Sunday, August 30, 2015

NW Day Three: Vikings and Bison

Despite a late start to our day, we’ve managed to stop and see everything we wanted too….and are still close to on schedule. (Lesson learned, I’m lying to myself if I think uploading a blog post and adding some pictures will only take 10 to 15 minutes or so. I need to not do anything but get ready and get the room packed up in the morning.)

Sweetling, however, was completely ready to conquer Minnesota.

Our first stop was a giant otter statue in Otter Tail County MN. 

There was a picnic table pushed up against the back of the statue, which people had obviously used to climb up onto the statue. I was sorely tempted to do the same, but even Boybot thought this sounded like a bad idea. So we settled for photos in front.

I drove my family crazy trying to get the perfect picture of a pretty little lake in the country side. But they just flew by too quickly. I had to just settle for trying to take a snapshot of any lake. There were MANY to choice from. 

Lunch was Crave’s Burgers in Moorehead MN. They were good burgers with some fun topping options. Boybot has decided we need to make their avocado burger when we get home. Boybot is making quite the list for me.

My favorite quote of the day also happened right after lunch. It’s a little less horrible if you at least know that we were in a restaurant, seated at a table, when this was said. I’ll let you figure out who the speaker was. “What is this? Should I eat it? I’m going to eat it. It’s crunchy. I still don’t know what it was.”

Also in Moorehead, we visited the Hje….. Cultural Center to see the Viking ship and the stave church. 

Before we went in, the Jedi had to be on a short conference call, so the kids and I went on an explore. We found our way down to a river bank, to look for a rock from Minnesota. (In retrospect, I think it’s the river that forms the state line between Minnesota and South Dakota.) Under a street overpass, we found a canoe launch/dock. We explored a little, dug in the mud for two rocks and headed back up to meet the Jedi.

The Viking ship was really cool. You should look up its history and read about the people who built it and the crew of 13 who sailed it from Minnesota to Norway.

Outside, a beautiful stave church had been built and hand carved to be a near exact replica of the ----- church in Norway.

I think one of the things that impressed me most with each of these were that they were the result of some hard work, dedication, and initiative of local residents who decided they wanted to really explore and celebrate their Norwegian ancestry.

We drove across the little river to visit Fargo North Dakota. (That’s when I realized the river the kids and I were exploring was a state line.) We stopped to add another sticker to our van. 

We had planned on visiting the Fargo Air Museum, but when we got there, it was super tiny…especially for the $8 admission price per person.

Instead, we decided to drive on and visit the Pioneer Village in Jamestown.

You know how much I like all things pioneer.

This village was right next door to a Buffalo Museum, which had a small herd of bison grazing the hills nearby.

And, of course, the world’s largest buffalo monument.

Though we had slated a dinner stop at the Frontier Grill in Jamestown, no one was hungry yet. As I type this we are driving on to Bismark for dinner at Happy Joe’s Pizza.

 Addendum to add--

Sadly, Happy Joe's Pizza wasn't quite what we were expecting. We decided not to go in and instead found this nice little German-American Diner. I hope the name shows up in a photo, because I surely don't remember it.

We had some yummy yellow soup. If it weren't past midnight local time, I'd try to find these names. 

And we had some ground beef patties wrapped in a flaky pastry and deep fried. 

AND we stopped at k-mart for batteries for the camera. And visible through the big glass store front were those coin-eating machines that dispenses cheap toys in little plastic bubbles. Both kids want to go in and look for "guys". So I took a roll of laundry quarters and went in with the kids while the Jedi hunted down batteries. No guys were found, but some little animals were.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

NW Day Two: Ride from Outer Space

We decided that even though the waterpark opened at 9 a.m., we were going to sleep in since we were up so late last night. I woke up around 6. I tried to go back to sleep, but gave up at 6:30, when I got up and started quietly blogging. The Jedi was up not long after, and both kids were up and awake before eight.

We still took our time De getting ready for the day. We used the microwave to heat up the $8 casserole bake I found at Fair Oaks the day before. It was yummy, and beat the $15 per person breakfast buffet the resort was offering.

We had the van reloaded, had checked out, and were back in the waterpark by 10:20 or so. It was 64 degrees and raining, but the outdoor park was open. I offered to go out and do the outside slides with Boybot. But Boybot looked at me like I was crazy and pointed out that there were lots of great slides *inside*. (Boybot has also repeatedly mentioned that Wisconsin Dells isn’t TOO far away from Cincinnati.)

 I made a second trip down the toilet bowl. It was just as pleasant as it sounds. This was a deal struck with Boybot in exchange for him standing in line for Master Blaster with me. That was a two person raft ride, no single riders. Boybot at least taught me how to ensure I went feet first through the drop hole.

 I considered trying the FlowWave or Flow Rider, whichever it was. The Jedi went out the van to get a camera to film this memorable experience. But the line was pretty long, it was past lunch time, and I didn’t want to delay us overly long. We had showered, changed, bought a postcard, smashed pennies, eaten some ice cream, and were ready to head out by 2:40.

