2016 Yellowstone – Part 4

2016 Yellowstone – Part 4

Monday, July…25?, 2016 – Rapid City, SD

More miracles this trip!  We awakened around 8 am!  Us and the kids.  We aren’t sure what magical combination of events led to this, but we suspect a combination of running them ragged in the pool last night and more importantly, placing them in the room in the suite that has no window and is pitch black.
Matt gathered some continental breakfast wares for us (fruit loops, unflavored donuts (strangely not bad), bananas, coffee) and then we were off in the car!  The car fairy had made yet another appearance (and now needs to hit a Target tonight otherwise there will be no fairy appearance tomorrow).  First to Starbucks, for better coffee.  Then we drove the streets of Rapid City to take in the sights (aka, hacking and playing Ingress (this is a loser phone game for losers that we adults (and Noah) play at home and while traveling) – please see Sarah or Matt if you would like to play as we get badges if we can recruit others – then you get sucked into our world too – evil laugh).
We made our way up to Dinosaur Park, which overlooks the City.  Like the rest of Rapid City, it is a known tourist trap that starts out as free, until you enter their little shop and pay outrageous prices for rocks in a bag (the floor of our backseat is also scattered with tiny velvet bags and hoards of polished rocks that occasionally are thrown at each other) or an excavator with a dinosaur head on it.  Either way, there are these giant outside dinosaurs made of rebar and concrete that kids can crawl on.  Also, it is always 90 degrees plus in Rapid City.  At all times.  ANY TIME WE HAVE VISITED.  The sky is clear, with a merciless sun beating down on you.  The kids did enjoy looking at the dinos, though.
After procuring our dinosaur merchandise, we continued on to Mount Rushmore.  We drove up through Keystone where we ironically saw a person-sized Minion wood carving AS we were watching the Minions (gunned it past that one, that’s the last thing we need strapped aside our roof carrier all the way back to Wisconsin).   Last time we went to Mount Rushmore was 4 years ago and we went at night, when it was only 80 degrees, and it was a tad crowded, but overall not terrible.  This time was terrible.  We are sure our patriotic founding fathers would have been not super proud of all the American kids screaming about how hot it was (a billion degrees), parents placating them with ice cream, people playing Pokemon on their phones, and those goddamn foreign tourists with their selfie sticks.  ARRGHHHH!!!  Those goddamn sticks!!!!
Zoe is so done with family photos
5 mint chocolate chips here
And smiles again

No one was happy until we ate overpriced food on a steaming hot patio and then all ate our ice cream.  After that we got the hell out of there.  We took a wrong turn though and got to see a cool profile view of Washington in the mountain!  THEN we got the hell out of there.


Then we decided we were DONE.  Of course, Z fell asleep at that very moment.  We drove around until she woke up, then went back to the hotel.  We all played in the pool and it was fantastic – Matt had read somewhere that the pool fills up quickly in the evening and the best time to go in was in the afternoon, and we did have it to ourselves.  It was a deep pool – where the slide drops you in is 6′ deep.  Of course Zoe had to go down because her brothers were.  Matt is proud to say she went down at least 20 times in his lap and never got her head underwater once.


Matt holding Zoe – Matt’s under the water somewhere
Sarah coming down the slide and B waiting at the bottom

We then got showered up and went to eat at Outback, which was a block away.  The kids were only kind of horribly behaved (except for Noah, who IS pretty well behaved) and Sarah pounded a frozen margarita.  Back to the hotel to misbehave and fight and play on ipads for the next couple of hours!  Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings…

For the record: you can see other families slowly self-destructing with the attractions of Rapid City.  Hell, an older couple came into Outback and told the waiter that they had just driven in from Casper Wyoming and they had THE LOOK on their face that we had yesterday when we arrived, and promptly ordered booze.  Also our hotel seems nice but it a little sketchy.  The toilet makes a funny sound that initially frightened us, but we’re used to it now.  The pipes connected to the shower made a noise so ominous the first time we used them that Sarah and Zoe looked at each other and Zoe moved herself to the back of the bathtub and just kept pointing at the faucet and looking worried.  Lastly, someone ripped the batteries out of our smoke detector and it is just hanging open without any.  Eh.  It’s freaking Rapid City, it could be worse.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016 (if I am totally off a day by this point, so be it) – Rapid City, SD (STILL)

