Tag Archives: Road Trip 2009

Our American Road Trip Adventure: A Wanderstory [Video]

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Wanderfly recently came to my home to talk about my road trip travels with my family.

Of course, no road trip story is ever complete without talking about the moment my family and I venture out, for the very first time, on a major road trip adventure three years ago, when the boys were only 2, 3, and 10 years old.

I loved watching this video and reliving all our adventures through the photos and clips. It’s a reminder of why I do the things I do, why I don’t question the sensibility in our travels, why I don’t listen to those who say my small children aren’t welcomed or that I should be home, keeping them quiet and well-behaved.

Each journey serves to change and affect us in some way or another, both as a family and as individuals. This video was a reminder of that as well as an inspiration to continue to travel.

I hope that it serves the same purpose for you.

Thank you Wanderfly for allowing me to share my “Wanderstory”. To check out my Wanderlist and get more details on the places we visited on our road trips, please visit: http://bit.ly/nycitymama

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Country Inn and Suites, Middleton, WI

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After having left Billings, MT and still on a high from our hotel experience there, we headed out to North Dakota.  Like I said in my previous post, everyone warned me that it wasn’t much to look at, but after accidentally finding the Badlands there, I thought that maybe they were wrong.

Then we arrived to Fargo, ND…and in Fargo the worst hotel, if you can even call it that, ever.  Ok, well not ever.  I once stayed in a really, really horrible hotel in Miami, FL…but I digress…

I had been so busy doing other things that I delegated the hotel reservation duty to my husband.  Like a true man, he went online, choose options based on price, after all no need to indulge, it was only one night, and he read reviews online.  You know, all very practical-like.

What we ended up with was a Super 8 in Fargo, ND.  A far, far cry from our wonderland suite at the Country Inn and Suites in Billings, MT the night before.  As I walked in, I wanted to walk out. It was gross, gross, gross. And, like I have said before, the first impression in a hotel is everything. No one greeted us, it smell horrid, maybe a bit of cigarette, with a bit of mildew…I don’t know, awful and dirty. Even the kids were down.  My poor husband felt so bad, he tried everything to improve my mood.  But no dice.  I was miserable.  We left it at 4AM the next, I couldn’t stand it.

We made our way to Madison, WI.  I was tired and irritable.  A bad night, at a crappy hotel, in an uninteresting town will do that to a person…especially a hotel snob like me.

As we drove into WI, I began to see the beautiful green cornfields and huge farm houses I so loved when we drove along the countryside there.  We even stopped at a peach farm and purchased some fresh, organic peaches, still warm from the sun that had been bathing the tree they were pick from.  I was starting to feel better.

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Then we arrived to Middleton, in West Madison, WI, where our next *two free nights were waiting for us, courtesy of Country Inn and Suites. The location was wonderful.  About 15 minutes from Downtown Madison from off the Belt Line nearby, it was still secluded enough to give you a sense of relaxation and privacy.  However, it was also proximity to Greenway Station made accessing trendy shops, restaurants, cafes, and more very, very convenient. We had already taken advantage of their Streams and Shores road trip itinerary this time around, because we had already in our previous visit to Madison.

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The lobby, as I began to learn from my previous experiences with them, was welcoming and warm. We went to our room and again, I was left speechless.  Bright, and big.  Clean and fresh.  The kids immediately kicked off their shoes and threw themselves on the sleeper couch, turning on the flat screen t.v. to their favorite cartoon station.

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And then I saw it, right there, on the dining table for 4, was a beautiful gift basket of cheeses, crackers, chocolates, and jam, a $25 Gift Certificate to the family restaurant across the street called Quaker Steak and Lube, and a 6-pack of Rustic Ale from Capital Brewery waiting for us. Before I could say anything my husband came up to me and kissed. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” he said before grabbing a bottle of beer and grabbing a seat in the dinning room area with the kids.

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The Welcome gift basket was left for us by the very gracious and very friendly General Manager, Rob, whom I met and thanked…and encouraged to take his family on a camping vacation of his own.

I toured the hotel.  The pool is beautiful.  We didn’t get  chance to get in it this time around, but I swear, it was so inviting!  And the eating area, for morning breakfast which comes with the room, was also very bright  (we had breakfast there both mornings we were there and it was such a convenience).

