Hey guys! Sorry about the annoying center alignment on this entire post. Not sure what's going on. I tried to fix it several times but couldn't. I'll see if I can figure it out tomorrow.
So, you guys have probably given up on my post about my trip to Montana and South Dakota, but I've finally managed to get to it. Thanks for your patience. :)
This past week and weekend ended up being totally nuts. We had one of Oldest Gal's friends spend the night on Friday and also had a school Christmas activity at the local Barnes and Noble that night. On Saturday, there was a craft day at the church for the girls and a doll club Christmas party for me. I wrote a doll-related Christmas story and took photos to use for the illustrations for the gift exchange, but didn't finish putting it together until Saturday morning. Then, Saturday evening, my girls got an incredible opportunity to sing a trio for one of our local TV stations. It was amazing and terrifying all at the same time, but I'm so glad the girls were able to experience it. Sunday was Sunday School, church, lunch with family and the new pastor's family, Christmas program practice, and a piano prelude before the evening service, which both Middle Gal and Little Gal played for. Yesterday was another physical therapy appointment. The rest of it was clean the house/attempt to catch up on laundry day, and last night was my writers' group Christmas party.
Today, I must confess, I mostly sat around in my pajamas and ended up watching Studio C videos on YouTube for most of the day. :} I kind of needed a veg-out day. ;)
This week, we have choir practice and Awana on Wednesday night, the school Christmas program on Thursday night (Middle Gal and Little Gal both have speaking parts and Oldest Gal is singing with the middle school choir), and our major practice for the church Christmas program on Saturday. The church program is this coming Sunday night.
Oh, and at some point during this week, I need to get my Christmas cards sent off. :}
By next Monday, the craziness will slow down a bit and I can start packing for Christmas. ;)
All that to say, as bad as I've been at posting, I really have had some valid excuses. ;) I had all sorts of grand plans for December posts, but family came first, which is as it should be. ;) It's so easy to get lost in the crazy spin cycle of the holidays. Blogging kind of had to sit on the back burner for a while.
But enough of my rambling explanations. On to the post! :)
Our trip to Montana by way of South Dakota marked my first ever multi-state road trip. It was exciting and overwhelming at the same time. All I can say is that I have awesome in-laws. I know there aren't too many people out there who would willingly climb into a six-seater truck with their in-laws and three kids for two straight ten-hour days, five days in a frozen, snowy camp with more in-laws and various relations, and then another two ten-hour days back home. But Hubby's family is pretty amazing. As with any trip, there were a few times that were a little stressful or overwhelming. But I can say that overall I had a wonderful trip and really enjoyed spending time with this amazing, fun family I married into. I only wish Hubby could have come with us, too. That would have made it the perfect trip.
To get to Montana, we drove through part of Northern California on to Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. Then we popped over the South Dakota border to stay in Hot Springs before moving on to Ekalaka, Montana.
Since this was my first time seeing all of these states (except California and Nevada), I found the changes in scenery beautiful and fascinating. There's something so invigorating about seeing places you've never seen before and expanding your knowledge of the world. I love the fact that I can now picture the places I've been when people talk about them. I got some great inspiration for story locations, too. ;)
It's been a while since the trip, so I'm second guessing myself on the actual location of some of these pics. :} I'm 99.9% sure these first ones are in California and then right at the California/Nevada border. ;)
As you guys know by now, I love taking a doll or toy with me on my trips to make documenting my travels a little more fun. This time, because our space was so limited and the trip was so long, I didn't like the idea of lugging a full-sized doll with me. My ordinary second choice would be a Zelf, but my mother-in-law REALLY doesn't like them. For that reason, I decided to bring two mini dolls along instead. ;) However, in the future, mini Grace will NOT be coming with me. Her hair got really messed up on the trip. Mini Saige's stayed in a perfect braid. :)
Mini Saige and Mini Grace hanging out on the dashboard.
Our first stop (non-documented) was in Susanville, CA, but our lunch stop was at a little truck stop in Nevada (pictured above).
