Our Summer Trip – 2006

We visited the following states on our trip.

Virginia, Washington D.C., Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, *Chicago* Illinois, Wisconsin, *Minneapolis* Minnesota, *Custer* South Dakota, *Cody* Wyoming, *Salt Lake City* Utah, *Reno* Nevada, *San Francisco* and *L.A.* California, *Las Vegas* Nevada, *Grand Canyon* Arizona, *Santa Fe* New Mexico, *Denver* Colorado, Kansas, *Kansas City* and *St. Louis* Missouri, *Louisville* Kentucky, *Circleville* Ohio, *Pittsburgh* PA

We’ve spent the night in the ones in the *’s. Only 2 hotels were really crappy, Reno and San Francisco. That’s not too bad if you think about it.

We drove 8500 miles total. We had the oil changed in the car before we left, on the road in L.A. and when we arrived home.

We bought a GPS unit before we left, it was very necessary with the side roads in some of the western towns! If you take a trip like this, definitely buy one before you go and use it for a week or so.

We knew that the longest part of the trip would be the first leg. 10 hours to get to Chicago! We stayed at Sleep Inn Midway Airport 6650 S. Cicero Ave, Bedford Park, IL 60638. This was a nice hotel. Clean and within walking distance to T.G.I .Friday’s where we had dinner. Take some pictures of the cows on the front and side lawn. The gym only had treadmills, not recommended by Jackie. Good breakfast! It’s on a main road, so expect traffic when you leave the hotel. There’s a few hotels in the same parking lot, which is great for the restaurants in the area. Very windy walking across the parking lot.

We drove through Wisconsin, where we had a very, hard rain hit us. We couldn’t really see in front of us and just when we were going to pull over, we started to notice that we were driving through it and it was letting up.

Next we went to Minneapolis and stayed at Comfort Inn Airport 1321 E. 78th Street, Bloomington, MN 55425. This was within driving distance to the Mall of America. Which closes on Sunday’s at 7 p.m., we found out. If you scrapbook, visit Archiver’s is in the Mall of America, second floor. Great paper and friendly staff! Jackie and Greg went to Dinosaur Walk Museum, but, only went to the store as we got there right before the mall closed. Great store though! The hotel had a big pool and a hot tub along with an exercise room. Good breakfast!

Wall Drug started their billboards on the way from Minneapolis to South Dakota. We were expecting something really cool, but it turned out to be a tourist-y thing to the MAX. We knew that, it’s like South of the Border that way. We bought Jackie a cowboy hat there, after we hunted for one not made in China. It’s made by Bailey and it’s felt, was under $30. The other stuff was cheaply made with expensive prices. The town was cute though; there are places for you to tie up your horse when you want to go shopping.

Greg had installed a radar detector we borrowed from friends. It didn’t help. The cops in Minnesota are bored easily. At least it was just a warning. He was doing 8 miles over the speed limit. Could have been worse!

We passed through the Badlands on the way to our next destination. We purchased a Nat’l Park Pass for $50 before we went, at a local park where all the money stays, although you can buy them at your first park if you want to. It’s good for a year and I would strongly recommend getting one, it paid for itself in one visit. Most parks are between $25 and $35 to get into. The Badlands was $15 if I remember correctly. Yellowstone was $25 to get in and so was the Grand Canyon. It’s worth it to get one of the passes! We took about 120 pictures in the Badlands as well as using the camcorder. It’s a pretty long drive, with many stops along the way. If someone in your family is looking for fossil-y things you can stop about ½ way through the drive and see some fossils on a walkway. Just a heads up, none of the restrooms in the Badlands are more than a porta-potty so bring hand gel as there’s not any running water.

