The Goldberg Family Wild West RV Trip (6/9/18 - 6/23/2018)

It was the Fall of my freshman year in high school 1997, I played on the offensive line of our JV football team (which is sort of a joke since I weighed about 140lbs) and our defensive line coach, Wally Dunham, decided he and his wife wanted to plan a trip out west and take 40 kids in June of 1998. I was one of the fortunate 40 that convinced my parents to pay to send me on this trip.

The trip launched from Myrtle Beach on a tour bus and made it's way across the country to Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Cody WY, and Mount Rushmore. It was one of the best trips I've done in my life and I still think back to that amazing experience.

In 2014, I was promoted to Director at PwC, which comes with the amazing benefit of being able to take a 4 week sabbatical. We decided that we wanted to take the sabbatical during the summer of 2016 and we started planning an RV trip to Yellowstone National Park. As we started planning out the details of that trip, we soon realized that Sam and Katelyn were just to young (6 & 4) to do many of the activities we wanted to do on this trip (eg. rafting, horseback riding, etc.) so we changed our plans and decided to go to Nevis and on a Disney Cruise.

During the summer of 2017, we started planning our 2018 summer vacation, with the kids 8 & 6, we decided this would be the year we would plan our trip out west. The number of hours spent planning this family vacation has exceeded the number of planning hours put into all of our previous vacations combined. We started with a high level plan: in June 2018 drive an RV across the country visiting Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and return home with a stop at Mount Rushmore. The general route was very similar to the route we took on my trip 20 years earlier. As we started planning out the details of the trip, Amanda and I decided that we wanted to invite our parents (my Mom and Dad and Amanda's momma) and our niece Eden (who also joined us on my sabbatical in Nevis). All decided they wanted to join us with 1 exception. My Dad didn't want to take 2 weeks off of work, so we booked a flight from Myrtle Beach to Jackson Hole, WY. He will tour Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks and fly back to Myrtle Beach after 8 days. The plan is set, here are the details:

Saturday June 9th - pick up the RV. We rented a 32 foot 2018 Coachman Leprechaun off RV Share (an RV rental website that works similarly to Air BnB).

Sunday June 10th - Launch from charlotte NC and Drive to St Louis, Missouri.

Monday June 11th - drive from St Louis to Cheyenne Wyoming.

Tuesday June 12th - drive from Cheyenne to Jackson Hole, WY. Pick up our rental mini van and Dad from the airport.

Wednesday June 13th - thursday June 14th- tour Grand Teton National Park.

Friday June 15th - Tuesday June 19th- tour Yellowstone National Park.

Wednesday June 20th - Dad drives the rental car back to Jackson Hole and flys back to Myrtle Beach. We continue on to visit Cody Wyoming.

Thursday June 21st - head to Mount Rushmore (with optional stops at Devils Tower and The Crazy Horse Memorial if time permits).

Friday June 22nd - drive from Mount Rushmore to St Louis, MO

Saturday June 23rd - Drive Home

The plan is set, our neighbor is staying at our house to sit the dogs and now we wait to hit the road....

- David

St. Louis

Charlotte, NC to St Louis, MO

We picked up the RV on Saturday. It's a great RV with lots of amenities and space. We spent Saturday afternoon packing the RV and went to bed early (although Amanda and I could barely sleep).

We woke up on Sunday morning at 2:45am, packed our few remaining items, loaded the sleeping kids, Eden, MeMaw and Nana into the RV and were on the road by 4am.

The first few hours were very quiet. \240There are hardly any cars on the road and Amanda slept in the front passenger seat, everyone else slept in a bed in the back. My mom woke up around 6am and traded places with Amanda. Finally the trip started to become lively. We talked, told stores, sang songs, laughed and joked around. My mom has a way of making everyone around her laugh. Nana mentioned that she wanted to read "The President is Missing" by James Patterson and Bill Clinton, so I ordered it on Amazon Audio and we listened to the 1st 8 chapters on the ride.

The kids spent their entire day playing games. Poppy bought them a set of walkie talkies and they enjoyed going to opposite ends of the RV and talking to each other.

About 15 miles outside of Nashville, we hit a terrible storm. Cars slowed down to 30 mph on the interstate. We considered stopping in Nashville, but with the storm so bad, we decided to keep moving.

After 750 miles and 12 hours, we finally made it to our campground in St. Louis, MO.

Once we checked in, we set up camp, drained both RV "tanks" which contain sink/shower water and things flushed down the toilet. It was fast and easy.

