Monday, April 18, 2016

Around The World In 8 Days

Okay, maybe we didn't go all the way around the world in 8 days but we did drive over 4000 miles in an RV with the kids for spring break. We drove from Wisconsin to Vail, Colorado then down to The Grand Canyon in Arizona, over the Hoover Dam and into Las Vegas and then all the way back home again. In eight days. In hindsight it would have been a bit more relaxing had we taken a few extra days, or even a week, to complete the trip. There really wasn't very much spare time to sit around and relax. But it was an epic adventure.  

I'll show you!

A couple of months ago Todd asked his friend if he could recommend an RV rental place since we'd always wanted to take an RV trip with the kids. Todd's amazingly generous friend told us that we should just use his RV. The RV had only been used for short little camping/hunting trips around Wisconsin but was in good condition for a longer trip. Todd let his friend know that we were planning on going all the way to The Grand Canyon but the friend was not deterred. 

Two days before we left Todd and I drove to the friend's house to pick up the RV and go over all the details. When the kids came home from school that day and saw the RV parked in the driveway they lost their little minds. It was a pretty exciting day.
The kids' break started on Friday the 25th and we left very early in the morning. We could have left on Thursday since school was cancelled due to a snow storm (yeah! driving a borrowed RV in a snow storm!) but I was busy packing everyone up and Todd had to wrap up many loose ends at work. So, Friday morning, at the crack of dawn, we all bundled into the RV and took off on our adventure.

That first day we drove all the way to the western edge of Nebraska. We got to the RV park pretty late and had to set up the RV and hook ups in the dark. The kids were super excited to spend the first night in the RV and it worked out pretty well. The RV park had super nice bathrooms, very friendly owners who gave the kids a ton of free stuff, and a lovely horse in the field next door that came over to the fence so we could pet her every time we called. 

The next morning we slept in just a little bit and then continued on our way to Vail. It was a short but very nerve wracking drive through the Rocky Mountains in an RV. Many prayers were said. It was snowing (our windshield wipers did not work well) and we begged and pleaded the RV to make it up and down the steep mountains. Some hills were so steep we topped out at 40 mph on the way up. 

We did make it to Vail and found a convenient and easy place to park. Parking for an RV is not always available so this was very exciting.  

We walked around beautiful Vail, ate lunch , went shopping, and took in the sites. 
It was a really fun day. The kids fell in love with Vail. It is just so charming. 
We only spent a few hours there before we were back out on the road but it made a big impact on the kids. They loved Vail.
That night we stayed on the western Edge of Colorado so that the next day is was another short drive (short being 6-7 hours) to our next stop.  

Easter Sunday (and strangely enough I don't have any pictures) we found a lovely church so that we could go to mass. The priest was fantastic and the church was beautiful. It was an unusual Easter for us to be away from the rest of our family and our church but this church was a great substitute. 

After mass we left Colorado and drove through Utah. Utah was amazing and I loved Moab. It is a tiny little town but has amazing views. We stopped at the Moab Brewery and I had one of the best wraps of my life. It was one of my favorite things I ate on our entire trip. They had yummy gelato too. The kids were happy campers.
That night we arrived in Williams, AZ where we would be staying the next two nights. It was a beautiful RV park called The Grand Canyon Railway RV Park. It was located on historic Route 66 and had a train that would take you right to The Grand Canyon. Which is exactly what we did Monday morning.

We finally got to sleep in a little bit on Monday morning and then lazily made our way over to the train that would take us to our much anticipated destination. 
The train ride was fun. It was the first time the kids had been on a real train (except for the Hogwart's express at Universal) and our guide, Kathy with a K, was fantastic and filled our heads with amazing facts and statistics. There was even a singing cowboy that entertained us with Johnny Cash and John Denver sing-alongs. It made the almost 2 hour train ride fly by.

