Go West - Part 1

11 states.

8 days.

4300 miles.

Roadtrippers Map

Whew! Now granted a few of those states weren't really "stops" on our adventure (except for maybe snacks and a restroom) but we counted them anyway. The father-daughter adventure was a good one for so many reasons--the time, the adventure itself, first visits, and conversations. So what can I say about this adventure to help someone else on theirs?

First, I researched and planned and wrote and researched some more (another blog on my analysis paralysis problem later). I found a site---via instagram or google search; I don't recall---Nonetheless. Two Wandering Soles, a travel couple, Katie & Ben, who live in a van and had done "all the things" before and provided some great planning advice here: tripwww.twowanderingsoles.com/plan-a-trip

Second, pulling some helpful tips from the site, I downloaded the Roadtrippers app, for actually planning out the trip on a map with potential stops along the way, like historical sites, attractions, experiences, gas (including anticipated costs), "eats", and lodging (yes, it's all in the app!). I also downloaded The Dyrt app for tracking campsites near our locations. I also have airbnb, vrbo, and hotel apps for booking lodging. Using Roadtrippers, I planned a route going one way there and coming back another to cover more states. Not wanting to be bound by time or location constraints, I didn't make official plans or reservations. This comes with rewards and challenges. You'll have to decide what's best for you.

With the trip planned and the car packed, we started the adventure early. Leaving from North Mississippi, the first stop was to be Kansas to visit my son who's in college outside Kansas City. So we technically hit MS, TN, AR, and MO to get there. No sightseeing yet. After dinner with my son, we had planned to stay in Kansas City, but we both felt like continuing on. We stopped in Salina, KS - free stay with hotel points. It's an easy access city right off of I-70.

So Monday, let the road-trip adventure begin. We grabbed some breakfast and hit the road. What can I say about Kansas that you don't already know? It's flat but there are rolling hills (it will make sense when you see it. There are a LOT of cows. It's VERY windy--be careful with the cross-wind if you're pulling anything or have a larger vehicle--it blows! So it only made sense that there are windmills...hundreds. This is just a quick iphone snap my dad took as we passed by.

We hadn't planned any stops in Kansas but the Roadtrippers app was GREAT when it came to notifying us about things to see "up ahead". Did you know there's a wildlife park in the middle of Kansas? I did not. We did not stop there but it would be a great place to stop or visit if you have kids or even as adults if you have time. Due to the last few years, it may have limited hours, check before planning a trip there.

What we did see in Kansas was history. I love old churches so seeing an old steeple across field had me stopping for photos. On the north side of I-70 and once on the south side. The north side was a community (if it's even big enough to be called that) with this old church and a few old houses. St. Ann was started around 1900-1903 and St. Fidelis Church in Victoria, KS was built 1908-1911. The fact that these were built by hand plus the history these structures have witnessed and been through; it's pretty amazing.

St. Ann - Walker, KS
1908-1911 by German & German Russian Catholics - Towers are 141 ft and the foundation is 200 ft by 73 ft.
St Fidelis Catholic Church - Victoria, KS

Per the placard in front of St. Fidelis, it's also known as the Church of the Plains. The parishioners collectively contributed $132,000 to build the church. Each parishioner was required to haul six wagon loads (yes 6) of stone from the quarries in the area. Each stone block weighed 100lbs! I don't know how many stones fit in a single wagon, but that's a load! In addition to hauling and contributing money, the church members hand-placed each 100lb stone assisted only by block and tackle, which is a pulley system (not a sports play). Pretty amazing if you think about it. In 1971, the Church of the Plains was approved for the National Register of historic places as a building of architectural significance.

