Snow on the ground, Snow on the ground…..
Having seen snow on the ground since November and not an end in sight, we decided to head west for an educational road trip. (the only place we could find without snow) We decided this on a Friday and the following Monday, mom, grandma, the three boys and baby were in the van before the sun was up!
Our first stop was in Missouri at Meramac Caverns. http://www.americascave.com/ It was a much needed break from driving! We were the only people crazy enough to be on a vacation in February, so we got our own personal tour of the caverns even though the tour guide seemed to think there were hundreds and would leave long uncomfortable pauses for those who wanted pictures…since it was only us, it was a bit strange.:) We did learn that the caverns were once used during the Civil War by the Union soldiers as well as a hideout by Jesse James and his gang. The grand finale to the tour was a rendition of God Bless America that had us all laughing for the entire trip. For some reason they felt it was a good idea to flicker the lights to the beat of the song in various positions and the clicking noise overwhelmed the whole song…guess you had to be there. LOL
Our next stop was to see the infamous Buffalo that tried to attack me 16 years ago while singing to him through the fence at a rest area in Oklahoma. http://www.route66university.com/photos/postcard_26/slides/buff_ranch.html I am not sure if it was indeed the same buffalo, but the boys enjoyed the story anyway. We also took a few pictures with the local art while we were there.
In Texas, we stopped by two of the Oddball Roadside Attractions that these great United States have; the VW Slug Bug Ranch http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/6767 and the Cadillac Ranch. Both of which are broken down cars upended sticking out of the ground with spray paint covering them. We tried to also find a letterbox at one of them, but couldn’t locate it. Apparently they recommend leaving your mark with spraypaint, but we did not have any.
Then we hit Arizona! We were very excited. We stayed in another Roadside Attraction, the Wigwam Inn and Curios. http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/10294 They told us that the Inn and the vintage cars that they have parked at each Wigwam were the inspiration for the movie Cars. The Wigwams weren’t luxurious, but adorable and I would definitely stay in them again!
We finally made it to the Grand Canyon and what a beautiful sight it was! http://www.nationalparks.org/explore-parks/grand-canyon-national-park I never imagined I would be so impressed by it and can not wait to go back and spend more time there.
One more state until our destination, but then we had car problems…. things were flashing and we were losing power so we pulled into a rest area and called a tow truck. Luckily it was only a bad battery that had been pushed too far, so we were back on the road and headed to Kingman, Arizona to rest and swim at the hotel.
The next morning we were ready to go and finally crossed into California. And then it happened. We were heading up a big mountain and Zachary said something smelled funny. We thought it must be outside. And then the car started smoking and the OverDrive light was flashing again. We pulled over and I was sure the van was on fire. We called another tow truck (Thank God I have an iPhone that can map the closest one) and were towed back to Needles.
The tow truck driver took us to the best, cheapest guy in town, only to be told the they were closed because the owner was in court that day, so they took us to a Mobil. After looking at the van, they informed us it would take $4000 to fix and take at least a week. I don’t know if you have ever been in Needles, but there is nothing there!
I called around for a rental car and with the amount of people we had and because of some Golf Tournament in the area, a car was hard to find! Eventually through the tow truck company receptionist’s, we were able to locate one back in Arizona and while grandma stayed with the kids in the the Mobil parking lot, the receptionist drove me to the rental car place. Now, we had to decided what to do with the van with 150,000 miles on it and had numerous transmission problems. We were offered a couple hundred for the van from the tow truck place for scrap metal and we felt that would be a better solution than to try to drive this van back to Illinois. We cleaned out the van and headed on our way.
It took us the rest of the day to get to where we had our reservation in California and we were exhausted. Especially after shoving all of us and our stuff in a Grand Marquis! I checked us in even though the hotel was in a seedier location than I would have wanted to stay in, but it was a Howard Johnson…of course it was safe….
We unloaded the van and headed into the room. As I do in all motel rooms, I pulled of the bedspreads(because in case you were unaware- they do not get washed, but like once a year, if that) and there on the boxsprings was……… blood. Not a little blood- I am talking soaked in blood as if someone was murdered in the room! We reloaded the car and I headed to the office to let them know we were not staying and hand in the key. I explained that we were not goimg to stay there because the room was kinda scary. She asked “scary?” I responded “There is blood all over the boxsprings, it looks like someone was murdered in between the beds”. She didn’t bat an eye and just said “ok, you’ll have to deal with expedia to get your money back!” WOW !!!!
We got back in the car and headed towards Disneyland where I knew things would be nice due to being a tourist area. We found a Holiday Inn Express on the strip and got a very nice room with a view of the fireworks from the park.
The next morning Eric flew into LAX and Alex, Kenley and I picked him up while the other two stayed with grandma at the hotel. Daddy had done his research and found a few vans for us to go look at, so we headed to CarMax and ended up leaving with a “new” Grand Caravan!
We didn’t have much of a day left after all of that, so we picked up the others and headed down the road to Bubba Gumps for dinner! http://www.bubbagump.com/locations/anaheim/The next day, we took everyone around to show them our old apartments and stomping grounds and down into Hollywood to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood Sign and the stars on the sidewalks. http://www.hollywoodchamber.net/ We tried to go to City Walk, which was free 14 years ago, but is no longer, so took a photo and left to head to Santa Monica and daddy’s college and back to the hotel.
The next day we had decided to go to Knott’s Berry Farm, http://www.knotts.com/ but decided at the last minute that we couldn’t possibly be in Anaheim and not go to Disneyland, so surprised everyone by going there instead! It was a great day! http://disneyland.disney.go.com/
The next morning Eric got back on the plane and we got back in the van. We took a different route this time and headed straight to Tombstone. We were excited to see this infamous town and disappointed when we got there. The acting was cheesy and the sets were, too. The only cool thing was the original building- “Bird Cage Theatre”. http://tombstonebirdcage.com/ It is now a museum and still has the original wallpaper and curtains. It is incredible to see things that old.
Our last stop was Rock Hound Park in New Mexico. http://www.americansouthwest.net/new_mexico/rock_hound/state_park.html
It is a Jasper and Geode mining spot and we did find a few small geodes and rocks of Jasper. We had planned this to be one of three mining stops along the way home after stopping at the Alamo, but Eric called to let us know his radiator was broken and he had no transportation. We decided it was time to go home instead of our other stops and spent the whole next day and night driving back to Crystal Lake,
It took us the rest of the weekend to recover, but I am already ready for another roadtrip!!!!