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family vacation By John George

When my wife Jenny was nine, her family of seven took a road trip in a ’71 Pontiac station wagon to Mount Rushmore National Park. For a few years now she has been dreaming of taking a similar family vacation with our son, Zeke, who is eleven. While out West, we want to go hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, take in a rodeo at Cheyenne Frontier Days, and, as long as we’re in the neighborhood, visit Yellowstone National Park.

It’s a tall order, I know, and when we consulted an atlas the mileage was daunting. Mapquest confirmed we would log over 3,000 miles on our family sedan if we drove from Chicago. We considered driving out West in a rental car and flying home from Denver after we’d made all our stops, but it was still a lot of miles, and one-way flights plus one-way car rentals were more costly than round-trips. Fortunately, my sister-in-law, (who will be joining us along with her 11-year old son), suggested flying out to Denver and renting a car from there. This ended up being a more cost efficient and hassle-free option. We booked cheap round-trip flights to Denver, and our car rental was considerably less.

When we arrive, we’ll drive about an hour north to Loveland, where we have relatives, and stay there a couple of nights. From there, we’ll do a day trip into Rocky Mountain National Park. We are planning on taking a hike on one of the park’s many trails and hope to see some wildlife including deer, elk, moose and bighorn sheep (mountain lions too, but we don’t really want to see one of those!).

From Loveland, we’ll drive about another hour north to Cheyenne for the annual Cheyenne Frontier Days  (July 17-26), where we’ll take in a rodeo and a country-western concert. There’s also a carnival outside the fairgrounds, where kids can go on rides and play games. Hotels book up quickly and room rates are high, so we’ve decided to stay just one night in Cheyenne.

After the rodeo, we’ll drive about five hours northeast to Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. My sister-in-law booked a large room at one of the lodges in the park that will sleep all of us and save some money. It was one of just a few rooms left in the park, but there are many hotels just outside the park. We’re staying two nights, so we’ll have a full day to see nearby Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monument. We also hope to fit in a visit to Wind Cave National Park. The cave is full of crystals and unusual underground formations.

Family vacation We’ll continue our circle trip nine hours west to Yellowstone National Park. This will be our longest stay at three nights. Besides seeing Old Faithful and maybe going on a hike or a bike ride through (what I understand) is beautiful country, I’m hoping we have some time to relax. I wonder if you can take a soak in any of those hot springs?

Our drive back to Denver will take about nine hours, and we’ll head home after what I’m sure will be a fun-filled ten days!

We’re a little worried about our two 11-year-old boys on a road trip. In our fast-paced world of immediate gratification, long car rides may be a bit of a challenge for them (and us!). We want them to embrace this family vacation, so we have asked them each to write a report on something about the trip that intrigues them before we go. It can be about one of the presidents on Mount Rushmore, life as a cowboy, the science behind Old Faithful, or anything at all that they choose.

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John George is a full-time working dad to his 11-year-old son. After visiting every continent, save Antarctica, he was domesticated by his wife Jenny. Their family enjoys cruising, beach vacations and getaways to the Big Apple.

Tagged: Family time

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