Road Trip 2012-Minneapolis, MN to Des Moines, IA (5/31/2012)

Riding the Rails in Iowa!
(click here for today's pictures)
The plan was for Robby and I to wake around 6:30 and get moving.  The hotel last night even had a complimentary delivery of the complimentary breakfast so we even did that to save a few minutes.  We didn't hear Robby's alarm (good thing we weren't catching a plane) but we did hear the man knock with breakfast-us Dennie's don't miss meals.  Of course, the delivery of the breakfast didn't feed 7 people so Robby had to run downstairs to supplement.  The goal was for us to be on the road at 8:30 and we nearly made it.  We ended up leaving at 8:40 a.m. and drove 130 miles yesterday.
We had 3 and a half hours to drive to make it to Boone, Iowa.  Our hotel last night was a downtown hotel and we had the hardest time finding our way to the interstate.  The buildings made the gps act a bit crazy but we finally made it.  And in a few miles, Robby had to quickly pull over to plug up one of his cords that he unplugged last night.  Robby has enough cords with him that he could probably circle the globe-though he has narrowed them down very much for this trip.  I guess I can't complain since some of them are mine-phone and computer.  
The next stop was at a rest area.  No one had said anything about needing to potty but we thought it was time.  So the 3 big ones got out while I changed Campbell's diaper.  Keaton was sleeping so she missed out on that diaper change.  I briefly thought about trying to get in the roof bag to get my pants out.  We had all put on shorts this morning and the weather leaving the hotel was cool but sunny.  The weather started out so promising but before we had driven too far it started sprinkling and rained like that all day long.  And yep, my new shoes just soaked up the water again and I spent the day walking around in wet, cold shoes.  Those were going to be my "wear everyday of the summer shoes" but I guess I will have to find some more when it is wet outside-which may not be too often.  And we had one other stop at McDonalds too but only for drinks so it was a quick stop.  
We rushed the kids this morning telling them that we needed to hurry so we didn't miss the train and when we drove up to the station in Boone they saw a train on another set of tracks.  The questions immediately started flying "is that our train?" "did we miss it?"  Robby and I weren't as worried about that but were more worried about the train station being open!  No one was around.  I was beyond relieved when Robby walked out with tickets in his hand otherwise we were going to have to hijack a train for the kids!
We walked through the little museum and there was really not much to it at all but there was enough for the kids-a train table.  I will never understand it but when they see a train table they are drawn to it-like to a magnet.  Funny thing is that we have a train table and they play trains often.  But why is it so special to them when there is one some where other than home.  We had to drag them away from that silly train table to look at the real railroad items in the museum.
Anderson had seen an open air car that he wanted to go inside of and since it was drizzling, Keaton and I opted to stay at the car and make sandwiches for lunch.  We didn't have too long so I quickly spread my peanut butter and jelly ones for the kids and made Robby and I pimento cheese.  After dividing the chips the crew was back and everyone piled into the car to eat.  
Within just a few minutes it was time to board the train.  We kind of waited until the last to get on the train but it worked out well because we had pretty good seats near the back of our train car.  The kids were so excited and everyone was so proud to give their tickets to the conductor.  It was the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad and we passed over one very scenic valley.  We were on this crazy super high bridge.  Kind of gives me the chills just thinking about it and in a few minutes, we were traveling slowly over a river.  The rain and clouds didn't really prevent us from seeing the landscape today but this ride would be beautiful in the fall. 
The whole ride was about an hour and a half.  After going halfway we stopped and they moved the engine to the other side of the train.  This was fun to watch it go by and Campbell kept shouting "train! train!" at least she didn't shout "train tracks" repeatedly on this trip.  As many train tracks as she has pointed on this trip, this outing was done especially for her.    
The kids did really well on the train ride-of course the juice boxes, cheese and crackers and fruit snacks probably really helped with this.  Keaton got pretty fussy but she was exhausted and eventually went to sleep.  The others enjoyed looking at where the two train cars meet and wiggle as we traveled.  And of course, they all had to go potty on the train-who doesn't want to go and potty on a moving train!  How fun to any child!
When we made it back to the car, we moved along to Des Moines.  Robby had read about a soda fountain in a pharmacy called Bauder's.  It looked fun enough so we went there for supper.  We all sat at the bar and the kids just lined up and sat so well.  (The bribe of ice cream probably helped.)  We had supper there and then shakes for Robby and I and ice cream cones for the kids.  Reagan had chocolate, Anderson had mint oreo and Campbell and Graham had vanilla (sorry Pops-Pops doesn't like vanilla!)  It was just teenagers working the counter and they really didn't have any personality so we couldn't break it to them that Robby didn't order two of his sandwiches.  Robby and I snickered through out the meal after they put two sandwiches in front of him.  I am pretty sure he only ordered one but Campbell and I did help him eat the second so nothing (well, not much) was wasted.
Our hotel was only a few blocks away and we unloaded for our earliest night in a long time.  This might have even been the kids earliest to go to sleep since the trip.  It isn't even 9 and 4/5ths of them are sleeping (yep, Keaton is up-she is going to have a rough few nights when we return home and I make her return to her normal routine).  When we got to the hotel, the girls and then the boys had a bath.  They played cars and then we watched a movie.
Robby found a Yellowstone documentary on Netflix so we watched that.  Reagan and Anderson really listened to it. Campbell would name all of the animals that we saw "buffalo, bird, duck, peoples."  Graham tried to watch some of it but quickly became board and started playing with their sleeping bags and mats.  He would pick up 2 or 3, put on a hat and look at himself in the mirror and just grin.  He did this over and over but picking up different and more stuff each time.  
Before too long it was time to get ready for bed.  The boys have a new thing-they will potty at the same time.  I am not a big fan of this at home but since we are at a hotel I let it slide-because I don't have to clean up the mess!  Keaton had actually had a nap during the movie so she is now up and going strong.  I hope her benedryl will kick-in in a minute!  Ha!
As soon as the lights were off, Campbell started fake snoring.  That child is something else.  She is two and a half and can keep up with everyone else.  We are always impressed that she knows exactly what the rest are doing and mimics it so well.  The other night I caught her coloring on the wall in the hotel and when she saw that I was coming for her-she covered her eyes with her hands.  I spanked her and then she started a fake cry which lasted until she had finished scrubbing the walls!  She is such a con artist-but not many 2 year olds can eat an ice cream cone as well as she can!
Robby just mentioned one reason that our kids sleep so well in hotel rooms.  Since 4 of them sleep in one room at home, they are all used to falling asleep with a bit of noise around.  And Robby and I are just so exhausted that we don't even notice the wall to wall kids snoring away when we fall asleep!
Tomorrow is another big day-Kansas City and the baseball game.  

