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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Crossing the Country Day 5: Colorado to Utah

Day 5 of our journey also happened to be my birthday. Colorado had a nice birthday present for me. Kelson got to spend the first 20 minutes of our day cleaning the snow off of our car so that we could set off into the snowstorm. Apparently, Colorado didn't get the memo that April 30 is well after the beginning of Spring.
The license plate was an ice cube.

 Sarah and I relaxed in the breakfast room while we watched Daddy work. 
 When we left Virginia, it was about 90 degrees. This wasn't even the coldest we got driving over Vale Pass. I think the low was 19 degrees. Brrrr!!!
As fun as it was driving over snow and ice for the first couple hours of our day, we were very excited to get to a lower elevation and just enjoy the view of the Colorado River Gorge.
 True to our trend for the trip, we were in the middle of nowhere at lunch time and ended up pulling off in Green River, Utah. We were pleasantly surprised to find a great restaurant that overlooked the river for my delicious birthday lunch.
 While Sarah was sleeping, we pulled off in Provo for a little trip down memory lane. 
 We were excited to see the gorgeous, new Provo City Center Temple. Both of us have lots of memories of attending events at the Provo Tabernacle during our time at BYU.
BYU creamery ice cream for my birthday treat. Kelson skipped the ice cream in favor of some BYU chocolate milk, which is basically what kept him running during his years at BYU.
 I have always wanted to go to the tulip festival at Thanksgiving Point. It was a great way to spend my birthday, and it was free with our botanical gardens pass. Score!

 After Thanksgiving Point, we stopped in South Jordan for dinner with my Grandpa and his wife, Beverly. Sarah was pretty excited to discover that Beverly collects teddy bears. She even got to take one home.
 Beverly made us scones and fruit smoothies for dinner. Yummy! We had a fun visit with them.
After battling a crazy wind storm, we spent that night at a really neat, historic hotel in Ogden. We had a lovely view of the Ogden temple from our window. Mostly we were very excited to be spending our last night in a hotel for a while. Only 6 more hours to go!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Crossing the Country Day 4: Nebraska to Colorado

The first half of day 4 of our journey was definitely through the most boring landscape: Nebraska. Interestingly, we also saw more police there than probably all of the other states we drove through combined. Maybe they have a problem with people speeding to get through the boring parts more quickly.
We did find one interesting thing in Nebraska. We stopped in North Platte for lunch, which turned out to be the birthplace of Buffalo Bill Cody. There was a free museum next door to the restaurant we ate lunch at, so we stopped in for a look.

They had a very intricate, hand-carved replica of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show that moved. Sarah thought it was fascinating.
Mostly she was excited to ride all of the fake animals in front.
We were just happy to find something interesting for our poor, cooped-up toddler to do to get some energy out. She really was a trooper. She usually got in one good fit per day right before falling asleep for her nap. We counted ourselves pretty lucky getting away with 10 minutes of screaming each day.
From Nebraska, we headed down into Colorado so that we could visit family and then go home through Utah. It started snowing pretty much the moment we entered Colorado. By the time we reached Kelson's Aunt Deedee's house in Parker, we were driving through several inches of snow on a muddy road to reach their house. We figured we would be pretty safe weather-wise traveling the last week of April, but apparently we were wrong.
We forgot to take any pictures at Aunt DeeDee's house, but we had a delightful visit with her and her family over dinner. Sarah was just excited to have a couch with blankets and pillows to tuck herself in on again. One of the best parts of traveling is when you can stop to catch up with friends and family that you rarely get to see. We were very happy that we could make it to their house on this trip.
After dinner, we decided to try to make it a couple more hours down the road into the mountains before stopping for the night so that we would have time to do some things the next day. The drive up Vale Pass turned out to be very snowy and treacherous. We were extremely relieved to reach Silverthorne and stop at our hotel for the night. It felt more like traveling in December than April. 

This is what our car looked like by the next morning. Gross. Stay tuned for days 5 and 6 to hear about the rest of our adventure!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Crossing the Country Day 3: Missouri to Nebraska

When we planned our route across the country, one of the things we planned our stops around was botanical gardens that we could get into for free with our membership from the Norfolk garden. The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis was the one we were most excited to see, and that is where we started the third day of our trip.
 Driving across the Missouri River into St. Louis. Sarah was very excited about the "rainbow."

 This garden was huge, and it was so beautiful! This was the original building in the garden from a long time ago, and it was surrounded by Victorian gardens.
 Riding the sheep was very exciting
 Inside the "Climatron", a huge building with a rain forest inside.
 Checking out the glass "bubbles" floating in the pool in front of the Climatron.
 Just smelling some flowers.
 They had a fun kids zone with a cave full of fake rock pillows and little cubbies with stuffed animals hiding in them. Sarah was a big fan.
Reading some books with Daddy in the rock pile.

We only had a couple of hours to play in St. Louis, but we would love to go back there. It looked like such a fun city to explore.
From St. Louis, we took a slight detour to drive up to the tiny town of Mt. Ayr, Iowa. As we started researching Kelson's family history, we discovered that many members of his family emigrated from Alsace-Lorraine and settled in Mt. Ayr for over 100 years. Since we were coming within an hour or two of the area, we just had to go see it for ourselves. 

