Saturday, July 16, 2016 – Waupaca WI to Fargo ND
Welcome to the annual S and M family trip! Aw, it’s been so long (one year). We are very excited to be traveling to Yellowstone National Park this year. Everyone except Sarah, as she lost in her bid to go to Glacier NP yet again with a 4-1 vote (seriously, how can a 2 year old even vote??). Last night was a whirlwind of packing and scrambling to get everything done. Estimated departure time for today? 8 am. Actual time of departure? 9 am. That’s our best yet!
Now, keeping with previous trip blogs, we do document pretty mundane things that may be important later (they never are). We just like to record everything. Also when you are driving a billion miles a day, there is nothing exciting to talk about.
We happily pulled out of Waupaca and traveled to Stevens Point, stopping at Starbucks along the way. Drove through Wausau, Chippewa Falls (stopping at Culvers), and on to the westbound Menomonee I-94 rest area.
NOW! Kids, did you know that you can rate rest areas on Yelp and Google? Little known fact. We gave this one 2.5 stars. We were looking forward to unleashing the kids on the playground but found this instead:
We motored on and the kids were really good. Actually. They colored, played on ipads, watched the minions movie, and only fought a little. B no longer makes a gun motion at adults he is angry at, which is a success (he makes a claw motion instead, but we feel like it’s a parenting victory). We drove through the Cities with minimal traffic, and eventually stopped at the Middle Spunk Lake rest stop (otherwise known as the place we changed into PJs at 4 years ago – POOR decision). Great rest area (4 stars in Sarah’s book!).
We drove into Fargo at 5:30 which is totally reasonable and stayed at…. Wait for it…. The C’Mon Inn!! YES, TIS TRUE. We are big fans of the one in Bozeman, and why not stay at them everywhere???
Well, this one as well is advertised as having “5 HOT TUBS” on every billboard, so you can imagine the riff raff it attracts (besides us). Now this one is a bit shadier than the last one in Bozeman. Sarah saw a dude with tonic water and an empty liquor bottle sitting near the pool. At 6 pm! C’mon dude (see what we did there?). She shot him a look and when we all came back to use the pool a couple minutes later, the empty liquor bottle was hidden. The pool area also had a toddler pool, which Zoe of course hated and refused to go in, despite it having nice warm water and being perfect for Matt and Sarah to sit and rest in with her. She insisted on screaming and being entertained without the use of floats (ie, had to be carried) in the freezing cold big pool the entire time.
Kids were given PBJs for dinner and string cheese. They were wild. So Matt had google earthed the area near the hotel, and found some “green area” in this industrial/hotel area. So off we walked and let the kids run around in some kind of “natural area”. B found shards of glass and Z found some kind of industrial solvent in a spray bottle. Either way, they ran off their energy and went home and into bed.
Matt then picked up the real dinner for the adults – red beer and burritos from Romo’s Tacos. The burritos were great, and the red beer was delicious. The crowd in the atrium at the C’mon Inn: getting shadier by the minute. Sarah saw two dudes sitting at a table with two cases of beer and some empty bottles. Now think about this: would you sit at a Comfort Suites in the lobby and just drink for a couple hours? Probably not. Unlikely at best. Yet it is the norm at this glorious hotel.
Miles driven: 485.2
Beers drank: Lucky 13 – Mondo Large Red Ale – Laguinitas Brewing Company
Sunday, July 2017, 2016 – Fargo ND to Miles City MT
We awoke bright and early (remember, further North equal bright sunlight at ungodly early hours), ready to roar out of Fargo (or “Fart-go”, as B says, which you have to admit, is pretty clever for a 5 year old). We were downstairs eating our continental breakfast by 0700, along with several elderly people. Not terrible. Matt then loaded up the Queen Family Truckster/Prancer (have you seen the new Vacation movie? No? Don’t waste your money, it is so terrible it is awesome (besides, we own it, borrow it from us)).
During that time, the mythical Car Fairy came and dropped off presents for the kids. They were so excited to receive a Paw Patrol movie (ugh) and tiny airplanes (which were destroyed by the time we made it to Starbucks to pick up our real breakfast). For the record, the kids saw the amazon packages come in the mail and knew there were car fairy presents inside, yet kept asking questions about when she comes, and where she comes from, etc. Um, okay… I guess?
