Destinations with Daughters – Waning West – Life on the Road

I know some of you are probably wondering what spending so much time alone with my teenage daughter was like – especially for 70+ hours in the car.

Well, I can tell you that is was fabulous! Char is easy going, and neither one of us are drama people, and all this time in the car, and together in general, allowed for some great topics of conversation. Over the past 10 days we have discussed in detail; eating disorders, boyfriend relationships, friendships, future plans after high school, slavery, the American Revolution (thank you, Hamilton – I love talking history), democracy, liberty, responsibilities of citizens, credit cards, financial responsibility, and how to love people even when they are frustrating.

I won’t say that she wasn’t hard to get up a few days (especially when she had to be on line for school at 5am Pacific time), and never mentioned being tired, but all in all, she was a great sport for the activities and experiences we had planned and game for it all with joy!

Now, I do not want you to think everything is always perfect – I admit to being very blessed in my life with my kids and hubby, and the ONLY point of contention we had was the night of the rodeo. I told her it was 7pm-9pm – so when it was 9pm she had it in her mind that we would be done (and Char is a very literal person) – BUT it was the first rodeo of the season and the schedule was running behind. Well, they hadn’t gotten to the part I was looking forward to most; the barrel racing. So, Char started to fuss about it a bit and even saying she would wait in the car for me (yeah, right!) so I got ticked and we left.

After some reflection and stewing about it, I decided that if there is a situation like this again, I will not cave in. I was not asking her to be unreasonable or unsafe and it was important to me that we stay. And I do think she would have enjoyed it. If this is the only thing I have to gripe about, I will take it gladly.

We all learn lessons through life – and this was one for me and for Char. I hope we find another rodeo!

I am really looking forward to our drive home – and NOT because I am looking to leave my in-laws!!! We just had so much fun on our drive out and I know we will have some even cooler experiences as we make our way home. I hope you’ll join us on our journey eastward. Until then, we wish you a New Year that is full of joy, happiness, and health!!!

Destinations with Daughters – Waning West – The Tally

Some folks think that domestic travel is inexpensive. I can tell you that it is not. There are certainly ways to cut costs, and the money and language do not create a comfort zone barrier as they can in other countries, but US travel is expensive.

I have been sharing our costs and daily details not only to provide a bit of Jeopardy trivia, but also to give you and idea of what it might cost for YOU to make a similar trip (which I am fully equipped to help you do).

We decided to take the more expensive of our two vehicles (we took the RAV4 which has all-wheel/4-wheel drive instead of our Prius) for comfort but moreso for safety – the Prius is not known to do well in snow and we did have plenty of opportunity to drive in snow during our northern westbound trip.

I packed TONS of snacks and a cooler full of breakfast options for us and every day we either packed our lunch or Char made it for us while I was driving, with the exception of our lunch in Leavenworth. We paid for two breakfasts (at Yellowstone) and had three provided for us at the B&Bs we stayed in and for dinner, one night we ate at Olive Garden, four nights we ate in and cooked, one night (our expensive meal) we ate at Yellowstone, one night we got McDonalds and one night we did takeout. Dinner was by far our most expensive meal since it always required us to get some type of food – but the other meals we really saved.

We did purchase some travel trinkets on the road, but our other non-essential expenditures were our cross country ski trip ($117), the reindeer farm ($42), and a number of gifts we bought for family for Christmas here in Washington.

All told, here is our trip by the numbers.

Total miles driven = 3876

Total hours on the road = 71.5

Total States driven through/in = 16

Gas total = $360.33

Total food purchased = $433.64

Hotel and B&B stays = $1335.07

Trinkets and non-essential expenditures = $608

TOTAL for 10 days of cross country travel for two people = $2,737.04

I know this is not an insignificant sum, but compared to some other expenses we have happily accepted for recent trips, this one is WAY worth it (we loved our stay in Charleston – the Governor’s House Inn was a HUGE splurge for us because our original trip was to Europe, so we stuck with the same budget – and those four nights in Charleston were approximately $2000.00)

This was about $137/per day/per person – FAR less expensive than a nice all inclusive AND the best part?