When we planned our Grand Canyon trip we booked a guided tour at the Grand Canyon instead of wandering around by ourselves. So, when the train arrived at the canyon we boarded a bus and immediately were led to a lovely buffet lunch. Great timing because the kids were starving (what else is new?). After lunch we hopped back on the bus and the driver (who was not only knowledgeable and personable but funny too) took us to multiple stops alone the top of the Grand Canyon.  

I don't think I could ever properly convey the Grand Canyon to anyone who hasn't seen it. It is indescribable. It blew me away. It was far more than I ever expected. It was breathtaking and majestic and awe inspiring. It was unbelievable.  And a bit scary.
When I checked the weather that morning it was supposed to be near 70 and sunny. Instead the weather decided to be 52 and windy. I mean WINDY. I'm talking 50 mph winds. Now, having my kids running around by the railings was scary enough. Adding a crazy wind to it was enough to make me lose my mind. I was making them hold my hand every time they got anywhere near a railing. And sometimes when they weren't. Poor Grace kept saying, "Ow, mom. You're hurting my hand!" I was holding on pretty tightly. 
I took so many pictures but the pictures don't really do it justice. It was just gorgeous.
Many of the pictures look scary but I can promise you that it is all camera tricks. My kids really didn't get anywhere near the edges. I barely even let them get close to the railings. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw one kid (I'd say about 10 years old) sitting on an out cropping of rock right on the edge of a cliff where there were no railings. WHAT??? WHERE are the PARENTS?????  I nearly threw up. And our tour guide warned us over and over to please be careful because they have approximately 10-15 people fall into the Canyon every year. No lie. Oh. Mah. Gawd.
This is a cool pic of Todd and I because it looks like we were right on the edge. We weren't. There was a viewing area below that rock wall behind us. And I was STILL freaked out. Again. The wind didn't help. A few times I thought I was gonna get knocked over.
I was in picture heaven because each of my kids kept WANTING to get their pictures taken. That was a first. I think they could just sense how amazing this place is and they wanted to document it too.
My kids are obsessed with my camera and are always asking to use it. I think Ben has a flair for photography. He took this picture of me.

It was a pretty epic day. We were all so pumped. I never expected to enjoy The Grand Canyon this much or be this blown away. It was fantastic. 

Next on our agenda was Las Vegas. Just a short 4 hours from The Grand Canyon we decided to stop and see The Hoover Dam. However, once we got to the dam we decided we had seen enough from the RV. We drove the RV all the way across the dam and then turned around, drove back over it, and got back on the road without ever getting out of the RV. It was huge. It was massive. But after just coming from The Grand Canyon we didn't feel the need to get out. Besides, the only place to park the RV was on the Arizona side of the dam and it was quite a walk back down to the dam from the lot. It was a feat just getting the RV over the dam.
So, we continued on to Vegas. 

Vegas was not in the original plan for our trip. We had been planning on going from The Grand Canyon up to Yellowstone Park and then to Mount Rushmore on our way back home. However, all of the RV parks were closed at Yellowstone and many of the roads as well. The roads that were open were not great for RVs. So we went on to plan B. Las Vegas.  Neither Todd nor I had ever been to Vegas. Never really had any desire. But the more I looked into it the more I found out about things to do with kids in Vegas. I thought it might be fun. 
Driving the RV and parking the RV in Vegas was not fun. And that is putting it lightly. But we finally managed and then had to drag all of our bag (we had a ton of stuff) about 5 blocks from our RV, through the hotel, and to our connecting rooms. BUT! It was worth it. The kids were very happy to be in a hotel room with big beds and nice bathrooms. And our hotel was right in the middle of everything. It was across the street from the Bellagio and Caesar's Palace right in the heart of the strip. And we had great views from our windows.

