June 26, 2010

Travels: none (5878 total miles)
Accommodations: Continued at the Hyatt Regency, Scottsdale

We enjoyed large showers this morning again, got ready for the Thomas Family Picture, and headed out for a quick breakfast and off to the picture. It is pretty impressive to see how quick and efficient these picture go considering that there are 24 people involved including a half-dozen young ones.

After the picture, we had a lovely visit with Dave’s grand-parents! And then we headed off to another day in the hot Arizona sun at the pool. The kids love the pool. Marin is getting around quite well and thinks of herself as a proficient swimmer.

Dave wasn’t feeling too hot (haha) this afternoon so laid around in bed while I tended to the children (j/k- poor guy!) The kids played with their cousins for a long while – coloring, legos, make-believe, outside – it was fun. Then, off to the pool for another round and to dinner. Pretty mellow and simple days here in “resort life”.

Good night sweet friends and family. We love you.

Marin: “I swim by myself.

Marin: “Mama sit there. I swim.” {She thinks she is a water safe fish.}

Cora (cousin): “I have a quad too, but it’s not here.” {Referring to a Lego quad}

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June 25, 2010

Travels: 40 miles driving around (5878 total miles)
Accommodations: Continued at the Hyatt Regency, Scottsdale

Another day indulging in resort life, our day didn’t begin until our kids rolled out of bed at 7:45. We got ready and headed to the Regency Club for breakfast and a great time hanging out with the Thomas family and its off-shoots.

After breakfast, we headed out to the pool. Marin is loving floating around in the pool, it is pretty cute. Mason is having a great time playing with Nate and feeling much more comfortable in the water. Kenz has always been such a water baby and is loving the pool. There is also a water slide which she has had a lot of fun going on (both Dave and I also tried it out). After a couple hours hanging out in the pool to stay cool in the 110 degree heat, we headed back to our rooms for a little lunch and some downtime – there is only so much time you can spend outside.

Dave picked up Jordan from the airport, and then we enjoyed a mellow evening of a light dinner, cousins playing, adults visiting, and early to bed for our worn out kids.

Kids: Our kids think it is great having their own room (adjoining), and for whatever reason they think it gives them this whole new realm of independence. They want snacks and their water bottles in their fridge. They want our room number, so they can call “just in case.” It is pretty cute!

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June 24, 2010

Travels: Phoenix, AZ to Scottsdale, AZ – 8 miles (5838 total miles)
Accommodations: Hyatt Regency – a king size bed and an extra room for the kiddos

After breakfast, playtime, and packing up we headed off to The Hyatt in Scottsdale for the Thomas Family Reunion. We got checked in, ate some lunch, greeted the family as they arrived, and then headed to the pool when Jenny, Tim, and the cousins got here.

It was a warm day around 110 degrees, and it was nice to wallow in the pool. It is a great kid friendly pool – sandy beach with shallow waters. The kids had a blast, and it was nice to see everyone and hang out.

We left the pool, took showers, and headed to the Regency Club for dinner for the kids. Our kids were so tired! Marin kept saying, “Mama, I so tired,” so they got to bed early and slept great. Nancy watched our kids and Jen & Tim’s kids that night, and we went out to dinner at Bandera in Scottsdale. It was a great time, and so great to catch up! We have missed them a lot!!

Then off to bed in a cozy FULL length King size bed – we are spoiled ;).

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June 23, 2010

Travels: none (5830 total miles)
Accommodations: Continued at Casa Lovo, Phoenix, AZ

The kids were up early this morning! After a good, filling breakfast the kids settled back into playing, Marin took a nap (she was SO tired and worn out), Dave and Jason took off for some manly man errands, and Kellie graciously let me go grocery shopping sans kids (Sprouts and Trader Joe’s).

Another day with highs around 108 degrees, this afternoon the dads took the kids swimming after their morning of crafts, playing, and a movie. I worked on organizing some pictures and then headed out to check on the pool scene. I was quickly greeted with water balloon peltings from my dear, dear husband. Which was quickly followed with getting thrown into the pool fully clothed by my dear, dear husband. Fun times! I proceeded to stay in the pool in my clothes and play with the kids – why change?

