December Road Trip 2002

December Road Trip 2002

Sat 11/30 - Mon 12/2; Orlando, FL to Wedowee, AL; GoTo

Mon 12/2; Wedowee, AL to Wentzville, MO; GoTo

Tue 12/3; Wentzville, MO to Sioux Falls, SD; GoTo

Wed 12/4; Sioux Falls, SD to Keystone, SD; GoTo

Thur 12/5; Keystone, SD to Spearfish, SD; GoTo

Fri 12/6; Spearfish, SD to Miles City, MT; GoTo

Sat 12/7; Miles City, MT to Billings, MT; GoTo

Sun 12/8; Billings, MT to Bozeman, MT; GoTo

Mon 12/9; Bozeman, MT to Ritzville, WA; GoTo

Tue 12/10; Ritzville, WA to Twin Falls, ID; GoTo

Wed 12/11; Twin Falls, ID to Idaho Falls, ID; GoTo

Thur; Idaho Falls, ID to Jackson Hole, WY; GoTo

Fri 12/13; Jackson Hole, WY to Driggs, ID; 12:46 GoTo

Sat 12/14 - Mon 12/16; Driggs, ID to West Yellowstone, MT; GoTo

Tue 12/17; West Yellowstone, MT to Salina, UT; GoTo

Wed 12/18; Salina, UT to Fruita, CO; GoTo

Thur 12/19 - Fri 12/20; Fruita, CO to Wedowee, AL; GoTo

Click on Day heading to see pictures for that day.

Cummings, GA and Wedowee, AL

We actually left 20 minutes earlier than planned this fine Saturday morning. I think that's the first time that we were ever early leaving out of Orlando for a trip. There was still plenty of holiday traffic out so it ended up taking about an extra hour to get up above Atlanta. We stopped there to visit with Randal's friends Beth and Jeremy (& family). It was a very nice visit. We then drove on to Wedowee. Since Randal never called his mom to let her know we were coming in that night, we got there after midnight to find all of the beds full. Teresa and Anna Grace were down for a visit as well. Sunday morning we spent some time with my horsies and Sunday afternoon was a large family dinner at Grandma Moore's. They have a Thanksgiving tradition of having the big gathering the Sunday after. We visited with Grandma Holloway some too. Brenda bought her a tv/vcr that we all took over to her and she looked like she cheered up pretty good. Kept saying that she couldn't think of anything in the world that she would have liked any better. It was very good to see her like that. Especially since we are still getting reports of her being in poor shape. Monday morning was the big departure day.


Day 1

So our adventure begins… This was mostly a driving day. We drove through the northern part of Alabama and Mississippi, through Memphis, up through the eastern part of Arkansas and into Missouri. We stopped in St. Louis to visit the Arch. It really is quite an impressive structure. We stopped the other side of St. Louis in Wentzville, MO.

Day 2

This morning we woke up and went after some cereal bars and milk and we were on our way. We headed across Missouri to Kansas City where we crossed into Kansas so that I could say I've been there (and get a picture of the sign). We then went up into Iowa, which I might say is a very desolate drive. Don't even try to find a McDonald's along that road. Since the highway insisted on hugging the border of Nebraska the whole way up without actually crossing it, we had to cross into Omaha in order for me to get that state under my belt. There was a very interesting looking dome there that housed the Omaha zoo. Perhaps we will make it back there sometime to see it. We found a Walmart to stock up on supplies in Sioux Falls, SD and as we came out of the store there was snow falling all around us. Very exciting. I figured we would surely have to get much further northwest before we would see any of that.


Day 3

We woke up with 1/2 an inch of snow on our car!! We got out and played in the snow a little before starting on our way across South Dakota. Another very long and desolate drive. The whole way there were signs and billboards for Walls Drug. Nothing ever said what it was that was such a big deal and when we passed the exit, we couldn't see anything remarkable. We finally got to Rapid City where we turned down into the Black Hills toward Mt. Rushmore. It was really amazing to see how those carvings were done and all the work that went into it. And when we came out of the little movie at the visitor's center, the guide at the desk was looking at the mountain through some binoculars. There was a mountain goat halfway to the faces chewing on a tree. It was so cute. We then stuck around to see it lit up at night which puts a whole different look on things. We even ran into two Floridians wearing shorts. We managed to find a hotel open at this time of year in Keystone, SD right outside Rushmore. The whole town seemed to be closed for winter. There were two hotels and one restaurant. But that shower sure felt nice.

