We pulled out of our driveway around 2:30 pm on June 25th. We had to pick up my brother Chris in Souix City, IA on the 26th and we wanted to drive as far as possible on the first day in order to cut down on driving time on the 26th. We hadn't made hotel reservations for the night because we didn't know how far we would get and we didn't want to pressure ourselves into going farther than we felt we could just because of reservations.
Everything started out great. The weather was wonderful, everyone was excited. We took Steven's sister Michelle with us as our graduation gift to her. She had never been to this part of the country before and she loves the outdoors so we knew she'd enjoy it. We had decided that we would rotate one kid out of our car each day and into my mom's car. That way they could spend some time with my mom and their uncles and they wouldn't be on top of each other in the backseat all the time. It was the perfect plan! We started out with Micah and Jonah in our car. And they were great together! The ride was always smooth when those two were in the car together!
We got through our part of KY, into a small corner of Indiana, into Ohio, back into Indiana and crossed into Illinois. It was in Illinois that we started to hit nasty weather. The rain was so strong, the wind blew really hard and it got super black. Come to find out later the storm we drove through spawned 2 tornadoes in Illinois so we got incredibly lucky! We had to stop at one point and take refuge in a local Dairy Queen until the storm could pass over. So sad that we had to indulge in a chicken finger basket and a s'mores Blizzard while we waited. It was awful! *wink*
But after the storm we were greeted by some pretty cool cloud formations.
We made it as far that night as Walcott, IA, a total of 498.9 miles and 10 hours of driving. We stopped at a Days Inn which, even though you could tell it was older and it needed some remodeling, was very clean. Plus we got it for under $100 a night and it included breakfast the next morning.
The next morning my mom woke up to a call from my brother that his connecting flight from Chicago to Souix City had been canceled due to the weather in Chicago. He was being rerouted to Houston and then in to Omaha, Nebraska instead. The kids had a little time to swim after they ate breakfast, which made them happy and us too because we knew that they would swim out some wiggles before we hit the road. Oh and we played with Eli's hair a little too! Hello mini Brianna! lol
We got on the road from Walcott around 10 am after a stop at the World's Largest Truck Stop for a fuel up, tire air up and some coffee from Caribou (for Michael and I).
We stopped for a picnic lunch at a rest stop in Iowa. It was a beautiful spot to stop and stretch our legs for a while. It even had a playground for the kids which helps so much when they've been locked in the car for so long. Like I mentioned in my last post we had packed egg salad, tuna salad, pasta salad, potato salad, bread, and chips so we could eat healthy and cheaply on the road. It was great to just be able to pull out what we needed and clean up was a breeze since we brought paper plates and plastic utensils for these kind of stops (we use reusable items when we stay put for a longer period of time but we don't want to have to worry about washing dishes at a rest stop!)
Over the picnic we decided it didn't make sense for everyone to go to the airport in Omaha to pick up Chris. So we decided to split up. Steven and Michelle went in my mom's car with Jonah and Micah and headed on to our destination for the evening, Niobrara State Park. Michael, Brianna, Eli and I headed on to Omaha to get Chris. I was really surprised by Omaha! It was a cute little midwest town. Well, in reality it's not that little, the population is almost 500,000. But it was clean and easy to navigate and I really liked it. I'd like to go back one day and actually explore it a little.
After getting Chris we drove through Nebraska and up into South Dakota to cross back over into Nebraska to reach Niobrara State Park. We drove across the Niobrara River and the Lakota Indian Reservation of Santee on our way. It was a beautiful drive part of the way through the Loess Hills, but I'll admit that most of Iowa and southeastern South Dakota are pretty boring.
Once we arrived in Niobrara they had gotten some of camp set up. Our tent was up, mom's was ready to go up. We got the canopy up, even though my brother kept protesting we weren't going to need it. Well, we were awfully glad we had it the next morning when it rained for almost 2 hours straight and we needed to pack up and move on! For dinner that night we threw hot dogs and polish sausages on the grill, potato salad, pasta salad and strawberries. We got a campfire going and the kids got to make S'mores which is always a hit!
We got some rain that night but that made it all the more peaceful for sleeping. I love laying there and listening to the rain hit the roof of the tent.
By the end of day 2 on the road we had covered 923.2 miles. Not too shabby!! And everyone was still happy so that was awesome!