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July 2002

Dear Journal,

July 1st

Today was the first day of a long vacation out west.  It all started at 5:15 am when Mom woke me up. We all quickly pulled out clothes on, packed some last minute things, and left.  We arrived at the airport, checkout in our stuff, went through security, and were soon on our way.  Next stop was Pittsburgh, PA. There we snacked on Ben and Jerry's ice cream and soon after was on our way to Denver, CO.  There we picked up our luggage, rented our car, and were out to meet Grandma and Poppop in Rapid City, SD.

the coyote at Wind Cave

On our way we took a tour through Wind Cave National Park (it was on the road we were on!). We saw a whole bunch of prairie dogs, which are just the cutest things! Then a wild coyote came along and we got to here the prairie dogs bark. Their bark sounded like lots of bird chirps. It was really neat. We also saw one buffalo, but it was pretty far away. We stopped to eat at Wendy's. We got to Grandma's camper around 9:30 pm (in Mountain Time - 2 hours earlier than the time we're used to.) When we caught up with the news we all quickly fell asleep.

July 2nd

Yesterday I forgot to mention that Uncle Joe, Aunt Joann, and Daniel were also on this vacation (they have their own camper).

The campers

RRS 2002 Western Expedition!

Anyway, we woke up that morning and took our showers down in the camp bathrooms. Then we had a yummy breakfast of eggs and potatoes. Then we went over to Uncle Joe and Aunt Joanne's camper and they had got each of us a present. We all got a hat and jacket that said "RRS 2002 Western Expedition". (RRS stands for Roberts, Rhodes, Scamuffa. Daniel's last name is Scamuffa.) And they told us each place we go to we can get hat pins for it.

The first place we were headed was the geographical center of the U.S. It's in Belle Fourche. But when we got there, there was a sign saying it was actually another 20 miles away but it was private property so they use this as the spot. So we were all disappointed. So we all got back in the cars and headed toward our second stop, Devil's Tower.

Me and Poppop at the center of the USA!

Do Do Do Do Doo

Devil's Tower was pretty cool. We took a hike around the mountains and after we did that we all agreed we didn't need to take anymore hikes anytime soon. We did get a couple of good pictures though. After that we went to Fort Meade, but because Taz (Grandma and Poppop's dog) came that day, I stayed outside with Poppop and him and didn't go into the museum. I did get to see the army men though. After that we went back to the park and watched "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". (Dad had brought some "themed" movies to match with some of the sights we were going to see. Devil's Tower is the main location in the movie.)

July 3rd

Today was crammed full of stuff to do. First thing we did was go to Bear Country USA. It was really neat. It was sort of like Lion Country Safari except different animals. We saw wolves and coyotes and buffalo and of course lots of bears. The bears were especially cool. They were just laying around or crossing the road right in front of our car! After that we went into the baby section in which you get out and walk around and see them playing in their habitat. We saw a baby badger that came when called and didn't know he's supposed to be mean. We also saw the cutest little bears. They climbed the trees, played in the sprinklers, and chased each other around. At one point there were 13 bears in one tree!

Baby bears.  Aren't they cute! 

Check out the hats!  Uncle Jo, Dad, Mom, me, Aunt Joann, Grandma, Poppop, and Daniel

The next stop was Mt. Rushmore. It was pretty neat. We went to a talk about how America's flag changed throughout the years. It was kind of boring. We also saw a movie about how Mt. Rushmore was built. We got some good pictures. Next we went to lunch at a place called the Alpine Inn. I had a yummy taco salad and chocolate ice cream peanut butter pie. Mom really enjoyed her dessert, which was a chocolate waffle ice cream thing.

