Saturday, August 26, 2006


Back Home, New Photos

We made it back home tonight after a full day's drive. Once we got going, it was pretty uneventful. Everyone was glad to be back home.

When we talked about getting the RV unpacked, Denise made it clear that she did not want to start unpacking the RV the moment we got home. She wanted to wait until tomorrow, Sunday, and just enjoy our first night back.

So, of course, as soon as we got back, she wanted to get it unpacked right away! We unpacked quite a bit, went out for Chinese food, and then came home and almost finished unpacking. We have about 5-10% left to go tomorrow, and then need to clean it before we bring it back. I'm glad we did a lot of the unpacking because it will make tomorrow easier.

I uploaded the last of Ben's photos, from the Cincinnat Zoo and from Gettysburg. Ben and I had fun walking around Gettysburg. He was really interested in what life was like for the soldiers and in how the battle turned the tide for the Union army. I had been there a few years ago and saw the place in detail, so I was happy to just show Ben the highlights. We spent about 3 hours looking around, which gives you a good overview. If you really want to get into the details, you can spend 1 - 1 1/2 days there.

Thanks for reading our blog during the trip and for all your comments and feedback. We may have one or two more wrap-up posts before we're done, but having a chance to write about the trip along the way helped motivate us to capture our thoughts and pictures, as well as saved us the trouble of sending a lot of postcards!


Day 27 - Gettysburg, PA to Bedford, MA (Saturday)

Today is our 17th wedding anniversary and our gift to each other is that we're
going home. Most of us are up at 6:30am getting ready to go (guess who's
still asleep?). There's a pancake breakfast at 7:30 and from there we're
going to drop off the rental car and head out of town. Everything goes well
until Ben and I arrive at the gas station in the rental car around 8:30. We'd
like to have the car back at Enterprise before they open at 9 or they'll
charge us for the day but I can't figure out how to open the gas tank. I
feel like a complete moron but I just can't do it so I call Mike and we
agree to meet at Enterprise where he'll try to do it. You can imagine what
he's thinking at this point. I head off to Enterprise and drive directly
past it and have to call again to ask Mike where it is and by the time I get
there it's 8:53. Mike takes a quick look and can't figure out how to open
the gas tank either so we give up and go inside to sheepishly tell the woman
who's just opened the office that we didn't refuel. She comes out and
points to the gas tank lever which is on the floor next to the driver's seat
(duh!) and charges us for an extra day but not for the gas (Idiot's Rebate,
I guess). Shrugging it off we get into the RV and head for home. I'm
driving first and unbelievably I go the wrong way back into Gettysburg. I
realize it eventually and try to turn around surreptitiously (to the
passengers anyway) but Mike notices. To his credit he does not make fun of
me or criticize but I can tell he's impressed with what a complete fog I
seem to be in this morning.

Fog is the order of the day because for the next three hours I drive through
incredibly thick fog and intermittent rain. This is the first time I've
seen "Fog Area" signs and actual fog at the same time. It isn't until we're
near the Pennsylvania/New York border that the weather clears up. Here the
landscape is much like that of New England and the familiarity is both
comforting and exciting. The roads are terrible, so bumpy that it's
difficult to do anything but listen to an iPod or watch TV (trying to type
is quite an experience). Mike and I switch off around 12:30 after a quick
stop for gas and lunch. Soon after that we're in Connecticut which borders
Massachusetts which is thrilling, and how often can you say that going to
Connecticut is thrilling?? The kids are slowly going crazy; I think they're
beyond excited about this last leg of the trip and they don't have much room
to jump around. They actually tried to play hide-and-seek in the RV. Now
they're bugging me every five minutes so this will have to be my last blog
post of the trip but not the last writing I'm going to do about it. This
has been an incredible journey and I haven't quite absorbed it all yet. To
those of you who've been reading the blog, thanks! I hope some of you are
inspired to travel or at the very least to spend some quality time in a
small space with your family. It'll grow you!


Day 26 - Gettysburg, PA (Friday)

It's our last day of fun because tomorrow we're driving 460 miles home.
Mike wants to go to Gettysburg, and Ben decides to join him. Given the
choice between learning about the Battle of Gettysburg and then going to see
all the hills and rocks I just learned about, I decide to stay home and
clean the RV instead. Sam opts to join me. We empty out the fridge, clean
the dishes, bathroom, and kitchen, make all the beds, and put everything
away. By lunchtime we're done, and after a sandwich we take a short hike on
a wooded nature trail that meanders around the mountain behind the
campground. A checkerboard table catches our attention on the way back and
we stop to play a game. Toward the end of the afternoon Ben and Mike
return; they enjoyed what they saw of Gettysburg (the visitor center and
four battle sites) and tell us a bit about it. One of the worst battles is
the rush on Pickett's Field where 12,000 men were sent three quarters of a
mile across an open field into cannon fire; 5,000 were dead, wounded, or
missing before they retreated. I don't think it matters what side.

So naturally we go to Colonel Pickett's Buffet Restaurant for dinner. We're
eating some pretty tasty food and discussing the futility and tragedy of war
when Ben yells out "I blame Sam!" because he enjoys blaming everything from
running out of milk to a change in the weather on Sam. And as he yells this
he accidentally smacks his very large glass of milk, the contents of which
fly into my face, my hair, my shirt and my lap, with a significant portion
of it dripping off the table into my right sneaker. After wiping the milk
out of my stinging eye I get up without a word and go into the bathroom
where I wipe off my arm and leg and try to blot my clothes. I don't want to
return to the table until all evidence of the spill is gone. Luckily the
waiter is very attentive and cleans it all up, removing my ruined salad and
replacing Ben's milk immediately. Ben is wisely extremely apologetic and
Mike and Sam courteously try not to laugh, although they tell me the table
next to us got a huge kick out of the incident and when I return to the
table the man next to me says "Isn't that what moms are for?" "Getting
dumped on?" I ask.

A few sips of a "Mike-a-Rita" (a margarita made with Mike's Hard Lemonade)
later I've almost forgotten about the spill except that my right foot is
soggy. After dinner we're all looking forward to playing the lower course
at Mulligan MacDuffer's Adventure Golf. This "Loch Ness" course is easier
than their "Highlander" course we did yesterday but it's still quite
difficult. Luckily for me and the kids it turns out we're playing
Mike-a-Rita Golf because Mike consumed much more of his drink than I did and
is not shooting well at all. Ben starts saying "Dad's drunk" and I am
laughing at each missed putt. It's not a pretty sight and our ridicule does
not sober him up; he comes in third behind Sam who got the maximum par on
most of the holes. When I want to guarantee a Scrabble win against my
mother I give her a glass of wine before we play. The kids and I decide
that from now on we'll give Mike an alcoholic beverage as a handicap before
he plays mini golf.

