Friday, August 9, 2013

Yellowstone Vacation – The Last Stretch

We made the long drive from Cody to home over four days. It’s never as much fun coming home from a vacation as it is going out, but I think all of us were glad to get home and sleep in our own beds.

We had a number of highlights along the way.

We visited Devil’s Tower.

And then we went to Mount Rushmore, which was my father-in-law’s highlight of the entire trip. It is one of the two places in the United States that he really wanted to see. (His other top spot is the White House, which I took him to see a few years ago).

One really nice small moment occurred at Mount Rushmore, and it nothing to do with the sculpted figures. We waited to enter the theater that played a short film about the making of the memorial, and as the doors opened and the patrons who viewed the earlier showing spilled out, Kai started to cut in front of the folks ahead of us in line. My wife had to pull him back.

He said, “Oh, sorry. I get out of control sometimes.”

It was a cute thing to say, and it also was great that to know that he has such self-awareness.

From Mount Rushmore, we went to Custer State Park and drove the Needles Highway, taking the twisting road through some rock tunnels that were barely wider than our car.

Of course, a trip through South Dakota is not complete without a stop at kitschy Wall Drug.

We drove through our last national park of the trip, The Badlands.

And stopped at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. The murals, which are changed every year, are all made completely of corn. They grow several different colors of corn specifically for use here, and you can see in the bottom photo how the various ears are used.

On our last night of the trip, Kai got upset when we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant instead of Applebee’s. We have often gone to Applebee’s when traveling in the past (in areas that only have chains), so Kai has come to associate the place with vacations. On this trip, we tried to avoid chains, not to mention that there weren’t any in the national parks. So, he was very disappointed when we didn’t go there, despite the fact that the Chinese restaurant in Albert Lea, MN turned out to be as good as any in the Chicago area.

So to make up for that, at our last lunch the next day, in Wisconsin Dells, we decided to go to Applebee’s as our last hurrah of the trip.

The service was atrocious, but our boy was happier.

By the time we reached home, I had caught my son’s little cold, and I had a bit more sympathy for him proclaiming that he was too tired to walk to the sights we saw. (Though he never was too tired to go to the swimming pool).

I am dead tired, but as I recover, I am sure that what will stay with me will be wonderful memories of the trip.

My favorites are all of the natural wonders we saw. My son’s favorites are the covered wagon ride, the rodeo, all the swimming pools, and getting to watch endless videos in the car.

But that’s okay. It’s good that we did things for everyone. And having seen Kai’s reaction to the wagon ride and rodeo, I’ll probably try to plan for more such fun events on future trips.

If I had made this trip alone, I probably would have hiked around a little more, and maybe stopped to see a few more things. But it wouldn’t have been the same if my family wasn’t there. The truly best part of the trip was getting to share in the experience with everyone. And I don’t feel like we missed anything important; we had seen everything I really wanted to see.

Would I do anything differently? Well, it got to be really tiring having to pack up our things every morning as we stayed at a different motel each night. But it was a lot more efficient way to see everything at Yellowstone than if we had stayed in one location the whole time.

I would try to build in more down time. A break in the middle of the day would have been ideal, though difficult the way we traveled. Perhaps I could have scheduled a two or three-day break in the middle of the trip, such as at Jackson, where we could do little except go to the pool.

But overall, I have no regrets. It was an ambitious trip and we did very well overall. And I think my son feels the same.

Now, is it too early to think where we go next year?


  1. A good wrap up of your vacation. I can imagine what you were going through each stop. I know how the miles can wear on a person. I think you are right on scheduling more breaks in the makes all the difference in the world. With enough rest interspersed throughout your will experience freedom rather than feeling frazzled. It had taken me several long road trips to realize this. I now emplace breaks to slow the pace. I am glad all of you had a great time. I enjoyed being able to see some of the sights you had seen. I also very much enjoyed your narrative of events. When Kai had apologized by saying he sometimes gets out of control...that must have felt to be a momentous step forward for Kai. It was also good for your wife being able to experience some great moments with her father...and he, with her.

    1. It was very surprising when Kai said that he sometimes gets out of control. Having an awareness of something like that is a great sign that he is learning to control himself.

      I think you are right that my wife and father-in-law were happy to have shared the experience of the trip together.

  2. What a wonderful vacation you all had! Mt Rushmore is amazing, isn't it?

    Hope you can recover over the are exhausting! haha.

    1. Mount Rushmore is very impressive, and you appreciate it even more when you see the video of how it looked before, how the designer planned it all out, and how it was actually made.

      Thanks, Betsy. Vacations really are exhausting! I am starting to recover though.


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