So we drove 5070 miles. With three boys. Through the Midwest. In the middle of a drought. During the summer. I don't think we were ever so happy to be home as we were when we pulled into the driveway after those weeks on the road.
The memorable parts, in order of occurrence:
1) Leaving my purse, with $300 cash in it, at a restaurant in Twin Falls Idaho. On a Saturday night. In a restaurant that was closed on Sundays. Realizing my purse was left, in the high chair in the women's restroom (no hook to hang it on) on Sunday morning. Yep. Awesome start to the trip. Luckily we were able to find the owner and eventually convince him to open the doors and my purse was still there, and everything was in it, just as I'd left it. Whew. On to
2) Salt Lake City, Utah. By the time we arrived everyone was too hungry and hot and grumpy to take family photos at Temple Square, or do more than drive by the Olympic sights (more awesome family photo backdrops wasted), so we found a little park and ate mini bagels and cream cheese and turkey, drank warm lemonade, and got back in the car. We drove to Salton, which used to be this awesome health spa on the Great Salt Lake about a zillion years ago. We trudged (carefully, avoiding the masses of bird carcasses) across the hot hot sand for a 1/4 (1/2) mile or so to the lake, through a thick blanket of sand fleas, and onward, intrepid Caseload, into the water for another 1/4 mile until it was deep enough to try floating. The water was super warm, like a bath, and FULL of brine shrimp, live ones in swarms, dead ones under foot, in huge crunchy swathes. But we did it! We all floated. That is pretty cool, but I'm happy considering it a once in a lifetime sort of thing.
3)Dinosaur National Monument. Amazing! The kids were enthralled. Ansel appointed himself dinosaur expert. Miles became a Jr. Ranger for the first time and took his duties VERY seriously. So seriously it breaks your heart. Ah, sweet, sweet boy!
4)11.5 hours of googlemap drive time across Colorado and Kansas to Wichita. It was 105 degrees. And so windy the little kids were in danger of being blown over every time we got out of the car. They desperately tried playing on the most rundown, pathetic playground I've ever seen, in the middle of western Kansas, but even they gave up before long. Avery asking why Dorothy tried so hard to get home, hilarious.
5)Spending the afternoon at the Hawker Beechcraft training center with Aaron's cousin, who is an instructor there. Unexpected and very, very cool. Getting to play around in one of those $17,000,000 flight simulators, way too cool! Leaving our pillows and the cell phone charger in Wichita, at Ben and sweet Lindsay's perfect little Kansas farm house, not so cool.
6)Leaving three light sabers, the kids' favorite toys, in a park in Missouri. Misery. Miles might have cried all the way across Iowa.
7) Eating lunch out of the cooler (some variation of bagels, cream cheese, turkey, veggie sticks, warm lemonade) for the 7th day in a row. Sad. Even if it was warm mango lemonade instead of plain.
8)All the new words the kids learned from Aaron's relatives in Iowa. All kinds of new vocabulary words for all kinds of bodily functions, some of them anatomically impossible (I think) and most all of them immoral, unethical, and probably illegal in most states.
9)Aaron getting stopped for suspicion of drunk driving after a family barbecue where he was the only one of his family members NOT drinking, and he was only driving 20 in a 25 mile zone to try to get the little ones to fall asleep before we made it back to the house. Funny. Ironic, though, since the officer could have gone about two miles down the road and arrested most of the family and made his quota in one fell swoop. Oh well.
10)Aaron having a 36 hour gall bladder attack and spending hours puking and writhing in pain in the waiting room of the University of Iowa hospital before they finally brought him back, spent two hours rehydrating him, giving him IV painkillers, and doing one quick ultrasound.Not so cool. Getting the bill three weeks later, for $8000, also not so cool.
11) Day at the water park with a select few of Aaron's family members, super fun for us. Not so fun for Aron, who was still in agony and spent the entire day curled up on a lounge chair in the shade. But Miles finally worked up the courage to brave the big slides, and had a blast. And Ansel loved the wave pool. And being in the water was good and fun and relaxing.
12) The car phone charger finally dying.
13) Realizing one of Aaron's best friends from high school not only lives in Iowa again, but lives less than 100 feet from his Mom's house, and having two lovely, wonderful visits with him and his sweet, funny partner and their adorable new baby girl. That was great. Repeated conversations with the kids about why David can have a projector and huge screen in his TV room (what a way to play video games!) and we can't, well, oh well.
14) The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. Both Aaron and I got all teary. We're saps, apparently. Well, we knew that already, but still. Places like that are testament to the goodness of America, the promise of communities working together, putting their best foot forward, and it's good. Corn flavored and shaped lollipops, however, are not so great.
15)The car DVD player I pestered and whined and begged about getting for weeks before the trip breaking, just not playing anything anymore. Devastating. Really. Have you ever driven through South Dakota with three kids in the middle of a heat wave? With a sick husband? Pregnant? Don't judge me.
16)The Badlands. Love.
17) Being too worn out and hot and grumpy to go to Mt. Rushmore. Bummer. Being grownups and getting to make these calls, being able to change plans and go straight to the hot springs resort in Montana, well, that's good.
18) The hot springs resort in Montana. Fabulous. Even if by the time we made reservations there was only one room left, no cabins, no suites. No queen beds. No rooms with bathrooms. Just one room, a third floor walk up, no elevator, with a two double beds and a bathroom down the hall. And no A/C. Oh yes. But it was funky and sweet and fabulous and we all loved it and should have just planned our vacation to be spent there. Swimming in a warm, warm swimming pool in the evening, with a band playing and the pools filled with every eligible 20 or 30 something in Southern Montana, and the guard that probably really wanted to be a stripper posing all around the pool in front of every cluster of pretty young things, maybe a bit much. But swimming in that same pool at 7 in the morning with just a couple of other families, fun, and pretty, and a lovely start to the day.
19) Yellowstone National Park. Wonderful. Getting to actually see Old Faithful this time, terrific. Having this be the best picture of our family of the entire trip, not so wonderful. And Avery took the picture, so he's not even in the picture.
21)The cheap pull-ups I bought for Ansel for the trip not working, so that every time he peed he leaked out into his clothes and his car seat, well, that wasn't so cool. And it didn't help the car smell any better by the end of the trip, either.
22) Ansel dumping an entire bottle of chocolate milk all over himself, his car seat, and the middle row of the van when we were within an hour and a half from home. Might have been expected earlier in the trip (which is why I didn't allow any chocolate milk or sticky, stainy, hard to clean up liquids in the back of the van for the entire trip, until just that moment when I handed him the bottle of brown, sticky, stainy, impossible to clean up milk and he proceeded to tip it up to his mouth and pour the entire thing out all over himself).
23) Pulling into our driveway, late at night, and going into our own house, and sleeping in our own beds, might have been, could have been, almost maybe was, the best part of our vacation. Certainly the most relaxing part.