying $3.75 for a shower.”

Our family enjoyed a GREAT pizza dinner at Leek’s Marina – they ate on the deck with a gorgeous view of the Tetons. After dinner, they took a drive through the park, then returned to camp, stopping first at the gift shop, where Laurel held court with the man in charge of fly fishing.

“What grade is she in?” He asked.

“Um, fifth,” Michelle said.

“Wow. That’s good. She’s a smart cookie, she really knows her stuff.”

“Good deal,” Michelle said. “I think fishing is a special kind of hell. Her job is to catch ‘em, I’ll clean ‘em and cook ‘em.”

Laurel would like to add, “The caddis fly is the most popular for trout, that’s what I bought.”

The family finished the evening with a stop at the ice cream stand.

“We only had one day there,” Michelle explained. “We had to move on to Casper in the morning, but I think we made the most of it.”

Day Nine dawned sunny again. The family enjoyed a hearty breakfast buffet at the camp restaurant.

“I do not know how or where Laurel packs it away,” Greg observed. “She had one full plate of heavy breakfast food, followed by a big bowl of organic, sustainable oatmeal and another big bowl of fruit, including an entire banana.”

Michelle added, “I told her I wanted her to eat EVERY SINGLE BITE.”

She did.

Ethan, too, was starving, enjoying a very large cinnamon roll and fruit. Several hours and a long trip to the bathroom later, Greg observed that Ethan’s pants fit much better.

“Well, no wonder,” Michelle responded. “He had to get rid of that huge breakfast.”

The family headed east through Wyoming toward Casper, stopping at a couple of historic sites along the way.

“Michelle’s the navigator, and she wanted to stop at Sacajawea’s grave site,” said Greg. “The trouble is, the site is not particularly well marked and we were driving down a reservation road without any really good idea about where we were going.”

The family found the site, though. Ethan threw a fit so Greg took him back to the truck, but Michelle marveled at the cemetery.

“It was very pretty, with the flowers and tokens for the dead. It was very different from the cemeteries I know. There were a lot of wooden crosses used for headstones, but someone MADE those crosses, put their love into them – not like the granite headstones we so often see.”

Moving on, the family viewed two Oregon Trail landmarks; Split Rock and Independence Rock.

“We actually stopped for some time at Independence Rock, because that was such an important site for the travelers on the Oregon Trail,” Michelle observed. “Laurel is a good historian because she’s played the computer game so much that I can say, ‘Hey Laurel, you recognize Split Rock?’ and she’ll tell us about it.”

Tired and road-weary, the family finally pulled into Casper, WY, and set up camp.

“We’re at another RV park tonight,” Greg said, “but this one isn’t a gravel parking lot like the one in West Yellowstone, and it has a pool here.”

The family spent the evening at a local restaurant with passable food, followed by a dip in the pool before retiring to the camper for the evening.

Tomorrow they move along to Colorado with a couple more Oregon Trail stops.

“I’ve told Greg several times that I think this is the right vacation for us,” Michelle said. “I’m not yet pining for home, and we’ve been known to cut vacations short in the past.”

Photos:

Teaching about tackleWith his 'gorilla'Fountain Paint Pots 1Fountain Paint Pots 2Pedestrian Crossing - yes that is a  MO plate in front of usThey play just like cattle Old Faithful eruptionInside Old Faithful Inn Crossed and re-crossed and crossed again and againReceiving her Jr Ranger patch Yellowstone Lake Greg and Ethan way down at the end of the sandbarUnluckyLemonade and beerHappy family at Grand Teton National Park - hard to see the Tetons in the backgroundLaurel dwarfed by the TetonsGrand Teton National Park 1Pelican at Grand Teton National ParkGrand Tetons by dawn's early lightBronze Sacajawea StatueEthan and his new buffalo at Sacajawea GravesiteSacajawea Gravesite in White River Reservation WY Markers for Sacajawea and her childrenSplit Rock, Oregon Trail Independence RockIndependence Rock 1Independence Rock Engravings 1Sign from old road around Independence RockFamily up Independence Rock as far as Michelle could travel with her stupid ankleThe rest of the family going the rest of the way to the top of Independence RockThe speck in the middle is Greg and EthanGreg had to rescue Laurel and I guess I had the camera tilted when I took this

Great Yellowstone Adventure, Day Seven.

