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Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Bloggy Milestones
In the last 24 hours, I hit two milestones: over 600 posts and over 50,000 visitors.

To celebrate I'm going to share a video I found yesterday. My favorite Broadway show is Les Miserables, and one of new favorite performers is Neil Patrick Harris (Dr. Horrible). Enjoy!

Vacation photos coming soon...


Home Again

And it's great. We had another wonderful trip. We camped for four nights and then spent two at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. I'll be posting pictures and details, but I'm still trying to catch up at home. Here's one picture to tide you over. We've named this picture, "Dirty, Happy Camper."


Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Vacation - Day Eleven, Twelve, & Thirteen
And here is where I fail you. No new pictures.

I don't know what happened other than we decided we wanted to be home.

We left Utah and headed northeast to Wyoming. Our plan was to cross Wyoming and head south to Denver where we'd spend the night. We'd then drive to Kansas City, see a Royals game, and spend the night. Our next stop was going to be St. Louis for a few hours, on to Indianapolis, and then home.

But Wyoming was so blooming long, hot, and tiring. We were starving and couldn't find anyplace to stop and eat. We pulled into Cheyenne around 6 pm and descended like locusts at the Outback. All three of us stuffed ourselves like we'd never eaten before, much less had a huge breakfast.

We decided to call it a night there. We tried two hotels. One didn't have any rooms; the other didn't have any non-smoking rooms. We decided to try a place that was on the other side of the interstate exit. We'd seen billboards for miles, but I thought it was just a truckstop. Boy, was I wrong. It was fantastic. The place is called Little America. It was a beautiful property with luscious landscaping, big rooms that are beautifully decorated with fresh paint, new linens, and chandeliers. The dining room had an amazing breakfast buffet with some of the freshest fruit I've ever tasted. They even had huge raspberries and blackberries. Sera was in heaven. The place reminded me of hotels we stayed at when I was a child.

If you are ever in Cheyenne, I highly recommend Little America.

We woke up the next morning and decided just to head home. We went back across Nebraska. We made a stop in Sydney to visit Cabela's, now known as Jim's favorite store. We spent way too much money, but bought Jim's school wardrobe for this year and filled in some holes in the camping area, including an airbed on a frame that will work for me. I'll be able to enjoy camping now. I also got a new pair of shoes and an enamel-coated cast iron pizza pan.

We pulled into Omaha around 7ish. We'd spent so much money at Cabela's that Jim was determined we'd camp out. We were rushing to set up before sunset. When the tent was almost finished, I took Sera to the KOA store to buy firewood, newspaper, and make our bedtime bathroom run. I heard the clerk talk about rain, so I asked her. She said there was a storm going north of us. She'd seen the radar, and we had nothing to worry about.

Famous Last Words

We were starving and planning to roast some hot dogs on the camp fire. Something was weird about the wood, and it would not stay lit. It ws burning, but it wouldn't stay flaming. Jim finally got it to flame long enough to cook a few hot dogs. Just as he's bringing them to the table, we see lightning and hear thunder. Then I feel a drop.

I take Sera to the tent and then grab the hot dogs, buns, and condiments and toss them on my bed. I run back out to help Jim grab anything else, but he's got it packed up and in the van. We run to the tent and zip it shut just as the rain started. We sat on our beds eating our dinner and watching it pour. I lay down with Sera and watch our campfire now burning brightly in the pouring rain. How is that possible? The thunder and lightning are so loud and constant. I start counting between lightning strikes and thunder. 1, 2 boom. 1,2,3,4 boom. 1,2 boom. You get the idea. And then the wind started. The tent was rocking and rolling, but we were dry.

Then this huge gust hits us. The side of the tent seems to collapse and the rain comes in. I cover Sera as Jim and I scramble for our shoes. He throws our stuff in the duffel, I grab Sera, and we run for the van. We went from radio station to radio station and couldn't find any weather reports. Eventually the wind dies down and the rain lessens. The thunder and lightning fade away. Jim and I discuss our options. We don't want to tear down in the dark. We don't want to leave our stuff. We don't want to take Sera back in the tent in case we have to run out again. Jim decides to check the tent, and if it's okay, he'll sleep there. Sera and I stay in the van. She'd fallen asleep while we waited out the storm, but Jim getting out of the van woke her up.

It was a long night of holding a squirming toddler and trying to sleep in my seat. Jim, on the other hand, found the tent was fine, mopped off the rain from my bed, zipped himself up in his sleeping bag, and slept like a baby.

When we left the next morning, we stopped at the Cabela's ten miles down the road to buy a weather radio. We needed one at home anyway. The staff there told us the wind gusts the night before had been 80 mph.

This was the third time I'd camped. Would you believe I'm doing it again?

I'm a glutton for punishment or unbelievably optimistic. While you've been reading this, we've been camping. We left Monday for Mesick, MI. We're camping there on Monday and Tuesday before heading to the upper peninsula of Michigan, known as the UP. We'll camp up there on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, we check into the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, where we'll be terribly spoiled. We head back home on Sunday, and the great travels of the summer of 2008 will come to an end.

