Saturday, July 30, 2016

About that "Unlimited Mileage"

(UPDATE: now includes links)

My rental car for this summer (because mine is on its way to Korea!) has New York license plates.  It's been quite the conversation starter, because the closest we've been to New York was Texas! So many people have stopped us to ask about them, and it always goes something like this:

Random stranger: So you're from New York?

Us: No, it's just a rental car.

Random stranger: Oh, okay.  So where are you from?  

Us:  Well, we're in the middle of a move. From Hawaii... To Korea.

Random stranger (wearing expression of surprise): Did you take a wrong turn somewhere?!

It's an understandable question!  As of the time of writing, I've put about 5,000 miles on the car and been to nine states.  I'm not sure the rental car company knew quite what they were agreeing to when they put "Unlimited Mileage" on the contract!

So where do I start?  We left Hawaii on June 30th and landed in California to spend a few lovely days (including the Fourth of July) in the wine country with family.  Then we flew to Austin for what I started to think might have been complete insanity...
Jayna had wanted to look at some colleges in Texas, and after three years of living on a rather small island, our family was craving a roadtrip.  Some of our best family memories have been made on the road.  At one point, we had talked about driving all the way to Nashville from California, but Matt had to leave for some training from Los Angeles on the 15th, so we acknowledged (ruefully at first) (but thankfully later) that we just couldn't manage that in such a short amount of time.  Our first day in Austin was kind of a bust even though we landed at a decent time because of a huge headache with the rental car (we'd rented a passenger van -- because 7 people with stuff for the next few months -- but the only one they had was so disgustingly dirty, we couldn't accept it.  So we had to get another vehicle, and it just took forever).  When the dust had settled, we had just enough energy to get to our hotel and eat some good, cheap Mexican food before crashing for the night.  The next day, Matt took the littles to an indoor play place, because it was super hot, while Jayna, Skyler, and I (and Annalee) went to view UT Austin.

 Then we drove up to Waco, stopping for too short a time at my the cafe of my friend Rachel, who runs the Sweet Lemon Inn and Kitchen in Georgetown.

If you stop reading here and take nothing else from this post, this is the most important part.  If you are within three hours of Georgetown -- no, no, if you live in Texas, period -- go to this cafe.  Actually, maybe you should just schedule a trip to Texas because Rachel makes THE BEST CINNAMON ROLLS I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE, and I consider myself to be quite the connoisseur of cinnamon rolls.  

We stayed two nights in Waco so that Jayna and Skyler could tour Baylor.  While they took the tour, I went to the Cameron Park Zoo with Lilly, Wyatt, and Annalee.
 It was really such a delightful zoo, and we had a great (hot) time.  That afternoon, we hit the Dr. Pepper museum

and, of course (because we are huge Fixer Upper fans), Magnolia.
It was that night that I lay awake thinking maybe I had made a mistake when we came up with this plan.  Road trips aren't exactly restful, and Matt and I were both feeling exhausted after the craziness of our departure from Hawaii.  We had made these plans and reservations just before, you know, IT hit the fan.  And now we were exhausted.  I thought enviously of my friends who take exotic trips with just their husband and wondered why we weren't doing that -- even though I knew the answer and in this particular case, it was our only time set aside as a family this summer.  I pictured us at a nice resort, or a rented cabin, and thought, Oh noooooo.....

As we hit the road, my uneasiness increased.  Everyone was extra cranky with each other that morning.  I dropped something glass in the parking lot of the hotel.  We were trying to drive at least six hundred miles to get the longest chunk of driving over with in a day.  An hour in, I was ready to throw in the towel on the trip, and I muttered a prayer.  More like, "God, help." if that can be considered a prayer.

