Tag Archives: challenges

Wyoming & Montana | The Grand Tetons & Yellowstone

Just to recap, our journey westward was on a time crunch — we needed to get to Washington State in time for the wheat harvest which was coming early that year due to heat waves.  At this point in our journey, we had made it to Wyoming and the route that day was to see as much as we could see while passing through the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.  It was a Monday following the 4th of July week-end.

My friend, Jen, encouraged me to see the Grand Tetons, so this dictated our decision to enter Yellowstone thru the southern entrance.  As we got to the gate for the Grand Tetons, one good decision we made was to purchase a National Parks Annual Pass. We paid $80 for access to any National Park within the United States and it was money well spent, because we would go on to use this pass to cover our admission to not only the Grand Tetons, but also Yellowstone National Park, Mt. St. Helens National Park, Lewis and Clark National Park, The Redwoods, The Grand Canyon National Park, and the Carlsbad Caverns National Park (I feel like I’m missing one in this list — just know it came in handy a lot!) The pass is good for an entire year and covers admission fees for the entire family and your vehicle.  Note: If you have a 4th Grader in the family, you can get a free annual pass!

National Parks Annual Pass

You can follow details on the National Park’s website if you want to secure the pass before you travel, but we just purchased ours at the park’s entrance. Remember that with the annual pass, you can also get a discount on gift shop purchases which adds to your savings. And if you are over the age of 62, you can get a smoke’n good deal on this pass!

One thing we noticed right away was the cooler air and how FRESH the air smelled! The clouds hung low clinging to the mountains as we made our gradual climb that morning.

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We stop for a bathroom break and I managed to get all the kids to hold still long enough for a group shot.

We stopped in at Jenny Lake at the Grand Tetons and the water was beautiful and clear! (I’ll have to find my photo of us at the lake and will add it to this posting when I find where I archived it.)

The Grand Tetons

The mountains jutted up towards the heavens and literally we stood in awe of how majestic they appeared.

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We found a RV parking spot to park at the Grand Teton Visitor Center. Be prepared to hike to the sites from these locations! And don’t be surprised if cars take RV spots!
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Baby girl has the best big brothers!
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Some pretty wild flowers.
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A pretty meadow on the way between the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.
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This deer grazing at the Grand Tetons was incredibly tame! She grazed while onlookers swarmed around her.

Yellowstone was gorgeous! The scenery just went on and on… until your eyes landed on all the people. Granted it was a holiday week-end, but folks, it was crazy busy with bumper-to-bumper traffic often and fighting crowds of people just kills any outdoor enjoyment for me personally. In fact, we quickly learned that if you’re towing a RV, you can’t get off on any of the side roads to visit some of the main attractions which was a bit of a bummer.

Tip: If you want to explore Yellowstone, plan to stay for a few days and have a spot where you can unhook from your travel trailer so you can see the sights that are often found on side-roads.

We were surprised to learn that you have to have a permit to put your own kayak into any body of water within Yellowstone AND you have to have your kayaks inspected. I guess there’s some sort of weed that can be brought in on kayaks that they don’t want to propagate so this is a safe guard they take. We knew we weren’t going to take our kayaks down because I had done some research in advance and knew that we didn’t want to purchase the permit for the boys to fish when we really didn’t have a whole lot of time to see the sights.

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One of our teens — they love being in the great outdoors and exploring new sites!
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So many pretty waterfalls in Yellowstone!
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On our way through Yellowstone we had a great learning opportunity for the kids as we crossed the Continental Divide three times in three different spots!

We crossed the Continental Divide three separate times while making our way from the south entrance to Yellowstone to the north entrance of Yellowstone. It provided a great learning opportunity for the kids!

We went to go see Old Faithful, but it was so crowded that there wasn’t a single place to park! All the RV parking spots were taken with vehicles that were not RVs nor towing! Big bummer as my husband had to circle and wait for us to see when Old Faithful would do her thing. We decided that almost an hour-and-half wait wasn’t worth it given the crowds and parking situation, so we opted to keep moving through the park as we were feeling the time crunch to get to Washington State.  It was shortly after leaving the Visitor’s Center at Yellowstone that we hit a major delay. We sat in crawling stop-and-go traffic only to discover people were enthralled with a small herd of buffalo. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen buffalo before, but I was like, “Really people?” An hour delay for this?!

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We encountered a huge delay and sat in traffic for nearly an hour because of these creatures. A heard of buffalo quietly grazed while people gawked nearby.

We would later laugh about how we saw more natural wild life in Washington State than in Yellowstone! But again, that may not be a fair assessment, because we only went through Yellowstone in a day.

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One of the many steaming hot spring found along our drive.