More play time, a yummy dinner, more play time with glow sticks, pjs, and tucked into bed for three very tired and sun drained children.

Blog, movie, ice cream, and a bit of quiet time for the adults.

Dave: Jason took me to a pretty nice gun club in town. I couldn’t believe the stuff they had for sale on their walls. Plenty of pre-ban machine guns and silenced submachine guns available for purchase, if you have the cash.

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June 22, 2010

Travels: Sedona, AZ to Phoenix, AZ – 128 miles (5830 total miles)
Accommodations: Casa Lovo, inside in a bed

We finally left to Sedona at 11:30 after a few wrong turns – thanks to my horrible sense of direction. We got to Phoenix, AZ after a short two hour drive (which was nice and appreciated by the kids). It is much warmer in Phoenix than anywhere we have been – 108 degrees or so was the high and the low 82 degrees which is probably sometime in the middle of the night or earlier morning hours. We are visiting an old friend of Dave’s and his family for a couple days.

Jason, Kellie, Aubree, and Mackenzie are the sweetest family – cooking for us, letting our kids turn their house into a toy explosion, swimming, laundry, etc. We have been so blessed with hanging out with the sweetest and most hospitable families! Everyone had fun swimming and playing. We ate dinner and sent the kids to bed. This is only the second time we haven’t slept in our trailer since we left in Mary. It is too hot to sleep in the trailer without hook-ups! I had to remove all the melt-able food, even crayons!

After the kids were tucked in, we watched Sherlock Holmes (I recommend) and ate some homemade strawberry ice cream- yum.

Courtney: “This is an ugly drive.”

Mason: “Papa there are so many cactuses.” {Mason is quite our little observer and the sightseer.}

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June 21, 2010

Travels: 3 miles driving around (5702 total miles)
Accommodations: Continued at Rancho Sedona RV Park

We had Baked Oatmeal for breakfast (I mixed in frozen blueberries and a ripe banana), and enjoyed sitting out in the warm morning air. After we cleaned up, Dave got to work – a busy work day for him – and we packed up to head out for the morning exploring the main street of Sedona.

We took a trolley/shuttle from the parking lot to the main street. We wandered around the very touristy area for a couple hours – stopped at a couple shops to see what they had, got an ice cream, let Mason climb around, let the kids run around a bit, and then took the trolley back and headed to the trailer for lunch.

I made veggie burgers for Dave and I (these are black bean/green chili/brown rice burgers I had made and frozen). I put down a toasted wheat bun topped with a yogurt chili sauce I made, then the burger, some cheddar cheese, lettuce, a slice of tomato, sprouts, and some guacamole. They were delicious and so filling!

The kids played outside in the shade all afternoon – scooters, Legos, dolls, make believe, good times!

Dave still had a lot of work to do, so the kids played outside for a bit while I packed some stuff up for our hotel stay in Scottsdale {Thomas Family Reunion}. Then, I took the kids on a walk and to play on the grass areas around here. Mason of course took the road less traveled and climbed over the rocks and logs and trees that lay across the top of the little hill down to the river. Then, they played in the rocks and tether ball and ran around. As everyone started to fall apart (long, warm day with no rest) we headed back to the trailer to mellow out and cook dinner.

Dinner menu: Grass fed beef burgers with cheddar, avocado, grilled onions, tomato, lettuce, sprouts, and condiments of choice; grapes; peas; and PB chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Yum! We have been thoroughly enjoying these warm evenings eating out on the patio.

Showers, PJs, teeth, and off to bed EARLY for the kids; Dishes for me; Work for Dave. Tomorrow is a short travel day which is nice.

Courtney: “I’m missing my mom group s- hanging out, talking… and my wonderful oven, range, mixer – they make cooking so much easier!”

Marin: “I’m coloring. Just one minute.”