I can't say that it changed right then, but gradually the day improved.  We laughed and joked, I finished reading These Happy Golden Years out loud to Lilly, including the chapter about the tornado.  Not ten minutes after reading it, we passed through a tremendous thunderstorm that made us all wonder (just a little) about a tornado.  It was beautiful, though! We stopped that night for a PB&J dinner in a rest area
and saw a magnificent sunset.
We even met our 600 mile goal -- which I rewarded with a trip to the hotel pool even though it was past bedtime.  Hooray for still being on aloha time!

The next day, while listening to James Michener's Journey, about a harrowing expedition through the Yukon during the Canadian gold rush, we drove into Colorado.  We stopped briefly in Durango (love!),
and then headed to Mancos for the night and drove into Mesa Verde, where we made reservations to tour the Balcony House the next day and went for a quick walk to see the  incredible views at Park Point.

Wyatt "read" the Visitors' Guide to the park and upon seeing this picture
Informed me that our hikes there would have to be in our birthday suits. Being the excellent mom that I am, I told him that as long as we didn't complain about the hike, we could keep our clothes on! 

The Balcony House tour the next morning was described as a "strenuous" hike; it was more what I would call a somewhat stressful walk, though -- even with our clothes on!  Matt decided not to go on it with Annalee, and I was glad in the end because it included a climb up a 32-foot ladder
and squeezing through a tight tunnel.
But climbing up behind Wyatt on that thing... And the other ladders that were only 12 feet each...
Well, my palms were sweating. I've had a few accidents that make me think crazy stuff only happens to me, and while everyone else was doing fine, I was sure he would fall, or I would fall because I was trying to protect him. But we had a great time and would do it again in a heartbeat!

From there, we drove to Moab.  We found a wonderful family flat at the Moab Rustic Inn, for a much better price than the brand name hotels were quoting, and that night we were able to have a "homemade" dinner because we had a full kitchen.  But of course, the best part was Arches National Park.

We had an amazing time hiking and "scrambling" on the rocks.  The colors were breathtaking.

It wasn't our first time there, but the previous visit had been when Jayna was a little older than Annalee is now.  The only downside was the incredible heat! However, when we returned to the park the next day, it had cooled by about twenty degrees and was quite pleasant!
We stopped at Moab Giants on our way out of town.
It was great, but a little pricey (especially the cafe!).
 The kids enjoyed pretending around the dinosaurs and especially enjoyed the digging pits that contained "fossils".
It was pretty tough to leave Moab.  I think we could easily have spent a week in the area!  We drove to Dead Horse State Park,
and I think the views there rivaled those of the Grand Canyon.
Bonus: a fraction of the people!  The park was practically empty.

We drove south and stayed in a small town that night, but the next day, we found another gem: Gunlock State Park.

It was about as hot as face of the sun, so we weren't much inclined to hike, but the lake was almost completely empty, and we enjoyed a swim in the beautiful, refreshing water.  
This is probably my biggest regret of the trip: we almost ran out of time for Zion National Park.  

We got there in the late afternoon, and had just enough time to take the bus into the park and do a short (but amazing) hike. 
The pictures don't do justice because I accidentally left my good camera in California. 

We had a short night in St. George, and then drove to Las Vegas because Matt had promised the kids a water park.  This was hands-down my least favorite part of the trip.  I know some people will get all in a huff about my saying this, but Vegas seems like a cheap copy of all the good stuff in the world and the idea that everything is for sale.  But the kids had fun, and everyone was good and tired that night, so we should have slept really soundly.  Except that right outside our (casino) hotel (sigh...), there was a bad cover band playing music till 2 am, and it was so loud it might so well have been in our room.  We were all very happy to leave the next day, even though it was the last day of our drive.

We got to LA again, met up with family for lunch at Downtown Disney, and then... We had to put Matt on the plane to send him to the East Coast for some training.  Besides California, we had been to Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona in ten days.

If you're reading this and thinking, Wait, that's only seven states and surely not 5000 miles -- you're right!  But since this post is plenty long already, I'll leave that story for my next post.  Trust me, though, it's a good one! ;-)

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