One word of advice I’d offer… the way thru the north area of Yellowstone has some pretty steep drop-offs at spots and might be a little bit nerve racking if you’re a new driver in a RV. Even my husband was leery as we made our way through some narrow passages along a cliff side overhang.

We also hit an area of construction. Here’s another tip… If they mention there’s construction in an area, avoid it. Seriously — find an alternate route because you will be c-r-a-w-l-i-n-g at a snails pace AND your rig will get covered in dust, gravel and grime! Ugh!

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On our way out of the north exit of Yellowstone.

We did see some elk on the way out of the north entrance of the park. They also were really tame paying no notice to the people surrounding them.

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An elk grazing near the north entrance to Yellowstone.

When we left Yellowstone, we found the next town and stopped for dinner. We got out of the car and were SHOCKED at how dirty it had become from going thru the construction area in Yellowstone!

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Had to take a pic when we stopped to eat dinner that evening in Montana. Our poor vehicle and trailer was covered in dirt from the construction we went thru in Yellowstone.
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A close up of our running boards on our tow vehicle after we had left Yellowstone!

Feeling the urge to get as far as we could in Montana, we aimed our sights for Missoula, Montana and planned to roll into a Walmart parking lot around midnight to break our journey. When we arrived, we were surprised to find the whole back side of the parking lot lined with RVers tucked in for the night! We managed to find a spot towards the back of the lot and as we were moving the kids from the car to the RV, there was a truck that came through the parking lot with two guys yelling profanity to the RVers (and us), “This isn’t a F***ing RV Campground!” Over and over they yelled this at the top of their lungs directed towards the parked RVs. They past by yelling their rant and went to make another loop. My husband and I looked at each other and immediately decided to move on from that location. We didn’t need a drunk’n heckler and our safety sensors were tingling telling us to get out of there! So we loaded up the kids (it was about midnight mind you) and we got back on the freeway.

We used our app to try and find a spot to overnight and the first rest stop we came across was dark and unlit. We opted to continue to keep driving. It was about 1:30 am in the morning when we came upon the next rest stop (and last rest stop before heading over the pass). Thankfully, it was well lit and we pulled in next to a semi and helped get the kids to the RV where everyone immediately conked out after a very long day.  They were such troopers! We didn’t sleep long as the road noise was pretty loud from the nearby freeway, causing my husband and I to stir and wake around 6 am. We  got back on the road pressing on towards our destination and eager to cross into Washington State stopping to eat some breakfast after we got over the pass.

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Our overnight camping spot was a safe haven that night in Montana after a run-in with some crazies in Missoula, Montana.
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This is how we do breakfast on the go while traveling … some groceries that include fresh fruit and some muffins. And it does wonders for the driver to find a good cup of coffee for the road! 😉

In summary, I think my husband and I decided that in order to really do Yellowstone justice, we needed to NOT visit on a holiday week-end and we needed to plan to stay for at least three days so we could unhook and explore.

I do have to admit that the seismic activity in the area is disconcerting knowing that this was at one time a very active volcano.  I did love it for the educational aspect as we would go on to visit another volcano in Washington (Mt St Helens), so this was a great opportunity for the kids to see two very different types of volcanos. I will post about Mt. St. Helens at a later date, but for now, suffice to say, I am glad we saw the Grand Tetons, but Yellowstone was a bit of a bust and let down on a number of levels. Probably poor planning and expectations that were over-inflated on our part. Had we not been pressed for time and visiting at a time of year that wasn’t peak season, this could have been a great opportunity to explore and learn more about volcanos and geology.  It’s on our list to try again at a later date when time allows.


5kidsandarv-approved5 Kids and a RV recommendations are based on personal experience and do not represent the business, agency, or not-for-profit we feature. We share our experiences in an effort to inspire parents to engage and explore with their children. As always, whenever trying something new, please use your own good judgement in what best suits the needs of your family to keep everyone safe while having fun.

5 Kids and a RV: “Let’s go learn something today.”
Copyright 2016

Wyoming | Fried Beef and a Full Tank

As we left North Platte, Nebraska on a Sunday of the 4th of July weekend, we continued heading west through Wyoming. The road was straight and the land began to open up as farm land turned to ranch land with not a single tree in sight.  We saw dark clouds ahead and braced ourselves as we headed into probably the most intense electrical storm we’ve ever encountered in a RV.

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Now y’all we live in the South, so a storm with lightening and thunder usually doesn’t phase us too much because they happen pretty regularly from about May thru September as the warm air currents hit the cool air currents in our region. Sometimes the rumble of the thunder that rolls across the sky overhead will make the house shutter as the walls vibrate in response.

