Tag Archives: traveling

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

Atlanta, GA | Atlanta Botanical Gardens

The kids ready to enter the Atlanta Botanical Garden

    The kids ready to enter the Atlanta Botanical Garden

Those of you who know me, know that I like to grow things. I am wired to nurture whether it be children, critters, or plants. So, the Atlanta Botanical Garden has been on my wish list for a long time as a place to explore and we had the opportunity to do just that this last week! The main attraction was the Chihuly Exhibit which is placed throughout the entire garden to delight and give you the opportunity to explore the many types of gardens.  Here are a few of the highlights we saw along the way. Mind you, photos are great, but to experience these for yourself — you must see these glass and neon sculptures in person to fully appreciate them. They are amazing! #atlantabg #myfavchihuly

Chili Glass Sculptures at The Atlanta Botanical Garden
Chihuly Indigo Blue Icicle Tower, installed in 2015
LJ at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens
Our 6-year-old had to try out the cool outdoor seating along the Kendeda Canopy Walk.

As we entered the garden, we chose to go to the right and walk the Kendeda Canopy Walk to see four Chilhulys and the Cascades Garden where the giant topiary — the “Earth Goddess” — resides with a beautiful reflection pool full of brightly colored Chihuly glass. Nearly all areas are handicap accessible with nice wide paths to enjoy. If you’re limited on time and only have an hour to explore, you might want to check out some of their recommended “Power Hour” tours.

Earth Goddess at The Atlanta Botanical Gardens

The background on how the Earth Goddess was built and constructed to be a living topiary.
The background on how the Earth Goddess was built and constructed to be a living topiary.
The Earth Goddess at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens with Chihuly Glass Sculptures
The Earth Goddess at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens with Chihuly Glass Sculptures

Don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers along the way! 🙂 I loved seeing a beautiful bearded iris growing along the path — my Grandmother used to grow these along her house every year.

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Stop and smell the flowers!
Bearded Iris
My Grandmother used to grow the most beautiful bearded irises.

The Atlanta Botanical Gardens make a great stop to stretch your legs if you’re visiting Atlanta. It took us about two hours to walk through the gardens at a leisurely rate, but I left feeling like I could have seen even more. We didn’t make it to the Children’s garden the day we visited, so we will have to go back and share that as well.

Kids walking and looking at gardens
The Atlanta Botanical Garden is a great place to stretch your legs and enjoy the sights while you take a walk.
Erin Castillo 2016 5kidsandarv.com
Blue and White in the Levi Parterre, a permanent Chihuly piece in the Atlanta Botanical Garden

For a moment I felt like a princess walking in her palace grounds with the groomed hedges in the Levi Parterre garden. Had it not been sweltering hot in the middle of July, I would have loved to sit on one of those benches for a bit. Definitely best to visit early in the day throughout summer months and prime weather conditions in Atlanta will be in the months of April/May and October/November.

Get great inspiration from the many beautiful planters at the Atlanta Botanical Garden
Get great inspiration from the many beautiful planters at the Atlanta Botanical Garden
Orange Glass Chihuly Fountain Sculpture by Gift Shop
Three Graces Tower  (2016)

I’ve been working on my own garden this year, so it was a real treat to see how professionals approached an edible garden. The vertical garden was a beautiful assortment of textures! I would have loved to see some aquaponics as an addition to how they were growing food.

Edible Garden

Edible Garden and perennial wall.
Edible Garden and perennial wall.
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Walkway to the Edible Garden area.

Also on my wish list is to return in the evening with my husband to view the Chihuly Nights where the garden glass sculptures are lit up with neon. There’s a restaurant on location making it a perfect date night destination! (Garden admission is required to access the restaurant.)

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Chihuly “Saffron Tower” (2008) with water mirror reflection pool in the Glade Garden. Remember, they ask that you not throw coins into the water features.
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Tiger Lilies infront of the Zebra Reeds (2015)

The Fuqua Orchid Center was mostly closed off except for one small section, but that section was full of gorgeous and rare orchids to enjoy. It was like stepping into a slice of paradise! Own an orchid? Check out the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s blog.

Chihuly Black and Green Stripe Herons with Icicle Clusters (2015) in the Fuqua Orchid Center
Chihuly Black and Green Stripe Herons with Icicle Clusters (2015) in the Fuqua Orchid Center

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Stepping into the Fuqua Orchid Garden is like stepping into a tropical paradise!
Stepping into the Fuqua Orchid Garden is like stepping into a tropical paradise!

We ended up purchasing a membership since it was the best value ($109 for 2 adults and up to 8 children + you get 4 visitor passes to use throughout the year).  Don’t forget that your membership card also gets you a discount in the Gift Shop! Chihuly in the Garden and Chihuly Nights will only run from April – October of 2016, so be sure to stop in if you are traveling to Atlanta during those months!

Atlanta Location:

ADMISSION:

Adult $21.95
Child ages 3 to 12 $15.95
Child under 3 Free
Garden member Free

Weather Policy: The Garden is open rain or shine. Most gardens are located outside so dress appropriately for weather. There are indoor air conditioned and heated areas for visitors including the visitor center, café and conservatory and orchid center. Refunds or rain checks on admission ticket purchases are not granted for weather related reasons.

