Road Trip 2017 Day 18

This morning we had a lazy morning. We slept as late as we could to be able to make the hotel breakfast, and then since we didn’t have to check out until 12:00 (and we had a shorter drive today), we went swimming for a bit in the hotel pool. We swam until about 10:00, then went back upstairs to get ready and pack in time for check out. We all showered, dressed, and packed (and not too hurriedly), and were ready to go at 5 till 11:00. Like I said, we are beginning to be pros at this packing up thing! 

We hit the road then to Springfield, MO, about 4 ½ hours away. It was a shorter drive today, and we contemplated skipping this stop and just heading straight home, but we when we looked at it, it was going to make the drive about 12 hours, and we just didn’t want to do that to the kiddos (or us). It was a good drive, lots of fields and cows, but we did find a Sonic to stop and eat lunch out. PLUS, we are officially back in the land of decent sweet tea, which makes me a happy girl. 🙂

Jake found a good-looking antique mall in Springfield when he was searching on TripAdvisor, so we decided to try that out. We had been avoiding antique stores up to this point on the trip, because we did not have any space in our car to put things. But we figured at this point, we are close enough to home that stuffing a few more things in wouldn’t matter. 🙂 It was a pretty good store, and we did find a few things we liked, and made a few small purchases. Then we headed to our hotel, checked in, and walked over to a BBQ joint for some dinner. 

When we got back, we let the kiddos swim one more time, since it is our last night in a hotel, and then settled in for bed, since we are planning on leaving out early in the morning to get on home- all of us, except for Jack, are ready to be home now that we are so close! 🙂

Road Trip 2017 Day 17

Today was not an exciting day, but it was not a bad day, either. We had our long drive across Kansas- about 7 ½ hours. We left out about 8:00. This hotel breakfast wasn’t provided, so we decided to drive a couple of hours, then stop for a late breakfast/early lunch. We went to a Denny’s, which I had never tried. It was delicious, and the kids were in heaven with chocolate milk and chocolate chip pancakes. We are gluttons for punishment, apparently. 🙂

Do you know what is in Kansas? Nothing. That is what is in Kansas. Unless you count cows and windmills. Something that was amazing to me on this trip was to see how much empty space there still is in America. You truly are in the middle of nowhere in places like Kansas, South Dakota, and Montana.
The kids did great in the car, as usual. They filled tons of time with just playing pretend with their stuffed animals. They did their “schoolwork” while Jake and I listened to Guster and the Avett Brothers, and then we all listened to our audio book- Harry Potter (#4). We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at a hole-in-the-wall burger place in Salina, Kansas (thanks, Yelp!). It was absolutely delicious. The burgers were great, and they had the best milkshakes any of us have had in a long, long time (except for maybe Golly G’s, of course).

We only had about an hour left after dinner to drive, and so we got to our hotel with plenty of time just to hang out and relax. It was a good thing, too, because this was our nicest hotel room yet. When you are staying places like Wichita, Kansas, you get a lot more bang for your buck on things like hotels! They had a basketball court, and walking trail, and a putting green. We tried all those things out, mainly to let the kiddos get their energy- Jake and I were worn out.

Then they also had free movie rentals, and since our suite had two rooms with a t.v. in each, we rented a kids movie and a movie for Jake and I, popped some popcorn, and had a movie night. 🙂 It was a good, relaxing night, just what we all needed.

Road Trip 2017, Day 16

Today we ate breakfast at the hotel, and then hit the road to Colorado. We have officially scratched off all the states we are going to get to on this trip.

We stopped for lunch at Cracker Barrel in Pueblo so we could meet my great-aunt Annette (Nana’s sister). It was so good to see her and get to hang out and talk for awhile. Her daughter and granddaughter came for a bit, too. She was so sweet and gave the kids some cool Colorado gifts- a Colorado hat and Pueblo mints and chocolates for Jack, and a pretty purse for Josie filled with some goodies. She gave us some Pueblo salsa and chips, too!

There are all kinds of things to see in Colorado- we are already mentally planning a trip back just to Colorado some day to see all the sights- Garden of the Gods, Rocky Mountain National Park, etc. We just didn’t have the time to spend on this trip. So Colorado- we will see you again!