Day 4

Found us an open road to Custer's State Park this morning. We drove the Wildlife Loop and were very pleased with it. We saw bison, big horn sheep, pronghorn antelope, white-tail deer, burros, turkeys, and a coyote. But the most entertaining part of it all was the prairie dog town. Those things are so amusing. They are like the western squirrels. So happy and chattery. They made the neatest little call when we got too close to them. After enjoying them for a while, we drove by the Crazy Horse Memorial, still a work in progress. We figure we'll come back and actually visit there when it is finished. It is massive though. The picture doesn't really show the size but where the armpit will be, all of the faces of Mt. Rushmore would fit. Or so we were told. On the way back to the interstate, we discovered a nail in our tire, so we had to make a stop in Custer, SD at a little feedstore where they patched our tire. They even gave us the screw that caused all the trouble. We spent the night in Spearfish, SD.

Day 5

We woke up this morning and headed over to Wyoming to Devil's Tower. This was the first national monument in the U.S. It was actually called Bear Lodge by the Indians, to whom it is still a sacred spot. There was a great little story told by the Indians about how it was formed. A story that had nothing to do with molten magma or igneous intrusion. At the start of the trails there were prayer bundles and prayer cloths hanging from some of the trees. We hiked the trail around the base of the tower. It was 1.3 miles, this was a huge structure. The trail was snow-covered which made it a different kind of hike then any I had done before. It was a beautiful area. And of course, on the way out, we stopped to watch the prairie dogs. Along the way we went through some of the tiniest towns. I remarked when we went through Alva, WY and the sign said pop. 50 that it was amazing they were able to afford the sign. A few miles later, I ate my words when we passed through Alladin, WY where the sign read pop. 15 -- 15!!! We then crossed back into SD to make our way up through the southwest corner of North Dakota. Saw one of the most beautiful sunset skies I have ever seen. We ended up in Miles City, Montana for the night. The radio station we had been listening to on approach was talking about the strolling holiday festival going on downtown and the tree lighting ceremony, which I just thought was so cute so we hurried to make it in time. There were townspeople gathered all around the tree singing carols and the tree -- well, it was so pitiful -- but it was so nice and charming to see the little town all holiday-spirited.

Day 6

Woke up a little cold again, with the thermometer reading a blustery 14 degrees. We had our breakfast and started across Montana toward Little Bighorn Battlefield. We drove through the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation into the Crow Indian Reservation where the battlefield is located. The visitor's center had some wonderful artifacts. It was very interesting. There were bunnies all over the place too. We went up to the battle hill where Custer fell and where they have the mass grave memorial standing. In the snow it was hard to see the markers around the countryside where the other soldiers fell. They are working on a Memorial for the Indians near the Custer Memorial. It was in the early stages but is supposed to be mostly finished in time for it's dedication on June 25, 2003. It was really sad to think that these Indians who were attacked and forced into this reservation were also forced to house this memorial to their attacker's and captors. At least they are finally getting a memorial of their own -- 126 years later. From there it was a short drive up to Billings, MT where we were able to find a Best Buy to exchange our week-old camcorder (two days after buying it, it was saying that the heads were contaminated and needed cleaning, and it ruined several of the first clips we shot with it). We found us a hotel and relaxed for the night.

Day 7

We got an early start this morning so that we could spend the day in North Yellowstone. Once we got off the interstate at Livingston, the landscape was spectacular. Snow dappled rocky mountains with homesteads laced throughout. There was a very grand entrance to Yellowstone and we drove by all of the employee housing. How greath would it be to work and get to live there! At this time, the only part of the park that is open is the road betweeen the North entrance and Cooke City. Mammoth Hot Springs was the first and primary stop. They weren't really running that well (we were later informed that this was due to a very dry summer) but the calcite formations and flow rock that they make were still worth seeing. Very impressive. We walked the loop of the upper terrace (all uphill in the snow -- hey folks, how about some consideration for the florida girl here!). We then drove up the road to Undine Falls. It was so beautiful. Had icicles all around the top and it disappeared into the snow down at the bottom. We didn't drive all the way to Cooke City, turned around after the Lamar valley which is where most of the wildlife was supposed to be. We saw all kinds of elk, buffalo, coyotes. We hiked the 1/4 mile trail to the petrified tree (uphill in the snow). The tree wasn't as impressive as I thought it would be but the spot was so beautiful and we sat for a while on a rock in the cold solitude. I had four or five handfuls of plain, natural snowcone (no, not the lemon or chocolate). I haven't eaten snow since grandma's funeral. When we got back to Mammoth Springs town, there were cow elk all over the place, blocking main street and front doors and everything. On the way out of Yellowstone, we noticed the river next to the road smoking so we went to inspect it. It's called Boiling River because some of Mammoth's hot springs dump into it. And in this 20 degree weather, there were people swimming! We really wanted to jump in but that Randal was still sick and I never thought to pack bathing suits for a snowmobiling trip. Silly me. So we made our way back to the highway and found a place to stay in Bozeman.

