Friday, 23 August 2013

Wild West Road Trip - Day 14 & 15

Day 14 - Jamestown, ND - Minneapolis MN - 26th July

We faced another long drive, about 320 miles to our last stop before home, to break up the journey we stopped in Fargo for a coffee and a look around. Mr C had recently watched the movie Fargo and discovered it wasn't actually filmed in Fargo.

Fargo is one of those city that is on the border of North Dakota and Minnesota, so half of it is in North Dakota and the other half in Minnesota. It was a lovely place, with lots of character.

We set off again and as the city is in 2 states, it wasn't long before we were in Minnesota, which actually realising we had crossed another state border.

It was a long drive to Minneapolis, especially long for the girls, we had audio books on, i-spy was played sooooooo many times, they were bored, but the promise of a swim at the hotel kept them and us sane along with their whiteboards, which they were busy making into cafe menus.

We arrived early evening at our hotel, a lovely Westin hotel, it was super nice, except for the Rustic Inn, this was probably the next nicest hotel we stayed in, and, as it was a last minute booking we got it super cheap too. As it was our last night on the road, we had one last visit to the pool, a nice long swim and play we all enjoyed.

After our swim and shower we headed downtown and found a fantastic British Pub to eat at, called Brit's Pub, you may take us out of Britain but you can't take the British out of us. This place was packed and it even had a bowling green and a British classic the red telephone box outside.

We had a lovely British meal, fish & chips for Mr C and the girls and Steak & Ale pie for me.

It certainly was a lovely place and a nice way to end our vacation. We decided we would definitely come back to Minneapolis for a weekend visit.

Day 15 - Minneapolis, MN to Home, Chicago IL - 27th July

We headed off without breakfast, but armed with coffee, for the last leg home, we had 6 hours of driving to do approx 400 miles and we wanted to stop for breakfast and later for coffee in Madison, WI (I heard Madison have some great coffee shops). So an hour or so into our journey we stopped at the iconic Denny's for breakfast, just like we had the day we set off - 2 weeks ago.

Then we travelled through Minnesota into Wisconsin and down to Madison, where we found a lovely coffee shop and enjoyed a nice coffee, Madison is another one of those places we wished we'd had time to stop in, but will visit another time as they are less than 2 hours away from us.

So fueled up on coffee and cake we started the last stretch home, we were all ready for home, for our own beds and the girls were looking forward to playing with their Lego, it was the one thing they missed the most about being on the road. I did think about taking some with us, but I just knew it would get lost & end up all over the car and I decided it wasn't worth it. I am so glad I left it at home.

And early evening we were home, with pizza in hand.

All in all we had travelled for 15 days, through 8 states, drove 3,863 miles & had an absolutely fantastic time. 

Roll on next years road trip - California in an RV - here we come (I hope)

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Wild West Road Trip - Day 12 & 13

Day 12 - Big Sky, MT - Miles City MT - 24th July

We left Big Sky MT early as we headed back into Bozeman, wer were very tempted to stop for another coffee, but decided to keep going as we were off to the Museum of the Rockies.

This trip was especially for Tilly as she loves Dinosaurs and we had heard there where lots of dinosaur fossils here to be seen, and boy there were too. The Museum of the rockies is home to one of the largest and most famous collection of dinosaur fossils in the world. Dinosaur fossils in their collection have all been found in Montana rocks from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

The dinosaur fossil exhibition was fascinating, so many fossils have been found in Montana, more have been found in this state than any other state in North America.

It was a great museum, very interesting, a play area for the kiddies, which always goes down well, plenty to see and learn about and not just dinosaurs, they had some really good exhibitions, aside from the dinosaurs, there was a planetarium and we got to see the show - Experience the Aurora - all about the Northern Lights it was fantastic and very interesting.

We could have spent longer there, but as we had lots of miles to cover to get to Miles City we hit the road as we were about 4 hours away.

Miles City was a sweet little place, a lady at our hotel recommended a restaurant for dinner called the Boardwalk, it didn't look like anything special but we gave it a go and I have to say apart from the meal in Jackson Hole, this was the next best meal we had had out,  we ordered the steak, which was perfectly cooked, we found out the owner cuts all his own steaks, we had both had a salad starter, the girls had hot dogs which were free with adult entrees and we all had free ice cream desserts, on top of that Mr C had the most delicious milkshake and I ordered a hot tea - all this came to an impressive $29.50, so we left our rather delightful waitress a big tip, as we've had steak dinners that have cost 3 times this meal and not been as good.

After our dinner we made it back to the hotel, just in time to see a storm erupt in the distance, it was a spectacular lightening show.