After  lunch, we had a surprise in store for the kids. They LOVED the Great Wolf Lodge (indoor water park hotel) we stayed in Kansas City at the beginning of the trip. Well, when we found out that they had one in Colorado Springs, too, we decided to book a night there as well. The kids have been really, really good on this trip. We have been very impressed, and decided they enjoyed a special treat. Especially since our next several days are LONG driving days to get back to Tennessee.

Needless to say, they were thrilled, and had a BLAST. We got there by 4:00, and let them stay until the waterpark closed at 9:00. I don’t think we could have stayed much longer, even if we could have- we were all WIPED out after 5 hours of playing. The hit at this waterpark was a slide that was like a sled. We could all 4 go at once, and it was like a race- there were even timers to show you who won. Best of all, that one never had a long line, so we all 4 did it over and over again together. 🙂

After the water park closed, we went up to our room to change real fast, and then went out to find a random pizza place we had looked up on Yelp for a (very late) dinner. The challenge was keeping Jack awake before we got there! It was delicious pizza, and we all ate like pigs.

We crashed hard when we got back to our hotel, and all slept great. 🙂

Tomorrow is a loooong drive across Kansas.

Road Trip 2017, Day 15

Today was a long drive day- about 6 ½ hours to Cheyenne, Wyoming. We slept in a bit, and then got on the road by 9:00, and ate breakfast in the car. It was a pretty drive- we saw a few elk, a few antelope, a TON of pronghorn and trains, and very few houses. There are a few small towns in Wyoming, and a few big cities, but there are miles and miles that you drive without seeing anybody or anything. For parts of our drive the land was very deserty- mesas, plateaus, and very little vegetation. 

We stopped at a McDonald’s for lunch (one of the few restaurants we passed). We normally have been picnicking with food with brought or bought at a grocery store, to save money, but since we were not really doing anything but driving today, we thought it would be a good break, and used part of the day’s activity money on lunch (since there would be no activities we would need to pay for). (I will post more about our trip budget later)

We got to Cheyenne in the late afternoon and got checked into our hotel, and called Grammy and Pappy and Mee Maw to check in, since we were finally in a good service area after several days of not having good enough service to call. 

Then we headed out to eat. We found a good Japanese place to eat, since Jake and I were wanting some sushi. The kids ordered the kids’ hibachi dinners, and they were HUGE. I mean, seriously, adult sized portions. They were really good, though! 

We had passed a cool looking playground on the way to the restaurant, so we decided to check it out after dinner to let the kids run off some energy. They were WOUND up after being in the car all day. (But have I mentioned how good the kids have been doing in the car? I mean, serious rock stars.)

The playground ended up being so great- it was really, really nice. It made us wish we had one like it at home! And the kids ran their legs off. One things National Parks don’t have is playgrounds, so they were really itching for some time just to run around like crazy and climb and jump. We did a lot of hikes and walking while we were in the parks, but the kids didn’t have a lot of just free-play time. So tonight was good. 🙂

We stayed until sunset, and then headed back to the hotel to wind down. Our kids’ bedtimes are WAY out of wack. We will have to do some detoxing when we get home. 🙂 But that’s what vacations are for, right? 

Road Trip 2017, Day 14

This morning we woke up bright and early, because we had booked a breakfast cruise on a boat on Jackson Lake. It was about a 45 minute boat ride to Elk Island, and then a “camp” breakfast on the island, and then the boat ride back. It was really cool. The kids loved it, the views were gorgeous, and breakfast was delicious- pancakes, sausage, bacon, trout, fruit, potatoes, eggs, pastries, hot chocolate….and food ALWAYS tastes better when you are eating outside! 

Love this little dude and his hot chocolate…and check out our view for breakfast! 

The kids were FASCINATED by this elk carcass that was on the island…of course. 

After our cruise, we packed up and checked out of our cabin, and then went over to the visitor’s center for a ranger program so that the kids could complete their Junior Ranger booklets and get their third badge- they have really enjoyed doing the Junior Ranger programs- if you have kids and go to a National Park, be sure to check it out! 

After they were done, we started making the (short) drive down to Jackson Hole. On the way, we stopped for one more spectacular view of the Tetons and the Snake River. 

