Crossing the Country with Four Kids

Bob and I have traveled a lot, but it took us a while to get to the point where we went somewhere besides visiting family. When you’re raising four kids you tend not to be able to afford hotels or to want to stay in them with your children. And I hate camping. That said, our first big trip was a camping event. Sort of.

We planned on four weeks on the road to go from Florida to Washington State and back with an intermission in the middle. At that point Bob would fly home and work a week or two, leaving me with the kids to have some sister and cousin time off the road. Then he planned to fly back to join us and resume the trip. This was back in 1995 before everyone used the internet.

We were closing in on our early June departure date when Bob got the word that his company was closing its Central Florida division and he was suddenly out of a job. We had purchased a used pop-up camper to pull behind our big blue Dodge conversion van. (This was as close to real camping as I was willing to go.) The front two weeks of our trip were planned and reservations made. We decided to proceed as planned except for the intermission, and why not make it a six-week trip.

Bob would be drawing unemployment and we could pick up newspapers as we crossed the country for him to apply  for jobs along the way. Aside from the obvious loss of income, it seemed like a pretty good plan.

Then things started to fall apart. Literally. First, our dishwasher broke. It was old and not worthy of repair. As we debated over spending money to fix it or not, the air conditioner in our house went up. There would be no debate. You don’t live in Florida without air conditioning. We had to replace the entire unit. Ouch.

I’m not one to look for signs, but we started to question whether or not this trip was a good idea. Both Bob and I had done similar trips as kids and we always wanted to do this with ours. Our kids ranged from 8 to 16, so we knew we were running out of time.

It was then that the freakiest thing happened, the metal standard that held up our basketball hoop and was cemented into the ground, fell over. Boom. Just like that. It looked like acid had worn through it. We blame this on our dog PJ. The pole was his favorite place to pee. We considered taking him to be checked out at the vet, but that would be another expense and how would we explain to our vet that the dog’s urine had eaten through a metal pole, so we left that one alone.

Ultimately we decided that since our window was closing, we better just make the trip before something else went wrong, so off we went.

I’m so glad we did. This trip remains a highlight of our life with the kids. We traveled through 22 states and logged 10,000 miles on our car. Our kids developed a deeper relationship with each other just at the point when they would be pulling more towards their friendships than siblings. It was a win in every way except for laundry. Doing laundry on the road was challenging but we managed. People have been using laundromats for years and when you can do several loads at once, it’s not so bad.

Our children are now all married. Our daughter definitely has the road-trip gene. She and her husband also have four children. Two years ago they traveled across country with them and when they came to the Oregon Dunes, she remembered being there as a kid. She remembered her brothers and her acting like they were lost in the desert as they climbed the dunes. So, she reenacted it for us. I hope you enjoy the picture as much as I do.

 

My four kids at the Oregon Dunes in 1995

 

Dena’s four kids doing the reenactment. She has three girls and a boy, just the opposite of Bob and me.

Have you ever done a long trip with your family? If not, you may want to consider it. It was a bonding moment and an adventure that we will never forget.

 

This is Post #26 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.

 

A Few More Things about Salzburg

My husband Bob was very disappointed that I neglected to share a few facts and pictures from our Salzburg trip, so this post is for Bob, but I hope you read it, too.

I’ll start with his favorite discovery. The church where the wedding from The Sound of Music was portrayed was Basilica St. Michael in the Mondsee Lake District. Only the inside of the church was used. I’ll give you three shots of the church altar area, each getting closer. Notice the area behind the candles. What do you see?

This is a little closer up. What do you see behind the candles?

If you said human skeletons, you’d be right. There are two on each side of the altar and they seem to be dressed for church. While getting the site ready for the foundation, four skeletons were uncovered. To my knowledge, nobody knows who these people were, but it was decided that they should be included inside of the church. They are preserved behind glass. We don’t know who came up with that plan, but it sure is different. We have seen thumbs of saints and heads of saints preserved and on display in duomos (cathedrals) in Italy, so this is not as strange as you might think. Oh, it’s strange, just not as much as you might think.

I also neglected to give you a shot of what the inside of our hotel looked like in Salzburg. This is very different from its American counterparts, but I like it. I like the idea of each of us having our own blanket as I am usually cold and Bob is always on the warm side. Actually, maybe that’s the problem – I need to be on the warm side.

And I forgot to show you the view as we traveled to our hotel. Our mouths were open in awe during our entire trip.

You really need to go to Mirabell Gardens if you’re in Salzburg. It’s breath-taking.

Bob in the gardens.

