10 Lessons from 2018

10 Lessons From 2018

Sometimes the lemonade is really tasty!

  • Those of you reading this final entry and following our blog know our story. Through circumstances beyond our control and circumstances in which we had influence, in 2017 I found myself without a job.  Rather than move for a job (not my career desire), we decided to take a severance and look for something new.  The last half of 2017 was great in that we enjoyed time together in South Dakota, I was able to fly a bunch and the boys were able to enjoy time at school with their buddies.  In addition, I was spending my time interviewing and looking for work.  When our house sold quickly and we didn’t have a job to go to, Maureen and I decided hitting the road was what we wanted to do with our time!  As I look back at 2018, I have to admit that there were times when I really had wonder, doubt and disappointment.  But, as I have the chance to really think about what happened during 2018, I exchange those feelings for those of happiness, wonderment and relaxation.  The elimination of my job was really some of the best lemonade I tasted!  Taking advantage of the opportunity in front of us & jumping in with both feet was a wonderful lesson.

Technology is great, but so is no technology.

  • Our current advancements have been made possible by technology. It’s everywhere we look and it’s part of nearly everything we do.  During the last year, we used technology to get where we were going, to figure out what to do next and even to educate Andy and Woody while we traveled around.  It was great and I am so glad we had it.  You know what else was great?  The times we spent hiking a trail with no cell phones or video games.  Some of our best memories were made without technology.  We explored, experienced and enjoyed by becoming part of wherever we were at.  Whether it was crabbing from a pier, digging for diamonds or just talking with family and friends, my favorite memories included ditching the digital leash!  The lesson here is that getting rid of technology (or at least taking a break) can be a very good thing!

Closeness can, well, bring a family closer.

  • I grew up in a big house. Sometimes it felt so big that I could be “all alone” with others in the house.  Our house in Sioux Falls was pretty big too.  All in, it was close to 6,000 square feet.  When we decided to hit the road, we weren’t sure how to do it, but we downsized to about 400 square feet (another 45 square feet if you count the cab of the truck)!  We became efficient in our use of space and reuse of possessions.  Just take a look at many of our pictures-we all had favorite clothes!  We also became very good at being with each other all the time.  While we certainly had occasion to get mad at each other, it rarely happened.  Our boys shared a space at the back of the camper that included 3 small beds, some storage and their video games.  The space between their beds was about 2 feet wide.  Guess what?  They managed to be kind to each other, they learned to work out any issues and they were genuinely fun to travel with.  I am so glad we got to travel with each other now instead of it being just me and Maureen at retirement!  Traveling as a family made this such a great experience!  When we were searching for our next house without wheels, our search criteria was more heavily weighted for what we could do there!  Lesson-Go RV’ing!

Sometimes the best money spent is no money at all.

  • When looking back at our pictures, we had so many great experiences for little or no money. We were trying to be frugal so that we could spread our dollar as far as we could.  Remember, I had no job and we were not headed to a job.  One of our favorite places to enjoy a hot bath was a natural hot spring right on the Rio Grande inside Big Bend National Park.  Even though we were down south during the winter, we did find a couple beaches to visit and swim at – Gunner loved running on the beaches!  While in NM, we were able to watch an amazing sunrise and watch some great basketball (I’m on top, unh/hey-Alix Hailey)!  In California, Mike and Kitty treated us to some backstage tours of the entertainment industry and we even got to spin the Wheel of Fortune!  Clamming in Oregon was a flop, but getting muddy sure was fun!  Crabbing kept us busy for a few days and fed us too.  Talking with family and just hanging out with friends filled in several of our stops.  There are so many great stories of all of our experiences and I am very glad we took the time to do each and every one of them!  What I can share with you about the experience is that sometimes ditching things for experiences helps bond loved ones closer.

Taxes can be frustrating, but they fund some great things!