Provo, UT to Cheyenne, WY - 458.07 miles
Cheyenne, WY to Omaha, NE - 498.28 miles
Omaha, NE to home - 558.24 miles


Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Vacation - Day Ten (Bryce Canyon)
After leaving Jim's dad's house, we drove about 30 minutes away to see Bryce Canyon. We had no idea this was there the whole time. We knew he lived near Bryce Canyon. We did not know how gorgeous it is. Jim is dying to go back and camp there now.

On the road to Bryce Canyon

We drove to the top of Bryce Canyon and then stopped at all the lookouts on the way down. I was driving so Jim could jump out and get pictures. He kept coming back to the car and telling me I had to go look. He was right. The following are the pictures he took as we travelled back down.

This bird was hanging out on this column at the lookout. People kept stopping to get his picture, and he never moved, except to turn his head occasionally

Jim went to the level below us. Sera is pointing out a chipmunk as I spot Jim.
Sera sees her daddy now

The chipmunk


Monday, July 21, 2008
Vacation - Day Ten (Family)
After one last night sitting on the porch in Panguitch, we loaded up the van and headed out on Wednesday morning. Before going, we took some pictures. I know...big shock!

Sera and Grandpa John sharing some morning grapes

Grandma Dee, Grandpa John, and Sera

Grandma Dee & Sera

Three generations
Father and Son
Sera sharing kisses with Grandpa's new puppy, Belle, or as Sera referred to her, Sera's Belle
Bucky wanting in on the lovin' action
Jim, Sera, Kayson, Bradley, & Wendy (clockwise)

At the last minute, we learned that Jim's sister, Wendy and her family would be home while we were in Utah. They'd had to fly to Alaska for a funeral, and we didn't think we'd get to see them. We headed up to Provo where we met them for dinner. It was great to finally meet Wendy, her husband, Kay, and their sons, Bradley and Kayson.

Since this wasn't a planned stay, Jim wanted us to try camping out. Wendy made arrangements for a campsite for us and even set up their tent so we wouldn't have to rush to get ours up before sunset. When we got to Provo, we went straight to the restaurant. After dinner, we went back to the campsite to set up our air mattress, and then back to their place to visit some more.

This was only the second time I'd ever slept in a tent. The first time was in college. My friends and I took a road trip from Tallahassee to Pine Mountain, GA. We hiked up into the mountains and set up camp. One of the guys in our group was a real man's man who liked to hunt, fish, and camp. When the rattlesnake entered our camp, he flipped out his knife and sliced its head right off. Ughh... He then skinned and roasted it over the campfire. We all had to have a bite. They called it the ceremonial snake. Ugh again. During the night, it poured. Our tent stayed dry, but our hike back down the mountain was now a mud slide. Overall, I had fun with my friends, but I swore I'd never camp again.

Apparently I lied because there I was camping again. It had been in the high 90s all day and was still roasting when we headed to bed. I had brought flannel pants and a thermal top to sleep in because I had expected it to get cold during the night. When we heard the low was only going to 75, I elected to not wear them. In fact, I was sweating when I went to bed, so I slept in my shirt on top of the open sleeping bag. We had two mattresses set up: a queen and a twin. They were side by side. Jim and I were going to share the queen and put Sera on the twin. HA! She wanted to be between us, so I moved to the twin. Guess who moved with me? I moved back to the queen, and Jim moved to the twin, and we finally slept. All was fine until I woke up freezing and having to go to the bathroom. I probably could have gone back to sleep if it hadn't been so cold. Sera and I were on the sleeping bag in a weird angle so I couldn't zip us up. I finally gave up when Jim woke up. He helped me get out of the air mattress, and I headed to the bathrooms. I was planning to just go back to sleep in the van, but we were up by then. It was 6 am, so we (Jim) broke down the campsite, went to the bathrooms to change, and headed to breakfast. Wendy, Bradley, and Kayson met us there. We had a nice meal together and hit the road. Oh, and by the way, the overnight low? 52

Panguitch to Provo - 201.89 miles


Sunday, July 20, 2008
3 Word Sunday

No, we didn't get a new puppy. The story will follow in the next installment of Vacation!


Saturday, July 19, 2008
Vacation - Day Eight & Nine
One of the things Sera loved the most about her grandpa's house was all the wildlife we saw from the porch. She especially loved the chipmunks.

On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, we had some strong thunderstorms roll in. They didn't last long. It was beautiful watching the lightning strike. Jim got a picture of the storm clouds rolling in.
And then we were treated to the most amazing sight. A full double rainbow was visible from the side of their house. My camera didn't have a wide-angle lens, so Jim tried to get pictures of each part. The second rainbow is only visible in the third picture, but we could see it all the way across in person.

We left Monday morning for Vegas. I had called the Excalibur hotel on Sunday afternoon and made a reservation. I also made reservations for the dinner show. No one in their right mind goes to Vegas in July. Our hotel room cost $59.00. It was the bargain of our vacation. Sera loves horses so much we thought she'd really enjoy the dinner show at the hotel.

The following pictures are of the ride to Cedar City. We headed there for breakfast before going on to Vegas.

