Days 12-22, The JOY Ride: Denver & Glenwood Springs, CO | Moab, UT | Grand Canyon, AZ | Scottsdale, AZ | San Diego, Ca

THE JOY RIDE is a series that will be running from July 10-Aug 11, 2013.  I'm headed out on the road trip of a lifetime with my two sons, the goal of which is to push all my buttons at once (embracing uncertainty), while spreading joy and creating connection with them and my global community.  Follow the adventure here on the blog, on Facebook, and on Instagram. 

Days 12-14 | Denver, CO

Denver was a wonderful place to visit.  On Sunday we visited a few more garage sales, a park fountain where the kids played in the water for hours, got Connor's bike fixed for free (after he crashed it into a tree, oops!) and then went to the Museum of Science and Nature, as someone at the park we were at mentioned that it was a free day.  Budget serendipity was definitely coming into play, as the only thing I had to pay for that day was lunch at the farmer's market.

Monday we headed to downtown Denver to see the city after picking up a car carrier to make the back of the car a little more manageable.  The guy we bought it from ended up spending an hour helping us get it secure on top of the car, since I didn't have cross bars.  After I asked one of his neighbors for a tie down (and got it), he was able to hook it up with some other straps a guy from a garage sale gave me and some zip ties.  Everything fell into place so easily after I asked for help.

From there, we ended up at the 16th St Mall (outdoor pedestrian area) and spent a few hours playing in the middle of town on the bean bag toss, ladder ball, and ping pong tables they had set up, and then riding on the free bus that takes you up and down 16th street.  We had a late lunch at Noodles and Co, a place we all loved (and a franchise I would love to open, though its not open for development in PA, I checked :)), and then headed back to where the car was.  On the way to the car, someone stopped us and asked if we wanted to watch a dance routine on the square. I said sure, and then wondered what was going on when we were asked to sign a release.  Turns out we were part of the audience for the Extreme Weight Loss show on ABC, and got pictures with Chris Powell (whom Mark loves).  So fun!

We went to Dinosaur Ridge on Tuesday, where we saw fossilized footprints of dinosaurs and prehistroric plants.  There was a great trail that we climbed up that showed amazing views of the surrounding area as well as gave me some foreshadowing of the adventurous moments we would have in the days to come (ie climbing crazy heights-my kids are monkeys!).  It was really hot that day and the kids got tired quickly, so we left there and checked out the Alpine Slide at Heritage Square.  Kieran was a little freaked out because we had to take a rickety chair lift to the top, but he loved every minute coming down.  After the slide, we headed back to the car, but as the slide was at the back of an amusement park, he had a meltdown after I told him he couldn't ride any other rides (my only saving grace up to that point was that we were headed to legoland, and they knew they could only go to one paid park this trip).  When I said that too him, he said fine, we'll skip legoland.  That didn't go over too well with Connor, and Kieran cried even louder.  I took a video of him crying, and him wanting to see it was the only reason he stopped crying.   When things like this happen, I ask myself they might want more than what is upsetting them (that doesn't put their safety in question or cost too much)....and then offer that up instead.  Managing their meltdowns and whine fests definitely keeps me on my toes.

After the slide, we still had a few hours of daylight, so we headed to Golden, Co (someone we talked to at a garage sale mentioned that Golden was beautiful and close to hot springs).  We took the exit for Golden without a plan and started driving through the most beautiful mountains.  I drove for about 45 minutes before coming to Idaho Springs, where we looked at the hot springs (indoor pool that was disgusting), and decided to just window shop and have dinner there instead.  It was a long day, and we headed back to Annemarie's spent.  

Day 15 | Glenwood Springs, Co

The next morning we left Denver for good and headed to Moab, UT.   We knew that Glenwood Springs was on the way to Moab, and it was three hours from Denver, so I figured we would stop there for lunch, maybe a dip in the hot springs there (sulfur based, smelled a little like rotten eggs), and then be on our way.  After being traumatized by the drive, where it dropped from 101 degrees to 43 degrees, with pouring rain, hail the size of golf balls, huge wind gusts, and 6% declines for 10 miles with big trucks all around (and runaway truck ramp signs everywhere), that dip in the pool became 5 hours, leading to a stay at a cool motel that Connor picked because he said it smelled like strawberries and had good hot chocolate, and then Class III white water rafting the next morning (yes, I was shaking like a leaf that one of the kids would be hurt, but took a deep breath and on a deep level knew it would be fine).  It was a highlight of the trip for all of us, and we felt connected and relaxed there.  And I wasn't a wreck about deviating from the "plan", which is normally hard for me.  Though, to think of it, despite having a general idea of our next destination, there hasn't been any sort of plan this whole trip.  That is a little frustrating when I can't find good places to stay on our budget, but otherwise has worked well so far.

