Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cross Country Road Trip- Part 8

We have finally made it to the final day of our cross country trip.  We are sad that our travels are ending, as this has been the trip of a lifetime.  However, it has been quite a long month of travel, and we look forward to being grounded for awhile.  

The final leg of our journey was the most boring.  There was literally nothing.  I believe once we crossed into California, we only saw 1 gas station, and it was closed.  It was a bit depressing to travel in to Twentynine Palms from the East.  I honestly don't even have much to say, because it was so boring and there was nothing to see.  Mountains, sand, dirt.  We traveled on long endless roads for 100+ miles.  No homes, no civilization.  Isn't it silly to think about it?  In many places in the United States, we are bunched so close together.  While there are still places that are completely undeveloped.  Don't get me wrong, I know how much it would take to get a place as dry and hot as this developed, but I still think it's pretty ironic.  

I didn't snap any photos, except for the California sign.  Honestly, there wasn't much to look at.  You can see in the background of these photos exactly what we saw the entire journey.  
State number 19- the final state!

We are officially in the pacific time zone (interestingly enough, we were already on this time.  Arizona does not change their clocks for daylight savings time, though they are in the mountain time zone)

The town of Twentynine Palms, California

And so, ends our cross country trip.  It really is a trip that I suggest anyone to take.  I learned a lot about our country.  I saw things that I had never seen before.  I got out of my east coast comfort zone.  I saw states that I hated. (Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois)  I saw states that I fell in love with. (Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Arizona)  This even changed my outlook on where we may debate on settling after the Marine Corps.  I absolutely loved Arizona.  I am now determined to see some more of the western states.  

One of the best things about Twentynine Palms, is that there is a ton to see if you are willing to drive a bit.  We have begun a bucket list of places we would like to visit while out here.  I will post that later.  

This place is a bit dreary, and boring, but we are excited for this new chapter in our family's book.  Now we must wait for a house!  Wish us luck!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Grand Canyon

They say that the Grand Canyon is something every American should do before they die.  Unfortunately, most East Coasters never get the chance to do that.  We are so lucky to have gotten the chance to see it.  And we have plans of returning again in the next 2 years.  

Did I also mention that today is my birthday?  Yeah, talk about an amazing present.  I have always dreamed of coming here as a kid.  It was just such a great coincidence that it happened to fall on my birthday.  

The dog was not allowed to stay in our hotel in Flagstaff alone, so we dropped him off at a puppy play place, where he got to play outside with other dogs all day. It was a great place for him, as he needed to run around a bit after so much driving.  We had to be back to pick him up at 6:30, so we wanted to leave early.  We arrived pretty early, and started in the welcome center.  

Unfortunately we didn't get to see nearly as much of the Grand Canyon as we would like.  We will return again someday to venture in more.

Our first mini trip was to a path with some beautiful views of the Grand Canyon.  We got our first looks of the Grand Canyon and it was just like the pictures.  Amazing.  There really are no words to describe it.  I will let the photos explain it for me.  
We hope to hike that trail someday to the bottom.  

That little squirrel came right up to us.  

Daddy and E Step, riding in fashion

Z Step playing around with me.  

Z Step took this one of me

Z Step took this one too.  He is actually a good photographer!  
After walking around, we headed back for some lunch.  Our meals were actually wonderful, and we were able to pick up a few things.  An ornament, a t-shirt for me, binoculars for Z Step, and a workout shirt for Daddy Step that says, "Erosion Happens."  We then did a small hike down the canyon, but it was hot and there was little shade.  The boys were exhausted at this point, so we only went down about a quarter of a mile before turning around and walking back up.  I would love to return without the kids someday and hike down and camp out.  
Z Step and I playing peek a boo behind a tree

Hiking down
My boys!

Z Step loved his binoculars

My amazing family!

Hiking back up
We left at this point, so we could get back to the dog and relax before the final part of our trip.  We stopped at a little southwestern shop on the way out, but didn't buy anything.  Lots of random things though. 
I loved these teepees!  

Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon were a must see.  I really hope everyone can visit at some point in their lives.  There was not a single thing I disliked.  What an amazing birthday!  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cross Country Road Trip- Part 7

Our drive from New Mexico to Arizona was beautiful.  I am officially in love with this area of the country.  Outside of Albuquerque was pretty boring, but once we got into Arizona everything was beautiful.  The weather continued to stay dry, but not as hot as I imagined.  We stopped immediately in Arizona at welcome center to stretch our legs and have a picnic lunch.  We usually eat in the car, but today we had time so we took advantage of the beauty the state offered.  
State number 18!

How beautiful are those rock formations?

