MomsGetReal Road Trip Day 34: Home At Last…or Are We?

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

Today was a really emotional day for me. Not only did each mile East mean one mile further from all of my family, but when you’ve been planning an event for over a year and that event comes to an end, there’s an emotional and physical let down that comes with it being all over.

The closer we got to home, the more I was dreading resuming “normal.” I LIKE traveling, being on the road, seeing new places. I did not want it to stop. And, part of me really wrestles with being so far away from my family. I love living in Bath and I love my home…but is it worth it when I’m so far away from all the people I love to have that and not them?

Right now, I’m torn between wanting to stay in my spacious home where my kids are thriving in their small-town school and making one more cross-country move to be closer to my sister and her family, which, by doing so, would put me a couple thousand miles closer to everyone else. Surprisingly, Dave is thinking more about moving than I am, most likely because he’s been frustrated by the way the economy has impacted him.

Several years ago, Dave worked as a benefits coordinator for a major corporation in New York. Typical of many corporations, this one chose to treat people like commodities and upended his job. He tried to continue working for the parent company, but a 72-mile commute to work in the middle of winter meant 2 hours on the road each direction plus 9 or 10 hours at work and no time for family. That was when he turned his back on corporate servitude and started focusing on writing and substitute teaching at the local school.

He fell in love with teaching, and at the time, there was a huge shortage of teachers, so he returned to school to get his teaching degree. He received his certification three years ago, just as the recession hit and education became a place for governments to save money and short change. There are no teaching jobs here, and worse yet, there is a glut of teachers in the area who have been laid off, so that when the occasional job does surface, thousands of qualified teachers apply.

In a larger community, there are magnet schools and charter schools and alternative schools in addition to a much larger number of public schools. For Dave to pursue his passion, a move might be required. My job (also a direct result of becoming anti-corporate thanks to an atrocious boss) can be done from anywhere, so nothing (besides a few amazing friends) ties me to New York.

But we’re settled…and, at least for now, we’re home.

What a journey we’ve been on, though!

Bath, New York to Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland, Ohio to Troy, Illinois
St. Louis Arch
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home and gravesite in Mansfield, Missouri
Mansfield, Missouri to Wichita, Kansas
Wichita, Kansas to Pueblo, Colorado to visit with our dear friend James
Pueblo, Colorado to Montrose, Colorado to stay with our dear friend Pete, where we saw Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
Montrose, Colorado to Riverton, Utah to spend time with my wonderful sister Tiana and her husband Doug (and to try to get my fill of hugs from my nieces and nephews)
Riverton, Utah to Reno, Nevada to meet my cousin Bruce and his wife Karen for the first time ever and to see my Aunt, Uncle, grandmother, and first ever best friend (from age 4) Rachelle.
Reno, Nevada to Garberville, California to travel down the Avenue of the Giants and relax in the Redwood forest for a while
Garberville, California to Newport, Oregon for some beach time, more visiting with my sister, and to see my dad.
Newport, Oregon to Seaside, Oregon to pay homage to the spot where Dave proposed to me.
Seaside, Oregon to Portland, Oregon to see my favoritest auntie and spend more time with my sister at the Oregon Zoo and BJs – Jantzen Beach.
Portland, Oregon to Hermiston, Oregon for an amazing family reunion.
Hermiston, Oregon to Boise, Idaho to see more family, visit my mama, and have a final night with my sister.
Boise, Idaho to West Yellowstone, Montana to visit Yellowstone National Park.
West Yellowstone, Montana to Gillette, Wyoming (where they make cowboys, if not razors).
From Gillette, Wyoming to Devils Tower, through the Bighorn National Forest, to Keystone South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore with a side trip to Hot Springs, South Dakota where my mother was born.
From Keystone, South Dakota to De Smet, South Dakota to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead and stay at the most relaxing Cameron Inn in Canistota, South Dakota.
From Canistota, South Dakota to Le Claire, Iowa through Minnesota (a state none of us had ever been to before) to see the Mississippi River.
From Le Claire, Iowa to Toledo, Ohio for well, burritos.
From Toledo, Ohio to Bath, New York…home sweet home.

