Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Redmond, WA Aug 17

Corvalis, OR Aug 16

Sunriver, OR Aug 13 - 15

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Boise, ID Aug 11-12

Got to Boise in early evening on Wednesday, checked into the hotel to find the Redmond North Little league team playing on ESPN2 for the right to go to the Little league world series. We ordered in pizza, watched the game and relaxed. We spent the day today at a water park a few miles from Boise. The temp hit 99 degrees so it was a good day to play in the water.

Off to Bend, OR tomorrow for 3 nights before heading home.

Kelly, Wy Aug 8-10

Stayed with our friends Peter & Katie at their parents ranch in Kelly Wy (near Jackson). Everyone had a great time being on a beatiful range in the middle of wildlife. The kids loved horseback riding, I enjoyed a great day of golf with Pete and we all loved seeing the animals and scenery. We had great hosts and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I'll post some pictures of a herd of buffalo in the middle of mating season when I get access for an extended length of time.

Caspar, Wy Aug 7

Moved one state further west and made a side trip to Devil's Tower. We got some great pictures of climbers halfway up the structure. Once again by going off the beaten path we got to see some things not visible from the parking lot. One of things we got to see was the remnants of the original wooden ladder built up the side of the tower that allowed the first ascent. Even using that ladder there is no way I would attempt to climb up 530 feet of sheer rock. It's impressive geology and well worth the 30 minute detour (each way) off I-90, even if you do get stuck behind an RV. Drove through the least populated state in the Union for an additional 3 hours to reach Casper. It was nice to see mountains in the distance. Washington license plates are becoming more frequently spotted. We're still lacking Vermont, Mississippi and Hawaii on our hunt for every plate in the Union. I'm pretty sure we would have gotten Vt if we had started this game in New England, Hawaii I can understand not seeing but Mississippi? Does everyone from Miss. refuse to leave the state?

Rapid City, SD Aug 6

O.k. The drive from Sioux Falls to Rapid City did get a little boring from a terrain perspective. There just isn't a lot of variety in South Dakota. We got up early because we knew it was going to be a long day. We made stops at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD as well as Wall Drug. The corn palace is a tourist site dreamed up by the fathers of Mitchell back in the late 1800's to combat the Grain Palace put up down the road. The Corn Palace is a structure where the external surface is made up of murals made of corn. The murals change every year. They are designed by a few local artists. You can find all the facts on their web site. Inside the palace is an arena for local meetings and events. They also have a ring of pictures of many of the past Corn Palaces. It's pretty cool and worth the stop.

Wall Drug is 3 hours further west. Three hours of billboards telling you how far to Wall Drug. It's a gigantic drug store filled with mostly cheap tourist stuff. It started out as an apothecary that gave away free water to travellers. Since then it's grown and grown into a tourist destination. They do have a "new" back yard filled with stuff for the kids to sit on. At least it gave us a chance to stretch our legs, add a few license plates to our list and see a lot of Harley Davidson motorcycles. Oh, I didn't mention that we arrived in Rapid City the same time as the annual Harley rally happens in Sturgis, SD a few towns over? I heard estimates of 100,000 to 500,000 riders converge on Sturgis on Harley week. We shared the highway from Sioux Fall to Rapid City with most of them. Big trains, single riders, RVs pulling trailers, trucks with bikes in the bed, you name it, we either passed them or they passed us. Our hotel had 24 hour security for the 100 or so bikes in the parking lot. It was a sight to see.

Since we got on the road so early we decided to see Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse before calling it a night. Both were spectacular. Rushmore for its completed (sort of) product and Crazy Horse for its audacity in scale. I was slightly miffed that the parking lot at Rushmore is run by a private concessionaire which meant that our national parks pass was worthless. What's the point in buying a pass if it doesn't include parking at the site? We took a walk along the trail that led to the artists studio. I was glad we did because it gave us several unique views of the mountain that you can't see from the visitors center. Inside the artists studio you can see a scale sculpture of how the artist intended the completed sculpture to look. Washington was to have a full coat, Lincoln was to have a completed head. I wish they had let him finish. We also met a nice couple that had been on the road since June 26th, travelling almost everywhere in the USA. From Florida, west through Texas to California, up the coast to oregon and back east through the midwest. Almost all of it was done on back roads until they reached SD. Crazy Horse is huge. The entire Mt Rushmore sculpture will fit in Crazy Horse's head. It's being done completely in the round and will be an amazing testimony when it is complete. It's an equally amazing testimony to xxxxxxx who started the project in 19xx, living in a tent, building himself a log cabin, hauling tons of lumber on his back to build the original staircase to the top of the mountain and beginning a project of scope that he knew would not be completed in his lifetime. We saw his wife while we were there, 7 of their 10 children have decided to continue on with their fathers dream. It's very impressive.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Sioux Falls, SD Aug 5

Made it to Sioux Falls after a 4 hour drive. Neither Betsy or I are finding the route boring or monotonous. We're both enjoying seeing the farms and open country. We experienced about 10 minutes of totally open road today (road in which we could see no other cars), but I'm not seeing the totaly empty highways of Minnesota and South Dakota I expected. There are lots of Harley riders heading for Sturgis, SD for motorcycle week next week.

