Thursday, August 12, 2010

Epic Newton Vacation

We realized a long-time dream this summer by renting an RV and taking the family on a fun-filled trip around the West. We mapped out the trip and reserved our rig and campsites early and then had to spend nearly the whole summer waiting for the time to arrive. The preparations included baking up some recipes from my childhood. Camping for me, come to find out, is quite nostalgic. It wasn't until the planning of this trip that I remembered all the summers spent at Moose Meadow with my family growing up. Mini golf, reading books, eating blueberry buckle and of course, chocolate camp cake.

Every good memory should include food.

Day One

We hit the road by 5am so as to make it to "the Dakotas largest indoor water park" by early afternoon. We made great time and logged over 450 miles by 1pm. The water park was a tad smaller than anticipated but turned out to be the perfect way to shake off the long day of driving.

Jake was the master.

Ben's back took quite a beating.

Dave earns Ben's respect here.

Rachel is fearless.

Everyone LOVED RVing on Day 1. Especially Rachel. Rounds of Monopoly, Life and Candy Land were had in earnest. No TV or movies for us on Day 1. We ate at Outback (which our kids insisted was a first) and hit the local WalMart for some supplies. Boy did we feel welcome there. Those were our people for the next week...

Day Two

A rental car from the campsite was in order to see Mt Rushmore and Bear Country, USA. We loved the Palmer Gulch KOA and would like to go back for a full week.

Here we are loaded in the car, but wait where's Dave?

Oh, there he is. While we're all ready to go he's got his own agenda...can I say, "like father, like son"?

Mt. Rushmore was Jake's favorite part of the trip. Very impressive and majestic.

At this point in the trip, Dave spent a lot of time carrying Rachel around. Note for what happens later.

Bear Country, USA has more than just bears!

For obvious reasons you are not allowed to open car windows or doors in the park. Unfortunately, our rental car had the air conditioner break and started to overheat while we were trapped in a HUGE line of cars. It reached scorching temperatures in the car while the bears got up close and personal. I think they could smell us cooking. It was a bit scary because it was so hot. Rachel looked like she might pass out. All's well that ends well, so I'll say it was neat and worth doing.

Dinner was cooked over a wood fire and finished with s'mores. A trip back to Mt. Rushmore for the lighting ceremony was well worth it.

This man is not afraid to get messy. You should see him eat ribs! (Or maybe you shouldn't.)

Day Three

By now we were feeling in the swing of things as RVers so we joined our "friends" for pancake breakfast at the chuck wagon. (I actually did make a couple friends the night before at the laundry hut. RV tip: Don't wait to do laundry too late in the evening, it gets cRaZY.)

Here Rachel is combing her hair with a "dinglehopper". Of course she used the one with syrup on it...good times without a bathtub in sight. Luckily they all hit the pool before we pulled out of town.

We spent the day driving nearly 400 miles to Cody, WY. It took longer than expected so we didn't make the gunslingers show. Bummer. We hit some fierce storms along the way with torrential rain and violent wind gusts. Dave managed it all beautifully but was exhausted by the time we arrived. The kids only watched one movie the whole day! We watch more in my van driving around town than we did in the RV. Ben rode his bike around the campground a bit until he busted his rear derailleur. Dave thought he might be able to fix it but ended up needing to go to a bike store the next morning. Maybe we should have left it broken...

Day Four

We enjoyed FREE pancakes at the Cody KOA and then took an early morning tour to see the wild mustangs. Dave has wanted to do this every time he drives through Wyoming. Very cool. A band of "bachelors" approached our group once we exited the bus and looked like they might charge, but decided we were too weak to worry about after getting a closer look at us. Intense.

The smallest horse in the picture (a black one) is only three days old.

After so many hours of driving in Wyoming it's a surprise to see this landscape. You'd never know it was here without taking a tour.

Ben made a friend and found a lizard. Again, like father, like son.

The kids caught a nap on the way to Yellowstone which was less than 80 miles away. So sweet.
You don't see moments like this at home....the day before, all three were in bed asleep briefly. The memories are piling up and making all the planning and cleaning worth it.

Finally in Yellowstone, we start with some bison.

Followed by some "stinky parts", as Ben likes to call the thermal features.

And even more stink.

Here's where things deviate from the plan in a big way...

Ben gets hurt riding his bike with Jake and Dave near our campsite. He slides out on some loose gravel and his chain ring shoves into his calf. It's deep and there is fat tissue hanging from the bike. They flag down strangers to take them to the nearest clinic (one hour away but still in Yellowstone. That place is BIG!) and send Jake back to the campsite to tell me...I'm totally helpless to do anything really because Dave has the keys to the RV in his pocket. My friendly camp neighbors (who happen to be from Colorado Springs) take me down to the ranger's station to at least call about Ben. I finally get to talk to Dave as they are starting on Ben. Four hours after the whole ordeal began and 10 stitches later, Dave and Ben are delivered back to our RV by exceptionally kind campers who patiently waited the whole time so that they could drive Dave and Ben back "home" when they were done. It restores hope in humankind when there are SO many people who are concerned and generous.

Day Five

Yellowstone Tour: "Circle of Fire" with tour guide, Jared from Massachusetts. Awesome.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

The tour was amazing but since we had one of these(a lame guy)...Dave had to carry him a whole bunch, which left us with one of these...

Rachel felt incredibly displaced with all the attention Ben was getting and we were lucky to get even one of these...

Old Faithful performed admirably for us and we had a great day seeing nearly every "highlight." We were all exhausted, especially Ben.

Days Six and Seven

Needless to say, I was anxious to head home. It was worrisome and tiring having Ben with some pain and swelling along with the disgruntled "baby princess" (as labeled by Kevin Leman in The Birth Order Book).

We stopped to see the World's Largest Mineral Hot Springs but did not stay to "enjoy" them since it was scorching hot out and Ben was forbidden from such things.

All in all, we only had one terrible campground in Casper, WY and by then we were too tired to care much anyway.

We logged 1723 miles on the RV and a little over 100 on the rental car. The tours we took had to be at least 150 more miles. We spent a LOT of time traveling. Rachel's favorite days were the "RV days"--the endless snacks, board games, and time with her brothers. I would like to rent one again and spend more time in one place. The coast of California or Oregon, maybe? How about Moose Meadow? We'll see. For now I'm thrilled to be home.