Road Trip 2012-Minneapolis, MN and Somerset, WI (5/30/2012)

Cheese Head for a Day in Wisconsin!
(click here for today's pictures)
I thought that I was sneaky last  night when I put Keaton in her pack n play but she noticed around 2 that she wasn't near me and politely requested to rejoin my bed!  Ha!  I move pretty quick in the middle of the night when there is a possibility of her waking up four other children.  Around 5, I woke up to a thud-Anderson was on one side of me, Keaton on the other and Graham had been on the other side of Keaton.  Had been, until he fell off the bed.  He popped right back up and I told him to go lay with his Daddy.  
This trip has been 13 days long and the kids are still loving the hotel breakfast.  The plan tomorrow is for Robby to go downstairs and bring some food back to save us some time.  We explained all of this to them but it still probably won't go over well.  They eat more stuff for breakfast than you could believe.  It is almost comical how much they eat.  
We managed to leave the hotel 9:20 a.m. this morning and we drove 284 miles yesterday.  Our first stop this morning was Wisconsin!  Most of the kids needed Wisconsin so I was very glad we could make it across the border.  Quite a few kids needed Idaho too but we weren't able to make it so that will have to be done on our next Yellowstone trip.  
Anyway, we went to the Bass Lake Cheese Factory.  Not a whole lot was going on there but we were able to look in the windows and see where they make the cheese.  We finally finagled a sample from the lady and even got a few cheese head pictures-and isn't that really why you come to Wisconsin anyway?  We ended up buying cheese curds for a snack along with some cranberry cheese.  Both were very good-actually, I might have some of that cranberry cheese now.  We were about to buy some cinnamon cheese but the lady warned us that it was very sharp.  She even gave me a sample to try it out.  Later Reagan asked me if it was any good and I told her that if I had been a kid I would have spit my sample out on the floor but since I was a grown up I had to swallow it and smile.  
We went to a picnic table on the grounds of the cheese place to eat our cheese.  We pulled out the plates and crackers from the car and just had ourselves a little mid morning snack.  It was pleasant with the sun out.  We decided to wear shorts today and when the sun is out it is fine but a bit chilly when it gets cloudy.  But no one really wanted the ever wear their coats so the kids must not have been cold. 
Robby's folks are currently in Helena, Montana and he was saying that Helena was the capital.  And then we started trying to remember where Minnesota's capital was.  Even though the kids and I sing their states and capitals song weekly, I still couldn't think of it.  Robby was pretty sure but we did have to double check to make sure it was St. Paul.  As we were trying to decide, Robby told the kids that he would give a candy bar to anyone who knew the capital of Minnesota.  Graham replied "is it the letter B?"-like capital letter B.
We circled and circled trying to get to the capitol building.  Finally we made it and Reagan, Anderson and Graham all climbed out to take a few pictures.  When we were driving up, Reagan asked if they would be able to run again like they did at the last capital.  We didn't know but fortunately there was plenty of running space and they were able to run around the grass for a few minutes before getting back in the car.  Keaton and Campbell were snoozing so I stayed back with them.
We had been given a tip to eat at Mickey's Diner in St. Paul and it was right near the capitol so we did that.  It was a tiny, tiny place-not really made for a family of 7!  Ha!  But we squeezed in one of their booths-and I mean squeezed!  Robby, Campbell and Anderson on one side, Me, Reagan and Graham on the other and we wedged Campbell and her carseat up under the table.  Seriously.  It was one tight fit but we made it.  The food was typical diner food and we had a burger, pancakes, 2 grilled cheeses and a BLT and we pretty much devoured everything.  
After lunch, we went to Bloomington and played at the Hyland Park Playground.  I had somehow found it and let me tell you, that playground was amazing!  It was like 20 Mcdonalds play areas combined, plus the normal park slides, along with a neat ropey climbing area and there was even a play area that had not yet opened up.  Crazy!  I had never seen anything like it-the kids would have still been there playing.  When we drove up, Anderson caught a view of the playground between the trees and he was trying to tell the others about what he had seen.  Robby told him that we were going to sit and read some books before we started playing and the child had the most horrible look on his face.  After he figured out we were kidding, he ran ahead of us to look at the playground and you should have seen his face-like a kid on Christmas morning.  They were so content and there were zillions of things to do.  We let them play for over an hour and then it was time for me to go to my playground-Ikea!!
Reagan, Anderson and Graham are big enough to go to the kiddie area.  Campbell is not potty trained (and will probably never be at the rate we are going) so she could not go.  I distracted her while we dropped the others off.  When Robby returned with out them she started asking where they were.  Robby said that were at school and then asked if she wanted to go to school.  That child kept saying "yes, I go school."  She knew something was up for them not to be there.  Though after a bag of fruit snacks, she forgot about those brothers and her sister.  Actually, she really enjoyed shopping with us since we let her walk around-it helps when there is just one kids walking and not 4!  
I found quite a few things to put on my Ikea wish list/return list.  And I bought a bag, straws, kitchen scrub brushes and a spatula-woo hoo!  I am one exciting gal!  Ha!  I love me some Ikea.  In just a few weeks when our addition is finished, I will need an immediate return trip to Ikea to pick me up some things to fill our new space.  
After Ikea, we went right across the street to the Mall of America.  We had mentioned getting Reagan an outfit for her American Girl as her souvenir.  I know that isn't really something you can look at and remember about the trip but it is better than a stuffed animal.  That is what she wants to buy everywhere we stop and we sure do not need any more stuffed animals.  Anyway, we looked and looked and looked finally she narrowed her choices down to a soccer outfit, pajamas and a beach outfit.  It was a pretty hard pick and probably if she would have pushed the issue I would have bought her all of them (don't tell Robby).  I can be a sucker like that sometimes.  She finally picked the pajamas as her choice.
The boys, Campbell and Keaton spent their time playing in the lego play area.  As Reagan and I were leaving, I looked at Campbell and saw she had climbed INTO the bowl of legos.  They enjoyed playing and even took a picture of something they wanted to put on their Christmas list.  And then someone offered them a few ride tickets that they were not going to use.  
So as Reagan and I walked out, I saw Robby buying more ride tickets (he is a sucker like that too sometimes).  Everyone was able to do one more ride tonight.  Anderson was my brave little guy and rode a roller coaster that we had seen and not rode yesterday-actually was the same one that Robby and I rode when we were on our way to Hawaii about 8 years ago.  Reagan and Graham rode the log ride again and Campbell rode a little roller coaster that we didn't do yesterday.  i was on the little roller coaster with Campbell and that child started screaming on the ride.  Not screaming because she was scared-just screaming because that is what she realized you do on rides.  She is a mess!  
After all of the rides were finished, we headed back to our hotel.  It was nearly 8 but we still let the kids go swimming.  They started out in the hot tub and just sat around for the longest time.  Eventually, everyone but Graham moved to the big pool and played.  Graham just sat in the hot tub-that child was so exhausted.  After swimming, Robby hosed them off  at the pool and they came upstairs and put on pajamas.
It was around nine, when we finally had supper.  I made supper in the hotel room and they all sat on towels to eat the sandwich, chips, yogurt and milk.  After Reagan and I read a book to everyone, it was bedtime and it didn't take too long for everyone to go to sleep!

Road Trip 2012-Fargo, North Dakota to Minneapolis, MN (5/29/2012)

