Gulf State Park 2019

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JKLMN on the road again!

JKLMN is on the road again! Today we left Hot Springs for one last summer adventure before school starts in 2 weeks. We are on our way to stay at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama. This is a trip we’ve been wanting to take for a while. We all love the beach but we’ve always stayed in condos. Johnny has been looking at and researching RV parks on the beach for several years and this one is at the top of his list.

We have not had a chance to go on a “family vacation” yet this summer since Johnny, Kira and Logan went on a mission trip to Croatia and Macy and Noah went to the beach with Nanny & Papa. So, we decided at the last minute to book a site and head to the Gulf. Here we go!!!

Sathurday, July 27, 2019

We left out a lot later today than we would normally leave for a road trip. Our normal schedule is to try to be on the road at daylight. However, this time we didn’t leave until around 2pm. Macy had a birthday party to go to. She has been talking about going to this friend’s party since May so there was no way we were going to mess that up with this last-minute trip we scheduled.

The week leading up to this trip has put several obstacles in our path, most notably that Johnny’s truck decided to have all it’s service engine lights come on. Thank goodness the dealership was able to quickly diagnose the problem and make the repair (and all under warranty, thank goodness). So, today when we went to leave and his truck wouldn’t start we were just a bit peeved. Thank goodness we quickly figured out that someone had left the key on all morning and it had just drained the battery so a quick jump start and we were back in action.

Today we traveled only around 4 hours, 250 miles. Travel was uneventful, other than Noah’s bladder seems to have shrunk over this past year. Potty breaks are not your friend when you travel with an RV. We are currently parked at Ameristar RV Park in Vicksburg, MS. We’ll be up early tomorrow ready to hit the road and get to the sand and waves.

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Ameristar RV Park in Vicksburg, MS

 

Sunday, July 28, 2019

What a day! We started it early this morning in Vicksburg, MS and ended it looking at the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico in Gulf Shores, AL.

We packed up and were pulling out of our site in Vicksburg by 7:30 am. We are not ones to dilly dally. Once we are up, its time to load up and hit the road. Thankfully it was an easy day of travel, no issues at all.

Our fun started when we got to Mobile, AL. We told the kids we had a surprise for them. We have driven by the USS Alabama Battleship multiple times but we’ve never been able to stop. Today, we pulled on in. The boys were super excited, Macy not so much. It was definitely worth the stop. Johnny and I had not been since we were each teenagers so it was like new to us too. If you are ever in the area, it’s worth stopping. You can see as little or as much as you want. We just toured the battleship today as we only had about 2 hours to spend there. There is also an aviation museum, a submarine and multiple aircraft scattered on the lawns for viewing.

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USS Alabama Battleship

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Once we finished our tour of the battleship it was time to drive our final stretch into Gulf Shores. We spent the afternoon getting our camper & site set up, unloading the truck and then exploring the park. We even took a bike ride all the way to the Gulf State Park fishing pier and watched people fishing for sharks. We didn’t know it until we got here but its Shark Week!

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All setup and ready for the week!
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About to walk onto the Pier

We are now settled in for the night. The kids all crashed as soon as their heads hit the pillow. Tomorrow…BEACH DAY!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Today was Beach Day!

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One of the things we are discovering that we love about Gulf State Park is the variety of things to do. There are miles and miles of walking/biking trails, a Nature Center, Pool, sports courts & of course the beach. Today we decided we wanted to start our week at the beach. Included with our campground stay is free access to the beachfront here at the park. It was a beautiful day to soak up the sun. We spent almost 6 hours playing in the sand and waves, reading in our lounge chairs and Johnny & Logan got in a nap or two.

We left the beach around 4pm and headed back to camp to clean up and get ready for dinner. Tonight we chose to go out and enjoy one of Gulf Shores classics, The Hangout. It has a live band playing, lots of games going on for kids, a big playground and of course food. Noah made friends at the foosball table, Logan enjoyed listening to the band and Macy got a new hair wrap.

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We finished off the night checking out a couple of the dozens of souvenir shops. We have started a tradition of getting a sticker and a magnet for the camper from every place we visit. Of course, the kids had to pick up a few fun things too, including an alligator head that Noah insisted his daddy needed!!

Overall, it has been a fantastic day. Once again everyone is exhausted but they have all gone to sleep with a smile on their faces.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Johnny started out today with a 6.5-mile run. As he said on his Instagram post “Epic morning run! Saw plenty of rabbits, birds, swallowed about 1,000 mosquitoes, and even saw an alligator!!!” Yep, he saw an alligator but he definitely enjoyed his run. Gulf State Park offers some fantastic running and biking trails. There are so many to see, we haven’t even touched the surface of them. I was supposed to get up and go with him but I wasn’t feeling well (more on that later…).

 

Our first item on the agenda for the day (after JB’s run) was an interpretive beach walk with one of the park rangers from Alabama State Parks. It all started out ok but then it took an interesting turn really quickly. I had not been feeling well at all. I was up most of the night with some terrible heartburn. It just continued as the day started. I was popping antacids like crazy. I just figured it was the super spicy sauce I had eaten at dinner the night before. As we were walking along the beach I started feeling very achy, then very nauseous and light-headed. I remember handing the camera to Logan, then walking to Johnny and saying “I feel like I’m going to pass out”. Well, apparently I did pass out because the next thing I remember was waking up laying in the sand with Johnny holding my head. Needless to say, EMTs were called in and I had to be checked out. We figured out that I was actually dehydrated. I’ve never experienced true dehydration, it was awful. When I look back on the last few days I’ve realized that I was drinking maybe half of the amount of water that I normally drink. Then I’ve been outside in the sun and doing a lot of physical activity. It all just came to a head this morning. I didn’t let them take me to the hospital, instead, we came back to the camper and I started drinking what felt like gallons of Gatorade and water. After resting and a couple of naps I felt like myself again. I gave Johnny and the kids a pretty good scare, I never want that to happen again.

