Sunday, August 18, 2013

Day 24: Michigan City to Home!

We left at 8:10am CT but by 8:32am CT we were in Michigan and it was 9:32am EST.
By 3:30pm we had crossed at the Canadian border. It's hard to drive east when we wish we could be continuing westward on a longer vacation.
Well 6000+km and not an issue but we ran into a 2hr delay at Guelph Line due to an accident.
We broke out the chips and cookies and had a party.
At the beginning of this trip I talked about the sweet spot and it's true - this has been the easiest time we've had traveling since becoming parents. We also were told by our camping neighbours and a waitress at Sophia's House of Pancakes how polite our girls are. That is nice to hear.
Also we are definitely canyon and mountain lovers. We already miss Utah and those grand red rocks.

I'll end this segment of the travel blog with a magnet I bought at Dead Horse state park:

Advice from a CANYON:

Carve out a place for yourself;
Aspire to new plateaus;
Don't get boxed in;
It's OK to be a little off the wall;
Reach deep!

Day 24 stats:
Departing mileage: 19,999km at 8:10am CT
Crossing to Michigan: 9:32am EST
Fuel stop : 1:50pm EST, I-69, 20,400km
Stopping at Duty Free Port Huron: 2:00pm EST
Crossing to Ontario: 3:30pm EST
Arriving mileage: 7:58pm EST, 20,785km !!!!!

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Day 23: Michigan City, Indiana

Last night, after a yummy dinner of shrimp alfredo we went for a drive and found Bubbles Ice Cream shop. Indiana makes great ice cream. We went to scope out the shopping and found Sketchers and the girls got 2 pairs of shoes each. We also picked up some groceries including gourmet ice cream ( ) made just here in Valparaiso Indiana.
Today was all about shopping. We stated at Sophia's House of pancakes for breakfast (Sophia had the Mickey Mouse pancakes and Jess had crepes; Tom and I had skillet breakfasts). By 8:58am we were at the Gap to start shopping. Between the outlets and Walmart the girls got all their school clothes and supplies. Tom and I did well too. Coach was my favourite and Tom made out good at Under Armor.
We fueled up at The Olive Garden for a late lunch and then back to the campground. It was like Christmas with the girls opting to open all of their new school supplies rather than go to the pool.
Later they watched a movie with their new friend Mara on her big screen, in their own tailgate party with cupcakes and popcorn! It's nice to see other couples camping and having fun with their kids too.
Tom and I had a nice fire and had the outside TV on for the first time this summer. With Chicago so close we got tons of high def channels off the air.
We have to come back here - as usual , 1 day was not enough. And the campground is so serene. Tom and Sophia fed the ducks with our old bread. There were some huge bugs and I screamed when Tom flicked a huge wasp off his sleeve right onto my skirt. Ack! The darker side of glamping.

It was a fun day and this was a good way to wind down the vacation.

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Day 22: Greenwood NE to Michigan City, Indianna

We left at 6am CT. On the menu for breakfast were hot scrambled egg, cheese and ham tortilla wraps with Starbucks coffee and Tropicana OJ. We ate this after we got on the I-80 East. Great start to our day!
We crossed the Mormon Bridge over the Missouri at 6:45am CT into Iowa.
I bought Kindle books as the Wi-Fi was good at the campground (finally!) and now Jess is awake at 8:30am CT and engrossed in "The Elephant's Tale". She'll be done by breakfast! A fast way to spend $6 but it's worth it to see her love reading so much.
I bought Sophia 2 books: "Sophie the Daredevil" and "Sophie the Snoop".
These kids travel so well.

We crossed into Illinois at 11:32am CT across the Mississippi River off the I-280 bypass around the quad cities of Davenport, Rock Island, Bettendorf and Moline.

19714km fuel stop 12:24pm CT, Illinois

Entering Indiana at 2:53pm CT - very congested traffic; glad it wasn't closer to rush hour. Lots of stop and go. We took the toll road to be fast but it was slow at the end --waited 15 min to pay. What was nice was someone told us we had a compartment door open so I ran out to shut it. I'm glad it was just the water tank and we didn't have stuff flying out all over the freeway.
We finally pulled in around 3:45pmCT. The campground is lovely. Our neighbours are friendly and Sophia made friends with the 2 girls already.
It's not too hot or cold and the pool is calling.

