Great American Road Trip – Texas to Glacier National Park 2015

Departure Not So Imminent – July 2nd, 2015THE MAP.jpg“That’s why I love road trips, dude. It’s like doing something without actually doing anything.”
John Green, An Abundance of Katherines

We were packed, loaded, and ready to go – until we realized the keys were locked in the Excursion with the engine running. This was completely the fault of Coach and he takes full and complete responsibility for his excitement about the trip rendering him momentarily ignorant of the laws of door locks. Fortunately, we know some folks in the auto industry who came by super fast and took care of us!

If you’re the type of detail oriented vacation planner our beloved Coach is then check out this MAP of our Great American Road Trip.

After a quick stop at Whataburger (jalapenos mmmmm), we filled up the tanks with sweet diesel and we were on our way! At 5:41 pm the trip officially began.

The kids were sound asleep when we arrived at the Courtyard Fort Worth Fossil Creek around 11pm. The kiddos turned into a slightly hot mess upon being woken up and placed into a strange bed.

Day Two – July 3rd

We assumed Poppy would be up at her regular 6:00ish time so we’d hit the road by 8:00, but apparently sleeping in a pitch dark bathroom with rain music [Coach is McGyver on the hotel sleeping arrangements] will allow her to sleep past 8??? So… Slightly late start. Breakfast at Burger King. E doesn’t like french toast sticks and made that face she makes when she is disappointed in her parents choices. Coach was also sad – BK is not the right way.

Traveling with three small children will teach us that no matter how detailed and planned Coach’s travel itinerary, it will never hold up. We will always be late. Pit stops will always last at least 20 minutes (between bathrooms, diaper changes, car seat flips, trailer maintenance, etc.) and patience will be required to the utmost.

Coach had packed each of the big kids a big Rubbermaid box full of games and books and toys so they could open up something new to play with every hour throughout the trip up. Big hit!

Norman, OK - PicnicJoyfully we arrive in Norman, OK, around 12:30 and find a playground with a pavilion where we can picnic lunch. Egg salad galore. Kids enjoy running around and Coach ensures trailer is doing all right and solar panels are actually charging.Coach picks up E and places her on a hot part of the playground and ends up burning her bum so she gets to pick a movie (Frozen) when we get back in the car. Coach isIMG_1143 deeply ashamed of his wanton destruction of E’s skin cells. He is forgiven.

Bypass Oklahoma City NMEM and Frontier City [we smartly did not tell the children we were going to an amusement park] due to late start and slow stops. Get to Fairfield Inn and Suites in Hutchinson, KS around 6:00p. Coach takes kids to pool while Lady Coach does work out.

Lady Coach bathes kids while Coach finds dinner and brings back to room. Everyone in bed around 9:00p.

Day Three – July 4th

Late start (just assume this is the case for the remainder of the trip). Free Breakfast at hotel – only the best.

Go by TarHutchinson, KS - 4th Paradeget to get Poppy some car toys, kids pillows, last minute stuff. Coach does trailer maintenance.

Plan to go to Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center but decide since we’re behind we’ll push through to make it to the Sternberg Museum.  As we’re heading out of Hutchinson we get stopped by the Main Street 4th of July parade. We enjoy the random “floats”, tractors, horses, and anything else that can be driven in small town Kansas going by. Candy and Popsicles aplenty. The older kiddos actually sit on hood to watch.

(Kids have been journal-ing in the books Coach got them – drawing pictures of things they see and taking notes of what they’re doing. Pretty cute!)IMG_1172

Arrive in Pawnee, KS, at Fort Larned around noon. This is a big hit! Kids enjoy exploring the rooms (with genuine artifacts set up in each to show exactly how soldiers and officers and families lived here). See officer quarters, hospital, bunk room, school, blacksmith, bakery, storage areas, guard station, isolation box, etc. Costumed rangers are dispersed throughout to answer questions and teach. Kids get to decorate planters in one of the officer’s quarters. Really interesting.

Make lunch in parking lot and head out.

