Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spring Break 2013

This is not one of my typical posts but I realized that I read so many blogs of other families and how they did their trips that I should have my own!

We Fry's do spring break a little different than your average family.  We always hear friends talk about how they are going to relax in Hawaii or veg out at home or spend the week skiing.  Well, Josh works like a crazed lunatic all summer so our big hurrah for the year is always spring break.  Here is how it works:

**We always take our Minnie Winnie motorhome.  
It is a perfect size for us, we can overnight at truck stops for free since most RV parks aren't open yet and we are cheap, we can pack our food and everyone stays entertained while being together (seriously together) for the whole trip.  Not to mention, I get to spend some nice talking time with Josh in the front seat.  

**We get an initial plan layout from the book 500 places to take your kids before they grow up.  People have started blogs about their travels from this book and quite honestly, I want to be them sometimes.

**A few years ago, we decided to start hitting all the national parks during this week. There are very few people there, the weather is usually decent, and our kids are serious history, chamber of commerce, historical plaque on the side of the road loving kids.  I know, we thank the Lord for that simplicity in our lives daily!

Last year was Bryce and Zion Canyon, Grand Canyon and a Phoenix side trip to see a ball game and visit Papa.  This year, we were a little more strapped for dinero with the adoption.  We were also short on time.  Josh had been gone the previous week, I needed to work at church on Sunday and Corbin had to be ready to race his snowmobile in West Yellowstone by Friday.  Basically, we had 4 days. No problem, we can pack a ton into four days.  

So, we headed to South Dakota.  Not very glamorous when you live in Montana but the kiddos had been dying to see the faces since last summer.  So here's how we did it.  If you can handle the non stop craziness that we call life, I totally recommend the way we rolled through.  It was a blast!

Sunday: left at about 3:30 and headed east.  We stopped for the night in the totally cute town of Belle Fourche, SD.  It is pronounced Bell Foosh in case you were wondering.  

Monday morning, we headed to Sturgis (we are a biker family after all) Josh enjoyed showing the kids Sturgis even though it does not look even remotely like it does during bike week.  They humored him and smiled and nodded.  Later, we headed out to the base there to check out the museum where the only surviving creature (a horse) of the Battle of Little Bighorn was retired, but it was closed for the season (we found that a lot this trip) so, we took pictures of the "totally cool" military gun and then headed on to Deadwood.

Deadwood, SD is where Wild Bill Hickok was killed.  His famous hand of cards was painted on Josh's last custom bike he built so, we were eager to learn more about the area. We stopped at the visitors center and learned a ton.  The people there are really friendly and helpful.  We wanted to visit the Adams Museum but they were closed on Mondays and wouldn't you know it, we were there on a Monday. Both towns are worth the visit. 

From Deadwood, we headed to Mount Rushmore.  The place was nothing short of empty and the views were incredible. We were able to take pictures without a thousand other people in the shot and tour the visitors centers there without waiting in lines.  Granted, it started snowing the minute that we got there, but really, who wants a sunny and warm spring break anyway?

After we had learned all Mount Rushmore had to offer, we cruised on over to the Crazy Horse Memorial.  Emma loves to learn about Native American culture and can tell you everything there is to know about Kaya and her life from the American Girl doll series so we knew she would love this place.  The history, the work that has been done and their plans for the future are truly impressive.  I hope that it is finished in my lifetime so that I can see the finished results.

From Crazy Horse, we headed to Rapid City.  Corbin's buddy had told him that we should go to Watiki Water Park while we were there.  There is only so much history you can flood your children with before they need a brain break! Luckily it was the off season so they were only open from 4-8 pm.  We got there at about 5 and it was the perfect amount of time.  We had a great evening there.  Late that night, we decided to drive on to Wall, South Dakota.  Yes, we included Wall Drug on our National Park visiting trip. It is a piece of American history after all.  The town of Wall is tiny and I am pretty sure that at least 4 city blocks are reserved for Wall Drug parking.  I was officially relieved that we were NOT here in the summer.  This place has to be a mad house!  We parked for the night in one of the empty parking lots down by the railroad tracks that was reserved for semis.  It was perfect.  

Tuesday:  We got up a little early and had breakfast at Wall Drug.  It was an interesting experience, I would totally recommend the stop.  It wasn't cheap and it wasn't very tasty but it was fun.  The kids loved all the artwork on the walls in the dining room and Emma loved sitting with Annie Oakley in the hall.  

From Wall, we headed towards the Minutemen Missile National Historic Site.  This place is seriously in the middle of NOWHERE!!!  It would be a really easy one to skip over but we really enjoyed learning about the cold war.  The kids did the Jr. Ranger program there and earned themselves patches.  Take note, you learn about the cold war and do the Jr. Ranger program in a trailer that is not at the missile site itself.  The park ranger let the site know that we were coming and three miles back down the road, we arrived at what looks like another trailer house surrounded by high gates and security.  The control site (what you actually tour) has been left as a historical museum with tours upon request in the off season and constantly in the summer.  Corbin loves anything that has to do with high power explosives, missiles or guns.  It was an A+ in his book. 

The kids doing the research work to become Jr. Rangers.  

We went from nowhere flat lands into Badlands National Park.  It is incredible!  We took this panorama that doesn't do it justice.  Drive through there if you are ever near by!

From there we were on to the South Dakota Air and Space Museum.  Free and totally awesome.  We learned all about different missions during lots of wars.  There is even a prisoner of war suit on display there from Vietnam.  The soldier that donated it journaled about his experience and I was in awe.  There were also some of the first planes in flight, and tons of BIG military planes on display.  There was even a minutemen missile there to see.  

We finished up Tuesday by driving to Hot Springs, SD.  We stopped earlier than usual today so we could eat dinner and watch a movie together. 

Wednesday:  We got up early with the intent on visiting the Mammoth Site but had our hours of operation confused and couldn't wait until they opened if we wanted to hit the tour at Wind Cave National Park.  They only have one tour in the off season and we were on the first one.  This cave is totally different than anything we had ever toured before.  We were enamored by its uniqueness and wished we could have taken a longer tour but had no desire to volunteer to map the more than 110 miles of cave that they have discovered while crawling for miles on end. 

 From Wind Cave we headed to Jewel Cave which is in Custer State Park.  We saw coyote, deer, and a bazillion prairie dogs.  We are from a place where you target practice with gophers that take up residence in your fields so Corbin spent the drive pretend shooting all the prairie dogs, which look like big gophers.  The drive is gorgeous and winding and when you step outside you just want to breathe in the smell of the ponderosa pine trees and set up camp.  After a quick lunch, we decided against the tour here and headed onto Devils Tower.  After walking around and basking in this majestic place we could appreciate why the Native Americans find it sacred.  We also wondered how on earth early climbers made it to the top with the wooden ladders they used and also wanted to start rock climbing together so that one day we could sweet talk my dad into going back with us and climbing it.  I mean seriously, we could totally do it...maybe?

From Devils Tower, our intent was to head back towards the Little Bighorn Battlefield.  The kids really wanted to see it after studying about Custer in school, but it was getting late and mommy really wanted a day at home before we headed off to the races in West Yellowstone. 

So, with our brains overflowing with history, geology and togetherness, we headed back home.  Another successful Fry family vacation under our belts.

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