Saturday, December 15, 2007

the BIG snow 2007 ~ day 1

so in the first 4 hours of the BIG snow....this is what we've accomplished.

rachel did this mostly by herself--i lifted the balls up for her.

snow fort--we did have the help of 6 other kids and two other adults who all took off before i got around to taking pictures. i used a small cooler to pack the blocks, another mom shoveled snow over to use, another mom helped a little with the packing, and the kids did all the rest. rachel thinks it should go one row higher. it may also need to be 2 blocks thick. it's still early.

we'll see what we get done after lunch!

blessings, liz

Sunday, September 9, 2007

luke birthday part 3

so we celebrated luke's birthday with the simmonds clan today. we met at pizza king in southport. lunch for 9 adults and 7 kids! it was rowdy, but we had a good time. we were celebrating luke, matt's mom(turning 60) and matt's bro-in-law ken(turning 41).

yummy breadsticks, my favorite pizza and some tasty chocolate cake.

luke scored some fun presents. he really has lots of people who love him. his cousin celia picked out a hotwheels race track which provided lots of entertainment for the under 5 feet crowd. we also now have a kid sized basketball, a bubble machine, camo shorts & a basketball jersey with chinese/japanese writing on it (which we are hoping doesn't say anything vulgar--planning to ask our new next door neighbors if they can read it as they are japanese.)

fun times...
tomorrow is the first day of transitional kindergarten. another new adventure.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

luke's birthday!

what a fun day!

luke woke up to present number one: present from daddy--maximum destruction monster truck & tickets to monster jam

luke had breakfast & present number two: present from rachel--honey bee tree game

luke gets the mail & present number three: present from nana & papa simmonds--$20 and instructions to get something from school (picked out colt's longsleeved tshirt & superman underoos at target)

luke invited neighbors over for cupcakes & ice cream & present numbers four, five & six--akane gave him a spiderman pflat ball, haruka gave him a lego truck & the cooley kids gave him little skateboard dudes!

luke requests taco bell for dinner & receives present number seven--from uncle mark, aunt amy & ella gets...rock 'em, sock 'em robot game! (in case you were wondering it's too loud of a game to play in a public place...not the game, but the boy playing the game) and a very nice taco bell employee gave him a fun pencil.

what a day! he had fun today...played his favorite computer games, got hot chocolate at starbucks, watched some of his favorite tv shows, played outside with buddies. big fun. nana & papa simmonds, aunt melissa & sydney, granna & papa duncan all called to sing happy birthday to him!

sort of hard for mama & daddy to believe that he's really 5. what a big boy...he even read most of his birthday cards all by himself.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

daddy's birthday

red's tickets: $100
lunch at cracker barrel: $35
parking: $12
drinks & hotdogs at the game:$20.50
dinner at la rosa's: $34.00
2 birthday boy desserts: free
spending the day celebrating daddy's birthday: priceless!

so matt gets free dessert at lunch and at dinner. if i were more apt to lie, i'd say it was someone's birthday everytime we ate out! i wouldn't do that though...

we had a fun family day. we thought we may melt at the was over 100 degrees & our seats were in the sun! yikes! will pay more attention to how the sun sets & where seats are the next time.

luke got a ball from an all star pitcher. he was number 39, but i can't remember his name. ask matt. rachel got a ball from a security guy who felt bad that she didn't get a ball. not bad. we tried to catch practice balls, but we didn't get any.

fun day. maybe it won't be so hot on daddy's birthday next year!

happy 34 daddy!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

adventures with daddy...

while mama's away, the kids will play. i mean all three of mine!

matt & the kids had a fun time playing while i was away in tn with the 'big kids'. they spent 2 days at the pool & had a fun time at the bowling alley.

luke bowled a 106 on his first bowling outing--with bumpers. rachel scored a 68. daddy scored a 136--no bumpers. rachel taught daddy to 'use the fox' while holding the bowling ball. luke opts for the 'vulcan hold'. luke likes it when the trex comes out and sets up the pins on the screen.

rachel was the fortunate recipient of over 150 tickets in the pinheads game area. something about not getting her 10 tickets & when the worker reset the game all the tickets other kids hadn't received, she got. the worker told her to keep them. she procured a hacky sack with them.

they survived 3 nights home alone. mama sure was happy to see them all on friday night!