Fort Larned
Beautiful Fort Larned on the Santa Fe Trail.

Next up is the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, KS. Everybody loves this! Coach used to stop here with his family when he was kid and brings back a lot of fond memories. As soon as we walk in kids get to watch an employee feed the lizards and a huge snapping turtle. IMG_1193IMG_1185Poppy could’ve stood and watched the tortoises all day – absolutely loves them. Gman is ready to take the museum on at super speed but E wants to stop and draw pictures and describe in her journal all the different exhibits she sees. There are reptiles on display as well as a large rattlesnake section, fossils throughout, a fossil digging section that the kids thoroughly enjoy, dinosaurs, etc. Really fun afternoon together.

Coach starts putting all the stickers we’re collecting from everywhere we go on the back of the trailer. One of the first Freedmen Settlements after the Civil War.

Get to Nicodemus NHS after hours so we do not get a chance to go into visitor center or get our National Park Passport stamps. The hardships of the people who first settled this community are hard to imagine. It was the first freed black settlement west of the Mississippi.

In the middle of nowhere in Kansas dinner options are limited – find a Pizza Hut in Phillipsburg, KS. It would IMG_1212seem that every small town in Kansas has a Pizza Hut. We all eat in the car. Get to watch fireworks as the sun goes down and we continue driving. Finally make it to North Platte, NE, and stay at the Quality Inn & Suites. Actually get a suite so Poppy gets whole living room to herself.

Day Four – July 5th

Breakfast LoveBreakfast at Quality Inn & Suites it was by far the best breakfast in hundreds of feet in any direction.

We start the day off with a quick diesel purchase and a chance for the kids to ride the Sinclair Dinosaur. Then on to Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge and kids and Coach go for short hike by river while Lady Coach makes lunch. Eat down by the canoe launch. Mud and bugs for everyone.

Arrive at Badlands National Park around 4:00. Beautifully cool due to the light rain storm. Kids get  junior ranger applications but didn’t get a chance to them complete them at visitor’s center. We highly recommend having your kiddos fill out the applications to be Jr rangers at each place offered. They learn a ton and get a great sense of accomplishment when the rangers “swear them in”.  IMG_1227The badlands might be the windiest place on earth – do not try to use paper plates for snacks! E ready to be done with driving – kids had been doing pretty well up to this point. The badlands is an otherworldly landscape. Upon arrival of E meltdown it was straight to cuddles in girls’ bathroom for a full recovery. Onward!

IMG_1232The country in western Nebraska and South Dakota is so beautiful in early summer. Rolling hills of green grass stretch on for miles and miles. We experienced a light thunderstorm most of the afternoon and it only added to the beauty of the the plains.

As it has been the custom of families heading IMG_1245west to Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone for generations, we stopped at Wall Drug. This might be the world’s stickiest tourist trap. It originally started off as a drug store and ended up growing to take up several city blocks to form this combination Indian Trading Post, Chuck E Cheese, Kitch Shop, and Fun Emporium for adults and kids to explore.The kids were particularly fond of the section with the singing gorilla and giant dinosaur.

IMG_1242bAfter a quick nose pick with the buffalo we picked up Dairy Queen on the way out of Wall. Keep in mind that in the middle of nowhere there is no such thing as fast food – all food takes a long time. Good reminder to slow down, we’re on vacation.

IMG_1262The family is now officially tired and its laundry night. We’re about to make our big arrival at the K Bar S Lodge in Keystone, SD. Beautiful place – up in the Black Hills, big lodges for the rooms. We would highly recommend staying here. Coach works his bed magic again and creates a makeshift bed for Poppy in the hanging closet of the room. She zonks out hard. Lady Coach being the diligent lady she is starts to do laundry down the hall from the room and being the crazy disciplined woman she is – does a full P90X workout in the hot and tiny laundry room. To Coach’s credit, he did not think Lady Coach was quite as crazy as the folks who walked in on here doing the workout. Coach, being the hero, takes 2 big kids for hike and hot chocolate. The train that runs through Keystone and through the Black Hills runs through the resort and the kiddos loved it.

