Saturday, March 30, 2013

Day Eleven: Laundry, Snowshoeing and The Shining

I started the morning doing laundry, and started to pack. I love returning home to a clean house, and suitcases full of clean clothes. We let the girls sleep in until 10:00; we felt it was a good transition to the two-hour change they will deal with Monday morning!

We packed up our lunch, and headed into the park to go snowshoeing. We snowshoed to Bear Lake, and Nymph Lake, and had a picnic lunch. Along the way I said to Scott, “Why don’t we snowshoe at home?” He said, “Because the weather isn't this nice.” I agreed. I despise the winter. But it was 50 degrees, and we were snowshoeing with tons of snow. I loved it.

We returned to the cabin early enough for Scott and Paradis to sit down and watch The Shining (see post from yesterday). Annelies and I watched Transylvania!

Tomorrow we drive two hours south to Denver, and fly back home.

Day Eleven: 32 miles (1,518 total); $0 on gas ($234.88 total); 0 states (5 total); $124.00 Lodging  ($1,471.88 total); $114.65 Souvenirs ($832.93 total); $0 Tourist Traps ($167.80 total); $1 Redbox ($11 total); 0 fights (0 total); 0 injuries (2 total)

Day Ten: Rocky Mountains, Stanley Hotel & Rent

The girls slept in until noon. We have definitely shifted down a few gears while visiting the Rockies. We are staying in Estes Park, at the foot of the Rocky Mountain National Park, and you can tell this is a summer town. A lot of shops are closed, and the park is nearly empty. We are enjoying the solitude.

The elk are abundant around here. You see them everywhere, including in the middle of town!

We entered the Park, and drove every road that was open, as many are closed for winter. I bring a tripod on every vacation, as photos are a priority for me. I've seen these photo posts at a couple National Parks, and just love them … I’m thinking about starting a ‘picture post movement’. Wouldn't it be great to have these installed at each and every touristy photo op? 

Note: Annelies isn’t in the photo again; I think she is getting sick of being with the three of us, as she refused to get out for the shot.

The kids, including Scott, couldn't help but engage in a snowball fight. The snow was absolutely perfect for snowball making, and you can’t play in snow while wearing a t-shirt in Minnesota so they took advantage of it.
I always say "No throwing at the photographer!"
See the snowball? Pretty good, huh?

We stopped at the biggest gift store we have ever seen in our lives. We must have spent an hour in that place. It was actually very nice. The girls squeezed into a little cubby they had for the kids.

Our friend Lesley has spent many summers in Estes, and told us about The Stanley Hotel. The Stanley Hotel hosted the horror novelist Stephen King, inspiring him to write The Shining. Scott is a huge Stephen King fan, so we stopped to get a picture. Scott and Paradis playing the part …

When Annelies heard the photo opportunity had to do with killing, she got out and posed by herself. This is her stabbing someone. Nice, huh?

We had a fabulous Mexican dinner at El Mex-Kal (the margarita could have helped the positive review), and ended the night at Estes High School watching a production of Rent performed by the students at Eagle Rock, an alternative High School in the area. We love supporting local theatre, and our favorite musical is Rent. I would play it for the girls when they were infants, to soothe them to sleep, so I think it is in their souls. The students were awesome!

Tomorrow is our last day at Rocky Mountains National Park, and our last full day of the trip, as we fly out Sunday. This has been a good ride …                                     

Day Ten: 78 miles (1,486 total); $49.61 on gas ($234.88 total); 0 states (5 total); $124.00 Lodging  ($1,347.88 total); $56.91 Souvenirs ($$718.28 total); $0 Tourist Traps ($167.80 total); $1 Redbox ($10 total); 0 fights (0 total); 0 injuries (2 total)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Day Nine: Coins, Beer, Estes Park and a Nap

I’m not sure why, but the quote wall has remained empty this trip. Probably because until now, our cell service has been spotty not allowing me to immediately capture one of my favorite things about our adventures; the quotes that come out of the mouths of my traveling team crack me up.

