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Road Trip- Our Family Quest for Summer Continued!

Our western adventures commenced anew after a restorative night at the Historic Cameron Trading Post and Motel. I was feeling a bit better because the black interior of the Truckster had been swept clean of the neon orange crackers that had been spilled and crushed. The kids were happy since their devices were fully charged and their snack supply had been replenished. My husband was in a good mood because he got to sleep on a couch alone in the living room of our motel suite, thereby avoiding the inevitable constant kicking when he snored. Relaxed and refreshed, our family quest for summer continued as we headed for the Grand Canyon.

We were about 15 miles into the desert when my daughter noticed a funny smell. Assuming it was our sons shoeless feet, we ignored her until we all began smelling it. Thats when we noticed that the light on the dash indicating our emergency brake was still engaged glowed brightly. There arent many places to pull off in the middle of nowhere, but we quickly created our own and just as quickly unloaded the van as the brakes smoked and sizzled. My husband confiscated everyones recently filled water bottles to douse the burning brakes and we stood in the 100-degree heat watching for rattlesnakes until he deemed the Truckster safe to re-enter. My husband knows less than nothing about cars, so this was really a faith walk (or ride!).

 

About 30 minutes later, we arrived safely at the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. This national treasure is 277 miles long by river, 18 miles wide and a mile deep. The sheer enormity of the canyon is staggering, giving a sense of being consumed by your surroundings. It is profoundly inspiring. We stayed on the rim during our visit, although there are many opportunities for exploration. Hike the canyon, raft the river or camp the back country if you have a more adventurous spirit. Stay in the comfort lodging on property and shuttle to your destinations if you prefer a more relaxed approach. Whatever you choose, youll be awed by your surroundings!

 

 

We left the Grand Canyon and continued to the rootin, tootin town of Williams, Arizona. This charming whistle-stop is known as the Gateway to the Grand Canyon and offers travelers six blocks of historic Route 66 food, fun and memorabilia. Hop on the Grand Canyon Railway, get a picture with Elvis, or wait until sundown for a genuine cowboy street show shoot out! My son acquired a much sought-after cowboy hat Williams and considered our trip a bonafide success upon its purchase!

Getting our kicks was the theme of the day as we ditched the highway and drove the iconic Route 66. Great stretches of very little gave way to some awesome roadside stops, like the tiny town of Seligman. While other Route 66 stops faded away with the construction of the interstate, this little commercial district tenaciously held on to its roots and vitality. Seligman is rumored to be the inspiration for the animated town of Radiator Springs and despite its population of roughly 450, has successfully promoted its historic businesses and unique stops as an oasis in the middle of the Arizona high desert.

A mere two plus hours beyond Seligman brought us to Kingman, AZ. Perched at an elevation of 3,300 feet, Kingman was a cool (both figuratively and literally) spot in our travels and just a stones throw(ish) from our next stop- the Hoover Dam.

My children took great joy in our visit to Hoover Dam, expressing verbally at every opportunity how many dam pictures they took, what dam facts they learned, and how high the dam observation deck was. Sigh. Hoover Dam truly was a marvel of modern engineering and worth the stop. Tickets are only available on site, though, and only a first come, first served basis.

Our final stop on our quest to reclaim summer was Las Vegas, the City of Lights. While most consider Las Vegas an adult destination, there are tons of great family-friendly attractions as well. Take a gondola ride at the Venetian, check out celebrities (of the waxed variety) at Madame Tussauds, or take in the Fall of Atlantis at Caesars with impressive special effects. Ride the Big Apple Roller Coaster at New York New York, followed by a trip to the arcade. Visit the M&Ms World and personalize your own M&Ms! Youll be pleasantly surprised at how much g-rated fun you can have!

After eight days on the road, our family road trip was nearing its inevitable conclusion. I gave up trying to keep the Trucksters interior clean and focused on the fun we had together exploring this great nation. We saw incredible sights, experienced extraordinary beauty and spent a fantastic family week together without the usual interruptions of work, school, sports and more. Summer is back, Baby!

Road Trip- One Family’s Quest to Reclaim Summer

Like most, our familys summer isnt the relaxing oasis of calm we remember from childhood. I fondly recall days spent splashing in the community pool, walking to my grandmas 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 (whats that about?!?). This year, my husband and I decided to do something about it. Thats 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 didnt 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 300 sandstone formations against a brilliant Colorado sky. Its 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 husbands 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!). Its 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!