  • Death and taxes—two things we can’t escape. So many parts of our Great Tischer Escape included tax funded experiences.  We made visits to museums, libraries, presidential museums and National Park properties part of our destinations.  We did buy an annual pass to National Park Service properties.  The pass paid for itself time and again.  Every single mile we put on was traveled over public roads-some were great and some were so horrible!  We got really good at finding BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land to stay on for free!!  From our site looking out at the arches of Arches National Park to our private deep woods site right by a stream outside of Crater Lake National Park.  From the site on the bluff overlooking Grand Teton National Park to the stay just outside of Zion National Park.  Without a doubt, our favorite campsites were all on free land.  BLM land also made me feel a little better about the tax bill at the end of 2017!  Lesson-if I want to enjoy public parks, I have to pay my fair share.

Car sandwiches can become boring.

  • Ever since we’ve been married, Maureen and I have been frugal with certain things. During car trips, especially with boys, we’ve had the tradition of making “car sandwiches”.  These sandwiches typically include sliced french bread from Wal-Mart, salami and sometimes cheese.  They are accompanied by crackers and carrots.  Honestly, when you have them once a month or something like that they’re pretty good.  When you have them every other day…not so much but we kept at it!!  During the trip, we had some great local treats wherever we went.  Woody liked to help find places featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  We also found some great local ingredients and had great camper food too.  So many favorites along so many of our stops.  Oh and way too many car sandwiches!  Lesson-exploring a region through your taste buds can be a great thing, just be prepared to wear your stretchy pants!

Education can happen in all kinds of places.

  • Our great adventure would not have been possible if it weren’t for how hard our boys work at school. They are both bright boys and have really applied themselves when learning.  Because of this hard work, their teachers and school administrators recognized their drive and hardy work ethic.  When we approached the teachers and administrators about our opportunity, they vowed to do all they could to help us.  Not only did they help us, they provided us with a curriculum, teacher support and transcripts for the boys at the end of the year.  During the trip (it’s not a trip, it’s a lifestyle!), we made great use of public libraries wherever we were.  Several times, we stayed longer in a location so that the boys could get extra work done.  Book work was just one kind of learning.  By exploring wherever we were, not only did the boys learn, but so did Maureen and I.  From Little Rock Central High School to the hangars at Pima Air Museum, we learned so much about so many different things.  Learning can happen anywhere so long as you seek it out.

Family and friends are fun to stay in contact with via Facebook, but being face to face with them is better.

  • Facebook and other forms of social media are great ways to know what your friends are up to. It’s easy to just take a quick little look and then go about your day.  During our time on the road, we made it a point to stop in and see family and friends.  Some of our stops were to see people we stay in regular contact with.  Some were to stop and see people we hadn’t seen in years!  In all, I think we must have seen over 80 different family members and about half a dozen friends.  The opportunity for the boys to meet so many of our family and friends was priceless.  Lesson from this is that everyone was so welcoming and genuinely happy to have us visit-take the time to go say hi to people!

Busyness can get in the way.

  • I know it’s easy to say, I mean I had no job, but being busy prevents us from enjoying lots of different things. I had the luxury of having a great severance and that took a ton of pressure off of our family as we enjoyed our time together while searching for work.  I know I can work crazy hours and get cranky.  I know that my boys are growing up right under my eye, yet I miss the small stuff.  I had let busyness get in the way of enjoying what was around me.  While on our adventure, we were all not busy or busy together.  We took the time to explore, to read books, and build snow forts in a national park!  Busyness sometimes makes a person feel needed or wanted, but I often wonder if I had used it in the right ways.  By enjoying the gift of not being busy, I think (hope) I was practicing the things that I want to keep me busy.  For instance, today I went both skating on our lake with Woody and downhill skiing with the whole family.  Lesson-Don’t let bad busyness get in the way of all the great things happening around you.

Home can be where you make it.

  • One year ago, today, we had no idea where we were headed. Our possessions were in storage containers and our house was the Coachmen and the truck.  We didn’t feel as if we were without a home, we had plenty to do.  We had plenty to eat.  We didn’t have the worries of everyday life with us.  Instead, we enjoyed most everything we were doing.  Did we get mad at each other?  I am sure we did, but we had to get over it real quick because we only had each other.  While we moved our trailer to well over 40 different locations, we still felt at home because of who we were with.  As the interviews continued to happen, we would become excited about the potential to live here or there.  We knew we could make nearly any of them work.  What helped us settle on Wausau (other than a great job offer) was the fact that we felt at home.  There are so many things to do in the area.  We know the boys will be able to get a great education and will have many great friends.  The area is close to home for us and it feels like a natural fit for us.

