Friday, October 30, 2015

Old Fashion Family Road Trip - Part 3

I didn't know much about South Dakota, except that it is below North Dakota on my globe. My first introduction to this fun-filled state was when we crossed the boarder from Minnesota around 9pm at night and my parents asked if I had any energy left. I was pretty sleepy so my reply was, "Just a little." Then I saw it - a one hundred and fifty-six foot long waterslide sticking out of the side of our hotel. "I HAVE TONS OF ENERGY!" I yelled, "Let's go!!!" And so we did. From 9 to 11pm at night, the four of us slid down that crazy waterslide and played in the fun pool until we nearly fell asleep floating. I knew then that this state would be a favorite, and it was.

The next morning we were off - trying to get from east to west in South Dakota is quite a trip. The good news is the speed limit is 80 miles per hour, so we flew! We made a stop to see the world famous corn palace - yes, an entire building decorated in corn. Decorating the building is an annual town event that's been going on for about 100 years. They use like eight colors of corn and do some pretty over-the-top designs - yes, the Willie Nelson picture to the left is COMPLETELY made of corn. While interesting, I was more amazed that the birds weren't eating the building - I guess they know it's the pride of the town. That's us with the town mascot, Corny!
Using our cool road trip app, Roadside America, we found the Pioneer Auto Museum. There is no way I can accurately describe this place, but if you're ever in Murdo, South Dakota - you've got to go. My dad was in Heaven - 402 classic cars. Millions and millions of dollars worth of beautiful, old cars. Oh, and TONS of other wacky odds and ends. My mom loved seeing the original General Lee - I guess Daisy Duke is from South Dakota.

My dad bumped into the owner and relished in their chat. I met the owner's daughter (who's about 55) and she took me on a scavenger hunt of the property. And Gates, well, he wasn't too impressed - even when we found this fun sign with his name on it. The place is filled with unexpected greatness. It looks like a junky old warehouse from the outside and once you enter, there are endless cool treasures. We were told that the TV show American Pickers has filmed there more than 80 times, buying all sorts of history. This place is the kind of thing you find only on a old fashion road trip - lucky us.

How could South Dakota get any better? Oh, it could. We arrived in Spear Fish and stayed with my dad's Aunt Trish and Uncle Gregg. They are not only super nice, they are super fun too. We walked in the door to the most amazing dinner smell and they pulled out a huge bin of toys - needless to say, Gates and I became instant fans of Gregg and Trish.
Making it to Mount Rushmore was the ultimate goal for our trip. So what did we do when we got to this historic landmark...jump of course! Except Gates - he pretended not to know the crazy jumping tourists and he just looked cute. This site definitely lived up to all of the hype. It's pretty amazing how a bunch of guys made this incredible statue by blowing off chunks of rock with pieces of dynamite. While we were there, we watched some old films about the process and the day it was dedicated. I asked if we were allowed to climb up their faces. The look, more than the response, ensured me that no, this was not a climbing stop. This was a learning stop and we all walked away a little smarter.
And our fun in South Dakota just kept on going. There was this guy who was snacking in the median of the road. And then this guy who walked in front of our car. Oh, and this guy...we LOVED him.
My parents actually discussed rolling down the window for a better photo - HELLO PEOPLE, he is a BEAR! Bears eat people. I am a people and do not want to be his lunch. Thanks to Gregg and Trish's advice, I am still alive and able to type this blog. Whew.
We left our great company and fun South Dakotan adventures and headed south to Wyoming. To be honest, Gates and I napped a lot through Wyoming. I'm sure it's a fun state, we were just on a very remote highway and took the opportunity to snooze. We did make a stop for a treat at Dairy Queen in Cheyenne and then hopped back in to make it to Colorado by dinner.
Our buddies, the Nelsons, recently moved to Louisville (outside of Boulder). We were super excited to see them, their new home, and check out their fun little town. Lucky for us they like boys because the four of us were only quiet for this one photo and it took us an hour (and a million threats) to finally go to sleep.

