Las Vegas

LV was hot. It was 115 degrees. We were there one night and everyone was glad to go. Ryan said even the wind was hot. We stayed at Cancun Resort and got there early to swim. I booked this hotel on Expedia because it had a huge pool and water slides and was family friendly.

Pic from Yelp

Plus the room was two bedroom, kitchen, & living room with a pull out and it was cheap! We played for a bit in the pool then got showered and ready for Tournament of Kings at the Excalibur Hotel.

The kids gave their approval on the hotel, Excalibur food (even picky Ryan) and the pool’s waterslides.

Excalibur Hotel where TOK is located

The tournament was an hour long and three courses (tomato soup, Cornish hen, and apple dumpling) that you eat without any utensils. The kids loved the horses, tournament games (jostling, races, etc.) and the loud bangs of cannons and fire tricks. When you buy your tickets you pick a section to sit in that determines which king you root for during the games. We yelled for the Russian king and King Arthur & Prince Christopher and booed for the bad guy. Everyone says they want to go back to a place like it.

Huzzah!

J

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Here’s a video of our little cabin.

Well maybe not…

These little cabins were so cute! Chris loved the rustic feel and the village here isn’t as chaotic as the south rim. It was a hotel room just in mini cabin form! We found a pizza place with the best cheese next to the lodge and they had some pretty good coffee the next morning. We did stick to our picnics though.

Oh southerners, it’s been a shock to us that a lot of places have heat but NO AIR!! We didn’t have air in this cabin but we brought a little fan to use and opened the windows. It felt really nice. Stuffy at first but it was cool in the morning.

North Rim > South Rim,

J

We went to the South rim in 2002 so this was our first time to the North rim. We firmly believe the North is way better to visit. Why?

1. Less people! We went on a canyon hike and only ran across a few people. At the major viewpoints you could actually get a picture without other people in the picture.

2. Views! We both thought the views were more spectacular and you could see the Colorado River at several points. We learned the North rim is 1,000 feet higher which contributes to seeing more. The best view was Angel’s Window.

3. The South rim is definitely more accessible but the North rim gives a prettier drive in through the Kaibab Forest and has a secluded feeling. This may be because only 10% of visitors visit the North rim.

4. The South rim has more lodging options but the feel of the and North rim’s village was very homelike, less chaotic and more rustic. There were little chipmunks and squirrels running around and we enjoying sitting in our rocking chairs watching them. Here’s the little cabin we stayed in. I had to book it a year ago!

More about our trip:

When we went to the South rim all I wanted to do was ride a mule to the bottom. We found out the rides are booked a year in advance. The North rim is open only during summer months so the trail ride option didn’t open until January. As soon as it came open I booked us a ride along the rim and through the Kaibab forest with Canyon Rides. We couldn’t ride into the canyon because of Carter’s age. Luckily they had this option for younger kids. It was Carter and Haley’s first time riding and the trail guys were wonderful. One guy rode beside Haley until she felt comfortable. About half way through the ride she had him let go and ride herself. The mules were very surefooted and well-trained. They gave Carter a slow horse and every time I looked around at him he was kicking his side trying to make him go faster. Ryan’s horse was in front of me and farted continuously. He and I kept laughing the whole hour.

Obligatory picnic picture

Trail along an inner canyon

North rim rules,

J

Monument Valley

Chris and his dad have a love of John Wayne movies. They have passed this love of westerns on to Carter. We were very close to Monument Valley where many westerns were filmed. It is managed by the Navajo Indian reservation. It was $20 to enter the site. There was a nice visitor’s center then you followed a very bumpy road to see the named monuments. The road was a 16 mile loop. We went only partway because the road was so bumpy but we saw the majority of the valley.

Behind you can see the road way below. It took you down and back to the right around a Mesa. Then you came back up this road to the top and out again. It just amazes us that people lived out here in the desert. There aren’t any trees and everywhere is brown. The kids saw their first tumbleweed rolling across the road and Carter looked for jack-o-lopes.

These are just off my phone. I have some better ones on my camera.

Here’s to the Duke,

J

We surprised Haley by taking a detour to Four Corners Monument. She had been asking, ” Where is the place where you can stand in four states at one time?”

Four Corners!! The monument is located in Navajo Nation. It really is in the middle of nowhere right smack in the desert. It was hot and dusty and a big difference from Mesa Verde! There was a line to take your picture on the marker but it wasn’t too long. We quickly snapped our picture standing on four states at one time. Native American artisans were set up (in a market place type setting) all around to sell their artwork. We spent a lot of money there! Carter ended up with an arrow and arrowhead necklace. I bought two copper rings and Haley got a bracelet, and hair clip.

We also tried fry bread and Navajo tacos at Grandmas Fry Shack.

It was a nice detour and got us out of the car a bit. Next stop…Monument Valley!

Standing in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and & Colorado at one time,

J

The road was so curvy on the way up so I drove. I get carsick easily and Chris tends to take curves sharply.