We were out of town in a flash, and onto I-94 west. North Dakota is a pretty cool state for driving – it seems boring, but actually has decent topography. Sarah got to drive which meant great music on the radio!! (picture entire family shaking theirs heads no). It was pretty hard to keep the truckster going 85-90 with the strong winds and a roof carrier, but Sarah was up to the task (but the speed limit was only 75…).
Matt was excited to stop at the world’s largest buffalo and what appeared to be a mini-Wall Drug near it, with little replica old timey type stores and train cars that had been placed in the middle of nowhere, for unclear reasons. Sarah spent her time people-watching the other sucker tourists who had gotten scammed and pulled off to take a look too. Whatever, the kids had fun playing on some playground equipment from the 1970s that wouldn’t pass code now and we used the bathrooms, and were off!
So we were driving along happily, and then saw a sign for the tallest sand hill crane in the world in Steele, ND. Duh, of course we have to stop and inspect it and take pictures. Shockingly, there was no one else around to take our picture.
I-94 travels in one straight line, and we headed into Bismarck for food. Figures Sarah picked the random Dairy Queen that was in the shadow of the North Dakota State Penitentiary. Literally. The kids acted like howler monkeys, and reminded us why we always get our food to go. ALWAYS. So if they act like monkeys they are at least at home. Anyway, after numerous threats about no dessert, we said screw it, it’s vacation, and gave them ice cream anyway. A theme to be repeated many times during this trip.
Then we came across the world’s largest cow. Now we went to this last year and there is no reason to repeat ourselves, right? Of course, Matt eggs the kids on, and they were all “We want to stop at the cow! COW!!!!”. So we had to drive up some damn ridge in the middle of nowhere, and then past the cow there is this treacherous little path up to the very top of a high ridge which of course we all had to do. In the wind. (picture a scowl-y faced Sarah)
And off we were again. We had to stop at Teddy Roosevelt National Park for like the eightieth (um, third) time and take our usual family photo. This year we wore our same clothes on purpose! Although there was a 25% chance that Matt and Sarah would have worn the same outfits as we only bring a selection of like 3-4 things on these trips. Well, we bring way more and wear the same things over and over. That’s the way we roll, folks. We had planned on driving the North Loop of the park, but seemed to be running later than we thought, even with gaining an hour for the time zone change. We think stopping at all the large creature statues may have put us behind.
Off we went to Miles City, Montana. Matt had made a reservation at a hotel that was clearly repurposed from a Holiday Inn to one that was locally owned. We had reserved the “two-room” Ambassador Suite, the most luxurious and classy of the suites (except for the Presidential Suite which did not have the requisite door between the two rooms as it was trying to be even classier). This was Donald Trump of hotel websites, with elegance and classiness mentioned multiple times. And we loved it! There was a cheese and sausage platter in the lobby, cookies, free bottled water (I know, right??) and the warmest hotel pool ever! Note: we will all get some horrible bacterial infection given the bathwater nature of that pool water, but we did not care. It felt great.
Kids ate PBJ and string cheese for supper (yes they will get scurvy, but they never want to eat any of the food we get them from other places anyway). We got take out from the Black Iron Grill, a local steakhouse. Sarah got a salad and macaroni and cheese which was great and Matt got a Montana-raised buffalo burger. Strategically, we had placed Noah and B in the bedroom in the king bed with Zoe in her Pack and Play, and we got the sofa bed in the living room area. After drinking some kind of beer Matt only purchased because it had an oil rig on it, we collapsed asleep.
Miles driven: 468.5
Beers drank: Bakken Bock – Bayern Brewing
Monday, July 18, 2016 – Miles City, MT to Bozeman, MT
We just have to say RIGHT THIS SECOND, Sarah is experiencing something she has waited ONE YEAR to do: the chance to drink a beer from Strong Medicine – “Strong Red Ale”. Everyone is allowed an opinion and hers is that this is her favorite beer. Wee!
So…. Today’s recap (keeping in mind there were two margaritas before this beer)….