Lady Coach pointed out to the overzealous planner of road trips that he might have planned a bit much for Team Hovis to cover tomorrow. The family needs a shorter day. So we decide to cut the corner of Montana and head straight for Butte, MT and avoid the high northern plains. Coach is sad he will not get to visit Teddy Roosevelt National Park and Fort Union National Historic Site. However, we will get to stop briefly at Little Bighorn National Battlefield to see where Custer decided he wanted to die. All is well!

Day Five – July 6th

The family awoke to the great revelation that our trip is only 1/3 complete. By this time Coach and Lady Coach have fully embraced vacation standard time. Eat when you want, sleep when you can, and enjoy the ride! IMG_1272 - Copy.JPG
Coach takes the kiddos to breakfast to give Lady Coach a little morning time to herself. One of the best parts of the K Bar S Lodge is the breakfast hall at the hotel – beautiful huge windows overlooking the Black Hills and Lodge grounds.

We rose early this day to make sure we beat the crowds to Mount Rushmore National Memorial. E learned all about the monument at school this year and has been so excited to visit. It didn’t disappoint. We spent the better part of two hours exploring the visitor center and museums on site. The kids became junior rangers for the first time! E spent a considerable amount of time just gazing at the monument and sketching. Made for a proud Coach. By far the best stop on the way to Glacier. When we arrived we were five of the a handful of visitors as the crowd grew to thousands it was our cue to head on down the road!

To keep things interesting for the kids we make planned/random stops throughout our road trips to give everyone a chance to get out, stretch their legs, and run around. One of these stops was in Belle Fourche, SD. Never heard of it you say? Well it is the Geographic Center of the US and a huge deal! The flower picking session was followed by a wrestling match for the ages on the front lawn of the visitor center. Then in a way only Gman could, TeamHovis was entertained by log rolls and laughter.

We made picnic lunches for the road and were off to our next stop.

We made a brief stop at Little Big Horn National Battlefield. It was super crowded and all the kiddos were sawing logs so we made a quick run into the visitor center and then hit the road again. Custer still dead.

IMG_1282.JPGMade it to Billings around 5pm. We had heard about this place called Scheels and Coach had seen it under-construction while on business in Billings last year. We decided to stop for some leg stretching. Scheels is to Sports Authority what the Carney is to Disney World. A ferris wheel, mounted animals, huge aquariums, random presidential statues all great you as you wander the huge store. Lots to see and cheesy pIMG_1293.JPGhoto ops. Highly enjoyable experience for us first timers. Great stop!

Grab Taco Bell on the way out of town for dinner. Arrived in Butte around 9:00 and got to see the sunset as we came over Homestake Pass.  Can I just say how much fun it is to drive on the interstate in the west – Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana have all had speed limits of 85+. Making Time! Last nights reservations made for the Holiday Inn Express in Butte, Montana paid off as all hotels in town were full. Whenever possible we told strangers, “we stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night”. Despite a late arrival, Coach had promised kids he’d take them swimming and Coach is nothing if not a man of his word. So after Coach rigs up another bathroom/bedroom for Poppy, Lady Coach tries to do laundry (alas no change) and Coach takes the older kiddos down to the pool for some late night rowdiness.

During night, Gman had a bad dream about someone giving him too much ice cream and making him eat it and how it keeps making his teeth hurt? An omen has appeared. Dang you Blue Bell!

Day Six – July 7th

If you haven’t figured it out yet we have covered some ridiculous mileage on this trip. We’re nearly there and the whole family can feel it. After a not so great breakfast at hotel we head for Glacier!

The drive from Butte to Glacier is spectacular: complete with lodge pole pines, lakes, windy roads, wide open valleys, and scenic vistas. In order to stock up on supplies for 8 days of camping we stop at the grocery store in Columbia Falls. This long drive has made the whole family super excited for the thrill of being outside for the next week!

