Monday, August 30, 2010

Do Pet & Owner look alike? Judge for yourself!

I have heard the myth that owners and pets begin to look-a-like over time, but in this accidental photo, it appears that Steve (owner) and Bella (pet) have now become one!Oh, the fun of messing with the angle of the lens.

Both Steve & Bella do enjoy a fast boat ride, so they do have that in common.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Scenes from day 6 of Summer Vacation 2010

August 4, 2010 - and the theme for the day was "Mountains and Waterfalls". For our final day in West Yellowstone, we took a road trip south to go see the Grand Tetons up close, even though it was an almost 3 hour drive. In my humble opinion, 3 hours is nothing when you get to see beautiful scenery the entire way.
We packed up in the my dad's BAT truck and left the campground by 8:30 AM. Our first stop was at Lewis Falls where we got to walk out on a log jam to see them closer. Of course, there were lots of helping hands along the way to make sure no one took an unexpected swim.

In seemed like no time at all and we made it to the gorgeous Grand Tetons. We had a picnic lunch beside Jackson Lake. We had to put our sweatshirts on because it felt so cool in the shade. Seriously, the pics don't do it justice. Maybe it is because I am a flat-lander from the prairie, but the mountains take my breath away.
After three hours in the truck, we were very interested in going out on a hike, particularly, Kippy, who wanted to hike IN.THE.MOUNTAINS; however, she had to settle for hiking around the mountains instead. We picked a trail along Jenny Lake with an interesting destination of "Hidden Falls." We even took Miss Bella on the hike with us along with what we thought was plenty of water. Turns out, we are bad map readers and what we thought was going to be a 3 mile hike, round trip, ended up being 5 miles and taking 2 1/2 hours. Although the terrain was challenging at times, the view of Hidden Falls and the shear SIZE and the SOUND made it all worth while. We were all pretty dusty, tired and completely out of water by the time we got back to the BAT truck, but felt we had accomplished something special. Of course, ice cream treats all around helped brighten everyone's mood.

Some of these flower pics were taken in YNP and some were from Grand Teton National Park, so I don't technically have the collage labeled correctly. Beauty was all around us and I feel so blessed that we were able to see and appreciate it up close and personal. We certainly had a lot to talk about on the way back to W. Yellowstone. We enjoyed a late supper at a local Mexican Restaurant which had the spiciest salsa. I couldn't stop eating it even though my lips were BURNING. In fact, that meal was only one of 4 meals the entire trip where we ate out... all the rest were meals-on-wheels from our camper or picnic lunches we had packed. It was a wonderful day and my folks definitely make great tour guides.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Scenes from day 5 of Summer Vacation 2010

Tuesday, August 3rd, was an Explore-West-Yellowstone-day for us. The morning started out with an unplanned surprise. I went for an early morning trail run {literally a dirt hiking trail through the forest}, which was absolutely quiet, beautiful and very, very cold. And when I say very cold, I mean cold, as in see.your.breath.34.degrees.cold. The surprise was when two large black dogs came charging at me, barking and snarling out in the middle of no-where. I froze and shouted "NO!" in my lowest-loudest voice, fighting every instinct to just scream and run for my life. The dogs ran right up to me, the larger of the two had a happy tail, but the smaller one was growling and did not look at all friendly. I shouted "NO!" a couple more times, one of the dogs sniffed my leg and then they both ran off. I never saw any owner, but they both had collars. Those dogs definitely scared the puddin' out of me, but glad it wasn't a bear or wolves. I felt so defenseless standing in just my t-shirt and shorts. Probably not my best idea to be where I was, but the draw of the wilderness was pretty strong.

After a leisurely breakfast, we rode our bikes to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center downtown. We all fell in love with Jewel, a Karelian Bear dog, who is part of the bear management team. It was a great learning experience.
After lunch we biked downtown to snoop around a do a little souvenir shopping. After a lot of looking, we each picked out a t-shirt.

Steve's shirt gave a nod to the whitewater rafting as well as his accident-prone character.

My t-shirt was directly inspired by the dog incident earlier that morning and gave a nod to my slightly competitive nature.

The girls had a great time in one of the shops which had a ton of different hats. {I know what you are thinking and I can totally understand. I tried really, really hard not to think of how many other people had also done the same thing.}

I took pictures of the painted buffalo scattered throughout town. The creativity and designs were amazing.