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Day 21: Colorado Springs, CO to Greenwood, NE

We left at 6:45am this morning and it's been a good driving day. We are about 15 miles from our destination. We crossed into Nebraska in the morning and then crossed time zones back into central time.  We did a couple of fuel stops.  The girls played multiplication dice games and then Sophia wanted to learn multiplication – she was quite disappointed that I only had brought math exercises for Jessica, so I had to make some up for her.  Jessica practiced rounding to thousands and hundreds and at first she was quite upset because she had forgotten (the phrase "there's no crying in math" comes to mind.) But I was patient and by the end she got it and was actually bored because it was so easy.   Looking forward to a relaxing night. Tom has been on the road 9 hours now with very little breaks – he's an awesome long distance driver.


Post script:  We saw a sign for Parker's Smokehouse – BBQ with Soul, about 3miles north, off our exit #420 from the I-80. After setting up we went for ribs, catfish, coleslaw, New York Fries, sweet potato fries, coleslaw and potato salad and caramel apple crumble and ice cream. We didn't make it to dessert but dinner was finger licking good. I think it's the best meal we've had on our vacation. Excellent place and we only saw locals there.  I made spaetzle for the kids and they love the ribs and catfish too.


Day 21 stats:

Departing Colorado Springs:  6:45am MT, 18,193km

Love's Fuel Stop I-76, 8:30am MT, 18,358km

Entering Nebraska 11:05am MT, 18,603km, 25C

Entering Central Time Zone:  11:47MT

TA Fuel Stop: I-80, 3:08pm CT, 18,865km

Arriving Pine Grove RV Park, Greenwood, NE:    5:17pm CT, 19,117km

Day 20: 14,110 ft at Pike’s Peak– Got Oxygen?

Up at 6am to meet the tour group at 7am at Pike's Peak MountainBiking shop. We are pumped!  We get up to Pike's Peak and it is 34F, 24F with the wind chill. The puddles are ice but it's a clear and beautiful morning. The view is incredible.  The drive up had so many switch backs and we could easily see where the tree line ends.   The road runner (bike leader) showed us where Devil's Playground is at the top.  There is so much iron in the rocks that the lightening just bounces around in this little valley. She said you could see from down below during a storm.  The power of this climate just dwarfs what we see back home in Ontario.


After some early morning shopping at the gift store (the girls got sweaters – they wanted them to say "Got Oxygen?"). Sophia especially liked this logo.   Later in the day she said that it would be an appropriate shirt to wear to a funeral since the person who was dead would not have any oxygen.   She constantly surprises us with how her mind processes things !


What can I say about the bike ride down a 14,000 ft elevation , 20 miles long and 7000 ft elevation descent, going at speeds of 20 mph?   It was a thrill from start to finish!!!!  I'm usually a goal oriented person.  But up on that mountain, flying down through 5 climate zones, seeing the world unfold as you round each switchback, feeling the majesty of the mountain and smelling the fresh pine scented air, feeling your body at one with the bicycle and the earth and air all at once…well it was as if time stopped.  And it was just pure joy.  Also an adrenaline rush to be going this fast out in the open air – a wipe out up there would have been fairly serious.  But it was a thrill to actually do it and see the confidence of the kids (and me) improve mile after mile. It was incredible how fast we rode through a  6 mile stretch.  At the top with the hairpin switchbacks I stayed back with Sophia and we switched off so that she was always on the "earth" side of the road and I biked on the edge that hung over the cliff. But when the trees started, it felt a little safer and Sophia got the hang of her first ever "gear" bike, she was off and riding as fast at Tom and Jessica were. Jessica was way up at the front of the group, leading at one point even.   Our kids were the youngest in the group. A few other families and one older couple (maybe in their seventies – good for them!).   I was still at the back of the group on my brakes pretty well the whole way down.  This was a memory of a lifetime.   What a great day.  You really do appreciate oxygen when you see you're so high that trees can't even grow.