We drove 10 minutes to “downtown” Wisconsin Dells. The town has set itself up as a family vacation mecca. In addition to the numerous waterparks, there are mini-golf courses, small theme parks, river excursions, arcades, family entertainment shows, and a stretch of shops, cafes, and such along the main street that really gave it a ‘boardwalk’ feel.

We ate lunch at Mac’s (Mac and Cheese.) It was universally decided that I needed to learn how to make mac and cheese this good. Then we could have a mac and cheese buffet style dinner. I could set out a bunch of toppings, and everyone could load a dish of mac and cheese up with what they wanted. Then we’d pop the dishes in the oven for a final bake. Given that my recent attempts to make homemade mac and cheese has included something that the kids said tasted “horrifyingly” like “birthday cake”, I think this is a pretty lofty goal.

 If it weren’t still chilly and rainy, we would have spent another 15 to 20 minutes wandering the main street. But instead, we got back in the van, the kids snuggled under blankets, and we started a movie. The Jedi has resolutely driven through nasty constant rain for three hours now, and we are still an hour and forty-three minutes from dinner.

Ta-da! Dinner at Space Aliens Bar and Grill! Because that’s where all the coolest aliens go to eat.

To be honest, the Jedi and I were expecting a catchy theme, some video games, and mediocre food. But the food was OUTSTANDING! The Jedi ordered ribs. I didn’t because I didn’t want half-@ss bbq. The Jedi’s ribs were COMPETITION QUALITY. I was jealous. The Jedi had a chance to talk to the chef and complement him.

 Desserts came with 20 tokens each, which the kids had a great time spending.

Our projected hotel arrival time of 9pm turned out to be 11pm.

Friday, August 28, 2015

NW Day One: Spilsh Splash!

General Facts about the first day of our road trip--

Time I thought we we supposed to leave the house: 8 a.m.
Time the Jedi actually wanted to leave the house: 7 a.m.
Time we actually pulled out of the driveway: 8:15 a.m.
Amount of frustration the Jedi showed about this: None.

Number of times I failed as a navigator: 3
Number of times the Jedi got upset about missing our turns in the middle of construction when we were already behind: 0

Money we had budgeted for souvenirs: $1 for a postcard
Money we spent on an unscheduled stop where we found The Best Chocolate Milk in the World (and lactose free!): $38 plus ice cream and no postcard

Hours of sleep I got before we left: 6
Hours of sleep I got last night: 6 1/2
Why I am up right now writing: too excited to sleep

Number of awesome water slides we went down: ALL THE SLIDES (except the stand up and have the floor drop out from under you while you get shot into a watery death drop. Screw that noise.)

Amount of fun we are having SO MUCH FREAKING FUN.

After we had rolled out of Cincy an hour and fifteen past when the Jedi wanted to leave, we discovered as we were driving into Indianapolis that the entire freeway was shut down some place north of Indianapolis (at the intersection of I-90 and Rt 52 if you are really curious.) We got detoured off the interstate into corn fields. It was scenic. Boybot asked, "What do these people do when they need to go to the grocery store?"

And we did drive through this massive wind farm. That *was* really cool.

But best of all, somewhere in the middle of I-don't-where-we-are-Indiana, we made a stop for gas, and just happened to find ourselves next to Fair Oaks Farm. Our first clue that the farm next door might be awesome was the cow in front of the BP...

And then the cow display on top of the refrigerators inside the BP...
And while they sold Fair Oaks cheese and ice cream in the BP, it was a bit pricey, so I thought we should just head next door and see if it was cheaper and fresher from the source. So we drove over for ice cream at the COWfee
But before we went in, I just wanted to snap a few photos...

And since we were already walking around, we might as well go in the bakery shop, since it was RIGHT THERE. Inside the bakery, we discovered cookies as big as my face, the Best Chocolate Milk in the World, raspberry cream fudge, and other delicious baked goods...including a blueberry loaf and a breakfast casserole. (Later we would discover that breakfast at our hotel was $15 a person, so my $8 casserole purchase to feed the whole family was a real win.)

Then we headed in for ice cream (and white chocolates and pork rub from yet another gift store area)

We didn't hit lunch in Chicago until what would have been 3:30 EDT, so the stop for ice cream and snacks was well worth it.

Lunch was Chicago deep dish pizza. The Jedi had emailed the restaurant several days before our trip to make sure they had a smooth sauce option for Boybot. The pizza was good, but I have to confess, it wasn’t as good as the wood fired pizza we make in the smoker at home.

 Because of the late start, the road construction detour, and the stop at Fair Oaks Farm, we didn’t get to Wisconsin Dells till late evening….just as they were closing the outdoor waterpark. Still, the indoor water park was enormous, and we had a great time there. (Of course, we knew it would be great as soon as we pulled up and were greeted by elephants. How can you go wrong with elephants? There were elephants everywhere, including on the wall of our room. Sweetling was beside herself with joy.)