Mackenzie: “Papa, I got a ring and Mason got an airplane book.” {airplane book = free brochure}

Camping Tip: plan meals that reuse and use up ingredients. For example, I got a bag of sprouts and used them in a salad last night, on top of a veggie burger today, and on top of burgers tonight.

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June 20, 2010

Travels: Coconino National Forest to Sedona, AZ – 53 miles (5699 total miles)
Accommodations: Rancho Sedona RV Park – full hookups

We wake up at 8am Utah time (which is now 7am Arizona time) surrounded by pines and well-rested. We get dressed and get back in the truck. We drive 30 minutes or so into Flagstaff. We grab bagels and coffee at Biff’s Bagels. I notice a sign for a farmer’s market close by!! Yeah – veggies, fruit, fresh produce – so excited!

I pick up some tasty tomatoes and a melon. Nothing compares to farmer’s market back home! It was still a nice experience: community feel, ladies weaving sheep wool into yarn, cheeses, oils, nuts, breads, eggs, meat, crafts – quite a variety of fare.

Back in the truck, we head towards Sedona. Ahh! A sign for Los Angeles – home is so close! We keep driving towards Sedona – it is a very windy road making Dave a bit nervous (there may have been a sign about vehicles more than 50 feet not driving this way – how long are we anyways?) It is another beautiful drive. Beautiful, gorgeous, breathtaking – forgive me for saying these words so often. It really is amazing how many drives we have gone on that have to be expressed in such words.

We make it down the canyon into the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona and to the Sedona RV park which is a nice, shaded RV park along Oak Creek.

We settle into our campsite, go to a grocery store that is much like Lassens, and head to the creek to splash about. The kids are a bit weary of the current and slippery rocks, but Dave has fun floating with them on a noodle from one point to another. Mackenzie saw a crawdad and became quite uneasy about the whole thing. Marin couldn’t get enough of the creek and headed for the stronger currents and deeper waters with me trying to hold her back. She can be quite the handful!

Dave: “If I can get the trailer through that parking lot back there I can get it through anything.” {Good thing he had such confidence before we headed down the windy, scenic drive to Sedona!}

Mackenzie: “Ahhh! I saw a green lobster by that rock!” {A crawdad.}

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June 19, 2010

Travels: Bryce Canyon, UT to forest north of Flagstaff, AZ – 375 miles (5646 total miles)
Accommodations: Dispersed camping, Coconino National Forest

As much as we loved this wonderful campsite and Bryce (which I highly recommend!) we needed to leave and get some consistent internet so Dave could work. We began our migration towards Arizona.

We pulled out of Bryce at 11:40 after some playtime, breakfast at Ruby’s Inn, and packing up. Our plan was to make it to Sedona, Arizona. My dad had told me it is a pretty place to stop, and we had a couple days to kill before getting to Phoenix.

We headed out of Bryce in the direction of Kanab. The landscape before us was very similar to the Eastern Sierras but with orange dirt. The landscape quickly changed to red rock canyons complete with Bryce like hoodoos – this was Red Canyon (also had some great looking camping).

It was a nice cool day – low 70s – as we started out our drive. I have been pleasantly surprised by these cool temps! Zion area is much warmer! We moved on to Juniper trees and the dry high desert. We hit a 6100 foot summit outside of Kanab and looked out onto red sand dunes rolling across the landscape.

We got back into pines and aspens in the Kaibab National Forest. Another beautiful spot to camp that reminds us of California! We planned to drive right past the Grand Canyon and straight to Sedona, but “we” were inspired at the North rim turn off and took a short, 90 mile detour. It is a beautiful drive to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Pines, aspens, lush green meadows, a herd of buffalo grazing in a meadow. It was absolutely gorgeous!

We finally got to the North Rim. We walked out onto a very windy point that looked out over the Grand Canyon. It was beautiful, but it made me quite nervous. Moms – do you know that mother bird feeling where you are crazy worried about your kids and just need to hold onto them? Well, that is how I felt. I was certain my carefree son was going to run off one of the sides as he went to hop from one rock to another. In the end, it all worked out. The five of us made it out to the farthest point and back.