PARKING: On-site parking is available in the SAGE Parking Facility:

Time Period Cost
Drop-off period (0 – 30 minutes) Free
31 – 60 minutes $2.00
Each additional 30 minutes $1.00
Maximum daily rate $15.00

DIRECTIONS:
The Atlanta Botanical Garden is located adjacent to Piedmont Park at 1345 Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta, GA, 30309.

View Google Maps

REGULAR HOURS (as of July 9, 2016)

April – October
Tuesday, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Wednesday – Sunday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
The Garden is open from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Monday, July 4 for Independence Day.

Chihuly Nights Hours
Wednesday – Sunday, 6 – 10 p.m.

November – March
Tuesday – Sunday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Please note: The Children’s Garden is closed for renovations until summer of 2016. The Garden is undergoing capital improvements including renovated gardens and new amenities. Closed Mondays and in the daytime on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

REFRESHMENTS
In Atlanta, enjoy a Garden inspired menu from the team of Chef Linton Hopkins, a James Beard Award winner and popular local restauranteur, at the new Linton’s restaurant. Light snacks and refreshments are also available seasonally. Outside food and beverage are not permitted. During daytime hours, Garden admission is required for Non-Members. During Chihuly Nights, Garden admission is required for both Members and Non-Members.

Linton’s Information

For visitor info, go to the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Web site at http://atlantabg.org/visit/visitor-info

Be sure to observe this garden etiquette when visiting… http://atlantabg.org/content/1-visit/2-visitor-info/garden-etiquette.pdf

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5 Kids and a RV recommendations are based on personal experience and do not represent the business or not-for-profit we feature. We share our experiences in an effort to inspire parents and caregivers to engage and explore with their children. On occasion we may post a review or provide information as an affiliate.

5 Kids and a RV: “Let’s go learn something today!

Osmo for iPad: Our kind of travel learning game

Oslo Words Numbers Tangrams

So, while the boys were working on set, the parents were in the holding area hanging out and one of the Moms I met pulled out Osmo and I got a great demo as I watched she and her daughter play the Word Game (thanks again, Tanis).

The minute I saw it in action, I knew my tech-loving guys would love interacting with the technology using the tiles that come with the set. Originally, I thought of our Kindergartner, but it’s turned out to be fun from age 5 on up!

Kindergartner playing on Osmo

How it works:  A reflector mirror attachment that comes with each set uses the camera on your iPad to “see” the tiles thru color recognition. When you plop a tile down in the viewing area, Osmo identifies the shape, letter, or number.

The tiles come organized each in their own box with easy to open and close magnetic closures. And this Mom loves the added thought to put a magnet under the paper layer of each cover so that the set stays together. (Very smart Osmo product developers!) The base fits an iPad or iPad Mini.

Osmo Learning Game

Here’s a quick one minute video to give you a demo of our Kindergartner in action using Numbers, Words, and Tangram.

This is perfect to take with us on the road in our RV! The boxes are fairly small and light weight. Plus, since each of our kids have their own unique profile (up to six profiles can be assigned), it can be used K-12 and quickly adapt to their level of learning. If you’re curious how it works for older kids, I’ll be posting more examples of the olders using Osmo soon. In the meantime, if you want to learn more, you can visit their Web site here.

OSMO Genius Set

click to learn more >

Our Wish for Your New Year…

If there’s anything I’ve learned from our travels in 2015, it’s this… that the best things in life are the people we love, the places we’ve been, and the memories we’ve made along the way.

This last year we took our dream trip traveling cross country by RV to be a part of wheat harvest and to visit with family that lives in the northwest. This was a big first for us as in the past 11 years we have always flown. It was an amazing experience that stretched us financially, emotionally, and physically — and most of all taught our children that we can trust in Jehovah God.

We attempted the trip actually three times in the same year — even having to turn back from St Louis at one point and return home due to things going on with my husband’s job as it went thru a transition.

We learned a lot about relationships. We reconnected with some, were blessed by those friendships sending us off and reminded of what love really is, probably let some people down because we couldn’t always do what we hoped to do or because we were away for a long time, and we met some great people along the way. This blog will share that journey as we recap and prepare for our next trip.

Wishing you a Happy New Year full of new adventures and the people you love... Erin & Jes and our tribe
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Most of all, we grew stronger as a family. I thought we were close before, but when your sitting in close-proximity with 7 people for 5 days straight and experience stressful driving conditions in the midst of all that, well, you learn just how much you can do as a family! lol

So, lots to share with you and if you’re thinking about taking a trip this year — I hope you pursue that dream. Make it a goal and put everything you’ve got into it. I don’t miss the things we sold and the sacrifices we made to take our trip, but the things I do remember are moment after moment watching my children grow in love for the people we love and their wide-eyed excitement about exploring this amazing world God has created for us.

I look forward to you journeying with us thru this blog in 2016… Happy New Year!

Erin

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