 The drive through the Midwest was a little more boring than the previous day's drive. Flat, newly planted fields as far as we could see.
 Some of Kelson's ancestors founded and lived in a town just outside Mt. Ayr called Lesanville. It is basically a ghost town now, but some of the buildings have been restored as part of a living history farm. It was so fun stopping to see the places we have read about in our research.
 There was a tiny cemetery in Lesanville filled almost exclusively with Kelson's relatives. This is the grave of Elsie Green, Kelson's Great Great Great Grandmother.

 Clifford and elephant helping explore the cemetery. 
 The church and schoolhouse in Lesanville
 We walked around downtown Mt. Ayr, which took about 5 minutes, and then had some yummy pizza for dinner at the only restaurant in town. We managed to end up in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere with 1 or 2 restaurants to choose from almost every day at dinner time.  This may look like Kelson and Sarah were sharing bubble gum, which is disgusting, but I believe they were actually playing tug-of-war with a straw.
 Enjoying a beautiful view as we drove out of Mt. Ayr
 Halfway there! (Or at least we thought we were. On recalculating, we realized that our detour into Mt. Ayr meant that we were actually still a couple hundred miles short of halfway.)
 We ended the day with some swimming and relaxing at the hotel in Lincoln, Nebraska. Sarah LOVES swimming. 
What better way to wind down than getting a hand massage while wrapped in snuggly towels? Our little girl is so pampered :)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Crossing the Country Days 1 and 2: Virginia to Illinois

Driving almost 3000 miles with a toddler was a pretty daunting task, but it was exciting too. By the time all of our belongings were on the moving truck and our house was cleaned, we were ready to be on our way. We spent our last four nights in Virginia in a hotel because our house was empty, and it took us until night number 3 to finally figure out how to get Sarah to sleep in a hotel. The first 2 nights were absolutely awful, and we seriously feared for our sanity during our trip. It was a huge tender mercy when Kelson figured out that if he sent me away and laid down next to Sarah for a while she would actually go to sleep. That was a game changer.

On the first day of our trip, we had a bunch of things we had to finish up with the Navy before we could leave, so we got out of town pretty late.

By the time we made it to Richmond, an hour and a half down the road, Sarah was already antsy and ready to get out for a break.

 We picked a random park that showed up near the freeway on the GPS, which turned out to be absolutely amazing. They had a train, a firetruck, a playhouse, and all kinds of other things in the playground. Sarah has been asking to go back ever since. 
 The only way we pulled Sarah away from the playground was by telling her we could go see the geese. This particular goose turned out to be a little too friendly, and Daddy had to scare it away.
 We were very happy to make it to a comfortable hotel after 6 long hours in the car and a stop for dinner at a very redneck buffet in Covington, Virginia. We stayed the night just across the West Virginia border in Lewisburg. 
 We were officially sold on Holiday Inn Express after we saw their pancake machine the next morning. I need one at my house! It made a big difference to be able to start our day with a breakfast that Sarah would actually eat. After this, we started looking for Holiday Inn Express hotels at all of our stops.
 Sarah, Mommy, Elephant, and Clifford all ready to start day 2. 

 Driving through the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia. We decided to take this route rather than driving further north because we had heard it was beautiful. West Virginia and Kentucky did not disappoint. The scenery there was our favorite of the whole trip. 
 Charleston, West Virginia, which had a very neat-looking State Capitol building.
 We somehow managed to find every kind of bad weather on this trip. For the first 3 days, we drove through off and on torrential rain and thunderstorms. At some points, it was like someone was just dumping giant buckets of water over our car, bringing the visibility to pretty much nothing. It was a little scary.
The rolling hills of West Virginia gave way to the picturesque, perfectly American farms of Kentucky. I can see why people want to live there. Beautiful! 
 Sarah refused to take a nap that afternoon, and by the time we got close to dinner time she was an absolute monster. Unfortunately, we were in the middle of nowhere Indiana, and there was absolutely nowhere to stop. When we finally saw a sign for a Denny's, we were overjoyed. It was in Dale, Indiana, which was apparently near where Abraham Lincoln grew up. Our cranky child threw up during dinner because she had so much food crammed in her cheeks. It was great fun. We quickly finished eating and got outside so that Sarah could run around for a while.
 Enjoying the view of Indiana 
 We got back in the car to finish the last of our drive for the day, and Sarah promptly fell asleep, allowing us to make some extra progress down the road in peace. A sleeping toddler is a sweet sight any time, but there is no better scenery when you are on a long road trip. Clifford was happy to act as a pillow.
As we entered the Midwest, we started seeing endless fields of yellow, which we learned was canola. It was interesting to see how much the landscape changes in just a few hours as you cross our country. There are so many different things to see!
We spent night number two in O'Fallon, Illinois, just outside St. Louis. It was a long day, and we were glad to carry the sleeping Sarah inside and tuck her in for the night.