Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Way Home - Part 4 - (The Wild West)

If you've been following along on this series, "The Way Home", you'll know that we are indeed, almost home.  In actuality, we've been "home" for nearly a month, and this peek back to where we came from and how we got here is just something I feel I need to do.  These tourist-type blog posts are not my forte, nor my love, but there are practical things to learn in the process, and quite honestly, it was a damn good holiday, so why not continue to shelf the introspection for a post or two and just tell you about our time traveling home?

The Wild West.

I had talked to the girls and hyped up the "Wild Wild West" for months.  Ask them.  They'll tell you how irritating my southern drawl had become or how many times they'd heard me say (in said drawl) "I'm looking forward to some real cowboy grub!".   At first the girls didn't believe that we were actually heading into to real cowboy country as we headed East, but it didn't take too long to see our first "real" cowboy.  I then continued to exuberantly point out every single "real" cowboy that we saw for the rest of the trip.  

Let's backtrack just a little.  From our time in Seattle, we continued to head East but also veered a little south so that we could pass through the infamous "Yellowstone National Park".  After all, isn't that a holiday spot that every family needs to do at least once in their time together?  We thought so.

After we pulled out of Seattle, we had a long day of driving which eventually took us to Butte, Montana.  Butte ended up being a convenient place to stop for the night.  It also ended up being a sad, dusty little mining town that looked a little desolate and lonely.

We, however, were not lonely.  We had each other in the van, our "2012 Road Trip Soundtrack", lots of Vinyl Cafe podcasts, sour wine gums, strawberry Twizzlers,  and copious amounts of pipe cleaners.  Trust me on this, moms and dads.  Pipe cleaners are key for long road trips.  They're not messy.  They're creativity inducing, and you can make hundreds of crazy accessories for your van with them as you drive.  At least our girls do. 

As soon as we hit Montana, the landscape changed and we saw a lot of amazing sights like this as drove through the mountain ranges...

After a short night in Butte, we loaded up on what was July 4th, towards our next destination, West Yellowstone.  We wanted to make the journey part of the destination, so shortly pulling out of Butte, we stopped at the Lewis and Clarke State Park to tour some caverns that we had heard about.

To get to the cavern entrance, we had to walk for about 20 minutes on a trail surrounded by awesome scenery.

It was then time to descend into the caverns.  There were about 20 of us in our group with a guide.  Once we made it into the first area, we were warned that after we started moving there was essentially no way out except going all the way through, so claustrophobic or paranoid people need not continue.  That didn't include any of us, so onward we went.

We had never seen anything like it before.  We were all amazed at everything we saw.  Some of our movement involved shimmying through little tunnels or sliding on our butts down polished rock into the next part of the caverns.  It was cool, dark and damp, but we loved every minute of it.

After 2 hours in the caverns, we reached the light of day again and started our trek back to where we started.

After all that exercise, it really was time for some "real cowboy grub".  We decided to head into a real working cowboy town called Ennis for some lunch.  We loved the way the place was decked out to celebrate the 4th of July.  The main drag of Ennis takes you back in time and for the record, yes, we did see lots of cowboys.  So there.

Lunch was at an old soda fountain shop.  Mike and I had the most amazing Huckleberry BBQ pulled pork sandwiches.  Huckleberries are the official fruit of Montana after all.  I bet you didn't know that.

There was one great look-out area after another, all offering Sasha and I the chance to get our inner cowboys on.

After a few hours we landed in West Yellowstone, Montana, for the night.  There just so happened to be a 4th of July Parade going on shortly after we arrived.  Mike and I couldn't imagine a "float" in Canada where a young girl would proudly be holding a machine gun in a family-friendly parade.  I was glad we were only just passing through.

We left bright and early the next morning for Yellowstone National Park.  It was congested, busy, and full of really neat things to stop and look at.

 Like steam vents...

..... buffalo....

.... amazing colors.....

..... and the sounds of bubbling water and boiling and spewing.

Sometimes it felt like we were on the moon.

Soon we made it to Old Faithful - the stop that everyone must make on their way through the park.

We waited along with many hundreds of other tourists for the chance to see the famous geyser erupt.  It didn't disappoint.  It was very prompt and very spectacular.

Yellowstone is HUGE.  Really huge.  You could spend days cruising through the park.  You could also spend thousands of dollars staying in hotels in the park and paying exorbitant prices for food and drinks.  Or you could just keep driving right on out of the park enjoying everything you can as you go through.  We chose the latter.

We drove right on out of Yellowstone until we reached Billings, Montana.  We loved Billings.  We loved our huge hotel suite, the warm pool and the fact that Montana has no sales tax.  We had only planned to stay one night, but we stretched it into two, because we needed a recovery day from the crazy sights and sounds of the wild west.

The rest of our trip consisted of Target, ribs at Famous Dave's, and looking for deals at Scheels.  Not very educational or cultural.  But very therapeutic for this momma.  Ribs are good for the soul.  Time alone in the aisles of Target rates very high on my "happy meter".  While the girls swam, I wandered.  Mike read, and we prepared for the next leg of our trip.

When we left Billings, we were geared up for a good long drive which would take us to Fargo.  The ride was smooth and uneventful.  There was no screaming, crying, or gnashing of teeth in our van.  Our girls are older now.  Mike and I are older too.  We know how to let things slide and when it's time to put on another episode of "Full House".

After traveling through and thoroughly enjoying the Badlands, we pulled into Fargo and spent two nights so that we'd arrive back in Winnipeg when our belongings would.  The whole time in Fargo we had the awareness that the end of the holiday meant the end of the adventure for now.  Home was just a short drive away....


  1. Karla. I can smell the sulphur like it was last week Wednesday.
    Next time you go on a Penner trip, would you mind taking my kids? They're pretty under exposed to most things.
    Must see old faithful again in this lifetime.

  2. Except that my kids do carry machine guns.