Day 21…back on the road. California was a much-needed, relaxing stay with family. We enjoyed our days and nights swimming in my brothers pool and making memories with my two-year old niece. The kids really enjoyed spending time with their cousin, aunt and uncle. But all good things must come to an end, so off we went, back on the road for the journey home. But do good things really have to end? Not on this trip! Let the fun continue, I say!
Our next stop on the Great American Road Trip was to the much anticipated Grand Canyon. We stayed at the Best Western Premier, Grand Canyon Squire Inn and wowza, this is a must-stay if you’re heading to this area with family. It’s gorgeous and just minutes from the South Rim entrance. When not in the park, you can spend your time in their arcade or bowling alley, dine at any of their onsite restaurants, or hang at the outdoor pool and pool bar. Raining? No problem…there’s an indoor pool too. Kids want to get out? Stop at the concierge and see what excursions they can set up for you!!
Speaking of excursions, we booked another private tour through Viator. We were picked up at our hotel by Ron from Buck Wild Grand Canyon tours. He pulled up in the coolest hummer that he told us was once used overseas for the military. This vehicle was no joke and the kids immediately loved it.
We got into the park and Ron began to bring us to all the must-see spots. It was terrifyingly beautiful for a gal who doesn’t love heights. The kids loved climbing the rocks and getting way too close to the edge for my comfort, but Ron was great at telling me where the safer spots to stand were. It was a remarkable, unforgettable day and it should be on everyone’s Bucket List!
It was a magnificent experience and we were so happy to have seen it firsthand before heading off to our next stop, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
On our way to New Mexico, we made an unexpected stop all because of a small bladder. When my daughter asked for a bathroom yet again, we were about to pass the exit for the National Petrified Forest. I pulled off to use the facilities at the Visitor Center. While there we saw the next stop in the park was the Painted Desert, which was on my mom’s Bucket List! So a detour was made and we entered the park. Sometimes things happen for a reason.
Fun fact: if you’re a senior citizen, you can get a pass to get in for free at ALL National Parks.
We stopped at the Painted Desert and my kids ran up and down the dunes. It was a gorgeous place. We drove about halfway through the park before turning back so we didn’t arrive in Albuquerque too late, but I definitely want to come back and explore more. It was so pretty and filled with a lot of things we need more time to see!
We finally arrived in Albuquerque and I fell in love.. I wasn’t expecting this at all. To be honest, it wasn’t a place that I initially even wanted to visit, but my mom wanted to shop for turquoise jewelry, so we planned a one-night visit. Now I wish we had stayed longer.
We stayed at the Best Western Plus Rio Grande Inn. It was so charming. I loved the colorful accents around the hotel and was super jazzed they had a restaurant onsite. Traveling during a pandemic leads to LOADS of drive-thru McDonald’s. My kids were sick of it and asking for healthy foods, and that never happens! The onsite restaurant, Wild Avocado Cork & Tap was offering carryout, so we ordered a bunch of food and greedily gobbled it all down. It was delicious!!!
The next morning we walked into Old Town, right as church was about to start. The bells were ringing, the colors throughout the town were making it just the most inviting, charming place I’ve ever seen. My mom was obsessed with the jewelry in the shops, so I broke off to walk with my son, who was looking for the Breaking Bad shop. (He found it and loved it…such a neat stop!). I couldn’t get over all the decor along the streets and tucked away little alleys like these. It was breathtaking.
In the town center, there was a man playing guitar, another man painting a picture of the church, and people sitting on the lawn talking and catching up. I am definitely coming back here…so quaint. And I want to dine at the cafe’s and shop a little more!
Now, there are always twists and turns in a trip, and sometimes you need to go with the flow and adjust. Our initial plan had us taking the southern route the rest of the way home, however, with the pandemic getting a little more wild in the south, we felt more comfortable changing our route to head a little further north.
Thankfully, the Best Western Covid cancellation policy allows a 24 hour cancellation without fees, so we were able to switch up hotels without any hassle.
We decided to head to Colorado Springs to check out the Rocky Mountains and the Garden of the Gods. This was a great choice, let me tell you! Add it to the Bucket list, book your ticket, it is not to be missed.