We look forward to spending the next chapter in our blog back in Wisconsin and hope you will come and visit.  We have room for your trailer!  This entire experience taught me that lots of not so great things can happen in a person’s life.  The support and love of your family can get you through a ton.  I learned to pick my chin up and enjoy home on the road!  Thanks for being part of our great 2018! (JT)

Voyageurs and off to BWCA

By Andy:

Today we set off on our adventure in Northern Minnesota. We went on a boat trip through Voyageurs National Park which is about 40% water. Our boat trip took us to an island that used to be a gold mine. We saw many people fishing, camping, and just having fun on the water. We also saw an old fishing camp which was the last commercial fishing camp in northern Minnesota. We came across about a dozen eagles, most of them juveniles. Later on we went to Canada where we had poutine, Tim Horton’s, and picked up some Canadian candy. My favorite kind is coffee crisp.

I can’t wait for tomorrow which is when I will start my two week canoe trip in the Boundary Waters. Hopefully the mosquitoes won’t be too bad!


Overnight stops for the camper – Recap


We stayed at a total variety of places while road tripping!

December 20 – Walmart Kansas City, MO ($0)

December 21-Jan 3 – Frank Fletcher Ford, Joplin, MO ($$$$!)

Jan 3-5 – Hidden Cove Park, Frisco, TX ($40)

Jan 6 – Walmart Marshall, TX ($0)

Jan 7-13 Fontainebleau State Park, Mandeville, LA ($27)

Jan 14-17 – Topsail State Park, Destin, FL ($35)

Jan 18 – Walmart Lake Charles, LA ($0)

Jan 19-27 – Buescher State Park, Smithville, TX ($17)

Jan 28 – Lost Alaskan RV Park, Alpine, TX ($36)

Jan 29-31 – Study Butte RV Park, Terlingua, TX($28)

Feb 1-2 – Davis Mountains State Park, Fort Texas, TX ($20)

Feb 3-4 – Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Salt Flat, TX ($8)

Feb 5-6 – Alamogordo KOA, Alamogordo, NM ($40)

Feb 7-11 – The Hailey residence, Los Alamos, NM

Feb 12 – Sun Valley RV Park, Holbrook, AZ ($20)

Feb 13-27 = Desert’s Edge RV Park, Phoenix, AZ ($50)

Feb 28-March 2 – Palms Springs KOA, Palm Springs, CA ($45)

March 3-10 – Balboa RV Park, Van Nuys, CA ($65)

March 11-14 – Pismo Coast Village, Pismo Beach, CA ($42)

March 15 – Tin Cannery Parking Lot, Monterey Bay, CA ($10)
March 16-19 – Del Valle Regional Park, Livermore, CA ($40)

March 27 – 28 – Yosemite Lakes, RV Park, near Yosemite NP, CA ($45)

March 19-April 1 – Kings Canyon National Park, CA ($18)

April 2-3 – Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley National Park, CA ($14)

April 4 – BLM land near Zion National Park, UT ($0)

April 5-8 – Ruby’s Inn RV Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT ($45)

April 9-11 – Wonderland RV Park, Capitol Reef National Park, UT ($44)

April 12-17 – BLM near Arches National Park, Moab, UT ($0)

April 18-22 – Woolford residence, Provo, UT

April 23 – Rest Stop BFE Oregon ($0)

April 24-26 – Annie Creek Sno-Park near Crater Lake National Park, OR ($0)

April 27-28 – Humbug Mountain State Park, Bandon, OR ($32)

April 29-30 – Beverly Beach State Park, Newport, OR ($35)

May 1-2 – Barview Jetty County Park, Tillamook, OR ($45)

May 3-5 – Skamakawa Vista Park, Skamakawa, WA ($30)

May 6-27 – Sturdevant residence, Poulsbo, WA

May 28 – Rest Area near Spokane, WA ($0)

May 29 – Beartooth National Forest, Hamilton, MT ($0)

May 30 – Walmart Rexburg, ID ($0)

May 31-June3 – Bridger Teton National Forest, near Teton National Park, WY ($0)

June 4 – Walmart Casper, WY ($0)

June 5 – Devils Tower KOA, Devils Tower National Monument, WY ($70)

June 6-9 – Geisel residence, Rapid City, SD

June 10 – Borgen residence, Hartford, SD

June 11 – Holiday Inn Express, Watertown, SD ($0)

June 12 – Ottertail Lake! (MT)







It’s not a trip, it’s a lifestyle!

