Planning the next adventure. Coming August, 2016.

There’s a children’s book called Adele and Simon in America. The 2 main characters, who are from France, are traveling through America by train with their Aunt who lives in America. The book takes us on a beautiful journey throughout some of America’s most iconic places, and in each place, Simon (the little brother, who is perhaps 5 or 6), loses one of his possessions, much to the chagrin of his annoyed older sister. As the amount of losses increases, so does Adele’s frustration with Simon. A consistent refrain is “Oh, Simon, why are you always losing everything?!”

This is not unlike our journey. It all started with Eli’s brand new Camelbak drinking cup, which I don’t think made it past New Jersey (our first stop). Since then, we’ve all left things behind in one location or another. Some things have been minor (like an odd sock), some not so minor. Some have been a real problem or a real heartbreak to have lost. Many, we have figured out after we have left a certain place, and been able to have hotels or hosts ship them to us.

So, I’ll take a moment now to recount the lost and the found.

Item  Lost In.. Status
Eli’s camelbak drinking bottle New Jersey Gone
Dylan’s backpack (camera / books / swiss army knife, etc.) Nashville Mailed back to us in Colorado
My baseball cap (beloved) Santa Fe Mailed back to us in Colorado
My camelbak water bottle
Jake’s camelbak water bottle
Memphis (maybe) Gone
Dylan’s hiking hat and 1 walkie talkie Oklahoma City Mailed back to us in Colorado
Lucy’s drinking bottle ?? Gone
My wallet (2 bank cards & 1 license, that’s it) Louisville, CO Gone
Eli’s shoes Aurora CO to be mailed back, probably meet us in Chicago
Lucy’s shoes Aurora

The year after we got married, we visited Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs on a road trip to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. We had no kids.

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And we took some really dark pictures of ourselves. Now, 12 years later, we had the opportunity to come back to the same place with 4 kids (3 pictured here) and make new memories.

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The mountains are ever present in Colorado. We happen to be in Boulder this week, and everywhere we look, mountains. Dangling like a carrot, beckoning you to draw near. So we’ve been trying to get into the mountains, either by car of by foot, each day that we’ve been here. We won’t have them for long, and even though we won’t be able to get our fill we want to soak it all in while we can. Today we went for a hike 10 minutes from where we’re staying. It didn’t disappoint.



We spent the last week staying with family (my cousin, Rick and his son Andrew). And on Sunday, visiting with Mark, Cheryl and their 2 (grown up) children Marissa & Nick (long time family friends who moved to Colorado a few years ago). What a week it’s been. How nice it was to see friendly and familiar faces. How comfortable we were made to feel in their homes. After almost a month of being on our own, it was great to be with loved ones.

Sidebar: we were very blessed to have Jake’s parents fly out last weekend and spend 3 days with us over Memorial Day – a total surprise for the kids and a great time. Not to mention Jake and I were able to go out on the first (and possibly only) date of the trip.

Being in Colorado for a couple of weeks now, we feel like we have arrived, and are (somewhat) settled in. We are driving less than an hour a day, sometimes just a few minutes to the park or the store. It’s been restorative. It’s been good. It seems too short. We’ll be heading back home by the end of the weekend and then after a few more stops to see friends (Chicago) and family (Michigan), we’ll be home and back to our normal routines.

Being past the halfway point, I’m really trying to appreciate the little moments that will be unreachable once we’re back.

This trip has been wonderful in so many ways. The new experiences, the family and friends we’ve seen along the way. The mountains and other gorgeous natural sites. But being gone almost a month now, there are some things we are missing. So let’s take a minute to make a note of them. 

  1. Our family at home
  2. Our friends at home – the kids are especially missing their friends – you know who you are. ;)
  3. Grocery shopping for more than 2-3 days at a time. And cooking – I miss the leisure of having a stocked kitchen and the ability to plan meals a week in advance and cook them in my own kitchen. 
  4. Our bed, our pillows. We’ve had some comfortable places and some not so comfortable. But there’s nothing like your own bed. 
  5. Mostly, our sleep. Sleeping in one room with 6 people is tricky. Sleeping in one room with 6 people with 1 of them being under 2 is really really difficult. I won’t get into the exacts details, but I will say that in the 27 nights since we left, Jake and I have not had 1 solid night of sleep. And we’ve only had a handful of okay nights (being woken up less than 3x, and staying awake less than an hour). We’ve also had a handful of atrocious overnights, where one or both of us gets about 3 hours of sleep, then needs to function all the next day. It’s not been easy. 