Saige and Grace helped themselves to some of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches Mom P made for the trip. :)
More pretty scenery in Nevada:
By the time we got to Utah, it was getting dark, so we drove through the state without seeing much of anything on the way over.
We stopped at a little hotel in Evanston, Wyoming, just beyond the border of Utah. Mom and Dad P paid for this nice room with three double beds. Middle Gal and I shared a bed the first night, and Oldest Gal and Little Gal shared another bed. In retrospect, putting those two together in the same bed probably wasn't my smartest move. They did manage to get to sleep after a while, but there was a bit of arguing over covers and sides of the bed. ;) On the way back, I shared a bed with Little Gal instead. That worked a lot better for the other girls. :)
Saige, Grace, and Middle Gal's new little baby doll, Jeanie, all thought the bed was quite comfortable.
Our little sink and mirror area.
There were lots of little lotions, shampoos, and soaps.
We had a lovely continental breakfast early the next morning. Jeanie helped Middle Gal with her breakfast...
...and Rose (Little Gal's baby doll) helped Little Gal with hers.
One of our first stretch and potty stops in Wyoming was at Little America. It has a gift shop, nice bathrooms, and an outdoor playground. It was super cold, but the girls still tried the playground out. And we all got pictures next to this friendly buffalo statue. :)
I know it's weird to take pictures of a toilet, but I loved the fact that each stall at Little America was completely enclosed, and found myself wishing we had public restrooms like these in California. Until the way back, when we stopped there again, and I kept waiting for Little Gal to get out of the bathroom, only to realize she was outside in the gift shop with her grandparents. Those little rooms are really sound proof. Of course, if you're calling someone that's not really there, that doesn't help the situation. :}
Wyoming had some beautiful scenery, too:
Here was our first look at Independence Rock, a national landmark.
Mini Saige posed by the sign out front.
A sign about the landmark. The rock has the names of pioneers who traveled the Oregon Trail carved at the top.
Dad P decided he wanted to climb to the top, so we all got a chance to stretch our legs and walk.
All three girls started up the rock with Dad, but Little Gal got scared partway up. Mom and I had decided against climbing, so the two of us and Little Gal took the scenic route around the bottom.
I couldn't believe how smooth and sheer it was! Moment of honesty, here: I was terrified the entire time the girls were up there with Dad. I prayed that they wouldn't slip and dash their heads open on the rocks, or break a leg, or suffer any other sort of bad injury. See those little specs at the top of the rock in this picture? One of those is my father-in-law, the other is Oldest Gal. Middle Gal had already disappeared over the top by the time I took this picture.
I took a few pictures to distract myself, one of them being the trivia picture I included in my earlier post. Did any of you guess Independence Rock as Mini Saige's location? :)
In spite of my worry, all three of my family members made it safely down the rock. Middle Gal immediately told me how she slipped and fell at the top, but didn't slide down at all. I tried not to have a heart attack. ;) The hardest part was standing below, watching her and Oldest Gal come down and hoping I wouldn't have to try to catch them if they fell.
In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't let my fears keep them from the experience. Middle Gal talked about how amazing it was for the rest of the week. As my usually non-brave child, it was a big step for her to do something so challenging. I was very proud of her, and thankful she (and Oldest Gal) returned to me in one piece. ;)
Scenery from our walk back to the truck:
After Independence Rock, we still had a very long way to drive.
We entertained ourselves by taking doll photos:
We also listened to a LOT of audio books and audio dramas over the course of the four days of travel. Our favorites were Adventures in Odyssey, Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims, The Four Story Mistake, and Heidi. :)
Sunset in Wyoming.
We stopped for dinner in a little cafe in Lusk, Wyoming. It was nice to get out of the truck for a bit and have a real meal. It helped us get through that last leg to Hot Springs.
We arrived in Hot Springs late that evening and went straight to the Historic Log Cabins Motel where we would stay for the next two nights. Hubby's nephew and his wife and new baby girl live in a cute little cabin at the motel, so it was fun to be right there where they live. It was also wonderful to get to meet our new little great niece for the first time. :)
I never ended up getting pictures of the outside, but here are some of the interior. We stayed in the "John Wayne Ranch House", which had two bedrooms and a shared bathroom.
