Monday, December 26, 2016

Wonderful Western Wanderings Part two

Thursday morning everyone did great packing up. Site neighbors said the kids were so well behaved.  We would have loved to have stayed longer but we couldn't reserve any more nights so we were on the road again! And God’s timing is good. AC went out leaving the Grand Canyon but we were able to get it fixed since we decided to stay in a hotel in Las Vegas.  We did make a quick stop at Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. (Well not quite as quick as we wanted at Hoover Dam, since they decided we looked dangerous and stopped us for a thorough vehicle inspection. :)

We were so thankful that we could check in early and James could get AC fixed. We’d been listening to God’s Smuggler about Brother Andrew’s ministry behind the Iron Curtain and how God provided for his needs. God showed us how He provides our needs too as the AC went out at easiest time to get fixed, we were able to check in early so kids and I could rest/ do laundry in AC, and the van was a quick, free repair. James picked up chicken and rice from Trader Joe’s (plus wine and chocolate for me J We went swimming and then to Freemont Street Experience. The lights and music were neat. Some of the street performers were good- especially the spray paint artists. (Definitely had to shield eyes- lots of not good things to see there.) It was neat to drive down the Strip at night and see the Stratosphere where James and I stayed almost exactly 20 years before. 

Friday morning we had a good breakfast at the hotel, played a little basketball, and then took the shuttle to the Aria. It was fun to see the art and displays at different casinos. We loved the free tram rides, shuttle, and shows like the aquarium at Caesar’s Forum, the wildlife at Flamimgo, the “I lost my M movie” at M&M world (3 stories of M&Ms), beautfiful conservatory at Bellagio. Then we had a wonderful buffet lunch at Cravings where Active Duty military got 50% off for four people. Tons of good food! K loved the pasta and carving station, James the eggs benedict, KG &C loved the desserts (James told them they could have as much dessert as they wanted- so thankful the enzymes seemed to help C and c with dairy.) We were so full we didn’t have much dinner and just enjoyed another swim –to beat the 110 heat!

Saturday morning we got up, had breakfast, and drove to LA. We made PB & J sandwiches at Steven and Dena’s apartment and then drove to Getty Villas art museum. So glad they fit in our van- we had more time to visit and LA traffic is crazy so I was happy for Steven to help navigate! The museum was beautiful and we were glad to have someone take a picture of the 10 of us! We had to park near bus parking bc the van was too tall for garage parking. After the museum, we went to Dukes’ a wonderful Hawaiian restaurant right on the ocean. Steven and Dena treated us to an amazing dinner while v enjoyed a nice nap to the sound of the ocean waves! Musicians performed a luau dance for Steven and Dena’s 10th anniversary. Then we went to a gelato shop- yum! We all got different kinds- all delicious except v’s smoky milk but he liked it since he’d slept thrugh dinner. 

Kids loved the family activity room

So happy to hang out with Aunt Dena and Uncle Steven

Sunday morning the kids were excited for another hotel breakfast. Then we picked up Steven and Dena and drove to the beach. We parked near Santa Monica pier and had a good morning walking on the board walk. The weather was great and the kids had fun doing rings, pullup bars, balance beams. We decided to dip our toes into the ocean but that led to wet pants, then wet shirts, then swimming. We weren’t dressed well for it but worth the mess for the fun! V enjoyed seeing doggies and followed them down the board walk.

So cool to go Coast to Coast this year!

After cleaning up as best we could, we headed to In and Out Burger- James’ request during CA visit. Yum! After a wonderful visit with Steven and Dena, we headed back to Las Vegas. 72 degrees at the beach, less than 2 hours away 118 degrees along drive. At 9 pm by the pool was still 105! We tried to see my cousin Ed but he wasn’t home.

 Monday morning 27 June we drove to Zion National Park and were so thankful to get a campsite.  We loved the river walk, riding the shuttle, visiting the  nature center. Our favorite part of Zion (and definitely a high point of the whole trip) was swimming in the swimmming hole near our campsite. Kids and James had a blast swimming while It was one of the surreal moments of amazing beauty around- while the 8 of us enjoyed the water.

Tuesday 28 June we realized just how thankful we should be about getting a campsite as we saw that people line up starting at 6 to get a spot. We didn’t get there Monday until 1130 but God saved us one!  We broke down camp and then headed to the visitor center to finish junior ranger badges. We took the scenic drive to Bryce Canyon- beautiful! We picked up junior ranger badges at the visitor center but realized we couldn’t finish them in time to get to Moab before dark. So we just enjoyed the views from the shuttle and our hike from sunset point to inspiration point. Amazing!