Then we split up and Mom, Dad, and Grandma went to a gold shop and Poppop and I went to a pottery shop. At the pottery shop we had a coupon to make a free pot. So we got there and you had to pick out one of the small pots. Then you took it to one of the tables and put it on a little contraption type thing. It rotated while you applied the blue paint to it. After it dried you took little pointy utensils and scrapped a design in it. Mine had little triangley designs on it. We also bought one for Mom and Grandma. I took my pots back to the camper, showed Mom mine and was showing her hers'. I laid my pot down on the couch, and next thing I know I hear a loud crash. I look up and there's Taz up on the couch looking down at the pot he had just picked up and dropped and now lay in pieces.

That night we went to a play called "The Trial of Jack McCall" which was about the trial of the murderer of Wild Bill Hickok. It was in Deadwood, SD. It started out in the middle of the street and they had a gun fight. Then they walked into the court. Then they picked a jury from the audience and at the end the jury ruled Not Guilty! Then we went back to the camper and to sleep.

The judge and Calamity Jane

The Badlands -- they look much better than this picture turned out

July 4th

Happy 4th of July! Today we went to the Badlands. It had some very pretty scenery. At the beginning it rained, which made all the trails that we went on at first all slippery and wet. It also made our shoes all muddy. We saw lots of prairie dogs. At one point we went to a place called the Prairie Homestead. There you could feed some prairie dogs peanuts. Then we went to lunch. We went to a little family restaurant. Dad had a buffalo burger. He said it tasted like a regular hamburger.

After that we went back to the Badlands. We saw some more overlooks. Then we went through a fossil trail. We also went to a talk about fossils and what kind there are and why. They said during the time of the dinosaurs that South Dakota was under water so they had sea animals instead of dinos.

Prairie Dogs -- aren't they cute!

Ride 'em cowgirl!

We also went to Wall Drug store. It's sort of like South of the Border. It supposed to have everything you could need. They had a whole bunch of stores and free ice water. There were a lot of funny things you could sit on for pictures, like a horse or stagecoach. We got ice cream there. For dinner we went to another family restaurant and I had the salad bar.

July 5th

Today we just drove around and saw animals and scenery. The first place we drove through was Custer State Park. There we saw more prairie dogs, buffalo, deer, antelope, and another coyote!

He crossed the road right in front of us!

Mammoth Site

 

We drove on some more scenic highways and ended up at the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. There, there was a building and inside was a guided tour of the site where they were digging for mammoth bones. There were bones everywhere! It almost looked fake. We also had a picnic there.

Then we drove back on another scenic route.  On some of the roads there were some tight tunnels.  What was cool was that through them you could see Mt. Rushmore.  At one point in the road there were donkeys.  It was really neat.  They stuck their heads in the windows and begged for food.  We feed them carrots. 

Hey, that's a little close!

There was also a lookout tower where you could see very good scenery.

  We ate dinner at a restaurant called Sanfords. There were TVs everywhere. They said they had around 200 TVs.

outside our rental car
Mom, Dad, me, and Poppop in the gold mine

July 6th

Today we went to a place called The Big Thunder Gold Mine.  There we took a tour of the mine.  It was pretty cool.  I learned some very interesting stuff.  Like they only made $20 total at the end.  

 

After the tour we went gold panning.  We didn't get much gold, but we did get a lot of garnets.  It was really fun.  After that everyone except Dad (who went back to Mt. Rushmore to videotape since the battery was dead in the video camera the day we were at Mt. Rushmore) went shopping in Keystone.  We also ate there.  

Did you find any gold Grandma?
Getting ready for a cowboy supper and show

 

For dinner we went to a place called the Fort Hayes Chuckwagon cowboy dinner show.  We had pork and beans and applesauce.  After dinner they put on a show with music and comedy.

July 7th

Today we got up early and went back to the Fort Hayes place and had pancakes for breakfast.  Then we drove to Buffalo, WY.  When we got there, Poppop found he had a big bubble on one of the trailer tires.  That afternoon me, Mom, Dad, Grandma, and Poppop went on a scenic drive to a place called Bud Love Winter Habitat.  It was pretty cool because we saw over 100 deer and antelope.  When we got back we watched a movie called North By Northwest.  It happened on and by Mt. Rushmore. 

