My wife, Laura, and I just finished up a two-week vacation with our four grandkids—3 boys and a girl. We are very fortunate in that they all get along very well and are a joy to travel with. Hopefully, we left them with something they will remember for a long time.
My preferred method of travel is to wing it, making minimal reservations, and trusting to luck to discover a place to stay. That mostly works out fine for just the two of us. With four teenagers in the motor home with us, we thought it prudent to do more planning and less freewheeling.
There are several programs available to help plan trips. I use a web-based program called RV Trip Wizard. This program lets me enter my stops and waypoints, including fuel stops; calculates fuel consumption; shows a fairly comprehensive park listing across the country; and provides running total of expenses. It’s not free but at $39 per year, it is a pretty good deal.
For navigation, Google Maps on a cell phone is good…if you have service. You can download the maps, which helps. I also took along a GPS device; OK, but the maps were pretty dated for some of the areas we were in. Best was paper maps. Laura's a pretty good navigator once see gets us located on the maps.
Even with RV Trip Wizard’s travel time estimates, we were always checking in late to the campgrounds. Fortunately, both private and public campgrounds made late check-ins very easy.
I didn’t think to plan laundry days. As you can imagine, six people can accumulate a fair amount of dirty clothes, even if some of the boys thought wearing the same t-shirt and pants for four days was their contribution to not having to do laundry. I had purchased and took with us a small (so it seemed in the picture on Amazon) portable washing machine. The washer worked fine; the weather didn’t cooperate to give us nice warm drying weather, but we managed (with an assist from sister Susie in Iowa).
With so much to see and do, this truly is an amazing country.
While at Yellowstone we came across a herd of about 100 or so bison wandering back and forth across the road. We parked and watched these amazing animals for an hour or so. All together there are about 5,000 bison within Yellowstone. It is hard to imagine the 40,000 to 60,000 bison roaming the plains in 1800.
I was prepared to be underwhelmed at Mt. Rushmore, but as I read more and took the time to learn about it, I came to appreciate its artistry and meaning. After Mt. Rushmore, we toured the Crazy Horse Memorial. Work is not complete on Crazy Horse, but it is a very impressive tribute to one of the Native American heroes (yes, every culture needs their own heroes).
We missed the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. Just didn’t have time. We did see a lot of corn. While on the way to Mitchell, we stopped at the Dignity Statue, a tribute to the Native Americans of the plains of South Dakota. It is located at a rest stop overlooking the Missouri River—and it’s free.
We were expecting the Badlands of South Dakota to be unbearably hot, but it was windy and rainy. Not too surprising, really, since wind and water erosion is what formed the Badlands over the last 500,000 years.
Our eastward trek ended in Iowa with a stay at Viking Lake and visit with sister Susie and brother-in-law Jeff. If you want a peek at what life might have been like in the early (Caucasian) settlement of the plains, you only have to visit my sister. She and Jeff have a nice garden from which they harvest and preserve vegetables; Susie spins yarn, from which she weaves, knits, and crochets beautiful items; Susie and Jeff also tend a small flock of chickens. Sure, it’s a new house and there is a truck and car in the driveway instead of a team of mules, but you can imagine…
From Iowa, we headed back home, with a stop to cool off at Roaring Springs Water Park in Meridian, Idaho. Cool off were the operative words. It was just a bit chilly for most of us. It was fun, however. I particularly liked the Cliffhanger and Corkscrew Cavern. Rattlesnake Rapids was pretty good; maybe they should have suggested a deep breath before launching down the tube.
Home at last. Grandkids are back with their parents who were glad to have some time by themselves but were even more glad to have their younguns back home.
Us? We’re busy cleaning up and fixing the motor home (Yellowstone was a bit brutal on the MH), trying to decide where we are off to next.
I’m sure we will discover something. Maybe go back and try some of those brewpubs we passed along the way. Honey, you’re driving.