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by Scott

2014 Colorado/Utah Highlights Video

October 8, 2014 in 2014 Colorado by Scott

by April

Day 23: August 5th, 2014: Rock Creek Campground, Iowa to Home & Trip Wrap Up

August 5, 2014 in 2014 Colorado by April

End Trip Odometer: 99,113
Total Miles Traveled: 4,487
Gallons of Gas Consumed: 281.59
Total Gas Expense: $995.17
Average Cost of Gas: $3.53
Most Expensive Gas: $3.85
Least Expensive Gas: $3.29
Average Miles per Gallon: 15.82

States Visited:

  • Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Utah
  • New States (for the kids): Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado
  • States the kids are missing west of the Mississippi River: Louisiana, Texas, and Washington

Junior Ranger Badges Earned:

IMG_3944Dinosaur, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Great Sand Dunes, Curecanti, Mesa Verde, Scott’s Bluff, Arches, Canyonlands, Tallgrass Prairie, Rocky Mountain

We left the campground around 10am bound for home.  Cody has been dreaming of snuggling with Teton all night.


For the record, Scott is not peeing into the bucket.

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Back home again!

by April

Day 22: August 4th, 2014: Chase State Lake, KS to Rock Creek Campground, Iowa

August 5, 2014 in 2014 Colorado by April

A three state day!

Kansas, Missouri, and finally Iowa!

What a beautiful morning!

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I was rather excited at 7am to wake up and realize we had avoided the rain that danced around us all night.  Scott wanted to wait to put the fly on the tent until the last minute because it was fairly warm out.  Since it was morning and there was no sign of rain I drifted happily back to sleep.  That is until some large drops of rain startled me into consciousness. Scott and I attempted to go back to sleep after putting the fly on, but moments after the rain stopped the lawn mowers started.  Good Morning World! 🙂

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So why does Cody look guilty so early in the morning?  Scott gave the kids cookies for breakfast.  We don’t even keep cookies in the house normally, let alone serve them for breakfast.

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We found another Junior Ranger Badge: Tall Grass Prairie National Recreation Area in Kansas.  We visited the exhibits, watched a movie, worked on our Junior Ranger Books, and went for a hike.

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The picture above in the middle is of the largest ball of barbed wire we have ever seen.  Cody still struggles with the statement, “See with your eyes, not your hands.”

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Notice Cody lingering at the perfectly dry stacked fence wall?  It is now missing a perfectly placed stone.  We tried to put it back.  Honestly we did.  We are hoping the wall is still standing…  Again, the whole look with your eyes thing.  Cody is still working on it…

We stopped at Burger King for some belated birthday ice cream and smoothies.


This was a long day of driving. We arrived at the Rock Creek campground at 7:15pm.  We had some beans and brats for dinner and then quickly tried to put up the tent as some large dark rapidly moving clouds closed in.  We camped right next to a playground for the kids. They were able to play for a bit while dinner was cooking up, but then Cody fell off a slide injuring his belly and head.  He crawled into the tent to nurse his wounds just as the storm started to swirl.  After the storm moved on we all had a shower! (A real shower!)  Woohoo!

by April

Day 21: August 3rd, 2014 Clark State Lake Park, KS to Chase State Park, KS

August 5, 2014 in 2014 Colorado by April

What an incredibly fun day!’

After a breakfast of French Toast we headed down the road towards Hutchinson.



We greeted some turkeys (we think) first thing in the morning.  There was a large group of them and they didn’t want to move out of the road, so we patiently waited.

Thankfully we arrived at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, KS just as it opened at noon and we stayed until it closed at 6pm.  If they weren’t hungry for dinner the kids could have easily spent another two hours here.

Brooke said her favorite part of the museum was the planetarium show.  Scott commented that he thought it was probably the best space museum he has ever been to.  I commented that it was one of them, but what about the Smithsonian new space museum.  He pointed out that the new Smithsonian Air and Space museum is incredible, but it didn’t weave together a story with a timeline like the Cosmosphere.  So, we have agreed this is the best Space Museum either of us has been to.


