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Tech Lovin’ Mom Goes on Vacation

November 11, 2018

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Grand Canyon Family

I love vacations, even the planning aspects of vacations.  I get to use all my tech tools to pick the best vacation destination, find the best deals, and then plan it all out, usually down to what we are doing each day.  I use apps that may be specific to the destination, online map software, and of course Google for all my searches. 

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This past summer, my husband wanted to take an RV vacation out west.  We did not have an RV.  I looked into renting an RV and driving it out West or even flying out West and then renting an RV.  Both options were too cost prohibitive.  So we started looking for a good used RV.  We found one at a price we could afford that needed a little TLC.  We got it all fixed up and purchased what we would need for our 21 day RV trip out West.

I spent a great deal of time mapping out our trip with some software from the Good Sam RV website.  I had mapped out our route and all of the campgrounds we could use.  I had loaded all the apps for what I had planned.  I was ready with all my tech planning.  Luckily, I also printed all the maps, campground and points of interest we wanted to visit.  Because once we crossed the Mississippi River, my tech lovin’ family was increasingly out of luck in the technology department.  More often than not, our phones read “NO SERVICE”.  If we had service, it was usually just cell service and no data service.  I had to resort to a technology of old….map reading. My parents went with us in their own RV. We resorted to using walkie talkies to communicate.

Badlands, South Dakota

We went up through St. Louis, Kansas City and Sioux Falls on our way to our first real stop at the Badlands in the Dakotas.  The Badlands is a National Park that we visited.  It is a barren but beautiful wasteland. We took an auto tour through the Badlands and stopped off at some of the overlooks. 

Big Horn Sheep in the Badlands

At one of the overlooks, we found a herd of big horned sheep walking along the steep cliffs.  If you ever go to the Badlands, make sure you stop off at Wall Drug along the way.

Crazy Horse Memorial

The next day we visited the Crazy Horse Memorial.  It is the world’s largest mountain carving located in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  While there, we could see the workers on the monument still carving out the image.  The monument was started in 1948 and is still far from complete.  Besides the huge carving, it also has an enormous museum containing a large collection of art and artifacts of over 300 native nations.

Mount Rushmore

Later that same day, we visited Mount Rushmore, which is part of a national park.  While not as big as the Crazy Horse Memorial, it was still impressive. 

Mount Rushmore Driller - Nick Clifford

There is a museum about the carving and the four presidents featured in the monument. While there, we got to meet one of the craftsmen that actually worked on the monument years ago. His name was Nick Clifford and he was a driller.

While in the Black Hills of South Dakota, we stayed just outside Rapid City in a nice RV campground called Crooked Creek Resort and RV Park.  I was one of the nicer RV parks in which we stayed. The boys loved it as it had a pool, teepees, and a creek for fishing.  Thank goodness for the creek because we could not get any over the air TV channels and our RV site was too far away from the buildings to pull a good WiFi signal.  Again, no technology use for us.

On our way to Yellowstone, we stopped in the town of Deadwood, South Dakota.  We really enjoyed visiting and found a great diner called Mustang Sally’s that had good WiFi and great food.  We all tried to get our Internet fix while eating there.

Deadwood is known as the town where Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed. The saloon where he was shot is still standing as is the saloon where his killer was arrested. You can tour the saloons, but they charge admission so we did not go in.

We finally made it to Cody, Wyoming and our RV park Yellowstone Valley Inn and RV Park  in Wapiti Valley.  We stayed there for four nights.  Snake River bordered the back of the RV park. Again, TV channels were sparse and WiFi was slow.  But we were excited to visit Cody, WY and Yellowstone National Park.  For the next week or so, the only technology we had that would get a lot of use was the RV itself and my DSLR Canon camera.  

In Cody, Wy, we visited and ate at the original Irma Hotel that was built by William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody.  The hotel was named after his daughter.

The beautiful cherry wood bar is original to the hotel and was a gift to William Cody from Queen Victoria. After our meal, we were treated to a shootout beside the historic hotel.  Later that evening, we attended the Cody Stampede Rodeo, a rodeo that is held nightly throughout the summer in Cody.  It was definitely the best rodeo I have ever attended.

The next day we made our first visit to Yellowstone National Park.  I was amazed at the sheer size of Yellowstone. We had planned two full days in Yellowstone and that was nowhere near long enough to see even half of it. The Grand Loop is 154 miles long and it is laid out in figure eight with a northern and southern loop.  On the first day, we toured the southern loop entering through the eastern gate.  We visited many of the geysers and basins including Old Faithful.

We saw so many bison, we quit counting. 

We saw elk, pronghorn, deer, eagles, a coyote, and hawks. 

This is the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It has an upper and lower falls as part of the 1,200 foot deep canyon.  It was amazing. We saw quite a variety of landscapes.  There are no words to adequately describe the beauty of the park.