After resupply we headed into Glacier National Park briefly, as the quickest way to our campsite is to take the Camas Rd through the park to the North Fork Rd. On the Camas Rd, Gman started screaming about how much his mouth hurts. Omen realized! Lady Coach recalls dream from the night before. Worried he might have cavity or something. Once we stop Gman and Lady Coach are able to determine the pain is localized behind his last tooth – now wondering if it could be molars slowly making their way in? Yay!

We made our home in Big Creek Campground site #4. You couldn’t ask for a better spot. Site is huge! And beautiful! Right on the North Fork River with a sandy patch for the kids to play. Site also backs up to large hill where the children immediately begin building an epic fort. Lots of room for kids to run around and explore. It is as secluded as can be expected in a National Forest campground as we’re all the way at the end of the road. (Had actually reserved sites 4 & 5 in case Nana and Granddad wanted to camp) Arrive around 4:30.

IMG_1302.JPGSet up camp – Alaknak and Coach’s newly created trailer make for a great base camp. Coach made Poppy her own black-out bedroom out of PVC pipe and curtains. The coaching staff took the king-size cot and big kids got the bunk beds. Fire restrictions prohibited us from using wood stove in tent but weather was so great we never needed it anyway. Put gate around outside campfire to protect Poppy.

Bees and flies were the only real annoyance at the campsite. Thankfully the bees didn’t sting anyone but they were enough to drive the kids crazy from time to time.

Lady Coach made a quick dinner of IMG_1303.JPGMountain House chicken noodle while we finished setting up camp. The new outdoor kitchen on the trailer comes through gloriously. Once camp is set-up it feels like the real relaxation and vacation can begin.

Finally finish and get kids in bed. The sun doesn’t set at this latitude in the summer until very late and its light until almost 10:30. Lots of time to enjoy being outdoors if we can adjust everybody’s body clocks a bit.

*Note: If you’ve ever wondered about your children’s sleep habits spend 17 nights with them in the same room/tent. Our children go to the bathroom a lot at night. And they talk in their sleep. And sometimes they have bad dreams – particularly Gman – and are difficult to awaken out of them. Gman never quite seemed to shake the mouth pain the rest of the trip but never another episode like today. .

Day Seven – July 8th

Get up and Lady Coach makes eggs and bacon for breakfast. Great morning just enjoying the cool weather! Hang out around campsite all morning while kids play and explore.

As the day moves forward we decide to go for a family hike on the Huckleberry Trail. Big kids walk – Gman blows his super loud bubble whistle throughout to warn the bears we’re coming. Poppy falls asleep in backpack on Coach’s back halfway through and this will become a theme throughout the trip. Lady Coach and kiddos ask if she’s dead due to the unsettling head lolling. She wasn’t. About 1.5 mile hike – good warm-up.

Get back to camp and Poppy transitions easily to pack n play to finish her nap while everybody else eats lunch. Coach makes a run to Columbia Falls for Ice. While Coach is gone Nana and Granddad show up. Granddad and Gman play bean bags while the girls chat until Poppy wakes up. What a joy it is to have family who love what you love – Nana and Grandad always took Coach on long road trips and its great to have them join us for a few days on one of our adventures.

After visiting and the kids showing Nana the area around the river, N & G leave to check-in to their room down at McDonald Lodge – beautiful area!. Coach and kids play bean bags and start fire while Lady Coach makes beans and weenies and salad for dinner. N & G come back to eat with us. S’mores after dinner.

N&G leave and Coach sets up shower for kids. Everyone bathed and put to bed! Sleep come s easy for all.

