24
Sep

Small towns have the nicest people

Keystone, South Dakota to Omaha, Nebraska

A pretty long, low key day.  Drove from South Dakota, to Iowa, to Nebraska.  The highlight, not pictured, was stopping at a small town diner where the waitress fussed over us (Isaiah especially) and where a who was heading out the door after her meal ran back to the kitchen to grab me a towel when I spilled my coke all over my lap.  Apparently her boyfriend works there and so it was no big deal.  Somehow, in the process of it all I laughingly said that it only happens when the clean clothes are limited on a trip.  She agreed and said that she finds the same thing when she is travelling to take her son to Cincinnati Shriners!  Well, we had a nice camaraderie after that!

The only other tidbit was during the first hour of the day.  I brought out the Interstate Bingo cards that Stephen had bought early in the summer.  Boy did we suddenly see Grace’s head pop up out of her screen!  She was on it!  It was a rather loud and exuberant hour, and in the end, Garnet won once and James, yes, our dear eldest, won six times!  I think we need to rig it tomorrow for better odds!  Haha!

 

Good morning, Isaiah!  He LOVED the rocking chairs out front of the hotel.

Good morning, Isaiah! He LOVED the rocking chairs out front of the hotel.

How I travel.  Map book and camera.

How I travel. Map book and camera.

An Iowa sunset through the bug-kill.

An Iowa sunset.

Samuel has become very focused on colouring today.  I don't think he's coloured this much in all his prior 6 years!  He even tucks his crayon behind his ear to hold it while he adjusts his clipboard and colouring page.  VERY cute!

Samuel has become very focused on colouring today. I don’t think he’s coloured this much in all his prior 6 years! He even tucks his crayon behind his ear to hold it while he adjusts his clipboard and colouring page. VERY cute!

South Dakota.  Very flat and Saskatchewan like in the south east.

South Dakota. Very flat and Saskatchewan like in the south east.

Isaiah was pretending to nap.  All of a sudden he burst into song along with the music that was playing... with his eyes squished shut, of course.  We burst out laughing!

Isaiah was pretending to nap. All of a sudden he burst into song along with the music that was playing… with his eyes squished shut, of course. We burst out laughing!

Early pilgrimage to the van.

Early pilgrimage to the van.

Stephen reloading the van - again.

Stephen reloading the van – again.

She's a cutie.  Curious about what's in Faith's backpack?  A sketchbook and novels, naturally.

She’s a cutie. Curious about what’s in Faith’s backpack? A sketchbook and novels, naturally.

23
Sep

Tourist by day and night

We had a later start this morning but made up for it with a full day of sight seeing. We visited Mt. Rushmore early in the day and followed it up with their light up ceremony in the evening. We really enjoyed walking the presidential trail and seeing the monument from various angles. It is truly a marvel. The evening event was exceptionally patriotic and over all we appreciated the overview of American history. There were a few statements made that smacked a bit of propaganda, however I was pleased to see our older kids pick up on it on their own. In its context it is interesting to see the American viewpoint. We appreciated the flag ceremony and presentation of active and veteran servicemen and women at the end of the day.

Midday, we went to Besr Country USA which is a drive thru animal park. I saw more bears than I have seen prior combined. Dozens. Even a full sized adult grizzly, although thankfully it was in it’s own enclosure. We saw dozens of black bears, as well as enormous elk, wolves, bison and many other animals. A very cool experience!

A surprising side trip led us to Dinosaur Park in Rapid City. We followed some signs that led to a n almost 360 degree view of the city. The surprise?  The life size yet cheezy dinosaur statues at the top of the hill.  The rest of the crew laid low in the a/c in the van.  Garnet had a photo shoot on the dinos, and Steve and I burned off some steam climbing the stairs and walking around up top. We followed this with a trip to Boston’s, the US version of BP. It seems to be a family favourite when we travel.

The gift shop at the Bear place was interesting too. Watching Samuel choose a stuffy is a highlight for me even though it is always a lengthy process. He has to stroke them all for ultimate softness, give them the hug test and finally tuck them under his arm to see if he can carry them easily. I honestly love watching it all unfold. Finding a toy for Isaiah is all about buttons he can control himself (success with a glowing, swirling thingamabob).  Grace zeroes in on the animals. This time it was a small animal figurine. She loves to display her treasures. At the light up Samuel found a junior park ranger vest with roughly a million pockets. We were sold. So much better than a back pack for him to carry his treasures.

Tomorrow is another driving day.  Mt. Rushmore was full of surprises. A fun stop over on our way to the east coast.

 

 

 

 

22
Sep

Center of the Known Universe

Billings, Montana to Keystone, South Dakota

 

Out of the buffalo, elk and venison, the elk won hands down.

Out of the buffalo, elk and venison, the elk won hands down.

Picturesque views through the bug guts. :)

Picturesque views through the bug guts. :)

Ok. Maybe not. But after a few misdirections we stopped off at the Geographical Center of the US. Photo op time. Some disgruntled travellers in our group. In the end we met a pleasant Korean War veteran who turns 90 soon and toured a teeny, tiny cabin built for a family of 9. It was maybe 150 square feet including loft and a separate parlor – children invited in by invitation only!  Our friendly guide had a good chuckle over that!

