August 2, 2011

Family Road Trip, Take 2

The cousins and twins attacked Wyoming in full force last weekend, now seasoned in the art of making Wyoming one of the more exciting states in our lovely USA.

(If you were not aware, our first family road trip included the photo of our lives in Chugwater, Wyoming.)

Our second time through the wilderness proved no less epic, as unexpected adventures continued to pop up both days of our trek.

Detour #1: The rental car took an hour to get, and we ended up with a beige Grand Marquis - without an auxiliary jack that I had taken so much care to get the cord for.

We stopped in Laramie, where we found a Sonic Drive-In, and, much to my dismay, also found out that Sonic has discontinued their Chocolate Cream Pie Milk Shakes. Detour #2: Tragic.

New Experience A: In Buford (population: 1), we stopped to buy fireworks and crowded into the "store" (trailer) like a bunch of wild-eyed Californians who had never touched a real firework before. The lady easily recognized our inexperience and began throwing various and sundry items into our bag and schooling Jeff on how to not kill himself or us.

We had ambitiously decided to make it to Lander the first night of our drive, but did not get to our hotel until 2am. Everything seemed fine until I opened the door and saw the bed. The one bed. Detour #3: For a coed group of four. In that sort of brainless shock you can only experience at 2 in the morning, I tore open the closet to make sure another bed wasn't in there somewhere.

We did end up with another room with enough beds, and there were still no beds in the closet. The breakfast buffet made us feel human again, and all was well with our farewell to Lander, and off to Yellowstone!

Detour #4: Thirty minutes later, Kelly realized she left her camera still plugged into the wall in the hotel room. Thank the Lord for iPods and iPhones, and that Kelly's camera has been shipped to her home. New experience for everyone else B: Go on a trip without a real camera. This concept seems to chase me wherever I go.

New Experience C: In Dubois, Wyoming, we stopped for gas and we three girls ditched Jeff at the gas station to find an arch made of antlers, a giant deer statue, a saloon with a piano player, a general store, and an abandoned house. We even got a solid workout after jaywalking across the highway in a dead sprint four different times.

New Experience D: The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park were completely worth the roundabout way we took to get to Billings this year. The beautiful mountains, hundreds of wildflower meadows, lakes, animals - it was all there! We only had to wait about 15 minutes before Old Faithful did it's geyser thing, but the wait didn't seem that long with entertaining questions from Liz and Kelly to keep us busy. For the record, there is no snow on the ground in the middle of July where Old Faithful explodes from, and the water is not cold.

I switched to driving out of the park, and we all began to fall asleep. I just had to fight harder to stay awake than everyone else, obviously. The saving moment came when the "traffic" slowed down and there was, "BUFFALO! BUFFALO! Everybody WAKE UP - BUFFALO!!!" Then we all drove happily awake ever after.

After the must-stop in Cody, Wyoming, so Jeff Cody could take a picture with every sign bearing his last name, we were supposed to take a left when we got to Raulston. Detour #5: When the navigator falls asleep, even if it is just for 15 minutes, expect to end up on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere. But Jeff convinced us to commit to it, and the sunset, no-fenced cattle, and radio karaoke made it the perfect ingredient to our insanity. Forty minutes later, we crossed the state line and the Grand Marquis found pavement again - intermittently - on the heavily under construction state highway. New Experience E: A Grand Marquis has off-roading capabilities.

But before we settled into our dorms for the night in Billings, we headed up to the rimrock to paint the sky with our Buford fireworks and sparklers. I volunteered for car lights and video taping duties from the safety of the Grand Marquis. (Potential New Experience F: Do I really need to blow off my fingers before going to France? No, not really.) Jeff, Liz, and Kelly did a hilarious job figuring out how to light and launch everything and didn't even burn anyone.

It was the only way to lead into our final camp together, and we lived each moment in such a way that we will be able to re-live these memories for the rest of our lives. Thanks for laughter, conversation, and song, and here's to the hope that we will someday be able to take a third family road trip.

Yes, Wyoming is this cool.