Custer, SD was our next destination. We stayed at Comfort Inn and Suites, 301 Mt. Rushmore Rd. West, Custer, SD 57730, for two nights. This is located across from Bedrock, you know from the Flintstone’s? Not much there to eat, but we went to Pizza Hut. They have a place for you to get your own drinks, which is different. On the way to Deadwood we stopped at a strip mall that has a DQ and an old time photo place. It took about an hour to get the photo done, they put clothes on you like Glamour Shots does and the prices were pretty reasonable, 2-5x 7’s for under $20. The DQ is an eat and treat store and they were SUPER friendly there, great service too! We drove to Deadwood, which is very cool, took about 30 minutes or so to drive. The “gunfight” is free and kinda lame-o if you have older kids, but younger ones under 10 and over 5 would probably like it. Just a warning, 80% of the town is gambling. The kids can come in the casino’s with you there, unlike Vegas. There’s a lot of history there and you can see all the places in the HBO show if you watch it. We met a cowboy before the gunfight and we have pictures of him with Jackie, he was a PUNK! Haha! It was fun though. The sheriff made a bunch of kiddos deputies before the gunfight, that was cool! There’s a lot of little stores selling a bunch of touristy things in Deadwood. We bought some t-shirts there. We went to see Mt. Rushmore. Just a heads-up, you have to pay $6 to park there, you cannot use your Nat’l Park Pass as the parking lot was added by a private company. There’s a great flag walkway, all the states and some of the territories too, such as Puerto Rico and Guam. We also visited the site of Crazy Horse. They are still carving it and have been for 10 years now. The gift shop is expensive, we just bought some postcards. The museum is nice, really big actually, it winds around and ends at the gift shop. Take the $4 per person tram ride to the base of the mountain where they are carving Crazy Horse. You drive up there, then park for about 10 minutes and then get back in and drive back. If you want to pay more than $150 a person, you can take the van/bus up the top of the mountain, but you don’t really have to as there is a finished version of Crazy Horse in the courtyard behind the gift shop. Get a picture of that if you get a chance and walk to the gates that the artist made, they are awesome, brass or something, each animal is carved in metal.

Cody, WY was next, we stayed at Econo Lodge Moose Creek, 1015 Sheridan Avenue, Cody, WY 82414 for two nights. Breakfast in the morning was juice, coffee and toast, we went elsewhere. The shower has a weird ring thing you had to pull down to turn the shower on and there was NO internet in the room, just in the lobby. Pain in the butt when we wanted to upload pictures from our trip! The indoor pool is highly recommended by Jackie. It’s heated too! There’s a great place there to eat in town, Granny’s. It’s at the end of the main street, next to Wendy’s. Good food, kinda like Perkins or Friendly’s. Good service too and not really expensive. We weren’t on the main street, but if you do get a room there, just walk to the corner and turn left. We visited Yellowstone and saw a lot of Buffalo, deer and elk near the road. One of the buffalo was crossing the road to get to the lake on the other side. We also saw Ole Faithful the geyser which is pretty cool, but wasn’t as high as I thought it would be. Afterwards we drove to a few lookout places and found a great geyser viewing area with pools and geysers. I cannot remember the names of all the geysers but it was on the lower loop of Yellowstone after Ole Faithful heading to the left when you start. They hand you a map of everything when you enter the park. We also found some mud pots and took a nature hike along one of the many stopping places. We hiked to Ice Lake and back. There’s a Wal-Mart in town, which is where we stopped and bought muffins, milk and fruit and Lunchables to take to Yellowstone vs. eating their expensive food. Much easier too if you have a cooler! Heads up on the bathrooms in Yellowstone. The store has 2 stalls for men and 2 for women…go to the gas station next door which has 3 or 4 each and save your time not standing in line!

We had a HUGE golf ball sized rock hit us on the way to our next stop. It cracked our windshield on the passenger side about 12”-18” across. We arranged to get it replaced in Salt Lake City in the morning.

