Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dream Weaver Road Trip

This past week, the Six Dream Weavers loaded up my parent's Tahoe (Thanks, Mom and Dad!!!), and hit the road.  For a true, honest to goodness, ROAD TRIP.  Not a long car trip to get to a destination and stay there for a few days, but a ROAD TRIP - with stops planned along the way to see sights and eat at fun places, and a constantly moving vacation.  We never stayed in one location more than 2 nights, and we never had more than a few hours between stops on the road.  It was fast, furious, and SERIOUSLY fun!  It was planned by our AMAZING leader, Britt Weaver, and we are all super impressed with his trip skills.  I was in charge of, well, not too much really.  In-car activities, and packing the diaper bag each day.  That's about it.  Everything else was up to Britt!  And it was AWESOME!

Some of the stops were altered as we progressed...


Let's start with the preparation.  A few months back, we decided we want to go West.  And that's the last I knew about it until a couple of days before departure.  Britt planned our route, stops, and length of stay.  He picked out restaurants, lodging, sites and activities - even planned to meet a few relatives and friends along the way.  He grocery shopped for snacks, crayons and markers, ear-buds, ear bud splitters, breakfast items, PediaSure for Finn, water to keep away the altitude sickness, and Diet Coke to keep Momma happy. He even made a binder with all of our itineraries, maps, reservations and tickets - divided by day with a list of each days times and activities.  IMPRESSIVE!  I cruised Pinterest (click for our trip board) for things to do in the car.  I made coloring books, car bingo sheets in page protectors, magnetic puzzles, and a magnetic tic-tac-toe board.  We packed crayons, markers, pencils, dry erase markers, and art supplies into hanging beauty bags for the kids to keep it all organized.  2 laptops with DVD capabilities, and 10 DVD's to choose from - along with inverter to keep everything plugged in and charged.  There were no "I'm Bored" calls on this trip!  And would you believe the "Sweet Clips" NEVER came down!  One flew off the visor at one point, and I wanted to revoke Finn's for peeing on me, but they stayed up!

Thanks, Mom for making all this cool stuff for us!
DAY ONE:
We left our home while it was still dark out, and while most normal people were still sleeping.  I was pleasantly surprised at how eager all of the kids were to get in the car!  Even Baby Finn seemed to know this was a good thing! Maybe because he was now forward facing in his car seat and the whole world was before him!  We were off for our adventure, and there was no stopping us now!

We had rain off and on for the first 2 hours of the trip, but it wasn't constant, and it would vary from a pretty hard, steady rain to a mere drizzle.  But, we were glad to be done with it not long after crossing over into Kansas!  We made our first stop just after we crossed over - at a QuikTrip in Park City, Kansas.  That place was BUSY!  And they were cleaning the women's restroom, so it was closed.  OOPS!  While I was holding Finn waiting for them to finish so we could go in, he peed.  Out of his overly full diaper he had on.  All over my side - down my shirt.  It was warm.  and wet.  And then it was COLD and wet.  But, I digress.  I survived, all got to go potty/get diapers changed, and got their first fun snack of the trip.  So far, so good!

Next up, LUNCH!  We traveled to  Hays, KS for lunch at a highly recommended local diner and brewery called Gella's.  They opened at 11, and we got there at 10:50, so I took Finn for a walk first.  He is very curious!  Once inside, we were treated to a fun, relaxed atmosphere and some great food!  And, on the way out, we ran into our first "friendly encounter!"  One of my brother's high school friends lives in Hays, and he met us for a quick hug and hello.


After some more car time, we made it to Goodland, Kansas!  Home of the World's Largest Easel.  Who can be that close to a remarkable site and NOT STOP? Of course we took a few minutes to explore and find all the fun "easel" facts we could! 
This was also bathroom break time.  We were pretty excited, being the Cowboy fans that we are, when we rounded the intersection and saw a "Cowboy Corner" convenience store staring back at us!

After another few hours in the car, we had made it to Colorado - and we were in a new time zone.  Britt had very carefully planned this entire tip, down to the quarter hour on driving days - about the half hour on activity days.  But you know what he forgot?  TIME CHANGE!  Which was good, we were a bit behind schedule the first day, but crossing the time zone time GAINED us an hour, and we were back on track!  Next stop - Strasburg, Colorado and the site of the Oklahoma State University plane crash in 2001 that killed 10 members of our Men's Basketball family.  We were humbled by the Colorado Memorial Site.  It was beautiful.  And sad.  And I am so glad this was a stop on our trip.


