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The final state line ahead, and the bridge that would lead us back to Oregon.

The final state line ahead, and the bridge that would lead us back to Oregon.

Our destination today?  Home!  After we’d drafted our original itinerary we added two more days, to include making it to Georgia, and shorter driving hours.  But after we’d gotten about as far as Georgia some of our kids were feeling a bit weary.  So we gave them the choice of longer spans of driving and two days less on the road.  What took us two weeks to get to, only took us one week to come back across.

And, the ones who wanted to,  got to start their day at the water park at our hotel.

Beth and Adam going down the 'big kids' slide. Adam loved it, and Beth was so sweet to keep taking him down.

Beth and Adam going down the 'big kids' slide. Adam loved it, and Beth was so sweet to keep taking him down.

Aaron after flying out of the faster tube. It was a closed tube so I could never see him until he shot into the pool.

Aaron after flying out of the faster tube. It was a closed tube so I could never see him until he shot into the pool.

We even had our lunch at the only Cracker Barrel, and the last one heading West, we ate at these three weeks.  …It was good!

Our last goofy car shot. You can see the Cracker Barrel flags in the background.

Our last goofy car shot. You can see the Cracker Barrel flags in the background.

We made quick work of Idaho, and then crossed into eastern Washington for a good chunk of the drive. We kept commenting how this part of Washington really looked like what we expected Kansas to look like. And Kansas was green and pretty, like we’d expect a west coast state to look like. We were happy to find a roadside fruit stand selling Washington cherries at one of our pit stops along the way. It was starting to feel like home!

We're not in Kansas anymore...but it sure looks like it! Or at least what we thought Kansas would look like....but this is eastern Washington.

We're not in Kansas anymore...but it sure looks like it! Or at least what we thought Kansas would look like....but this is eastern Washington.

And more views from the eastern part of the west coast.

And more views from the eastern part of the west coast.

And gaining an hour back on the clock (changing time zones for the last time) helped to get us into town just a little bit earlier, too.  I was the lucky one, as it so often happened during our trip, to get the wheel while the sun started to set.  Driving in through the Gorge with a cup of coffee and a fairly quiet car, except for some radio, was the perfect chance to prepare for home.  And it gave me the chance to look back on these three weeks, that flew by in a whirlwind, and prepare to be home.  There’s no grander entrance than coming in along the beautiful Columbia river!

We've seen a lot of beautiful places, but Oregon is pretty spectatular on it's own. Loved watching the sun set through the Columbia Gorge.

We've seen a lot of beautiful places, but Oregon is pretty spectatular on it's own. Loved watching the sun set through the Columbia Gorge.

As we got closer to home the kids got the giggles (of course, we were doing Mad Libs, too).  They were mostly excited to see their dogs, who they’d talked about daily and worried a little wouldn’t recognize them.  But, of course they did;  and they greeted us with wagging tails and kisses!

The kids were so excited to see the dogs...and they were super excited to see the kids too!

The kids were so excited to see the dogs...and they were super excited to see the kids too!

Would we do it all again?!?  Paul and I would leave tomorrow!  It would take our favorite travelers longer to prepare.  But I think I speak for us all in that we have no regrets and there would be no better group for us to make those memories with!!

The last stop before home...what a great trip!

The last stop before home...what a great trip!

You can barely see the top of Adam's head with his headphones way back in the third row. He loved to sneak his feet up here behind the girls heads. "Smell my feet! Smell my feet twice!"

You can barely see the top of Adam's head with his headphones way back in the third row. He loved to sneak his feet up here behind the girls heads. "Smell my feet! Smell my feet twice!"

Today was our last full day before coming home and we looked forward to seeing some new sites on our way home.  The weather made the drive beautiful.  We didn’t even want to take time to sit for lunch, knowing we had a long day in the car again.  We made another grocery store lunch stop, only the “grocery store” at our disposal was Wal-Mart.  But everyone found something they’d like and we ate our lunch as we drove into Yellowstone National Park.  It was an hour drive into the park from our hotel.  We took the route from the East entrance, headed West.  Much of the scenery to one side was the same–mountain side and trees.  But the view to the left, after getting further into the park, was of the gigantic lake.  It’s larger than Crater Lake with a similar feeling and the water is so clear and blue.

Beautiful Yellowstone Lake in the Yellowstone National Park.

Beautiful Yellowstone Lake in the Yellowstone National Park.

About an hour plus into the park we arrived at the Yellowstone Geyser.  It was a half hour until it was set to blow again.  So we let the kids browse the gift shop, headed into the visitor’s center for a few minutes, then we took our place on the grassy area around the geyser.  The kids had a snack and it wasn’t long before the geyser erupted.

Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park. Not too bad OF, you were only 3 minutes past predicted time...I guess you really are faithful.

Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park. Not too bad OF, you were only 3 minutes past predicted time...I guess you really are faithful.

We still had a fairly long day of driving ahead.  We made our way out of the park, another hour’s drive, and headed out of Wyoming to Montana.  We spent most of the afternoon and evening driving through Montana.

Are you tired of seeing our sunsets yet? Every night was sure beautiful driving west.

Are you tired of seeing our sunsets yet? Every night was sure beautiful driving west.

That night, we stayed here!

The boys hanging out in the Frog area of the water park for a few.

The boys hanging out in the Frog area of the water park for a few.

Aaron taking a spin down one of the water slides before the pool closed for the night.

Aaron taking a spin down one of the water slides before the pool closed for the night.

And snacked on pizza!

Adam snacking away on some late night hotel room pizza. He LOVES his Yellowstone Ranger vest, and even slept with it close by.

Adam snacking away on some late night hotel room pizza. He LOVES his Yellowstone Ranger vest, and even slept with it close by.

Dubbed the worlds largest mountain carving, The Crazy Horse Monument is on the way to Mt. Rushmore.

Dubbed the worlds largest mountain carving, The Crazy Horse Monument is on the way to Mt. Rushmore.

Although we probably wouldn’t have made this a destination all on it’s own, we were all really glad we got to be here!

The drive up the the mountain was really pretty and not too long (for those of us who get car sick).  And we got to see Crazy Horse, another monument carved into it’s own mountain.

Although it was really busy, parking and getting to the monument was easy and the shops were the most crowded, for those who want to avoid crowds during the busy summer season.  When we walked up to viewing area for Mt. Rushmore we asked another visitor to take our picture.  And it so happened she was from Portland, visiting a friend who was being deployed.  Anyway, she took a great picture for us to remember our visit and we hope the best for her friend and during his service to our country!

The Fam in front of "The Mount Rushmores," as Adam likes to call them.

The Fam in front of "The Mount Rushmores," as Adam likes to call them.

After we came back down into Custer we had our lunch at a Custer restaurant, The Baker’s Bakery and Cafe.  Our lunch was good and the town is so cute.  It was a great place to stop for lunch before our next leg of driving.

Yes, it's a cute bakery now, but the historic sign points out that back in the day, Fly Speck Billy brought about the untimely demise of Abe Barnes. The the town "got a rope....."

Yes, it's a cute bakery now, but the historic sign points out that back in the day, Fly Speck Billy brought about the untimely demise of Abe Barnes. So the town "got a rope....."

We really enjoyed our drive through South Dakota and Wyoming, and specifically through the Big Horn County Mount Woolsey pass.  Our timing was perfect, going through the mountains just before dusk.

Aaron took this shot from the summit of the 13,000 foot Mt. Woolsey pass. You can see for miles, and miles.

Aaron took this shot from the summit of the 13,000 foot Mt. Woolsey pass. You can see for miles, and miles.

There weren’t many other cars, the lighting was pretty, and animals were coming out.  We saw so many deer, Victoria was believing they were just big rodents;  this was a highlight for Beth, and really, a nice change from all the other scenery up to now for all of us.

Accidentally flipped the camera to Shutter mode, which was set too slow for a fast action shot, but the kids LOVED these little deer with their mom.

Accidentally flipped the camera to Shutter mode, which was set too slow for a fast action shot, but the kids LOVED these little deer with their mom.

This was the scene so many times on the drive to Cody. Actually, more wildlife than when we went through Yellowstone!

This was the scene so many times on the drive to Cody. Actually, more wildlife than when we went through Yellowstone!

Our last stop was at the Best Western motor lodge in Cody, Wyoming – the classic single level, pull-up-to-your-room family vacation style motel. Loved it!

Another beautiful sunset on the drive west to Cody, Wyoming.

Another beautiful sunset on the drive west to Cody, Wyoming.

Downtown Colorado Springs, with the picturesque mountains in the background.

Downtown Colorado Springs, with the picturesque mountains in the background.

Before leaving Colorado Springs we ran into town to visit the Verizon store (Victoria’s phone fell into undesirable circumstances, but no lovin’ from the VZ guys) and see more of where my brother’s family would be living.  Colorado Springs is a great town, with a casual feeling, and really scenic, set in the valley of mountains.  Brendan and Kim, Phillip, Emily, and Janna:  we hope you all feel at home here in no time and make it everything your family would like it to be!

Another view before leaving downtown.

Another view before leaving downtown.

It wasn’t long after we’d left Colorado Springs that we found a Tony’s Market in a cool mall just off the hwy.–another fantastic, little grocery store stop.  And we were all happy to find lots of fresh food choices to “balance out” drive thrus and restaurant stops.  We sat at the tables outside, with just enough sun to remind us it’s summer, but not so hot anyone complained.

