We left for our trip on a Thursday, and we started planning it in earnest on that Monday. While the procrastination caused me all kinds of stress, I had nothing to worry about because things came together beautifully. Our destination was Nathan's boot camp graduation at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, a short 1,875 mile drive from our house --that is, if you went the most direct route. We did not.
We couldn't afford to fly the four of us, so in order to break up the long drive we made it a vacation road trip, stopping at lots of cool places on the way out (and a few on the way back). To minimize costs, we did some tent camping, stayed with family and friends, ate most of our meals out of a cooler. Never a big fan of lunch meat, I may never touch it again.
The camping was my plan; Jeff was a little bit more skeptical. We got a pop-up camper when Jacob was a baby and never looked back. The camper's been parked for a couple years, though, and neither one of us wanted to tow it through the mountains. That left our tent, which thankfully was still in decent shape, plenty big for the four of us to sleep in, and (as it turned out) still rain resistant. And it gave us the opportunity to sleep in some pretty cool places, which brings us to the point of today's post: where we stayed our nights on vacation.
Thursday (departure day): Pueblo, CO, KOA.
With 13 hours of drive time on our first day, we opted for something easy. Staying in a cabin meant all we had to do was throw our sleeping bags onto the mattresses at the end of a long day and have little to pack up the next morning. Plus, many KOAs have that jumping pillow you see in the last picture. Jacob loves them, Daniel loves tormenting me by bouncing me off of them, and they provide a good opportunity to burn off excess energy after sitting in the car all day.
I'd so hoped to be able to meet up with Jill, Kathy, Terzah, and Cynthia during this trip, but in the end it just made more sense for us to take a more southerly route through Colorado. Next time!!
Friday: Morefield Campground, Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado)
|That's our tent in the foreground|
None of us slept well this night, a combination of the cold, attempting to balance on overfilled (cheap) sleeping mats, and who knows what else. It was a long night.
|View behind our campsite...you can see some of the tents in the other loop.|
|Not a bad view for $20.|
|Putting the kid to work the next day|
Sunday: Zion Lodge, Zion National Park (Utah)
|We were on the second floor, in back|
Monday: Mardi Gras Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas
Somewhere on an SD card is a shot of our room and a few pictures of the pool. You aren't missing that much. Suffice it to say that when booking.com congratulates you, "You've booked the cheapest room in the hotel!!" it doesn't entirely feel like a compliment. That said, the room was spacious and clean, the pool was nice, and we left Vegas without being killed in our beds or bringing along bedbugs, so I was happy.
Tuesday-Thursday: Orange, CA
Thank God for family. Because Comic Con was in San Diego the same weekend as Nathan's graduation from Marine Corps boot camp, by the time I got around to making reservation hotels like Motel 6 were running around $200/night. Hell no. Instead we stayed with two of Jeff's uncles and drove the 1-1.5 hours to San Diego on Thursday and Friday.
Friday: Tucson, AZ
Thank God for old friends. I actually have several family members with places in the Phoenix area, but it didn't work out for us to stay with any of them. Luckily I was able to message my friend Kelly, my best friend from 3rd grade (when she moved to my town) until 7th grade (when she moved to Arizona) and still one of those lifelong friends you can see/talk to once every 5 years and still fall right back into the friendship. We rolled up their driveway around 11 pm and crashed in their guest room after little more than a "hi".
Saturday: Mt. Graham, Stafford, AZ
|Home, sweet home for the night|
|Jacob and Grace spent a long of time working on this fort uphill from our site.|
|The second bear-warning site of our trip; no bears to be seen, though.|
Sunday: Holbrook KOA, Holbrook AZ
Another KOA, another cabin, and while KOAs typically have nice features like pools or the jumping pillow at our top picture, we basically rolled in, ate supper, showered, and went to bed.
Monday (Tuesday morning): Elk City KOA, Elk City, OK
It may have been daylight when we hit Holbrook; we'd already eased into the next day by the time we reached Oklahoma. After some touring in the Holbrook area, we pointed ourselves towards home with three potential stops (all KOAs, which make up in proximity to the highway what they lack in atmosphere), knowing we'd have to commit to a destination before the offices closed if we wanted to stay into a cabin. We settled on Elk City, our furthest option, and they just left the cabin unlocked for us with the key inside. Our return to the midwest featured bugs, something we'd seen little of since leaving home thirteen days earlier. I hadn't missed them at all.
In all, we traveled for 13 days, driving a total of 4,700 miles. Not necessarily a restful vacation, but a really great trip. I'd love to do another long road trip, maybe with a slightly more forgiving schedule, and take my bike(s) along for the ride. Maybe next year...