This was not only the first trip we have taken as a family, but also our first road trip! We decided to take ten days off and drive from our home in central Nebraska to the southern coast of Oregon (Medford). With a five year old and a one and a half year old, we really did not know what to expect…but of course we did expect the worst. Although we hit some bumps in the road, we had a wonderful trip. This will definitely not be our last.
Day one actually started on day two…I’ll explain. We left towards the end of May, but Mother Nature decided to send us one last winter storm. The snowstorm closed all of the highways that we could have taken, so we had to wait and leave the next morning.
We woke up first thing in the morning and headed out. It was rainy, but going well. We started seeing some snow once we got into Wyoming (about 6 hours into our trip). Getting through Cheyenne was our biggest concern, but we were watching websites and road signs, we downloaded a roadtrip weather condition phone app. Everything said that the highways were open in the direction we were going, so we were very happy.
We stopped at a truck stop in Cheyenne for some lunch, a little break, and gas. While there, we saw some Jelly Belly Bean Boozled jelly beans. We had heard of these and thought it would be fun to try with family once we got to Medford. These things are so awesome! They’re like the Harry Potter jelly beans, all kinds of crazy flavors. Only with these, you can get one of two flavors with each color. Example, white can either be coconut or spoiled milk. So excited to try these.
Back on the road after our little pit stop. As we started to head out of town, we saw more and more snow piled up on the highway…still no closed signs so we were hopeful. We then started seeing more and more emergency and police vehicles driving around. We started getting concerned. As we took our last exit to head out of town, we reached a closed sign with the road blocked sending us on a detour. This detour sent us around a big circle back to the original closed freeway. We went in a circle a few times, thinking that maybe we missed a turn, before we found another route through Google Maps.
This new route put us on a highway frontage road south towards Fort Collins Colorado, and then it would take us back up to Laramie Wyoming. This route would normally double our drive time in normal weather. Since we were on a frontage road just after a snow storm, it added about three more hours to our trip. Still not too bad in my mind, it was interesting.
The good thing is that we finally got out of Cheyenne and had a route to Laramie and were back on track. The bad thing was that as we were driving on the snow covered frontage road (going about 20 miles per hour), we saw a lot of traffic on the highway. Apparently we did not have to take the frontage road to take this detour, although I have no idea how people got on the highway. Anyway we made to to Laramie and were back on our way.
We had thought about possibly driving through the night and as we neared Rock Springs Wyoming, we decided that we would go ahead and trudge on. The kids had been great, thanks in part to our portable DVD player, and they were already sleeping soundly.
We drove through the night passing Salt Lake City, where I would have loved to make a stop…maybe next time. Things were going well, kids sleeping, me staying awake. I wasn’t tired at all, I was excited about the trip, enjoying the ride, and I really do love driving.
Alex woke up for his usual middle of the night bottle. We are trying to ween him off of the bottle and try to only give him milk around the time he sleeps (just before nap, before bed, and the middle of the night). He has trouble sleeping and we are trying associate milk with sleep-time. So, we kept milk in a cooler for just this occasion.
At about two or three in the morning Alex throws up! Not just a little either, vomit all over himself and his car seat. There were large puddles in every possible area. Of course this happens when we’re nowhere near a town or gas station. We got him out of the car, changed his soaked clothes, cleaned up his car seat the best we could, put a blanket down in the car seat, and got back on our way.
With the car now smelling like sour milk and vomit, Alex is back asleep and we can continue on. We drove the rest of the night without any problems…until the morning. About an hour before daybreak, he vomited again. Even more vomit this time!!! I could not believe it, poor kid. We used up the last of our blankets and wet wipes getting him cleaned up. Be careful of milk in a cooler kids. Actually, I think it was car-sickness more than spoiled milk. Regardless, we decided to not give him anymore milk.
Our goal next was to make it out of Nevada and into Oregon. Reaching Winnemucca, NV around daylight. From here, we had to take route 140 to Denio Junction (boarder of Nevada and Oregon). About 100 miles of Nevada desert, on a small state route with no towns in between.
This was a long stretch. Boring, slow, small road with no traffic…and no speed limit signs! I wanted to go as fast as we were allowed, but had no clue what the speed limit was. The last sign I saw read 55, I think, so were going about that speed. This took forever. Later we realized that Nevada has areas without speed limits! Going a bit faster on this leg would have a made a world of difference…oh well.
We finally made it to the Denio Junction and saw our fist sign welcoming us to Oregon! Google Maps had some trouble getting us through this area, possibly because cell reception was a bit sketchy. We missed a turn, but were soon back on track. Into Nevada again and through some mountains and we would then officially be traveling through Oregon.
We finally made it to Oregon. The change of scenery from rocky desert to plush mountainous green was welcomed and almost instant. Practically as soon as we reached the Oregon border, the landscape changed dramatically. It was such a good feeling.
Just a few more hours and we would reach our destination. The countryside was so beautiful that even being up all night, and driving through the desert in a vomit scented car, the drive was enjoyable.
