Grand Canyon Adventure, Summer 2010

(Mary Beth) I decided to repost this as a single blog so it would appear in order. I also added photos. Let me know if you take a peek! 🙂

RV Adventure, Summer 2010

(July 16): Trip delayed one day for Grandpa’s funeral

We attended the funeral of Carl Phillips, Craig’s grandfather, on July 16, 2010. Grandpa Phillips died in the nursing home on Tuesday, July 13, at the age of 95. He had suffered a series of strokes in the past year, including one (we believe) on the Friday prior to his death.

Grandpa’s funeral was held in Windsor, MO, and our whole family (Cooper and Emmie, 10 and 6, included) attended. Craig was a pallbearer. Mary Jo Phillips, Craig’s grandma, was also in attendance. Grandma is 87 years old and in declining health. Grandma has intense pain because of fractures in her back and is heavily medicated. On the day of Grandpa’s funeral, Grandma seemed to be very congested and very tired and drugged. The day after the funeral, Grandma had a fever and didn’t want to eat. The nurses also gave her breathing treatments to help with her congestion.

The funeral was very nice but extremely hot. The cold bottles of water Cathy brought in a cooler were easily the best water we had ever drunk – very welcome after the hot graveside service. The service was a lovely tribute to Grandpa. A clergy-person spoke for the first part of the service and honored Grandpa for his legacy as a hard worker who lived life to its fullest. She also mentioned that Grandpa hauled his “tent” behind a vehicle as he and Grandma traveled extensively throughout the country. The second part of the service was a military tribute led by the members of the Clinton VFW. There were very few dry eyes after the 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps” by a bugler standing at a distance.

We considered leaving late on Friday to start our vacation, but everyone was fairly well exhausted after a long week and the heat and stress of the funeral. It was ultimately an easy decision to go ahead and delay until morning.

Day 1 (July 17): Lee’s Summit, MO to Hinton, OK

We woke up early Saturday morning and spent several hours packing the RV. It seemed to take forever because we were all excited to get going on our trip. We were finally all packed and ready to leave by about 10:00 A.M. On our way out, we went to HyVee to drop off our dry cleaning and grab a few last-minute items. As we waited for Craig in the HyVee parking lot, Cooper realized he forgot his pillow, so we had to go back home one last time to grab it.

I think we finally really hit the road around 10:30 A.M. or so. We planned to drive all the way to Amarillo, TX, but I got super tired around 5:30. We stopped just south of Oklahoma City to get some dinner and discuss the possibility of stopping earlier to camp for the night. We ate dinner at the Cherokee Restaurant. This was the type of place we saw advertised on billboards along the highway for many miles.

Judging from the billboard campaign, I have to say the Cherokee looked real cheesy, so, of course, I was super skeptical when Craig suggested we stop there for dinner. However, I had been driving since Big Cabin and was almost as tired as I was hungry, so we stopped. The Cherokee Restaurant was awesome! It totally hit the spot. It was a dream of a truck-stop eatery – good home-cooked food and excellent service. Craig had a BBQ Buffalo burger which really was yummy (I am not a fan of “weird” meats, but I did try it). I had an “Indian Taco,” which is essentially a taco salad with homemade salsa served over a doughy and slightly sweet Indian bread. Ohhhh, it was sooooo good, and it was just what I needed after a long day of driving, driving, driving.  Our only incredibly minor complaint (not really) about the Cherokee Restaurant was that there was no peanut butter pie to be found when Craig scoured the pie carousel. I told him we should probably look at that as a “good thing” though, at least from a dietary standpoint. We did not go entirely without sweets, however. Craig and Cooper grabbed a sweet roll the size of a hubcap from the bakery counter on their way out to be enjoyed for the following morning’s breakfast.

At dinner (sometime before the restaurant’s power went out – thank goodness for the enormous backup generator out back!), we decided to stop at a State Park Craig had spotted. Red Rock Canyon State Park was in Hinton. I was just a wee bit unsure about Ol’ Red Rock Canyon when, as we drove through Hinton, we saw a sign that read “Hitchhikers may be escaped convicts.” [Snort.]  The park ranger later told me they had only ever had one escapee, and “…he didn’t come down here [to the park].”

“Oh. Okay. Good times.”

I have to add that, for some reason, I kept seeing “things” in the red dirt clay of Oklahoma. I will blame my lazy eye and the dim of twilight, but, at one point, I said to Craig, “Oh, I see the prison. It’s over there [and pointed in the distance].” Craig kept saying he didn’t see it, and I kept peeking through the trees, pointing, and saying, exasperatingly, “There! It’s a HUGE BUILDING, and. It’s. OVER… Oh. Nevermind. That’s just a field of dirt.”

Then, to add to the ambience offered by the close proximity of the correctional facility, as we entered the state park, there were ZERO trees. Not one tree. Great.

But, Red Rocks Canyon was, indeed, a canyon (Imagine!), so the scenery proved to be outstanding. In fact, just past the ranger station there was a sign reading “Road to park is steep and winding.”

I was behind the wheel of the 29-foot RV again, mind you, and for some reason this sign actually made me a little giddy. (I am sure you are wondering why anyone would allow me to drive when I can’t tell the difference between a prison and an expanse of dirt, huh?)

Nevertheless, as I read the sign’s foreboding warning, I thought, “ha-HA. Now’s my chance to show off my punch-packin’ RV driving skills. YEAHHHHHH! GIRL POWER, BABY.”

About 23 seconds after that, I nearly pooped my pants on a corkscrew turn at a 60-degree incline. I was taking it wide and slow and feeling pretty good, right up until the point where I knew if I turned the wheel one more centimeter to the left, the RV was going to roll over for sure. Just like when I was a little kid playing Atari, I leaned my entire body to the right. (Yeah. My one-hundred-something-something-pound self is going to prevent the RV from tipping over. Yeah. Leaning. Right on.) Meanwhile, as I was struggling to force myself to turn the wheel enough to stay on the road, I was saying to Craig, “Okay, tell me it’s safe to turn. Tell me we’re okay. Tell me we’re okay.”

And, Craig was simultaneously commanding, “It’s oh-KAY. It’s oh-KAY. Turn. Turn. TURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRN!

I wanted to close my eyes, but that wasn’t really an option for obvious reasons. Instead, I said a quick silent prayer, ignored instinct, turned the damned wheel, and, miraculously, we made it.

Somehow, thankfully, the kids missed this entire event. I have no idea how that is possible. When I was their age, this sort of thing would have had me crying hysterically on the floor of the vehicle from the fetal position. Seriously. Ask my brothers about our trip across the tallest bridge in north America back in 1978. I still get nightmares.

Anyway, turns out Red Rock Canyon State Park is absolutely gorgeous. Think “canyon” with “red rocks.” Hopefully we can post a picture or two to do it justice, but it really was beautiful. We parked the RV right by an enormous old tree (I don’t know what kind, but Craig said it was not the kind inhabited by ticks) and enjoyed our first night of full hookups. Lights, showers, endless A/C, indulgent hand-washing, videogames – the whole nine yards. It was pretty difficult to convince the kids we needed to get out of the RV until at least dark to go look at the creek and get a little exercise.