Our next destination Monday was our "home" for the next 2 nights.  We stayed at the Best Western Plus Plaza Hotel in Longmont Colorado.  Lara called the town Lugnut once - we laughed about that for days.  We got checked in, and unloaded the car...

Once we were settled in a bit and everyone had freshened up, it was time for our dinner adventure!  We were off to meet members of Britt's family he hadn't seen in 20 years!  We met them at the Red Robin in Westminster.  It was a great time getting caught up and meeting new people!  A great way to start our visit to Colorado!
That night back at the hotel, we had some "arranging" to do.  The room had 2 double beds, and a small (smaller than twin sized) sleeper sofa.  We put the girls in one bed, Jake and I in the other, Finn on a pallet on the floor, and Britt on the sleeper.  When we got up for the day the next day, the girls were the only ones still in their original sleeping locations.  LONG night...

DAY 2:
After breakfast at the hotel (which is a post all in itself.  Mediocre food, HORRIBLE location, careless staff, but it was included so we did it for 2 days), we loaded up and headed to Larimer county where we did a little nature walking and hiking.  We were on route to find "Twin Sisters Peaks" and also stumbled upon Lily Lake.  We walked up the mountain to the trail head of Twin Sisters Peaks, then crossed the highway and took a long, leisurely walk around Lily Lake.  It was just beautiful.  The scenery was amazing, we had a little chipmunk playing with us, and the weather was perfect.  AWESOME morning!


Next up - Estes Park!  We drove around this gorgeous little town for a bit, then made our way over to the Estes Park Arial Tramway.  We were getting hungry for lunch, but it wasn't very busy, so we decided to go for it!  Jake, Emma, Lara and I were super excited to go on it.  Britt, a bit more hesitant, was thinking he should keep Finn with him and stay at the base.  After all, it cautioned against people with respiratory issues (FINN!) from participating, but, then again, we had gotten the clear from Finn's pulmonologist and had been giving him the prescribed 3x a day breathing treatments...  Somehow, we talked him into going.  And he was glad he did!  It's a 3.5 minute cable car ride each way, and we spent about 30 minutes at the summit climbing rocks and feeding squirrels and chipmunks.  I even climbed to the VERY top - after the kids told me it was "easy!"  (Britt stayed closer to safety with Finn and the ground creatures.)  Easy to get up, not so easy to get DOWN.  Oh!  My aching knees...


After we got down off the mountain, we were STARVED!  So, it was time to seek out lunch.  After driving around for a bit more and seeing some fun places, we chose to pull in at the Estes Park Brewery.  The kids split a yummy pizza, Britt had a buffalo burger, and I had a Reuben sandwich.  YUM.  At this point, some weariness was setting in, and while we had planned on visiting the amusement area in Estes Park, we decided a trip back to the hotel for some pool time was a better choice.  We took a leisurely trip back to Longmont.  it included a stop by the Silver Moon Inn in Estes Park when we took off our shoes and put our feet in the VERY COLD river, and a  half way point snack break at the Lyons Dairy Bar for some cold and refreshing ice cream and shakes which we enjoyed on our way back to the hotel.  We rested for a bit, then the call of the hotel pool could not be resisted by the kids any more!  So, we changed, slathered and sprayed on the sunscreen, and hit the pool for a couple of hours!  Funny how all that outdoor physical activity makes you tired, so we went in to town for a quick dinner at Good Times Burgers - which we were NOT impressed with at all.  We went there because Jake uses the phrase "Good Times, Good Times" quite often, and we thought it ironic.  Oh well, it was better than nothing.  After that, we cruised the town of Longmont a bit, and found a nice park for the kids to play at until bed time.  Day 2 was a success.  And we had the sleeping arrangements figured out a bit better as well...