MomsGetReal Roadtrip Day 33 – In Pursuit of a Clean Hotel Room and a Burrito

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

I was introduced to Del Taco as a child in Barstow, California. My grandparents took us to the one in town as well as one near the outlet mall once it was built. I love Del Taco. I crave it living in New York since there is no good Mexican food here. There are Del Tacos in Salt Lake, but it was too far away from my sister’s house to be convenient. I did grab red burritos at the Del Taco in Reno, but that whole experience was overshadowed by the evil New York haters on the roads there. But I was smart…the furthest East Del Taco comes is Toledo, Ohio. Toledo is a convenient 6 hours from Le Claire, Iowa, where we stayed the night before and 6 hours from Bath, where we are headed tomorrow. So I sought out a hotel in the same area of town as the Del Taco, which, not surprisingly, is close to the university.

I’m seriously questioning the reliability of TripAdvisor right now, because I relied on TripAdvisor to tell me which hotel near the university would be the best to stay at. Red Roof Inn had better ratings than both the Ramada and the Comfort Inn. We drove from Le Claire to Toledo with no trouble at all and checked into the Red Roof Inn as planned. And that’s where the nightmare started.

Certainly, we are spoiled by the types of hotels and inns we prefer to stay in, and Red Roof was not that. We knew and prepared the kids for the fact that the room would be smaller, and if space had been the only issue we had to deal with, we’d have been fine.

It was the air conditioning that rattled and whined but did not produce cool air that made us have concern.

It was the refrigerator that simply would not get cold that made us frustrated.

But it was the fecal matter in the tub that made us repack our belongings and get the hell out.

Perhaps others have had such a significantly different experience than ours that TripAdvisor is reporting accurately, but I suspect a bit of ballot-stuffing has been happening.

We thought, OK, we’ll just head over to the Comfort Inn. We’d stayed in a Comfort Inn the night before and it was fine.

After standing at the counter for five minutes unable to gain the attention of the woman in the office who was perhaps engaged in a game of digital solitaire or updating her Facebook page, I was ready to move on. I should have.

In her frostiest “we don’t need your business” voice, she explained that she could not accommodate a family of five unless we paid for two rooms.

Really? In all the days of our travels, not a single hotel (most of which only had two beds since Kyle has to sleep in a chair and remain somewhat upright) has enforced that policy and made us decide which child would sleep alone in a separate room. That they were charging top dollar in an empty, off-season hotel did not help the Comfort Inn.

Luckily, next door was a Ramada. We often stay in Ramada in Jersey City when we’re going to New York City, but had never stayed in one outside that location.

What a difference moving next door made!

The staff at the Ramada were more than willing to accommodate our family, and the manager even ran upstairs to find a room that had a comfortable recliner in it for Kyle to sleep in. They had us booked, welcomed, and feeling like we could salvage our last night in no time…and we got the room for only a few dollars more than we would have paid for a fecal infested room at the Red Roof Inn and far less than we would have been forced to pay for two rooms at the Comfort Inn.

It’s the little things that make a difference, and the Ramada went out of their way on the little things.

So we did end up going to Del Taco and I took my delicious red burritos with me to the Sonic down the street where the kids had been begging to eat since we started seeing them along our travels. (Anika likes the girls on skates who delivers the food; Parker had his eye on dessert from the moment we arrived; we all liked hanging out in the car and listening to tunes while having a yummy dinner).

It was a nice last night on the road after all.

MomsGetReal Roadtrip Day 32 – A Familiar Stop

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

Today we drove from Canistota, SD to Le Claire, IA. One way or another, we had to go South to get around the Great Lakes, but it was fun driving through Minnesota first, since my dad was there closing on his new house (he is nearing retirement and in anticipation bought a house on a lake with a private dock!)

