Saturday, June 30, 2007

We are home!

The trip by numbers:

0 problems or accidents

2 nicks in the windshield

2.80 cheapest price paid for gasoline (Rapid City, ND)

3 most nights stayed in any one hotel

3.54 largest price paid for gasoline (Lexington, NE)

4 time zones visited – (Easter, Central, Mountain and Pacific)

6 straight days without driving on an interstate

11 different hotel rooms

12 stated visited (IN, IL, IA, SD, WY, ND, MT, ID, MT, UT, NE, MO)

15 nights on vacation

16 days on vacation

30+ miles of hiking

54 different license plates spotted – 48 states (didn’t see Rhode Island or Hawaii) – 4 Canadian Provinces – Switzerland – Germany

5169 total miles driven – driveway to driveway

Friday, June 29, 2007

We are in Lincoln, Nebraska. It is a long drive across this state. We didn’t do much today other than drive. We did drive by Chimney Rock and toured the University of Nebraska. We are just going to try and get a good nights sleep before the long drive home tomorrow.

We are staying at “The Cornhusker” in Lincoln. We were upgraded to a suite – what a cool room. I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels – supposedly nice ones and dives – but this room, I’ve never seen one like it. Of course, we are just going to sleep in it. Nevertheless, it is cool – a corner suite with lots of windows, an office, a bed room, a living area and a kitchenette…

Oh well, who cares about a hotel room. We are looking forward to getting home.

Thursday night, June 28, 2007

We have arrived safely in Scottsbluff, NE. What a ride. We drove nearly 600 miles from Salt Lake City, Utah and it wasn’t supposed to be that long. In the middle of Wyoming, I-80 was closed. Yes, closed. Oh, they had a detour set up – but, sheesh, what a detour. It required us to travel 90 miles on a 2 lane highway around the mountains into Laramie. The problem? The road was full of all the other I-80 drivers, which included semi trucks, trucks with trailers, RVs and others. Everybody was passing everyone and they didn’t seem to care if they were in a no passing zone or climbing hills. Oh, and everyone was going WAY too fast for this little road. At the end of this detour we stopped in Laramie to stretch our legs and visited the University of Wyoming.

We then completed our journey to Nebraska. We did have time this evening to visit the Scottsbluff National Memorial. It was pretty interesting. It is a major area where both the Oregon and Mormon trails converged before heading into the mountains. We walked a portion of the “actual trail”. It was kind of hard to imagine what people then went through. The desire and effort required to make a trip like they did is nothing short of amazing. I just drove it in two days and I’m beat. I couldn’t imagine doing it there way.

We are getting closer to home.

Thursday morning, June 28, 2007

It is official – we no longer know what day of the week it is. We do know that we are in Salt Lake City, Utah and we are ready to come home. We are still having fun, but 2 weeks is a long time.

Yesterday we drove down through Nevada, from Twin Falls, and cut across the Salt Lake Desert. The desert is really interesting in that it is incredibly flat and is all salt. You could see for miles – in fact, you could see the curvature of the earth. We also did a little geo caching in Wendover, Utah (if you don’t know what geo caching is, look it up or ask me about it later).

Once we got to Salt Lake City, we stopped at the University of Utah for a sweatshirt and went to the Family History Library. It was fun looking up our ancestors at the library. The Higgins and Tichenors were pretty easy to find. The Greenwell line proved to be quite difficult.

Today we have a long drive as we head to Nebraska and out of the mountains. I think we are pretty well “mountained out”, if you will.

Tuesday evening, June 26, 2007

We are in Twin Falls, ID after another good day. We drove from Jackson, WY into central Idaho and visited the Craters of the Moon National Monument. It was pretty interesting with all of the lava. We hiked to the top of a lava cone and explored lava tubes. It was very hot in the sun in an all black lava field.

