United States of America · 16 Days · 119 Moments · July 2015

1 August 2015

25 minutes from home--a car comes up to the side of us honking and pointing to the back of the RV-RIP to Ella's bike, which was dangling off the bike rack dragging down the highway after we hit a bump. Glad it didn't fall off completely or someone could have been hurt! But, Steve said REI said we could bring the bike back after the trip for a tune up. I want to see the guys face when we bring this in.
A little Journey to end our journey.
About 2.5 hours to go -rain storm and some weary travelers. This guy has driven 3,825 miles so far and still have about 150 to go!
We're close enough to be on the road signs! Going through Kansas City now. Everyone's excited to be home!
Already back to work on the long stretch through Kansas.
Drove 2 miles off the exit to find a non-chain restaurant. We still haven't broken our rule. There was a huge easel with a Van Gogh painting-nobody could tell us what the significance was. Tasty breakfast though.
Sun rising over the wind farm early this am on our way home.

31 July 2015

Kids watching a 3D movie at Aunt Tammy's. The cat is loving Ella. Adults sitting outside watching another beautiful sunset.
Stopped on the way to Colorado Springs-same spot as we did back on our way to Telluride in 2009. We recreated a photo we took along the Arkansas River.
Driving to Colorado Springs to see Steve's sister. We will spend the night there and make the whole trek home tomorrow. We stopped at a picnic table right off the highway for lunch. Everyone is tired of the RV and the driving. But we'll pull through. No other way back!

30 July 2015

Last night in Ridgway. Mexican for dinner, free concert in the park listening to bluegrass under an almost full moon. Looking forward to getting home but have a long 2-day drive ahead of us.
A ride over to the next town Ouray, CO. Drove up the million dollar highway, just enough to see the view of the town. The curves in that short distance were enough to make my heart race! Had lunch on the roof deck at Ouray Brewery and girls got some souvenirs-hats, sunglasses, a slingshot and a slide whistle. Ouray is more touristy than Ridgway-feels a little like Eureka Springs, AR but with much taller mountains around it!

29 July 2015

Sunset, my man, and some tasty tacos. What a night!
Steve and rode bikes around the city while the girls rested from our early morning start. Then we had family play time at the park across the street -pickball, basketball and bike riding. After that a dip in the pool was perfect. Sisters playing sweetly!
After the ride it is tradition to have a champagne toast. We did that, and enjoyed a little breakfast while talking with our pilot and crew. He's been flying these balloons for 28 years and competes in balloon races, like in Alberquerque.
Some shots from in the air. It was so exciting. At our highest we reached about 1400 ft in the air. He was an expert flyer and even touched us down in that river and went back up. We also grazed the top of the trees so the girls were able to grab a leaf. What an experience!!
Setting up for our Balloon Ride. It was a tight squeeze in the basket, but we made it work. It was a beautiful, calm morning. Perfect!

28 July 2015

Arrived at our hotel and then walked to dinner at the True Grit Cafe. The movie with John Wayne was filmed in and around Ridgway.
Just arrived to Chipeta Solar Springs in Ridgway, CO. Can't wait to soak in the springs and pool - Steve and the kids jumped right in hot tub that's just for our condo.
Almost nine hours of driving - more than expected but these curvy, mountain roads are slow going. Kids are getting tired of being in the RV. Good thing we have a couple days rest at the resort so we can make the drive home! This photo would be much better without all the dead bug carcasses on the windshield.
Steve's pano of the Mesas-click to see entire photo
The Mesas near Mesa Verde.
Here we come, Colorful Colorado!
We made it to the four corners. Now you have to pay $5 per person. Steve and I were both out of cash so Hannah had to pay for us to get in. Then, the line was LONG and it was HOT. So we waited for a while, then took a vote and decided to take a photo NEAR the monument, not ON it. At one point in line, the girls were standing in both New Mexico and Arizona. Oh well, 2 out of 4 will do!
While Hannah rides up front for a while, I'm enjoying the ride/passing the time back here with the girls watching Star Wars.
Quick stop for breakfast at this cute little restaurant in the Vermillion Cliffs
Beautiful golden light heading out of the Grand Canyon this morning
Morning in the canyon. Heading out for our drive to Ridgway, Colorado. Caught the morning sun shining and one of the many Ravens here.