We decided to stay in Le Claire, Iowa. It’s a perfect place to stop because it’s right on the Mississippi River. It’s beautiful, small, and gives us a good night’s rest before facing Chicago traffic. We are very familiar with the Comfort Inn in Le Claire because each time we’ve moved cross-country (only three times) we’ve stayed there. The hotel was a little more run down than the last time we’d been through, but still a nice place to spend a night when it’s just a stopover.

To our delight, we discovered a German restaurant just down the street from the hotel, Bier Stube. Delicious food (non-German fare for the picky kids) accompanied by real German import beer (Franziskaner Hefe-Weiss for me, Dunkel for Dave). Dave had the Jagerschnitzel and I had the Berliner Currywurst. Both were fabulously prepared and a real treat since we’d missed the German restaurants we’d discovered in Reno and Portland this round.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and had our first clue that the kids were about at the end of their travel tolerance. They wanted our traditional family movie night, something we do at home each Sunday. So, we cooked up some popcorn, plugged the laptop into the TV (never travel without an HDMI cable these days – almost all of the hotels have modern TVs now), and watching Stuart Little (our goal with Sunday movies has been to introduce Anika and Parker to movies the older kids loved or that we enjoyed as kids). It was a perfectly relaxing night.

MomsGetReal Roadtrip Day 31 – The Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

Today, we drove to De Smet to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead. I must admit, I felt like this was a bit of an indulgence for our youngest daughter, who has read and re-read the Little House on the Prairie books at least twice, was Laura Ingalls Wilder for her wax museum at school, and plans to be Laura Ingalls Wilder for Halloween. As it turns out, we all enjoyed the day much more than we imagined we would, and of course, Anika was flat out delighted with the experience. She now wants to move to De Smet (instead of Utah) and attend a one-room school and live at the homestead.

There’s probably nothing different about the Ingalls family than any other pioneering family of the era, but because Laura (and all of her sisters, who worked at various times for local newspapers) was such an exceptional writer, she brought history to life in her books. I read them as a kid and watched the show, but Anika has been fascinated (almost obsessively) with the pioneer experience. (It’s fun, in a way, because she likes doing “chores” – like carrying buckets of water to the flower beds and scrubbing floors. OK, sure honey!)

The Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead is the original 160 acres of land that Charles Ingalls claimed under the Homestead Act. To meet the requirements and gain ownership to the land, the family had to live on the land for five years and farm at least 10 acres each of the five years. De Smet was the last of many places Charles took his family in his quest for land, and like the Bruce family, he had the travel bug and tried to move on from De Smet a number of times. Being a man of honor, however, he stayed because he had promised Caroline he would (and she held him to it for the rest of their lives, simply saying “Charles, you promised” each time he mentioned moving again).

The homestead features the dugout, shanty, and reconstructed house that Charles built for Caroline. The kids get to experience several hands-on activities, from washing clothes on a washing board to playing a pump organ. The tour includes a covered wagon ride to the schoolhouse, where a retired teacher who used to work in a one-room school house holds class for the kids, who all get a chance to ring the school bell at the end of their session.

The land itself is privately owned and has passed from one owner to another who has always honored the historical preservation of the site. It was an amazing experience, and we were pretty excited to learn that Charles Ingalls was born in Cuba, New York (not too far from where we live) and Almonzo Wilder was born in Malone, New York (toward the Canadian border).

After spending several hours at the homestead, we drove on into the town of De Smet to visit the cemetery where Charles, Caroline, Mary, Carrie, Grace are buried. Laura and Almonzo’s infant son is also buried there, but Laura and Almonzo, along with their daughter Rose, are buried in Mansfield, Missouri. We drove by the town home Charles built for Caroline when they moved into De Smet from the homestead and stopped in at the historical society (they give tours of the key sites in the town as well).

It was fascinating to learn about the family. Having been on the road for quite some time ourselves, we were shocked to learn that in the wagons, they could only travel 15 miles a day and that during the course of their travels, they went more than 1,500 miles. It makes our trip (in our air conditioned car that can go 600 miles when needed) seem like nothing at all.

Anika was thrilled to find four books from the Rose years that she didn’t yet have – I have no doubts she will have them all read before we arrive home.

