I just downloaded 254 pictures onto my computer from our road trip vacation. Needless to say, we certainly packed in a lot of stuff!! I think I need to write the story in spurts or I'll be up all night!
I've been itching to road trip. My mom and I had talked about going to see them in Las Vegas but ruled it out for various reasons -- they were going on vacation themselves, I was potty-training William, two day drive and who drives with me -- that kind of stuff. Well, the potty-training didn't work out and their vacation didn't work out so at the last-ish minute my mom said she would fly out and drive one way with me if Chopper did the other. Deal.
Just so you know, the girls travel fantastically. They self-entertain very well. I did provide books, coloring, toys, and snacks of course but they were so good. William? Not so much. Poor boy doesn't read, doesn't color, and doesn't have room in a car seat to play with cars. Thank goodness for DVD players and music.
Going from Texas to Vegas is actually very interesting . . . once you get out of Texas. The kids LOVED the red rocks and mesas of New Mexico and the mountains and deserts of Arizona. They pointed everything out to me and it kind've became a competition of who had the cooler sights on their side of the car. We stretched our legs doing some climbing at a rest stop and drove and drove.
We spent the night in Gallup, New Mexico which gave us a shorter 2nd day. About 30 minutes from my parents is Hoover Dam so we stopped to take a look. It is something that is completely astonishing and doesn't look it in the pictures. You just can't get the full sense of the scale of it until you stand there. Last night Chopper and I watched a documentary on the dam and it wasn't too detailed but still gave some incredible information on how they built this thing in the 1930's and 40's.
Lake Mead right now is incredibly low. The white rocks are where the the water normally should be. In fact, they've had to caution boaters about the water levels because of rock formations under the water that are getting very close to the surface and they've had several islands pop up as the water has gone down as well.
The dam itself.
There is a massive bridge that you drive over above the dam and a walkway along the side that you can go on. My fear of heights is getting a lot worse the older I get so we didn't walk the whole thing (which the kids complained about) but we got far enough along to take some good pictures looking down.
Then finally to Vegas!! Thank goodness for toys!! Grandpa helped William build a train but in the end, he really only wanted cars every day.
Our first full day in Vegas we went south again to visit a chocolate factory and watch their production. Sadly, the production line wasn't working but we got a free sample and wandered in their cactus garden. It's amazing how much my kids are entertained by nature and lizards and airplanes and simple things!
Because the morning didn't turn out too great, we got some good tacos for lunch and found a park for the kids to play at. It was actually an overcast, fairly cool day (for Vegas in July!) and the kids enjoyed the park particularly because it had a splash pad and I let them soak themselves, clothes and all!
Our next day we drove up to Mount Charleston about 30 minutes away. It was fun to go from Nevada desert to high desert with Joshua trees to piney mountains in a 30 minute drive and a big elevation climb. It was about 75 degrees up there and PERFECT weather. We asked at the visitor's center about good hikes for kids and they suggested Robber's Roost because it ends in a sort've cave where robber's hid after stealing horses from the Mormons!
The hike was short but very rocky and we did a lot of climbing. My kids are mountain goats!! They all did spectacularly, in fact William was often in the lead and it wore me out trying to keep up with him to make sure he didn't fall off a cliff or anything.
Funny story. On the way there, William threw a fit in the car about going to the mountains and I tried to appease him by telling him that we would see animals. Immediately he starts talking about seeing puppies and even though I told him we probably wouldn't, it's what he talked about a lot. When we got to the top of Robber's Roost, there was a couple climbing the cliff face and lo and behold, they had a dog with them. William was so excited and it was a very nice dog so they got to pet it too.
That's Grandma trying to keep up with William while I help the girls and telling me later about the moment when he fell over the edge and caught himself. But he would only have rolled about 10 feet down a steep slope. Yeah probably not a story I needed to hear!
But we did also see a deer.
We hiked a second trail that wasn't as fun but had some spectacular views. It made me miss my college roommates. Krista and Rachel and I used to go on hiking and camping expeditions. We took a really fantastic one to Asheville, North Carolina and hiked waterfalls and the Appalachians -- including the area where they filmed Last of the Mohicans. I miss those girls and our adventures!!!
Our entire time in Vegas we didn't even go near the Strip and I didn't know that there were so many amazing things to do outdoors!!! The heat was a factor but to me it didn't feel too much worse than Dallas. We have temperatures that are slightly lower but also get the raised heat index from the humidity. Besides, you pretty much get above 100 wherever you are and hot is just hot!!!
At the visitor's center we saw a really interesting piece of art. At the top of the wall in the windows you could see the outline of mountains, like glass on glass. But when you look through polarized glass, suddenly animals and plants and nature scenes appear in bright, vivid colors.
It was hard to take a picture of -- that's the polarized glass I'm holding up on the right -- but really cool!!
This one is a little clearer with the outline on the right and the polarized view on the left.
In preparation for our trip I loaded up the car with stuff to do, snacks, movies, and sewed a ton of things -- car organizers, car seat pillows, and lap desks. Ironically in all my preparation, I forgot to bring shoes for the kids. Well maybe not exactly forgot. I assumed that we wouldn't need anything other than flip flops. I should have done more research into Vegas and what we could do. I ended up purchasing shoes and socks for all the kids so that we could do this hiking and it was totally worth it. I'm justifying it as a back to school necessity as well!!!
So that's the beginning!!