A few other items we did on day 5:
  • We went to the IMAX theater and watched a movie about the history of Yellowstone.
  • After an afternoon rainstorm, we went back to the Grizzly and Wolf Center and enjoyed the animals as they were much more active after it had cooled off.
  • Steve grilled buffalo burgers for supper - Delicious!
  • After supper, we walked back downtown for Kippy to get her much anticipated Huckelberry ice cream, while the rest of us were treated to fresh peaches & vanilla ice cream at my parent's camper. My favorite!
  • It was a very relaxing day.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Scenes from day 4 of Summer Vacation 2010

August 2, otherwise known as THE.BEST.DAY.EVER on our vacation. We sure packed a lot into this day, which started at 8:15 AM as we climbed into Dad's rig and headed to North Yellowstone. We had to get an early start because traffic moves really slow due to road construction and even slower when we have to wait for a buffalo to lumber along the roadway, like we did on this morning. This big guy didn't care that we had a plans, a schedule, things to do, places to go... he just lumbered along for 15-20 minutes blocking traffic. I had plenty of time for lots of pics as I hung out the side window. Also, please note the pic of the narrow road with absolutely no shoulder. If I haven't mentioned it before, please let me say how grateful I am for my Dad driving and us not having to take our rental Rolling Turd on these skinny streets.

The buffalo made us a little short on time, so we had to do just a quick run through at Mammoth Hot Springs for a few photos. Our ultimate goal was to get to Gardiner, MT by 10:20 AM, where we had booked a 2 hour white water rafting trip with the Flying Pig Rafting Adventure Co.

Emotions were high and we were so pumped about our first time rafting experience. We arrived just in time to get geared up with our super-tight vests, water shoes and paddles. There was a pretty steep decent to get to the rafts and then we had a debrief on how to paddle, what to do if you fall out, how to pull someone back into the raft and how to flip the raft back over if it capsized, blah, blah, blah. I never once thought I would REALLY have to know that stuff.

Our raft guide was Anna from Australia and there were two other couples from England with us in our raft, which brought the total to 11 people {or mates as guide like to call us}. I thought it was pretty amazing that there were three generations of Sells/German's in the raft. Kippy was asked if she wanted to ride up front and she immediately handed over her paddle and perched herself on the edge with her legs hanging over the front.

Once we started we hit some rapids right away and Kippy was knocked back into the raft with water rushing over her so fast she could hardly catch her breath as I clung to the back of her vest holding her head up. The water was INCREDIBLY cold and we were all soaked in the first 30 seconds. Kippy got herself situated at the front of the raft again only this time when we hit some rapids, she was swept over-board. I can not exactly remember what happened, except I know that I lunged over the edge and grabbed on to her life vest for dear life and I could feel her getting sucked under the raft as we continued down the river. It was pure adrenaline when I hoisted her back in the raft with my heart racing out of fear. Kippy was fine and still wanted to sit on the front edge, only for the rest of the trip, she hung only one leg over instead of both so she could balance better.

In two hours, we traveled 8 miles and went through some amazing class II and III rapids (Man-eater, Rock Garden, & Sleeping Giant). We also floated past scenic views of Yellowstone National Park including 11,000ft Electric Peak and Devil's Slide. Further downstream we got to stop and put our hands and feet in hot-springs water. And compared to the freezing river, it felt burning hot.
I brought a disposable water camera with us, but the pictures were really disappointing. Thankfully, the Flying Pig Adventure Co had a strategically placed photographer who took action photos of our raft going through some rapids. Talk about an excellent keepsake (thanks Mom for buying the CD)!

In one of the calm sections, we played RODEO, which involved having someone stand up on the edge of the raft in the front while the rest of us spun the raft in circles. If you made it 8 seconds, then you won, if not, you basically took a swim in the freezing water. Guess who played RODEO first? It was Kippy, she made it 8 seconds before she fell into the river; next up was Abby, who also made it 8 seconds before her trip into the river; I got talked into it next and I made it 22 seconds before I got back down in the boat - no river swim for me; Steve was the last one and he didn't quite do 8 seconds but he did get a little extra help from me into the river (ALLEGEDLY).

The only thing that would have made the rafting trip better is if we would have done the 1/2 day trip and gone the full 18 miles. It was definitely the highlight of our vacation and I would do it again in a nano-second.
With rafting done, we still have 1/2 of our day left. After a picnic lunch in Mammoth, we drove the YNP loop and stopped to see many of the popular waterfalls including Undine Falls, Tower Fall, as well as the Upper and Lower Falls.
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is breathtaking. Some of the sights had challenging hikes to get up close, but well worth it. The girls and I took so many pictures, but it is impossible to capture the real beauty of the area. It was after 8:00 PM before we got back to our campsite, completely fatigued and happy. Truly THE.BEST.DAY.EVER!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Scenes from Day 3 of Summer Vacation 2010

August 1, 2010: Day 3 of our summer vacation and we were filled with anticipation and excitement of getting to see our ultimate goal Yellowstone National Park.

