We’re going on vacation again, and this time it’s out west to Wyoming/Montana and then South Dakota! My family and I are going to explore Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore. It’s taking us three days to get there, and I have to admit, it’s very odd to be heading west and not east. It feels odder than you would think it would, and I have to think that’s because when you head east, you can see the landscape changing much faster than when you head west – rural Illinois, Idaho and Nebraska have pretty much the same scenery – lots and lots of farmland. 🙂
We managed to leave our house by 9:12. If you know anything about us, you would know that this is rather an accomplishment. We’re usually late to things. To accomplish this feat we had to get up at 7:00! I know, I know, it’s not that early. But most of us don’t get up till around 9:30-10:00.
We drove through Iowa and Nebraska without stopping for anything but restroom breaks. The town we stayed in for the night was called “Gothemberg” which presumably reminded everyone of Batman. Dinner was found at a tiny grocery store that had a loud high-pitched tinny sound when you went in. Elie said that only kids and teenagers could hear it so they played to keep kids and teens from loitering. Mom and Dad also drove past an old Pony Express station because I wanted to see it – it was neat. The hotel we stayed in had a piano in its lobby which was great.
We ran into another homeschool family at a rest stop. It was rather a delightful and funny encounter. Funny, because of the way we met them – we saw a girl walking out of a rest stop who was wearing a Story Embers shirt (Story Embers is a book series my younger sister likes). Mom told Brynn, and a
The landscape finally changed – we were now driving through an arid mountain area. It was very pretty. The hotel we stayed the night at was in Lander, Wyoming. It was a nice hotel. Dinner was eaten at a place called
We left Lander and drove on, taking a detour to see the purported grave of Sacagawea, which was on an Indian reservation. There was a statue of her at the top of the cemetery she was buried in, and then a winding path to see her actual grave. She was buried with her two sons. The cemetery (and actually, the statue as well) bore evidence of spirit worship. Many of the graves (and the statue) had offerings left on them. This was sad. We prayed for the Indians as we left. We drove passed many, many ranches as well as through several towns that were reminiscent of Wild West towns.
As we were driving along a Wyoming road, Dad noticed a police car behind us. Its lights were flashing. We ended up getting pulled over. Now, Dad wasn’t speeding that much over the speed limit – he was going 77 in a 70. And actually, in Illinois, this wouldn’t be considered that much of a big deal, especially on a highway, but when you get out of the midwest, its important to keep to the speed limit. Apparently (the officer explained that there were so many wild animals in that area that speeding could have series consequences) . The officer was very nice – we didn’t get a ticket, just a warning, and it didn’t even go on record. We then ended up talking with the officer for an extra like 15 – 20 minutes. He was very nice.
As we got closer to the Grand Tetons, the landscape changed dramatically. Gorgeous mountains were set behind wandering hills. Occasionally a glittering lake would wind its way through the populous trees. Wildflowers dotted the hills, and occasional patches of snow rested on the stunning landscape, despite the fact that it wasn’t below freezing and in fact, was only slightly chilly. It was beautiful. I believe we were in the Shoshoni National Forest.
We spent a little bit of time in the Grand Tetons. We visited the visitors center, walked a very little by the lake, visited the restaurant (we didn’t buy anything though), and stopped a couple times to see the sites. On one of these stops, we were able to see a bear cub. That was neat.
We entered Yellowstone through the Grand Tetons, and again the topography changed. No longer could the beautiful mountains be seen, and instead trees took over the center stage. We drove passed Luis Canyon. It was rather breathtaking. Especially since the driver was zipping along the road above it, and there was a rather steep drop down the side of the road. The weather had been gradually getting cooler, and when we stopped to visit Isla River, I was actually rather chilly. The Isla River is rather unique because it is right on the continental divide. This means that half the river drains in one direction and the other half in the opposite. Yellowstone is beautiful, and we got to see a fair bit of wildlife.
My Mom found out about an app called Yellowstone Gypsy Guide. We have all agreed it’s been pretty amazing so far, so if your family is planning a trip to Yellowstone, you should download it and have it on as you drive through the park. As you’re driving through the park, a guide explains how the hot springs and geysers work. He also talks about some of the history of the park and about the different attractions as your driving. It’s a great app.
Car Activity Ideas:
The car ride to where we were staying is around 23 hours from home to our lodging. This means we had a lot of time in the car, and had to amuse ourselves (though honestly the sites from the Shoshoni National Forest to Yellowstone pretty much provide their own amusement, they’re so pretty). Anyway, here are some suggestions of things to do in the car.
- Read. Of course! There are many great books and a long car ride is the perfect time to read them! You can check out some book reviews I’ve done here.
- Write. This makes for a great activity. You could look up writing prompts, or describe the scenery. Journaling is a great activity. You could also come up with a short story or even a longer novel about the area you are in!
- Do homework. Yes, I know we took this vacation in the summer. But learning is fun! We found out that Hillsdale College offers free online courses. My sister was doing a constitution course, and I was learning about children’s literature. You can click here to access their courses. It would also be fun to learn about the history of what you’re visiting.
- Watch movies. We were watching Wall Builders, which is about the founding of our country. It’s with historian David Barton, and it’s very interesting.
- Of course, you could always spend some time playing video games.
- Draw! This is a fun activity, and there are so many things you could sketch. You could draw wildlife or the landscapes you passed, a map or something totally from your imagination!
- Play car games – you could play the license plate game, or the alphabet game. Eye spy would work as well. To play the alphabet game, you’re basically attempting to complete the alphabet before anyone else in the car does. You can take letters off of signs, but once someone uses a sign, no one else can. It can be pretty fun and get competitive. The license plate game is where you find as many state license plates as you can. It’s fun and very fascinating.
- Sew or crochet. This can be fun and relaxing, and you could make something useful!
- Listen to an audiobook, or something else. this is fun for everyone in the car, and you could draw or whatever while you’re listening to it.
Car Trip Suggestions:
My family hasn’t flown anywhere since I turned 10 (Ricky became older than the age you could fly for free, and plane tickets for 6 are expensive), but we’ve been on plenty of road trips. Here are some tips that will make a long car ride eaiser.
- Bring a lap desk. This makes it easier to do things (including eat!) in the car.
- Bringing food and snacks in a cooler is a great idea.
- Gas stations and grocery stores make great places to stop for a restroom, however, stopping at waysides is quicker and often they have neat things to look at.
- Break up a long car ride with DVD’s, audiobooks, snacks, etc. Listening to something really does seem to make the ride go faster.
- Switch off
drivers. This makes the trip easier.
- Try to start or keep your vacation during the drive – take detours to visit attractions on the way home or on the way there.