Fed and happy for the road, we kept going North.  The terrain had changes, leaving Colorado Springs, and had become drier and rockier.  We made an earlier dinner stop in Glendo, Wyoming, not knowing when we see more options.  We had dinner at a local restaurant with a family meeting up with their daughter and grandson and a couple of rangers from the state park nearby.  Everyone was so friendly and we appreciated talking with our fellow diners.

The scenic drive from Colorado Springs to Custer, South Dakota.

The scenic drive from Colorado Springs to Custer, South Dakota.

A building in downtown Glendoe, Wyoming, where we stopped for dinner. (Not at that building, of course.)

A building in downtown Glendoe, Wyoming, where we stopped for dinner. (Not at that building, of course.)

The sky started turning really pretty as we headed north.

The sky started turning really pretty as we headed north.

More sky along the drive.

More sky along the drive.

I'm glad Sandi and the girls shot these photos, I think I was asleep for this part of the drive.

I'm glad Sandi and the girls shot these photos, I think I was asleep for this part of the drive.

Our final stop was in Custer, South Dakota, about 20 mins. outside the Mt. Rushmore National Memorial.  The last hour of our drive was along a dark stretch of highway where we saw the brightest moon we’ve ever seen, and continuous orange lightning from a storm just miles away. We stayed at one of our favorite hotels here–we always appreciate actually having enough beds for everyone and being able to do a load of laundry when we need to.  Doesn’t take much, I guess, but it was new and clean, too!  See what I mean?!?  Nice.

The moon was bright orange..seriously funky. The brightest, most colorful moon I've ever seen.

The moon was bright orange..seriously funky. The brightest, most colorful moon I've ever seen.

Although we saw a lot of the same thing for MILES on end, it was much prettier through Kansas than we expected.

Although we saw a lot of the same thing for MILES on end, it was much prettier through Kansas than we expected.

After leaving Missouri this morning we drove through Kansas most of the day.  We expected it to be much drier, this time of year.  But it was green and the view was beautiful.

That's not a soda machine, it's a Live Bait machine. The only thing better than seeing the machine, was seeing a fella in a big ol' 4x4, gun racks and all, in disbelief saying "whoa, I ain't never seen a live bait machine before!"

That's not a soda machine, it's a Live Bait machine. The only thing better than seeing the machine, was seeing a fella in a big ol' 4x4, gun racks and all, in disbelief saying "whoa, I ain't never seen a live bait machine before!"

We had sun all day and made our stops a little quicker in order to get to Colorado Springs in time to visit with our family there.

We rode down between this storm on one side of us, and beautiful clear sky on the other side, for most of the afternoon.

We rode down between this storm on one side of us, and beautiful clear sky on the other side, for most of the afternoon.

My (Sandi’s) oldest brother, Brendan, and his family moved to Colorado Springs just a week ago!  So we were excited to visit with them and see their beautiful, new home!  While kicking back on their comfy couches, we got to hear about their travels out to Colorado from Seattle and they got to hear about our trip so far.  Sandi’s sister-in-law, Kim, served up big ol’ bowls of banana splits to her happy family members (thank you, Kim!).  And Victoria and her cousin, Emily, swam together at their neighborhood pool a block away;  and their cousin, Janna, walked with Beth, Aaron, and Adam to the elementary school, just across from the pool center, to stretch their legs.  Thank you for being so welcoming!  It was great to spend time with you and be in your home!!

Lexington, you redeemed our last days in the South.

Some of the green pastures surrounding Lexington.

NOTE: If you’re just checking in, we made three posts this morning. Please scroll through to make sure you’ve seen all the current posts.

We really like Lexington.  In fact, we decided it would tie for our favorite city to revisit that we’d never been to before now (the other was Austin for it’s urban setting).  Lexington is a college town and prison town, much like home (wink), and has a casual feeling to it.  There’s old architecture to admire, there seem to be a lot of small, local shops and restaurants that would be fun to explore;  it’s really clean, and the rural surrounding is gorgeous!  We’d encourage any of you to take your time here if you have the chance to see Lexington!

Before we left we went back to grab some photos of the beautiful, historic homes we’d driven past on our way to our hotel when it was dark the night before.  Then Paul worked the magic of his iPhone, again, and took us to “The Best BBQ in Lexington”, Billy’s BBQ!  We passed around a bowl of burgoo to taste (much like beef and veggie stew).  We shared onion rings and fried pepperoncinis.  Then we ordered pulled pork–two sandwiches, two sans buns;  the boys got chicken strips and a hot dog…  Anyway, the food was great and our server was a native Kentuckian and took wonderful care of us.

