August 3, 2008

Our St. Joseph Trip

We've named this trip the St. Joseph trip after realizing that everyone we stayed with had someone under their roof named Joseph.
We spanned 2706 miles!

We're off... to Mass. We began our trip by attending the TLM in Rockford at St. Mary's Oratory.

Crossing the Mississippi

Anyone remember Saturday Showboat?

Ooooh! Now that is a speed limit!
Who knows where Iowa ends and Nebraska begins!
Needless to say the windmills were a big hit of interest.
Here is the building of a windmill.
When we hit DesMoines we got into a horrible storm. It was torrential rains and very heavy winds. We were driving a heavy 15 passenger van and were being blown around the road. Not sure what happened to this one but it must have overturned not long before we got there. Hopefully no one was hurt.
You will notice that many pictures are blurry... what can you expect when you are flying by everything at 80 mph! Of course this speed is necessary to get across Nebraska lest one die of boredom!
As we turned to go to our friends' home the children announced we were traveling on someone's driveway. Indeed they do have rock roads that go on forever.
The children were instant friends. So they had a slumber party. I'm not sure how much sleep they got as Aragorn recalls going out and telling them to hush up at 4 am!! And no, they didn't sleep all day in the car the next day!

Eleanor peeping out of her sleeping bag, she was the smart one who actually went to sleep!
Pippin who will gleefully fall asleep anywhere except his own bed.
When we arrived at our friends' home near Lincoln, NE, it was somewhere up in the 90's with 85% humidity... it was literally breath-taking. So we all camped out inside their home. I'm not sure I slept much but I did think of the crazy idea that camping is. You sleep on a mat that is 1/2 the size of a twin mattress and then have to share it with your 2 year old who wanders in at some ridiculous time of night! This gave me a scant 6 inches to sleep in. I thought of my friend, Mary Ellen!
Thank you to the L Family for a truly wonderful time! We must have laughed til our sides ached. There is not much that is better medicine than a good hearty dose of laughter.
Since large families are never satisfied unless they can add an extra to their numbers we had to increase our numbers from 17 children to 18 by adding in the son of a family friend!
Sam felt right at home!

Mrs. L and Bilbo
The "real" Joe. Doesn't he have scrumptious dark brown eyes? I have never understood how someone could ever discipline a child with dark brown eyes.

Kindred Spirits.
Sam could find a tree to climb in a desert.
How do you recognize kindred spirits? Barefeet!
I have been an on-line friend of Mrs. L's for many years. This was the first time we met in real life!
More Nebraska!

In honor of my friend Alice, here is a real-life haystack!
Taking a break and resting on a .... dinosaur (though Pippin called it a turtle)
Nebraska's irrigation system.
I caught this plane going right over the top of our van, it's a plane that sprays the crops.
Cattle Ranch

I think these old fashioned windmills are so neat! I want one! They were all over the place to bring water up for the animals in the arid parts of Nebraska.
We stopped in Sidney, NE to visit the impressive Cabella's!
It's just chuck full of real live stuffed animals. (meaning at one time they were live but now are stuffed)
The mountain lion was intriguing being that it is a key part of one of our favorite books "Where the Red Fern Grows".
Whodda guessed that you'd ever see a taxidermied Elephant?

Oil pump
Lots of very long trains hauling coal.
Lots and lots of windmills. I know Aragorn would have wanted to get one of these ... but only a little out of the budget at a million dollars or so!
We were unable to get a view of the mountains at a significant distance due to the hazy weather. But here is the beginning of the Rocky's.
We stayed up in Nederland some 8500 feet above sea level. Yes, I felt the change in air pressure.
It's a very serious thing to invite a family of 11 to camp in your home!

We saw a lovely rainbow that night!
Speaking of neat things I want. This is one of those little ore carts. I'd think it would be jolly good fun to have a whole track around the outside of your house. This one was turned into a flower pot of sorts.
Pictures do not do the Rocky's justice. They are absolutely incredible.

Galadriel has a knack for arranging flowers (she gets this knack from Grandma... not from me). She loved the wildflowers we found along one of our many walks.
Pippin asleep again anywhere but his own bed!
Pippin and Sasha

We stayed in a lovely home!
While Aragorn attended a conference, the rest of us drove up into the mountains.
Simply gorgeous.
We went to a trail that is a mild hike up the mountain.
Not too inviting knowing that there are wild mountain lions in the woods. There were instructions on what to do for these as well as black bears. I'm glad we didn't encounter any however one child was sure he saw "something" on top of a big rock "What did it look like?" "A big cat".
Hiking along.

Several enjoying God's Majesty
Pippin "I up eer"
This is a view of the highest peak in Colorado, some 14,400+ feet above sea level.
This incredible stone building is situated under the great mountain. I was told that the late Pope John Paul II stayed here.
Lunch at Estes Park
We were tickled when this Mule Deer walked right by us as we ate our lunch.
A little more hiking around.

We looked across the valley to the mountain on the others side. If you look carefully you can see the roads that go back and forth across the mountain. That is what we drove up after lunch.
A Magpie, something we don't see in our neck of the woods. We also saw a Colorado Jay.