27 July 2015

Sunset on the veranda at the lodge, then we had dinner at the restaurant.
Little tree hugger
Steve's sunset photos from last night.
Singing some campfire tunes.
A few photos...Steve has the better panoramics I need to get from him to upload. But it is so stunning. Hard to tell distance. Looking across he canyon you think it isn't far and at that point it may be 5-6 miles away. Truly amazing.
Steve's Grand Canyon pics
Arrived!! Our camp site has this breathtaking view into the canyon right behind us.
Acres and acres of burned trees from forest fire.
Looking back at the plateau where we came from in Utah.
Literally looks like a road to nowhere. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is actually up there in the distance.
Prehistoric looking rocks on our drive to Grand Canyon. Steve and I are enjoying the ride. Too bad the kids are just laying in the back of the RV; not interested in the view.
Heading to Grand Canyon this morning. We tried to take one route that was more scenic. Unfortunately part of it was an unpaved road-so now we're turning around to go to plan B. Too bad, too because it really was a beautiful ride so far.
Our Plan B Route out of Bryce was still plenty scenic.

26 July 2015

Out last night at the Bryce Canyon Campground. We cooked steaks on the campfire, and the girls helped. It was a peaceful, cool evening and perfect for sitting by the campfire.
Visited the lodge, had pizza for lunch, and some more shots from our hike today-Steve's photos. Be sure to click on the photo to see the entire thing.
Touring the south end of the park -elevation 9100 ft. Gorgeous vistas from this perspective. Took the Bristlecone Pine loop trail. These pines can withstand the high winds up here and some are/were as old as 1600 years.
The sign shot we had to take. Got one at Yellowstone but somehow forgot the Grand Teton sign!
I'm up this early because we woke the family up to see the stars. You have to wait til the moon sets to see a lot of them. Bryce Canyon is known for its stargazing because it is so dark here. And we saw stars! More than you can imagine- it was a blanket in the sky. And we could see the Milky Way very well, too. Steve and Hannah walked up to the canyon ridge to get a full view of the vast sky. I stayed at the RV because the little ones didn't want to walk up there. They're already back asleep. Glad we did it though. It was unbelievable!
Yesterday we had a pancake breakfast at the campsite and then got ready to hike. The sun is hot here so we loaded up on sunblock and water. We did two trails that form a loop and the total was about 3 miles. We made it down and up, then headed back to campsite for lunch. We rode bikes for ice cream as a nice treat. After dinner we went to an astronomy talk led by a park ranger discussing the hunt for life on other planets; very cool and mind boggling how much space is really out there! A full and fun day!

25 July 2015

Campground entertainment-and one cool chick.
The bribe for getting the hike done was ice cream.
Some of Steve's shots from down inside the Canyon. He takes lots of panoramics. I am surprised by the amount of foreign visitors. It seems English was the least heard language on the trail.
Our hike down into the canyon. Pretty easy down, but going up was quite a climb. I won't pretend the kids were pleasant. It was a ton of complaining-but it was hot and very steep. Proud that they made it despite their whining!

24 July 2015

Evolution of a campfire - Steve is very methodical.
Unbelievable. Again-photos can't capture it. Beautiful Bryce Canyon.
Sparkling blue sky...kicking back and relaxing.
Only a matter of time til these kids climbed on the roof of the RV. Perfect spot for stargazing tonight. Beautiful clear day so should be great tonight!
Picking out our campsite at Bryce. We got a good one! Everything here is a bit more hilly than the campsites at the Tetons. Roads aren't all paved; a bit more rustic.
Good spot to stop and stretch our legs.
Changing landscape traveling through Utah. Scrubby mountains, red and white Rocky Mountains, fertile soil, red dirt, a junkyard full of cars. It just keeps changing.

23 July 2015

Walked to dinner and enjoyed some Pizza. Seemed like a nice part of the city..lots of cute restaurants and people. You have to click on the photos to see the whole thing...Steve's on the panoramic kick.
Poolside fun-not too hot; lack of humidity helps.
Morning in Salt Lake City-visited a unique toy store in the hotel, then settled by this beautiful pool. Soaking up the sun and luxury before our next camping venture.