70.5 hours in the car with my teen age daughter – priceless! (I write about this in another blog coming shortly…)

Take the road trip. LIVE your life. And this has absolutely nothing to do with COVID and convincing people to not be afraid – this is a LIFE thing! How many opportunities do we miss out on because of fear? I will not live that way and I truly hope to instill a sense of responsible adventurism in my kids. One of my all time favorite movie lines is from Shawshank Redemption when Andy Dufresne tells his buddy Red that folks should, “Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin'”. I will live.

PS – my sister has a 3 year old and 5 year old and for her, the thought of being STUCK in a car with her little angels for this amount of time is paramount to purgatory – someday, Becks – the road trip will be for you, too. Love you!

Destinations with Daughters – Waning West – Day 9

Today is our last full day “on the road”, although we really aren’t traveling. We are spending the day in Leavenworth, WA enjoying the adorable town and then going to visit Santa and his reindeer at a nearby farm.

I love traveling because I learn so much….did you know that this cute little Bavarian town used to have a western feel? In the late 1960s, this old western town was severely feeling the loss of income and tourists when the rail industry decided it was done dealing with frequent avalanches in the area and moved their route around the town/region. So, in 1967, the BAVARIAN town was born out of necessity to sustain a booming industry of tourism. And boy did they hit the nail on the head.

I also want to give a huge shout out to our hosts here at Haus Rohrbach Pension. This adorable chalet, dropped right into this little Bavarian wonderland, was custom built in 1978 by the original owners after they toured the Bavarian regions in Germany. They saw an opportunity to capitalize on the thematic genius of this tourist town, bought 13 acres on a mountainside, and built Haus Rohrbach Pension (they were a family with 12 children – the hills are alive with the Sound of Music, anyone?). Mike and Carol, the current owners, visited this little slice of paradise through the years and purchased the property in 2000.

They have carried on many of the traditions that came before them and improved on others (breakfast is Mike’s “engineered” version of the Dutch Baby – his is magnificent with a soufflé feel that is light and airy, yet filling and wholesome! Top that off with Carol’s home made raspberry preserves and breakfast is a thing of wonder). One feels as though they have entered a travel warp when they step inside this B&B – if I didn’t know better, I would think I was in Bamburg or Wurzburg, Germany on my river cruise again! When you step inside the quaint en-suite rooms, you may first get the impression that they are dated – but I can tell you from experience that they are SPOT ON with what you find in the Bavarian/Alpine regions for accommodations for travelers. If you have an opportunity to visit these fine folks, do not miss out! Oh and in addition to the amazing breakfast, they offer nightly desserts! Visit them at

This morning we headed to town to get some daylight snapshots of Leavenworth and also pick up a few gifts. We got some gluhwein – mulled wine served warm on a cold winter’s day – and enjoyed an al fresco lunch! I HAD to have bratwurst and sauerkraut (and rosemary sea salt fries) – and even though I am not a beer drinker, when in Rome….or Bavaria.

To top off this wonderful day, we visited the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm and fell in love! Not only were there chickens, draft horses, and reindeer, there were tiny ponies that just wanted to snuggle! Hubby – when can we get a farm?

Tomorrow we reach Babue and Papa’s house (Kelly’s mom and dad) and the “Waning West” part of our journey will be done. BUT, we still have our easterly travels to make – so don’t go far! Also, before the New Year, I’ll post a recap of our westward adventures to include a cost total and my favorite bits and pieces!

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Today’s food expenses – $75.00

Gifts for family and a few souviniers – $309

Reindeer Farm – $42.00

Destinations with Daughters – Waning West – Day 8

We left the Glacier area around 8:30 this morning to head further west. Our journey took us back through some mountains and valleys to Flathead Lake, Montana – and WOW – how beautiful!

Just off the western arm of the lake on route 28 I fell in love with a valley – I think this has to be my next home.