One of the biggest surprises was how much traffic there is in YNP. The wait just to enter the park was almost 20 minutes with 4 lanes of traffic. We were so grateful to my dad who was our chauffeur in his big truck (as in Semi-truck, not pickup truck). The girls were armed with their cameras and we began seeing wildlife almost immediately.

I loved witnessing the excitement on Kippy's face as she was able to see and photograph the sights. I think that alone made absolutely everything (planning, time, expense) worth it. My heart was definitely singing!
We explored the Lower Geyser Basin and read a lot of information about the various geothermal features and saw the famous Fountain Paint Pots and watched Fountain Geyser erupt.

We spent so much time at the Lower Basin that we skipped the Middle Basin and headed straight to the Upper Geyser Basin. After grabbing a quick lunch, we headed to see Old Faithful only to find out that we missed the eruption by 2 minutes.

That actually was a good thing, because it gave us 90 minutes to go and check out the historic Old Faithful Inn which is over 100 years old and walk along the boardwalk to see many of the other Upper Basin geysers. We did some virtual Geocaching and took pictures in front of the appropriate geysers and learned a lot along the way. One item that really caught Kippy's attention was the warning sign about walking off of the boardwalk because it featured a story about at 9 year old boy who was killed in the 1970's while on vacation. The fact that he was 9 is what impacted her the most.

Our patience was eventually rewarded and Old Faithful made a great showing. From our vantage point on the boardwalk, we were able to see, hear, smell and actually FEEL the steam from the eruption. It was amazing. Afterward, we rewarded ourselves with big scoops of ice cream. You can enjoy Kippy's sideways version of Old Faithful here {she recorded it with her new camera that she bought herself the week before we went on her trip}.

This was actually my 2nd time to YNP, but the first time I went, I was 7 years old and can hardly remember it. We definitely created new lasting memories on this family trip.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Scenes from Day 2 of Summer Vacation 2010

Day 2 (July 31, 2010) was primarily a travel day.
  • Got an early morning walk in my Mom & Kippy and I took a picture of our three rigs all lined up at the Red Trail campground.
  • We packed up for our morning departure and had a major GRIZWOLD moment... We didn't have the driver's side captain chair slid all the way forward and broke the trim off when we brought the slide back in. We are still waiting to hear the results of that stunt ($$) from the RV Rental company. Major oops and a downer to start out the day.
  • Had to say good-bye to Russ, Kristy, Noah & Nixin, but glad we had a day with them at Medora. Mom & Dad's rig took the lead as we departed and headed for Yellowstone by 8:00 AM.
  • Drove through some random rainstorms throughout the day. The girls mainly slept, watched movies, & read while we traveled along. It was very comfortable traveling until we got to the narrow windy roads the last 60 miles and I had to suck all the air out of the vehicle over and over.
  • Only stopped 3 times the whole day and arrived at West Yellowstone at 6:30 PM to our campsite at Grizzly RV, which would be our spot for the next 5 days.
  • Kippy had an explosive experience when she opened the ketchup bottle during supper. The difference in air pressure being at an elevation of 6600 feet caused it to burst ALL.OVER.HER. Several other items including shampoo and lotion also burst during the trip.
  • While we were eating supper at our campsite, we opened the "forbidden awning", which we were absolutely warned would not be covered by our insurance if it was damaged. Well, we almost damaged it because when it was raining and the wind came up, it wouldn't retract. Steve eventually had to stand on the picnic table and use an umbrella to help it and got rewarded with an avalanche of water on his head. It was pretty funny... guess ya had to be there.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

This and That

Just going to share a little of This and That from the past few days...

1. Here's a LEARN: Yoga pants are not appropriate running gear. This was a surprise to me. My new Victoria Secret yoga pants work great in weight training class, so comfy and cute, and they are wonderful as work pants in my casual office. However, due to the lack of a waist band on them, they cannot be used as running pants EVER! I spent 4 miles grabbing, hoisting, pulling my tank-top down over them trying to keep them from dropping to the ground all the while repeating over and over "Yoga pants ARE.NOT.APPROPRIATE running gear." Just a friendly PSA to help you out.

2. Lunch at our house is generally a make-it-yourself operation. I occasionally remind the family to Get-in-Touch-with-their-Inner-Fruits-&-Veggies, but all in all they do make pretty good choices. Recently at lunch time, I was looking through the crisper drawer and decided to saute fresh zucchini and mushrooms together... seemed like a great combo of two of my favorites. As I was cooking and stirring them, Kippy entered the kitchen and asked, "Mom, what smells so good?"
I replied, "Zucchini and mushrooms."
Kippy asked, "Can I have some too?"
Me: "Sure."
Less than 1 minute later, Abby came into the kitchen and said, "Mmmmm, that smells good. Can I have some?"
"Of course." Luckily I had made a lot, so there was plenty to go around. As we were sitting at the counter enjoying the veggies, Kippy turned to me and said, "Aren't you glad we are the kind of kids who will eat vegetables?
I had to laugh and admit, "Yes I am!"

