After exactly two months of being away from Maryland, we are back.  Back to Merryland (typoed on purpose).  Back to the heat, which is my nemesis.  Back to our normal programming - school, graduate school, work, friends, family, life.  I can't say I'm too, too sad about being back.  After all, I choose to live in Merryland for many awesome reasons.  To bring our summer to a close, our family embarked on a 10-day roadtrip.  Here's were we went....

We started our trip driving north out of Colorado and entering into the gorgeous state of Wyoming. We camped one night in Grand Teton National Park at Colter Bay. Holy moly is this place gorgeous.  I think the Teton Mountain Range is one of the most stunning in the US.  We enjoyed a picnic dinner by the lake's marina before heading to sleep and enduring a thunderstorm most of the night.  Fact:  Mr. UpCyclist and I eloped in the Tetons ten years prior.  It's a special place to us.

Grand Teton National Park - Colter Bay

After a very brief stay in Grand Teton NP (I'll explain at the end why our stays in the National Parks were so brief), we drove up through Yellowstone NP from South to North so we could see the entire park in one day - or at least the main areas of the park accessible by road.  This park was Lil O's favorite.  There is so much to see, do and explore in Yellowstone.  One day is certainly not enough there, but since our roadtrip was more like a taster's roadtrip, we enjoyed the time we could spend.

The geysers in Yellowstone are plentiful.  Their explosions can last for 1-30 minutes - it's pretty entertaining stuff.

Geysers at Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is such a diverse park - from hot springs to geysers to gorgeous waterfalls.  I didn't snap any photos, but the wildlife there is crazy - bison (commonly known as buffalo), antelope, bears, and mule deer roam that park freely.

Yellowstone Waterfall

From Yellowstone, we entered the amazing, to-die-for state of Montana.  Seriously, it has taken me two decades to get to that state and it was totally worth the wait.   We spent a night in Bozeman and our entire family fell in love with that town.  Mr. UpCyclist keeps telling Lil O she is welcome to go to college there at Montana State University.  We had a delicious meal at Sweet Chili on Main Street; seriously, it was one of the top ten meals of my life.  We wanted to hike the next day, but the rain kept us indoors.  Thankfully, Bozeman is home to the Museum of the Rockies, which has the largest dinosaur fossil collection in the US.  In fact, the Smithsonian in DC recently acquired a new T-Rex and it is from Bozeman and this museum.

I don't know about you, but on roadtrips, we tend to eat some pretty junkie foods.  Here, Lil O and Jedi are enjoying cool treats (Jedi is munching on a cup of ice).  I love that dog.  He is a roadtrip expert.  By the way, I really want to teach Jedi how to drink from a straw.  Any thoughts on that?

We left Bozeman and heading to Glacier National Park and camped right outside the park at the local KOA (which Lil O said felt like a village community).  That KOA campground had every conceivable amenity - pool, cafe, ice cream store.....  It may have been a bit too "Truman Show" for me.

Glacier National Park was incredible.  Stunning.  Awesome in the biggest way.  I've visited many national parks in the country and Glacier may be the most stunning I've seen.  It is not my favorite (my favorite is Arches National Park by Moab, UT), but it is so divinely stunning that you literally can't speak.  The photo below doesn't do this park justice at all.

Glacier National Park

Mr. UpCyclist biked the 50-mile, very narrow Going to the Sun road through Glacier.  Lil O, Jedi and I drove it.  I'm pretty certain Mr. U earned his nickname that day - again.

After a brief visit to Glacier, we headed to Kalispell and spent two nights there.  The impetus for our roadtrip in the first place was Flathead Valley Community College (FVCC).  They invited me to give a keynote and lead a workshop for their faculty and staff.  Boy, do I like FVCC.   Their staff/faculty is so energetic and youthful.  I loved their spirit and creative programs.  I liked it so much I didn't want to leave.

But, since Montana is super far from Maryland, we did need to keep our roadtrip moving easterly.

Roadtrip activities

We headed Southeast and met Sue in Missoula for a quick hike and doggie playdate.  Isn't that crazy we saw Sue in Montana?  It felt surreal to see a friend (and my coach there).  Next, we kept the surrealism alive and visited dear friends - whom we haven't seen in over a decade - in Billings.  I taught with these friends when I lived on the Navajo Nation.  It was SO good to be back with them.  I adore this couple and their family.  Plus, Lil O learned how to make traditional Navajo fry bread and Mr. UpCyclist learned all about Navajo traditions (he had many curious questions).  Just an aside:  You know how I adored teaching on the Navajo Nation.  If you want to live and teach there, check out this blog post I wrote about it.  I would live there again.

Next, after leaving Billings, we headed east to this iconic place - Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota! Molly was correct. You really only needed 30 minutes there.  I know that sounds cheesy, but once you've seen this PBS documentary on the monument, visiting only requires a short amount of time.

Mt. Rushmore photo

Spending just a bit of time was fine because we wanted to drive Needles Highway in Custer State Park, which was pretty and we saw more bison, but after visiting three national parks at this point, we could have skipped the Needles Highway - especially since the next day we visited Badlands National Park.

Look at this park below?  Badlands National Park looked like something from another planet.  And although I love stunning mountainous parks (like Glacier), I actually prefer parks like the Badlands. They are so unique and so incredibly strange.

Badlands National Park

You could tell the Badlands doesn't have as many visitors as the other parks we visited.  They barely had marked trails for hiking (though the park ranger said I could look online and get some GPS coordinates) and the Badlands two visitor centers were small (unlike Yellowstone's many visitors centers which are massive).  However, I still loved the Badlands.  Although, "if" I had to choose a cluster of national parks to visit in the US, I would gravitate to the national parks in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.  I would do Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce and the Grand Canyon - just in case you were wondering.  Plus, now you know where to find me/us in our RV one day.

After leaving South Dakota and its Badlands, we hightailed it east and then south.  We spent a night in Illinois (but, didn't see any sights as we arrived at 2am!).  The next day, we visited Black Dog Rescue in Lexington, Kentucky.  We really wanted to thank Becca in person as she rescued Jedi almost three years ago.  We are forever grateful for Becca's rescue work.  We also wanted to play with the puppies.

I mean, look at them?

Black Dog Rescue Lexington

Our visit was a good one, but I realized how many puppies need a good home.  You just see two puppies in the photo above.  There were almost 40 puppies and dogs at Black Dog Rescue that need a home.  40.  If you know someone looking for a dog/puppy, consider Becca's rescue.  She is incredible and her love for these dogs and puppies is unending.

Our roadtrip was really a great, whirlwind one.  Our summer in Breckenridge was divine.  My goal was to be in the present moment as much as possible and I actually did it.  I actually just savored the moment and didn't think about much else (hence, my lack of blogging and crafting this summer).

Hot springs at Yellowstone

Thank you for still hanging out with me and Upcycled Education in spite of not blogging much. Thank you for your kind words on Instagram and Facebook.  I'm back in Merryland and ready for what's next, which includes....

Enjoy the last bits of summer....