Well we did it. We managed to survive a 10 day road trip to Yellowstone with 4 kids. We probably have a total time of 50 hours logged in the car. That alone is something I never thought I would be able to accomplish. We introduced the kids to Las Vegas on the way to Utah. We treated them to the Paris buffett where they ate like adults. Allison at one point had 5 sushi rolls on her plate next to a bowl of chocolate pudding and a banana. Thankfully Ashton was free, because he only wanted an apple despite Paul getting him a large slice of prime rib. I managed to do my portion of getting our monies worth by having three nutella crepes. I was surprised at how unimpressed they were of the strip. Maybe because it was daytime and 110 degrees. I can't see us bringing them back anytime soon, maybe when Andrew turns 21... scary thought.
We made our way from Vegas to Cedar City, Utah where we checked into the largest hotel room I had ever stayed in with 3 Queen sized beds. We explored the small town, did some damage at an old fashioned soda fountain bar, and spent the rest of our evening at the most unique and custom park I had ever been to. The kids were happy to finally be out of the car and run around the park until the sunset which was around 9:30pm.
The next day Paul got stomach sick which resulted in me taking the 4 kids into Walmart by myself to gather perishable food to cook while we are camping. Paul was sicker than a dog when we rolled into our KOA. He managed to put up the tent while I cooked hotdogs at 10:00 at night. We slept for the first time in our tent. Thankfully we brought a space heater and we had electrical hookups or else we would have froze.
The next morning we drove the 15 minutes to the West Yellowstone entrance. We finally arrived. Once we got into the park we were stopped in the road in one spot for over an hour. Not exactly how we wanted to start the first part of out trip, but we slowly managed to get to our campground. Paul is still sick. I drove us to our covered wagon cookout which took me over cliffs, huge mountains, more cliffs, narrow roads and more cliffs. We made it alive and well just in time for Paul to start feeling better and just in time to have one of the best nights of our vacation. The wagon ride was fantastic. The kids got to ride shotgun next to the cowboy while Paul, Ashton and I rode in the back. We were pulled my 4 horses for about 40 minutes through this peaceful and breathtaking valley. There were bison scattered around, a soft glow of the sunset covered the hills around us. Once at the cookout, they served us an all you can eat steak dinner with beans, biscuits, coleslaw, corn and potato salad. The kids had rootbeer and I had cowboy coffee. The cowboys played guitars and sang songs. There was a fire pit and dessert as well. The kids had a blast. Allison managed to run right into a deep thick mud pit. Ashton was obsessed with the horses. Ashley had to go the bathroom 4 times. Andrew requested a song for the cowboy to sing, and once he sang it, Andrew was too far away to hear it.
Ya know. Typical craziness among the beauty. That's how we roll.
That night was our second night in our tent, but this time we are truly camping. No showers, no electricity, no nothing. The only thing we had was the real potential for bears to come into our campsite. We froze that night. It was in the 30s, and we really relied upon cuddling to stay warm.
The next four days consisted of long drives, bison traffic, boiling pools of acid, long walks and exploring.
We managed to find paid shower at the Yellowstone lodge. We were thrilled to watch Old Faithful erupt, take a shower and eat a breakfast buffet all within 2 hours. It was a small piece of heaven to have all of this in one morning.
The kids were always excited to go into the general stores. What is more perfect than being able to buy groceries, toys, and souvieners all in one place, especially since they had money buring holes in the pocket.
One night we were driving down the road around sunset time and on the other side of a road a large bison was walking towards our car. We slowed down, Paul rolled down his window and it turned it's head as it walked right passed our car and looked into the window. We were all silent and the second Paul drove off, everybody screamed with excitement. What a moment. Ashton loved the "Bise" so much he was thrilled when we bought him a Bison stuffed animal. Of course he calls it "Bise".
Our evenings back at camp were exhausting, stressful, yet held some of the more precious memories of our trip. We boiled water and ate cup of noodles one night. Another night we heated up canned refried beans and put them in tortillas for bean burritos. We cooked popcorn over the fire, roasted marshmellows. We set up the telescope and gazed at the starts. One night we put Ashton and Ashley to bed and Paul and I laid on our chairs with our big kids and talked about everything that popped up in their little minds. We discussed who made God, how far does space go, what Heaven is like. So many complicated questions after such a long day of exploring.
Speaking of exploring, Paul decided to lead us on a hike to see a view of the lake. This view was at the top of this mountainside. It was a true push of our abilities and patience. There were many sheer cliffs, switchbacks, quiet moments where we thought we heard a bear, as well as a few natural bathroom breaks where I had to teach the girls how to squat. Around each corner the kids would yell out "Commin' Through!!! As loud as they could. They learned this from a Ranger in how to scare bears away. Those words still ring in my head "Commin' Through!!!" She had moments of questioning weather we should turn back. We saw very few people on the trail who were not in flip flops like I was, who had hiking boots and hiking sticks. We asked everyone we saw how much further. There was sweat. We had little food. We were tired. But we made it. It was hard, it was a challenge, but we pulled through and we did it. I told Paul after I slipped and fell that I would like to read a little more about the hikes that he embarks us on before we start down the trail. Like a good man, he agreed.