On the drive back from the bottom our guide showed us the roads washed out by the flood – a huge chunk of the road had fallen away since Friday. There was so much mud – they had at least 4 dump trucks that I saw lined up to carry it away. Up at the top we easily saw the burn area that contributed to the flood – they said it was started by arsonists and now without those trees, the water just comes off the mountain into Manitou Springs which is at the bottom like a basin to catch it all.  This is a huge clean up job.


The tour company dropped us off at at a Greek restaurant – Jake and Telly's for a late lunch (it was 2pm by this point – I'm glad we had Twix bars and granola bars for snacks since breakfast was at 6am).  I had spanakopita , Tom had a gyro and the girls had grilled cheese pita. Delicious food that we devoured in about 10 min.   Then we headed back to the RV and I took the girls to the Trading Post at Garden of the Gods (established 1900) and then to the Visitor Centre to get their 6th Junior Ranger badge of the vacation.   We got back and went for a swim but only lated about 20 min before lightening started flashing and we had to get out.


Back at the RV we just had a ton of snacks and watched "The Tuxedo" with Jackie Chan and had a relaxing evening packing things up and getting ready for a driving day the next day.

Day 19: Bitter, Lily & Rosetta, Academy Riding Stables, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Jessica and I started this day with a little walk. We came across Academy Riding stable behind the RV park and before you knew it we were booked for a 1 hour ride through Garden of the Gods park.  They only had 3 available spots so I went with the 2 girls and Tom rode his bike through the park. I'd never been on a horse before so it was a new experience. The girls were very comfortable since they had some riding time from their camp. Jessica was so excited she was vibrating.   Jessica's horse was Bitter, Sophia's was Lily and I had Rosetta. Rosetta was a little wayward and walked me into a tree and a bush.  It was very picturesque with the red rock and lush green foliage.  We saw sleeping giant, kissing camel and rattlesnake rock. Our wrangler was very good and gave us some history of the park.  Riding the horse and moving with them as they walked, going up and down steps built into the sandy path was a little scary but also worked very well. It was like we were a team for a little while.

After this we came back for home made mini-burgers with guacamole and a rest. Then we headed up to Cave of the Winds – the girls wanted to try the "Bat-a-pult" but it was closed due to rain.  We came back and had a nap and tried again around 4:30pm when it was sunny. The girls loved it and Sophia wants to know "when next we'll be back here" so she can go again. They also did an aerial obstacle course called Wind Walker. These girls are totally happy when their feet are not on solid ground.

We had to get some parts at the auto shop and they recommended a Texas BBQ pit called Dickey's BBQ. Food and beer were delicious. We got chicken fingers , pulled pork, mac and cheese ribs, coleslaw, potato salad, honey ham, ribs and waffle fries.  My beer was from Texas and Tom's from Oregon. 

Now we're all packed for our trip up Pike's Peak tomorrow.  14,000 feet here we come.


Day 18: Cortez, CO to Colorado Springs, Co

We left at 6:45am and saw 3 deer as we left the campground. One deer was munching away in the lawn near us as we were hooking up the car.  We were on the highway by 7am. I made bagels for breakfast and we had our Starbuck's coffee traveler cups.  We had some time to talk before the girls were up. They got bagels and toast.   Later we hit construction and I used the time to make melted swiss & muenster ham /turkey sandwiches with tomato and onion for Tom & I. The girls got chicken fingers (baked in the convection microwave) with carrot sticks and strawberries.  The drive was very hilly changing altitude by 1000 ft several times. Once we got to the I-25 it was easy going and we pulled into Colorado Springs with cloudy skies.  The campground was very nice and we had the new "executive" pull-thru's.  We hooked up and it started to rain.  We saw flood warnings. Then heard lots of sirens; the road was closed; we saw news people taking footage of the stream in front of us.  Hail started to come down. It was crazy. We were OK in the end but learned later on the news that the SWAT team had evacuated the RV park down the road.   We went for dinner downtown.  Downtown had a lot of homeless people and seemed strangely desolate and empty.  I like the area we are in much better- Manitou Springs; I think the sub-urbs are better than the city here.  Despite the cool temperatures afterward Sophia went swimming around 8:30pm.  What a day !