The kids rode their bikes, and Craig and I walked down to a swing set. (The creek turned out to be quite narrow and difficult to see via heavy, insect-infested brush, so we decided to avoid it altogether.) Craig was the only one who didn’t swing, and I say he missed out. The swinging provided a nice breeze – a respite from the intense heat (according to a fellow pat

Cooper and Mary Beth

ron in the restroom

Emmie

of the Cherokee, it had been 104 degrees in Oklahoma City

that day) and suffocating

humidity. Fraught with thirst, Cooper inadvertently dra

nk from the spigot near the d

"Did I drink poo?"

ump station moments before Craig pointed out a sign a

lerting

“Water not suitable for

drinking or personal use.” We tried not to worry too much,

but Cooper asked, later, “D

id I drink poo

?” (Ugh.)

When we got back to camp, we soaked our sweaty bodies in bug spray, sat down at the concrete picnic table, and played a few hands of “President,” a card game Cooper learned at Scout Camp last week.

At the first hint of darkness, we gratefully slinked back into the cool of the RV and played a little Mario Kart until bedtime.

A huge thumbs way up for Red Rock Canyon State Park and our first day on the road!

Day 2 (July 18): Hinton, OK to Peña Blanca (Santa Fe), NM

Day 2 of our trip was another day of driving and took more out of me than the first. The driving was easy for most of the day, though, until we ran into some brief thundershowers just outside Santa Fe.

For lunch, we stopped at a super cheesy place right off the highway in Amarillo. It was

Craig Squashing the Big Texan

called “The Big Texan Steak Ranch,” and offered a free 72-ounce steak to anyone who

This man was attempting to eat the 72-ounce steak in 60 minutes or less.

could consume it in less than one hour. And, indeed, there was a heavyset man attempting to do just that during our lunch. We found out that if he didn’t “make it,” he’d pay $72 for the steak. We didn’t stick around long enough to find out if he got his free steak (and perhaps a year or two shaved off of his life in the process…)

Emmie, Craig and Cooper

We enjoyed The Big Texan a ton, I must admit. They had free Wi-Fi, so I got a little Facebook fix. I was hoping to post this blog, but the Wi-Fi didn’t reach all the way to the parking lot, so I decided to wait until later so we could get back on the road.

Our late-afternoon drive was gorgeous; New Mexico is beautiful. Even from inside the RV, we could feel the difference in the weather. (While we are driving, we try to limit the A/C to that coming from the dash. Typically, this works great; we have only felt the need to turn on the generator once for A/C.)

We stopped at a Wal-mart when we got to Santa Fe. Being hungry and tired, this probably was not the smartest idea! I get real cranky, as my family and friends know, when I am hungry. But, when you add exhaustion and a trip to Wal-mart with two kids who’ve been cooped up all day? Whew. Unleash the beast.

When we arrived at Wal-mart, we were immediately approached by a security guard who made Barney Fife look like Dirty Harry. He was so cute and elderly – had a little lisp. I felt sort of sorry for him as I imagined him having to deal with actual ruffians. Nevertheless, he wanted to let us know that we were not allowed to park our RV overnight at Wal-mart. He was pretty apologetic about it and said this was not Wal-mart’s fault. It was the City of Santa Fe, he told us. They were angry that this boondocking at Wal-mart was taking too much money away from legitimate businesses. Hmm. Okay.

I was ready to jettison a kid or two and eat one of my own limbs following the Wal-mart trip, but I managed to control myself. Emmie got my attitude back in check by reminding me, sweetly, that I had said I wanted to look at all of the pictures she had drawn of our

This is Emmie's pic of our family at the rim of the Grand Canyon

vacation.  Awwwww. Her pictures are adorable.The best one is of a helicopter flying over the Grand Canyon. I know I am biased, but this helicopter is outstanding – way better than anything I could

Way better than anything I could draw!

draw! (I will be sure to take a pic and share at some point.)

We stopped for the night at a Corp of Engineers lake on the Cochiti (CO-chi-tay) Indian Reservation. It was absolutely lovely. The view. Was. Amazing. And, the cool night air? Oh, wow. We felt spoiled. Craig and I sat out there for a long, long time feeling the cool breeze and studying the stars.

Incredible! It was an entirely serene ending to cap a pretty exhausting day. Wahoo for Day 2!!!

Beautiful Sunset at Lake Cochiti

Day 3 (July 19): Santa Fe, NM

Everyone slept well last night with the windows open and just the fan running. No need for A/C.

After a breakfast of what Craig calls “Eggs in a hole,” (that’s an egg fried inside the cutout center of a piece of bread – yummy!), we took a family bike ride around and near our campground at Lake Cochiti. Emmie got tired very quickly, so we headed back, and I told Craig and Cooper to go on without us. It crossed my mind that the altitude could be affecting her, but I didn’t want to say that to her. When the boys got back, they seemed to have a “story” to tell. Turns out Cooper got a bit overexerted or winded and actually got sick after riding up an intense hill. Crazy. Well, Crazy is what Craig thinks I am for blaming the altitude on that as well. I told him that “my people” are weak and are affected by altitude, whereas “his people” are “from around here” and are better equipped to handle it. Yeah, he still thinks I’m crazy. (I think I remember reading that the campground was at an altitude of nearly 6,000 feet.)

We have spent today at and near the plaza area of downtown Santa Fe. I think it’s so cool and artsy here with lots of street vendors, artists, cafes, and so forth.

We had lunch at a restaurant called La Choza which was billed as having the food of northern New Mexico. We didn’t realize how far it was from the plaza, however, when we decided to walk there. I would guess it was about 12 blocks?? Maybe a couple of miles?? I am not very good at judging distances, but I know one thing: it was way too far for a travel-weary-almost-7-year-old little girl!!! Whining was taken to new heights! And, Cooper felt sorry for her and carried her piggyback several times. He is such a nice brother!

Cooper carrying a tired Emmie

My lunch was delicious – the enchilada plate with both red and green chile sauce, which I had read was called “Christmas style.” OUTSTANDING!!! Mmm, mmmm, mmmmm!!!

After lunch, we actually caught a city bus very close to the restaurant, and it took us right back to the downtown/Plaza area. The kids were so cute riding their first city bus – amazed little faces, like we were on a big, big adventure. The bus tickets for all 4 of us were a total of $2, but I only had a $5. The driver felt terrible that he could only give me a “cash ticket” instead of actual change. I told him I had no problem paying $5 – the ride was well worth it! Then, the cash ticket didn’t print properly. The driver had to call back to H.Q. to figure out what we should do, and it was decided that they would mail me the $3. Okay!?!? … “Seriously. The $5 is fine…”

...back to The Plaza

We did some shopping when we got back to the Plaza. I even got brave and had a very enjoyable time speaking with the vendors with “booths” set up on the sidewalk. A booth actually amounts to a stadium banket covered with handmade Indian jewelry. Several folks were very interesting and friendly. I bought a little something for my mom and a little something for myself from a man named Matthew James Chavez. As a close to our transaction, James said, “Wear them in beauty and good health – and your mother also.”

