The US Southwest, Family Road Trip, June 2019

We spent a week in a rental RV, and experienced the quintessential American family trip out West. It was awesome!! The rest of the fam actually spent 3 weeks because they drove to and from Denver while yours truly held down the job, watered the plants, fed the cats, etc., and flew to Denver and back. Anyway, writing a quick-n-dirty short post about it all because I am now in graduate school again because apparently I can’t get enough of that. Here’s a list of what we did.

The kids and Mr. Fantastic saw, on the way to Denver, while I worked and enjoyed vicariously:

(1) Serpent Mound in southwest Ohio, a native American construction dating back to 1000 CE, (2) Cahokia, in southern Illinois, a UNESCO site that was a large population center around the year 1200 CE, 3) The Garden of Eden, naive sculpture art in Lucas, Kansas, and two reprises from our big trip in 2015: (4) the City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri and (5) the state capitol building in Topeka, Kansas. Such amazing places!! Lest we be jealous of them, though, we should acknowledge they did get robbed on Columbus, Ohio. They were parked in a suburb at a friend’s house in “a very safe neighborhood” but someone got into the car and stole the twins’ skateboards (one they had just won in a competition! Ouch!) and two suitcases (Cleverly’s favorite clothes and Poppa’s almost-full sketchbook, very sad) I recently read Dreamland by Sam Quinones (highly recommend) so can’t help thinking about Ohio’s place in the opiate crisis and that drugs had something to do with this.

They met me at the airport wearing custom made t-shirts and it is probably the cheesiest thing we’ve ever done. Photo below is at Bishop’s Castle.

We hung out in Denver, ate at Bonfire Burritos then spent time at South Pearl Street Farmer’s Market where we admired the many stands and had delicious vegan ice cream from ba-nom-a-nom before picking up the RV. Then we were off! First stop was Bishop’s Castle, a hand-built structure of stone and iron in the Colorado mountains. We met builder Jim Bishop, a talkative fellow with strong political and religious sentiments, he has survived many tragedies and challenges including cancer, check out the linked article. Next we drove to Santa Fe, NM and slept in a parking lot, because you can do that in an RV. The next day, we went to Meow Wolf, an experiential art exhibit/fun house/mystery story. Very unusual! Then we drove to Flagstaff, AZ and spent a few hours in Petrified Forest National Park on the way. Painted desert! Petroglyphs! Crystallized trees! The next day was the Grand Canyon National Park and it was sublime.

We hiked, we gawked, we drove next to the Canyon for miles. We ate at The Blue Coffee Pot in Kayenta, AZ on the Navajo reservation and had a great experience! They don’t have a website, but it’s a great place, hogan style building, many locals. We stayed that night in Monument Valley, watched the sunset glow on the mammoth rock formations all around us.

Above reminds me of seeing the sunrise at Angkor Wat, but here was even better in some ways- we slept in view of the gorgeous rock formations and there were very few people around. We were driving on route 163, which must be one of the most beautiful in the world. Our next stop was Four Corners Monument, where we had frybread and stood in four states at once. Well, one of did a back bend in all 4 states.

We stayed in Cortez, Colorado to be near Mesa Verde National Park. We wanted to see the cliffdwellers structures, and went on 2 tours there, both amazing, one with some scary ladder climbing. This was my pick. I can’t get enough of pre-Columbian cultures!! This was just stunning. There aren’t a lot of UNESCO sites in the US, but there are several here. Mind-blowing.

We also found time in Cortez for ice cream at Moose and More, and checked out Denkai animal rescue thrift store, both are wonderful! Leaving Cortez, we crossed the Continental Divide on route 160 on Wolf Creek Pass. We got out of the RV to play in the snow! Those 3 dots at center are Cleverly and the twins.

Then we continued to Amarosa, CO and stayed the night. The next day, we rented boards and a sled and went sand boarding and sand sledding at Great Sand Dunes National Park.

It was as awesome as it sounds and the surge flow was active that day as well! It was a little late in the season so we felt lucky about that. Next, we drove to Salida hot springs and spent hours soaking and playing in the warm waters, two snowy mountain ranges in view. Oh, the bliss!

While daughter #2 and I returned home by plane, delayed red-eye ugh, the trip continued with Poppa and daughters #1, #3, and #4. They returned the RV and headed out in our car to the Cowgirls of the West Museum in Wyoming. They saw bison and mountain goats from the car. They went to the Crazy Horse Memorial. And Mount Rushmore. Also Wind Cave National Park. Yes I’m jealous! And they kept going. Badlands National Park, Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum in Detroit, my parent’s place near Cleveland, and stayed with a friend outside of Pittsburgh.

They went to Chicago and the Art Institue of Chicago. They spent a whole day there, used bikeshare Divvy bikes and went to the Field Museum and also saw the Tiffany glass dome at the old Chicago library, now the Chicago Cultural Center. Then they came home with lots of bumper stickers on the car!

The End – for this excellent trip. It was Fiercely’s last, in a way, because she goes to college in about 6 weeks. Time flies; I’m glad we got this trip in before the first daughter leaves the nest! Now I want to write a little about RVs, next post coming up.

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