Monday, July 20, 2009

Trip Recap

Raw Data
Miles travelled = 7,895.6 (about 395 miles or 6.5 hours per day)
Money spent = $3,277 (about $23.41 per person per day for lodging, transportation, food and entrance to attractions; not included are repairs to van and souvenirs) - for those of you wondering how a pastoral family of 7 can even afford that, we saved for it and used our tax return (with child tax credit) to cover the cost

Lowest elevation = 2 ft. above sea level in New Orleans, LA
Highest elevation = 9,105 ft. above sea level in Poncha Pass, CO
Farthest West = Las Vegas, NV (went into CA but it was not as far West)
Farthest South = San Antonio, TX
Farthest North = Billings, MT

Favorite Road (kids) = AR-27 in Arkansas (kind of like a roller coaster with dips)
Favorite Road (dad) = US-285 in Texas (wide open and no traffic)
Least Favorite Road (dad) = AZ-160 (with 4 single lane construction zones) or almost anything in Louisiana or Mississippi (even the Interstates are not nearly as good as in other states)
Most Traveled Road = I-10 (we were on I-10 for 2,066 miles - 26% of all our miles!)

Number of National Monuments/Parks = 8 (Carlsbad, Guadalupe Mountains, Grand Canyon, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Little Big Horn, Devil's Tower, Mt. Rushmore)
Number of Other Monuments/Parks = 6 (Alamo, Four Corners, U.S. Mint, Sacajawea's grave, Pony Express Museum, Crater of Diamonds Park)
Indian Reservation Driven Through = 6 (Gila River, Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Wind River, Crow)
State Capitals Driven Through = 7 (Tallahassee, Baton Rouge, Phoenix, Denver, Cheyenne, Little Rock, Jackson)

Best Unplanned Pull-off = Sacajawea's Grave (it's difficult to find, stop and ask a local for directions)
Worst Unplanned Pull-off = Deadwood, SD (unless you gamble, drink or want to walk to look at people drinking or gambling, there is not much to do in a little amount of time)

Kids' Answers
Favorite Attraction - something you saw
Makenzie = Hummingbirds at Royal Gorge (They are cute and my favorite bird)
Makaylah = Corn Palace (It was fun to look at)
Jordan = Mt. Rushmore (The lighting and the interesting facts)
Jariah = The 100ft Swing at Royal Gorge (It looks scary)
Jedidiah = Mt. Rushmore (Lighting at night)

Least Favorite Attraction - something you saw
Makenzie = Nothing (I liked everything)
Makaylah = Devil's Tower (All we did was walk around it)
Jordan = Devil's Tower (I did not find it that interesting)
Jariah = Corn Palace (Because it made me hungry)
Jedidiah = Old Faithful (Bored waiting)

Favorite Event - something you did
Makenzie = Riding over the Royal Gorge Bridge in the aerial tram
Makaylah = Giant Swing at Royal Gorge Bridge
Jordan = The Alpine Slide in Keystone, SD (It was very fun)
Jariah = Walk around Devil's Tower (Because of the rocks)
Jedidiah = Devil's Tower (It was interesting)

Least Favorite Event - something you did
Makenzie = Walking around Las Vegas (crowds)
Makaylah = Walking in Las Vegas
Jordan = The Las Vegas Strip (Crowded and too many people smoke)
Jariah = The Las Vegas Strip (Because of the clump of people)
Jedidiah = The Las Vegas Strip (crowded)

How did you like riding so much in the van?
Makenzie = I liked watching movies and playing DS but not the headaches and sore muscles
Makaylah = It wasn't that bad but it wasn't my favorite. It had rest time but got sore on my butt after awhile.
Jordan = It was OK. Jariah took up too much space.
Jariah = It was amazing because I could sleep a lot.
Jedidiah = I liked playing games and watching movies.

