Saturday, July 2, 2016

Day 27: The Reflection

We really did travel around the US for the last 26 days. About 7,000 miles and we did it with seven people in a Toyota Sienna van. The luggage "well" is a gift. Simply a gift. Here's how we packed it all. 
That there is six carry-on roller bags, a duffle bag, a queen sized Aero-bed, one camp mattress, one backpack (three others were in the seat area along with a travel ice chest). 

It was tight people! No lying there. But the storage capacity is honestly amazing. We rented a Suburban once on vacation and we had less luggage space. This 8 passenger beast is really just that. A Beast!

So after being on the road for nearly a month, you may be wondering how we did it. Like how do you pack for a month, how do you afford a month long trip, etc. so here's a little list of what we learned and some tips for you if you ever venture on an expedition like ours:

1. Bring hot chocolate and oatmeal packets. If you stay at a hotel WITHOUT breakfast, chances are good that you'll have a coffee maker and that's all you need! Hot water makes oatmeal and cocoa. Grab a few liquid creamers to add to your oatmeal and you're golden. 

2. Reusable water bottles. I hate paying for water. Most gas stations with soda fountains have a tab for water. Refill and stay hydrated!

3. Choose hotels wisely. On our trip, the hotels accounted for 50% of our total budget. While a Hampton Inn may be a few extra bucks than the cheapest place in town, the full breakfast that's included is worth it for our family of 5. I figure that the breakfast is worth about $40-$60 easy. Grab an extra yogurt or apple for a snack later. Kids tend to be hungry five minutes after eating right?

4. Try and skip a meal. We tended to eat a late lunch/early dinner and have some snacks throughout the day. This ended up resulting in a grand total of about $70 a day spent in food. That seems pretty good to me for a family of 5. 

5. Pack for a week and do laundry. Many hotels have washers and dryers and you're just gonna have to do it. There's no way you can pack for a month. 

6. Write a blog! Sometimes we were tired and it was a chore from time to time, but it was also fun getting the kids involved in it. This was a really fun part of our trip and afterward we realized that we wished that we had done this for ALL of our trips! What a great way to remember the trip and keep track of how you spent your days. 

Thanks again for reading everyone! Until the next trip!

Day 26: The Long Haul Home

We got on the road early today. Eager to find our beds at home. We had an eight and a half hour drive ahead of us so we grabbed a full breakfast at our Hampton Inn in Twin Falls Idaho and got on our way. Note: if you have NOT stayed at a Hampton Inn, I highly recommend it. Great quality for a fraction of higher prices hotels. 

Yup, that's our map. It was pretty simple. Highway 80 forever. And ever. And ever. We grabbed some lunch in Reno, where the kinds used their phones to find what else - a Panda Express! And us adults grabbed a Subway. We are already beginning to try and eat healthier as we transition back to normal home eating. 

After playing 7 Little Words and yelling "train" every time someone spotted a train...some people in the car may have been delirious with exhaustion, we finally saw an exciting sign. 

Oh my. For the first time in 26 days we were finally seeing our home state. There are a lot of states in this nation, but after seeing a bunch of them on this trip everyone in our car still wants to live in California. 

After emptying the car and stretching out legs, we took one final photo just like the one we took before we took off on day 1. 
We are all still smiling. We all still love each other. We know perhaps a bit more than we did about each and everyone who piled into the car day after day. We are grateful for vacations like this. We loved pretty much every minute, and we also agreed that we probably wouldn't have done it without the company of our multi-generational trip. A win-win for everyone! 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Day 25: Idaho, Niagara Falls and Flowers

As we were packing up the Sienna this morning, we found this bear left unattended at a picnic table near our cabin. 
Definitely one of those wtf moments. 

Before exiting West Yellowstone this morning we hit up a little bakery called Ernie's. It was a perfect stop for something quick to grab and head into the park - but today we we're heading to Idaho! But first, a bacon donut!

As we drove out of Montana and into Idaho, we found a field of potatoes. And they they were flowering. So we stopped. Picture time! 

We have seen fields like this before but we never seem to stop. We lived in the moment today and pulled over, jumped out of the car, and snapped away! 

Making it to Idaho in about 4 hours we went straight for our destination. Shoshone Falls. "This is the Niagara of the west." Shoshone Falls is 212 feet high—45 feet higher than Niagara Falls. Uh huh. And it's right here in the west!
And, in 1974 American daredevil Evel Knievel attempted to jump over Shoshone Falls on a rocket-powered motorcycle. He failed. You can read more here. (
I know you've probably never heard of it (we hadn't either until some friends steered us this way), but if you're ever in Twin Falls Idaho you should really stop by. So beautiful and pleasantly natural. No tourism really to be seen around these falls. 

Pretty cool stuff. We found a theatre and took in a show - The BFG - before dinner. And dinner, our last dinner of this trip. I know the blog is titled "28 Days in the Sienna," but it's gonna be 26. Mama miscounted. The hotel suggested we try out Elevation 486 so we headed over and found amazing views. 

This is just south of the falls and still has the Snake River running through this golf community. The restaurant's view is from above it all. Beautiful. Dinner was great. I started eating before the picture taking so excuse my partially eaten prime rib. 

Wonderful last dinner to wrap up our tour of eating across America. We drank wine and toasted to family and for the adventure that we've all experienced together. Todd and I were just saying yesterday that we wish we had blogged on all of our vacations. This was as much for us as it was for our family and friends following along. 

More tomorrow!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Day 24: Yellowstone and Done!

Today was our last day in Yellowstone. We finally took a picture in front of the entrance sign.  

We saw some amazing geysers and pools. Some were smelly. At least we think it was the pools...