West Yellowstone, MT – Shhh. The family is still sleeping. Yesterday was a very long day filled with hiking, sun exposure, driving, mosquitoes, and temper tantrums.

Our travelers toured the north loop of Yellowstone, beginning at the Madison Jr. Ranger Station, working north through Mammoth Hot Springs, then back south and east to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. They saw numerous falls, lots of elk and bison, and a bald eagle, but no bears or wolves. The family has not yet lost hope to see these creatures yet.

The Interesting Character of the Day revealed himself in the evening when our exhausted family was waiting for a dinner table in West Yellowstone. Ethan was having a fit because he was starving and tired, and a gentleman in sweatpants and riding chaps struck up a conversation with Michelle about it. He even went so far as to refer to himself as “riding the iron horse” and Michelle nearly strained her eyes to keep from rolling them.

Immediately after dinner, the family returned to the camper and fell into bed. They are touring the south loop today and will try to get some fishing time in for Laurel.

“Yellowstone has a LOT of fishing regulations, including barbless hooks and mandatory killing of all lake trout, plus some areas are fly-fishing only and Laurel doesn’t have a fly rod, so I spent some time reading up on regulations,” Michelle reported last night. “I don’t particularly care to pay a federal fine for allowing Laurel to violate the rules. I’m sure that will cause her all manner of consternation because with her recent fishing luck she will probably catch only cutthroat trout (mandatory release) and will want to keep them all.”

Photos:

bald eagle Artist Paint Pots 1Artist Paint Pots 2Artist Paint Pots 3.jpgNorris Geyser Basin 1Norris Geyser Basin 2Ethan loved the gurgling sound from this feature and I thought the mud looked like grey cake batter Norris Geyser Basin 3Norris Geyser Basin 4Family at Norris Geyser BasinGolden GateGolden Gate FallsOpposite Mammoth Hot Spr
ingsMammoth Hot Springs 1Mammoth Hot Springs 2Mammoth Hot Springs 3Mammoth Hot Springs 4Rainbow above Mammoth Hot SpringsTasty45th Parallel North GateUndine FallsTower FallWaitingUpper FallsLower Falls from Artist PointThe Family at Lower Falls Overlook

Great Yellowstone Adventure 2009, Day Six.

Yellowstone National Park, WY — “Today was mostly just a day of driving,” reported Greg, 30. “We started the day with a stockup run to the nearest big box store, and ended at camp in West Yellowstone, Montana.”

“It was a pretty drive, though,” reported Michelle, 33. “The kids were bickering at the end, but the scenery sort of saved things anyway.”

A video of one portion of the drive:

 

Our travelers made a pit stop at one point where high elevation snow still capped a mountain. The kids took the opportunity to throw snowballs at their mother, who desperately needed a bathroom break. “They really took their lives into their own hands,” Michelle said, “but Laurel and I managed to find a spot behind a tree and narrowly avoided being seen thanks to Greg yelling, ‘VISITORS!’ from below.”

Moving along, the family was puzzled when they had to follow a pilot car down through the mountains. Greg was the first to guess the reason. “Fallen rocks on the road,” he remarked. “The signs up here say to watch for ‘fallen’ rock, not ‘falling rock.’” Michelle added, “I guess that makes more grammatical sense – one is more likely to encounter rock that has already fallen than rock that is still in the process of falling.”

The family took the most direct route through Yellowstone to get to the west side, with a brief stop at the Mud Volcanoes area just to stretch their legs.