This morning my alarm went off at 5:30am so we could get ready for the Denver Mint Tour at 8:00. When I rolled over, Scott said "They better have some cool coins if we have to get up this early to see them!" And they did.

Our girls collect coins. It started with my mother collecting the State Quarters for them, including the Pennsylvania Mint issue which she got from a Pennsylvania bank she wrote to for every release. She also got them started with penny collection books. Currently they are collecting the America the Beautiful quarters.

A couple months ago, when working on details for this trip, I casually looked up information for the Denver Mint tour. That day I was fortunate to grab the last four spots available this whole week, and they were at 8:00am. These tours are free, but are limited so fill up quickly.

Security at The Mint is tight, due to the fact it holds over 6.5 billion dollars. You were allowed an umbrella, and 3 ounces of hand sanitizer. Really? Anyway … three minutes into the introductory movie, an alarm went off alerting us of a tornado. No, the weather wasn't bad in Denver. It was a drill. However, before they could figure out what to do with all of us tourists, we made it into the basement of The Mint, saw the Inspector General (which Scott and I thought was cool), and were able to see the jail cell they use to hold people. What an adventure.

Unfortunately we weren't able to take photos during the tour, but it was cool. The girls enjoyed seeing how the coins were made, and hearing all the stories. Annelies isn't in the photo, because she was sulking after Scott and I refused to buy her a $59.95 silver dollar released last year in honor of the Girl Scouts 100th Anniversary. I mentioned every moment of our adventure isn't perfect, right?

From downtown Denver we traveled to Golden Colorado, just 30 minutes west. Yes, you guessed it … we went to the Coors Brewery. Coors is the largest single brewery in the world. The tour was free, and well organized. You were given free audio sets for a self-directed tour, which allowed you to walk at your own pace.

At the end of the tour, you received free beer samples. Scott and I could have sat in that lounge for hours, but samples weren’t the highlight of the girl's day so onward we went.

From there we drove to Boulder, where we stopped for a couple burgers. It was either the small amount of beer Scott and I drank that morning, or the craziness of the last few days catching up, because we were tired after just a two hour drive. Maybe altitude affects alcohol intake. Either way, we checked into our cabin in Estes Park located just outside the Rocky Mountain National Park (thanks to our friends Pat & Ron for suggesting Rams Horn).

I unpacked while Scott took a little nap. We drug the girls out of the cabin for a short drive to the Visitor Center where we talked to the Ranger before they closed, and stopped at the grocery store for dinner.

The four of us spent the entire evening watching movies. I took a nap, and knit. I didn’t even blog. It was lovely.

Tomorrow (Friday), we plan to return to Rocky Mountain. I’m hoping my travel team has caught up on sleep, and we are ready for our last three days of this adventure.

Update: My friend Kris commented on the post showing my sand boarding crash, “You don't count it as an injury in your stats? Headfirst into sand has to count!” I agree. So today I’m adding one injury to the stats on behalf of my crash (although I’m feeling great today).

Day Nine: 101 miles (1,408 total); $0 on gas ($185.27 total); 0 states (5 total); $124.00 Lodging  ($1,223.88 total); $13.38 Souvenirs ($661.37 total); $0 Tourist Traps ($167.80 total); $1 Redbox ($9 total); 0 fights (0 total); 1 injuries (2 total)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Day Eight: Sand Boarding and an Athletic Injury

We slept in until 9:00am. Ahhhh … it felt good. We picked up sand boards and sleds from Kristi’s Mountaineering store in Alamosa, and drove to Sand Dunes National Park. We stopped at the Visitor Center and learned about our most environmentally diverse National Park. Annelies earned another Junior Ranger badge.

We drove to 'Point of No Return', and hiked about ½ a mile to the tallest Sand Dunes within reach. Annelies was the first to go down. I’ll tell you, these sleds fly!