And now we're in Vegas. We arrived around 1 pm. We headed to the Hilton for the Star Trek Experience. Jim and I had gone to it five years earlier when we'd visited Vegas for another quick visit. He'd heard they had a new show and wanted to check it out. Sera was too young and too small for the ride. She and I headed to Quark's Bar for a "snack." She loves the word snack and was saying it over and over. She and I shared a chocolate milk shake and a child's order of chicken fingers. I think they called them Tribble fingers. They served the shake with two straws. She thought it was great fun and insisted that we drink at the same time for each sip.

We were sitting at our table playing. I was telling her which pieces of chicken I was planning to eat next. This would make her giggle and steal my chicken. I then acted outraged at her audacity. All of a sudden, she froze. Her eyes got really big and she was staring over my shoulder. I turned around to see a 7 ft Klingon. In his deep Klingon voice he asked, "Is she mocking me, or is she laughing at you?" She scrambled into my lap so quickly that I'm surprised she didn't draw blood. She never cried though she did keep a close eye on him until he was well out of sight. She was not impressed with the Vulcan woman who came to check on her shortly afterwards either. She cuddled on my lap until she saw her daddy. He had come to check on us in between his two shows.

We headed to our hotel, checked in, picked up our dinner tickets, and had about 30 minutes to get ready for dinner. We then headed downstairs for the show. The entrance was in the arcade. The Excalibur is definitely showing its age. The rooms are very plain, but clean and large. It's definitely, however, the location for families. The place was crawling with kids. The arcade was packed. Jim did the ring toss game and then we got in line. Sera started fading in line. I had bought tickets for the earliest show, 6 pm, but I was starting to worry. She perked up a bit when we got to our seats. Then the show started. She was enthralled. She ate only a few bites and just stared. I was worried that she wasn't enjoying it because she was stone-faced. The loud noises and fire didn't faze her because of her love for fireworks. When the show had only about a half hour left, she started cheering, clapping, and huzzahing with the best of them.

We went back to our room after the show where I tried to calm the now overly excited and hungry toddler. I fed her from the food supplies we had with us while Jim headed back out to try his luck. He returned with several trophies for his little girl. He'd gone back to the arcade and won a giant pillow, a jester's hat, and two stuffed flowers. She loved them all.

We went to Vegas with two goals: see the new Star Trek show and see the Excalibur dinner show. We met those goals and decided Vegas was too hot to stay. We had breakfast at the hotel and headed back to Utah. We discovered an In & Out Burger place near the hotel and stopped even though we'd just eaten breakfast. We hadn't had one since our trip to San Francisco years ago. Jim got a burger and fries and I got a Dr. Pepper for the road.

We briefly entertained the idea of driving over to LA and going to Disneyland, but the projected 125 temp across the desert did not sound fun at all. We decided to pass.

Panguitch to Vegas - 236.06 miles
and back - 236.06 miles


Thursday, July 17, 2008
For Joss Whedon Fans
or Nathan Fillion fans or Neil Patrick Harris fans.

I was very excited a few months ago when I read that they were working on a web series. Jim sent me a link this morning, but I didn't know what it was for. It's here. The web series is available for free this week only.



Vacation - Day Three
I don't think we're in Indiana any more? Aren't these mountains amazing? Anyway, back to the story. We were pretty annoyed when we saw signs that the interstate was closed and all traffic was being diverted. We pulled into a hotel at the second to last exit and called it a night. The road was reopening at 5am.

We had a good night's sleep and again ate our free breakfast. While I went back to the room to shower and dress for the day, Jim took Sera to the pool. She loves swimming. In fact, she'll lie on the bed and stroke with her arms and legs. She tells us she's swimming in the water. We hit the road refreshed and ready to go. But first, I had to make sure to leave something behind. I had planned to quickly check my email while Jim loaded the car and pulled up. The computer was too slow, so I gave up. I grabbed Sera's hand, and we headed outside to wait for Jim. Sitting on that desk was Sera's Dora sippy filled with apple juice. I remembered about 20 minutes later, but it wasn't worth going back for. By this point we'd realized a few things. We were very happy that we'd been forced to stop the night before because there were no more good exits that followed. We ended up on a twisting and turning mountain highway. One that would have been terrifying in the dark, plus we would have missed the amazing sights.

The rest of these pictures were taken through the car window as we headed south through Denver. The exits off this highway were all for very small rustic, but expensive, towns. We pulled off in Grand Junction, the last major stop in Denver, for lunch. We make plenty of stops at McDonalds while travelling for $1 drinks and bathroom stops. We decided to drive into town and find something a little more interesting for lunch.

We ended up on this great little street in the downtown area. We were the only customers (it was 2 pm) in the Mexican restaurant. We shared a wonderful bowl of posole and then had pretty standard combination plates. The beans were delicious.

As we kept going south into Utah, all the trees on the mountains disappeared and it became very rocky. We pulled into Richfield, UT around dinner time. We were less than 2 hours away, but Jim's dad suggested we grab dinner at a diner there before heading the rest of the way.

Denver to Panguitch, UT - 543.68 miles


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