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The entryway to the Cosmosphere includes a model of the space shuttle Endeavor and a real SR-71 Blackbird among other things.  The kids were standing in front of a statue representing the US which was opposite a statue of a Russian diplomat.  The museum starts right out with information about Germany and World War II.  At first I was disappointed because I wanted the kids to learn about space, not war.  However, the museum outlined how the German’s hunger for developing weapons led to advances in rocket technology.  The story then focused on the Cold War between Russia and the United States.

“World War II sparked one of the world’s greatest surges of technology.”

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The kids are sitting on an original B53 bomber ejection seat.  Scott is touching an actual backup unit of Sputnik I from the company that made Sputnik.  Sputnik means satellite or fellow traveler.  The picture above and to the right is of Laika the first living creature to go into Earth’s orbit.  Laika was sent up with Sputnik II.  Brooke was bummed to find out that Laika did not make it back to Earth, but she did make it safely into orbit and stayed alive for about a week.  A Russian was quoted as saying, “Laika was a good cosmonaut.  She was trained to bark every time she flew over the United States.”  This display noted how the Russians were beating the US hands-down in the space race.  First, on October 9th, 1957 with Sputnik I, the first man-made satellite.  Then on November 3, 1957 with Sputnik II with Laika on board.  Next,  on January 2nd, 1959 with Luna I, the first man-made object to leave Earth’s gravitational pull and the first spacecraft to orbit the sun. Then on September 12, 1959 with Luna II, the first man-made object to impact the lunar surface. There was another display that explained that the United States had to be more careful with testing than Russia did and thus developments took more time.  In fact, Russia would announce a launch after they knew it was successful.  The times that were not successful were never heard of.  The United States televised each and every step, failures included, along the way.  I also found it interesting that rules were slightly bent at times.  For example, the International Space Agency’s rule for announcing a successful man sent into space meant the pilot had to land in the same space vehicle that he was launched in.  The first man in space actually ejected from his space capsule before it landed.  That fact only came out years after the celebration of the first man in space.  These are all of course the facts presented at this museum and interpreted by your truly, but they do make you pause a moment and ponder.

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Right before we went into a super fun show called Dr. Goddard’s Lab we spotted this display about Mars.  Mars has the largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons.  They had a tiny model of the volcano for you to feel.  I was telling Cody that it is the largest volcano in the solar system and it is on Mars.  He looked at me with his eyebrows pointed inward in serious doubt.  “That is not big!” He was off enjoying the next display while I was still laughing.  Yes, I suppose the model is not very big.  In reality Olympus Mons is fifteen miles high in comparison to Earth’s largest volcano, Mauna Loa, in Hawaii which is only 5.6 miles high.

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Dr. Goddard’s lab was all about Rockets!  Mostly about rocket power and much to the kids excitement, explosions!  I somehow caught a picture of a large cotton ball soaked in liquid oxygen lighting up at just the right time. The kids could have sat listening to and learning from this guy for hours and that is saying a lot since most of the time the kids can’t get through a ten minute one-on-one talk with a ranger.  He was informative, encouraged the kids to be inquisitive, and he was just darn funny.  You can always tell a teacher that loves what they do.  They have a glow that shouts that they are having fun and everyone who gets to be in their orbit for even a little bit benefits.  Most importantly the message was about Dr. Goddard and how he was largely disregarded by the United States for all of his work in rocketry until he died and the US used his patents without permission.  Too bad for the US government his whippersnapper of a wife noticed and sued the US government for a million dollars and won.  The message: don’t give up.  Keep working.  Keep trying.  Keep dreaming.

We went from the Dr. Goddard’s Lab to a planetarium and constellation presentation.  I’ve never been to a constellation presentation that was so humorous and filled with great songs from the 60’s and 70’s.  Brooke was really excited about the constellations.  She said that was her favorite part of the entire museum, even though it was very hard to pick a favorite pat as the whole experience was pretty incredible.  Cody was impressed by Dr. Goddard’s Lab.  Truth be told he could have gone for a few more explosions, but then we all know who Cody’s dad is.

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So the kids weren’t exactly running through the museum, but they were moving extremely quickly.  We finally hit a dead end at an original Saturn rocket fin.  The kids had the goal of finding the end of the museum all day that they almost didn’t know what to do.  They actually stood still in confusion for a beat and then Brooke said, “Wait!  I saw another way to go!”  And they were off again.