Day 4, Early Morning Thoughts (July 20): Santa Fe, NM to Grand Canyon, NM

[First, a note: Ugh! I hate typos. I am normally an obsessive editor, but when I wrote yesterday’s entry, I was sitting at a café on the Plaza with my two kids running around acting foolish. Craig was off shopping on his own, and I was ordered to “make this quick,” so we’d be ready to leave when he got back! So, forgive “where” for “wear.” HORRIBLE!!! EMBARRASSING!!!]

Craig and I agreed it was a good idea to get up bright and early this morning to hit the road; we are hoping to get to the campsite by early afternoon so we have the best chance of securing a spot. The campground we want to go to does not have any hookups for the RV, but it is right at the rim of the Grand Canyon, so we really want to get a site there, and they don’t take reservations.

You know how it is when you are kind of excited and need to wake up early… First, I woke up at 1:20 A.M., then 3-something, then 4-something… And, finally, at about 5:30 I woke up and thought, “I should get up and turn on the coffffffeeee… but this bed feels SO goooooood. [sigh]” I did get up, though, and we had prepared so well the night before for a speedy and early departure, we were actually on the road by 6:20 A.M., and that was even after refilling our water tank and “dumping.”

For anyone who might not understand “dumping,” that’s where you go to a “fixed dump station,” hook up a big tube to your holding tanks, and get rid of all your waste. I was a little concerned about the whole dumping process as we set out on this adventure. I recall a time many years ago when my own parents took our family on a motorhome trip. At one point, there was an “issue” of some sort… a backup, if you will, and my dad ended up armpit deep in the poo tube to – ahem – move things along.

Well, knock on wood, but our “dumping” experiences have been quite uneventful thus far. Craig does all of that nastiness, of course. I think it’s in the “Man Code” or something. Kids vomiting? Woman. Poo detail? Man. Anyway, to “dump,” you simply hook up the big tube to the RV, place the other end in the “hole,” and pull the lever for black water, then gray water. If everything’s smooth sailing, “it” all goes down the hole, carried by gravity alone. Occasionally, the connector to the hole will fly off, or something, and you get a little – uh – runoff. At one point, Craig was loudly calling out whose poo was whose. [Yeah, seriously. He’s gross, but he’s dang funny, and we love him.] When this overflow occurs, the gray water usually takes care of it, but there’s also a hose nearby to “clean things up” afterward.

Before we left for this trip, remembering my dad’s experience (armpit) back in the 80’s, I offered to get Craig a pair of those deer-gutting gloves for his poo detail. He bravely declined, and we simply invested in the $2-dollar HyVee variety of kitchen rubber gloves. They have been fine, really, but it probably would have been nice for each of us to have a pair. When the “overflow” occurred, my instinct was to help Craig by assisting with the placement of the tube, or by hoisting the tube to help out gravity-wise. But, my greater instinct – the one telling me not to touch the poo tube with bare hands – definitely won out. Please note that I have not run right out to purchase my own set of rubber gloves, however…

Speaking of supplies, I think we did a great job of packing light and anticipating our needs for this trip. When we realized how very much storage this vehicle has, though, we did throw in a few extra things. This RV has TONS of storage; it’s just great.

We have purchased a few things along the way, and I somehow felt like making a record of these purchases would reveal a little bit more about the ins and outs of RV travel.

First of all, between Craig’s last-minute HyVee trip (on Day 1) and our return home for Cooper’s pillow, Craig ran into the hardware store and purchased the BEST CAMP CHAIR EVERRRRRRRR. He paid $45 for it (normally $60 or so), but it’s worth every penny. The chair is an “anti-gravity chair,” and it’s basically the La-Z-Boy of camping. I cannot aptly express to you how comfortable this chair is for your back after a long day of driving. When you recline in the chair, your feet actually end up slightly higher than your head and torso, and it just feels really, really fabulous on the aching back and neck. I guess these chairs are pretty popular; I saw another couple at our Lake Cochiti campsite relaxing in these same chairs last night at dusk. The chair cost a lot and takes up a sizable spot in our bedroom during our travel days, but it is well worth it. In fact, the chair is so comfortable, I think I’d happily let it have a passenger seat and seatbelt on travel days if it became necessary. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to continue “sharing” the chair. I might need one of my own real soon.

My next favorite purchases during the trip have been Lysol spray (Clean Linen Scent) and Lysol-brand cleaning wipes. The 10-year-old boy, you see, is not really very good at “aiming” properly, especially when we are bouncing down the highway. Our RV bathroom was taking on the wretched aroma of a seedy gas station men’s room, which was completely unacceptable to me. And, you can bet BOTH boys got an earful from me when I realized the bathroom wall was beginning to take on a yellow hue. “It is okay to MAKE a mess, but it’s NOT OKAY to LEAVE a mess!!! CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELVES!!” The process of seat UP to wee, then seat DOWN to wash hands got a lot of air time, too, especially near the beginning of the trip. Cooper was somewhat impressed when Emmie put an exclamation point on my lecture by reciting a little rhyme I taught her a while back: “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat.”

“Where’d she learn THAT????” Cooper remarked.

So, when we stopped at Wal-mart in Santa Fe, I grabbed the aforementioned Lysol products. These cleaning products are major happy makers for me, which, if you know me, must seem entirely out of character. First of all, the wipes smell delightful. But, my favorite feature of the Lysol wipe is the textured scrubby side. When you get to scrubbing with these textured wipes, you really feel like you’re SCRUBBING. When I first got back to the RV with these little urine busters, I really went to town. I cleaned then sprayed the bathroom repeatedly for about 15 minutes and kept loudly declaring, “These WIPES are AWESOME! These WIPES are AWESOME!!!” I was in a frenzy. The spray just added to my joy because I knew I was killing 99.9 percent of germs, including e coli, you know? And, that’s a good feeling. It is.

Ice. Our next smart purchase – yes, seems obvious – was ice. We realized that it was pretty smart to go ahead and keep some beverages on ice rather than in the refrigerator. First of all, the refrigerator, while big for a camping adventure, certainly, is still small by normal standards. And, we have it fairly well stacked to the gills with food for our trip. Plus, while we’re driving, the load does tend to shift quite a bit, and it really stinks when you get shocked with a Coke-A-Lanche upon opening the refrigerator door. At one point, about 7 beverages flew out of the refrigerator at me, and one of the Cokes actually punctured and began spewing. Luckily, it was a tiny puncture, so the mess was minimal. Still, we have realized keeping some beverages in the cooler works out very well.

