Happy 12th Birthday to my amazing, creative, brilliant, beautiful daughter, Kaylin! You are one of the best and brightest people I've ever known and I am lucky to be your mom. Keep being your crazy, unique self; I love you!
We are having some strange luck with hotels so far on our vacation. We left home Friday after Gene got home from work with the goal to drive as far as possible so we could get to the zoo in Omaha close to opening on Saturday. After encountering a torrential thunderstorm and an accident that kept us parked on the interstate for 45 minutes, we stopped in Dink Town, Iowa around 11pm. There were many hotels to choose from. We tried 3 and they were all full! We tried the AmericInn on the way out of town and got their last room- a room with a king bed, a jacuzzi and a fireplace for the low, low price of $125 including our AAA discount. Logan slept in a roll-out bed and Kaylin on the floor next to the behemoth jacuzzi. We laughed and laughed at our bad/good luck and all woke up stiff and sore from our uncomfortable beds or sleeping arrangements. We of course didn't use any of our "extras" because our whole point was to sleep.
We had an easy drive to Omaha and made it to the zoo around 10am. It's one of my all-time favorite zoos and we had a great time. Fortunately, most of the exhibits are indoors, so the heat wasn't too awful. The highlight of the day was a baby sea lion that was born in early June, so was less than a month old. It was hilarious watching it gain the courage to dive into the water and then swim around screaming for mom. I love baby animals, but this was one of the cutest I've seen and the most fun to watch. We happened to visit during "Moo at the Zoo" and had a chance to see many varieties of dairy cattle, the kids got to milk a fake cow and then play all kinds of games to win cheesy prizes. We took a sky ride to see the antelope section of the zoo and left around 3:30pm.
Our driving goal was to spend the night in Sioux Falls so the kids could swim and we all could relax. We passed a billboard advertising a Ramada with an indoor water park. Perfect! Until we got there at 5:30pm and encountered a line of about 50 softball players. Yikes! We then checked hotel after hotel until we found an incredibly expensive room with 2 DOUBLE beds for even more than we paid for our "luxury suite" the night before. The kids swam and we had a late (for us) dinner at Gene's favorite burger joint- Fuddruckers. It was ~8:45 when we finished and we set out for Falls Park to surprise the kids with their nightly laser light show. I had grabbed a Sioux Falls guide to read while the kids were swimming and found this. I thought it would be awesome. Fail. The falls themselves were beautiful and the park was fantastic. The kids had a blast climbing all over the rocks and playing by the water. Then the laser show started. It was not the Pink Floyd laser extravaganza I was expecting. It was a really (REALLY) long history lesson projected onto the side of a barn. Crappy, lame laser characters spoke to us about the ENTIRE history of Sioux Falls and seemingly every mayor between the years of 1837 and present. It lasted nearly an hour and I seriously thought Logan was going to start crying he was so bored and tired. To anyone passing through Sioux Falls- the falls and Falls Park are beautiful and not to be missed, the laser show is boring and should be considered punishment.
Today we're sleeping in and then heading west to Bad Lands National Park. We'll probably stop at the Corn Palace and Wall Drug. My goal is to find lodging near the park and then go birding by myself tomorrow morning while everyone else sleeps. With the luck we've had finding a room, I won't hold my breath. Despite the crazy throngs of vacationers, we are having a great time and are all looking forward to Mount Rushmore. Maybe we'll find a parking spot at a rest area to sleep :)