When we started this lifestyle, I was sad that we were going to leave my friends. I was also excited that I would get to spend time with my dad. When I first saw the trailer I thought it was tiny and there was no way we were going to live in there. We were going to leave on my birthday too. But actually I grew to like having my own bunkhouse space in the back.

Once we started down the road we stayed the first night in a Walmart parking lot. We were getting our first taste of boonedocking. The next day our truck broke down. Luckily that was the only major bad thing to happen on this trip. My dads new truck pulled everything great then on. We ended up staying at over 40 different campsites.

We have gotten to spend so much time with my parents that usually we wouldn’t get to. I also think me and my brother have grown to like each other a little more. We have gotten to see so much family on this trip too. Family that I may have met but don’t remember. But now I’ll have a memory of them for a lifetime!

One of our goals was to go to as many National Parks as we could. We went to over 70 of them. My favorite National Park was Bryce Canyon in Utah. The view and hoodoos were amazing. One morning we even saw the sunrise over the hoodoos, it was amazing! We also really liked Big Bend in Texas. I actually jumped in the Rio Grande! At every Park we go to I got a junior ranger packet to complete and then got a badge or patch. I have over 50! They are my favorite souvenirs of the trip!

A few months in we found out about BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. We think those have been the best sites, and they were free! The BLM campsite we had by Crater Lake National Park was our favorite campsite. It was so pretty with a river going through too. We used the log bridges to cross, and put our drinks in the stream to keep them cool. It felt like we were Box Car children!

All in all this has been an awesome learning experience for me and my brother. I enjoyed online learning and checking out different libraries. I loved making Vlogs at every stop. I originally did them for the grandparents to see where we were at, but you can enjoy them too! Check me out on YouTube @Woody Tischer. (WT)

The End of the Road

We have finally arrived at our lake cabin. It feels good to be able to relax but I miss seeing all of the new things. Throughout our trip we saw much of the western United States. I enjoyed seeing the desert because before this I had never really seen the desert. From the flat nothingness of West Texas to the palm trees of Southern California to the mountains of Washington and Wyoming we were able to see all kinds of biomes and almost every natural oddity west of the Mississippi.

We were also able to see a ton of human history along the way. My favorite parts of history we saw were Lewis & Clark National Historical Park and Hot Springs National Park. We were also able to tour a missile silo on Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City. I enjoyed seeing all of the Atomic Era technology inside of the missile launch tube.

We went crabbing off the coast in Oregon and caught a bunch of Red Rock crab and one Dungeness crab. It was very cool to be able to eat them. I also went tide pooling and saw starfish, sea urchins, anemones, chitons, hermit crabs, and giant gooseneck barnacles.

My favorite thing to do on this trip was to visit all kinds of air museums. My favorite air museum was Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson because they had the largest variety of planes. I like the Palm Springs Air Museum because we got to see a RCAF F/A-18 with red and white paint fly in. I liked the Evergreen air and space museum in McMinnville Oregon because it contained the Spruce Goose which was the largest airplane at its time and it was made all out of balsa wood. My favorite planes were the Ov-10 Bronco and the P-38 Lightning.

The past 6 months went by quick. My mom went out of her way to make the trip as enjoyable and educational as possible. My dad was an excellent driver and I learned a lot from him and enjoyed being with both of them every day. My brother was my best friend. I will never ever forget the time we had together. (AT)

6 months and done

Here we are, 6 months to the day of having only a camper to sleep in! Full disclosure, we arrived to Jesse’s parent’s lake cabin earlier this week and are now moved into the back cabin. So the lonely camper sits in the back 40, cleaned out but ready to take on another trip any time. I like the familiarity of being here, we all do, and the weather so far has been favorable.