Conquering Mall of America...our way!
(click here for today's pictures)
(click here for a quick video from Mall of America)
We got a very late start this morning but we all slept very well.  I knew we were sleeping well at 5 when I got Keaton a bottle and saw that all 4 big Dennie kids were still laying in their spots sleeping soundly.  It was 8 when we stirred and we didn't leave the hotel until 10:04 a.m.  Our total mileage from the day before was 413 miles.  As we were on our way this morning, we watched Cars 2 and Campbell must have thought that the movie was turned up too loud because during most of it she kept her hands to her ears and shouted "too loud, too loud."  We did turn it down for the child mainly because we were still feeling sorry for her.  She took a pretty good fall at breakfast this morning and has a little gash on her nose.  She didn't cry to much but was pretty upset-a muffin "cupcake" calmed her down though.
When we moved our van to Minnesota the kids immediately became excited.  They knew that the roller coasters were here at the mall. Ever since we mentioned our road trip would take us to the Mall of America, they've asked what day would we be arriving.  And Graham started asking as soon as we arrived if we could get a pretzel at the mall since that it what we do when we go to the mall at home. 
On the trek today, we passed out juice boxes and rice krispy treats for them to munch on.  Reagan likes to figure out the order of who did what when and was trying to determine who was the first to finish their snacks.  She asked Graham when he finished his and he answered matter of factly-"when we were on the fast road."  That didn't clear anything up for her since we had been on the fast road for nearly 100 miles.  
Robby and I spent most of the morning working on our road trip for 2013.  The plan is to eventually end at Disneyland to see the new Cars area and a few nights in Yosemite with a few stops along the way.  Next big mileage day we will work on our 50 states plan for the future-that might be a few years away though.  We stopped at a gas station for gas and a potty stop.  I could hardly get the kids out of that place because they were so interested in looking at all of the cheap gas station toys.  So funny.
We headed to Darwin, Minnesota today to see the World's Largest Ball of Twine.  We went a little bit out of our way but not too bad.  The kids and I had read a little book about that ball of twine and they were interested in seeing it-well, they were as interested as you can be about seeing a ball of twine. As we were leaving, we saw a sign that said souvenirs were down the road at a bar so Robby just dropped me off there.  I was none to pleased about me being the one to have to go in but I did manage to come out with a cute little something that I can hang on the tree (and yes it is made out of cardboard and twine and please don't ask me how much I paid for it!).
Right across the street from the twine ball was a little park.  So it was perfect for our picnic and the kids even loved playing on the playground.  We spent quite a bit of time there and then headed into Minneapolis.  The drive was really pretty.  We saw a deer, lakes and lots of farmland but my favorite sight of all was a Walmart-I could tell we are getting back near home!  
After lunch, Campbell was drawing on the etch a sketch while the others were trying to watch a movie.  She would say "Rearea look what I made. Anderson look was I made. Graham look what I made."  And she was pretty insistent that they looked and commented on her artwork.  Finally, Reagan just told the boys "Say 'wow' and she will leave you alone."  
Reagan was telling us that when she was a grown up she would plan a trip and have all of her kids and her brothers and sisters come.  She said that we would come and meet them there too.  I told her that maybe we would be in our RV but Anderson happily added "you might be dead."-thanks buddy!
Before too long we were in Minneapolis and Robby checked us in at our hotel.  We are in a downtown hotel  and Robby just took a load of stuff up to the room while we stayed in the car.  He worked pretty fast because he had unpacked the ice chest and laid out the kids sleeping bags for when we returned.  He knew that we would have a pretty late night-and it was.
We drove right up to the Mall of America and could barely contain the kids in the car they were so excited.  I had been telling them that they would have to pick one ride to do and that would be it.  But after 5 they have a special and it is unlimited rides for 20 so Robby bought him and the four big kids rides.  It was kind of neat because if the kids were under a certain height on some rides then they would need an adult-but the adult could ride for free.  
We were pretty impressed with the rides.  We definitely got out money's worth and the kids had a blast-we all did.  Here are some of the rides we did-Anderson's favorite-honking trucks, Graham's favorite-spinning cars, Reagan's favorite-log ride, Campbell's favorite-Dora, Keaton's favorite-carousel, Robby's favorite-Ninja Turtle plane, my least favorite-swings.  They also jumped on a jumpy, rode a bus, train, hot air balloons, bumper cars, a big and then little up and down ride, a roller coaster (Graham couldn't ride it since he wasn't tall enough but did get to ride the bumper cars twice) and finally a ghost shooting ride.  They had a blast! And we were even able to do some of the rides twice.  The only ride we really didn't get to ride was a very kiddie roller coaster which we would have had to ride 4 times since an adult would have to be with each of them and the ferris wheel.  We stayed until the place closed down at 9:30.
Then we made it back to the hotel and everyone quickly put on their pajamas.  Keaton was the only one who  had taken a good nap today so she was the one who was ready to go.  It was actually unfortunate that it was so late because our hotel room tonight has no one under or beside us so we could have been a bit nosier.  Last night we were so on edge because we didn't want to get in trouble again so it will be nice to relax our "don't step on the floor" and "you can't get off of the bed" policy that we had last night!  
So my kids fell asleep at about 11 and they have never been up this late.  Glad that we are going to be able to sleep a little later in the morning.  Tomorrow's plan is Wisconsin and then maybe Ikea!

Road Trip 2012-Glendive, Montana to Fargo, North Dakota (5/28/2012)

"Mom, that's a big buffalo!"
(Click here for today's pictures)
As much as I can remember the evening was fairly uneventful.  As Keaton was going to sleep, hours after everyone else she fussed a bit.  Campbell, my light sleeper, shouted from her sleeping bag "Momma, Keaton fussing." Keaton slept with me and woke me up around 6:30 and at that time I realized that Anderson (I thought it was Graham) was in bed with me.  As Keaton was eating, Anderson rolled his shoulder on top of her and she gave him the ugliest look. The next thing that I knew it was nearly 7:30 and we were just stirring.  We had to move pretty swiftly to get to breakfast before it ended and that is one thing that the kids will really hurry for.  
I think this was our latest day to leave at 9:30 a.m. (which would really be 10:30 since we were coming back into Central Time Zone later in the day) and the mileage total from yesterday was 450 miles.  We didn't have too far to go until we crossed the North Dakota state line and then turned around and crossed the Montana state line and then returned across the North Dakota state line.  We have been getting pictures of each state line sign and we neglected to get one when we entered Montana so we had to turn around to make sure we had that picture.  Anderson couldn't understand why we were making circles on the interstate.
Our first stop was the southern until of Roosevelt National Park.  The kids had colored and made a cabin like Roosevelt's Maltese Cross Cabin and we were delighted to see that it was right behind the visitor's center.  After looking around inside, we walked to the cabin. We were only able to walk around it but the kids were pretty impressed that they had seen this cabin before.  
Before too long it started raining and we hustled back inside.  Let me mention the weather, we knew it was still going to be cool with the highs in the upper 50s and low 60s.  Robby thought he could get away with shorts but by the time he took one load to the van, he switched to pants.  The wind this morning was crazy cold-bone chilling cold.  We decided that we would take the snow over this crazy wind.  It remained cool most of the day and windy, windy, windy. 
After coming in from the rain, we loaded up and drove part of the park loop.  The park is similar to the badlands but beautiful scenery.  It is amazing all of the different terrain that we have seen on this trip.  The most eventful thing that happened in the morning was our rear video screen stopped working.  Thankfully the back row of kids can see the front video screen so all is not a loss-otherwise we would have to head straight home.  No one pays as much attention to the movie now that they have to look a bit harder to see it.  Robby did a little research and it looks like the kids will be making do for awhile before we get that fixed. They are such good travelers because they are such good movie watchers so when we get home, we will have to have a break from tv and movies for awhile.  We do break it up so they just don't watch movies all of the time in the car-music, a Bible story on tape and sometimes we even turn off the movies (gasp!)
So driving along we saw a sign for the world's largest scrap metal structure in the world and thought we would stop.  It was windy, windy, windy so Keaton and I stayed in the car. Campbell jumped in after a few minutes out in the wind.  Apparently, a man decided that since his small town was dying if he welded large metal signs down the little highway to his town then traffic would come.  Well, we didn't but the kids sure did enjoy running around at his first sign that he welded.  There is just something to see everywhere.  
Next stop was at New Salem and they had the world's largest cow.  Seriously, this thing was big and up on a hill.   Keaton and Campbell were asleep on this adventure so they stayed in the car while the rest of us ran up to the statue.  As we were driving away, Campbell stirred and said "what's that?" as she looked at the huge cow.
Bismark was next and before we made it there, we had to set out clocks back to Central Time Zone.  This was part of the reason why today's five hour drive took all day long to complete and ended up being one of our longest days-but that is still fine because we are ahead from yesterday and now only have 4 hours to drive tomorrow instead of 7.  At Bismark we did our customary governor's mansion and state capitol drive by.  North Dakota's capitol building is sky scraper looking and just really isn't that pretty.  But they did have some nice grounds and the kids ran and ran on the grass.  First they ran to a statue, then the kept running.  Robby was walking with them so I drove the van alongside. Eventually, Campbell decided that she had had enough running and ran to the van but the others kept going.  Finally they made it to the end and the boys had already started walking but Reagan turned around and headed back-we had to make her come back.  I think I am going to sign her up for track.  
When Robby and I were here 7 years ago, we had supper at Space Aliens Grill.  I knew that the kids would love it and they really did.  We sat in the middle and they could see everything but they really saw those Chuck E Cheese type games in another room.  Robby did let them look at them for a few minutes after we ate but then we lured them back to the car with a prize and a piece of candy.  I had little sticker books for everyone and they worked on them quietly for a long time-even Campbell did hers with just a little bit of help from Reagan.  It was nearly 4 when we finally finished lunch and then we were back in the road.
Robby turned on an old church choir cd while the kids were working on their stickers. Anderson asked "is this Sunday?"  Robby then put on a pair of headphones to continue listening to his music. This didn't seem very fair to me and he did tell me that I could wear them later in the day (never happened).  No more headphones for him tomorrow, I hid them!
We then continued our tour of "largest" in North Dakota and stopped in Jamestown to see the world's largest buffalo.  The buffalo also had a little frontier village nearby that you could just walk through.  So we walked around the little town-locking the kids up in the jail, preaching at the church's pulpit, looking at all of the buildings and then even playing on the playground.  The kids really enjoyed it all and as we drove away, they saw some of the village that we didn't get to.  As Reagan and Anderson begged for Robby to let them out, Reagan said "but we may never come back here."  Robby reminded her that she is going to take her children on this trip and that we be a good reason to come back.  Anderson had a better reason to come back-he wants to have his birthday party there.  Robby tried to explain to him that not many people would be able to come and he wouldn't get many presents.  Reagan tried to help Anderson out and said that she would bring him a present.
We swung by McDonalds for a drink and even bought a few hamburgers for later on the road.  I held on to them until someone asked for something to eat and then passed them out.  Our last stretch wasn't too bad-probably just 2 hours and then we made it to Fargo.
Robby ran into Walmart while I waited with the kids in the car.  We needed more supplies-bread, milk, juice boxes and formula (that girl is drinking twice the amount she does at home).  And of course we needed just a few more snacks but I am still impressed about how much original food we still have left.  We are in a Staybridge tonight.  So even though we got in late-we have done a load of laundry, washed a load of dishes and made two batches of rice krispy treats.  Isn't that what everyone does on vacation?