We stopped at the gift shop for some postcards – I am a big fan of National Park gift shops or Visitor Centers for postcards! I love sending them to friends and family. Now, I am just waiting for one in return! J/K. Then, we stopped at this old saloon and Dave and I shared a beer.

We grabbed a snack in the trailer, loaded up, and drove out singing to one of our favorite kid CDs Animal Playground by Putumayo.

Back on the road towards Sedona, we see a sign for the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. No! We are not going! Back up to 8840 feet – lots of high points today! Haha! The kids are having some rest time reading and coloring, and we are taking some time to listen to the Josh Nordgren band worship CD. I don’t know a time when a good worship CD doesn’t bring perspective and uplift, do you?

“Lord my strength, my fortress, my rescue in distress.”

“Like a tree that flourishes my roots can be found in You.”

“Redemption begins with a decision, despite my mood I will give you praise.” {Boy did I need that one yesterday!”

We left the trees and cool and entered the Arizona desert. Low on gas we finally pulled into an Express gas station in the middle of Navajo Nation land. There are jewelery/art stands all over this hot desert, red sand, dune looking rock formations, mobile homes dotting the landscape – a very poor area you can tell.

We have decided to try a KOA in Flagstaff for the night but wait to make reservations. We continue across the desert (5000 feet) as the sun sets behind us the sand dunes rolling through the desert have a purple/pink glow. We slowly begin to gain elevation again as we get closer to Flagstaff, back up to 7500 feet. We see National Forest roads – hmm free camping? Sounds good. We pull off on a forest road in the Coconino National Forest and hit the sack! We are beat! {This is why we don’t like to make reservations – plans change.}

Dave: “I think the trailer is overweight. Closer to 8000 pounds.” {you don’t know how many times I have heard Dave mutter these words.}

Marin: “Look at. Look at! On the road. A goat!” {Not really}
“Look at a tunnel.” {Really}
“Look at a goat on the road.” {Not really}

Courtney: “A typical afternoon on the road looks like Marin snoozing in her cow car seat with her blanket. Mason and Mackenzie listening to a book on tape while they color or stare out the window and rest  (thanks Erin!). Dave and I either talk or I read to him.”

Dave: {driving into the Grand Canyon N.P.} “This is gorgeous.”

Mason: “Do you remember when we went on a hike with Austin and Merric and we would stop and play games?” And when we went to Sutton’s cabin?”

Mason: “God is in our tummies. And he has to be the same size as our feet to fit.” {Got to love little kids trying to make sense of our big God. See even theology comes into our car conversations.}

Courtney: “Out of my Friday funk. Today is a great day! I am so blessed to have the best little travelers along for this journey! It is so funny how many funny things they know because of this trip – like the names of the different gas stations. Mackenzie said today, ‘Why don’t we find a Conoco, they will have diesel.’ “

Marin: “Horsie, come out of your cage!”

Dave: “Hey Buddy?”
Mason: “What stinker?”

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June 18, 2010

Travels: 33 miles driving around (5271 total miles)
Accommodations: Continued at Bryce Canyon

It was nice waking up in such a beautiful forest. We ate some banana, chocolate chip pancakes in the morning – great breakfast EXCEPT we were in dire need of some Graham oranges to accompany them!

At about the time the pancakes were coming off the griddle Dave found a new camping spot – these campgrounds are mostly first-come first-served, so if we wanted to move to a flatter spot, we needed to hustle. He had the older two kids sit in the spot until he could pay and get a ticket for it :). We ate breakfast and then packed up and moved 2 spots away. Now, the campground was great and this spot was great. Mason couldn’t get enough of the outdoors and loved camping here.

We let the kids play for a bit and then went out in the truck to explore the park. We saw the cool and fascinating hoodoos that make Bryce so famous. There are some fun looking trails you can take that wander through the formations, but we opted to wait until they are older and skip the chance of any of them running off the mountain. We saw some antelope, prairie dogs, and headed back for camp.