DAY 3:
Another less than stellar breakfast at the Best Western, then on the road again.  It was so fun to just put the kids in the car without them knowing where we were going or how long we would be in the car!  There was no "Are we there yet?" since they didn't know where "there" was!  They just played their electronics, watched movies, or did their activities (unless we told them this was God's creation and we couldn't believe they weren't watching every second of it! LOL!) until we landed in our next spot!  So, we broke out of Longmont, headed towards Boulder.  We wanted to point out the campus of the University of Colorado, and head on.  We stopped to get a drink in Boulder, and thought we were heading to Breckenridge.  But, we had GPS issues.  We were going completely the wrong way.  Went back to Boulder to start over.  More GPS issues.  And construction issues.  And we ended up wasting a complete hour trying to get through Boulder and on our way to Breckenridge.  SO FRUSTRATING!



So, our 2 hours planned in Breckenridge turned into "find a quick place to eat, pee, and get out of here!"  You see, we had an appointment later that afternoon with tickets we had already paid for, and we HAD to be there!  We parked just off main street, walked over, and quickly found a Chinese buffet!  Yup, our Breckenridge lunch was at the Jade Garden.  Sushi was good.  And they had tacos on the buffet.  Everyone was fed and happy - and we were back on the road!



Destination - Colorado Springs!  YAY!  We had finally gotten back on track and made up enough time that we had a few minutes to check into our lodging before we had to make our reservation.  WHEW!  So, off to the Sunflower Lodge we went!  This cottage would be our resting place for the next 2 days.  It was an adorable, quaint 2 room cottage.  The front room held the living room sitting area with TV and a full sized bed.  There was a galley kitchen with a full bath off of it, then the back bedroom had 2 full sized beds and a half bath.  SO much better for our large family!  Emma and Lara shared a bed in the back room, Jake got the other bed in there, Britt and I were out front with Finn on a pallet on the floor!  YAY!  Finally looking forward to a good night's sleep!

After we unloaded, it was off to Manitou Springs and the Cog Railway to the very top of Pike's Peak!  The kids were SO EXCITED once we told them were we were going and what to expect!  We were a little worried about our respiratory baby Finn and our asthmatic Lara, so we bought the canned O2 at the gift shop!  It was actually pretty cool, and I am glad we had it.  I think it helped at the top!  It is usually very cool at the summit.  Lucky for us, it was not that cool.  (Sarcasm).  I was still sweaty! LOL!  At the base of the 1.5 hour train ride, it was 70.  At the summit, it was 60.  And sunny.   My kids thought they were freezing, but Britt and I enjoyed the cool reprise!



Our train reservation was for 5:00pm.  And hour and a half up, 30 minutes at the summit, and an hour and a half back down.  We were desperately seeking dinner when we headed back to Colorado Springs.  And guess what we found?  SONIC!  A little taste of home never felt so good!  We took it to go and ate in our little cabin as everyone got ready for bed.  We ALL slept good that night!

DAY 4:
On our way through Manitou Springs the day before, Jake had spotted a pancake house not too far from our motel, and he declared that's where we would eat breakfast the next morning.  We got up and headed down the road to Uncle Sam's Pancake House.  It was a very good, but VERY expensive breakfast!  We tried Finn in a booster seat for the very first time.  Everything there was red, white and blue and very patriotic, including the booster seats, so we had to try one out.  It was a complete failure.  He would not stay seated in it.  Then when we tried to put him back in a high chair? Fuhgetabboutit!  Screaming and wailing and thrashing about.  But, he ate a great breakfast! And he's too cute to stay mad at for long!

Little did we know when we left the restaurant that out next stop would be the kids' FAVORITE stop of the day.  However, it almost didn't happen!  I take a small pill every morning.  I forgot to take it at the pancake house, and when we got to the car, no one had anything to drink with them.  So, I just stuck it in my mouth and swallowed.  Didn't think about it again for quite awhile.  When we arrived at our destination, Cave of the Winds, the kids were ready to get this thing started.  I, however, was beginning to not feel very well.  I felt like I had a baseball in my throat and I couldn't breathe.  We were about 30 minutes early for our tour reservation, so we had time to mill about and check out the gift shop.  My baseball was now a softball, and at this point I didn't recall having swallowed my pill dry.  I was getting scared, and Britt was ready to cut our losses and go find a doctor when I remembered my snafu.  Once I knew what it was, while I was still uncomfortable, my psyche was better, and I was determined to complete the tour.  Once we got under way, I completely forgot about my issue as I was awe-struck by the caves and cave formations.  Finn started out in a front carrier with Britt, but ended up asleep in my arms.  He had a bit of a rough patch in the middle of the tour, and I feel bad for other members of our group.  For them, it became much more bearable when he fell asleep, but now I was carrying 20 pounds of dead weight through tiny cave halls and up and down steep passageways and stair cases.  But, we emerged on the other side, victorious!  And we bought the picture to prove it!

