The only way to find what happens in happily-ever-after with a perfect mate is to live it for ourselves.
The only way to find what happens in happily-ever-after with a perfect mate is to live it for ourselves.
We are home. Work has begun. The trip is now a memory. Everything is so normal that I’m struggling with the feeling that the trip never even happened. Is that how Susan, Peter, Edmund, and Lucy felt when returning home from Narnia?
Unlike Jules Verne’s characters in Around the World in 80 Days, we were not mistaken bank robbers, hounded by the police and thwarted with unbelievable obstacles along our journey. We did take in some overwhelming and heart stopping sights. We did make it back a little before deadline. Unfortunately, there was no fortune waiting for us.
We learned a lot about each other. Anna’s repeated phrase throughout the trip was, “I’ve never seen this side of you guys before.” No, baby. Drill sergeant-taxi-maid-mom doesn’t get to laugh and play as much as she used to. Your dad and I really do enjoy each other and laugh a lot. Brandon would sneak a lot of winks and knowing looks in my direction as he watched the wonder of Anna. He ate that up. I gushed at him enjoying her. This goes in my top 5 best trips ever. Maybe I’ll blog about that one day.
1. Take a camper or RV or take a longer trip than 3 weeks. We were cramped in the car for most of the trip and each stop required unpacking the luggage. With a camper you have more options for pulling over to sleep and no unpacking required. The other option is to take a longer trip so that you can slow down and enjoy some of the places you visit. We actually showed up at some amazing places, jumped out for a photo and kept driving. NUTS!
2. Choose fewer destinations. A trip to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon is trip enough. A drive up the coast of California with a few stops along the way is a great trip. I don’t know why we chose to do a crazy marathon of a zillion places. That might not be for you.
3. Research the temperatures. We were unprepared for cold July weather. I had a lot of tank tops and light t-shirts in anticipation of extreme western heat. I was always cold. I checked a few temps before we left, but didn’t check many. My mistake.
4. Do not pay full price for a hotel. Ever. With travelocity.com, priceline.com, expedia.com, tripadvisor.com, hotwire.com and more, you do not have to pay the listed price to stay in a hotel. Go crazy. Do some bidding. Set your own price. Take a chance. Use the extra money for a great meal or an extra activity. Most of our hotels were 20% off. Some were 50% or more. It actually became a game to see how much we could save on the hotel. Another option is stop at the Rest Area after each state line. Pick up a couple of coupon books. We’ve saved on some hotels with the coupons.
5. Save money on food. You do not have to eat every meal out. Many hotels have microwaves and refrigerators. Resist the urge to buy drinks or snacks at every gas station stop. For the price of 2 bottles of water at the gas station, I can get 24 bottles of water at Walmart. It adds up. You will also eat healthier if you pre-purchase some of your food and carry it around with you. Trust me, there is a Walmart or grocery store in most every town. Most of our breakfast meals were fruit, granola bars and yogurt right out of our ice chest. OR we would eat the free breakfast a many of the hotels, and eat the fruit and yogurt for lunch.
6. Ask the locals where they like to eat. Don’t just go to the familiar food chains. You don’t want to miss the food adventures. Some places we tried were terrible. Crazy locals. But some were amazing and we would have totally missed that experience without asking.
7. If you are an actual photographer, take your good lenses and go for it. If you are not, don’t worry about the camera. The photos will never capture the grandeur of what you see and experience. Just snap away with what you have to jog your memory, but don’t invest in an expensive camera just for the trip. You will luck up on a few really good pics even if you are a total dork with a camera. Statistically, it just happens.
8. Talk to a lot of people. Be friendly. Don’t be stupid and give away all your itinerary and personal information, but ask people how they are and what they’ve seen and what they liked. Offer to take a pic for their whole group so they can all be in the photo. Make friends. It’s easy to be isolated while traveling. Surrounded by strangers and cut off from everyone. Make the effort to connect. It always pays off.
