The first week school was out (actually, we left during the evening of the last day of school!), we stuffed ourselves into the minivan and hit the road for a family vacation. I called it the Mt. Rushmore Trip, because one of our stops was Mt. Rushmore, and from there, we would rush more. My family groaned every time I said that. Hey! I thought it was rather funny, myself.

The first “leg” of the journey was to my MIL’s, where we spent the night and abandoned our dog, Princess Callie Roo Roo. I figured 5 people stuck in a car together, driving endless miles, didn’t need the added misery of a hot dog sitting on our laps, spreading her doggie hair all over us and making our legs go numb due to the placement of her paws. Plus, it would’ve been just mean to trap that poor li’l puppy in that vehicle with us. Mean.

We drove like hell the first full day on the road, to find a hotel that put us within striking distance of Yellowstone. Of course, it wasn’t until we’d been on the road for 50 minutes before The Hubby asked for directions. By that point, our exit was miles behind us. We wound up on one of those “gray roads” on the map. No speed limit listed as we drove over what I assumed was a 2 way road (there were no lines down the center), just intermittent signs that read “SLOW DOWN.” Idaho is lovely, and we saw truly beautiful land, but boy, were we glad when we finally popped out on the highway we’d meant to be on earlier, and saw signs of civilization – gas stations with cold drinks and restrooms! CHARGE!

Sadly, we did not see Yogi or Boo Boo while at Yellowstone, probably due to our lack of a pick-a-nick, but we did see buffalo. Lots and lots of buffalo. We saw geyers. We saw THE geyser, Old Faithful. It rained and hailed on us as we made our trek out of Yellowstone, stopping, often, in the middle of the road to gawk at the wildlife. Soon, we were shouting whenever we saw parked or stopped cars, “Look around, find the animals!” I could only imagine the wildlife talking amongst themselves – “You’d think these people have never seen a buffalo before.” The Middle Son kept up a running commentary in a pretty good Aussie accent: “Look. It’s a buffalo in it’s natural habitat.” “Be quiet. Don’t move.” We got out of the car for pictures at a sign that said we were about to cross the Continental Divide.

After Yellowstone, we drove some more. Up, up, up, to a pass that was 9000+ feet in the air. We decided it was the highest pass we’d ever crossed. It hailed on us there, too, and rained. Then, down, down, down (I was driving, narrow, yicky, winding road, which matched the road up. I was not lovin’ it, but it was my turn to drive)…I think we got Arby’s at some point and pressed on before we stopped within striking distance of Mt. Rushmore.

Mt. Rushmore. It was magnificent to see, but like the Mona Lisa, it’s smaller than you’d think. Still, nothing to sneeze at, and awesome in the scope of the work that was abandoned when WWII broke out. Who knew Mt. Rushmore was unfinished? Sure looks good to me. We drove through Keystone, and had a date to drive across South Dakota, because I was going to see Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little Town on the Prairie, dammit, DeSmet, South Dakota, whether the men in my family wanted to or not. We stayed in Huron, and had the best hotel check-in ever. The proprietor had his dog do tricks for us.

Nerdgirl heaven for me the next day, when we got to DeSmet (about 30-45 minutes thataway), to see the old Surveyor’s House (which Laura described as being big, but wow! Not to modern eyes, and I had to marvel that the Ingalls family would rent floor space to men passing through who either worked on the railroad or were headed west to homestead – I bet you couldn’t’ve walked through that room without tripping over people!). We saw the first school house that Laura and Carrie attended, and where “Lazy, Lousy, ‘Liza Jane” taught for a term. We saw a replica of the first school where Laura taught. Then, we went to Ma and Pa’s house in town. Oh my. So much to do there, so little time, and with the boys not as ecstatic to be there as I was, we moved on. Plans with some friends are in the works for a Little House on the Prairie tour next summer, so I’m not at all disappointed. Nope. I’m looking forward to enjoying it with friends who will be caught in the same nerdgirl thrall as I am.

Part of the reason for this trip was to hit states my husband hadn’t been to. He has now been to all 50 of the United States. From S. Dakota, we drove up to hit a corner of N. Dakota, then across into Minnesota, to Wisconsin, where we spent the night. Then across the top of Wisconsin to hit a corner of Michigan, then down back into Wisconsin to meet a friend of mine for dinner. We had a great time over dinner, then hit the road again. At this point, we were driving to see the sights. The Hubby needed to get down into Kansas, as his final state. We drove through a portion of Missouri, through a corner of Kansas, then ran into Nebraska and found the I-80 again. We’d watched the storm clouds over the prairie for a couple of days, and there were some truly stunning formations. From this part on, we were headed home, nothing greatly exciting, other than we let Oldest Son drive again (to the chagrin of his brothers, the youngest of whom buried himself under a couple of our duffle bags), drove, drove, drove. Spent our last night in a hotel in Evanston, WY.

I don’t remember the actual comment that caused Middle Son to reply to Oldest Son, “Look to your left. Look to your right. What do you see?”, but it had something to do with the salt flats there around Salt Lake City. Perhaps the question was, “I wonder why there’s a salt mine out here.” Yeah, I’m pretty sure that was it.

We reunited with our puppy dog, who was ecstatic to see us, late on that Saturday afternoon. Despite being tired, we were THISCLOSE to being home and sleeping in our own beds. We pressed onwards, arriving safely home, exhausted, happy to be back, but glad for the adventure we’d had.

And there. You’ve just read my essay on what I did this summer. Sure, there’s more summer to come, but mine involves dental and orthodontic appointments for 2 kids, which, as you can imagine, isn’t going to be a fascinating topic for a blog post. Right?

Happy Summer Vacation, kids! Do something exciting. Read a book!



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