Paradis tried the sand board. You had to wax the boards each and every run. She said it was a lot different than snow, the balancing is different.

I decided to give the sled a try. As you know I’m no athlete. When I reached the bottom of the hill my sled stuck in the sand, and I went head first into the sand. I pulled my hamstring and declared an athletic injury! I stuck to taking photos after that. The best shot of me is from the top of the hill!

It was a lot of work walking up after each run; walking in sand is hard, but walking in sand up hill is tough. Scott made the most runs, using both the board and sled. He has sand in crevices he didn't realize he had!   

The girls even tried the old-fashion 'roll down the hill' approach.

We had a ton of fun, and are so glad we did this. All of us laughed a ton.

We walked back to the van and had a picnic lunch. The park is beautiful, you have the mountain ranges in the back of these huge sand dunes. Amazing.

We returned the boards, picked up a couple Redbox movies, and hit the road for Denver via the Scenic Drive. I love looking at snow capped mountains. Scott dreams about living in them someday.

We ended our night at a Holiday Inn Express (our new favorite 'cheap' hotel) in Denver, where we enjoyed Asian take-out. Great day in Colorado.

Day Eight: 308 miles (1,307 total); $34.94 on gas ($185.27 total); 0 states (5 total); $89.46 Lodging  ($1,099.88 total); $24.92 Souvenirs ($647.99 total); $0 Tourist Traps ($167.80 total); $4 Redbox ($8 total); 0 fights (0 total); 0 injuries (1 total)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Day Seven: A Warning, Four Corners and Aztec Ruins

Tuesday we were on the road by 8:00am, and drove four hours to Four Corners. Along the way, we got pulled over by the Arizona Sheriff.  Oops. I guess he wasn't as sympathetic to my tight timeline as Scott was; maybe I should have showed him my spreadsheet. It was just a warning though.

When I was a little girl I visited Four Corners with my family (top photo); we recreated that photo today (bottom). 

A little further down the road we drove into New Mexico. You'll see I have 0 fights listed in my daily stats, but I don’t want everyone to think everything is peachy-keen. Below Paradis and Annelies are arguing over where to stand for the shot.

And here we are after they 'worked it out'. New Mexico was our 32nd state.

As we were making our way down the road Scott spied a junk yard in Shiprock, NM. If you follow us regularly, you know we collect license plates for our Map. We haven’t had time for Junk Yard Digging during this trip, but today we did. We got plates for New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona. The owner wouldn't let us take a photo (weird), so I snapped this on my way out, with the camera by my side!

We drove to Aztec, New Mexico and visited the Aztec Ruins. We were able to walk through a 900 year old Ancestral Pueblo Great House with over 400 rooms. It was very cool. Annelies earned another Junior Ranger badge, and the girls stamped their passport books.

We picked up a couple Redbox movies, and hit the road one last time for the day. Just outside Aztec we drove into state #33 - Colorado. We did a normal shot, and then Scott asked the group to do a wide-armed pose. Note how excited Paradis appears.

Scott and I decided to push through to our next destination, Sand Dunes National Park, so we can sleep in tomorrow morning. In advance of these trips I do a lot of planning outlining our basic plan, but I don’t reserve hotel rooms unless absolutely necessary (e.g., Phantom Ranch at the GC). This allows us to adjust our schedule based on how we feel, accommodate for bad weather or traffic, or simply spend more time at a site we are enjoying.  

I’m so thankful to Scott for doing all the driving. Being navigator isn't all fun and games, especially when you are working with no cell service, but I’m glad I get to blog and knit instead of driving. You rock Scott!

Day Seven: 518 miles (999 total); $105.68 on gas ($150.33 total); 2 states (5 total); $124.87 Lodging  ($1,010.42 total); $25.80 Souvenirs ($623.07 total); $12 Tourist Traps ($167.80 total); $2 Redbox ($4 total); 0 fights (0 total); 0 injuries (1 total)