Our 18 day, 5000 mile Vacation (long)
Our 18 day, 5000 mile Vacation (long)
Well my experience is that word-of mouth to determine a destination for your next vacation is the best way. Last year when I saw a newspaper article about visiting “The Crown of the Continent”, Glacier National Park I started to check it out. Since this vacation mushroomed into a 11 State, 5,000 mile road trip I (we) must recommend not only East Glacier National Park, MT, but Wisconsin Dells, WI and Hutchinson, KA. Yes I said Kansas. If you have been to one of the above locations years ago, it may be time to revisit anyone of them. If not, start investigating to add to your next trip or tell other family and friends to. Since many may not want to follow this long post, just remember East Glacier National Park, MT; Wisconsin Dells, WI and Hutchinson, KA.
I found a most impressive, with great reviews, up-scale privately owned lodge located in St.Mary, MT. and booked a 5 day stay back in December. I then started checking out traveling there by Amtrak’s Empire Builder train that departs from Chicago. We live in Noblesville, IN just north of Indianapolis. A Lawyer friend told us to do it now since that trip may not be funded by the Government much longer and said to go “First Class”. After about a month my Wife said no to that plan. Not only was it a 29 hour trip by rail at $2,400 round trip in something like a 8X10 room with your bathroom in it, we would have to rent a car and pay storage on our vehicle. For that kind of money I wanted something like the Wild,Wild West TVShow rail car and Wife said she couldn’t stand such a small room. When I contacted Amtrack’s main office in CA and asked about how safe our car would be left at one of their stations for about 3 weeks, her reply was, “How good of insurance do you have!” Wrong answer. We then decided to drive. Looking on the Web for somewhere else to visit out West I found a new 130 mile train trip starting in May in Alamosa, CO using a “new” 1901 steam engine. I bought tickets “On-Line” right then without realizing it was 1,800 mile from Glacier! I then started building a spreadsheet as to where to stay and how many miles to drive each day and what else to see and visit. As it worked out, we only stayed in Wisconsin Dells, WI for 2 nights, Bismarck, ND (1 night), Great Falls, MT (1 night), St. Mary Lodge and Resort (5 nights), Sheridan, WY (1 night), Denver, CO (1 night) Alamosa, CO (2 nights) and Wichita, KS (4 nights) them back home to IN.
I pre-programmed our portable I-Way 500C GPS unit and also printed out driving directions using Mapquest and made folders for each stop complete with copies of confirmation numbers, paid room charges and attractions. I attempted to find only three star and above lodging and if not available, moved the stay to another town. The main flaw in this type of planning is it is so structured that you cannot add many attractions and must stay on schedule. On a positive note however most everything was pre-paid by April and that did come into play.
Wisconsin Dells, WI
Had been there about 30 some years ago and seemed to be about 3 blocks long. WOW it looks more like Orlando, FL now but with only 2,000 residents. It is a must visit for anyone with children. Clean, safe, water parks at most hotels and very reasonable room and food and was not crowded. We stayed at the Wintergreen Resort, took the Wisconsin Ducks Tour and pre-paid a new “Adults Only” champagne dessert boat cruse that worked out great for us, but not them. This boat had a crew of 3 and was set up for 35/40 passengers, but there were only four of us. If I had not pre-paid it would surely have been canceled. It was like we had reserved the whole boat with a large supply of champagne and beer. They even had a large chocolate fountain working.
Glacier National Park
Was by far this was the best experience we have ever had on vacation. Sure The Resort at The Glacier was pricy and had a mountain stream rushing next to our balcony, so we left the sliding screen door open at night and turned the fireplace on! But anyone could afford to visit this park by just camping or using their RV. The trip to Canada on The International Red Bus Tour required use of our Passports and it did snow that day. The next day it was 20 degrees warmer. Three boat tours on the aqua colored lakes and the scenery is out of the world. Walking up to a one and a half billion old fossil less rock. Unbelievable! A real must see before it changes because of global warming.
I found that the only underground salt mine opened to the public in the western hemisphere was to be opened in May here and wanted to check it out. It is 650 feet below ground. Found I was not alone since they had 7,000 visitors in May, alone! Also have 70 full-time employees in this active mine just for secured storage. Was told records on every American Adult are stored there, plus most of Hollywood original movies films and TV shows. Even 23 Foreign Countries use this Site. Was also told to visit the Cosmosphere Space Museum, here. It is also unbelievable and looks like something that belongs in Chicago or DC. Another must see.
The Cattle Baron Supper Club in Babb MT (on Highway 89) just north of St Mary had the best meal we have ever eaten.
Rib & Chop House Sheridan, Wyoming second best.
Great Breakfast and Dinner, since it was free as part of room rate. Even included beer and wine!
When checking in to the new Wingate Inn in Sheridan,WY after midnight on the 27th was told by the night clerk my reservation had been canceled. I said how could you cancel a room that I paid for back in April? I showed him my paid credit card statement and my confirmation number, but he seemed not to care. I didn’t get mad, just kept talking. He said since I was not there by 4 PM they had already rented the room. He finally upgraded us to another room that he said was twice as much and they were going to lose money. Wife later said how they could lose money on a room they had not rented by 1 AM? Since our room was billed at $146.90 I can’t see any room there costing $300 a night, but it did have a spa that could hold four. Only time on trip all my paperwork really came into play. Thought the whole issue was funny and when I checked out the next morning the day manager said he was new and there was no problem with the bill.
SURPRISE of the TRIP
If anyone is still read this long message, we drove my Wife’s 06 fully loaded Eddie Bauer Ford Explorer 4X4 with the Mustang GT V-8 engine. It is even equipped with three seats, rear air and by today’s standards considered a large SUV. For the whole trip of 4,978 miles it averaged over 20 MPG. It still used about 295 gallons of gas that ranged in price from $3.39 to $2.87. No $4.00 gas. Several driving much smaller SUV’s with 4 cylinders were only getting 22 MPG. This vehicle does have a 6 speed overdrive transmission and at 80 MPH that we drove much of the time runs at only 2,000 RPMs. Also no car trouble, but did run into a bad hail storm in CO when the temperature dropped from 87 to 48 in a minute or so. Cars were pulling off the road with dents and broken windshields, or turning around trying to outrun the storm! I just kept driving slow and received no damage. Have pictures of hail about a foot thick on the road way, so of the 901 I took on this trip.
Staying at upscale lodging and driving 5,000 mile trips will cost you when you come home! Since we liked the mattresses at all of our stays except one better than our present bed we have order one of the new popular Tempur-Pedic type of mattress that conforms to your body and should be in Tuesday. It should be our last bed! Also the original Michelin tires on the Ford with only 28,000 miles werestarting to show wear . Replaced them with a new $900 set that should last twice as long and are even filled with Nitrogen for better gas mileage and wear. Time will tell!