So, as we are beginning to drive into this pretty dark and imposing storm, it begins to dawn on me that there are no exits and that as lightening strikes on the open plain that there are no trees to attract the lightening to ground it. In some ways, we begin to feel like a sitting duck as we scurry along the highway. The rain the size of marbles began to pelt down on our vehicle  and the wipers swished back-and-forth just as fast as they could go.

Visibility began to lessen as we continued into the storm and the danger was evident in that we must keep moving cautiously, for if we stopped we might be in danger of another vehicle plowing into the back of us.  With our eyes fixated on the tail-lights in-front of us, we felt the dark clouds envelope all around us. We could only see about 20-30 feet ahead. Slowly we moved forward in faith with eyes peeled for any danger.

It was about then that my 5-year-old began to express concern regarding the storm. I could hear the fear in his voice, so I wanted to console him. I turned in my seat to talk to him so he could see my eyes and began to share with him the story in the bible how the disciples were afraid in a storm probably similar to the one we found ourselves in and Jesus simply slept peacefully in the boat through it. Luke retells that moment like this:

“As they sailed, He fell asleep, and a squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke Him saying, ‘Master,Master, we are perishing!’ Then Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters, and they subsided, and all was calm.  ‘Where is your faith?’ He asked. Frightened and amazed, they asked one another, ‘Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him!‘” — Luke 8:24

I reminded my son (as I also reminded myself in that same moment) that Jesus was able to command the weather so we could trust Him to see us through the storm. Peace. Calm. Trusting in our Creator and those big ol’ guardian angles. I could see the words encouraged him, but before I could turn back around in my seat, a sudden flash filled the cab and the kids’ eyes got the size of big saucers! Evidently, in the field we were passing, lightening struck and according to my older two boys, the lightening had struck a cow in the field! My two oldests (they are twins) shared that there was a burst of fire and a cow left laying on it’s side! Yikes! Even still, we kept pressing forward through the storm and ended up going over a bit of a mountain and emerged to blue skies. I remember feeling relieved to put the storm behind us. We safely made it through!

Out of danger, I finally had the forethought to take a photo of the storm before we passed through it. Those blue skies were encouraging to see!
Out of danger, I finally had the forethought to take a photo of the storm before we passed through it. Those blue skies were encouraging to see!

Some helpful things to know when it comes to driving in severe weather:

  1. Check your weather app before embarking for the day. Make sure you have weather alerts switched on to warn you of any severe weather warnings and allow the app to track your GPS so that the warnings will move with you and not remain static on a fixed location.

2. Know what your warnings are:

  • A thunderstorm or tornado WATCH means that conditions are right for a thunderstorm/tornado to develop in the watch area. Be ready to take cover or evacuate.
  • A thunderstorm WARNING means that a severe thunderstorm/tornado has been reported or detected on radar, threatening danger to property or life. Take cover or evacuate if there is time and a safe escape route.

3. If you are able to, pull off at an exit and find a parking lot to wait out the storm. If there are tornado conditions, seek shelter inside a brick-and-mortar structure building immediately and stay away from windows.

4. If there is low visibility, do not pull over to the side of the road along the shoulder as you could get rear-ended by travelers following behind you.

5. Never drive into deeper water with a RV. Fast moving water from a flash flood can be deceiving and dangerous. Flooding causes deaths each year, so be careful!


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When we reached Rock Springs, Wyoming, we pulled off of the Interstate and chose to eat at Taco Time before heading north towards the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. The food wasn’t anything to write home about and the service was less than par. But, considering there weren’t too many options in the area where we could pull off and park to grab a bite, it would have to do.

After we packed the crew back up into the Excursion, we started to head north on State Route 191 and my husband realized that we were at less than a quarter of tank in fuel and that we needed to look for a place in town that was open to refuel. Remember, it was already past 5 pm on a Sunday night on a holiday week-end. We had pulled out in the direction we needed to go (north) and we found ourselves quickly on the outskirts of town with no where to turn around for fuel and following a truck loaded with explosives (after it passed us illegally on a double center line.)

Lucky us — we got stuck following behind a truck loaded to the brim with explosives that was driving fast and then slow and then fast again.
Lucky us — this guy decided to pass us and then we got stuck following behind a truck loaded to the brim with explosives that was driving fast and then slow and then fast again.

We began to check our map app on our iPhone and saw a small service station not too far down the road. We pulled off. Closed. I glanced at the tank gauge. Below a quarter of a tank. I went back to the iPhone map app to see where we might find a place to stay for the night. The nearest campground was at least an hours drive or more and we would need fuel before then…

We drove for a good 20 minutes with no buildings in sight and my eyes couldn’t help to keep glancing over at the fuel gauge. We learned that we were on the Lewis and Clark trail and due to our fuel predicament, we didn’t even feel led to stop and check out a national landmark as it was getting towards dusk and we needed to fuel up — stat! And nothing was coming up in our search as a gas station!