Everyone awoke around 7 am today – it was glorious.  There was a thunderstorm moving through and options for recreation were carefully evaluated.  We decided on Reptiles Gardens after a delicious (relatively, when compared with eating nothing) continental breakfast.  Matt realized last night the only reason B wanted to go here was because he remembered the gift shop from last year.  And Matt was right.
Either way, we motored over there.  It is still the #1 attraction on TripAdvisor in Rapid City, and we love it!  We are not zoo people and have big issues with animals in captivity, instead of out in nature where they can be eating people and free and all, but this is a really well done place.  It is in the Guinness book of world records for most reptiles (or something, we didn’t actually check why).  It has tons of snakes, alligators, lizards, etc and all are well kept areas. The flowers and orchids are amazing!  Sarah recognized numerous tropical house plants she has killed from over the years (bromeliads, orchids, etc (for the record, Matt would like to point out that our Bird of Paradise is still barely hanging on after all these years)).

OF course, the biggest attraction, same as last year, was the large sandbox.


We pet the turtles, and the prairie dogs were all out this year, which are our favorite!



Every time the bubble picture


THEN the children lost it and had to be escorted in the gift shop, where Zoe went totally crazy.  They were then hauled out to the parking lot.  A wonderful morning for all!

Then we picked up subs and proceeded to attraction #2 for the day, the South Dakota Air and Space Museum!  Well, first Matt drove up to the actual gates of the air force base because we turned too soon and the soliders with the guns had to tell us how to get to the museum (NOT horribly embarrassing at all, we promise (B: “Why do they have guns???”)).

So then we took the correct turn in – it was like a combination of Matt and Sarah’s esoteric interests that neither shares!  Matt loves military aircraft (ugh, right?  Like Sarah can sit through another day at the EAA) and Sarah loves the Cold War and nuclear stuff (like Matt can sit through ANY viewing of “The Day After”).  So this museum had all these old aircraft outside which Matt loved, including one he had never seen in person before (Canberra something) and Sarah got to turn in her driver’s license for a security check and go tour a former Minuteman II missile on a real Air Force Base!  This is one of the few air force bases that civilians are allowed on, so that was pretty cool.  Noah and Sarah got to go on a one hour tour (although to be fair, 15 minutes of it was them running security checks on us – “good news” said the tour guide, “you all passed – no criminal elements on this tour today”).  We got a tour of the base and then got to get off the bus and go down into the missile silo.  Noah was bored out of his mind.  Meanwhile, Matt, Z, and B became quite acquainted with the gift shop.   A good day for all!
B-1B at the entrance. One in service took off and flew overhead while we were there
Spinning the wheels of a B-1B. There were 35 aircraft and the kids tried to spin the wheels on every one. Most actually moved, too. (Some of the propellers did too – that was scarier)
B next to a Minuteman missle
The Minuteman missle in the silo
Noah in the control room. It looks like he’s planning something..

We headed back to the hotel, although Matt had a crazed look on his face and kept saying, what should we do next?  The kids all kept yelling “pool”!  (even Z kept saying “bool”). So we went to the pool.  And it was awesome.  Sarah brought Z illegally into the hot tub and met two nice guys touring the west on their Harleys, one of whom had a son who is a first year med student at UW (seriously, what are the chances??).  They were former military and couldn’t believe that civilians were allowed onto the nearby Air Force Base, even as part of a tour.  That made the missile tour even cooler!

