So today we got up early, loaded up the minivan, and headed home. All the way across Kansas. Max kept asking all day, “Are we in Raymore yet? Are we still in Colorado? Is it still a long time to get home?” It was chilly and rainy all day and the rain followed us home. Luckily, the kids were pretty good and I think everyone was ready to get home. Before I do my vacation recap, here are a few photos of the kids, happy to be at home in their own beds 🙂
Y = We didn’t like it or don’t recommend it
YY = We’re indifferent
YYY = We liked it
YYYY = We loved it!
YYYY Great Bend, Kansas: Ice Cream Churn at Zip Stop 2 The ice cream was great and very reasonably priced.
YYY Larned, Kansas: Rodeway Inn Nice clean hotel with internet access and free breakfast and it was pretty cheap.
Y La Junta, Colorado: Picketwire Canyon Lands Well, considering we never made it there, it only gets 1 heart. We found this in the Colorado vacation guide, but couldn’t find an address or anything. It wasn’t in our gps either. We called home and Papa googled it and gave us the address. We ended up turning around on a long dirt (I mean mud) road because we were afraid we were going to get stuck.
Y Walsenburg, Colorado: Budget Host Inn There was no internet, no breakfast, and no bathtub. But it really wasn’t that bad. It was clean, the air conditioner worked, and they had free ice. But it was the same price as the Rodeway Inn we stayed at in Larned, and not NEARLY as nice. Really though, the no internet part was the dealbreaker for us.
YYY Pagosa Springs, Colorado: Treasure Falls A nice long hike up 200 ft vertical, about 1/4 mile. Definitely worth the trek and the 30 minute break from riding in the car. (free)
YYY Pagosa Springs, Colorado: The Spa at Pagosa Springs I really wanted to stay at one of the hot springs resorts, but didn’t really want to fork over the cash they wanted. This place was not NEARLY as nice as the resort across the street, but they wanted $179/night, so we kept right on driving past there. This spa had a pass for $10/person to come in and just use the hot springs pools and you didn’t have to stay there. I went around 8:45 p.m. at night and they were open until 10 p.m. They had a big swimming pool, a smaller hot tub, and a bath house. Since I went at night, it was not crowded at all and was very relaxing. Definitely worth $10. But make sure you bring a towel because they charge $3 to rent one. Luckily the nice lady at the front let me ‘borrow’ one 🙂 Oh, and it’s super hard to find, even with a gps 🙁
YYYY Pagosa Springs, Colorado: The Malt Shoppe This was a tiny little place that said, “Old fashioned burgers” on the side of the building. We saw it when we drove through town five times looking for the spa. Their burgers and waffle fries were great! They were a little pricey… I think we spent about $25 for both of us to get a burger and fries, Josh had a malt, I had a coke, Max had a corn dog, and Ava had a hot dog. But the ice cream was great and cheap! We got the biggest ice cream cone EVER for $1.79. It was soft serve vanilla/chocolate swirl. Oh, and The Malt Shoppe gets bonus points for being home to the infamous facial hair quarter machine.
YYY Pagosa Springs, Colorado: Oak Ridge Lodge This was a really nice hotel. The room was big and clean. They had wireless internet, a heated indoor swimming pool that the kids loved, and it was next door to the hot springs spa I went to, so that was nice. It was a little pricey, but I’m sure that’s because Pagosa Springs is a tourist town. The free breakfast was served in the restaurant that was attached to the hotel. This was great for us because me and the kids ate the free breakfast and Josh got to order himself a ‘real breakfast’. The lady at the front desk at the hotel said they gave a discount on breakfast, but the waitress had no idea about a discount.
Y Durango, Colorado: Zuberfizz We were so excited to eat dinner here, but when we got there, they had a sign up that said, ‘summer hours 9 am to 5 pm’. What the heck is up with that?! That’s why they only get 1 heart.