I took the kids to the campgrounds splash pad while Amanda, Memaw and Nana cooked spaghetti for dinner.

To bed early tonight, we have a 900 mile day tomorrow. We are heading to Cheyenne, \240WY which should take us 12 hours of driving.

- David


St. Louis, MO to Cheyenne, WY

Today was a long, long day. Long as in 920 miles covered while being in the RV for 15.5 hours. Amanda and I woke up at 2:30am to get on the road by 3am to beat the Monday morning Kansas City, MO traffic. The first 4 hours of the trip went very quick. Everyone slept the extra 4 hours while I raced the morning sun rise to beat the rush hour traffic, which we did.

Once we pulled onto I-70 just west of Kansas City, I started looked for somewhere to stop. We eventually stopped for gas and breakfast at 7am, \240(which took an hour) then continued on our way west on I-70. The drive up I-70 through Kansas was beyond terrible. I explained to Sam that we were in tornado alley and he definitely believed me. The wind was so strong, it was tough to keep the RV straight while driving. I stayed at 10 mph below the speed limit for 400 miles as we pushed painfully through Kansas. At one point, I noticed a deer on the right side of the road, running towards the \240the interstate, I hit the breaks and the horn and it stopped and started running beside the RV in the grass just off the interstate. I hit the horn again and it took off away from the highway.

Once we got into Colorado, the winds calmed and Sam and K took turns being my co-pilot. Sam really loved finding exactly where we were on the map and K just liked chilling and talking with her Daddy.

Two really cool things did happen on our journey: 1. we saw hundreds and hundreds of wind turbines and 2. we finally got our first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains!!!

When we were 25 miles outside of Cheyenne, we started seeing antelope just off the the road. It got the kids all excited about seeing more animals in Yellowstone.

When we got to our campsite, we were happy to see that we had some really great neighbors.

Tomorrow is an exciting day. We should be in Jackson Hole by 1pm. We will pick up our rental car, get settled at the RV park in town, tour the city and pick my Dad up at the airport at 8:30pm.

- David


Jackson Hole, WY

Amanda and I were up at 5am to pack up the RV and be on the road for our quick 7 hour trip to Jackson Hole. it was an exciting day because we were finally driving into the Rocky Mountains. Sam took the 1st turn in the front passenger seat because he wanted to help me "look for animals." We probably saw 1,000 antelope throughout the entire trip. Sam grabbed his mama's cell phone and took a few dozen pictures. After 150 miles or so, Katelyn took over in the front passenger seat. She wasn't as interested in finding as many animals as possible like Sam was. After the first few animal sightings she was just more interested in talking. We discussed great topics like "Daddy, did they have tvs when you were a kid?" and "Nana is your mommy like mommy is my mommy, right?". I also got all the gossip about all the bad kids in her school.

We turned north off I-80 and I had a little over a half a tank of gas, so I figured that I would just stop and fill up at the next town or 2. I didn't expect the next town to be over 150 miles away. We rolled into that gas station on fumes. I told the lady at the gas station and she laughed at me saying "yeah, people don't realize how far apart towns are in Wyoming." She was right.

I didn't research the route. I literally typed an address into Waze and I followed it. It took us up US-287 north and there must be something in the cycling community about riding on that road because we saw at least 80 people riding bike on that road (most solo). I don't know where they started or where they were going, but I do know they went a long way. I mean hundreds of miles on insanely mountainous roads and they were all loaded down with bags and cases to haul their gear.

About 60 miles outside of Jackson Hole the landscape changed drastically from a very dry arid desert like area to thick pine woods and deep dark green forests with snow on the ground (at about 9,500 feet of elevation). When we finally got a glimpse of the Tetons, they took our breath away. They are truly hard to describe and their pictures don't do them justice. They are simply amazing.

Once we arrive in Jackson Hole, we picked up our rental van and checked to the RV park. The night before, I realized that I forgot my coat in Charlotte, so we headed into town to pick up a new one. After finding a coat, we explored the historic town square, rode a horse drawn wagon around town and watched an old timey western street gun fight.

This evening we decided to check out Bubba's Barbecue for dinner and it was great. Sam finished his plate and then everyone else's. After dinner we picked Poppy up from the airport and then headed back to the RV park and the kids played and giggled their hearts out till they eventually settled in and we all watched Cheaper by the Dozen and laughed to till everyone drifted off to sleep but Amanda and I. We got the RV in ordered and now we are headed off to bed to get rested for a fun filled in the Grand Tetons tomorrow. Stay tuned...