Stopped for a picnic lunch in a park on route. We figured out that we'll be in Jackson, WY the same time as Pete, Katie, Jake and Zach so we're making plans on how to hook up. We're going to see a free LAZER light show tonight at a local park.

Took the kids to a nice laser light display at the Sioux City Falls park last night. They told the history of Sioux City. It's been cool to link up the various things we learned ove rthe course of the trip. Last night they talked about Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis & Clark in one of their segments. The falls are pretty, not spectacular (they don't really drop a lot) but unique and interesting to look at. In the last 30 years the city of Sioux Falls has done a lot of work restoring their older downtown historic buildings and it shows. For a city of a little over 100K it's got a lot going for it.

Now we're off to Rapid City with stops at all the tourist places on route. The Corn Palace and Wall Drug.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004


Added in content for Louisville, Chicago, Madison and Bloomington. Also added in links in the blog to a bunch of photos for those for places. Enjoy and please comment (click on the comments link) if you want to ask questions.


Bloomington, MN Aug 2-4

Wisconsin Dells

On the ways to Bloomington our plan was to visit Noah's ark in the Wisconsin Dells. It's billed as the largest water park in the US. Unfortunately the day broke with big thunder clouds and a weather report of inch sized hail. We still pulled over in the Wisconsin Dells just to see what it was like. It's Wisconsin's verison of Ocean Shores based on a geology like the Snake River Canyon.

As we pulled off I noticed an indoor water park called Kalahari. After visiting Noah's Ark and watching the weather we decided to give the indoor park a shot. The girls were anticipating a fun day and I really didn't want to turn it into another car day. We were glad we did. Kalahari had around 8 large indoor slides, a kiddie park and some mid sized rides. One slide I'd never seen before was a mixing bowl, you go into the slide, it empties out into a large bowl, where you swirl around until your momentum is spent, then you drop through a holei n the bowl into a pool, very neat. We spent 3 hours indoors while the rain came down. Then presto, the sky turned sunny, it warmed up and we moved to the outdoor portion of the park. They have 4 more slides outdoors including a tube version of the mixing bowl. We left around 5:00 after a full day of fun. Sleeping kids made the drive to Bloomington an easy one.

Mall of America

Spent the first day in Bloomington sleeping in and catching up on laundry after a few weeks on the road. Most of the kids were out of underwear and socks. I guess they just haven't learned how to use them twice, like dear old dad. After lunch we headed over to the MOA (Mall of America) to check it out. It's a large shopping mall with a 7 acre theme park in the middle. These midwesterners sure know how to find ways to move fun activities indoors for the harsh winters. The theme park is called Camp Snoopy and it's run by the Knott's (of Knott's Berry Farm) folks. At first glance we weren't very impressed. Since we started the day so late wo told the kids the rides would have to wait until the next day and spent some time walking around the stores. The MOA has one of everything and multiple stores of some. It's 4 stories tall. Then we headed back to the suite for a "home" cooked dinner. It sure was nice to be able to get things ourselves for a change.

Wednesday we headed back to MOA to spend the day in Camp Snoopy. Originally Betsy and I both thought we'd bo done in a few ours. Nine and 1/2 hours later we headed home for the night. Camp Snoopy was a lot more fun than we thought it would be. It's a great mix of slightly scarier bigger kids rides combined with a bunch of toddler rides. It's not very crowded (we were able to do the best rides at least 2x each) and small enough that we could swap kids around every hour and meet up. We went to Bubba Gump Shrimp for dinner and enjoyed the staff and the food. It was an extremely fun day that we all enjoyed.

We left Bloomington refreshed and ready to start putting some real miles on the car.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Madison, WI Aug 1

Hopped from Chicago to Madison Wisconsin on our State and National Capital tour. We made a detour outside of Madison to visit a National Historical Site called Cave of the Mounds. I'd promised the girls we'd see at least one cave on our trip and we'd already passed Howe's Caverns and some Kentucky cave sites without venturing in. I found this one on the internet and it sounded cool, so off we went...