Day 16 | Moab, UT

After whitewater rafting, we quickly changed, grabbed some take out lunch, and headed onto Moab, UT.  When we got there, after a beautiful four hour drive, we stopped at the Fossil and Rock Store right at the entrance to town, and while the kids were browsing, I got to work trying to find us somewhere to stay.  The cheapest hotel/motel I could find was $150 prior to taxes, so I called around to some camping sites.  We were hoping for a cabin setting rather than a tent, since it was a balmy 103 degrees, and we lucked out with a $45 a night air conditioned one.  It didn't have a toliet, but the savvy packer I am brought one (got one from a rummage sale that was never used, one of those that people use after surgery), and it was very helpful that night.   After getting settled in the cabin, we headed to the Moab Diner for dinner, where the kids we super excited that I agreed to let them get pancakes and ice cream for dinner (and where we returned for lunch the next day).  

We headed back to the cabin, sated and ready for our first experience of a national park the next day.  

Day 17 | Moab, UT and Tuba City, AZ

Friday morning we headed out to Arches National Park, where I experienced my first taste of my kids' independence from me in the form of climbing huge boulders and leaving me behind.  I had trouble keeping up with them, they were so excited and so fast.  Connor actually had to help me up a few times, since the footholds they scrambled up were a little small for me.  They called themselves the rock masters (I called them rock stars :), and they called me old lady.   (Kieran just today reminded me how scared I was for them and for myself that day.  It cracked him up).  Arches was beautiful.  I liked it better than the Grand Canyon; in each section, the landscape was different and unique.  Great hiking, great climbing.

After Arches (which we left at 4pm), and another stop at the diner (and the same order), we headed out for the long drive to the Grand Canyon.  I originally assumed we'd be at the park for a few hours, but we were there for over six, and I was tired when starting the drive.  We made it as far as Tuba, Az (only 70 miles outside of the canyon), and made our way to a hotel to crash for the night.  Turns out it was full, as were the other 3 in town, and all the campsites, and the hotels at the towns closest to Tuba-and I was too tired to drive farther.  An employee at one of the hotels told me that the travel center was open 24 hrs (and patrolled by security), and they allowed overnight parking (though no camping).  So with no real options otherwise, we decided to sleep in the car at the travel center.  Connor tried to get comfy in the passenger front seat, and Kieran slept in his carseat.  I put the steering wheel up, grabbed the body pillow and slept on the drivers side.  The car was so packed it was hard to get comfortable.   It was cool that night, so just a little crack in the window was good, and made me feel safer than having the windows open more.  I found my eye mask, and after an hour, feel into a troubled sleep.  We all awoke around 6am the next morning when we heard someone vaccuming their car out.  We headed into the travel center, washed our hair and brushed our teeth, and then headed to the Canyon (yes, wearing the same clothes as the day before....we had been doing that a lot lately).

Day 18 | Grand Canyon, AZ

We got there about an hour later, and proceeded to stop at an Indian Craft Stand next to one of the canyons on the way into the park.  I was all set to pick up some souvenirs from friends, but the woman's credit card machine wasn't working so I had to settle for one dream catcher and a gorgeous pair of earrings ($20 for both).  The entry fee into the canyon was a whooping $25, so it was a good thing I limited myself on presents.  

We drove into the canyon, entering at the visitors center near the watchtower (the east end) where we saw our first view, climbed the watchtower, and took lots of pictures.  The kids then proceeded to spend an hour listening to music samples on headphones inside the visitor center/ souvenir store, and I shopped for a tshirt for each for the boys.  We then headed deeper into the canyon, stopping at every point to see the view, and then forgoing that after a few stops to get to the main visitor center, since it was threatening to thunderstorm.  It was 22 miles away from the entrance we came in from.  When we got there, it had been raining for a few minutes, so we went inside and watched a little of the intro movie.  When it was over, it was pouring so we waited it out inside, where I inquired about taking mules down into the canyon (Kieran was too young so no go).  I asked the ranger about some good hiking trails (and tried to find out which one was the one I went on during my first trip to the Canyon 14 years ago), and after getting the info, we headed to the Bright Angel Trailhead for a short hike down (it had since stopped raining and appeared clear-quick weather changes there).  We hiked down for 20 minutes, and then I made everyone head back up-as it takes at least twice as long to hike up, and I knew Kieran would be asking for uppy if we went down much further.  5 minutes later, we heard thunder, and I got everyone to walk faster (hard to do when it was so steep).  And then, of course, came the lightning and the rain.  It came on and down fast (by this time, over an hour had passed since it had rained, and their were no rain clouds in site when we headed down).  Freezing rain, and lightening on the rim-it scared us to no end.  I told Connor to run up and wait for us in the shop at the top of the trail, and I held Kieran's hand, and soon after, carried all 40lbs of him, while I tried to get us up as quickly as possible.  He was crying and shaking, and it was steep, wet, and water was running down the trail.  I said a prayer and kept going.  We made it up 10 minutes later, soaked and scared.  