We also saw the famous Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls. It is a very tall bridge over a deep canyon that houses the Snake River. It was pretty cool. As for the drive – sheesh. If you think Iowa and Kansas are bad – I dare you to drive parts of SD, ND and ID. It is unbelievable how much land is not just uninhabited, but appears to be uninhabitable.

Oh well, tomorrow we turn towards home.

Tuesday morning, June 26, 2007

We are in Jackson, WY and getting ready to leave for Idaho this morning. Sorry about no updates the last two days, we have just been busy.

On Sunday, on our way out of Yellowstone, David completed his work and was awared the ceremonial Junior Ranger award there. He had fun doing it and received a nice patch for his efforts.

The Teton mountains are really cool. They just line up in a jagged formation and thrust towards the sky. They seem even more impressive considering the flat area in front of them known as “Jackson Hole”. We were busy our 1.5 days here. We took a raft ride down the Snake river, rode a gondola to the top of a mountain (I think it scared Daniel at first, but he got used to it quick – David too). The kids all took turns on a bungee corded trampoline. Allison was great at it, doing forward and back flips – I have video. We shopped the historic area of Jackson and hiked around a mountain lake to see some waterfalls.

A good trip so far. Everyone is doing good. Tonight, we will be in Twin Falls, ID after visiting the Craters of the Moon National Monument. As soon as we get a minute, we will post some pictures. We have taken over 2,000 pictures so far – hopefully one or two of them will be good.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

We are wrapping up our stop in Yellowstone with another big day today. Tomorrow we will travel down state to spend a couple of days in the Grand Teton area.

As for today, we had another good day. We traveled up and down the west side of the park and took some different hikes. A couple hikes were good and a couple not so good. The best hike was up a hill, not far from the road that led to a thermal area with what is called a “mud pot”. If you have never seen this, it is hard to describe. But, it looks like a giant mud hole that is boiling. Instead of water bubbling to the surface, it is mud. Well, this particular “mud pot” had particularly thick mud. Therefore, it took more energy for the mud to be displaced or to bubble. This created a situation where the mud would be projected wildly into the air. The mud would leap 8, 10 feet and sometimes as high as 20 feet. We were all splattered with mud, but David got it the worse – it was fun – he liked it.

We also took a hike through a pine forest to a backwoods lake called Ice Lake. It was very nice and it was a pleasant hike as were the only people on it. We enjoyed being away from the crowds, even if only for a few minutes.

The day finished on a high note as the kids swam in the Fire Hole Canyon River. After the swim we attended an excellent lecture from a park ranger on the history of Yellowstone and their efforts since its inception in 1872 to make the park what it is today. They covered both efforts that worked well and efforts that caused problems – like allowing visitors to feed bears. It was all tied to the effects on the ecosystem in the park. It was a very good and informative lecture, even the kids liked it.

I think everyone is a little tired – we have been at it hard for 8 days with 7 to go. I think we will sleep in tomorrow.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Yellowstone is a huge and wild place. The entire park rides up in the mountain tops. I think the lowest elevation we have seen is around 6600 feet, while we have been as high as 8700 feet. There is so much here.

There are huge lakes, rivers and streams, all flowing and or full of unimaginably blue or crystal clear waters. At times the water is very tranquil, but other times there are huge waterfalls, falling as much as 150 feet with loud roars.

There is a huge canyon that is filled with water falls and running water that is made up of white and yellow mountain walls. It is very deep, very wide and long. It is even called the “Grand Canyon” of Yellowstone. We climbed down a 600 foot descending path to reach the tallest fall. Of course, that meant we had to climb the 600 feet as well, but the trip was worth it.

There are vast valleys through the mountains. The mountain road has pull-offs where you can see for miles. The valleys are full of forests and grass lands with snow covered mountains in the backgrounds. It was in these valleys where we saw a black bear and a grizzly.