We arrived at our destination and at a pricey restaurant which received so-s reviews from our family. Isaiah felt his gourmet meal needed a little dash of something extra – ketchup. :/ Ah well, can’t always know ahead.

Settling in for the night. Busy day tomorrow.

 

21
Sep

Wild, Wild West

image image imageCouer D’Alene, Idaho to Billings, Montana

Another day focused on driving. I took a bunch of scenic photos with my big camera but as usual, the site is getting the dregs from my phone. :)

The kids are still doing really well. Isaiah is definitely a year older and needs more entertaining but screen time and kid meal toys help.  Samuel is happy to walk in his updated boots and the four oldest are definitely a team. So far so good!

Oh and the last photo is hard to see, but as we crossed the crosswalk a quad came driving up to the light. This town is such a mix. It has a hundred thousand people, is smaller in numbers than we are used to, feels more urban and yet has a quad on a Main Street and a side by side on another. Feels a bit like the Wild, Wild West.

20
Sep

Free to Play

image imagePortland, Oregon to Couer D’Alene, Idaho

We arrived safely after a semi-short driving day (9 hours including stops).  The kids were looking forward to this stop because they were going to have the chance to play in a favourite park (built like a wooden fort right on the lake) and take a swim in the pool. It was probably the warmest day yet and the pool was almost as warm as grandpa’s. We saw a bunch of dust devils (baby tornados Steve told a nervous Sam) and I was driving when we ran low on fuel. We made it but let’s jut say that it took an extra long time to fill the tank. :/  James spent some time working on his courses. He’s back to working on his college work. I’m so thankful he’s been able to join us. We really enjoy his company. I know the kids love having him back in the mix.  Overall a good day!

19
Sep

Well, that was worth the wait!

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What you can’t hear is Samuel saying, “I like walking!”  You also can’t hear the most wonderful clicking noise as his new knees activate with nearly every single step. You also can’t hear the missing squeak-thud of his crutches with each movement. Honestly such a surprise! We thought he’d just be getting a refit!

 

Oh yeah. And we drove up to Cannon Beach for lunch at Mo’s and to play on the misty, warm, soft sand.

Suddenly the appointment seems a bit more significant.  :)

Now we wait in bumper to bumper traffic. We need to drive back over to Red Robins so we can pick up a credit card we left behind. I think we’ll be ready for supper once we get there.

19
Sep

I call it…

Eight People in a Photo Booth.

 

We visited OMSI today (it was rainy) prior to waiting for Samuel’s check socket visit. That just means he had the chance to test out the working model of the new prosthesis.  It looks amazing. Well actually it’s unfinished but HE looks amazing. Nice balance.  He’s getting a bit of a stride down. Again, much stress relieved. We drove over the bridge to Vancouver, WA and ate at a Red Robins. Yum. Balloons. Followed by a visit to Target. The little boys are buddies. That means they love, they squabble, they love some more. The bigs and middles are also buddies. I always forget how they all seem to fall into their pecking order when we travel. It feels really good.

 

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17
Sep

2 Left Feet

Today Samuel and Isaiah had appointments at Portland Shriners Hospital. They both needed X-rays and Samuel needed to check in with his doctor. That rolled into a photo shoot and a trip to the mtion lab, followed by a visit to the prosthetist. Samuel has grown and they are rush ordering him a new liner and two new prosthesis for his left leg (stubby and a new socket for his tall one with the knee).  We’ll be extending our time here so that they can be made up for him. Fortunately that should allow us the chance to get to the Pacific coast and maybe the zoo or science centre or something. It would be pretty cool to touch the Pacific and Atlantic oceans twice in just over a year. Pretty unexpected. Anyway, that’s it for today. We were pretty tired tonight and ordered in food to the hotel, followed with some screen time. I think we’ll sleep pretty well tonight.

16
Sep

1/2 a burden removed already

Home to Portland, Oregon

Phew!  Day 1 down. We passed through the border and I realized at least half my stress burden was lifted. I guess I was a tad worried about explaining our extended stay. Turns out it was one of the simplest crossings we have ever had. Why am I surprised?  To top it off we looked over and saw a van with a wheelchair conversion having a thorough search done. How much clearer could it have been?  I needed the message that He’s got this.

15
Sep

Pennsylvania, here we come!

We are headed off on our second cross-continent trip tomorrow.  This time to PA via OR.  We’ll be stopping for Samuel and Isaiah to see their doctors in Portland and then drive directly east to Philadelphia so that Isaiah can begin treatment (hopefully!) there.

We have done little pre-planning in preparation for this trip across the US and honestly it will hinge on the answers we get at the first appointment in PA.  If a treatment plan is created then we stay.  If not, we take a long vacation, come right back home, hang around the East Coast where our vacation rental is paid for already, or some other plan that we have no notion of right now.  It’s all rather overwhelming to answer the kids’ questions about particulars when we really have no idea.

We do know that it is pretty amazing how things have pointed in this direction.  It *is* pretty amazing to be crossing the USA only one year after crossing Canada.  Learning Together at Home is becoming Learning Together at Home & Away.  Life is nothing but unexpected. Stephen always tells us that we live in a house but our home is wherever we are together.  I think we are setting out to prove him right!