We drove to Arches national park and stopped by the visitor center before heading to camp at Moab Rim Campark. We had quite a dust storm. James and c made chili hotdog hobo pies but the wind blew so hard that even a full can of chili blew all the way down the picnic table. We all huddled inside Kingdom 6 tent to eat as the wind whipped around. Finally we decided to brave the outdoors and went to the park. Two sweet girls came over and we were all amazed at how much we had in common with the family! The kids soon became friends!  They enjoyed tag, biking, fireworks, charades, eating together. Their family took a camper from NY and had just left CS headed for Salt Lake City and Yellowstone (like our future Northern trip.) So sweet to see such great connections! Hope to see them agin in the future. 

Wednesday 29 June we drove to Arches and hiked to Double Arch and Windows. I especially liked the Primitive Trail- not too long but it felt like it was just us and nature! We drove around to some of the other arches and then had a wonderful picnic by Devils’ Bridge Campground. Beautiful site that had good climbing for all the kids! It was hot out so we decided to celebrate our 20 year anniversary with gelato at Moab Brewery. Yum! Then we had a slightly scary drive up to Lake Owaha- the campsite attendant had recommended it for swimming. But between the one lane, steep, gravel road, the cows on the road, the fact that we almost ran out of gas, and the ice cold water, it wasn’t exactly what we had in mind J But it was beautiful! And when weren’t thinking about those things, we really enjoyed it! 

After leaving the beautiful lake, we found Mill creek waterfall. We had fun and then enjoyed beef stew, cantaloupe, fireworks, and burnt brownies with our friends.

The next morningThursday 30 June we broke down camp. Before driving to Colorado Springs, we enjoyed one last playtime with friends. We spent Thursday night in Vanessa's camper. The kids enjoyed the zipline and James grilled hamburgers and hotdogs while we talked about the good old days. How times have changed!!

Friday morning 1 July we headed out early to Focus on family. It was really neat to go on the tour of the Focus on the Family building but the highlight was definitely Whit's End. We shared a WODFAMCHOCSOD and fudge ripple, did the 3rd story slide, and found tons of good books. We made a quick trip to the AFA- the cadets were practiving marching in preparation for arrival of new cadets. It's no West Point, but it really is pretty there! Next we went to Garden of Gods. We weren't expecting the big crowd that was there but we did find a parking spot and had a nice picnic there. We drove through Manitou Springs and past our old house, before taking pizza to Khanh’s amazing house. It was so good to catch up on old times and get to know Khanh's husband and son and sleep in a nice bed! We planned to hit the road early Saturday but Khanh convinced us to stay for homemade breakfast ;) So good to have wonderful friends- even across the miles and years. 

Saturday 2 July We began our massive drive back home. 25 hours in 3 days. We could have made it faster, we could have enjoyed it closer, but we made the best of what time we had. The drive from CO-KS is not majestic like CO, amazing like Utah, but it is pretty in it's own way. We drove aroudn a little in Kansas- where T was born. We did enjoy Steak n shake which Aunt Penny introduced us to with the gift card she gave us- the garlic burger was really good and super shakes! We really enjoyed going back to Cabela’s. We went there so many times when K & C were  c and V's ages. It was so fun to c and V watch everything with the same amazement- the fish, the deer, the monkey playing tag with the lions :) V slept so much in the car that he was wide awake and ready to play. I decided a walk in the hall was better than waking up my sleeping family. (He wasn't loud just wasn't still- so I wasn't keeping the hotel guests awake either :) The nice front desk attendant invited me to go have early coffee so v and I had a 3 am coffee/ muffin break.

Sunday 3 July Our next day was more driving. We did enjoy swimming at the hotel in Lexington, KY. Kids even did really races with other kids and then we watched the Fort Bragg baseball game on TV before bed.

Monday 4 July We stopped at Grandma’s on the 4th. So good to see family. fireworks

We did some great hikes on our trip:
            Palo Duro Lighthouse trail 7+ miles
            Grand Canyon 3 miles Bright Angel Trail
                                      Rim trail
            Painted Desert
            Las Vegas Strip
            Los Angeles beach
            Zion Riverwalk
            Bryce Canyon rim trail
            Arches Double Arch and windows primitive trail 2+ miles

We listened to some wonderful audio books: Chronicles of Narnia, God's Smuggler, Adventures in Odyssey Ultimate Road trip, Lillian Trasher

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