Day 13 Miles City, MT to Jamestown ND - 25th July

Again we were up and on the road early - today we had about 5 hours to drive to our next stop Jamestown in another new state for us North Dakota this time.  it wasn't long before we were crossing into the new state and another state closer to home.

On our way to Jamestown we stopped for lunch in Bismarck, the capital of the state, at this lovely bar called Peacock Ally, much to Ruby's delight as she loves peacocks. We didn't really have time to explore the town much, but Mr C did pick up a car license plate - he is collecting them from all the states we have been too.

We arrived early evening in Jamestown, and headed straight for their main attraction - The World's Largest Buffalo in Frontier Village.

This buffalo is a cement sculpture that stands 26ft tall and 46 ft long and weighs 60 ton. It was huge.

Also where the buffalo stands is Frontier village - it's a collection of a small number of historical buildings to re-create the look of a small, Midwestern town in the 1800s. It was lovely going round the old building, looking inside and getting a feel for life in the 1800's.

After visiting this lovely little place, we headed back to the hotel for yet another swim and a quick and easy dinner from McDonalds.

Next Stop Minneapolis, then home. 


Saturday, 17 August 2013

Wild West Road Trip - Day 11

Day 11 - Bozeman MT, & 320 Ranch - 23rd July

From Big Sky we made our way into Bozeman, to spend the morning, I was pleasently surprised at how nice Bozeman is, full of arty shops, coffee places and natural food shops it was great. What made my morning was the coffee shop we decided to have our morning coffee at sold FLAT WHITES - my favourite coffee, mainly found in Oz but now very popular in England too, London I have to say is the best place to get a really good flat white, outside of Australia.

I was so excited and also a little curious as too why they have flat whites on the menu, was there an Aussie barista, had some one asked for one..... it turns out, as I had to ask, that the owner had recently been to London and had discovered this great coffee beverage there and decided to put it on the menu, fan flipping tastic if you ask me.

For those who don't know a flat white, they are very similar to a latte but nicer, a bit more coffee to milk ratio, I just love them.

After our coffee, we had a good nosey round the shops, bought a Kit Kat clock, we went for the classic black one, had a moose on a stick chocolate and bought our lunch from a great local wholefood style food market.

It wasn't long before we had to be on our way again, as the girls were booked in for a horse ride at the 320 Guest Ranch, it was a lovely ride back, with beautiful scenery.

It didn't take us too long to get to the Ranch, the girls quickly changed into their horse riding clothes and off we went for their ride.

This time the girls where going on their own, but it was only a 30 minute ride and they were being walked around by their guides.

The girls had a fantastic ride, Mr C followed them around, whilst I stayed in the horse shed and chatted with one of the Cowgirls - we had a great chat.

After the horse ride, we had an ice cream, then made our way back to the hotel for another swim, before going out for pizza at this fantastic pizza place called Ousel & Spur, the pizza was fantastic, according to the girls and I had the yummiest meatballs and spaghetti.

And that was it for our Big Sky adventure, next stop and officially on our way home now is Miles City. As we have quite a distance to cover, the next few days are mainly traveling.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Wild West Road Trip - Day 10

Jackson Hole, WY - Big Sky, Montana - 22nd July

Well it was time to leave our lovely resort and head off to another new state for us, Montana, but first we went to have a look around Jackson Hole, which is the most gorgeous town we've stayed at so far, I loved it so much I could live there. They have a great summer tourist season and a fabulous winter season too as a Ski Resort. Perfect.

We wondered around the shops and I picked up a lovely pearl bracelet from Pearls by Shari - they do a great range called the Teton Range. Mine was a simple one pearl (freshwater) on a leather cord. I love it.

The shops were wonderful and filled with lots of animals, no we did not fancy bringing a bear home with us.

We noticed they had a Stagecoach we could ride in, of course anything with horses is a must for the girls, so after our rather lovely coffee from the Cowboy Coffee shop we made our way over for a ride.

It was only a short ride around the town, but it was cheap and the girls loved it and now we could say we had been in a Stagecoach.

 It wasn't long before we had to leave the beautiful Jackson hole to make our way back through Yellowstone Park to Big Sky in Montana, but before we left the Grand Teton National Park, we had one important job to do and that was to see if Ruby was able to become a Junior Ranger.

We stopped off at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitors Center with Ruby's completed Junior Ranger Paper, which a Ranger checked and then she said the Junior Ranger Pledge - "As a Junior Ranger, I promise to appreciate, respect, and protect Grand Teton National Park and the natural world around wherever I go." and with that she passed and become a Junior Ranger. She was ever so pleased with her first Badge, and as most of the National Parks do this scheme, she is excited to be able to collect more.

