Monday, October 11, 2010

Spud Harvest Vacation: Grand Canyon Trip

Family vacation, October 1st - 9th/10th 2010

October 1 Friday: Friday we left Rexburg around 10:30 am to begin our weeklong family vacation. We stopped for lunch and hot springs swimming at Lava Hot Springs, then made it to Jon & Kristen's house by 6 pm for dinner, a disappointing BYU football game on TV, a fun time with cousins, and a good night's sleep.

October 2 Saturday: We packed up and headed to Mt. Timpanogos Cave, listening to the Saturday morning General Conference session while we drove.

The 1 1/2 mile hike up the steep path to the cave was no problem for the kids,

even little Charlotte and Eleanor walked the whole way. Samuel and Oliver took turns leading us.

The cave tour was fascinating. The kids loved it and were excited about every piece of spalientology they learned. We saw stalactites, stalagmites, cave bacon, heliotites, and all sorts of unusual cave formations.

We grabbed some lunch back at the bottom, then piled in to the car for the drive south, listening to the afternoon session of General Conference, then reading and watching a movie. We stopped in Parowan at 6pm so Jeff could attend the Priesthood session. I took the kids to dinner then to a park while we waited for him, then when he was done we drove to through Cedar Breaks National Monument on our way to Duck Creek Village. We stayed the night in a quaint lodge called Pinewoods Resort.

October 3 Sunday: After we had our complimentary breakfast, we drove south past Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument to Page, Arizona while listening to Sunday Morning General Conference.

We ate lunch and took a tour of the Glen Canyon Dam. Our tour guide had a name tag on that said he spoke Italian, which led to the discovery that he had been in the MTC and mission with Ted and Annmarie (Jeff's sister and her husband).

After the tour, we left for Williams, Arizona, listening to the Sunday Afternoon session. We are en route right now. It's a very relaxed, not at all over-scheduled vacation so we can take things as they come and not feel stressed to stay on track. We are enjoying each other's company, the wonders of nature, and the words of our leaders. So far so wonderful.

On our way to Williams, we took a scenic detour to drive through Grand Canyon National Park, the first visit for Jeff and the kids, and my third time here. It is completely magnificent, breathtakingly enormous and beautiful. We are making a few stops, starting with the Watchtower - a replica of an Indian tower, built as a gift shop and offering a panoramic view of the Grand Canyon. It sits right on the edge and is a little disconcerting, and well worth the stop.

Sunday evening we made it to our hotel at bedtime. We grabbed dinner in the hotel cafe then gratefully crawled into our beds.

October 4 Monday: I didn't sleep well so at 3:30 a.m. I got up, put on running clothes, and ran 7 1/2 miles on the treadmill in the hotel's exercise room. After walking around for a while I finally went back to our room, showered, dressed, and at 6 a.m. I went back to bed.

Jeff had bought milk and cereal so we ate breakfast in our room before heading out to the train depot where we watched an Old West Shoot-out (a comical re-enactment) before boarding the train.

During the two hour trip to the Grand Canyon, we were entertained by singing cowboys and stories from our car conductor. We had brought books so we also had plenty of time to read.

We arrived around 11:30, found some lunch, then enjoyed the views. Luckily, we had our rain ponchos on because it soon began to rain. We caught a shuttle to an overlook (Hopi), which was of course gorgeous,

but the rain began to pound down hard and the wind blew fiercely. We walked as quickly as we could to the shuttle point, and waited about 10 minutes for a bus to rescue us. We were all completely soaked and frozen. I felt sorry for the children, especially little Charlotte, and Eleanor, and Oliver, and Samuel...but they were all troopers and tougher than their mom. Jeff was soaked through his rain jacket, while the rest of us had at least a little bit of dry areas under our ponchos.

We braved the rain and wind again, dashing to the visitor center in time for a Ranger-led presentation so the kids could earn their Jr. Ranger badges, then we ran again through the storm to the hotel to get some hot cocoa.

By the time we had the drinks, it was time to go to the train depot for our train ride back to the hotel. The rain paused and the sun came out while we waited to board, then started raining again on the trip back. Thankfully we were inside. The trip back was fun with more singing cowboys and a staged train robbery that the kids enjoyed (they "rob" you for tips). One robber stopped to ask for hugs from Eleanor and Charlotte.