Friday, July 27, 2007

holiday world 07

spent thursday at holiday world! what a super fun time together with our family. we wore our incredibles t-shirts, yes we all have them. it was fun! daddy & i called the kids violet & dash for most of the day. it was rachel's idea to wear the shirts, but it was way easy to keep track of everyone for certain!

we ate lunch, played in the park a little, then headed for splashin' safari. we are quite fond of water parks. dash was a little unsure of the bamboo chute--which was his favorite last summer--but as soon as he reached the bottom he was saying 'again! again!' violet thinks she's very BIG since she can ride anything by herself now that she's 49 inches tall. dash wanted nothing of the larger water rides. we did the green one--the name escapes me right now--and he was scared a little, but liked it.

back in the park we rode the howler--the kid coaster. played on the treehouse playground. rode the train--the only original ride from the park's opening in 1961. i was here as a kid when it was still called santa claus land and can sort of remember riding it. we rode the bumper boats & remembered why we didn't like them last year. you wind up with a soaked behind! had a giant ice cream cone. violet rode the liberty launch with me & liked it! the boys were playing in rudolph's playground--the kiddy rides. i figured since violet like the liberty launch, she would enjoy a coaster. she agreed to ride the raven. we had a very short wait--less than 15 minutes. she handled the first hill well, but when it started to turn the cars on the side she kept repeating 'too scarey, too scarey!' oh well, i tried. she & dash rode some more rudolph rides & then we headed out to set up camp.

most of the rest of the simmonds clan was here already. we packed up dinner & cooked at their rental rvs. dash & violet liked seeing their g'parents & cousins. stayed up too late for sure. matt's parents, sister & family and twin brother & family were here.

up this morning for pancakes & sausages. the park opens at 10 local time which is 11 our time so we had a leisurly morning. matt dropped us off at the park on his way out of town--off to fishers to work conner prairie!

the kids & i met up with granna & papa, uncle mark & aunt amy & ella to start the day. the boy & girl rode the reindeer rides with ella. then we headed to the water park. we hung out with granna & papa. granna & luke played the shallow waves while rachel took me into the deep waves! we did the lazy river--granna got soaked on one of the overhang water jets! after another rider saved her from the one before that! too bad... granna & luke were going to play in the one area while rachel & i rode the zinga ride, but lightening showed up and ruined our fun. we opted to get dressed and try the rest of the park which was promptly shut down as well.

we met up with matt's sister & family. the kids & i watched the glassblower lady & looked at the collection of lincoln(the president) era toys & collectibles. we decided we'd better take the park up on their offer of a rain check. we can come back any other day in the 07 season. so we spent the afternoon hanging out with the clan at their rental rvs. matt's older brother & one of his daughters (left the 19 month old twins at home!) came in late & we spent some time talking with them. there are 3 four year olds! luke is the only boy here, so he had to watch a princess movie because he was outvoted! oh well...he's been to plenty of tea parties already. one of these days will, one of the twins, will be bigger & they can conquer the world!

so, a pretty fun day though we were stuck inside. we played feed the kitty, uno & had some fun being silly. uncle mark taught luke some new dance'll have to check them out.

tomorrow morning will be a big adventure for me to pack up the camper & get hitched up all by myself! i can do it! i think.


Friday, July 13, 2007

next adventure?

well...we're off to holiday world for some fun with the simmonds side of the family july 26-28. yep, i'm crazy & heading out just before i leave on my mission trip on the 29th. hey, it was when the family was going...

so, we'll see what happens!

it's mini adventures between now & then...things like geocaching locally, trips to the library & grocery. hey, those can be an adventure if you make them one!


Saturday, July 7, 2007

random thoughts on arriving home...