Road Trip 2012-Yellowstone National Park to Glendive, Montana (5/27/2012)

Last day in Yellowstone...
(Click here for today's pictures)
Keaton did better last night but did wake up once to have her bottle.  Then Robby just slept with her laying on his chest for the rest of the night.  She was happy, he could sleep and he sure didn't want to take any chances.  Her little back and legs are all covered with excema.  Just something about my kids and Old Faithful Inn-actually, probably the dry, cold air is what does it.  We need to get back to our hot air and humidity.  
Reagan asked to sleep in the bed with Robby and was surprised to find me in that bed when she woke up.  Graham also thought he was climbing into my bed in the middle of the night and was shocked to see Robby.  We did a bed switcheroo and confused them all.
We all slept really well and woke up around 7:30.  Again there was snow on the ground.  Not as much as yesterday but still a decent amount.  The first thing Robby did was call and get the road report and the roads leaving the park going north were closed.  But we knew that if today was anything like yesterday, the roads would be fine in a few hours.  And by the time we checked out of the hotel, all the roads were open.
The kids had breakfast in Grannymom's room while Robby and I loaded up and brought the cars to the front.  We didn't put on the roof bag yet because it was spitting snow and quite chilly to be climbing around on the car.  We pulled out of Old Faithful Inn at 9:34 a.m. and had driven 66 miles yesterday.  I was driving the girls and Robby was driving the boys in Grandpa's car.  About 2 miles from the inn, Reagan asked if we could have something to eat.  Seriously?  It is like they could be eating all of the time.  I think my kids have worms!  We were able to hold them off for a bit but soon I was passing out fruit snacks and juice boxes.  
Some of the drive today was a repeat from yesterday and the day before but it looked completely different today.  We were going the other way but also there was not a blizzard happening outside the window.  We again saw lots of buffalo, the boys saw an elk with antlers and we even saw some pronghorns.  We did only see one car in the ditch-looked like the snow had covered the culvert that thought was the shoulder of the road.  
A few miles down on, we came to a new part of the road for us.  Every little bit that you drive, you see a completely different type of scenery.  It is just amazing.  The only part of the drive that I didn't enjoy today was coming down the side of a mountain on some tight little turns, with cars and buses parked along turnouts, on a wet road that was probably icy earlier in the day with a 6 inch guard rail.  Things like that just make me a bit nervous and did I mention I was trying to keep up with Robby!
We our first stop was at Mammoth Hot Springs.  It reminded us of the pumpkin type thing we swam in on the Colorado river while floating down it.  It was quite a long icy trail to the springs so we didn't make to too far but we were able to see quite a bit of scenery before turning around and heading back to the car.  A bit down the road we took a picture at the North entrance gate and then traveled on to Livingston.
Just a few miles at the gate, Robby quickly stopped and made a u-turn to take a picture of Reagan at the 45th parallel.  I had seen it on the map and asked him to stop if we ever saw it to take a picture (for geography this year).  I couldn't stop so luckily Reagan was in his car and the didn't need me to turn around.  By now we were in Montana and really it is just beautiful.  Campbell even realized how pretty things were and kept looking out the window.
We made it to Livingston around 12:45 and had lunch at McDonalds.  We never found a good picnic stop so we just opted for fast food.  After eating, Robby and I worked on the roof bag and finished in pretty good time-probably helped that a cool rain and a strong wind had just started.  That truly encouraged us to work quickly-very quickly.  We gave Grandpa a very early Father's Day gift-a knit hat because he is going to need it at Glacier.  And then we said our goodbyes and the Dennies went one direction on the interstate and we went another.
A bit down the road, Robby started calculating and eventually changing hotels.  If we would have stopped at our original hotel in Billings we would have checked in around 3 and that is way too long to be in a hotel room with my crew.  So we pressed on and covered as much as we could.  We are now in Glendive Montana and Robby has even moved tomorrow nights hotel further down the road as well.  That will help lesson our 7 hour driving day that is ahead.  Moving our hotel did have us drive about 4 more hours today but we felt rested and the kids were doing fine so it wasn't a problem.
We stopped once for a potty stop, once more on the side of the road for another potty stop. (Graham did have to potty and  Robby asked Anderson if he needed to and of course what 5 year old boy would pass the chance to pee from a van on the side of an interstate up).  And then we had one gas stop-since we would run out of gas in 53 miles and our hotel was in 56, I made Robby stop-he just wanted to "try it."  I frown upon having to walk to a gas station!
A bit before 7, we made it to the hotel and check in.  Robby never encountered the elevator so he carried all of our stuff upstairs.  We put the girls in the tub and then started the first load of laundry.  Next the boys and the second load went in. The kids were good tonight but Campbell and Graham just have a spring in their step-that is probably why the hotel front desk person called tonight!  It wasn't even 8 but we did put everyone on the beds for the rest of the evening.  We do need to work on walking quieter but anytime you have 7 people in a room things are bound to get noisy.  
It is almost 10 and all the kids are sleeping and the second load of laundry is in the dryer.  Tomorrow we are heading to Roosevelt National Park and have a few other stops along the way.  I guess that our trip is half over and it makes me sad-though we still have seven more days.  We are busy making plans for the next few days-maybe a train, maybe a roller coaster and maybe a ball game.  I will fill up 3 picture albums from this trip-that is why there aren't too many pictures today!