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I know the gift basket was added to our personal experience, but I even without it, I know we would’ve enjoyed our stay there as much as we did. The estimated cost for a room our size (1 bedroom King size suite) was about $110.  For a family of 5 like ours, it was perfect.  The little ones slept on the pull out couch, my 11 year old slept on a roll-away bed provided to us, free of charge, and which comfortable fit in the room without being an obstacle, and my husband and I slept in our wonderful king size bed, but not before cuddling up in front of our t.v. while the kids slept and loving every second of awesomeness. The hotel snob in me couldn’t have been more pleased.

So my advice: When trying to balance value, conservative spending, comfort, and a positive hotel experience during your travels for your family, don’t assume that “cheap” is better.  I say stay away, far, far away from the likes of those Super 8 Motels, it is not only incredibly disgusting, but can also ruin your lodging experience and memories of the town. I encourage you, my traveling friends, to embrace the “hotel snob” in you and never compromise quality and comfort, over a cheap deal.

Country Inn and Suites was really great for us. We found rooms that fit our large family, we had privacy and the staff was helpful and courteous.  We seemed to be the only patrons with small children we saw at either hotel we stayed at, but yet the patrons were welcoming and warm to our family as well.

I loved how clean everything was, and how fresh everything smelled.  I loved the service and amenities, including the complimentary breakfast and Internet. My husband appreciated the proximity to shops and stores.  The kids enjoyed the pool, having their own television, and the free cookies in the lobby.

Now home, my family and I are thinking about our next road trip adventure (coming soon) and we want to know:

What’s your idea of the best last-minute vacation?

*Disclosure: For the purpose of review I received a two free night stay in Middleton, WI from Country Inn and Suites for my family during our stay there. Though we are grateful for the hospitality and courtesy extended to us I affirm that it has in no way compromised the honesty of my review, and we hope that our experiences will help other families traveling and looking for a positive, comfortable hotel experience.

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Discovering Billings, MT

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After wonderful night at the Country Inn and Suites, we packed our bags and decided to do some of the things listed on their Peaks and Valleys Country itinerary.

First stop that morning before getting on the road was at Dehler Park, the Billings Mustangs ballpark.  Christopher Marshall, Director of Operations for Dehler Park honored us with a personal tour of the new field area.

The Billings Mustangs used to play on an older park called Cobb Field, which was leveled in 2007 to make way for a spacier, more accommodating, and newer Dehler Park, which the Mustangs moved in to for the 2008 season.

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The Mustangs weren’t in town during our visit, so we didn’t get a chance to see them in action, but we did get the chance to walk around this gorgeous new field and, even for just a moment, pretend what it would be like to be there when all the excitement of a game was going on.

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The Billings community is very proud of their team, and very protective of the baseball culture in their area.  These things, as well as the changing trends, are always carefully considered during game time, so that even the details regarding music, and what they do (or don’t) during half time is handled with care and consideration to the fans. Bottom line, when you come see a game here, it will feel very much like watching a real baseball game without the acrobatic distractions just like in the olden days, but with access to services and provisions for the modern family.

The ballpark has a great area where younger kids or teens can come together to hang out away from their parents without disrupting those sitting and watching the game, or where parents can escape to if their child is acting restless.  They have a barbeque area as well, and a nice wide walkway to move around on.

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Admission prices range from $3 to $9. The seating design is perfect too, every seat provides a great view of the wonderful field. There’s a shop for souvenirs and collectibles, which we had problems getting through while both entering and exiting the fields because everyone, from the 2.5 to the 11 year old, wanted something.

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IMG_1566We really enjoyed touring this beautiful ballpark, something so dear to the Billings community.  It was wonderful.  The boys really liked it; I can only imagine how much greater the experience would have been had we been there for a game. Maybe next road trip!

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Our next stop was to Pompey’s Pillar National Monument.  This is such an historical site.  The little ones were mostly attracted to the indoor exhibit and the film detailing the adventures of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which led to the discovery of the area. The rest of us were in awe of Pompey’s Pillar itself.