 

MomsGetReal Roadtrip Day 30 – A Restful Stop at the Cameron Inn

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

We have now been on the road for a month. We left June 27 and it is July 27. Believe it or not, none of us are really ready for it to end. We really could, I think, do a two-month road trip and manage just fine. What really amazes me is that the kids have been forced to live without their things (with the exception of books and iPods), their rooms, their personal space, their video games for a long time now. They’re forced to share bed space and one bathroom at each stop, and they have to help load and unload the van everywhere we go.

They’re not fighting with each other.

They’re not whining.

They’re flexible about where and when we eat, who and what we see, and don’t pester us for anything more than an occasional ice cream cone (we don’t have Dairy Queens where we live, so finding one in every small town has been a treat).

I’m very proud of them. I’m especially proud of Parker because he opted to sit in the back seat with Kyle, responsible for monitoring him and largely keeping him entertained (we bought a splitter so he can plug in two sets of headphones to the iPod and share music). He makes sure Kyle is comfortable, and lets us know if Kyle needs something.

I’m proud of Anika for being a little trooper on this trip – she is in the middle and therefore responsible for handing everything between the front and back and often being the one who has to turn around and get Parker’s attention when we need him.  She has read 8 books during the trip, including the first three Harry Potter books, and has willingly helped at every turn.

Today we left Keystone after enjoying some morning time on our back porch getting one last glimpse of the images in the mountain. We drove from Keystone to Canistota, South Dakota to stay at the Cameron Inn. Once you leave Keystone and the tourist industry that is there, there are no big cities with the exception of Rapid City population 69,200). We live in a small town – Bath, NY is a village of less than 6,000 people with four stop lights and five funeral homes. It’s small – or I thought it was until we arrived in Canistota, SD.

There are 651 people in Canistota. They all know each other and they all know when you’re not from around there. But it was the perfect place to stay, as we are planning a day trip to De Smet to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead tomorrow, which is about an hour away. As it turns out, it was the right place to stay, and if you are ever driving through South Dakota and need a place to stop, you absolutely must experience the comfort and hospitality of the Cameron Inn (thanks, Bridget, it was perfect!!) Out of all the places we stayed, the Cameron Inn was our kids’ favorite. It was large, comfortable, came with a complete kitchen in the room but also had a community kitchen for those in smaller rooms to use. The gas station, grocery store, restaurant, and bar are all just across the street.

We bought local sweet corn (delicious!) and steaks and grilled out, enjoying a bit of down time and extra space. Oh- and Anika and I enjoyed the jetted tub and a very deserved bubble bath. Everyone in Canistota that we came across were friendly, welcoming, and made us feel at home. Had we been looking for a place to plant roots (like Charles Ingalls was all those years ago) this area of South Dakota might have appealed to us too.

MomsGetReal Roadtrip Day 29 Four Presidents and a Tower

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

Today we drove an hour outside of Gillette to see Devils Tower. It’s Devils, not Devil’s, because of a typo on the application form for designating the geologic formation as a national monument. It was something Dave had wanted to see, I’m sure in part because of Close Encounters (a movie I slept through). We did not pay the entrance fee or go in – while it is accessible to the disabled, we realized rather quickly that the view from the pull off was sufficient. It is spectacular, and since we did not plan to hike up the side of it and it was too early in the morning to visit the gift shop, there was no point in driving in.

We headed from there straight to Mount Rushmore, which was only two hours down the road. Mount Rushmore has changed (ok, the Presidents heads have not changed at all) a lot since I’ve been there. It’s completely wheelchair accessible with more parking and a larger gift shop. By going early in the day (10-ish) we avoided the larger crowds (the lady in the gift shop says it gets very crowded later in the afternoons during the peak season).

I had fond memories of seeing Mount Rushmore with my grandfather, who lived nearby in Hot Springs. But there’s just nothing quite like taking your kids to experience something from your childhood. Seeing it through their eyes made the experience so much more special. Given that my kids are geeks (scholars, Anika would correct me to say), they not only know the four presidents (Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Roosevelt) carved into the mountain, but were regaling us with facts as we explored the area.

