Road Trip- One Family’s Quest To Reclaim Summer
Like most, our family’s summer isn’t the relaxing oasis of calm we remember from childhood. I fondly recall days spent splashing in the community pool, walking to my grandma’s house or spending hours cruising the streets of our small town on my beloved pink Huffy. It was a glorious time that made previous school year a distant memory and the coming year a far-off reality. Now the few short weeks between school semesters are packed with camps, practices and even a hefty load of summer homework (what’s that about?!?). This year, my husband and I decided to do something about it. That’s right, we reclaimed summer vacation Griswold style, with an old-fashioned, family road trip!
We loaded up the Family Truckster (disguised as a Dodge minivan) and started on our way. Our first stop was a Wal-Mart for snacks to last the duration of our eight-day journey (they were gone by Day Two). Our first actual stop was beautiful Grand Junction, CO and a visit to the Museum of the West for a quick lesson in Colorado history. Native American galleries, a uranium mining exhibit and a re-creation of historic Grand Junction were on display. It was a great way to kick off our western adventures!
Next was a spectacular drive through the mountains of Colorado and a stop at the Phoenix Gold Mine. Nestled in the mountains, the mine is one of a select few that allows public panning in its creek. A relatively inexpensive ticket also included a tour of this historic mine and a visit with some friendly Rocky Mountain squirrels. We didn’t strike it rich but had an awesome time trying!
A quick drive from the mine landed us in Colorado Springs and the stunning Garden of the Gods. A registered National Natural Landmark, the Garden of the Gods offers exquisite views and towering 300ft sandstone formations against a brilliant Colorado sky. It’s like walking through a post card! For those looking for a more adventurous experience, the Garden of the Gods offers jeep and Segway tours, biking/electric biking, front range climbing and other adventure programs.
After a quick visit with family and an impressive stop at the Air Force Academy, we were on our way to the very chic southwestern Colorado town of Durango. Great shops, magnificent vistas, intriguing galleries and a wide and varied range of outdoor activities are readily available. While in Durango, we purchased our tickets for the highlight of my trip, Mesa Verde and the Pueblo Cliff Dwellings. Soaring nearly 9,000 feet in the air, these feats of ancient architecture were home to the Ancestral Pueblo people from AD 600 to 1300. Incredible!
Another short drive (meaning less than 400 miles by my husband’s barometer!) and we arrived at the Four Corners Monument. The Four Corners is the only place in the U.S. where you can stand in four states at the same time (well, you may need to use hands as well as feet!). It’s a terrific photo opportunity and resting place in the middle of the desert!
At this point in our journey, the Truckster had logged many, MANY miles. It goes without saying that our family bonding was experiencing some fissures and we were ready for a break. Enter the Historic Cameron Trading Post and Motel, nestled along the Little Colorado River and just 30 minutes from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The word “motel” caused our 11 year-old to quake with fear, envisioning, well, the motels at which I stayed during my childhood family vacations. Fortunately, the Historic Cameron Trading Post had rooms that were large, clean, and incredibly comfortable. Delicious dining, beautiful gardens and a super kitschy gift shop rounded out the experience. Oh, and did I mention watching the sunset while a herd of wild horses ran by? The Historic Cameron Trading Post gave us just the lift we needed to prepare for the second half of our expedition. Stay tuned!