--already planning next summer's big trip
--looking for places to camp labor day weekend & fall break
--some states have nice rest areas, indiana isn't one of them
--no cell service is both a blessing and frustrating
--amazing how we didnt' miss tv, but now that we're home we watch just as much as before we left
--10 nights is just about enough
--10 hour days in the car are TOO long
--more books on cd for the next trip
--rachel is a reading maniac!
--luke can sleep in amazing positions in the car
--it's COLD at altitude in the summer!
--God can put some amazing people in your path, you just have to be open to the encounter
--would spend more time in grand teton np next time
--the medical staff at nebraska medical center in omaha is really nice
--cracker barrell at 10pm is really yummy
--s'mores taste great in about any state

Friday, July 6, 2007

Day 10

July 5

Cheyenne, WY to West Des Moines, IA

Today was all about driving I80 across Nebraska.

We found a rest area somewhere in middle Nebraska where we could log on and find a geocache. The geocache was in a Wildlife Maintenance Area for the Blue Herron. We didn’t see any birds, but found the cache.

Just as we arrive in Omaha (2 hours from Des Moines), Luke makes a choking noise. I look back and he says, “I think I swallowed a battery.” Well, he seems confused about whether he did or not and finally says that yes, in fact, he did swallow it. Well, about anything else and we’d just wait for him to pass it. But a battery!!!!!!!! Thankfully, we look up and see a sign for the Nebraska Medical Center. So, after an hour wait, we get an X-ray. No battery. The doctor has spent some time at the Children’s hospital and does a great job with Luke telling him about not putting things in his mouth & about the importance of telling the truth. Rachel gets stickers from the doctor, but not Luke. Whew…

We decide that since it’s now 9:30 and we haven’t had dinner we may as well have a good one. Cracker Barrel at the first Iowa exit. Yummy meal!

The kids are asleep when we arrive at the campground. We set up in the dark & slept soundly!

Tomorrow is across the rest of Iowa, all of Illinois & home!
Sleeping in our own beds will be wonderful!

Day 9

July 4

Grant Village, YNP to Cheyenne, WY

Started our day off with a quick breakfast & packed up camp. Our last YNP stop was the Fishing Bridge Visitor’s center. This one focused on the birds & other animals of the park. Lots of taxidermy here! Luke decided he could take the little bear in the display case. He said he’d throw books at it & use his muscles—it was in the bookstore part of the center. Funny boy.

The East Entrance road was under construction—the only time I’ve really been nervous on the road. The road wasn’t paved, lots of gravel & a steep drop off with no guard rails. It will be nice when this stretch is done! We stopped in Cody, WY to drop off the Koda bear travel bug & our Xtreme Chaos travel bug in a cache. A short hike found an ammo box big enough to leave them in. The kids were sad to see Koda move on since he’d traveled with us throughout the trip. Hopefully the XC bug will make it back to Fishers someday.

Mostly our day consisted of traveling across Wyoming. We drove along the Big Horn river and the Platte river. We got some hail & a brief thunderstorm south of Casper, WY. The highlight for the kids was stopping at Taco Bell for dinner.

We arrived in Cheyenne in time to see some fireworks in different parts of the city from the interstate. We also had time to make a small campfire and roast hotdogs and make s’mores. Also locked the keys in the Vue—we won’t go into any further discussion of this fiasco. Luckily the Pilot station had a ‘get in your car kit’ and we were OK.

Tomorrow is on to West Des Moines, Iowa.

Liz & family

Day 8

Day 8
July 3

Playing in YNP & Grand Teton National Park

Started our day off with laundry and a shower! A visit to the Grant Village Visitor’s Center taught us about the importance of fire to the park. There was a lot of information about the 1988 fire which burned over 25% of the park. We learned that there was much fuel for the fire because dead lodge pole pines do not decay due to the cold temps all year in the area. Firefighters from all over the country came to fight the fire that threatened many buildings & burned greatly out of control. Winds that summer were hurricane strength on top of a series of very dry years combined for a fire of massive proportions.

Once again we were amazed at God’s plan for nature. He really has created some amazing things. The lodge pole pine trees have two distinct types of pinecones. One type is sealed with a sap that can only be melted in fire temperatures. The other type is on mature trees only in areas where there is no recent history of fire.

Next, we headed south to Grand Teton National Park. What a beautiful sight the Tetons are! We really enjoyed the view. Our first stop was the Coulter Bay Visitor’s center. We lunched here at the water’s edge—meeting the Lane family from Seattle. Luke & Rachel waded in the water. Their joy was a lovely thing to witness. Guess who fell in & got soaked…..yep, Luke. Thankfully it was a sunny day & he dried relatively quickly.