We stayed at the Best Western Plus Fillmore Inn. It’s the perfect location, has great appetizers that can be delivered to your room, and it’s clean and comfortable. Plus, it’s just minutes from the Garden of the Gods (and across the street from an amazing taco restaurant called Fuzzy’s. They sell shirts with “Put Queso, in my Face-o”…I mean, what’s not to love about that?!)
We relaxed the evening we arrived and left the next morning for the Garden of the Gods. I came across a Segway tour and thought that would be a fun way of seeing the sites. My kids had no idea what a Segway was until I mentioned, “Paul Blart, Mall Cop“. Now that got them excited…and they had every reason to be. It was so much fun!! I was a bit nervous, as was my mom, but we rocked it. Go us! I can’t believe how easy it was. (I tried my kids hoverboards once…they are NOT the same…Segway’s are MUCH easier, I pinky swear.)
Our guide’s name was “Lost”, and thankfully she did not live up to her name. She got us up and down the mountain safely, with multiple stops to see the sights. Again, our hotel was so close, we came back after our tour and some lunch, and explored again!
We left Colorado the next morning and headed to Lincoln, Nebraska. This stop had me a little perplexed as to a plan outside the hotel, especially because we were winding down, the kids were getting tired and just wanted to get home. But once we pulled into the Best Western Plus Lincoln Inn, we recharged our batteries a bit. I found a fun “group therapy” bike tour. They offer a biking tour that just so happens to seat 6 people plus one driver. You get to ride around Lincoln and Historic Haymarket with the guide steering the “bike”. We headed out the next morning…it was fun and the kids got to see Memorial stadium and the campus of University of Nebraska, which was great for my football loving boys. (although they still bleed blue and white- We Are, Penn State!) I should mention we did this in the POURING rain, so we had to cut it a bit shorter than the two hour tour, but in better weather, with some adult friends to stop in some local restaurants and bars, this would be super fun.
After getting poured on, we got in the car to head to our next location. (Yes, soaking wet…the car was already packed and that is way too much work to undo and redo in the rain) We turned on the seat heaters to help dry us out and drove until we got to the Best Western Premier Ankeny. The kids were so happy to stop here, the hotel is super nice with a beautiful lake behind it. The pool is open and available to use if you make a reservation. We were thrilled with how clean it was and how many hand sanitizer stations there were throughout the hotel. We were so thankful for the size of the rooms because we stayed in and played cards all night. We needed a relaxing night in and this was the perfect place.
The next day we headed off to the Chicago/Indiana area. We stopped for some pizza at Lou Malnati’s (YUM) and then made our way across the Indiana border. We stopped at Indiana National Dunes Park for the sunset and to feel the lake water, as it’s the southern end of Lake Michigan. Let me tell you…the water was so warm and the waves mimicked that of the ocean!!! It was beautiful, especially with the Chicago skyline in the background!
The next morning we began our drive to our final destination before home…Cleveland, Ohio. This was on my list because I am a HUGE fan of all things Christmas and Cleveland just happens to be the home of Ralphie and Randy Parker. Doesn’t ring a bell? How about A Christmas Story? Yes, this is the home the movie was filmed in! I was in my Christmas glory.
I am planning to stay overnight one of these days. Yes, they rent the house out!! I should have done it this time, but I dragged my heels and missed the opportunity. I’m still annoyed at myself about it too. I probably will be bitter about that fact until I book a night there. Working on that for the holiday season, although the price-tag may have me getting creative. Stay tuned.
The next morning the kids woke up earlier than they have the entire 32 days away. It was like Christmas morning for them…although the gift would be heading home to their own beds, their own X-box’s, their dad and cat, Blakely.
We had an amazing trip…one I know they will talk about in years to come. I’m already excited and ready for them to reminisce about how their mom and grandma just picked up and took them on a one month adventure across the country and back. They may not realize just how cool that is now, but one day….one day they’ll realize just how lucky they were for this time together.
So there you have it. A 32 day adventure planned in three weeks. Making lemonade out of lemons and making memories in a crazy, uncertain time. But I must say, it is much easier to pickup and leave at this very moment than one would think. Sometimes you just have to go for it! And hopefully this has helped get you there!
To help you plan your trip of a lifetime, you can check these sites:
Great American Road Trip: AAA.com/roadtrip
Best Western: AAA.com/BestWestern
Happy Trails to you.