We were heading back to our campsite one evening when we decided to explore the last part of the park we hadn't been to yet. So we drove past out campground and headed two hours up the road to Mammoth springs. We got to a small resturant for dinner around 9:30, then explored the hot springs until about 10:30, when it finally got dark. The drive home should have only been 45 minutes but turned out to be over 2 hours. The road was stopped, pitch black, and the kids were asleep. Paul and I explored the FM and AM dial to see if we could connect with any sort of station. It was a long night, a long drive and we managed to pull into our campground around 1:00am, and we all went to bed in our clothes we wore that day.
We ended our magical Yellowstone journey after 5 days and went on to explore the Grand Tetons. Here we ditched the tent and stayed at the Jasckson Lake Lodge. The view from the second floor lobby of this lodge attracts all visitors. It has 30 foot windows with a full view of the Grand Teton mountain range. It was a piece of Heaven on Earth. Although we felt the change in the atmosphere here. In Yellowstone people were roughing it, with their kids and looking for the next adventure. In the Grand Tetons, people were living it up at the lodge, retired and looking for their next glass of wine. When we first checked into the room, we were excited to have our second shower of the trip. We managed to clog up the bathtub, had to have someone come to the room and fix it. It left a nasty rim of scum around the bathtub at least 1/2 inch thick. I was disgusted.
The two nights in our lodge we stayed up late watching Indiana Jones movies both nights. Andrew, Allison and Ashley were super into with as they laid on one bed with Paul, while Ashton and I laid on the other bed watching episodes of Oswald. Our last night at the lodge we went to the pool side all you can eat BBQ where there was tons of food, live music, fire pit with smores, and a playground. It was here that Ashley met the boy of her dreams. His name was Nick and they were inseparable. He was the son of the singer, and he seemed like a true cowboy in the making. Paul and I enjoyed quiet time at the table listening to the music while the kids were at the playground. It was yet another one of my favorite moments. Our last full day in the Grand Tetons we set out on a 7 mile hike around the lake. We were so proud of the kids strength, stamina and energy. We found a perfect picnic spot along the lakeside where we shared cheese, bread and snacks. I found it so overwhelmingly beautiful that there were moments where it was almost too hard to take it all in. The mountain range, the reflection on the water of the trees, the moose that we spotted eating leaves along the river, and the site of watching my kids walk singlefile in front of me. We stopped at little streams and waterfalls along the way, where the kids would dip their hair in the water or throw rock after rock after rock down the stream. We enjoyed moments of shade and moments of the hot sun on our shoulders and noses.
We managed to finish the hike halfway around the lake and took a boat back to the start. I was so proud of the positive attitudes, happy smiles and willingness of my kids.
The last morning in the Tetons we woke up early to a lethargic Ashton who ended up have another hypoglycemic episode. His blood sugar was 54. We stayed focused as a family. Allison got skittles for him to eat, while Andrew went to the car for his emergency glucose packet, Paul gave him Huckleberry juice. We quickly got dressed and headed to a restaurant for breakfast. Of course like usual we got on the main road and it was stopped with traffic. There were people getting out of their cars and we quickly learned that there was a mamma cub with her 2 baby cubs about to cross the street. I was worried about Ashton's sugar, and annoyed that the restaurant was going to be closed by the time we got there. But of course, there is a bear, so I got my camera ready and rolled down the windows of our car. I managed to capture a video of the bear crossing the road with her babies. As we drove passed the bears, Ashley screams out with excitement and the mamma bear looked up at us. We all freaked out as Paul slammed on the gas. We could not stop laughing. We finally go the restaurant with 1 minute til they close for breakfast. All 6 of us literally ran in and as we told them party of 6, Ashton threw up all over the floor. I ran into the bathroom with him, while Paul ran into the men's room to get paper towels to clean up the mess. When we came out of the bathroom, Andrew, Allie and Ashley were not there. The greeter had taken them to our table with out us. We managed to eat a delicious breakfast buffet. It was a stressful, exciting, and overall weird morning.
Our trip ended with a stop off at the Alpine slides in Jackson hole, where we all slid down the slopes in a bobsled. It was one last hurrah before we head back to reality. We stopped in Park City Utah for dinner and stayed one last night in a beautiful Hyatt in Salt Lake City. We managed to drive 10 hours home. We dreamed and spoke of moving into one of the beautiful farmhouses in the middle of no where that we drove past. We talked about summer plans, retirement plans, financial goals, family goals. We spent a lot of time bonding, creating memories and having fun. It was a wonderful trip and I can't wait to start planning our next family vacation. Maybe next time we can take a motorhome!