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Posts Tagged ‘AAA’

Hubby’s first view of the Grand Canyon left him slack-jawed for about ten minutes.
Sam couldn’t believe how far down it was to the floor of the canyon, and I didn’t remember how awe- inspiringly-beautiful it was.
(Is that a word? It should be.)   
The Nintendo DS stayed in the car. 
The storm that had been chasing us was circling back around.  After about 30 minutes the thunder and lightening started.  Sam watched a bolt of lightening strike miles across the canyon.  It was then that we decided it was time to head for the lodge. 

You know how when you sleep in a bed other than your own it’s hard to drift off right away? 
Not for Hubby and I. 
Sam, it was another story.  Of course, he’d slept 6 + hours in the back seat so he read for awhile. 
He found the bible that the Gideons left in a drawer. 
Revelations. 
Seriously. 
Maybe it’s the video games, maybe it’s the generation, but his attitude is – “Bring it On!” 
Oh.
And, he loves the ending. 
He finally turned off the light around midnight but not before he hummed us a couple of songs from his last orchestra recital. 

The next morning it was beautiful outside, not a cloud in the sky.  At the Red Feather Lodge, when we were there they had continental breakfast tickets they gave us at check-in.  At the lodge’s restaurant, “Cafe Tusayan” they offer either a continental breakfast or $5.50 off your breakfast chosen from the menu.  It was delicious and filling.  Our top piece of advice would be to pick a hotel that offers a breakfast in the morning.  Several of the hotels where we stayed offered this benefit. 

After breakfast our plan was to drive around the park and see as much as we could by car.  Sam wanted to take in the IMAX theatre showing of “The Grand Canyon.”  We had a coupon for 10% off…$7.00 for a party of 6.  How much does this movie cost, anywat?  We ended up not going, we’ve seen the IMAX movies about Yellowstone & Mt Saint Helen’s. 
Hubby told Sam…”The Grand Canyon is spread out before us, who wants to see a movie?”  Apparently Sam did.  But he got over it. 

We invite you to view some of our photos of the Grand Canyon, while you listen to a favorite singer of our family. 
The song fits perfectly.  If the name Steven Curtis Chapman sounds familiar, it is because besides Steven being a DOVE award winning song writer, singer and composer, the Chapman family suffered a severe loss 15 months ago when one of their daughters died in a tragic accident at their home.  Keep this family in your prayers. 

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I am cheating – you saw this one in a previous post. 

 

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 Who needs a DS right now. 

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That elusive lightening got away again. 

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Glad there were no snakes hiding in here.

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Years ago we traveled like we were hippies from the 60’s….a VW vanagon….wherever the road took us….wherever the wind blew…with no hotel reservations.  We weren’t total rebels…we got maps from AAA. 
Then. 
We had kids.  
It’s hard to be “free as a bird” with one in diapers, one barely potty trained and one who loved to flush toilets. 
But, we were thrilled to have had our “wings clipped.” 

We’re not in our 20’s anymore; as Sam would be quick to tell you.  We’re old.
It’s not that fun to sleep in the car anymore….we did that recently when we arrived at a camp site too late in the evening to set up our tent. 
We groaned, creaked and cracked for hours the next morning.  Where’s the Motrin? 
We like our comforts…bed…pillows…hot coffee.  We have a 12 yr old, who is very fond of electricity and sleeping in a bed…usually ours. Regardless of our now deep seated desire for creature comforts, I wasn’t worried about not having hotel reservations for our upcoming trip adventure. 

With just one son at home, we decided it was time once again to undertake that time honored tradition of a family vacation by car. 
This time it wasn’t a “V- DUB” it was a rented KIA.  We had casually mapped out our route.  The Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Mono Lake & Yosemite National Park.  I wasn’t worried about making reservations. 

“Who goes to the Grand Canyon in July?” I asked.
“It’s not like we’re going to Zion National Park on Mother’s Day….”  (Now there’s a story I must share sometime.) 
“There are plenty of hotels around Yosemite!  It’s not like we’re going to be camping there. 
They keep saying on the news that everyone is having a ‘Staycation’ this year.  It’ll be fine…..” 

Yes, I have your family booked for our last available room Mrs. Stuart. 