We were all still wet and cold, then had to run from the train to the hotel in even morer freezing cold rain and wind. I was chilled to begin with and didn't handle the additional wet and cold well. I was shivering and disoriented and could feel the onset of hypothermia, so I took a hot shower ton warm up. The kids were fine. Like I said, tougher than their mom.

After we were all dressed in dry clothes, we ventured out again to find dinner. Although it was still raining, it wasn't as hard and the wind wasn't blowing anymore. We were seated at an old fashioned Route 66 Diner, but when we saw the menu we grabbed our stuff and left without any explanation. (If the waitress had shown, I would have gladly excused ourselves, but we waited and waited and she never came!). The menu was all burgers and greasy fries, and we were sick of the fast food fare, so we found a tiny Thai restaurant and had the best meal we'd had all vacation. Chicken satay, won ton soup, a curry tofu dish, dumplings, and a transparent rice noodles with veggies dish...yum! The kids were in heaven and kept saying how good the food was and now they never wanted another hamburger again and this was the best food ever, and the waitress was so delighted she brought her mom (the cook) out to see us. It was delightful, and I loved seeing the kids enjoy good, healthy food so much, and the smiles on the faces of the owners. Good stuff.

The kids had a movie night while Jeff and I had some down time to read and plan for tomorrow. I had no trouble sleeping that night. Good thing, because I would have had to run barefoot if I'd gotten up early again. My shoes were soaked. That brings us to today.

October 5 Tuesday: We packed up this morning and tossed our bags out our hotel room porch to Jeff, who had driven the car around. It was raining cats and dogs again. He loaded the car, we got in, then drove back to the Grand Canyon. We made it to the 9:30 showing at the National Geographic Imax theatre just outside the park entrance. It was very cool to see the canyon on such a big screen. When it was over, we browsed a bit, then drove back into the Park to the canyon rim. It was drizzling, but not too bad. Unfortunately, there was nothing to see. Although it was around 60 F on the rim, it was in the 80's on the canyon floor, and a heavy cloud sat squashed between the canyon walls. We could see above the cloud, but beneath us all was white.

So we got back in the car and headed to Flagstaff, where we had Indian cuisine for lunch - another healthy, tasty meal. We are now headed to Gilbert, AZ, and should be there around dinnertime where we will spend the tomorrow and part of Thursday visiting with Jeff's siblings Marshall and Nancy and their spouses Holly and Josh, and their kids. It is still raining pretty heavily. I hope it lets up because I packed for hot, dry weather!

We made it to Marshall and Holly's house around 6 pm, driving through terrible rain, wind and traffic. The trip was harrowing. It was so nice to arrive and spend time with family and meet our new 3-week old nephew Major. Our kids and their cousins were in heaven, playing so well together. Holly rallied and made us dinner, even though I tried to talk her out of it. I never could play hostess well when I had a new baby, but Holly was perfect. She even had a cake with candles for an early birthday treat for Oliver. Nancy and her two children joined us for the delicious dinner. Afterwards, we drove about 20 minutes away to visit my friend from law school and her family. Talk about a scary drive! Lightening piled on top of lightening, making a strobing flash in the night sky. The rain joined in the fun, pelting on our car in sheets of water and hail. Then the wind entered, blowing the water horizontally across the road and adding desert sand to the mix. I felt like I was in an electrical storm blender. My entire body was taught, especially when the water and sand and wind blinded us. I told Jeff we should turn around, but there was no way he could see to find a safe spot to pull over. We rode the furious storm and emerged unscathed but I lost a good 20 years off my life and went looking for white hair on my head. When we pulled up at Cheryl's house, the rain had calmed down considerably.

It was so nice to see my old friend and her kids. We hung around long enough to see her husband Josh when he got home from Bishopric meeting. Great people, great friends, and great memories. Somehow Cheryl and I survived law school and our respective jobs, and are both "retired" to raise our children.

We made it back to Nancy and Josh's house in time to see Josh (lots of Josh's around!) and spend a few minutes chatting before bed. They were kind enough to scoot their two children into their room so 3 of our children could have a bedroom, and Charlotte slept on a mattress on then floor in the guest room with me and Jeff. We all slept soundly. I think I spent enough calories through adrenaline and fear on all the stormy drives to count as a good long run!