When we get back to the RV Sam has a very bad headache and goes to sleep
radically early (9:30pm) so Ben, Mike and I watch The Daily Show (Rob
Corddry's last show, and he will be missed) and then get to bed early as
well. We have another Early Start tomorrow followed by a Long Drive but we
don't care because we will be Home in our Own Beds in our Own House by the
end of the day. Tonight is our Last Night in the RV and I am so happy about
that. Ben says this trip has made him appreciate the way we live. Boy
howdy has it.

Friday, August 25, 2006


Day 25 - Rising Sun, IN to Gettysburg, PA (Thursday)

We get another Early Start. Mike is a big fan and the only motivator of the
Early Start. The rest of us are Giant Grumps who hate to get up early and
moan and whine for a good hour or two. Of course we're happy when we arrive
at the campground before dinner rather than at bedtime, but when you're
repeatedly awakened to a nasty cell phone ring at 6am on your vacation you
can't be expected to smile about it. Can you? This morning is no different
but by 8:15 we've dropped off the rental car and are twenty minutes into our
trip. The rest of Ohio is farmland, mostly flat but getting hillier as we
near West Virginia. It's all corn, corn, corn. Tie it in a pretty bow with
corn syrup in the food supply and obesity. The downsides of civilization:
65mph speed limits, state police every third exit stopping speeders (not me,
of course), lots of vehicles on the road. Upsides: rest areas, lots of gas
stations, the option of healthy food (note I said 'option').

It's hard for us to believe that we only have a few days left until we're
home. Being gone for this long we feel like we've been gone forever and yet
we're also surprised we'll be home so soon. I'll be extremely happy to have
a washing machine and dryer, my own kitchen, and a toilet I don't have to
empty myself (or, to be totally accurate, that Mike has to empty). Our bed
in the RV is so small that Mike's feet hang off the edge which amuses me
when I wake up in the middle of the night from one of the kids rolling over
and making the whole RV sway. And the RV itself is so small that you just
can't make a mess, something the kids and I have been struggling with, and
Mike has been reveling in, since we left. When we get home I will create
piles of junk everywhere and gaze at them lovingly.

The last sixty miles of driving is up and down the curved mountain roads of
western Pennsylvania. Mike is observing the speed limit which is set for
cars not for large RVs and the drawers are flinging open at regular
intervals, not to mention Sam is getting motion sick. Finally to the
passengers' great relief we get stuck behind an eighteen-wheeler doing about
25mph. Finally the road evens out and we get to Gettysburg by 5:30pm, which
is great given the slow speed limits and extra-long stops we took today.
Unfortunately there's a long line at Enterprise and only one extra-chatty
woman working so it takes us a long time to get the rental car, then we get
lost on the way to the RV park, so we're not heading out to dinner until
7pm. Everyone's hungry and cranky but we find the restaurant, the
Farnsworth House Inn, without a problem. The Farnsworth is one of the few
Civil War inns still standing. One of its walls holds 100 bullet holes from
the Battle of Gettysburg, it was named after a general (don't ask me which
side), and it still offers items such as peanut soup and game pie. You can
imagine the kids' delight, although they managed to find something to eat.

Afterwards we try out a mini-golf place we saw when we were lost, Mulligan
McDuffer's Adventure Golf. The landscaping is beautiful and some careful
thought has obviously gone into the plant combinations (Tree Geek!), but it
is by far the hardest course we've ever seen with steep inclines, ditches,
and boulders everywhere. One hole is situated midway down a hill between
two good-sized rocks. Mike and I each take the maximum of six putts
although neither of us succeeds in sinking the ball; the kids each get a
hole in one. We return to the RV around 10:30 and really want to watch The
Daily Show and The Colbert Report so none of us gets to bed until almost
midnight. The Colbert Report is so funny that Ben is gasping with laughter;
this is an improvement over last week when Colbert made a joke about raising
kids and Ben actually spewed water all over the place. Now he's only
allowed liquids during commercial breaks.


Day 24 - Rising Sun, IN (Wednesday)

We all wake up around the same time and decide it would be fun to go to a
nearby diner for breakfast. (We have pretty much stopped cooking in the RV
except for breakfast for three reasons: we are on the road quite often, we
are extremely tired of eating the same four things all the time, and I am
just tired of cooking. Although I get help I'm still doing most of the
meal-planning and grocery lists. Also I miss my well-equipped
kitchen.) As we leave the RV we're confronted with fog so thick you can't
see more than a tenth of a mile in front of you, not even headlights. It's
quite an experience driving to the diner. The people in the diner, mostly
local farmer types, look at us like we're from Mars but the breakfast is
simple and tasty. By the time we leave the fog has burned off and it's
another beautiful day.

We're spending another day in Cincinnati and first we go to the National
Underground Railroad Freedom Center. This is an amazing museum which just
opened a few years ago and whose content is easily guessed from its name.
It has a great deal of information, movies, a slave house moved intact from
Kentucky, art, and interactive exhibits all dealing with slavery from Africa
to the Emancipation Proclamation. In the 1800's the Ohio River was the
border between Free and Slave States and many of the "conductors" on the
Underground Railroad lived in Ohio near the river so this is the right place
for the Center. It's a wonderful place to visit, very well-done and very
moving, a must-see for anyone, really. One thing I'd never really grasped
before is how much the entire nation profited from slavery, even the Free
States. Cotton was a huge economy and there were many businesses such as
transportation and clothing that profited indirectly. The Center is one of
those places where you walk through just shaking your head, in dismay, in
disbelief, in disgust, and then your eyes water up.

Moving on.... Next we go to the Museum Center which is comprised of three
museums and the one we want to see is the Natural History and Science
museum. We don't have much time (we spent way longer than expected at the
Freedom Center) but it's definitely worth the visit. They have many
displays you can walk through including a dank dark cavern complete with
dripping walls and an ice age glacier with saber-tooth tigers, mastadons,
and a giant sloth (as large as a grizzly!). There are many helpful guides
throughout who will tell you everything you need to know, which would be
great except that we have tickets to an IMAX movie and are practically
jogging through the exhibits. We get to see most of the museum except the
health exhibit (which Sam accidentally went through alone while we searched
for her elsewhere, and we couldn't have paid Ben to see - he's had enough of
the entire topic after 7th Grade Health Class) and still make it to
the IMAX film "Beavers". They are the only mammals besides humans to
manipulate their environment, and manipulate it they do. A single pair can
cut down up to 400 trees a year and flood a huge amount of meadow.
Eventually the dam will break and the lake will revert to land which will be
quite fertile thanks to the time spent underwater. The Circle of Life,
baby. It's been another great day and we head home to get ready for our
long drive to Gettysburg tomorrow.

PS - I just finished reading The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and highly
recommend it.