With our first stop in Hinton, OK, it became painfully obvious that we needed some throw rugs if we wanted to avoid bringing the red clay of Oklahoma home with us. We have throw rugs at home, and they’re on our regular camping list, so I don’t know why I didn’t bring them. Der.

Gosh, I feel like bodily functions are all I talk about! But, our next wise purchase was Campa-Chem, a product for our septic tank. Before we left, Andrew, Premier Coach’s rental guy, told me to be sure to put a little blue “pouch” in the tank after each time we “dump.” Well, I soon realized there was only one little blue pouch in the RV when we got it. DOH! So, we made it a mission to find some “poo pouches” ASAP. Thank you, Wal-mart! Wal-mart didn’t have the pouches, but they did have the same thing in a powder form – Campa-Chem. Thank goodness. After all my scrubbing, sanitizing, and deodorizing, it would have been awful to go without the blue septic “stuff,” you know? Plus, I know using plenty of this blue septic stuff is the key to avoiding an “armpit” experience. So, crisis averted.

We have now been on the road to the Grand Canyon for two hours, and it’s actually only 7:10. Yep. I just realized that when I woke up, I looked at the time on my iPod (which still thinks we’re on central time) instead of my phone. So, we actually left our campsite a little after 5:20 A.M. rather than 6:20, and we should get to the Grand Canyon by about noon according to the GPS!

Day 4 (cont’d… the afternoon report, July 20): Grand Canyon, AZ

We arrived at Grand Canyon around noon local time, which is actually Pacific Time, since Arizona does not participate in Daylight Savings Time (what’s up with THAT, anyway?).

We had been concerned that it might be difficult to get a spot at the campground we wanted, Desert View, because it only has 33 sites. But, when we pulled in, there were plenty of spots! We had our pick of really, really gorgeous campsites – this is what camping should be like. Our site has a pull-through drive, but otherwise tons and tons of trees and nice, solid, flat gravel and dirt/sand terrain. We have neighbors who are fairly close, but there are plenty of trees, like I said, to block the view. And, our neighbors were very, very quiet, which was nice.

Emmie and I tried to hike to the Canyon directly from our site, but we walked so far, I was afraid I would forget all of my landmarks and get lost. Plus, the terrain became pretty dense once we had walked a good distance. Hiking to the rim from our campsite is probably like digging to China when I was a kid… I just know I’ll find it if I keep going!

The first thing we did after we got our camp set up (including finding a flat rock and a skinny log to use for leveling the RV) was ride our bikes down to the Desert View Watchtower. This is the first Canyon viewpoint upon entering the park’s east entrance, and it’s the reason I really wanted to stay in this campground. We can ride our bikes on campground roads and get to the watchtower in less than 5 minutes.

One of our first views of the Canyon

The watchtower was very crowded (it was about 2:00 or so, I guess) – everyone who comes in the east entrance seems to stop there, and my first observation was that it was incredibly international! Hearing so many people speaking foreign languages, Emmie seriously got the impression that we had traveled to another country. She has a school friend, Annika, who speaks Chinese. At the tower, Emmie remarked, “I think Annika’s been to this place. She has been to China…” Not all of the foreign tourists were Asian, however – not by a longshot. We heard people speaking French, a Slavic language… and, of course, there were all sorts of English-speaking Americans. Craig and I discussed, afterward, the “girl with the green hair” who was looking oh-so-bored with her “normal looking” family. And, we also noticed a trend amongst European men – they seem to fancy the pedal-pusher pants.

As I said, we rode our bikes. We parked them in bike racks just off a walking path about 50

Emmie on her bike

yards up from the viewpoint and tower. After spending about 30 minutes at the viewpoint and tower, as the 4 of us walked our bikes back up the walking path to the parking area, an Asian man – perhaps about 40-45 years old – took my picture! Boy, did that feel super strange to me!!!

Why would anyone want to take MY picture???

“Why is he taking my picture?” I wondered. I took a mental inventory of my appearance, though, and I supposed I could understand. First, here I was walking my bike up the walking path with my cute little family doing the same like a row of ducks right behind me. I was sporting my blue bike helmet. That alone could explain why he wanted the picture. Helmet-wearing – especially for a 5-minute family bike ride on easy terrain – is, I am guessing, stereotypical American behavior. I was also wearing a red Adidas warm-up jacket, an olive-green skort (that looks like a skirt), and my red Keens sandals. Wearing this eclectic outfit, I figure I can understand why I might have been photo worthy… I told Craig I should have charged the guy a fee.

The watchtower, an architectural marvel designed by a female architect by the name of Coulter, was pretty cool and offered super impressive Canyon views. But, the whole tower area was very crowded – especially inside. It had narrow stairways and was quite hot. Like I said, we didn’t stay for a terribly long time.

Desert View Watchtower, a short bike ride from our camp.

Soon after we arrived back at camp, it began to rain. This wasn’t a torrential downpour by any means, but we spent the rest of the afternoon inside our RV. Here we had just arrived at the Grand Canyon, and we were cooped up inside!

This campground is gorgeous. Perfect! But, it’s the first we’ve stayed in that doesn’t have hookups for electric and water. At first, the kids – especially Emmie – didn’t understand this lack of power. She must’ve asked 12 times if she could watch a movie.

Craig and Emmie playing spoons

We all ended up having a lot of fun, though, playing games. We learned how to play Spoons, which is a goofy card game – definitely good for “kids of all ages.” The game involves being somewhat sneaky, and we all got some good belly laughs out of it.

Emmie having fun with Connect 4 x 4 chips

For dinner, we moved our canopy over the fire ring and grilled hamburgers, beans, and corn on the cob. Yummy!!! [Side note: talking about food reminds me… last night, in the middle of the night, I remembered I never revealed in the Santa Fe part of this blog what we finally ate after the exhausting Wal-mart run. Burger King! We took it back and ate it at our Lake Cochiti camp. Yeah. Random middle-of-night thought, but I hate to leave things open ended.]

More laughs in the RV...Hats and jackets...can you believe it?

Back to night 1 at G.C… After dinner, we had planned to make s’mores and then play Farkle. But, Emmie fell asleep by the fire, pre-s’mores.

Emmie fell asleep pre-s'mores

I know it was the anti-gravity chair that did her in. The chair is magical, I’m telling you. Craig, Cooper and I sat by the fire for a while, and I played my repertoire of 10 or so songs on my guitar before we called it a night.

I forgot to mention that it i

Cooper and Me

s very cool here at the Grand Canyo

n – the temp was around 70 during the day (with a good

breeze and clouds making it feel more like 60) and down to the 40’s at night. We’ve gotten out our long pants, warm jammies, and we slept with the windows closed last night.

Day 5 (Morning/July 21): Grand Canyon

Today, we are scheduled to go on a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. We are all super excited about it and hoping it doesn’t get canceled because of rain. It is about 9:10 A.M. right now, and it is a bit cloudy, but calm. It’s been raining – at times pretty steadily – off and on all morning.

