Day 31 – The Mall of America

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We didn’t set out with the objective of seeing so much of the US, but hey, it’s all relative, so when you’re in the area you might as well….right?  After realizing we were driving through so many of the states we figured why skip Minnesota?  I mean, when will we get back this way?  The next logical questions was, what will we do there, to which the obvious answer was visit the Mall of America!  I’m not much of a shopper by some people’s standards, but there must be a reason why it is considered the most widely visited mall in the world….let’s go find out.

Once again parking was surprisingly easy for me with the Suburban.  It didn’t take long for all of us to see what the attraction was, there is definitely something for everyone at the Mall of America.  One of the first things we spied was another American Girl store.  Bonus!  We were there early enough I was able to book a lunch date for us, which absolutely thrilled A.  The two story store was draw dropping for A to see.  (Really hope she gets to see the NY store some day and that I have a video camera to capture the expression on her face.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch was super!  No regrets at all on the splurge!  Everyone enjoyed the meal, including Bell and the view of the indoor amusement park was novel to say the least.

The smile says it all!

Bell enjoyed her meal as well 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It wasn’t long until L spotted something he liked too.  A huge LEGO store.

Yes, that’s all LEGO in the background.

LEGO Woodie

LEGO Mosaic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I managed to spend a considerable amount of time exploring a scrapbook store, which made me quite happy.

Our only other stop that day was in Burr Oak, Iowa at the childhood home of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

The Home of Laura Ingalls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I still had quite a bit of driving ahead of me, which made for yet another long day, but it was peaceful.  We ended up camping in a Walmart parking lot again for the night.

Sleeping in the Suburban

I

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Day 29 – US Landmarks

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We got an early start this morning, leaving Cody, Wyoming, just outside Yellowstone National Park.  We’re going to have to do some research on the origins of the name of the town when we get home, but judging from store names, etc. there seems to be a connection with Buffalo Bill Cody.

Internet access is still pretty limited for us as I need to keep my cell phone in airplane mode to avoid roaming charges, but we are making the most of free WiFi at McDonalds and at hotels when we are able to.  Until we get home and have full access we will probably just continue to update our blog when we can and will fill in the rest once we return.

Our adventures today lead us through some interesting places, thanks in large part to our dependency on our GPS as we didn’t have an area map.  We drove through some “Open Ranges”, where there are no fences and the cattle just roam.

Our first real stop of the day took place in late afternoon.  We stopped to see Devils Tower in Wyoming.  A fellow tourist me met in our travels in northern Ontario had suggested we stop in on our way by, so we did.  For those of you unfamiliar with the landmark and old enough to recall the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” will recognize it from our pictures. (Think I will try to find a copy of the movie once we get home to show the kids.)

Our next stop was Mount Rushmore.  We didn’t spend a lot of time at Mount Rushmore, but now that we have an annual pass (that comes with the parking fee) we can return any time we are in the area 🙂  It was a lovely spot and it was nice to see the site in person.  I personally was expecting it to look larger, but non the less it is still amazing to see.

Tonight is a hotel night.  With limited options we ended up having to go a little beyond our budget for a room as this area is jam packed with tourists and quite commercial.  We found a nice hotel though and are adding to our collection of reward points.

Day 28 – Yellowstone

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In our travels today we stopped in to see the Idaho Potato Museum.  It just seemed like the thing to do in Idaho…and I needed a break from driving.  It was a curious little museum that gave out free hash-browns with adult admission tickets.

A with the world’s largest potato crisp!

Mr. Potato Head collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually we reached Yellowstone National Park, where we saw all kinds of interesting things!

Wild Buffalo

Old Faithful

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was another super-long day, but one we will always remember.  We finally settled in for the night in Cody, Wyoming, Buffalo Will country.

Day 27 – Oregon Trail

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After yesterday we were all pretty tired.  E and I headed to an outlet mall across the street from our hotel while K stayed with A and L.  Oregon doesn’t have any sales tax, making outlet shopping that much more attractive.  After that we hit the trail, quite literally as the highway at points followed what would have been the Oregon Trail.