Deer in the Bud Love Winter Habitat

Little Bighorn Battlefield Monument

July 8th

Today me, Dad, Uncle Joe, Aunt Joann, and Daniel went to Little Big Horn, the battle field in Montana.  It was OK.  They actually had markers where the people actually died.  Dad bought a CD that gave a tour as you drove around.  But it just basically repeated what the ranger had just said.  We had lunch around there and then went to this Indian reservation that Aunt Joann had helped clean up and paint some buildings when she was younger.     

Meanwhile, Mom, Grandma, and Poppop were shopping for a new tire.  When we got back me and Dad went swimming.  After dinner we celebrated Poppop's birthday.  Then Aunt Joann and Uncle Joe had to take Daniel to the hospital because he had been sick for several hours.  Later me, Dad, Mom, Grandma, and Poppop played a game called 3 for All.  At the hospital Daniel got a shot.  He felt better the next day.

Poppop's birthday

Cody gunfighters

July 9th

Today we drove to Cody WY.  On the way there we split up from them and we drove through a place called Crazy Woman Canyon.  It was pretty neat.  There were some pretty streams that people were fishing in.  At one point in the road we almost got stuck.  We also went to a museum that had a lot of different stuff.  It had fossils, art, indian things, wagons, and more.  Then we had lunch.  When we met up with the rest of the group at the campground, we found out Uncle Joe's brakes caught on fire!   Aunt Joann quickly poured on it to put it out!  After setting up camp, we saw a gunfight that was kinda silly.  It was in front of the Irma hotel (Buffalo Bill's hotel) in downtown Cody.  Then we went back to the trailers and had some soup and chicken helper for dinner.  

July 10th

This morning we woke up and had our free pancakes at the campground.  (But you had to buy the orange juice, coffee, and sausage.)  Then we headed off to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.  It was made up of five museums: Buffalo Bill, Natural History, Plains Indians, Rifle, and Western Art.  My favorites were the natural history and the art museum.  The natural history had a lot about animals.  Outside, a cowboy from the rodeo was showing how to rope a cow.

The next thing we did was go on a trolly tour of the town.  It was very good.  For dinner we had meatball sandwiches.  Then Mom, Poppop, Uncle Joe, Aunt Joann, and Daniel went to see the rodeo.  Me and Dad went swimming.

Rope 'em

hot, hot, hot

July 11th

Today we drove from the campground (after having our free pancakes of course) to Yellowstone.  We left the campers at the park though, because we are staying in cabins inside Yellowstone.  The first thing we saw were some geothermal pools.  They were called the West Tumb Basins.  They were all different color pools of boiling water.  They were all different sizes.  My favorite ones were the ones of deep blues and greens.

 

Next we went to see Old Faithful.  We got there close to an hour before the next time it was expected to go off.  We then decided to eat our lunch we packed. It was yummy.  We finished just in time to get a good sit and wait.  It started low at first then it got a little higher, and a little more, until finally it reached its full hight.   It was amazing.  The whole thing lasted a good 3 minutes.  Then mom, dad , and I went to see the Old Faithful Inn.  Dad and I tried to climb the stairs all the way to the top but a sign said that it wasn't safe because the building  had damage due to an earthquake.  It was still neat to look up and see all the stairs and, faraway, the ceiling. 

After that we met back up with our party and moved on.  The next place we went was to check into the Canyon Pioneer Cabins.  They were pretty rustic.  They had no air-conditioning, T.V. or phone.  After we got refreshed we went to eat in the cafeteria.  Then me, mom, dad, Aunt Joann, and Daniel went on a tour through Hayden Valley.

Hayden Valley was on a road in the park.  We saw a wolf, elk, buffalo, deer, baby deer, coyote, pika, and chipmunks.  We also went to a place called Artist Point.  It was a very pretty canyon with a waterfall and the higher you went up the prettier it got.  The we went back to the cabins and meet up with grandma and poppop.  They told us we need to go to Inspiration Point because you could see the fires from there.  (There was a big wildfire burning in Yellowstone.)

