Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Our 4,950 Mile Road Trip: Day 1

Towards the end of July, we set off on a cross country road trip to visit our family in Montana. Last time we did this drive, we only had two kids and one of them (Miss Emma) was the greatest baby in the entire world. We did that drive in one fell swoop by driving almost nonstop for over 24 hours before we couldn't take it any longer and collapsed in the not-so-soft beds of a Miles City, MT motel for a few hours respite before continuing onward with the last eight hours of our journey. This time, however, we are smarter, wiser, older, and know fully well that our youngest child is neither quiet nor content to be strapped in for that long.

So, we properly planned our road trip around several monumental stops so that the tiresome journey would not seem quite so ridiculously long. That was the hope, at least. We planned to spend no more than 11 hours driving each day. After our last cross-country excursion, that seemed totally doable. Again, we weren't really concerned with the older two kids. They are seasoned travelers. Lucy was the loose cannon in this whole scenario. We knew it was going to be rough with her. We used to joke that she was the quietest baby in the world because during the first few months of her life her cry was so pathetically soft and even when she began talking her words were barely whispered. Now, however, she is putting that big mouth of hers to good use and can scream so loud that I am surprised my windows don't shatter. She's a beast.

The morning of our trip, we piled everything (and everyone!) into our Subaru Forester and drove to Mishawaka, IN to spend the night with my brother Raymond and his wife Mary. We planned this so we could easily reach our next destination of Sioux Falls, SD in an easy 11 hour drive. This would be the single longest day of our westbound journey. The trip to Mishawaka was a little over six hours and the kids were fantastic. No noise, no complaining, no screaming, no begging for snacks. I don't think there was a single bathroom break. Lucy slept the whole time. Paul and I thought, for sure, that this was indicative of how well they would handle the rest of the journey.

Oh, that was so not the case.

The following morning, we snuck out of Ray and Mary's home and headed out around 6:00 AM. We planned to eat all our breakfasts on the road by loading up on granola bars and Belvita biscuits. The kids, of course, whined about this and Matthew grumbled, "I wanted eggs!" We ignored and drove.

And drove and drove and drove.

Do you know the most boring states to drive through are Illinois and Iowa? Seriously, they are. Everything looks the same.

We only stopped twice during the entire drive that day. One of our stops was at The World's Largest Truck Stop. Yes, that's a thing. Located right off of Interstate 80 near Walcott, Iowa, this rest stop is really large, really clean, and has really good coffee. The kids enjoyed looking around at the various little shops scattered throughout the complex. There was a large store with supplies, clothing, entertainment, and equipment for truck drivers that even featured several full-sized trucks on display that the kids could climb on and pretend to drive. They all enjoyed that - even Lucy! Obviously, I took way too many pictures of the kids walking around this place but it felt like a stroll through heaven after spending way too many hours crammed into the hot car. We spent about 30 minutes wandering around there before Paul and I bought the largest cup of coffee we could find and then packed everyone back into the car. Lucy put up quite a fuss as we strapped her back into the car seat. She did NOT want to go back in there. But, onward we drove.

My review of the World's Largest Truckstop? A nice break from the monotony of driving, but I wouldn't go jumping into your car right now to check out this landmark.

Our next stop was outside another rest area located an additional three hours further into Iowa. This rest area featured a large wind turbine planted vertically in the ground that Paul geeked out about. There was also a small play area that the kids rushed for even though the temperatures were blisteringly high. We let them play in the scorching sun and run around like little escaped convicts who were finally set free from their cells after a long sentence.

If you look close, you can see Matthew right next to the wind turbine propeller.
It gives some perspective of just how big those wind turbines are!

At this point, we were only an additional three hours or so from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, our destination for the evening, and Paul was anxious to just finally make it there. So, everyone piled back in once more and we made that final haul.

We did stop at one scenic lookout point just to see what scenery they wanted us to look at so badly that they created that sign. I was the only one who climbed the tower and quickly snapped the following picture.

And then, we finally made it to Sioux Falls! The best part about leaving so early and taking so few stops, was that we were able to make it to our destination early enough that we could grab a quick dinner and then explore the city a bit. After a fantastic dinner of pizza and salad, we headed to see the namesake of this cute little town - the Sioux Falls themselves! When we arrived at the park, we were astonished to find hundreds of people wandering about. We did not expect Sioux Falls to be that hot of a tourist spot! However, after closer inspection, we realized that most of the people wandering about were staring numbly at their phones as they played Pokemon Go. Oh, the insanity! In the words of my wise brother-in-law Steven: "At least they are outside!"

The kids really enjoyed wandering about the falls. There were some great photo opportunities thanks to the beautiful backdrop.

At one point, the kids and I were looking out over the steepest drop in the falls and a man hopped over the railing to get closer to the water and capture a better picture. The kids, after seeing him, wanted to do the same, but I pointed to the signs posted about the dangers of jumping the guardrail and explained that it was not safe to disobey the rules. Emma was especially eyeing the man closely with narrowed eyes as he carefully balanced near the end of the falls, snapping photos. When he finally came back up and climbed over the guardrail, she immediately headed over and, with her hands cheekily placed on her hips, chastised him: "You're not supposed to be doing that! You could get killed. You need to follow the rules!" He shot her a dirty look and I quickly snatched her up and carried her away. Little Miss Sassy-Pants.

That evening, we stayed in a guestroom rented out of a local retirement community that is one of a chain of communities across the United States founded by one of Paul's uncles. The community in Sioux Falls was built on the grounds of the 1880s-era All Saint School for Girls and features an extensive, impeccably landscaped campus and a massive main building displaying some of the unique historical architecture of the original institution. The room in which we stayed, for example, was the original bell tower of the school and if you peer up into the ceiling of one of the alcoves, you can see where the bell hung at one point over a century ago. The kids thought that was incredible!

Everyone slept well in comfortable beds as we prepared for following day's journey, which would take us through Mount Rushmore and end on the edge of Yellowstone National Park.

Day 2 is coming up next!


  1. Love all the pictures at the falls! This both makes me want to do a long road trip and also terrify me of doing them with multiple children...

    1. It was a lot of work. Paul and I talked at several points along the way about how much more relaxing it would have been if we were the only ones in the car. But in all reality, the kids did really well considering their ages and how much time we spent in the car. They were champs. I should also add that we had no screens whatsoever for them to look at or play with. All books, crayons, and passing scenery.

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