We made it and lived to tell the tale!! Our marriage is stronger, we still love our children (and they still love each other!) and we made some great memories, saw new places and caught some great photos along the way. A lot of my friends have been asking how we did it, what we packed, how the kids did with so much time in the car etc, so I figured a blog post could address all that (and more!) So here you go! 

Our Purpose: When I travel for the purposes of traveling (not with the sole intention to see family), I want to see new places or try new things. So we set our sights on Mt. Rushmore and Arches Nat'l Parks with a few stops in between to break up the drive. 

Our Packing List: We packed 5 days worth of clothes for a 10 day trip knowing we could do laundry at my sister's half way through. Additional things included: 

-two swim suits for the kids each (in case one wasn't dry for the next swim escapade)

-swim shoes and sneakers for each family member, sunscreen

-a small cooler of ice with jelly, butter, 1/2 gal. of milk, cheese sticks and fruit. We had another "pantry bag" of bread, peanut butter, granola and Clif Kids bars (chewy kind for less mess in the car seats), goldfish, pouches for picky-eater Loch, Lara bars (for Mommy), two small cookie trays and plastic ware. The cookie trays worked great at rest stops for a clean surface to make sandwiches and to eat from! They can also be used to manipulate magnets in the car ride!! :) and water bottles-lots of water and lots of wipes & diapers. :)

-a backpack of surprises from Dollar General ($50 total) with activity books, sticker books, crayons, beach ball to blow up, glow sticks (for night car dance party fun) and other fun things for Laidy & Loch to enjoy as we made different rest stops. Laidy is at a great stage of being able to read to herself and Loch, follow directions in activity books and Loch loves to doodle/color and roll toy cars up and down his legs. But, obviously, pack what your Littles are interested in. :) We always prefaced a surprise with, "Close your eyes and hold out your hands!" 


-pack n' play for Loch, sleeping bag for Laidy (in our recent move, we couldn't find the fold away cot for Laidy, but she was content with her birthday gift of a sleeping bag!) 

-back pack to carry Loch (if our hike in Arches necessitated it and we borrowed from a friend)

-umbrella stroller (both kids used this to rest their legs on walks to the park in Salt Lake (SLC) and the Omaha Zoo)

-golf umbrella (helpful on a drizzly day at Omaha Zoo!)

-my big camera bag that can serve as a diaper bag as well and held my reading materials, Laidy's Write the Word Journal , and my Kindle with other books I wanted to go through, including this awesome one Sacred Rest. After our recent season of difficulties, I knew I needed REST from this trip! This bag also held my D810 Nikon camera body with my 24-70mm, my 70-200mm and my 50mm lenses. 

-ipad with downloaded movies and PBS episodes. We have bucket seats in our RAV4 so we stick the ipad between the front seats, plug it into our AUX for surround sound and it works great for the kids to watch! 

-podcast episodes downloaded for Mommy & Daddy. We greatly enjoyed listening to: 

  • Only You Forever-marriage podcast with secular research with ties to how that research confirm Biblical truths. And we appreciated their sense of humor. :) 
  • What You Missed in History Class-self explanatory
  • Lexicon Valley (Gerard)-gives a fun background to our speech and history of words. 
  • RadioLab-all kinds of different stories under the sun, like how Poison Control Centers began.
  • Freakonomics (Gerard)
  • Dave Ramsay Financial Peace-If you want a kick in the pants to your budget, this is it!
  • God-Centered Mom (Carrie)-great encouragement for a Mama's heart.

So, that gives you the skeleton of this adventure, here is the day-to-day play by play: 

Monday June 11th: leave at 8:00pm after I finished up a senior session, leave for Sioux Falls to help break up the ride to Mt. Rushmore. We drove through CRAZY rain (thankful for that stuff they put on our windshield when we had the car checked over prior to leaving), were in awe of an incredible sunset, and were very thankful for an 80mph speed limit. (I have the occasional lead foot....) Arrived in Sioux Falls at 11:30pm to a hotel room without the beds made yet, so we scored another one down the hall. Took the kids a little bit to fall back asleep, but we made it work with Loch sleeping on Gerard's chest most of the night. 