YYY Durango, Colorado: Steamworks Brewery Since Zuberfizz was closed, we ended up here for dinner. Overall, the food was really good and so was the service. A little pricey, but again, Durango is a tourist town, so we kind of expected that.
YYYY Durango, Colorado: KOA Kampgrounds We rented a cabin here and I had to give it 4 hearts because it is really an awesome campground. Despite the fact that they spell campground with a ‘K’ instead of a ‘C’, we still loved it. Our experience probably would have been much better had we been prepared for camping, but we weren’t. But that’s our fault :). The campgrounds were super clean, they had a heated swimming pool, a playground, a doggie park, they show movies every night at 8 p.m., have ice cream at 7:30 p.m., pancakes in the morning, and the bathrooms were super clean. And they had hot water! I took a shower and it was just as nice as taking a shower in a hotel. The only downfall is that the bathroom was a short walk from our cabin, which wouldn’t have been a big deal if we didn’t have two little ones who always need to go potty 🙂 Oh, and the kids LOVED the bunk beds. And they had wireless internet!
YYY Mesa Verde, Colorado: Mesa Verde National Park We spent most of the day at the park and were able to visit two different cliff dwelling sites, the Spruce Tree and the Step House. We really enjoyed the park and the trails were not too tough. The only downfall is that once you get to the toll
gate at the front of the park, it’s still another 15 miles (up winding mountain roads at 25 mph) to the visitors center. Each site is another 10 to 15 miles. We ended up doing more driving than anything else.
YYYY Ouray, Colorado: Ouray Candy Company Mmm… the chocolate peanut turtles were yummy and the kids loved their green rock candy. After they ate the candy, they used the sticks as swords 🙂
Y Buena Vista, Colorado: Balloonavista This was a total bust. It looked like it was going to be this awesome hot air balloon festival. I envisioned hundreds of hot air balloons floating over the mountains. Yeah, they had 4 balloons. We had a really hard time even finding the rodeo grounds because there were no balloons there when we drove by. We were super bummed about this one, as we made the trip to Buena Vista just for the balloon festival.
YY Buena Vista, Colorado: Super 8 Motel We didn’t have cell phone service in Buena Vista, so we just pulled up to the first hotel and got a room. It was kind of expensive and I figured it was because so many people were in town for the balloon festival. Nope. Just expensive. And they said they had french toast sticks on the breakfast spread, but they did not, much to Josh’s dismay. No real complaints overall though, just expensive and no french toast.
YYY Woodland, Colorado: Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center This place was pretty cool and probably would have been more fun if our kids were a little older. Either way, they enjoyed looking at the dinosaur bones and they REALLY loved the dinosaur head biters we got at the gift shop.
YYYY Colorado Springs, Colorado: Garden of the Gods This place was awesome! It was so beautiful and the kids loved climbing on all the rocks. It’s a free park too. It’s definitely a must-see if you’re visiting the area!
YYYY Colorado Springs, Colorado: Seven Falls The waterfall was really beautiful and Max and Josh made the hike up all 224 steps to the top. It was too dangerous for the little ones, but they enjoyed the view from below. And they had ice cream in the snack shop… what more could you ask for?
YY Colorado Springs, Colorado: Rodeway Inn The hotel was nice and clean and they had free breakfast. The only downfall was that their wireless internet is not quite set up yet, so we only had internet access from the lobby.
YYYY Colorado Springs, Colorado: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo This was one of the best visits we had on our trip! The zoo was small enough that we were able to see everything in about 3 1/2 hours, but not so small that you felt you didn’t get your money’s worth. There were a lot of fun things for the kids to do, like feeding the giraffes and the budgie buddy birds. Everything was nice and clean and well kept. We would definitely go again if we’re ever in Colorado Springs.
YYY Colorado Springs, Colorado: Ghost Town Museum This was a cool little attraction, an indoor old western town. I think it would have been more fun for our kids if they were a little bit older, but they enjoyed the old fashioned telephones and the trick mirrors.