22 July 2015

Snacks and drinks at the lobby bar and then soaking in the hot tub. Just what we needed! Just as we were settling in this serene pool/spa area a family came in with their two little girls. Grrrrrr....ours are upstairs with their big sis. Oh well, we had 15 minutes here in the quiet. Can't complain.
View from our hotel balcony-beautiful hotel and we are looking forward to some pool/spa time tomorrow. We have an extra large suite which is just what we need...a little space in between us for a couple of days.
Ominous sky coming into Salt Lake City.
Different landscape here in Utah.
On the road...photos of the scenery from Wyoming to Utah, with a brief jaunt in Idaho. Yet another state I can cross off my list.
Sorry Jackson Hole, but Afton, Wyoming claims the world's largest Elkhorn Arch.
Stop in Jackson Hole for breakfast. We are heading to Salt Lake City where we will stay two nights at the Grand America. We will enjoy hotter, longer showers, real beds and some swimming before we head to Bryce Canyon to camp again.
We had a great visit to Yellowstone yesterday. We did the Southern Loop, only stopping at some of the major attractions. We started at Old Faithful, luckily didn't have to wait long before it went off. Then we headed to the Midway Geyser Basin, which I think was a favorite. The colors were incredible and it's such a unique thing to witness. We made it up to the Fountain Paint Pots where we saw mud pots (basically boiling mud coming up out of the ground, and these steam vents coming out of the ground (which smelled of sulphur). It's all so strange and prehistoric looking. We made it around the loop and didn't see the whole Canyon of Yellowstone because there was so much traffic. Instead we saw the upper falls area. Then we headed down into the Hayden Valley -a place known for seeing wildlife. I had high hopes we would see a Moose, the kids were hoping to see a bear. Turns out all we saw were Buffalo. But talk about up close!
On our drive out-goodbye Tetons!

21 July 2015

Dinner by the fire -didn't eat until late, but it wasn't as cold out.
Had to get this shot by the famous sign.
Some shots of our drive out of Yellowstone. Lots of evidence of forest fires -you can see the new growth springing up all around the dead trees. Yellowstone Lake is beautiful and enormous.
Upper falls of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
Grand Prismatic Spring was spectacular. The colors were so vivid-even the steam reflected the blue and orange. Hard to capture in photos.
A few shots from Yellowstone at Old Faithful.

20 July 2015

The chef at the Marina Restaurant prepared the fish we caught that day. Delicious!
Steve's shots at Yellowstone. He is using the heck out of the panoramic feature. Plans to put together a whole album of our trip in panos.
We finally spotted a bear! Hahaha!
Took the Ferry Boat across Jenny Lake and then it was a short hike to hidden falls.
Fishing trip on Jackson Lake. All 5 of us got to reel one in. We will eat the Fish we caught tonight-the captain filleted them and we brought them to the Marina restaurant to prepare for our dinner tonight. The type of fish is called a Mackinaw.
Our first night of camping-after the sun went down (which is really late here!) we waited until the fire died down, made sure we left our campsite bear safe, and headed in to sleep in the RV. Temperatures outside dropped into the 40s, and I thought I closed the windows, but forgot a bunch. Nobody slept well-our tiny fleece blankets weren't enough. We didn't realize the windows were open until morning and by that time we were all frozen! We are all bundled up in layers this morning and will hope we get a better nights sleep tonight-with all closed windows.

19 July 2015

Crazy hair from wearing her buffalo hat; and camp site sword fights.
We took an after dinner bike ride to a path that runs along the lake. It was a spectacular view; totally unobstructed. To get down to the rocky beach below we all had to slide down a rock cliff-holding on to sturdy rocks as we descended. We were a little hesitant, and Audrey cried all the way down, but we all did it! We were covered in dust -forgot to snap a picture of that. Our backsides were all white and chalky and the kids found that hysterical-slapping their behinds to create a cloud of dust. To get back up the rock hill, we went in order of size-Audrey made it up to the top clinging to rocks and crying again. But she led the way and we made it!
The stats: 16 days, 5 of us traversed 8 states in 1 RV for over 3900 miles, 4 national parks, countless memories made. I won't add up the dollars spent on this one, but it was certainly a priceless vacation and I'm so glad we did it. It was nice to sleep in my own bed, and have lots of space. But I will miss getting to spend so much time with my family as we head back to work and, soon, school. I'm thankful for the safe trip home and feeling so lucky and fulfilled.
Bike ride to the Marina and some scenic spots on Jackson Lake. All went well until Audrey tried to make it up a steep hill, rolled backward and fell. Slight delay getting back to camp while she cried and refused to get back on the bike. A little time, and realizing how long the walk would be, got her back on and we got back to camp.
Dad teaching the girls knife safety. They each got their own to keep (safely in our camping bins). Good, safe fun!
We brought plenty of campground activities. Let's hope the excitement doesn't wear off in the first hour! It's about 72 degrees and sunny now.
My happy place. If you click on the photo-you get the full photo view. I just figured that out.
Twinsies-got some warmer clothes at the shop in the village.
Setting up camp-got our supplies, a quiet camp site and beautiful weather.
The clouds rolled in as we arrived, and then the rain. But we made the best of it -dressed for the weather and walked to the lodge for dinner. The fog has taken over the mountain view this morning, but should burn off soon. The forecast for the next three days is good. We need to get Ella some pants-the ones I brought her are way too small. I guess she's growing! And I forgot long sleeved shirts for Audrey. I don't think we packed enough for the cold overall. This morning we will head to the campground to pick out our camping spot. We will camp for three nights. We have a fishing trip planned and then we will hike for sure. There are bears around, and we talked to our waiter at the restaurant last night about how take precautions. He said just to be still if you see one. Pepper spray would be a good thing to take on a hike, just in case. Now Ella is saying she doesn't want to hike. But that is not an option. She's going to have to tough it out!