He was pretending to be a Robot

Saying "Yay Arizona!"

Yep, not in Connecticut!
The remainder of our trip was stunning.  We could't stop pointing to this and that.  There was so much to see.  The boys loved seeing the trains for miles, there weren't any trees obstructing their views.  
We eventually came into Flagstaff, which was a whole different kind of beautiful.  I looked like a forest.  Lots of pine trees everywhere.  Everyone was outside running, bike riding, and just walking to the stores.  What a great place.  I think it is high up on my favorite places I have ever been.  There was so much to do, and the weather was simply perfect.  I hope to return while we are in California.  
We headed to bed early that evening, due to another time change and the fact that we will be up in the morning for the Grand Canyon!  

Monday, June 23, 2014

New Mexico

I always thought New Mexico sounded like a really neat state.  It has such unique culture, and the weather is so warm and dry.  Our neighbor in Okinawa was from Albuquerque and always raved about how wonderful it was there.  I was fascinated with the thought of visiting after all his talk.  We were eager add it to our list on our cross country trip.  

We arrived around 4pm, and had enough time to swim in the hotel pool before getting ready to explore Old Town and have dinner with our travel companion, A.  It was a beautiful town, and we couldn't wait to explore it.  
 Unfortunately, since it was a sunday, most places were closed.  But we headed out into town just the same towards a restaurant we found on yelp called Backstreet Grill.  It was way back behind all the other stores, but we learned quickly that we found a gem of a restaurant. Just a look at the drink menu, and the atmosphere proved that to us! 
That is my pear margarita.  It was wonderful
They even had someone playing some wonderful music on the guitar.  Z Step even tipped him.  
We were very indecisive on what to order.  Everything was so fresh and sounded so good!  We ended up ordering Tableside Guacamole, where they brought the ingredients to the table and mashed it all together for us.  It included pineapple pico de gallo, which really added a nice and fresh flavor to the mix.  It hit the spot perfectly for us all.  D Step got duck burritos, which sounded so different, but were wonderful.  A and I both ordered tequila lime marinated shrimp tacos with pineapple.  It was all amazing.  We didn't have a single complaint.  Our server was friendly, and we had a great experience.  
After our meal, we perused the streets and spotted some couples dancing on a Gazebo.  A lot of people retire here because of the climate.  We eventually went into the only store that was open on a sunday, a souvenir shop that had all kinds of unique things.  
Because everyone needs a sombrero 5 times the size of their head!  
The next morning we had a quick breakfast and said goodbye to A before she hit the road to Vegas.  We packed up, and headed out to the mountains, where we were able to take a tram up to the top and see the entire city.  It took us 10000 feet in elevation.  It was absolutely beautiful, and nice and cool at the top.  
Before going up, and on the way up!

At the top
At the top with our boys!
We went for a little hike at the top.  People hike up to the top all the time.  I hope to someday do that. It would be a great hike!  
Beautiful sights on our short hike!

My favorite boys

Z Step was showing me what way to go!  E Step was running up and down a small hill
We made our way down to the bottom again, and spotted some more beauty at the bottom.  
That house looked really neat.  

After we left, we headed to the hotel, ate, had a short nap, and then headed to the pool again.  The boys love swimming, and they need some fun thrown into our trips.  We headed back into old town in the evening to have dinner and walk around.  More stores were open this time, but it looks like everything closes at 6 around there.  We wish we had known.  
After our dinner the night before, we knew we had to return to the same restaurant for dinner.  We debated a place with a tree growing in it, but had read the food wasn't great.  It was a no brainer to return to the Backstreet Grill.  We ordered the Guacamole again, and changed our orders up a bit.  D Step got a duck taco this time, and I got a shrimp, cucumber, pineapple, avocado mixture in lime juice.  Again, the food was out of this world.  Our server was once again nice, and her husband and family were from Connecticut.  What a small world!  

Z Step showing me his silly faces!  I loved all the turquoise around there
We walked around some shops again, and I was able to find myself a beautiful turquoise necklace.  I had always wanted a truly authentic piece of turquoise, and I found a beautiful one.  I didn't know there were so many different kinds of turquoise.  The men in the store even pointed out some very rare pieces, but they were a bit out of the budget.  I settled on something about 2 1/2 inches big, with a unique shape to it.  I look forward to wearing it soon!  

We were sad to say goodbye to New Mexico, and hope to return again.  It was a perfect stop along our way.  We hope to return in October next year for the Hot Air Balloon Festival!  

