The 2016 Great Field Trip: Pioneer Style

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Just one of the many Laura Ingalls Wilder books she has enjoyed

Over this last year, Bookworm Beauty discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder. She devoured everything she could get her hands on that centered around Laura. Her mild obsession eventually morphed into a love and appreciation of studying the life and times of the westward expansion.

We tiptoed through our already planned History Studies while she relentlessly pursued studying this particular time period of American History. I relented. I went along with it. And it became contagious.

Then it happened.

I began sharing with Bookworm Beauty (and Sweetness who showed a bit of interest) my experiences of growing up in Nebraska. I shared the field trips to Stuhr Museum, Pioneer Village and The Pony Express. Her eyes widened, if she were a puppy I’d say that she began to drool. It was settled… we were taking a road trip.

The Westward Expansion

The details swirled in my head as I tried to figure out the logistics. Is this a family trip? What is our route? How long do we plan for? What time of the year?

I began talking it through with a couple of homeschooling girlfriends  (dropping subtle hints along the way) that just maybe this could be a girl’s trip? They took the bait… hook… line… and sinker… Neither of us had any idea of what was in store for us.

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Now… to convince the men…

Surprisingly, when I brought up my ideas with Handsome, there was no push back. None of anything I expected. You see, he is an awesome Dad and he does not enjoy missing a single thing that we do. I was more than surprised that he did not want to participate in this activity (maybe he was celebrating the closure of the Laura Ingalls Wilder obsession…?)

Handsome was incredibly supportive and offered suggestions of places to add to our itinerary. Conferring with the other ladies, I found that they were given the same support.

Then came the planning.

We settled on a 6 day trip. Our plan was to leave Colorado heading East through Kansas, then North up to Beatrice to our first stop at the Homestead National Monument. We would then head to Grand Island, set up camp and make arrangements to visit my ailing mother. The following day would be our biggest day of play; we would head to the State Fair and see Chris Tomlin in concert! On the third day, we planned to visit Stuhr Museum and have a leisurely evening at the campgrounds. Day four would be a really long day. We would need to break down camp early and then be on the road to Kearney to visit the Platte River Rd Archway Monument – which by the way has a fantastic annual rate of $25 for homeschooling families – SCORE! After the Archway we would continue West towards Jailhouse Rock, Courthouse Rock and Chimney Rock and then finally head to Guernsey, Wyoming where we would need to set up camp – very late. Our last day would be spent touring a cool fort area in Guernsey, where wagon ruts were still visible.

This was going to be a phenomenal trip! There are 12 children still at home between our 3 families. The decision was made to only take the older girls and an infant. We were making this trek with 3 women, 5 girls ages 7-11, and the baby. We would be prepared to load up a 12 passenger van and hit the road early one morning.

I have the ability of being very detailed and structured. It is not in my nature, normally. But if I have a budget and a task, I’ll work it to death and figure out a way. I am very resourceful and enjoy finding a way to make things fit. Combine those skills with my girlfriends and together we had mad menu making skills. We literally planned each and every meal, snack and drink.

We prepacked accordingly, cleverly deciding that we simply could not do this trip without coffee and did not want to rely on the gas station every morning to meet that need. With that in mind, I pre-made 2 gallons of coffee with creamer and refrigerated them. Keep in mind, it was the end of August – a time when iced coffee is still a refreshing treat. Of course, we could always heat up a cup on the camp stove for the diehard hot coffee drinkers (me).

We precooked the taco salad meat, sausage and bacon (yes, must take bacon) and we pre-cut our veggies that would be a part of our initial meals. We knew that veggies were not going to keep for several days so the first meals were heavy on fresh foods; while the later meals relied on sandwiches, canned chili and similar items.

We did not want to take anything unnecessary, not even ice. I know, that sounds funny… certainly we would need ice. We simply did not want to take anything that would not be used and the idea of dumping out loads of water from the coolers daily (and dealing with wet items) was not appealing. Ice blocks were also out of the question as they would take up useful space and we would not have a way to refreeze them. We decided to fill 8 1-gallon jugs with our 9.5pH alkaline ionized water and froze them ahead of time. These served as our ice blocks and as they would thaw, they would be some of our drinking water – refreshingly cold drinking water! We would also pack an additional 7 gallons of drinking water but it would not be pre-frozen or even cold.

The plans were written in stone. There would be no turning back.

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