So from here we drove back to Yellowstone National Park, we really wanted to see the Midway Geyser Basin, where the famous Grand Prismatic Spring is and boy it did not disappoint and was my favourite place in Yellowstone.

It was a truly spectacular sight, and the camera captured it well, but it's one of those places you really do have to see in person, along with Grand Prismatic Spring, there was also the Excelsior Geyser which discharges 4,000 to 4,500 gallons of 199 °F (93 °C) water per minute directly into the Firehole River.

I did get some fabulous photos of it on instagram too, check them out by clicking the instagram badge at the top of the page.

After seeing the wonderful Grand Primastic Spring, we made our way to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone Park, after stopping for an ice cream break first.

The Grand Canyon was massive, an impressive name for an impressive canyon.

The photos don't really do it justice, but it was a sight to be seen, complete with waterfalls too, I only wish we had had time to explore it a bit more, but it was late afternoon and we still had over 50 miles to travel to our next stop.

Whilst still in Yellowstone National park, we entered another new state for us Montana our 5 state of the road trip and soon after we left Yellowstone via the West entrance.

We had a lovely drive to Big Sky our stop for the next 2 nights. Big Sky is a big ski resort in the Winter and a good base in the summer for exploring Montana and Yellowstone National Park

To come, I find a Flat White in Bozeman Montana and I couldn't be more excited.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Wild West Road Trip - Day 9

Grand Tetons National Park, WY - 21st July

After a very nice long lazy breakfast, swim in the outdoor pool, and pampering ourselves with the Molton Brown miniatures (of which several accidentally found their way into my wash bag) we set off for our day in the Grand Tetons National Park.

Not long after leaving Jackson Hole, you are suddenly hit by the most fantastic view of the Grand Tetons, which stays with you for your journey to the National Park and almost all the way to Yellowstone Park.

The Magnificent Grand Tetons

We headed for Moose - yes there was a town called Moose, we visited the Visitors Center to get a map and see what there was to do. On their newspaper I saw a section on how to become a Junior Ranger of the Grand National Teton Park, and straightaway I thought Ruby would love to do this.

So we got the newspaper The Grand Adventure, which told us what Ruby needed to do and being age 7 and under, she had to complete two programs, one which must be a ranger program and the other was go on one hike or watch a park video.

And she had to complete pages 3 & 4 & the bingo in the newspaper.

As we were already at the Visitors Centre we choose to watch the park video, and as that finished a ranger was just beginning his talk on Bears and how to protect yourself if you ever come across one. It was very interesting.

The three things I learnt was whilst walking in bear country 1) is to make noise loud noise, bears are less likely to approach, 2) if a bear does approach you or charge at you stand still (What the!!!!! Stand still if a 400lb bear is charging at me, all I would want to do is run) but as a bear can out run you they advise to stand still. 3) Carry bear spray yes there is such a thing and if the bear charges deploy your bear spray in one second bursts - there you go

And as Ruby had attended this ranger program she got to complete two of the tasks to help her get the Junior Ranger badge.

We then drove around to Jenny Lake and we went for a walk to see Jenny Lake and have a paddle in it, then we went for a trail walk to find Jenny Lake Overlook, we didn't find it, we probably didn't go far enough, but we did have a lovely walk around the lake, and Ruby and I spent a good time looking for traces of animals that lived near the lake, we found animals tracks and poo, both of which Ruby was excited about, well it was for her Junior Ranger badge.

Tilly was our trail leader

After our walk, we headed further up the Teton Park Road, all the time the Grand Tetons just towered above us, we spotted an Elk in the undergrowth, and followed the road along Jackson Lake, it was beautiful scenery.

As we made our way back to Jackson Hole, Ruby was busy completing some of the fun activities, mainly the Ranger Bingo, for her badge, and we spotted this great road sign, I thought Australia had fab road signs and this one said it all.

We had a lovely drive back and as it had been a very hot, busy day, we got to have another hour in the pool, before going out for dinner, we went to this fabulous place called Rendezvous Bistro - best meal out of the holiday.

Yellowstone Park, Ruby becomes a Junior Ranger and another new state all to come next on our road trip

Friday, 2 August 2013

Wild West Road Trip - Day 8

Day 8 - Cody, WY - Jackson Hole, WY - 20th July

We started our day early as Mr C and the girls had their 1hr horse trail ride at 9am, and boy were the girls excited.