Road Trip 2012-Yellowstone National Park (5/26/2012)

Winter Wonderland @ Old Faithful!
(Click here for today's pictures)
Robby was the first to wake up in the middle of the night.  He woke up to the sounds of a muffled Campbell crying.  Apparently, she had rolled and rolled and then rolled underneath his bed.  He said he just tried to reach with his hand to get her but he had to get on his hands and knees and frantically search for her before she woke up the hotel.  She was not happy at all about being stuck under the bed but once she was asleep in his bed, she never moved until this morning.
My side of the room was a lot busier.  Keaton didn't want to be put down at all and never made it to her pack n play.  Around 2, she decided that sleeping wasn't for her and started fussing and arching her back. This went on for at least an hour and probably a bit longer (though it seemed like hours upon hours).  Milk wouldn't appease her and only me holding her would.  Finally she did fall asleep in my arms and after the third try I was able to lay her down beside me for us to get a few more hours rest.  Sometime during all of that, Anderson joined us in bed and he kept encroaching on my side pushing me and Keaton off.  I would shove him over and then gingerly move Keaton so as not to wake her.
Around 7, we woke up and I headed to the showers while Robby took the kids to Grannymom's room for baths (ha, she got the raw end of the deal and I got off pretty easy).  When I went to the showers I was the second one in line.  I must have just hit it our rush hour because when I left, I was the only one in the bathroom.  Graham had spent the night with Grannymom and Grandpa and the report was that he was a very good boy.  Grannymom and him walked all around the gift shop and he later told me all about it.  When Robby arrived Graham was no longer a good boy and got in trouble and had to come back to our room.  But by the time that I walked him back to Grannymom's room, he was our sweet little Graham again.
Oh, yes, somehow I forgot to mention what we saw when we woke up-snow! snow! snow!  Probably a foot of snow.  We were glad that we had to drive the loop yesterday and had marked that off of our list.  Robby called and listened to the road report and they were saying things like "more snow" and "snow tires" and "road closures."  We heard about cars on the side of the road and we heard people trying to book another night to their stay.  We were relieved that we didn't have anywhere to go today and could just enjoy the weather.  But tomorrow it will be a different story if the same thing happens again since we all have hotels in Montana booked.
After the kids had their baths and breakfast in Grannymom's room, Grannymom and Grandpa went on a tour about this Old Faithful Inn.  We pulled out the kids state notebooks and they colored on them some and also worked on their Jr. Ranger booklet while we sat in the lobby.  This hotel is just beautiful-old, rustic, it is just hard for me to put into words.  So much fun-actually since the snow has put a the tiniest bit of a damper on the Yellowstone portion of the trip, I am already making plans on coming back.  I think I have Robby convinced-though it doesn't take too much convincing for him to plan another vacation.  These rooms for this trip were booked in June 2011-we always have some trip that we are planning for.  
Anyway, after their tour was over, we went on the deck and took a few pictures with some of the snowmen that had been made.  There were snowmen quite a few places-all of these people must have come more prepared than we did.  I was expecting cool weather just not snow and freezing weather.  I probably wouldn't have worn shoes (without socks) that are not waterproof if I had known that it was going to snow, probably would have brought Campbell a warmer coat and probably would have brought everyone hats and gloves-but wee all survived (though I have quite possible lost a toe) (kidding-kind of).
By now it was around 10:45 and we went to the Visitors Center.  We could have walked there but the roads were looking clear and Robby decided that we could drive.  As we walked in, we heard that lady announce that all roads were now open-which really puzzled us since there was a road yesterday that was closed but it was open today with a foot of snow on the ground.  Our first stop in the visitor's center was a movie about the geological features of Yellowstone-Grandpa and I saw more of the back of our eyelids than the movie.  
Then we went to turn in the kids' junior ranger booklets.  You only had to do 4 pages of the booklet but since we had printed it at home, we had worked on all of the pages.  Reagan and Anderson took things very seriously doing their booklets and Graham tried hard.  Campbell colored on hers some but we didn't get her a badge today. Anyway, the rangers were impressed with all of the pages that the kids had finished.  They asked them what their favorite part of Yellowstone was and Reagan answered "the geyser."  When she answered, she had a slight question in her voice like she was trying to say the right answer.  Anderson answered the buffalo were his favorite and Graham said that bear was his favorite.  The rangers shook their hands and then handed them their Jr. Ranger badges as I wiped a tear from my eye (kidding).  They were all so proud of their badges and wore them all day long.
We then walked through the Visitor's center and discovered lots of interesting things in there.  I browsed the gift shop (I am good at that), stamped our books and then joined the others in their second movie.  This movie was a general overview of Yellowstone.  Afterwards, it was almost time for the geyser to go off, so we went outside to see this happen.  It was still very impressive but it lost a little something because the white steam/water up against the white snow made it more difficult to see.  We then walked back across the board walk and headed to get Grandpa's car.
At home when it is snowy, Robby is never happy to be snowed in so there would be no way that he could stand it if we were snowed in on vacation.  Actually, the roads were dry and fine so we headed off to West Yellowstone.  (Yesterday's mileage was 197)  Five years ago we ate pizza at a spot there and we did the same thing this afternoon for lunch.  I have the cutest picture of me holding Anderson at that pizza place.  We are in front of a pizza and his head is so big (and crooked).  So we recreated that picture today with now 5 year old Anderson. Here is a link to that picture when my Anderson was tiny and we were eating at the same pizza place. 
After eating, we walked through a few blocks of West Yellowstone.  The weather had gotten into the low 40s and the sun was shining.  And just as we became pleased with the weather, it started raining so we had to high tail it to the car.  
On our way to the pizza place, we saw lots of buffalo on the way here.  Seriously, probably hundreds.  The opposite side of traffic was stopped for nearly a mile in a buffalo crossing the street traffic jam.  And we saw just as many buffalo on the way back to Old Faithful.  The boys car saw an elk with horns but we never saw it in our car.  
We just had one stop on the way back to the lodge and it was at the Paint Pots were we saw steam vents, mud pots, a geyser and probably some other stuff that I don't know the name off (remember I slept through the geological video).  Back at Old Faithful, we unloaded the car in the rain which was turning to a wintery mix and then went to Grannymom's room for a few minutes before returning to our room. 
In our room, the kids played some and we viewed the erupting geyser from our window.  Then I took Reagan to the gift show.  She had heard me talking about wanting to go and had her own money to spend.  It was like shopping with a teenage-she immediately started acting so mature, proper and not kiddish-made me sad. She would have bought every stuffed animal in the place but I talked her out of a stuffed animal.  But she did see the smash your own penny machine and was so excited when I said she could do that.  
Next up was dinner in Grannymom's room.  When I say "dinner" you probably thought I meant something fancier than sandwiches but that is pretty fancy for us Dennies.  The kids finished painting-I had found these little sheets that come with their own paint for them to do.  Then we all headed to the lobby for one last hurrah with some ice cream.  After our ice cream, we walked around looking at a few things that Grannymom learned in her tour and then Campbell headed off to spend the night with Grannymom and Grandpa.  She was so proud to get to spend the night over there so hopefully all goes well. 
We made one last romp through the gift shop so the boys could get themselves smashed pennies too.  Graham asked if we needed to pay for those coins as we were leaving-so cute.  Back in our room, the let the kids play until they were exhausted and just about konked out before we laid them down.  Last check, it was still snowing not like last night but still snowing so we are crossing our fingers that all goes according to plan in the morning.