Salt Lake City Utah was the next stop, we stayed outside of SLC though, Comfort Inn and Suites, 2437 S. Wildcat Way, Woods Cross, UT 84010. It was an okay hotel. There was a refrig and microwave in the room and there was a pool and hot tub as well, though we didn’t use them. The exit is number 315, it’s changed, so if you have a GPS, it may not be up-to-date with that info, ours wasn’t. As we left Utah we passed by the Salt Flats, which is where the speed records are set for cars. Stop and get some salt for a souvenir. There’s not much to look at on that run, but you can see some of the words that people have spelt out on the flats, they are pretty funny. Make sure you get a picture of the Christmas tree and the weird balloon like tree!

Safelite in SLC should be avoided. The guy they sent to our hotel, did replace the windshield, BUT didn’t tighten the wipers, didn’t seal the windshield everywhere and didn’t reattached the rear view mirror cover for the wires in the car. More about this later!

Reno was our next stop and we urge you to STAY AWAY from the Rodeway Inn/Travelodge located at 2050 Market Street in Reno, NV 89502. Both of the hotels are run-down, old and the laundry room is in the basement of the Travelodge. There’s no ventilation down there, 2 washers, 2 dryers, no chairs and the floor was flooded. The machines were old so it TOOK HOURS for our clothes to get clean and dry. Then we found out there’s a 24 hour laundry mat down the road. We weren’t impressed with the clerks at either of the hotels, they didn’t have much to eat for breakfast and the rooms were very old. We didn’t see any bugs, but we wouldn’t have been surprised. We were surprised that AAA recommended the Rodeway Inn to us. There was a refrigerator, stove and sink in the kitchen, but honestly we would have liked to have thicker walls. The rest areas on the way to our next stop should be avoided if possible. Use a gas station or restaurant they would be cleaner!

San Francisco would have been one of our favorite places, except the hotel wasn’t any better than in Reno. No air topped the list and then there was no food the next morning at all. The hotel was a Econo Lodge located at 2505 Lombard Street, San Francisco CA 94123. There’s 2 buildings, which we didn’t know and we should have asked for air conditioning?. There was DSL in the room, we had to ask for a cord and then the wall sockets looked bare. The hotel was pretty run down. We did have a good time at the Golden Gate Bridge park watching the dogs and the owners play near the water and the kids running around. The weather was a little cool and windy for late June, which kind of surprised us. Jackie walked the beach and we just relaxed.We ate dinner at Mel’s Drive In which is the one that was used in American Graffiti and for Happy Days. We also went to Japantown which was very cool, there’s a mall there with a Peace Park in the front, a huge structure in front that looks very Japanese-y. You can see a picture of Jackie in front of the fountain. The food was good and we found some things to shop for as well.

L.A. was next on our trip. We stayed in a good area, luckily. Quality Inn Mid Wilshire, 603 South New Hampshire Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90005. This is in central LA near The Staples center and right around the corner from Beverly Hills and Hollywood. Just so you know, it was an Asian hotel, we were the only white people in there! Didn’t bother us in the least. There’s a guard for the garage at night, pick where you park carefully so you don’t get blocked in. The person that blocks you in is supposed to leave their keys with the front desk, but rarely do. The internet connection was only in the lobby, no breakfast there either. We had a problem with the a/c in our room, they offered to move us, but we were all unpacked and settled in by then. We drove to Grauman’s Chinese Theater and parked for $7. We left the car in a space and the garage is watched by an attendant. It was a few hours before we came back for it and it was fine there. We walked down the Walk of Fame to the theater, saw the Hollywood sign, saw the little mall on the other side and then we shopped for a while. Jackie was told by “Yoda” that she has a nice hat! Haha! Got back to the car and drove to Rodeo drive, just to drive down it. Then we went to the Hard Rock Café near Beverly Hills. It’s the first one in North America and it’s a great place to go visit if you can. We went on a Monday night and there was literally 6 people in the place besides us! The stuff they have on the walls is fabulous.

We had our car oil changed at a Jiffy Lube about 5 miles from the hotel, they were nice, but it’s not an area you want to be in after dark. They did a great job vacuuming out the car and were honest about what to be replaced.

