Friday, June 28, 2013

Day Eight - Final Stretch

Knowing that today we would only be driving, no one was in a terrible rush to get into the car. Today was also the only day I didn't plan because up until the night before, I didn't know if we would be staying at a hotel somewhere or driving through the night. Somewhat rested and full of hotel breakfast (yum?), we got on the road around 9am and headed east towards the South Dakota/ Minnesota border.

After 5.5hours of driving, we got to get out, stretch our legs along the side of the road, do our cross the border video, and jumped back in the car. Next planned stop was a gas station in South Sioux City, Nebraska (North Sioux City is in Iowa). Now, when I looked up the cheapest gas on my little gasbuddy app, it said nothing about how sketchy the place was. When we pulled up, a fellow customer had his music blaring on some song with N****r as every other word (but he was black, so it wasn't racist, right?). Then, when we went inside to use the facilities, we were greeted with all the hard alcohol and bongs you could ever desire... or not. At this point I wasn't sure if this was a gas station or some sort of undercover drug house. Freaky! Needless to say, we didn't spend much time here. Back on the road again!

Now, it's hard to explain our route today so I decided to do a screen shot of Google maps.

 It is the quickest route from point A to B with the exception of crossing the border into Minnesota. After getting gas, the remainder of the trip was fairly uneventful. At one point in Missouri, my parents pointed out a road sign directing us towards Oregon: "Ariel, did you send us in the wrong direction?" For a split second, I thought I had!

About an hour later, a deer dashed in front of the car. Jaz and Clarke were reading/ playing games, Blake and I were watching a movie together on dad's phone (Jock The Hero Dog... yeah), and mom and dad were intently watching the road and darkening sky. All I saw was... the road. Thankfully dad has a quick reaction time and narrowly missed the suicidal deer. We nervously tried to laugh it off but after that, we were all a bit on edge that another one might appear (mom more than any of us). As the sky darkened, we had the lovely opportunity to drive through the tail end of a storm complete with lots of lightening. Compared to the lightening storms I've experienced and enjoyed in Oregon, I was a bit terrified of this one. The rest of the trip was quiet, though, as Blake and I finished our movie then tried to sleep.

We made our final stop of the day at the new house at 2am. I honestly thought this day would never come... or maybe just hoped that it never would. In the brief time that we were there (mom was the only one who got out to get the mail), I surveyed the house. It was just as I had expected it though it all seemed surreal. In 4 days I leave my family here to go back to Oregon. I'm not really sure what to call home anymore. Newberg is home because my own little family is there and Albany is my hometown because that's where I was born and raised but Arkansas. I don't know if I'll ever call Arkansas home though it will now forever be close to my heart with those most dear to me, living here. Today we actually get to see the house, meet some of the friends that have been taking care of my dad these last few months, and start the process of moving them in. Dear readers, live long and prosper, wherever you call home.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day Seven - Rushing

Unlike every other morning, mom and I were unable to wake, grab coffee and breakfast, and update our blogs. In fact, we didn't even know the password to the hotel until 30minutes before we left - only enough time to start uploading pictures and typing up my blog. We packed up what we could, woke the boys (who had to stay in another room since each room only had 1 bed), and prepped ourselves for another day of driving. At this point we hadn't heard form the movers so we didn't know if we'd be staying in one more hotel (most likely in Sioux Falls, SD) or driving through the night. Just before leaving the hotel, I left a small note for the housekeeping.

We saw this the night before on the nightstand, so I added to it: "Tip: Don't forget the dirty towels behind the bathroom door again"
Yeah, when we got ready to take showers, we found a dirty towel hanging behind the bathroom door. Yuck! We got a good and tired chuckle out of it and headed out to find some breakfast (since the hotel didn't offer anything more than bland coffee). My yelp suggestions are being turned down more and more often; we ate at McDonalds. As with every meal that requires straws, Clarke and I have attempted to hit each other with the wrappers (by shooting them off with the straw). Most of the time, my water doesn't require a straw so Clarke has been much more successful than me. Since we were eating on the road this time, I attempted to turn around (Clarke has sat behind me the entire trip) and shoot Clarke (I missed). Jaz called my name (also sitting in the back seat) and when I turned around, my right eye was met with a very aggressive straw wrapper. Shot in the eye! Thankfully the scenery outside remained the same for the next few hours or I would've missed how gorgeous Wyoming is.