Then, there are the thermal areas – the most famous would be “Old Faithful”! While it was the tallest geyser and the most predictable, there is so much more to see. There are thermal pools of all sorts – clear, opal, blue, black, mud (the mud pool was my favorite) and geysers that are constantly spraying water. A side effect of these geysers is runoff that forms brilliant colors of bacteria. There is black, green, yellow and orange. These aren’t dull colors either – they are very bright, nearly pastel like in shade.

Wildlife abounds. We have seen pelicans in action, bears, moose, buffalo everywhere, all sorts of rodents, ravens, and, today, Daniel spotted a bald eagle. We also saw an eagle’s nest where there were, reportedly, two young eagles there – we did see one of them. Additionally, we have seen elk, mountain goats and big horn sheep. We are still hoping to see a wolf, coyote and a beaver. That would complete the wild life cycle.

Lisa and the kids also took a horseback ride into countryside of Yellowstone. They had a great time.

We are all having fun. The kids are too, even if they don’t want to admit it. It is a lot of work, there is so much to see and so little time to do it. The kids don’t know what to make of what we are seeing and, frankly, neither do me or Lisa – it is just so big, it truly is overwhelming.

Our trip is about half way over. We have another full day in Yellowstone tomorrow and then to the Tetons. After that we will visit Idaho and, finally, turn for home. This is our first ever two week vacation and it is long.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

First, some house-keeping – I have had quite the ordeal with technology, but I think we are finally straight. I had left my laptop charger in Peoria, IL and had a new one shipped to me in Medora, SD on Tuesday. Then, we were so far out in the middle of nowhere – the hotel didn’t have a business center. Oh well, I’m back to full strength.

The other issue is that I noticed I kept getting the dates wrong. They are now corrected – they should all be reports for the end of the day listed.

Today, we find ourselves in West Yellowstone, MT. We arrived early afternoon and explored part of the park. What a huge, huge, huge place. God sure was creative when laying out this particular tract of land. It has everything and we have only seen a small portion so far.

The kids played in snow; we drove over some huge mountains, saw a cavernous canyon and huge waterfalls. The wildlife is abundant. We have seen a pelican, grizzly bear, black bear, buffalo, elk, prong-horned dear and every rodent imaginable. It is just an unbelievable place. Words can’t even describe. You must come see it.

We are having a great time. We will be settled for a few days now here in Yellowstone and in the Tetons. I hope to have a few pictures up tomorrow night.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

We are now in Hardin, MT after another good day. We visited the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in ND and the Battle of Little Bighorn in Montana. We have driven over 2000 miles and tomorrow we head futher west to Yellowstone. I thouht now I would share with you the kid’s perspective on this trip. They each wrote their own. I typed David’s as he told it to me. He is tired and wasn’t too interested, so it is short. Allison’s and Daniels is fun. Of course, I would never complain about them…. What follows is each of their un-edited opinion of our vacation so far. Enjoy!!!


The Greenwell family vacation 2007! This trip has been let’s see … I’m not sure one word can describe it so I’ll just point out some highlights. The fist day we basically drove FOREVER!!!!! We did stop at the Corn Palace. The Corn Palace was just a basketball court with walls covered with corn and then a big gift shop.

The Badlands was basically lots of rocks. After, being there for a couple of hours and seeing the same things (trees, rocks, and grass) over and over again it started to become very boring. Dad kept asking, “Isn’t this the coolest thing?” ok yeah it’s cool but I don’t need all day too look at the same kind of rocks, trees, and grass! Climbing the rocks was fun in the beginning but climbing the big rock on little loose rocks that many cliffs it became dangerous.

Bear Country was REALLY cool. There were a lot of cool animals besides bears. There were reindeer, wolves, elk, rams, and many more. In Bear Country the animals are free to roam. They walk across the street and come really close to the car.