Awesome friends are just that, awesome. Sure it's great if they live across the street from you, but life doesn't always work out that way. While I loved having the Hickmans and the Nelsons near by, this trip showed me that having friends all over the country is also great. As my mom always says, don't invite our family to visit unless you really want us, because we'll probably show up!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Old Fashion Family Road Trip - Part 2

Chicago - the new hometown of my best buddy Poppy. Visiting Poppy and her family were a major reason we decided to take our road trip in the first place, so our stop in Chicago was definitely a highlight. From the minute we arrived, Poppy and I were up to our old shenanigans. The picture on the right is of me and Poppy barricading her older sister Hazel into the bathroom so she couldn't get out after her shower. We giggled the whole time.
We toured the sites, including stepping into the Plexiglas box on the top floor of Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower). You can look 110 floors down onto the street, right under your feet. Gates, my mom, and I thought it was dad did not. He nervously smiled at my mom, said something about feeling the building sway, told her to hurry up and get the photo, and got off the Plexiglas as fast as he could. The guy before us did push ups in the box. Meanwhile, I stuck around for some jumping photos - I think that made his stomach queasy. For being so uneasy, he faked a pretty good smile in our picture.

Then we rented an EIGHT seater pedi-bike with the Hickmans. Four peddlers, four passengers - including me and Poppy in a goofy front basket and Gates ON my dad's knee, and away we went. We were a definite freak show for locals and other tourists to point and gawk at, but man, it was fun. Trying to get this 1,000+ pound beast up the littlest hill was a near miracle. So me and the other kids started chanting "Be Aggressive, Be Be Aggressive!" to help encourage our parents. This, of course, attracted more pointing and laughing by onlookers and we absolutely loved it. I'm proud to say that our chant - and our parents muscles - avoided us from having to get out and push.

From Chicago we headed on to Wisconsin and found one of the most fun towns in America - Wisconsin Dells. How did we not know this wacky tourist trap existed? We looked it up and found out it is the waterslide capital of the world - we are DEFINTELY coming back in the summertime. Now how can I describe Wisconsin Dells...hmm...think of the ultimate cheesy tourist trap locations - like Madam Tussaud's Wax Museum - and multiply it by 50 and sprinkle gigantic waterparks in between - THAT is Wisconsin Dells. Crazy, tourist fun! We stopped to play mini golf at Captain Jack's and visited the Upside down White House (no joke, that's a real attraction!).

From Wisconsin it was on to Minnesota. This was a highlight stop for my mom - she keeps talking about the 55' Jolly Green Giant we stopped to photo with in Blue Earth, Minnesota. With just over 3000 people in their town, the giant is clearly a source of town pride. They are also home to the ice cream sandwich. Sadly, we didn't learn that fact until AFTER we left or we would have partook in that source of pride as well!

We did fill on at El Tio, a terrific little local Mexican restaurant while we were there. Definitely worth a stop if you find yourself in Blue Earth.

After Minnesota we headed for South Dakota. We'll highlight that portion of our trip in Part 3 of our blog. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Old Fashion Family Road Trip - Part 1

Rental car...$62 a day.
120 gallons of gas...$276.
Hotel rooms...$120 per night.
Flying home on a direct, non-stop flight after a nine day, 11-state, 2400 mile road trip...PRICELESS!
My parents decided our family needed a good, ol' fashion family road trip. They both get giddy when they talk about their own childhood memories of family road trips, so we decided to create some memories of our own. I don't think any parenting book recommends strapping in two small children, locking the doors, and driving off into the unknown as a positive bonding experience - or even one you might survive - but why start listening to those books now? So away we went, & it was awesome.

First stop - Pittsburgh. We stayed in a really funky hotel that was formerly a monastery. My mom may have read a few reviews online after she booked it that said the place was haunted. She also may not have shared that info with us until now as she is typing this blog for me. After checking in, we tried to use our key card on our door and it wouldn't open. It would light up green but remain locked. The bellman watched us and said, "That is odd. Do it again." He then tried and again, the door would not open. Finally it just magically opened. My mom looked a bit nervous and didn't get the best night sleep...I now know why. Thanks mom. Can you not book haunted hotel rooms anymore for our family vacations?
Then it was onto Indiana. We stopped in Shipshawana to visit an Amish town and take part in their annual corn festival. This town does not mess around when it comes to corn mazes. We chose the "Kid Maze" at 1/2 mile long and got ridiculously lost and only by a total miracle found our way out before the sun set. Of note, they offer other mazes, one of which is nearly FIVE MILES long. We noticed several Amish employees with ear pieces and radios. We were told the devises were essential because so many people get lost in that maze. Um, no thanks, we'll pass.

And while their corn mazes were intense, their fall activities were over-the-top. We shot corn from an air gun, launched pumpkins via slingshot, traveled in barrel carts, took a hayride, and did human hamster racing.

By the way, my mom was MUCH better than my dad in the hamster race.
From Indiana we headed to Ohio and stayed just south of South Bend for the night. In the morning, we made a stop at the Studabaker Museum to check out the classic cars. While there, we got to work on a car our size. I poured the antifreeze and tested the battery. Bodie changed the tires and got UNDERNEATH the car to change the oil. It was pretty cool.

