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Friday, July 20, 2012

The One Where We Drove an Extra Fifteen Hours

We’ve been back from our summer vacation for almost two weeks now.  I think I can talk about it. Let me say, though, we did have lots of fun making some great memories.  Unfortunately, many of those memories happened in my car, traveling over 2500 miles and about 45 hours.

Here’s how that went down. We all drove to Oklahoma to see my family, a distance of 800 miles and 15 hours. IMG_0335We stopped in Springfield, MO, to play after twelve hours, even though the temperature was 106. Those hooligans scoff at the heat!

The GI Joe had Army bidness to take care of in Kentucky, so he flew there the day after we arrived in Oklahoma and spent a week.  Then he flew back to Wisconsin, to work a few days (and be all alone in our house, which I was most envious of). In our plan, he was supposed to fly back to Oklahoma on the 4th of July to spend a few days (he hasn’t seen my side of the family in over 3 years, thanks to deployments and such…or it always conveniently works out that way it seems).

IMG_4545 Meanwhile, we were having a great time in Oklahoma, spending time with my dad, largely doing things that involved the hooligans eating. My dad has a really rare form of encephalitis that suddenly took his memory about two years ago. He has some of it back, but lives in an assisted care facility.  The kids loved visiting Papa Tractor at his new place.

We also apparently cured the deafness in his right ear, as he told me while driving home from getting this ice cream with the kids, all hopped up on sugar and being hooliganish. We’re helpful that way.

I thought the coolest part of our week was that the kids got to go to the day camp I attended.  I was a counselor there, as well, in junior high.  Five mornings a week, my co-leader and I were responsible for  teaching about twelve little girls archery, fishing, swimming, crafts, and horseback riding, and I got paid $15 a week. I thought I was living large, I tell you!

In this photo, it was the last day of camp and all the campers were waiting as the counselors threw $150 in coins into the pool for them to dive in and get. The noise level while waiting was insane. We went to Sonic for slushes afterward and the boys were counting their loot.  One got 14 cents and the other 24, I think.  They spent the afternoon plotting what they could buy with it.

The oldest hooligan learned to jump off the diving boards, which thrilled him to no end. We don’t have outdoor pools or diving boards here in Wisconsin, so he was deprived of that. Swimming is his favorite sport, and, while it’s not pretty to watch, he loves to swim.

My aunt invited everyone to her house for a Sunday dinner.  My cousins’ kids are all intermingled with ours as far as age, so they could not have been happier, running wild on the farm. I’m pretty sure they ate something other than popsicles, but who cares?  I was having a blast getting to chat with the “grownups” instead of watching little ones for the first time in years.

Now comes the twist in our plans.  My father-in-law, who lives in Colorado, was hospitalized with a severe infection.  We decided that the kids and I should drive to Denver on Tuesday, then the hubs could fly there on Wednesday morning.  His ticket already had a connection in Denver, so it was easy to change. Again, I feel the need to point out that he was ALL ALONE to travel.  Envy. Sigh.

It’s about an eleven hour drive from my parents’ house to his parents’ house (or ten if you’re without kids and dehydrate yourself).  We stopped halfway, in Hays, Kansas, and took advantage of their fabulous public water park my friend Sarah (who’s from there) told us about. If you’re ever in need of a travel break, it’s well worth the $3 admission.  Waterslides, a lazy river, huge zero entry splash pad/pool, and a regular pool with diving boards.

When we started west again, the kids were all tuckered out and content to nap, read, and watch movies for the remaining 5 hours.
We got there late Tuesday evening, and spent the 4th with that side of the family.  The hooligans love to visit (and terrorize) their great-grandma.  Nonna makes the best Italian knot cookies in the world, if you were wondering.  She's in her 90's and just an amazing, funny, and extremely tolerant woman.

We spent the afternoon and evening at Frank’s sister’s house, where again the hooligans had fun running wild, jumping on the trampoline, and generally creating chaos. We ended the day by watching fireworks at one of the very few displays allowed in Colorado.  With all the wildfires burning, almost all fireworks were banned.  Even sparklers and snakes. But, seriously?  Do you think we give the hooligans things that could be turned back on us, flaming, even if it's legal?

The cousins got tickets for an old-fashioned family amusement park, Lakeside, so we went on night. The boys were pretty bored with the “little kid” rides (as you can see from their smart-aleck faces), but loved the smaller thrill rides.  I thought the plexiglass maze was the funniest part (I was watching everyone else crash into the walls), and was the designated rider with the middle kid on the roller coaster. It was his first time, and his emotions about it seemed pretty mixed.

I also forced everyone back into the car to drive up to Georgetown and ride the loop railroad one day. It’s a good rule of thumb that the mountains are about fifteen degrees cooler than the Front Range (see…all that college was not wasted), but it was about 30 degrees cooler that day.  It rained, sleeted, and then the sun came back out.  It was perfect, after our long, hot, dry summer. Being flatlanders now, we were totally unprepared for such a temperature change (plus, I had packed for Oklahoma, not Colorado), so we even had to buy tourist sweatshirts.

One of my favorite parts of the Colorado leg of our trip was that I met a new friend.  I've gotten to know her through my blog, and she is a friend and coworker of my sister-in-law.  We met for coffee one day, and I wish I'd had the whole afternoon to spend, talking about crafts, knitting, and solving all the world's problems.  As it happened, we only solved about half of them. But I'll be back, Steph!  She gave me a fabulous tote bag from, filled with more fabulousness...body butter and lip balm she'd made, lots of knitting she'd done (including an amazing circle with various shades knit wedges), and a super sweet card.  I love making new friends!

As many times as we have crossed a border into Colorado, we had never stopped to take a photo.  I had the best of intentions as we crossed from Kansas to Colorado, but there was construction and we were rerouted onto the other side of the interstate. I mentioned this dream to the hubs, so on our way OUT of Colorado on I-76. almost to Nebraska, he insisted on stopping.

After a quick photo and bathroom break, we strapped in, settled down, and arrived safely home eighteen hours after leaving Denver. Whew. We are poster children for “I need a vacation from my vacation.”


  1. I am so glad the water pork worked out. It truly is a little hidden treasure off I70. Miss you much friend!

    1. Sorry...I deleted the wrong duplicate...but we all know you meant "park"...Miss you too...hopefully someday we'll be stationed together again!

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  3. Oh, wow, are you a trooper with all that travel! Sounds like a great time! I hope your FIL is feeling better though :( New follower :)

  4. Aww, thanks Megan. :) Back at ya! That coffee break went WAY too fast and I'm SO very glad I got to see you in person! I'll be waiting anxiously for the next time you come to town.

    Thanks for sharing your vaca pics. The hooligans really look like they were having a great time! Where are the pics of you and the GI???
    Hugs to you.

    1. Isn't that always the way it parents in the photos? I usually get the oldest to snap at least one of us, but was using my iPhone most of the time and don't trust him with it!

  5. Was great to see pic of your dad! And that you are a family that doesn't just soldier on but makes the best of it while doing so! Miss you! Glad to hear you have friends & family to pull you through too.

    1. Thanks! He's doing pretty well physically, and is really happy living where he is. And I can feel you pulling me from WI, back to WA...thanks for that...halfway there!


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