Sunday, January 22, 2012

Great American Road Trip 2011

Please forgive the LONG post that follows. It was a LONG trip. And trust me, I've been discriminating in what I've shared... there's so. much. more.

From November 10-December 3 we went on a HUGE road trip. As is often the case, perhaps especially when traveling with a preschooler, picture taking decreased dramatically as the trip progressed, but... nonetheless we have several pics to share. In fact, all of us were equipped for photo taking. We wrapped up presents for every long driving day of the trip. These were various things that we thought could be entertaining for the car ride ranging from very small and insignificant to more substantial/significant. The very first present of all was Caroline's very own, genuine, kid-tough, digital camera. She was delighted. We have yet to download the pics from her camera and unfortunately she deleted the first sequence of pics. It was hilarious--- a series of interior shots of car interspersed with shots of the front door. What a kid thinks when waiting for parents to finish packing and closing up the house for the month we'll be gone. "Car, Car, Car, Car, DOOR, Car, Car, DOOR, car, car, car, DOOR, DOOR (WHERE ARE THEY???), Car, DOOR, Car, DOOR..." We don't have her pics to share right now, but you'll see several pics of her taking pics! Here she is all ready to go, camera in hand. No worries. She didn't ride sans carseat in the front seat!
Our first stop was at the Memphis Zoo. GREAT pit stop. It was a gorgeous day. We did take pics of the animals, but as this is C's blog... well... had to narrow down the pics somehow...
After spending a few hours (or maybe just an hour and a half) wandering around the zoo (and landing a spot as extras in a commercial for the zoo) we headed out to the parking lot for the first of MANY picnics on our trip out west. Daddy did a great job preparing salads and sandwich stuff and snacks and filling a great big cooler so we were able to eat out of the trunk of our car for most of the first week of our journey. Just one shot from our parking lot picnic.
And one from the picnic in the car at a rest stop later that night.
And then C got into pajamas and ate her very first oreo. She was pleased.
Our first overnight stop was with the Bartlow family in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Caroline got to sleep with a giant Dora doll. She was asleep when we arrived she she didn't know this until morning, but she sure was delighted to discover it then. Thanks Heather and family for a wonderful first night! (I thought I had pulled a pic of C with the kids to share, but not finding it now... and it is getting late... So here we are with Heather shortly before heading on our way.)
The next day was another LONG driving day. Our hosts in Tulsa warned us about the nasty potholes there, but we didn't think anything of it... until we hit one and thought something on our car exploded. This was minutes after leaving the Bartlow residence. I believe I was driving... We got right out and checked out the car and everything seemed fine. So we continued on our merry way. Our destination that day was Albuquerque, New Mexico. We took our longish rest stop/picnic at a rest stop in the panhandle of Texas. This was quite the rest stop. Lots of shots from there...
We arrived at the Martinez residence LATE that night. Caroline was, once again, sound asleep. David sweetly brought out a quilt in which to wrap C. She transferred sleeping yet again... hallelujah! Waiting on her pillow there was a little penguin puppet who quickly became her BEST friend. We were able to stay a whole morning through to lunch with the Martinez family and they treated us to much fun! Delicious breakfast burritos and other yumminess, followed by a visit to the botanical gardens which features giant fruit and veggies and bugs on which and in which to climb and crawl through. Olivia was a great playmate for C. Caroline was a bit cranky at the botanical gardens, but fun was had nonetheless. Such a cool place.
We had time so we thought we'd check out the aquarium right next door too. But first a snack break and attempts to get a shot of the girls together...
And then to the aquarium.
And then back to their place where Olivia introduced Caroline to Diego... which is now her FAVORITE show. She's seen every episode on Netflix. (On a side note, at these first two stops both of our hosts had a Roku box. We saw a few more as our journey continued. We now have one too... such a gift...
And one more great shot of Olivia for good measure!