Hope you enjoy Haley’s video!

J + H

There’s one way in to Mesa Verde: uphill to 7,000-8,500 feet in elevation.

We stayed for two nights in the lodge on top of the Mesa. It was small but pretty with a great view. Ryan had to sleep in sleeping bag but he knew that would happen sometimes. (First two pictures from TripAdvisor.)

It was cool up on the Mesa and the end of the Hurricane came over Colorado so we ended up in long sleeves, long pants, & rain jackets. We picked a hike down into the canyon. As we neared the trailhead Ryan decided he wanted us to do the Petroglyph Trail. We had no knowledge of how long this trail was or where it went but off we headed.

We ended up hiking about 3 miles along the bottom of the canyon and canyon wall. If you go down you must come up. The trail toward the end was very steep. The view at the top was amazing.

We booked a one hour tour of the Balcony House, a cliff dwelling made by the Pueblo people. We had to descend the cliff using man made steps. The Indians had climbed using hand and foot holes they made into the rocks. The only way out was a 12 foot long tunnel eighteen inches wide. We climbed a 60 foot open face rock with two large wooden ladders to exit the site. I’m deathly afraid of heights so I never looked down and that’s why I’m not I any of the edge pictures. My family freaks me out dangling over the edge.

It’s amazing how these people built into the cliffs to be near water. If there ever was a zombie apocalypse this is where I’ll go!

I would live here,

J

Aztec NM

To take a break we stopped (no red bugs here) to eat lunch. Later, we visited Aztec, New Mexico to see the remains of a 900 year old Pueblo village. It was a quick visit and just a 1/2 mike walk but greatly needed.

The landscape has sure changed. The trees have virtually disappeared and mesas are all around.

I miss the color green,

J

(I am using my phone to update so I apologize for any spelling/punctuation mistakes!)

In the middle of the desert in Santa Rosa, New Mexico is an 82 foot deep blue hole.

The water is a constant 62 degrees. When you pull up you pay $5 to park and there’s a small bathroom for changing. It’s small and sometimes packed but totally fun! We stayed about two hours and jumped off the cliff several times! The first jump took our breath and I had to make Carter sit out a bit because he was turning blue! Apparently there are caves down there. The water was so clear and we watched scuba divers go down to the bottom. The water is super clean because it renews itself every 6 hours. Haley asked if she could have her birthday party here! (Nice try but we are a long way from home!)

We have been without service a lot. It’s been nice but also unnerving not being able to make sure everything is okay back home. We got some bad news when we finished swimming here and I spent a few days offline.

Love you AP,

J

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We stopped for a break in Amarillo. Ever since I watched the movie The Great Outdoors with John Candy I have wanted to try The Big Texan Steakhouse. The restaurant has long tables and you are seated at one end and another party at the other. We arrived right at 11 am when lunch began. The menu was a little cheaper so that was our main reason. The steak was good (not the best but good) but the strawberry shortcake was the best I’ve ever had! The kids enjoyed watching two boys try and eat the 72 oz free-if-you-finish-in-one-hour steak. The boys were directed to a stage to try and eat in front of everyone. The restaurant had a shooting gallery and fudge shop. I’m glad we stopped.

Another thing we did In Amarillo was to stop at Cadillac Ranch. The story goes a rich man “planted” his old Cadillacs in a filed every time he bought a new one. We stopped by Wal-Mart to buy a couple of cans of spray paint. Carter took a long time picking his out because he wanted a shade of camouflage which they did not have. Once we got to the ranch we didn’t even need the paint because there was so much extra lying around. It was muddy the day we went so only the first two cars were reachable unless you had boots. The kids painted away! It was really in the middle of nowhere! It was super windy and the dirt kicked up and hit your legs which hurt! It was neat to see.

I thought the Mississippi Delta was flat. It has nothing on Amarillo! We also heave been stopping to eat at rest areas. We loved this spot until the next day. We were covered in red bugs!!!

Windy hair don’t care,

J

This is my first attempt at using this particular application to make a video on my phone.

Our day was mostly spent in the van listening to Harry Potter audio, random radio stations and the Steve Miller Band. Ryan watched Rhett & Link videos, Carter watched River Monsters and Haley played her new license plate game. We picnicked at a rest area and ate a sandwich supper in our hotel room.

We stopped in OKC to see the memorial. There were chairs set up to represent each person who lost their life including small chairs for the children. We listened to an audio of the only recording of the bomb and just hearing the noise was frightening. There was a room with pictures of all the deceased along with a token to remember them by. Haley & I loved that room. She found a note a child had written to her mom who had died in the attack. We both started crying.

Chris was a senior in high school when it happened. He said he remembers coming home from school early (due to work) and it was all on tv.

The landscape is very flat and you can see forever. Cattle ranches are everywhere and it’s very windy!

I miss trees.

J

Earlier

Just the beginning,

J

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