Old Faithful

Artist point in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

July 12th

Today we woke up and all had breakfast in the cafeteria.  I got sick.  Then we all split up.  Aunt JoAnn, Uncle Joe, and Daniel went to the Grand Tetons.  The rest of us went to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  Then we went to Mammoth Hot Springs.  We had lunch there and then drove through the hot spring terrace.  I didn't see much of it because I still wasn't feeling good.

Next we went to Tower Falls.  Grandma, Mom, and Dad walked down to see the base of the waterfall while me and poppop and Taz stayed up top and waited for them.  They said it was worth the walk.

On our way out of the park we drove through Lamar Valley.  We saw buffalo and a moose.  Dad was excited because a moose is the animal he wanted to see.  Bears were the animal I wanted to see, but we didn't see any.  We came very close though, because a bunch of people were stopped by the side of the road and a ranger was there.  They said a mother bear and her babies were up over the hill.

 

Mom and Dad at the waterfall
what a view

After we got out of the park we drove through part of Montana and then we drove on the Beartooth Highway Scenic drive.  It was really high in the mountains -- almost 11,000 feet.  There were a lot of glaciers and lakes. 

 

At one place you could pull over and there was a glacier right by the side of the road.  So we got out and made a couple of snowballs and had a snowball fight. 

Rockchucks

When we got closer to the top of Beartooth, we saw mountain goats.  There were about six of them.  We also saw in the middle of the parking lot some rockchucks.  They are also called marmots.  They were very cute.  Then we drove back to the campground.

Snowballs in July while wearing shorts!

July 13th

Today was a relaxing day.  We played games, watched a movie called The Plainsman, and went swimming.  The movie was about all the people we had learned about -- Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickok, Jack McCall, and Calamity Jane.  They also talked about Cody Wyoming and Deadwood, South Dakota. 

July 14th

Today we drove to Denver.  On the way, we stopped to see some trail ruts from the Oregon Trail.  It was very interesting imagining people a long time ago riding in their wagons and leaving the marks that we were standing on today.  We stopped for the night in a hotel by the airport and flew back home the next day. 

My favorite parts were Bear Country and feeding the prairie dogs at the Prairie Homestead.  I also liked seeing buffalo, feeding the donkeys, and the chuckwagon show.  My least favorite part was Little Big Horn.

Me and Dad next to the trail ruts

July 18th

On Thursday, July 18th I went to the orthodontist and got my separators.  Separators are little blue rubber bands they stick in between your teeth.  They make space for bands to go in when you get braces.  They really hurt!  I get my braces next month.

My 2001-2002 team trophy

July 28th

On Sunday, July 28th, my gymnastics team had an awards banquet for last season.  We got a trophy and had a fancy dinner and afterwards we sang karaoke.  I liked it because I got to see my friend that quit earlier this year.

July 29th

On Monday, July 29th to August 1st, I went on a trip with Grandma and Grandpa to Sarasota.  The first place we went was Lake Placid.  It is famous for it's murals on the walls of some of the buildings around town.  The only bad part was that it was raining so we didn't get to walk around and see them all.  We drove around and saw as many as we could.  My favorite mural was "The Turkey Hunt" because I found the hunter.

Grandpa and Grandma at Ringling

That night we stayed at a hotel.  The next day we went to the Ringling Museum of Art.  We toured the house, we went through the circus museum, and we ate lunch at the cafe.  Then we toured the art museum and the touring exhibit.  The touring exhibit was my favorite.  It was paintings through the years.

The next day we went to Dinosaur World.  It is a little theme park that had a bunch of statues of dinosaurs.  Then we went back to Grandma's house.  We watched a movie -- Disney's Tarzan 2.  The next day they took me home.  It was a fun vacation.

Help me!