Day Eight – July 9th

IMG_1305.JPGGet up early this morning around 6:30am and head to McDonald Lodge to meet N&G. Granddad is going to take the kids for the day as the coaching staff is going to hike the Highline Trail with Nana. Granddad take the kids for breakfast in West Glacier and then takes them into Kalispell (because Poppy was napping). An afternoon of fun at the arcade makes for happy grand kids – great job, Grandad!) . The hikers drive up to “The Loop” parking lot. While waiting on a shuttle bus to take us up to Logan Pass and the trail head, Coach meets some random tourists from NC and convinces them (unintentionally) to do IMG_1331.JPG
the Highline Trail as well. Lady Coach believes they probably hated him for it by the end. Run into old college friends parents at the visitor center there and visit for a bit. Then head out. The first mile is rather narrow with a steep drop off to the left. Absolutely beautiful, except that the forest fires have covered the tops of the mountains in smoke so unable to see the complete majesty of it all. See a couple of mountain goats walking the trail with us – one walks right past us. Hello friend. Also see several know-no-fear marmots. All the Wild Flowers. Just a gorgeous hike. Still fairly cool and breezy so hardly break a sweat the first half of the hike. IMG_1315.JPG

Seven miles in make it to the Granite Chalet – only in and out by foot or pack horses. Great views and cool rustic atmosphere. The rest of the hike (the last four miles) is pretty miserable, though. Tons of flies and mostly downhill (steep) so our toes are just jammed into our shoes. Breeze and cool air and views mostly gone so just trudging forward. Rough hike at that point. Next time might just go as far on the trail to see the chalet and then turn around.

All thankful to make it to the truck. Driving back to the Lodge we pass Granddad’s car so all meet back up in the parking lot. Get to hear about how much fun kids had withIMG_1336.JPG Granddad and then we all drive into Columbia Falls to the A&W for dinner. Root Beer Floats for all! Coaching staff hasn’t been this hungry since the last time we hiked the Specimen Ridge Trail with Nana in Yellowstone.

On the way back we go by Glacier Rafting Company to rent a couple of kayaks ($50/each per day) for the next day (after searching the grocery store and gas stations for blow-up rafts/tubes to no avail).

Head back to camp where Coach and Lady Coach take much-needed showers and everybody crashes.

Day Nine – July 10th

Mountain House breakfast of bacon and eggs and egg scramble. Who knew freeze-dried food could be so good. Seriously!

IMG_1378.JPGLady Coach and Poppy drive Coach and big kids to Coal Creek where they unload with one of the kayaks and start an EPIC raft trip back to the campsite. Road there and back is all gravel and BUMPY. Somehow Poppy still managed to nap all the way back, though.

Coach, E, and Gman raft from Coal Creek put-in to Big Creek campground. A leisurely  float filled with just the right amount of mild white water to make it exciting for the kiddos. IMG_1379.JPGControlling a full size two-man inflatable kayak with one kiddo in front and one in back was easy work. There was only one spot on the river where we stopped and had to portage for about 35 yards. This was due to Coach choosing to wrongly go left instead of right at a river fork and being overly cautious with the kiddos. Long way from help up there but totally worth it if cautious.  We saw bald eagles fishing, mule deer, and lots of water fowl. Despite E’s protestations about not liking the rapids – a great time was had by all. Lady Coach and Poppy enjoyed some mommy daughter time together back at camp.

Mountain House lasagna for lunch. Seriously – this stuff tastes good.

IMG_1398.JPGHang out at campsite until Coach and Poppy leave to go do laundry at West Glacier Village (and Poppy enjoys some Dibs in the process). Playtime by river while they’re gone.Kiddos fire on their own to grill hamburgers, corn on the cob and potatoes for dinner. (Lady Coach realized she forgot all her seasonings – including salt and pepper – so had to get creative with peppered bacon, minced garlic, and Parmesan cheese to give anything any flavor.). Family Approves!

Shower time for all after dinner and then bedtime.

Day Ten – July 11th

Breakfast of oatmeal and yogurt.

Drive over to Apgar Village to check out horseback riding. Have to be at least seven to ride and next available slot is at 1:15. Poppy has fallen asleep in the car so drive over to the Apgar Visitor Center so the big kids can finish up their junior ranger qualifications they started with Granddad a couple of days before. Coach stays in the car with napping Poppy.

IMG_1416.JPGHead back to horse corral where E is assigned Blackjack and Lady Coach gets Winchester.