9. Donate $5 to some crunchy people in a VW with a cardboard sign asking for gas money. They are on an adventure that we can only imagine. I came really close to being one of them. We were glad to contribute. Be generous on your trip. Think of Christmas gifts and friends at home. Put a quarter in the gumball machine for the kid whose mom can’t find any change at the bottom of her purse. Let someone else take the last turn on your game token. Let people in a hurry in front of you in line. You are on vacation. Where do you have to be? Brandon and Anna are very good at this mindset. I learned a lot about it and got to practice on this vacation. I challenge you to step outside yourself on your vacation and be generous! It’s a win-win.
10. Adventure awaits. Make a bucket list and start checking it off. This is a HUGE world. Where do you want to go? There is a way to get there, even if you don’t have money. There is a way. Plan it, research it, talk about it with everyone you know. Pray about it. Start a penny jar and before you know it, it will happen. I’ve never met anyone who regretted an adventure. I’ve met several people who regretted not going on one.
A lot of people helped us make this trip. We did not do this on our own. Vicky and James Davis, and Catherine and Artie Childs, the grandparents, helped Anna with some spending money. Debby and Bill Powers were so excited about the upcoming adventure, they made a sponsor contribution. Our friends Janet and Larry Marvin prayed over us before we left. Jenny Combs is the best house sitter ever. She kept the house safe, and the dog and fish alive. I’m so glad she invited friends over and took advantage of the kitchen. Houston Byrd (Sr. And Jr.) helped keep us out of trouble with the neighborhood by keeping our grass cut. David Karcher and family checked on our garden and took care of our bees. He even split a hive, which is no easy task. Rex Nelson tracked down a dude in Colorado, in a shady part of town, to pick up a tent then ship it to us. Camping would have been hard without that tent. Patti Vincent offered a free place to stay in Colorado and Keith Newman offered many wonderful suggestions on places to visit. Anna’s ice coaches, Eric and Heather Mumper, helped us connect to some fun ice skating places along the way. Mary and Angela at AAA on Acton Road, made sure we had plenty of maps, travel books, a decent/cheap car to drive and helped with hotel reservations on the road.
To everyone who kept up with the blog and made comments on Facebook, you have no idea how that kept my spirits up when the trip got hard. I am grateful for our friendships, your sense of humor, wonderful suggestions, and just reaching out to connect. Thanks to you, every day is an adventure! I can’t wait to read about what YOU are doing now!
Miles traveled: 6,215 +/- some backtracking
Zero traffic: Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming
Mind boggling: Lost iPhone in Grand Canyon. Found while we were in Las Vegas. Shipped general delivery and picked up at Yellowstone. The timing, the honesty of the person returning it, the grin on the Yellowstone postmaster’s face, the relief on Anna’s face.
The End. (For now.)
Start the journey here:
Ok. I have no idea what day it is really. I’ve lost all sense of time and direction. What city are we in now? Are we sleeping in the tent, the car, the cheap motel or something with sheets? I’ll drive. No, you drive. Where are we? Get out and take a photo, we’ll figure it out later. Do we have to? Yes. It’s the law.
Brandon thinks I’m making up ailments. “There is no such thing as travel fatigue.” Yes. Yes, there is. I have it. I know. I watched some doctor shows once.
Scoot your seat up, my toes are cramping. I don’t have any room either. Well, somebody had to go and win a giant panda at the fair and it’s sucking up all my air. Are we close to home yet?
Ok. All those were me. Brandon and Anna are great. They smile a lot. They sing a lot. Why am I the grouchy one? I wanted to be the cool mom that calmed everyone down with my cleverness and wisdom and humor. I don’t even know what day it is or where we are. I feel like I’m one straight jacket away from the loony bin.
I’m dragging my feet going back home. Laundry waits there. Dishes, cooking, weeding the garden, bills, responsibilities. While this trip may have been hard on the body, we were loosey goosey. No chores. Fun times. Adventure.
This has been an amazing trip. We packed a lot in 3 weeks. We’ve made memories, learned a lot about each other, had some great laughs and giggles. I’ve got photos out the wazoo. That is a word. It has to be.
No regrets. The real adventure is actually back home. Living the daily, mundane in such a way that shines the light of Christ in a dark world. That’s a real adventure. I will embrace it. I will conquer the mountain of laundry and the winding paths of weeds. I will smile and sing and fondly remember the days I was cramped in a car with the people I love most in the world, and I will rejoice in the blessing of the memories made. God IS good, all the time.