Iron Mountain had some really cool views. It has a lot of curvy roads and I don’t do well with curvy roads so after awhile I started to not feel well and wanted to get out of the car. Did we get out of the car? No we continued on curvy roads to Custer that made matters even worse. The boys were being their normal selves, loud and obnoxious, so them screaming in the background the windows down making it cold and me, being semi carsick made the trip that night a little uninteresting

Crazy Horse was neat. If you ask me though, it is taking them way too long to finish the carving. They have been working on it for 50 years, granted it is not funded by the government it is funded by the public who visit, it is still taking too long. It would be really neat it they did actually finish the carving.

Mt. Rushmore was cool but from most angles you could only see two of the four faces, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The other two were covered up by trees or by the other two faces.

Spearfish Canyon was just a bunch of curvy roads AGAIN! There was a cool waterfall. While we were looking at the waterfall David was running and fell. Don’t worry he didn’t fall in or anything he just fell. It probably would have been funnier to you if you had been there the night before because I fell down the stairs and he had been making fun of me so I had to laugh at him.

When we went to Devils Tower it was really cool but having to walk ALL the way around it (1.3 miles) was a little excessive especially after walking in the badlands and everything Then towards the very end of the hike my genius brother, Daniel, decided he wanted to pull my hair! Ok big mistake on his part cause I was already tired from getting up early and then having to walk 1.3 miles around a big rock so I yelled at him which in return got me in trouble but it was still his fault.

The fondue cookout was cool but the wind was insane. The show at the end was really cool. The main act was Skiles and Henderson, they basically do improv stuff. They did a bit about goats that was really funny, you will probably hear a lot about that when the boys type something.

The Theodore Roosevelt National Park was kind of cool it was still trees, rocks, and grass and curvy roads. There were a lot of prairie dogs and other animals such as buffalo and horses and cows.

Overall the trip hasn’t been all that bad but it still has had a lot of driving and curvy roads and the same things over and over again. I also haven’t been able to talk to any of my friends because our phones have been out of service and dad forgot his battery charger for his laptop in a hotel so we couldn’t use the laptop. Hopefully, the trip will have less curvy roads but I highly doubt it. I miss you guys love you and I’ll talk to you soon!


Not even two hours after getting home from Boy Scout Camp I was in the rental and on the way to our Wild West Vacation. It all started with a long drive through Indiana and Illinois. It was pretty boring since the only thing outside was farms and grass.

I had been sleeping in a sleeping bag on a cot in a tent in boiling hot weather for a whole week, and now I had to immediately get in a car and drive forever. I don’t like our rental car. The way we set up the snacks and cooler this year, put me on the side instead of the middle. The head rest was different and uncomfortable. I wasn’t real tired because I slept really well the night before, but wanted to rest and enjoy a movie. Cramped spaces and weird headrests weren’t helping.

I somehow survived that ride, but it was nothing compared to the one of the longest drive so far on this trip. This long ride was the boring, painful, flat drive through Iowa. The boring drive was worse with only three stops. These stops included The Herbert Hover National Library, Iowa University, and gas. If you drive through there your knees will hurt! Stuck behind Allison’s seat there was limited space and knees stiffen faster. If Iowa was that bad, I don’t want to go through Nebraska at all. From what I’ve heard Nebraska is the worst state to drive through!

South Dakota wasn’t too much fun either. We reached the border and drove further until we reached Murdo, South Dakota. Murdo is the smallest town I think I’ve ever been in. Not much to do we went to the local diner. The whole family got ice cream or pie. The guy who made it was new and seemed to know no clue what so ever, and called in some backup. In the end he did good, my chocolate ice cream was delicious. Apparently Murdo is on the map so you can find it if you want to.

South Dakota is flat, but slowly but surely becomes hilly with some cliffs. After a few fighting and problems in the family we headed to the Badlands. Once we arrived, everyone slowly got into a better mood, and enjoyed the huge rocks and cliffs. The badlands are better if you go and climb around and explore. The entire family enjoyed the first part of climbing around and exploring. Then we ventured to the next trail to an overlook and got a good view of the park. Next the family was climbing up a huge trail with all three kids complaining all the way up hill. I particularly did not like the hike. It was difficult and seemed forever and not enjoyable. The trail led to a large mesa and dad told Allison and me to stay on the mesa while everyone else climbed up to a large peak on the mesa. Dad kept telling us that it was cool and we should have come, but he keeps forgetting that he told us to stay down on the mesa.