Day 23 - Rising Sun, IN (Tuesday)

We all sleep in until 8:30am, not unusual for Ben but crazy-late for the
rest of us. Since Ben likes to sleep late (and you really don't want to
wake him up before he's ready - he's like a bear in hibernation) we've been
setting up our entire breakfast the night before so that we don't make any
noise in the morning except for the occasional scraping of a spoon in a bowl
of cereal. This morning since we all wake up at the same time we go wild
and make bagels for breakfast. Then of course we have to play mini-golf and
when we're renting the clubs the proprietor tells us the store will be
closed the next day because they can't get anyone to come in. She tells us
to keep our clubs and balls and play all we want tomorrow. Nice! She also
comments that although we have a Yankee accent we don't have a Boston accent
which she illustrates by saying "Pahk the cah in Scahtland Yahd". Sherlock
Holmes goes to Harvard.

After mini-golf we head into Cincinnati. The zoo is supposed to be a gem
but Mike and Sam are done with zoos so they decide to drop off me and Ben
and go to the aquarium in Newport, KY, which is also supposed to be
wonderful. Ben and I spend the day wandering around the Cincinnati Zoo and
Botanical Gardens; the number and variety of animals are great and are set
inside the Gardens so as you're walking from exhibit to exhibit you're
seeing amazing plants. I exclaim over most of them until Ben starts
referring to me as "Tree Geek", then I appreciate them silently. The sweet
potato vine and cranberry viburnum were especially beautiful.

While Ben and I are at the zoo Mike and Sam are at the aquarium petting
sharks. (The Shark Petting Tank is something I'd like to see at the New
England Aquarium.) Turns out the Newport area is akin to Faneuil Hall and
they have a great time eating lunch and book shopping before the aquarium.
I, on the other hand, have trouble finding something not beef or poultry to
eat at the zoo. Komodo Dragon.tastes just like chicken.

The black rhino smells so incredibly putrid that we have to run by the
exhibit. We get to see the cheetah cubs being fed; they are surprisingly
ferocious which explains why the keepers are armed with large prods. Many
of the animals are restrained not by cages but by moats which gives the
impression that you are standing right next to them and also makes for a
better picture. We see the American eagle and hear it cry; it is not the
screech that accompanies the Stephen Colbert eagle but rather a high-pitched
chirpy almost burbly sound. The screech commonly associated with eagles is
actually that of a bird of prey; I forget which one but we learned it in
South Carolina on a nature walk. And of course one would rather have the
national bird issue a virile noise and not some little-girl giggle. It just
feels right.

We all meet up again at closing time and decide to grab dinner in Cincinatti
as we're almost an hour from the RV park and the camp store, as we know, is
closed. We use the AAA guide and pick out a restaurant which is in a
recently gentrified area judging from the old man on the street corner
wearing a sandwich board that says "Poor People Used To Live Here". We
probably shouldn't have picked a place with the word "saloon" in the name
but in we go and are told that the non-smoking section is closed. I've
started to take for granted that restaurants are non-smoking but that's
definitely not the case around here. (This is near tobacco country, isn't
it?) The food is quite good but the people at the bar are smoking a lot and
our waitress is a little too chatty - it's one thing to talk about the
missing boy whose face is plastered on the TV in the bar, but another to
start talking about Susan Smith so that you have to explain THAT to your
kids over dinner. We also learn about her matching upper-arm bruises which
were caused by the shoulder-high moulding in the bar and not by her
boyfriend who's really too small to rough her up. And she says that she
believes in non-smokers' rights just as she believes in non-drinkers'
rights. We really don't want to know what she means and are happy when we
finally pay the bill and go.

Next we're off to Graeter's Ice Cream which is excellent. If you're ever in
Cincinnati go to one; they still make their own ice cream in an
old-fashioned machine and the store is an ice cream/candy shop with
tiled floors and vinyl chairs. All ice cream shops used to have candy as
well; stand-alone ice cream places are a fairly recent invention. (I know
this having just seen a documentary on ice cream. The only New England
place in the show was Four C's on the Cape. I've never been there but I'll
put in a word for Sundae School.)

It's late by the time we get back to the campground but the pool is open
until 10pm and Sam suggests a swim. Mike desperately needs a little quiet
time so the kids and I head over to the pool which is very big and ten feet
at the deep end, heated and overlooking the valley that drops down to the
river. We have the pool to ourselves and enjoy playing monkey-in-the-middle
and jackpot until it gets too dark for me to see the ball (oh am I getting
old); then we are treated to a pretty decent fireworks display across the
river and we also float on our backs and check out the starry sky which is
not spoiled at all by light pollution. All in all a lovely evening.


Day 22 - Santa Claus, IN to Rising Sun, IN (Monday)

I don't believe in Santa Claus anymore. Indiana, that is. Since we only
have a short drive today our plan is to sleep in, have a leisurely
breakfast, play mini-golf (yes, we're addicted) and leave after lunch. We
stroll over to the camp store around eleven to rent some clubs and guess
what? The whole bleeping campground is closed; we're there "off-season".
It's mid-August! How is this off-season?? Cape-freaking-Cod isn't
off-season until October! Forget it, Santa Claus, we're leaving!

We get as far as the end of the campground driveway when we hear "I'm
hungry" from the back of the RV. So we cross the street to get some lunch,
but in a very huffy way. Then we're on the road again, and now we're in a
hurry because we'd forgotten about the time change and we're hoping to rent
a car tonight at a place that closes at 6pm. We drive through Indiana,
Kentucky and Ohio to get to the second campground in Indiana. Turns out
there aren't many bridges over the Ohio River and our tri-state trip is the
fastest way to get where we're going. I feel like we're back in
civilization; there are people, buildings, and cars everywhere. We make it
to the car rental agency at 5:55, just in time, and Mike drives the rental
while Ben navigates me and the RV to the campground. Naturally we drive
right by it; the directions say to take a right on Bellview and it's
actually a left. Mike finds this distinctly more amusing than we do. One
three-point-turn later (try THAT in a 31-foot vehicle!) we're at the
campground. It's nearly deserted because school here started two weeks ago
but the pool is still open and it's gorgeous. There's also a putt-putt
(mini-golf), basketball hoops, another fishing lake, and a gorgeous view of
the Ohio River. Rising Sun was named because of the incredible sunrise
(which you can bet we won't be seeing) over the mountains. We're back on
Eastern time now and we stay up ridiculously late watching movies. I'm
beginning to wonder how the kids will ever adjust to a school-night bedtime.

T-shirts seen in Santa Claus, IN:

Been to Kansas. Didn't see Dorothy or Toto.

I May Be a Cold Heartless Bitch But At Least I'm Good At It. (After a
glance at this woman I didn't doubt the t-shirt.)

"The Perils of Nude Fly Fishing" above an anatomically correct drawing of a
man waist deep in water about to catch himself in the worst possible place.
This t-shirt was sported by a man treating his little girl to lunch. How

Thursday, August 24, 2006


The home stretch

This week has flown by...On Sunday, we were on our way to Santa Claus, IN.
Denise had always heard about the place, and wanted to visit. The
campground sounded great, and there was a water park and amusement park
right next store that the kids were excited about. Unfortunately, Santa
didn't deliver...

