Whew! It’s been a long time since my last post. I was super busy with the end of school year and then my site crashed…sigh, it’s always something. I finally got the kinks worked out and I am excited to get back to posting more regularly. My last couple of posts hinted at my love of Spring and the ensuing summer break along with some great inexpensive things to do with your kids. It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed since those posts that now summer is half over with. I spent two and a half weeks at the beginning of the summer on the road with my parents and kiddos, traveling some 4000+ miles across our beautiful country and I want to share some of our travels with you.
When my younger sister got married nine years ago to her Air Force Prince and moved from our small, southern New Jersey town, all the way to Northern Montana, the day after her wedding, it was quite sad. I missed her fiercely. A few months later, we all jumped in the car and headed West to visit them and my love of long road trips began. It stinks my sister is so far away but the upside is road trips. Taking road trips with my kiddos and giving them a wide variety of experiences is one of my most favorite things to do. There is just something freeing about leaving the chaos of your everyday life, jumping in the car, and heading out to the open highways. Over the years, my kids have seen the World’s Largest Buffalo (and Pelican and Cow and Corn Cob and Cheese Slice), Frontier Town, Old Faithful and all other wonders of Yellowstone National Park, The National Grizzly Bear and Wolf Sanctuary (they fed the grizzlies, yikes!), tiny old West towns with no stop lights and populations of 52, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the beautiful Northern Rockies, the famous Great Falls of Lewis and Clarke fame, Indiana Amish country (very different than Lancaster, Pa, which we’ve traveled to a million times), a thousand acres of beautiful Iowa corn fields, wild buffalo, beautiful birds and other animals never to be seen on the East coast, cotton fields, sunflower fields, State Fairs the likes of which can never be rivaled, local parks where alligators sunning themselves along your path is the norm, and so much more. This last trip marked our 5th road trip West.
We headed out to North Dakota, to visit my sister, where said Air Force Prince-In-Law, after stints in Montana and Georgia, is now stationed. Before heading straight to North Dakota, we hit up South Dakota first. Our first stop was Mt. Rushmore. Now, I admit, while thinking it would be a cool place to visit, it wasn’t until I got there in person, did the magnitude of what this monument means to our country, hit me. We watched a moving movie about how the monument came to be and how it was made. They had a museum with photos, artifacts, tools and more. It was absolutely mind blowing how it was engineered and sculpted with dynamite and chisels. We learned about the hope that Mt. Rushmore gave to Americans during a trying time in our history. My boys really zoned in on the movie and my youngest was especially taken with it. For more info on visiting Mt. Rushmore, please click here.
After leaving Mt. Rushmore, we headed up the road 15 miles to visit Custer State Park, home to some of the largest herds of wild buffalo in America. Make no mistakes, just because it’s a State Park, they are definitely wild. There’s no fences, and if the magnifcint beasts wanted to, they could travel on down the mountain roads and park their rears in Aunt Sally’s grass. Someone should have made it more clear in the brochures though, that you had to travel up the Black Hills first to get to Custer. Hills, blech! We have hills in Jersey and they aren’t nothing like these. With 6000 feet elevation in some parts, and my dad’s breaks on the Suburban burning, twisting and turning narrow roads, with no guard rails and just inches before shear drop offs, it was a bit of a scary ride. But it was a beautiful ride! Absolutely gorgeous views. We finally did get to the park and were told by the ranger the last place park goers reported seeing buffalo. We rode around for nearly an hour seeing nothing more than cute little prairie dogs and some more gorgeous views of the Black Hills. Finally, we saw some cars stopped and came across a herd of buffalo. It was like Christmas morning to my kiddos! They even had some new calves. We traveled a few more miles and came across another herd, this time with larger and mostly male animals. They were none too happy, planting themselves in the road, and you could hear the collective unhappy snorting. It was super cool!! Please click here for more info on Custer.
The last stop on our first day in South Dakota was the Crazy Horse Memorial. Located in the Black Hills, this mountain memorial is a work in progress. It is a tribute to Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota warrior. Construction began in 1948. The site is privately owned and all expenses are ran through a non-profit organization and donations. As such, construction on the memorial ebbs and flows as the economy does. Considering Mt. Rushmore, was federally funded and only took 14 years to carve, I wonder if this will ever be completed. There is a Native American Museum with Native American crafters as well as a café and gift shop on site. The memorial itself is quite far from where you park, and if you want to see it closer, you have to pay an additional fee to take a bus or van up the mountain to see it. (This is in addition to the $28.00 parking fee). My boys liked it, but not as much as Mt. Rushmore. It is still impressive and worth it if you are in the area to stop. For more info on Crazy Horse Memorial, please click here.
It is amazing to see the beauty that God created. I know that there are many of you who love to do the same thing every year for vacation, whether it’s Disney, the beach, camping, etc. Those things are all wonderful and I enjoy them too. (Well, honestly, I’m not a beach fan, but being a South Jersey gal, I try to get the kiddos there once a season). However, I urge you to take some time and explore farther into our beautiful country and give your kids different experiences. It’s worth it!
Until next time, remember, He has your back!