Tuesday, August 21, 2012

3 1/2 weeks, 6300 miles

This summer I decided we needed to head back east to visit my grandfather.  Of course, that is a long drive so we would need to make lots of stops along the way.  I plotted my course and arranged for all of our stops (at family members' homes).  Unfortunately, Jeff didn't have any vacation time yet so we had to embark on our journey without him.  Yep, that's right.  Me and four kids in a car.  For 3 1/2 weeks.  Here's how it went.

The first day we hopped in the car (more like packed ourselves in like sardines) and headed to Parker, Colorado- a suburb of Denver.  Elevation, 5869 ft.  We encountered some rain in the mountains.

We stayed at my Aunt Katy and Uncle Paul's house.  Paul set up the bounce house and showed the kids how to deflate it while they were inside.  They had a blast! 

Later that day we headed to the Lego Store.  We checked all the cities in which we would be stopping to see if they had Lego Stores.  Sure enough, three cities would have them.  We stopped at all three.  Drew was beside himself with joy.

After a nice day off from driving we piled back in the van and headed to my dad's house in Olathe, Kansas.  Elevation, 1050 ft.

This is what it looks like when you are living out of luggage on the road.

We stopped at the Lego Store in Oak Park Mall on our day off of driving.  Then we headed to Louisville, KY to see my Uncle David and his family. We passed the St. Louis Arch along the way and I snapped a couple pictures while trying not to get in an accident in crazy traffic.

Pretty good shots for not really looking at what I was doing.
Then I tried to get a shot of the Illinois sign while crossing state lines.  It wasn't even close to us!

In Louisville (elevation, 462 ft), we had just enough time to eat a quick dinner before heading downtown.  We went to an old theatre and watched North by Northwest.  It was fun, but Drew didn't really want to cooperate.
The girls sitting in their seats, ready for the show. 

Drew didn't want his picture taken! 

The old theatre was beautiful and grand. 

It had little statues all over. 

The ceiling had little heads all over it. 

Alona wanted a picture outside of the theatre. 

The girls loved playing in Uncle David's humongous backyard, but were too afraid to find the creek back in the trees.  We even enjoyed a nice walk around the neighborhood (it was a few miles) in the humidity that evening.

Of course, we only stayed for a day and then had to pile back in the car to head to Virginia- where we would finally see my grandfather.

The mountains of West Virginia and Virginia were beautiful.

When we arrived at Grandpa's house (elevation, approx. 300 ft), the kids were greeted by his dog, Gretchen.  

In the morning, Grandpa took us all out to breakfast at IHOP.

He assured us that we must go down to Charlottesville (elevation, roughly 600 ft) to visit my Aunt Heidi, so I called her up and arranged it.  We spent a few hours at the country club pool. 

Drew fell in love with her log Lexie. 

The girls fell in love with the cats (they had six of them!!!!). 

We headed to Monticello the next morning before heading back up to my Grandfather's house. 
The garden was to die for- but would be more work than one person could handle. 

Natalie found a chair in a little structure that overlooked the orchards. 

Everyone rested at the garden tables.

We picked out some snacks at the gift shop. 

They had some fun little activities for the kids down in the stable area. 

We even checked out the underground tunnel and cellars. 

My sister is also in the D.C. area, so we spent some time with her.  Together, we took our kids to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers.  Jeff was a Tomb Guard there, so I wanted to take the kids to see his old work. 
 Here we are in front of the badge board, with some of the kids pointing to Jeff's name.

Natalie didn't want to stand there for this picture and Drew didn't want to be seen either (as he was still not fully awake and was very grumpy).  This picture just shows theirs personalities. Right?

Back at Grandpa's house, the kids enjoyed some juice boxes.  

We also got to swim with Catherine and some of her kids.

Natalie and cousins. 

Drew found a pink guitar and rocked out.

We stayed in Virginia for 4 days and then it was time to head to my brother's house.  Ben lives in Ohio.  That drive took us through West Virginia, Maryland,  and Pennsylvania.

Ben has a nice yard (elevation around 900 ft.), so the kids spent lots of time outside. They liked pushing water around on the patio with brooms.  Go figure. 

