Final Weeks- Part 2. Yikes. It's getting closer... I've been getting countless emails begging us to keep the blog going. It appears people are suffering from lots of depression and anxiety because of the fact that we're slowing down blog posts.
After leaving Sioux City, Iowa, we traveled to St. Joseph, Missouri. I know I haven't mentioned travel days much during the posts, but there was one thing that we found very sobering and post-worthy. As we were driving to Branson we encountered a plethora of buildings, fields and communities that had suffered from severe flooding. It wasn't uncommon to see an entire barn almost completely submerged. In fact, Nebraska is facing 1.3 billion dollars in flood losses. Definitely keep those people in your prayers.
In St. Joseph, we didn't really do much, since we were only staying for one night. In fact, I only have one thing to mention about our time there. They had canoeing/kayaking rentals for a lake there. So I, being the only one wanting to do so, decided to rent one. And it was pretty fun! Granted, it only took me about 15 minutes to traverse the entire lake (it was more like a large pond), I certainly took pleasure in hanging out in the peace and quiet out there. And a bonus was that I got to see a very large bullfrog!
After St. Joseph, we journeyed to the city of Branson, Missouri. Upon arriving at Branson, we immediately felt a difference in the campground. It was very welcoming, and had a huge amount of fun activities going on throughout each day. The name itself was unique: Jellystone RV Park. It was named after the fictional character Yogi Bear's home: Jellystone National Park. One of their daily activities was log rolling, in which you'd get in a small pool with a plastic log was in it. The goal was to balance on this rolling log for as long as you could. In this case, being smaller helped tremendously, because the log wouldn't roll as much if you didn't weigh as much. We really got a kick out of this activity. My record was just over a minute. The owner's son beat the overall record while we were there, and stayed on for just under 14 minutes. Pretty crazy, huh?
Another thing that we were impressed with was the friendliness of the staff. They were very kind, and we made friends among many of them. One couple, the activity directors, actually hiked coast to coast and back in the course of a little over a year! We were very inspired by these folks. An individual that we enjoyed the company of, who also worked at the campground was extremely kind to us. He is in college, and had a very intriguing story of what he's doing. He's interested in a lot of things that I (Will) am, including Star Wars and filming.
I won't say much more about the campground other than that we really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend the Branson Jellystone RV Resort.
Something else that we loved while in Branson was going to the SIX show. SIX is a group of 6 (Whoah. A coincidence? I think not!) a cappella musicians. And they're brothers. We were highly entertained by these guys in their show. They were funny, and did some really great a cappella versions of famous songs. And if that wasn't enough, they also played a few classic movies with no sound, and provided the audio for it. For example, they played a scene from the classic Disney movie "The Love Bug", and were providing car sounds, crash sounds, etc.
Branson was filled with a ton of great things, and it doesn't stop here. One day, we took a trip out to Table Rock Lake, just outside of Branson, and rented a boat for a few hours. Nate and I tubed on the lake, we swam, ate lunch and had a blast out there!
Branson is a great city, if you've never been. We had a truly incredible stay in Jellystone RV Resort, and also enjoyed a great a cappella concert. Not to mention a terrific time out on Table Rock Lake. From Branson, we only had two stops before getting home. Stay tuned for the final installments of Connecting Four's trip around the U.S.!
This is it. The final days. Now you can't get up in the morning going "Hey, I wonder where the Merchants are now", or "I wonder if Will's written a new blog post?" Why is this happening? It's all coming crashing down before your eyes! Nooo!!...
Ok. Hold on. You're overreacting. (I'll bet all the ladies reading this were crying.) We still have a couple more posts. And when you really think about it, all of this fame and fortune that we've been getting from you guys (ok, not the fortune part) will die down (and we really haven't gotten the fame either). It's not the end of the world. You'll get over it. So hold your horses and enjoy these last few posts. Savor the vicarious lifestyle for just a little longer...
We left South Dakota, and traveled to Sioux City, Iowa. Sioux City holds a place in all of our hearts because this is the city where Nate was born. We have a lot of good memories in this city, and some new ones were made while we were there, and we really enjoyed the campground, which was right next to a lake.
First of all, we visited a hot dog place, Milwaukee Wiener House. We'd eaten there when we came 6 years ago, and got to know the owners pretty well. We were really surprised that one of the owners recognized us when we visited there 6 years later. We also like their food a lot, and would definitely recommend going there if you ever get the chance.
