All good things must come to an end…that includes vacations and visits with dear people. We left very early on a Sunday morning because we had a very long drive ahead of us. We drove from Tri-Cities, Wa to the West Thumb of Yellowstone National Park….that’s about 11-12 hrs people. We did make a few stops along the way however…have to get out and stretch!
We loved driving through Montana. It’s beautiful. My mom grew up in Montana and we stopped in the town where she graduated high school, Deer Lodge. Kind of a neat little town with some history behind it!
We also stopped in Ennis, MT…wish we had more time to spend there! It was a neat place!
Despite a few stops, we made great time and had some daylight left when we arrived to visit Old Faithful! We were so excited to get there and see the geyser…
So we waited…
In hindsight we should have gone into the visitors center to look at the predicted time of the eruption. Don’t be like us. Go to the visitors center first..lesson learned. Also you can download the Yellowstone Park app which gives you all the info you need to know…but there’s pretty much no service in the park anywhere…so good luck with that!
It finally erupted and we all rejoiced and then went to the lodge for food and souvenirs.
It really is pretty cool…worth the wait! Even Mr. E thought so! This was his face when it erupted and he said “OOO! Wow!”…
We stayed at Madison Campground…we got in when it was dark and also left in the dark so I can’t tell you much about it. Clean bathrooms, zero hook ups…warnings about bears everywhere. You really could spend a week at Yellowstone and have plenty to see and do! I really want to go back and take more time to see more things! All I remember about it when I was young was that it smelled bad…and some parts do, but it wasn’t terrible 😉 But I will tell you it got COLD. I’m so glad I packed pants and jackets for me and the kids. My darling husband on the other hand…did not. Don’t be like him walking around in shorts in 38* weather. You get a lot of stares. I should have taken a picture of him.
Pretty neat how even tho the different pools were close together, they were different colors.
Then as we drove through the park on our way out, we stopped along the way to see more things…
After leaving Yellowstone, we drove across Wyoming to our final destination at Devils Tower. The northern part of Wyoming is much more interesting than the southern part…but not a lot 😉 Also…most people probably know the pop cultural significance of Devils Tower…but not us. Nathan and I have never seen Close Encounters, so we did not know until we got to our campground (which happens to show the movie every night during the summer months…poor campground employees!) that Devils Tower is the thing Richard Dreyfus makes out of mashed potatoes. It means something…it’s important. But really, it’s the perfect spot for a sci-fi movie…the rock formation looks kinda creepy at night!
We stayed at the Devils Tower KOA and it was very nice. Spots were a little too close together with not much shade…but it had a great view and awesome facilities. Clean bathrooms, a playground, a little store…I think we would stay there again.
That night Nathan and I had a little discussion…we were really wanting to be home, but technically according to our plan, we had one more night away from home in North Platte, NE with friends. Also the next day we planned to pack in a lot, Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, SD, Rushmore and originally we planned to stop at Carhenge in Nebraska. We decided that we would deviate from the original plan…we would drive straight through South Dakota, stop at Wall Drug instead of Carhenge and make it back to KC by about 1 am. And of course our friends were super gracious in understanding our change of plans 🙂
We left early from Devils Tower and headed to South Dakota.
Beautiful sunrise over South Dakota.
First time for all of us to be in South Dakota! I’d always heard people talk about Deadwood, SD…and online it sounded like a neat little western town…
But I’m very glad the kids were all asleep when we drove through here and we didn’t feel obligated to stop…it’s like a mini Vegas. Yes it looks very cool. Neat buildings, a Western Museum that I would have totes visited…but lots of bars, casinos, and not so kid friendly stores. I’m assuming it’s that way because Sturgis is so close. We drove through there too…two places we don’t need to visit again…especially with kids 😉 So be forewarned…Deadwood=not a family place!
Next stop was Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, SD! Be prepared to climb some stairs!!
The dinosaur statues are pretty much all there is to do there…and look around at Rapid City, because you can see pretty much all of it from the top of the hill the park sits on! WE didn’t spend long there, and I probably wouldn’t go back. If your kids aren’t good on stairs or with heights, you probably won’t enjoy this place too much.
On to Rushmore! I’ve always wanted to visit Mount Rushmore. I’ve heard how beautiful it is plus I kind of love US history…I’m a geek I know. In my opinion Mount Rushmore lives up to the hype.
Turn the corner from Keystone, SD, and there it is! (If you follow me on IG, I posted lots of “feet” pictures and this is one I never posted. My feet went lots of places!)
Parking is a tad spendy, but it’s worth it…and good for a year! So if you save your ticket and come back within the year…you’re good to go.
I would love to go back one day when the kiddos are older and do some hiking around here….there are quite a few trails! And the Black Hills really are beautiful. If you have the opportunity to go to Rushmore, I highly recommend it! Also Keystone, SD the nearby town is super cool and family friendly. You could stay there a few days and have plenty to do! And can we talk about this place in Keystone…
A coffeeshop, with a playground?! Winning. Why are there not more places like this?!! Seriously, when you’re on the road with young kids, they need some places to run around. There were a few rest areas in Wyoming with play structures which is awesome…but why isn’t that more common?! Anyways…enough about that. I’ll get off my box now.
I was expecting South Dakota to be a lot like Wyoming, a giant snooze fest. But I think South Dakota realizes it’s a boring place to drive through and gives you some cool places to stop along the way and interesting things to look at! Like all the Wall Drug signs…
and Wall Drug is a neat place to stop…you can’t miss it! 😉
It’s a fun place to walk around, get some food and a souvenir or two.
After Wall Drug we pretty much just drove and drove and drove. There were some neat looking places along the freeway though that I wish we had time to stop at…like the Dances with Wolves movie set. From the highway it looked like a legit old-west town. We passed by the Corn Palace and the picture we took is MIA…but we didn’t stop to go inside. We stopped in Sioux Falls, SD for dinner, got the kids in their PJs and then we drove home to KC. Staying awake was a little rough towards the end, but we were so glad to be home and in our own beds by 2am 🙂
So that was our cross-country trip! It sure was fun. And I’d do it again. You see some neat things on the roads of America! I kind of felt like Forest Gump when he runs across the country a few times and he tells Jenny about the different places he saw….the sunrise over the desert, the crystal clear lake by the mountain…you see those sights and those places when you drive. Yes there’s moments of boredom…but then there’s awesome moments of “wow that is so cool.” or “we need to get out and see that!” You can’t get these kinds of memories when flying over those places. It might not be faster….but I promise you it’s worth the adventure 🙂
God created an awesome world for us to explore…don’t fly over it and miss it. Press on!