As we were packing the car, Sam repeatedly asked me, “Where are we staying our first night, mom?”  Lying through my teeth I said, “Outside the Grand Canyon.”  Sam really wasn’t satisfied with that answer, he wanted the hotel name and confirmation number.  But he was so excited that he barely slept the night before and we left at 4 AM the following morning.  Outside Corona CA, after pancakes and Dramamine, Sam was out.

We left CA and entered AZ.  Sam slept through gas stops, potty stops and a drive-thru visit to DQ. 
At a scenic overlook when I got out of the car, I remembered one of our favorite sayings from the road…”But it’s a DRY heat…” 
I found two lovely Navajo women there, selling turquoise jewelery.  Decades ago at a similar stop, I bought a necklace with a three inch chunk of the stone.  I didn’t find anything nearly as large this time. 

All the way to Williams, Arizona, the Great Spirit in the Sky treated us to one His magnificent lightening storms. 
In fact, we were followed all 6 days by fantastic displays of God’s pyrotechnics.  Seems there was a storm just circling around AZ, UT, NV and Northern CA. 

After we had been driving for sometime through AZ, I thought I’d better find us a room for the night.   The Arizona AAA Tour Book was a great resource.  The first hotel I called wanted $250.00 for the night.  Hubby wanted to know if that room came with someone to scrub your back in the shower and then tuck you in for the night.  I told the girl at the reservations desk that I would call her back. 

As I continued to peruse through the hotel listings, there was a particularly loud clap of thunder.  With the possibility of sleeping in the car becoming a reality, I quickly called one of my next choices….The Red Feather Lodge, just about 2 miles outside the south entrance to the park.  I had to practically stand on my head in the KIA (not an easy task to be sure) to get cell reception.  I finally reached reservations for the hotel by holding my head just so, while we barrelled along at 70 MPH. 
“When would you be visiting us?” the girl asked.  “Tonight,” I said. 
She put me on hold so that I would not hear her laughing.  After what seemed like an eternity she came back on the line and requested my credit card number.  It seems the Stuart family had gotten THE last room at the Red Feather Lodge.  www.redfeatherlodge.com

Sam was jarred awake by a deep rumble of thunder.  He was so excited by the light show and preceded to refresh our education regarding weather, storms, lightening and thunder.  There were fantastic jagged bolts of lightening every 5-10 seconds in the clouds in front of us.  I tried in vain to photograph one of them;  I finally quit and just enjoyed the show.

When we reached Williams, Arizona, Sam spotted a Pizza Hut.  The Hut in Arizona is nothing like CA.  They had a salad bar, you could pick individual orders of pasta, and the kids working there were very sweet.  Sorry, if I’m stepping on toes.  After our meal we headed for our hotel.  The hotel was very nice and the staff accommodating.  We got our luggage in the room and then headed for into the park for Sam &  Hubby’s first glimpse of the Grand Canyon…live and in person. 
It seemed like it was the first time I had seen it too.  The ten minutes when I was a tween with Teddy and Grandma, was a long time ago. 
(See Clustr Maps:  Connect the Dots!  Part I)

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During one of those cross country trips when I was a tween one of the 8 tracks that we played a lot was an Nat King Cole album. 
There was one song in particular that popped back in my head during our recent whirlwind tour of National Parks.  When we were in Williams, Arizona, I saw this sign and I couldn’t stop singing the song.  Sam thought I was nuts.  Since I am a mom, I guess he thinks that anyway.

The 8 track tape has been long since donated to the Smithsonian so I don’t know the title of the album it appeared on, but I managed to find it on youtube….They have EVERYTHING! 

 

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triptik

Years ago I read an article called “Taking the High Road with Three under 3.”  I remember thinking those parents had to be crazy!  Our first 3 were 5 and under, but still,  Hubby and I were just never that adventurous; traveling with my kids always made me think of some complex military operation….without the benefit of a logistic command post.
With just one child at home now, we decided that it was time to undertake that time honored tradition of a family vacation by car. 
Having completed a whirl wind tour of 4 states – 3 national parks, one state park and a cave in 6 days, I feel somewhat qualified to share my advice on some of those must haves for a smooth trip.