We had rearranged our schedule to drop one day in St. Louis and add a day in
Santa Claus, IN. What we didn't know was that school was about to start in
that area and that Sunday, August 20, was going to be the last day that
anything fun would be open. When we arrived mid-afternoon, we found all
this out. We headed over to the water park/amusement park (called Holiday
World), and had a blast. The crowds were thinning out as the park closed at
8. The cashier thought we were crazy to be plunking down $30 a head to walk
in at 3:30. But, we were determined.

We enjoyed the water park the best, particularly a ride called Zinga that we
all rode together. We rode that one a few times, and had a blast. Ben and
Denise wanted to skip the roller coasters, but Sam and I gave them a shot.
I was proud of her as she made it through the one with the steepest drop,
called Voyage. We also rode Legend (twice!). Both are great wooden
coasters (no loops), with high speed drops and very sharp turns. Both
seemed like particularly long rides, which tired us out.

We had hoped to watch the Yankees-Red Sox game that night on cable, but our
RV park didn't have cable hook-ups. They also didn't have Wifi in the
section we were in. This upset Ben, but we at least tracked the game on the
Internet via Verizon Broadband Wireless.

The next day, Monday, all the fun stuff in the RV park was closed. It was
'off season', and that meant no swimming pool, no mini-golf, and nothing to
do. We left there after lunch and headed to Cincinnati one day earlier than
planned. That worked out great.

We spent Monday night in our RV park in Rising Sun, IN, after finding a
place to have dinner. It's a small resort area, near a couple of big
casinos. This was also off season, so the park was pretty empty. On
Tuesday and Wednesday, we explored Cincinnati. Denise and Ben went to the
zoo on Tuesday, but Sam and I went to the Aquarium. Everyone enjoyed their
choice, and we met up afterwards for dinner at a nearby pub (Washington
Platform Saloon -- felt like Cheers on the inside). We then tried Graeter's
Ice Cream, which deserves its great reputation!

On Wednesday, we visited the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
and The Natural History Museum at Museum Center. The Underground Railroad
Museum was fascinating. Cincinnati was right on the border between slave
and free states, with the Ohio River being a major crossing point. The
museum was beautifully done with movies, interactive exhibits, and artwork.
I could have spent hours there, but the kids got bored after a couple of
hours. Ben did buy several historical novels on the subject in the
bookshop, so I know he got something out of it.

Museum Center in Cincinnati is a collection of museums in the old train
station. The building itself is worth the visit as it is beautifully
restored. We spent a couple of hours in the Natural History Museum, which
has several unique exhibits, including a cavern you can walk through and a
depiction of what life at a glacier's edge is like. Although we were tired,
we enjoyed it quite a bit. We also took in the Omni movie on Beavers. As I
learned at MIT, they really are nature's engineers! The kids liked it, but
I am told I took a brief nap in the middle...

Today is Thursday, and we now have more driving than sightseeing left. We
drive to Gettysburg today. Ben and I will look around there tomorrow.
Denise and Sam have already decided to skip it (I could have predicted
this). I've been there before, and am looking forward to seeing this with
Ben. He likes history, and we'll have a good time together. On Saturday,
we do a long drive to get home. Hard to believe that it is almost over...

We haven't taken many pictures over the past few days, but Ben does have
some from the Cincinnati Zoo that we'll upload some time soon.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Day 21 - St. Louis, MO to Santa Claus, IN (Sunday)

It's a short drive to Santa Claus, only 3 ½ hours. To us now that's
nothing. I drive for the first three hours and Mike drives for the last
half hour. We stop at a Chinese/Japanese buffet that has such Asian
specialties as: buffalo wings, steamed corn on the cob, macaroni salad, and
some kind of cold mixed vegetable salad in a creamy sauce. (Perhaps my
Midwestern friends can explain that to me?)

An aside about flies: boy howdy are there a lot of flies out here. I can
only guess it's because there's so much farmland. Everywhere we've been,
nice or not, has lots of flies. They're everywhere you'd expect (the worst
is when they're buzzing around inside the toilet bowls at rest stops) and
everywhere you wouldn't (the fancy restaurant at the North Rim of the Grand
Canyon) and of course they're in every buffet restaurant we've been to.
Normally I wouldn't eat at a place that had flies and a buffet but it's
apparently inescapable around here. I do not like flies.

We arrive at Lake Rudolph fairly early in the day, around 2:30pm. Just
before we get there I'm checking on the Internet and I see that the Holiday
World/Splashin' Safari theme park is not open on Monday which it turns out
is the first day of school around here! It would have been OH-so-nice if
the campground had mentioned this when I booked the site. Why ELSE do they
think we're coming?? So we hurry over to Splashin' Safari which turns out
to be an excellent water park. We ride a bunch of slides and the lines are
very short; we do one called the Zinga three times. It's a tube ride on a
raft for four that sends you down, around a few curves, then straight down
and out into a funnel on its side; you zoom up one side, come down and zoom
up the other side, and repeat, all the while heading towards the narrow end
of the funnel, where you're dumped into a pool. Thanks to the weight we've
all gained sitting on our butts for so long, we achieve maximum velocity and
go quite high on each side, to the point where you feel like you're standing
before you slide down to the other side. You can see why we go on it three

Around 6:30pm Mike wants to head over to Holiday World for a few coaster
rides; surprisingly Sam wants to go so Ben and I head back to the RV park
(there's a Red Sox/Yankees game he wants to listen to on the computer and I
don't do roller coasters, having some remaining survival instincts). Sam
goes on one wooden roller coaster twice, and Mike says it was a long ride,
about seven minutes. Then he wants to go on a coaster we'd seen from the
highest slide in the water park; it went straight up for a loooong time and
I overheard some women in line for the slide saying "it doesn't look like it
goes straight down from here, but it does". I told Sam before she went off
with Mike, "When Daddy rides the coaster alone, make sure to stay exactly
where he tells you until he gets back." She didn't comprehend which coaster
I was talking about so she went on the straight-down one. (Let me just say
she didn't eat a lot of dinner.) They return by 8:15 and we all settle down
to yet another game of Hearts. We play until someone gets to 100 and then
the person with the lowest score wins. My score is quite low and they try
to gang up on me but I persevere. Suckers!


Day 20 - Oklahoma City, OK to St. Louis, MO (Saturday)

We’re out of the RV park by 8am and as usual the highways are empty. We’ve not seen any traffic since Illinois. There are always a number of trucks and a few cars on the highways but that’s about it unless you count the roadkill (less deer, more armadillos these days). Yesterday I followed a truck carrying two steers in the back and I stared at one of those animals for a good hour and a half, its white face and sunken eyes looking back at me. Where was it going? Farm? 4-H show? Slaughterhouse?