Picking out their horses
The Cowgirls and Mr C ready to roll

As we had two very excited girls, and we were early the girls got to watch the cowboys bring the horses in and debate over which horse they would each like to ride - if only it was that easy. We felt very lucky to have found these guys, as Mr C had rung around a few places prior to our trip and no-one would take kids under 7 on a trail ride, but by chance we found these guys the day before and they had informed us, that both girls could ride a full sized horse for the one hour trail ride as they would be attached to a guide. Perfect

Cowgirl Ruby and her horse Dunny
Cowboy Mr C ready to go
The Three Amigos 

And off they went, and why didn't I join them you may wonder, well I was designated photographer of course, ok that's not the truth, it's because I am not at all keen on horses, they scare me, so I choose to take the photo's then sit in the shade, in the peace and quiet and write postcards - it was bliss. I got chatting to a lovely gentleman too, he and his wife, had sold up and were cruising across America in their RV, and he still worked, the beauty of having a mobile phone and computer, that's the life. 

Ruby returning with Chase her guide
Tilly on Ambrose

Mr C said the trail was really good, they went down by and followed a river, and that the cowboys leading the trail, were informative and they had competed in the Rodeo the night before, the one we went too.

All I can saw is the girls had the best horse ride ever, Ruby even managed to tell me about the actual horse ride, where they went and what they saw.

After the ride, we headed back into Cody for a coffee and smoothie, before setting off for our next town Jackson Hole, which took us through the world famous Yellowstone Park - now I had enjoyed every part of the holiday so far but this was the part I was most looking forward too seeing Yellowstone Park.

Yellowstone Park was only 50 miles away from Cody and after a lovely drive to it, we entered through the East Entrance, to begin our Yellowstone adventure.

Yellowstone National Park is huge, it's 3,468 sq miles and spreads across 3 states of America, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, most of the park is in Wyoming and it comprises of lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges. it is a place of extreme national beauty.

Lake Yellowstone
An Elk in the under growth 
beautiful views all around

On the drive into Yellowstone, you are all of a sudden hit by the beauty of it and the massive lake - Yellowstone Lake that is in the park - the lake itself is 7,732 feet (2,376 m) above sea level and covers 136 square miles (350 km2) with 110 miles (177 km) of shoreline. Yellowstone Lake is the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet (2,133 m) in North America.

Our first stop was to see an Elk in the undergrowth, you can always tell if there is something worth seeing in Yellowstone as all the cars stop by the side of the road and everyone is out with their cameras, us included.

Next we had lunch at a cute little diner in Lake Village, then we decided to go and see Old Faithful, which is a geyser, that erupts about every 92 minutes. it is not the largest, nor highest in Yellowstone but it is the most regular, with the boiling water shooting out to a height of 130m in just 15-20 second.

We were lucky that we only had to wait about 30 mins before the next eruption was due, so we went for an ice-cream and sat in the viewing area keenly waiting on the Old faithful to erupt and more or less on the time they predicted off it went and it just kept going.....

.....and going and going, Old Faithful went on for ages, it was great to see and you could feel the heat coming off that water too, they say the eruptions can shoot 14,000 to 32,000L of boiling water to a height of 106 to 185 feet (32 to 56 m) lasting from 1.5 to 5 minute. It was truly amazing to see.

From here as it was getting late in the day we started making our way to Jackson Hole, our stop for the next 2 nights. We drove out of the South entrance of Yellowstone Park and down through the Grand Tetons and Jackson Lake (more about those to come later), until we reached Jackson Hole, a beautiful town at the bottom of the Grand Tetons Mountain Range.

It was a very picturesque drive and reminded me somewhat of the South Island of New Zealand, along the way we were lucky to see wild bison/buffalo again.

We stayed at The Rustic Inn and it was lovely, and our treat as it was not cheap, but well worth it, we stayed in a log cabin, there was a creek, tee pee's, camp fires, the all important outdoor pool etc etc

The Rustic Inn and grounds

We decided to dine at the hotel restaurant that evening as it was getting late, we bought ourselves a S'mores kit from them for dessert, and heading up to the camp fire to make S'mores.

Toasting our marshmallows for the S'mores

Our S'mores kit contained skewers, marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers, and if you haven't heard of S'mores (like I hadn't until I came to America) you basically put a piece of chocolate on top on a graham cracker, toast your marshmallow in the fire, until it is soft and gooey and not too burnt, then you put the marshmallow on top of the chocolate, place another graham cracker on top and swish together and eat, yummy yummy.

We had fun making these in the camp fire, under the stars, it was a late night but worth it.

To come the beautiful Grand Tetons and Ruby studies to get her first Junior Ranger Badge.