Coach, Poppy and Gman eat lunch at the picnic table at the stable while Lady Coach & E hear the rules, etc. and then head out on the one-hour ride. Trail is beautiful – see and hear about Strawberry Mountain and Chocolate Volcano and lodge pole pines… Coach and the littles hike around the same area during this time and make their way down to the Middle Fork of the Flathead to chuck rocks.

Afterwards drove up to the Red Rocks over look at McDonald Creek and hiked around. Crazy Coach jumped into the ice-cold spring water and got several claps, some laughs and some weird looks from bystanders. Kids were impressed. “Invigorating!”, says Coach.

Drove back to camp and had some Mountain House chicken and rice and some bacon green beans for dinner.

Girls v. Boys in bean bags. Best out of 3 games to 100. Believe it or not, the GIRLS won!!! “Bunch of cheaters”

Day Eleven – July 12th

Woke up and drove to West Glacier Restaurant for breakfast. Kids loved their pancakes!IMG_1424.JPG Then wandered around the gift shops and kids picked out their souvenirs (Gman – bow and arrow; E – Indian-dressed bears; Poppy – stuffed fawn). Walk across the street to the Canadian Visitor Center and look around the exhibits there.

Drive up to Avalanche Creek and decide to hike Trail of Cedars – Poppy goes back and forth from backpack to walking. Beautiful shaded hike, beautiful trees, fun exploring the creek. Get to the point where you can turn and go up to Avalanche Lake (a 4-mile roundtrip hike) and the kids are more than game. So we do it! Again, IMG_1447.JPGbeautiful hike – can hear the waterfall for the first mile on the left, lots of rocks and fallen trees for the kids to climb on, Poppy in a great mood in the backpack. The last half-mile up gets rough for the kids, though. More whining, but they’re surviving. Avalanche Lake is beautiful! So worth the hike! Kids all take off their shoes to put their feet in the water and Gman wades out. Sadly Gman tumbles into the water and gets soaked. Get him naked inside of Coach’s heavy shirt and lay his clothes on tree branches to dry. After playing around a while clothes are still not dry so Coach puts his belt around Gman’s waist and turns Gman into the brown ninja. Or monk. Or Jedi warrior. Regardless, Gman embraces it. Get some funny looks on the two miles back down but he handles it with style.

Avalanche Lake

Poppy falls asleep in the backpack on the way down and somehow jams her head into the cable holding her canopy up and it seems to hold her head steady – though hikers going up keep wanting to try to fix her head. Once down from the four mile hike we finish the 1-mile loop on the Trail of Cedars and everybody is starving. Hadn’t planned on doing the Lake trail so didn’t have snacks. Get some in the car.

Then head to Lake McDonald to share a big pizza and everybody gets some ice cream. Yay, huckleberry ice cream!IMG_1470.JPG

Head to Apgar Village to rent some bicycles. LC and Gman share a tandem bike and Coach and E do as well and Coach also pulls Poppy in a trailer. Great ride from Apgar to West Glacier, see the old park entrance, ride through the park staff’s neighborhood, campgrounds, etc. Gman is a good sport about LC tipping them over several times and having to get off and walk up a couple of steep hills.

Get back to bike rental shop around 7:15 and head back to campsite. On way home realize smoke has finally cleared and can see mountain peaks. Beautiful – sad that we’ve missed this all week but thankful to see it now!

Everybody has a snack and heads to bed.

Day Twelve – July 13th

Coach makes Mountain House breakfasts. Lady Coach adds roasted marshmallow chocolate chip bananas to the mix as well. Apparently Lady Coach is the only real fan, though.

Hang around campsite all day. Coaches start packing up what can be packed while kids play on hill and by river. Stop for lunch and put Poppy down for her nap.

IMG_1475.JPGBean bag challenge again. This time it’s Coach/E v. Lady Coach/Gman. Both the kids have improved significantly. This time, though, Coach & E win – E must be the kicker!