The drive through Oklahoma is pretty much like Texas, flat, dry, and boring, but by the time we get to Missouri the landscape is greener and hillier. It looks like Massachusetts without the pines. It’s also getting more humid, of course, as we leave the desert. We’re still in East Podunkville no matter where we go, and the place we stop for the night is no exception. We get there at 4pm; another really long day. The RV park is not too crowded and we have a leafy site across from the fishing pond (fishing is a big attraction around here). They have a mini-golf course and we decide to play; it’s about a hundred degrees out and extremely humid. That explains why every child at the park is in the tiny pool (which explains why neither Mike nor I want to go swimming – chlorine can only do so much). The man who gets us our golf clubs tells us that in Missouri school is starting on Monday. He says they start so early because they have to account for snow days. Snow days? Apparently they get a lot of rain and freezing temperatures and when there’s even a threat of ice on the ground they cancel school. Anyway, it accounts for the RV park not being very full. We have the sweltering mini-golf course to ourselves and then we go back to the RV to air-condition ourselves out of our lethargy. We grill some burgers for dinner and then what do we do? Hearts!

Some random thoughts I’d forgotten to add earlier:

In Arizona I see a sign for Winslow. The 70’s song comes to mind and I think how nice it is to see that it hasn’t been exploited. A mile later I see a huge billboard, “See The Corner In Winslow!”

In Texas we pass billboards advertising two things: Jesus and Adult Videos. Who
Would Jesus Do?

Sunday, August 20, 2006



Today is Sunday. We are in the last week of our trip, and it's hard to
believe that we have been on the road for three weeks. It seems both very
short and like forever. We packed more of the sights we were interested in
to the first half of the trip, and we have had a great time. Since we left
Santa Fe, we fell like we've been sprinting toward the East Coast. We've
had long driving days from Santa Fe to Oklahoma City to St. Louis and,
today, a short drive to Santa Claus, IN.

We adapted very quickly on our trip to living in less than 200 sf of space.
This morning I suggested to Denise that we could save a lot of money by
moving into a 250 sf apartment. I am sure she was rushing right out to
check the online apartment listings because she ran away from me saying 'See
Ya.' Seriously, we have gotten in to a routine. Since we've been pretty
mobile, and generally not spending more than a night or two in any one place
(with a couple of exceptions), we've kept things stowed away in the RV.
This suits my nature well as I do the same thing at home and at work. But,
it surprises me how well Denise and the kids now put things away right after
they use them. I wonder if that will carry over to home. I doubt it. I am
sure that everyone is looking forward to leaving things around our house
once we get home.

Denise needs caffeine! Denise generally doesn't drink anything with
caffeine. But, when she drives, she drinks tea or Diet Coke. She says she
needs the caffeine to stay awake while she drives! I know that the scenery
got a little boring in the West, but that's a little scary. She's going to
drive in the morning now so that her caffeine influx from her morning tea is
fresh in her nervous system.

I learned that our kids can actually get along. Since Ben, our 13 year-old
son, generally doesn't like to play with Sam, his 10 year-old sister, we had
some tense times early on in the trip when Denise and I really needed them
to play together and not bother us. However, one benefit of this trip has
been that they learned to get along. OK, not all the time. They need to
get one or two fights out of their system every day, but they also learned
to play together, watch the same movies, and sometimes even wrestle
playfully on the bed in the back bedroom!

Somehow I thought I would have more free time while Denise was driving. I
haven't read nearly as many books as I thought I would, nor watched as many
movies. I have spent time keeping up with my email and reading the news
(online, via downloading the Boston Globe digital edition). But, the hours
on the road fly by. I don't have that recollection from when my family did
a similar trip when I was 11. We are much more entertained in the RV than
in the back of the station wagon.

The kids are really looking forward to the RV park in Santa Claus, IN. They
are (supposedly) the #1 RV park in the nation. When we travel, I am always
amazed at how much the kids like staying in our hotel room vs. getting out
and seeing the sights. We shifted our travel plans slightly to have one
extra day in Santa Claus, IN so that we could all relax a bit, play extra
mini golf at the RV park, and take in the water park next to the RV park. I
hope the weather holds up tomorrow (Monday) so we can have fun at the water

For you techno-geeks out there, I have to say that the Verizon Broadband
Wireless service is pretty darn good. Most of the RV parks offer Wifi, but
I have had trouble at several of them (weak Wifi signal, no signal at all,
problems getting onto the Internet with no one able to help, or very limited
Internet bandwidth). The Verizon service comes in at about 140 kbps when
you are driving just about anywhere, although there are a few dead spots.
When stopped in one place in a big city, you can get upt to 500 kbps. Now,
this isn't like our cable modem at home, but it gets the job done. We've
been able to download music and videos into iTunes for our iPods (or to
watch The Daily Show and Colbert Report), keep up with our email, upload our
photos, post our blog entries, etc., with only a modicum of patience
required. It reminds me of those old dial-up days. It's interesting to see
the kids react. Their expectations are much higher. They think it is
really slow and kind of stinks, rather than marveling that it works at all,
as I do.

Well, onto a game of PC Monopoly with the kids while Denise drives for a
while. We've still got some fun ahead of us in Santa Claus, IN, outside
Cincinnati, and in Gettysburg. And, we should be able to watch the
Yankees-Red Sox on ESPN tonight at the RV park. Ben and I have enjoyed
seeing the Yankees score lots of runs in the first three games of the series
(sorry, Mike T). We'll see if it keeps up.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Day 19 - Santa Fe, NM to Oklahoma City, OK (Friday)

Imagine sitting down in a fairly comfortable upholstered chair with your
legs out in front of you. You're in front of an enormous flat screen TV.
There's a DVD playing of land, flat land, acres and acres of it, with some
small deciduous trees and an occasional sprinkling of cattle. The
spaciousness is marred only by the billboards which crop up here and there.
Now imagine watching that DVD for five hours straight. That's my drive
through the Texas panhandle and Oklahoma. It's mind-numbingly boring. We
pass the "largest cross in the western hemisphere" and a wind farm which to
me is far more interesting. Why is there only one wind farm around here?
There's NOTHING ELSE around, and it certainly wouldn't ruin the scenery any
more than the billboards. And what about solar energy? Why isn't the vast
flat uninhabited windy sunny interior of the country plastered with
alternative energy sources? We drive through one town with the same
population as my hometown high school. Not bad, I think, two thousand
people is enough to seem crowded. Five minutes later I'm still driving
through the town and I realize it's so spread out they must never see each
other. I could never live like this (and I'm sure they wouldn't want me

I'd resolved not to stop in Texas (can you guess why?) but the timing doesn't
work, we're low on gas. There are Subway restaurants all along the highways
out here and that's where we get lunch; everyone's getting tired of the
sandwiches we've been making every day. We're into Oklahoma shortly after
lunch; there is no paving going on here as it was in Texas and you can tell
because the road gets very bumpy. Otherwise the scenery is exactly the same
only with less trees, as if it's possible to make the driving more boring.
We pass a city with a sign that says "Home of Miss America 1981". That's
the best they can do? Miss America's hometown 25 years ago? Nothing since
then? We think about our wonderful friend who grew up on a farm in
Oklahoma; we don't know how she did it.