Driving through sharp curves for the first hour, mom continued reading her book to us and before we arrived at our lunch spot, she had finished. Satisfied with the ending, we sat back and napped, read our own books, and listened to music. As I said earlier, Yelp meals have become no more so lunch was Subway for most and Burger King for the rest. We were hoping to save some time, since we had left late again, by eating on the road but when we got to Subway the line was crazy long and the "sandwich artists" took forever. Oh well, we were Alien mountain bound (also known as Devil's Tower).

Growing up, my family loved watching scifi movies and that includes Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We of course had to stop before making it to the mountain to reenact the beginning of the movie.

The picture is blurry because it is just a freeze frame from the video I took of him shaping his mashed potato mountain
There were some huge dandelions
Since we didn't have as much time as we had wanted, we only had time to do a short hike to the base of the mountain before heading back down for another 2 hour drive (including crossing into South Dakota).

For some reason, I really expected the back side to look different than the front
Nice facial hair!
Finally, we made it to Crazy Horse. Now Crazy Horse is similar to Mount Rushmore in that it is a face carved into the mountain. However, there are some stark differences: Mount Rushmore was federally funded, represents the growth of America, and only took a few years to complete. Crazy Horse on the other hand is funded primarily by admission (not federally, at all), represents the Native American culture, and was started in 1948... still not even close to being done. Eventually, Crazy Horse will not only be the face it is right now but the upper half of the Indian it depicts and the horse he is riding. Current work is being done on the hand holding the horse's mane. Since our "America the Beautiful, National Park Annual Pass" doesn't cover admission to see Crazy Horse, we had to enjoy the mountain from a near by parking lot.

If you look close enough, you can see the profile of the face and, the flat part stretching out from it will eventually be the hand
Only stopping in the parking lot to take a picture saved us the time we needed to get back on track. We made our way to dinner (which I gave up planning meals at this point, assuming everyone else would be too), which ended up being a small pizza place located in a strip mall. On our way, we actually got to see Mount Rushmore from the road and were pleasantly surprised by its size. The kids all thought it to be small but mom and I found it bigger than we expected. More on that later, though.

Backside of Mount Rushmore
At dinner, we found out from the movers that they would be at the new house to unpack on Saturday so decided to that we would stay the night at a hotel. Reservations were made for a nearby Marriott (using dad's points) so we wouldn't have to be driving in the dark at all. Also at dinner, there was a pin board map marking where various people were from. This wasn't the first of these that we had seen from our journey but it was the first that didn't have a pin in Albany (hometown) or Newberg (my current home). Jaz and I made our mark in Keystone, South Dakota.

White pin for Newberg and red for Albany
Our last official stop of the day and, really, the trip - Rushmore!

First look!
Walking along the trail to get a closer look
Well, hello Mr. Washington
Clarke, reading up on his favorite president, Lincoln
Posing like the presidents, though I don't think Roosevelt did the duck face
Sibling selfie!
We had a lot of fun posing around the monument but, as it started to get dark, we decided to head to our hotel (only 30 minutes away). I wanted to stay for the light show but, I'll be honest, it had nothing to do with feeling especially American that day. I'm saddened that at this point, our journey to Arkansas is over and I wanted to just slow down at this last stop and spend just those last few moments with my family. However, I also recognized that everyone, including myself, was extremely tired and ready for bed. I know there's still time to spend with them... like the 15 hours we're about to spend in the car together, but it just doesn't seem like there's enough. Monday night I fly back to Oregon, leaving them in the new home - a day I am most certainly not looking forward to. Well, next time you hear from this family, that's where we'll be: Fort Smith, Arkansas. Until then, friends, live long and prosper!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day Six - Yellowstone