1. Oklahoma is fun. Carrie Underwood, Chuck Norris, and James Garner. Come ‘on. They wouldn’t be from a boring state.
2. You can skip Arkansas. Bill and Hillary. Enough said.
3. Even though we were close to home, we stayed overnight in Memphis. One reason. Corky’s BBQ. Forget Graceland and BB King and the Blues. Ok, don’t forget the Blues, but you gotta try Corky’s BBQ. They have a dry rub that will make you slap your mama. But don’t. Anna tried. She still can’t sit down.
4. Mississippi is almost like Alabama. It just is. Embrace it people.
5. The Alabama state sign is HUGE. We are proud of our state. It’s good to be home. Home of the 90% humidity, mosquito sanctuaries, kudzu, and family and friends. I think I will go hug every one of our bees, and lick the dog. There is no place like home. There is no place like home.
Yeah you’re gettin’ close now
And you kick it into four wheel drive when you run out of road
And you go, and you go and you go-go-go
‘Til you hear a banjo
Oklahoma City is easily the second favorite city we’ve visited. From Bricktown, in the downtown area, to Stockyard City over near the fairgrounds, the people are friendly, the city is clean and interesting. The Native American artwork is fabulous. We’ve been here before, so maybe that’s why it feels so comfortable. I haven’t been to any of the other places we’ve been on this whole trip.
1. I have never seen so many cowboy boots in my life. Texas has nothing on Oklahoma. Texas wins on cowboy hats, but not boots.
2. We can feel “home”. It’s closer now. We are almost there. That’s funny since Oklahoma always seemed so far away.
3. Oklahoma is a lot like Alabama. Their form of country is a little more country/western instead of country/redneck, but it’s pretty close. I like both. Yee haw!
4. The Oklahoma bombing memorial and museum are very well done and worth the visit.
Where is your favorite U.S. city? How far have you traveled from home in the U.S.? Were you ready to come back home or did you want to stay longer? (I’m having mixed feelings!)
A day driving from Wyoming to Colorado. There just isn’t anything on the drive from Yellowstone in the upper NW corner of the state, down to Cheyenne in the SE corner of the state. Once we crossed into Colorado, we felt like we were back in civilization. There were homes and stores and exits. It was kind of sad to leave the frontier behind, but since we are not actually from the 1800s, it was a relief.
We stayed in Colorado Springs and woke up at 4:30 a.m. to get Anna to the Olympic Training facility ice rink for a morning of ice skating. How often do you get to do THAT? We think we had a Rachael Flatt sighting, but we were so unsure, that the moment passed before I could ask and get a photo. Back at the hotel, we packed up and hopped back in the car to head to Oklahoma. Another 10 hour day in the car. Not many pics to show for it.
We arrived in Oklahoma City just in time to eat and go to bed.
1. On paper, planning, this trip seemed easy. It’s not. We are wearing down. We passed through the frustration stage and now we are in the slap-happy, punchy stage. We can’t help but laugh. It’s sort of an achy laugh, but it’s much better than the previous stage.
2. I have so many questions about all the people that are living out in the middle of nowhere. Is there really a mailman delivering daily? His route could only consist of 3 homes a day! Why are there tires on top of the trailers/mobile homes? How do they get groceries? A once a month day-trip to town? Where are the schools? Do they send them off to boarding school or home school? How often do they see other people? How do they earn money (for the ones without farms or cattle) for food, etc.? What about delivering babies? No hospitals. Is Pa boiling the water for Ma and taking care of business, or do they drive a day to the city and stay a couple of days ahead of time?
3. Just so you know, there is plenty of room out west for going “off-grid”. Plenty of room.
4. I miss home cooking. I don’t necessarily miss cooking. Somebody else’s cooking would be great!
5. We have used every single thing we packed. The ice chest and food bag were a great idea.
6. Quote of the day after passing one cemetery sign after another: ME: “Why are there so many cemeteries out here?” ANNA: “People shouldn’t have to drive a billion miles to bury their loved ones!” True that. If that wasn’t funny, then we really are slap-happy.
