Saturday, August 16, 2014

Stilp Family Vacation 2014 - Part One of Who Knows How Many

This summer our family went on Stilp Family Vacation 2014.  It was epic.

These two could be twins.
We are officially on the road.
We road tripped from our home in Newberg, Oregon, to the rural area outside of Great Falls, Montana.  Then on to Northern Minnesota.  The Twin Cities of Minnesota.  Rapid City, South Dakota, with Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, the Badlands, and the Black Hills.  To Jackson, Wyoming, and the Grand Tetons.  And finally home again.

4,537.8 miles in 15 days.  (But who's counting?)

All six of us in our trusty Sequoia. Plus all our junk that grew exponentially and became harder and harder to contain the longer we were on the road.

Not only did we live to tell about it, we LOVED it.

Road trips are a mixed bag.  Usually they involve high highs and low lows.  We embark on a family road trip praying the high high's eventually outweigh the low low's making it worth all the effort and time in the end.  This was our perspective heading into this vacation.

But our kids were ROCK STARS!

Seriously.  ROCK STARS!

We've been home for a month and I still can't get over how amazing they were on this trip.

4,537.8 miles in 15 days is A LOT of time in the car.  For anyone. Especially me because I can't sit still to save my life and I get stir crazy and slap happy in the car.

4,537.8 miles times six strong willed, feisty human beings can be a recipe for disaster. But these kids of ours grabbed the opportunity and ran with it.  We've had trips to the grocery store that were worse than all 15 days combined.  Thank you Jesus!
First Rest Area Family photo of the trip.  Just into Montana from the Idaho panhandle.
The kids played on their electronic devices.  Listened to music.  Played creative make-believe games.  Read books.  Drew or colored.  Looked out the window as the beautiful United States of America unfolded before our eyes.  Talked.  Sang.  Car danced like a boss.  And had a blast.

When they got sick of each other, they grabbed all their junk and switched seats at the next stop.  By the end of the trip all four of them had sat in different seats and by each sibling.

They didn't sleep in the car either with three rare exceptions.  I couldn't believe it.  What kid doesn't sleep in the car?

Our kids adapted to changing time zones.  Different foods.  Constantly changing schedules.  New faces.  New environments.  New everything.  And they did it with very little complaining and a lot of joy.
Eastern North Dakota Scenic View Point
Curt and I fell in love all over again with each of them.  It was awesome!

The only big thing we did differently on this road trip was to give them spending money.

At the start of our trip we gave each kiddo $52 in cash.  $50 cause that was the amount we decided on.  And then Curt gave them each a $2 bill that he had saved from trips to see his grandma when he was a kid.  We told the kids they could spend the money any way they chose over the course of our trip but when it was gone, it was gone.

Gas station candy and pop?  Sure.

Souvenirs from the gift shops along the way?  Sure.

Toys and dolls?  Sure.

Yes.  Yes.  and Yes.

You spend your $52 however you want.  Whenever you want.

Man did that cut down on whining and badgering every time we stopped.  It also taught our kids money management, and it was so fun to observe how and when they chose to spend it.

Katie is a saver.  She came home with almost her entire wad of cash, spending only a few dollars over the course of the entire trip.

Paige - who has no source of income and NEVER has money to spend - was like a kid on Christmas morning.  She carefully selected candy and gatorade at every gas station along the way.  Bought books (her favorite hobby is reading) at Wall Drug and in the gift shop at Mt. Rushmore.  Ran out of money with four days left to go, but we all loved watching her spend it so much that we kept slipping her extra dollars so we could keep watching her spend it.  (A benefit of being the baby - everyone thinks you're irresistible!)

Grant spent all his money on junk food, except one poster that he bought at Mt. Rushmore.  He was down to a handful of coins by the time we rolled into our driveway.

Alli was a mix of Katie's saving and Paigey and Grant's spending.  She came home satisfied because she had saved a handful of money, bought a lot of candy along the way, and splurged on a journal in the Grand Tetons.

Watching them use their spending money was a highlight of the trip for me.

Here are some other Road Trip highlights.

Curt planned our trip to have a few really long traveling days so that once we reached our destination we could have several days in one spot.  It was genius planning but made for some really LONG days in the car.

The first monster day of driving we had was from Jordan, Montana, to Northern Minnesota - about 14 hours in the car.  When we crossed into North Dakota we all got a little stir crazy so Curt pulled over at a Scenic Viewpoint for us to stretch our legs.  When it was time to get back in the car, Grant gave Paige a piggyback ride back to the car.  We overheard him saying, "Delivering one Boopa," as he carefully deposited her back in the car.  It was so sweet.
"Delivering one Boopa."
But she didn't stay in the car long because Katie spontaneously started dancing on the side of the road.  And then all the kids joined her.  They shook it on the side of the interstate - with NO MUSIC - and we all laughed until we almost cried.  The sun was really bright and it cast really stark shadows making for some cool pictures too.  No one wanted to get back in the car.

all you gotta do is bust a move...

Days later we made a similar stop In the Middle of Nowhere, South Dakota.  We'd been driving for hours and hours and hours and hours through southeastern Minnesota and South Dakota farmland.  Mile after mile after mile of flat farmland all day long.  We were all mind-numbingly bored with a few hours still left to drive.  When we saw a sign for a Scenic Viewpoint we stopped.  What a treat.  This viewpoint was in the start of the Badlands.  Vast expanses of fields with plateaus in the distance. The kids busted a move in the fields with grasses dancing in the breeze and a summer storm moving in.  It was such a welcome break.

These images are straight out of the camera - I haven't had time to edit them yet.
Twenty minutes later, the storm came with full force.  Driving rains.  Winds so strong that we could feel them trying to move the Sequoia.  Awesome clouds.  Thunder.  Lightening.  And then the most amazing double rainbow.  Curt pulled off to the side of the road and I grabbed my camera.  Rain pelted my face.  Wind almost blew me over.  And I got to stand on the side of the interstate and take pictures of a double rainbow shining brightly over a parked train in the Badlands.  Someone pinch me!
WOW!  #mightycreatorgod
On the same South Dakota Driving Day we stopped at a rest area.  It had a giant museum filled with Lewis and Clark information and everything that makes Curt oh-so-excited.  It even had a map that he was looking for and couldn't wait to purchase.  And... it was closed.  He peered in all the windows.  Tried all the doors. Then collapsed on the grass in frustration.  We all joined him, laughing at our bad luck.  We decided we could whine and be sad, or enjoy the lush grass on our legs and the welcome relief from the sun that the shade provided.  We chose joy, and because it's 2014, we took a selfie.
How we originally felt
we choose joy.
On our last day we drove from Jackson, Wyoming, all the way to Newberg.  We came down Dead Man's Pass and eventually saw the mouth of the Columbia River.  The Gorge is our favorite and a sign that we were within hours of being home so we threw a little party.  Curt cranked the music and we all started car dancing.  Windows down.  Arms flailing.  Singing at the top of our lungs.  Another family drove by, honked, and waved.  It was fun to pass our joy on to someone else.

Stilp Family Vacation 2014 was pretty dang awesome.

Thank you Stilp Kids for choosing joy, even through some really long days.  You guys are awesome!

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