Day 8

This was primarily a drive day. After searching for another Best Buy which we finally found in Missoula. Our 2nd brand new camcorder was still giving us a message so we talked to them and we called Canon and finally decided to throw in the towel and buy a head cleaner and hope that we don't have anymore troubles. If it doesn't do the trick, I'm just going to cry. We drove across the top of Idaho, by Coeur D'Alene Lake, which I just might say is one of the prettiest lakes I've ever seen (of course, no scenic pulloffs to get pictures of it). We stopped in Spokane, WA to see if there was anything to do, which there wasn't, so we headed down the road trying to find a place to camp. I do not suggest ever stopping in Sprague, WA. We got off there and wound up lost on some road that went on forever and was so foggy that you couldn't see ten feet in any direction. We finally found our way out of there and decided to stop at the next inhabited exit so that we wouldn't miss any more landscape. We set up camp in Ritzville, WA.

Day 9

Not the best day. Woke up to the sound of icy rain on the car. When we got moving, it was so foggy that we couldn't see much of anything (Randal said that he's been through Washington twice now and hasn't gotten to see it yet). Then we get to Oregon. I don't like Oregon. I've been there, crossed it off my list of states unvisited, and never need to go there again. Their welcome sign was the crummiest sign I've seen yet (yes, I have been taking pictures of every state sign, with the exception of MS which I apparently did not know how to work the camera well enough to capture it). Looked no different from any other street sign. Then there were crummy little towns that we had to go through. Then we couldn't even get any road condition information. So finally, after forever, we got out of that state. Idaho had an open visitor center (shock) with a great little book from which we decided Twin Falls would be our destination for the night. It got dark before we got there and there was a very Christmassy house along the way that would have almost rivaled the Osborne light, but of course no place to pull off and take pictures. We got to Twin Falls too late to see anything so we got a hotel and planned for a full day tomorrow.

Day 10

We started the day with a heartfelt "today is going to be a good day." And it was. First, we went to see Shoshone falls. They call it the Niagara of the West because it's plunge of 212 feet is apparently higher than Niagara's. It was very pretty but I didn't really see the comparison. We then went to see the city's namesake, Twin Falls, but they turned it into a hydroelectric plant so it was pretty disappointing and sad. We then drove to the middle of nowhere to see Balanced Rock. It was pretty interesting, a cone-shaped rock 48 feet tall standing on a 3 foot base. We tried to see Hagerman Fossil Beds but it was closed so we went on to Malad Gorge. What a pretty site! It is right next to the interstate and you cross this little metal footbridge from which you look directly down on the Malad River cascading into the "Devil's Washbowl" 250 feet below. This was about the prettiest bright aquamarine pool of water I've seen. There was a viewpoint on down the gorge where you can look back at the river pouring into the washbowl. Very pretty. Our big stop for the day was the Craters of the Moon. And it was well worth it. I highly recommend it to anyone. Right up there with seeing the Moonbow in Corbin, KY. Over the past 15 thousand years, there have been 8 big volcanic eruptions in that area, leaving a lava field covering 750,000+ acres. The largest lava field in the contiguous US. I has been a little more than 2,000 years since the last eruption, making it overdue for the next. They monitor the seismic activity closely. It was so neat. We hiked to the top of one of the volcanic craters and all we could see was hardened lava in every direction. It was breathtaking. When it got too dark to see anymore there, we drove on to Idaho Falls for the night.