Dave desperately needed to work, and we did not have any wi-fi, so he headed off to spend the day in the lobby of Ruby’s Inn. The kids were beyond cranky from a late night, and I was in a crabby Friday funk that I couldn’t shake. We had a rough time at the trailer – tried a variety of different activities, rest, etc. nothing worked. Finally, Dave got home at 5:30, the kids played outside a bit more, Mason climbed a tree for awhile, and then and we ate a spaghetti dinner. Then, the kids went to bed, I took some downtime reading and journaling, and Dave went back to the Inn to work. Tomorrow is another day!

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June 17, 2010

Travels: Moab, UT to Bryce Canyon, UT – 291 miles (5238 total miles)
Accommodations: Bryce Canyon, North Campground – no services

Went to bed early last night, fell asleep reading Omnivore’s Dilemma – got to love that! Woke up around 7 – always the kids acting as our alarm these days. I do miss my early, quiet mornings reading my Bible and getting the day started sans kids. Another day…

After bacon and eggs, we packed up the trailer and headed towards {destination unknown}. It took us awhile to pack up and get going. When Dave was about to hook up the trailer, he realized that an important “pin” and lock that attaches the hitch to the truck was missing. It must have been left on the bumper and ended up somewhere between our campsite and one of the views in Arches. We headed to the local RV supply and picked up another one. Thankfully it was open and there was one!

Now, we were ready to go. We pulled out of town, PB&J in hand ready to see something. We took the 70 to the 24 to the 12. Our drive started out very dry – we are in the desert, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. We drove through Captiol Reef National Park which was very pretty – it is so interesting to see the different layers of rock and the current status of these ever changing rock formations. Sometimes there is a long red stripe through a large light colored mountain or you will see black streaks on deep red rock where water has left its mark. Fascinating – and I obviously have NO CLUE what the reasons behind these fascinating rocks are.

Everything up to this point was expected and your typical southern Utah fare. But from this point on things changed over and over again. We continued on through desert and then hit Dixie National Forest and began climbing in altitude and running into pines, and then aspens, and then hillsides of only aspens and grass at the 9600 foot summit. Temperatures cooled from the 90s down to 72. Both of us could not believe the number of aspens in this area; we have never seen this many before. Dixie National Forest has some great, cheap camping that is very California mountainesque. {Note: No cell service all day}

As we drove down in elevation, we were reacquainted with the pines, and then the red rock and dry high desert terrain. More cool red rock and canyons to drive through. It is amazing that the road builders have just blasted their way through these mountains to make way for these immaculately kept roads. Good bye pines and cool temps! Or so we thought again – we are beginning to realize that we should make no predictions about what is around the next turn.

As we left the Escalante area and began climbing in elevation again, we were back in pine trees and a 7600 foot summit. At this point, we had decided to drive into Bryce and take a look around and then see if we could find camping close-by. We were pleasantly surprised to find that Bryce Canyon National Park is at a higher elevation, covered with pines, and gorgeous. We were also pleasantly surprised to get the last campsite at Bryce National Park at 7pm. It wasn’t a great spot – a bit too slanted. BUT, it was a great campground, cheap, and a beautiful area. We figured we would try to move spots tomorrow.

We quickly set up camp, made some sandwiches, looked around, and got the kids in bed by a whopping 9:30pm. (This is very late for our kids; they usually go to bed at 7.) I went on a little walk to unwind and talked to my mom for a few, barely getting reception, and then hit the sack!

*Note: We hadn’t had plans of camping here figuring that it would be too hot to camp without hook-ups, but it was in the 70s during the day.

Mackenzie: “1, 2, 3”
Marin: “Booting.
{Mackenzie told Marin to say this. I don’t get it, but they think it is hilarious!}
Mason: “1, 2, 3, 4 horse tank.”
{more laughter}

Dave: “This is my kind of camping – pine trees and dirt. Oh, and thank God for diesel. We’ve crossed way more passes than I thought existed.”

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