Day 18 stats: 

Departing Mesa Verde NP:  6:45am MT

Crossed the Continental Divide at 9:16am MT, 17,815 km

Wolfcreek Pass:  10,875 ft altitude

Gas fill up – Monte Vista, ½ tank 10:30am MT, 17,894km

Arriving Colorado Springs, 18,189km


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ranger Tour : Balcony House Pueblan proverb

Ranger John today ended his tour of Balcony House with this saying that he heard from a member of the Native Indian tribe who descended from the people that lived here 750 years ago.  I really liked it and wanted to post it to remember. It went something like this:

We do not inherit the earth from our parents. We borrow it from our children.

I really like that.

Day 17: Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez, Colorado

It's the end of the day, almost bedtime for the munchkins.  I just asked Sophia what the best part of her day is.

This is her list.

#1:  Balcony House because she got to go through a tunnel and go into the house.
#2:  Climbing into a Kiva because it was interesting. It was interesting that it looked big on the outside but it was small once you climbed down the ladder.
#3:  Paper doll fashion show with Jessica.
#4:  Cliff Palace dwelling tour.
#5:  tie between -- seeing 2 baby deer, a mama deer and a teenager deer jumping across the road;   & getting her Junior Ranger badge; & getting gooey with S'Mores !!!

That's it. She couldn't pick just one best part. That's the best part of my day. ;-)

Balcony House was a pretty adventurous tour. I was a little nervous of that tunnel and then the ladders up the sheer cliff wall to get out. Cliff Palace was  easier to get to but it was not as interesting as you could not walk on the same floors as the ancient Pueblos did (Anasazi).  Climbing into the kiva was fun too -- it was a 100 ft descent down and then back up to the house site-- I was tired after that. Everything is harder when you have 20% less oxygen to deal with.

We started the tours at 9am and it was a one hour drive into the park from the RV camp - the park is that big. We didn't get back until 3pm.   Another go -go-go day.  But totally worth it.  Seeing the deer in the park was exciting - I had 6 deer sightings in total. 

There are meteor showers tonight - so we'll be looking for that. (if we can stay up).

Day 16: Moab Utah to Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez, Colorado

Today was our Wedding Anniversary ! We had a big breakfast and then packed up and headed out. Since we only had a couple hours to drive we stopped at Arches for one last hike to the North and South Windows.  It was so crowded, I guess because it's Saturday. There are a a lot of French tourists here. Usually it's German or Japanese but in Moab the French are predominant.  I wouldn't have thought this was a popular French tourist destination but it is.

I will miss Arches ! I think it's one of the best, if not the best national park I've been to.

The drive to Cortez got interesting just across the Utah border. We had lightening for an hour then massive winds and driving drain. By the time we got the park, it was freezing.  We managed to get booked into 2 tours to the cliff dwellings -- Cliff Palace and Balcony House.

We quickly got setup and headed to the Metate Room for dinner. We had a great anniversary dinner - Tom had quail, elk tenderloin and boar sausage; I had chicken scallopini and we had a bottle of Two Rivers Merlot -- a winery we had toured earlier on this trip.  The girls behaved very well as this was a fairly fancy restaurant. The view was amazing - you could see for miles. Dessert was prickly pear creme brulee and a white chocolate mousse with blue berries. We were about 8000 ft up at this point -- about 1000 ft higher than our campsite.   We sat outside a bit when we got back but it was too cold - -I was wearing my wool hat !  WE saw 3 deer cross the road and later the Milky Way made its appearance.  

What a spectacular day.
After the girls went to bed, Tom and I watched half of Pretty Woman, one of my favourite movies. We drank the rest of our Two Rivers merlot, which the restaurant allowed us to cork and bring home.

Best anniversary ever !

Day 16 Stats:
Departure Time from Archview RV Park:  10:16am MT, 17,390km
Departure Time Arches NP:  12:40pm MT
Entering Colorado: 2:12pm MT, 17,826km
Arriving Mesa Verde - Morefield Campground - 4:22pm MT, 17,620km