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Adventures/Travel, Out West

Cross Country Journal Days 7 and 8: Bryce Canyon

We would have been content to remain in Springdale, near Zion National Park, on the Virgin River FORVER.  No one wanted to leave.

Alas, we knew that our check out time was approaching, but we procrastinated.  I started my procrastination with breakfast by the river with one of my favorites.


Then we swam while soaking in the gorgeous view.


Then it was time for more playing in the river. 

Before we knew it, it was time to check out.

Springdale had lots of great lunch options and we filled up on a delicious meal before heading out of the National Park area.


“Good-bye Zion.  We love you!  And we WILL be back.”


Our next destination was Bryce Canyon and we were eager to see the hoodoos.  We spent our evening taking in various view points on the scenic drive.

PicMonkey Collage

Our next morning was spent hiking among the hoodoos.  This was a fantastic experience.

PicMonkey Collage

Walking behind my boys, listening to their chatter while hiking, was a fantastic moment in parenting.  IMG_7657I was able to watch their relationship grow right before my eyes, without the typical distractions of home and life.

Hiking with your kids is an experience I highly recommend.  It doesn’t matter WHERE you go hiking, though these locations out west are incredible, but just GO hiking together.

Conversation comes easy as you hike. The time spent together deepens relationships and your knowledge of one another. It is a beautiful thing.

Of course, picking out hikes that are interesting, challenging, and include scenery that is very different from home is helpful too!

Our hike out of the hoodoos was particularly memorable.  It is called the “Lombard Street” of hiking.




Crazy, fun stuff.

Then we headed a little ways out of Bryce Canyon City and grabbed lunch. Our diner choice got an A+ in my book simply based on the HUGE mason jars that they used to serve iced tea!


We returned to the “Wall Street” section of our morning hike again that evening. The kids wanted to walk around and explore this crazy hike a bit more.


After a good night’s sleep, we stopped briefly at a local playground.  The kids needed some time to run and play while I picked up a few groceries for a picnic lunch.


Then we said goodbye to Bryce Canyon, wearing all of our Zion Canyon T-shirts…


And we buckled down for the next big drive.

Adventures/Travel, Things I Love

Things I am Loving Right Now: Car Traveling Edition

Many of you have been following along as we travel across the US in our 12 passenger van.  We are having a great time touring places like the Grand Canyon, Zion Nation Park, and Antelope Canyon.

Inspired by our current travel here are things I am loving right now!

Things I am Loving Right Now: Car Traveling Edition

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They have changed the way I will pack forever.  I blogged about our plan to use them before our trip and we have had to modify the plan somewhat, but the ebags are the BEST thing we have ever bought for travel.  They will change our camping, family visiting, and trips for the better.

Four of us have the three piece packing cube set.  My younger two boys each have one large eBag and we are making that work.  We have one large eBag for swimsuits, goggles, and sunscreen as well.  In the future, I will purchase another 3 piece packing cube set for my boys as well!

2.  United States Sticker Map.

Although this is advertised as an RV sticker map, we attached it to the back of our van to record our cross country travels.  Each time the van enters a new state, we add the sticker.

Each time we add a sticker, we record the fun:

This sticker could be kept at home, on the car, or on a piece of posterboard. It is pretty versitile and we LOVE it!

3.  National Geographic Guide to Naitonal Parks of the United States. (8th Edition).

I got tired of returning this to the library and requesting it again. I also wanted to write in it. So I finally gave in and purchased it.

It has been handy during our trip.  I might be old fashion, but something about having paper to take notes, underline, and write on works best for me. I can look up the park a day or two before we get there and make some notes about what to do if we have a few hours, a full day, or a few days. This guide has been really helpful.

NOTE:  This was SO helpful when we went into a park after hours when the visitor center and gate were closed and we couldn’t get a map.  This book has updated route maps so you can still get around to overlooks and trails.

4.  Sabrent 10 port family USB charger.

Yes. We are a modern family. This is the charging port we have in our charging station at home, and when we travel we make sure to bring it.

I love that it sits flat and the ports are on the top, not the side. It works well for overnight charging in hotel rooms. Currently we charge 2 phones, 2 iPods, 2 Kindles, and 2 iPads each night. Every morning the devices are charged and ready to go.

We also use it in the car, keeping it plugged in to my next item…

5. Car Power Inverter Strip.

This strip has 2 outlets for standard plugs and 2 USB ports. We keep our USB Charger plugged in to this while driving so our kids can keep their devices charged while we are travelling.

