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Trip Report The Griswolds….(certifiable Out-West Junkies)… get their 9th road trip *fix* in Yellowstone, Yosemite, central CA coast, Route 66, Utah and MUCH more!

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We've been back a couple weeks after spending the majority of July (3.5 weeks) on our ninth out west road trip adventure. And what an adventure it was. We are truly out west JUNKIES and we didn't get our fix last summer due to internships and cheer camps (way overrated btw). And now we're going through major withdrawal because 1) we have no road trips planned until next spring break and 2) I want my babies back!

Having done countless trips throughout the Midwest and east, including many beach resorts on the eastern seaboard plus the UK, we gave our kids a choice between europe, hawaii, new england or out west again. Without hesitation, they chose out west again. They're addicted too and will likely live somewhere on the left coast'

Anyway, this may seem like a whirlwind trip to some and maybe it is as we do drive and pack in a lot, but having done eight other similar trips, to us it's totally relaxing and refreshing. It's truly a 'fix'!

These were the best 3.5 weeks of the year, another trip of a lifetime. Despite several mildly amusing mishaps, NOTHING could dampen our spirits, not altitude illness, nor monsoon season hail storms (including a touch of hurricane Emily, that bad girl!) nor DRY heat in the 100s, nor cell phones glued to our kids ears, not even when *Onstar* didn't work and we were pathetically lost, nor not even when I thought hubby clark would stroke at the sight of $3.19 gas prices! No, nothing could keep me from being almost giddy with delight! Gag if you will, but we had our kids to ourselves (well, us and their cellies) and we were away for almost a month! There were times we had to pinch ourselves and remind ourselves that this great adventure wasn't our 'life' but that we had 'real' lives at home. With both our kids almost in college, we were thrilled they could join us yet again this year (i want my babies back). And i'm sure it helped that son rusty's girlfriend was busy doing her semester abroad ...and thanks to some wonderful fodorites on the Europe board, they found a way to still communicate, and even somewhat economically. Yes, thanks soo much :)

Anyway, 7100 miles later, here's my trip report, or the start of it. First though, a BAZILLION THANK YOUs to soo many fodorites! You guys rock! Your sage advice was put to great use -- and did y'all have fun too?! In a sense you were with us as more than once a day i would refer to your savvy suggestions. It became funny, as someone would inevitably ask, "What did your fodor friends say about that?' So again, a most heartfelt, sincere thank you for all your help!

Since there were many other things we did and quirky experiences we had that probably aren't funny to anyone but us...(anyone ever have a pit stop at the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, MN...gives new meaning to eating your veggies!)'... i'll try to highlight only what may help someone else plan their trip.

DEADWOOD, SOUTH DAKOTA and TATANKA

Several of our previous 8 out west road trips included exploring the black hills / mt. rushmore area (we usually take the I 90 and I 40 routes, preferring them to I 70 and I 80) previously staying in Lead, Hill City and Custer State Park. This year, after the obligatory pit-stop at Wall Drug (we ARE the Griswolds afterall!) we stayed in Deadwood to see TATANKA, 'The Story of the Bison'. We all love buffalo and *I* love kevin costner. :) (Clark was disappointed the gift shop didn't sell masks of kevin....:) )

Anywho! Despite our love of bison (and kevin) we were a bit disappointed. Not quite sure what we expected, but what we DID expect was that there to be more OF it. It's not quite what I consider to be a museum, although there are displays in a small room, and its not really a re-enactment or restored village, although there is a tipi with a costumed guide and an adorable young man riding around on his horse'.. There are no buffalo, with the exception of a brilliantly beautiful sculpture of several, the focal point of the center. We enjoyed the movie documenting Tatanka's inception and construction (staring kevin of course) but the attraction itself needs something more, IMO. It definitely has potential and i'll return again to check it out (hoping of course that kevey boy will be there next time!)

Although we've seen several 'shoot-outs' over the years, we missed Deadwood's shooting and trial of jack mccall as there was a jazz street festival instead that night. Enjoyed the music and a cold one on the street; the open container ordinance was lifted that night. From research here mostly, we attempted to have dinner at Mustang Sally's but it was mobbed with a long line. Main Street Deli was just serving ice cream (??) and Deadwood Thymes was closed. So we followed the advice of our hotel management and had diinner at Gem Steakhouse, inside Mineral Palace Hotel and Casino. While way smokey from the casino, we did enjoy our steaks and salads. And made a very small donation to those noisy clangy amusement things nearby lol. We walked around Mt. Moriah Cemetary and found some intriguing gravesites, in addition to an amazing panoramic view of the town from the military tribute observation point.

Also worthy of mention is Shedd Jewelers on Main Street, where i contributed nicely to their profits that day. Far from being the typical touristy trinket shop, i found my new favorite pieces of Black Hills Gold (Landstrom) with the affable help of one of its owners, Mrs. Shedd, a real sweetheart. They have the largest and most diverse selection we saw anywhere, and we hit most of the nicer shops wherever we went (dd's idea of a hike is walking to the visitor center and gift shop ;) )

In Deadwood, we stayed in the center of town at the Holiday Inn Express (free w/ points) and it was perfect. Immaculate (new or very recently remodeled) room with contemporary western touches. It faced the 4-5 story lobby atrium, off of which their small casino was located. It wasn't necessary to go through the casino to get to the rooms as in Vegas. Walked to everything in town. Nice fitness room with DREAD-mill to run off the less than spectacular chocolate chip cookies found somewhere in town. We would definitely stay at this Holiday Inn Express again. (we actually prefer the holiday inn EXPRESS chain, which provided us with several free nights from points on this trip.)

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