"Change is only good if it is in the RIGHT direction."
--Winston Churchill
This is the blog of an ordinary married couple who seem to have difficulty in being ordinary. Please join us as we laugh at ourselves and contemplate this world that we live in.

Adventures in the Vanagan with Jake!

This is the story of what I did during my 6th month of pregnancy. You will most likely think that I am nuts but it was definitely a wonderful trip and I would do it again next year if someone agrees to watch my son! :) I must first thank the most supportive and amazing husband in the world, Matthew, for putting up with a wife who disappears for weeks at a time to go on vacation with her family!

Statistics of the Trip:
12 days
4800 miles
12 states visited
2 nights spent in rest areas
1 run-in with the law (had my driver's license run for first time in my life!)
1 shower for me (none for Jake!)
3 National Parks & 1 National Monument
Multiple explanations that Jake was NOT my husband but rather my brother..Jake wasn't too amused!
Numerous animals seen: moose, elk, deer, bison, bears, porcupine...

Here is a more detailed report of our trip for those you of who are interested!

Also known as one of the most wonderful states in the country--seriously! We left on Monday 8/29 AM on our grand adventure. We stopped by to visit dad at work and get our picture taken!

Armpit of America--need I say more!

Not much better than Indiana. We had to drive around Chicago because we were headed to visit our brother Josh in Peoria and let's just say the Vanagon doesn't like heavy traffic and expressways!
We had a great time visiting Josh, Vivian and little Attie! It was a good start to the trip but I think Jake was bummed that we didn't sleep in the van but rather in their house!

The only thing worth commenting on about Missouri was that we drove behind the nicest trucker in the world. My mother would have tracked him down and hugged him. If you know anything about our mother you know that she loves all animals but has a soft place in her heart for turtles in particular. Whenever she sees one on the road she pulls over, gets out, stops all traffic and makes sure that the turtle safely makes it to whichever side of the road he/she is headed. She will even do this with a large snapping turtle so if you ever see a woman out chasing a large turtle across the road with a stick, assume that is my mother! Anyways, this particular trucker swerved his entire rig sharply into the other lane to avoid hitting this tiny little turtle and it just warmed a place in my heart. He must have a mother who brainwashed him just like ours did!

August 30th must have been the warmest days in Kansas history or so it seemed to those of us without any A/C in our vehicles. Jake took off his shirt and got a lovely seat belt tan line! We drove all but the last 100 miles of Kansas to make it to the lovely Prairie Dog State Park which was essentially an empty field with a prairie dog colony living nearby. Gotta love Kansas! Not so much....

Driving up I-70 out of Denver the Vanagon started to overheat which was a little frightening since this was just the beginning of the mountains but after we gave the car a rest and took off the front grills to allow more air to circulate she did quite well. We spent a night camping at Robber's Roost. There was a sign indicating that moose were in the area but I didn't put it together with all the people randomly stopping by the campground with cameras until someone came over and asked us how long the moose had been there. We had been on a hike and had seen moose tracks but no moose, but low and behold all we had to do was look behind us 10 yards and there was one quietly eating alongside the stream!  

We then headed off to Dinosaur National Monument which is a beautiful place along the border with Utah. There we drove the vanagon into a canyon on a steep 13 mile dirt road. When we got to the small campground at the bottom there were only diesel trucks there! Perhaps we should have listened to the sign that said passenger cars not advised at the start of the road! We had a great night sitting by the fire and star gazing until I became too freaked out being out in the middle of nowhere at night. We went on a hike along the Green River in the canyon floor and checked out the pictographs made by the Native Americans.

Driving out of the canyon proved to be a little bit of an adventure. The road that seemed quite steep on the way in we had definitely underestimated but the Vanagon was able to climb up the last treacherous mile in 1st gear and get us to the top of the canyon safely. I was so impressed. I think that my next car is going to be a Volkswagen...they are amazing!

The northeast corner that we drove through was not that exciting. Not much to comment about!