- David

Colter Bay Village

Grand Teton National Park: Day 1

Today was an amazing day. We woke up, ate cinnamon buns for breakfast, packed up the RV and headed towards Grand Teton National Park.

We had a 9:30am reservation with Solitude float trips for a scenic slow float trip down the snake river. We arrived at the designated meeting spot an hour early with the idea of parking the RV and riding around in our rental van to do a little site seeing before our float trip. I had to make a quick pit stop at the restroom (which was actually more like an outhouse...) and as I returned I noticed Eden jogging away from the RV. I made my way over to her and asked what was going on. She replied that she saw a "horse or something" trotting which actually turned out to be a female moose. At that exact moment Sam ran out of the RV towards our van, which was in the same direction as the moose and I yelled "Sam get over here, now!" Scared, he ran over to me when the moose walked right in front of us, which was about 30 yards away. I told Eden and Sam to get in the RV quickly and they did. I stayed outside, watching the moose when all if the sudden, she turned and started heading right towards me! I yelled out a loud girlish sounding scream and leaped into the driver seat of the RV and the Moose turned around and continued trotting on her way. My heart was beating out of my chest and all I could hear was the sound of Memaw laughing at me hysterically say "She was about to get you!" Then we all jumped in the van and rode around for a little while seeing a pretty female deer.

We arrived back for the scenic float trip, met our guide, jumped in his van and drove 10 miles up stream. Once we were settled in the boat, we started floating our way down towards some amazing views of the Grand Tetons.

The kids were so excited about the ride. They wanted to hit a few rapids. The trip was designed as a float trip that didn't get guests wet at all. We hit a rapid and Sam and Katelyn loved it. At the site of the next "rough spot" they both yelled "more Rapids" so our guide headed in that direction. When he hit the rapid, it sent a massive wave over the font of the boat soaking Sam Katelyn, Eden and myself with the freezing cold river water. Needless to say, they didn't ask for anymore Rapids. As we continued to float down stream, Reed, our tour guide, yelled for Sam to jump up in the Captains position to paddle the boat. Sam jumped up with the biggest grin on his face and quickly realized the job was tougher than it looked.

We continued down stream and came across a beautiful bald eagle.

We also got a great view of a Elk's butt (he/she was hiding the front half in the woods) and a deer. Couldn't get pictures of either. We also saw a beaver working hard on his dam.

Near the end of our journey, our tour guide started getting some frantic sounding messages over his radio. Each year, as the snow melts off the Tetons, the river grows and changes. These changes reshape the river walls and sweep full trees down stream. One particular area recently became clogged with down trees and literally over night the river created a totally different path that had never been there before today. This "new" part of the river became particularly challenging for the guides to navigate so the owner of the company paddled his own boat to that part of the river and stood in the water guiding his tour guides down the river. Once we passed that part of the river, we heard a loud strange new sound that we hadn't heard before. My Dad (Poppy) commented that it sounded like someone was popping popcorn. Reed explained that it was the round water worn rocks from the newly created area of the river that were being swept down stream, rolling along the bottom. The rocks never touched the bottom of the boat and the \240sound of the rocks was loud enough to sound like popcorn popping in our boat.

It was an amazing trip that we are so glad we booked.

After the float trip and headed to Colter Bay RV park to set up camp. Once we got settled, we headed back to Jackson Hole to the Snow King Mountain Resort to ride on the new Mountain Coaster (highly recommended by our guide). On the way, we got a great view of some bison grazing in a field.

At the snow kind resort, Dad, Amanda, Sam, Eden and myself decided that we would drive the Mountain Coaster and Katelyn wanted to ride with me. The ride was much faster than I expected. We rode a Mountain Coaster in pigeon forge, TN last December and this coaster was much much faster. The ride was great and we all had a blast.

After the Coaster, we made a quick stop at the grocery store and headed back to Colter Bay RV Park inside Grand Teton National Park. On the way back, the Bison were out and about in several place along the way.

When we got home, Amanda cooked an amazing pot of chicken fettuccine Alfredo that we enjoyed outside as a family.

- David

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park: Day 2

Today was the first day that actually felt like camping and not like we were trying to get somewhere.

