You may recall a while back I lamented on the difficulty of posting regularly while on the road. You may also notice it’s been about two weeks since my last post. Yep, there’s a reason for that.
Like most of the US, especially those with children, we have been on Spring Break. And our SB involved:
- a 13 year old
- a 16 year old
- retired Uncle Dan
- some of the most beautiful places in America
- spotty, if any, cell service
Anyone in this day and age might read “13yo, 16yo and no cell service” and gasp in horror at what terrible stories lie ahead. There are stories to be told, and for your bladder and eye comfort, not all in one post. But I will say we all survived no worse for the wear after this extended holiday. I’ll be the first to admit my utter surprise that we all appear to have remained sane. Me, most of all. (but just barely)
Some background: Michael has three kids. T, the oldest, is in college and is past “family holidays”, much to her dad’s chagrin. Spring break is a little easier to understand since colleges don’t have the same break schedule. Z is 16 and a sophomore and S is a 13 year old 7th grader. These ages are hard to juggle vacations too but more because you’re vying for time against school activities, after-school activities and the dreaded “social circle of teenager friends”. Because we all know, there is absolutely NOTHING cooler than your teen’s BFFs, am I right?
And if you’re an amazing enough parent that your kids want to spent time with you , you still have to be in constant competition with the current Wi-Fi enabled communication device. What if there’s a text from their bestie?!?! And, seriously folks, where was streaming music when I was a kid? Yes, I had a walkman and then a discman, but I could never get that volume loud enough to drown out the books-on-tape my mother insisted on renting from the library before we went on a cross country car trip!
And I can’t forget Uncle Dan. Mike’s brother is barely 50 and already retired. You think we’re living the life?!?! Uncle Dan lives in WV. The kids flew in from Syracuse, so everyone was excited to get out of cold weather. We started our grand adventure with everyone flying into Las Vegas, because what else would get you the side eye when you say you’re taking your teenagers to Vegas?
I was the self appointed tour guide for the trip. I had very mixed feelings about this title. Michael didn’t ask me to plan the trip at all. But his idea of trip planning is “winging it” and hope for the best. I’m the exact opposite. Since we’ve started full-timing I’ve had to loosen up a bit. (for me it’s felt like a lot!) But I refused to have 3 people show up and not have a flippin’ idea of what was going to happen. I wanted them to have a nice trip. And I didn’t want to become unhinged. (to put it mildly)
I didn’t take this responsibility lightly. I pondered and complemplated and speculated for weeks about what kind of activities would really “make” a vacation for this group of people. That’s a tough order. At least I thought it was. Luckily they all like to hike. I finally realized, what better vacation than to show them the “fun” vacations my family took when I was growing up? None of them had similar experiences and it would include all the types of activities Michael and I would like to show them.
So I decided to plan a traditional “Dillon Vacation”! The only real difference – my family did it in a car or minivan with camping gear in the back. This group was lucky enough to do it in the luxury of a 5th wheel camper and Wi-Fi! (sometimes..) My dad was a teacher so we were fortunate enough to hit the road for weeks at a time in the summer, just road-trippin’ and seein’ the sights! Tourist trap, anyone? And like any vacation with sight seeing on the agenda, the trick is how-much-can-you-jam-into-12-days??
FIRST STOP – THE GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Everyone knows this is a default on “The Bucket List”. None of us, except Dan, had ever been there. So as not to try and over-plan our trip I generally made campsite reservations and looked up possible things to do in each area. Then once we got there we could take a consensus, see what people were interested in, see if there was anything the locals or guides suggested. You know, roll with it. (This is about as “winging it” as I feel comfortable. Especially since many campsites were completely booked solid months ago since it was a holiday week.)
We really only had a few days in Williams, AZ, a cute little Route 66 town. And yes, I made Mike drive part of the way from Las Vegas to Williams on the historic Route 66. Scenic drive!! Ok, not as much as I had hoped. But I felt compelled to give a quick history lesson about Rt. 66 and what is was, etc.
And that’s when it hit.
Oh My God!
I’ve turned into my mother!!! (insert Psycho movie music here.)
Because every vacation had to include an educational element. And it was tailored to your age. Because my brother is 11 years younger than me. And sometimes my little cousins would come with us. So everyone had a learning syllabus geared towards his or her age, interests and abilities that ran parallel to the vacation stops. Case in point: One year while in the Northeast we had to stop at Walden Pond. I was in high school so I had reading assignments by Thoreau. My little cousins got to gather sticks and hot glue gun them onto picture frames. Clearly they were in elementary school. The oldest, Brian, then about 10, now a lawyer, probably had to identify some plants while doing this. But I digress.
So, Route 66. The kids could have cared less. Uncle Dan seemed very interested and always had his own facts to add. Mike? Couldn’t say. He always drives when we’re haulin’. Not interested or just focused on the road? Or maybe just amused by the whole show going on in the rest of the truck? But we did stop at little dive tourist trap on the way – Grand Canyon Caverns. We took the $20/ person tour through the “Largest Dry Caverns in the United States”. Folks, I’ve been to some amazing caverns. I was really excited to see the “largest”. And it was a very interesting tour! Did you know you can actually spend the night – like a hotel – in this cavern?? But what I realized as we were touring is that all the cool stalactites and stalagmites and the really colorful deposits are left in wet caves….
As you may recall I bought a fancy pants new camera. I’m still learning how to use it, let alone take fancy pants artistic pictures with it. But I don’t feel bad about my pictures of the Grand Canyon. I think very few people can truly capture “The Grand Canyon” on film. But I snapped a few. The first day we drove up and just checked things out.
Little did I realize we started a new photos series with S, her doing cheerleading scorpions in scenic places across the US. That is what is interesting to a 13 year old girl.
The second day we took the scenic Grand Canyon Railway Train to the canyon instead. Once there we only had a few hours to hike a bit down into the Bright Angel Trail and back before the trail left the station for the 2.5 hour ride back to Williams.
In Williams we stayed at the Canyon Motel & RV Park. It’s a cute, quaint little place where you can stay in a room or in a caboose or railway car!! It looks so neat I almost didn’t want to stay in the RV! THe staff was very helpful with getting our train tickets too. However, as a side note, when management of the RV park tells you to unhook your water line at night because it might freeze… don’t forget to do it the second night because it might break a fitting on their pump. And parks don’t like it when you accidentally break their stuff. Just ask Uncle Dan.
So after all the majestic grandeur of what is known as THE Grand Canyon… no one was very impressed. I’m serious. “too many people”, “paved trails? really??” “It’s crowded”. It seems as though this particular tour group prefers serious hiking and rock climbing. I think everyone would have enjoyed it more if we’d had more time to really hike down into the canyon, possibly spend 3-4 days packing it in and around. That’s probably too advanced for S, but that’s right up Z’s ally. I have already informed Mike that we have to get my camping/backpacking gear out of storage so we can do the canyon “right” next time!
NEXT STOP – UTAH BY WAY OF VERMILLION CLIFFS IN ARIZONA