When we were at dinner with our new friend, my sister mentioned that she was coming down with a head cold. Robert said he had just the thing for that. He served up a round of schnapps for us, on the house. He said it would help clear her head. She downed it before he could warn her it was a little strong. This picture is our reaction to my sister who came out of her seat when the smack from the schnapps hit her. And, by the way, it did its job of clearing her head!

Hope you enjoyed a little more of Salzburg and hope even more you can visit there yourself sometime.

 

This is Post #12 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post each day in April.

Salzburg – We Needed to Spend Some Time with You

Full disclosure, I had this post without pictures in my drafts to complete since Bob and I went to Europe with my sister and her husband four years ago. When today’s blogging challenge writing prompt suggested a travel post, I thought maybe it was time. I enjoyed reminiscing. I hope you’ll forgive me for waiting four years to post this, but better later than never.

Salzburg

 

When I came to realize that the Sound of Music was set in Austria, I knew I had to go there.  Maybe it was the lure of the mountains, maybe it was the leiderhosen, maybe it was the fact that the highest point in Florida is just above sea level, I don’t know.  But if those hills really are alive with the sound of music, by golly I was going to hear it.

The Sound of Music tour was fun.  Picture a bunch of strangers and strange people on a bus being led around by a cute, young English lady in traditional Austrian leiderhosen.  In between stops we would sing along with the movie score. It was there that I discovered that my sister, Chris, who was traveling with us, could yodel. She’s very talented!

Sound of Music Tour

We visited the lake in the back of the house where Maria and the children, while dressed in curtains, fell out of the boat. The lake was not at the actual back of the house used in the movie.  They filmed in two different locations.  This would have been where you would have expected to see the gazebo where 16 going on 17 was sung, but that has been moved to a different area.  It used to be in a private backyard, but the people who owned the house grew weary of strangers leaping around in their backyard at all hours of the day and night so they donated it to the city, who moved it to a park.

Bob and I were actually dating when I was 16 going on 17. We never had a gazebo to dance around in though.

Of course, the church where movie Maria married the Captain was spectacular, as was sitting in a cafe eating apple strudel during a break in the tour.

This church was chosen for Maria’s wedding to allow for great views from above of the long train on her wedding dress.

We also visited the lake district even though it is barely featured in the movie.  It offered some of the most spectacular views I have ever seen.

Bob and I in the Lake District. For some reason we keep singing and raising our arms.

A highlight was Mirabell Gardens, which we visited while waiting for our tour bus.  I came to realize that these beautiful gardens were the ones featured in the movie.  Our April visit was perfect for the commencement of spring flowers, which added to our enjoyment of the park.

After the tour, we wandered around the old town and found ourselves in an area that looked more like Rodeo Drive than Salzburg.  There was even a Starbucks there.  It seemed wrong.  So we pulled out our trusty Rick Steves Guide and sought out a place to eat.  Rick always encourages his readers to go to Europe through the back door. The door we went through seemed to open into a different city altogether, so we were happy to put our hands in the hands of the man who travels Europe for a living.  We found our way back into the charming Salzburg that we had so quickly fallen in love with.

Mozart’s birthplace. No pictures allowed inside.

First time we stopped at Mozart’s house, it was closed. I tried knocking but nobody was home.

Just down the way from Starbucks was the house where Mozart was born, and thanks to Rick, nearby we found a restaurant called Gasthaus zum Wilden Mann.  We felt like we had entered someone’s private home.  It was rustic and charming.  The owner, Robert, greeted us as we entered.  I offered my “Gruss Got” greeting, and then inquired if I had used it correctly.  He smiled and said, “Yes, we always like to praise the Lord when we greet people.”  Gruss Got literally means God is good.

We sat at the corner table under a crucifix.  So we had a bar in one corner and Jesus in the other.  Antlers were on every wall. Robert sat with us and helped us choose our dinner. He said, “You need to spend some time with me.” We heartily agreed and by the end of our meal, we felt like we had been with an old friend. He sat with us for our entire dinner. It was as if he had nothing better to do.

This was a great example of hospitality and slowing down to smell the roses, or in this case sausages and beer. Thanks to Rick Steves for showing us the back door.

“You need to spend some time with me.”

 

This is Post #11 in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.

It Takes More Than Autumn Leaves to Get Me to Michigan in October

Hail, sleet, and snow in the midst of a thunderstorm – that was my welcome to Michigan. The date was October 20. I had left almost 90-degree weather, an atypically warm Orlando autumn. To say this was a shock to my system would be an understatement.