When we got to Jackson Hole, we found our motel (Jack was so excited we were staying in a motel instead of a hotel for some reason) and got checked in. Then we headed to Jackson Hole Resort to ride a tram to the top of the mountain. We didn’t tell the kids what we were doing until we got there, and of course they were so pumped when they found out. I wasn’t sure if they would like it or not, but they loved it! We rode the tram to the summit of Mt. Rendezvous. The view was amazing from the top, and the kids loved that there was still snow at the top! 

The kids were so excited to get to touch the very top!

This is how MOST of our pictures of Jack look….

After the tram, we rode a 4 person gondola up to another part of the mountain, which the kids also loved. 

Then Jack and rode a chair lift! He loved it, because he got a great view of all the mountain bike trails below, and got to watch the bikers. He is determined to go back some day and do those trails! 

The fun wasn’t over after this, though (we REALLY packed a lot into this day). Jake had read about a free bouldering wall at the base of Snow King Mountain in Jackson Hole, so we drove over there to check it out. The kids nearly lost their minds with excitement! They both have been wanting to rock climb, but we haven’t had an opportunity to take them yet…this sealed the deal, a day at Climb Nashville is in our future. They both loved, loved it, and did great! Josie especially surprised us with how well she climbed, and how fearless she was. She didn’t give up, either! 

After climbing, we went to dinner, and finally found some legit Mexican food again- we only went because Yelp showed pictures that they had chips and salsa. It didn’t disappoint! It was definitely still a different style Mexican than we have at home- more Tex Mex, but it satisfied this hungry crew. 🙂 When we had had our fill, we ran by the grocery store to get some breakfast items for the next morning since our motel didn’t have continental breakfast, and then we went back and settled in with showers and some HGTV (Josie LOVES HGTV, and has been thrilled to get to watch it in our hotel rooms, since we don’t have cable at home). 

It was a long, full day, but a great way to end our time in the mountains! Tomorrow we start our week-long trek back to Tennessee. 

Road Trip 2017 Day 13

Today we took advantage of not having to drive very far and slept in a little. Once we got up, though, we were ready in a jiffy. We have become PROS at packing up a room and our car in the mornings! Today was one of the few days we didn’t have breakfast provided, so we just ate a snacky breakfast in the car.

Before we left Yellowstone, we decided to see one more thing- the Grand Prismatic Spring. It is a really cool feature- probably one of our favorite thermal features in the park. Josie especially loved it- all the thermal features really captured her imagination.

After we left there, we headed to Grand Teton National Park, which is basically connected to Yellowstone. We ate lunch just inside Grand Teton at a picnic area right beside the lake.

This was our view for our picnic:

After lunch we headed to the gift shop and the visitor center, then checked into our cabin. It was such a nice cabin! We stayed in the Colter Bay Village, and really enjoyed the area. The cabin was one room, but it was a big room, with two double beds, a twin bed, a couch, a couple of armchairs, and a desk. It was walking distance to everything we wanted to get to, also- the restaurant, store, visitor center, shoreline, etc.

After we got all unloaded, we headed down to the lake to do a 2 mile hike around the lake, which had BEAUTIFUL mountain views.

There is just nothing that can beat a lakes or mountains….and when you put the two together? My happy place.

After our trail walk, the kids were really itching to swim, and it had actually warmed up quite a bit, so we let them put on their bathing suits and took them over to the swimming area. The water was FREEZING. I mean, snow was still on the mountains that connect to the lake…..but they of course couldn’t resist. 🙂 They weren’t the only ones swimming, either- the beach was full! They didn’t last very long, though, and then laid in the sun a long while to warm up. 🙂 But now they can officially say they have swam in a mountain lake!

After swimming, we went to dinner at one of the restaurants in the village, and it was absolutely delicious. They had a soup and salad bar that was just what I was craving. 🙂 After dinner we were going to take the kids to a ranger program (they wanted to get their junior park ranger badges here, too), but it ended up being packed, so we decided to go to one the next day. So instead, we walked over to the store and got some ice cream… because why not? 🙂 Then we headed back to our cabin to unwind.

Another good day. We really like Grand Teton. I liked it better than Yellowstone- it was definitely less touristy. We aren’t going to get to even see most of it, so it is definitely on the list of places we would like to come back and explore more thoroughly in the future!

Road Trip 2017 Day 12

Today was our second day in Yellowstone. This morning we got started early, so we would have time to do all the stuff we wanted to, and to beat some of the crowds. The most crazy, crowded times at Yellowstone seem to be between 12:00-4:00.