“Ethan freaked out at one of the locations on the trail because the steam was so pungent and was drifting right at us. And yes, I’m going to call it ‘steam’ and not ‘condensed water vapor’ even though Greg grits his teeth when I do it and I lose nerd credibility for doing so. And though I was resistant at first, I’m also calling the bison ‘buffalo’ even though I know the difference because that’s what everyone up here does, and when in Rome…”

Greg rolled his eyes.

After arriving in West Yellowstone and getting settled in, the family ventured out to a brewpub that calls itself a brewery but doesn’t actually brew anything – or at least not anymore. “I hate that,” grumbled Greg. Michelle added, “Liars and cheats! Wait, make that OVERPRICED liars and cheats!” But both agreed that at least they got to try some beers they couldn’t get in Missouri – even if they weren’t actually brewed by the “brewery.” They finished the day by purchasing a stunt kite and trying to fly it in the city park. “The wind was a little unreliable,” Michelle stated. “We’ll probably try again tomorrow inside the Yellowstone boundaries. We went and got an ice cream cone again, which is becoming a theme.”

The family would also like to make mention of the mosquitoes. Says Greg: “They are absolutely everywhere, and we were warned they would be when we watched a show about Yellowstone. Don’t anybody tell Grandma Smith because she’ll be convinced we’re all about to die from West Nile.”

The Interesting Character of the Day was the gentleman who runs the RV park where the BoneBlog family is staying. He looks like an aged Billy Bob Thornton and grew up in Shrewsbury, of all places on earth. “Yep,” he remarked, “I went to Affton high school and Heege elementary, but that was LONG before your time. I’ve got grandchildren your age.”

Photos:

Snow! In June! Around 8500 ft elev You can tell from his face what he is about to do Pilot car leading us due to rockslide pre-Yellowstone Wapiti Valley I think Tasty bisonTo everything churn churn churnMud Volcanoes in YellowstoneMud volcanoes area in YellowstoneGeothermal wonderlandEscaping mosquitoes

Great Yellowstone Adventure 2009, Day Five.

Sheridan, WY – The family pulled out of Custer State Park no later than 7:00 a.m. this morning and made good time into Deadwood, SD. Michelle wanted to see the graves of Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane, but it was not to be. “No RV access up the hill to the cemetery, and it was so early we figured the buses to the cemetery wouldn’t be running anyway, so we had to skip it.

No matter, our family reported good weather and good time to Devil’s Tower National Monument, where they spent an inordinate amount of time traipsing around after Ethan. “We took the Tower Trail, which was an easy 1.3-mile hike,” Greg reported. “Yeah, but Ethan decided that rather than being pushed in his stroller, he should do the pushing. Needless to say, he’s not setting any land speed records with the stroller,” Michelle said. At the halfway point, our BoneBlog parents insisted the youngest BoneBlog member ride in his stroller in spite of his objections to the contrary. Both children earned Junior Ranger badges. “Two hours plus at the Monument,” Michelle lamented. “It was very pretty, the weather was gorgeous, and I don’t regret it even if it did put us an hour or so behind schedule.”

The family marveled at the snow fences, something they never see in Missouri:

snow fence

Of course, our family tried to figure out why the fences were placed the way they were – some were obvious, they thought. “Some were clearly placed to keep snow from drifting over the interstate, but others were a mystery.” As it turns out, the family discovered that sometimes farmers and ranchers place the fences in such a manner to take advantage of snow melt and fill their ponds.

Following an impromptu picnic lunch at the Monument, the family made good time into Sheridan, marveling at the snow fences, mule deer and changing Wyoming landscape along the way. They stayed at a relatively small RV park just off the interstate that was unbelievably clean.

After setting up camp and hastily doing laundry, our family rode the trolley downtown to the Wyoming Rib and Chop House, then called for a ride back home. “Ah, god,” cried Michelle, “I have eaten so much I’m sick. They had to roll me up and shove me out the door. I will say (and I am picky) that the quality of the steaks was at least as good as anything we have had in St. Louis. That’s particularly impressive considering I had a bison filet, and most places dry it out.”

