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"A Mask and a Minivan" - Our Pandemic Road Trip (Part 8 - Back to Kansas by way of Wyoming)

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

This is the eighth post about the 5-month road trip my wife, daughter, and I took in the first half of 2021. If you want to start at the beginning, you can go back and read a little of the background/ context behind the trip.

I took a long hiatus in finishing these posts, but am finally getting to finishing them.

The view from our minivan window - Grand Teton

We were approaching the final stretch of our journey.

The plan was that I was going to take a few days off of work and over a 4-day weekend, we'd drive to the Grand Tetons (via Yellowstone), visit the park for a day, and then make it back to Lawrence, Kansas in 2.5 days more of driving.

Our time on the road technically wouldn't be complete as the plan was, after a two month hiatus, to make it the rest of the way back to the east coast to spend time with my wife's family – but for the purpose of this blog, I'm calling the trip done when we at last reached the house we were planning on living in for the foreseeable future.

The Drive

From Missoula it was about a 4.5 hour drive down to Yellowstone. I feel like I've said this about many segments of this road trip, but this drive was truly one of the most beautiful stretches in the country.

My wife and I had been to Yellowstone previously and weren't planning on doing any hikes this time due to our time constraints. Instead, the plan was just to take the scenic drive through the park on the way to Grand Teton (which we hadn't been to). As a brief aside, one reason we chose to drive through Yellowstone, is we didn't have to pay any of the entrance fees (~$30-$35) due to us having a National Park Pass. If you at all like National Parks, I highly recommend getting one of these annual passes. For $80 you can visit all our beautiful national parks free for a year. Given entrance prices, if you even visit 3 parks, you'll more than make your money back. Highly recommended!

In any event, Yellowstone was stunning as usual; however, like the last time we experienced Yellowstone, the big downside of the park are the crowds:

Despite the occasional traffic, the 2+ hours of driving through Yellowstone was still very enjoyable, and eventually we made our way south to Grand Teton National Park.

Bison in Yellowstone

In my opinion, Grand Teton is just as breathtakingly beautiful as Yellowstone, but doesn't have the insane crowds of the more popular park, which is a big plus. We only stayed a single night (in a really fun, rustic cabin within the park) but were able to do several hikes over the 1.5 days we were in the park.

Even when we were just driving around, the mountains in the background made pretty much everywhere we went an enticing opportunity for a family photo.

Once we left the Tetons, we headed east and slightly south through Wyoming along Highway 26. The scenery stayed beautiful for a time but eventually the mountains transitioned to the less picturesque high plains. Given that we spent the morning in the park, we opted for a shorter drive, stopping for the night in Casper, Wyoming, about a four-hour drive from the Tetons.

From Casper the shortest way back to Lawrence was to head south at Denver and then take I-70 due east; however, given that we'd done this drive many times previously, we instead chose to take I-80 east through Nebraska, which mostly follows the Platte river before eventually turning straight south into Kansas.

It was good to mix up the scenery a little bit, but I found I-80 only marginally less boring of a drive than I-70. After one more night's stop in Grand Island, NE, we made it back to Lawrence.

Arriving in Kansas

We were excited on the afternoon we pulled up to our new house. Our furniture wouldn't be arriving for some time out of storage, but we'd borrowed some air mattresses and were still looking forward to finally being able to settle down for a bit.Of course, totally on brand for this trip, we faced a few final hiccups when we arrived.

As soon as we walked into the house, we immediately noticed that the refrigerator was gone. In the downstairs bathroom, the double washers and dryers we were excited to have as a little luxury were missing as well. In the furnished attic, roughly five thousand dead flies littered the floor. None of these were life and death issues, but after everything we'd been through, it seemed like we just couldn't catch a break.

I sighed once and went to work.

I bought a vacuum and cleaned up all the flies. Their source was never fully identified, but they've never returned.

Our housing contract indeed did have an addendum that said that we were owed the appliances back (an oversight from the seller) and a day later, they returned them (although we let them keep one set of the washer/ dryer as it had all been an honest mistake on their part).

A week or so later, our belongings arrived and we began the long process of getting our house situated.

It was June and by August we'd be back on the road, heading east to spend some time with my wife's family.

But that trip is another story.

Moving On

Next up: Epilogue


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