Some notes/news:

  1. We have turned off all of our cell phones. Craig asked a local, yesterday, about cell service. Our research was correct that Sprint doesn’t work so great in this area except on roam. My mom and I traded our house phone for her AT&T phone, but we don’t want to turn it on too much since we don’t have a way to charge it without running the generator.
  2. This lack of service is not a big deal, other than the fact that Craig’s sisters have been texting him daily with updates on Craig’s grandma, who has continued to struggle with a fever, congestion, and an overall decline since Grandpa’s funeral last Friday.

More about Day 5 later!

Day 5 (cont’d/July 21): Grand Canyon

Wow. What a day.

First of all, very shortly after I finished writing the above diary entry, we learned that Craig’s grandmother died at 10:15 P.M. on Tuesday, July 20. We are amazed that she passed away exactly one week after her husband. Of course, we are sad. Grandma was a wonderful woman. In many ways, she has been the grandma I never had – such a special lady. I have thought of her so often on this trip as we have been sleeping nightly under 2 of the 100’s of quilts that she so painstakingly made. Craig’s grandma, Mary Jo, always, always had a story for us. Her favorite stories were about friends she had made and adventures she and Carl had had over the years when they traveled all over the U.S. with their Airstream trailer.

I have also always thought of Mary Jo as a person of immense perseverance and determination. In her early 20’s, she packed up her two baby boys in a car and left an alcoholic husband and a bad marriage in California, and came back home to Missouri. Some time soon thereafter, she met Carl, and the two were married for 61 years. The two endured the deaths of both sons – a pain I cannot fathom as a parent.

Carl loved sweets, and Mary Jo made pies. And cookies. I always wanted a grandma who baked cookies, made quilts and told old stories over and over. What a blessing she was in my life and in the lives of all of her loved ones. We will miss her, but we are so grateful and amazed that she joined her husband in the Ever-after so soon after his passing. It brings me great warmth to imagine them meeting up again in Heaven with fresh, healed pain-free bodies. I hope they are smiling down at us as we continue our vacation adventure – one that is so, so similar to the ones they themselves enjoyed over the years.

After we spoke with Cathy (we actually ended up using my Sprint phone to call her), and learned that the funeral was scheduled for Sunday, we knew we could and should continue with our trip.

We drove to Tusayan and took our helicopter tour. The weather turned out to be absolutely perfect, and the helicopter tour of the Canyon definitely met our expectations, and will likely be remembered, by all of us, as the highlight of the trip.

Getting ready...

Craig got to sit up front right next to the pilot and likened the experience of flying over the edge of the Canyon to that of swimming over the edge of a wall while scuba diving.

Craig is co-pilot

The experience is amazing – your equilibrium tells you, as you cross over the edge, that you are going to falllllllll. And, it takes a few seconds before your body adjusts to the idea that you aren’t falling. The rest of us  — Cooper, Emmie, a Swedish woman and her daughter, and I – were seated in the 2 back rows of the helicopter. Cooper and the Swedish mom were rear facing, and Swedish daughter, Emmie and I were forward facing. Emmie was extremely relieved that she got to sit right by me. When we got our seat tickets – numbers 2 and 4 – Emmie was terribly worried that she wouldn’t be next to me, and she expressed a great deal of trepidation.

Many of my friends know that I am afraid of flying. What you may not know or understand is that I am not really afraid of air travel, I am simply afraid that the pilot or other airline employees will make a deadly mistake. This is a control issue for me. I have a difficult time trusting that folks will do what they are supposed to do without error. So, in situations where I am able to fly in situations where I can see and hear the pilot, I am completely fine. Therefore, I was not at all afraid to fly in the helicopter. It was an absolutely wonderful

We were all so happy and excited!

experience, and I most definitely feel like it was worth every penny I invested in it. The only issue – a minor one – was more of a “motion” thing. The helicopter bounced around quite a bit, giving the same sensation as riding an elevator or maybe the teacups at an amusement park. For the first part of the ride, Emmie and I were definitely feeling the effects in our tummies. I forced myself to relax, look at the horizon, and take lots of long, deep slow breaths, and I counseled Emmie to do the same. Once we were actually over the Canyon, the bouncing really seemed to subside. I don’t know if that was real or imagined. Maybe our brains were too busy taking in the breathtaking sites to

Flying over the edge...

worry about the motion!?!? Orchestra music played in our headphones as long as the pilot wasn’t speaking, and as we flew over the edge of the Canyon for the first time, they played the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Hilarious.

: D

Both kids got real sleepy as we flew back to the airport. I figure it was the let-down following a pretty decent adrenaline rush. Plus, with the altitude, and the fatigue from many days of travel, their sleepiness is not surprising. Emmie actually fell asleep right before we landed.

After our flight, we were pretty jazzed up, and we couldn’t resist investing in some souvenirs, LOL! Our purchases will undoubtedly fund a semester of college for the son or daughter of the owner of Papillon Helicopter Tours.

When we left the airport, we were all starving, and we grabbed lunch at – unfortunately – this nasty Mexican restaurant in the Grand Canyon Village called Sophie’s. I am not super picky, but it was just NOT good. The salsa tasted a bit moldy aside from its complete lack of flavor. My burrito was inedible! I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Bleh. Sophie’s. Don’t go there.

We went to Grand Canyon Village after lunch to hear a ranger talk about the California Condor, which was certainly educational and eye-opening. They told all about the history of the near-extinction of the Condor, and its careful reintroduction through breeding in

We learned all Condors are numbered, and you can see this is #46. Wow!

captivity. At one point, the Condor population got down to fewer than 10 birds. There are now 73 Condors in Arizona and southern Utah. The best thing we learned through the talk was how to identify the Condor as compared to the Turkey Vulture, Raven, and Crow. Afterward, we even saw several Condors as we hiked the south rim trail near Bright Angel Lodge.

We also felt it was mandatory that we stop at “Hopihouse,” and we did a little shopping there. I always half-joke with Craig that the Hopis are “his people,” although he always tells me his Native American ancestors were Blackfoot Indians.

We alternately walked the trails and shopped for several hours and had a nice time. The weather was sunny and warm, but not stifling hot by any means. Very pleasant!

"Okay. Let's go."

On our drive back to camp, we saw lots and lots of elk near the road, and we stopped at several viewpoints along the way to look and take pictures. Carrying on the tradition of Grand Canyon tourists through the ages, Craig and I never got tired of stopping and looking at the Canyon, but, as the day wore on, the kids began to grow weary. They would hop out of the RV, jog up to the rim, peek out for about 2 seconds, then exclaim, “Okay. Let’s go.”

There were also countless times that I had “near heart attacks” induced by my childrens’ precarious and reckless jogging, climbing, sliding, tripping, etc., etc. too close to the edge of the Canyon.

Another near heart attack, I'm sure...

Craig tells me I am a “freak,” but I always tell him God graced mothers with an instinct to protect their young, something fathers simply don’t have the capacity to understand.

