Wow! It is hard for me to actually comprehend that we are over half-way done with our drive from Eugene, Oregon to Blacksburg, Virginia. I'm currently sitting at the desk in our hotel room in none other than Omaha, Nebraska. Omaha isn't anything like I thought it would be. In my mind, I pictured this city in a really flat area (probably because Dustin and Mom told me that Nebraska was pretty flat and boring when they drove over to South Carolina a couple of years ago); however, there are hills all over the place, and trees too! From what I have seen, it's really pretty here. It is sure hot and muggy though! When we rolled into town between 7 and 7:30 (central time) this evening, our car themometor read between 95-99 degrees Ferenheit. Even while we were down at the hotel pool, it really hadn't cooled down much. Thank goodness for air conditioned rooms! :) We were all really happy to get out of the car so we could stretch our legs and feel somewhat human again.
We have definitely been to and through some fun places. Saturday we drove from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho to West Yellowstone, Montana. The skies were blue, roads were good so we set cruise to 80 mph and were on our way. Grabbed lunch at Taco Bell in Missoula, MT and found a place to play in the Clark Fork River just east of Clinton, MT at a little fishing access point. That stop wore out Sydney and both boys, so they slept for quite awhile afterwards. Sydney played fetch with sticks, and the boys waded (or sat in the water, as was Aidan's case) and threw rocks to their hearts' content. After we left there, until he fell asleep somewhere between Butte and the Continental Divide, whenever David saw water he said, "I'm listening, can we go to the river or to the lake?" "I'd like to go swimming in the river now."
After leaving there, we continued our trek on I-90 until we had to turn south to head toward West Yellowstone. Man, I am continually in awe of God's hand when I drive through the Rocky Mountains. He's so amazing! His creation is so beautiful and breathtaking. I feel so thankful to be able to partake of what he has made and to be able to experience the different sights and sounds.
Virginia City (aka "Cowboy Town" in David-ese) was a great stop. We walked up and down the streets (or if you were David, you ran), had our pictures taken at an old-time photo shop, bought David some new cap gun pistols since his other one broke between Coeur d'Alene and Virginia City and ate some home made ice cream. If we had arrived just 15-20 minutes earlier, we could have taken the steam engine to Nevada City. David was the most bummed about not being able to ride the train. He had fun doing other stuff though--especially getting to play with guns in the photo shop and with his own six-shooters. I wish that we would have had more time to spend there. Hopefully we will make another trip in the future. From there, we drove to West Yellowstone where we stayed for the night. The next morning we were up early, ate breakfast and set off for the park.
Yellowstone was great. We didn't see much wildlife (just a couple herds of elk, some Canadian geese, and a couple of chipmunks). I had really hoped to see some bear, buffalo and some other things, but I guess that it wasn't meant to be this trip. :( At least I got to see a few geysers, and was able to just enjoy the scenery. The next trip I take to Yellowstone might have to be over a week or something. David clapped the entire time Old Faithful was spouting, and Aidan was just oblivious to it all. He was happy just playing in the dirt and gravel just behind the observation deck.
I drove through the Grand Tetons in northwestern Wyoming--another beautiful spot. We stopped to take pictures there before continuing eastward to Casper and even got to see a moose eating out in the water just off the road. Man, I was so excited to get to see a real moose out in the wild! Whem leaving the Tetons, we saw lightning in the distance. By the time we arrived to DuBois, Wyoming, we were in the midst of the storm. Lightning was flashing overhead almost nonstop until after I got east of town. So much for trying to eat lunch there. The rain was also coming down so hard that it washed some of the red colored soil from the hills into the Wind River, leaving the water resembling the Chocolate River from Roald Dahl's book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. David thought that comparison was great, and made sure we all knew that he was NOT Augustus Gloop and wasn't going to be falling into the chocolate river. :) The drive to Casper was LONG. The boys (and Rob too) ended up napping for a stretch, so I was listening to the stereo and was singing along. Casper was a welcome sight after having passed through a bunch of range land, where grass and cattle grazing is pretty much all you see for miles and miles. It's beautiful but monotanous (sp?) at the same time.