Back on the road heading west to Colorado. Dad and I talked about the sparseness of the population in comparison to the number of churches that we saw. While we didn't stop to see any others (had to do some work calls), there are several more along the way (see Roadtrippers app if you're on a hunt for all the churches). We also passed by several interesting and unique places that I plan to visit on my next trip--Prairie Museum, Kit Carson County Carousel, Truckhenge, The Worlds Largest Ball of Twine (we were so close), and The Worlds Largest Collection of Smallest Version of Largest Things. If you're in Kansas or planning to visit, this site has some great information. www.atlasobscura.com/things-to-do/kansas/places

So passing into Colorado, I was snapping photos and captured speedy view of Wonder Tower in Genoa, CO. It's closed now but has an interesting story. www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2050

For Colorado, I definitely recommend planning a route. There's so much to do and see. We had both been to different parts of Colorado, but I do wish we would have done more in the state. I had planned a visit to some lake the other side of Denver but it involved hiking some rocky terrain and dad had a bum knee at the time. We did stop for dinner in Idaho Springs (always a favorite little town). After dinner, coffee was calling my name. We stopped in Westbound General. Definitely recommend---Great service. Friendly staff. and fabulous coffee!!

Part of our non-planning almost got us in Colorado. We had decided to go up through the north-west side of Colorado into the southwest side of Wyoming. Construction, road closures, and last minute travel, we thought we may be sleeping in the car (which we would have been prepared). Hotels were booked, airbnb was limited, but we ended up walking into a small motel at Lake Dillon and got a room with two beds. The room was comfortable and breakfast was included the next morning. And the moonrise and sunrise views were beautiful!

So this next leg of the trip, Colorado was pretty. For a while. Lush. Green. Mountainous. Rivers. Farms. Cattle. Some horses. We ended up taking the route through Steamboat Springs--a little outside our planned route--as dad wanted to visit a store that we saw advertised via hand-painted signs for miles and miles and miles and...you get the picture. We made it to F M Light & Sons and had lunch at a little dive cafe on the main street, primarily because it was about the only thing open for lunch (early). We didn't spend much time up there but it's a nice town.

Leaving Steamboat and heading up to Wyoming, we passed through Craig, CO. There are a few things to plan ahead if you take the backroad adventure: 1. Gas (or charging...there were charging stations in Craig); 2. going off-road (as in gravel or dirt roads); and 3. no cell service. So plan your gas trips AND definitely bring up your map / Roadtrippers app while you're in civilization and DO NOT CLOSE IT. Oh, and if your maps says it's the shortest route, maybe take a look for construction or road closures as it most definitely will NOT be. Adventure awaits. Talk about wide open spaces. And antelope. They. Are. Everywhere. Hundreds. Luckily the roads are above the landscape and fences tend to keep them away from harms way, yours and theirs. But they are hard to see as they blend in with the color of the desert like fields. I never was able to get any on camera but just know to look for them.

We came into Boggs, WY and straight up to I-80 and west to Rock Springs, WY and then through Bridger-Teton Forest to Jackson, WY. Back to lush mountains, rivers, and curvy roads. Once we got to Jackson, it was booming. Super busy time of year I suppose. Once again no place to stay. But we found a great pizza place off the square. I'm not sure what it's called but looked like a converted theatre. Bar up front, open dining area, hand-fired pizza. So good!

Late night with no stays in Jackson (at least not for our budget), hotel points to the rescue again. It was just across the state line in Idaho, but, unfortunately, the "shortest route" ended up being a construction-full zone that included one lane road and lots of waiting. Note to self for future planning.

After a good nights rest and an early grab and go breakfast, we packed up and headed back to Jackson via Idaho scenic route. Some photo albums reference these areas. Driving into Grand Teton is MAGNIFICENT and I'm not even sure that truly describes the view or the feeling you get seeing it for the first time. The pictures really don't give you the sense of wonder that seeing it person does. We came in on the southwest side of Grand Teton and drove up around Jenny Lake and north around Jackson Lake and up to the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park by Yellowstone Lake. Absolutely amazing!! Photos on my site here: www.grand-teton-np.nashvilleconnected.com/

I forgot to mention earlier that I had also ordered an annual pass for all National Parks. That is a MUST DO if you plan to take adventures out west. It's $80ish, good for a year, and covers your car entrance, including up to 4 passengers (i think?), to national parks that charge an entrance fee. If any parks do not charge an entrance fee, this pass does not cover any fees associated. Side note, too, is that some parks are requiring reservations. While we didn't run into that on this trip, definitely check it out when planning your adventure. For an annual pass (and other passes) and more information about reservations or parks, start here: www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm

Yellowstone and more, coming soon. To be continued...

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