Trip Out West 2008 travel blog

Hello friends.

I'll get to where we are tonight, but first a few words about yesterday. As has been the case several times, we didn't have internet service last night. I guess in this day of constant connections, we take for granted that some places don't have the constant communication that we've become accustomed to. Especially with Chris' job, where he is connected every way from Sunday almost every moment, it's a drastic change in the rural areas of the country where you can't necessarily even find a payphone these days.

Anyway, back to Sunday. We decided to get an early start for a couple of reasons: 1) to maximize the potential of seeing wildlife on our final trip through Yellowstone and 2) to avoid the crowds of Yellowstone doing the same thing we were.

Unfortunately, the early start didn't help in seeing anymore wildlife in Yellowstone. Instead we saw the usual Elk and Bison. What we were really hoping for was a Grizzly or perhaps Wolf. We did however, successfully avoid the crowds as the roads were mostly empty. As some may know, the South entrance of Yellowstone that we took dumps you off into Grand Teton National Park so we had the benefit of seeing a few of the sights of GTNP on our way. It's interesting that the wildlife traffic jams happen in GT as well since we ran into one group looking at a hillside at a supposed Grizzly. We slowed down, but with the trailer, we weren't able to stop. Annie scanned the hill as we went but didn't see anything.

We did fill our desire to see a wolf, though, albeit a very small, cute puppy(?) wolf on the side of the road in Grand Teton. It was about to cross in front of us, then turned back toward the woods. It was a gray fluffy thing, about the size of a small dog.

As we traveled through Grand Teton, we made a few "scenic overlook" stops to snap some pictures. Even while moving, when we saw pretty sights, Annie would struggle to reach her camera, turn it on while Chris lowered her window, and focus on the mountain or lake or whatever before the view was blocked by trees. Chris said she didn't get any faster at this even after doing it six or seven times. Therefore we have several pictures of trees or blurry road signs. Thank God for digital cameras and the 'trash' button.

As we started the day, Annie and Chris decided to put in a long day of driving since they were leaving so early. 10-11 hours was the plan. One problem with Yellowstone is that there aren't any four lane roads going to or from there. So in order to get to an interstate, at least one going east and generally in the direction you want to go, you have to spend eight hours on two-lane rural roads through some beautiful but hilly, curvy country. The brakes got their workout on Sunday.

Even after leaving Grand Teton, we saw some great scenery and got some good pictures. Chris has almost mastered the skill of steering with the forearms while holding the camera pointing out the windshield, focusing, and snapping photos. Don't tell the DMV!

After finally reaching Interstate 80 in Wyoming, we started heading East. Chris complained a bit about the rolling landscape (and road) because he couldn't use cruise control and the truck continuously downshifted to get up the hills which happened about every mile. Not that this hurt anything, it was just annoying for four hours.

Before leaving Wyoming, Chris and Annie mapped out a tentative route through Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, etc. This replaces the original route through Kansas, Missouri, etc. The trick here is to find things to do that are close to the route, and that the kids will enjoy. Easier said than done in Nebraska and Iowa.

It was coming to the end of Sunday and Annie found a campground just inside Nebraska in our thick campground directory. We just stopped in and they had plenty of room. Annie whipped up a great dinner in about 15 minutes which we all enjoyed after being on the road all day. Afterwards, the kids were able to swim in their pool for an hour before the bugs took over to let off some steam. It should be said that even driving 12 hours on Sunday, the kids were great all day with little complaining or fighting. And this without the aid of all day video watching or Nintendo. Good job kids!

Today, Monday, we planned an equally early morning departure. After fueling up, however, we got on the road a bit later, 8:30, which is still ok. Last night, we researched how many hours driving would get us where, and what activities were available. After the long day Sunday, our Street Atlas software said we only needed three more days to be home. We wanted to shoot for a Thursday arrival, so we decided to find a spot to stay two nights and spend a day somewhere. After looking up things the old fashioned way (no internet) with our AAA Tour Books and Atlas, we found a couple of amusement parks near Des Moines, Iowa. Monday was going to be an equally long driving day. After driving about six hours, we decided to stop to eat somewhere, so we pulled off the highway in Grand Island, Nebraska. We ate in a restaurant, and made a quick stop at Walmart for a door handle for our bathroom door. The former handle was the victim of too much road bouncing.

On a rest stop break, we found that one of the amusement parks has an adjacent campground and this made our decision for us on which park to go to. So, here we sit in Altoona, Iowa, just east of Des Moines, in the Adventureland Resort Campground. Next door is the Adventureland park (seems similar to Darien Lake). We'll spend Tuesday here, then get back on the road Wednesday morning. The kids were very excited to see the park, not knowing we planned to go there. Of course Marissa, who forgets nothing, overheard Annie earlier in the day when she was talking to the campground and had asked for two nights. Our story upon arrival was that were were only staying one night and heading out. Marissa says "but Mom asked for two before". When Annie told them we were indeed going to the park, they were ecstatic. They had asked Chris before the trip whether an Amusement park was on the trip. Chris had always said no because the trip was going to see things we don't have at home. But we think this will be a great diversion for them from just the monotonous drive home.

Miranda quote of the day: "Open my curtain and turn out the light, I am dying of heat in here! Are you trying to kill me?"

Background on the above: 1) Miranda sleeps on a bunk bed in the trailer which is separated from the rest of the camper by a curtain. When it's closed not much AC gets into her. 2) It's humid and low 80's right now outside and hotter in the trailer from being closed up all day.

That's it for now. Take care everyone.

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