We drove on to Jenny Lake. Here we crossed the lake in a boat & climbed a mile up to Inspiration Point. Rachel made it the whole way—our nature girl. Luke needed some assistance from Daddy to make it the final half mile up the mountain. The view from the top was worth the hard climb. Luke made it down on his own & we headed back across the lake in a boat.

Our return boat driver recommended a restaurant with a spectacular view just south of the park. The restaurant was packed, but we found a seat outside. We struck up a conversation with the family at the next table. They were locals who had riden their horses to dinner! The Nichols family were very kind. Kent, a volunteer mounted policeman, and Matt traded stories. Kent told about training Secret Service agents to ride horses--Dick Cheney has a home nearby. They are neighbors with Sandra Bullock, who never comes to the homeowners association meetings but sends her dad who is very nice. Kent gave Luke & Rachel a brief ride on one of the horses! He also gave them Jackson Hole Jr. Police badges--they are feeling very powerful & important with all of their responsibilities! Diane said we needed to drive the square in Jackson. God really has placed some great people in our path on this trip.

What a fun town! Definately geared for tourists! We walked the square & decided to let Rachel ride in the stagecoach. Since we were the last ride of the night, the man let a sleeping Luke & Daddy come for free! (Luke woke up for most of the ride.) The kids thought it was big fun to ride like pioneers & wave at everyone!

The ride back to Yellowstone was dark, but pretty with the sun setting behind the Tetons. We were thankful for bright lights due to elk & bison crossing the road. We were stopped in a bison traffic jam!

Tomorrow is Fishing Bridge Visitor Center & out the East Enterance of the park to Cheyenne, WY.

Liz & family

Day 7

July 2
Playing in YNP!

A quick breakfast & we’re off to the Old Faithful area! Stopped at the Continental Divide—it crosses the Grand Loop Road twice here! Aided a cyclist from Michigan who’d left her wallet at the Canyon Area after breakfast. Actually, Matt just told her she had to go back for it (she wanted to go on rather than do the hill again) and another stopped group put her bike in their truck & took her back. (We saw her after lunch & she’d found her wallet!)

At the second Continental Divide turnoff, Matt & the kids hiked up a trail & found a lodgepole pine perched across another downed pine & made a 50 foot teeter totter! Naturally, I hiked up to them without the camera! Fun stuff…

We just made it to Old Faithful in time for a Jr. Ranger Habitat talk with a very nice park ranger. Rachel got to pull a bear print out from under the bison hide & tell everyone whether it was a grizzly or a black bear print. She got it right! Luke answered a surprising number of questions—he must have been paying attention along the way! During the talk Old Faithful Geyser erupted. It really is quite an amazing sight.

After the ranger talk, we visited Historic Old Faithful Inn. It is an architecturally interesting lodge that is over 100 years old. The Inn was dangerously close to catching fire in the 1988 fire. It was soaked with foam to keep blowing embers from igniting the building. We hiked the Geyser Hill boardwalk and the loop around Old Faithful. As we returned, we saw Old Faithful erupt again. It was a little earlier than they had estimated!

Rachel & Luke finished up their Jr. Ranger paper and became official Jr. Rangers. Rachel wasn’t feeling well and wanted the ‘quiet presentation’ while Luke chose the ‘public presentation’. Everyone in the ranger station cheered for him! Rachel felt even worse & we realized it was either altitude sickness or dehydration. We got her into the air conditioning & hydrated her. After a picnic lunch & a LOT of water she felt much better. Whew!

We headed north on Grand Loop Road and stopped at just about every pull off and site between Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs. We learned a little at each information station and saw more bison and elk. Matt enjoyed talking with Jim Holcomb, a retired National Park Ranger, at the Museum of the National Park Ranger. We all decided that the geyser basins and hot springs are stinky, but interesting.

Mammoth Hot Springs is the site of the original Ft. Yellowstone, where the army was when they guarded the park. We had ice cream and drove through the Upper Terrace area. On the drive back, we drove along the Firehole River. It was beautiful! We didn’t realize that there was a swimming hole. Too bad our swimming suits were in the camper!