Thanks, Martinez Family! You definitely made us want to come to Albuquerque again! Next stop? Grand Canyon... or so we thought... we had a fine drive into Arizona, a great travel day really. We stopped at a rest area in Winslow, Arizona after dark for a car picnic. Kev gassed up and then we parked to picnic. We were then about 2.5 hours from the Grand Canyon. We had great fun in the car and were excited about our upcoming stop. By this time, just 24 hours after meeting the small penguin puppet, Caroline had dubbed her "Dixie the Glue." First animal she ever named... and a rather mysterious name at that. Dixie is the dog next door. "the glue?" no clue. But she stuck with it. She was definitive and clear... and Dixie was her best friend and ours. If Dixie would eat something, Caroline would eat it. You get the idea. Anyhow. Here is Caroline with Dixie during the car picnic.
Moments later we tried to start up the car to get moving again. But when Kev turned the key in the ignition the car started shaking and the engine light came on. And then the car failed to start at all. Did I mention it was Saturday night? And we were in the middle of nowhere? So we called AAA. It turns our we were over 40 miles from the nearest AAA approved station. And we had only 5 miles of free towing. I was freaking out not just because of this, but also because we had hotel reservations for that night, in the Grand Canyon and it looked like an impossibility that we were going to make it and I didn't know where we would sleep that night. AAA scored big points as they overrode their typical policy requiring a 72 hour waiting period for an upgrade and got us a tow to flagstaff. C was thrilled at the opportunity to ride in a BIG truck, on mommy's lap. And we managed to get a motel room right next door to a AAA approved shop. So we settled in for two unplanned nights in Flagstaff. It turned out that the next morning we found a 7 day shop that offered free towing in town and had a rental car we could have for the day quite cheaply. Kev arranged with them to have the car looked at on Sunday morning, rented the car, and then the three of us found a Presby church to go to. During the service the phone rang and it was the shop. The car was fixed! "Good news for you. Bad news for us. Car is fixed. Only costs $87.00!" So before the day was through we had a fixed car. And it turned out that it was a TERRIBLE weather day so what was supposed to be our FULL day in the canyon would have been a lousy day to be there. The two nights in Flagstaff gave us an opportunity to catch our breath. Only one pic from Flagstaff. Our first meal out... Caroline building her own burrito...
Folks at Grand Canyon lodging were super accommodating. We got to keep our two night rate even though we ended up rescheduling our arrival time twice and only stayed one night. We stayed in a very comfortable motel there. And made the most of our shortened and delayed visit. Several shots follow... When we first got there Caroline was fascinated by a little bit of snow on the ground.
I'm not sure how much the views impressed her, but they were captivating to us. These first several were taken as we were catching our first views of the Canyon. (Again, we have LOTS of shots of the Canyon, but focusing on family shots here...)
Before exploring the Canyon further, we had a picnic at one of the picnic areas in the park. As you can see, Caroline and Dixie the Glue were quite the dining companions.
Caroline also enjoyed pushing Dixie around in her stroller.
And here she is with daddy after walking down some steps for a better view.
Shortly thereafter, after snuggling with mommy in an effort to thwart the oncoming tantrum, she fell soundly asleep, making for even more peaceful canyon viewing for mommy and daddy.
We had a fun stop at a gift store where we got our national parks passport stamped. Caroline bonded with a bluebird there and we thought we'd come back for Christmas shopping, but... that never happened. We'll get to why later. (It's o.k.. Caroline has FAR too many stuffed animals anyhow!)
And here is one of Caroline's last moments with Dixie the Glue... or at least this version of Dixie the Glue. Not a great shot, but an important piece for remembrance sake. We headed to Hopi Point for sunset, Dixie in tow. Dixie was great entertainment on this bus ride.
And then we saw the sunset.
And here are daddy and Caroline moments later blissfully unaware that mommy has dropped Dixie and Caroline's hat, perhaps when taking these pictures. Doh.
We realized it on the bus. Not a happy moment. For any of us. At all. Especially not for very guilty feeling mama. We had planned to see the sunrise as well. We were going to go to a different spot, but... instead... back to Hopi point... we had hiked up the day before so we rode the bus up, but hiked back so we could search for Dixie. We found the hat, but no sign of Dixie. Sigh. We think she was adopted by animals or is lining a condor's nest... The sunrise was lovely though.