First stop after touching down was Costco, of course. It was as I pulled into the parking lot that the sleet began. I sat there in my rental car in awe of the sudden extremely different from Florida precipitation when it started to hail, accompanied by thunder and flashes of lightning. Being a Floridian, I can drive in the worst of a rain storm, but this, I wasn’t so sure. Then, flashing through my mind, were those weird road signs that warn bridges ice before roads. I would be crossing bridges. I reminded myself that I could do this, but I didn’t wanna!

My first thought was, I needed a nap. I’d gotten up early to catch my flight and sleep on the plane, well, that doesn’t really count. But the thought of driving through this kind of weather did wake me up.

Of course, I didn’t have an umbrella, and the sleet was mixed with rain that was coming down pretty steadily. I needed to do my Costco run before making the two-hour drive to my son’s house. He and his wife were expecting their second child, and my grandmother calling was strong.

Neither snow nor rain nor cold nor gloom of Michigan autumn would stay this grandmother from the swift completion of her appointed Costco run. I decided to go for it – cold, wet weather and all. And then, it stopped.

I was so thankful! I bought my stuff and made the drive with only slight rain falling on the windshield. The temperature stayed above freezing, so the bridges were fine! The snow flurries waited until I arrived at their home.

Seeing my son, Joe, my grandson, and my very pregnant daughter-in-law was all the sunshine I needed. It was wonderful to be there. Now, the baby could come any time. He was due on the 24th. He had a plan of his own.

No grandmother I know has ever been so well rested while going to help with a new baby. After scheduling to be induced on November 1, Aubyron delivered a very healthy, 10-pound baby boy on Halloween. That was a Wednesday, and I was scheduled to come home on Saturday. We were really sweating out those final days, wondering if I’d get to see the baby at all, wondering if I’d be there to help with their three-year-old. Thankfully, I was able to push my departure back a couple of days and go home on Monday.

While we were waiting, I had the best time with my grandson. We built blocks, did puzzles, read stories, baked cookies, and played. I tried to pack in all the stuff that I don’t get to do on a regular basis with him. It was wonderful. We also saw all that their small, college town had to offer. We took walks. Many, many walks. My poor daughter-in-law was miserable and trying to do what she could to encourage the birth, and my son was getting a little anxious, too.

Let me give you a little glimpse of our tour. I was struck by the comparison of what a Michigan store stocks and what a Central Florida store stocks.

An entire section of things to keep the ice off your car. You can’t find this stuff in Orlando.

I mentioned they live in a college town. That should have given me a clue as to what this was all about.

Everything you need for beer-pong in one handy spot. I’ve never noticed that at CVS where I live.

They have a Family Video rental store, though I found no VHS tapes in there. The walls were lined with DVDs and I understand it is quite popular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, if that weren’t enough, they have real, live Fall up there. They don’t have to fake it by purchasing colored leaves and pumpkins. Those things are there naturally. It was beautiful.

But the most beautiful thing I saw there, showed up on October 31. Yes, all else pales in comparison. Welcome to the world, Oliver!

Grandchild #8. He’s so beautiful!

Now you understand why I haven’t posted lately. Love is very distracting and consuming in the best of ways.

Traveling with My Engineer

Travel. Bob and I are known for traveling a lot. Sometimes family or friends have traveled with us. That has resulted in a reputation that leaves some scared to do so. We are what you would say… aggressive. We make a plan that is so detailed that we have to write in time for rest. Seriously. This is what happens when you are married to an engineer, or at least it’s what happens with my engineer. We figure that there will likely be time for trips that are heavy on relaxing in our future (God willing). So, for now, let’s see how much we can cram into a vacation.

This last trip began because Bob became concerned about my state of mind. Excessive sighing, staring at the wall (of pictures), wandering through the toy aisle at Target. These were tell-tale signs that I was missing my grandkids and kids. I had not seen the Michigan group since Christmas. So, before I was reduced to weeping and gnashing of teeth, Bob scheduled time off from work and the plan began. (more…)

Oh, The Humidity!

So lovely – Moved to tears (almost)

I missed humidity something terrible while we were away in Utah. My eyes couldn’t even tear up in response to the beauty we were hiking through. I was unable to blow my nose and my skin with its alligator look reminded me of home. I could put up with that because my hair looked great, so who cares that I couldn’t cry and that my nose would bleed when I tried to blow it. That was a small price to pay for soft, silky hair.

