Sunday, June 30, 2013

Home again!

Our big adventure is over, for now.  After a stop in Rock Springs, Wyoming, we made it to Salt Lake on Monday.  The drive in through Parley’s Canyon, with some climbing and wind, was the hardest driving on the whole trip.  But we had a blast as we got to see quite a bit of our beautiful country.  We were on the road for 219 days (just over 7 months), towed the trailer 8,340 miles and drove the truck a total of about 18,000 miles.  We stayed in 50 locations and visited 29 states. It’s nice to be back with family and to having a garbage disposal, dishwasher, laundry without quarters, and the comforts of home. But we’ll miss having new places to visit and daily new adventures.  We didn’t make it to Yellowstone, we’re sort of saving that for next time when we plan to go a bit further north. 
Here are some of our favorites:
Most beautiful city: Savannah, GA
Most fun city: New York
Most Historic city: Boston
Best historic recreation: Williamsburg, VA
Best historical site: Gettysburg National Battlefield, PA
Best museum: Museum of the Pacific War, Fredericksburg, TX
Best historic home: Biltmore Estate, Asheboro, NC
Best ethnic restaurant: Prejean’s Cajun, Lafayette, Louisiana
Best new to us foods: crawfish, hushpuppies
Best beaches: Sarasota, FL and Myrtle Beach, SC
Best coastline: Maine
Best scenery: Black Hills of South Dakota
Worst drive: west Texas
One request: I’d like to know who all has been reading this blog.  So please this week leave a like on facebook, or a comment if you’re not on facebook.  Till we travel again….happy trails to all our friends!
Wall map in our trailer marking our journey (sorry about the glare)

reaquainted - Lexi feeding Okie

Home sweet home

view of Salt Lake Valley from our house

Friday, June 21, 2013

Black Hills of South Dakota

Wow, the Black Hills of South Dakota are awesome.  This was our last big stop on our travels, and it was a great finale.  First we went to Mount Rushmore, which is awe inspiring.  The visitors’ center that explains how the sculptures were made was also fascinating.  From there we drove down the scenic Iron Mountain byway, that winds to Custer State Park.  The scenery there is magnificent, open meadows and pine covered hills, blue skies with clouds floating by.  But you have to keep your eyes on the road too or you could run into a buffalo.  The park has a large bison herd, and while we were there many decided to cross the road and walk around all the cars. It was really cool!  We also saw lots of deer and prairie dogs.  The next day we drove down to Wind Cave National Park where we went on one of the cave tours.  It is huge cave with 95 miles of mapped trails that goes very deep underground.  It also has interesting formations called boxwork; 95% of the boxwork in known caves is in this one.  On our way back to camp, we drove through Custer State Park again, but the herd was not as close to the road this time. 
Another fun day trip was a ride on the 1880’s Steam Train that goes through the mountains between Keystone and Hill City.  The route was originally built to service the many mines in the area.  More beautiful scenery, and on the way back we rode through a strong hailstorm.  On the last day we spent in the Black Hills, we went to a western chuckwagon dinner and show.  Some of the sets from “Dances With Wolves” were at the location, which had been moved there from the nearby filming area.  The dinner and show were a fun conclusion to our time in South Dakota. 
From there, we headed southwest into Wyoming.  We spent a day near the town of Guernsey, where the Oregon Trail passes through.  It is the best location to see the deep ruts cut through the sandstone by the wagons as they journeyed westward.  Also there is Register Cliff, where hundreds of pioneers carved their names and date on the sandstone cliffs.  Many are still visible there. Now we are in Laramie, Wyoming.  This is our last full week on the road; we will be home next week.  It is a bittersweet feeling; while we look forward to seeing family, we have had a great time traveling.  Next week I’ll post some numbers from our trip as well as our “best of” awards. 
Mt. Rushmore

George, Tom, Ted and Abe

Rushmore from Iron Mountain overlook

bison herd

roaming buffalo

buffalo get the right-of-way

grazing buffalo

Black Hills views

more buffalo
Wind Cave boxwork

more Black Hills beauty

great skies too

1880s steam train

oh deer

Oregon Trail ruts

Register Cliff carving

Friday, June 14, 2013

Omaha and Sioux Falls

We spent three days in the Omaha area.  In Council Bluffs, Iowa (just across the Missouri River) we went to the Union Pacific Railroad Museum and the Kanesville Tabernacle.  In Omaha we went to the Mormon Trails Center across from the Winter Quarters Temple and the cemetery where many pioneers were buried.
The other big attraction in Omaha is the Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.  It is truly one of the best zoos in the country.  Many animals are in enclosures that can be viewed from indoors (since its open all year) and are made so you are much closer to the animals than most zoos.  Also many are done as habitats like the jungle or desert.  We thought it is much nicer than the San Diego Zoo, plus they had lots of my favorites: monkeys, baboons, apes, gorillas, chimps.  They are so fun to watch.
We also covered a lot of ground journeying westward this week.  First we went north to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  We spent a day there to see the falls and a museum.  Then we spent two days (about two hundred miles per day) traveling to western South Dakota.  Now we are in the Black Hills area, where we will spend several days, then on to Wyoming.
Union Pacific Railroad Museum

Mormon Trails Center

at Omaha Zoo

thoughtful ape


aquarium walk through tank


my new friend

monkey grooming

jungle habitat

Sioux Falls

Friday, June 7, 2013

Historic Nauvoo

The storm front finally passed us so we were able to leave Springfield and head for Nauvoo, Illinois.  Nauvoo is a very small town on the Mississippi River that has historic significance.  It was settled in the late 1830’s by the LDS saints that had been driven out of Missouri.  They built a city that had a population of 12,000 by the mid 1840’s.  But persecution there caused them to leave in 1846 and head west.  In the last few decades, the church has restored or reconstructed many of the buildings, which are open for tours.  There are historic homes with many antiques from the original residents or from the time period.  Also there are many businesses that don’t sell things but are there to demonstrate the trades that were practiced in pioneer times.  We visited the print shop, blacksmith, wheelwright, shoe maker, apothecary (drug store), gunsmith, tinsmith and brickyard.  Plus there are demonstrations about candle making, bread making, weaving and woodworking.  We also went on a wagon ride and attended several performances by both youth and seniors that are there on missions.  The Nauvoo Brass Band performs in several locations, and the BYU International Folk Dancers put on a performance.  Plus, the weather was beautiful, there were no crowds (they come in July for the pageant) and everything is free.  We also went over to Carthage, where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were martyred, and attended the Nauvoo Temple.  I also got some information at the Land and Records office about some ancestors that had lived there, which they put on a CD for me to read when I get time at home.  We really enjoyed our time there, and would recommend it to anyone, not just LDS.
When we left Nauvoo, we drove to Des Moines, Iowa.  We spent a day there going to the state capitol, which has to be one of the most beautiful in the country.  It’s definitely worth a stop if you’re passing through on the I-80.  The state museum also had an excellent display of Civil War history.  Then today we drove to Council Bluffs, Iowa, just across the Missouri River from Omaha, Nebraska.  We’ll be here a few days to see this area.
pioneer wagon

Mississippi River

print shop

Nauvoo Brass Band

gunsmith shop

wheel making demonstration

blacksmith at work

"High Hopes and Riverboats"

Nauvoo Temple

"Sunset on the Mississippi"

BYU International Folk Dancers

temple at night

inside Iowa State Capitol

State Capitol Law Library