We stayed in the store at the top of the trail until the rain stopped 10 minutes later, and then tried to get our wits together in the car.  We were supposed to stay with a woman that lived in the trailer village in the park that night (found via couchsurfing website), so I texted her (Kelly) and asked if it was ok to come over then (4pm) since the kids were done.  He (yes, I assumed wrong, take note, not all Kelly's are female-silly me), wrote back and said he was working til 11, but that there were other people staying there and he would text me when they returned to let us in.  Two hours later, and still no word.  Of course, I had to stay in the parking lot near the trail to get any cell service at all, so it was a long, wet wait.  Finally I decided we would head over to the market I saw earlier in the day for dinner, and then drive over to the trailer area to see if anyone was around.  Once we got there, we found out the door was open, and I texted Kelly to see if it was ok to go in.  He said yes, but told us to proceed slowly, as he just rescued a Chihuahua, and he wanted to make sure she would not go crazy.  He also said that we would be sleeping on his bed, since the other couchsurfers had the bedroom I originally thought we would have (per the description of the room).  Guess where the dog had made her claim?-yep, his bed.  She would not be dissuaded from her perch, no matter how much dog whispering I did.  She calmed down enough to let me pet her, but then would change her mind and try to nip me.  No way was I putting Connor and Kieran in that bed.  And fun side note, her pee blanket was on the floor in front of the bed, and could not be moved (yes, disgusting!).  You might think at the that point I would give up and leave, but I was exhausted and cold - and I didnt want to spend a lot of money to stay at a resort (nor did I have any cell service to even check what might be available).  We ended up falling asleep on the couch (Kieran on top of me, Connor on the ottoman) around 9 after meeting the other couchsurfers from France and Germany, and then transferred to the bed at 11:30 when Kelly got home.  All three of us in a full size bed made for a cozy sleep that night.  I dreamt of dogs that bit my toes off while I tried to go to the bathroom. 

Kelly left at 6 the next morning to go to his second job, and soon after showering and quickly packing (dog no where to be seen), we were out of there as well.  Not very rested, but with a good story noentheless, and all our digits too!  And the good thing, no way was any stay anywhere else during our trip going to be as bad as that...I won't let it be! Side note, the whole rest of the day Kieran kept saying he wanted to go back to pet the dog (LOL!).

Day 17 | Sedona, AZ

After we left the Canyon, we headed to Sedona, somewhere I had been to before and loved.  On the way there, we ran into the Flintstone Store and Campground (I loved the Flintstones as a kid, so we got out and took pictures), and then stopped at a Trading Post with really cool teepees a few minutes later.  The kids talked me into getting them carved wood slingshots, and then proceeded to drive me crazy with them (they look really cool, but Im not sure what I was thinking...the drive was getting to me maybe?  Or maybe that was Kieran's secret wish?).

The drive was gorgeous, just as I remembered, and the kids were able to see Slide Rock State Park (though the parking lot was full when we passed by, so we couldn't stop, and good thing since it started thunderstorming 15 minutes later and the kids were still a little freaked from the Canyon).  It was only 12:30pm, but I knew the first thing I needed to find was a hotel room for the night, so we could have at least one good sleeping experience that week!  Most of the places were $200+, since it was Sat night, but I stopped at a motel with a shabby sign and no cars outside, and was able to get a room for 1/2 that.   It had exactly what we needed: two beds and a shower (and a little balcony too).  The kids were in search of a little comfort after the day before, so we laid down on the beds and watched a little Harry Potter on the TV before heading out to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a beautiful church built into the Red Rocks in Sedona (that I visited during my last stay).  Once we got inside, we lit some candles and I told them to make a wish or say a prayer...Connor's was to watch more of the Harry Potter (turns out it was a marathon on ABC Family), Kieran's a secret he would not share, and I set an intention for us to be safe, abundant, happy, healthy, and watched over.  We were all awed by the beauty there, and took some fabulous pictures.  We also got some postcards in the gift shop before heading out.

On the way back to the motel, we stopped at the best curiosity shop I have ever encountered, took more pics, and got a few souvenirs.  I only bought very small inexpensive things (turning over a new leaf), and took pics of the items I could not afford to remember them by.  We also stopped at an American restaurant and got burgers.  What was so great about this place: the kids started coloring and collaborating with each other and never once fought, AND they ate all their food without protest or prodding. It was a Christmas miracle in July.  And good news, Harry Potter was still on when we got back to the motel around 8 that night.