Next we drove to Rapid City and the black hills. The black hills were cool only temporarily, because it was different than the flat farms. The windy curvy roads were cool until car sick came over me. We drove through Custer state park, and Black Hills National Forest. We saw Mount Rushmore several times going up the hills. That night we went to the Crazy Horse monument. Which was cool but I was disappointing since it wasn’t finished, and the girls were always complaining of the cold! The studio and sculpture’s house wasn’t very interesting but the laser light show was good.

Mount Rushmore is interesting but don’t stay too long because after too long you slowly lose interest. If you take the hike, you can only see two out of the four faces. If you can get there, the sculpture’s studio has a ranger giving a speech and it was a good one full of information. But that involve stayed in a city nearby and we only hung out in the hotel in the bad chlorine pool for a long time and mommy got a good long nap!

Another long drive from South Dakota to Wyoming to see Devil’s Tower. It was kind of boring, but the tower was worth to see. We took the Tower Trail and it is long and somewhat painful, David and I were junior rangers and answered questions along the way. That made it better. Bu once again the rail gets a little boring, so it is your opinion to take it or not. After Devil’s Tower we drove to Medora, North Dakota. We went to enjoy a pitchfork fondue with steaks and a buffet. Unfortunately I don’t like steak to much without really good barbeque sauce. But I ate most of it. Then we watched the Meadora musical as a tribute to Theodore Roosevelt. I think the best part was the comedians near the end. They made everyone laugh. David and I were quoting them afterward.

We all got a good nights rest and woke up to go to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We spent about an hour and a half there doing a driving tour. After that it was an extremely long flat drive to the Little Bighorn National Monument and Hardin, Montana. Tomorrow we go to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming!


I’ve been going through the badlands. The badlands were okay. I got to climb on rocks and that was fun.

We have been staying in hotels. I keep yelling at dad to shave.

I have done some swimming.

Gone to Custer’s last stand. We saw and heard about Custer’s last stand.

We went to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and saw a musical.

I saw buffalos, birds, bears, wolves, goats, deer, wild horses and prairie dogs. They were cool.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What a wild and interesting country. We have seen so much in a short time.

On Sunday, we started our days in the Badlands of South Dakota. By far, my favorite site – so far. It was amazingly different with its land formations and colors. The best part is that we were allowed to walk through it and even climb. We climbed to the top of a very tall peak. It was a trail marked “difficult”, but we made it. The way down proved to me more difficult than the walk up, but it was worth it. The kids loved the climbing in the Badlands. I hesitate to call them rock formations, because it really isn’t it. It is just eroded land – kind of like a mini Bryce Canyon – with numerous peaks and valleys that provided great climbing and exploring opportunities.

Our Sunday continued in the Black Hills National Forest. We took two scenic drives that totaled 30 miles but took nearly 3 hours to drive them. It was an incredible drive in both scenery and engineering. Throughout the drive we saw glimpses of Mt. Rushmore, a stunning mountain lake, huge cathedral style rock formations at the top of mountains, wildlife and huge vistas. The engineering of the road was fun too. There were many one lane tunnels that were very small. In one tunnel, I didn’t think the van was going to make it without scraping the mirrors. The best part was “pig-tail turns”. You may be familiar with switch-back roads. This road literally had roads that pig tailed as it circled above itself as it climbed the mountains in a very small area.

Sunday concluded with a trip to Crazy Horse where we stayed for the evening laser show. Crazy Horse is an immense project. I wonder if they will ever be able to complete this project.