We then ate a buffet of food (aka, whatever crap was in the fridge and will get tossed tomorrow if we don’t eat it today).  The children enjoyed string cheese, macaroni, broccoli and carrots, and peanut butter cups.  We then needed to leave the hotel because the kids were all fired up.  We drove randomly to downtown Rapid City looking for a park.  We found a sketchy park full of redneck trucks and drove away quickly.  We just decided to park downtown, which was full of people on their iphones playing Pokemon.  There were 12 people hanging around one random corner alone.  Get a job, you lazy teenagers!  (and 20 and 30 year olds, based on the crowd)
We found a great park, Memorial Park, and it was excellent with lots of really “unique” playground equipment.  Highly recommended if you ever are in Rapid City with kids.  We let the kids run off some energy and walked back downtown, surrounded by people stumbling about playing Pokemon.  Zoomed back home and wrestled the kids to sleep.  Then Matt picked up burgers for us and some frozen mixed drinks and beer and we called it a night!
Spins around. Awesome sauce.

Goodbye, Rapid City, FOREVER (who are we kidding, we’ll be back again..)


Wednesday, July 27, 2016 – Rapid City, SD to Worthington, MN (where?  Yeah, we wondered, too)

And off we were from Rapid City!  We all picked up some Starbucks and we were off!  The car fairy made her requisite appearance, and the S and M family hit the road.  The plan was to skip the Badlands (please god, don’t make us go there again DURING a 500 mile drive) but TO GO to Wall Drug, as the most delicious donuts in South Dakota can be procured there.  And we followed the plan exactly.  There was some weeping as we passed the US Minuteman Missile National Monument (geez, Sarah, how many Cold War missiles do you need to see?), but we journeyed on.  Strangely, although the road is straight for all a zillion miles, it still is not as bad as Wyoming.

In bad news, we noted our windshield was cracked.  We are pretty sure Wyoming is still winning with its ability to crack our windshield during each trip, beating South Dakota 2-1.  We stopped at a rest area 184 miles east from Rapid City and ran into people from our hotel that we saw at the pool every day – they recognized us too.  South Dakota is sad that way.  We picked up McDonalds (ugh) in Chamberlin, SD.  And then Matt got this crazy look on his face and was all, we should see how far we can drive today!!  He was gently pulled back into reality (smacked on the back of the head by Sarah) and we stopped in a town called Worthington, MN, one hour further than Sioux Falls, which is where we usually stop.  There is not much there.  We stayed at a Holiday Inn and had Pizza Hut for supper and swam in the cold pool.  This town and hotel felt strangely soulless to us.


Miles driven: 399 miles

Hours spent trying to get Zoe down at a halfway decent bedtime and pretending that we didn’t really need to adjust to Central time instead of Mountain time: 1.5 soul sucking hours


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Worthington, MN to Waupaca, WI

Well, the car fairy fucked up this morning.  On the very last leg of this grand journey, the kids were escorted out to the car, and were devastated to find no trinkets in their seats.  The car fairy, realizing he had screwed up, asked Sarah to take the kids on a walk in the front of the hotel.  Again, it is a testament to a kid’s desire for goodies that they will choose to ignore what we were obviously doing.  (“look kids, someone is washing the windows of the pool area, let’s take a closer look”).  We journeyed back to the car and the goods had materialized.  We motored on (sans Starbucks, for gods sake, Worthington, get it together – in Matt’s defense if we had driven further to Albert Lea, there would have been a Starbucks.  Or one in LaCrosse.  Or Stevens Point.  Just saying.), and hit the highway.  We stopped at Arby’s for lunch (the kids devoured a box of random Ritz like crackers they found in the car and needed nothing else for lunch, nor did they want anything else) and hit up Starbucks in LaCrosse.  There is nothing else to say about this day.  Drive, drive, drive.  But still, Wyoming was worse.

We greatly enjoyed our trip this year!  For any thoughts on Glacier NP versus Yellowstone NP, especially with kids, or long distance driving, contact Matt and Sarah.  We have tons of thoughts and are HAPPY to share opinions, most of which are unsolicited.  Sarah is also preparing several Appendices to this travel log (appendices?  Yeah baby, you heard us right!)

Miles driven: 375 miles the last day

For the trip:

Times watching The Minion Movie – at least 20.  Yes, 20.  20.  Maybe more.

Total miles driven: 3363

AND if you have read this far, contact Matt or Sarah for your treat/reward for basically enduring, we mean enjoying, this vacation with us.  😉

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