Tuesday June 12th: drive to Keystone, SD. Lunch at a rest stop, nap in the car and explore the Black Hills/Badlands a bit. Gerard played Defense against Loch's schemes to jump off the pathway to a certain death and I challenged myself to a "scary Mommy" moment by taking Laidy to a ledge where we had to walk on a skinny ravine together. She did great obeying and I held her hand in a vice grip. What a view!!

Wednesday June 13th: We started our morning early at Mt. Rushmore (the kids slept better in their designated places, and were still up early). Thankful to get to Rushmore before the big rush of tourists (see what I did there?), took the Presidential Trail that led us to look up Washington's nose and headed back into town for Bear Country (a drive-through zoo, if you will), lunch and nap. After nap, we did a helicopter ride for a different view altogether! Check one off my Bucket List and Loch was enthralled!

Thursday June 14th: drive 10 hours to Salt Lake City (SLC)-ugh, this day was ROUGH. 10 hours of driving and 12 on the road total. I was in worse shape than the kids with a strong headache that had me in the fetal position, burrowed under our windshield protector to shield me from the sun, holding my head in a vice grip. Blame it on elevation and lack of sleep combination perhaps? I wouldn't wish that on anyone. Except maybe my college music theory professor....

Friday June 15th: fun with cousins!! An easy walk to the park with just our two while the others were in school for the day. When they got home, it was a lot of good play and Happy Birthday singing to Papapa. We started our laundry and rested otherwise.

Saturday June 16th: cousins have fun "kid cars" and we drove them to the park for all 6 to play this morning. Came home for naps, church at The Rock (one of our sister churches that my sister's family attends) with an awesome Father's Day message, Chik Fil A for dinner and good adult conversation with my sister when she got home from her 12 hour shift at the hospital. This was my only regret of the trip: that Katie had to work each day we were there-we just couldn't find a better time for our family to do the trip, so we soaked in the time we had! 

Sunday June 17th: more park play, came home to pack up, had lunch and drove 3.5hrs to Moab, UT for Arches Nat'l Park. To stretch our legs, we walked up and down the main street thoroughfare, had a ribs dinner from a food truck, found gelato for Laidy & Mommy, and ice cream & a souvenir shirt for Daddy. 

Monday June 18th: got up and to Arches Nat'l Park by 8:30am and the line of cars for entry was LONG. They open at 8:00, I just couldn't drag my butt any faster after a week of interrupted sleeps. Another "fun scary" moment for me was to climb the rocks from one arch to the back of it for a different photographic perspective. It wasn't really scary, except when the wind picked up and I had to hug the rock side for good measure. Walking around the Windows Section with the kids was enough to get them worn out and my exercise in lifting for the day was sealed with a piggy back ride for Laidy. The umbrella stroller wouldn't have worked here for all the steps up and down, so Loch was on Gerard's shoulders and Laidy on my back for the last stretch to the car. We learned at Mt. Rushmore to give a fellow tourist a cell phone to take a group shot as when I handed them my camera, Rushmore was in focus but we were not. (whomp whomp) So, all our family group photos the rest of the trip are phone camera quality.

We drove back into Moab for lunch (Mommy loved the Peace Tree Cafe!) then hit the road for nap time and got to Littleton, CO to stay with Luther College friends of Gerard's. They have two boys that stair step our kids in age and it worked out beautifully for them to play and allow us adult conversation time too! (On the way, we got to dip our fingers in the CO River!)