First we drove to the Norris Geyser Basin area. We did about a 2 mile hike around the whole basin area on the boardwalks there. It was kind of eery to see- kind of like a wasteland. The kids LOVED it, though. They wanted to do the whole hike over. We saw all the thermal features- steam vents, geysers, mud pots, etc. We actually got to see two geysers erupt- the Steamboat geyser and the Vixen geyser- we just got lucky on those, because they don’t necessarily erupt all the time!

The Vixen Geyser went off right as we were walking up to it! 

After that, we hit the road again (seeing Yellowstone does require a TON of driving) to see Old Faithful. We stopped for a picnic lunch on the way, and also got slowed down a couple of times for buffalo viewings.

We got to the Old Faithful visitor center about an hour and half before the geyser was scheduled to go off again. That visitor center area was crazy busy with tourists. Yellowstone is all very touristy, but the Old Faithful area reminded us of Disney World or something- it was that full of people. We wandered around the gift shops, walked a short loop trail, and then joined the thousand other people waiting for the geyser to erupt. When it went off (just 1 minute early), it was pretty cool! The kids were so excited to finally get to see this thing they have been anticipating for so long. 🙂

Patiently waiting….

Along with the THOUSAND other people also waiting…you can’t even see all the people that wrapped around the rest of the circle! 

We left there as soon as the geyser was done, because we wanted to get to the Fishing Bridge visitor center by 4:00 for the kids to go to a ranger-led program so they could get their Junior Park Ranger badges. It was  an interesting program about bald eagles and ospreys, so the kids really liked it. And they earned their park badges, which they were really excited about. 🙂 I know I would have been at their ages, too.

We left there and went to find our cabin at Yellowstone Lake Hotel, on Yellowstone Lake in Lake Village. The lake is absolutely gorgeous, and we really liked the Lake Village, because there is really nobody in the village except people staying at the hotel or the lodge, so it is a lot less crazy and busy. More relaxing for sure. We checked in, rested a bit (I needed a short nap!), then went to get dinner at the Lake Lodge cafeteria, which was surprisingly really, really good. After dinner we walked around the lake a bit to let the kids get rid of some energy.

This buffalo was 30 yards from our cabin when we left for dinner! The kids were THRILLED. 

Running off some energy after dinner! 

Our little cabin. 

So our impression of Yellowstone after now doing just about the whole Grand Loop: this is definitely not a place to go if you want a relaxing, restful trip. It is definitely a tourist destination! We liked it a lot, and there are some very interesting and beautiful things to see, but it is definitely not relaxing or restful. Also, we did not see everything there was to see, not by a long stretch- I think we could be here a whole week and still not see everything. The kids like Yellowstone more than Glacier; Jake and I preferred Glacier….but we always seem to prefer things with less people. 🙂

Road Trip 2017, Day 11

This was Yellowstone day! Our hotel in Bozeman was only about an hour and half drive to Yellowstone, so we hit the road right after breakfast and made it before lunch time. 

First we went to the visitor’s center, and then went and walked the boardwalk path for the Mammoth Hot Springs. 

Josie wanted to carry an umbrella because of the sun…she thinks umbrellas are fancy. 🙂 She loved the hot springs! 

This is what Jack thought of the hot springs….he thought they were stinky (they smelled very strongly of sulfur). LOL, little stinker. 

After we left there, we headed towards Tower, and then we went to the canyon lands to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. 

The kids were SOO excited to finally see buffalo, and to see them so close to the car! 

At the Grand Canyon, we hiked down to the top of the Lower falls (a very challenging hike for our two munchkins, and they never complained once!)

It was worth the hike. Beautiful. 

Then we went on another (challenging) hike to an overlook to see the falls from a distance. Again, worth it, and again, our munchkins didn’t complain once. ALL of our calf muscles are going to be sore tomorrow! 

Just a view from our drive. 

On the way back towards the hotel, we saw this bear, right next to the road! The kids were so excited. 🙂 In total, we saw three bears today, all black bears. We also saw several elk. 