After seeing the postcards & pictures of Grand Prismatic Spring, we were a little disappointed. Walking on the boardwalk doesn’t really give you a view of the multicolored rims around the spring. We settled for the postcard picture.

It was a LONG day with lots of driving and LOTS of in & out of the car. The kids were troopers though. We had a good day.

Tomorrow is down into Grand Teton National Park!


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Day 6

July 1

Red Lodge, MT to Grant Village in Yellowstone National Park

An excellent way to start the day is with a tasty KOA pancake breakfast! Friendly staff helped start our day’s adventure out well.

An unexpected bonus to our planning was the route into Yellowstone from Montana. We thought we’d just add a state to our state’s visited map, but realized when looking at the map that we were headed through Beartooth Pass Scenic Highway. This is considered one of America’s best & most beautiful drives. We have to agree! Who would have thought that we’d have a snowball fight on July 1st? Not us, but we did near the summit! Mama had a drink from the melting snow—chilly & refreshing. Hilary (our Vue) and Cortez(our camper) climbed to 11,000 feet at the top through switchbacks up & down the mountains. The drive is chock full of beautiful scenery & some perilous turns. Daddy says at one point—sort of like a Nascar bank on this U-turn! We stopped for lunch at a roadside pullover next to a small lake that still had a snow bank on one end.

We entered Yellowstone National Park (hereafter referred to as YNP) at 1:40pm and at 1820 miles on the trip odometer. Our first wildlife encounter was a small black bear—off the side of the road with a zillion gawkers pulled over as well. We saw bison everywhere…even a couple babies and two who seemed to not like each other much. We stopped at historic Roosevelt Lodge.

Tower falls was a great first geological site to see. An amazing mass of water coming over the cliff. We took pictures unlike Thomas Moran who painted Tower Falls in the last 1800s and is still one of the most famous views of the park. His paintings of areas in the park are what brought individuals like Teddy Roosevelt out to see for themselves! What a treasure this park really has become. We are thankful for Teddy’s desire to bring people to the area. Luke purchased a Jr. Ranger wallet here & Rachel a metal Jr. Ranger badge. They are very excited about becoming Jr. Rangers here.

Headed on to the Canyon Village Education Center where the kids picked up their Jr. Ranger packets ($3 each here where they’ve been free elsewhere—though they get an actual patch & not a plastic badge here.) Canyon Village center focuses on the volcanic aspects of YNP.

More wildlife and great views along the way…Lower Falls, Hayden Valley, driving along the Yellowstone River, Sulphur Cauldren, Mud Volcano, historic Fishing Bridge, Bridge Bay marina, Yellowstone Lake & on into Grant Village located on the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake.

We cooked a yummy dinner of spaghetti & tomato sauce. Luke decided today that he’d finally try sauce & he liked it! Washed dishes in the special bear proof washing room. We had to move all our food, toothpaste & personal care stuff into the car to deter bears from coming to the camp site! They have thousands more scent glands than humans!

We had a couple of s’mores & then off to sleep.
Tomorrow we’re headed around Grand Loop road across the Continental Divide & to Old Faithful & the Geyser Basin.

Liz & family

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Day 5

Custer, South Dakota to Red Lodge, Montana

Started our day with a tasty breakfast of pancakes, sausages & scrambled eggs. Daddy is a great breakfast chef! Thanks to the wash tubs we picked up yesterday, dishwashing went much faster this morning.

Upon leaving Big Pine Campground, where we met a Carmel firefighter, we took off toward Wyoming. The first stop was Jewel Cave National Monument. Sadly, the next Discovery Tour (one the kiddos could handle) was full & another wasn't for 2.5 hours. We settled for watching a video & completing Jr. Ranger activities. Daddy, the girl & the boy hiked a mile to the historic trail head & ranger station. Mama drove, made lunch & met a nice family from Rhode Island. We did hike down to the mouth of Jewel Cave--the original enterance. We stuck our heads in! The known length of the cave system is 132.9 miles. It's either #2 or #3 in length in the world! FYI Mammoth Cave is #1.