Once we were back out in the day light, the kids saw the zip line and the "Wind Walker" structure and really wanted to try it out.  After some negotiating with mom and dad, they were presented with the arm bands that got them unlimited time on the Wind Walker, AND unlimited rides on the zip line "Batapult."  They were THRILLED!  Emma was up down and all around the Wind Walker with record speed and agility.  Lara was not quite as enthusiastic about it, but she was more graceful in her attempts at the obstacles.  Jake was, well, excited to be up there, but SCARED TO DEATH.  It took coaxing from his sisters up there with him, his parents on the ground, and the staff to get him up and around a few obstacles.  Once he got with it, though, he was a pro and LOVED it!  They spent a long time exploring there, then went over to the zip line ride.  We had definitely over-stayed our "scheduled" time, but it was well worth it to see their smiles and hear them tell about their adventures!


After we got the kids to leave Cave of the Winds, we headed back to Colorado Springs, and to the "new" part of downtown to see what it was like.  We were also looking for lunch.  We just happened to find a prime parking spot (hard to come by down there) in front of Einstein Bros. Bagels - so that was lunch!  YUM!  It was a perfect lunch to get us ready for our next stop - the US Air Force Academy!  One of my brother's good friends from early childhood is a professor there, so we met him and he showed us around a bit.  He told us about the dorms, the dining hall (all 4,000 cadets fed in 20 minutes!), and about the drills that were going on around us.  We toured the Chapel, and spent some time in the Visitor's Center.  Finn and I even got some Falcon gear to bring home with us!  From up on the hill, we could see the burned areas off in the distance.  So thankful the fires didn't get any closer to this beautiful campus.

As we drove back in to town, everyone was hungry... Again!  I had been told of an Italian restaurant in Old Colorado City that was excellent.  We found it, but decided the menu wasn't very kid friendly.  But right across the street was ANOTHER Italian restaurant.  We checked it out, and decided it was a good choice for us.  In the course of us being there for dinner, we discovered 2 other families from our hometown in this tiny Colorado Springs restaurant AT THE SAME TIME!  One of the men even worked in the same building I do.  What are the odds?  We actually met several Oklahoma families on our adventures.  Dinner was good, the service was excellent, and all the kids wanted to do after it was over was go back to Cave of the Winds!  Their wrist bands were good all day, ya know!

We went back, but unfortunately, the Wind Walker was already closing down for the night.  But, the Batapult was still open!  I think Jake and Emma rode it like 5 more times!  They were having a blast!  Britt even bought them a DVD of their last 2 rides.  It was a great evening!  And we were ready to get back to the motel and settle in for the night.



Day 5:
Time to load up ALL our stuff and ALL 6 of us in the Tahoe again!  We're off to another mystery destination!  We loved the bagels we had for lunch so much, and it was the least expensive meal we had all trip, plus we knew right where it was and that everyone would like it, so we went back for breakfast!  Due to our extended stay at Cave of the Winds, we had basically skipped over Garden of the Gods the day before.  I was a bit disappointed at this, so I batted my eyelashes at my husband, and begged him to please let us just drive through.  Even if it meant fewer breaks on the next LONG leg of our trip.  Of course, he can't resist me!  So, we recalculated the rest of the day, and allotted one hour for Garden of the Gods.




A bathroom break, trip through the Trading Post, and 2 hours later, we were ready to leave this amazing place!  WOW!  It was breath taking.  And beautiful.  And BIG!  We hope to go back someday and spend an entire day there.  Emma wants to take a horseback riding tour.  I want more time to just explore.  So glad we took the time to stop and check it out.