Now that I have traveled extensively in the desert of Utah and Arizona (two weeks), I can tell you from firsthand experience that Florida doesn’t really understand the words “dry heat.” We understand heat from the dryer, but that’s the extent of it. We also know what dry heaves are, but I don’t even want to go there.

There are dangers in dry heat that we are unaccustomed to. It’s so extreme that one must be warned of the danger by signs like this:

We don’t see signs like this in Florida.

Floridians understand sweat. Furthermore, we are known for it. Yes, we are big sweaters.

As a kid, I never learned that you don’t talk to strangers. Talking to people, especially while we’re traveling, is interesting. We met a lot of people in Utah.  Nine times out of ten, when someone found out I was from Florida they would say, “Oh, the humidity!!!” It was like they thought we lived under a curse or something.

I gave up trying to defend our state. Yes. It’s humid. I work up a sweat on the way to the mailbox, but I can blow my nose. That should count for something! And my skin no longer has that alligator look. My hair – that’s another story. I’m back to frizzy, but at least I have tears again if I want to cry about it.

Run, Moggie, Run

I mentioned that Bob and I are traveling with friends. We became friends with Mike and Moggie back in the 1970s, and they are our Florida friends of longest duration (oldest friends, but I don’t like the way that sounds).

[/Bob and Me]

Here we are in Monument Valley where we took a three hour Jeep tour, which was awesome. Our guide was a movie buff and mentioned several movies that had been filmed there, including most of John Wayne’s early films directed by John Ford. Some of my favorite movies which were filmed there are Forrest Gump; Mission Impossible II; National Lampoon’s Vacation; and Back to the Future III.

After our tour was over, we took a smoother drive in our rental car and headed down Hwy 163 looking for adventure. We headed to Mexican Hat. Mexican Hat is easy to miss and I would certainly recommend that. We were looking for adventure and it was not to be found there. Time to enlist google to help us find something unusual, something wild, something dangerous – Forrest Gump Point.

Do you remember the part in that movie where Forrest had been running across America? One day, for no particular reason, he decided to go for a little run. It was 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours later when he stopped and said, “I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll go home now.”

We were determined to find that point and google came through. It was the craziest place. No signs were posted, yet people were pulled off the sides of the highway risking life and limb to take their pictures where Forrest ended his run. Of course, we did, too.


Remember, this is a highway with 60 mph speed limits. Timing is everything in this sort of endeavor, especially since it is likely that a lot of folks just drive that road with no idea of the significance of an imaginary guy taking an imaginary run for no particular reason. They may not understand that fans of the film will want to re-enact that fateful scene despite cars zooming by at high speeds. Go figure.

I went first as I knew you would expect nothing less. Bob is my driver and photographer. (As I have mentioned before, never travel without an engineer, especially if you’re married to one. They come in very handy.)

Here is my triumphant pose. I must say it was exhilarating.


Well, not to be left out, Michael and Moggie wanted to get their picture done, too. Only thing, there was so much activity that they failed to hear us yell, “Car!” Eventually they ran!

I am happy to report that no one was hurt during the re-enactment. That’s all I have to say about that.

Antelope Canyon

The day finally arrived for us to do the Antelope Canyon tour. I was very excited because not only was the canyon reported to be amazingly beautiful, but it is also on the Navajo Reservation so we would have a local Navajo guide to take us through and tell us about it.

The day started out rainy and cold, cold even if you aren’t from Florida. We knew there may be closings of the canyons (upper and lower – we did the upper) if rain became an issue. The rain doesn’t have to be occurring at the canyon. If it is from up the canyon, flash floods can occur and that is no joke. We prayed that it would be sunny enough for us to enjoy the tour and that rain wouldn’t be a problem, so when we loaded onto their truck to be transported to the canyon entrance, we were grateful.

Our guide, Irene, was a woman about my age and she seemed like a no-nonsense kind of a gal. I discovered this when I tried to step up onto the truck without showing my ticket first. She was a bit gruff. I hate making a bad first impression, but oh well. We got onboard with ten other people and huddled together to keep dry and warm. I felt like we were being smuggled into the canyon. Cool!

When the back gate was lowered and we all were herded out, Irene cautioned us to stay together. I don’t think she was trying to scare us with her stories of people not heeding the warning to run when a flash flood was detected, but needless to say we stayed close to her. She told us of tour groups from other countries that didn’t understand what she was trying to communicate when she said to run and how she literally had to drag people out. Maybe too much Disney mentality – I dont know why people wouldn’t figure out they needed to get out. But I can tell you that our friend, Moggie, who is traveling with us, loved the stories so much that I thought she was going to throw up. But she didn’t.