When our family was full, Michelle took Ethan outside while Greg paid the bill. “I let Ethan climb on a horse statue,” she relayed, “I got by with it because Greg was still inside paying the bill; Here’s a big surprise — I’m the rulebreaker of the family.”

The family rode the trolley back to the camper and called it a night. Tomorrow – YELLOWSTONE!

Interesting Character of the Day: Peter D, of Peter D’s RV Park. He has been so helpful to us from the time we booked our reservation through setting up camp. There is a quality wi-fi connection in the park, and he is just the nicest, most helpful fellow. Honorable mention goes to the trolley driver, who took us on an interesting tour of Sheridan and who swung around to pick us up even though she had just passed us by – without making us wait!

Photos (you know the drill, mouse over for captions, click to enlarge):

WY SignDevil's Tower from AfarJust look at the tiny people at the bottomWe have so many photos of this I cannot pickdevils towerbinoculars at devils towertower trailPorcupines did this to several ponderosa pines in the park - ponderosa pines smell like cream soda Prairie dogs are SO cuteEthan calls this a CharlieOn the trolley in Sheridan WYProbably against the rules in Sheridan WYAlso probably against the rules Sheridan Inn

Great Yellowstone Adventure 2009, Days Three and Four.

Custer State Park / Mt. Rushmore, S.D. – When last we left the BoneBlog family, they had just finished having lunch at one of the finer establishments in Sioux Falls. Shortly thereafter, they returned to the campground, wherein Laurel promptly asked a young girl, “What percent Mexican are you?” (the young lady was Guatemalan) and the avowed non-religious family was treated to a discordant refrain from “Shall We Gather at the River” from a well-meaning elderly man with an acoustic guitar. This last fellow would be a candidate for Character of the Day if it weren’t for the lady who requested the BoneBlog Family re-seat themselves so she and her pug could sit closer to their SUV.

That night, Greg and Michelle suffered severe lack of sleep, mostly due to the monster truck rally taking place at the nearby speedway. Aside from that, they gave rave reviews to Big Sioux Recreation Area.

Day Three was Fathers Day, and the family hit the road early to make their way to Custer State Park, which lies very near Mt. Rushmore. Naturally, it was just beginning to rain as they broke camp, so they busted tail to try to get the pop-up in before the canvas was wet, succeeding only marginally. They hit the road around 6:15 a.m., headed west through South Dakota…and rain. Plenty of rain.

About an hour out, the family pulled into Mitchell, home of the Corn Palace. They didn’t stop, but took photos from the truck. “I really didn’t want to get out and walk around in the rain,” Greg said.

Mitchell SD Corn Palace

South Dakota, as it turns out, is chock full of farmland – and it’s boring. And the interstate is straight. For miles. After stopping for fuel, Michelle had to give up the wheel to Greg. “I just couldn’t stand it anymore,” she said. “I was exhausted from being unable to sleep the night before.”

After crossing the Missouri River, the terrain became infinitely more interesting, with verdant rolling hills. On top of that, the rain finally moved past and the sun took over, bringing fluffy white clouds along which cast shadows over the hills:

SD Shadows from Clouds

The family eventually reached Badlands National Park. “It was really amazing how quickly the landscape changed,” Greg reported. Added Michelle, “There was very little transition.”

After a picnic lunch at the visitor center where Laurel earned her Badlands Junior Ranger badge, the park dropped our sleepy family in the little town of Wall, home of Wall Drug. The family (and the camper) trolled the parking lot for parking, then entered the store, where Michelle promptly lost patience. “I do NOT do well with hordes of people milling around with no direction. Navigating through aisles full of rotund people who fail to respond to ‘excuse me’ is NOT my idea of a good time.”

