Monday, August 24, 2009

School Days, School Days

It's back to the grind for the boys and for me! I am excited for the new school year and glad to have to be on a schedule again! I need structure! Gavin has the families favorite teacher this year- Mrs. Wilson! If he wouldn't have gotten her I think the world might have stopped turning! Jackson has a new teacher as well! We have team teaching at our school and usually he would have had the same teacher as the year before but with almost 680 kids they had to add a section on to the 3rd and 4th grade team so he got a new teacher. (Long explanation) I think she may be in the running for favorite teacher for Jackson! He loves all the funny things she says and now thinks everything is Wacko! I just can't believe I have a first grader and a fourth grader that I am the mom of! Where is the time going?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

...the rest of the story

You thought that there was no more pictures of our vacation, didn't you? Well here is the rest of the story. I really wanted to see the Grand Tetons which was just south of Yellowstone and on our way home so that was the route we took. After almost two weeks I finally got brave enough to drive Mona. I had driven her to many places in Iowa getting her ready for the trip but never on highways where I needed to drive at least 55 mph. So here I was all ready geared up for the adventure and we go through the Tetons and ROAD CONSTRUCTION! Not just a little lane closing but full fledged road construction. Have you ever seen the kind with nothing but gravel and piles of dirt on both sides, with heavy equipment driving right next to you as you follow a PILOT car through endless miles of gravel and bumps? I had not and now I was in a 24 foot, 25 year old Motor home named Mona! What the... after I had driven probably 20 miles at the racing speed on 15 mph, I took my white knuckles off the steering wheel and Ken took over! My idea (it might be a little risque) just close the darn road and re-route the traffic!

Being silly at Flagg Ranch, Grand Tetons

We finally made it through the mess and Ken decided he would really like to see Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse. We were out west after all. Since I begged to see the construction of the Tetons I thought it only fair to head back North of our route to check out the monuments. The boys had been getting a little too close for comfort so we made all of the them lay down to nap while we drove north. By the time we got to Crazy Horse they were out. We donated our $27 to the organization that is now trying to finish Crazy Horse and I snapped one picture of it from the parking lot before we turned around to exit 5 minutes later. I am sure that the visitor center and Indian museum they have there would have been interesting but I was more interested in having a few hours of peace and quiet while the boys were sleeping. Then just a little down the road was Mt Rushmore. Same situation with the boys. So Ken and I ventured toward the viewing level to snap some quick pics and off we went. I got closer while Ken went back to the boys and I must say it was rather impressive that they were able to sculpt 4 different faces with such detail and at such a grand scale.

This part of the post is for my brother-in-law; the Harley Rider! It was Sturgis Bike Week during the time we were in South Dakota so motorcycles were everywhere. I was a little uneasy about getting that close to Sturgis with the boys and what they might be exposed to but for the most part it was unremarkable. The only thing we saw was this poor woman who could only put together enough money to buy some black undies to go with her black leather chaps! I hope she didn't get to cold at night!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My Tribute

Please scroll down to turn off the background music already on the blog. I was playing with black and white shots on my camera and different settings of focus. Some of the pictures I took just for the texture differences.

The Awe of Yellowstone

It was finally time to get to the place that started this vacation idea: Yellowstone National Park.

The scenery is breathtaking as you drive from Cody to the East Entrance of the Park. (Bill Cody paid for some of that road himself) I took so many pictures of nature while we were there that I need to do a video of some of my favorites. We spent the longest stretch of time here and the campsite was perfect. Jackson got to improve his fire making skills, Brenden and I walked around finding mushrooms, flowers, big sticks and even a wooden clothes pin and Gavin could ride his bike and practice whittling with his new pocket knife! (doesn't every boy need to know how to do that?) Ken even got his much deserved rest time for an entire day by the campfire. We checked out the Canyon, hiked down and up 119 steps and some trails to see a beautiful view of the waterfall, smelled the sulfur springs, watched mud pots boil, waited for Old Faithful to erupt, headed into Montana for some diapers, drove around looking for some bears, watched an elk walk through the parking lot near our campground, played in the freezing cold water near Yellowstone Lake, got caught in the rain, sat around the campfire sharing what were some of our favorite things so far on the trip, and most importantly for me was watching the boys play and enjoy the wide open space of nature. I think I will remember this vacation for a long time to come.

Yeehaaw! Cody, Wyoming!

We arrived in Cody around dinner time and food was first on the list so what should we see but a Pizza Hut right at the end of our campground street. Let me just say the campgrounds we stayed at were not like the campgrounds Ken and I remember as kids. It's seems that they too have turned camping into a lucrative business. We remember sites with open fire pits and at least 20 yards between sites where you could roast your marshmallows, laugh and get a little loud out in the outdoors without disturbing the neighbors too much. Up to this point we stayed in campgrounds that were similar to the packed subdivisions in our town in Iowa. Anyway... we needed food and Pizza Hut fit the bill.
The next day while Ken and Jackson took Mona to get her souvenir (a new brake master cylinder) Gavin, Brenden and I went to check out the "Buffalo Bill" Cody Museum (5 museums under one roof)! I didn't know who he really was until we went there and learned more about him. The boys got to "meet" Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley. We checked out the gun museum, which is fairly new there and Gavin was very excited about it all though I think he wanted to handle every one of them. They had a really great computer program that explained the difference between and revolver and a semi-automatic. Don't ask why I was so intrigued by it but I thought it was really neat to be able to see the inside of a gun without actually handling the gun. From there we took a trolley ride around the city to learn more about Buffalo Bill Cody's city. Great for the history buff and for Brenden to take a nap! We met Ken and Jackson back at the camp ground to get ready for the nightly gunfight and the Cody Night Rodeo! The boys had the best time playing with the clowns prior to the rodeo more than anything. Gavin even got to go down on the arena floor to try to touch a calf that they release as he tries to run away from the kids. He got a pocket full of dirt after following the directions from the clown and some on his shoes to share as well! (Gavin really is the adventurous one of the three) After a fun packed day it was time for bed and the boys were asleep before we drove Mona back to the campground. Thanks to the house on wheels.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dinosaurs, Buffalos and Hot Springs

That's what you will find at Thermopolis, Wyoming! This town was the one thing that really surprised me. I was ready for checking out the Wyoming Dinosaur Center but I didn't know that the town had all these other things. We stayed at a really nice campground outside of the little city for two nights. The first full day we spent at the Dinosaur Center checking out the dinos they found right there in the town. We were going to go on the dig tour but they have had too much rain in the previous days so we couldn't go. The center was fun and interesting. Then we drove through Hot Springs State Park to check out a herd of Buffalo that roam the back hills. We drove through there a few times and finally on the last time through they were right outside of Mona and crossing the road. The day that we left we went to the World's Largest Hot Mineral Spring. Gavin wasn't a fan of the very strong Sulfur smell but the water was so warm and relaxing we all wanted to stay for another day. We went down water slides and relaxed in the hot tubs and Gavin jumped off the 11 foot high diving board and swam to the side all by himself! He was so proud and so were we. Then it was off to Cody, Wyoming for some Cowboy fun!

Cheyenne, Wyoming

Just a few pictures of what happened in Cheyenne! The boys posed for some pictures on the boot in Cheyenne. Just like many cities that have themed statues that they auction off, Cheyenne has boots around town and this is one we saw first. The kids also enjoyed buying their first souvenirs at the KOA we stayed in: GUNS fake of course! They spent some time hanging out eating suckers too. Brenden has been pretty good at taking naps and this first nap was taken in the back of Mona over the cushions. Hey, whatever works. The picture of the landscape is from the back of the campground in Cheyenne.