I'm not sure why Sandi selected this one for publication, but it may be the start of a few goofy shots for the post. Do I look tired?

The One responsible for finding The Best BBQ in Lexington! Thank you, Darling! (Does he look tired?)

Oh yeah, see...goofy shot of Aaron, ok...I see the trend now.

What's this?

And the JackALope for the trifecta!

Ahhh...a JackALope!

We saw the most states in one day’s drive today.  After we left Kentucky, we drove through Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, and Kansas.  Indiana and Illinois held mile after mile of green fields, and so many sweet farm houses and barns…honestly, we loved the setting and the sun shining down on us!  We found our favorite gas station in Illinois, out in the middle of nowhere.  We fancy ourselves fair judges of gas station bathrooms, and this one was clean.  And in the back of the store were seats for the locals to drink their coffee–they called it the Mayberry Social Club, and all the seats were full, so it must be true!

The Marathon...a surprisingly clean hole in the wall stop along the way, complete with a Social Club in the back for the locals.

The Marathon: complete with a Social Club in the back for the locals.

Miles of these types of homes. We saw lots of cute, little farms like this in Illinois.
And a change of scenery as we rolled through to Kansas City.

Brownstones in downtown St. Louis.

And since we shortened our trip by a day, these days include longer distances;  and, fittingly, we arrived after dark to…sleep…of course!

Clarys, a local favorite, and also made famous (apparently) in the movie Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil.

Clary's, a local favorite, and also made famous (apparently) in the movie Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil.

A new day!

We didn’t have our breakfast at the hotel.  We got to try a local joint called Clary’s.  Paul found it online and it fit us perfectly!  It was in historic downtown Savannah, away from the traffic and the crowded streets of the night before.  We came at the right time, like we so often have throughout our trip, and were seated at the only big table, which we filled with just our family.  Some of us ordered nothing, others of us ordered more than our share.  In the end, there was more than enough for all of us to taste and fill up on–everything from crab cakes benedict, strawberry french toast, griddle cakes, bacon, grits, biscuits and gravy, fruit, to even their version of bread pudding!  Thank you Clary’s-you felt like home and gave us comfort and sustenance to continue on!

Crabcakes Benedict with buttered grits.

Crab cakes Benedict with buttered grits.

Stuffed french toast, strawberries, cream cheese, lots of goodness.

French toast stuffed with strawberries and cream cheese.

Bread pudding for breakfast (Sandi's) and "bowl of fruit." (You'll just have to ask the girls...)

Bread pudding for breakfast (Sandi's) and "bowl of fruit." (You'll just have to ask the girls...)

We saw historic  Forsythe Park, and beautiful homes with intricate scroll work and genuine patina.

Forsythe Park in historic Savannah.

Forsythe Park in historic Savannah.

Just one of the gazillions of amazing homes downtown.

Just one of the amazing homes downtown.

We took a tour of Savannah. Well, we tailed this tour bus through downtown for a bit and took the 'free' tour.

We took a tour of Savannah. Well, we tailed this tour bus through downtown for a bit and took the 'free' tour.

But it wasn’t long before we were on our way.  In fact, since we’d blown past all the farm stands in order to get to Savannah the night before, we stopped at the first one on our way out, and it was in South Carolina.  Oh well, we were told it was still a Georgia peach.  Another nice customer at the stand took our picture with our peaches.  We didn’t eat them for an hour, after we rinsed them in a gas station bathroom…and the Georgia sun wasn’t shining on our backs…we were blowing down the hwy. instead.  But they still tasted great and we were grateful to leave Georgia with some kind of a sweet taste in our mouths!

The Griswald family posing for our cheesy 'we've got our Georgia peaches' photo.

The Griswald family posing for our cheesy 'we've got our Georgia peaches' photo.

We drove through miles of rolling, green hills on our way through South Carolina.  We thought it was really pretty and we’d heard North Carolina was prettier, yet.  We drove through the sweet, little town of Newberry, South Carolina, to look for a BBQ place Paul had found on his iPhone.  It wasn’t there.  But this was a small glitch.  We’re indestructible after yesterday.  There may have only been chain restaurants available.  But, in our resourcefulness, we chose a new one to us–Bojangles.  Well, it was ok.  The staff was lovely and we left full anyway.

One of the coolest parts of the drive, rolling through the fog in the mountains.

One of the coolest parts of the drive, rolling through the fog in the mountains.

At dusk, we were going through the Smoky Mountains as the rain started to fall.  It was perfect, really, and if we’d tried we couldn’t have timed it better–so pretty!!
On the other side were the tree-covered hills of North Carolina.  And, shortly, we came to the charming city of Lexington, with a clean and spacious hotel room, ready for this family of six to repair for another day on the road.

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