Something else that we got a thrill out of was the 4th of July fireworks that we watched. The firefighters of the city of Onawa (it was about 30 minutes out from Sioux City) were putting on a fireworks show over the lake that we were staying near. In fact, we were able to get a perfect view of the fireworks from our RV site! We had a blast watching the fireworks show.
Right across the lake from our RV site was a state park. This state park had Lewis and Clark style keelboat, replicated after what they had traveled down the Missouri River. It was very neat, and a few days later we, while at our campground, were able to see it in action. It's pretty cool being able to see what something would have looked like that is no longer common to see.
Something that we did not enjoy while staying in Sioux City was that we had an RV electrical problem where we were getting shocked pretty badly every time we'd touch any metal on the outside of the RV. I'm going to write this in 2 ways. First, I'll give the long, technical explanation, then I'll give the simplified version. You can skip to the easy if you want, my feelings won't get hurt.
TECHNICAL: A wire that was fed from the main frame of the RV to one of the slide outs had been pinched by the slide out going in and out so many times. That part of the wire insulation was worn down to the point of the actual wire being exposed, and it was touching the metal on the slide out, which was touching the main frame/chassis of the RV, which was touching the other slide outs, stairs, and a lot of other metal components that were outside of the RV. There was no "ground" that we had, thus creating a sort of "floating current". Whenever we'd touch the RV with bare feet on the ground, we'd be creating a ground for the current to flow through. After measuring the voltage coming from the wire, we found that we were getting 95 volts. We were very blessed to not have a larger current coming out of the wire. Another downside to this was that our inverter was fried in the process, and we had to get it replaced.
SIMPLIFIED: A wire got repetitively pinched by one of our slide outs such that it wore down the wire insulation. The current coming from the wire transferred to the frame of the RV, the slide outs and the steps, making it so that we'd be shocked every time we touched the RV. The voltage that we were getting shocked with was around 95 volts, which, if the amperage had been larger, would've impaired someone or killed them. We were very blessed not to have had that problem. We also found out that our inverter got fried. The inverter, if you don't know, basically takes the electricity that's going to the refrigerator (which can't take that kind of electricity), and converts it into electricity that the fridge can use. So, of course, we replaced the inverter as well.
So because of this problem, we decided that we'd need to spend a night or two in a hotel. Lucky for us, we were able to stay at the same hotel that we stayed in 6 years ago. Ahh, such nostalgia.
Overall, we had a blast in Sioux City. We were able to eat hot dogs, watch fireworks, visit a keelboat, and find out some interesting facts about electricity. I'm only doing one city, because our next stop (Branson) was filled with lots and lots of things that I'm excited to share with you guys. So stay tuned, and savor the last few posts!
While in Memphis, Tennessee, we were surprised to learn of the Sultana Maritime Disaster, the largest maritime disaster in the history of the United States. The Sultana was taking paroled Civil War prisoners along the Mississippi River. Surprisingly, more people died in this disaster than in the Titanic. The reason that this was not as publicized as the Titanic, thus making it a lesser known piece of our history, is that the disaster happened a little over a week after President Lincoln was shot. It occurred in the wake of a massive event, and is now not as well known. This picture is depicting the disaster after 3 of its boilers had exploded. The cause of the explosion was a hasty boiler repair, which, along with holding many more people than it should have, weakened the ship and led to the explosion.
We happened to pass by the Sultana Maritime Disaster Museum. Though it was closed, we were able to get a picture of this mural at the front of it. It's a fascinating and compelling story, and looking it up is definitely worth your time.
I'm glad to announce that, after 10 months from being away from home, that we are back, and have hit the ground running. We're very excited to a). Be able to see friends and family again, and b). Be in a MASSIVE house! Stay tuned! We have more posts to come...
Yellowstone National Park was one of our final National Parks. Following our time there, we traveled to Garryowen, Montana. It’s ok if you haven’t heard of Garryowen before. It isn’t exactly the largest town, but we had some great experiences there.
The first was getting to see the Little Bighorn National Monument. Little Bighorn Nat’l Mon. is where Lt. Colonel George Custer fought his last battle. We learned a lot about this battle, and were able to see both sides of the conflict. If you’ve read about, or seen a movie about Custer’s last stand, then you’ve probably realized that there are really two sides to the story: Custer’s side, and the Native American’s side. I don’t have room to fill you in, but if you click on this link, you’ll have more than enough info on the subject. http://www.americaslibrary.gov/jb/recon/jb_recon_custer_1.html
Our second cool experience in Garryowen was that we were able to attend the First Crow Indian Baptist Church. It was, as is the entire town of Garryowen, in the Crow Indian Reservation. We were very blessed to be able to worship with these folks, and enjoyed our time with them.