I’d like to remind everyone that I had never been in a camper 7 months ago, so we were complete newbies at this. We spent our first night in a Walmart parking lot and on day #2 Jesse’s F150 stopped working in the middle of the interstate in Joplin, MO. None of this worried us, we made the best of hooking our camper up to the side of the Joplin Ford dealership, and the rest is history.

I honestly can’t believe we did this for 6 months. Originally we thought we’d only be on the road 2-3 months. But now that I think of that, it wouldn’t have been nearly long enough to be happy travelers! Jesse has been so close to landing a couple of great jobs, and again he’s so close to another good one. But even if he doesn’t get this one, I know another one coming will be worth the wait. Yes it’s nerve-racking not knowing where his next career will be, but man we have a good time waiting for it!

A friend recently compared our trip to settlers packing up the wagon and hitting the road in search for a better life. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend Jesse’s mid-career sabbatical . Our family has grown because of it, and we have seen amazing sights.

Total confession and in all honesty, we all had a fun and easy 6 months. We saw so many fun things, ate fun regional foods, and genuinely got along very well with each other. Every trip was a one-way trip, and the next stop was only ever 3-4 hours away. We did mountains, deserts, night driving and day driving. We stopped at almost 60 national park stops(parks, monuments, historic sites, etc…) 6 presidential libraries, about 15 air museums, all the states west of the Mississippi (except Hawaii – yes we got Alaska in!) about 7 state Capitol buildings and about 10 Diners, Dives and Drive-Ins(from the food network)

Woody finish his schooling in Moab, Utah around the end of April, and Andy finished in Poulsbo, Washington the beginning of May. I’m so very proud of them for finishing their work with high grades and just being confident learners. I can honestly say that I literally never taught them anything with their school work. I played the part of manager(momager!) and if they needed math help they contacted their dad. When we were near libraries or wifi, I would have them get schoolwork done. If we weren’t, they didn’t have to! Usually when we were at National Parks, all electronics had to be put away and eyes were focused out to the beauty of everything.

We met so may friends and family along the way. People who we may go years without seeing! Quite honestly that was my favorite part of it all. And we were greeted with open arms from everyone as well.

Couple of things I learned from the trip: be nice to those with campers in the parking lot of Walmart. Anyone is always welcomed to park their RV in front of my (future) house. You can do your laundry at my house, eat at my house and let your dog poop in my backyard. A huge thank you to all of those who let us do exactly that!

My top 5 experiences of the trip are as follows:

  1. Seeing the tulip field near Mt. Rainier. It was unexpected, amazing and not only did I love it, my kids and Jesse genuinely were happy for me because they knew I was in heaven. Jesse didn’t stop to turn around for much on this trip, but he wins several brownie points for this time!
  2. Our Alaskan cruise. To be honest, I loved the break from cooking and cleaning and planning. I loved putting makeup on again. I loved dressing up everynight with the boys and enjoyed good food and good service. And I enjoyed the shows and all the things to do on the cruise ship. Seeing Alaska was great too, but we know we didn’t see nearly enough so you bet we’ll be back someday!
  3. Driving border to border on the coast in Oregon. It was so cool to watch Gunner run on the beaches and see the boys pull up a trap full of crab. We stayed at state parks that looked like rainforests. We had tasty craft beer and regional ciders. Plus the goonies you know!
  4. Big Bend National Park in Texas. Perhaps it is my favorite because it was the first big Park we visited on this trip and the amazement of beauty was still fresh and new. But honestly, it was just so neat, so in the middle of no-where, and the rock walls were huge on the Rio Grande. Our mini-visit from there onto a row boat to cross the Rio Grande, then ride a burro into a tiny Mexican village for lunch and some Mexican candy and then back – telephoning the boarder patrol in El Paso to be let back into the country was one of the most unique things we did on the trip. Almost like it was just a dream.
  5. Being with my husband, kids and dog 24-7. We went to bed when we were tired and woke up when we’d had a good nights sleep. We saw all the sights together. We had all these experiences together. The boys didn’t ask for much and went along with the flow for everything. They never complained about the traveling time between stops. We played board games and card games. We hiked together and watched Wheel of Fortune together. We shared our meals with each other when we went out to eat. We told really funny inside jokes and we always laughed over funny things Gunner would do. When Gunner got sick (which he did a couple of times) we had the serious talk that this might be “his time” but we always helped nurse him back to health. Everyone needs a Gunner in their life.