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It was amazing when we climbed the wooden stairs the led us first to the area where Captain Clark engraved his name along with the others joining him, and then to the top of the Pillar and seeing the Yellowstone River, just as Clark had centuries ago.  That and a few extras.

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IMG_1634I thought this Stop was not only a beautiful and breathtaking one, but something that just really gave you a sense of the history of this country, the important people who helped shape our nation, and the incredible tenacity needed to take on such a task.

With all the food for thought, we got back in the Routan and started making our way back on the road.  And though they may seem a lot to do in less than a day in Billings, turns out we did more. Here’s a little video covering our visit to the Pictograph Cave State Park, a beautiful way to end our first day in Billings, MT.

Ride to Billings, MT from NYCityMama on Vimeo.

 

Many thanks to Christopher Marshal, from the Billings Mustangs for his gracious hospitality, and Dave Sniadak, from Axiom Marketing Communications, for facilitating the encounter.

Our family had a great time!

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Yellowstone National Park: Camping

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I have been talking about camping with the kids for months now. Before we headed on our trip, though I talked about it, camping with the kids…or camping at all, seemed like something “fun” to talk about, but a little nerving to think about. But here we were, heading to Yellowstone National Park with an open mind and ready for anything this adventure would throw at us. The views were breathtaking the entire way there and we couldn’t help but stop and take pictures to help us forever remember that we were once a part of it.

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From Sioux Falls to The Badlands, South Dakota

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Another early morning, but not as early as the ones before, and definitely slower in pace.  We woke up almost used to the routine already, on the fifth day into our Road Trip Adventure.

We arrived to Sioux Falls yesterday afternoon.  I spent most of the day dozing off in the car.  My husband loves to drive, so getting him to agree to let me take the wheel is hard, though, yesterday I was fine with him driving the whole way so I could sleep.  Funny thought, sleeping in the car.  The second I am falling deep into it I hear, “Mama! Maaaaaaaama!”  Almost as if the “Mom is relaxing” alert button goes off warning of them of it.

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From the Zoo to Downtown, Madison, WI

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We had a busy day today.  It is our last day before we head out to our next stop.  I wanted to share with you those fun things I love to do when I am with my family in Madison. It truly is a great town. And though I am a New Yorker to the bone, I can’t help but feel nostalgic and miss my former home every time I visit.

We missed a few places, but we will be coming back this way on our way home.  Actually, we will be staying in another small town just north of Madison called Waunakee.  Why Waunakee?  Because Country Inn and Suites is providing us with 2 complimentary nights to stay and explore their hotel and let you all know what our family thought about it.  We will also enjoy 1 free night in Billings, MT, also courtesy of the great people of Country Inn and Suites. Through their website we have access to a list of itineraries for the areas where we will be staying and driving through. When in Billings, MT we will be taking some ideas from the Peaks & Valleys itinerary, and while in Madison we have been enjoying some of the ideas offered in the Streams and Valley’s itinerary! Can’t wait to share with you all the activities ahead of us, my experience with Country Inn and Suites, and all the unexpected surprises that surely await us!

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Day One: On The Road To Madison, WI

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Day one, completed.  We hit the road at 5:30 this morning.  My husband was surprised that even after having stayed up till 1:00 AM I would be up and ready to go.  We drove almost 1000 miles today.  When I exited the minivan, I took a deep breath and took in the clean, fresh air of Wisconsin.  I love that it’s quieter, the temperature cooler, and that the trip to our second home was joyful and stress free.

Needless to say, I’m exhausted. But before I go to bed, I wanted to share some photos and a video recap of our day. I hope you enjoy watching as much as we enjoyed living it!

Crossing the George Washington Bridge (NYC/NJ)

Crossing the George Washington Bridge (NYC/NJ)

My Little Helper

My Little Helper

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

Views of PA

Views of PA

Delaware Water Gap, PA

Delaware Water Gap, PA

Boys having a good laugh!

Boys having a good laugh!

Playing Peek-A-Boo

Playing Peek-A-Boo

Passing time

Passing time

Caught sleeping on the job!

Caught sleeping on the job!

Somewhere, IN

Somewhere, OH

Day One: On The Road to Madison, WI from NYCityMama on Vimeo.

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