When we entered the canyon the magic began. Disney has nothing on this. NOTHING! This is a slot canyon, so the walls are narrow, but not too much so – you can stand easily the entire length of it. The colors and the patterns on the walls are nothing short of breath-taking. The rock formations in the canyon could not have been constructed by man. We were in awe.

As for Irene, she was awesome! She had a great sense of humor and is a wonderful photographer and a bold one. She would take our cameras from us, adjust the settings, and take the best pictures these cameras and phones have ever generated. Bob and I got a new camera for each other for Christmas. Bob is the chief (sorry) photographer and I am the iPhone photographer. She called Bob grandpa, which in their culture is more respectful than ours, and she would take his camera and make it dance. We loved her! First impressions are only just that.

Today, I will use my title, Life on the Lighter Side, to show you a few pictures of the light in the canyon. Hope you enjoy them, and hope you can go to Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona, yourself sometime.

They Left a Light on For Us

Tuesday we arrived in Page, Arizona. Our Number One Goal: Antelope Canyon. But for now let me tell you about our first night in Page. We stopped at Glen Canyon Dam, on the Colorado River, and saw the whole dam thing. In this area it is dam this and dam that. We ate lunch at the Dam Cafe which was in the Dam Plaza, in the center of the dam town. You get the picture.

Our next stop was Horseshoe Bend where we hiked down to see the Colorado River make a, you guessed it,  horseshoe-shaped bend. It was another test of our prowess as we hiked along the steep trails of Navajo Sandstone with the wind whipping along the canyon spreading sand over our everything. Totally worth it! Here are a few shots to make you jealous. Not really. If you struggle with that just think about how my legs kept yelling at me for taking them for granted all these years. They are seriously not happy with me, but I continue to tell them who is boss (Bob, for making me walk when I’m ready to give up).

But the thing we were not prepared for, the thing that no pictures could capture, the thing we didn’t quite anticipate, was our hotel for the night. We planned on two nights but plans are made to be changed.

Disclaimer: I am a little picky. Okay, I am a lot picky.

I didn’t want to be the one in our group of four to object to the place, but of course I was, somebody had to. I was gentle though, because I wasn’t the one who made the reservations. I told the lady behind the desk, “We have reservations and I have reservations.” Desk ladies don’t have a great sense of humor.

The big draw of this place was it was cheap, and we figured that we would only be sleeping in the room as we would be enjoying the night life of Page. Spoiler Alert: There is no night life in Page. Once the sun goes down the show is over. So we retreated to our room. Here’s a picture of the room, forgive the mess; but there were no drawers, closets, lights to speak of, rugs, or quiet.

It was the noisiest hotel night of our lives. And we have traveled with our four children. Even now as I think back to times when we sneaked two of them into the room so we didn’t have to book two rooms, and we had kids lying all over the floor pinching each other, tooting, and giggling, those times were not as noisy as last night was.

As best as I can tell, all Page nightlife occurs in this hotel. That must explain the popularity of the ice maker, which was down the hall about two doors from us. Evidently people in Arizona need ice all throughout the night. I could almost here people yelling, “I need ice, stat!”

The next problem was that we apparrently were on the flight path to the airport.  It turned out that everytime someone started a shower near us, it sounded like a 747 was going through our room. I literally jumped out of my bed about three times before I realized there was no threat to us.

Someone close by had a German Shepherd and must have been unsuccessfully patrolling the halls making sure people weren’t taking too many turns at the icemaker. He likely was leading a pack of dogs through the corridor through the night as there was that delightful doggy smell.

The wind howling through our windows sounded like a coyote howling at the moon. I wondered if it bothered the pro-bowlers tour that was practicing while we tried to sleep. I am not sure how they managed to set up a lane in the hallway, but good for them. It must have been difficult with the cheerleading competitors practicing all around them.

So, we checked out. One night of excitement was enough for us. It is a good thing they left a light on for us, because we would never have found the switch. I will tell you about Antelope Canyon next time – after I get a good night of sleep and some decent wifi.

Oops (Zion National Park part 2)

So last night I published a post before I finished writing it. I thought I was saving and hit the wrong button. The worst part wasn’t that it wasn’t finished or that I hadn’t added pictures. It was that I didn’t put a period at the end of my sentence. Oh, the shame and humiliation! Please, don’t think poorly of me! I wanted to fix it but alas it was too late. Also, I had no strength after hiking about 14 miles in 2 days. So here are a few pics from Zion. Thanks for being an understanding group.

Bye for now.