All that Kev remembers from his childhood visit to the G.C. was that some woman on their ranger-led tour had a button on her hat that read "Life's a bitch." All Caroline remembers is that mommy dropped her baby penguin. And boy does she remember. (Just tonight she was looking at a puzzle she had assembled which depicts North America. She pointed vaguely towards the Southwest and said "That's where the Grand Canyon is. And that's where mommy dropped my baby penguin!") We bought her a baby wolf to soothe her grieving soul, but it wasn't a puppet and it just wasn't the same... Aunt Khaki got on it. Determined to have a replacement ready by the time we arrived in Portland a week or so later... Before getting to Portland though we had time to spend in California. But before getting to California we needed to get out of the Grand Canyon. We were planning to have a leisurely morning, checking out, some Christmas shopping at the aforementioned gift shop, etc... but en route to these plans someone flagged us down to tell us we had a flat tire. Sigh. We abandoned Christmas shopping plans and made our way to the shop in the park. They diagnosed us with two badly damaged tires on the passenger side (same side, interestingly, where the part that caused the problem before had been tripped)... we realized then-- THE TULSA POTHOLE. Sigh. Bit of rigamorole. As soon as C heard that we were calling AAA she said "Ride in a big truck?" Eventually, yes, we did ride in a big truck again, much to her delight, less so to ours, though we sure were thanking our lucky stars for the upgrade and were pretty darn grateful for a hundred some miles of free gas mileage.

We got new (to us) tires on the car in Williams, Arizona MANY hours after first having the tire issue diagnosed and shortly before sunset got on our way to southern California. In addition to the bright side of saved gas mileage, we also avoided L.A. rush hour. Hey, gotta count your blessings. Somehow I failed to take pictures of the tow rides... perhaps i knew we'd never forget... We arrived LATE at night at the Fleischman residence, Judy was my sixth grade teacher. She had a full meal waiting for us and most comfortable bed for which we were most grateful. We had a lovely visit in Ventura county, staying through the next morning, before heading on our way. One shot from before we left... SO grateful for our time with these beautiful people! (And in case I'm not saying it enough... we felt this way about EVERYONE we stayed with!!!!! SO GRATEFUL!)
And then to Fowler, CA, mid-state, near Fresno, to stay with long time friends of the Sanderson Family, the Arakelians. While in Fowler we learned that someone had stolen Kev's debit card number and drained our account. Seriously? Could anything else go wrong? We had enough gas in the tank to get us half way to Napa, our next destination... where our emergency credit card was waiting for us... and we had used all our cash on the trip out. The Arakelians fed us well, taught us a great new game, and the next day, when we learned this troubling bit of news, made sure we had enough gas in the car and cash in the wallet to get us to our next destination. Thanks be to God for them. A shot with them before we left. We are so grateful, still.
And then, a bit shaken, a bit weary... we made our way to Napa. To Tici's lovely home. Caroline LOVED it there. Big, gentle dog. Sleek black cat. And a mama whose kids are grown who showered her with focused attention. Lots of time puzzling. We were able to stay there five days or so (while I made trips into SF for AAR) and I think Caroline really thrived on being able to stay put for awhile. Here are MANY shots from this time N. Ca. Puzzling with Tici...
Visiting San Francisco, including a GREAT visit to the exploratorium, thanks Thomas J.
And a few more shots from Tici's house... sweeping up dog hair, and gazing into the garage with the sweet dog Charisma...
And then saying goodbye. This was our hardest goodbye. Caroline really wanted to stay with Tici. And seriously resisted saying goodbye.