Road Trip 2012-Jackson Hole, Wyoming to Yellowstone National Park (May 25, 2012)

(Click here for today's pictures)
Reagan and Anderson slept peacefully in Grannymom and Grandpa's cabin last night and the rest of us...well, the rest of us managed.  Instead of playing musical chairs, we play musical beds.  Keaton started out in our little room and when we went to bed she woke up.  She fussed for a bit before we put her in bed with us and that woke Campbell up.  She cried out but was fine after I rubbed her back for a few minutes.  I had to keep Keaton in bed with us until she went to sleep but I went to sleep first.  So at 4 when Graham woke up, he also ended up waking Keaton as well.  I don't know what Graham needed at 4 but I was a bit afraid that he was going to try to get down from the bunk beds without help (much, much higher and steeper than at home) or, even worse, he was going to call me back.  So I just brought him in bed with us and that actually woke Keaton up again.  Robby then left to join Campbell in her bed.  And that is when the fun was just getting started in my bed.  Keaton patted and pulled on Graham's face and occasionally said "hi" to him while I tried my hardest rubbing their backs and heads to get them to sleep.  Eventually, everyone went on to sleep and we did rest fairly well.
I told Robby today that when he goes back to work, he will have to take Campbell or drop her off at someone's house. She is majorly attached to him and I do not want to be around when those two get separated.  Her first words this morning were "where's my daddy?" After we found her Daddy, we sent Campbell and Graham to Grannymom's cabin to eat breakfast while we loaded up.  Before too long, we had headed out at 8:35 a.m. (having driven 301 miles yesterday) and were stopping to get gas.  The weather was looking ominous-low clouds, sprinkling and cold.  
Our first stop in Grand Teton National Park was Mormon Row.  It was sprinkling and cold so just a few of us jumped out to take a picture.   If we could have seen the mountains through the low clouds, it would have been even more beautiful but it was still pretty-just a different pretty-like the pretty you want to view from the window of your warm, dry car while holding a cup of hot cocoa.  (I was able to view quite a few things from the warm, dry car while holding my hot cocoa later today when Robby bought me a cup at one of our stops.)
The first time that everyone got out of the car today was at the Teton visitor center.  They had really neat exhibits and we were able to touch tracks and fur from lots of different animals.  The kids really found all of this to be interesting.  I stamped our passport books and we headed on.  I bought mine and Robby's passport book when we were in La Jolla California years ago and have nearly filled it up and since then we have bought one for each of the kids so they can document the national parks that they visit.  Imagine standing in line behind me trying to stamp your passport book-I have 6 books and most of these places have 3 stamps.  Ha!
5 years ago at Jenny Lake
After leaving the visitor center, we stopped at Jenny Lake.  Last time we were here, we stopped here and I have the cutest picture of Robby holding 1 year old Reagan by the hands and her lifting her feet up so she didn't have to put them in icy Jenny lake.  Love that picture-now I have a picture of most of the kids shivering in front of Jenny lake.  At this point in the day it was still spitting rain and a wintery mix.  We then drove around the Jenny Lake Lodge.
When we left that lodge, there were lots and lots of people.  We could tell they had seen some animal.  Rangers were out and Robby pulled over to check it out and when he stepped out of his car, the ranger said to get back in his vehicle. Of course, Robby quickly complied and apparently the ranger was thinking the bear was coming right that way.  That didn't happen and we never really saw the bear but there was lots of activity and commotion around and it was mighty fun.
Graham was really taking in all of the bear talk.  He saw the rangers and we explained that they were keeping the bears away from the people. We pointed out their bear spray and he continually wanted to talk about all of this.  By now we were driving around the Jackson Lake Lodge and the snow was falling and it was beautiful.  Pulling out of that parking lot, we almost saw the same bear again.  He was further down the road causing a stir.  Robby did see it out of his rearview mirror but that really didn't count since none of the rest of us saw it.
Graham is obsessed with talking about the bear and Campbell is happy as she can be sitting with Keaton.  Campbell has also named her baby doll Katie.  I don't know where that came from but today is the first time that I have heard her call the baby something.  She called her "baby Katie."  They are all taking turns riding with Grannymom and Grandpa. And occasionally Grannymom will ride with me and Robby will drive their car.  Not much is around here in the way of food, so we huddled in the back of the car and made sandwiches and then ate them on the road.  Our day is going a little bit different than planned because part of the loop to get to the lodge is closed so we have to make the big loop on our way to Old Faithful.  This is fine but we were planning on doing that tomorrow.   
So we headed on down the road and I saw a bear!  Probably 10 feet from the road.  We hit the brakes and Grandpa did too and we pulled over to have our own personal bear sighting.  Robby told Campbell and Graham (who were riding with us) to unbuckle.  Campbell couldn't so Robby jumped out (on the other side of the bear) to quickly unbuckle her.  And Graham said "I don't want to unbuckle" and then he continued to ask Robby if he was going to call the Ranger.  Back in Grannymom's car, Anderson was wondering the same thing but he was so excited.  Later he said it was "awesome."  That bear moved a bit suddenly and Robby shut my window before I knew what was happening.  Then the bear walked in front of car and moseyed across the road.  After that we were okay with the lousy weather because we had seen a bear-a real live bear.
Speaking of the weather, at that time it was 36 and had warmed from 33.  Later in the day, we hit 40 and it wasn't even raining.  It was like summer!  But by the time we made it around the loop to Old Faithful, it was back down to 33 and snowing like crazy.  If we were home and it was snowing this hard, every business and school would have already been closed for hours.  Heard it was supposed to snow all weekend-kind of makes things exciting.  Just hope we can get out of here on Sunday though.  But it is beautiful, the only downside is the massive fireplace in Old Faithful Inn is being restored and is not working.  That would make this snowfall perfect-but I am getting ahead of myself.  Where was I in our day?
We jumped out at Lewis Falls and the kids found some more snow and snow balls to throw at each other and me-I got one all down my shirt.  Brrr!-especially cold when you are walking around in soaking wet shoes.  My shoes aren't really made for wet weather so they become quite chilly and wet!  We then stopped at West Thumb and walked around a thermal area.  There we walked past some elk-seriously, they were about 6 feet from us.  
We did a people swap at Lake Village Lodge.  Robby and Grandpa had Campbell and Graham with them and they must have been getting rowdy (Campbell and Graham) so they were sent to my car in exchange for Reagan and Anderson. After a few snacks and finally turning the movie back on, they calmed down pretty well.  On our way to Artist Point, Grannymom spotted an elk with antlers and we walked over mud to view that.  We were hoping that it was a moose since that is the one elusive animal that we have yet to see.  By the time we made it to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the sun was shining and we were even brave enough to do a back picture.  Poor Anderson was a nervous wreck sitting on that rock and we weren't that close to the edge-we were close but not THAT close.  As we were leaving there, Graham needed to potty but the line was too long so we drove on.  We told him we were just going to pull over and he said "pull over where there are no bears Daddy."  And we found a bear free place for him to go.  I even had to stand outside to protect him from bears when really I just needed someone to protect me from his splatter!
At that stop, it was sunny and 40 and by the time we completed the circle and made it to Old Faithful, it was snowing hard.  The kids first saw Grannymom's room in the "newer" section of the hotel (they have their own bathroom) and then they walked through the dimly lit hallways, through the massive lodge and then to our room and they were pretty impressed.  And this place is impressive-old, beautiful, just perfect-even with no bathroom in our room.  We are fortunate because the women's bathroom is just right across the hall.  
After checking in and exploring our rooms, we walked beside Old Faithful to go and eat in another building's cafeteria. Of course, as we were walking by Old Faithful, it was snowing and the boardwalks that we were walking on were slippery but we all made it.  We had our supper and even watched Old Faithful erupt from inside the cafeteria area.  Robby said that we really need for the clouds to move away so the kids can get the full effect of Old Faithful.  
Robby picked up the car after supper and we went back to Grannymom's room for some cookies before bed.  Then Graham stayed for his turn in Grannymom's room.  Back in our room, almost everyone is asleep!
Right now Keaton is fussing and it reminds me of the two nights we spent here five years ago. (click here and here and here for pictures)  Anderson was just about 5 months old and he was so incredibly fussy.  He didn't sleep any those two nights and I spend many, many hours walking the halls with him in this lodge.  It was his first time to have excema and we didn't know what it was or what to do about it and that was the reason for his fussiness.  Now Keaton's reason for fussiness is simple-spoiled!  Ha, I didn't think a 5th kids could be spoiled but she is.  And really she just probably had a bit of gas just then!
The plan tomorrow is to go to West Yellowstone to eat pizza for lunch-but that is all dependent on the snow!  

