road trip was all the way back in May, but I wanted to still share. I was going to do this in installments a while ago, but I ran out of time and so here it is in one lump sum.
After Tatiana passed away our family decided it was time to go on a vacation...kind of to get away from it all and a chance to see family and friends that couldn't come to Tati's memorial service. So we plotted sort of where we wanted to go and bought a folding tent trailer to tow on the back of our van. We brought the dog along with us and headed out about the 8th of May. First we stopped off at my moms as we were passing through Oregon. Then we went through Idaho to see a friend of Brian's and we also went to Craters of the Moon national monument and preserve. Craters of the Moon was very other worldly. It was a volcanic eruption in prehistoric times that made the land how it is today there. We learned about splatter cones while we were there...they are where the magma shoots out of the earth through holes or cracks and the lava cools right away becoming this interesting land formation. The lava rock there was really dark in color...so different than the red lava rock you see in front of homes as landscaping.
After that we wanted to get out of the snow and bad driving conditions. Our GPS that we received as a gift for the trip was leading us towards Nebraska...so that is where we went, but before we left Wyoming we saw the Ayres Natural Bridge that had been carved out by a river running through it.
As we were coming into Nebraska we saw the Welcome to Nebraska sign and it said Home of Arbor Day. The funny thing was that there were no trees and hardly anything to be seen for miles! Brian commented that Johnny Appleseed missed a spot :) Delbin was complaining about his head hurting and right away I had a feeling (mother's intuition I guess) that he might have a blood sucking tick...sure enough that is what it was so we went to the local clinic and he got it removed. About halfway through Nebraska we decided that we wanted nothing more than to just get to Ohio as soon as possible. When we finally hit Iowa (seemed like forever) we saw all kinds of large windmills.
Then we drove through Illinois and Indiana finally getting to Ohio. We stayed at Brian's brother's in Dayton, but opted to camp out in our camper because Jaedan was having asthma problems in his house because it was built around the 1920's and Brian's brother was trying to renovate parts of it. The air quality in the house was not as good as it could be. While we were at his place we got food at the local Mexican restaurant and then went to a park with a playground with his younger daughter. Even though Prince wasn't allowed to come inside Brian brother's place Prince liked his backyard because it had a high wooden fence that he couldn't look out of and there were birds and squirrels to chase. The boys had fun while we were there playing with their cousin up in her room and Teela had fun showing off her love for books and scooting chairs around that were her size.
After that we headed to Cincinnati, Ohio to see one of Brian's sisters and her family. We had to get Jaedan a new inhaler because he was having worse asthma and I forgot to bring his from home because he doesn't have the asthma that often. Boy was that a big hassle! I will know to bring it next time just on case. We went to a different park with a playground for the kids and dog to romp around. We had brats, corn on the cob, and pasta salad that night for dinner. Yum! Prince didn't have as much fun at Brian's sister's because she didn't have a yard that was fenced well, we stayed inside her house for the night instead of in the camper, and she had cats so she wouldn't allow him to come inside. Prince slept out in their garage and started barking and whining because he was lonely so Brian went to be with him the whole night. Teela was absolutely adored by her female cousins and their male cousin was enjoying both of my boys' company because usually he is outnumbered by his sisters.
Then we stayed at Brian's parents' in Columbus, Ohio and had a good visit with them. The boys got to swim in their pool which they enjoyed a lot and the kids were each given gifts. Teela got a Fisher Price Soothe and Glow Seahorse and the boys received Webkinz, art supplies, and a carrying case to put it all in. Brian's mother made a yummy meal and we watched Indiana Jones - Raiders of the Lost Ark because the boys had never seen it and wanted to. After spending one night there we went to visit Brian's friend briefly while he was painting an apartment he was renting out. Then we headed over to visit Brian's friend Dan and his family. We stayed multiple nights at their house, went out to eat at Fish Market, and went to their son's art show and orchestra concert. We also got some antibiotics for Jaedan because his inhaler wasn't helping as much as we would have liked. We visited Brian's other sister briefly and went out to eat at Chipotle with her on her lunch break then we went back to visit Brian's parents one last time before we left Ohio. We went to the dog park and Brian and his father went kayaking together in the lake. We enjoyed our time in Ohio and hated to leave, but it was time. We decided we would then head towards Texas, but first we wanted to go to a service they were having for Brian's brother's older daughter's confirmation to Judaism. We wanted to attend her special time and got to see her other family as well since her father and mother are divorced and remarried to others.