Tonight we grilled some burgers and chilled for a while at camp. Then we did some geocaching. Johnny even risked life and limb to find one. Geocaching is so much fun, it’s basically a treasure hunt on your phone. The kids were ready to give up on one but Johnny was determined to find it and he was successful!!

 

We finished our night hanging out at the pool. We all needed a good swim and they were doing a movie night. The kids got to float in the pool while watching Shark Tale. It was a nice, calm, relaxing evening.

 

 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

We have had another fun day here in Gulf Shores. We started the day with a 6.61-mile bike ride around some trails here at our campground. I don’t want to sugar-coat this, taking 3 siblings on a 6-mile bike ride has its challenges. Noah has been begging to go on a “long bike ride” all week. He was so excited and ready to get moving.  It only took about a mile for him to decide it was hot, his legs and arms hurt and he wanted to stop for a drink about every 5 minutes. Johnny and I just took turns in the back of the pack with him. Not only did he want multiple water breaks but every time he saw something that caught his eye he wanted to stop and explore. It was hard to keep him moving. Macy and Logan on the other hand just wanted to fight with each other. We had already put Macy in a bad mood by making her wear a helmet for the ride. She was embarrassed and didn’t want anyone to see her face. Logan, of course, picked up on her mood and chose this time to start picking on her. From that point on the fight was on. There were times on the ride they were literally playing bumper cars with their bikes. Thankfully, by the end of the ride, they were tired of waiting on us trying to keep Noah moving so they teamed up with each other and started navigating the trail together by themselves. Overall it was a fun ride. Hopefully, before we leave we can do the other big loop around the lakes here.

We headed out to the beach around 11am, after our bike ride. I personally love the beach days. Sitting in a chair, listening to the waves crash on the shore is the most relaxing sound to me. We spent most of the day at the beach. Noah built the “Great Wall of China”, the rest of us read our books and relaxed.

This evening I made everyone get dressed up to head out for the dreaded beach pictures.  Picture day has never been anyone in my family’s favorite time, much less beach pictures when you are trying to capture the light at just the right time. I can say, though, that tonight was probably the best my family has ever acted during pictures. Everyone was ready to get in position when we said move, they smiled, laughed and even got along with each other. The end result was some amazing family pictures.

Tomorrow is our last full day here. We haven’t yet decided exactly how to spend the day but I’m sure we’ll make the most of it.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

We had a day packed with sun and fun today. We started our morning with a 9-mile bike ride. Yep, 6 miles was not enough yesterday so we had to go further today. This time we went the opposite way and did a loop around the big lake, then over to the fishing pier to check out the Shark Week activities. The kids did fantastic, only a few complaints but mostly just enjoyed the ride. We have now biked most of the trails here at Gulf State Park. There are a few smaller shoots off the big loops that we missed but we did all the major trails.

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Bike riding may have worn us out for a short time but after some rest and showers, we were ready to tackle the next part of our day. We headed out for a late lunch/early dinner at the FloraBama Ole River Grill. The food was fantastic (way better than The Hangout) and it was neat seeing a place that is such a major part of the culture at the Gulf Beaches.  Once we finished eating we drove on to Pensacola, FL to watch a Pensacola Blue Wahoos minor league baseball game. The team says they have the “Best View in Baseball” and I would have to agree. Their stadium sits right on the bay in Pensacola. It is a gorgeous view and you get a wonderful breeze coming off the water. We all had so much fun at the game. We love watching baseball and there is just something about the smallness of minor league games that I truly enjoy. Logan spent the evening asking questions about the hierarchy of making it from the minors to the majors. Macy spent the evening analyzing what plays she should make as a 3rd baseman during each at-bat. Noah was there for the snacks and souvenirs, LOL!

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We cheered the Blue Wahoos on to a win then made the hour-long drive back to our campground. Tomorrow we pack up and head back home.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Well, we are packed up and driving home. We were all sad to leave behind our carefree week of outdoor fun but the real world is calling and we have to go home. The kids start open houses and band practices next week and then school starts the week after. Here we go, back to the daily grind. I am so glad we had the chance to take this one last trip before our busy schedules keep us running again.

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Packed up and ready to make the drive home.

Great American Adventure Trip Itinerary

Great American Adventure Trip Itinerary

Day 1: 

Hot Springs, AR to Wakeeney, KS (approximately 660 miles, 14 hours)

Campground: Wakeeney KOA


Day 2:

Wakeeney, KS to Colorado Springs, CO (294 miles)

Campground: Garden of the Gods RV Resort

Activities: Garden of the Gods; Manitou Springs


Day 3:

Sight-Seeing in Colorado Springs, CO

Activities: Pikes Peak; US Olympic Training Facility


Day 4:

Colorado Springs, CO to Casper, WY (351 miles)

Campground: Casper KOA (technically in Bar Nunn, WY


Day 5:

Casper, WY to Yellowstone National Park (293 miles)

Campground: Fishing Bridge RV Park (located in Yellowstone National Park)

Activities: Set up camp; hike to Natural Bridge; Yellowstone Lake


Day 6:

Sight-Seeing in Yellowstone

Activities: Old Faithful, which included a hike through Upper Geyser Basin & a walk through Old Faithful Inn; Hike to Mystic Falls; Grand Prismatic Spring; Continental Divide


Day 7:

Sight-Seeing in Jackson Hole, WY & Grand Teton National Park

Activities: Scenic float trip on Snake River by Sands White Water; walk through downtown Jackson Hole; drive through Grand Teton National Park, stopping at Visitor Center & Jenny Lake.


