Things were moving quickly and we were surprisingly prepared. The house was rented out to great tenants, our furniture was on the truck heading to Vancouver (or…so we thought…more to come on that later), we had a new place waiting for us in Vancouver and a job lined up for Shawn.
We finished packing up our car and said our goodbyes. The goodbyes were definitely much harder than I anticipated they would be. So, after a few tears and a slightly delayed start to the drive, we were on our way.
We left from outside of London, Ontario and ventured toward our first stop (which we were hoping would be somewhere near Chicago). We didn’t pre-book any of our overnight stays as we weren’t entirely sure where we would end up each day.
Within about an hour our daughter was sleeping peacefully. We crossed over the border into Michigan and continued on our way. Finally around midnight after 6 or 7 hours of travel we decided to call it a night. We took the first exit that we saw for hotels and ended up stumbling across a hidden gem. Right before we turned into the Best Western we noticed a sign for the Marina Grand Resort. We followed the signs until we ended up at the cutest little spot. It was lit up with a veil of twinkling Christmas lights around the entrance. We knew this would be the perfect spot to stop.
So, in Shawn went to check us in and it actually came up way under budget. We unloaded the car and carefully carried Hadley into the hotel room. It was a stunning room with a fireplace, living room and a covered balcony overlooking the marina.
The next day we quickly toured the New Buffalo beach and then boogied onwards to Chicago.
We parked at the Navy Pier and decided to wander around for a couple of hours. It was a little bit chilly, but the sun was shining. We walked around Grant Park and then went on to find Cloud Gate. On our way to the Cloud Gate we noticed an ice skating rink that was just opening (at noon). So, in we went, grabbed some skates and took Hadley on her first ice skate.
After one blissful lap, the attendant promptly advised us that carrying a child in our arms while ice skating was not safe and that we would have to leave after our lap was completed. This was perfectly OK with us as we got to skate the rink practically by ourselves and Hadley loved it. **Disclaimer** Shawn is an excellent skater and Hadley was in perfectly safe and capable hands.
Me on the other hand, I had completely lost my seven-year-old self’s ability to navigate the rink and was clutching to the rails for dear life. After leaving the rink and getting some pictures at Cloud Gate we headed back to the Navy Pier to play at the Children’s Museum.
The Children’s Museum was wonderful. It was equipped with lots of activities for busy little ones!
We ended up in Wisconsin and after every single hotel in Madison was booked, we were left in a very, very, verrrry small town where the hotel options were extremely limited. We took the room but greatly regretted it when we felt as though we had to sleep with t-shirts over our pillowcases and in our clothes from the day (with socks on). It was imperative that no bare skin would touch the bedding. My distain for the hotel was highlighted when I found fake rose pedals scattered near the Jacuzzi which was situated in the middle of the room. *Insert nausea here*
Needless to say, this stay resulted in a very early morning!
After realizing we couldn’t stand being in a tiny town with limited accommodations for another night, we pressed on for 10.5 hours until we made it to Rapid City. I can’t even describe the feeling of relief when we pulled into a hotel whose brand we recognized with a clean room. We ordered food up to the room and enjoyed some much needed R&R.
This was by far one of our favourite days from the journey. Travelling to Keystone and through the little town during off season was incredible. (We were sad that nothing was open, but it was such a neat feeling being in such a monumental city with absolutely no one else around). Driving around the bend and up the hill towards Mt. Rushmore was incredible. The sun was shining and the view was spectacular. We took a few pictures until a lovely gentleman stopped on his way up the hill to offer to take a family photo for us.
We toured around the park observing the scenery. This was definitely one for the books. If you haven’t been, I strongly recommend it! It was extremely quiet, you could hear the water bubbling underneath the ice on the lake.
Then, on we went to Billings, Montana. I’m not going to lie, I really had no expectations for Billings, Montana.
However, to my surprise and delight, this city was amazing. Once we made it to the downtown, we noticed it was lively and filled with delicious restaurants, quaint coffee shops and lots of beauty. Unfortunately, it was also freezing (notice the ice cube floating in Hadley’s water cup above….that was after the cup was left in our car for a little while).
We checked into our hotel, bundled up and wandered around the downtown for as long as we could. I wish we would have had a bit more time to experience this city, but it was late and soooo cold, so we grabbed dinner and went back to our room for another restful night.
Next up – Helena, Montana. I’m not going to lie, we really felt like we were playing A Ticket To Ride. Helena was definitely not what I was expecting. It was still freezing cold when we woke up, but again the sun was shining making for a great day on the road. And, considering it was December, it wasn’t the worst weather we could have encountered.
The drive to Helena was beautiful. When we arrived, we looked around and I remember feeling very confused. “This is the Capital city?” I don’t really know what I was expecting. High-rises, a bustling city perhaps. But, instead it was a small town in what felt like the middle of no where. But, it was charming and gave us a reason to slow down and relax for the afternoon. We checked into our hotel after some exploring and took Hads for a swim.
After breakfast, we got back on the road again as the sun was coming up. The sky was breath taking. The clouds looked like cotton candy and snow dusted the streets and trees. This was probably one of the most scenic days we experienced throughout our travels.
We cruised through Idaho and ended up in Spokane, Washington. The weather continued to get worse as we pressed onwards.
Despite the ever changing weather, we made it through without any problems!
We stayed at an amazing resort in Spokane (after we failed to remember the exchange rate). But, hey, we had made it this far and decided it was time for us to celebrate! We had a fabulous stay in Spokane.
When we were planning our travels, we figured after Spokane we would stop in Seattle. But, after making it this far and being so close to Vancouver we decided we were going to push through and make it there.
Hadley was such a trooper. She never complained once during our drive and kept a smile on her face the entire time. We couldn’t have been any luckier.
The bad weather disappeared as we made it through Seattle and towards the Canadian Border. At the border, we were informed that our vehicle was selected for a ‘random search’ which makes complete sense considering we were relocating from across the province and entering from the United States. The border officers were great. They handled our search in a timely manner and got us back on the road quickly.
After one week on the open road, it was final, we had made it to Vancouver! Everything with our road trip went so smoothly, we almost expected that something had to go wrong…stay tuned!