7. Most everyone we’ve encountered has been a joy to meet. Shout out to the deli lady in Elko, NV who wanted to make sure we were eating enough veggies on our trip. And the store clerk in Santa Fe who was excited about our trip and gave us suggestions on places to visit. The hotel clerk in Oklahoma City who gave us the best restaurant suggestion, and the German couple at the North Rim Grand Canyon who swapped traveling stories. The young girl on Highway 1 who gave me the “locals” discount on a snack for the road. Angela, the AAA agent who calmed my nerves and helped me find a hotel in the middle of nowhere when I was all alone. The Wyoming waitress that thought we were so cute in our green jackets. People are fun.
Yellowstone Park: hot springs, sulfur springs, geysers, bison, bears, deer, elk, wolves, lakes, streams, fly fishing, boating, cycling, biking, hiking, camping. There is something for everyone here. This National Park is the oldest in the country and very popular. There is a North, South, East and West entrance and about 150+ miles to navigate. Of course, Old Faithful is there, but the camping and hiking are wonderful and the views are hard to beat. The most exciting thing about Yellowstone is the wildlife is bound to just walk across the road in front of you. You will suddenly turn a curve and there will be cars lined up and cameras clicking to see giant elk or bison right by the road. You are warned to leave them alone and stay your distance, so you see lots of super cameras with crazy big lenses. If you are a nature photographer, this is a definite place for you to visit. Wildflowers in the foreground looking across a meadow that meets up with a lake at the base of a snow covered mountain top…and if you are lucky, a few bison or elk crossing the scenery. I need to wordsmith “amazing” and “breathtaking”. Getting from one location to another in Yellowstone takes a while. I’d love to come back for a week and hike the trails. We didn’t see any bears, but then, that may be a good thing.
We got out the tent and shook off the Grand Canyon dust and set it up and started a small fire. The temps were in the low 60s, but by morning had dropped to 41. That is c-c-c-cold in a tent! Once again, I find myself layering all the t-shirts and using the beach towels for extra blankets. I did break down and buy a jacket. It saved my life. Seriously. Anna voted to sleep in the car, but she was still a little cold, too. I told her to just cover up with that giant panda. Might as well put it to good use.
This morning was a big deal for Anna. She had left her iPhone in the depths of the Grand Canyon, and after hiking a bit, went back to get it. Someone had taken it. She searched for it and asked around to no avail. She locked it down and put it in lost mode with a message to call us if found. While we were in Las Vegas, someone did call us and they sent it to Lost and Found at the Park. Lost and Found sent it to us general delivery from the Grand Canyon to Yellowstone park. Today, Anna picked up her phone right outside the Old Faithful geyser at the post office. She was all grins! All her hiking pics were on her phone.
Today we left out of the South entrance and went through the Grand Tetons National Park. No time to stay, but that didn’t stop me from taking a jillion photos. Brandon gets an award for stopping every 5 miles so I can jump out grinning ear to ear, ooooh-ing and aahhhh-ing, snapping away. After the Tetons, we went past the Painted Mountains, drove past Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyer’s College, and the burial place of Sacajawea. Other than that, there was NOTHING. No exits, no towns, no signal, no service, no gas or restrooms. This was a l-o-n-g day driving. We tried to make it to Colorado, but we just couldn’t. We are getting travel weary and wearing down, punching each other to stay awake. We almost made it to Cheyenne, but had to stop in Laramie, WY. A good swim and shower in the middle of a crazy Wyoming lighting storm, will not be forgotten.
No thoughts for today. Well…I need to take a photography class. But other than that, I’m out. Zzzzzzzz……
This was a driving day. We went from Sacramento, CA, back through northern Nevada and into Idaho. As we were passing through wine country and all the vineyards, we stopped at the Sierra Knolls Winery in Auburn, CA. Family owned and operated, it is a new, up and coming vineyard. We enjoyed talking with them. They had a great patio area with an outdoor pizza oven and I’m sure on special occasions, this place is hopping. They did not seem to know about our Auburn tigers nor was there any orange and blue decorating the place. Huh.