Day 11

Another drive day. We got up and drove around town a little. Found a very nice information center where we were able to ascertain some road conditions. We then headed toward Jackson Hole, WY. The roads were covered in snow and ice. I'm glad Randal was driving and seemed to be okay with it because I wouldn't have made it half a mile. I mostly watched the scenery to avoid worrying about the fact that we were gliding more than driving. And along that road, after 9 days of searching, we found snow. It fell slowly, then harder, then slowed down again, but it was snow! A very good sign for those of us who drove all the way out here to snowmobile in Yellowstone, where there has been a very unusual snow deficiency. We have our fingers crossed that the snow will reach there. Weatherman says Sunday it will dump there but you know how reliable that is. We tried to see the Grand Tetons but it's a little too foggy out there and I couldn't even tell there were mountains anywhere in the area. So I missed them. Perhaps tomorrow. But what we did do was go to Kmart and buy two saucer sleds, which we took to Ski King Mountain and sled down a nice hill. WHAT GREAT FUN! We sure need something like that in Florida. It was so great. You go down the hill and lose all control and it's just great fun! There was another lady and her kid there and they had a straight sled that two people could sit in and they let us use it for a couple of runs. On our third try, we made it all the way down to the front yard of someone's home at the bottom of the hill before we crashed. It was so great. I could have done it all night long if it weren't for that hike back up the hill in the snow every time. Couldn't they put in a lift for us poor sledders? So we came back to our hotel and will be settling down with some popcorn and tv in a little bit. Hopefully we can find a little time in the morning for some more sledding.

Day 12

This morning we slept in a little and then went to try to see the Grand Tetons again. We were able to see a little bit more of them than yesterday, but not much. On the way back to town, we saw our first moose! It was very exciting. Apparently it is very rare to spot them and this one was out in the middle of a field all by himself feeding. Randal was then sweet enough to indulge me in a little sledding time again. Great fun. Although I had some trouble steering and ended up flying straight over a huge pile of snow a couple of times, which was a little rough on the rear. Randal was very amused. When I was no longer able to huff-n-puff my way back up the hill (especially being as it seems I am trying to get a little sick), we started to make our way around the other side of the Tetons. When we got to Driggs, ID we drove up to Grand Targhee ski resort to check out the conditions there, but since I was in greater need of rest than anything, we chose to come back to town and get a hotel and take it easy the rest of the day.

Day 13-15

Rest days. Walks around town in the snow, snowball fights, snowangels. Waiting to hear whether Yellowstone would open on the 18th for snowmobiles. This morning (the morning before supposed to open) they finally tell us that they would need 18 inches of snow for snowmobiles to be allowed into the park. Well, if they had told us that 3 days ago, we would have known that there was no chance of getting 18 inches and we would have been able to go on our merry way and find some skiing or snowmobiling in Colorado or something. Oh well. It has been a great trip, I just feel bad because that was actually the whole reason for the trip and I feel like they could have been more forthcoming with us. Well, we are heading homeward now. I believe we are still going to try to do Arches National Park but probably not much time for much else.

Day 16

Drive day. Since we found out that we would not be able to snowmobile Yellowstone, we started the trek for home. At Salt Lake City, we took a detour to see the huge Morman Temple. Very impressive structure. Very beautiful area in the temple square. They used lots of water in their architecture, which I feel is just about the most beautiful architectural design. The mountains were wonderful through Utah. We drove a little into the night, until we got to the beginning of Randal's favorite scenic stretch of road. We set up camp so that we could see it all in the morning.

Day 17

We got up at daylight this morning so that we could get to Arches National Park in plenty of time to see it and still make it into Colorado as far as possible. The morning started with 109 miles of Randal's favorite stretch of road. He was right; it was breathtaking. Every time you crested a hill, a whole new view was waiting on the other side. I think we stopped at every scenic view area. It was a very nice buildup for Arches. What a beautiful area! We tried to see everything we could in the park. We missed a few arches because the hike was too long and we were running out of daylight, but what we did see was just incredible. We then took a scenic byway to get back to the interstate - equally beautiful. It amazes me that there are so many things out here to see that I have never even heard of before. We made it to Fruita, CO just after dark, and not wanting to miss the Colorado mountains, we got a hotel and intend to start the real drive home tomorrow.

Days 18 & 19

This morning began the real drive home. We got up and drove carefully through the mountains. Up around Vail, we saw the most snow yet as well as the lowest temperature yet - 5.2 degrees farenheit. It was a beautiful drive. When safely out of snow and ice roads, I took over the driving for a bit to let Randal get a little nap. We made it to the Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico a half hour before closing and were able to do a little bit of exploring of it. We drove up to the rim, looked down into it, and then hiked into the bottom of the vent to see what it was like to be in the belly of a volcano looking out. It was pretty neat. It was a great view from the rim too, with over 100 volcanic cones in the surrounding area. Who knew there were that many volcanos anywhere but Hawaii. When through there, we drove down to Amarillo, TX and across through Oklahoma and Arkansas before turning at Memphis through Mississippi and finally heading to Birmingham, where we stopped at Liberty Square (which is supposed to be the largest replica of the statue - per Randal). We made another stop in Anniston before finally making it to Wedowee.
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