We've been back from our vacation for over a week now, but we've been busy taking care of things around the house and getting the kids ready for school so I haven't had much time for blogging.
The kids did amazing on our vacation. We drove over 2300 miles, and I don't think they whined more than once the whole time. Honestly I was probably worse than the kids! Alex slept most of the time we were driving ( he didn't seem to want to sleep at night), and the kids sat in the back and played and colored and looked out the windows. They went through almost 2 whole coloring books on this trip! We took our mini laptop so they could watch movies, but I think out of all that driving they only watched two movies.
The kids had a great time at Grandma's house. Drew had this great idea for coloring the bricks with chalk, so we all helped and it looked really cool! They spent the majority of one day working on that.
We also went to Gene Leahy mall and the kids (well, Andy, Hallie, and me too) went down the giant slides. They go so fast - Faye actually gets airborne partway down. Really really cool! Every city should have a slide like this! Drew's expression is just how it feels when you go down the slide. We played a few games of croquet and Uno with Jadon and Hallie, and had a good time in Omaha!
We then headed to our cabin at Chadron State Park. It was a long drive all the way across Nebraska. We took route 2, the scenic route, and it was scenic. We saw probably 10 cars along the way, and it was over 450 miles. Good thing we didn't have any car trouble. There were thousands of cows; cows were everywhere. The region is known as the sand hills, and it was beautiful. The road also ran along the BNSF rail line. We saw lots and lots of trains, all pulling coal. Here is one of my favorite photos, and this is what it looked like the majority of our drive.
The landscape was very scenic, no power lines, very few towns, and just sand hills and cows. The biggest town we went through was Alliance, and that was a town of just over 9,000. We also went through a few towns with population less than 50. We stopped at Carhenge (Stonehenge reproduced using old cars) along the way just outside of Alliance.
Finally we made it to our cabin. It was a two bedroom cabin - well, two bedrooms if you call a curtain a door I guess. Definitely a step up from camping in a tent with 3 kids though. We had a bathroom with a shower, and a kitchen with a refrigerator and stove and sink! Plus two really comfy beds! Andy really wanted to camp, but that is just too much work for me with the kids being so little. When they get older it will be an option. It was a nice park and we were just about the only ones there. I'm guessing western Nebraska is never too busy, and we were there after school starts so it was really dead. We hiked early one morning, and the kids really did like that - they have so much energy they can keep going and going.
We decided to drive up to Mt Rushmore one day while we were there. It was about a 2 hour drive, but it was worth it. We 1st stopped at Crazy horse as we were really early and wanted to have lunch before we got to Mt. Rushmore. Western Nebraska and South Dakota are in a different time zone which I wasn't aware of, so we arrived at Crazy horse by 9am - much too early for lunch. They now have the face finished, but not much else. We missed the night explosion by just a few days. Bummer. They only do two night ones a year and we just missed it. The kids really liked seeing it and picked out some rocks in the gift shop. Yes, I know, we bought rocks. I almost couldn't bring myself to do it, but they liked them and they were only $1.
We did find a place to eat our picnic lunch before we got to Mt. Rushmore, and the kids found more shiny/sparkly rocks there to add to their bags. These were free of course. Drew found a fools gold rock which he was excited about. The kids really loved Mt. Rushmore. We took lots of photos and they did too. Unfortunately I didn't think about getting Alex out of the backpack for this photo, so we can only see his leg, but he was there. We went on the walk around Mt. Rushmore and then found a place to sit and relax for awhile. We did get a picture of Alex then. He turned 14 months on that day.
We then drove into Keystone and toured Rush More cave. The cave was really neat and was one of the kids favorite things. They didn't like having to stand and wait while the tour guide told us about the cave - they wanted to keep going, but otherwise it was great for them. The tour guide was actually one of the 4 owners of the cave. He and some of his buddies saw an ad in the paper a few years ago, "Cave for sale", and decided to go for it. 1.5 million dollars is all a cave runs for nowadays!
The next day we headed to Fort Robinson, the place where Crazy Horse was killed. We were just about the only ones there too. The kids enjoyed a pony ride and we had another picnic lunch, before heading to Toadstool Park. That was probably one of my favorites of the trip. We drove about 20 miles down a really terrible gravel road, with at one time sheep on the road. We didn't see a single car and were often wondering if this really could be the right way. We did see one tractor working on the road. Finally we arrived, and it was really really cool looking. There was one car there, just leaving as we were pulling in. There is a day use fee for this park, but nobody there to collect, so you're on the honor system there. You can also camp here, but there is no shade, and no water, but I think there is a portable potty. I would love to go back and camp there sometime, but just for one night and probably without the children. It would be very dark and probably very scary too! This is a picture of the campground - not much there!
We hiked the 1 mile trail and the kids wanted to go again. But it was about 90 degrees and sunny and we didn't have any suntan lotion so I was afraid they would get sun burnt, or get too careless and fall. The 1st 1/4 mile of the trail is a marked easily traveled path, but after that your sort of on your own. There are markers so you know which way to go, but no real path. We climbed up the toadstools and then back down, with some crazy drop offs and places very scary for a 4 year old! I was terrified they would fall, but they did really really well! The surface is very similar to the surface of the moon and it was just amazing!
Our vacation was almost over, just more driving left to do. We decided to take the northern route 20 on the way back to Omaha, and stopped near Valentine, NE at Smith Falls to see Nebraska's tallest waterfall. It was beautiful and we all loved it. They have stairs going right down to it, so in the summer you can wear your bathing suit and cool off in the water. It was a cool day and much too cold for that - the water was freezing. I stuck my feet in for about 2 minutes, and they were numb for about 20 minutes after I got out. The kids were able to stay in a little longer, but then kids are crazy like that!