Our family promptly changed course, bought ice cream cones at the soda fountain, and perched themselves on a bench outside the store. “Ice cream two days in a row?” Michelle remarked, “These kids better not get too used to that!”

Moving along, it was just a short trip past Mt. Rushmore to Custer State Park. “Short in odometer reading, not in clock time,” remarked Greg. True, the hairpin turns and long climb took quite some time, but the family reports the scenery was worth it.

Pulling into camp, everyone was sleepy, particularly Michelle, who had taken Dramamine in order to survive the trip through Custer. “I didn’t care,” she said, “it was important to celebrate Fathers Day, so we went to one of the park lodges and had dinner.”

During dinner they met Day Three’s Interesting Character of the Day. Their Asian server had only a rudimentary grasp of the English language, and Greg really got the short end of the stick. “I asked for a New Belgium Amber Ale and she didn’t understand – finally she got it, and asked, ‘You want Fat Tire?’ But she never brought it, telling me instead she had to put it in the freezer and did I want something else. I took something else, but then wanted to have a Moose Drool beer – she never brought it but tried to charge.”

So while the Fathers Day celebration was perhaps not what Michelle expected when she planned for it, it was memorable, the campsite was beautiful, and the day ended well.

******

Day Four dawned chilly, and…

…we interrupt this report for a special word from our sponsors.

If ever you are in Custer State Park, and you need this…

Locked Out

Call this guy:

Harveys

Yes, folks, it’s true. Laurel accidentally locked the BoneBlog family out of the truck and they only had one key, in spite of having repeatedly discussed having copies made. Michelle gritted her teeth to keep from blowing up and walked off her aggravation at the situation when she hoofed it down to the lodge. “By the time I got there, I was laughing and shaking my head at the whole situation.” Naturally, the nearest locksmith she could call without incurring long distance charges was in Rapid City, a good distance away. While she was gone, Laurel asked Greg, “What’s taking Mommy so long?” Greg responded, “Uh, Mommy had to walk like 2 miles just to call someone. THAT is what is taking Mommy so long.”

As is usual with these kinds of things, the family was fairly quick to recover. “This is one of those things that becomes a funny story to tell later in life, you know?” Michelle remarked. “Besides, a little R&R never hurt anyone, even if it was forced by circumstance.”

About 1.5 hours after her call, the family was back in business, headed for Mt. Rushmore. Both kids earned their Junior Ranger badges and wore them the remainder of the day. While at Mt. Rushmore, our family encountered the Interesting Character(s) of the Day:  The Plaid Family:

Plaid Family

Upon seeing the family, Michelle remarked to Greg, “You reckon they do that so they can find each other in a crowd or what?” Greg was at a loss.

The family left Mt. Rushmore and drove into Keystone, a quaint tourist town with all manner of kitschy shops. They rode a chairlift to the top of a mountain, had burgers and beer — “Do NOT tell people my kids had beer,” insisted Michelle – and then rode a sled down a flume.

After that, they still had not had enough, so they treated themselves to a helicopter ride over the Black Hills followed by a long and winding trip down the Iron Mountain Road and back up the Needles Highway . “These crazy wooden bridges,” Greg remarked, “They’re everywhere.” The pigtail bridges and tunnels kept the kids relatively amused, as did the wildlife along the way. “We saw mountain goats, bison, deer, and wild mules,” Laurel reported.

The highlight of the Needles Highway was Tunnel 5, where Michelle exited the truck and ran through the tunnel, then photographed the pickup coming through. “The tunnel is very popular, and people park on both sides. I’m sure they were surprised to see a crazy broad come running through the tunnel with a camera, and most likely they noticed she was not wearing a sports bra.”

Finally, the family ventured back to camp, where they made the short trip to Sylvan Lake so Laurel could fish, Ethan and Greg could ride a pedal boat, and Michelle could run. “This running at high altitude malarkey is for the birds,” Michelle reported. “My lungs were burning so much, and I intend to blame the high altitude rather than the 2 beers I had at lunch. So there.”