After a few days in Garryowen, we moved on to Rapid City, South Dakota. Rapid City was a great stop, and we were able to see Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Badlands National Park, and Wind Cave Nat’l Park. Mount Rushmore was pretty cool, and I think the reason why is because it’s like the Statue of Liberty, in that it’s what you think of when you think of the United States as a whole. However, we didn’t spend much time here, since, as you can probably figure out, there weren’t that many things to do there (e.g. Look at the monument and hike the short monument trail). Crazy Horse wasn’t much different it terms of the amount of things to do. However, for this one, I was sorely disappointed at the progress of the monument. For those of you who don’t know, Crazy Horse Monument is dedicated to (who else?) the Native American Crazy Horse, who, incidentally, fought in the Battle of the Little Bighorn (a.k.a. Custer’s Last Stand). It’s currently under construction, which wouldn’t be so bad if not for the fact that they’ve been working on it for 71 years. And his head and some of his right arm are the only things completed. This was a huge bummer, since I was hoping to see more of it. When it's finished, his face will be 1.45 times as tall as Mount Rushmore, and the entire sculpture will be 263 feet long, making it the second tallest statue in the world. However, Crazy Horse Memorial will hold a place in my memory for another reason. We were able to attend a presentation of a Native American lady who showed us a Native American hoop dance. A hoop dance is basically a person dancing with up to 28 hoops (think about really strong hula hoops). It’s a little hard to explain, so I’d recommend Google searching “hoop dancing videos”. The person hoop dancing is telling a story. The woman that hoop danced for us was telling the story of her life with 28 hoops. At one time (at the very end), she actually had all 28 hoops being used!
Badlands National Park was absolutely incredible. It's home to some really amazing buttes, pinnacles and spires. What's more is that you're allowed to climb all over them! It was really amazing, and we took a cool hike. This hike, Notch Trail, led you through a canyon, then up a steep log ladder to more of the trail. We enjoyed the views at the end. Badlands was certainly a spectacular National Park, and we were very pleased with all of it.
Also, on our way to Badlands, we stopped at Wall Drug. Wall Drug used to be a famous drug store, and now they've turned it into a mall type area. It was really neat, and I enjoyed eating there and checking out the area around. Wall Drug is famous for their "free ice water", which drew customers to them when they first started out in 1908.
Wind Cave National Park is one of my favorite National Parks behind Yellowstone, Capitol Reef and maybe Joshua Tree. It’s the home of the 7th longest cave in the world, and is the 6th oldest National Park. We took one of the tours into the cave, and were astounded at it all. It turns out, a 16 year old boy mapped out 8-10 miles of this cave in the late 1800s. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about him: From the age of 16 until his death at the age of 20, McDonald discovered and mapped the first 8 to 10 miles (13 to 16 km) of Wind Cave using candlelight. His exploration and mapping was so extensive and thorough for the time that it was not until 1963, 70 years after his death, that major new passageways were discovered in Wind Cave. During the guided tour, we came to point where our guide turned off all the electrical lights, and we were able to see what Alvin McDonald saw when he was exploring the cave. The guide had a candle lamp with her that was exactly like what Alvin would've had, and even with this light, it was very dark in there! We really enjoyed seeing Wind Cave.
One other thing that I've forgotten to mention in the last 3 or so posts is that we met some folks from Georgia back in our Heber City campground. Mr. and Mrs. Mathis used to live about 2 miles down the road from our house in Georgia, but we didn't met until we were parked next to each other in Heber City! They are also full time, and we were very blessed to be able to spend time with them in Heber City, Yellowstone and Rapid City! They are very nice people, and we enjoyed exchanging stories from on the road. :)
Following our time in Rapid City, we traveled to Mitchell, South Dakota. Mitchell is the home of the World’s Only Corn Palace (though technically there were corn palaces before this one). It is an event venue, and when there’s not an event going on, it’s free to visit. If you’re wondering what a corn palace is, think about a movie theater, then imagine corn murals on the outside sides of the theater. This is what the Corn Palace is. We enjoyed touring this, and were amazed at what people do with the corn.
We didn’t do much in Mitchell, and soon moved on to Iowa. But, I’ll cover that in the next post. By the way, this is the last blog post that I’ll write while on the trip. We have 2 days left until we get back! Tomorrow (July 30th) we get back!!!
Will is 15, and enjoys running track, writing,