Wednesday, August 24, 2011

10 States, 10 Days

Reading a couple posts back I saw that I said we would not be taking another vacation for a couple of years, but I lied. Well, sorta.

This summer my husband received orders from Rock Island Arsenal, IL to Fort Lewis, WA. We decided we would take about 30 days in between duty stations. We would start by heading east to Ohio and staying roughly 3 weeks before heading west. The plan was to then stop back in Davenport, IA to visit some friends for a night but having to push our plans back by a day threw us off.

The day before we were leaving Ohio for Iowa, the van decided to blow a tire. John was driving with 4 of the kids and luckily they were driving slow enough that he didn't lose control of the vehicle. It put a kink in our plans but knowing everyone was okay was really all that mattered. Thankfully we had the insurance on the tires meaning we wouldn't have to shell over hundreds of dollars to replace it but it did mean we had to wait another day before leaving.

When we finally headed back towards Iowa, we only had a couple hours to spend with our friends. I dropped Lexi off at our old neighbors house so she could hang out with her friends one last time and the rest of us headed to Kristina's (one of my best friends). Unfortunately, she was working but Trista (my other BFF) was there with her kids. It was nice just hanging out again and surprisingly no one cried this time. Lexi did have a minor meltdown over the phone when I told her it was time to leave but she was fine by the time I picked her up. We had Chick Fil A one last time while we waited for daddy to finish up some work things and then we got back on the road.

From Iowa we drove 7hrs to Brandon, SD to spend a few fun days with a great friend we had never met in real life. Kama is one of those friends I met 6yrs ago on an internet forum, along with Tracy (the girl I met in Chicago) and many other wonderful mamas. Some I have met IRL and others I can only hope to meet some day. Kama's boys and my kids got along fabulously, as did our dogs. My kids loved Kama, her dogs loved us. Kadie & Brady fell in "love" and all the kids were said when we had to leave. But we had a fabulous time hanging out playing video games, going to the pool, the drive in and the ice cream shop. It was a nice relaxing time and Kama was a fantabulous hostess. She had everything all ready for us when we got there, she made us dinners and she was great to chat with. I can't wait to get back that way... or for her to come visit me {wink, wink}.

Our next stop would be at Mt Rushmore. The kids were really looking forward to this and I actually was surprised at how excited they really were to see a big rock. It wasn't something that I thought would really interest them but it did. They loved seeing the faces, taking pictures and walking the Presidential trail. They were able to climb rocks and just be kids in one of the most beautiful places in the country. We spent a fortune on lunch and souvenirs at the monument but it was all money well spent. We did some other touristy things in the area like visiting the National Presidential Wax Museum where my kids were exceptionally quiet and respectful and we also played mini golf on an extremely challenging course. The kids really wanted to ride the tram up to the mountain but by the time we got over there they were closed. We had dinner at a local pizza joint and did one of those old fashioned photos. It was a great 3 days for everyone and my stress level was pretty low if I remember correctly.

The next part of our trip would be the longest leg. We were driving from Mt Rushmore to St. Regis, MT. There really wasn't much in Montana besides hills, windmills and a 75mph speed limit but wow was it beautiful. We took I-90 most of the way which actually took us through Wyoming before actually getting into Montana which had the kids and I debating geography. They loved all the mountains and the hills and we got some pretty cool pics on our drive. The drive was uneventful but fun to watch John play catch up in my rear view mirror as I had my cruise set at 80 and he was busy downshifting.

We did run into one minor snafu in terms of a severe thunderstorm. We could see that it was going to start raining but had no idea it would get that bad. We had just got back on the road after a stop at Wall Drug which is apparently a major attraction in Wall, SD when we could see lightning up ahead. We weren't too far into our drive when the wind kicked up and my van was being blown all over the road. I was having trouble seeing through the rain and windshield wipers and decided to pull over into a gas station. I parked the van and the wind just rocked it back and forth making me really nervous. Right behind the gas station though was a military museum that said, "Yes We Are Open" on their big flashy sign so we drove over and parked in front of it with the intention of riding out the storm within those 4 walls. Lucky for us though, the sign on the door said "Sorry We Are Closed" so that plan was shot. We sat in the parking lot with John in his Jeep to our right and an RV on our left. Rain spattered the windows, pebble sized hail pelted the roof and the wind shook us like crazy. I was getting extremely nervous and hoping with all my might not to get stuck in a freak tornado in the middle of nowhere. I HATE, HATE, HATE storms and to be stuck there in the middle of one took all my effort not to flip out. It didn't last as long as it felt and when it was mostly over we went on our way.

Anyway, Montana was a pleasant drive aside from the kids getting annoyed that we had been in the car for 8 days already. We were all getting worn out and I was ready to not have to drive anymore. We pushed on for those last few hundred miles and made it to our hotel in St. Regis, might as well be Washington, MT. It was pretty much the only hotel on our route and luckily they allowed pets for a $10 fee. We only booked one room and I was afraid the lady would notice we had more than 5 people (plus a horse for a dog) so I made John wait outside with the boys while me and the girls went in first. They followed shortly after and the lady at the counter, wasn't at the counter anymore so we were good. The next morning I walked Buckeye outside and down the hall I hear a guy say, "That's not a dog. That's a horse." And then a little boy in the lobby, maybe 4yrs old, says, "Mom," in a disgusted tone, "dogs should NOT be allowed in the hotel." Sorry kid, they are. I paid for the hotel, I paid the pet fee and nothing you can do about it {neener, neener, neener}. We stopped at the gas station to fill the tanks, fill my washer fluid and to fill my tummy. I don't remember what I got but I know the kids were jealous :p

We stopped again shortly after entering Washington. The kids had to pee already and I figured I would feed them lunch since we were stopping at a McDonald's. Hands down the NICEST McDonald's ever. It was chic, and clean. Had it not been for the menu, the silly hats and the menu board you wouldn't even know it was a Mickey D's. However, the decor made up for the crappy service. Not impressed, at all. Oh well, we won't be going back there again anytime soon.

Traffic instantly picked up after that. It was a nice change from the empty roads through the mountains. It was a nice introduction to what we will have to deal with the next few years living an hour from Seattle. It was nice to know that people did in fact exist in the west. And it was exciting to know that we were ALMOST THERE! Our new home was just a few hours away.

I got in contact with our landlord's liaison so that we could get into our NEW home. Our timing was impeccable considering had we been just an hour behind we would not have been able to get in our house for hours or possibly til the next day. That would have been oddly similar to the last time we were getting a new house and I would not have been happy. So even though we weren't going to have any of our household goods until the following day, I was just ready to be in our own house and get on with this phase of our lives. Ready to be done driving.

10 states in 10 days... while it was necessary, we still made it into a family vacation. The second family vacation of the year. And once again, I lied because not only had we taken another vacation since Chicago, but we are in the process of planning our third family vacation this year. This time it will be to Southern California for Christmas. As much as I dread these vacations due to stress and fear of my children misbehaving and embarrassing me, I never regret them. I know my kids will treasure these moments when they are adults and have their own children.