We will be driving to Flagstaff, AZ tomorrow, and are excited about the next part of our journey!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cross Country Road Trip- Part 6

On the road again!  We have departed Oklahoma after a wonderful stay and are headed to New Mexico with an extra person!  Our friend A joined us for the next part of our trip to New Mexico, as she is driving her husband's car to Vegas.  

We loaded the cars, Daddy Step, Z Step, and the dog in my car, and A, E Step, and I in the other car.  It was nice having a friend to ride along with.  

Oklahoma was pretty boring.  I was not personally a huge fan of this state.  Perhaps there is more to see, but I wasn't a huge fan in general.  I was eager to get out.  

Our next state was Texas.  I was excited to see it, but it proved to be just as boring as Oklahoma.  Even more so in some ways.  We only passed through the top part, so that probably explains it.  I hope to someday venture into Austin and Dallas though.  
State 16


More Texas.  Look how far you can see of that road!
We eventually made it into New Mexico and we were officially in the desert in my opinion.  Lots of nothing, sand, and little green.  But the dry heat was wonderful.  It didn't feel nearly as hot as it was.  
State 17
We made a few stops along the way, including one at a rest stop in New Mexico.  They advertise with billboards like crazy around here, and we were needing a bathroom break.  We stopped in a rest stop that had signs for miles.  It had some of the most tacky knick knacks I have ever seen.  There was a lot of elvis, cowboy boot lamps, and weird ceramic figurines.  I was pretty tempted at some of it, but somehow I held myself back from a big purchase.  

We made it to our hotel in Old Town, and were ready to explore New Mexico!  

Saturday, June 21, 2014


Our drive into Oklahoma was pretty boring.  A whole lot of nothing.  But we were very happy to be on the road and not in a hospital room.  E Step was happy as a clam, and excited to be out of that awful crib!  
State 15
Our trip into Oklahoma was to visit some of our old neighbors in Okinawa.  J and A were both air force officers, and they were very close in age to us.  We had always hit it off great, and have really missed them since we last saw them a year and a half ago.  Stoping in Oklahoma City was a must when we made our cross country plans.  Luckily, it happened to fall right into place.  Unfortunately, after E Step's accident our tip was cut short.  But we were grateful for any time with them.  

We got there mid afternoon, and dogs began playing immediately.  They have a very rambunctious dog named Baron.  He and Neko ran around, got wet, and had a grand old time together.  Gosh I love labs.  Neko was showing his age compared to their puppy.  Neko is usually the dog with the most energy, but he was proven to be an old man for the first time with this visit.  After running around for a half hour, he was tired of playing.  Baron could play all day long.  I am glad we are past that stage with Neko!  

The boys played with their adorable baby A.  She is so sweet, such an easy baby!  Z Step is asking for a baby sister now, and E Step surprised me with how well he reacted with her.  
E Step and Baby A

The boys playing around.  Neko was getting pretty tired of playing, and decided to sit in the mud and cool off

That evening, we had some amazing grilled pizzas.  They are wonderful cooks, and are always making something unique.  Three different pizzas were made.  They all were amazing.  We ate our pizzas, and hung around in their newly landscaped back yard.  They had beautiful boulders put in, some were even from Montana.  We had a bon fire for old time's sake, and then went inside to play Cards Against Humanity, our favorite adult game.  
Outside for a bon fire.  Z Step was being silly with the guys

In the morning, we had a quick breakfast before heading to a really neat coffee shop and the farmer's market.  The farmer's market was a great stop for us, our food had all gone bad in St. Louis because we didn't have a fridge in our room.  We needed some fresh food.  We picked up some snacks for the road the next day.  The people in Oklahoma were very nice, though many of them didn't know how to drive for the life of them.  

After the farmer's market, we all went to the pool for some fun.  The boys love swimming, and Z Step has been doing well lately.  We are hoping to get rid of the wingies soon.  We all had some fun cooling off and playing.  

A, J, and Baby A.  She was cracking up with her daddy in the pool.  

Our Family

We spent the rest of the day prepping for a little party A had planned as a going away for J.  He will be at training for 6 months, so she wanted to have a little get together for him.  She always throws the nicest get togethers.  She had some yummy food planned, as always.  And I was able to help her out with getting it all together.  It was a great evening, and we even got to go in the back yard and catch some fireflies.  We got 5, but I think they all ended up dying.  

As a coincidence, A was driving J's car to Vegas for when he is there for training.  So she was going to join us for the next part of our journey to New Mexico.  It is where she was planning on stopping to break her trip up anyway, and that is where we were headed next.  We were glad to have another person along the way, and she was happy to have someone to join her for part of her trip.  So we went to bed, ready to get up early and drive the next day.