We packed it in and headed across the border to Wyoming. We stopped for gas & to check out the Wyoming visitor's center in Sheridan, WY. Our Conneticut friends were at the same gas station! Go figure...

Montana is full of wide open spaces. We stopped in Billings for some supplies before heading into Yellowstone tomorrow. So thankful that Walmart is everywhere! Also picked up 2 geocaches, so we can add Montana to our states cached! YAHOO!

Red Lodge is a quaint town. We pulled in & set up camp just as the sun was setting. Roasted hotdogs over the fire & made burgers on the grill. Corn & tropical fruit salad for sides and s'mores for dessert. Who says it's rough camping?! The kiddos checked out quickly & are very excited to finally be in Yellowstone tomorrow.

We started our Yellowstone trip countdown at well over 100 days. Hopefully the months of anticipation prove correct.

Will work on more pics soon--the wireless is sometimes slow. We'll have plenty to share when we get home!

Liz & family

PS Books on CD are a lifesaver in the car! Rachel enjoyed Little House in the Big Woods & is now working on Ballet Shoes (which Luke does NOT enjoy).

Day 4


In Black Hills National Forest

Began the day of sightseeing at Crazy Horse Memorial. Amazing that they have been working on this with all private donations. Chief Red Cloud invited Korczak Ziolkowski to come to South Dakota to build a monument/Memorial to the Indian Heroes—cause the white man had Mt. Rushmore. Crazy Horse will be GIGANTIC when it’s finished. They have blasted out much of the surrounding mass, but little is done on the actual monument. Crazy Horse’s face is completed and the 10 story hole between his outstretched arm and the horse’s neck. Maybe our great grandchildren will see the finished product. Korczak is dead, but his wife and 7 of his 10 children carry on the work he began. It was interesting to see this, but not sure it was worth the $25 to get us all in.

Next we were off to Mt. Rushmore. Our first glimpse was Washington’s profile. We now have a one year parking pass—not sure we’ll be back after today! Walked up & saw our new Connecticut friends from day 2. Very patriotic memorial. Walked down the Avenue of Flags that leads out to the viewing platform. Found the Indiana flag—the 19th state! It is simply amazing to gaze out and see the giant faces on the side of the mountain. The kids became Mt. Rushmore Junior Rangers! We saw original tools and swing seats that the men used to hang over the side and jackhammer away at the faces. We learned that the monument’s primary sculptor Gutzon Borglum worked the last 14 years of his life completing the monument. He didn’t see it to completion, but before he died it was mostly done. (The Crazy Horse sculptor interned under Borglum.)

Left Rushmore and headed to Bear Country USA. This is a driving tour through a wildlife preserve. (No windows down, animals have right-of-way, danger signs posted everywhere.) We saw elk, reindeer, big horn sheep, arctic wolves, dall sheep, Rocky mt. goats, buffalo, mountain lions and black bears. We picnicked at Babyland, then saw babies of the animals in the park & a few new varieties—foxes, skunk, coyotes, bobcat, porcupine, lynx & more. Our favorite part of Babyland was when a very nice ranger came out to give a baby black bear talk. The babies were sleeping until she began to throw mini marshmallows into their den & just outside. They jumped to it in collecting them One knocked the closed container from her hands and worked at it until he’d opened it! It was fun to see them frolic in the yard and learn more about black bears—which can be black, brown, reddish or blonde as well.

One of the funniest things of our day happened in the Bear Den gift shop. Upon entering the restrooms, Luke noticed they had his favorite hand dryers. “Oh yeah, the Excellerator”. When Matt joined Rachel & me outside the restrooms, he said “Here it comes.” In seconds we hear the dryer click on & Luke says so that half the store can hear. “Now that’s what I’m talking about! Oh yeah, Feel the Power! WooooHooooo.” He came out of the restroom to half the store laughing about it. Hysterical! (They have these same dryers at the Ram & Casler’s if you want to feel the power yourself.)

Next up was Old MacDonald’s Farm. A tourist trap for certain, but the kids LOVED it. They rode a train & ponies. We fed lots of animals. Daddy made friends with a couple of goats. We watched the pig race—Hamlet won! Mama cheered for Sausageaweea, while everyone else cheered for Hamlet. Maybe next time. This was a fun stop.