We stopped in Lakeview for lunch, it is a cute little ski town. Already thinking that I would love to live here. Next stop was Klamath Falls. We decided to take a long break at Moore Park in Klamath to let the kids stretch their legs and get some energy out. What a ridiculously huge lake! We had, fun and the park was amazing.
Medford, Oregon approximately 5pm. We checked into our hotel, Super 8 in Central Point. We chose this hotel because they had a pool. We thought it would be a great amenity for the kids.
I had stayed a Super 8’s before and really did not have very high expectations for this one. I was pleasantly surprised to see how new and clean the lobby and room were. The people were very friendly and helpful. The pool was great! It was a little frustrating to find out that they did not allow pool toys though. Kids love to swim, but it would have been so much more fun if they would have allowed toys…oh well.
After checking into the hotel we went to visit Sarah’s parents and her brother. It had been several years since we had seen them and it was nice to see how happy everyone was to see each other again.
Ever since we picked up the BeanBoozled jelly beans, Delilah had been bugging us to try them out. We had told her that we should wait until we got to Medford so we could taste them out with her uncle. Glad we waited, he is fun guy.
This turned out to be a very entertaining experience. I was amazed at how the flavors were exactly how they were supposed to be. Although, this was not exactly a good thing. After driving for so long in a car that smells like vomit and sour milk, I ended trying two jelly beans at the same time. Just happened to be vomit and sour milk…let’s just say that this really tested my gag reflex. It was a lot of fun though. I would recomend BeanBoozled for anyone, just stay away from real thing beforehand.
After a long day, finally reaching our destination, visiting with family, and experiencing the taste of vomit, boogers, dog food, and grass, we were ready for some rest. Back to the hotel.
Our next adventure consisted of a drive through the redwood forest and a day at the beach. Of course we had to stop and see the trees. We found a great spot near a slow flowing river. The kids both had a lot of fun playing in the water and climbing around the giant trees.
We spent a little too much time in the forest, plus we got a bit of a late start and we ended up getting to the beach in the late afternoon. It was a bit chilly so we did not swim in the ocean. We did have tons of fun playing in the water though. Alex kept running to water, he really would have loved swimming in the ocean. We will definitely have to take the kids to the beach another time.
After driving all the way from central Nebraska to the west coast ocean, we ate at McDonalds. Ha! It was late, getting dark and we were cold and wet. We needed to eat, but we also had to get back to town and just went with the first food place we could find. I think when I was in Belize, I ate at McDonalds too. They’re everywhere! Someone could probably have a travel/food blog just about eating at McDonalds all over the world!
Ashland, about ten miles from our hotel. Growing up around artists and having some influence in music, I was excited to visit this “crunchy” little town known for it’s artistic charm and world-renowned Shakespeare festival.
A little back story. I grew up in Tucson and was inspired by music and art at a young age. Tucson’s most colorful area is 4th avenue, Downtown and near the University of Arizona. I remember just walking around there at random times, there was always something entertaining going on. On a slow day there would at least be a street performer or someone walking around reciting poetry. And there were always the friendly “crunchy” “hippie” types who are always up for stimulating conversation.
I have to say, I was a bit disappointed with Ashland. I was expecting it to be like Tucson’s downtown area, but bigger and better. Don’t get me wrong, it was very nice and very artistic. I just assumed there would be more street entertainment. It was fun for sure, but I had expected to maybe meet some of the “crazies”. Someone told me that they had banned smoking in the downtown area to keep the “hippie” locals from loitering, making it more appealing for tourists. I wish they hadn’t have done that. Oh well.
We had a nice walk in Lithia Park. Although, of course we did not cover all 96 acres. This park was huge, and we only got see a small taste of it. Very lush and shady with plenty of little trails, water, and activity areas. It was getting to be pretty hot so we decided to cool off indoors and get some food.
We decided to eat at Sesame Asian Kitchen. I was pleasantly surprised in the restaurant. I usually have high standards when comes to restaurants. I don’t think that I’m a jerk or anything, I just maybe expect more at most places, but I believe I’m fair in my criticisms.
But I digress, this place was amazing! It was in the afternoon and they were a bit slow, but the service was great. Out waiter was prompt, knew the menu, and was the perfect amount of friendly, knowledgeable, and outgoing. Wish I could remember his name. I had the Stone Rice Bowl, their version of bimimbap crispy rice. It consisted of bok choy, shiitakes, kimchee, pickled cucumber, bean sprouts, fried egg, scallions, and korean chili paste. I asked them to make it extra spicy. It was amazing!! The stone bowl crisped the rice to perfection and the combination of flavors was excellent. A great blend of fresh and cooked, sweet and salty, bitter and umami. Very impressed and very happy, I would recommend Sesame Asian Kitchen to anyone.