The second Yellowstone day, Greg wanted to go in via the northern gate by going through Beartooth Pass in Southwest Montana.  It is a 68 mile drive over the Beartooth Mountains.  The road reaches 10,947 feet in elevation at its peak.  When we reached the summit, it started snowing and keep in mind, this was June.  The road is closed to all traffic during the winter.  We watched downhill skiers go down the side of the mountain.  By the time we were going down the other side, our rental car was covered in snow.  It was an amazing drive into Yellowstone’s north gate.

Knowing that Beartooth Pass would be high in elevation, my mom had told me to stay hydrated to combat altitude sickness. I drank a lot of water, but had no idea that there were only two places that had restrooms. By the time we made it to the summit, I was ready for a restroom break, but there was nothing but a sign at the summit. Greg knew that there was a little market on the other side of the mountain, so we kept driving to get to that market where we were sure there would be restrooms. I thought I would die before we got there and was threatening to have Greg pull over on the side of the road. By the time we pulled up to the market, it was snowing pretty good and about 32 degrees. Since it was June, we just had some thin jackets with us. We got out at the market to find out that they had ONE pit toilet for everyone’s use. We just happened to pull in behind a motorcycle gang (a group of Harley riders). They all needed the restroom too, so I got in line behind a bunch of bundled up Harley riders and stood there shivering and waiting my turn. Finally, one nice guy had pity on me and let me go before him. Greg and the boys found lots of hilarity at my expense. The Top of the World Market has interesting history as well as it used to be a bar where the opening of the road was celebrated each year.

The northern loop of Yellowstone is just as amazing as the southern loop.  The northern loop has the amazing Mammoth Hot Springs.

This is one of our favorite pictures from our trip. The boys hate that I take so many pictures of them so every now and then, I let them take a funny one.

We saw many more animals the second day including several more grizzly bears including a mom and her nearly full-grown cub.  This is one of Alex’s favorite pictures because that is his shoulder and arm on the right side of the picture. He likes to allow people to believe that he was in mortal danger being that close to the bear. What you cannot see is that he is actually hanging out the window of our rental car. Greg’s foot was on the gas ready to take off if the bears got any closer. The second bear was on the other side of the car.

After turning in our rental car back in Cody and leaving the RV park, I discovered how much I had appreciated the Sirius Satellite Radio that was included with our rental while we were visiting Yellowstone.  We could not even get a radio signal most of the time, much less a data signal for our cell phones.  There was no over the air radio at all inside Yellowstone.  We spent long stretches of time with no radio as we drove from Yellowstone to our next destination, Bryce Canyon in Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park is a beautiful place.  They have a shuttle that took us from our RV park, Ruby’s Inn RV Park and Campground, into the National Park.  You could ride the shuttle from one point of interest to another. 

We learned that a hoodoo is a spire-shaped rock formation and there were lots of them.  In fact, Bryce Canyon has the largest concentration of hoodoos in the world.  We walked down into one of the naturally formed amphitheaters and got very winded walking back up the steep hiking trail. We were not used to being so high in elevation for such an extended period of time.

The final destination of our Western RV Trip was the Grand Canyon National Park.  It is an awe-inspiring place.  We spent one afternoon and the next day in the park. 

The first afternoon, we visited the watchtower.  (The picture is a building near the watchtower.)

Jake had to have his own death-defying picture. It looks like he is sitting right on the edge, but there is actually another good sized ledge that his feet are resting on. I was amazed at the lack of railing along most of the canyon.  The only time you found railing was at the car pull-offs or at a building like the watchtower.

The tiny dots in the Colorado River are two rafts of people on a rafting tour.

The second day we started as early as possible because it was June and it was HOT.  We took a shuttle from our Camper Village RV park to the Grand Canyon National Park.  It let us off at the visitor’s center and we decided to hike the South Rim Trail.  We had no idea the trail we had chosen was three miles with very little shade and very few opportunities for bathrooms.  We were somewhat prepared with a small backpack full of six water bottles. 

This trail went right along the edge of the canyon and was breathtaking.  However, it was really hot and before long, all of our water was also warm.  Once we made it to the Bright Angel Trailhead, we took the shuttle up to Hermit’s Rest.  We ate lunch there and found a book called Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon. (Amazon Affiliate Link) . It is all about how many people die or need to be rescued because they did something stupid like getting too close to the edge and fall off or decide to hike down into the canyon and get lost or don’t take enough water and food.  The day we were there, the temperatures were in the high nineties and we were told it is much hotter down in the canyon with temps reaching upwards of 110-115 degrees.  It is definitely a place that is beautiful but must be respected.

On the way home, Greg had to stop in Winslow, Arizona and go stand on a corner. It was such a fine sight to see.

While we all suffered from tech withdrawal, this was still one of the best vacations we have ever been on.  I highly recommend visiting Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, but maybe not in the same trip.  I hope to one day go back and spend more than two days in Yellowstone and go back to the Grand Canyon when it is not so hot and maybe hike down into the canyon.

Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon (Amazon Affiliate Link)

Death in Yellowstone (Amazon Affiliate Link)

Tech Lovin' Mom Goes on Vacation
Tech Lovin’ Mom Goes on Vacation

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