As we drove into Nevada, we passed through the Lake Tahoe mountain area and it was breathtaking. I could imagine all the snow and skiing that takes place there. All the buildings look like mountain lodges, even if they are gas stations or restaurants. There are plenty of signs warning of ice and snow dangers everywhere, even though it was 95*F. I was driving, so there aren’t many photos for the day. We went through a mountain tunnel right next to a mountain tunnel for a train. There are train tracks all over these mountains. I’m thinking back to all the movies I’ve seen with trains chugging through the mountains, and this is the place.
We drove through Reno which is a small city in the middle of nowhere and about 106*F. I guess you go to Reno if you want to gamble and ski in the winter? Again, Nevada is empty- desert, far off mountain ranges, hardly any towns or stops. We are afraid to let the car get below 1/4 tank in case there is nowhere to pull over for gas. But there is a BEAUTIFUL sky as far as you can see.
Around 10:00 p.m. PST we arrived in Idaho only to discover that now it was 11:00 p.m. Mountain time, so we were suddenly exhausted. We made it to Twin Falls, ID for the night, not quite as far as we wanted to make it. We collapsed on our beds and instantly went to sleep. Can’t. Go. On.
1. I think I’m turning into a crunchy person. Shaving seems overrated. Do I really need a bath EVERY day? Why DO we wear makeup? Clothes don’t HAVE to match. Trees ARE important and granola doesn’t taste that bad. I do own some Birkenstocks. If you see me standing on the side of the road in Arkansas by a VW van in dreadlocks asking for gas money, don’t be surprised. Peace out.
2. It hit me today how many people SERVE us. How many janitors clean the public restrooms I’ve used? How many waitresses and cashiers and taken care of me, served me meals? How many maids have cleaned up my towels and sheets and picked up my trash. Many faceless people doing thankless jobs. Hotel clerks that stay up all night so I can check in late? Road construction workers keeping the roads safe for me to travel? I have always counted these as important jobs, but never considered really, how much they impact me. People are taking care of me and I want to be more purposeful in saying “thank you” and smiling. There are far too many people complaining, which might account for why service is not always so great. I’ll start today being a positive change in the world around me. God bless those who serve everyday.
3. I think we could live in one of those mini-houses. Look up tiny houses. A 10’x12′ room with a loft for the bed. That would be WAY more room than this car. Maybe when Anna goes off to college, we’ll downsize. Would you ever even consider it??
4.My family gets cranky when they don’t eat a meal on time. I, however, am never cranky. You don’t have to ask them. Just take my word for it.
REST finally! We arrived in Sacramento close to midnight and checked in. We slept late, ate brunch, and then took a nap. We, meaning Anna and me. Brandon was busy working while he has wifi and isn’t driving. Anna and I took a swim in the hotel pool and then they got ready to go to the California State Fair. I chose to stay and take another nap. We’ve been going, going, going, and we’ve been cramped in a packed car for 2 weeks. One day to stretch and rest feels so good. I’m a little sad to miss out on the fun for tonight, but glad to stretch my legs and snuggle under the covers. Anna is excited to be here. Why? Because it’s the capitol and she did well on her state capitols test. Goofball.
1. She wins. She wins the Las Vegas claw machine. She wins the California state fair impossible ring toss. She wins competitions. She wins board games and card games. She wins whatever she puts her mind to. She is competitive, that I knew. She must be her father’s daughter, because I just don’t have that kind of life. I’ve never seen anything like it.
2. She is happy. She gets moody and aggravating and frustrated and angry, but she always circles back to happy. She whistles, and sings to herself. She giggles and laughs out loud easily. She is goofy and funny and wants everyone else to be happy, too. She reminds me to smile. I get bogged down a lot, but she does not.
3.She is kind. She always saves the last bite for someone else. She offers the first sip or first whatever to someone else. She offers the extra whatever it is to strangers. She loves playing with kids and making them smile. She doctors us when we don’t feel well. She wants the world to be a better place one person at a time. Love this girl. LOVE. HER.
God smiled on us with this child. Maybe He rolled all 12 of the kids I wanted into this one. Blessed.
Want to catch up on the trip?
1. Cannery Row-the location and title of a famous John Steinbeck novel. Lots of Steinbeck monuments, statues, and touristy attractions.