Road Trip 2012- Casper, Wyoming to Jackson Hole (May 24, 2012)

Snowing in Wyoming!
(Click here for today's pictures)

We actually set the alarm clock today because we had a bit of ground to cover. When I woke up, Robby was laying crossways in the bed and next to him was Anderson.  Robby said that Anderson was scratching so much that he just got him in bed with him so he could try to stop him.  Everyone's eczema is acting up and Anderson even had to use his breather once yesterday-all of that is just do to a different climate and the weather channel said that the allergy alert was bad here now.  Anyway, we all did sleep fine and after doses of medicine and lots of hydro-cortisone they are all itch free this morning.
We never really thought about the weather until Graham looked out the window and said "hey, it's raining."  Thankfully the hotel had a covered drive-thru for us to load the roof bag under and we opened it up to see that it was soaking wet inside.  It has been waterproof before when things are in it but I guess getting wet all night long and probably not exactly sealed properly the rain just got to it.  I went back to the room and gathered some towels and we had it dry and loaded in no time-didn't really help that we had someone who just stood and watched us do all of this.  He was out smoking so I guess that he had a reason to just stand around and watch us but seriously?  Robby's shirt was wet from dumping the water out and my shoes are not waterproof and had soaked up quite a bit of water and all of our fingers were a bit numb from the cold weather but not too bad considering.
We left town at 8:02 a.m. and we drove 317 yesterday (for those of you keeping up with our mileage totals).  This hotel didn't have breakfast so Robby told the kids that we would go to McDonalds this morning.  Well, we just followed the gps and we were on the outskirts of town and never went back through town so there was no McDonalds for miles and miles.  Graham said "we are were there are no buildings again" and we were.  I eventually had to pass out snacks and tell the kids that we may not get to a McDonalds today.  Reagan started pouting but did eat her granola bar but then when I handed one to Robby he made a face and didn't want his.  He was pouting too. 
Finally, we came to a town that had a McDonalds.  Anderson begged Robby to drive on the "fast road" and Robby even passed someone to make sure that we pulled into the drivethru before they stopped serving breakfast.  Thankfully we made it or we were going to have some unhappy children.  They love their McDonald's big breakfast with hot cakes-hot cakes, biscuit, potato cake, sausage and egg.  The kids used to could split all of that but now Robby does buy an additional order of hot cakes since they are eating more and more.  
This McDonalds had a playplace so after ordering our food in the drivethru we took our food in and let the kids play.  They had quite a bit of energy to burn off so they enjoyed playing.  Even though I had already passed out a snack before breakfast, they were still very hungry.  We left McDonalds and left the town it was in and headed back on our desolate route to Jackson.  We have been checking the weather but it just doesn't look good-rain, rain, snow, snow, yuck!  Today on our drive it rained on us, snowed on us, sleeted on us and the sun shined on us.  Quite an experience driving in all types of weather within just a few minutes.
The kids spent the time this morning by watching a few episodes of the Backyardigans that Robby had taped.  We have never watched that show before and it is like crack for kids.  Seriously, all eyes are glued to the tv-wonderful, wonderful thing.  Well it is wonderful until we turn it off and say "look at those beautiful mountains," "look at the deer," "look at the river" or even "look at the space aliens landing on the farm" and they reply with "can you turn the tv back on?"  
I gave the kids a little coloring thing today as their prize and we heard Anderson look at his and say "that is pretty good for a 5 year old boy."  And I thought is was excellent for a five year old boy.  Graham also enjoyed coloring but spent much of his time counting.  He can make it to about 14 before he starts messing up and then his counting goes something like this-14, 15, 16-7, 8, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 860, 61, 62 and it just continues and continues.  When he would stop I would try to urge him to keep going but he would say he was tired.  Robby and I had a bet going on how long he could count.  
We went over a mountain pass and snow was everywhere.  The kids kept calling it a snow storm but the snow wasn't new and it was only spitting snow outside.  Then they started talking like "news people" and were reporting about the snowstorm.  Finally, Robby was able to pull over and let them play in the wet snow for a few minutes.  We bundled up, went out there and within 2 minutes Graham was coming back in and then Campbell got a snowball in the back of her head and also returned to the car.  
A few miles later, we started seeing road construction signs.  Finally we made it to the workers and traffic was stopped.  We had to wait for a lead car to take us across the construction area.  They were tearing up the road and we drove for 7 or 8 miles on a dirt road down the side of a mountain.  It wasn't scary but you can just imagine what the pioneers had to go through.  
Before too long, we had come down the mountains and were nearing the Teton mountains in the Grand Tetons National Park.  The mountains were partially covered by clouds but it was still sunny and beautiful.  We passed the Jackson airport and had to turn around.  We were a few minutes early but we pottied up and waited not so patiently for Grannymom and Grandpa's plane to arrive.  When they were finally here, you would have thought that we hadn't seen them for months by the way everyone was so excited.  The Dennies got their car and we all loaded up to go see Jackson Hole.
The sun had come out again so our first stop was the town square.  We took our picture with the elk antler arches and walked through the park.  The elk antler arches are pretty impressive-even to the kids.  As we were walking to the car, I bought a little antler to hang on the Christmas tree as our Jackson Hole ornament.  The kids even spent quite a bit of time trying to chase down a prairie dog.  I did read that other day that prairie dogs have the plague so we did make them keep their distance.  Ha!  If Reagan could have gotten close enough to pick that thing up she would have.  There was an ice cream place on the square so we thought we needed to try it out and it was very good.  The four big kids set on bar stools and Robby had bought them 2 cups of ice cream to share.  They would take a bite and then pass it on-like a little assembly line.  No one complained or fussed and they kept doing that until the bowls were clean.  Campbell didn't like the chocolate so she would pass it along to the next person when it came to her.  
We then ate supper at Snake River Brewery.  We had nachos and pizza and were pretty hungry.  I even smashed up so beans from the nachos for Keaton.  She is so happy in restaurants now that we have started putting her in high chairs and just looks around, smiles and claps all through dinner.  After we ate, Robby and Grannymom ran into Albertson's for more milk and bread.  Who hoo, this was our first time on the trip to have to buy anything other than ice at a store so that is great-yea for my packing skills!
We then drove a few miles south of Jackson to the KOA campground.  We are spending the night in the cutest little cabin.  Seriously, I have already figured out how I can have it sleep more people, have a washing machine and have mentally added a screened in porch on the front.  Now just to have a place to put on back at home. 
After we got all settled, we took a little walk down the trail so we could see the Snake river flowing rapidly behind the cabins.  There are camping spots down there but it would be a little too chilly for me to camp right now.  Pretty neat little place.  We fed all of the kids a half sandwich and then everyone asked for more after I had put everything way, so I got it all back out and started over with my sandwich making.  Reagan and Anderson are sleeping in Grannymom and Grandpa's cabin and Campbell and Graham have claimed the bunk beds in our cabin.  We put those two to bed here and overheard them talking for a bit and then they were out-looked like they never moved they were so tired.  
Tomorrow, we plan to drive up to Yellowstone and spend the night at Old Faithful Inn.  Graham is so excited to see the Geyser and I am too!