I’m not complaining. This is a amazing and uncommon experience. I appreciate it. I’m glad we did it and I’m glad it’s not over yet. But we also appreciate our home, and all that it affords: the people and the comforts. 

For now, I’ll soak in the morning view from Parker, Colorado. 

  

On our way from Santa Fe to Boulder, we decided to stop in at another national park that we’d heard legends about. We settled into a hotel in a pretty underwhelming little town, which shall go unnamed (in case any of you have family in Alamosa, Colorado), and immediately headed out to see the Great Sand Dunes.

This was so much more breathtaking in person than we thought it would be. We didn’t realize that we’d have to traverse a little rushing river to get to it, but it was worth it.

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There have been times on this trip when I’ve felt like we’re all set to move on to the next destination. We’d enjoyed the experience of a city, but we don’t need to put down any roots. I knew, however, when we landed in Santa Fe that we could stay around for a while. It was the first place on the trip where I was sad to leave. We had a blast Santa Fe. We’ll be back.

Traveling, wrangling kids, planning things to see, meals, the next legs of our journey and working doesn’t leave a lot of time for reflecting on what we’ve seen (and subsequently blogging about it). So as I sit in a hotel room, in the dark, on the floor, in the glow of the bathroom light as the kids fall asleep, I’m taking a moment to wade through photos and reflect.

We’ve made lots of stops along the way, some filled with sights and stories, but some only to get a night or two of sleep. Some a combination of the two, and Floyd, Nashville and Memphis were a few of those places.

Floyd, VA

We learned about Floyd, VA from the Okee Dokee Brothers, one of the kids’ favorite bands, and their movie, Through the Woods. As it was only a stone’s throw from Shenandoah, we decided to make a pilgrimage to the Floyd Country Store (featured prominently in the movie) and spend the night at the Hotel Floyd. Not only did we catch an authentic local bluegrass jam (they have music most nights of the week), we were tempted to deck ourselves out in traditional Virginian garb.

We didn’t. But it was worth documenting.

Nashville, TN

From Floyd we made our way to Knoxville, TN, and then on to Nashville where we rented a house on Airbnb from an amazing host. The space was beautiful, and she helped us with everything from local suggestions on where to eat and explore to getting our laundry done.

We wished we’d had more time to explore the music scene, but the kids had just as much fun at the Nashville Zoo (really fantastic, as zoos go).

And we capped the visit with a very touristy dinner at the B.B. King Blues Club, at which Isaiah stole the show as he rocked out to the live band right in front of the stage.

Memphis, TN

Sorry Memphis, we hardly knew ye. Memphis ended up being less of a destination for us than we’d originally planned. Partly due to weather, and partly to some other necessary schedule shifting. We only stayed for a night, we didn’t go to Graceland, we didn’t take a Mississippi Riverboat cruise, and I’m sure there are countless other things we didn’t experience that Memphis has to offer. Maybe someday.

We’ve realized we can’t see everything. Our time has to be allocated wisely and balanced with lots of downtime when you’re traveling with 4 kids. But we’re absolutely loving simply being on the road, staying flexible, experiencing new places and learning new things about ourselves as a family and how we travel.

There are so many more things to say about the cities after these, and before where we are now. It’s percolating, but for now, onward!

When we were in DC visiting the Smithsonian  Natural History museum, the butterfly pavilion was one of the more memorable stops. Sort of fun, sort of scary for the little ones.

Two weeks and two days later…

There’s no lack for animal carcasses on these highways. We’ve only been keeping track for the last couple of days, but this will be our continually updated tally of the roadkill we encounter.

1 Sheep
1 Bunny
1 Black Bear Cub
6 Deer
1 Possum
2 Raccoons
1 German Shepard
10 Armadillos
1 Turkey
2 Groundhogs
1 Skunk
Numerous unidentifiable animals.
So many tires.

After 2 weeks on the road, we’re getting pretty close to Colorado. These kids have been amazing. And so has Jake (as usual). Feeling pretty thankful as we settle in to Santa Fe for 3 days.