Started the day on the sofa sleeper in Miles City. Kids were up bright and early (ugh) with bushy tails, and the morning began. We packed up all of our crap (hey, we’ve learned and most of our other “crap” was stored overnight in the car – we just bring in just a bag of swimming stuff, clothes for the first 3 days, and a cooler. And a pack and play. And all the kids’ shit. And on and on… You get it). We then headed down for an elegant and continental breakfast. This place did not disappoint – the MC hotel in Miles City rocks. There was a make your own omelette thing with explicitly written out instructions and portioned out veggies and cheese to put in it. Make your own Belgian waffle, natch – that’s pretty basic. And the coffee was drinkable. Plus there was a separate conference room with tables so the howler monkey children who were eating cereal off of the floor and knocking over chairs (that would be our children) didn’t disturb the other folk. As we made multiple trips back and forth between the hotel room, continental breakfast room, and the truckster to load up, we all became acquainted with a lovely housekeeper, who at one point told Sarah and Matt each separately about someone who went hiking in Yellowstone and was devoured by a bear (Sarah was gleeful, Matt was worried) and also ran out behind us in the parking lot waving an iPhone charger that we had forgotten. We didn’t have the heart to tell her we hadn’t fully taken our stuff out of the room yet. We left a nice tip. Thumbs up, Miles City!!
On the way out of town, we followed numerous emergency vehicles onto the freeway. Firetrucks appear to be able to hit 70 mph max, cop cars 90 mph, and the ambulance could do a cool 80 mph. No one knew if we were allowed to pass the firetruck as the speed limit was 80, so everyone did. We love Montana. Then we saw what everyone was heading to. There was a tipped over Budget rental truck, probably a 26 footer, on the eastbound freeway, with what appeared to be moving stuff scattered in the median and the roof was sheered partially off. There were some emergency vehicles there already. Matt was a bit freaked out as he remembers his parents and he driving a similar truck across the country to Washington. A warning to pay attention and we sure were awake after that.
Drove and drove. We looked for the rest stop that we saw a woman washing a cat on top of a car at 4 years ago, and were not disappointed when we found it (we could both picture it in our minds. But Sarah cannot remember where her goddamn car key is every day).
Drove into Billings around 11 am. Oil refineries and cowboys. It is not a pretty town (Matt edited Sarah’s description and this is the toned down version). The only redeeming thing was that Matt found Sarah’s most favorite beer (referenced above) at some random-ass gas station. Sarah quickly googled (while the kids were screaming loudly in the back) and it is NOT legal to have open intoxicants in MT. Anymore. So on we drive.
Just to the west of Billings it is gorgeous. We passed through multiple mountain ranges including the Beartooth and the… Somethings. We don’t know, and we are too lazy to look them up. Cuz vacation, you know. There were a lot though and so so pretty! With snow caps! Did we take pictures? No. Because our windshield is encrusted with exotic Montana bugs and we sure as hell weren’t stopping as the kids just kept screaming. Ah, day 3 of a long car trip…
Another 1-2 hours, and we were entering Bozeman! Back to the most perfect city ever. We were quite early, 1330, and of course the C’mon Inn (FIVE HOT TUBS) did not fail us and we were allowed early check in. We decided to get food to bring back and went to a place called Starky’s. Please see last year’s trip logs – again, Bozeman is awesome. Matt seriously had the best reuben in MT (he was doubtful of the advertisement but acknowledges it may be true – soft bread plus a great seasoning on the corned beef) and Sarah had a tomato bisque soup that was amazing. Damn you, excellent restaurants in Bozeman!
Kids voted on the pool and they all played in the pool for an hour or so and went back to the room to lay around and receive time outs repeatedly.
For the evening, we were totally psyched and went over to our friends’ Nic and Bill’s house! WOW, only 5 minutes from the C’mon Inn. It is so the perfect hotel. We grilled out, the kids played, Matt drank beer with Nic and Sarah drank delicious margaritas prepared by Bill, and we probably would have partied all night except that Z decided she was DONE around 2230 and we had to head back. What a wonderful evening!! They keep telling us all these wonderful reasons why Montana is an awesome state to live in. They for sure have us convinced to go river rafting with our kids (note: Matt is still not convinced that bringing a 2 year old and B down class one rapids (we really don’t know what those are, they are probably not scary at all, MATT) is a super great idea (note: Sarah thinks the fact that Matt and Noah get seasick is probably is bigger issue)). We will raft next time!
We aren’t moving though. J And Sarah is annoyed by all the delicious expensive restaurants that we would have to eat at all the time (Matt is not-so-secretly entranced by them). Plus, Sarah doesn’t downhill ski (Matt would like everyone to know he does). But Bozeman is surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides. We basically figured out no matter where your backyard faces, there is a range there. It is a pretty amazing town!
And tomorrow? Tool around town here and on to Yellowstone in the afternoon!!
Miles driven: 296.8
Beers drank: Good Medicine by Great Northern Brewery and The Juice Double IPA by Madison River Brewing