We hit the beautiful mountains of Idaho with the border crossing and crossing into the Pacific Time Zone. It is strange that there is a place where at the very same time it is 10am one foot to the east and 9am one foot to the west. Humans sure do try to control everything!

As we came out of the mountains we rolled into Washington (and this stinkin’ border sign was IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HIGHWAY – our last stinkin’ state sign of our journey west and it was in the middle – OY VEY!) and reacquainted ourselves with prairie lands. The vastness and diversity in our country’s topography has never been lost on me, but during this trip I have truly marveled at how one minute we can be cruising down a snow covered mountain pass and the next making our way through “amber fields of grain”.

We arrived in Leavenworth, Washington around 4pm Pacific Time. We checked into our Bed and Breakfast, met our hosts and boogied down into town to get a bite to eat. I don’t know if you have ever heard of Leavenworth, but it is a little Bavarian town plopped down in the middle of the Washington mountains. It is ridiculously adorable and during the Christmas season, it is ridiculously busy!!! Here are a few pictures from us walking around tonight – day pictures will be on tap for tomorrow.

Every mile that goes by I feel more and more thankful for this life I have been given and cherish each and every hour I have spent on the road with Char. We have had some pretty great conversations that I would never have had with her if we wouldn’t have been “stuck” in a car for so many hours together. I am so excited I get to drive east with her a couple weeks.

Another detail that hasn’t been lost on me is that I feel totally at home on the road. I have joked that I am a first world nomad – and I think it is true. When I am traveling I have time to search my soul – driving for hours and hours on end provides ample opportunity for such introspection. I wonder why I am so restless; always needing to be busy – why I feel underchallenged and underachieving and yet, overwhelmed in my daily life with mundane tasks. I’m not sure if these answers will become evident as I travel on, but I’ll keep an open mind and an open heart and continue to be in awe of this great country in which I live.

Total Miles = 462

States = Montana, Idaho and Washington

Hours on the road = 8

Average Temperature = 42 degrees

Coffees = 1

Playlist = Hamilton the Musical, Twilight on audiobook and Slathbog’s Gold

Major Landmarks = Flathead Lake, Montana (gorgeous), Spokane, Washington, Columbia Basin

Speed Traps passed = 0

People not wearing masks in public places = This was hard to judge mostly because of Leavenworth at night – most people I saw in crowds were wearing masks. (BTW – I am only commenting on this aspect of what I am seeing traveling because I think a lot of people are worried about how the rest of the country is handling the whole mask thing – personally – I don’t care if you wear a mask or not – let freedom ring – but I will wear mine in public – especially right now as we are traveling across country. I do not want to be exposing myself and others that we are going to visit to something I picked up along the way – but I do not have a specific personal commentary on the good, bad, and ugly of masks – I just want to be informative)

Gas bought = $52.07

Extras = $63.00 (snacks on the road, coffee and dinner in Leavenworth

Hotel = $309.88 for two nights. We are staying for two nights in Leavenworth, WA at Haus Rohrbach Pension – a quaint Bed and Breakfast style Bavarian chalet perched just outside of the downtown area of Leavenworth. Char and I are in the Windsong room – a sweet little room with a queen sized bed and a day bed for Char.

Destinations with Daughters – Waning West – Day 7

After a lovely night’s sleep in our little log cabin in Columbia Falls, we awoke to do a little exploring.

Much of Glacier National Park is currently untouchable due to weather (Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed past the northernmost point of Lake McDonald as is typical during winter), but we took advantage of what we could and did a little hike and marveled at Lake McDonald and the spectacular cedar forests that call this area home.

I couldn’t get enough of the small, colorful, smooth rocks of the lake. At its middle, it is blustery, but at Apgar (the lake’s southern end), the lake is super still.

This evening, we went to a rodeo!!! It was so much fun and I had the best time! Even though we were strangers in a strange land, I felt at home – America honored throughout and God revered in public. Not everyone would agree with me, but that is why we live in America.