We arrive in Oklahoma City around 5:45pm and can't find a grocery store near
the RV park so we keep driving looking for a restaurant. We end up at an
Outback Steakhouse; America is indeed homogeneous. It's 103 in the shade
(get out of the shade!) and the RV is 95 by the time we get back into it.
It takes a few hours to cool down once we're at the campground but we sleep
comfortably. This is a one-night stop and we're driving another full day
tomorrow. We're trying to get to Santa Claus, IN by Sunday night where we're
staying at Lake Rudolph, the #1 National RV Park right next door to Splashin'
Safari, the #2 World Water Park. I've booked this place because it's in
Santa Claus, IN which had such a goofy name I had to check it out. Turns
out the kids are pretty psyched to get there and are very cooperative on
these long drives. We've been doing more driving than sight-seeing these
days and are looking forward to a fun stop. Tomorrow night St. Louis,
Sunday night #1.


Day 18 - Santa Fe, NM (Thursday)

Into every vacation a little tedium must fall. We were told by the rental
agent to get an oil change halfway through our trip and we're also in
desperate need of clean clothes. Mike heads out with the RV for the oil
change after dropping us off at the campground laundromat with three
gigantic loads of laundry. We look like the little dog Max staggering under
the Grinch's burgled bags. At 9:15am the laundromat isn't too crowded and
we find enough empty washers to get started. It's a sunny day, not too hot,
and we sit outside at a picnic table playing Hearts waiting for the washers
to finish. Three hours later the laundry is done, folded and put away in
the freshly-oil-changed RV and we're off to downtown Santa Fe.

I'm driving while Mike navigates us to an RV-friendly parking lot. We're on
narrow city streets and the parking lot is almost full; we end up blocking
traffic for a good five minutes before we can get in. By the time we park
in the last RV spot (not an easy proposition) the lot is closed. It turns
out that the annual Indian Market is this weekend and everyone's coming in
for the preview sales. The attendant tells us that the market is
world-famous and that Indians from as far away as India come to sell their
wares. It's the biggest event of the year in Santa Fe, and interestingly
when Mike and I were here fifteen years ago it was during the Indian Market
as well. We plan to check out the market after lunch at another restaurant
recommended to us by the campground; one of the employees is quite a foodie
and his suggestion is again an excellent one.

As we leave the restaurant clouds are forming overhead and we can hear
thunder in the distance. Santa Fe has had the most rain in thirty years
this year and some of the new construction on the outskirts of town has been
washing away due to floods. We start ducking into shops to avoid the rain
and there are plenty of shops to see. Santa Fe is the oldest city in the
U.S. and has a heavy Spanish and Native American influence so it's an
interesting place to walk around. The city itself is bordered by small
mountains on one side and a great plain on the other; the buildings are made
of adobe and there are a lot of flowers and plants. Mike and I loved Santa
Fe the first time we visited and he still dreams of retiring here someday
(it'll have to be with his second wife). We also visit the La Fonda hotel
and the Plaza, still walking around and shopping. This goes on until Ben
says, "Another shop?! I'm at my breaking point!" and we decide it would be
best to leave. No one's hungry after our big lunch so we settle in for
another round of Hearts (the kids have become addicted to the game) and an
early night. Tomorrow is another long day in the RV.


Day 17 - Grand Canyon, AZ to Santa Fe, NM (Wednesday)

It's going to be at least an eleven-hour drive today, 560 miles plus a
one-hour time change (Arizona doesn't observe daylight savings time). We
leave at 6:45am and make it to Santa Fe by 4:45pm including stops. The
speed limit here as on most of the highways we've traveled in the Midwest is
75, which is good for two reasons: we cover a lot of distance in a short
amount of time, and the monotonous landscape flies by. It's certainly
scenic if you're looking at a postcard, but driving for hours on end looking
at the same postcard gets pretty boring. The highway is straight, the land
is flat, there are no buildings. I've taken to drinking a diet Coke in the
afternoon just to stay awake.

The Rancheros de Santa Fe campground recommends a restaurant and we head
right out for dinner. Driving around Santa Fe is a little tricky as the
streets are somewhat narrow but the destination is worth the trip. The
restaurant, Castros, is fantastic, and the kids taste sopapillas, posole,
and jicama for the first time. After we return to the campground we settle
in for a mean game of Hearts; we've taught Sam how to play and she not only
gets it right away, she's pretty good. She loves dumping the Queen of
Spades on unsuspecting players and will save it for just that purpose.


Day 16 - Grand Canyon, AZ (Tuesday)

We all sleep late this morning; it must be the fresh mountain air. We head
to the Lodge for breakfast and the 35-minute walk gives us all an appetite.
From breakfast we take a short walk along an overlook trail where I meet a
woman who actually has a worse fear of heights than me. She's clinging to
the rocks on the far side of the trail and won't even edge out to see her
family who've decided to climb up a ledge on the inside edge of the trail.
My family's up there too but I'll at least step out to look up at them.
Briefly. The trail progresses and gets worse; at one point the trail is
about five feet wide with sheer drops on either side and an eight-inch wall
to keep you from falling. It's right about here that I think to myself "I've
had enough of this." But onward we go and eventually get to the overlook.
Another cliff jutting out over nothing, another guard rail that you could
easily fall over, another stunning view of the canyon, and another bout of
dizziness and nausea for me. Wahoo!

Finally everyone's satisfied with the view and we head back; Mike takes the
longer trail back to the campground with his camera, and the kids and I head
for the gift shop and the shorter trail. He makes it back to the RV 55
minutes before we do. It's hot and sunny but there are thunderclouds
overhead and the occasional rumble of thunder. We rest for a while in the
RV before going on our last hike of the day.