She acted the most like a cranky, nearly three year old in the Portland visit that followed. We think the cumulative hellos and goodbyes really got to her by that point. Poor Aunt Khaki... she wasn't cranky the whole time, but... In any case, I think we were all super exhausted by the time we got to Oregon. Hardly took any pics at all... not of the marvelous feast we had at Sisters of the Road. Nor the splendid Thanksgiving festivities... nor of the discovery of Dixie the Glue all grown up at a toy store in Portland. (A bigger emperor penguin puppet that Aunt Khaki had scouted out. When first we saw it we said, "Look, Caroline, Dixie got all the way here from the Grand Canyon too and she's all grown up now." She rolled her eyes at me, and perhaps even put her hands on her hips, "Mommy, penguins don't grow up!" she said with a "don't be ridiculous" smirk on her face. "Yes they do," I replied, "There are baby penguins, and mommy and daddy penguins. You used to be a baby and now you're growing up, right? Penguins do too." And then she threw open her arms, "DIXIE!" and the new best friend was embraced.) We had a night in Khaki's yurt, Caroline LOVED sharing a bed with Aunt Khaki (and sharing her iPhone). And then transferred to a glorious house in the western hills where we spent the next several days, inclusive of the holiday. Khaki assembled a lovely crowd and we had a great meal. Twas a great visit to Portland. The babies Khaki was expected stayed tight until we left (their mamas were probably not so grateful, but we were!) Here are far too few pics from our brief sojourn in the pacific northwest. We visited a play gym with Caroline's new friend Moses. Here are a few shots from that visit.
One in the house where we spent several days, on our first night there, with Marcie and Aunt Khaki...
And one as we were saying goodbye to dear friend Jennifer after a great day of worship at her church (and participation in a spontaneous Christmas pageant) and then dining with them, and then hanging and puzzling at their place while C napped.
And two from when we were saying goodbye... (seriously? That's all I've got? No pics of the spontaneous Christmas pageant... and none of all the other great stuff I talked about before... Sigh.) WE LOVE YOU, AUNT KHAKI! Thanks for a great visit!
As we were driving away from Portland, soaking up the views of the Columbia River Gorge as we headed on our way to Boise, Idaho, I articulated my desire, once again, to land in the Northwest. May it be so... We stayed in Boise with Patricia and Byron, dear friends of Caroline's Godmother, Katie. They live in a house Patricia built (literally) with her sister. Amazing! And they have massive gardens, and chickens! This was actually the second time we stayed on a property with chickens. There would be one more such stop before we got home! Here are just a few shots of exploring the gardens and meeting the chickens (Caroline is wearing a vest of Patricia's...) and of a birthday party Patricia and Caroline put on for Dixie the Glue. Caroline's birthday was rapidly approaching and playing birthday party delighted her!
From Boise to just outside Salt Lake City where we stayed with Cynthia, the mother of a college friend, Laurie. Grandma Cindy doted on Caroline and we had a most comfortable night there. And then on to near Boulder, CO, where we apparently also took no pictures. The snow started to fall heavily while we were in CO, staying with my cousin Erin and her husband, Josh. We had a nice dinner with Erin, Josh, and Adam (Erin's younger brother who also lives out there.) And the next day, thanks to the wonders of facebook we were able to meet up with some college friends in downtown Boulder for a delightful lunch. Thanks, Eric and Jessica! And then we re-routed. Instead of heading to Norfolk, NE, where we had planned to spend a night with dear friend, Steve, we now opted to head straight into Kansas, get a motel room, and call it a night. And from there to Kansas City for the last night of our journey where we were treated to great barbeque, fireworks, and delightful company. Caroline refused to go to sleep that last night. Maybe she knew it was the last night, or she could just hear the happy conversation and didn't want to miss it. So we all had a very late night, and Caroline was loved on by our hosts. (You can catch a glimpse of the new Dixie the Glue in the last of these pics.)
And then home... with our ONLY stop (in C's entire life, let only the road trip) at McD's a few hours before getting there... in the hopes she would burn off some energy and sleep when we got home...) Thank you, thank you, thank you to EVERYONE who made our getaway such a delight (even with the hiccups- that's what memories are made of, right?) Caroline was an AMAZING traveler. We felt SO blessed. Twas good to get home... we had a tree to get up, a birthday to celebrate... we were just. in. time. Stay posted...