I certainly hope Jesse gets a job soon, but if the time just isn’t right this time around, I’ve got a couple east coast road trips in mind for the fall – haha! (MT)

The Black Hills of South Dakota

We had a great time visiting Jesse’s former boss in Rapid City – Rick and Susan Giesel and their dog Koda. We pulled the camper up to their front door but they insisted we stay inside their house! I’m not going to lie, the air conditioning felt great on the crazy hot summer days we got into! Gunner and Koda played like brothers – close and then territorial! Gunner appreciates running on nice green grass, it makes him so happy! Jesse has always admired Rick and really looked forward to our visit with them.

We tried to go into the Jewel Cave National Park outside of Rapid City, but they were booked pretty solid, and here’s the kicker, you have to book your ticket in person and they book up by 9am and you can only entire with a ticket. Jesse and I haven’t been too worried about things we miss out on, we say that we need to leave things for the “next trip” but it was disapointing.  We were able to hit up the Wind Cave National Park the next day and we got a cave tour in! The Black Hills are gorgeous and we were able to see a lot of buffalo in Custer State Park. We went on a great hike to Little Devils Tower that left from Sylvan Lake. Gunner loved it and there were great vistas and lots of rock scrambling. The boys and I had hiked this path a couple years ago and we were excited to take Jesse. And of course, we checked out Mount Rushmore, which we have done a handful of times, but it truly is splendid and makes me feel patriotic being there.

Susan had taken us on special “locals” hike to the Stratobowl, an area where one of the first hot manned high altitude balloons capable of stratospheric flight was launched. It was pretty surreal in its gorgeousness and historical significance and the dogs loved it as well. We came back and had a wonderful steak dinner with one of Rick and Susan’s friends as we talked late into the night!

Upon leaving Rapid City, we made a stop at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum on the Ellsworth Air Force Base. It was yet another great plane museum, they had a lot of airplanes on display outdoors so Gunner could see a bunch with us too. The guys were able to go on a Base tour and also tour the inside of a Minuteman II missile silo. Here at the end of our trip, in our own state, was one of the best tours!

On the long stretch of interstate highway that will lead us back to Sioux Falls, I begged Jesse to drive through the Bandlands National Park. Yes we have already visited it and it does make the drive even longer to get home but I would urge everyone to drive through it if they could! Around every turn is another beautiful view that you’d have no idea would be in South Dakota. The western side of South Dakota is breathtaking.

Our full circle road trip was just 2 days shy of 6 months. It truly started and ended at my cousin Janson Exner’s house outside of Sioux Falls. Janson, Cory and the girls were very helpful to us after we sold our house but before we left of the trip, and it was fitting that we ended back at their driveway. So many stories to tell, it was crazy to see much their girls had grown as well!


From here, a quick stop in Watertown, SD for another interview and then off to the Ottertail Lake to set up the camper for the summer. Hopefully something comes along for Jesse yet this summer, but if not, I have the fall itinerary already planned out. East Coast Baby! (MT)



Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is the first National Park that we’ve visited on this trip that we’ve actually been to before. 10 years ago, we visited with Jesse’s sister Lindsey and our foreign exchange student from Denmark, Karianne Nielsen. Woody was only 1 so he doesn’t remember any of it so it was all new to him. I have to admit, the weather today was probably the worst of our whole trip. It was chilly, overcast, rainy and even a bit snowy at a point! We still got to see all the wonderful views of the park though. It is such a unique area, from the geysers to mountains to waterfalls.

As Woody was finishing his Junior Ranger booklet, we brought it to the same visitors center that we had visited 10 years ago when Andy did the Junior Ranger program. In my head, I remembered a picture of Andy and the Ranger that gave him the oath. AND I SWEAR I SAW HIM THERE! I tried my hardest to pull up the picture on my phone but internet access was super slow. As Woody was with another Ranger getting checked out, I made small talk with the older ranger and sure enough, he had been there for 17 years! As we were talking he made the funny joke that he totally remembered Andy! I asked for another picture of the group and days later, when I could finally find the picture, sure enough it was the same ranger! What a fun memory!