October 6 Wednesday: I got up around 5:45 am, ran 3 1/2 miles, then met up with Marshall at 6:30 to run another 4 1/2 and be home before 7:30. It was muggy and a little warmer than I am used to, but I ran in my cool Nuu Muu running dress, so I was comfy. After showers, breakfast, and tidying up and starting laundry, we are now in the car again for a trip to Phoenix's Museum of Science. Later on this evening we will go to a place called Amazing Jake's for fun, games, food, and celebrating Oliver's birthday. Tomorrow it's off to Sedona, then Friday back to Duck Creek Village, the Saturday up to Provo and after the BYU football game we will either head home or spend the night at Jeff's cousin's home. We afef having a full fun-filled vacation. Since we are not in the car for more than a couple of hours at a time (usually), it has been easy driving for all of us.

We had lots of fun at the Museum of Science and after at Amazing Jake's (which was really amazing! A building full of rides, games, and all-you-eat open buffet included in the ticket price).

We sang Happy Birthday again to Oliver, ate cupcakes, and gave him his presents

then played for about 4 hours at Amazing Jake's. We went back to Marshall and Holly's for a movie while I folded laundry, then we went back to Nancy and Josh's for a chat (they got home right before we did) then bed.

October 7 Thursday: It is now 10 am the next morning (Thursday) - Oliver's 9th birthday! (we celebrated it early yesterday so we could have the cousins' company). Samuel and Oliver spent the morning playing with Malcolm and Jayden while Eleanor and Charlotte played with Faith and Danny. Jeff and I packed up the car, said goodbye to Nancy and her kids (Josh had left for work), picked up the boys and let the girls say goodbye to Chloe and Capri, said goodbye to Holly and baby Major (Marshall had left for work also), and are now headed for a quick visit to Sedona. We had a change of plans last night and decided not to sleep in Sedona but to sleep in Williams again so we can visit the Grand Canyon again now that the weather is pleasant.

We drove to Sedona on Thursday enjoying the scenery that reminded the kids so much of the movie "Cars". On our way we passed an R V lot that had been hit by a tornado two days before, leaving wreckage strewn across the highway and into the lot. Apparently, four tornadoes touched down in Northern Arizona on Tuesday, two of them right where we had driven only hours before. Spooky. We said a prayer of gratitude for our safety. Just outside of Sedona, we had lunch at a Chinese restaurant at Oliver's request, the drove through the town to Slide Rock State Park. We donned our swimming suits, brought our towels, and hiked into the canyon for some play.

The water was very cold, so the girls just played in the shallow pools, but Jeff and the boys braved the water and slid down the long, slippery water chute in the canyon creek. A few times down that and we were done. We changed at the restrooms and hopped in the car for the drive to our lodging just outside of Williams - Mountainside Resort, or something like that. We got there in time for the hotel dinner, had baths afterwards, and settled in for the night in the two bedroom (2 queens in one room for the kids, one king in the other room for us), two bath, spacious suite.

October 8 Friday: In the morning, we packed up, ate breakfast at the hotel dining room, then drove back into Grand Canyon National Park for a final visit - this time with sunny weather!

We thought about taking the helicopter tour, but I couldn't justify $1,000 for a couple of hours' trip. So instead we visited it the old fashioned way: on our own two feet. It was again strikingly beautiful. I don't think anyone could ever get used to looking at the canyon, it is just too awesome and magnificent. We ate lunch at the El Tovar hotel jn the same dining room where Teddy Roosevelt had eaten. We walked a bit of the Bright Angel Trail, visited the art gallery, and just enjoyed the cool air, warm sunshine, and lovely canyon views.

We drove from there toward the North Rim, past Lee's Ferry, and stopped in Kanab for dinner, the drove back to Duck Creek Village to stay the night in Pinewoods Resort again - in the same room we had occupied on Saturday night last week.

October 9 Saturday:

After we ate and packed up, we drove to Cedar Breaks National Monument.

At over 10,000 feet elevation, we were higher than many mountains. The orange and red colors of the sandstone were particularly striking with snow streaking down the sides of the cliff walls and Hoo Doos.

The kids earned their Jr. Ranger badges and we are now en route to Provo (stopping first for lunch in Fillmore) for the BYU football game this afternoon. Charlotte and I will wander around while Jeff, Samuel, Oliver, and Eleanor go to the game. Afterwards we hope to visit with John and Mary Thomas then make a late drive home to Rexburg. What a full week! I can't understand though why we are all so tired and so hungry when we are spending so much time sitting and eating! It's incredible how much food we are eating, especially the little girls. We are trying to make sure we have healthy foods and have done a good job avoiding fries and greasy foods. But we are still eating tons. Good. I guess we need it!

