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