Emily played photographer today and I snapped a quick one of her and papa sharing a moment. Such sweet times ❤️

We found Gibbons Falls in the park and snapped a few more pictures. The scenery is just gorgeous here. The pictures don't really do it justice. 

We rolled back into West Yellowstone in the early afternoon for some downtime. We found grapes, wine, and cheese. Three necessary ingredients for a good time and a light lunch. We picnicked at our cabin site. 

And dinner, well we went back to what we loved yesterday. Mexican school bus! 

Some other people had Blizzards and someone else had a cinnamon roll. As you can see, we accommodate everyone's food requests. 

And it started to rain so we are in the car. New location tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Day 23: Yellowstoning Again

We were off and running this morning! No, actually we slept in and rolled into Ernie's Bakery around 9:15. Yup, "sleeping in" on vacation means getting up at 8am. These kids will be so happy to get home and sleep in for real next week. 

Emily loves her bearclaw! She enjoys making faces like this during photo ops. 
We hit the mother lode today. 
Wow, did we see a lot of awesome some today. The colors are amazing!
You kinda get used to the smell of sulfur. Kinda...
And of course, we saw the crown jewel of geysers, Old Faithful!

We've had some rather weird eating habits on this trip and we once again ate ice cream for lunch. However, when we needed a snack, the Old Faithful General Store somehow, miraculously had the guacamole chips that Jessica loves and can't find in ANY grocery store! This is the face of a happy girl!
One of the cool historical facts that I learned today - the ash from the last volcanic eruption of Yellowstone spread over nearly half of the US. Check out this map! 
I find this stuff so facsinating. We enjoyed our time there then drove down to Yellowstone lake and enjoyed the tranquil views and wildlife!

We saw a grizzly bear from AFAR (hence no photo) and a buffalo was a little too close for some people in the car, and a little dear and elk roaming across the road. 

We found a teeter totter in a tree. Someone took a very unflattering picture of me being a goofball, but I'm posting it anyways and ignoring my selfconciousness. 

And for dinner, Yelp directed us once again! I know some have horrible experiences with Yelp, but they've really never steered me wrong with food! We found an awesome taco truck where 1/3 of the bus is the kitchen and the rest is set up with counters and benches to eat. Totally cool and the good food made it even better. 
Can you believe these twins found food that they actually liked!?! Shrimp and Spanish rice. They'll get over their aversion to good food. They will, right? 

Wave goodnight everyone!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Day 22: Yellowstone National Park

Hola Amigas and Amigos!! Tis I! The coolest Berry is the world!! You guessed it, it's a-me Emily! Get it? From Mario? 

Alrighty. Well today was pretty fun, tiring, and well, pretty fun actually! Today we went to Yellowstone. I remember Yellowstone just a little because I was like 8 when we went last. We are going to the rest of Yellowstone tomorrow but here is what we did today. 

We went to Mammoth Hot Springs. This picture is from an old army fort, Fort Yellowstone. The army actually came to Yellowstone in the late 1800's and early 1900's to protect the animals from excessive poaching. They stayed for 32 years and protected the land until the National Park Service was created by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. There were lots of elk - makes are bull elk, and females are called cows (mom, dad). So go quiz your friends, kids! Elk are very big and we were supposed to stay 25 yards (two school busses) away from them yet SOME PEOPLE didn't follow those rules. Pff, rebels. 
Next, we went to the hot springs. They smelled...okay. It's probably going to be worse for the next two days we will be in Yellowstone. The sulfur smell is a natural byproduct of the gases being released. It was very pretty. All the ombré of orange and white. 10/10 would recommend. Pictures of the actual hot springs. 
We then went to some look out points for the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. There was a lot of driving and getting out and driving and getting out, but at the end of the day it was a really good experience. 

We will keep you posted as we always do. Well, I guess I'll let you go. Have a goodnight and remember, I'm the coolest Berry. Adios mí amigas and amigos. Have a good day!

Ps) they're the twins and I'm the funny one 

Day 21: The Magnificent Mount Rushmore

Hello everybody - jessie here. I'm here to tell you about our fantastic adventure at Mount Rushmore. 

We started our day, but waking up early and getting on the road. It took us about 3 hours to get to the National Park, and we saw a lot of really cool things. Before we got to the park, we drove through some cute little towns. 

Once we got into town, we took some pictures in front of the sign. 

The park is laid out so that you park, and then walk toward the monument, while passing shops and food venders. We decided to head straight toward the monument first and shop later. 
This is the entrance. 

After taking tons of photos, we went down the stairs into the visitor center/exhibit hall. There was a small room that told you all about the creator and the process of carving the gigantic monument. 
It was all very cool to learn about. 

The main creator and designer of the monument is Gutzin Borglum. We learned a lot about him and also found a sculpture of him while looking around. 
Then we went to the gift shop and bought tons of souvenirs, including a hat for Moi!

We also had a short lunch break (which mainly consisted of ice cream) and then walked back toward the parking lot. 
Fun fact of the day! 

On the way to the parking lot (and toward the monument), you walk under these pillars that have each state and their flag.

 We found California and took a quick picture. 

We all hopped in the car and drove into a town that sculptures of all the presidents scattered across many blocks. We didn't get out, but we did snap a few photos. 
I believe this one is Abe Lincoln. 

We then continued our drive onto Billings, Montana. The drive was about 5 hours long, but wasn't too bad. 

We decided to grab some dinner once we settled into our hotel. Us 5 Berry's found a nearby Olive Garden while the grandparents relaxed in their room for the night. 

For dinner I had some wonderful pasta and the most amazing breadsticks. 
Yum! (Pure Italian right here)

After dinner, we headed to Walmart and grabbed some snacks (including wine and Cheetos) for Yellowstone. 

Tomorrow our journey continues! Thank you everyone for sticking with us! Only one more week :)

Love, jessie