We relaxed for a little while before heading out to our first Vegas buffet at Caesar's Palace.  The buffet was amazing as you would imagine. The kids were adventurous and tried all kinds of new foods. It was fantastic.
After our meal we walked off our food frenzy and went over to see the Bellagio fountains. On the way we stopped for many pictures of the strip, including one with Chewbacca!
The kids and I really enjoyed the fountain show and we ended up staying there to see three or four different shows.
And thanks to the kindness of strangers we even got a few pics of our entire family!
The next day we went to Circus Circus to watch a circus trapeze act, we moseyed around in the botanical gardens at The Bellagio before eating at our second buffet this time at The Bellagio, and we went to a fantastic aquarium at The Mandalay Bay Resort. It was awesome. So many sharks! It was fabulous!
Las Vegas turned out to be so much fun! I never thought my first trip to Vegas would be with four kids in tow but it was a great adventure. Todd and I had to laugh as we reflected back on our time in Vegas. Neither one of us placed one bet nor did either of us have one drink.  Ha!

After two short days in Vegas it was time for us to hit the road and head back home. This time we took a route away from the mountains. Unfortunately, Todd still had a rough go of driving. For 16 hours through the eastern part of Colorado, through Nebraska, and into Iowa Todd had to fight 50-60 mph winds. We almost blew off the road multiple times. We felt like a sail in the wind. Todd's hands were red and swollen at the end of the second day from having to fight the wheel. We even saw a semi that had tipped over from the wind. It was scary.  So, a huge thank you to my wonderful husband for driving us on this epic journey and getting us back safely.

It was a trip of a lifetime and I'm so grateful we were able to do it, but I have never been so happy to see my house. Regardless of the 8 piles of laundry that needed to be done, and all of the STUFF that needed to be put away. We were home.  Home is good.

This post has taken me weeks to put together. There has been SO MUCH going on around here.

Unfortunately, we came home to major drama. My mom had not been feeling good for weeks but we had just chalked it up to a change in her medication. Well, two days after we got home mom kept passing out and could barely move. She went to the ER and from there she was immediately transferred by ambulance to a larger hospital an hour away where she had a pacemaker placed. She had had a 3rd degree blockage of her heart. Once again, my mother beat death. I did not think she would make it this time but she is now back at home getting stronger.  As if that wasn't stressful enough we also had MAJOR family drama while my mom was in the hospital. It was awful (still is, really). It made everything a thousand times harder. I'm still praying over that situation but I don't know if it will ever be okay.

Also, while we were gone our beloved dog, Molly, was attacked by another dog. My sister in law was watching Molly for us and she and Molly were out on a run together. A dog came running out and attacked Molly out of no where. Luckily, Molly was okay. She was checked over by the vet and given some antibiotics and pain meds.  Poor sweet Molly.

Add to all of that the constant rehearsals for the musical the boys and I are in together. Tommy and Joe are sharing the role of Simba in The Lion King (Tommy is young Simba and Joey is adult Simba) so they have to be at rehearsals all the time. I am a lionness and in many of the songs and dances so even on a rare night when Joey and Tommy could stay home I had to be there. Now this is the final week before the show opens on Friday. It has been a massive rush.

All this to say, if you made it all the way through this ridiculously long post then you deserve an award.  Well done! And thank you!


Angie said...

Oh I'm super jealous. That trip is exactly my kind of trip. Thanks for sharing!

Naqvee said...

Your trip reminded me so much of my recent New Year trip to Vegas. Super awesome road trip as well as super challenging weather! May God bless your family and you have heaps of more such journey to come. Prayers for your mom's health.

Mom24 said...

Loved getting details about your trip. It sounds amazing.

Glad your mom's doing better.

I'm so sorry about the family drama. I can relate. (((hugs)))

Tabor said...

That is a huge trip! I have been to those places at various times in my life. Maybe I can take my youngest grandson on one of these. I grew up in Colorado and am prejudiced against Vail. Yes it is lovely, but environmentally imprinted by rich Californians and Texans and I miss the wild beauty of that place. They used their money to build big ugly mountain mansions.