Day 8:

Sight-Seeing in Yellowstone & Cody, WY

Activities: Grand Canyon of Yellowstone; Hayden Valley; Mud Volcano & Dragon’s Breath Cave; Drove to Cody for the Cody Nite Rodeo


Day 9:

Sight-Seeing in Yellowstone

Activities: Mammoth Hot Springs (drive from Fishing Bridge took us through Hayden Valley, Tower Falls & Roosevelt Tower); Roosevelt Arch; Norris Geyser Basin; West Yellowstone


Day 10:

Sight-Seeing in Yellowstone

Activities: Drove through Lamar Valley & to Northwest Entrance


Day 11:

Yellowstone National Park to Custer, South Dakota (439 miles)

Campground: Custer’s Gulch RV Park & Campground


Day 12:

Sight-Seeing in South Dakota

Activities: Wind Cave National Park; The Mammoth Site; Custer State Park; The Needles Highway


Day 13:

Sight-Seeing in South Dakota

Activities: 1880 Train; Mount Rushmore; Crazy Horse Memorial; Walk through downtown Custer


Day 14:

Sight-Seeing in South Dakota & Wyoming

Activities: Devils Tower National Monument (in Wyoming); Deadwood, SD


Day 15:

Sight-Seeing in South Dakota

Activities: Wall Drug Store; Badlands National Park


Day 16:

Custer, SD to Rock Port, MO (627 miles)

Campground: Rock Port Riversedge Campground


Day 17:

Rock Port, MO to Hot Springs, AR (528 miles)

Christmas Break Mini-Vaca

 

Thursday, December 27, 2018, 5:30 pm

JKLMN is on the road again!! We made it through the last few days of school, which were full of tests, basketball, choir and band concerts. Then we made it through Christmas, which although is very enjoyable is also very stressful and busy. As we were finishing up our Christmas celebrations with family Johnny said, “Why not make a quick trip to Branson?”. Well, we couldn’t think of one good reason not to. The weather looked to be beautiful, Kira had 7 more days left of vacation, the kids had already had WAY too much screen time and Branson is only a short 5-hour drive away. So, why not???

We spent Wednesday cleaning up, washing clothes, putting away the Christmas decorations and packing the rig. It was supposed to storm overnight and into the morning today so we did not plan on leaving too early. Instead, we spent the morning relaxing, drinking coffee and taking care of those last minute chores you have to do before heading out of town.

We left this morning at around 9:30 and we were very grateful for an uneventful, beautiful drive to Branson. We even took off and drove up with NO RESERVATIONS! That in itself is unusual for us, we are normally “planners”. Of course, this whole trip was spontaneous so why not continue it. We had looked at some options and knew we’d have plenty to choose from. We are now parked at America’s Best Campground here in Branson, MO and so far it seems like a really nice place. (Even better since they are in their winter pricing at only $25/night!!)

No RV trip would be complete without at least one mishap though. We arrived, starting setting up and JB walked around the corner of the camper with a look on his face that told all of us something was wrong. Guess what we forgot….our electrical cord! UGH! Inconvenient, yes, trip-ruining, no thank goodness. We quickly got on the phone and found an RV parts store nearby and within 30 min we were back on track.

Tonight, once we got set up, we made a delicious dinner of spaghetti. That is another perk of RV life, you pull your kitchen with. Rather than spending $50+ on dinner for a family of 5, we were able to throw together a simple meal for under $15 for all of us.

We are now getting ready to go see “Samson” at the Sights and Sounds Theater. More updates to come….

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We’re all excited to see Samson!

“Samson” is an amazing show. We would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good show to see in Branson. It was good enough that Noah’s reaction after it ended was “Can we come to see this every night???”.  We haven’t done anything else this evening. Honestly, it was almost a 3-hour show so that doesn’t leave a lot of time for exploring the town. We are all now happy to be back in our cozy camper and ready to settle in for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow, Silver Dollar City!

Friday, December 28, 2018, 9:00 pm

SDC

What a day! We have had so much fun but it was COLD!!! We started the day by making a good breakfast of biscuits and gravy and with the kids riding bikes around the campground.  We then bundled up and made our way to Silver Dollar City. Again, it was COLD!!! I don’t think the temperature rose above 33 degrees today. That meant that none of the roller coasters were running. We didn’t let that spoil our fun though. There are plenty of things at SDC to keep you busy. The lights in the park during this time of year are beautiful. We also spent time shopping and watching shows. At the end of the night we had had such a great time that we went ahead and upgraded our tickets to season passes. As an RV Trip, this is a very easy pull for a long weekend so we plan on coming back this coming year.

Now, let me also tell you that even though we had a great time, don’t think that it was perfect. Having 3 kids means constant bickering amongst them which in turn leads to a pretty irritable mom and dad at times. If we heard “I want” or “that’s not fair” one more time one of us might have lost our minds. We also had to deal with a sullen teenager who has decided he doesn’t like pictures and who was disappointed in not getting to ride any roller coasters. That’s just life with kids though.

Again, RV trips are not complete without some hiccups. Tonight we came back to a very cold camper. Turns out our heater is having some kind of issue and is turning itself off before getting the camper warm. Thank goodness we do have 2 radiator heaters in here and they do a decent job of keeping the chill out. We may not be nice & cozy tonight but with a few layers of blankets, we should be just fine…maybe. It’s only going to get to 22 degrees tonight. Oh boy…..

 

Saturday, December 29, 2018, 9:42 pm

We survived the night! It actually wasn’t bad at all. The 2 radiator heaters have done a nice job of keeping the camper warm. We’ve had them going all day and it actually got a bit too warm in here by this evening. Our normal heater is still not working, that means a trip to the RV shop when we get back to town.

There is something to be said about a spur of the moment getaway. We are normally planners and have every moment of our time planned out. We have not done that on this trip. We got up this morning and just said: “So what do you want to do today?”. That led us to meeting up with some friends who had also came up on a quick vacation. Our kids hung out together for an hour or so and had a blast. Once we left their condo we drove to Table Rock State Park to check out a bike trail. We are so glad we brought our bikes with us. We spent a couple of hours riding the Table Rock Lake trail which took us around a part of the lake and let us see some of the beautiful scenery around the lake. Granted, Macy and Noah were not thrilled about the entire ride but they survived.

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The bike ride took up most of our afternoon. Once we finished it we found a place for a late lunch/early dinner. We needed a good place to fill our bellies and warm up our bodies after riding in below freezing temps for 2 hours.

We finished our night with a family game night here at the camper. We had a heated game of Uno, then Skippity, then Noah & Mom ended the night with Battleship.

