Nicole had never seen the mountains of Colorado, so we decided on leaving Moab that we would head east on I-70 right through the heart of the Rockies. I-70 is a pretty impressive stretch of highway through western Colorado. The engineering marvel of an interstate through Glenwood Canyon is worth the drive alone. From there the road continues to climb until you reach about 10,700 feet just outside of Vail. It was at Vail that we began to see light snow, which is common through fall, winter and spring, and thankfully that is as bad as our road conditions got. From Vail Pass the road twists and turns among the mountains eventually climbing again to just over 11,000 feet before disappearing into the Eisenhower Tunnel. Without the tunnel, you would have to climb an additional 1,000 feet to get over the continental divide, but instead you drive just over a mile and a half through the mountain and come out the other side. From the tunnel it's a long, brake-burner slope down into Denver. We chose to get off the interstate before Denver and head north, having arranged with friends Adam and Ellen to visit them at their home in Boulder.
We drove in the back way taking Highway 44 out of Rapid City and then turned off on a dirt road to get to the Sage Creek Campground. As we turned in to the campground we saw our first buffalo. Don't bother trying to lecture me on the whole bison/buffalo thing, I'm not listening. To me Pluto is still and always will be a planet, Denali is the highest mountain in North America….. you get my point. Anyway, buffalo in the campground, and lots of prairie dogs, an empty camper with it's generator running (thanks for the courtesy), and not much else. We parked the van far enough away so we couldn't hear the generator and settled in. We were serenaded to sleep that night by a large group of coyotes.
The next morning, Nicole was not well. Being violently ill is never fun, but doing it in a cramped van parked in a campground in the middle of nowhere is probably bordering on hell. After breakfast things were not much better, and we decided to head in to Wall before continuing our tour of the park. I made some "better than adequate husband" points by suggesting we find a cheap motel room for the night and get out of the van. Turned out to be a great idea, because by late afternoon I was quickly overtaking Nicole in the "sick as a dog" competition, and having a big comfortable bed with a toilet close by and cable TV made life almost bearable.
The next day there was only one of us well enough to continue driving, but it's a pretty tight fit behind the steering wheel to try to strap in the car seat, and her feet can't reach the pedals so we decided to just stay put. I pointed out to Nicole that I could probably get the van up to highway speed, hit the cruise control, and then hand the wheel over to Madeline. It's not like there were any turns or obstacles for the next six hours of drive time across the state, but she thought it best to hold off another day.
The next morning we were all feeling better, and made the long drive to Minnesota. We stopped for the night right on the border, and by late the next afternoon we were parked in my mom's driveway in Stillwater.