Our family took the maiden lonnnng road trip vacation this summer, taking a first pass at some of the many sites and experiences that our amazing western region has to offer.
Let’s get the admissions out right from the get go. We went “electronics free”, meaning the kids had no handheld or movie watching devices. I was supposed to do the same with some permissions like occasionally checking email. Kids=1, Mom=0. Also, since my youngest spent his 8th birthday in the car on one of the longest jaunts, we surprised him with electronics time on the 2nd to last day. And finally….yes. This IS what it is like to travel with me.
First up was a drive through the Badlands. This jaggedy moonscape of a place south of I-90 in SD is eerie during the day and can cast some beautiful yellow, pink, and orange striations in early morning and at sunset. Unfortunately, I have only blurry shots taken from our ailing truck so I’ll spare you the blah on those.
Thankfully, we did make it to Rapid City and we were able to rent a truck that took us to many oohs and aahs before we retrieved our truck from the shop and moved onward. We saw Mt. Rushmore twice…in early morning light and again in the evening for the program and lighting of the mountain. We toured Jewel Cave and the Crazy Horse Monument and the Rapid City Meineke (um, great guys and definitely worth the shout out), resting our tired heads at the Sylvan Lake Lodge at night.
All four of us had cameras so you can imagine the weeding process that had to take place to choose a few to share. I’ve tried to give credit where it’s due and check out the profile of George Washington….taken by my 10yr old. Nice job, bud.
A few things to note. Mt. Rushmore = AWESOME. Could spend all day there hiking. Next time. Crazy Horse may seem like it hasn’t changed in many years to the casual observer, but it has. The visitor center and documentary were very interesting and enlightening. Many people know how massive this sculpture will be when finished (all of the heads of Mt. Rushmore would fit into just the head and headdress of Crazy Horse), but did you know that this project is being completely funded by park admissions and private donations? Jewel Cave. I’m not a huge fan of cool, dark, damp underground, but the guys all liked it and I’d say the “cave bacon” was the highlight for me.
One of my favorite drives of the trip was on our way to Sylvan Lake Lodge via The Needles Highway. Oh man. Amazing and SO glad that my husband was driving so I could gawk.
The photo right above is Cathedral Spires along the Needles Highway. And the eye of the needle is above that along with a picture of two of the men in my life to show perspective. Iron Mountain Road was spectacular also.
Next on our trip was a long haul north to Glacier National Park where we stayed at East Glacier Lodge and did the totally touristy Red Bus tour on Going To The Sun Road. We had a great tour guide, though, and I must say that it was nice for my husband to get to enjoy the views and to get primo parking spots at all of our very scenic pit stops. He took several of these Glacier mountainous photos as I tried NOT to look down over the twisty roads. We were surprised by a low rainbow on our second day there and you can thank me now for cloning out the bug guts from the windshield! If you look carefully, you can see that it was a double so it was worth the “through the rainy windshield” shot.
Did you know that Glacier Park is NOT named for the glaciers that were and are still there? Interesting fact from our tour guide. Glacier Park is named for what the glaciers DID to the park, carving out these U-shaped valleys from the mountain sides.
Saw another rainbow a little while later that day. That time we were able to get out of the car to admire it.
One last, but not least, stop on our trip west was to visit the kids’ grandparents at their Montana home. The view there definitely does not suck.
The kids hiked, geocached, boated, shot BB guns, and went to a rodeo.
I have always been proud of how well my kids travel. They have been making 8+ hr car trips to visit family in IL since they were infants. But, 3520 miles (58 hours in a moving vehicle) in 10 days was still a little daunting. They came through once again and now we have wonderful stories and memories to share. Thank you South Dakota, (a tiny bit of) Wyoming, Montana and grandparents!
Thanks for reading!
P.S. If you like travel photos, you might also enjoy my blog entry about the Grand Canyon.
Oh yes, and most definitely Like and Follow Me on Facebook at
Focus Photography by Susan