2. Home of a well known aquarium and bountiful marine life. Built by David Packard (Hewlet Packard) for his daughter Julie, who wanted to work with marine biology. She remains the Executive Director.
3. Gorgeous fisherman’s wharf with all types of sailboats and fishing boats as far as the eye can see.
1. Best quote of the day: “You want to go to San Francisco and ride public transportation?!?” Yes. Yes, I do.
2. Home of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the crazy hills and trolley cars. Oh! And Mythbusters. Don’t forget Mythbusters!
3. Although we didn’t ride across the Golden Gate Bridge or even get a great photo of it, we did ride on the lower section of the Bay Bridge. Just as cool.
1. Los Angeles is all about fame, movies, television, the stars, glamour. San Francisco is all about activism in all shapes and sizes. Granted, this is my limited ½ day experience in both places, but it is my first impression. Los Angeles is all white, bright, prettied up. San Francisco is goth and rainbow and in your face. It was an interesting comparison.
2. This is not a destination trip. We didn’t pack up and get somewhere to relax and enjoy the destination. The trip IS the trip. We are spending time together, seeing as much as we can in the time we have. We are learning to enjoy the journey. This is a first for us. My prayer is that we learn to let go and truly enjoy the journey and let that carry over into our everyday lives. Everyday is better and better.
3. We have introduced Anna to such exotic experiences as the pay shower, the public laundry mat, composting toilets, and traveling on a dime. I would love to be a fly on the wall when she tells her kids about it one day.
4. All hotel shampoos are not created equal. That is all.
Leaving Vegas so late, we just couldn’t make it through Los Angeles and to Santa Barbara for the night. We drove through a dust storm in Death Valley or the Mojave Desert. It all sort of blended together in the same view. We stayed over night in a small town in California by the road and arrived in Los Angeles on day 12. We planned originally to drive straight through, but we decided to take a quick tour and see a little of LA. There are about 17 million people. It seems they all like to drive at the same time. Insane!
We drove by Universal Studios City and rode up through Beverly Hills. We drove a little on Rodeo Drive and Hollywood Blvd. and saw the famous Hollywood sign. We enjoyed iced coffee on a sidewalk cafe on Sunset Blvd. and watched the tour buses go by. Crazy tourists.
We finally headed out of town and and decided to bypass Santa Barbara to go a little further north and catch Highway 1 up the coast. We just couldn’t make it. We were so tired, so we stayed over in Paso Robles. There were a lot of incredible looking wineries and grape vines everywhere. That’s when we left the harsh desert dunes and came to lush hills.
The biggest travel issues the last few days have been tiredness and tones. Yes, we are a real family. We are sardined together for another week, so whatever happens, we are going through it together. We are talking through it. This is good. It’s already better, just discussing it. Don’t you feel better? Hmmmm….
After waking up in Paso Robles on day 13, we drove up the Pacific Coast on Highway 1 and wow. The fog was out early and slowly rolled away. Yes, wow. Every curve brought a new sight and fresh breeze. Again, wow. I was driving and I made Brandon drive so I could point, and ooooooh, and take pictures and yell, “Pull over here!” for more photos. This is something I’ve only seen in movies or heard about. I never thought I’d get to do it. This day was such a stark contrast to Texas, Arizona and Nevada. I like trees, and hills, and water. I was a little giggly today. It was coming out of the desert to a cool drink of water. It was refreshing.
1. Living out of your car is crazy. Good crazy. Realizing how much stuff you really DON’T need. Changing seats all the time, not settling in to any one spot. If you do stay in one spot long, you start nesting and tucking things here and there. Food, clothes, shelter. It’s all there. Except the bathroom. That can be close or far away. Your choice.
2. Parts of the United States are like a foreign country. I don’t mean the people or the languages, although there is that. But the landscape and the way of life from one part of the country to another can be so totally different from where you are from. How people treat one another. How they drive. How they eat and spend money. Values. Interesting.
3. What is UP California with the cold weather in July?? I’m wearing Brandon’s sweatshirt, Anna’s rain jacket, and layering my t-shirts! This is not the sunny California the ads promised. We are rolling laughing as we huddle in our jackets by the pool and the ocean. The swimsuit is on, but I’m not taking anything off to get it wet!