Kat said...

Tabor- The hubby and I are partial to Breckenridge ourselves but since Vail is right off the highway we thought we'd stop there. We were explaining to our kids that Vail is a bit too hoighty toighty for us but it was nice to walk through and have lunch. Someday we'll take the kids to ski in Colorado and I doubt Vail will make the list. ;)

Kat said...

Mom24- I have been dealing with this family member my whole life but the rest of my family has now seen what I've been putting up with. I guess if there is a good side to all the madness it is that I am getting a bit of back up now. Still, I really wish it wasn't like this.

betty said...

Looked like a wonderful trip with lots of memories being made! We did the train for the Grand Canyon too out of Williams when the kids were younger, so much fun!

Sorry about your mom and the family drama. Glad she is doing better, hope the drama gets resolved sooner or later.

How fun working on another production!


Tabor said...

I was interrupted in finishing you blog post and am so sorry to hear about all the issues when you arrived home. After such a lovely week together it is just not fair. Hope you all get some peace soon.

Bijoux said...

Wow! What a trip! And in an RV! Your kids will always remember this!!! We have not been to Vail, but have seen all the other places. We ate at the Moab Brewery twice, thought it was that good! And I cracked up at your Grand Canyon experiences. My kids still describe how I stayed on the far side of the sidewalk and was still a nervous wreck. I will have to look up my old posts and give you the link. I'm not sure if we were blogger buddies back then.

But you must go to Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore. Add in Jackson Hole, Grand Tetons, Cody Night Rodeo and Custer State Park to that trip.

We've Been to Vegas a lot due to relatives there. My kids still make references to different things they've had at the buffets there. Green tea mousse is a family joke now!

Kat said...

Bijoux- It seems we have similar travel styles and tastes. ;) I was okay with the height factor for myself at the Grand Canyon, but I COULD NOT watch my kids RUN up to the railings and such. Just thinking about it now makes me sweaty. Ugh. And they kept teasing me saying stuff like, "Hey mom, what if I fell through this railing?" and then they would stick their leg through or something. Sassy turds. My oldest was not a fan of the heights but he pushed through and was proud of himself for checking it out. I think the wind made a huge difference too. That made it so much scarier. It really felt like you could get sucked right off the cliff edge.

How funny that you've eaten at the Moab Brewery too! We LOVED it. The kids all got t-shirts with their meals and they wear the t-shirts all the time.

Bijoux said...

We were in Moab Summer of 2010. Here's a link to where I talk about places we ate on that trip:

Regarding kids being too close to the edge.....Bryce Canyon has to be the worst place on Earth. Sections up top have no railings whatsoever. If you look at my August/September 2010 posts, I'm sure I mentioned how bad it was!

Kat said...

Excellent! Thanks for the link! I will definitely check that out.
I will not be taking the kids to Bryce Canyon then. ;) I was surprised by how many sections of the Grand Canyon were wide open. And I was SHOCKED at parents who let their young kids venture out and sit on the outcropping with their legs dangling over the edge where there were NO railings!!!!! WHAT??

Elaine Alguire said...

What an epic trip full of amazing memories! I hope to do this with the kids someday... you give me the idea that I want to take them to The Grand Canyon. SO AMAZING! Glad you had such a fun and safe trip!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

How cool was that adventure! Love the photos and all the little descriptions. Your children are so blessed by you and Todd and all the experiences you've given them to enjoy.

Krystyn @ Really, Are You Serious? said...

Seriously, what a trip of a lifetime!

I can't even imagine driving an RV in vegas...let alone parking it!

And, I'm glad to hear that your mother is doing well after this setback. And, Molly, too!

Words To Live By

Be grateful for each new day.
A new day that you have never lived before.
Twenty-four new, fresh, unexplored hours to use usefully and profitably.
We can squander, neglect, or use them.
Life will be richer or poorer by the way we use today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be
encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson