Friday, September 6, 2013

We're Moving!!

So after a very frustrating month with Blogger and not being able to get it to post or do anything in a timely manner I've decided it's time to move! Please come visit us in our new home...

We hope to see you there a little more regularly!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fishkins Family Vacation Day 3:Destination Badlands

Sorry for the delay guys! Off we go on Day 3!

We woke up to a cloudy morning in Niobrara State Park. We hoped the rain would hold off long enough to get packed up. Unfortunately while we were cooking breakfast (pancake and bacon sandwiches) the thunder started and the sky let loose. Luckily we moved the dining tent over the grill and trailer when the thunder started so we were still able to get breakfast done and started packing up what was under the tent to get ready to put on the trailer. While we were cooking a park ranger came by to see if we needed anything. He asked if he could take a picture of our set up and we agreed. Later it ended up on their Facebook page which was pretty cool!!

When we were able to get a break in the rain we tried to get things taken down quickly. Just as we got tents down the sky opened up again. In total it probably rained an hour and a half that morning. It slowed us down a little bit but we still were completely packed up and on the road by 9:30 am, just a half hour behind schedule. 

The goal for day 3 was to make it to Badlands National Park and then on to Devils Tower KOA in Wyoming. It was a long day of driving. Before we left people told us over and over that that was the hardest stretch of the drive. I couldn't understand what they meant, until we got going. The drive was beautiful and hilly and breathtaking in some places. But it also felt like it went on forever!! There was nothing but land, a lot of it Indian Reservations. In fact that day we drove through several of the largest reservations we would see, Rosebud and Pine Ridge. I was shocked and saddened by the intense poverty that was very apparent on both of these reservations (also could be seen on smaller reservations that we drove through as well.) You would drive by these houses that looked like they were 2 bedrooms, maybe 3 at the most, very, very tiny clapboard houses or dilapidated mobile homes. There were a ton of old cars in the yard, as well as old refrigerators, washing machines, etc. Broken windows, tarps on roofs where they were leaking, just junk everywhere! I wondered about all the cars and my brother said they probably had 10-12 people living in that one house together!! Yikes! And we feel like we're on top of each other in our 5 bedroom, 3 1/2 bathroom house sometimes! First world problems, ya'll! It really kind of put things into perspective! 

The hardest part about the drive really was all the up and downs of the hills. You would climb a hill and think there was something on the other side, just to see there was just another hill! I'm not going to lie...I got a little testy after a while! It felt like we were never going to get there! We were waiting to have our picinic lunch once we arrived at the park because there was really no where else to stop. My blood sugar was dropping fast and this mommy got a little cranky!! 

I haven't mentioned yet that we had walkie talkies with us on our trip. We had several in the van and several in my mom's car. I'll have to do a post on the handles we came up with for everyone, etc. but that'll be a little later! My brother radiod at one point and said "Look at that road ahead of us!" and I said "I can't! It just makes me wanna cry!!" A few moments later my mom was on the radio saying there was a stop ahead where we could go to the bathroom, stretch, etc. We stopped at this little gas station on the reservation and went in to use the bathroom. I apologized for being so cranky but that I was having a hard time that day. My mom said that I needed to speak up when I felt myself getting overwhelmed. It didn't do anybody any good to push and push and push and burn out this early. Unfortunately we just had to make it to our destination. We opened the trailer and got everybody a sweet and a salty snack to hold them over until we could reach our picnic destination. After eating those I felt much better and vowed not to let my blood sugar drop that low makes me super cranky!!

After that I tried to really enjoy the landscape we were driving through. Especially because we started seeing formations like this out of our window:

It's kind of hard to not be impressed by that!! It took almost 5 1/2 hours with stops but we finally arrived in Interior, South Dakota at an adorable little gas station outside of the park.

Entering the Badlands feels like getting dropped onto Mars. It really just feels otherwordly and I think it's safe to say that it was probably my favorite thing that we saw on our trip. We got into the park and stopped to have some lunch. Afterwards we went through the Visitor's Center and drove through the park.

How's that for a view while you're eating lunch?!?!? Amazing!!
Some fossils that they have found at the Badlands National Park.

We drove through this breathtaking park for a while and stopped in a spot that we knew the kids could get out and do some hiking and climbing. The formations look like they are very stable but in fact they are not. They actually start to crumble under your fingers when you touch it. In fact, they say if you go back in 50 years the formations will look completely different. They are constantly changing. 

Steven, Michael, Chris and Shelly took Brianna, Jonah and Micah on a hike through some of the formations. Mom and I decided to stay behind in the shade of the trailer so that I could feed Eli and let mom rest for a while. I tried doing a little formation climbing of my own but didn't go very high because, well, I'm a bit of a wuss and worry about things like breaking my neck and being 100 miles from the nearest hospital! lol

The kids really enjoyed their hike and were kind of disappointed that they didn't see any black footed ferrets, which are known to live in this area. They also didn't see any Rattlesnakes, which made their mommy really happy!

Our favorite overlook came right before we exited the park. It was an amazing view of most of a good section of the park. It really was such an awe inspiring feeling to look out over these formations. They are massive and intimidating and beautiful! I kept saying if I was crossing the plains in a covered wagon and came upon those puppies I would have started bawling and turned back around! It was truly amazing and I hope to go back some day and spend more than just a few hours there. 

After we finished in the park we drove to Rapid City, South Dakota (about 75 miles) and did the split up act again. Mom, Steven and Shelly took Brianna and Michael and drove to our campground at Devils Tower. Chris and I took Jonah, Micah and Eli to Walmart to pick up some needed supplies. We then drove on to Devils Tower. The strangest thing for me driving in this part of the country are the railroad arms that can close off the interstate when the snow gets too high. They literally will put the arm down, close of the road and flash a light saying that you must turn around and get off at the closest exit. It was wild and something I'm not sure I ever want to witness in real life! lol. We passed Sturgis, South Dakota, the Harley motorcycle haven. Not sure why it's so special just from looking at it, but each their own. 

It was getting dark as we exited on to the road that would take us to Devils Tower. I hit a skunk and then saw a deer off to my left so I knew I was gonna have to take it slow. Not to mention that I'm getting some pretty significant night blindness. We didn't see anymore wildlife after that, thank goodness. Coming upon Devils Tower it was back lit by the twilight. It was a surreal beauty, even in the dark. But it was also a little eerie. The rock just seems to have this energy about it and driving around it at night it just felt like we weren't supposed to be there. It was kind of creepy, I'm not going to lie!

We got to our campground in the dark and found the others, thankfully rather easily! The tents were up so we quickly made dinner and got the kids in bed. Mom then shared with us that the car had started acting funny on it's way in to Devils Tower and she was afraid the transmission was having problems. We decided to let it rest for the night. Unhook it the next morning and let it sit. If we needed to stay another day we decided to do that but as you'll see that ended up not being necessary. I felt so bad for her though! She was devastated to think that we got that far and now it looked like we might be stopped! Unbeknownst to me she ended up having a pretty severe panic attack that night but the boys got her through! And the next morning things started to look a lot brighter!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fishkins Vacation Day 1 & 2

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!