Funny that after my little comment about eating healthy food (a paragraph or two above), we stopped for lunch at Carl's Jr. and had battered and fried foods and hamburgers for lunch. Ah, well. I guess we've been healthy most of the trip. Of course, there is still the matter of the $30 worth of Halloween Candy I bought last Friday that is now mostly gone... :)

We made it to Provo with time to spare before the game, so we made a quick visit to two of our favorite people: Grandma and Grandpa Rasmussen (Jeff's grandparents). We enjoyed chatting with them and letting them spend some time with our children - their great grandchildren. The grandparents are such lovely, kind people. Just being with them for a few minutes influences us to be better people.

We said goodbye then drove to the BYU campus at 3:30, parking near the Museum of Fine Art. Charlotte and I walked partway to the football stadium with Jeff, Samuel, Oliver and Eleanor, then we turned back to hunt for a treat for ourselves. We split a personal pizza, some milk and a laffy taffy string, the wandered over to the Bean Museum of Natural History, spent about 20 minutes there, then went to then art museum for another 20 minutes. The museums closed at 5, so we headed to the Bookstore. We browsed all sorts of books, buying a few children's books, an illustrated Russian/English dictionary, a Ukranian phrasebook, and some candy corn (Charlotte's idea). The Bookstore closed at 6 so we were kicked out and went in search of more food (see, I told young were uncommonly hungry on this trip!), settling for more milk and some tacos. We walked around, periodically checking on the progress of the football game, then headed to the car around 7pm. The game was over sooner than we expected, and unexpectedly BYU won! (They haven't been doing well this season.) Jeff and the other children joined us around 7:30, then we made it through the sluggish post-game traffic, finally getting on the highway and off to John & Mary's house for pleasant hour and a half visit. They have an gorgeous home with delightful children. It was hard to leave them, but Charlotte kept falling asleep and the rest of us weren't far behind her. The Thomas' will be visiting us in Idaho this week so we'll see them soon, which made it easier to say goodbye.

I am thankful we have been able to share some of the rich beauties of the world with our children this vacation. I know it has been a lot of travel and a lot of changes everyday, but it's been a great way to give the kids some in-person experiences that many people miss out on. Disneyland is fun, but the real land with it's real wonders is simply grand. The very best thing though about this week was just being together. In all the hustle to and fro, and all the oohing and ahhing, the most amazing wonder was the company we kept - that of our children and each other. God created a world of sheer magnificence, grandeur and beauty, then to top it all off, he gave us the gift of families. I am grateful to my parents for insisting that I look out the window and that I get out of the car when we visited places that some people only ever learn about in books. I owe them for instilling in me a love of things and places that are wild. I hope we can do the same thing for our children and teach them to love and care for the world God gave us, and to love and care for the family that we are. I love those little Jr. Rangers.

October 10, Sunday: We arrived home around 2:30 am, sent the kids straight to bed, unloaded the car, and gratefully crawled into our own bed for some much-needed sleep. Thankfully, church doesn't start for us until 1pm, so we took all morning lazily getting ourselves ready and finishing the unpacking. It was fast and testimony meeting today at church. I was surprised when Samuel walked up to the podium to share his testimony. At first he started with an abbreviated travel log, saying that we'd spent the past week traveling to various places. I thought he'd say, "It was fun," and be done. But in a beautiful show of his spirit, he went on to say that he kept trying to hurry us back into the car at each stop so he could get back to his video games. And then he woke up this morning and it hit him like a cannonball that the time was over. Vacation was past. And he'd been hurrying through it, but now he wished it was still there. It made him realize that we need to enjoy the time and things we have. He bore his testimony about the blessing of being an eternal family, and how we could be together forever. It was incredibly touching, not just to me but to many other people who later came up to me and commented on & complimented Samuel's heartfelt testimony. It was very sweet. All of our children make me so proud, so pleased to be a part of their lives and have them call me mother.


  1. Thanks, Steph, for a great description of your trip. Glad you all made it through bad weather and lots of together time. Thanks for making time to visit with family--I know they were so happy for your visit. Life, and running, has ups an downs, but the memories of times together last forever and hold the family members with love when bad times come in individual lives. Thanks for being a great mom and daughter(-in-law).

  2. Thanks for making a stop at our place. Oh! how I miss you. I'm glad the rest of your trip was less scary than the desert rain storm. Thanks for the running nudge. I've been doing well and using dailymile! I'll be up to 8 miles this weekend. Miss you and hope it will be sooner than 4 years before we see you again.