After all our hiking, we were all pretty beat, so we made the pretty long drive back to Gardiner where our hotel was for the night. We checked into the hotel, then went and got some pizza and walked around the little strip, checking out some tourist shops, and of course getting some ice-cream. We were right at the park entrance, just in time for sunset, so of course we had to take some pictures…and there were some more elk, right next to the road, just begging to get their picture taken, too. 🙂

Tomorrow we will see Old Faithful and some other geysers, and fit in as much of the rest of the park as we can…..we are not going to be able to see all of it in the short amount of time that we have, but we are at least trying to hit the highlights! 

Our overall impressions of Yellowstone today: 

-It has some very impressive sights to see, but in overall scenic beauty, it doesn’t hold a candle to Glacier (Glacier may have ruined us on everything- it is just that breathtaking). 

-It is very crowded. LOTS of people at Yellowstone. Lines for everywhere/everything. Parking is always a search. 

-Definitely a place to go if you want to see wildlife! Plus, this time of year there are a ton of gorgeous flowers blooming. 

-Expect lots of car-time if you go to Yellowstone. 

Road Trip 2017 Day 10

Today was one of our longer driving days. We let the kids sleep kind of late, and then we went packed up, checked out, and went to a picnic area by the lake to eat our breakfast. We said goodbye to Glacier by throwing rock in Lake McDonald. 🙂

Then we hit the road to Bozeman, Montana, about 6 hours away. I don’t if we are just getting used to be in the car (the kids are being SO good in the car), or what, but we made great time, and didn’t stop once until we got to Helena to eat some lunch. We actually ate at a Subway for lunch today instead of picnicking, because we all just needed a little break from peanut butter and Nutella. The drive was beautiful, and reinforced even more just how empty Montana really is. Today we were mostly driving right near the mountains, so there were lots of pine trees, and a lot of mountain lakes and rivers. Helena, the capital, seemed so tiny, but really it was a decent sized city compared to all the other tiny towns we’ve driven through in Montana! 

We got to our hotel in Bozeman around 4:00 and checked in, and then went and did some shopping. We visited several sporting good stores, went to the grocery store, and went to Olive Garden to eat- we were all ready for dinner that wasn’t hamburgers or fried food! Then we headed back to the hotel to let the kids swim and to do some laundry. It was a really relaxing evening, and overall, another really good day. 

Tomorrow we head to Yellowstone! 

Road Trip 2017 Day 9

Today we got up and got packed and hit the road, heading towards the other side of the park, West Glacier. It was about a 2 and ½ hour drive around the park, since the Going-to-the-Sun Road was still closed. On our way out we stopped at the visitor’s center so the kids could get their Junior Park Ranger badges. They were SO excited about this.

The drive was a beautiful one, albeit on a somewhat terrifying road at some points- sheer cliff, straight down beside the road. 

We got to West Glacier around lunch time, and drove around a bit exploring, and found a place to eat our picnic lunch. We were not initially as impressed with this side of the park. The views were not as impressive, and there were a lot more people. There are a lot more trees, which means you are really just driving through a forest a lot of the time. However, there was a really beautiful river through this side of the park-it’s the place to come if you want to raft.

Lake McDonald is pretty, too. We let the kids wade, and they about froze their toes off!

We got to check into our cabin around 3:00. It is an old cabin that needs some updating, but it was clean, and the kiddos LOVED that they had their own separate room, and they didn’t have to share a bed. 🙂 They think it’s the best place we’ve stayed the whole trip! 

After we unloaded, we went on a walk around the little village (Apgar Village) that the cabin is in. That’s when we really started becoming more enamored with this place. Apgar is kind of like it’s own little camping resort- it has a campground, a tiny little hotel, some cabins, and several little stores and a restaurant and ice cream shop, all situated on the shore of Lake McDonald, with a spectacular view of the mountains. It was nice just to be able to walk around and explore, and to not have to get back in the car to get dinner. We ate an early dinner at the little cafe, and then went back to cabin so the kids could play in their room while Jake and I took a short nap. 🙂 Then we went back out, got some ice cream, and walked down by the lake to let the kids wade some more and just enjoy the beautiful view.

Huckleberry is a BIG thing up here, and so Josie just had to try some huckleberry lemonade. 🙂

Around 9:00 we wandered back to our cabin (of course, it still wasn’t even close to dark yet) to let the kids wind down and get in bed (eventually).

It was a really relaxing afternoon, which is what we all needed. What a great way to enjoy this beautiful part of God’s creation.

We loved every minute of Glacier, and I can definitely see us coming back here again in the future!