Once plugged in, the kids keep the USB charger toward the rear of the car for their devices so the extra USB ports on this main outlet are handy for the adult phones in the front seat.

Note:  I travel for long trips with my kids frequently.  We visit family in both Maryland and Florida and we love to take trips around the US.  There is NO reward at the end of the trip for keeping your kids off screens, so we don’t limit their use at all.  We still listen to audio books, play games, enjoy scenery, and have pleasant conversation, but this all happens naturally as we travel.  It is rare that I force “no devices” though it does happen sometimes.  Therefore, #4 and #5 are some of my favorite additions to our travel supplies.

6. Rand McNally 2017 Midsize Road Atlas

(spiral bound preferred for me).

We lost our modern day GPS through Waze and Google Maps quite a bit while traveling around Utah.  My daughter had this atlas in the car and it was SO handy to double check our route.

It was also handy to print pages for the kids so they could follow our trip.

7. Next Exit

This amazing guide crossed my path AFTER our big road trip.  In it you will find the most amazing comprehesive directory for interstate highway exits.  The gas, food, camping, shopping, and lodging available is listed next to every single interestate highway exit.

This could totally change the way you plan to stop for lunch or bathrooms because now you know what is around the corner at the NEXT EXIT!

What are your favorite Cross Country Travel Items?

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Adventures/Travel, Out West

Cross Country Journal – Day 6 Antelope Canyon

Breakfast this morning was lacking any hot food, but we made it work and then headed out early to Antelope Canyon.

You can’t tour the canyon on your own, so you have to book a tour.  Our tour was reserved for 10:20 AM, but we walked up at 8:50 AM to see if they could work us in early. They were able to send us off on the 9 AM tour time.

You can hardly see the slot canyon on the landscape until you are upon it.


Then suddenly you are in it.  And you will go camera happy.


And if you are lucky, your tour guide (or the one from the group behind you) will set your DSLR to all of the right settings for the canyon!


The iPhone simply needs the “chrome” filter to pick up the beautiful reds and colors.


You feel like you are in Wonderland.


It is very other world-like.


“I like this better than the Grand Canyon, Mom!”


Not much more to say. It is a very cool slot canyon. Eerie. Beautiful.


Kid Warning: There are several steep staircases.


And before you know it, it is time to exit the Canyon.


We snuck around the corner for a scenic view of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River.



Then we were off on the road again!


We arrived in Zion National Park that evening.


We purposefully designed this stop to be our “vacation in the vacation”. We splurged on two nights in a quaint IMG_7209lodge on the Virgin River. We knew we’d be ready for an upgrade from the Super 8 Motel the night before and the Best Westerns of the previous nights.

But we had NO idea how magical our location would be.

The lodge was in a beautiful setting and we immediately felt the magic of Zion National Park.  It captured our entire family.

We spent the evening playing on the Virgin River in tubes we picked up at the local store.



No one wanted the night to end, but we had VERY early morning adventure ahead of us so we had to get some sleep!


Adventures/Travel, Out West

Cross Country Journal Day 5 – Grand Canyon

Upon waking in our caboose at 5:30 AM, I peeked out the window to see frost on the ground! It was COLD out there. I cozied up in my bed again and tried to fall back asleep.

No success. Another early morning for Mommy.

Once everyone was moving around we started getting ready. The kids ran out to play a bit on the playground while Eric and I packed up and gathered some fruit and bagels for breakfast.

The weather was perfect for an outdoor breakfast and few moments of free time before our drive to the Grand Canyon.

Visit the Grand Canyon with kids.

Goodbye to our little “caboose on the loose” as the kids dubbed him.

Visit the Grand Canyon with Kids. Continue Reading

Adventures/Travel, Out West

Cross Country Journal – Day 4 Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Parks

We woke up in Albuquerque and enjoyed breakfast in our hotel. I woke up before 6 AM. My mind and body are definitely out of whack!

We hit the road and headed toward our destination in Williams, Arizona. On the way, our plan was to visit the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, which are located in the same National Park about one minute off Rt. 40 West.


By the time we entered the parks, it was close to 11:30 and the heat was beginning to set in. We decided to go ahead with the drive through the parks, but to skip any longer hikes.

The Painted Desert was magnificent. The views were beautiful.  As you know, pictures just can’t accurately capture this sort of beauty, but I’ll share a few.



Two stops included views of petroglyphs visible on the rock. The Puerco Pueblo .3 mile loop  had examples that were very close to the path and easily visible, though harder to detect in pictures.  These were created by the Ancestral Puebloan People over 600 years ago.



Remains of the Puebloan peoples’ houses and the plaza area are seen on the path.