The very nice woman at OMF, recommended The Gas Light restaurant and Saloon for dinner. It’s about the only thing in Rockerville, South Dakota. It was great atmosphere—old west & western movie d├ęcor. Even a live cowboy singer! Daddy tried the Bison burger & gave it a thumbs up.

On to Keystone for dessert! Enjoyed walking Main street. Bought some touristy souveniers—stuffed bison for the kiddos, freshly made taffy and a silver bracelet for Mama. We skipped the shoot out at the Red Garter Saloon.

Next we headed back to Rushmore for the nighttime activities. While Daddy saved us all seats in the amphitheater, the rest of us hiked the President’s Trail. We got as close to the president’s as one can—sort of looking up their noses! We saw the Sculptor’s Studio, Borglum’s lookout & the historic lookout. The evening program was very patriotic. The Ranger gave a background of Mt. Rushmore and the sacrifices of the armed forces to protect our freedom. He introduced a film which talked about each president & how they modeled patriotism & love for our country. As the film was ending, the lights went up on the faces. Very cool. Thumbs up from Luke.

Late night out & the little people went to bed easily! Tomorrow we head into Wyoming & up to Montana for the night.

Liz & family

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Day 3

Touring Badlands National Park and travel to Custer, South Dakota

Started our morning with pancakes & bacon at the KOA. Drove into BNP to the visitor's center. Rachel & Luke became Jr. Rangers--watch a movie, fill out a booklet, check out the displays & talk to a Ranger. They were very excited to take their pledge & wear their badges for the rest of the day.

Back to the campsite to hook up the camper then off on the Badlands Scenic Byway. Stopped along the way at overlooks & trails. Our big hike of the day was Saddle Pass Overlook. A quarter mile trail that went up the side of a large rock formation. Luke was a little scared and Rachel thought it was great! Good hikers! The increase in altitude was steep, but they weathered it well with 3 out of 4 of us wiping out on the way down. The hike was Luke's favorite part of the day.

We took LOTS of pictures of rocks. You can see them when we get back! Stopped at Conata basin to grab a geocache just outside BNP. Met cachers from Canada & one from Australia--first international cachers we've met. Mama had to hike in for this one because the kiddos were sleeping and daddy had to turn around on the road! Whew!

In the Conata basin, we cooked burgers & hotdogs for lunch and then visited the "Pig Dig". This is an archeological dig site--the only active dig in a national park--manned by students from South Dakota State University. This was Rachel's favorite part of the day. They were in a pit about 3' deep that the diggers estimated had 10-12 fossilized animals in it.

After this we continued on the Scenic Byway & encountered much wildlife. We enjoyed watching the prairie dogs--so many of them! We spied a bison that had wandered into a scenic overlook and was up close & personal to the parking area. Got some good pics of this 'as big as your car mama' animal.

This road looped us around to continue on to Wall, South Dakota home of Wall Drug store. Wall Drug is famous for it's free ice water (been giving it out for over 100 years) and 5 cent coffee. We had some of both! The street in Wall is an amazing tourist trap. We purchase obligatory South Dakota Tshirts & actually made a drug store purchase in the famous store (kid toothpaste). There is a new Wall's Backyard with lots of fun stuff. Luke & Rachel posed for many pictures--2 six foot rabbits, driving a covered wagon, with a gigantic jackalope, in a teepee, on the back of a caboose, with a bison, on a bucking horse, with an get the picture. We'll share when we get home. They also got 30 seconds to play in the spraying water playground before heading out.

Onto Custer, South Dakota...came through Custer State Park--where a forest fire burned approx. 3000 acres YESTERDAY! It's out & the drive through the park was beautiful. Saw many deer & something we weren't sure what it was--some sort of goat maybe. (All the wildlife was Mama's favorite part of the day.)

Custer is an interesting little town. We'd like to explore it some more. The population is currently 1,800, but was as high as 10,000 before gold was struck in Deadwood to the north. Big Pine Campground is beautiful. We are camped in the midst of very tall pine trees. We watched the moon come out through the trees. Luke & Rachel met some friends at the playground while we cooked dinner.

License plate update: 7 to go & we've spotted them all!