While in Casper, we stayed with my Uncle Rick and Aunt Shannon Gibson (Uncle Rick is one of my mom's brothers) and their 3 boys, Patrick, Nathan and Eli. Patrick had just returned home from a missions trip to Seoul, South Korea and had stories and pictures to share. We actually haven't seen this crew since we all met up in Bozeman, Montana to go camping about 5 years ago, so I was completely floored by how much the boys had grown. Uncle Rick and Aunt Shannon graciously allowed us to impose upon them for 2 nights, and we had a blast getting to visit and experience just a wee bit of Casper. One of Rob's favorite things was getting to eat fried Oreos at the Philly Cheese Steak place where Patrick works. They take an Oreo and coat it in the funnel cake batter and deep fat fry it. Sounds kind of weird, but they taste wonderful and are very rich. The Oreo softens and takes on a more cake-like texture. Yum! David would say getting to play with Eli (or E-why as he calls him) and Nathan. He and Aidan were in "boy heaven" having the 3 big boys to play with and follow around. I think that Aidan was particularly fond of Patrick--their quiet, somewhat laid back personalities seemed to mesh well.
I was sad to leave Casper because it always seems like we never have enough time to catch up and visit with Rick and Shannon. Hopefully we will get to see each other again sooner, rather than later.
After leaving Casper, our next stop was at Mt. Rushmore and Rapid City in South Dakota. We stopped at Newcastle, Wyoming for lunch and let the boys get out of the car to play at a park. Dogs weren't allowed off leash at this particular park, so we had to put her on her tether. Well...I was playing fetch with her (while holding Aidan), and she ran around one of my legs and I wasn't able to get it moved completely out of the way before her tether caught me, so I ended up with a nice little rope burn around my left ankle. Rob teased me this morning and said that it kind of looks like I'm abused. At least we both know the truth. :) Mt. Rushmore was a VERY short trip. We parked, walked up to the observation area, went into the gift shop to get a few souveniers and went back to the car. David kept saying that he was "sick" while we were there--we believe that he was just tired, but we went back to the car for him anyways.
Rapid City was awesome!!!!!! After checking into our hotel, we went for a little drive. We drove by Dinosaur Park, then went in search of the Rotary Storybook Island Park. Storybook Island was so stinkin' cool! The park is 13.6 acres of child heaven. There are models of story book characters all over the park, and there are lots of fun places to play. We arrived an hour before closing time, but it was definitely an hour well spent (wish we could have had longer here too since the boys were having such a blast, but oh well). David was literally running to and fro, trying to see and play with everything that he could. Aidan liked getting to climb up on different things, and toddled around a bit on the different paths. I think his favorite part was throwing rocks on Aladdin's magic carpet--go figure! My boys definitely love their rocks. :)
After leaving Rapid City, we drove across South Dakota and down into Iowa before stopping for the night in Omaha. Since Rob had never been in South Dakota before, we stopped at Wall Drug--the ultimate tourist trap. It was a nice little stop, although it was only 42 miles east of Rapid City. It helped prime the boys for the next part of the journey, so that's all that counts. Our next somewhat major stop was along the Missouri River/Lake Francis Case reservoir near Chamberlain, South Dakota. This was another fun time of throwing rocks and playing fetch. Sydney actually got brave enough to swim after a couple of sticks. If she didn't like where they were at, she waited until they went down river just a bit and were closer to the shore before she ventured out. She found one stick that was almost too big, but she loved it. Although everyone involved had fun, the drawback of that whole stop was having a car that smelled of wet dog. Oh well.
Our hotel room in Omaha is really cool! I'd say that it was more like an apartment, a loft and master bathroom upstairs, a living room (complete with a fireplace), dining area, kitchen, murphy bed and a 2nd bathroom were all downstairs. David got the upstairs to himself and Rob, Aidan and I had the downstairs. This hotel is definitely one that I'd consider staying at again.
Well, I've written a novel about our travels thus far, so until later, God bless!