After getting in so late the night before, we were all slow at getting moving. Especially since it was the first night there was a bed for everyone to lie in (though Blake still insisted on sleeping on the floor). We headed out around 9 am but made our first stop be gas and some supplies (ex. Motion sickness pills, chap stick, and lots of water).  Putting us almost 2 hours behind the original schedule, we finally left West Valley, UT at 9:45 am. It put us all in high spirits to see green and mountains again and we all expressed the desire to have driven the day before in full sunlight in order to see the mountains we passed through.

Utah scenery
The mountains we crossed the night before

 Aside from Four Corners, up to this point we had only cross one state line a day. Today, however, we crossed into Idaho, then Montana (for maybe 30 minutes), and finally into Wyoming. We're getting pretty good at the quick stop, dance across border, jump, and then back into the car. By the end of the trip, we'll be pros!

Mom was born in Idaho and then moved to Oregon at a really young age
After 4 hours of driving, we opted to skip out on my yelp restaurant in order to eat sooner (since we were behind, we wouldn’t be able to have lunch until 3pm) and at a familiar place – Applebees. We spent the meal laughing and joking with one another, getting odd looks from the people around us. Finally, we made the last 2 hours of driving to make it to Yellowstone national park. Along the way, mom entertained us (as she did the night before) by reading her book out loud – the Hangman’s daughter. 

You’d think that we’d all be annoyed and bored but when she starts reading, we are all ears to hear what happens next. I thought about this on the road yesterday: All my life I have heard about the national monuments and other sights we’ve seen and always desired to see them. Now that I am on this road trip with my family doing just that, those sights are not my favorite part of the trip. Its the laughing and joking with one another, its finding things out about my family that I never knew before, it’s the conversation about who the bad guy might be (in the book) that makes this trip as fantastic as it is. When I first started planning this trip, I reminded my family that it’s not about the destination (though that is obviously important) but about the journey. I have now come to realize just how true that is.

Once in Yellowstone park, while driving towards Old Faithful, we kept ours eyes peeled for the different wildlife. I can’t explain why but I was rather eager at seeing animals besides the occasional bird or pampered dog that we saw. Passing an open field, we spotted a few deer and just that boosted our mood exponentially. Not knowing where exactly Old Faithful was in relation to the parking lot, we began walking towards some buildings. A nice lady getting into her car informed us that the geyser would be going off in the next 10 minutes and was located at the opposite end of the parking area. Concerned that we would miss it and have to wait another 2 hours, we ran in the direction pointed out. Oh gosh, we must’ve looked ridiculous! When we got there, the geyser didn’t even go off for another 15 minutes. Not only that but perhaps the most exciting part of it going off was the excitement of the crowd every time it began to show activity.

"Sooo, what's supposed to happen?"
There it goes!
 When it was all over the feeling was very much so, “well that happened; moving on”. The next 30 minutes were spentin the gift shop searching for just the right trinket to represent our entire day at Yellowstone (though we had yet to experience that).

After staring at a map for another 15 minutes, we finally decided to head towards Mammoth Hot Springs. It should've only taken us 45 minutes but there was an unexpected obstacle - A huge Bison decided to go for a stroll in our lane. It easily became the best part of the day complete with butt jokes and laughs (mainly at how terrible a photographer my mom was being and how excited other people were).

At one point a lady drove by and yelled, "Imagine that!" It was hilarious.
Along the way, without being stuck behind a row of cars, we also saw a few elk grazing in the field beside the road.

With the sun quickly fading, we rushed to the hot springs and up the stairs to snap as many pictures as we could.