Tomorrow is the day we see Rushmore!
Liz & family

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Day 2

Oakdale, Wisconsin to Interior, South Dakota

It was a long day across the last bit of Wisconsin, all the way across Minnesota and most of the way across South Dakota.

We had some fun though...the pic above is from a stop at a geocache in Minnesota. We also picked one up in Wisconsin. Had a picnic lunch at one of the cleanest rest stops we've ever encountered. A man was there cleaning up--even washing the picnic tables! Great sunny afternoon with a breeze & a playground to boot!

We stopped at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. Each year they spend $100,000 to cover the outside of the building with 600,000 corn cobs in a themed design. This year is a salute to rodeo. Worth the trek off the interstate. Rachel says this was the best part of the day--except for when she broke 6 birds by knocking down the display shelf. YIKES! Thankfully they didn't make her buy them! Whew!

Worked on our 50 states licence plate hunt. Added a few more today. Total is up to 37 + 2 Canadaian provinces.

We decided to stop off at a scenic overlook almost to our exit. It was our first view of the Badlands. An amazing site. God really has made some beautiful places here on earth. The highlight was meeting a family from Connecticut on a 5 week trek across America! One of the sons spotted my Chris Tomlin Tshirt & asked if I liked his music. He commented that he had Tomlin on his Ipod. We got to talking--he's also a DC*B fan! Had some conversation, took each other's family pics with the Badlands in the background & had a prayer together for each other's safety & fun times ahead on our respective trips! A God moment for sure. You never know where you are going to meet a brother or sister in Christ! (This entire encounter thanks to a free tshirt for preordering the See The Morning CD, a willigness to step out and inquire about someone's beliefs & an openness to the Holy Spirit.) God is good. All the time.

Drove through Badlands National Park on our way to the KOA campsite. Lots of gigantic rocks sticking out of the ground in an amazing arrangement.

Cooked dinner, played at the playground, took a walk, the kids did their Summer Bridge books & now it's bedtime.

Tomorrow we'll explore the Badlands up close & then move after lunch to Custer, South Dakota. Planning to see Mt. Rushmore at least by nightfall.

Luke's verse of the day from his Summer Bridge book.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,with all your mind and with all your strength. Deut. 6:8

Liz & all

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Day 1

Fishers, Indiana to Oakdale, Wisconsin
We departed Fishers at 9:25am and arrived in Oakdale at 5:30 local time (6:30 IN time).

Heavy rains through IL, which made travelling slow. The rain is needed though so we stopped for lunch through part of it.

Decided to look for all 50 states license plates...spotted 25 today. Halfway on the first day!

The girl & boy watched Elmo's world & Mary Poppins. They listened to A to Z Mysteries books A, B & C on CD. Rachel started the Little House in the Big Woods book on CD--she says "this girl lives in Wisconsin!" Since the Mama loves that series, it makes me happy she's enjoying it. Luke finally got to open his Superman Color Wonder book! He had big fun working on quite a bit of that.

Cooked chicken breasts on the grill as well as corn & rice on the camper stove for dinner. Swam in the campground pool for a while. Walked to the Road Ranger Truck Stop just down the road for some ice cream. Scoped out some geocashes for tomorrow & now we're off to bed!

Tomorrow is our longest travel day. Hopefully stopping for some geocaches along the way and seeing interesting landscape makes it go smoothly!

Good night, sweet dreams & God bless,
Liz & Matt
Rachel & Luke

Monday, June 25, 2007

where are we headed?

Fishers to Oakdale, Wisconsin

Oakdale to Badlands National Park Interior, South Dakota

Touring Badlands NP & moving to Custer State park

Mt. Rushmore, Custer SP, Crazy Horse & more!

Morning in Custer area then to Red Lodge, Montana

Church somewhere in Red Lodge then to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone adventures

Yellowstone/Grand Tetons

Grand Tetons then to Cheyenne, Wyoming

Cheyenne to West Des Moines, Iowa

Iowa to HOME!


Friday, June 22, 2007

Heading West

Next Tuesday we take off for 10 nights of crazy fun in the popup camper. Keep an eye here for updates along the way. Our idea is to chronicle our camping adventure and whatever we're up to after that!