The next section had many more petroglyphs, but they were pretty far away from our vantage point. Free viewfinders were located at the site.  The ones pictured here were taken with my zoom lens:


We did the driving tour of the Blue Mesa section and took in the views.


On the way, we passed the “Three Teepees”.  Amazing visible layers!


As the road continues, you enter the National Petrified Forest. The petrified wood liters the scenery.


Although the heat was gettign to us, we did walk along one of the paths to see a few of the pieces of wood, now quartz, up close.




This really helped the kids understand what was so different about the petrified logs.


I was completely fascinated by the explanation of Pangea and how the spread of the continents meant that these logs were the very ones found in the Crystal Forest in Costa Rica.


I turned to my husband, “Man, I need a science program that teaches cool stuff like this. I gotta do some research.

He just laughed and commented that I am probably the one person to react to the petrified wood by talking about researching science curriculums.

I guess you can take the mom away from the homeschool day but you can’t take the homeschool day away from the mom. #truth

After our tour of the National Parks, we were ready for some food. It was a bit hot to make lunch on the side of the road, so we found a diner in town and enjoyed some good eats.

Soon we were back on the road.


It was time to head to our final destination for tonight.  Our motel tonight was located on historic Route 66.


I choose this one because on the property are two caboose cars that have been converted into motel rooms.

We were going to sleep in caboose #1.



The kids were THRILLED about this! They loved every moment of being at this motel and RV park.

The indoor pool was freezing, despite the “heated” sign. The kids only enjoyed a very quick swim.


After a load of laundry, we had a picnic dinner at the picnic area just outside of the pool. The evening felt fantastic and we enjoyed relaxing outdoors for awhile.


The playground didn’t offer much, but what it did include were things that we don’t have at home that were quite entertaining…


tires that could be moved around and built with..


old boats


and two mini-size vehicles.


The kids had a great time relaxing out of the heat and the car.

Before we knew it, it was time to crash in bed.   Thank goodness for the room darkening curtains.  It was still early, but our internal clocks had not adjusted to the new time zone.

Adventures/Travel, Out West

Cross Country Trip Journal – Day 3

We woke up in Weatherford, OK after sleeping in (8 AM) a bit. Our first destination was a random “point of interest” that we discovered using the roadtrippers app.

Apparently, around the corner from our hotel was some sort of wind turbine display. We could see wind turbines in the distance, so we were curious about this display. The roadtrippers listing didn’t have a lot of great information.

About a mile up the street, sitting in the grass by City Hall, was a single wind turbine blade.  Very random.  Very cool.


The kids had a blast climbing around the turbine and exploring its enourmous size. I had no idea that they were so huge.


Daniel (age 6) declared this his favorite thing so far!


Kayleigh (age 13) enjoyed her favorite thing to do and had some fun upside down!


Then we were back on the road for the long drive through Oklahoma and the panhandle of Texas before we settled for the night in Albuquerque, NM.

The amount of windturbines on the horizon was unreal. I had no idea how many were all over this area of Oklahoma and Texas.


It made me even more glad that we had taken some time to check out the blade this morning. I had a whole new perspective on the enormity of the wind turbines.  Seeing them from a distance just doesn’t do the size justice.


We had another fun stop planned and we continued rolling toward it.

Cadillac Ranch was another photo opportunity that we found using Road Trippers and it turned out to be well worth the 20 minutes.

Located just off the highway near Amarillo, Texas is a strange piece of “art”. Several cadillacs are “planted” in the ground and visitors are welcome to add their own touch to the art using spray paint.

Not kidding.  In the middle of nowhere on the side of the highway are approximately 10 Cadillacs in the ground.


How crazy is this?

I was prepared with two cans of spray paint and disposable latex gloves to keep our fingers clean. Of course, tons of spray paint cans littered the ground so we were able to use a variety of colors as we found them.

Everyone thought this was hysterically fun.

PicMonkey Collage

We left our own personal marks:




And then we were off again. We still had a few more hours to go before we reached Albuquerque. The kids were dying to spend some time at one of our hotels.

Staying in a hotel is a pretty rare treat for our kids, so they didn’t see it as a quick place to lay their head before moving on. For them, the hotel is part of the excitement and fun!

Even the Holiday Inn and Best Western.

Unfortunately for them, we arrived at 6:30 PM and I was hoping for a lovely dinner out in Albuquerque. But they were dying to swim, so we hopped in the pool while Daddy restocked our food at the local Walmart.


Dinner was cheese and crackers, fruit and sub sandwiches in our room.

Shortly after, we all crashed for the night.