Tuesday June 19th: drove to a park in Littleton to play with our friends, had lunch at Merle's Restaurant in Old Towne Littleton (yum!) and headed back to their house for nap time. After nap was more play in their neighborhood with scooters (again, anything with wheels was a win for Loch) and yummy dinner at their home. Our hostess is a food/photography blogger and the meal was beautiful-I didn't want to touch it for concern of ruining the shot! lol :) And my photos certainly don't do it justice. I was in avocado Heaven. Her husband is the head of a charter school that just earned National recognition so our educator hats were on and we had great conversations!

Wednesday June 20th: drive to Lincoln, NE. This was a stretched out 6 hours, thankfully, we weren't facing the sun any longer and actually got showered on a bit. When planning your trip, may I recommend that your longer stretches go on the front end of your time rather than the last days in your car? I can't imagine doing the 10 hour stretch to SLC at the end! So glad this was only 6! We got to Lincoln but our hotel room was clearly inhabited by a smoker prior to our arrival, so we got ushered into a new room. (We didn't have the best of luck with smooth hotel stays and we started to get a chuckle out of it!) 

Thursday June 21st: drive 1hr to Omaha for the zoo by 9:30am. They open at 9:00, but with rain showers in the forecast, it wasn't crowded at all. And each time we headed into an indoor spot (gorillas, aquarium, elephant barn, giraffe barn, etc) we'd walk out and see that it had rained. We also timed our stay in Omaha during the collegiate baseball World Series so our 3:00pm hotel check-in became a 2 hour wait in the parking lot until our room was ready. For our inconvenience, they gave us half off our stay!! Score!  We ended our evening with dinner from Best Bison (yum!) with a great college friend of mine who lives in Omaha now and recommended Best Bison to us. 

Mommy: "Laidy, what was your favorite part of the Zoo?"

Laidy: "Seeing gorilla and elephant poop."

[Awesome. All that work and walking for poop to be the highlight....lol]

Friday June 22nd: we took our time waking up (or at least, Daddy let Mommy take her time as he does every morning). Gerard took the kids down to breakfast and brought me mine. I ate while he readied the kids for the pool and we had the facilities to ourselves. We enjoyed pool time, took showers, packed up and hit the 2.5hr drive home feeling pretty breezy but tired. Gerard & I switched drivers half way and somehow Laidy stayed up the entire time whereas Loch was out halfway through his first bite of granola bar. We made it home at 3:00pm, I went to pick up Ella from the kennel while Gerard took the kids to the grocery store. We rendez-voused at home with a Casey's Pizza for dinner and started Night Night routine at 6:30pm. Tears and cries ensued from 7:15-8:00, but we persevered and all was quiet around 8:30pm. And laundry began...

Some stats for you: 

  • 2,709 miles logged
  • 3-number of times we watched Charlotte's Web
  • 6-number of times we watched Moana
  • countless-Daniel Tiger episodes
  • 3-hotel blunders
  • at least 5-wrong turns (non-catastrophic)
  • $50-of surprises for the kids' entertainment in the car and there were some that we didn't get to!
  • 2-hours I got with my sister between "home from work" and necessary bed time
  • 5-quarts of oil we put in the RAV--MOUNTAIN DRIVING!
  • 9,500+ft-elevation driving from Moab to Littleton
  • 0-good hair days
  • 0-days with make up on
  • 3-days passed until I realized I had been wearing the same pair of underwear. #whoops #takingcareoflittles
  • 0-nights of uninterrupted sleep (Loch can officially climb out of the pack n play with ease.)
  • priceless memories made with cousins and as a family to make it all worth it! 

If I were to do it all again, I would've worn jean shorts to Arches, remembered to pack my own underwear and pjs, and perhaps broken up the drive from Keystone to SLC. I'm so pumped that the kids did well (in many cases, better than I!) I wish there had been healthier eating options in Keystone as by the time we got to SLC, my stomach craved whole foods deeply and I felt really gross. But man oh man, for a 2,700 mile trip with a 5 yr old and an almost 2yr old....Gerard and I were high-5-ing our way out of Omaha pretty pleased. He's already talking about next summer's ideas for "where to" next. So, if you have any recommendations, feel free to pass them our way!