We stayed inside the water park all evening, skipping dinner. We rode nearly all the slides, many of them more than once. It being a Thursday, there weren’t that many visitors and so there were hardly any lines at all. The park also had a small wave pool and the Jedi joined us in that.

We all liked all the slides….save one. They had one body slide that was a pretty straight shoot into a “toilet bowl”. For some reason, I decided that I might want to try this slide. The four of us stood at the bottom of the slide and discussed this notion. (Though in fairness, it was mostly Toa and I discussing this notion. Sweetling and the Jedi wanted nothing to do with this insanity. Boybot wanted to know just how bad the slide was, and was willing to let his mother go be the Guinea pig.)

So, I found myself eagerly heading up the stairs. Partway up the stairs, it occurred to me that essentially flushing oneself down a giant toile might not be the best of times. This could be like a full body swirly. This could be like a spider's last few terrifying seconds of life. But I intentionally failed my sill save and continued up the stairs.

The good thing about the slide was that the whole experience was over in a few horrifying moments. Yet those moments still gave plenty of time for reflection on one’s current circumstances. Here, approximately, is my train of thoughts. “Not so bad. Not so bumpy for a water slide. Completely dark though. Why do they do that. Ouch. Not a comfortable ejection into the toilet bowl. Hey, sliding around the bowl is pretty fun. I like this part. I wonder when I’ll hit the….” And then I was falling, head and shoulder first, out of the hole in the center of the toilet bowl. This was not the most comfortable angle to hit the water four feet below.

At that point, my thoughts switched to a panic stricken “Can’t-tell-which-was-is-up-nose-is-full-of-water-lungs-are-empty-drowning!” Sheer thoughtless panic took over. Somehow my flailing limbs thrashed me to the surface, though that was difficult to discern at first because of the gallons of water still falling on my head from the toilet bowl above. More instinct got me moving towards the edge of the pool. Out from under the deluge, I treaded water and wiped my eyes clear, gasped for breath, and tried to get my bearings. I become aware that my family was standing at the edge of the pool. I think they might have been laughing at me, but I’m pretty sure that was my imagination. They surely wouldn’t have been laughing at me.

As I worked my way over to the ladder and was climbing out of the pool, I realized there were words coming out of my mouth. They went something along the lines of “horrible, this was horrible idea, whose idea was this, this was horrible.” The Jedi came over and helped me out of the pool and put his hand comfortingly on my shoulder. Boybot looked at me and asked, “So, how was it, Mom?” I then launched into a play by play tirade about my experience. Boybot listened intently and then decided he needed to TRY THIS FOR HIMSELF. (Boybot loved this slide. He spent a good part of the rest of the night on this slide.)

We stayed until close to waterpark closing at ten. Then headed back up to our room, got changed, and headed back down to find dinner. Everyone was dangerously hungry at this point, but most of the little restaurants and food places had closed for the night. One walk-up grill was open, selling off the last of the chicken fingers and mini corndogs sitting in paper trays in their warming racks. Yum. But beggars can’t be choosers, so we cued up for what I was sure would be overpriced and disgusting food. Sweelting got a slice of cheese pizza and Boybot and I had a couple of burritos assembled from the options still sitting in their steam table. We took these with some bottles of juice from their fridge back up to our room and found them to be surprisingly good. We wound up getting to be around midnight local time…which was 1 in the morning for us.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Face of Betrayal

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the face of a dog who can sense in his heart he is about to be BETRAYED. All evening, and through most of the afternoon packing process, Jupiter just laid at the top of the stairs watching me carry things up and down the stairs to assemble them in the living room.

I have a picture of the stuff that was assembled, but my phone is choosing not to share that with my blog for some reason. I strongly suspect the reason is that computers love to mock me.

Emailed it to myself, saved it on my computer, uploaded it. And then after all that, it shows up on my blog like it wasn't AWOL before.
ANYWAY, this is what 22 days on the road looks some backpacks, laptop bags, snack boxes, and a stack of games. Yoda and Mokina will not be joining us on the trip. They are just there photobombing.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Map

I haven't blogged in a year or so. There's a list of reasons why....and they aren't ones that I feel like going into right now. They're the types of deep seated insecurities best save for the therapist's office. (
I'm mostly joking. Don't call or email me all concerned. Really I haven't blogged because I just was in a different season of life than I was doing my bloggng hay days.)

Be that as it may, here I am, blogging again.

We're about to set out on another cross country road trip. By popular demand, I'll try to write about our adventures for friends and family near and far.

Check it out---
Thirteen states (eleven that are new for us). Twenty-two days. Eleven national parks and monuments. Six thousand miles.

(The top loop is the upcoming trip.. The bottom loop is from our trip four years ago.)