Of course we had to visit Old Faithful, who wasn’t so faithful. The weather had gotten much nicer throughout the afternoon, but once we got ready to watch OF, it started to rain. And rain. And the wind started to blow. And Old Faithful’s “faithful” time came and went. And went. And it rained harder. And then, it stopped raining(meanwhile, i’d say 50% of the group watching had left!) and a couple minutes later Old Faithful erupted. It was great but we were extremely wet and cold. But after a hot chocolate and big bowl of chili that we shared, we warmed up and headed home after a full day at Yellowstone. (MT)

Grand Tetons National Park

Part of the “thrill” of looking for free federal land to set up shop at, is that you don’t know what’s available until you’re there! After a beautiful but extremely hilly drive from Idaho into Wyoming, we arrived into the outdoorsy town of Jackson. From there we got a great look at the Grand Teton mountain ridge and where we’d be staying for a couple of days. We drove a couple miles up a dirt road, driving from the Grand Teton National Park to the Bridger-Teton National Forest. We were with a couple of other RV’s and campers on a ridge directly overlooking the beautiful mountain. This was another great spot, private with good views, and a big forest behind us, down a steep hill that the boys liked to explore. Woody found a unique tree in the forest that he could lay in to read and took advantage of that in the mornings.

We didn’t see or hear them, but we felt Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s presence on our first night. They were there with a contingent of record executives and other celebrities for Kanye’s album release party. Apparently he likes this place a lot! Anywho, they all had to cross the road near our campsite to get from the ranch they were at back to Jackson to celebrate at the honkytonk in town. I didn’t get an invite, so I’ll probably protest the album.

Some of the fun things we did in the Grand Teton National Park was visit the Jackson Lake lodge. It was exactly what a NP lodge should be like with a huge main room with big windows that framed the mountains. Woody noticed they were selling huckleberry milkshakes. There’s not much the boys will use their Christmas money for, but this is important and memorable for them!

We had beautiful weather here for a couple of days, and the reflection of the peaks off the lakes was amazing. We were totally taking our time here, and Jesse took an off the beaten path dirt road that eventually lead to a lake shore. It was private, with only a couple of other people there so we felt it ok to let Gunner off leash to jump and play in the lake. It was so cold, but you could tell Gunner was loving it all! He played fetch for what seemed forever, and we could have stayed there much longer had it not been for annoying mosquitos.

On another back road, we happened to catch a moose 20 feet off the road munching on some food in a stream. It was pretty cool to witness such an animal! There were plenty of opportunities to see bison and antelope. We even saw “Mormon Row”, which were some preserved farmsteads that a group of Mormon’s set up in the early 1900’s. It’s great to see history in beautiful places like this!

We spent some time in Jackson as well, checking out their downtown. There is a “local” ski hill called Snow King and it is literally blocks from downtown! We drove over just to check it out, and ended up on alpine slides and an alpine coaster! The boys even did a fun outdoor maze, something they hadn’t done in ages. We finished off the afternoon at the Snake River Brewery, Jesse wasn’t afraid of this beer! There was even a “touch a truck” event going on in town. We saw it from afar, but it brought back good memories of all the similar events we’ve taken the boys to in the past! (MT)

Big Hole National Battlefield

Today we had a pleasant drive through the Bitterroot Valley in Montana. We could totally see the large amount of devastation a forest fire left a couple of years ago. It totally changes the landscape and the burn was miles and miles long. The water in the nearby rivers and creeks were very high from the snow melt runoff as well.

Right near the Idaho boarder we stopped at the Big Hole National Battlefield. This is our first “National Battlefield” as there really aren’t a whole lot, many other battlefields are historical sites instead. This was a very pretty and open valley. In 1877, many Nez Perce Native Americans were killed in a surprise morning attack by the US Government troops. The Government wanted to round them up to a reservation in Idaho, but the Native Americans wanted to flee to Canada, where they believed they would be treated differently and could unite with Sitting Bull and the Lakota Band there. But the predawn attack took them by surprise and killed 60-90 Nez Perce and 28 US forces.

There are still tepees on the battlefield site that are maintained by families of those in the battle which is super neat. This just so happens to be where Woody’s favorite Junior Ranger pin is from too – it’s a unique gold and silver badge! (MT)