Saturday, August 16, 2014

Family vacation Out West

For years, we've been talking about a family vacation out West;  we made it happen this summer!  with LOTS of driving!  It was a whirlwind, certainly.

The first day was 16 hours of driving (of which I drove only 3).  Wisconsin -- Minnesota -- Iowa (where I drove) -- Nebraska -- Colorado (pitstopping in Denver, night 1). 
The second day was another 12 hours of driving (I drove none).  
The landscapes were ..... well, they were worth taking pictures of, initially.  Sooooo different from the landscapes of Wisconsin.   

Day 3 was a full day at the Grand Canyon.  There simply is NO describing what you see, other than.... fathomless!
The initial reaction was.... "ummm.  Wow."... with mouth gaping open.  It's just..... big!  Massive!  

Our weather was PERFECT!  Upper 80s, slight breeze, and enough cloud cover to cool off under from time-to-time.  We elected to skip the tourist 'tours', and walked much of the south rim, stopping for pictures along the way.  The littlest legs set the pace and duration;  we probably put 3 miles on our shoes that day, and the rest was done via car (and one shuttle bus).

The day was extended in order to watch the sunset, and again... how do capture such amazingness in one tiny lil' stillshot moment?  The sunset was on my bucket list, and I'm thankful the family indulged me.

Day 4 was spent galavanting around to other tourist hotstpots.  Bearizona is a zoo, of sorts.  There is a wilderness of animals to see via an outdoor (vehicle) route, and then a smaller walkable area.  

Candace truly could have watched the otters for HOURS!  And thinking back, I probably could have watched them for about that long as well.  They were cute.  And funny.  And followed you as you walked along the path.  True show stoppers! ;)

For me, the highlight was the raptor show.  Informative and fun!  There were a couple of birds that had a routine of flying/swooping over the audience.  It's crazy how close their flight path got to our heads!!!!  I swear, Cassie's hair was stirred from one bird's flight. 
And INFORMATIVE!  I now know with 100% certainty, that the owl that's been in our neighborhood is a Great Horned.  I recorded the sounds George here was making while being shown off.  Yup!  Same sound.  And, yes...... GORGEOUS eyes, right?!?!?!?

The rest of the day, we spent touring the Williams part of the ol' Route 66.

Quaint lil' shop here, but dare I say.... nothing touristy about it.  It was a standard quilt shop; nothing hyped up about the uniqueness of being on route 66.  So, in a sad weird way, I walked away empty handed.  Crazy that I actually was searching for something to remind me of the area.  Don't get me wrong---great shop, but nothing that made it stand out any different than any other cute lil' quaint quilt shop.  ('cept for the door sign!!!!) ;)

Onto Day 5 -- back in the van for 6 hours to get us to Arches National Park in Utah.

The day was much warmer; low 90s, but no breeze and very little cloud cover (despite seeing clouds in the pictures).  They weren't above us.  Therefore, the littles legs in the family really took control of the duration of the hiking.  

Thankfully, some of the rock formations offered enough shade to make the hike (somewhat) enjoyable to the little legged ones.  And when the camera is in the hands of the children, it's always a fun adventure all over again at the end of the day to see what images they've captured ;)  

LOL.  I know, right?!?!?  I'll let the picture do all the talking here ;)

Day 6 was (again), back in the van for a 12 hour trip north to Keystone, South Dakota; home of Mount Rushmore.  Leaving at 6 AM, and arriving shortly after 7PM, we were able to get some dinner in and still see Rushmore for the evening lighting ceremony.
I remember visiting Rushmore when I was a child (probably not much older than #3).  However, Paul and I both agree---there are some places that adults can appreciate more.  I was never a history or social studies nut in HS; I didn't "get it" back then.  The history that is available at the Rushmore visitor/learning center is amazing.  Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln---- it doesn't take much to understand why these three presidents were chosen, but, walking up.... I was struck with the question..."Why Roosevelt?"    
The history and lil' video clips available were wonderful at answering that question.  Do YOU know why he was chosen?
{{warning; spoiler alert}}
Mostly due to his work on the Panama Canal; connecting the two oceans.  Also mentioned, though, was his work and push for conservation.
There ya have it.  

Day 7 kept us in the area of Keystone, and slowly working our way East, hitting tourist spots along the way.  The Cosmos, which I would give 2 stars out of 5.  The illusions were interesting, but.... the pricetag really... (how to put this nicely)... well.... yah.  The pricetag.  Really?!?!
Down the road a bit further was a Crystal Cavern.  Now that was a bit impressive, not having been in any sort of cavern since I was a child. 

Day 8 -- driving.  Again!  And don't let me mislead you---I STILL have only driven 3 hours (from that first day).  All of the other driving was Paul!  I love him!

Had the weather for day 9 been forecasted different, we would have been heading directly home at the close of day 8.  However, with only 30% chance of rain, we detoured south slightly to finish the trip in Wisconsin Dells, Noah's Ark Water park.

TRUE legitimate smiles, even after spending 76 hours in the van together and 8 nights in one-room hotels over the past 9 days.

Note: I did add 4 more hours of my driving time on the way home, but still.... 7 hours of the 76 is nothing.

So what'd I do while riding along....?
2014 Trip Out West afghan
{{more to come on this in a future post}}


Amanda said...

Sounds like a wonderful family trip. And still smiling at the end of it. That neck of the woods is on my list of 'places I'd love to boost but probably never will'. I should think you need some time off to recover now.

scraphappy said...

Just going back to look at your recent posts. With school getting ready to start Monday, my computer time has been busy with non blogging things. What a fun trip! Always a good sign when you can all have that much together time and come home smiling at the end. Definitely one they will all remember for a lifetime.

JB said...

Thanks for the update on your vacation. Sounds like you guys had a lot of fun!!

katie z. said...

What a fabulous trip!

Alycia said...

Sounds like such a GREAT trip!! We were able to get to Arches over spring break - glad you enjoyed it!!

Go sleep now ;-)