Overall, we have had a fantastic day. Our original plan was to drive home tomorrow but now we’ve decided to stay one more day. We are going to go to Springfield tomorrow to visit Bass Pro Shop. For now, we are settling in for a good night’s sleep.

Sunday, December 30, 2018, 6:39 pm

Bass Pro

We finished out our mini-vaca with a trip to the Bass Pro Shops and the Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium in Springfield, MO. If you are ever in the area it is definitely worth the trip. Of course, we’ve been visiting Bass Pro Shops for years and have seen it transform several times. This is by far my favorite transformation yet. We chose to not visit the Wildlife Museum and instead took our time in the Aquarium. The kids loved it. They got to see everything from bass to sharks to alligators to Black Bear. It is a little pricey to go in but you do get a lot for your money.  We also walked around the actual Outdoor Store where Logan found another knife to add to his growing knife collection.

We finished up in Springfield around 3:30 this afternoon. We decided to take it easy tonight and hang out at the campground. It is actually raining tonight so it was a good time to make a big pot of Taco Soup for supper and let everyone unwind before our trip home tomorrow.

Overall, this has been a fun and exciting, spur of the moment trip. Yes, we’ve had a few camper problems and yes the kids have done their fair share of fighting and whining but we wouldn’t trade it for anything. Tomorrow morning we get to go back home and get ready to go back to the “real world”.

ENJOY THE JOURNEY!

JKLMN’s Great American Adventure 2018

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This year we decided to take on one of our “bucket list” trips…a 3500-mile cross country RV road trip that takes us to the Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone, and the Black Hills.  Here we go!!!!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

It’s travel day #1!! I can say that my 4am wake-up call didn’t come too early this morning because I was ready to GO.  We got on the road around 5:30 this morning and met up with our travel partners, a couple whose husband Johnny works with and who we attend church with, about 15 min down the road. Keep in mind that we are doing this road trip with 3 kids and our travel partners are recent “empty-nesters” so let’s just say we may slow them down a bit.

Our route today took us 660 miles from home in Hot Springs, Arkansas, through the middle of Oklahoma and then across Kansas. I am happy to report that we’ve actually had an uneventful day as far as travel goes (unlike our Disney trip last year, you can read about that here). The kids even got along remarkably well for having to sit shoulder to shoulder in the truck for 14 hours. Ipads, car games and watching windmills on the side of the road kept them occupied for most of the day.

So, tonight we find ourselves at the WaKeeney KOA hopefully about to get a restful night of sleep before heading out to Colorado Springs, CO tomorrow morning.

Good Night!

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All setup and ready for a good night’s sleep at WaKeeney KOA

Friday, June 29, 2018

We are on the road again! It is currently 9:43 am and we are driving across I70 through Kansas. We should arrive in Colorado Springs by 1pm Mountain Time. Some observations at the moment…this part of Kansas is flat and windy. It is just like you see in the movies, crop fields as far as the eye can see and silos in the distance. Definitely a part of Americana.  More updates to come….

12:29 pm, Matheson, CO, 83 degrees, Hwy 24

MOUNTAINS! We are finally seeing mountains! We have had about 4 hours of seeing nothing but grain fields and windmills, it is a glorious sight to finally see some mountains.  It’s not many but I know there are more t come. We should roll into Garden of the Gods RV Park around 1:30pm, I’m eager to get there and explore Colorado Springs. Right now I’ll just enjoy my view of some mountains and listen to The Greatest Showman Soundtrack.

11:49 pm, Garden of the Gods RV Resort, Colorado Springs, CO

We made it to our destination around 2pm today. Once we got everything set up we headed out for more adventures. We started the afternoon at Garden of the Gods. It is beautiful. We hiked around the park for several hours. The kids enjoyed climbing all over the rocks then turning around and telling me to take a picture. They wanted to be rock climbers by the time we left. After enjoying the beautiful rock formations and our hike we set out to find something to eat. We ended up just down the road in Manitou Springs Historic District. It was a very cool downtown area. It actually reminded us a lot of our hometown, Hot Springs. We found a little local burger joint then walked on down the street to find some ice cream.  It made for a nice evening before returning to our home away from home. (We really should name our camper…hmmmm). Now we are all tucked in for the evening ready for a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow…Pikes Peak!

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JKLMN ready to check out Garden of the Gods

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Saturday, June 30, 2018

We have had an amazing day. If you are ever in Colorado Springs I would say that Pike’s Peak is a must do. We headed out around 7:30 am and I am super grateful that we did. We had almost no traffic to deal with getting up the mountain. By the time we came down the mountain at 11:30 am the gates to get in were each backed up 8-10 cars deep. (Tip #1 start your day early to avoid the crowds).

The trip to the top of the peak can be a bit nerve-racking. There are times when you are going around switchbacks when you can see nothing but a straight drop down and there is no guardrail. It didn’t bother most of us that much but Noah was in tears at one point (of course some of that was probably a show for us). Once we got to the top, it was 44° & super windy. I was thankful I had remembered to grab some jackets before we left, they were definitely a necessity (Tip #2 take jackets!). The views from the top are absolutely gorgeous. You can see for miles and miles and miles. There are also some hiking trails all along the peak. We played around on one of the shorter ones and the kids loved climbing all over the rocks. The altitude didn’t seem to bother us too much. Macy was the only one of us who had any real issues with it. She said her head felt like it was going to vomit and she became very short of breath at times as we were hiking. (Tip #3 Drink lots of water and takes some with you). One last thing, make sure to try the donuts when you get to the top, they are delicious.  Overall, it was amazing.

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JKLMN a the top of Pike’s Peak!
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We made friends with a little marmot that kept scurrying around us.

The next stop we made, after grabbing a quick lunch at a Del Taco, was to the US Olympic Training Center. We took a tour of the facility and it was really neat. It’s another place I would recommend if you’ve got a couple of extra hours to kill while in town.