We spent quite a while enjoying Mount Rushmore, but it was still early, so we took the kids on an hour-long drive to Hot Springs.

There’s a funny thing that happens when you’re a kid. The way you remember things isn’t exactly how they are in real life, and never includes all of the changes that have come since. I was so excited to share Hot Springs, South Dakota with my kids. I’d spent an enormous amount of time there as a child, visiting my grandpa (my mom’s dad) and spending time in the area. I have the best of memories of catching grasshoppers to use as bait while fishing in the lake nearby, of playing in the creek with my uncle, of hanging out in the basement while my dad and grandpa played pool, of holding my hands over my ears as they shot pop cans with grandpa’s guns, of eating deliciously cooked pheasant and quail that my grandpa had shot himself…

After driving for an hour, we arrived in a town that was most likely only still in existence because of the VA hospital there – a town that seemed so foreign and unfamiliar that I could only remember the grocery store (which at the time was a Piggly Wiggly but isn’t anymore) and the Dairy Queen across the street that my grandpa had taken me to. I couldn’t even remember how to find his house. I’m glad I took my kids there – my mom was born in Hot Springs (she was from Edgemont, but there was either no hospital there or not one that could handle a c-section) and my grandpa lived there and worked for the VA from the time he was a young man until a few years after he retired. The town, population 3,653 was much tinier than I’d remembered it. We had lunch at the Dairy Queen, shopped at the former Piggly Wiggly, and headed back to Keystone to check in to the chalet.

I’ve been planning this trip for over a year and saving for it just as long. In many places, we were tight with the budget – we ate food from grocery stores instead of restaurants, we crammed everything inside the van rather than use a cargo holder for the better gas mileage, and we stayed with friends a couple of times instead of at hotels, and we paid for a AAA membership to get the discounts for the hotel stays we did have.

But in some places (the Oregon coast by choice, Yellowstone by virtue of supply and demand) and Keystone, South Dakota because how could I resist we splurged a little on the stay.

Rather than stay in a chain hotel, I reserved a night at with Rushmore Chalets in the Washington Chalet – which promised free laundry and a view of Mount Rushmore from the deck.  Being able to do laundry without pumping machines full of quarters was nice – and being able to stay in a place with a full kitchen (clean, too!) was a wonderful and restful change. While Mount Rushmore was off in the distance, we truly could see it from our deck, but more than that, we could see so many stars. It was a relaxing, perfect night and we’ve decided in the future that when we travel, we’re going to seek out these places that offer a true home away from home experience.

MomsGetReal Roadtrip Day 28 – Another Long and Winding Road

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

What looks good on the map doesn’t always come out the way you expect, but the fact that the roads are “seasonally closed” should have been a clue. I don’t regret the path we took, but then, so far, Dave has done all of the driving. And after today, he might want to look a little closer at the way I’ve mapped us from one place to the next.

But I do have to say, hidden in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming has some of the most amazingly beautiful country I have ever seen.

When planning the trip, I thought it was practical to plan driving out through the park to our next stop in Gillette, Wyoming (a convenient place to break for the night before going to see Devils Tower and Mount Rushmore tomorrow).

What I didn’t realize is that the route took us back around the park loop nearly 60 miles, past the Buffalo who own the road, and out through the East Entrance – a winding route of 27 miles.

But that was the easy part.

As we were driving out of the park, up ahead I could see some beautiful mountains. I was taking pictures of them, enjoying the brilliant colors (volcanic activity during the prehistory of the area led to reddish colored rock formations). Suddenly it dawned on me that our road was headed not just to that mountain but up and over it.

If you’re not afraid of heights and don’t mind twisty turns, I highly recommend heading East on 14 (the scenic byway at Shell to Dayton. It will take you through Bighorn National Forest and it is a phenomenal experience.

Especially if you’re the passenger.

It’s another story, of course, if you’re the driver. One who is not fond of heights.

There are not words to describe the scenery, but it is the first time in my life that I understood the term “majestic beauty.” It was simply breathtaking. My pictures do not do it justice; unless I’m willing to drive it myself, I may never see it again. It will remain, however, one of the bright spots of our journey.