This is the room Middle Gal, Little Gal and I shared:
And here's a look at the room Oldest Gal shared with Mom and Dad P. It only looked that messy because we'd just unpacked all of our stuff. ;)
Grace and Saige tried out the bed...
...and the nightstand, and gave their approval.
We slept wonderfully that night and woke to a beautiful blanket of snow the next morning.
Our plan that day was to visit my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. They live just a few miles away from the hotel in this log cabin they built themselves.
The girls were thrilled to be surrounded by so much snow and spent the entire day outdoors, building snowmen, having snowball fights, and playing with their older cousin.
Their cousin, who is eighteen, was a complete sweetheart, and spent most of the day outside with them.
He helped them build their snowman and even built them this two-room snow fort. According to a recent text from my brother-in-law, this is still standing in their yard. :)
Saige and Grace decided to check it out for themselves. It was a full-sized igloo for them. :) You can see the girls stash of snowballs inside. ;)
The entrance to the other room.
I did a fun dolly photo shoot. Taking pics in the snow is super rare for me, so it was a lot of fun. ;)
We had a wonderful time visiting with family and reconnecting. Unfortunately, Mom P got a really bad cold and spent most of this day resting. But thankfully, it was much better by the next day. Which was a good thing, since we had to drive four hours to our next destination: Ekalaka.
Little Gal playing with my brother and sister's cat. She was a super friendly kitty, and the girls all loved her.
I think she liked Little Gal's warm jacket, too! :)
Our trip to Montana was cold and snowy, but thankfully, there wasn't too much snow on the roads.
I hadn't realized how little in the way of towns and rest stops would be in between Hot Springs and Ekalaka. Thankfully, none of us had a problem needing a bathroom break. ;)
We stayed at Trail's End Ranch, a camp where the wedding reception was to be held. This worked out great for us. There were cabins for us to sleep in, a camp kitchen for us to cook and prepare food, and even a laundry room to wash our clothes. The whole place was covered in beautiful, fresh snow that was just starting to melt when we left five days later. :)
Here's a shot of the cabin where most of our family stayed. We were in the room on the far right on the top story.
The view from our balcony.
And Mini Saige on the balcony railing. ;)
I didn't manage to get a picture of the whole inside of our cabin, but here is my bed. ;)
There was a beautiful grouping of aspen trees just across the road from our cabin.
And that gave me the idea for another photo shoot. See, I knew that we would probably be in some snow, and I knew that my Snowanne Snow Leopard Zelf would look adorable posed in the snow, so I stowed her away in my suitcase for the trip. ;) I teasingly "confessed" to Mom P on my way out. ;)
One thing I discovered is that taking your gloves off in 15 degree weather is not exactly recommended, even if you want to get that perfect shot on your cell phone. After ten minutes, I couldn't feel my pinkies and decided that I'd gotten enough photos. ;) I love how they turned out, though.
I meant to get a picture of the dining hall, which was where we spent most of our time, but this was the closest I got, apparently. ;) I was trying to get a picture of the beautiful icicles on the tree branches. ;)
And here's a view of the dining hall from behind. There was extremely limited cell service at the camp, so I had to climb this ginormous hill behind the dining hall to call Hubby. ;)
A couple more shots from the hill.
We spent Thanksgiving Day at the camp, along with a crowd of probably around fifty others. My nephew's bride's family and friends made up most of the group. It was crazy but fun. :)
Two days after Thanksgiving was the wedding.
One of the few pics I managed to take of myself during this trip. This was on the way to the wedding. :)
The wedding was lovely, simple and rustic. This aspen archway was handmade by the bride's brothers. My brother-in-law performed the service. He's now officiated the weddings of two out of his three sons, which has been such a joy to him.
This wedding was one of those "I can't believe how time flies" events for me, because the groom was the ring bearer in our wedding. I was so glad I was able to be there to share in this special time.
Some of the reception decorations.
The bride and groom had cheesecake instead of regular cake. The cheesecakes were all made by the bride ahead of time and frozen for the big day. They were delicious. :) My nephew's new wife is pretty awesome. She cooks, hunts, fixes cars, and is generally amazing. ;)
A lovely sunset at the camp.