We slept in today until 7am. The original plan was a morning excursion on horseback and wagon ride out to the wilderness with breakfast and an afternoon hike to the hidden waterfall and inspiration point. The activities folks called me last week to inform me that they are canceling all horse activities until further notice due to "increased animal activity." Apparently, it's calving season for the elk and there have been several elk attacks where folks have gotten to close to baby Elks. They didn't have any other breakfast activities available for today so \240Amanda made grits, eggs and sausage for breakfast. Katelyn insisted we eat outside together as a family.

After breakfast, Sam, Katelyn and I walked around camp and found our way to the shores of Lake Jackson. The kids played for a little while a Sam picked a bouquet of yellow flowers for his Mama.

Once we returned, we drove our dirty laundry to the laundry facilities and Nana and Memaw stay and washed our clothes. Dad, Amanda, Sam, Katelyn, Eden and I headed for the Jenny Lake visitor center. On the way, we stopped for a few phenomenal pictures of the Tetons.

Not to far down the road, we spotted a family of elk off in the distance.

Once we arrived at the Jenny Lake visitor center, we caught the ferry across the lake to hike up the Tetons.

When we arrive across the lake, we headed up the trail towards the hidden falls.

The hidden falls were beautiful. You could feel a huge blast of wind and water spray at the bottom of the waterfall.

We then continued up the trail to inspiration point. At the top of the trail we were almost 8,000 feet above sea level. The views of the glacier carved valley down below and the Grand Teton above were stunning.

We then headed back down towards the ferry to return back across Jenny Lake.

We headed back to the Colter Bay RV park to pick up Nana and Memaw. Once we arrive back, we made a quick lunch and headed to the summit of Signal Mountain. On the way up, we spotted a doe, but we were moving to fast to get a good picture. Lucky for us, she was waiting for us when we were on the way back down the mountain.

The views from the summit of Signal Mountain was unbelievable. It faced away from the Tetons, but we could see down into the valley where we saw the Bison the day before. As we all stared off into the valley, I happened to catch a glimpse of a group of Elk using Sam's binoculars.

We then headed to the restaurant at the Signal Mountain Visitor center for margaritas, huckleberry lemonade and appetizers.

We then stopped by the Jackson lake dam to check it out.

On the way back to the RV park, we drove up on a huge traffic jam. We asked someone on the side of the road what was going on and she replied that there was a mamma Grizzly Bear and her 2 cubs making their way across the field, 175 yards from the road. We pulled over and all of the sudden our van was surrounded by a crowd of over 100 people. We didn't see anyting at first because they were behind a small group of trees. But luckily, the bears were headed directly in front of our van. They finally emerged and the crowd of people went nuts taking pictures at the very rare sighting of the grizzlies.

When we arrived back at the RV, Amanda and I decided to take Sam and Katelyn for a walk down to the lake. The kids rolled up the pants and played in the water and I taught Sam how to skip rocks across the lake as the sun set over the beautiful background behind us.

We've really enjoyed our time in Grand Teton National Park. We've seen so many amazing views and so many amazing animals. I believe the Tetons have created some lasting memories that I hope Sam and Katelyn will be sharing with their kids one day. The fun and memories won't stop here. Tomorrow we head to Yellowstone National Park for 5 days. The adventure continues......

- David

Grand Loop Rd, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190, USA

Yellowstone National Park: Day 1

The sound of rain hitting the metal roof of the RV made it the perfect morning to sleep in and by sleep in I mean 730 which is late for this trip so far. We had a "grab whatever you want" breakfast and packed up the RV and headed out to our next destination...Yellowstone!

On our way we stopped by Grant Village Vistor Center and collected maps and purchased books about Yellowstone. We watched an informative movie about the Yellowstone fires they had playing in the auditorium as long as it would hold the kids attention, which wasn't that long. The kids were excited when we found a hands on display of several of the different animals found in Yellowstone, like a bison skull, elk antlers and a moose antler. It was amazing to see how big and heavy they were. We also signed the kids up for the Junior Ranger Program while we were there. Each kid received a book with age appropriate task to complete while they are in Yellowstone. Once they complete their booklet they can turn it back in at any Ranger Station and they will receive an offical Junior Ranger badge.