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US Olympic Training Facility

Late this afternoon we decided to just chill a the camper. One of the perks of RV life is that your home is always with you. We were able to come back, chill out a bit and cook some dinner. As I type this I am actually sitting in the laundry facility at the RV park trying to get us ahead on laundry before we head into Wyoming.

Tomorrow is another travel day. Our goal is to get to Casper, Wyoming. For now, I am going to sit here and finish my laundry because a mom’s job is never done.

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Laundry…because a mom’s life is never done.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

We woke up in Colorado Springs, Colorado this morning and we are going to sleep in Casper, Wyoming.  Today wasn’t a very eventful day, of course that’s the way you want travel days to be. We got on the road around 7:15 am to beat the traffic out of Colorado Springs. A lot of the roads around our campground were under construction so it was much easier to navigate without having so many other cars around. The drive from Colorado and through Wyoming was beautiful. The landscape of Wyoming driving up Interstate 25 is like something you see in movies. There were wide open expanses of rolling ranches to our right and mountains in the distance to our left. Once we arrived in Casper we set up camp and then headed out to the grocery store to restock some supplies before we drive into Yellowstone tomorrow. Our campground has also been a great place to ride bikes, play on the playground and swim. Yes, the kids finally got to swim today. They have begged to swim at every place we’ve stayed but we haven’t had time. Tonight we relaxed a bit and let them swim for a while. I can say one exciting thing happened, I got a new bike. Through a series of events we did a lot of bike switching these last few days (mainly because Logan and Macy had both outgrown their bikes) and I ended up without a bike. Johnny went to Wal-Mart to buy some new tubes for our bike tires and came back with a new bike for me too! Now I’m ready to ride with the family through the trails of Yellowstone.

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Bike riding at the Casper KOA (which is actually in Bar Nunn, WY)

Tomorrow our plan is to get on the road early and drive northwest and into Yellowstone National Park. This should be the highlight of our trip, I can’t wait!!


Monday, July 2, 2018

We made it!!! We arrived in Yellowstone National Park around 2pm this afternoon. I have never seen views like I saw on the way here. The drive into Yellowstone coming up Hwy 14 to the East Entrance is breathtaking. You feel so small compared to the majesty of it all. God’s creation is beautiful. I don’t even have words to describe the beauty of the mountains and rivers we drove through.  Once we got into Yellowstone National Park the beauty continued. We drove on mountains that still had snow just a few feet from our truck. We then drove by Yellowstone Lake which looks more like the ocean with its waves crashing on the shore. Just before we turned into our campground we passed a bison slowly meandering his way down the side of the highway. It was literally feet from the truck. I know this is only a taste of what is to come over the next week.

We plan on staying here 5 days not counting today. I know there is no way we will experience the entire park but we should be able to see a good bit of it. We took advantage of our time this afternoon by exploring a bit of the area around Fishing Bridge RV Campground. We found a short hike that took us to the “Natural Bridge”. I say short hike but it took us around 2 hours to do the round trip hike to the bridge and back. The bridge was pretty but the highlight of the hike was seeing a huge bull elk bedded down just off the trail. The kids thought that was pretty neat.

Tonight we are exhausted after traveling for 7 hours, setting up camp and then exploring this afternoon. I have never seen my kids more willing to go to bed than they were tonight. Tomorrow we plan on seeing Old Faithful and exploring the upper and lower geyser basins. That means an early, early wake-up call so that we can beat the crowds to the area.

Good night!


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

What an awesome, fantastic, amazing, absolutely exhausting day!  Today was our first full day in Yellowstone. We started our day our early by leaving camp at 7am to make the hour-long drive to Old Faithful. It is definitely worth it to get up early. When we arrived there was virtually no crowds at all. We also arrived just 30 minutes before Old Faithful was scheduled to erupt. We were able to sit and watch it erupt before we walked through the geyser hill basin. Old Faithful was neat and it is a must do on any trip to Yellowstone but the formations we saw as we walked through the basin were amazing. The colors, the vastness, the sheer geological force of the entire process is mesmerizing. It took us about 4 hours to walk through most of the geysers and pools. Then we did a quick trip through the Historic Old Faithful Inn and ate a quick lunch in the parking lot from the picnic lunch we had packed. That in itself was entertaining. We sat on the tailgate of the truck and watched people get super frustrated trying to find parking spaces.

Our next adventure for the day took us on a 2-mile hike to see Mystic Falls. The trailhead started in another geyser basic area so we had the opportunity to see some more geysers and pools on our way to the trail. Mystic Falls was beautiful and definitely worth the hike even though our feet were killing us by this time. I can say, if you ever visit Yellowstone, be ready to walk. Today, according to my Garmin watch we have walked a total of at least 11 miles. Tonight our feet and legs hurt like crazy.

Our last adventure of the day was at the Grand Prismatic Spring. By the time we arrived in this area, it was around 3pm and it was super crowded. Once we fought for a parking space (get used to that here) we enjoyed walking a short loop around the Grand Prismatic Spring and its pools. The steam coming off the spring was so thick at times that you could not see to walk. We were not able to see so much of the vastness or the color of the spring due to all of the steam but what we saw was beautiful.

Once we wrapped up at the Grand Prismatic Spring we knew we could not take on any more hikes and we were all ready for a break. We loaded up and headed back to Fishing Bridge for the evening. We did make a quick stop at the Continental Divide for a family picture then it was back in the truck and off to our home away from home.

Tonight we took advantage of the downtime and Johnny cooked us a fantastic meal of steak and baked potatoes while I did a couple of loads of laundry. The kids were happy they finally had more time to ride their bikes, though I have no idea how they had the energy to do that. Noah made friends with some kids on our loop. I love that he can make friends anywhere he goes. They played until we made him come in for dinner around 8pm.

Tomorrow our plan is to head south to Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole. We have a float trip scheduled and want to check out what Jackson Hole has to offer.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy 4th of July!!!!