Definitely one of the best days ever.

When we got back to our camp, we got the RV situated and leveled again, then hopped on our bikes and headed back to the Desert View Watchtower for our final ranger talk of the day. This was a sunset program led by a seasonal ranger who was completing a college internship and was not nearly as interesting as the one about the Condors. The best part was watching the sunset after the talk. It was stunningly beautiful.

Stunning

The last sunset I recall enjoying so much was in Grand Cayman, and my mind drifted back to Seven Mile Beach as I watched. I somehow felt “connected” to the people sitting on the white beach watching the same sunset at that same moment. Or, maybe I felt connected to the “me” who had enjoyed that sunset a few years back…

It’s funny, though, how kids just don’t have the same appreciation. With Cooper asking and asking, “Can we go now? Can we go now?” about 10 minutes before the actual sunset, I was annoyed at the distraction from God’s spectacular gift of a light show. But, still, I felt a connection to the “me” who had my face stuck in a romance novel called Satin Surrender on a trip through Yellowstone with my parents when I was a teenager. The tradition continues, and I have faith that my kids will find and appreciate their own sunsets when the time is right.

We rode back to camp and had a quick meal of hot dogs and

Cooper and Emmie roasting hot dogs back at camp

chips. It was a long, full day, and the bed felt incredible when we finally retired for the night.

Day 6 (July 22): Last day Grand Canyon, then a drive to Mesa Verde, CO

After spending one final, pleasant night at the Desert View Campground, we packed up at a leisurely pace and headed back to the Grand Canyon Village. We had planned to take a Fossil Walk with a Park Ranger at 9:00 A.M. near Bright Angel Lodge; since we awaken so early, getting there by 9:00 was no problem at all. (It is a challenge, with the two-hour time difference, to force oneself to stay in bed past 5:00 A.M., and, as I write this, it is barely 5:00 Colorado time, I have drunk my first cup of coffee, and I am waiting for the rest of the family to wake up!)

On our drive to Grand Canyon Village from Desert View, we stopped a couple of times to check out viewpoints we had not yet seen. Our favorite was when Craig spotted a rainbow in the northwest sky, and we stopped immediately at a viewpoint to get an amazing view and took some excellent photos. I have to say that seeing a rainbow over the Grand Canyon makes me feel pretty special! How many people get to see something like that in their lifetimes? And, what are the chances I will ever see it again? Emmie, having just been through our church’s Vacation Bible School last week, where kids were encouraged to take note of God’s work in their daily lives, declared, on our walk back to the RV, “Mom! That [rainbow] was a God Sighting!!!” Smile. Yes, honey, it sure was.

The Fossil Walk took us a new direction along the South Rim Trail. The walk was pleasant in the early morning sun, and the Park Ranger, a young, 4-year veteran named Nicole, did an excellent job. She was very pleasant, spoke in a nice, loud, clear voice so everyone could hear, and clearly just loved her job and the subject matter. You can really tell that the rangers have a couple of important goals in mind as they do these educational talks. At all 3 of the talks we heard, there were several common elements that were touched upon:

Fossil Walk with Park Ranger Nicole

  1. This is YOUR National Park paid for with YOUR money. Take care of it for generations to come.
  2. Education, particularly with children in mind. A concerted effort was made at all of the talks to get children involved in the presentation as “volunteers.” At the Fossil Walk Talk, a group of kids helped Nicole demonstrate the process of death+immediate burial+erosion/weathering that leads to the creation of a fossil. The kids’ participation in the talk made a real impression on Emmie; she has mentioned several times how funny it was that the ranger let the kids “hold that water in their hands” and then dump it on the “fossil” they were “making.”
  3. Safety and especially respect for the wild animals and the importance of NOT feeding them.

Park Ranger Nicole labeled these fossils

The walk along the rim to the west of Bright Angel Lodge was, of course, beautiful. Craig and the kids were fascinated with the fossils, but the crowd around Nicole was pretty dense, so I “sneaked” off across the trail and found this incredible spot where I could sit right at the edge of the Canyon.

One of my most memorable views of the Canyon

From my viewpoint, I could see the Bright Angel Trail for miles and miles as it wound its way down the Canyon. I could see lots and lots of hikers making their way down, and I just missed the group of mules that left at about the same time we started our Fossil Walk.

Having gotten their “fill” of fossils, Craig and the kids came over and joined me. I had the

A steeeeep drop off overlooking the Bright Angel Trail

kids make their way out to me very slowly (the place where I was sitting was flat and relatively “safe” terrain, but it was a cliff – there was a steep, steep drop-off directly below). Emmie sat on my lap, and, at that point, she felt safe and enjoyed the view for several minutes with me. Cooper, on the other hand, sat right next to me (I grabbed his arm or torso or whatever body part I could ensnare), and really didn’t like being so close to the edge for very long. He got up after just a moment, and then made a couple of weak attempts to get Emmie and I to move back to “safety” with him. I really did not feel at all unsafe in this spot. I was sitting down, and, as I said, the terrain of the cliff we were on was totally flat and easy to walk on.

I used to have intense dreams or nightmares after a day at the lake with my kids. The

I promise it felt safe during waking hours...

nightmares were always relating to the kids not wearing their life-jackets and falling in the water and so forth. I always felt exhausted by these dreams because, during the day when we were actually swimming at the lake, I felt perfectly safe and knew the kids had on the appropriate life-jackets, etc. Well, last night in the middle of the night, I had similar “nightmares” about that spot on the cliff. The nightmares, which are hard to explain, basically screamed at me: “What were you THINKING putting your BABIES in peril like that??????????” But, as I write this, I tell you. We were safe. It’s funny how the mind works.

We “toodled around” a little bit after our Fossil Walk, heading back to the east and toward the bustling Grand Canyon Village area (Bright Angel Lodge, Hopihouse, The El Tovar Hotel, etc.). I was getting the tiniest bit anxious about hitting the road in a timely fashion – we need to be home by Saturday night, and I don’t want to get exhausted with any drives of more than 6 to 8 hours. But, I could tell Craig was moving at a super leisurely pace. We were all enjoying ourselves, and none of us was in a hurry to leave Grand Canyon. It was only about 10:15 A.M., but, as I said, we had been up for hours. Everyone was hungry (to us, it was 12:15 and time for lunch), so we decided to treat ourselves to a “last hurrah” by eating at the ultra-fancy El Tovar Hotel Restaurant. They were still serving breakfast, and the hostess sort of gave us the impression that they were “closing” at 10:45 for lunch, so we almost turned away. But, having been a server myself many years ago, I know the restaurant never really closes. I said to Craig, “I don’t care if it’s breakfast food. I’m hungry. Let’s eat!” And, he readily agreed.

We had the BEST “breakfast” there. Oh, yummy, yummy, yummy. If you ever go to Grand Canyon, you should do yourself the favor of having one great meal at the El Tovar. White table cloths, cloth napkins, china plates – I had to give the kids the this-place-is-real-fancy-use-your-best-manners lecture.