It is really hard to capture the action of a rodeo in pictures, but I tried. Yes, there are a lot of people. The rules were you had to keep on your mask while moving and seated unless you were actively eating and drinking. Many people were actively eating or drinking, but Char and I kept our masks on the entire time and had our 6 foot bubble and felt comfortable doing so. There was a mixture of people masking and not; a feeling of “you do you” and those who would not be comfortable in a crowd during these times certainly would not attend.

Today’s expenses – $70 for Huckleberry ice cream for Char, a huckleberry pie to bring to Papa, and some souvenirs. $24 for the Rodeo entrance fee.

Destinations with Daughters – Waning West – Day 6

This morning we left Yellowstone to head towards Glacier National Park. It was snowing slightly and we had the cutest farewell committee as we departed!

Our drive was beautiful and thankfully uneventful.

We arrived close to 4pm and easily found our accommodations for two nights – this ADORABLE cabin I found on-line, again for $100 per night. The other benefit of traveling in the off season is affordable lodging.

Tomorrow we will explore what we can of Glacier. The East Entrance is closed as it rests on Native American lands, and many of the roads are closed towards Avalanche and beyond to cars, but we will enjoy the gorgeous cedar forests and find ourselves some huckleberry ice cream!

A surprise awaits Char for the evening…..stay tuned!

Total Miles = 417

States = Wyoming and Montana

Hours on the road = 7.5 hours

Average Temperature = 32 degrees

Coffees = 2

Playlist = Hamilton the Musical (twice), The Beatles, James Taylor and Slathbog’s Gold since we lost service often and this book is downloaded!

Major Landmarks = departing Yellowstone, arriving outside Glacier.

Speed Traps passed = 0

People not wearing masks in public places = 3 – in the market at Hungry Horse, Montana (there is a state mandate but I think the area is so remote that there isn’t much enforcement).

Gas bought = $55.00

Extras = groceries bought in Hungry Horse, MT – two night’s worth of dinner – $35.00

Hotel = Two nights at the Cozy Cabin in Coram, MT = $245.37

Destinations with Daughters – Waning West – Day 5

Our full day in Yellowstone. Yellowstone is a place of legend for me. It was a place I never knew I would ever see, but hoped to and when we decided to do this road trip, we had to make it happen. This could be a once in a lifetime visit for me to many of these locations so I had to do it!

COVID as certainly changed the landscape of tourism in the US. Yellowstone was open all summer although not all the properties were available. One staff member we spoke to said that visitor numbers were the highest ever in July, but staff was reduced because of COVID, so it was a wonderful but busy summer. Check out the Mammoth Post Office – bears COVID ready, along with the specialized vehicle tracks used for winter travel! Oh, and this is a magpie – isn’t he GORGEOUS!!! We have seen many of his kind here in the northern territories!

When I investigated a stay at Yellowstone, I never dreamed I would actually find accommodations ON SITE in Mammoth, but because so many are leery to travel, we lucked out and began our two night stay on the first night of Yellowstone welcoming winter season visitors (this is a normal thing – having summer and winter season separated by weeks at time and closing down in between). We stayed at the Mammoth Hotel and Cabins in the quaint and historic town of Mammoth at the North Entrance to Yellowstone. The hotel was comfortable and had a lovely Victorian feel including creepy “The Shinning” hallways!

Our internet was TERRIBLE (we have T-Mobile service and Yellowstone is a black hole) but that wasn’t so bad!

We ate our meals at the dining facility they have across the street from the hotel and breakfast was delicious (our second morning Char had buttermilk pancakes with huckleberry butter and huckleberry sauce!) as well as the one dinner we had there. I enjoyed Wild Boar and Char had steak. Overall, the prices were what I expected (slightly higher than average for dinner but breakfast was average) and the service was great – our breakfast server the fist day was from Brunswick, Maine!

A “short stack” of buttermilk pancakes with huckleberry syrup and huckleberry butter!

After breakfast, we walked to the Mammoth Hot Springs and Terraces and got a nose full of sulfur and an eye full of wonder!