Cave of the mounds was discovered in 1939 when the land owner was blasting for limestone in his quarry. They set off 8 bored holes full of black powder and when the debris settled they found out they had opened up an entrance to a limestone cave over 1/3rd of a mile long. Ever since then it's been a tourist location. It's very cool. Lots of stalagmites and stalagtites and calcium deposits in interesting colors. We all came to the conclusion that "caves are cool".

We spent the evening in Madison cruising the city in car and on foot. It's pretty dead in the summer as the UW Badgers are out of school and the state legislature is taking a break also. A benfactor has donated upwards of $150 million to put in a new performing arts center and restructure the downtown to make it more pedestrian friendly so there was a lot of construction going on.

Betsy and I both agree that the people we've met in Wisconsin seem to be very "real". The kids still seem to have that midwest corn fed friendlyness without having that need to express their uniqueness (the same way every one else is expressing theirs) through tatoos and piercings and such. The adults also seem to have skipped over the keeping up with the Jones materialism. I think I could live in Wisconsin.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Chicago, Il July 29-31

I put in a bunch of links to photos in previous entries today. Go back and follow the links for shots from DC, Disney and other places.

Thanks Mike for the storage space.

We're currently in Chicago and had a great day at Navy Pier today. I'll write more about it later.

(Ed - 8-3-04, Chicago Experience)

This was my first proper visit to Chicago. We really enjoyed the city, There's a lot of fun stuff to do for both kids and adults. Our hotel was downtown, right next to the John Hancock Tower. We were 2 blocks away from the magnificent mile (high end shopping) and about a 15 minute walk from Navy Pier where most of the kid related tourist activities are located. Since the size of our family makes it tough to go anywhere by taxi we stayed within walking distance of the hotel. There was more than enough to keep us busy for the 3 days in walking range.

The first day we spent entirely at Navy Pier. We walked the pier, the older girls and Betsy went into the fun house, we took a 30 minute inner harbor cruise, went on the Ferris wheel, got free packs of disgusting strawberry chocolates gum, ate lunch at the "Cheezeborger, no fries, chips" place made famous on a Saturday night Live skit during the Belushi era and finished off with a few hours in the Children's museum. All in all an exhausting but fun filled day. After a free trolley ride that took us part way home, and a quick walk we ate dinner outside, then took a quick dip in the poll located inside the hotel, 30 floors above the ground.

The second day we cruised the magnificent mile. We made detours into the American Girl place and a Virgin Megestore to pick up some cheap DVD's for the car. We tried to eat at the original Pizzeria Uno's but the wait was over an hour and I was getting cranky for food. After lunch Kelly and I headed back to the hotel to nap while the big kids went with Betsy to an American Girl play. I predict that American Girl place will need to expand very soon. It was cool to see all the girls walking the streets of Chicago with their dolls. It's definitely a big destination event for the 6-13 age bracket.

After a nice nap we headed out, first to the 94 floor of the Hancock building to the observatory and then back to the pier. July 31 was Venetian Night in Chicago. There was a boat parade (which we didn't see) and some extraordinary fireworks that night. The fireworks were some of the best I've ever seen. They lasted at least 20 minutes and were timed to a great sound track that was blasted the length of the pier.

Betsy and I both agree that we could take a 4 day weekend in Chicago and fill it up very nicely with adult activities. Some of the areas we missed were the art museums, restaurants and theater. Frankly I'd rank Chicago higher than New York on my list of tourist cities. We'll definitely be back, even if it is only to catch a Cubs game at Wrigley field.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Louisville, KY July 28

(Ed 8-3-04)

The trip from Charleston WV to Louisville was uneventful. We stopped in Lexington hoping to visit the University of Kentucky. We imagined it as a quaint campus where the kids could stretch their legs, we could get a bite to eat and everyone could unwind. Color us disappointed. UK is a land grant university which means it really has no central campus. Lexington appeared to be a gigantic strip mall. We took the opportunity to stop at Target (Target of all places?) to stock up on some snacks and get some pillows and thermarest mattress pads to augment the lousy sofa beds we're encountering.

Louisville was much better. We took the morning to visit the Churchill Downs museum and learn all the history surrounding the Kentucky Derby. We even got a tour of the track. The girls were excited to take a look at a thoroughbred horse and his mini friend. I didn't realize that Louisville University was so large. Since all I ever heard about the state of Kentucky was associated with either the derby or UK basketball I didn't realize that Louisville was as large as it was.

Charleston, WV

We finally started making tracks westward after leaving DC early afternoon on Tuesday.  Charleston WV is the capital of West Virginia where coal is still king. The theme from Deliverance kept running through my head. We tarried very little in WV opting to get on the road early to get as fast as we could out of Dodge.