Mmmm... Eggs Benedict

I had the Eggs Benedict – my favorite breakfast – which were excellent. Craig had banana bread pancakes, which were absolutely sinful. He half-heartedly complained that he would never be able to finish all this rich food, but when I saw his plate after the meal… let’s just say we didn’t need a to go box!

Craig's Banana Bread Pancakes

The kids basically ordered ala carte and had their favorites. Emmie had scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. Cooper had pancakes, a fried egg, and bacon. Emmie didn’t like her bacon too much for some reason, so Cooper scored some extra bacon. [That reminds me… Cooper seems to have a tapeworm on this trip. He is STARVING much of the time, and my guess is that he is having a real growth spurt. I have to say it is so fun to watch! Even as Cooper is amidst his own meal, he is constantly taking inventory of Emmie’s plate and trying to talk her out of her food. We are constantly giving him reminders that he needs to eat his own food and let Emmie finish eating before he tries to talk her out of her food. I also very much enjoy pondering how this behavior of his is instinctual to a certain degree, and what it would have meant eons ago in cave-man times, or whatever.

Cooper seems to have a tapeworm

Fascinating. I remember when my three brothers were teenagers, and they had seemingly insatiable appetites. My mom used to have to hide certain foods so they wouldn’t ruin meal plans. And, when we had “treat” foods, like Ho-Ho’s or Crunch Berries, or whatever, it was not altogether unheard of that one of the boys might scurry off to his bedroom to hoard it and keep it away from the other kids. Okay… I am off on a tangent…]

After breakfast, we slowly made our way back to the RV and hit the road. Craig and I had

Time to Head Back Home...

been pondering a different route home, and we decided to head north to Colorado. We decided to try to stay as far south as we could in Colorado for a couple of reasons:

  1. We wanted to stay in the lower elevations, which would be faster and would certainly save us on mileage and gas money.
  2. We want to avoid as much of “boring Kansas” as possible.

Since we don’t have a “Camp Book” for Colorado (we didn’t really plan on traveling this way), we are flying blind just a little bit. We agreed the best plan would be to stick to State or National Parks, so we headed for Mesa Verde.

We arrived in Mesa Verde around 6:30 P.M. At first, we followed the sign, just off the highway, that directed us to “camping.” The camping sign actually took us in the opposite direction of the National Park, so we were definitely a bit puzzled. The camping signs took us to the tackiest RV Park I have ever, ever, EVER seen!!!! LOLOLOL This place was skuzzy. It was this dilapidated old farm, or something, and the first thing you noticed when you pulled in the gravel drive was just crusty old everything. There was this putt-putt course… nothing but putting greens and black DIRT in what might have been an animal pen at some point. When you drove past that, you saw some kids swimming in a tiny in-ground pool. Right next to that was an above-ground hot tub. The whole time we were driving through, I was somewhat mockingly “freaking out,” saying, “Ohmigosh. We are SO not staying here!”

All the while, Emmie, who had spotted the pool, was begging: “Can we stay here? Pleeeeaaaaaaase?????”

“Ohmigosh. Ohmigosh. No. Mommy would not stay here for TWO MINUTES!!!!!” I exclaimed as we headed out.

We were afraid that Mesa Verde didn’t offer National Park-type camping, but I had Craig head toward the park to find out for sure. Thankfully, Mesa Verde National Park DOES offer camping [huge sigh of relief]. Unfortunately, their 15 sites with full hookups were full.

Since it is plenty cool – even cold – here, we certainly didn’t need the A/C. But, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be getting my hair washed right away. The campground does have showers, but I was hoping to luxuriate in the comfort of my own RV. No such luck, and I would have to wait until morning. I do believe this is the absolute longest I have gone without washing my hair. The last time I washed my hair was in Santa Fe, the morning we went to the Plaza. I believe that was Monday, and it is now Friday morning. (We have all taken “spit baths,” of course, over the past few days, which involve using a bowl full of warm soapy water to bathe in our RV shower and using the shower head only for the final rinse. This works pretty well, but we girls haven’t been able to wash our hair – it would involve WAY too much rinsing.)

As I speak, Craig has awakened (it’s really Day 7, now), and we are driving to the showers here at Mesa Verde! Yahoo!!! I can’t wait to have clean hair again. And, well, clean pits. That will be nice, also.

I have been up for at least an hour while everyone else slept, and I was able to formulate a tentative plan for today’s “adventure.”

First, I want to go at 8:30 A.M. and visit one of Mesa Verde’s many cliff dwellings. These are the homes of Ancient Puebloans, and I just can’t leave this park without seeing them. I think this may have been a place we visited when I was about 12 and with my parents on my first-ever motor home trip. (Mom and Dad will have to confirm that – maybe there are lots of other places with Ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings…)

Then, I think our best bet will be to head for El Dorado, KS. The Tour Book I have says they have camping and horseback riding there. I would love to go horseback riding as one final family “adventure” for our trip. We’ll see. I’m not sure how Craig Hope feels about horseback riding!

Day 7 (July 23): Mesa Verde, CO to Dodge City, KS

After what was most definitely the best camp shower of all time (the shower facilities at Mesa Verde were WONDERFUL), we drove the twisty windy roads of Mesa Verde, experiencing several single-lane construction delays along the way, and headed toward the Ancient Puebloan Cliff Dwellings at Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde.

Reaching the dwellings involved a good but comfortable hike; it was about 9 to 10 A.M. and just starting to get warm.

Ancient Puebloan Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde, CO

The ruins were really fascinating. I wish there was some way we could spend a night there! It would be so cool to get a real feel for how these ancient people lived. Their construction seems so sophisticated; you can tell a great deal of creativity and thought went into the design of the village. The best parts, for me, were the underground “kiva” (a room used for social and ceremonial gatherings), and a built-in grain grinding “station” where 3 women could work side-by-side to grind grain. (I read that this grinding between limestone did result in stone fragments getting into the grain. As a result, the Puebloans were known to have terrible tooth pain and problems. Ouch.)

Not surprisingly, the walk back up to the top of the hill was MUCH more challenging. The

The walk back up was challenging... "Break time!"

elevation there was about 7,000 feet, and we all got sweaty and were breathing pretty heavily. The path has several benches along the way where you can take breaks, and we took advantage – especially Emmie who happily announced “Break time!” each time she spotted another bench.

I am glad we took the time to see the ruins, but we didn’t get back on the road until nearly noon.

Craig took the wheel, and I fell asleep almost immediately. When I woke up, Craig was navigating the Wolf Creek Pass, south of Colorado Springs, which took us on another “twisty windy” course, this time at 14,000 feet. Whew. The RV was more jiggly than ever, and we heard a constant clamor from our pots and pans. And, of course, it was raining to boot. Therefore, you know…I figured it was time to make sandwiches!!!