Our last hike is to the Coconino Overlook; it's only .6 miles but pretty
much straight down; it was originally an escape route from a severe winter
storm on the North Rim. Now it's a well-tended slightly rocky trail that
crisscrosses the canyon wall and it's the only access to the canyon from the
North Rim. But we're not taking the day-long hike all the way down which
has all sorts of warning about the death and destruction that may befall the
unwary hiker. As we head out of the campground it starts to thunder and as
we start on the trail that connects to where we're going it starts to rain.
It's only water, we say, and continue on. By the time we get to our trail
it's raining somewhat harder but we're wet anyway, so we forge ahead. To
our dismay we realize that "mules share the trail with hikers" means "you
will be dodging mule poop the whole way". The stench is quite bad and we're
glad it's at least cool from the rain but thankfully not yet wet enough to
make the trail Manure River. As we head down we have to step off to the
side, such as it is, three times for mule trains to pass us on the way up.
The first group is comprised of three grizzled men in chaps and cowboy hats;
their mules are loaded with giant boxes and they look like they're out of a
book from the 1800's. The next two groups are people who are coming back
from mule rides that the North Rim offers, and the leader of the last of
these groups tells us "it's going to be pouring in about five minutes".
Undaunted, we carry on, although we notice that all the people we see are
heading up rather than down. Also we know that every step we take down is
one we'll have to take up, in the rain, dodging tennis balls of mule manure.
We continue down for about twenty minutes and the rain gets harder; thunder
rumbles overhead and we start to see cracks of lightning. Taking refuge
under a tree we discuss the situation. Mike wants to turn around; the kids
want to continue. I'd like to continue but those bolts of lightning are
disconcertingly close, and we're on the side of a cliff where all the trees
are tall pines. We see a young couple coming up and ask them how far to the
bottom; they manage to convey "fifteen minutes" in Italian, and after they
slowly shuffle past us Mike points out that Sam is not exactly an alpine
climber, and so we decide to the kids' great disappointment to head back up.
Mike thinks it'll take us an hour; I say half an hour. The bet is on and I'm
steaming up the hill, not even wanting to stop when the kids ask for water.
Of course Mike will stop for anything, but even still we reach the top in
twenty minutes. "You were way off," he says.

Now we're tired, wet, and cold, and the walk back to the campground is a
long one. We're disappointed that we didn't make it to the overlook but
very happy to be heading somewhere out of the rain. After we change our
clothes we pop them in the campground dryers and take quick hot showers for
$1.50 - the best showers we've had on the trip. A quick dinner and fairly
early to bed; we have a long drive ahead of us.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Day 15 - Virgin, UT to Grand Canyon, AZ (Monday)

The ride to the Grand Canyon isn't too bad. Certainly it's winding and
uphill but we thought it'd be worse. We get to the Canyon by noon owing to
the fact that Arizona doesn't have daylight savings time. The park ranger
tell us that the Lodge is only a mile walk along a trail and lunch at the
restaurant sounds pretty good. Plus, there's a trail that leaves from the
Lodge which we could walk after lunch. Hunger has us starting off at a
pretty good clip but after half an hour we start to wonder if we've taken
the wrong path. How long can it take to walk a mile? After forty-five
minutes we finally get there; turns out the path is more like 1.5 miles and
it's up and down, winding, and very rocky, not easy at all. During lunch we
decide to walk back to the RV and drive it 23 miles to the Cape Royal
outlook over the Grand Canyon; the North Rim overlooks part of it but not
the main section and from Cape Royal you can see the Colorado River. But
first Ben and I want to hear a talk on the condor; the Grand Canyon is one
of a few places in the US where the condors are being reintroduced into the
wild. Mike and Sam take the road back to the campground and get there in
half the time, as do Ben and I about forty-five minutes later.

I drive to Cape Royal so that Mike can navigate, a task that isn't too
difficult but I'd prefer to drive anyway. At one of the turns there's a
large yellow sign that says "Travel by Vehicles Over 30 Feet Not
". Our RV is 31 feet long. I'm ready to turn around and Mike
calls me a wimp. We're reminded of the recent Car Talk we listened to where
they discuss how men think rules are for wimps. So we proceed. First we
see signs for Winding Road, then bold squiggly lines with 25 mph. speed
limits, then U-Shaped Curve at 15 mph. Sometimes on one side of the road we're
just feet from the edge of a cliff. What fun! I'm not enjoying the drive
at all, but it's not because I'd rather be sitting and enjoying the view. I'd
rather be at sea level.

At Cape Royal there's a nice walk through scrub forest to an overlook point.
There are signs along the way telling us about the flora and fauna and I
enjoy that but when we get to the overlook I can't proceed. Luckily there's
a bench to sit far back from the edge and enjoy the view. I have an
acknowledged fear of heights and all I can think is how much I'd like to be
away from here. That's pretty much the way the afternoon goes from there;
stopping at scenic viewpoints, wishing I were somewhere else, watching my
husband and children stand inches from the edges of cliffs. I wish I could
tie a rope to them. Or tie them up, throw them in the RV, and speed off to
Santa Fe.

We do learn that we can see over 80 miles from up here, and that the Navajo
Reservation is across the canyon, and that one of the early canyon explorers
had traveled in the Far East a lot and so gave many of the places Eastern
names. We also learn how many of the native plants the Native Americans
used for everything from construction to medicine. There's also evidence of
a controlled fire that was allowed to burn for a while up here and it's
interesting to see what's grown back and what hasn't after five years.

We have a "real weenie roast" that night, a term that cracks up the kids.
What meal is better than hot dogs impaled on a skewer and stuck into the
flame of a campfire, topped off with smores? It's quite cool up here at
night and we bundle up in sweatshirts and try to play a game of gin, but it
gets too dark so we give up and just enjoy the fire burning down. Once the
fire burns out our RV has a house battery so even though this campground has
no water or electricity we're able to play a few rounds of gin rummy before
going to bed. We make one more trip outside to see the stars; there's no
light pollution up here and the view is amazing.


Day 14 - Zion National Park, UT (Sunday)

We make it to Zion by 9:50am which is a world record for us. Another
beautiful hot day and we start out with a 2-mile hike along the river. We
see a lot of lizards and gigantic flying black beetles, one of which tries
to attack me causing me to scream, flail my arms and run around like a
lunatic in true girly fashion. This has Ben laughing for a good thirty
minutes. The trail ends at Zion Lodge where we grab some lunch in the
fanciest restaurant we've been to so far. We spend the lunch cracking each
other up with all the ridiculous comments we've heard each other make on the
trip (sample: "if it's good enough for the toilet it's good enough for
me"). After lunch we grab the Zion shuttle which is the only way to get
from point to point in the park. When Zion opened they got seventy visitors
a day; now they're up to seventy thousand, and the shuttle is their attempt
to squeeze five thousand cars into five hundred parking spots.

Departing the shuttle at the end we follow a trail that heads north into the
canyon. It's paved for a while and then it turns into The Narrows, where
the canyon walls are twenty feet apart and the Virgin River fills the canyon
floor. Many people forge ahead past where the trail ends and so do we. We're
in swift-flowing water up to our knees, sometimes our thighs, and we keep
our shoes on because the floor of the river is rock-filled and hard to
navigate. It's fun, although Sam falls in a few times (we wonder if it's on
purpose) and her cute white clothes become completely see-through. Better
her than me! At one point we watch the people in front of us go in up to
their chests and Mike decides to turn back. The kids and I move ahead,
sticking close behind a woman in bare feet who manages to find the best
route possible for another fifteen minutes up the river. At that point I
see dark storm clouds overhead and hear the rumble of thunder, and having
read several signs about what to do in case of flash flood ("wedge yourself
into a high crack above the water level"), I decide we should head back.
When we return to the paved trail we venture into the river one last time,
balancing on rocks to wash the silt and rocks out of our sneakers and socks.
It's so incredibly dry up here in this mountainous desert that by the time
we get off the shuttle at our car our shoes aren't squishy wet anymore.
They're still damp but we set them in the sun at the RV park and within a
few hours they're bone dry. Hmm, it IS a dry heat. We have another
home-cooked meal and try to pack up a bit because we're heading out early
the next day to the Grand Canyon. It's not too far, only 130 miles or so,
but it's certainly not highway driving.

