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!!!
I mentioned in the previous post that I'd be splitting up this subject into 2 parts, with the last one covering our time in Jackson, Wyoming, viewpoints, hikes, etc. This post, I'll be covering what wildlife we saw, and other interesting things to note. Here we go:
Yellowstone National Park, as I mentioned in my last Yellowstone post, is abundant with wildlife. Likely, the most common animal that you'll encounter is a bison. The bison are everywhere in Yellowstone, and it'd really be hard not to find one (or two or five or ten). The downside to their recurring sightings is that they are frequently stopping traffic by crossing the road. We got stopped no less than 3 times by crossing bison. There are really two reasons why traffic slows when bison are crossing. The first reason dominates the first half of the traffic time. It's the fact that the bison are, well, crossing the road. It's a Yellowstone rule that the bison have the right of way, so everyone must stop. The second reason is that a lot of people are goggling at the bison after they've crossed the road. This results in more traffic, and backs up cars for a very long while. However, they're also really cool to look at while in action, since (most of the time) they're really majestic looking. One night, for example, when we were riding back to the RV park, we encountered some buffalo right next to the road, where there were 2-3 little calves chasing each other! They were kicking up dust, and making little grunts every once in a while. This encounter was super cool, and we really enjoyed seeing it.
Another great wildlife encounter that we had was with on my mom's birthday (see OTHER category for more details), and we were on our way to her birthday dinner at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel Dining Room. (Again, for more details, see OTHER category). Happening upon a large crowd of people taking pictures at we-didn't-know-what on a large grass field, we stopped and had a look. You see, we had learned, from being there for a few days, that when a lot of people are stopped at a place looking at something, you should stop and look too. So, we looked for what was causing such a big to-do. And we looked. And looked. And we still couldn't see anything. Then we noticed that a lot of people had binoculars or telescopes. Well, we didn't have any binoculars or telescopes, so we asked what they were seeing. "Wolves," they said, "are stalking some elk". Wow! Isn't that neat? But we could only see these little dots. Well, that was really cool, but after a while of looking we went to dinner. After dinner, we went back the same way to get home. We happened upon the same crowd again, and asked if they were still watching the wolves. "Oh yes," they said, "We have been watching them. They just killed a baby calf. You can see those dots over there. They're dragging it into the woods." Whoah. It was amazing to think that those were wolves with a dead baby elk who was alive before we ate dinner. That we might have actually seen him alive. This was pretty extraordinary and almost uncanny.
One other animal that we saw at Yellowstone was a bear. All week we'd been trying to see a bear. It was one of the days that I went out alone with my dad. We were driving by when, like the instance with the wolves, we saw a crowd of people. Naturally, we stopped. There was a black bear a mere 250ish feet away on the other side of a river. This was really amazing, since I’ve never seen a bear in the wild. He was just lumbering along, apparently looking for food. We really enjoyed seeing this bear.
Also, we got to see a few mule deer and elk, although this wasn’t quite as stunning as seeing the other creatures. However, one time we did get to see a mother mule deer with her baby from our car. That was really cool.
OTHER THINGS TO NOTE:
I’ve covered all of my main topics, but now I’m just going to give a few minor things that I think are probably good to note. Let’s take a look.
Traffic: Traffic in Yellowstone National Park is pretty unpredictable. As I mentioned in the WILDLIFE section, a spotting of an animal can slow down traffic immensely. Also, there’s 2 or 3 places that have construction on them, causing there to be a one lane road for a 7-10 mile stretch, which causes up to 45 minute delays. This was pretty annoying. I would recommend that you allow an extra (at least) 30 minute add on to your travel time for every hour that you think you’ll be traveling.
The Birthday: My mom had her birthday while we were in Yellowstone, and we celebrated by spending the day in the park. We really enjoyed our time there, and were able to see the wolves, and enjoy a great dinner at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel Dining Room. My mom had a great birthday, and we were glad to spend it with her in this fashion.
The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center: One of the days that we were in Yellowstone, Vice President Pence and his wife visited Old Faithful. So, as you can imagine, traffic was pretty bad. We decided that, for the sake of our sanity and well-being, we'd stay out of the park that day. Luckily for us, the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center was in the town that we were staying near. The Discovery Center was like a mini educational zoo. It housed about 7 or 8 grizzly bears, and the same number of wolves. We really enjoyed exploring this center, and learned quite a bit about the two different creatures. They also had a birds of prey presentation that we attended. Here, we learned all about different birds of prey, and got to see an owl and a hawk.
Overall, our time in Yellowstone was phenomenal. We hiked some really neat trails, saw some amazing sights, learned a plethora of information, and really got to see a small part of creation. We'd definitely rank Yellowstone on our top National Parks, and would recommend it as such. With only 7 days left in our incredible journey, we are excited to bring home with us some of the lessons we learned on the trip. Stay tuned!
Will is 14, and enjoys running track, writing,