Going up on to the Tundra

Science lesson! What causes the Dorito bag to puff up so the bag is hard? This also happened to our marshmallow bag giving a whole new meaning to "stay puff marshmallows"! (check off one day of science with this lesson) It is common for flatlanders to suffer alititude sickness due to the high elevations. The children all seemed perfectly fine but their ol' mother felt it somewhat. Though nothing that a little more water didn't take care of. We learned that up in the mountains you need a whole lot more water.
Playing in the snow!

Because this is up in the tundra which is above the tree line and it is so hard to grow things, there are warnings all over the place to keep your feet off the tundra. Someone said that it can take up to 50 years to re-grow ruined tundra.
I did the driving up to the peak of a mountain. It was by far the scariest thing I have ever done. There are no shoulders on the road and in places the road just ends and things just drop right off. I hugged that double yellow line believe me! The absolute worst was when both sides dropped off. It was worth the drive though! We reached an altitude of nearly 12,000 feet above sea level. Oxygen anyone?

This was just a neat dam we passed on our way out of town.
Driving up through Wyoming.
"What makes the roads red?"
Give me a home where the antelope roam...
We made a quick stop in WY and the children's stretched their legs a bit. It was 102 degrees and exceedingly dry.
Crazy Horse carving still in the works in South Dakota.
Mount Rushmore
It really is pretty incredible.


All 50 state flags
Here is a bust of the man who began the carving of Mount Rushmore... pity he died just before its completion!
A typical sign as we drove through the mountains.

Custer State Park was incredible. There were many corkscrew roads and bridges.
Very narrow tunnels.
I'm not sure why I find holes in rocks so intriguing.
The beautiful Black Hills

Setting up our tents for our first night of real camping.
Bilbo trying his hand at mountain climbing.
All set up
An old mine shaft.
This one literally called Hole in a Wall.

Aragorn scoping it out.
Cathedral Spires

Needles Highway

Named needles for the needle-like holes made in the plates of rock.

Just climbing around
Rosie as usual with a mind of her own.
Up... up... up

Yes, they are all ours!

Pippin loves to climb... that's not surprising!
The light brown rocks are little islands in the water, it was quite a sight. Pictures might be worth a million words but seeing things is worth a whole lot more.
Badlands Loop

Bison...Such a massive creature. Of course we didnt' approach this animal as we just weren't in the mood to be gored.
Prairie dog
Badlands Loop was curvy to say the least!
More antelope
The Badlands

I'm not sure why but I just love this place, it's so interesting.
Remember the story in Little Town on the Prairie (or was it These Happy Godlen Years) when Ma's brother was in a caravan riding through the Badlands?
Very arid
The children up on a table land.
This tree just interested me, it's so wild and tangley like.
This bunny we found in the "oasis" of teh BAdlands (though I didn't see any water).
We found our very own secluded Badlands to climb. There was a trail and a permissible pass so we enjoyed wandering around rather freely for a bit.

Then while Frodo suffered a bout of motion sickness on our way to our next campsite we came up with the brilliant idea to drive up to DeSmet and see the Home of Laura Ingalls.
The site of the original house.
"Trees!" Ma said.
These are 3 of the original trees planted by the Ingalls. Two more are right behind me. Since each person planted a tree, my guess is that 1 didn't survive. These are pretty big cottonwoods now!
Interesting water tower :)
Our next campsite had an interesting labyrinth the children enjoyed walking around.
Nothing beats a beautiful sunset!
All set up again.

Our last stop was at another on-line friend of mine (who I had met in-real life before) I loved this picture of all our children (17 out of 18 present) all inside the "cage" of a trampoline!

Here's the jello!!
Thank you to the Z's for a wonderful lunch and fun playtime and of course enjoyable conversation!
Check out their waterslide!!

This day also happened to be Galadriel's 11th Birthday!
Lining up for a turn down the slide.
Crossing the Mississippi
Home Sweet Home!
When we got home the first thing Sam did was raid our garden and haul in our over-ripe produce. Here is Pippin holding a monster zucchini!
Happy Birthday Galadriel!
*Some* people in our family didn't get enough camping so they popped up our tents again for a couple nights outside. Note: I chose to sleep in my own bed!
We didn't cook outdoors on our trip afterall. The first night it was just too dry and there had been "very high" fire warnings. Knowing we'd be the first to burn down the entire state of SD and WY we skipped that idea. The next night we got to our site too late to bother. So we roasted hotdogs and marshmallows and made s'mores at home over a campfire.
Pippin enjoying as'more *before* bathtime!
The End!


  1. Fabulous pictures! It looks like it was a wonderful trip! I love how the kiddos still wanted to sleep in the tents after getting home! :)

  2. What fabulous photos of a wonderful trip!!!!!

    I love all of them and laughed out loud when I came to the Haystack! Thank you for that! :) :) :)

  3. Wow!!! What a trip!!!
    So glad everything went well!!!
    We love you...
    The Giambalvos

  4. Wow!! Just loved it!! Happy birthday to Gadriell. My Gadriel turned 11 the day before yur Gadriel. Pretty neat that we thought of the same names , at the same time!! Great m inds ....