Our 2015 road trip turned out to be a great time. It all started with a drive from Longmont down to St. George, where we stayed with Tara and her kids. Our first adventure was in Zion National Park… always a fabulous place.
I’ve always loved the towering rock walls throughout the park.
It’s been nearly three years since Thom and I hiked the Narrows, and I’ve been itching to do it again. I told the kids how awesome it was, and we headed up the trail. It was a Saturday (first mistake!) near the end of summer (second mistake) and the crowds were astounding. The Virgin River was packed with people floundering around the muddy water.
In addition to the crowds, the water was saturated with silt. I guess it “runs dirty” at certain times of the year; in October when Thom and I visited it was much more clear. Since it looked more or less like chocolate milk, it was impossible to see what we were stepping on, making the walk a bit treacherous at times. Still, we managed to have a good time.
Alex demonstrates how to stand on water that’s knee-deep for everyone else!
Even with the crowds, the canyon can be a humbling place: the walls are so high, and the canyon is quite narrow, so it just dwarfs all of the people. Pretty neat.
The kids loved it.
We hiked a little over two miles upriver– it was slow going, for various reasons– and then decided to head back. In the canyon it was quite pleasant: somewhat shady, a bit of a breeze, and of course the water. After we came back out to the trail, though, it was scorching hot. We’d taken more time than we’d intended in the Narrows, so the kids didn’t want to go on another hike. I’d hoped to make it up to Angel’s Landing, but the sun was burning at almost a hundred degrees. Alas, I had to make due with a couple shots of the sheer sandstone cliffs.
On Sunday we went to church and then lounged around a bit. I suggested we head out to a local park, just for something to do, and I think I heard Tara snicker a bit. Nonetheless, the kids were feeling as bored as I was, so I walked over to the park with them. I was surprised to see it was almost deserted on a Sunday afternoon. Madi was equally surprised to see someone there at all. After about ten minutes I realized why: with temperatures hovering around 100 and the sun shining unimpeded, it was brutally hot. We all soon decided to head back indoors, where we played some games. Our old friend Kindra (from our Aurora days) stopped in for a visit that evening– that was a lot of fun, since we haven’t seen her in many years. Unless you count the time she came to visit Denver two weeks ago. Funny that we saw her twice in those two weeks, first in Denver (where we live) and then in St. George (where she lives).
Monday was Las Vegas. We piled into the van, Tara piled into hers, and we caravaned to the City That Never Sleeps. We arrived in the afternoon and checked into our hotel suite, which included four rooms encompassing almost 1,600 square feet– bigger than our first house. Sheesh. We spent some time at the hotel pool; they had a huge pool complex, including a big lazy river… it was fun to just do nothing but float for a while.
In the evening we headed over to the MGM Grand to see Cirque du Soleil’s Ka, which was amazing. I’d never seen anything like it. We all agreed it was awesome and we’d love to see another Cirque show someday. As it turns out, they’re playing in Denver (a different performance) but their Vegas shows are renowned because of the sets and stages. I can see why.
After the show we headed out to The Strip and walked for about two hours, saoking in the neon sights. It was about 95 degrees, but didn’t feel too bad since the sun wasn’t burning down on us. It’s hard to describe how overwhelming Las Vegas can be unless you’ve been there. Everything is over the top. It’s cool, in a weird gaudy sort of way.
Tuesday morning we met up with Kurt and Megan, our friends from Longmont who had driven out separately to see their family while we visited Tara. All three families met at the fabled In-n-Out Burger, well known on the West Coast, for a burger that compares to something like Freddy’s or Steak ‘n’ Shake… meaning it’s so completely mediocre that it’s cool.
Tara headed back home while we joined Kurt and Megan on the drive down I-15 to San Diego. On the way we passed through southern Nevada, Arizona, and into southern California. The desert is such a wasteland there it’s fascinating. The thermometer in our van registered 105 degrees.
That was about the time we passed the World’s Tallest Thermometer somewhere near Baker, California. It said 106. We hit San Diego at rush hour (whee!) and checked into our hotel. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t nearly as nice as the one in Vegas– it was a suite with a king bed and a sofa sleeper packed as efficiently as possible into two sort-of-separated rooms. Still, for the price it wasn’t too bad.
We went out for dinner at a dive restaurant called Phil’s Barbecue, which involved insane amounts of meat and bones. It didn’t look like much, but the line to get in stretched out the front door and around the building, so I guess that’s an indication they’re doing something right. Kyra managed to wolf down a few pounds of ribs.
On Wednesday we visited the San Diego Temple, which is a truly beautiful building. Kyra loves this temple and hopes to be married there someday.
After changing out of our nice clothes we visited the beach and had a great time poking around the rocks and watching the surf.
There were a lot of little tiny crabs scuttling about; here are the intrepid crab hunters looking for their next find.
Now that our kids are all teenagers, they enjoy this kind of stuff but don’t have the raw joy you see in younger kids. Kate, who’s four, was excited about everything. Every wave made her shriek and laugh, every crab was the most exciting thing she’d seen that minute, and so on. It was so much fun to see.
That doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun too.
On Thursday we went to the Mormon Battalion historic site, where the kids got to pan for gold and learn how to make bricks. Who knew how exciting that could be?
Afterward it was time for the beach. Funny: the whole reason we ended up in California was because we decided we needed to take a trip to see a beach… somewhere. When Monterey didn’t work out, San Diego seemed a natural choice. So we finally had a chance to spend long hours relaxing and playing in the ocean.
Alex found a huge (live) clam:
All of us had a great time wading a little offshore and waiting for waves to come crashing over us. They weren’t large enough for surfing or anything like that, but certainly big enough to bowl us over. It was fun to time it just right so we could body-surf along the top of the waves as they rolled to shore.
Laralee: 0, wave: 1.
Kyra and I didn’t time this one very well.
Zack didn’t want to venture too far from shore; I think the larger waves would have just tossed him around.
Sunset was beautiful. I love the Pacific.
For dinner we went to another dive restaurant: a burger joint called Hodad’s. In case you’re wondering (as I was), a “hodad” is a “wanna-be surfer”. Again, there was a long line reaching from inside the restaurant out onto the sidewalk… a good sign. As it turned out, the burgers were fantastic. Better than In-n-Out, if I daresay. Plus, their decor was pretty sweet.
Friday was our last day, and we decided to go to the San Diego Safari Park. It’s somewhat related to the zoo, and for some reason we were under the impression we’d be riding around in jeeps or safari trucks looking at the animals. As it turned out, a little tram takes you around a small corner of the park, but the bulk of it is walking around… just like a zoo.
It would’ve been interesting if it hadn’t been over 100 degrees and unbelievably muggy. The animals were all just lazing around.
After a few hours of walking, the kids were beat… as was Megan, who’s six months pregnant. We decided to call it a day. We rejuvenated with frosties at Wendy’s, and then Kurt and Megan bought their girls Kraft mac-and-cheese for dinner and warmed it in the hotel microwave so they could join us at Benihana for an amazing dinner to finish the trip.
All in all, it was a grand time and an epic adventure. 16 people, 10 days, 2,500 miles, 500 pictures. It was a ton of fun to do things with these two other families, and we hope to repeat it in years to come.