Mr Barmy drives a lot because he's a terrible navigator and because I like to take pictures. Would you believe I haven't picked up a single thing to read since we started this adventure? I spend a lot of time looking out the windows.
I'd planned to make daily vacation posts, but since I haven't been able to do that and I don't want to make a very long, detailed post, I figured I'd just jot down what stuck with me for each day.
Day 1: We left the house around 10:30pm and backtracked a bit to drop off eldest's gecko with a friend, so we didn't end up actually leaving the area until around midnight. I drove through a thunderstorm the entire way through Iowa.
Day 2: Still felt like Day 1 to me because I didn't sleep. Somewhere toward the middle of South Dakota, we crossed the Missouri River, and the area there in the river valley is picturesque. Made me want to build a cabin and buy a horse. We drove through the Badlands that morning, and I absolutely recommend seeing the place in person. Pictures cannot possibly do it justice. We did the tourist thing and stopped at Wall Drug for lunch; the foood was overpriced and not all that good, but the store itself is unique and even though it's touristy, it was still interesting. It's like a maze in there. After lunch we headed to the Cosmos Mystery Spot for the kids, and they had a good time even though it was super hokey and they rushed us through. Since we'd driven off the beaten path to go to Cosmos and were already in the area, we drove past Mt Rushmore, just to say we saw it. It's boring. I'm glad we didn't get out and pay to see something we could see perfectly well from the road. After that we drove to Wyoming and saw Devil's Tower, something else that just has to be seen in person for the full effect. After that I drove as long as I could, and ended up parking in front of a closed gas station in a tiny town called Ranchester, where we slept in the car.
Day 3: We drove to Yellowstone! Absolutely recommend. It's ridiculously beautiful, and an overall great escape from the midwestern heat and humidity. We saw a lot of small geysers and hot springs, including the Mammoth terraces, and I took a lot of pictures of mountains and water and wildlife. At dusk, we saw a young grizzly bear on our way to the campsite. So that was cool. We had to reserve a campsite well ahead of the trip, because the first-come-first-served ones generally fill up by lunchtime. Actually, I made the reservation about a week before our trip, and it was my 2nd choice campground, and it was the last site they had available. We slept in the car again that night and got cold.
Day 4: Day two of Yellowstone was my favorite, because we got to see things like the Grand Prismatic Spring and the Turquoise Pool and similar things in the Biscuit Basin. The Tetons and the Snake River were stunningly beautiful on our way out via Jackson, and most of our drive in to Idaho Falls was similar. I reserved a hotel room there for two nights so we'd have time to visit with my family (the same great people who visited us in November). We swam in the hotel pool for a bit. Well. I tried, but quickly discovered a wicked sunburn on my calves that prevented me from using either the pool or the hot tub without feeling like the flesh was coming off of my legs.
Day 5: We slept in and lazed around our hotel room enjoying free wifi, then the guys went for another swim and I went for a walk. Our hotel overlooked the river, and not far down there were waterfalls. That afternoon we went to my aunt & uncle's house, and visited with them until around midnight.
Day 6: I washed our two loads of laundry at the hotel. Each machine cost $1.50 to use, so it was $6 to wash & dry two loads. Unfortunately, neither of the hotel dryers fully dried the laundry (I did two loads instead of one because I didn't want to overload them!), so we had to stop at a laundromat on our way out of town. After Idaho Falls, we went to a dinosaur park north of Salt Lake City. Outside, they had acres and acres full of dinosaur replicas, and inside they had some more dinosaur stuff and some interesting geology and mineral displays. There was a 'gem dig' the kids could do for an extra fee, and they had ten minutes to dig in the sand and find as many polished rocks/minerals as they could, and whatever they found, they could keep. That was right up eldest's alley, so we did that. All in all, it was fun but not necessarily a must-see. After the dino park it was too late to see the Natural History Museum, and we didn't want to leave town without going, so we found a theater and saw Finding Dory instead. We were going to sleep in the car again, but nowhere seemed like a legal or safe place, so we got a 'cheap' hotel room.
Day 7: The Natural History Museum of Utah is excellent. Lots of interactive exhibits that even we adults didn't want to leave. I'm so glad we didn't skip it; it's been one of the highlights of our trip, especially for the boys. After the museum we tried to head out of town, but there was a crash and we were stopped in traffic for about an hour. Luckily, we were right in front of the Great Salt Lake, so the view was cool. As we left Utah, we stopped at the Bonneville Salt Flats because my husband loves cars and racing. We spent the rest of the day driving, and slept at a rest area in western Nevada. The stars were gorgeous.
Day 8: We drove to Calaveras Big Trees to see the sequoias. It was a very interesting drive down some crazy narrow, winding roads through the mountains. Then we went to San Francisco to do the tourist thing at Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf. There wasn't a safe place to park for the night, and I couldn't find a hotel that had available space, so we drove up to Vallejo and spent the night at my brother's house, even though they had just returned from their week-long vacation an hour before our arrival.
Day 9: The plan was to go to Muir Woods with my brother's family to see the redwoods, but ten minutes from the house, we got stuck in traffic. We barely moved for over an hour. Apparently it was the day of San Francisco's Pride parade. We decided to cut our losses and go back to the house rather than spend the day trying to fight our way through the traffic. So we hung out at the house, and they invited us to stay another day, and asked if we wanted to go see Finding Dory in 3D (they hadn't seen it yet), so we did that. Then we made s'mores at their fire pit and enjoyed being a family.
Day 10: We made it to Muir Woods. We were supposed to head to Monterey afterward, but on the way back to the house, we got stuck in traffic for four and a half hours. I guess there was a big race, and we were on the same road as the racetrack. Would not live in the Bay Area, btw. It was late when we got back to the house, so they invited us to stay again and talked about going to the aquarium with us the next day. We did manage to do all the laundry, though.
Day 11: We drove down to Monterey and met my brother's family for lunch on Cannery Row. Then we spent the day with them at the aquarium and said goodbye after and Mr Contrary and I cried and it was a little bit of a rough patch. The boys spent some time in the mirror maze while I checked out the shops. Mr Barmy had to have his picture taken at another racetrack, Laguna Seca, on our way out of town. We slept in the car at a surprisingly nice rest area a few hours away.
Day 12: The rest area was less than an hour outside San Luis Obispo, so we went to Avila Beach and spent the day playing in the ocean and the sand. We had bad barbeque for dinner in Ventura, and drove right down the middle of Los Angeles without stopping. We didn't make it to San Diego in time to go to Old Town, so we got a hotel do we could shower and rest after the beach.
Day 13: That's now! We're waiting on the little one to finish his shower, then we're going to revisit Old Town and check out Seaport Village before we head to Arizona. The Grand Canyon is eight hours from here, so I don't think we'll get there in time to see it properly, which kind of sucks, since that means we'll have to spend the night near there and make it part of tomorrow. I guess we'll see what happens, though.
I hope you all are well! =)