Currently and every year, other entrances are closed due to weather conditions and the only way to get to Old Faithful was via Snowcoach – at a VERY hefty sum (over $500 for both Char and I if we wanted to see Old Faithful – a full day’s journey there and back), so we scratched that idea and went for a cross country ski tour instead.

Again, because of maintaining a 20-30% capacity, our cross country ski tour ended up being a private tour and it was spectacular!!! We did 5 miles round trip from the Roosevelt Ranch area to the Tower and back. We saw buffalo while on the trail and on the ride to and from the drop off point, we saw elk, an eagle, coyotes, more buffalo (traffic jam) and an absolutely gorgeous black wolf. He was magnificent!

After dinner, we enjoyed ice skating at the small rink built every year at Mammoth and lovingly maintained by their night maintenance man, James, who came to Yellowstone 26 years ago and never left. EVERY person we met from our servers, our ski tour guide, Cache, and the barista in the Map Room of the hotel all came to Yellowstone and fell in love with her beauty and never saw fit to leave. I admire their passion!

Anyway – the rink – adorable and the skates are free and you help yourself to find ones that fit in a little cabin next to the rink. I love the free spirit of this opportunity – explore and enjoy at your own risk – more of life should be this way! We enjoyed a sit by the fire afterwards and chatted with James, then moseyed off to bed. Our day was the stuff of dreams!

Our experience at Yellowstone was nothing short of magical! We are so thankful it was open and took this opportunity to explore this breathtaking place!

Total Cost of food during our stay (2 breakfasts and 1 dinner) – $185

Total cost of cross country ski tour and ski rentals plus tip – $150

Souvenirs bought – $170 (things are expensive here!!)

EVERYONE was masked up in proximity to people outdoors and always indoors unless eating or in our rooms. We did have to wear our masks during the ride to our ski trip but during the skiing outdoors, we could take our masks off.

Destinations with Daughters – Waning West – Day 4

Departing our Bed and Breakfast in South Dakota was another gorgeous start! We loved the porch of our Bed and Breakfast – White Tail Ridge.

It had snowed overnight (like the previous two nights on our trip) and while the roads were a little slow going at first, a drive through the Black Hills was breathtaking and worth the extra time! Our first stop shortly after leaving our B&B was Mount Rushmore – we did pay the $10 to park at the monument to get a few great pictures. Mount Rushmore looked like it had been sprinkled with powdered sugar.

We hit two state borders – Wyoming and Montana.

The drive to Yellowstone through the Black Hills was amazing, but as we approached Livingstone, Montana on I-90, the winds were high and there was a lot of concentrating going on! We were happy to reach Yellowstone just after dark and begin our two nights and one full day enjoying American’s oldest National Park!

Total Miles = 565

States = South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana

Hours on the road = 10 (including stops and sight seeing)

Average Temperature = 28

Coffees = 1

Playlist = Hamilton the Musical (three times), The Best of the Beatles, James Taylor and 80’s hits. We also began listening to a book – Slathbog’s Gold – the first book in the Adventurers Wanted Series by M.L. Forman

Major Landmarks = Mount Rushmore, Black Hills National Forest, Crazy Horse Memorial, we wanted to do Custer National Park but many of the roads were closed because of the snow the night before, Yellowstone National Park.

Speed Traps passed = 1

People not wearing masks in public places = 3 (in small town South Dakota at a gas stop but all employees wore masks.

Gas bought = $44.00

Extras = $19.40…parking, post cards, coffee and ice cream

Hotel – total for TWO nights at Yellowstone – $400.00 at the Mammoth Hotel and Cabins. We stayed in the main hotel and it was GORGEOUS! Very classic Victorian era style and our room was comfortable, well appointment with a sweet bathroom! I would absolutely stay there again.

Destinations with Daughters – Waning West – Day 3

We departed Minnesota pretty early so that we would have time to explore the Badlands in South Dakota. We headed out at 6am and we could not get Goggle Maps to work – so I had an idea of where we needed to go – but all of Google was down (Char couldn’t even get on to her classroom) – so we had to go old school for a bit with MapQuest – remember that? We got on our way and after an hour or so, Google was back on line so “Eliza” was back in business.