After Indiana we were on to Illinois. Bodie's best buddy Poppy just moved there, so I'll pass the pen and he'll update you on that leg of trip. Check back soon to read about the rest of our adventures.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


My big brother is officially a kindergartener. As you may have guessed, he approached the first day of school like it was just any other day - he really is so cool. Our elementary school is a block away, 187 mom steps to be exact. The school district requires an adult to drop off and pick up kindergarteners at the school door, so I get to walk him to and from school.

As we walked towards the school on the first day, most kids stayed close to their parents. Bodie, on the other hand, scanned the crowd and would holler to each friend he saw. A fourth grade safety patroller yelled out to Bodie even before he'd spotted her followed by his new principal, "Welcome Bodie! Glad you're here." REALLY?!?! What kindergartner is known - by name - by the principal on the FIRST DAY!!?!? Like I said, he's so cool.

As Bodie got near the parent drop off point, he looked up at my mom and said, "I've got this." And waved her off as he walked on. I pressed my tiny face up against the cafeteria glass door as he left and whimpered, "Booooooodieeeeeee." He was gone. And I was alone. It was kind of sad. This may have been the only point when my mom got emotional. But she scooped me up and we were off on our own adventure - trying to help us both forget how much we already missed Bodie.

We're now a few weeks in to our new routines and all is going great. Bodie has a bunch of new friends, loves doing experiments at school, and has only been in trouble for "over climbing" the playground equipment. I guess you're supposed to stay on the inside of the protective rail and not scale the outside of it 15 feet in the air. Here's one of our creations for the school's chalk day.

We're lucky that they have lots of teacher work days and early release days for meetings, so we've had bonus adventures when that has happened. We hiked around Roosevelt Island, went on a father and son campout, and last Friday our whole family went to Pumpkinville - days off are the best!

My mom and dad went to Bodie's first parent teacher conference. My mom said the teacher sat in a big chair and had my parents sit below her in the tiny kid chairs - the image of that makes me laugh. And more important that my parents awkward sitting position is how happy Bodie is; he's doing well in school and having fun - the thing that matters most.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


We have a smaller house and dislike clutter. When you put these two things together, almost nothing gets lost in our house and rarely do we find unknown items behind the couch, under a bed, etc. However, today was different...very different.

Walking toward the kitchen I bumped into a small table. An odd-shaped object behind the table caught my eye. I knew immediately what it was, but could not believe it. I got down on the floor to look more closely and sure enough, it was a tiny turtle - yes, a turtle. It also appeared to be a tiny dead turtle.

We live in a very metropolitan area. Turtles are not common. If there is a turtle sighting in a local pond, everyone shouts and points, "A turtle! A turtle!" like it's a rare, nearly extinct creature. A turtle inside of a home is totally unheard of. So why was there a turtle in my house and how did it get there? I was baffled.

I was also totally freaked out and refused to touch it. I did take a picture of it and sent it to Dave with only the subject line, "call me." The phone rang immediately, "That's a turtle! What's it doing in our house?" We hypothesized for a bit about how he got there and then determined that Dave would remove the dead turtle when he got home from work and I would simply walk around it for the rest of the day. (Feel free to make fun of me, but I was not going to touch the dead turtle.)

All day I tried to figure out how he got there. I ruled out his speed and skill immediately. Dave thought he may have jumped into our luggage - yes, jumped - in Thailand and made the 25 hour trek back THREE months ago. But the thought of this made me ill, had we really had a turtle in our house for three months and not known it - gross. I chatted with a friend for nearly an hour at the pool about the stupid turtle, I became totally obsessed. How does a turtle get into a house without someone noticing?!!

We came home from the pool and I gaged at the new smell as I opened the front door. The dead turtle was rotting and now stinking up our house. My next text to Dave said, "I think he's starting to smell. Save me." I opened the windows for fresh air and got back down on the floor again to examine the turtle one more time. Yep, he was dead and we definitely had a turtle in our house.

Finally, Dave got home and the turtle removal was soon underway. He grabbed a napkin and picked him up. I stopped him just before he tossed him in the outside trash can. "I want to see him. No I don't. Okay, yes, I kind of do. Can you open the napkin?" Dave had put the napkin over his shell to pick him up, so as he unwrapped the napkin the turtle was upside down. We looked down together at the lifeless turtle and saw, "Tortoise. Made in China." imprinted on the bottom of the shell. IT WAS A TOY!!!!!!! Never a dull moment at the Piantanida house.