But now we were off.  This was a long driving day, and with the extra time I "negotiated," we had to make up for lost time a bit.  So, lunch was a stop at the McDonald's in Lamar, CO where we took a quick potty break then ate in the car.  We crossed back over into Kansas, lost an hour with the time zone change, and arrived in Montezuma, KS early that evening.  My extended family lives there, and my kids were SUPER surprised to see who's house we pulled up in front of!  We were greeted with warm hugs, homemade dinner, and a WONDERFUL place to sleep.  My Aunt's youngest grandchild was staying with her, too, and her son and his 2 kids came over, so we had a super fun evening after dinner just playing in the summer sunset.  This was the most relaxing time of the whole trip!




After some of the little kids went to bed, we decided we needed a cool summer treat.  And we knew just where to get it!  Another cousin runs the local Sno Cone place!  So, off to downtown (like 2 blocks down the street, really) to see what we could get!  Emma got grape, Lara got bubble gum, and Jake got Tiger's Blood.  I got the best hug EVER from my cousin!  And Finn got bites of everyone's!  A great evening was had by all, and a great night of sleep (mostly) was to follow!
Day 6:
Time to load it up and head home.  We didn't have a schedule this day, but we knew we wanted to try to get home before dark.  After a leisurely homemade breakfast, we casually got dressed and slowly packed the car up.  it was a wonderful end to a whirlwind trip, and while we were ready to get back home, we weren't quite ready to leave...  There was one more stop to be made in Montezuma, so after we loaded up and said our good bye's, it was off to the Gray County Wind Farm.  We had visited this landmark before - 5 years ago to be exact - when another cousin got married.  Jake didn't remember being there, and so this was like his first time.  Finn wasn't too impressed, but we snapped a few pictures, read the history of the site, and got back in the car for the trip home.


Of course, there were still stops along the way to entertain us on the way home.  First up was Greensburg, Kansas.  This town was basically wiped off the map by a tornado in 2007.  They have rebuilt, and the well is one of the main tourist attractions.  The Big Well is the world's biggest hand dug water well.  There is a park adjacent to the site, and we let the kids play at the park for a bit before we went over to check out the well.  It was a nice stop along the way!



We didn't find a lunch spot in Greensburg, so we headed on down the road to Pratt where a Taco Bell called our name.  At this point, everyone was a bit weary, and easy comfortable food was the way to go.  Finn tried to eat his spork, but all in all it was a good lunch.  And then it was time to hit the road again.  We were getting so close to Oklahoma!  Another bathroom/snack/gas stop in Wellington, KS and we would be on Native Land!

Oklahoma!  HOME!  We pulled into our driveway about 6:00 on Saturday night.  Hot, tired, and glad to be home.  But SO thankful for a wonderful trip and a great adventure.  On the last 2 legs of the trip, Britt and I came up with "awards" for each traveller.  Each of us got a "positive" reward, and a "wah-wah" award.  We had dinner with my parents and had the award presentation afterwards.  Here's how that looked:


Emma: Best Helper; Most Likely to TAKE CONTROL of every activity

Lara: Most Likely to Roll her eyes, Huff and Puff, Slap her side, Stomp her foot; Most Likely to Start a new Collection
Jake: Most enthusiastic; Most Likely to Ask: "Is it Raining?"


Britt: best Road Trip Planner EVER; Most Likely to use both your first and your middle name to call you down


Betsey: Most Adventurous Adult; Most Likely to be on her phone
And Baby Finn: BEST TRAVELER!!; Most Likely to Laugh like Perry the Platypus, then Scream like a Banshee

And, because he made this tip a laugh a minute and kept us in stitches, even when Bobby (his beloved Monkey since birth) went missing on Day 2, Jake the Snake gets an extra special award:
King of the One Liners!
We had a fantastic trip.  It was a great adventure, wonderful family time, and such a joy to see God's creations up close and personal.  We learned a lot about each other, about the logistics of a large family, and how to track down a missing lovie.  We laughed, we cried, we only yelled a little.  We confirmed that 11 year old girls can be downright ridiculous, 6 year old boys can be darned near disgusting, and even the cutest 21 month old will scream when in the car seat too long.  It was a blast.  I hope we get to do it all again someday.  Road Trip 2013 is in the books.  What should we dream about next...



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