After leaving the visitor center the weather upgraded from a cool drizzle to a freezing downpour. We carefully navigated our way up the mountain to our new home from the next five days at Fishing Bridge RV Park. We arrived while it was still raining heavily, so this made hookup a lot a fun for David and I. \240Everyone dried off and got ready and we headed back out towards Roosevelt Lodge for a Cowboy Cookout. On the way we all laughed to the point of tears as Poppy went off in his typical tangent style about all the animal warnings and hype about being "Warning wildlife on road" was just a tourist trap. He went on and on about how they should just throw those signs of wildlife on roads signs away because the only animals he had see so far he needed binoculars to see. He had no longer spoken the words before we saw our first buffalo crossing the road. We told Poppy he was having crow \240for dinner tonight! We saw hundreds and hundreds of bison after that for the next several miles.

We arrived at the Roosevelt Lodge for our cookout a little early (David is always early), so we stopped at a little pullout and took a set of wooded stairs up a hill with no idea what we were in store for. What we saw a the top of that staircase took our breath away. It was a beautiful valley with a rushing river running through it. We also caught a glimpse of something moving on the steep incline on the far side of the cannon which turned out to be big horn sheep. It was amazing to see how well they walked around on such steep terrain.

We arrived at the Roosevelt Lodge just as the skies cleared up and the rained stopped. We checked in and they instructed us to head to the back area that had log benches for seating setup in church pew style. There was a young cowboy standing at the front with a microphone going over safety rules and then it seem to turn into somewhat of a history lesson. We finally figured out he was just trying to keep everyone entertained while the other cow folk got the horses and wagons ready. The poor guy ran out of things to say so he resorted to asking if anyone knew any jokes. No one stood up so he told a couple of pretty bad jokes, then to our surprise Sam raised his hand and marched right up to the microphone and very calmly asked "what do you call a cow without legs?...Ground Beef!" The entire place roared into laughter. Even more surprisingly Katelyn stuck up her hand and took the microphone. In her sweet little voice she asked "Why don't you give Elsa a balloon?...because she will let it go!" Another roar of laughter fled the area and then it was time to load up on the hose drawn wagons.

We rode the wagon on one the original wagon trails used years ago. On the trail our "shotgun" cowgirl kept us entertained with funny stories and information about Yellowstone. I think I learned more from Kayla than I have on the entire trip so far. She was great! We finally arrive at a beautiful location where they had a beautiful fire roaring with kettles of cowboy coffee brewing. The amazing smell of steaks on the grill filled the air. We hopped off the wagon and lined up for an offical cowboy dinner. We had steaks cooked to order, corn, cole slaw, potato salad, yummy cowboy beans, cornbread muffins, and delicious apple crisp cobbler. As we ate one of the Cowboys picked his guitar and sang some good old country songs. After dinner we sat around the fire and sand songs. It was the perfect evening gown and we all had an amazing time. On the wagon ride back we even had to run the horse past a bison who was a little to close and was not \240amused by our presence. We said our goodbyes to the cow folks and loaded up in the van and headed back to the campground.

On the way back we spotted a big black bear close up to the side of the road and we excitedly grabbed our cameras and we were able to get a few blurry shots before he scooted away. We also saw a couple of elk grazing close to the road and we pulled over and David and Scott jumped out to get a closer look. We were ran off by a Park Ranger and they jumped in the van and headed home. We stopped by for a quick look at the Mud Volcano hotspring. We headed home and unloaded the van and put on pajamas and threw in the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie and tucked into bed. Another great adventure awaits for us tomorrow, so until then goodnight.

Our first buffalo traffic jam

Big horn sheep scaling the mountain

Look closely and you can a baby big horn sheep

Yellowstone River cannon

Horse drawn wagons

Our "history lesson"

Loaded up on the wagon headed out to the cookout

Our amazing "shotgun" cowgirl guide Kayla

Running for the food


"Daddy these Elk antlers are so heavy"

Amazing outdoor kitchen with some amazing views


Black Bear

Black Bear

Bye bye Black Bear

Step away from the Elk--Park Ranger


Come closer Bison

OK that's close enough

Mud Volcano Gieser

- Amanda

Today started off early with a scheduled bus tour called the "Ring of Fire Tour" that picked us up at the campground. David was very thoughtful and wanted to have a way for Nana and Memaw to see all of the must see spots in Yellowstone without having to do a lot of walking, so the tour was a fantastic option.

Our guide (who sounded like Ray Ramono and Ben Stine's took us around the entire lower loop of Yellowstone and we were able to see so many amazing sites including waterfalls, geysers, historical landmarks and even really cool animals. The geological anolomolies in Yellowstone \240formed as a result

The first site we hit was West Thumb.