Tent camping that is.
Yes, you read that correctly, we took the road trip and camped in a tent. For 20 years Brad and I have wanted to go back and do this vacation all over again. When we first got married, we took a road trip out west and made it as far as South Dakota to The Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, and Crazy Horse. It was one of the best vacations ever, and we wanted to do it again, but go further.
The kids are older, they can handle a 17 hour road trip and all that comes with that, and of course the camping in Yellowstone National Park. We decided that we wanted to go further west than we had done prior, we made South Dakota a drive through night over and then made Yellowstone the bulk of the vacation.
We left in the early hours of July 4th 2012 and had exactly 12 days to accomplish what we wanted to do:
- Get to South Dakota that day and drive through the Badlands
- Wake up and do the sites of Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse and Keystone
- Leave SD and drive as far as we could in Wyoming and take another night there
- Get up and get to Yellowstone National Park
The night before we had packed up the minivan and showered, we wanted to wake and roll on out, which we did. We were on the road and heading west by 3:30 am. We are a family that if we see something we roll with it. We drove and drove, as we headed into Sioux Falls, SD we see signs for the following, a Sculpture Park and our Bebe taking on each of their personalities.
We were here for all of 40 minutes, it was a stretching of the legs kind of tour, and back in the car we got, and as we say “On the road againnnnn…”
Our next stop was just before we pulled into the Badlands National Park, we stopped at Roberts Prairie Dog Town. Hysterical, watching Brad and the girls run from hole to hole to feed fat little prairie dogs who did not want to eat peanuts as they had, had their fill for the day. They would pop up, and the moment you approach they would disappear, after a couple of attempts F was out of there, Bebe kept going until we were all ready to leave. Back in the car we entered The Badlands National Park.
The Badlands is such a unique landscape. The park itself stretches for miles and there is a main road that takes you through the park with stop offs along the way. It doesn’t take long to drive through, and we stopped several times along the way to explore a buttes, pinnacles, and spires. I am constantly looking around for snakes and staying on the path, the other three are here, there and everywhere and not a concern in the world for snakes!!!
Bebe has a bucket list and she was able to scratch this one off in The Badlands.
Bailey has a bucket list, and when she saw the opportunity to check off yelling off a cliff/mountain she jumped at the chance. She also stood there to appreciate the view. One of my favorite pictures of all time, it captures the essence of Bebe…
We pull into Keystone, and find a cozy hotel/motel for the night, we are not setting the tent up in the dark for one night. Just not going to happen. So Keystone 20 years later has changed. Way more commercial, and way more things to do… We pick several the next morning and go down the list. First up:
- Helicopter ride over Mt. Rushmore & Crazy Horse
- Presidential Alpine Ride
- Mount Rushmore Monument
- Drive by Crazy Horse Monument
- Take the scenic drives around Mount Rushmore
Crazy kids and Brad took the helicopter ride, while I read my book and hung out in town, I hate heights and I was not going up in that. I crossed my fingers that they all came back… Seriously!!! We all did this crazy slide thing, it was fun and I put aside all my fears.
Mount Rushmore is how I remembered it, very IMPRESSIVE, loved walking up to it and sharing this moment with Brad and the girls. We had been here 20 years ago and swore we would bring them back one day. It is an amazing site, and if you can take the time to visit do so. One more historic landmark checked off my list. 🙂 It was a little to much money to go into Crazy Horse so we did a drive by. The kids were cool with it, and so were we.
So remember how I told you that we like to do things a little differently? Yeah my family will just pull over and go look at something… We took the scenic tour roads around Mt. Rushmore, and got lost trying to find several of them… 🙂 Here are a few shots of us pulling over and doing things I am sure we were not supposed to do. My biggest fear is that one day my family will need rescuing and we will be that family that everyone says… “What were they thinking?” Mmmmmmm…..
At the end of this we left Mt. Rushmore and Keystone behind us and started heading west, onto Wyoming and a long flat lonnnnnnggggg drive ahead of us. There is not much to offer on this leg of the drive, flat, long legs of this drive are interrupted with small towns. Several of these towns had 10 or less listed as the population???? Yikes! By 9 pm that night neither Brad nor I could drive any longer, and we started to look for a motel for the night. HOLY MONKEY NUTS!!!! We pulled in to Baites Motel!!!! I am a neat clean freak, and when Brad came out of the place to check in and unlocked the door he said, ” Girls don’t take your shoes off, and pull the top sheet off, don’t get undressed sleep in your clothes, we are out of here at the crack of dawn.” URGh, it was nasty, I took a quick shower, no one else was even going to get close to the shower, and we crashed… The next morning we woke early and ran for it! Looking around in the morning we would never have pulled into that motel if we had seen it in the light of day. IT WAS SCARY!!!! Made for a good laugh, that is for sure. By mid afternoon, we began to see mountains and started the drive into the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Now we are flatlanders’, and let me tell you something those mountain roads without the guard rails are down right SCARY!!! We were behind one of those RV buses and he was hauling, us in the minivan, we were white knuckling it!!! The down side for us going to Yellowstone WE have TO drive these scary roads……
The scenery as we took this route into the park was breath taking…. As you get to the Park entrance there is a huge board with all of the campsites on it stating whether they are full or if you can stay there. The park where we wanted to stay did not take reservations, so we crossed our fingers. As we pulled up, YES we were staying where we wanted to….. The Park Ranger was surprised at how long we were staying, I suppose most only stay between 3 to 5 days, we were staying 7. We wanted to take the time and explore, all of the park. We pulled into Bay Bridge camp ground, found our spot and set up the tent. Tent camping in BEAR country!!! They don’t lock up the animals of a night time here.
Early the next morning, as in up with the sun and the noise of some very noisy squirrels and birds we grabbed our campsite breakfast of eggs, bacon, and OJ, packed all the food left over into the bear box, zipped up the tent and jumped in the car for a day of exploring….
We got as far as Fishing Bridge and the Yellowstone Visitor Center when we saw our first animal!!!! Just a big old bison wandering up the road from the visitors center!!!!