We got so many comments on our pink family shirts. One girl stopped us to ask us if she could take a picture of the backs. We met lots of Lord of the Rings fans. You can tell the difference between people who have only watched the movies and people who have read the books by the ones who say, "Who is Goldberry? I don't remember her." :)
I met some Nikon fans, too, like the guy who walked up and offered to snap this picture for us. I also walked up to a woman who was having trouble snapping a picture of a display (the flash on her camera was bouncing off the glass). I showed her how to turn of her flash and turn it back on again. Another lady listening in came up to me with her camera and asked, "Did you just show her how to turn off her flash? Will you show me?" When I did, she asked me if I teach classes. :) That made my day!
We spent more time here than I thought we would because we had the kids do the Junior Ranger program here as well. Caleb is taking an oath with one of the Rangers working inside the Visitor's Center. This was time well-spent as again the kids learned more by the ranger program than they did by just walking around "looking."
When we stopped at Wall Drug we made almost a straight line for this dinosaur. When we stopped here 9 years ago Micah was barely a year older than Malachi is now. He was a so scared then that he cried. I guess it is kind of scary because as a kid you're not sure what's going to happen next. Every 12 minutes the dinosaur rares up and roars very loudly...with cool light and fog effects to enhance the mood. It was great fun teasing Micah about it. And watching the younger kids get a little scared. They all think it's funny now.
Once we left Wall Drug and decided to drive straight home, we scrapped any and all plans to drive through the Badlands National Park. We could see part of the park driving along the interstate, but I fell asleep immediately (a rare event for me) and missed it completely. I wonder if the kids bothered to look at all?
I did wake before we crossed the Missouri River, which is flooded. Of course. It seems like every river we've seen on our trip has been flooded! We got home at 2:45 a.m. Overall we drove 3,033 miles. Well Mitch drove all of the and the rest of us rode along. We averaged 15 mpg for the entire trip. We paid anywhere from $3.49-3.99/gallon. We bought 189 gallons of gas (but didn't fill up when we got home, so we used a little more than that).
Coming home has been hard, as expected. There were a million things screaming to be done--mail to go through, laundry to do, grocery shopping, daycare on Monday, van to clean out, on and on. One thing that did NOT need to be done was clean the house. We came home to a house that was cleaner than ever and our carpets freshly steam-cleaned too. I still haven't figured out the names of the cleaning fairies, but I have narrowed it down. ;) Even my computer monitor is CLEAN, really clean! That was way cool. Since it is in my sewing room, where I cut lots of fabric, it is often covered with lots of dust. There is more little surprises like that, that I keep finding. What an incredibly nice gift!
I am completely exhausted, and it's already Thursday. Patrick and his family arrive late Saturday night. I'm SO excited. I'm so excited for a week of vacation at home (with day-trips).
Keeping kids entertained in the van:
- We keep a couple of old GameBoys on hand for trips only. When we are at home they can play regular video games, so pulling out the GameBoys is really a treat.
- Drawing paper, coloring books, and crayons were fun. (Organized in a plastic shoe box)
- A bag of toddler toys kept Tirzah occupied some of the time.
- We have a travel DVD system--two of those small screens that attach to the backs of seats. The speaker doesn't work on one of the TV's, so we used an adapter that plugged into the headset, then played in the van's cassette player. People sitting in the front seat can't see the screens, but could still listen. It's funny what you pick up by just listening and not watching.
- We borrowed books on c.d. from the library, and I added them to my iPod. Then we played them using the same cassette adapter. We listened to The Screwtape Letters, Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart, Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione, and A Wrinkle in Time (actually read by Madeleine L' Engle, which was pretty cool).
- Headache/pain medicine for appropriate ages (Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen)
- Bandaids, wound-wash, Neosporin-type cream
- Gauze and tape for larger wounds
- Fingernail clippers
- TWEEZERS (which I didn't think of before)
- Emergency cold pack
- Benadryl (antihistamine)
- Plastic gloves
- I also brought along unisom tablets, which are good for carsickness or for people who have trouble sleeping in strange places
- Saline drops
- Anti-Itch lotion
- Aloe-vera type lotion for sunburns
- Chapstick with sunscreen
- Crackers in different varieties
- Beef jerky sticks
- Sunflower seeds
- Baggies of cereal kids like to eat dry
- Occasional candy treats are good, too.