Road Trip 2012-Rapid City, South Dakota to Casper, Wyoming (May 23, 2012)

Devils Tower, Wyoming!
(Click here for today's pictures)
As we were packing to leave today, Robby told me that I was not doing my job appropriately.  Apparently, I have stopped taking the coffee, soap and lotion from the hotels and he is having to do that for me. I will admit that I haven't been as diligent this trip because if I take every bar of soap and shower cap my suitcase will be full of soap when we get home.  Though I will get better and this hotel room will be amenity free when we leave.  
We had our hotel breakfast and then left for the day.  It was 9:24 AM and our total mileage from the day before was 178 miles.  If you happened to notice, one of our president pictures was with Reagan and her eyes were closed.  And that was just not going to work so we swung back by that statue this morning on our way out of town.  We didn't tell the kids what we were doing so when Robby told Reagan to unbuckle and get out she was quite confused.  As I walked with her to that statue, I told her that her eyes were closed and she said "oh, no" and I could tell that the poor child thought I meant her eyes were closed in all of the pictures she took yesterday.  As we climbed back in the car, Anderson moaned "we have to do this again?"
Our first stop was the geographical center of the United States in Bell Fourche, North Dakota.  It became the center after Hawaii and Alaska were added so when you look at a map of the 48 states it doesn't really look like the center but I will trust the National Geodetic Foundation.  We took a few pictures there and each time we have stopped to take a picture lately, Anderson has sneezed and sneezed.  Robby probably has more pictures of Anderson sneezing today than he does of the rest of us combined.  They had a nice little visitor's center set up and the flags from all 50 states.  The kids enjoyed seeing the ones that we colored for the trip.  After running around for a few minutes and passing out a snack, we were back on the road to Devil's Tower.
On our way there, Campbell continued to notice train tracks and every time she sees one she shouts "train track, Anderson, train track."  Even if she has just turned her head to look out the other window, when she turns to the other side and sees that train track again, she will again shout "train track, Anderson, train track."  Campbell is just as happy as she can be in the car.  She spends most of her time playing with her baby doll.  Today we heard her sweetly tell her baby "I spank you little girl."  Wonder where she has heard that?
When we made it into Wyoming, it was Graham's turn to move our van.  He was so thrilled to be able to move it to another state.  I have all of the states that we will be visiting hanging around the van.  And then we have a red minivan with all of our pictures in the window that we are moving to each state as we cross the border.  So far, we have completed Anderson's window and are working on Graham's window.  Reagan will do Keaton's window since she sets in the middle and doesn't officially have one.  
It sprinkled on us a bit and looked really rainy but we fortunate to avoid the rain.  It is a bit chilly since we were wearing shorts today but will be in our pants tomorrow and should be fine.  The kids were interested to see Devil's Towel and Anderson shouted that it looked like "Tower of Terror" at Disney World.  I had read the legend that the lines on the tower were made by a bear's claws who was chasing some Indian girls up on top of the tower.  The boys don't really understand that story was just made up and Anderson kept wondering about the bear and how he could reach that high.  We did take a walk around a bit of the base of the tower and let the kids climb on some rocks.  We did take one rock picture and the kids were very, very high up.  Too high if you ask me-but what did I do but pass them the baby so they could all take a picture together.
We drove down from the base of the tower to the picnic area and had our picnic.  It was a beautiful spot and the weather was just perfect.  As we were loading up, Robby told the kids to take a good look because they may never be back there. Reagan said that she was coming back and added "I have to take my kids to all 50 states too."
On our way to Casper, Anderson had to potty and since there is nothing around we just pulled over.  When he was finished (and might that when he needs to potty, he really means it).  As soon as Anderson finished and closed the door, Robby was back on the road.  Anderson was still trying to adjust his pants and get to his seat when he said "I know, I know, I am un-beying the rules."  It took us a few minutes to figure out what he was saying.  He meant to say disobeying but said "un-beying"-not obeying.  Smart little fellow.
Soon after, Graham had a potty stop too but I was driving then and at least waited until he was seated before I started driving again.  I was driving on an interstate and there were cars but not many.  You had to drive over cattle guards to get on the interstate.  You could see for miles and miles-just incredible scenery out here.
We made it to Casper and ate supper at J. J.s Diner.  It was a cute stop and all the kids enjoyed the milkshakes that Robby bought for them.  Anderson declared himself the milkshake king and proceeded to suck every last drop out of everyone's milkshakes as soon as they had finished them.  Reagan spent her time coloring the picture on the menu and was so proud of her masterpiece.  Graham sat in front of an old Coke vending machine and they all enjoyed opening the door and looking in.  
After supper, we drove right down the road to our evening's hotel.  It is an older Ramada-the outside is a bit dated but the rooms are nice.  Though the bathroom is too small for Keaton's pack n play so she will have to sleep out here with the rest of us.  That is fine since Robby is paying 1/3 of what his first hotel booking in this town cost.  
It is now bedtime and Keaton is wound up sitting in my lap watching me type.  Campbell just popped her head up and was whispering something to me about Keaton.  She likes to tell me secrets at night time and will just whisper in my ear and occasionally throw in words like "soccer game" or "popsicle."  Robby saw her little head sticking up and shouted "Campbell" and she threw herself back onto her sleeping bag so fast.  This has now happened a few times and it is like one of those "whack a mole" games.
We are waiting on our little load of laundry to finish tonight.  Last night we did one large load and it took forever for everything to dry.  Robby eventually had to bring it back a bit damp so we could go to bed.  We had clothes hanging from every item in our room.  They all dried well and we were able to bag everything up to wear later.  (I bag one whole days worth of clothes for all of the kids-socks, diapers, underwear, shirts, shorts-all in one bag so I can grab it and go).  Tonights laundry will not take any time but Keaton spit all over her pajamas just as soon as Robby took the laundry down.  Why does that always happen?
Oh, I wish that I could explain things like they really happen here.  I am so tickled at Campbell right now and am trying to quietly laugh at that child.  Back at Devil's Tower today the kids were acting like Indians standing in a teepee and a man who was just getting out of his car approached.  He showed them how to clap their hands and make an echo.  (Don't worry, he was a nice man and not a scary man).  Anyway, it was a pretty cool sound and Robby and I even tried to do it without much luck.  The kids tried for a few minutes and then they gave up.  Now everyone is laying down in it is all quiet in this hotel room.  And then we hear "clap, clap, clap" and Campbell shouts "Momma, I got it"-she is laying over there practicing.