Family Vacation Trips


Every two years, the Burton's and the Thuente's get together and go for a jaunt around the country side. Yep, believe it or not, both sets of parents come along for the ride. Since we started this, we have made a total of four trips, three in the US of A and one in Australia. And, thus far, no one has killed anyone else!!!! Now that we have a digital camera (yup, keeping up with the Joneses), we'll be able to include "holiday snaps" for ya'all to see...won't that be a treat!!!! For those of you not quite sure about US geography, here's a map of the US to help keep things in perspective!!!

We know that many of you are asking yourselves "why the heck are they posting this stuff?". Well, two reasons: (1) we can and (2) a way of keeping in touch with friends and family and sharing some our experiences. So there!!

The chronological list of trips is as follows:

July 1997. This was our first trip with both sets of parents. As neither of us, and I expect most ya'all out there, hadn't been on a "family" vacation with parents since junior high school, there was a little bit of "concern" about this trip given that we were now going with both lots of parents. But, concerns aside, we set out one fine Saturday morning from Omaha heading north east to visit Mt Rushmore (affectionately know as the heads) and mysterious South Dakota. 

The first part of the trip took us on the back roads of Nebraska through Freemont, Norfolk and Valentine which is where the first stop for lunch was made. If we thought that the first part of the trip was "flat" and "boring", we were in for a real treat the other side of Valentine. The place is FLAT and there is absolutely nothing there!!!!

After surviving the perils of Nebraska, we finally made it into South Dakota. We made the mistake of stopping at the t the Wounded Knee monument...there was nothing there!!!!. After that, we high tailed it straight north to Rapid City, which is a pretty nifty little city. The hotel we stayed at a small little casino associated with it called "Lucky Strike". With beer at $1 a can, you can image where we spent a fair chunk of our evenings!!!! Rapid city was our base of operations from which we launched our forays into the South Dakota unknown!!

First attack in the Black Hills was Custer state park to see the buffaloes and the Jewel Cave complex. After paying to see the buffaloes in the State park, we of course never saw any in the park. We had to wait until we were on the open road to see any buffalo (typical). The Jewel Caves were well worth the time and effort. After this, we finally saw the heads!!!! Now, they were impressive!!!! But, we still want to know what they are wearing on their backs.  

After the heads, we headed for the Devils Tower in Wyoming. This appeared in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and was kind of spooky. However, the size of the Devils Tower did nothing to dissuade the idiots from trying to climb it!!! Some people just have no brains. Once we were done with the tower, is was back to South Dakota to stop in Deadwood. Had a great meal at the restaurant owned by Kevin Costner. Spent time in his casino as well, where alcohol was completely free as long as you were gambling. Luckily, nickel slots goes a long way!!!

Alas, it was now time to depart Rapid City. Taking I90, we headed east for stops at the one and only Wall Drug store (no comment) and the Bad Lands. The Bad Lands were absolutely breath taking!!!! Having navigated the Bad Lands, it was time to take I90 all the way east across South Dakota for a stop at Mitchell, home if the worlds only Corn Palace. Now I know why its the only one!!!

After Mitchell, it was on to Yankton and Lake Lewis and Clarke for some sailing. When the sailing was done after a few days, it was time to pack up our bags and return to sunny, fun Omaha. All in all, this was a pretty cool trip.

July 1998. Off to parts south and New Orleans, Louisiana . Wonderful place and what fantastic food. If you like Cajun or Creole cooking, this is the place to be!!!!  The first order of the day was to have a hurricane or three at Pat O'Brien's just off Bourbon Street. Watched and listened to jazz as it poured down rain (as it does at 4pm every day in New Orleans). Powerful concoction!!! But, it's a dirty job and someone has to do it. 

Having accomplished the consumption of the mandatory hurricane(s), it was off to explore New Orleans. Had bennats by the Mississippi river just as President Clinton's motorcade went past. Dang it, and he didn't stop to wave to us!!!!. Heck, we even purposely went to the same restaurant as him...still no flipping wave. Did swamp tour to see the bius, "tame" crocodiles, ancient Indian burial grounds and some places that are rumored to be the final resting places for Spanish and French pirates. One of the highlights of the trip was a day tour of the old plantations lining the Mississippi river. It may appear to have been a romantic life style, but we're just as happy not to have to live their. One of the plantations we visited was used in the film "Interview with a Vampire". Pretty cool place!!!!