Vegas was our next destination. To get there we had to drive through the Mohave Desert and Death Valley. We went in late June and it was HOT. Hot wind at 110° F is hot. Stop if you have to, but be prepared for heat and wind. We stayed at Fairfield Inn and Suites 5775 Dean Martin Drive (Industrial Drive if you use a GPS) Las Vegas, NV 89118. It was a great hotel, clean and everyone was nice. The laundry room was clean and they have one washer and 2 dryers. We did laundry again there. They have a shuttle that will drive you to Mandalay Bay every half hour and picks up with the last pickup at 11 p.m. at Mandalay Bay. So, if you want to stay out later than that, drive yourself. There is a FREE monorail system that runs between a few of the hotels, there’s a book you can get at any of the hotels with that information. There’s a PAY monorail as well, if you are there for more than a few days it will probably be worth your while to get the tickets for that. It wasn’t too expensive, but we were only there for 3 days and it was easier to just walk or drive our own car if we wanted to go further down the strip. It was hot in Vegas at the end of June, in the 100’s…be prepared to drink a lot of water if you are walking anywhere. We visited the M & M World, most of the hotels and saw the fountains dance at the Bellagio Hotel. Don’t miss that at night, it’s awesome! We also went to Game Works which is in the same building as M & M World. Great video games, pool tables and DDR. We won money at Mandalay Bay and the Bellagio. Love the slots!

Off to Arizona and seeing the Grand Canyon was our next stop. We stayed at Holiday Inn Express Hwy 64, Grand Canyon Nat’l Park – South Rim AZ 86023. There’s not a street address for the hotel, but it’s the only one on Hwy 64 and it’s about 5 miles from the Grand Canyon. Nothing really wrong with the hotel, great food, nice room, just a boring town. The breakfast was pretty good, lots of people in the room though. The parking lot is set up weird, but you can find a space near the end, otherwise you will have problems backing out when you want to leave. Save yourself the $10 a person for the lame-o IMAX movie they have at a local National Geographic museum. Everything there was really high for souvenirs too. We used our park pass for the Grand Canyon and saved $25 and also time in line. We parked at the first overlook and spent about an hour or so there, then walked across the road to the visitor center and bathrooms. We ate at Wendy’s for lunch and Café Tusayan for dinner. It’s like mom and pop place, good food, pretty good service. The pool at the hotel was overrun by little ones and pretty small so Jackie didn’t go in, but, it looked nice enough. I think there was a hottub there, not anything with jets though.

We arranged for a tour of Northern Arizona University. We left early in the morning to drive to Flagstaff. Jackie was feeling faint on the tour, had a fever. We made sure she drank Sprite and water and she was as good as new after sleeping for about 4 hours.

Santa Fe, New Mexico was our next stop. We stayed in Quality Inn, 3011 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe, NM 87507. The hotel was really nice, and the area was nice too. It’s right on a main road and there were regular stores there, Wal-Mart, IHOP, Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Best Buy and tons of places to eat. The room was nice, there was a business center off of the lobby where you could use a computer and print if you needed to. In the morning you have to get a voucher for the restaurant next door for the free breakfast. I wish we could have done that one again. The service was terrible and the server didn’t even check on use once during our meal. Someone else brought us our food and refilled our drinks. The entire city prohibits smoking in any public places which is great and the buildings are adobe shaped vs. traditional. The signs for the stores are still the same though, just different building shapes. It’s a nice little town, everyone was friendly.