That afternoon Coach takes the kids to PoleBridge to pick out bakery treats for breakfast the next morning. Play on the playground for a bit while they’re there. Back at the campsite, Rain. But Lady Coach still manages to start a fire and cook sausage and macaroni and salad for dinner.

After dinner everybody heads back to Apgar Village to go by the gift shop and to get one last ice cream. Huckleberry for Lady Coach and Poppy, Cookies and Cream for Gman and E, and Moose Tracks for Coach.

All good selections. Poppy achieves one of life’s great milestones – learning how to eat ice cream out of a cone. She gets so excited she does a little happy dance with her feet before each lick.IMG_1491.JPG

Head back to camp and shower up before bed.

Day Thirteen – July 14th

Breakfast of huckleberry bear claws,fritters, and sticky buns.

Goal was to be out of the campsite by 12:00 – actually got out by 11:00!!

Lost all the time we gained, though, by stopping at the Wandering Gringos food truck just outside West Glacier. Quesadillas and Coach’s burrito were really good! Flowers outside of the food truck were beautiful. Lady Coach thinks maybe Montana has the prettiest wild flowers…

Head to Grant-Kohrs NHS – historic ranch. Really interesting place – history of cattle and wheat farming and functioning grounds and old houses you can walk through. Even the kids were really into it. Didn’t have enough time to do it justice, though – will have to go back again in the future. A lot of neat little museums in the same area Lady Coach would’ve liked to check out.

IMG_1509.JPGMake it to the Nez Perce Motel in Wisdom, MT, by 7:00ish. Motel only has 8 outside-entrance rooms and we were the only ones there besides the traveling Schwann Man.

Had hoped to do laundry here but the only little laundry mat in town is closed. Lady Coach grabs dinner for everybody at the only restaurant in town (though it was really good – The Crossings) while Coach gets kids bathed.

Coaches each enjoy a super long fully functioning shower before bed. Late night for everybody but think all are asleep by 10 or 10:30.

Day Fourteen – July 15th


Get a late start, of course, and then our only option for breakfast is the same restaurant we had dinner last night – not a quick place. Eventually we get our breakfast sandwiches and hit the road.

Head out to Big Hole NB where E gets to help build the teepee that morning. Learn a lot in the process – she helps lift and organize the poles, wrap the canvas around, hammer in the pegs, etc. Really interesting.

Next stop is Idaho Falls where Coach is thinking the IMG_1517.JPGtires on the trailer aren’t looking so good. Drops Lady Coach and the kids off at the Tautphaus Park Zoo while he goes to Big O Tires and decides to replace tires. The rest of TeamHovis have a great time at the zoo – Poppy is infatuated with the tortoises, all the kids enjoyed the petting zoo where they got to play with goats and pet a python and a guinea pig. Small zoo, but neat. Gman picked out an elephant-build-thing at the gift shop for his birthday. Coach arrives about the time zoo-goers are done and we all wander down to the park where we can eat Gman’s Avenger birthday cake and moose tracks ice cream and then play a quick game of tag on the beautiful green lawn before the storm comes through.

IMG_1522.JPGFlaming Gorge was on the itinerary but, sadly, Lady Coach accidentally threw Coach’s license and credit card into a dumpster in Salt Lake City and didn’t realize it until a ways down the road. Had to turn around and go get them which pushed our timing back even further (had a late start plus a longer stay in Idaho Falls than planned). No gorge.

Kids are watching Milo and Otis in the car and just giggling hysterically throughout. Poppy is facing backwards so can’t see the movie but she’ll just laugh and laugh after she hears E and Gman laughing. It’s pretty cute.

Kids fall asleep in the car around 10 and it is DARK outside. Tiny winding road with no lights plus some construction stops.

Finally made it to the Townplace Suites in Vernal, UT, around midnight.

Day Fifteen – July 16th

IMG_1528.JPGAnother classic breakfast at hotel. Head to Dinosaur NM. Look around visitor center and take shuttle up to dig site. Poppy is enthralled“hujjjee bon!!” Big kids both decided at Glacier they wanted to be either park rangers, paleontologists, or archaeologists. The coaching staff can support this line of thinking.

