After driving back from Utah on Monday (and stopping to see this amazing friend who left Texas a year ago -- I miss Hillary!!!):
We took Tuesday off.
Tuesday night Chopper flew in and we HAD to show him SOMETHING in Vegas so despite the heat, we drove out to Red Rock Canyon and took a few trails there.
The elevation here isn't high enough to really be any cooler but the colors and the rock formations are very cool! We should have brought more water (my fault), because the heat zapped our energy pretty quickly. We hiked parts of 2 trails and enjoyed it but it would be a lot better in December!
William's attempt at climbing.
And he made it! (Ok I gave him a leg up)
Ok so I think this is actually a really good picture of us!
It was absolutely beautiful!! That night we drove to Henderson (just south of Vegas) and visited Chopper's Uncle Jarrard and Aunt Ruth. Jarrard is Chopper's dad's brother and he resembles Chopper's dad a great deal. The first time we met them actually was at Gary's funeral. But we were there for about 2 hours talking and getting to know each other and some of their kids and grandkids that also live in Henderson and were able to come say hi. Jarrard sat in a recliner and had many of the same gestures and mannerisms of Chopper's dad. I know that he told Chopper a lot of things about his family and his dad that he didn't know. Ruth showed me her quilts (yep, she's a quilter) and Their son Brett invited us out on his boat (too bad we were leaving the next day!). They were a really nice family and it was really good to spend time with them.
Thursday morning we got up and drove to Albuquerque -- we stopped again briefly at Hoover Dam so Chopper could see it live and in person and then it was 9 hours on the road. William did ok. But when we pulled into Albuquerque he shouted, "we made it!" Poor kid has been run into the ground with driving.
We spent a day in Albuquerque. A VERY full day. We ate at Restaurants we love and we visited the BioPark -- combination zoo, aquarium, and botanical gardens.
Even though we haven't lived in or visited Albuquerque in 11 years (wow!), the Aquarium was exactly the same. It's pretty small but does have some larger tanks with some sharks and bigger fish. And small doesn't really matter, the kids enjoyed the jellyfish and other exotic sea life.
The Botanical Garden though -- Chopper and I went there and loved it and always talked about how fun it would be for our kids. Finally here, it did not disappoint. They expanded it quite a bit but some things that we loved were still there.
Like the giant garden to make you feel like a bug.
This is the inside of a pumpkin.
They've added some model trains and a butterfly garden. William LOVED the model trains and did NOT want to walk away from it. The girls LOVED the butterfly garden but were disappointed that no butterflies landed on them.
The zoo is actually further away and you can go there by train. This was pretty much the only thing that made up for leaving the model trains for William. He was so excited and the ride was about 30 minutes. We rode another train within the zoo and then this train back to the garden for our car.
We then drove to Old Town and walked around through some of the shops and bought a few souvenirs. Pretty much 2 minutes into our car ride back to the hotel the kids fell asleep so we went for dinner instead, then back to the hotel for swimming and sleep. Then it was up the next morning for the long drive back.
We pushed the drive back hard and only stopped once at a Chik-Fil-A to eat and let the kids play. But when a vacation is over and you've been gone for a while and one the road, it's so nice to get home that we really didn't want to stop. Poor William was entertained by movies and making faces for a while.
Finally we pulled into town and decided we needed some dinner. I ask the girls what they want and Williams starts screaming and crying. We decide to get pizza at a drive-through Little Caesar's and he was so upset that we "stopped". Five minutes later, we're home and he's sobbing as I get him out of the car. We walk inside, he stops in the hallway, calms down, goes straight to his room and starts playing with cars. I let him skip dinner so he could have some car time before bed and he was fine. He really is my most active child and with his age not having a lot to do to self-entertain, I think the travel was hardest on him. Also, the upheaval of home and schedule. But despite the exhaustion of our pace and trip, it was so very worth it. We saw so many family members and amazing things and I'm really grateful for all the help my family gave us in making this possible.