We spent our 4th of July in Jackson Hole, WY and in Grand Teton National Park. We were on the road by 7am (it was 27°!!!) headed south to Jackson Hole. It is about a 2 hour trip from Fishing Bridge. We had a scenic float trip scheduled for 11:30. Once we got into town we drove around a bit because we had some time to kill. Then we headed over to Sands Whitewater to check in for our rafting trip. Overall the experience was amazing. It was an easy going rafting trip down the Snake River. We decided easy going would be best because  I wasn’t sure if Noah would be quite big enough yet for a whitewater trip. It took about 3 hours and as far as the wildlife we saw mostly birds. We actually saw 10 bald eagles and 2 bald eagles nests. That was very fitting seeing as it is the 4th of July. Fun fact, we floated right past a ranch owned by Harrison Ford!

After the rafting trip, we looked around the Jackson Hole Town Square. It is several blocks of shops  & restaurants that are definitely geared toward tourists. We checked out a few, the kids were especially excited about the Yi-Pe-I-O Candy Co, got a picture by the famous antler arches then founds us a burger place to eat an early dinner.

Once we finished dinner we began our trip back north toward Grand Teton National Park. The Teton Mountains are stunning. We drove around a bit, visited the visitor centers (lost our National Park Passport book only to find it after back-tracking to a visitor center just before it closed), and got some great pictures in front of the Teton Mountains.

The entire day was good but it became epic (as Noah would say) just before we got back into Yellowstone National Park. There we saw a brown bear leisurely eating berries on the side of the road. Every one of us got super excited. We pulled over (along with several other cars) and watched him for about 5 min. Johnny was able to get some great pictures of the bear. I am just so happy that Noah finally got to see a bear. He has been on the lookout for 3 days now. I’m hoping it will not be the last one he will see.

Tomorrow we plan on driving north to see the Canyon area then we will drive back to Cody to watch the rodeo tomorrow night. For now, I am exhausted and ready for a good nights sleep.


Thursday, July 5, 2018

Today was a semi-take-it-easy day. We all slept in, which for JB meant about 6am, for me about 7am, M & N around 8am and L we forced out of bed 15 min before we left at 9am. We have been going non-stop for 6 days so it was nice to relax a bit and not set an alarm.

We started the day driving to the Canyon area to see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It is a huge canyon where the Yellowstone River snakes through and it has 2 waterfalls that are gorgeous. On our way there our drive took us through Hayden Valley. There were herds of bison in the fields along the side of the road. We also got another up-close view of a bison when one came meandering down the road right beside us. Macy commented, “at least he’s walking on the right side of the road”. LOL!!

Once we got to our destination we didn’t do any strenuous hiking, we just stayed on the paved trails between some overlooks. I got a bit woozy looking over the edge a couple of times. The canyon is definitely straight down! After we left the Canyon area we stopped by the Mud Volcano area. That was pretty cool! It is literally mud bubbling out from the ground. The part Noah like the most was the “Dragon’s Breath” cave. It is a cave that has steam coming out of it and the water boiling and spurting out. It literally looks like a dragon is breathing out of the cave.

We were back at our camper by 1pm ready to eat lunch and get rejuvenated for the next part of our day, a trip to Cody, Wyoming. We had driven through Cody on the way into Yellowstone but today we made time to spend half a day there. We had a good dinner at Bubba’s BBQ and then headed to the Cody Nite Rodeo. It was so much fun!! The thing I loved the most was seeing my kids’ reactions to everything. They each had different parts of the rodeo they liked the best. Mine and Noah’s favorite was the bull riding. It made for a long night, we pulled into our campground around midnight, but it was well worth it. Seeing my kids smile and laugh as much as they did tonight makes any 2-hour drive along windy roads at night worth it.

Tomorrow’s plan is to drive north to the Mammoth Hot Springs area.


Friday, July 6, 2018

What a day! We drove and drove and drove today. Our goal today was to go to Mammoth Hot Springs and to see as much as we could on the way there and on the way back. I think we definitely succeeded. We took the eastern part of Grand Loop Drive to head north. That loop took us through Hayden Valley again, where we saw a lot of bison. Then it led us on up to Tower Falls and the Tower-Roosevelt area. Tower Falls was beautiful and getting there was just a short little walk. Once we left that area we kept going north to Mammoth Hot Springs. I guess I should have done more research. I was surprised to find that it is actually a little town inside of Yellowstone along with having the Hot Springs terraces. Mammoth Hot Springs is the headquarters for Yellowstone National Park. It is filled with history as it is where the Army first set up camp when they were charged with protecting the area in its early days. Most of the buildings now house administrative offices and are homes for park employees. I found walking through the little town and reading about the park history more interesting than the actual terraces we went there to see. Not saying they were not beautiful and really cool. I’m just a big history buff. As Mammoth is only about 4 miles from the North Gate of Yellowstone and the Roosevelt Arch, we went on and drove north to see that gate and arch. The drive actually took us on into Gardiner, Montana. (How many states has that been so far….Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming & Montana) After we left Gardiner and came back into Yellowstone we started south on the west side of Grand Loop Drive. This loop took us down through the Norris Geyser Basin. We spent about an hour or so walking through the Geyser Basin. So far, Steamboat Geyser, which is found in this area, has been my favorite geyser to see. It is constantly roaring and spitting out steam. It was nice to get out and hike for a bit. The kids complained a little but nothing too bad. Once we finished up at Norris we kept going south to the Madison area junction. We found a little picnic area and ate the wraps I had packed up for us earlier in the day. That little dinner may have been one of my favorite parts of the day. While at Madison we checked the map and realized we were only 14 miles from the West Entrance Gate. Being as we were that close we had to go to it. Just outside the west entrance is a little town called West Yellowstone, Montana. It is a really cute downtown area that gave us an excuse to get out of the truck and walk around a bit. We checked out a few shops and got some ice cream for everyone. At this point, it was after 8pm and we were ready to head back to camp. We continued on the west loop to make our way back to our home away from home. We continued south on Grand Loop Road and it took us back through the Old Faithful and West Thumb areas. We also took some time to pull over and look up at the stars.  The beauty and magnificence of this place is not just in the rock formations or geysers, it is also in the wide open spaces and total darkness at night that lets you see what seems like every star in the sky.