Favorite Hotel
Makenzie = I liked most of them but I don't have a favorite
Makaylah = Days Inn in Colorado Springs (The one with the ginormous pool)
Jordan = Prince Charles in Branson, MO (We were with relatives)
Jariah = Prince Charles in Branson (Because we were with people we knew)
Jedidiah = Prince Charles in Branson (pool)

Least Favorite Hotel
Makenzie = Quality Inn in New Orleans (roaches)
Makaylah = Quality Inn in New Orleans (The one with all the bugs)
Jordan = Gold Coast Hotel in Las Vegas (Too many people smoking)
Jariah = Quality Inn in New Orleans (Because it was nasty)
Jedidiah = Quality Inn in New Orleans (bugs)

Favorite Restaurant
Makenzie = Fuddrucker's in Billings, MT
Makaylah = Casa Bonita in Denver (It had cool things to eat and do there)
Jordan = Pizza World in Branson (Good pizza)
Jariah = Pizza World in Branson (Because of the dessert pizza)
Jedidiah = Casa Bonita in Denver

Least Favorite Restaurant
Makenzie = Jack in the Box in Benson, AZ
Makaylah = Jack in the Box in Benson, AZ (It was disgusting)
Jordan = Jack in the Box in Benson, AZ (It was not the best)
Jariah = Jack in the Box in Benson, AZ (Because of the food)
Jedidiah = Jack in the Box in Benson, AZ

Dad's Recommendation - for those considering such a trip
1. Get a National Park Annual Pass. They are only $80 and you can get your use out of them at a lot of places.
2. If you got to a National Park, checkout the Junior Ranger program. It is different in each park and easier in some than others but it really helps the kids learn about the park.
3. WiFi is a must-have hotel amenity. A pool is nice but not necessary if you are going to arrive late and leave early.
4. Try a local restaurant (not a national chain) every once in awhile - we loved Chandler's Restaurant in Dubois, MT.
5. If you got more than 4 people, throw in a sleeping bag (or 3) into the car so you can get 1 room - save your money for attractions.
6. Consider traveling only about 6 hours each day (or less). The miles take a toll on the driver if not anyone else.
7. Arrive early and at least just before the park/site opens. There are few people that do and there is far less traffic (cars and people).
8. Plan some "surprises" for the trip - ours were a day at Royal Gorge Bridge and the Alpine Slide in Keystone, SD.
9. Plan some rest time after the trip - I'm writing this from home and I took today off from work.
10. Take a cooler for the car and keep drinks (juice boxes, sodas, etc.) in it and have a good water bottle for each person. Take snacks so you can "refuel" on the road.
11. Get a portable DVD player (and car mount) so you can entertain for hours on the road.
12. Get a copy of the Bible on tape or CD. We were able to "listen" our way through Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans and half of 1 Corinthians.
13. A hot breakfast (free) at the hotel is nice but most continental breakfasts will do well at filling you up as well.
14. Print maps and directions before you go but also take a GPS. The printed maps will give you good information that sometimes the GPS won't but a good GPS will walk you through the "steps" ahead and will let you search the area for a restaurant.
15. You don't need to take as many clothes as you think. Over half of our hotels had laundry facilities. All of our clothes fit into 1 suitcase. We only took 3 changes of clothes per person an d did fine.
16. Download or backup your pictures each night while you are recharging your camera batteries.
17. Take a tripod and learn how to use your camera's auto taking feature before the trip.
18. If you are going to a U.S. Mint, it is free but you HAVE to make reservations.
19. Service your vehicle before going and have a good trusted mechanic give it a once over before leaving. Join AAA if you are not already a member.
20. Remember you are taking the vacation to be with the very people on the trip that are driving you nuts. Remind yourself as often as it takes for you to enjoy the trip and for them to enjoy the trip. Being with them at the sites is the best part of the trip, not just the sites.


  1. I just got caught up on your trip. Thanks for posting so much info -- it was a fun read.
    Keith G.

  2. Welcome home! Hey, I think I've stated at that Quality Inn in LA before - & we will never eat at Jack in the Box after those horrible reviews! Please tell Lisa and kids hello for us - Luv, the McKinley's :)