my trip journal: days 1-5

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I bought each of the kids a notebook so they could keep a journal during our travels over the past two weeks. They were very good about writing in them for the first three days and then it all sort of stopped. I’m making them finish off the journals now. It’s a good writing exercise and I know that someday they’ll be really glad they have the journal to look back at this trip. Because it was indeed the Great American Road Trip.

And that got me thinking – I didn’t buy a journal for myself. On this blog I told a few random stories, but didn’t actually journal about the trip. So I’ve decided to do a bit of journal writing myself.

Day 1: Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska & Colorado
We planned to leave at 3am this morning and I’m proud to say we accomplished that goal. The kids were snuggled up in the car and we were off by 3:05am. And that made the biggest difference in our day. We stopped for breakfast around 7-7:30 and it felt like we just started. This trick helped us get 19 hours into our journey. (It would have been shorter but for two awful storms along the way.) We made it to Colorado Springs for the night and no one was grouchy. Awesome!

Day 2: Colorado
Let the fun begin! We woke up in Colorado Springs and the kids had their first view of the mountains. After breakfast at the hotel we took a short drive to Garden of the Gods:

It was beautiful. It is a valley of large rock outcroppings stuck in the middle of the mountains. These rocks are all very red – even though none of the mountains around them are. This park is wonderful for families. Lots of easy (even paved) hiking trails.

We ate lunch in the car (I became a very good car-lunch-maker on this trip) as we headed about an hour south to Canon City and Royal Gorge. This canyon is carved out by the Arkansas River and boasts of having the highest suspension bridge in the world. I have to admit, a large part of this tourist attraction is pretty tacky – but we did three things that were fairly unique experiences and that I would highly recommend to anyone in the area. There really isn’t anything else in Canon City – but the trip to Royal Gorge is worth it for these things:

1. The steepest incline railway: a 6 minute ride almost straight down to the bottom of the canyon.

2. The highest suspension bridge: you can walk across it, which was a great way to view the area

3. The tram back across the gorge: perhaps not for those with a fear of heights but very fun

After all this we hopped in the car for a 4-5 hour drive along the Arkansas River. One of the prettiest drives I’ve ever taken. We had a surprisingly good dinner in the middle of nowhere at the Hungry Logger ($1 drafts of PBR). Then we ended the day at our hotel in Durango, Colorado.

Day 3: Colorado into Arizona (with a very short bit thru New Mexico)
Today was one of our favorite experiences of the trip – exploring the cave dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park. From the moment we entered the park and started the steep, winding drive up the mountain, the kids were ‘oohing & aaahing’. We spent the better part of a day here touring the cave dwellings. One of the highlights was our paid tour of Balcony House. This dwelling is built high up into the face of a cliff and required climbs up a 32 foot ladder, through narrow passages, across rooms that had nothing between us and the face of the cliff a tight squeeze through a tunnel (yes, even Matt made it through!), and finally a rather steep ladder/foothold climb back up to the top of the mesa:

After all that we piled into the car and drove through Monument Valley (unfortunately Four Corners was closed so the kids couldn’t experience the five minute thrill of being in four states at the same time). But Monument Valley by sunset was beautiful. It’s very desert-like in this part of the country and there are a variety of very large rock outcroppings that suddenly loom out of the desert. We also got to see just a bit of the Painted Desert before nightfall. This was one of our long nights but we made it to our hotel in the Grand Canyon before midnight and gratefully fell into bed.

Day 4: Grand Canyon, Arizona
After breakfast we headed straight into Grand Canyon National Park. We parked at the Grand Canyon visitor’s center towards the East end of the park, and took the morning to complete a 3 mile hike along the rim trail. Before we got here the kids wanted to know why we planned an entire day at the Grand Canyon. As soon as they caught their first view they knew why.

Along the way we learned about the age of the canyon and its different types of rocks. We even got to touch rocks that were billions of years old! J made my mother-in-law (and my husband) a bit nervous as he ran & jumped around the edge of the canyon. It took a few warnings but once I walked him to the very edge, pointed down and told him that if he fell down there his mother was not going to be able to get him – he calmed down a bit. He still walked close to the edge but he went a bit slower. And obviously he didn’t fall in! We had lunch at the park lodge, heard a short ranger talk and then headed out of the park mid-afternoon. After so much activity we decided an easy night was in order. We stayed about an hour south of the Grand Canyon, got some hotel pool time in before walking to dinner and going to bed early – just what we all needed!

Day 5: Arizona into Southern California
After all the driving we’d done in the past few days our 7 hour trip to Los Angeles seemed like a piece of cake! We got to experience the heat of the Mojave Desert on one of our rest area breaks – funny no one wanted to play catch or jump rope on this break! And by mid-afternoon we were enjoying the pool at our family’s house in Irvine.

We were going to be here for the next 4 days and as you’ll see in my next post – we had plenty of
adventures here too!

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