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The other way to go held the conclusion to the story the museum had laid out.  In 1972, after eighteen years of battling in the Space Race, the United States and Russia joined in a manned mission to space.  The US called it the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and of course the Russians called is the Soyuz-Apollo Test Project,  The display noted that the scientific challenges of combining two different systems in space were far less than the political challenges of getting the project off the ground.  The kids, really Cody and Scott, are stuck in a permanent stage of potty humor, so seeing the space shuttle potty elicited a few giggles.  The picture above on the right is of a main landing gear tire from the space shuttle Endeavor.  The shuttle usually lands at 250 miles per hour.  Due to the immense impact of landing each tire is used only once.

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We had to go in and out of the museum displays a few times for a lunch break and shows and each time we took a very cool elevator with a space scene on the other side of the glass.  The kids called it their movie.  The museum also had incredible artwork throughout.  I would have liked to spend more time looking at the artwork, but that will have to be next time we come back. I have dreams of sending the kids to space camp here in about five years.  Scott didn’t seem convinced.  I have five years to convince him. :-)  They even train the kids in underwater space exercises. Anyone else want to go to space camp?

The exit from the museum was lined with the newer space innovations from private companies.  There was also a quote from Charles Lindberg, “I don’t believe in taking foolish chances, but nothing can be accomplished without taking any chance at all.”

It can’t be overstated, this was the best space museum we have been to.  What a great way to spend the day!

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We went out to Olive Garden for dinner and ate more in one hour than we have eaten all week.

Then we headed east to Chase State Park for the night.

by April

Day 20: August 2nd, 2014 Great Sand Dunes, CO to Clark State Lake, KS

August 5, 2014 in 2014 Colorado by April


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This was our last morning among the mountains at 8,000 feet.  Sand Dunes National Park was such a unique landscape with mountains, forests, wetlands, and desert sand dunes.   It is so unique they even have a beetle that lives no where else in the world except here.  I’m not much of a beetle fan, the insects not the music, but this was one cool looking beetle.

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Brooke noticed that on the other side of the van the trees had created a perfect arrow with the sunlight.  She said it was pointing to the Sand Dunes Trail and that they should go on it again.  Funny girl.  The kids said goodbye to their last bear box for a while.  They love pretending to be doggies in the bear box.

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Everything was soaked from the night’s rain and cold temps.  When I cleaned out the tent and then went to wrap up the tent I noticed how beaten up the tent bag looked from the dirt, sand, rain, and overall traveling abuse.  I said to Scott, “This is a new low for this bag.”  Scott not one to miss a good setup when he sees one responded, “I’ve been thinking that about you for a long time now.”  Everyone was a comedian today. :-)   We headed down the road on 160 again this time towards Kansas.  We stopped for a bathroom break and wound up meeting some very interesting bike packers.

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They had been on at least ten different bike packing adventures together.  The bike packers said that the ATV traffic has increased so much recently that they were struggling to enjoy the back country trails as much as they  They were riding ridge steel frame bikes with older downhill rims because they have found they hold up better than standard rims. They shared some of their adventures and we headed back down the road through Dodge, Kansas.  We were looking for a sign that said, “Leaving Dodge,” but we didn’t have any luck.  We did find out later that such a sign does exist somewhere in Dodge.  Next time… 🙂

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We arrived at Clark State Lake, about forty miles from Dodge at 7 pm and quickly cooked up and ate up some spaghetti. There was no cost to camp at this state park, but there was also no water to drink.  No worries about wet, cold clothes here, welcome to ninety degree weather!  We lost at least 5,000 feet in elevation today.

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Brooke finished her sewing project today on the long drive to Kansas.  She did a great job for her first solo sewing project. We met our camp neighbors who shared some ice cold spirits and some warm sun shower water. Our camping neighbor was doing his best to get Brooke to break out of her shell and talk to him.  So…he brought over a barely breathing catfish.  That warmed Brooke right up!  No.  Not really. It was fun to watch for the rest of us though.  I caught sight of a beautiful spider web in a tree, and so I took a picture.

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The kids enjoyed playing soccer, catching insects, and making Lego homes for their new pets. At 9:15 we headed out for a half hour canoe ride on Clark Lake.  The beautiful sunset gave way to a peaceful waxing crescent moon and stars.


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We drifted off to sleep lulled by the summer sounds of the bullfrog and crickets.

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