Seen on a t-shirt: "Rock is dead. Long live paper and scissors."


Day 13 - Bryce Canyon, UT (Saturday)

We have two days left in the Zion area and we decide to drive to Bryce the
first day. It's a long drive and we'd rather not do two long drives in a
row. The map claims that Bryce is 86 miles away; farther than we'd like but
how long can it take? We head out and realize after about 15 minutes that
we've forgotten the National Parks Pass; that sets us back about half an
hour. By the time we're really on our way it's 11am, but that's still
early, right? The route we're taking is a "scenic byway" (translation:
curving mountainous road with many sharp turns and low speed limits) that
cuts through Zion National Park, and we have to wait a while at the
entrance. Once we're in we see sky-high red cliffs and deep canyons; we
stop several times to take pictures. It turns out this is the Zion-Mt.
Carmel byway, a recommended must-see if you're visiting. Unfortunately the
road is slow going, and there's a wait at the 1-mile-long tunnel along the
route. The tunnel was made decades ago and can only accommodate RVs if they
straddle the two lanes, so whenever an RV has to go through traffic is
stopped one way. We're in a rental but there are many RVs on the road.

Finally we get through Zion National Park and onto a state highway, but we've
already been driving for an hour and we've barely gone a third of the way.
The natives are getting restless and hungry and apparently the granola bars
we brought are hated by all. After about a half hour we drive through a
town with lots of restaurants each of which has a Closed sign on it. We
wonder if it's Sunday but no, perhaps this town just doesn't get the traffic
to warrant opening. Odd. Another half hour goes by and finally we see a
place that's open so we pull in. It's clean and the food is basic; the
service is a little slow but it gets the job done. Hunger satisfied, we're
off to Bryce. In the end it's taken us 3 hours to get there and we say we
wouldn't have gone if we'd known how long it would take, but oh, are we glad
we came.

Bryce National Park is comprised of a canyon that has been eroded by a cycle
of freezing and thawing over time. This has resulted in hoodoos, great
spires of rock jutting out of the canyon floor and the trails there lead in
and around these spires. We choose a relatively short trail, not even a
mile but down 310 feet. The trail involves a lot of switchbacks and at some
points it's a pretty sheer drop off the side; not great for someone with a
fear of heights like me. I can tell who shares my fear; they're the ones
taking tiny steps and attempting to become one with the sides of the cliffs.
It's a very hot day ( but once again a dry heat) and the wind here is very
strong; the climate takes every bit of moisture out of you. We are very
thirsty by the time we get to the bottom but we didn't think to bring water;
after all, it was only a mile and a half round trip. Once we get to the end
of the trail we realize that Sam's not going to make it to the next trail so
Mike and Ben carry on and Denise and Sam return the way they came.

On the way back Sam is very thirsty and desperately wants water. She's also
tired and hot and her legs hurt. "I can feel the muscles in my legs!" she
complains at one point. "Yes," I say, "that's called exercise." Later she
says, almost crying, "I need water or I'm going to faint!" Then, "Just
leave me here to die." This is said as she's half bent over, taking one
Frankenstein step at a time up the steep incline. I grab her hand and
literally pull her up the path, then stop and say, "We're going to the top,
damn it! You're made of peasant stock! You're made of sterner stuff than
this! We're not quitters!" The bit about 'peasant stock' earns me a
strange look but she straightens up and starts moving. It's amazing the
ridiculous things that come out of your mouth once you're a parent.

Once we get to the top we get four 32-oz. bottles of ice cold water for
$4.25, which I assume is the price of one because why not gouge when you
can, but no, it's for all four. We hop in the car and drive a short
distance to the place where Mike and Ben will be emerging; it's taken us so
long to get back that they've beaten us and are already walking down the
road when we arrive. They're relieved to see the water as they've just
ascended a half mile straight up and we continue on to a few more viewpoints
before we leave. This is the Indian legend about Bryce: there were a
people who lived in the canyon, the Legend People. They were bad and Coyote
decided to change them into rocks. They were changed instantly, some
standing, some sitting, some in groups, some alone, and all in face paint,
which is why the rocks are orange and red and white. The rocks are called
hoodoos from voodoo, meaning a bad thing. Once you're at the very top and
looking down you can see why that legend originated; it does look like a
canyon crowd of sturdy rock people.

We decide to take a different route home and stop in Panguitch for dinner at
the Cowboy Smokehouse. A miracle occurs and the kids sit down without
complaint, read a menu that is largely foreign to them, order food they've
never tried before, and eat it without comment. The food is delicious
(according to the meat eaters) and we buy a bottle of their barbecue sauce.
Their walls are papered with business cards and Mike leaves one which they
put right up. There are cards from everywhere; we see one from a London
taxi service. From the restaurant it's two hours back through the Dixie
National Forest. At one point we're in a birch forest, elevation 8,896
feet. It's beautiful and we're glad the sun doesn't set until we're back on
the highway. The different route saves us an hour but we're all tired when
we get back. Tomorrow it's on to Zion which is thankfully only twenty
minutes from the park.


Quick update

We've been busy, and Internet access has been poor and spotty. So, we haven't had much chance to write. Expect some long posts from Denise soon.

In brief:
On Monday morning, we drove for just a couple of hours from southern Utah to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We hiked around there Monday afternoon and Tuesday. It was awesome! We also enjoyed the lodge there and some nice meals. The North Rim is the way to see the Grand Canyon. It's very rustic and you can enjoy the natural beauty. We saw several deer on our hikes, and also got caught in the rain on one hike (which wasn't fun). But, we had a great time.

On Wednesday, we drove all day to Santa Fe, NM. We got an early start, which gave us time to go out to dinner at a nice place in Santa Fe called Castro.

Today (Thursday), we did some errands in the morning (oil change on the RV, laundry), and then walked around Santa Fe this afternoon. We didn't get any pictures, but we did enjoy the shops. Denise and I had been there before, but the kids got a little restless with the shopping. So, we cut it a bit short and headed home to relax in the RV watching movies after dinner.

Friday is a driving day, with a full day drive to Oklahoma City. That's just a stop over. We go on Saturday to St. Louis. We are considering cutting our stop in St. Louis short and spending more time in Santa Claus, IN (believe it or not). There is a great water park there, and the kids are clamoring to spend a full day there.


Grand Canyon Photos

We're behind on writing, but I posted our photos from the Grand Canyon here.

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