Archive for Monday, July 11, 2011


River City Jules: Destination: Yellowstone

July 11, 2011


The Fourth of July has passed, baseball is done, yet our summer to-do list remains nearly untouched, as evidenced by the catastrophic state of Luke’s closet, the incomplete library reading logs and the fact that none of us know how to converse in Spanish.

(After re-reading this I realize I should probably lower my expectations.)

But there is one item on the checklist I am confident we will complete, mostly because we have a number of nonrefundable deposits down on hotel rooms from here to the far reaches of Wyoming: the annual summer family vacation.

This year’s trip comes courtesy of my husband, Clark Griswold.

“Let’s go to Yellowstone,” Clark proposed last spring.

A quick Google search revealed Yellowstone National Park (via Mount Rushmore) to be 18 hours and 35 minutes away, or all seven Harry Potter rentals and one hour and five minutes of the Quiet Game.

“Are you crazy?” I asked my dear husband who, clearly forgetting our drive to Colorado and the resulting 26 incarnations of the Alphabet Game three years ago, did not realize we had enough miles to fly to a beach. “Do you know how far that is?”

“But this time our DVD player works,” he reminded me. True story, we drove to and from Estes Park without a working DVD player, not unlike the pioneers. “We have to take this trip,” he continued, “every parent should take the kids to Yellowstone at some point. It is un-American not to.”

I recalled my own Yellowstone-less childhood and considered rebutting his statement, as we all turned out relatively fine, but then I remembered this man rarely asks for much. In fact, he had not asked for anything significant in four years. And, unlike that last request (getting a dog), a trip to Yellowstone would demand nothing more of us once we returned home.

For the next month I poured myself into planning. I Fodored, I Frommered, I Trip Advisored. I Mapquested, calculated and plotted our average solid drive time on a graph with the maximum time in between the words “hungry,” “bored” and “stop looking at me.” I carefully crafted an itinerary free of both camping and national chain hotels (except for one in Iowa that may or may not be expecting a family of four, rather than six, for the evening), so that we might experience the local flavor of each town along the way, all of which boast gunfights and chuck wagon dinners.

When the last deposit had been secured, I sat Clark down with a map, proudly and enthusiastically detailing our impending family vacation stop by stop, all 2,379 roundtrip miles of it.

“That’s really far,” he said at the end of my presentation.

I don’t think newspaper policy will allow me to print my reply, so just use your imagination.

And, please, if any you have any tips, feel free to drop me a line. I’m looking forward to seeing Old Faithful, I just hope for harmony in the family truckster along the way.

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at


amac 6 years, 6 months ago

HA! just got back from that trip except we went Rocky Mountain park then Yellowstone; across to Seattle area to visit family; back by way of Mt. Rushmore. Sounds like you have all your reservations, but I highly recommend the West Yellowstone KOA (almost like camping, but in a cabin). As far as the car ride for kids....take lots of movies and snacks!

RiverCityJules 6 years, 6 months ago

SEATTLE?!?!?! You brave people rock! We are going to movie-swap with some neighbors so both families can have something new to view on our summer trips. I'm glad to know they will be helpful! Enjoy the rest of the summer :)

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

Nitpicking here, but Yellowstone National Park is not only in Wyoming, but Montana and Idaho also. But it is true that 96% of it is in Wyoming.

What I want to see there is Devils Tower, which is a unique geological formation. There is nothing else like it in the world. It was the very first declared United States National Monument, established on September 24, 1906, by President Theodore Roosevelt.

An exact description of it is way to lengthy to post here, so here's a link if you want to know more about the very first United States National Monument:

RiverCityJules 6 years, 6 months ago

Thank you so much! We have been trying to figure out which sights to see on the way there, and Devils Tower should be right along our route and easy to hit. And, yes, YNP hits Idaho and Montana, which we hope to jump to in an effort to add more states to our "visited" list, but we don't have plans to stay overnight there. So far :)

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