- Frozen gogurt will last a good while in the cooler, as it starts to thaw, pass it around
- Apples, carrots, raisins
- Breakfast: egg burritos using scrambled eggs (the eggs stayed fine in the cooler), soft flour tortillas, and pre-cooked sausage patties (bought frozen at Wal-Mart, stayed fine in the cooler even though they started to thaw a bit by the time we used them); cereal (the milk stayed cold in the cooler for a couple days); pop-tarts and cereal bars (while not a normal thing to eat for breakfast at our house, they sure are convenient in the wilderness); bagels; pancakes (we pre-measured our mix, which is an add only water mix, so it was ready to go)
- Lunch: sandwiches--peanut butter, honey, jelly (in the cooler), ham, bologna, and cheese, were our toppings. We also had mustard and ketchup which could either be in the cooler or out according to us.
- Supper: We had either the campfire or the single-burner propane stove to cook on. I bought canned, cooked chicken at Sam's Club. We had chicken and rice one night, as well as barbecue chicken sandwiches. Both were very easy and used ingredients that didn't need to be kept cool. We had hotdogs one night, too. Some days we had sandwiches for supper due to unexpected changes of plan. Being flexible is key!!!
- Eating out: Out of the 11 days we were gone, we only ate "out" at a restaurant 3 times. Once was all of us at McDonald's (free wifi!), where I think we spent $25. The next time was Subway for me, Mitch, and Kathi--we used gift cards, so it only cost us about $3. We bought McDonald's for the rest of the kids and spent around $18. The 3rd time we ate out was at Little Caesar's. We bought 4 pizzas for a total of $20. We stopped at the grocery store and bought ice cream for dessert (MUCH cheaper than eating out). Oh--I forgot--we got Dairy Queen once, too. We bought 2 boxes of Dilly Bars, which cost us about $12.
- With my Nikon D80, I kept the settings on "P" for Program most of the time. I didn't want to miss a shot while trying to fool with getting all the settings right. Sometimes trying to remember ISO-White Balance-Shutter Speed-Aperture-and Focal Length can just be too much.
- I switched frequently between the 18-55mm lens and the 55-200mm zoom. If I had to choose only one lens, it would have been the 18-55...but then I would have missed some great shots that required more zoom. If you have to switch lenses, try to do it in a spot where there isn't a lot of dust flying around. You'll see big dust on your pictures, but not little dust until you zoom in.
- I had even less time to fool with a flash. I think I only used it once.
- I carried along Mitch's little point-and-shoot when packing light was warranted. It was great to have for movie mode.
- Don't be like me and assume it won't happen to you. We live at 1,000 ft above sea level. In a matter of 3 days we climbed to 7,500 ft above sea level. I thought I would be fine. I thought my weak-kneed feelings were just a little social anxiety. After a couple hours I knew better. I got some rest and some Emergen-C from one of Mitch's aunts. The next day I started to acclimate.
- Drink LOTS of water. Don't ignore kids' complaints about headaches. Take their word for it (headaches are a sign of altitude sickness) and give them some Tylenol.
- I wonder if having hereditary spherocytosis causes me to be more susceptible to altitude sickness? I can't find anything about it on the internet. My theory is I have some spherocytes present in my blood (possibly even more now that I don't have a spleen to "filter" them out)...they are known to be smaller and more fragile. They do not carry as much oxygen as a normal blood cell. And the lack of oxygen is what causes altitude sickness. It sounds reasonable, anyway.
- Don't pass around the water if you have a long way to drive and don't want to stop every 30 min for someone to go potty. When you do stop, everyone must go. If you are going into the mountains, though, everyone needs to drink lots of water.
- Lips sunburn easily, wear lip chap with sunscreen. I ended up with 2 blisters on my lips because I didn't. :( Being up in the mountains is tricky. If there is a nice cool breeze blowing, it's easy to forget water and sunscreen...but it is just as easy to get dehydrated and sunburned up there as it is in a dessert! My kids do not burn very easily and I'm lazy about using sunscreen. I wish I hadn't been. Micah got blistered!