We finally rolled into our campsite around 10:45pm. Now I’m tired and ready to get in bed to get a good nights sleep before our last full day of exploring Yellowstone tomorrow.


Saturday, July 7, 2018

Today was our last full day to explore Yellowstone National Park. We slept in…again, after all, we are on vacation. We left the camper around 9am and headed north to explore the Lamar Valley area and see the NorthWest Entrance. On the way, we saw 3 different bears!!! The kids were ecstatic. The rest of the drive was basically just enjoying the view. We played several games of 20 questions, made up names for the buffalo and the kids fought a little, of course. We purposely got back to the camper by early afternoon because tomorrow is a big travel day. So, once we arrived back I took advantage of the free afternoon to catch up on some laundry, Johnny got in a nap and the kids each watched a movie. We did take an hour or so this afternoon to ride our bikes to the actual “Fishing Bridge” that our campground is named for. This evening we cooked some dinner and did as much as we could to prepare to leave out early in the morning. Tomorrow we have 10-12 hours of driving ahead of us as we go to our next destination, Custer State Park in South Dakota. We still have another full week of vacation ahead of us!!


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Today was, thankfully, an uneventful day. I say thankfully because it was a travel day and you always want your travel days to be uneventful. We left Fishing Bridge RV Park around 6:30 this morning. We were sad to leave but we were also excited about the next part of our adventure. We drove 12 hours today and arrived in Custer, South Dakota just after 6pm. I wish I had more to say about the day but it was a typical travel day. If you’ve never traveled by RV let me give you a rundown:

  1. Wake-up at 5:30, get yourself ready and then drag the kids out of bed (keep in mind we prepared the night before by making sure everyone had their showers, laid out clothes and anything they wanted in the truck with them). Send the kids to the truck because you can’t get the camper road ready with kids sleeping in the camper or under your feet.
  2. Make sure the inside of the camper is “road ready”. That means moving anything that could fall to the floor and making sure any obstacles are out of the way of the slides you are getting ready to move in. Also, do a quick clean up of the morning mess, take out the trash, empty the coffee etc.
  3. Dump sewer and grey water tanks (thank goodness Johnny handles that part!). Once dumped, put tank cleaner in the tank and run some water into the tank.
  4. Bring in all slides (it’s just a push of a button).
  5. Unhook from the power source and water source. Stow away all hoses and cords.
  6. Back truck up to the trailer and hook up. There are way more details to that part but again, Johnny does that part so I am not good at explaining the technicality of it.
  7. Get on the road.
  8. Once on the road, you have to plan out your stops carefully. We spend a lot of time looking at AllStays (an awesome RV App that helps us find food, fuel & RV Parks), Google Maps and the Pilot Fuel App (again, great app for finding RV friendly fuel sites). Unlike a normal road trip, you can’t take just any exit that says it has fuel or food, instead, you have to make sure the convenience store, or sometimes just the street, can accommodate your rig (our camper is 35′ bumper to hitch, then add the truck length to that). That means that #1 you eat at a lot of truck stops and #2 if you can’t wait until the next truck stop for a bathroom you use Rest Areas or pull your rig over and use the bathroom you are carrying with you (TMI???? Sorry, it’s the truth).
  9. No matter what Google Maps says, add at least 2 hours to your travel time. Traveling with an RV means you need to take it slow and easy. Yes, the speed limit through part of Wyoming may have been 80 mph but we still drove no more than 65 mph. Speed and heat are not good on tires, you’d rather go slow than waste time on the side of the road changing out tires.
  10. Once you arrive at your destination, the work begins. You now have to get your camper backed in, level it, unhook from the truck and hook up the lights, water, and sewer (Logan is quickly learning how to help with all this).

This is just a basic rundown of a travel day. Depending on where we’ve been and where we’re going there will usually also be loading of bikes, lawn chairs and ice chests involved.

All in all, today was a good travel day. We made good time, only made a couple of stops and had a decent lunch at a Subway inside a Flying J truck stop. Tomorrow, we start exploring South Dakota! First stop, Wind Cave National Park.


Monday, July 9, 2018

Our first full day of sightseeing in South Dakota has been fun. We started the day early by going to Wind Cave National Park. It was neat, I have to admit that I personally like Blanchard Springs Caverns in Arkansas better but it was still neat going into a cave.

After we finished at Wind Cave we went a few miles down the road to Hot Springs, South Dakota. The kids got a kick out of that one, being that our hometown is Hot Springs, Arkansas. In Hot Springs we visited The Mammoth Site. It is an on-going dig site with hundreds of mammoth and other bones. If you have kids who are at all interested in dinosaurs or fossils it is worth the trip if you are in the area. Both Logan and Noah had a blast.

After visiting The Mammoth Site we grabbed a quick lunch at DQ then headed back north to Custer State Park. This area has both rolling hills filled with buffalo, prairie dogs, prong-horned antelope and many other animals along with towering granite spires. We drove the Wildlife Loop and then drove up the Needles Highway. The Needles Highway drive was probably my favorite of the day. The granite spires are beautiful and driving through the middle of them up a steep, curvy road is a bit of an adventure.

We finished our itinerary for the day around 4:30 pm so we came back to the camper to grill brats and hot dogs. I am thankful we had time today to relax around the RV park. The kids rode their bikes around the loop who knows how many times, we had a campfire and we played a family game of UNO.

Tomorrow, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse and a ride on the 1880 Train!


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

What a day! We started the day with an early morning ride on the 1880 Train. It is an old steam engine train that has been refurbished for scenic rides through the Black Hills. It travels from Keystone to Hill City. As you ride there is a narrator telling you all about the sites you are seeing. We also saw a lot of deer, a marmot and even a fox. We left out of Keystone and rode it up to Hill City. We did not take the time to look around Hill City as we had a full day ahead of us that we were ready to move on to.

Our next stop took us to Mount Rushmore. It is so much more majestic to see it in person than to see it in the history books. We spend some time looking around the museum at the complex and even watched a short film on the conception and implementation of the sculpture. The kids loved it though Noah was obsessed with talking about looking up the Presidents’ noses. I guess that is just 7-year-old boy humor.

