Forty-five hundred kilometres, 11 Continental Divide crossings, seven hotel free breakfasts, seven restaurant meals, six fast food meals, five interstates, two national parks, one national monument and the World’s Largest Jackalope. Those stats pretty much sum up our two-week, five-state road trip from Calgary to Denver and Salt Lake City, and back again through Montana and Fernie.
It was an ambitious trip and a lot of time in the car for the kids. On “driving days,” of which there were seven, we averaged six hours on the road. The longest day, from Helena, Mont. through Yellowstone National Park to Dubois, Wyo. put us on pavement from 7:40 a.m. until 6 p.m. with numerous stops in between. En route we listened to playlists, let the kids watch movies and looked out the window at the ever-changing landscape, from mountains to geysers to badlands to scrub to prairie to mountains again.
To make the driving part more engaging we played the license plate game, where you try and spot plates from all 50 states and 10 provinces (we didn’t see any territories). Avery took to drawing a symbol to represent each state; for example, a dollar sign ($) for Nevada, a polar bear being bitten by a mosquito for Manitoba, a cowboy hat for Texas. Since there are some states we know next to nothing about (I’m talking about you, Maryland), we just kind of guessed (Maryland got a hospital). Also, she kept pronouncing Missouri misery, so she drew a frowny face 😦 for that one. In all we saw five provincial plates and every state plate except Hawaii, Delaware and Rhode Island.
Another thing we noticed on the road was A LOT of road kill. This is kind of dark, but we started keeping a tally of the various dead animals along the way including deer, antelopes, porcupines, foxes, racoons and rabbits. Fortunately this macabre count was balanced by live animal sightings such as elk, deer and tons of antelopes.
Finally, Avery kept track of weird sightings; unusual things you don’t see every day. Seeking shade in an underpass in Idaho we spotted two llamas being led by two men dressed in Peruvian garb. We saw a brick silo, a truck carrying Humvees, a train without any graffiti and a horse herd comprised of faux metal horses posed on a hillside in Montana. But it’s hard to beat the jackalope, that mythical Wyoming creature that’s a giant hare with antlers. As far as roadside attractions went, this gas station in Dubois, Wyo. was the best, symbolizing all that’s weird and wonderful about an American road trip.