Day 18 | Sedona, AZ and Scottsdale, AZ

The next day, we headed to Slide Rock bright and early to make sure we got a spot in the parking lot, paid our $20 entry fee, and headed down to the water.  It was more slippery than I remember, and really cold.  The kids were psyched and shivering.  Connor eventually got up the nerve to do the main slide, and then talked me into doing it as well.  We hiked and climbed and slid and swam for three hours before the kids got too cold and wanted to leave.   On to Scottsdale, where we were to stay with someone that had attended WDS (a conference I went to immediately prior to this trip), but whom I have never met.  Tess was the first in a series of people we were to stay with that offered to host us after I posted on various facebook groups that we needed places to stay along the route.  I had no idea what to expect, though she (and I too) were vetted just since we were cool enough to go to WDS (World Domination Summit-think of the most amazing people you would ever want to meet at one place and that is WDS).

We arrived three hours later, and were welcomed into an awesome house by Tess and Roger, the kind of parents every kid wishes for.  They ushered us in, offered us the use of their pool, shared their insights and expertise, fed us dinner, let us wash our clothes.  It was awesome.  They were kind and generous people, and it was my honor to meet them.  I hope I can return the favor someday.  We were only there for one night, so after breakfast (homemade waffles with strawberries & whipped cream, and bacon), and a quick dip in the pool for the kids and packing for me, we were off to our next destination, San Diego.  


Day 19-22 | San Diego (Carlsbad), CA


We made it to Cali!!!!  It took us 6 hours from Scottsdale, and I made it stopping only twice, both times for gas and a bathroom break.  We went from 106 degrees to a balmy 71.  The kids slept through half of the drive (I told Connor he could play with the tablet if he took a nap, thinking he would sleep only 15 minutes, and was pleasantly surprised).  Must have been that desert air.


We were headed to the home of another WDSer I had not met, one with two kids around Connor and Kieran's age.  Again, I had no idea what to expect, but I said to the universe I wanted them to have a beautiful, welcoming house, a comfy bed for me, adequate sleeping space for the boys, and for the kids to get along immediately, and to feel safe, secure, and taken care of.  Michelle and Fred welcomed us into their gorgeous, spacious home (with two outdoor courtyards, fig trees, an amazing pergola, huge kitchen, great decor, and the topper, a tempurpedic bed in the guest bedroom) and the kids and I were immediately smitten (with them, not just the house).  There were tons of legos, good food, good conversation (soul sister, kindred spirits), and the best thing for the boys, they were only 15 minutes from Legoland (their holy grail).  We all felt immediately at home, and I gave a silent thank you to the powers that be.  

Days 21 and 22 were spent at Legoland.  The kids rode all the rides, begged for lego sets, visited the water park and the aquarium, and had a wonderful time.  For me, it was great to see them having fun, and I was psyched because I didn't get sick on a ride (old lady, remember?), and the lego displays were awesome.  Wednesday night after Legoland, I got to meet Erin, my partner from an online program I took part in, at dinner.  Turns out she is Michelle's best friend in the area.  Of course she is.  This is how my trust in the divine nature of the univere is showing up, and I love it.

Thursday after Legoland, I was introduced to Orange is the New Black on Netflix and got sucked in for three episodes.  Ill catch the rest when I make it back home.  Friday, I told the kids we would be hanging out and sent Michelle's kids with their half-sister to Legoland so they could have some fun, since I was done (we had gotten 5 day tickets for the price of one, so her kids get to go Sat and Sun for free too...something I'm excited to share with them).  We lounged for the morning (me blogging, kids lego-ing), and then headed to the beach with Michelle's family later in the afternoon.  I then babysat for Michelle and Fred as a small token of thanks for their generosity.  The kids watched a movie, had some popcorn and ice cream, and then headed to bed after Connor read everyone a book.

And so ends our time in San Diego.  We're headed out tomorrow morning, to meet another wonderful person I know only from Facebook, and to catch up with my good friend Tim whom I used to work with ages ago (both of whom live in Pasadena), after we go to Venice beach for some bike riding and rollerblading.  We'll stay there one night, then head north up the coast to stay in San Luis Obispo on the beach (at a new friend's house) for a night.  And then onto Yellowstone, and then back to PA...for now, thats as much as I know, and that's all up in the air as well.  I'll keep intending the best, and see you back here in two weeks (give or take).  

Til then, happy travels to you, and to us.  May you feel joy and peace in every moment (or if that's too much pressure, just in every moment you want to).

ps, I did not get a chance to proof this before publishing, as its really late and the kids get up really early.  In the words of Michael Port, any errors in spelling or grammar are my gift to you.  And line spacing issues too (they piss me off, but I can't seem to fix them).  Good night!