This post does not have anything to do with business or software but I was out for the past few weeks and everyone is going to ask “how was the trip” so I thought I would post here and save some time answering the same questions over and over.

I like an adventure.  I enjoy NOT knowing exactly what is going to happen each step of the way.  I like to plan as well as I can and then cast my fortune to the wind and see where the road takes me.

With that in mind we had a family wedding in Minneapolis, MN that we had to attend on 7/19.  Instead of booking a flight for the four of us I decided we needed an old school Family Truckster style vacation and we were going to take 18 days and drive to MN via Canada.

Nothing spells adventure more than a family of four with two teenagers, a small RV, limited internet access and 5,000 miles of road.  The only set plan we had was we had to be in MN the afternoon of the 17th.  Everything else was going to happen in real time.

There were a number of reasons for this trip.  I have always wanted to tour the Canadian Rockies, South Dakota and Yellowstone NP.  My son, Aaron is 16 and if my personal history is any indication then this will be the last family trip with Aaron for a while.  Also I wanted to see if my family still worked.  We were going to spend a lot of time together in a confined space.  It would be readily apparent if we could not get along anymore.

This was not your typical blast down the interstate and back.  I hate boring drives, I wanted to see something new around every corner.  I am pretty good with paper maps and GPS navigation but I like to start planning most of my adventures in Google Maps first.  I plotted this route in Google maps and then used the GPS to modify along the way.  We planed to stay in as many state and national parks as possible and use secondary roads when available. 

The rig: 2006 Itasca Navion 23′ class C RV based on a Dodge Sprinter Chassis.  This is the second RV I have owned.  This first one was a class C based on Chevy van with a 350 V8.  It ran OK but got terrible gas mileage and broke down and stranded me and the fam twice.  Enough of that and I bought the Navion in the Fall of 06.  The Navion is powered by a tiny five cyl Mercedes 2.7L turbo diesel engine.  I don’t know how an engine that small manages to move such a large and heavy vehicle but it runs better than my old one and averages 16.5 MPG, about double of my old RV.

The trip: We left my house about 6:30 am on July 8.  I was planning on leaving later but the temperature was going to be in the 108 range through the central valley that day, best to get throught early.  I planned to spend the night somewhere in Oregon.  We ended up at Silver Falls campground, outside of Salem.  Beautiful place, great campground, reminded me of Maui.  I would like to go back and spend more time there.

My brother lives on Victoria Island, BC.  He took the ferry over with his girlfriend and we spend the day in Vancouver and camped at a local RV park.  We headed north towards CA1.  Made a stop in Harrison Hot Springs, very nice mountain town and ended up at Canyon Hot Springs in Canadian Rockies for the night.  Another great camp night complete with natural hot springs.

We headed up the road a few miles to Glacier National Park, BC for the night.  Another epic spot.  Beautiful campgrounds with a roaring snow melt river and snow capped mountains with great hiking trails.  The neat thing about this campground was the one price, all you can eat firewood policy.  There was a shed with quarters of wood that for a single fee you could take and chop as much as you wanted.

We headed to Banff, BC saw Lake Louise (awesome!) and camped at the Banff National park.  Banff is a beautiful mountain town.  I wish I had more time to stay and check it out.  We saw a bunch of moose, caribou and mountain goats doing their thing in the wild.

We stopped at the Olympic park in Calgary, AB and then we were in the prairie.  I got sick of looking at hay rolls so I decided to drop down back to the USA in the hopes of finding something more interesting to look at as we were passing through.  As soon as you get out of the mountains as far as I can tell most of that part of the world is devoted to the production of hay.  And if you can’t grow hay they call what is left the badlands.  It looks a lot like this.

We made it to MN about 4:00 on the 17th as promised.  Took a great shower at the hotel and partied with family and friends for the next few days.  We hit the road for South Dakota on the afternoon of the 20th.  Went through the Badlands National Park, which looks really amazing for the first couple of miles but at some point you realize that there are a LOT of badlands and they look the same.  I think I would appreciate it more if there were less badlands or maybe some worselands.  Here is a pic of Aaron skating in the SD Badlands.

Here is a self portrait, bad man with bad hair in the Badlands.

As we were wandering around in Black Hills of SD my GPS insisted I turn down a sketchy road to reach a main road.  Like I said I like an adventure so I went for it.  It was pretty cool, we saw a herd of wild mustangs with linage back to the Spanish conquistadors.  In a singular moment of perfection I happened to have Wild Horses by the Stones on my iPod which I played as we were watching the wild horses.   We saw a newish Mercedes TD wagon in the middle of the dirt road with a broken crankcase which made me pause for a moment.  And I got to this point before the road ended at the river.  If I was on my KTM motorcycle it would have been no problem but no way in the RV.  I had to back it up the hill and make an 8 point turn to get out.

I am not sure if this is a buffalo or a bison but they pretty much have run of the roads in the Black Hills of SD.

On the way to Mount Rushmore NP you have to go through all these really small tunnels carved in the rock.

And as soon as you get through you get this really amazing view.  It really is spectacular.  You are focusing on not scraping the RV and all of a sudden, boom you get this world class view.

It really is a spectacular monument to our past leaders.  Worth seeing in person.

I am a fan of the show Deadwood on HBO so as we were leaving SD we stopped in the actual town of Deadwood.  Did not have much time but spent a very worthwhile hour in the Adam’s Museum in town.  The only other thing I have to say about SD is you can legally buy the most amazing fireworks all over the state.  Seriously, M-80’s, bottle rockets, bricks of firecrackers.  I thought this stuff was banned for life in the US.

We spent the night at Buffalo WY.  Nothing much except about 11:00 we were treated to the most amazing thunderstorm I have ever experienced.  We do not get anything like that on the west coast.  Real picture perfect lighting bolts.  Greatest show on earth!

Heading west to Yellowstone NP we stopped off at the Tensleeps WY trout farm.  The place was immaculate, almost as pretty as my wife.

Yellowstone NP was great.  The hot springs are colors that just don’t exist anywhere else.  The pics do not do them justice.

I may have fractured a law or two as there are explicit rules regarding walking around the hot springs but as we were driving through I saw a spot on the river where the hot springs drained into the river.  I pulled over and had a nice soak in the natural hot tub.

We hit up Old Faithful and we were headed home.  We were pretty lucky.  it erupts about every 90 minutes but we only had to wait about 10 minutes.

The stats:
Miles traveled  – about 5,000
Average MPG – about 16.5  But when we were coming into MN I caught a great draft from a trucker going about 62 MPH and averaged 19.6 MPG for that tank.
Sunflower seeds eaten by me – about three pounds
Books read by Aaron and Emily – 3 each
Number of times we watched TV in the RV – 0
Games of Scrabble and Yahtzee – over 50
Family fights – 0
Quality time with the family – Priceless.

More photos here if interested.