I asked my siblings to take a selfie with me and then my entire family proceeded to make fun of me, saying that "selfie" wasn't a real word
So funny, apparently, that my father took a picture of us taking a selfie (You've been pic-ceptioned... like inception but with pictures...)
"Hold me, Jack!"
We think there may have been a recent drought because the springs were not as filled as they appeared in all the pictures we've seen of the place. With that said, two days ago we were in 114 degree weather and today it was a balmy 60 degrees with the occasional falling of water. Also unexpected was just how beautiful the rest of the park was.

Since it was getting darker, we agreed to head towards our hotel since we still had a few hours to drive and we had to go over a mountain. As we have learned on this trip - driving at night over mountains is terrifying and difficult to sleep through (most likely due to mom telling dad to slow down every minute or so). Unlike our other hotels, we were unable to find a big name one in lil ol' Cody, WY. When we safely pulled up to it, we questioned the safety of the establishment, getting strong vibes of a Bates Motel setting.

Picture taken the next morning; It had some old cars out front, which were pretty cool.
 With the clock nearing midnight, though, we were too tired to care much. Overall, it was a fun day but Yellowstone is definitely on my list of need to see again and for longer than the few hours that we had today. The end of the trip is coming up so fast and, while we are tired and occasionally get on each others nerves (usually around 6-7pm when everyone is tired and hungry), I wish the trip was longer. Well, until next time dear readers, live long and prosper!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day Five - Heading North

Once again, I don't have long to write this entry and will most likely write it on the road and finish posting later but here goes nothing.

With the excitement of the day before carried over, we were able to leave on time and, with my father being a speed demon, we even got to our first stop a little early - Walnut Canyon. Once home to native Americans, this canyon is now a national monument with many of the dwellings still preserved. We hiked down about 15minutes, with Jazmyn reading us the facts along the way, and then made the hike back up. I thought those stairs would never end (I think climbing stairs is worse than just hiking up a hill).




Our next stop, just 15 minutes away was meteor crater. When I was planning the trip, I wasn't sure if our "America the Beautiful Annual Pass" (which covers the entrance fee to all national parks for a year) would cover the $16/person fee. When we got there, dad checked it out for us and, unfortunately the crater wasn't worth the $96 it would cost to check it out. Besides, the landscape around the crater was just as pretty to look at, especially with my father the photographer capturing it's beauty.



 Our next stop, still checking out some route 66 stuff, was Winslow, Arizona. This city was once one of the largest cities in Arizona but quickly began to fade. Made popular again by the Eagles with the song "Take it Easy", Winslow began to build itself up again. With a group of volunteers they were able to commision artists from around the US to design and build this unique park modeled entirely off of the song. We snapped our pictures, checked out the nearby souvenir shop, and were back on the road in no time.

I found this in the shop and, as I have done many times, thought, "I can make this"

Next up was lunch but not before spotting the wigwam motel, a model for the cozy cone in the Cars movies.


 Oh Yelp, how you have helped me find some good meal spots. Lunch today was at Joe and Aggie's Cafe which, as you can see, was Mexican and American food. It took a bit to get our food but we were easily entertained with the books that were available.

To ensure that we would get to the four corners monument on time, we sped ate and were back on the road. This became especially beneficial when Jaz requested we stop at the Painted Desert National Park (we were driving by it but hadn't planned to stop). Unfortunately, it didn't quite live up to her expectations.


Today was a lot of driving, which meant a lot of sleeping in the car for those of us who weren't driving or afraid of the driver (love you dad).


 After the Four Corners Monument, we stopped again at the Utah border. While stretching, Blake came across this - a little bottle with paper and pencil inside, last signed a year ago.

 He signed the paper and dated it, then we got some photos with this fun shaped rock. Can you guess which Disney movies we were trying to replicate?

Now I must be off, now a 45 minutes behind schedule (not that big of a deal since we have a long rode ahead of us). So long Salt Lake City, UT and hello Yellowstone. Until next time, live long and prosper!