Most of the other pictures I got of our trip I will refrain from sharing here because they have people in them. I wish I could fully express the joy I felt in reconnecting with family members I hadn't seen in a long time and meeting family members I'd never personally met before.
Aside from the happiness of sharing in such a special day in my nephew's life, there was the happiness of spending individual time with so many of my husband's family. I connected with one of my sister-in-laws in a way I'd never had the opportunity to before. I could easily have spent another two whole days just chatting with her. Our visits were like a breath of fresh air. I never feel more relaxed, more able to just be myself, than when I'm with her and my brother-in-law. :)
I also got the chance to spend time with my other wonderful sister-in-law, who moved away from California over a year ago. It was great to have a chance to visit and catch up with her, too.
I loved having the luxury of five days together, because it gave me the unique opportunity to visit with so many of them in a way I usually don't get to. My husband's family is super special. So is my brother-in-law's family, who came for the wedding. I'd never met most of them, but loved their fun, outgoing ways. They reminded me a lot of my own family.
While there's always a level of comfort with your own family that is hard to achieve in your spouse's family, I am blessed to have the comfort and enjoyment I do with Hubby's family. They've always welcomed me with open arms and have made me feel like a natural family member, not just a family member by marriage. I know that's a rare gift, and it's one that I treasure more than I can say.
All too soon, it was time to say goodbye, and we started the long trek home. The roads were snowy, but Dad P did a great job navigating them, and we got through the snow without any problems.
More of snowy Montana:
And Wyoming, which seemed never-ending (but still beautiful) at this leg of the journey:
We stopped again at Little America and enjoyed the beautiful Christmas lights. The girls did NOT play on the playground this time. It was way too cold.
Inside the gift shop at Little America.
We made it back to the same hotel in Evanston our first night, where snow and ice greeted us again in the morning:
This was the day that probably dragged on the longest. By this time, we were really ready to be home. We finished our audio books and enjoyed the lovely scenery. At this point in the trip, I was not feeling particularly inspired to take doll pictures, so that's why they didn't make an appearance in these photos. ;)
We actually got to see some of Utah this time through, including the Great Salt Lake.
Oldest Gal taking photos. She's getting way too grown up! ;)
I can't even tell you how wonderful it was to come back home, to see Hubby again, and to sleep in my own bed for the first time in a week.
The only thing that wasn't nice about the return was the laundry. ;)
In summary, I thought I'd jot down a few particularly memorable things about this trip that I don't want to forget. :)
-Getting to be there for my nephew's wedding and watching them ride off into the sunset...literally. ;)
-Meeting my adorable great-niece for the first time. :D
-Connecting with family, especially my sister-in-law.
-Watching "Inside Out" with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, nephews, niece, great-niece, and daughters.
-Oldest Gal and Middle Gal's opportunity to climb Independence Rock with their grandpa.
-Watching the live-action version of Cinderella with the girls, my oldest sister-in-law, and the girls' cousins.
-Watching my brother-in-law's family dance and have fun together at the wedding reception.
-Playing Foosball with my sister-in-law, Oldest Gal, and one of my nieces. :)
-Surprising my nieces with a care package of gifts.
-Watching my daughters each take a turn zip lining. :)
-Sharing Thanksgiving Day with a roomful of people.
Things that Saved Me from Turning into an Icicle:
-My down jacket from Goodwill.
-My partial wool socks and thermal shirt from Hubby.
-My knit hat (this also saved me from displaying my greasy hair to the rest of my family...gotta love soft water). ;)
-My fur-lined boots from Target.
-My gloves, borrowed from my sister-in-law (the one who married my brother). :)
Things that Saved My Girls from Turning into Icicles:
-Coats, hats, gloves, and snow pants borrowed from my dear friend.
-Thermal shirts and pants from Hubby.
-Some of my partial wool socks. :)
I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into our trip. We had a wonderful time and made so many wonderful memories. I'm so thankful it worked out for us to go. So far I'm three for three with niece and nephew weddings. I hope I can keep my record. :)