Then we stopped off to visit Brian's Uncle in Kansas and had a great time at his local Pizzeria that he likes to perform at. He writes lyrics to his own contemporary folk songs and sings them for audiences. He also plays a bunch of instruments too. He didn't perform for us, but we had a good time visiting him and I really enjoyed my chicken, artichoke, olive, mushroom with white sauce pizza and tomato bisque soup I had. Since it was hot out and we were eating at a table outside with Prince we also got some ice cream there too and they were nice enough to get Prince a bowl of cold water. He also loves art and it shows at his place. I took a picture of a particular wall hanging of his that I really liked with trees. We tried visiting Brian's other Uncle and see his hand-built cord-wood home, but we couldn't get a hold of him, didn't have an address, and since Brian only visited it once before he didn't remember exactly where it was. We ended up getting stuck in the mud on a dirt road trying to find it, but luckily we had gotten AAA and so they came to bail us out.
We absolutely loved the scenery and horses of Tennessee and Kentucky. Cave City, Kentucky was our favorite, but unfortunately we didn't get to go into any caves there because it got late. We did; however, stop off in Arkansas to go to the Crater of Diamonds State Park to dig for diamonds. You get to keep what you find there. We didn't find any diamonds and it was really hot digging in the dirt for them. I did find a really cool large agate and some pudding stone though. Then we headed to Texas to see my grandparents on my mother's side and my Aunt Margaret (my mom's sister) and my Uncle Pete. We spent a very hot, but leisurely time there. It was nice because they lived right next to each other with a horse pasture in between the two houses. Prince had the most fun there than he had on the trip because he got to romp around freely with their dogs outside where ever he wanted and for the most part stayed within their large properties. He also thought the horses were fun to bark at and chase. We spent the night inside my Aunt's house because the nights of Texas are still hot. Brian went and pet the horses a lot and there were two baby horses that had just been born. The next day we spent time with my grandparents and then had dinner at my aunts house. My boys had caught two fish in my grandpa's pond and wanted to cook them up and eat them. So my uncle gave them each a pocket knife to keep (a tradition with my uncle) and showed them how to use them safely to descale the fish and they cooked them on a small charcoal cooker outside. Unfortunately, my boys decided they didn't want to eat them after all that and I had to scold them for it because I was disappointed with their actions.
After Texas we decided we would head north because we were hot and so we headed to South Dakota. When we arrived we went to the Corn Palace which they decorate with different dried corn murals every year. We saw the 1880 town which has a bunch of old buildings brought in to simulate a town and furnished with thousands of antiques. We visited the Badlands Petrified Gardens which has the largest collection of fluorescent minerals and some of the largest petrified trees and logs ever found in the Badlands and the Badlands National Park on a driving tour which has all kinds of scenic overlooks - chiseled spires - deep canyons - and jagged buttes eroded over millions of years by wind and water. We also saw Thunderhead Underground Falls which is a mine that was hand-drilled and blasted with black gunpowder, mined for gold for 20 years and then abandoned because they hit water in the back of the mine. The water is buried deep within 600 feet of mountain and is a gushing 8 cubic feet of water that falls vertically for more than thirty feet and then out the side of the mountain. They have built a platform along side the water that goes back into the mine so that tourists can see the waterfall. It was cool, dark, and moist inside...so kind of hard to get a picture of it, but we were very glad we saw it and Prince enjoyed going into the mine too. We drove past Mount Rushmore and took a quick picture and then it was time to head back homeward. We enjoyed South Dakota and want to come again another summer to see more because there was too much we didn't get to see.
We tried once again to go to Yellowstone and failed a second time because of the season (they have too much snow I guess), but again we saw some more beautiful scenery along the way. We went through the Rocky Mountains and I got a great picture of mountains covered in giant boulders. We also saw an interesting train carrying plane fuselages and chased it around so we could get pictures of it and a movie on our cameras.
All in all our trip was very good, but it was also good to be home. The camper turned out to be a great investment and we only had a few problems with it coming unlatched and opened while we were driving down the road. We enjoyed camping in the camper all together and it didn't really feel cramped at all even though we had two adults, 3 kids, and a large dog sleeping in it. I would camp again with my family in it in a heart beat. I think we will rely on maps more instead of a GPS next time as the GPS wanted to lead us through places it thought we should go. The trip was a lot of fun and we learned a lot on the way there and back!