18 July 2015

Dinner at the Mural Room at the Jackson Lake Lodge. Beautiful view, fancy food, and an amazing sunset.
Photos don't do it justice. It's beautiful. Tonight we stay in the Jackson Lake Lodge and this is our view. Tomorrow we head to the campground to finally use the RV for more than driving! Weather forecast for the rest of our stay looks beautiful. It's colder than I thought-may need to do some shopping in Jackson Hole for warmer clothes!
Cloudy, rainy start is blocking the view. Hoping it doesn't hang around too long.
Getting some fresh air-about 50 miles outside of Grand Teton National Park, I think. Steve needed to stretch out a bit.
Clouds rolled in the the landscape is changing.
Rawlins, Wyoming for lunch. Food not the greatest but the atmosphere was entertaining!
Learned something new--those are snow fences. They minimize the amount of snow that blows on the highway.
In Medicine Bow National Forest -neat Rest Area on the Lincoln Highway. First Transcontinental Highway went from Times Square to the Golden Gate Bridge. We were at its highest point in elevation--8,640 ft.
Cheyenne, Wyoming. Frontier Days was going on downtown so we couldn't explore. Too many closed roads and people and no place to park. So we detoured through Cheyenne and found another non-chain restaurant to stop for coffee, and donuts, of course.
Wide open spaces, we're trying to keep up with the speed limit. This RV does pretty well.
We made it to Wyoming!
Watching the sun rise behind us in Nebraska...

17 July 2015

Hampton Inn after a long day. Girls are cuddled up and parents have some provisions to wind down.
A sun shower as we near the end of leg one.
I feel for you, flight attendants. I just made sandwiches for everyone while standing in the kitchen of the RV cruising down the highway at 66 mph. Not an easy task! It's beer thirty.
We played "I went on a picnic game", but changed it to, I went on an RV trip, and I brought...applesauce, bananas, candy, drumsticks, Ella, fishing poles, grapes, Hannah, iPad, jump ropes, kebobs, lemonade, marshmallows, neck pillow, orange, paper towels, q-tips, RV, sisters, towels, umbrella, vitamins, watermelon, Xbox, yo-Yos, and a Zebra. Sounds about right...except the zebra, but the trip's just beginning!
Made it to Nebraska. Steve's got some swollen feet from driving all day. Stopped to fuel up and get some circulation in those things!
Shout out to Bellevegas...Kansas, that is.
Is there some Health benefit to dozing off and then being jerked awake, time and time again, by the sound of the wheels hitting those warning grooves on the shoulder of the road? If so, then I'm benefitting. The constant rush of adrenaline must be good for me, right? Lordy, I had no idea the wind blew so fiercely in Kansas. The darn trees are growing sideways from the constant wind!
Lunch stop-Hiawatha, Kansas. Cute little town square and a non-chain restaurant lunch. Bison burgers and onion rings. Never said it had to all be health food, just not fast food!
Hopping on the Pony Express in Troy, Kansas. 2 lane highways will help us enforce our "no chain restaurant" rule.
Two laptops, two iPads and two iPhones--and that's only in the cockpit of this vehicle!
Made it to Kansas City. Have a long way to go!
My first selfie stick photo. Not ideal-we are sitting so far apart in this thing!
Got started at 5 am. By 6:30 am the girls were already hungry and looking for breakfast. Once they got the layout of where the food/bowls/silverware was, it was all good. Steve has the hang of the RV driving. Nothing too scary yet-except the smoke alarm fell on his head while in route. Just had our first rest stop-got to park with all the semi trucks! Back on the road now; stopping on shoulder because Steve left the side extended out!! Only supposed to do that when stopped. Whoops!
Starting out at home-packed up all day and took off early this morning. Here we go!