AAA
If you are going to undertake a vacation by car, then I would first suggest a stop at AAA.  The membership fee is well worth it.  We have been members for over 25 years. I have never encountered anything but polite, informative representatives.  They had me on my way with Tour books, maps and my personal favorite…the Trip-Tik in a matter of 30 minutes.  On my way to my car, I began to wax nostalgic thinking back to the days when my family drove cross country and I was the navigator.  The difference for Sam will be that we actually pull over and stop at the points of interest. 

RENTAL CARS
A little advice on renting a car:   
Two weeks ago we went to reserve a small to mid size SUV to take National Park hopping.  When you reserve your car, make sure that your rep is on the SAME page as you are. 
When we returned to pick up our rental car, she had us down to be picking up the vehicle on Thursday evening, not Wednesday evening, and had nothing suitable for us.  Hubby was reserved enough not to choke the living daylights out of her.  We drove to a competitor in the rental car business and when we mentioned where we had just been, the young man said, “Oh, the B word.  We get a lot of business from them.” 
We personally will never speak the “B word” again, because the customer service rep at the “E word” found us a KIA Rondo and we were on our way home to load up in a matter of 20 minutes.  What a great car with wonderful gas mileage.  70 MPH, through the desert at 110 degrees with the air conditioning on full blast and neither the temperature nor the gas gauge even wiggled. 

PACKING YOUR VEHICLE
Once we were home with the car we started packing.  The Rondo has this great luggage area in back where you can store water underneath, and did we ever.  By the end of the trip we had gone through a case from Costco. 
We have a list of things that we think no one should do without on a road trip. I’ve made up a blank of it and we keep a copy to check off as we go along. 
Car equipment emergency stuff – that is more of a “boy” thing and luckily it came with the car. 
Blankets – Those lightweight acyclic throws are great. 
Windex/Paper Towels – our rental car arrived with a ‘delightful aroma’ of cigarette smoke.  After cleaning all the windows, the smell all but vanished. 
Tissues & daily medications
Travel coffee mugs
–  Yeah, it’s nice to get one from the National Park, but at $18.00 a mug, it adds up. 
Grocery sacks, Green shopping bags – are great for souvenirs, to hold snacks and are great to use to bring in the last load of stuff you don’t want to leave in your car overnight at a hotel. 
Pillows – this goes without saying.  We are all creatures of habit at my house.
Water – Did I mention water?  Pack several bottles in the ice chest along with ICE & maybe some orange juice, yogurt, fruit and snack cheeses.  Our Rubbermaid cooler has a neat plastic mesh tray to hold small things like these.  (FYI – Small packages of M & M’s are sealed in paper wrappers.  When introduced to the melted water in the ice chest, they liquefy.  This produces hostile travelers.)  Be sure to tuck a pillow next to the cooler to keep the sun at bay.  You’ll be surprised at how long the ice will last. 
Snacks– peanut butter, crackers, cereals.  Whatever are the things you can’t do without, we even had tea bags and coffee.  The insulated bags that Costco sells worked great for all the snacks.  Be sure to bring paper napkins and a few pieces of plastic ware., or just use those a fore  mentioned paper towels.  
(FYI – It is possible to spread peanut butter with a spoon going  70 MPH through the desert, just watch those curves.)
Diaper wipes– Get a travel size package of Huggies wipes ($2.59) to keep in the glove compartment.  You can use them to wipe the sunscreen off your hands after having to re-apply for the third time….the Rondo did not have tinted windows.  Wipes will also get the melted M & M’s off the upholstery of the back seat of the rental car when you stop for the night in Utah…can’t imagine how that happened. 
Speaking of sunscreen – I will have a post devoted to our favorite brands of sun protection. 
Reflective dashboard shade – okay, you cannot take a trip without one of these.  While you’re at it, bring along a few of those binder paper clips.  This kept me from frying in the desert sun.  Mental note…get a car with tinted windows for next time. 
Entertainment for the back seat– Sam was set with a portable DVD player, movies, his Nintendo DS, CD’s, travel games & math puzzles. 
We listened to every Harry Potter movie that has been released on DVD.   Speaking of the back seat, if your kids are prone to motion sickness bring the Dramamine.  Sam was so excited that he woke us up at 2:45 am when it was time to leave.  Tiredness combined with the medicine produced a very quiet backseat. 
Technology– Don’t forget the digital cameras, memory cards, music CD’s, cell phones, car chargers, camera chargers, video camera….

Did Ansel Adams travel like this?

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