Our final act of desperation was to partake in a river boat cruise down the mighty Mississippi river. It was late in the evening and we got a chance to see the beautiful skyline of New Orleans from the river while listening to Jazz. It doesn't get much better than that. After the cruise, it was time to hit Bourbon Street again for the last time of this trip. Not much explanation about Bourbon Street is needed....alcohol and people. The official motto for Bourbon Street is: drink, fall over, get up and repeat!!! Very true.

Unfortunately, after the cruise it was time to depart and return home to Omaha. It was during this trip that the location for our next "family" vacation would be down under, as in Australia. Alas, it was now time to depart. All in all, New Orleans is a very cool place.  

December 1998. Off to down under. For those of you who are geographically challenged, that's Australia which looks a whole like this:

Arrived in Melbourne, capital of Victoria just before Christmas. Partied hard with friends and relatives over Christmas. Tried going to the traditional boxing day cricket test is typical of Melbourne weather at that time of the year, it got rained out!!!

Did a tour of the southern coast to see the twelve apostles. Why everybody calls them twelve is beyond us...we were only able to count about nine of them!!! Talk about windy though...we visited the area just as a huge storm system (they don't call them hurricanes down under) moved into the area. This was the same storm (aka HURRICANE) that played havoc with the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and sank half the fleet. It was pretty amazing watching surf break over 200 foot cliffs!!!! Who needs "The Perfect Storm"!!!! 


Then it was off to Sydney via the coast road through New South Wales with a stop in Eden. Unfortunately, didn't get to see and whales (during the previous trip we saw 75% of a whale...someone wasn't looking so we didn't see the whole thing!!). Then, it was Sydney for New Years eve...watched the fireworks while dining at the Opera House and watching a show featuring the music of Steven Sonderson. Now, that was pretty cool!!!! Wandered around Sydney (The Rocks, Darling Harbor, etc) and saw all the preparations for the 2000 Olympics. Our general consensus was that none of us wanted to be in Sydney for the Olympics!!!!

After Sydney, it was back to Melbourne via Hepburn Springs. We stayed with some friends who run a bed and breakfast's well worth the trip. Very relaxing, though can't really understand how the locals really drink the water from the natural springs. Tastes nothing like bottled water!!!! After a final trip to see ducks, geese and kangaroos (which were mysteriously absent), it was time to return to the states. All in all, one way huge cool trip!!!


July 2000. Time to head back north. This time into Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

The first stop was Sioux Falls in Iowa for lunch and a look at the falls (mmm....Niagra Falls they definitely aren't)). Then it was off to Minneapolis via Blue Earth to see the Jolly Green Giant. For those of you trivia buffs, this place is the home of the Ice Cream sandwich. Now, that information should make your day. 

Finally, we reached Minneapolis and the Mall of America. What can you say about the Mall of America except that it's HUGE. Shoppers delight!!!! It must have been designed with men/husbands in mind given the number of bars in the place. After a side visit to Still Water, MI, the home of the Minnesota Zephyr train, and a night at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre to see Oklahoma...good stuff. it was time to depart fair Minneapolis for Iowa and Wisconsin.

Before we made it Iowa, had a quick stop in Rochester to see the Mayo Clinic. Very Impressive. Then, a quick trip through the Amish country in lower Minnesota and Northern Iowa before hitting Decorah. Stayed at a very impressive hotel which has just been completely renovated. We arrived in Decorah a few days before the start of the annual Norwegian festival...lots of interesting stuff going on. From the looks of the place, these folks sure do know how to party!!! Spent a day or so in the Decorah area seeing the sites, especially the Billy Clocks in Spillville, IA They were well worth seeing.

Finally, left Iowa for Wisconsin at La Crosse. Visited Taliesin in Spring Green WI, the one time home of Frank Lloyd Wright. The final leg into Wisconsin took us the House on the Rock, also in Spring Green, WI.  There are not enough words in the English language to describe this place. It's well worth the effort if you happen to be in the area. If its not in the House on the Rock, then it probably doesn't exist!!!! After the house on the Rock is was off to a night in Dubuque.

On the final day of the trip, we visited the covered bridges of Madison County in Iowa. This was the location for the Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep film "Bridges of Madison County" (funny thing about that). Interesting blast from the past. We got to see all nine of them as well as driving past the house used in the film. They wanted to charge us $5 to actually go in, but, as we're all a bunch of cheap skates, we politely declined. But, we at least can all say that we've driven past it!!!!

Photo of Clocks in Museum

After Madison County, it was back onto I80 (some people say the only good thing that comes out of Iowa) and on to Omaha. Yup, another family vacation successfully negotiated. That's it for another year folks...wonder where we'll go next time!!!

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Revised: January 01, 2010