This state has more cows than people, of that I am sure. They like to free range their cattle out west which is a little different from how we do things in the Midwest but it does seem to work for them. We had quite the long boring stretch of road getting to Jackson Hole, Wyoming but after that it was so beautiful! The Tetons come right out of nowhere, with no foothills or anything as they rise up from the prairie. They are so rugged and awe inspiring! Jake and I greatly enjoyed Teton National Park. We went on a long but beautiful 10 mile hike in the Tetons. It would have been 4 miles longer but I convinced Jake that spending $20 for a boat ride across a lake instead of hiking around it was money well spent! Since the mountains are so rugged you cant actually hike to the summit of the majority of them so Jake has decided to learn how to rock climb. He is currently building a rock climbing wall on my parent's windmill back in Michigan....let's hope he doesn't get seriously hurt! In the Tetons I spent the best $3.75 of my life and had an amazing, long, hot shower! Ahhh!

Next on the agenda was Yellowstone National Park which is immediately north of the Tetons. I have now been their twice and I just cant seem to get excited about Yellowstone. It is full of tourists and it has the feel of Disney World with all these people waiting around for Old Faithful to erupt and then walking back to their cars to continue to drive and gawk at the animals.

The drive up to Glacier National Park was great but freezing. We had rain then sleet and then snow that actually accumulated about 2 inches on the road! How crazy--this is early September! We had each packed only one sweatshirt so we seriously needed to do some shopping. In the town of Browning, MT we did a little shopping. The store was actually closed but the gentleman who ran it was smoking out front and since he thought the van was cool he let us in to do some shopping. Gotta love the special treatment the van will get you! Jake got a sweatshirt, hat and hiking boats. I bought Matt a jacket and a hat that I broke in for him!

Glacier National Park was so beautiful and we spent 3 days enjoying it's grandeur. It was our first time visiting and we both loved it. I definitely recommend it but remember to bring your warm clothes. They apparently had 3 feet of snow in mid June and a few inches while we were there. Jake got the idea that he needed to hike to a glacier so I somehow managed to get my 6 1/2 month pregnant self up to Grinnel Glacier on our 12 mile hike. It was a beautiful hike past 4 lakes so I was quite happy that we did it and it was the best scenery of the entire trip! We also drove on the "Road to the Sun" which goes through the park. Once again the Vanagon performed excellently however I should say it should be called "Road to the Clouds" instead since sunshine was not something we saw much of in Glacier!

After our hike we crazily decided that we would drive through Montana to North Dakota. After 9 hours of driving we were STILL in Montana so at 1am we gave up and stopped at a small town hospital parking lot to sleep for the night. About 30 minutes later the police are knocking on the door wanting to know what in the world we are doing there! Apparently the hospital staff called them because we looked sketchy. So, we woke up, explained ourselves and handed over our ID's. The policeman was quite chatty and wanted to know what we did for a living, so I told him that I was a doctor. He gave me quite a look of disbelief but I guess I cant blame him since I was in my PJs sleeping in the Vanagon in the middle of nowhere Montana. Not typical doctor behavior! So once they confirmed that we were not felons we were told to leave, so I got kicked out of my first hospital!

North Dakota:
I learned that this is where all the wheat in the world is grown and also where they drill for natural gas. Other than that, not too much to say about North Dakota.

Only slightly better than North Dakota. We didn't see many of their alleged 10,000 lakes.

We drove through this state at night so can't say much about it!

Back home! YEAH! Jake drove for 16 hours to get us to the Neiboer's cabin the UP by 2:30am. The headlights on the Vanagon died just as we were pulling into the cabin. Thank God that didn't happen sooner! The cabin never looked so beautiful. I slept in a "real bed" and slept so well I didn't hear a single mouse running around at night! We woke up at noon feeling great and went on a 6 mile hike to Chapel Beach which Jake feels is the best beach in America. I must agree--Lake Superior is so beautiful and there was hardly anyone there! It was a little too cold for swimming though! We spent another night at the cabin and in the morning headed back to our parent's house where I took a very long shower!

It was a great trip with my lil brother, Jake, who drove every single mile of the trip. I am so blessed to have a wonderful brother to travel with who didn't freak out when he found out I would be pregnant and an amazing husband who also didn't freak out when his wife left him for nearly 3 weeks to go on this adventure! So many people were amazed that a brother and sister could spend this much time together and not kill each other, but I would encourage any of you to consider doing something like this! We had a blast! :)

The Vanagon poses so well for pictures!



The DeVries' said...

What a great trip! :) Looks like a lot of fun!! You better not have gone through STL!!!

alyssa said...

Did I tell you this already...what a great trip!! Loved reading about it!

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