Our final sight-seeing stop of the day was to Crazy Horse Memorial. It is another memorial being sculpted into the Black Hills though this one has been in progress for 60 years! So far the face is complete and the sculptors are now working on the arm and the horses face. The memorial site is also about a lot more than just the sculpture. It is dedicated to the heritage of the American Indian and it has a college, medical center etc there as well. There was a lot of information about the purpose of the memorial and it is definitely worth a stop to see.

Once we wrapped up our sightseeing for the day we came back to the RV Park to rest for a while. The kids rode bikes and watched some TV. I’ll admit, I even took a little nap.  We then finished our night with ice cream for dinner! We drove into the little tourist district here in Custer and found an ice cream parlor. We each had a treat and then walked around for a bit. It was a nice, slow, easy-going evening.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Our plan is to drive over to Wyoming to see Devil’s Tower and then back south to Deadwood, SD.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What a busy day!! We started the day with a 2-hour drive north to Wyoming to see Devil’s Tower. It was well worth the drive. It is an amazing sight. We took the time to walk the hiking trail closest to the tower and it was well worth it. Macy and Noah also did the National Park Service Junior Ranger program while we were there. They each completed a workbook and got their own ranger badges.

After we finished our sight-seeing at Devil’s Tower we drove an hour south back into South Dakota to go to Deadwood. It is a neat little town with a rich history. It was a gold rush town so of course, the town plays up that history and the shooting of Wild Bill Hickok that occurred there. We walked around the town, ate a couple of meals and were able to watch several reenactments that take place during the day. We concluded the night by watching a reenactment of the trial of Jack McCall, the man who shot Wild Bill Hickock.

Probably my favorite part of our day was doing an Old Time Photo of our family. I am a firm believer that every family needs to have at least one of these done at some point. Deadwood was the perfect place for us to do this. It is a wild west town, they had a great studio and we will always remember where we had the picture made. The boys got a kick out of being cowboys and Macy fell in love with the fluffy dress she got to wear.

We pulled into our campsite about 11pm this evening. I am worn out!!!  Tomorrow will be our last day of sight-seeing before we start our journey home.


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Today was our last day of exploring in South Dakota. We spent the day exploring Badlands National Park. It was amazing. It is by far my favorite thing I have seen in South Dakota. We only spent about 4 hours there because it is a 2-hour drive from our RV Park but we still had a chance to walk through and explore some of the formations. The best part was that they encourage you to get off the trail and really explore the area. The kids loved that they could climb all over the hills. Noah was jumping from hill to hill to hill. Now, this was just in the smaller formations. There were sometimes that I got a bit nervous as we would climb to the top of a formation and then it would be a deep valley going straight down. The kids weren’t as free to roam around in those areas. The formations are absolutely stunning though. The landscape can be grasslands on one side of the road and then canyons on the other side. It is a park I would recommend you make time to see if you are in the area.

We also made a stop by Wall Drug Store for a little souvenir shopping and an early lunch on our way to the Badlands. It is a neat store that is in the middle of nowhere. It made a name for itself by offering free ice water to travelers who were coming through the very sparse area. It just grew and grew and grew as more and more travelers would stop. Now it is a little mini-town with all kinds of different “stores” and eateries within the overall Wall Drug Store. It was worth the stop on the way.

We could have spent a lot more time in the Badlands but we have a long day of travel tomorrow so we made it a point to get back to the camper before 6pm. That has given us a chance to start packing up and for the kids to be able to play here at the campground a bit more. We have discovered that no matter how many things we go do or see, the kids still beg to have more and more time at the campground for bike riding and playing games.

Tomorrow we start our 2-day journey home. I’m sad it’s all coming to an end but we have made some wonderful memories over this last 2 weeks.


Friday, July 13, 2018

One of the joys I find in RV life is finding little jewels of campgrounds along the journey. We have stayed in some nice RV parks and we have stayed in some rough RV parks (namely one in Louisiana, insert chill here). Tonight we found a jewel here in Rock Port, MO.

We have had a long day of travel. We left Custer, SD at 6:30 am and we arrived in Rock Port, MO at 8:30 pm. Thankfully it was an uneventful day. Mostly just long, straight stretches across I-90 and then south on I-29.  We did come through a rain storm around Nebraska City but it wasn’t too terrible.

Back to my RV Park story. Johnny usually scouts out some options along the way leading up to our travels. When you are traveling by RV you just never know when or where you may end up stopping. We’ve lost money by making reservations too early and then not making it to our destination for one reason or another. Therefore, now we try to wait until later in the day to find a spot. I called the park Johnny had scouted out earlier about 3pm. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a site available. I then started looking along our route for another option. As I had mentioned above, I like to use the AllStays App and then I go to Google and check more reviews. That is how I came across the place we are right now, Rock Port RiversEdge Campground in Rock Port, MO. It is a quiet little place privately owned by a sweet couple who checked us in. It is literally in the middle of a cornfield. That just adds to the charm. It has a pool and a playground. We arrived just after a rainstorm and right at sunset. The kids played on the playground as the sun was going down. The sunset over the cornfields was beautiful.

Watching this sunset made me again think about how diversity and beauty of this country we live in. We have traveled almost 5000 miles, across 8 states and have seen everything from snow-covered mountains to sprawling fields of grain and corn. We have had temperatures ranging from 27 degrees to 105 degrees. We have seen wild animals galore. This country has so much to offer, I know I have only seen a small portion and I am ready to get out and explore more of it!

I guess my exploring will have to wait though. Tomorrow is the last leg of our return trip. We should arrive home late tomorrow night and then its back to reality.


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Final day!!! We hit the road at about 7:45 this morning.  The last stretch of a road trip always seems like the longest.  We actually had a very good day but we were all eager to get home. We arrived home around 7:30 pm. The kids literally ran into the house and hugged their beds.

I’m happy to be home but I can say BEST VACATION EVER!!!