It started raining…

Then we were off to Denver Colorado. We stayed at Quality Inn, 3975 Peoria Way, Denver, CO 80239. The breakfast is one thing you can skip, they don’t have much and the apple juice was 90% water. We went down the road to a gas station and got a lot of muffins and stuff for the road. We ordered a pizza from the local Papa John’s and they delivered it in about 45 minutes. The hotel itself was very nice, they have drive up to the door rooms, which is great when you are traveling to take all the suitcases out of the car. There’s train tracks on the back of the hotel, you could probably hear it no matter where in the hotel you stayed though. We didn’t hear it during the night, just before 11 p.m. and then at 7 a.m. when we were getting up. We weren’t impressed with all the towns though, we went to a Burger King to get some food for lunch in Colorado Springs and walked out after waiting there for almost 5 minutes for someone to take our order. There was no line. We went to the Arby’s in the same shopping mall and it was empty, so we got great service. The hotel had an outdoor pool that we didn’t even check out as it was raining most of the day and then when we got there it was still raining. The internet connection is wireless in the rooms, but, you need a password for each laptop you want to log on to the ‘net. So, let them know when you check in how many laptops you have and they will give you more than one password. The signal was pretty low and we were in the back of the hotel, but it connected and worked pretty well, just a low signal.

We saw it rain from the time we left Denver, to the middle of Kansas. Then it stopped but just looked threatening for a while. We were watching for tornadoes! Jackie wasn’t though, she was bored and tired, so she slept for most of the trip from Denver to Kansas. Can’t really blame her though, it was a long drive. The long drive from Colorado to Missouri started out okay, but after 8 hours in the car, you are ready to get out!

We arrived at our Quality Inn hotel in the evening. It’s located at 1995 Macon Street, Kansas City, KS 64116. The GPS wanted to take us around I-70 to I-670, but that was a waste of time…so we rerouted ourselves. We had to pay $2 on the toll when we exited at the end of the toll road. We checked into our hotel and found ourselves on a smoking floor, so we changed rooms to the third floor, much better! The indoor pool (heated) is endorsed by Jackie, it wasn’t crowded at all, so she had it all to herself!

We stayed at the Quality Inn Southwest 3730 S. Lindbergh Blvd. St. Louis, MO, US, 63127-1397 for the fourth of July. There’s a lot of shopping here and we spent a few hours walking around the mall and in some local stores. The hotel isn’t new, but it looks like it’s been kept up. The indoor pool has a jacuzzi as well. Highly endorsed by Jackie for swimming and relaxing. It rained while we were there and there’s walkway rooms as well as park outside the room, rooms. We were in a walkway room, so we had to walk in the rain to get to the car, but, it wasn’t far. The breakfast wasn’t great, but, it was the same as the other hotels that offered a full breakfast.

On the way to our next stop we arranged for Safelite to finish sealing our windshield and fix the rear view mirror plastic cover. They did a great job when we arrived at their location in Louisville. Highly recommended!

Our next stop was at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center 9700 Bluegrass Parkway, Louisville, KY, US, 40299. This is a HUGE hotel. Very nice, a little older, but it’s kept nice and it looks clean everywhere. We were in a suite which was just a little more than the regular room in Missouri. Everyone on staff is really polite and check-in was a breeze. The pool is a half-Olympic sized pool, they used to have a hot tub but it’s out for repairs. There’s a lifeguard at the pool who has towels for you to use, but, he doesn’t really look like he could or even want to save a life. There’s a game room near the pool, it’s all open air. 2 pool tables and a few video game machines. There’s also a place for you to sit under a gazebo if you want with a few chairs. The exercise room has treadmills and elliptical’s. The hotel also has conference rooms, business services and ballrooms for dances, dinners and wedding receptions. The area is pretty big, we found 2 malls, a Best Buy and some other stores nearby. Definitely check out the Apple Bee’s in the area, it’s near the hotel. The staff is pretty friendly and the food was served pretty quickly. There’s no breakfast at this hotel, but we found a shopette when we stopped to get gas for the car, so we were good to go.

The last three days were spent with family in Ohio and friends in Pittsburgh. Then we made our way home on July 9th, 2006.

It was a fun trip, we had a good time and a lot of memories. Thank you for reading all of this, aren’t you tired? Want to come help us with the laundry and getting the house back in order?

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