3. Another important LEARN to share: Having an external computer harddrive is not the same as having a full file backup. On Friday, August 13th, a virus was activated on our home PC which engaged when Windows did an improper shut down. The improper shut down was due to a power flicker from a thunderstorm early in the morning. The virus prevents Windows from loading and prevents the system from booting up. We know this because our PC has been at the local Computer Dr. We are hoping to get it back at noon today. In the meantime, we did buy another PC and I have all of our pictures and documents from the external harddrive, which is great. I hadn't done a back-up of the Photoshop Elements catalog since June 6th, so my pictures & edits from vacation are missing and all of our e-mail messages and e-mail addresses are also gone. Hopefully, I will get the tower back and be able to pull over the missing information and finally get things straightened out, but at this time, things are still up in the air. I am going to put a calendar reminder to do full-file backups every month FROM.NOW.ON!

That is all for this episode of This and That...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Scenes from Day 1 of our Summer Vacation

Our official Family Summer Vacation 2010 kicked off on Friday, July 30th as we departed from the farm at 8:00 AM. We had the van stuffed to the gills with camping gear & supplies to support us on our 8 day adventure to Yellowstone National Park. The first stop was to pick up our RV Rental in Mandan, ND at 11:00 AM; however, our GPS Navigator "Amy" failed to direct us to the proper location and we wondered around a residential area for about 15 minutes trying to get to our destination. Kind of a rocky start for an 8 day trip, don't ya think?

My parents planned to meet up with us later in the day as well as my brother Russ & his family. We had to do a little bait & switch tactic with our Bella. We weren't "officially" allowed to have a dog in our rental RV, so my folks took her the first part of the trip. For the record, we don't really think of Bella as a dog, she is more of an accessory than anything else.

It took us almost an hour to get all of our supplies including the hitch with the bike rack moved from the van over to the newly dubbed "Rolling Turd". I haven't seen the Robin Williams' movie RV, but Abby has and said the name came from that show. There were also a lot of instructions on how to operating the massive rig and understand all the lights, bells and whistles. Looking at the sheer size of the Rolling Turd and I was already apprehensive about its maneuverability for the next 1300 miles.

We got on the road by noon & headed for Medora. The interior was extremely roomie. Abby quickly claimed the larger couch and Kippy got the love seat. Steve felt very confident as the driver and slowly I was able to relax and enjoy the adventure.
Our first tourist stop was to see Salem Sue, the largest Holstein cow in the world. When the decision was made to take the Rolling Turd up the steep hill, we didn't really consider whether or not there was adequate space to turn the 33 foot rig around. After exploring and taking pictures of Sue, I ended up having to ask several people to move their vehicles while Steve began the process of turning around. I am sure it was a comical sight, but pretty stressful for both the driver and the navigator. Our first major hurdle was a success!
We continued on down the road until we reached the Painted Canyon and were able to meet up with my folks and Miss Bella. The views were breathtaking and a welcome change from the prairie. We made a brief stop in Dickensen for groceries and headed on to Medora to get checked into the Red Trail Campground. Russ & Kristy arrived at the same time and we got all three rigs situated next to each other and appropriately set up. It was very good for us to be nestled between two experience campers because they provided help, insructions and also some missing gear to us.

It was mid afternoon and we had some time for touring before the pitchfork fondue & musical. We chose to check out the Chateau de Mores, which gave some interesting history on the origination of the town of Medora and the cattle industry in the late 1800's.

The highlight of the day was definitely the Pitchfork Fondue and Musical. Although we had to stand in line for the food in the HOT, HOT, HOT sun, it was delicious and a very unique experience. Can't say enough about the Musical. Our seats were amazing - right down in front. Noah, Kippy & Nixin went on stage to try to learn to clog and got a fun souvenir for their efforts. I was stunned that my shy 5 year-old nephew, Nixin, would even want to go up on stage in front of the sold out crowd. There was a special performance from the Magician, Jay Mattioli, which was fantastic. Abby said, "Mom, when I try to figure out how he did those tricks, it makes my head hurt!" It was rather late by the time we got back to our Rolling Turd and just as we settled in to sleep, there was a major rainstorm and we were ever so grateful that we were not in a tent!

*NOTE: Recaps from the remainder of the vacation is on hold until our home PC is repaired and all 1000+ pictures & videos from the trip are restored {as well as my sanity}.