Whenever you get tired of the politics and debating and commercialism that we all get bogged down in, take a road trip through America and you’ll remember why it is we are so lucky to live here.

I don’t know if they make Gillette razors in Gillette, Wyoming but they definitely make cowboys. Good ones, too.

MomsGetReal Roadtrip Day 27 – Yellowstone National Park

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

I’ve driven through Wyoming  a number of times and thought the experience was boring to the point of surreal. Flat landscape marked only by shadows of oil wells and the occasional deer munching on sweet greens on the side of the road. Nothing too spectacular.

Who would have imagined that some of the most spectacular beauty in the entire country was hidden in this state?!

Driving into Yellowstone National Park via the West Entrance in West Yellowstone, Montana, we had no idea what was in store. The first thing that happens, though, is that you enter Wyoming. And then, you enter paradise.

The pictures speak louder than words on this one, so I’m simply going to share my album on Facebook with everyone. Below, you’ll find a video of Old Faithful as well.

Tips when traveling to Yellowstone:

1. Make reservations a year in advance if you want the best choice of lodging.

2. Save money by staying outside the park near one of the entrances (but NOT the East entrance, which is a 27-mile drive in and closed seasonally unless you’re coming in the height of summer and don’t mind the curvy ride in – it is beautiful).

3. While some of the people who live in Yellowstone are immune to its glory, there are plenty of people in the shops and towns who take great pride in the area and will give you advice and tips. Talk to them.

4. Do not leave without Huckleberry Syrup, which you can buy in town or in the gift shop in the park. It is to die for.

5. When planning a trip to the park, the earlier you can get there, the better. Especially during peak season, if you wait until afternoon to go, you’ll crawl through the park at a snail’s pace.

6. Old Faithful isn’t as faithful as it used to be, going off every 45 to 125 minutes. Plan to spend some time waiting (there’s a cafe, gift shop, and benches in front of the geyser to make the wait easier).

7. When the signs say the Buffalo are dangerous and you should stay in your car, they’re not kidding. The animal is going to win, especially if all you’re shooting with is a camera. And, it’s there territory, not yours…so be prepared to wait while they mosey across the road. (The animals are far less dangerous than the rubbernecking tourists who veer off the side of the road at first sign of a deer).

MomsGetReal Roadtrip Day 26 – So Long, Farewell…More Mountains to Climb

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

Today was a bittersweet day. I was thrilled that my sister and her family decided to get up early with us and have breakfast with us before we all left for home…but I was incredibly sad to finally reach that moment where we had to say goodbye.

Knowing that our hearts were heavy and the moment was going to be tough to take, Doug lightened everyone’s spirits by jumping out of his van and running willy-nilly across the parking lot to give me a hug goodbye. He looked so silly I had to laugh, and once we were all laughing it was much harder to cry. The tears came later, but Tiana and I both thought back on Doug’s antics and could smile.

We all drove away from the hotel, heading toward our destinations. Two hours into the trip, we realized we were still driving in tandem, with Doug and Tiana only minutes behind us. The temptation existed to stop for one last hug and goodbye, but it would have been too painful. But as we reached the junction where they turned to go toward Salt Lake and we headed on toward West Yellowstone, they pulled up alongside us and we waved and blew kisses. It was a wonderful parting.

The rest of our drive was fairly uneventful, and we arrived early in West Yellowstone, where we checked into the Gray Wolf Inn & Suites. The hotel had a bedroom, a living room, and a full kitchen. We felt it would be a great place to spend a couple of nights. It was right at the West entrance to Yellowstone, so from a convenience standpoint, it was about perfect…but it’s not a place I’d recommend staying, for two reasons…

1. We received an email from the inn prior to our arrival that told us to stop by the front desk and they’d be happy to help us plan our trip into Yellowstone and provide whatever we needed to help us enjoy our stay.  When we, in our excitement, stopped at the front desk to talk to the staff about our visit to the park, the woman working at the front desk literally could not bring herself to lift her eyes from her computer screen to respond to us, saying only that the entrance was down the street. The young man with her, who looked more as if he belonged on a surf board said, [add sufficiently surfer-laden accent here] “I don’t participate in West Yellowstone activities.” Really? Apparently, there is no need for great service in a place where you’re booked solid almost a year in advance!