We continued to walk around an check out the shops. I have to say, I wasn’t really impressed with anything. Like I said before though, I have been a bit spoiled before with the artsy stuff. It was getting pretty hot and kids were anxious to go to the pool, so we headed back back to the hotel.
Our next destination was Crater Lake. It was a beautiful day. We were watching the temperature drop as we headed up the mountain. I think we saw it get down to 55 degrees. Kept seeing more and more snow and dreading the cold again. But the sun was shining bright and I was so amazed at how warm it felt. It almost felt like we were at a nice beach in California.
This place was beautiful. The lake was formed from volcanic activity. We did not get very close to the lake, but from the top of the mountain it was absolutely gorgeous. The lake reflected just like a mirror. At times, it was hard to tell where the horizon over the lake actually started.
We spent the next a day or so with Sarah’s Sister and her family. Mostly just visiting and enjoying their semi-secluded property near Klamath Falls.
We really enjoyed visiting with family and didn’t want to trip to end. It was such a relaxing setting and pleasant area, I wanted to stay. Of course we couldn’t though. We savored every minute we had left and really enjoyed the rest of our visit.
We said our goodbyes and got back on the road home. We decided to take bit of a detour and longer route to drive through Yellowstone National Park. Neither of us had been there and we thought that this would be a great opportunity to check it out.
After driving half of a day and through the night, we made it to Yellowstone at about seven in the morning. It was perfect timing. I wanted to get there early so we could have as much time as possible to check it out.
Within minutes of entering the park, we saw some Bison with a baby. It’s amazing to see animals like this, just hanging around with all of the people and cars driving by. Our first destination in the park was to see some geysers on our way to Old Faithful. Have you heard the saying “It’s not the destination, it’s journey”? Well, it couldn’t be more true in Yellowstone (this whole trip for us, for that matter). This is some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen.
So we had a chance to check out some geysers at West Gyser. Here, we had the opportunity to get out of the car and walk through a trail that leads you through dozens of geysers. The first thing we noticed stepping out of the car was the smell of sulfur. It was a strong smell, but we didn’t’ mind. The sulfur smell was easily dwarfed by the site of all of these geysers and the rainbow colors of the water and mineral deposits. Just beautiful.
Even with the beauty of this site, we were getting excited to see Old Faithful. It was also pretty chilly outside and the kids were getting cold. So we got back in the car and headed for Old Faithful.
The centerpiece of Yellowstone National Park. I was surprised to see how the geyser is in the middle of essentially a town. Buildings, hotels, gas stations, gift shops and restaurants surrounded the Old Faithful area. The great thing is that it really doesn’t take away from the beauty of the park, especially when you consider the necessity for visitors to fill up on gas and have a place to stay the night. The park is so big that it is almost necessary to stay at least one night.
We found a place to park and headed straight for Old Faithful to check the schedule. There is a daily eruption schedule for the geyser that erupts about once every hour. The timing worked out perfectly. We arrived at the geyser just minutes before the eruption. It was definitely an experience. We lucked out with the timing, but ran out of luck when it came to the side of the geyser we were on. It was still cold out, maybe about fifty-five degrees, and there was a bit of a breeze. As the geyser started to erupt the wind gusted and covered us with water. It was still fun though. It only lasted a few minutes, but it was worth getting wet for.
Aside from the geysers and scenic landscape, the hope to see wildlife is another attraction. It doesn’t really sound appealing to just drive through, but the park is so beautiful and you are constantly looking for animals. We drove through the rest of the park probably averaging about 20 miles per hour, stopping frequently to take pictures and see different sites. I still felt that we were driving too fast.
After leaving Yellowstone, we entered the Grand Teton National Park. What we did not realize was that we had to pay to enter, but had no choice to get back home. A little upsetting, but worth it. Grand Teton was a lot like Yellowstone, but with a little less traffic and a few less rules. I liked it better, just because we could pull over pretty much when we wanted.
We ended up driving through both Yellowstone and the Tetons without seeing much in the way wildlife. I was hoping to see some bears, we saw plenty of bison though. After experiencing a sample taste of Yellowstone, we now must go back and get the whole seven course meal. I would love to camp out there for at least few days and enjoy some long nature walks. All in all, it was a wonderful and beautiful experience and a wonderful and beautiful park. It was definitely awe inspiring and left us with warm feelings knowing that a place like this still exists in our world and is being preserved and taken care of.
The rest of our trip was comparatively uneventful. Once out of the mountains, the rest of the countryside is flat and pretty barren. We drove through the night again, probably shouldn’t have. We did stop at a rest area where I got a few hours of sleep. By the time we got back home I was ready so sleep for a day and half…and I did.
This was our first family vacation and our first family road trip. It was fun, full of exciting things to see and do, and a new experience for all of us. The kids had a great time and had a chance to see some of our country’s beautiful national landmarks.
I was certainly inspired and the kids did so well on the trip. I am already planning our next road trip. I think we will check out Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and do a little camping in the Black Hills, but for now it is good to be home. I can’t wait for our next road trip and another first…camping.