Monday, August 2, 2010

The Great Family Road Trip

                                                                  Art by Aijia

7/7  We left home with the Jeep towing the little pop-up loaded with bikes. Granddaughters Aijia and Scout joined us. We drove 420 miles to Metropolis, IL on the banks of the Ohio river. Camped at Fort Massac State Park which had around 50 sites with only about 6 occupied. We visited the fort, rode bikes, grilled burgers, and played bean-bag toss.

7/8 Drove about 400 miles to Pershing State Park near LeClede, Mo.  A small, secluded campground with only hosts and us camping. Lots of bicycle riding for the girls. Cloudy weather and pleasant breeze kept the bugs off. Spent a relaxing evening.

7/9 Newton Hills State Park near Canton, SD (mile 1218) Beautiful park in SE SD. Lots of campers, great swim in Lakota Lake. We stopped to resupply at Walmart in Sioux City.


Swimming in Lakota Lake

7/10-7/15 We stayed at the wonderful Bluebell campground in Custer State Park located in the Black Hills of SD. We really loved this park and CG. While here, we saw hundreds of bison, pronghorn, prarie dogs, and a couple of little big-horn sheep. We drove the gravel roads of the Black Hills and the Badlands and visited Deadwood with the graves of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane. Went to Lead and saw the "open cut". Visited Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, the Corn Palace, and  Wall Drug. We learned about Lakota astronomy one night during a naturalist program. We drove the Needles Highway and had dinner in the lodge. We also had a $900. repair to the Jeep (a/c compressor) and a rental car for a day.
Did I mention the hail storm where it covered the ground? Also, lots of bike riding and some CG bluegrass.


The Badlands

7/16-7/18 Buffalo Bill State Park near Cody, WY. This has to be the windiest CG in the USA! I really thought that our little pop-up was going to be blown away a few times. It was also the most scenic CG spot of our trip, so it balances out. By the way, did I mention the heat? We loved Cody. We went to the Old Trail Town and saw the grave of  Liver Eating Johnston and the cabin of Butch and Sundance and the Hole in the Wall gang. The Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody was the best museum I've been in for many years. We spent hours there and could have spent an entire additional day there. The museum actually houses five separate museums covering Buffalo Bill, the Plains Indians, Western Art, natural history, and firearms. The Whitney Museum of western art and the beautiful Plains Indians artifacts (shields, head dresses, bead work) were among the highlights for me.  We took the girls out to the Cody Cattle Company for a dinner and a show. This turned out to be great fun and we were fed and entertained with cowboy music by the Martin family, champion yodelers and flatpickers. Aijia and Scout really loved this stuff (we did, too). We wrapped up our Cody stay with the famous Cody Night Rodeo. It was the girls' first rodeo experience so they were fascinated with the entire program.


Buffalo Bill State Park

7/19-7/24 Indian Creek CG, Yellowstone National Park. I cannot say enough about this little quiet CG hidden away in the NE corner of Yellowstone, far away from the crowds and noise of the populated parts of the park. This place was a gem, no generators allowed, no monster motorhomes, unbelievably clean vault toilets. Great! We were able to take nightly mountain bike rides down a secluded and gated gravel road and spot elk and coyotes and ride through creeks and just have all kinds of fun with the girls. No tourists, just us and the critters. So, for all the folks who told us how crowded Yellowstone was in July, I agree with you, if you are around Old Faithful and the other big commercial centers in the south and central areas of the park, but it was a different experience in the north! Since we spent 6 days in Yellowstone, we really saw all the main attractions. We never saw a grizzly but we did get to see a black bear on the Blacktail Plateau drive, a 7 mile gravel road that followed the Bannock tribe trail on the way to the buffalo hunting ground, pretty cool in itself. We did a great little hike with the girls on the high towering cliffs above the Yellowstone river (again no tourists, just us). My favorite time came the last evening we were there. I decided that we would go out to the beautiful Lamar Valley far in the NE corner of the park and look at wildlife. As the sun was going down, we found ourselves sitting quietly in the Jeep in the midst of a huge herd of bison as they migrated from one side of the road to the other. This situation wasn't the same as the numerous "buffalo-jams" that we had encountered in Custer and Yellowstone; in this setting, in this pristine and secluded high mountain valley, in the last rays of the setting sun, this was something timeless and primitive and beautiful and sacred. I feel honored to have been there. Wow!


Lamar Valley

7/25-7/27 Colter Bay CG Grand Teton National Park. We stayed at the huge centrally located CG at Colter Bay Village. We were in a no-generator loop. After Yellowstone, it did feel like we were staying in town, but we made the most of it (again riding our bikes all over) with nightly rides to get ice cream at the general store. Teton is pure eye-candy with the big alpine mountains and high mountain lakes. We spent the time swimming (OK, mostly Aijia and Scout) in the cold mountain lakes and hiking. We did do an early (beat the crowd while you can) boat shuttle across Jenny Lake with a hike to Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point, and a short way up Cascade Canyon.



7/28   Super 8 Motel Wheatland, WY. We left Tetons and headed east across WY on the secondary highways and encountered lots of road construction with long sections of  muddy gravel roads.  My advice to anyone driving on the back roads through Wyoming: Fill up with GAS if you drop below a half of a tank!  The map had town names on it in fairly large type, but did these towns have more than a population of 10? No. Did they have gas pumps? No. We drove a record 45 miles with the gas light on, towing a trailer! I can't believe that we weren't stopped dead on the road but somehow we made it. We were ready for a motel room and swimming pool by the time we reached Wheatland, WY.

7/29 Sherman Lake State Recreation Area, NE.  We walked out to the parking lot and found a flat tire on our little pop-up, so I started the day by putting one of my two spares on the trailer. Still keeping to the back roads, we continued across the beautiful Wyoming country side to the town of Guernsey where we stopped to see the deep ruts left in the rock by the hundreds of wagon trains above the N. Platte river as they journeyed west on the Oregon trail.  Next we stopped to see Carhenge near Alliance, NE. We continued across the little back road Hwy 2 and camped at Sherman Lake SRA for a bargain price seven dollars. When we got there, I noticed that my other original tire was low on air. When I pushed on the tire valve stem, it leaked air. I went ahead and switched it out with my remaining spare.


Carhenge

7/30 Best Western Motel, Moberly MO. Found a tire store first thing this morning and had a valve stem put in the spare for $5 so we were ready to roll. Heavy thunderstorms pushed us into the Best Western motel in Moberly, MO.

7/31 Best Western Motel, Murfreesboro TN. Again, a swimming pool!


Art by Scout

8/1 Home, Franklin NC

Stats: 26 days, 5600 miles. 5 State Parks, 2 National Parks, 1 State Rec Area, 3 Motels, 2 flat tires.