Saturday, November 26, 2011

From Georgia to California ...

Oh, the trip across country. This blog could also be called "Making Memories" :-) Driving across country is a little different w/ a 22 month old and a 3 year old. The riding in the car part is pretty easy, actually (I mean, it WAS Jake's 4th time across country in his short, little life of 3 years). We are lucky to have such wonderful travelers! The hotel part was a little trickier, b/c by the end of the driving each day, you have very ENERGETIC boys that are ready to make some noise. Unfortunately, it rained about 2/3 of the trip. That wasn't supposed to be part of the plan! BUT all in all .... it was a fun trip - and we made it safely - and made plenty of memories!
A few things, though, I continue to learn about long-trip car rides:
-Each State Welcome Center should have a playground. Period.
-3 year old boys LOVE when their only option is peeing on the side of the road (sorry, New Mexico, but you have to have more gas stations/rest areas between a 200 mile radius).
-I LOATHE public restrooms. LOATHE. Gross. Yuck. Blah.
-Staying on a high floor at the hotel is key. The boys loved pushing the elevator buttons.
-The swagger wagon made for such a smooth trip - just cleaning it out on the back end is a nightmare (i should actually get to that one of these days).
-Note to self: when you get snacks in gas stations every day for about 7 days straight, your 3 year old starts to think that is just normal habit - and wants a snack every time you stop at a gas station.... even when the trip is over.
-You can never pack enough wet-wipes.
-There is nothing quite like driving across country. Every one SHOULD plan to do it sometime. It is amazing seeing the different scenery each day of the different states - such an amazing experience. It's almost even worth having to use public restrooms ..... almost. :-)

So, ready to go through our journey with us .... HERE WE GO:

VIRGINIA .... colorful leaves, beautiful mountains ... sun was shining!
Probably couldn't have fit anything else in this van .... yes, the boys are in here safely :-)
Tennessee .... and the rain began....
Ooops, out of order. When we entered Tennessee, it was bright and sunny - but by the time we got to Knoxville (above picture), it was raining!
Of course, a highlight of the trip was our stop in Memphis. We wanted to be able to stop in Jackson, too, but because plans had changed, the timing didn't work out with her schedule to stop and see Mary Ellen, but thankfully she was able to make it to Memphis while we were there.
Andrew and Chris ran a 5K .... here is the proof.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Dad and his siblings growing up. I love it. Don't they all just look so cute?! I think Dad is just so handsome in this picture .... It's my favorite!
(from left to right: Aunt Alice Marie, Dad, Aunt Mary Anne, Uncle Ben ... oldest to youngest).
We watched some good football while in town .... Jake was cheering for Vandy!

Jake thought he was big stuff! He wanted to wear his hat just like Andrew was wearing his.
Baking cookies with Aunt Alice Marie ....

Playing some football w/ Daddy, Worth, and Andrew (video at the end of blog).
Cole was joining in some, too ....
BUT he especially liked the pond that Uncle John made several years ago (with live fish)!
More football....
What a wonderful time we had in Memphis. They are always so hospitable .... yummy food, great company - they put their lives "on hold" when we come to town to hang out - and we appreciate it more than they know!! Jake is still talking about the trip - he can't wait to go back (us, either)!!
Thank you guys SO much!! They also got the boys 4 different gifts each for them to open on different days across country. That was a HUGE hit!! Again, can't thank you all enough!

Our GPS took us a different way into Arkansas (unfortunately), so we didn't go right through downtown and see the Pyramid and go over the BIG bridge. With all that confusion, I didn't get a shot of entering Arkansas. :-(

Oklahoma sunset.
Oklahoma City ....
As we were eating lunch in Oklahoma, we heard people talking about a tornado coming through, SO WE JETTED. Here was the sky. It looked scarier in person. Chris and I decided if we saw a funnel in the distance, we'd just find the closest ditch?! I mean, isn't that what you would do in the wide open spaces?!!!
TEXAS .... same day that we were "out driving" the tornado .... and we ran into a hail storm. We stopped under a bridge. Thankfully, no damage to the new swagger wagon (oh, and no damage to us, either - we were just ready to be at the hotel once we got to it at the end of this day) :-)
More Texas scenery ....
This was in Texas at a rest area ... I wish I would've gotten pictures of the signs that said, "CAUTION: SNAKES." I wish I would've gotten a picture of Chris's face, too - he almost didn't get out of the car ;-) But when you gotta go ....
Finally some blue skies in Texas ....