2. We wanted a home-cooked meal, and grabbed groceries at the local store. The hotel promised a fully stocked kitchen, but there were no baking pans, no hot pads, no seasonings, and when we went to cook, all the dishes were dirty – while we washed as many as we could, some were so bad that we were unable to get them clean (and afraid to use them even if we could). When we called the front desk to request a clean spatula, the woman sent the poor housekeeper to “show us how to use the dishwasher since we didn’t feel like doing the dishes.”

Remember the guy who lost a chunk of his rear for his treatment of our family when we’d been stuck in the elevator at his hotel? Uh huh. Yep. That’s right.

Little miss hoity-toity front desk clerk who couldn’t be bothered with questions from her tourist guests earlier that afternoon was at our door five minutes later, delivering a clean spatula in person along with an apology.

All we were looking for was a little bit of homestyle comfort. It took some wrestling, but we got it.

When you’re traveling with children, you need to plan for downtime. They need time to read, play, be on the computer, watch TV, and not be on the go. That was part of what this stop was for us, too.

(And having a bedroom with a door that closes and gives mom and dad some separate space is not a bad thing either).

MomsGetReal Roadtrip Day 25 – Bonus Family Day

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

My husband is truly my hero. Do you know that so far, of the roughly 5,200 miles we’ve traveled, he has driven all of it? No complaints, always safe, always in good spirits even when traffic is bad and weather is worse. He’s always been pretty amazing to me, but today, he achieved new heights.

You see, the family reunion is over and I was supposed to be saying goodbye to everyone (and had to say plenty of tearful goodbyes already). We were going to head from Hermiston to Missoula for a night before heading on to West Yellowstone. That’s the shortest route. But my sister was headed to Boise. Boise to West Yellowstone is about 2.5 hours longer. But Boise is where my sister was headed, Boise is where the great aunt and uncle who, at the last minute had health keep them from traveling to the reunion, Boise is where our son was born, Boise is where we got married, Boise is where my dad still lives, and Boise is where my mom is at rest.

What’s 2.5 hours against all that, says Dave.

So once again my sister’s family and mine took our minivan caravan to Boise. Knowing that we needed to get the emotional visits out of the way first, we stopped for flowers (both real and silk) and met at the cemetery. I’m so glad Dave was willing to drive the extra 2.5 hours, because our mom’s site had been neglected. The silk flowers I’d put in prior to moving to New York four years ago were nothing but green stubs. Tiana and I made it look beautiful again, and because we were together it was a more healing moment than we’d ever had.

We followed that with a visit to our great uncle Richard and great aunt Mona. Uncle Richard is an amazing man who has overcome a lot of adversity and has been a pillar of strength in our family. His son Patrick had this to say about him:

“My dad taught me all I needed to know about determination and hard work by the simple eloquence of his example.  He not only continues to influence me through his actions, but also influences me through his words. He has taught me a great deal about life. He teaches me and instills in me lessons that he wished others had instilled in him.  My father also influences the way I approach life. I have gained not only knowledge, but have applied his teachings to my life. Because of the example he has set for me, my father has provided the steppingstone I need to achieve my goals so that I can lead a happy and successful life. He gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person; he believed in me.”

We made a quick stop to see our dad, who was packing up to move, then checked into the hotel.

After feeding the kids, we enjoyed an adult evening out with my Uncle Terry, who treated us grownups to dinner at Goodwood. After dinner, we let the kids swim at the hotel pool while we visited one last evening. For Tiana and I, the knowledge that we would go our separate ways the next morning was painfully palpable. Neither of us were capable of facing the impending goodbye, so just enjoyed this extra day we were treated to thanks to Dave’s willingness to make a longer drive to Yellowstone.