Monday started with a trip to Mount Rushmore. It was an interesting place, very crowded and worth the visit. After Rushmore, we visited Deadwood, SD and then traveled through the Spearfish Canyon. The Spearfish Canyon is really cool as it follows a stream and we were surrounded by large cliffs on either side. There were also waterfalls. The trip through the Canyon was worth every minute.

Today was a fun day. We started the day by driving over to Devils Tower in Wyoming. We hiked around the base of the tower. It is huge. You have to see it to believe it. The highlight of the trip may have been the prairie dogs, however. Near the entrance to the park, there is a huge field with hundreds of prairie dogs running around, playing and barking. It was a lot of fun watching them run around.

After Devil’s tower, we back tracked a little and then headed north. For everyone who thinks Iowa, Nebraska or Kansas is a boring drive – try the 150 mile drive I made today from Belle Fourche, SD to Medora, ND. My goodness – it was worse than other parts of SD. It could absolutely put you to sleep. Not only was it nothing but grass lands, it was incredible straight. I am not kidding, I would go 20 to 30 miles at time before you would make the slightest turn in the road. The deer on the side of the road was about the only think that kept your attention.

We are currently in Medora, ND and we had dinner tonight at a pitch-fork fondue where we at steak cooked on a pitch fork and attended an out door musical romp celebrating Theodore Roosevelt. We have been busy, but we are doing well. Tomorrow, sometime, we had further west. Later.

Monday, June 18, 2007

We are fine and doing well. We are in Spearfish, SD. I can’t write long. I’m having some technical difficulties. I hope to be back to full strength tomorrow. But that is doubtful.

The highlights over the last 2 days:

Mount Rushmore
Badlands (very cool)
Crazy Horse
Black Hills
Spearfish Canyon (very cool)

We are very busy and enjoying a few hours of down time. I’ll write back as soon as I have technical problems resolved.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Land! Land is everywhere! We just finished a 12 hour drive from Peoria, IL to Murdo, SD. It is an incredible expanse of land as we covered over 750 miles. As far as the eye could see, land.

In Iowa, we mostly saw corn. The western parts of Illinois and eastern part of Iowa are very flat with lots of corn and other crops. There is very little else to see. The western part of Iowa has rolling hills. The exception in the western area of Iowa is along the Missouri River as there is wide expanse of significantly flat land.

We made two very quick stops in Iowa. The first was the Herbet Hoover Historic area and the second at the University of Iowa. The University was large and Iowa City was actually a pleasant little college town. One thing I couldn’t understand about Iowa was the land along the interstate highways. The medians and areas outside the lanes were gnarly brush. Quite different to what I’m used to – mowed grass. I thought it gave Iowa a very “unclean” look. Iowa needs to cut its grass.

Between Moline and Des Moines there were some incredibly large farms. Large silos, lots of land and big equipment. There are obviously some farmers doing just fine.

Then we came to South Dakota. What an amazing state. We drove from the southeast corner, Sioux City, up to Sioux Falls and then west to Murdo. South Dakota is grass and / or hay for miles and miles. The land can be extremely flat and it can also have very interesting hills. I can’t begin to explain these hills. They are just different. The have no trees, they are covered in long grass and have unusual inclines and drop offs.

The most interesting part of South Dakota, so far, has to be along the Missouri River at towns Chamberlain and Oacoma. It river is very wide as it is practically a lake and there were many boaters. This area was very cool and may be worth of a return visit to explore the area more.

We made only one quick stop in South Dakota in Mitchell to see the Corn Palace. It has an interesting history, but has become a giant gift shop today. The coolest part of the Corn Palace was the large murals made of corn cobs of different colors. They use 11 different shades of corn. Oh well, we’ve seen it.

There is much more to see. The best of South Dakota is yet to come tomorrow. Anyone who things our country is over-crowded needs to make the 1100 mile drive I’ve made in the last day and a half. There is plenty of room.

Friday, June 15, 2007

We are in Peoria, IL and we are ready to make the long drive to western South Dakota tomorrow. Keep coming back to this page for nearly daily updates on our trip.