Miles traveled as of publication: 1258

Photos in order of occurrence (mouse over for caption, click to enlarge):

Mitchell SD Corn Palace Badlands 1 Badlands 2Badlands 3Badlands 4Wall DrugWall Drug Ice Cream Pit Stop Custer State Park SD CampsiteDouble-Fisting Chicken Strips Resting Mt Rushmore 1Mt Rushmore 2Mt Rushmore 3 ChairliftTop of Alpine Slide HelicopterOh Shit I Changed My Mind Can We NOT Go On The HelicopterCathedral SpiresPigtail BridgeWild FellowsWildlife SignWild Fellows BoneBlog Truck Tunnel 5Laurel fishing at Sylvan LakeEthan in a pedal boat

Great Yellowstone Adventure 2009, Days One and Two.

Sioux Falls, SD – Parents everywhere were shocked yesterday when they heard the story of the two kids, 9 and 3, who endured a 10-hour drive with virtually no complaint.

“We had one backseat skirmish,” reported Michelle, 33, “but General Greg put the hammer down and we heard no more.”

The altercation began when Ethan, 3, stole Laurel’s camera. Laurel, 9, protested loudly and Ethan threw the camera.

“I just can’t believe it,” gasped a skeptical citizen when this reporter relayed the story of the uneventful road trip. “Those parents must’ve drugged them kids or somethin’. There ain’t no way in hell those kids were content to ride for 10 hours in that truck with only three stops.”

It seems they were. Ethan, 3, burned off some pent-up energy that evening at the campsite by rigging himself up a stationary bicycle. Video will follow when technology allows.

When asked about some of the interesting things they saw during their drive, they reported on the loess hills in Iowa and the Pump-n-Munch gas station outside of Sioux City.

The family moved through four states the first day of their trip; Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, and…Minnesota?

“Yeah,” Greg, 30, relayed. “It started raining just after we set up camp, so we decided to take a little drive over to Minnesota.”

“What about you, Michelle,” I asked, “What did you think when it rained on you right after you set up?”

“Shit,” was her matter-of-fact response.

This reporter stated, “Uh…I don’t think I can print that.”

“Well, that’s what I thought, and you asked me what I thought.”

It seems the family has made a habit of camping in rain, but the good news is that the storm blew past in less than an hour and the family was able to restore their good humor. It helped that camp was unscathed.

The family reports that South Dakota looks just like Missouri, only when they rolled into Sioux Falls, it was about 20 degrees cooler than the day before in Missouri.

“It was comfortable. It was really comfortable. It also stays light until well after 9 p.m. already, so it was somewhat disorienting.”

*********************************

Day Two dawned sunny and clear, with temperatures promising the 80s. Michelle, Laurel, and Ethan went for a run/bike on the camp trail, then everyone enjoyed a bacon and pancake breakfast at the campsite. Then, after showers, the group headed into Sioux Falls proper to visit its namesake.

“The falls were beautiful, but would have been more so if it weren’t for Ethan having a Grade A, Number One, US Choice Fit about the spray from the falls,” Michelle grumbled. “On the bright side, we got a couple of really good family photos – if you ignore the obviously angry 3-year-old.”

Falls Park was host to a Culture Festival, and the family tried to attend, but Ethan was so tired and hungry that they only stayed a few minutes, then moved on to find lunch at Burger Time.

“Ugh,” Michelle lamented, “I had to get snotty at Burger Time. It’s this quaint little place where there are no inside tables, but only picnic tables outdoors. Ethan and I went and found a spot at one, but then some broad got out of her truck and said they wanted that table because they had parked right in front of it and she was trying to get out when I just sat down.”

This reporter asked, “What did you do?”

“I put on my smartass voice and told her, ‘Yeah, well, we were here first but we’ll be glad to move if you must sit next to your rig.”