Ben made ice cream and the kids helped turn the crank.  We also took two of my sister's kids along with us (as we were headed to our family reunion back in Colorado).

Somehow they decided to tie Ashley up to the basketball hoop pole.
The kids even played with Mr. Potato head (and his wife).

We were sad to leave, as we don't get to see Ben and his family all too often. 

My nephew Adam.

It was too bright for him to read, so he had to borrow my sunglasses. 

After a long day of driving, we arrived at my Dad's house back in Kansas.  This was the only time we stopped and only stayed overnight.  We had to get to Colorado for all of the reunion festivities.  

Back in Colorado, my cousin Paul (Uncle Paul's son) made balloon animals, er cars, for the kids.  Drew got McQueen. 

We all headed to the airport for my cousin Daniel's arrival home from his mission in California.  The brothers (Paul and Dan) sang together. 

I tried on my brother Joseph's sunglasses.  Way too big. 

We headed up to a cabin (elevation, 9500 ft!!!!) somewhere west of Colorado Springs, high up in the mountains for our family reunion the next day.  We had to drive almost 23 miled on a dirt road to get there.  It was lined with patches of grazing cattle.  They liked to stand right by the road. 

And even cross the road right in front of you (objects are closer than they appear in camera). 

Before taking off for the cabin, Alona and cousins decided to play on Aunt Katy's treadmill.  Alona didn't make out so well.

So she had to be carried around a lot.  Here Cousin paul is helping her get situated for family pictures.

And Uncle Joseph carried her on his shoulders.  (I have the best family ever!!!) 

 At the family reunion, we took a little trip (also a long drive on the dirt road) to a spot where we then hiked to a little watering hole.  The water was freezing, or so I was told.  I didn't get in, but others did.

Drew and Uncle Joseph 

Drew wanted to play with my phone, so we took a picture together.

The creek (or whatever body of water it was) was beautiful and lush.  The scenery was gorgeous.  (click on the pictures if you want to see them bigger)

My sister Rebecca and her daughter Megan. 

 There were occasional flowers along the way.

And prickly weeds that were almost beautiful. 

This rock had great fissures.

This was kind of gross- the water skippers or whatever they are called. 

To get to the water, we had to cross the creek.  I wasn't so sure about it. 

We made it, but the water came up in a wave over the van!  This is us on the other side.

We had a family dance in the dark.

Back at Uncle Paul's house the sisters were congregating.  Sorry sisters, I had to post this.  See, Rebecca, we found a good angle- but only for you.  Where is Ruth, anyway??? 
After an extra day at Uncle Paul's house (which allowed for an extra trip to the Lego Store!!!!!) due to a sick child, we headed to Utah.  Off to see my sister, Aurelia.
We got to go through more tunnels (the kids love them). 
About to enter.

Inside the tunnel.

Our last stop.  Springville, UT. Elevation, 4500 ft.

We were pretty tired at this point in our trip.  It had been 3 weeks and over 5000 miles.  I had a terrible cold and I was hoping no one else would get the stomach bug Ashley had on Monday in Colorado.
I caught some sweet moments of Drew sleeping in the morning.

We stayed a couple of days so we could visit family and friends.
We had dinner at Carrabbas.  The kids loved it.

I took my brother Joseph out to lunch at Cafe Zupas.  It was so delicious.  I'm glad he recommended it. 

We met up with some friends (who once lived in Oregon with us) at the Pleasant Grove Promenade.  It wasn't as big as I thought it would be, but we had a great time.  There was this picture board there.  We stopped at our friends' house the next day on our way home and picked tons of basil.  I'm making pesto this week.

It was finally time to head home.


My trip odometer.  Didn't start it until at least 100 miles on the road, so I didn't get the exact mileage, but this is close enough. 

I am so grateful for all of our family!  We enjoyed seeing everyone and appreciate all of their hospitality.  I especially appreciate having my coolant, oil, and power steering fluids checked regularly.  I was worried about the van making it and I'm glad it did.  It was nice to have people looking out for us along the way.

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