Our drive from Maple Grove, MN to meet Interstate 90 was gorgeous! As the sun rose we began to see the prairie lands of the US and we were enamored! The endless grasslands and fields with livestock were just what we needed – we were looking for a landscape different than our own and we finally got it! Oh, and the WINDMILLS!! Hundreds of them on the Minnesota prairie – oh and I saw an exit for Mankato (you know what I am talking about if you watched Little House on the Prairie).

We boogied to the South Dakota border – our only border crossing this day AND when we got to South Dakota, the state speed limit is 80 MPH! Hammer down, baby! Another great thing about South Dakota? Cheapest gas yet at $1.87 per gallon!

One of our pitstops along the was was the Corn Palace – we timed this with a gas pit stop but checked out the Corn Palace (an arena) and did some souvenir shopping across the street. It was a great way to stretch our legs.

Around 2pm we reached the Badlands – and WOW!!!!! We took the 29 mile driving loop through the main tourist portion of the park and saw absolutely stunning landscapes and a host of animals – a porcupine in a tree right above the road, mule deer, bighorn sheep (I thought these were rams but learned otherwise) and buffalo!!!! We actually got rather up close and personal with a handsome fellow and his two ladies.

Enjoy these photos of the stunning landscape and adorable fuzzy critters!

Total Miles = 676

States = Minnesota & South Dakota

Hours on the road = 13.5 (including stops and sight seeing)

Average Temperature = 16 degrees – it was stinkin’ cold!

Coffees = 1

Playlist = Hamilton the Musical (twice), The Best of Phil Collins, 80’s hits

Major Landmarks = The Missouri River, the American Prairie, the Corn Palace, Badlands National Park

Speed Traps passed = 1

People not wearing masks in public places = 0

Gas bought = $59.00

Extras = $54.00 (trinkets and food)

Bed & Breakfast = The White Tail Bed and Breakfast in Hermosa, SD. SUPER cute place for $100 a night! We also bought a picnic lunch to take on the road tomorrow for $8 each and the location of this B&B is perfect for sight seeing in the Mount Rushmore area!

Destinations with Daughters – Waning West – Day 2

Today was our longest driving day on our way west. To have a couple days in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, we had to do it this way – but it was long. Add on top of that sleet this morning (and getting in 150 miles before the sun even came up) and blizzard like conditions for two hours as we approached Minnesota. I’m happy to be in our hotel room!

Char is enjoying her little “cubby” in the car! She has everything she needs at her fingertips and seems to be enjoying the long rides. What would a cross country trip at Christmastime be without Christmas lights, Sable and Charlie, the rainbow unicorn?

We trucked through a lot of states today! Here’s the proof (and Illinois is weird because we crossed the border at the City of Chicago line so there wasn’t much of a sign – but we made due!)

Apparently, my car started to worry about me because about every 250 miles without stopping, this sign pops up on my dash…

You might wonder why we were pushing so hard and going so far – well, to see the Mall of American, of course. And we got there just in time to pop in, walk around for 10 minutes, get some rainbow unicorn cotton candy with edible eyes and mouth, and head to our hotel. It was worth it!

Total Miles = 971

States = New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota

Hours on the road = 15.5 (including stops and sight seeing)

Average Temperature = 26.5 degrees

Coffees = 2

Playlist = Hamilton the Musical (twice), The Best of the Eagles, Pitch Perfect Soundtrack, 80’s & 90s hits

Major Landmarks = Cleveland, OH, Lake Michigan, the Mighty Mississippi River, Chicago and the Mall of America

Speed Traps passed = 4

People not wearing masks in public places = 2

Gas bought = $80.00

Extras = $54.00 (coffee and food)

Hotel = $108.00 – Holiday Inn and Suites, Maple Grove, MN – SUPER nice!!!! Great location and very nice lobby, rooms, staff and in non-Covid times, they have a really cool indoor water park open to guests. This Holiday Inn has a Venetian theme going on and we were really diggin’ it!