 

Day 26 – The Heart of Washington

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From the onset of our trip I wondered how today would go.  I was worried about city traffic and parking, but in the end it was all just fine, although there was a lot of traffic.  I even managed to fit my suburban into one of the parking garages, which isn’t always possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our first stop of the day, the  King Tut exhibit at the Pacific Science Center.  Once again we took advantage of our museum membership’s reciprocal agreement for a discount and the added bonus of skipping the long line for tickets.

Afterwards we toured the Science Centre, which was fun.

Touching Tide Pool

We followed our trip to the science center with a visit to the Space Needle.  After all, you can’t go to Seattle and not stop at the Space Needle, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our last stop at the day could have been timed a bit better, but we managed to take in Mount St. Helens just as it was starting to get dark.   Once again, a long day, but a wonderful day!

Mount St. Helens

Day 25 – Welcome to the USA

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We opted to take the Anacortes Ferry to Washington and we very much enjoyed it’s scenic journey.  Our first order of business upon arrival in the US, was to check out an outlet mall recommended to us by friends.  We got a few things for the kids at the outlet and continued on to our big stop of the day, the Alderwood Mall, home of the LEGO store and American Girl Store.  The kids very much enjoyed this shopping trip!  What more can I say?

A, with her doll Bell, at the American Girl Store.

L with his LEGO purchases.

I had a hard time finding a hotel for the night, but eventually we found one with the help of another hotel and we settled in for the night just outside of Seattle.

 

Day 24 – Fun-Filled Day in Victoria

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Today turned out to be a busy, busy day indeed.  At the crack of down we got moving.  Our first stop was our highly anticipated Whale Watching tour.  We were the first tour of the day, which usually means it takes longer for the captain to find a whale pod as they don’t have any recent sightings to guide them, but our tour did not disappoint…..not in the least!

I decided to choose a  tour with a larger boat, even though the kids were all old enough to go on a smaller more open one.  In the end it was a good call, as the larger boat gave us more protection from the wind.

It took a while to spot a pod of Orca whales, but when we did it was so worth it.  It was pure magic watching those majestic giants jump.

This was definitely a trip highlight!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next stop on our “To-DO” list was the Royal BC Museum, which I really rather enjoyed….except for the 1970’s display which made me feel incredibly old.  I guess it is inevitable that eventually you live long enough to see things from your childhood considered iconic antiques 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our day was still not over.  We watched some buskers, quickly toured the Pacific Undersea Gardens and then headed back to say goodbye to my childhood friend.  It was an incredibly long day, but an incredibly wonderful day!

Day 23 – Gardens Galore!

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We headed out first thing this morning to make our way to the Tsawwassen Ferry.  I was a worried about this part of our journey as I’ve never really traveled by ferry before and I’m not very confident when it comes to concurring the unknown, but hey, I’ve managed the trip so far, so I took a deep breath and went for it.  It turns out my concerns were unfounded as the ferry was super easy.

 

 

 

 

 

When we arrived on Vancouver Island our first stop was to visit my childhood neighbour who now lives in Victoria.  Today was her only day off, so I wanted to try to connect with her while I could.  It was a lovely visit and I am still drooling over the beautiful garden she has.  Kiwi, rhododendrons, roses….all so beautiful!  It was great to see her again too and catch up as it has been at least ten years since I last saw her.

Our next stop was Butchart Gardens, where my garden envy continued.  It’s picturesque landscapes, colourful displays and themed gardens are amazing.

Day 22 – Beluga Whales, Sea Lions, Dolphins, Sharks, and Fish

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Today we headed off to the Vancouver Aquarium, Canada’s largest aquarium.  We headed to the 4D theatre to start off our tour, which was totally awesome!

The kids all really enjoyed it a lot!  It rained a bit while we were there, but not much and with all of the indoor learning opportunities it really didn’t effect things much and the weather cooperated so we could see the beluga whale demo.  I really liked the penguin exhibit because you could get so close to them and they were very iterative, but it is hard to pick one favourite.

I once again spent the evening doing laundry and packing so we can get an early start on the day tomorrow as we head for Vancouver Island.