Turns out, that woman was a strange bird anyway. Her husband had to make repeated trips up to the order window to satisfy her and she ate with her pug on her lap.

Later, in talking to Greg, Michelle remarked, “You know, that kind of woman is the scary kind of weird – you know, the kind of weird you can’t see coming because they look alright on the outside but then they open their mouths and it’s like, BOO! I’M WEIRD!!”

The family finished up their lunch with ice cream cones from the BJ Milky Way. Dipped cones, no less.

The family intends to spend the rest of the day near camp in Sioux Falls, then head out early in the morning. The destination? Mt. Rushmore.

Stay tuned for further reports. Meanwhile, enjoy the photographic essay below. Mouse over for captions, click to enlarge:

IA Sign SD Sign SD Answer to Vegas Casinos SD Rain Blurry MN Sign Brandon SD Lookout Tower

SD After the Rain from Brandon Tower

Sioux Falls Campsite

How Real Roasters Roast Marshmallows

Making Friends in Sioux Falls SD Sioux Falls Queen City Mill Ruins Happy Family in Sioux Falls - Except for Ethan Happy Family Except Ethan Part II Sioux Falls Namesake

View of Sioux Falls from Tower

Bagpipes at Sioux Falls Culture Festival

Burger Time

Milky Way

Relief.

It is 91 degrees as I write this.

I’ve been furiously packing and cleaning all day in order to be ready to pull out at 5 a.m. tomorrow (or earlier if I can coax everyone out of bed).

But there is always time for ice cream:

hot day relief

(please, oh please ignore the weeds in the bed and the fuchsia flowers on the porch, I haven’t gotten to those)

Finally Calming…Some.

Hullo, Internet.

I know, it’s been awhile. Eight days, in fact, since I updated. What can I say? Real life is a jealous bitch that demands much of my time.

Anyway, things have been fairly uneventful, but busy. We picked Laurel up from camp last Saturday. She was exhausted and homesick, and we were all very glad to see each other – especially in light of the tornado warnings that were out for her camp one night – a night in which, Laurel says, they just went to the dining hall and played games.

She had a good time, though, and I think she learned a lot. She adopted the cockatiels for the week and laughed because they would come and sit on her head. We took a tour of the camp and I was just pretty impressed. This was a new camp for Laurel and she isn’t sure just yet which she’d like to attend next year – that’s okay, she has time.

This week we’ve spent a lot (lot!) of time preparing for our vacation, which is imminent. This will be the longest vacation we’ve ever taken together, so I have been freaking out more than I ever have about planning for it. We’ll log thousands of miles on our odometer, and take thousands of photos, and – we hope – will will have thousands of fun stories when we return.

Last night, Laurel and I went to the salon for pedicures and she got a haircut:

laurel new haircut straight 

I know, I’m not a pedicure person and I certainly didn’t even have one myself until (I think) I was pregnant with Ethan, but in light of recent events we thought Laurel needed a relaxing evening. And a haircut.

Laurel’s reaction to the pedicure? “I could do this all day.”

Oh, boy.

In other news, just as we’re getting ready to leave for vacation our garden has decided to go gangbusters. We got our first beans and jalapeno this morning:

beans
I’ve never cooked burgundy beans before; word on the street is that they will turn green just like regular run-of-the-mill beans when they cook. That’s why I bought them. We’ll find out tonight. We’ve also got a couple of edamame (ahem: SOYBEAN) pods that are ready, and plenty of lettuce and spinach. We’re waiting on zucchini and cukes to get bigger, waiting for the tomatoes to ripen, and our peas are JUST NOW beginning to bloom. Procrastinators.

So you see, Internet, we’ve been busy. We didn’t mean to neglect you, and we will certainly do our level best to update you while we’re away. They have RV parks with wireless internet. But then, you already know that. You’re the Internet.

Talk to you soon.