The front A/C started to make some loud noises and ceased blowing cold as we came in Grand Junction, CO. Coach dropped the kiddos and Lady Coach off at a KFC and then tried to get the A/C fixed. No luck. Every shop was kind, but no luck with getting it done same day. We cranked up the rear A/C and pointed it forward. Did the job for the rest of trip (update 5.6.2016 – front A/C has been working fine since trip ended).

On down the road to the Grand Canyon of the Gunnison. Pretty breathtaking – makes you feel so small. Absolutely beautiful. We made one more stop at the Curencanti NRA. Really cool recreation area – lots of lakes.

Lady Coach drives over Monarch Pass – highest pass in Colorado. Pretty scary but incredible at the same time. LC claims she would’ve been “incredible car sick” if she hadn’t been driving.

Our final destination for the night is Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort. Coach has planned a day of soaking and sunning as the last hurrah of this epic road trip. Mt. Princeton is the backdrop to YoungLife’s Frontier Ranch – one of Coach’s favorite spots on earth. Later, after dark, when Coach looks up from our resort to find it, realizes it’s Thursday night and he cannot find the camp because all the campers are having quiet time after hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ – no lights on in camp.

Coach takes the big kids for a late night swim in the hot springs. Lights out around 10.

Day Sixteen – July 17th

As the trip is winding down, TeamHovis is glad IMG_1552.JPGto have a day of minimal driving and maximum relaxing. We’re slow getting up and then wander down to the resort lodge for breakfast. The Lodge has a quite the alpine setting – Mountain Peaks, Raging Creek, and Beautiful Lush Mountain Lawn. Coach makes the best food choice – bison hash. Delicious!

Head up to the “slide pool.” Air is cool but water is warm. Super long raft slide that Gman will only do once. E being fearless does it at least a dozen times. Coaches take a few trips as well and Coach even takes Poppy down a couple of times and she “seems” to enjoy it! Swim for a couple of hours and then ready for a change. LC was “SOOOOO CAHOLD!!!” getting out of the water. Swimming at 9,000 feet has its drawbacks!IMG_1555.JPG

Head down to the warmer hot springs pools. Enjoy some time there for an hour or so and then change and head to the car. Everybody is absolutely exhausted. Poppy falls asleep when the buckles click on her car seat. Head to Salida to pick up lunch.

Drive straight through to Raton, NM, to the Microtel Inn & Suites. Everybody bathes, Lady Coach does a couple of loads of laundry, Coach runs to the gas station to get some Alfonso’s, the best Mexican food around for miles, and everyone begins the big chill: watching TV and eating the goodness that is burritos.

Everybody in bed by 9:30.

Day Seventeen – July 19th

Mixed emotions at the end of a great trip. 15 minutes IMG_1560.JPGlate for the free breakfast – hotel staff takes pity on the sad little faces. Muffins and fruit find their way into the tiny-people’s hands.

We’re off to see a Volcano. Gman is super excited. Sadly, upon arrival, we learn no trailers allowed on the road up to the volcano. Everybody’s pretty disappointed.  Quick tour of the visitor center and now its time to make time. We knew we’d reentered the great state of Texas when the blue sky stretched on forever and friend burritos once again became a dietary staple.

Spent the night in Abilene. Never stat at the Comfort Suites in Abilene. Beyond disgusting. Spent the evening in the pool awaiting them to re-clean the room. Still gross. Blood and bodily fluids in the beds.

Day Eighteen – July 20th

Scenic drive through the home state down Hwy 30.Gas prices are dropping the closer we get to home! It has been a great trip. Home sweet home in Katy, TX!

#TeamHovis signing off


What a great trip. We saw so many things and the kiddos had a blast. It is such a pleasure to spend time with just the family. Ignoring the demands of everyday life and simply spending time with Lady Coach and the tinies is so worth it. We’ve done Disney. We’ve done the beach. Nothing quite brings a family together like the Great American Road Trip!

Official Trip Stats!!




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