I, beginning to worry, began to pray that we would be able to find fuel and pushed any visual of us stranded in the middle of nowhere to the outskirts of my mind. Probably sensing the urgency of our situation, one of our 14-year-old twin sons felt led to help in that moment. He took his phone out and began to ask how to use the map app on it. He quickly realized that he could look ahead of where we were traveling and began to scan for any fuel stations on his app. Ten minutes into his search, as we inched closer to “E” on our fuel gauge, he exclaims, “There’s a fuel station up ahead on the right! Look here!”  I thought he must not be understanding how to read the app, because I didn’t see anything coming up on my map app and when I looked out my window, there wasn’t any building or structure in view. But sure enough — he showed me his map quickly… and there was a tiny fuel icon with the words, “The Station.”

Fuel Station in Wyoming Middle of No Where

As we got closer off in the distance you could see some lights, but no pumps or station were visible from the road, so we  decided to turn down the gravel road and check it out. It turned out to be quite a large service station tucked in behind a hotel and main building with about seven to eight pumps. There was a convenience station, but it was dark and closed. As we rolled up to the fuel station we scanned to see if any pumps were open — thankfully they had pumps that could be used after hours with a credit card! Thank the Lord! Relief hit like a tidal wave as we heard that all familiar sound of the nozzle being fit into our fuel tank.

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This fuel station was such a relief to find in the middle of nowhere! Learn from us and fill up right as you exit the freeway before moving on as you may not have road-way to turn around!

A lesson was learned that day to fuel up first thing off the freeway before driving away from the interstate.

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My husband smiles, thankful for answered prayer to find a fuel station in the middle of no where!

We decided we had enough excitement for one day and chose the next RV park that we encountered. We pulled in and stopped in at the office as dusk brought the day to an end. They had a spot we could pull through and camp for the night. Score! We didn’t even unhook from the tow vehicle and just put down our stabilizers to settle in for the night.

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Our gorgeous view the following morning from our campsite in Wyoming.

With the kids all tucked in their bunks and beds, I laid down and began to recount the day… So thankful for protection from the storm, answered prayer in finding a spot to fuel despite our lack of forethought, and a quiet spot to lay our heads down that night.  And I slept in peace, thankful for answered prayer.

Isaiah 26:3

The next morning was going to be another full day as we looked forward to seeing The Grand Tetons for the first time and Yellowstone!  And we were only two days from Washington State!

Pinterest Wyoming Fried Beef and a Full Tank


5kidsandarv-approved5 Kids and a RV recommendations are based on personal experience and do not represent the business, agency, or not-for-profit we feature. We share our experiences in an effort to inspire parents to engage and explore with their children. As always, whenever trying something new, please use your own good judgement in what best suits the needs of your family to keep everyone safe while having fun.

5 Kids and a RV: “Let’s go learn something today.”
Copyright 2016

Bumps in the Road: Learning to Roll with ’em

When Plans Don't Work Out as Planned

For Mother’s Day, my husband felt ambitious and took on the task of heading out for a three-day week-end. We were going to stay in a state park and when we arrived, we were warmly greeted and given a site. We backed in, unhooked, leveled everything and hooked up the amenities. The kids were settling in to the new space and even the lawn chairs had been unpacked. My husband went to go pay for the week-end and then… we learned that the hosts of the campsite and assigned us a site that had already been rented out.  They wrote down 4-5 options and so my hubby and I drove around to check out the various site.  Settling on one, we returned to the front gate to learn that… you guessed it, once again they had made a mistake.

So we managed to secure our third site choice and paid for it before we even moved the RV. We returned to our original site, unhooked all the water and electricity, pulled in the slides, and hooked up the trailer to our vehicle, loaded five chairs, fishing gear, and lastly five kids.  Down the road we went, found our paid site and unhooked. Rain began to dump from the sky in a torrential downpour, my husband getting soaked as he parked the truck and rain around the trailer to come in.

To say the least the “perfect week-end get away” didn’t feel so perfect.  I felt mad. I felt irratable.

And then I remembered. I had a choice.

I could choose my attitude.

And as the rain thundered and pounded on the rooftop of our RV I began to count my blessings. “Lord, thank you I am not in a tent right now.” “Lord, thank you that I am surrounded by those I love and not alone.” And as I began to do this in my head and heart… my husband pulled out the popcorn and put a batch into the microwave.

It’s amazing what a little thankfulness and the smell of popcorn can do for the heart and mind. Popcorn popped and popped and popped until everyone had their fill. And we smiled again.

You see, not every moment will be picture perfect.  Every good adventure is frought with obstacles to overcome. And some of the best stories have ups as well as downs.