With Cooper’s help (he would hold things in place on the table while I made jaunts back to the kitchen and fridge for various supplies and ingredients), I made a PB&J for Emmie, and ham & cheese for Cooper, and leftover cold hamburgers for Craig and me. Poor Craig had to wait for less-sporty terrain to eat his sandwich, though.

Because we didn’t leave Mesa Verde until noon, Craig and I had not formally decided on a final destination for our travel day, opting instead to “play it by ear” and see how far we could get. Our main goal was to make it at least to the Kansas State Line, then, if we still felt up to driving, continue on as far as we could. Our hope was that by driving further into Kansas, our last day of driving would be far less challenging.

The route we decided to take from Colorado to Kansas turned out to be just absolutely optimum. As I said before, our goals were to stay well to the south of Colorado’s highest elevations, and to try and avoid a boring and tedious drive across Kansas. In Colorado, we took U.S.160 to Walsenburg, then Colorado 10 to La Junta, and then U.S. 50/400 which will eventually take us all the way to Wichita.

I began driving again in Walsenburg, and the driving was so easy that I kept declaring my love for Highway 10, and then for Highway 50. The driving was super easy because even though it was just two-lane highway, there were very few travelers on the road, and it was extremely well-maintained, smooth pavement.

We stopped to stretch our legs and eat dinner at a truck stop in Las Animas, Colorado. At dinner, Craig and I agreed we felt fresh enough that we could continue driving for several more hours – possibly all the way to Garden City or even Wichita. We told the kids that they would need to get their pj’s on just before sunset, and that they would be going to sleep while we were still driving. Emmie expressed concern that we would fall asleep while driving (she is SO my daughter), and I assured her that I would stay awake the whole time her dad was driving, and I would be sure to entertain him and keep him awake.

We reached the Kansas State Line and still felt like driving. Just as it got dark, though (perhaps 40 miles outside of Garden City), it started raining. I told Craig that if it was still raining when we reached Garden City, we should go ahead and stop for the night.

Well, the rain had slowed nearly to a stop, but we decided to look for a campground in Garden City anyway. The kids were finally sound asleep, and we were beginning to get a bit tired. We used the GPS to locate a campground, “RJ’s Campground.” The problem was that the GPS directed us to a Garden City suburban neighborhood! We figure it was RJ’s private residence. Weird. I imagine the people on that street probably wonder why they get so much RV traffic…

We decided, of course, to continue on toward Dodge City, which was about an hour up the road. On the way out of Garden City, we spotted the “real” RJ’s Campground. It was kinda “yucky” and rather deserted, so we forged ahead.

By the time we got to Dodge City, I know I was getting pretty darned sleepy. I felt like failure was not an option and was willing to stay just about anywhere. Dodge City offered two campground options (again, we were using the GPS): they were the “Gunsmoke Campground” or the “Watersports RV Campground and Recreations.” I gave Craig the 2 choices, and he chose “Watersports.”

“Watersports” was essentially an RV parking lot. But, as I said, we really didn’t care

Waking up amongst the "sardines" in a Dodge City RV Park.

at that point. We slid the RV in a spot amongst the “sardines,” and plugged ‘er in. Even though we were exhausted, Craig and I both got our iPods out and fooled around on Facebook and played “Words with Friends” for a little bit before officially hitting the hay. We probably stayed up an extra hour nursing our Internet addiction.

Day 8 (July 24): Dodge City, KS to Lee’s Summit, MO (home!)

When I woke up at 7:20, I heard a tap-tap-tapppping coming from the front of the RV. When I sat up and put on my glasses, I saw that Cooper had discovered we were “plugged in,” and he was lying down in the bed above the cab, quietly enjoying a videogame on the Game Cube. Emmie joined him as soon as she woke up, and I

Cooper began playing Game Cube while everyone else still slept.

had to talk them into stopping to eat breakfast before we hit the road. Emmie actually told me she would like to skip breakfast so she could keep playing videogames, “…because once we leave we won’t be able to play.”

We all had a bite to eat, loaded up, and were on the road by about 9:00 A.M. The GPS says we will be home around 2:40 P.M., not accounting for any stops, of course.

I could definitely see traveling by RV again in the future. The best parts of RV travel are not having to stop for potty breaks or meals, and – especially – not having to “set up camp” when you arrive at a destination. I can see why so many retired couples choose an RV lifestyle; it’s a terrific way to travel in comfort and see the country. Doing so at a more leisurely pace (without the stress of having to be back by a certain day), would be a real treat.

A woman at a gas station near the Grand Canyon asked me about the RV the other day. She was shocked to hear that it sleeps up to 7: two kids above the cab, two in the couch bed, one in the kitchenette bed, and two in the master bedroom. And, she was fascinated to hear about driving the RV. I told her that the hardest thing I did was navigate my way home from Premier Coach through downtown Kansas City right after we picked it up. After that, just driving it for a few minutes on the open highway, I was able to get used to the size and feel of everything in a hurry.

The best advice I got for driving was my dad telling me to use my mirrors to check my placement within the driving lane. I know that, for many, this sort of thing may be intuitive, but I would not have thought to check (or believed the “accuracy” of what I was seeing in the mirror) if he hadn’t mentioned it. Checking for the center line and outside line helped me gain confidence in a hurry. It was also helpful for me to travel, some, behind 18 wheelers. I noticed that they moved over to the right a bit as another big rig passed. Doing this lessened the vortex effect a little bit. I also regularly reminded myself not to get in a hurry – if someone behind was impatient, they would get an opportunity to pass me soon enough.

I told Craig today that this trip has been a great success. We traveled through 7 states in 8 days, and we made a lot of memories to last a lifetime. The Grand Canyon was well worth the expense, miles, and hours of driving; the enormity and beauty of the canyon meant a lot more to me as an adult than it did when I was young.

I keep thinking about the rainbows – we have seen at least 3 on this trip, including the absolutely perfect one we saw over the Canyon on our last morning. Call me an idealist or a romantic – call me what you will — but I believe in signs. They are around us all the time, and it is our burden (or choice) to see them.  I keep thinking of Craig’s grandparents in heaven and remembering that the rainbow was God’s signal to Noah that everything was okay. I believe everything is okay.

The loss of Craig’s grandparents at this time has been surreal, but I feel somehow close and connected to them because I know RV-ing around the country was one of their very favorite things to do. We very much look forward to carrying on this legacy again in the future.

2 thoughts on “Grand Canyon Adventure, Summer 2010

  1. im so glad you guys had a good trip, its great to hear. its always nice to know that what you do can help in someone elses experience. you were great renters and will always be on our preferred list. thanks again

    Andrew

    P.S. sorry about the tiolet chemical shortage.

  2. This was excellent to read! I’m even more convinced than ever that this trip to the Grand Canyon will be a better opportunity to have more meaningful and lasting memories with our kids rather than the cruise we thought we’d take. As we are feeling the pinch of time (Sean goes to college next fall) the togetherness is sweeter than ever!

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