New Mexico remains my favorite state to drive through - and I LOVE Albuquerque. It is this big city in the middle of nowhere. I've ALWAYS liked making stops in Albuquerque!
The boys loved NM, too, b/c we stopped at a Chick-fil-A ... and let them play for a couple of hours, so they were in HEAVEN.

Continuing through New Mexico ....

A little village off the highway in New Mexico. Chris said this is EXACTLY what some of the Iraqi villages looked like when he was in Iraq a few years back.

When Jake saw this, he immediately said, "Like Nana and Papa's house on the water." I was shocked he could remember that!
I mean, really .... how cool?!!! Almost to AZ.
There was SNOW on the ground at the hotel in Flagstaff. It was freezing!
Leaving Flagstaff the next day ... I have to say that Flagstaff is awfully beautiful, too! The mountains are just - amazing! God's creation seriously leaves me speechless - especially when driving across country. I mean, there are no adjectives to fully describe it.
On our way to WARM Phoenix!

Seeing snow 1 minute ....
And NONE the next ....
See the cacti?! Since we weren't in any rush, we decided to drive to Phoenix - one place we had never been. It was a fun day trip, b/c it was only about 2 hours from Flagstaff, and we hit up the Phoenix Zoo (lots of fun - and perfect for the boys)!
A's Stadium
PHOENIX ZOO ... eating lunch by the giraffes ....
I seriously LOVE the desert. I really do!
Lion sleeping on the rock.
We were actually IN an exhibit w/ these monkeys .... a nice thing to be able to say you've done once, I guess. We didn't stay too long ;-)
They LOVE them some Daddy, that's for sure!
Jake "navigated" the whole day.

:-) They had such a blast. It was such a nice break for us to spend the day in the nice weather, walking around after a long trip!

The gorilla was looking right at Jake - ha!

Rhinos resting....

Haha. I think Jake is like, "is he still looking at me?"
We were literally SO (too) close to this leopard .... and it kept pacing back and forth, and I swear it was trying to find a way out to eat us. I mean, I'm talking like 5 feet away!
Camel RIDE! Poor Cole couldn't go (you had to be 2) :-( Jake had a blast - and so did Chris! There's a video at the bottom of this post.

Love :-) Cole was chomping at the bit!
More navigating!
There's that leopard again!
Play area at the zoo!

Milking a cow!

The peacock was just chillin'
Of course Cole loved the "mooo" cows

Ending the day with a YUMMY snow cone! You can only "picture" the hot mess that Cole was after eating his snow cone, BUT he loved every last bite (me, too)!!
Sunset as we were leaving....

SUCH A FUN DAY at the Zoo! Definitely our favorite zoo we've ever been to!
Passing the exit for 29 Palms ... a little sad. As we were passing the exit I used to get off at for work, Chris said, "Jake, see those buildings off in the distance? That's where Mommy used to work." Jake quickly said very matter-of-factly, "MOMMY DOESN'T WORK." Oh, how honest they are :-) Yes, Jake... I had a "life" before you - but I wouldn't trade mine now for the world .... most days, at least!
How can you NOT love the desert :-)
AND finally Oceanside, California .... this is the street we turn on to for our condo. Not too shabby of a view, huh?! I can deal with this for the next 8 weeks!
First stop - BEACH!!! Which Cole LOVES!!!! Endless amounts of running, dirt, mud, rocks, sand! What's not to love for this boy?!

Cole = no fear. Gotta watch that kid.
HI FAMILY (and friends)! We made it safely ... it's 75 degrees ... and we miss and love you all!

(Camel ride at the Phx Zoo)

(Playing football in Memphis with Daddy and cousins)

SEE YOU IN ABOUT 8-9 WEEKS for our journey back EAST (yes, I realize I'm crazy - but that's for a whole other blog post).