YY Colby, Kansas: Motel 6 This motel was super cheap and good enough. The room was clean, everything worked, and they had free internet, a fridge, and a microwave.
That’s it! Overall, we had a great trip and can’t wait for the next opportunity to pack up the minivan and head out on the road! We are hoping to head East next time, so if you have any suggestions, let us know!
Well, we made it home tonight. We had a boring day. We drove through thunderstorms off and on. It was cold, and windy, so we didn’t get to do any fun stuff with the kiddos today.
So, since I don’t have a lot of pictures to share, I decided to give you a list of stats from our trip:
1 – # of “unsafe backing” tickets I got
4 – # of hot air balloons at Balloonavista (only 4!!!!!!?????!!!!)
8 or 9 – # of times Max whacked someone with his new dino toy (usually Ava)
14 – # of times the kiddos ate nuggies and apples from McDonald’s
45 – # of minutes Jenny spent in the hot mineral springs (I think she could have slept there)
62 – # of times Ava asked to “ride the swings”
167 – # of times Lia stood up in her pack & play when she was supposed to be sleeping (causing the other kids to laugh and encourage her to do it some more)
1,095 – # of combined potty stops on the road
2,092 – # of miles driven on our 9 day road trip
2,517 – # of pictures taken by me and Jenny
1,568,246 – # of smiles I witnessed on my wife & kiddo’s faces during our trip and that’s all that matters 🙂
Today we got up and headed out into Colorado Springs for a day of adventuring. We headed out to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo first, the only mountain zoo in the country. We spent all morning and part of the afternoon there, but we were able to see all the animals. Max and Ava were really excited about the hippos, the bears, and the giraffes.
At the zoo, right when you walk in, they had a huge area where the giraffes live… supposedly the largest herd of giraffes in the world in any zoo. For $1, you could buy 3 giraffe crackers and feed them. The kids were scared, but Josh and I fed them. Then Max wanted to try. It was pretty cool. I had never seen a giraffe that close up before.
We kept walking and came to the ‘Budgie Buddies’ area. We almost skipped this in lieu of the wallabies, but I’m really glad we went back. This was probably the coolest area of the zoo. For $1, you could buy a popsicle stick with bird seed stuck to it. If you held up the stick, little birds would fly down and land on it and eat the seeds. The kids weren’t sure what to think of it at first, but they quickly got the hang of it and we ended up buying two more sticks once their first ones were empty.
They also had a really cool playground at the zoo and you know my kids were excited about that. There was even a crawling area for Lia and she was happy to get out of the stroller for a few minutes.
After the zoo, we headed to the Ghost Town Museum. It was a building set up as an old west town. It was kind of cool and the kids had fun playing with some of the old things, especially the telephones and the trick mirrors.
After the Ghost Town Museum, we thought, it’s time to get home already. We briefly contemplated driving straight through until we got home. But we decided that probably wouldn’t be a good idea. So we drove for several hours and stopped in Colby, KS.
The kids were pretty hyper in the car, playing with the balloons they got from Red Robin and their dinosaur heads from yesterday. I was taking photos of them when the most awesome flare started coming through the back window, so I had to keep shooting 🙂
Things I learned on day 8 of our road trip:
1. This is about the point in every vacation when I am ready to just be home already.
2. I get tired of McDonalds after eating it one time, but the kids never get tired of it.
3. When you are driving through small towns, there really is nowhere to eat except McDonalds, Burger King, and Sonic.
4. My kids would really be happy with a playground, some mac and cheese, and a couple of balloons.
Of course our kids were too scared to do it, so mommy and daddy had to. This giraffe had the longest tongue I’ve ever seen.
They also had this neat room where you could feed the birds. The birds would land on your stick if you held it up high enough.
So we got up early this morning, but not early enough to catch the 6 am ballon takeoff at the balloon festival. Good thing we made it in early last night and caught the balloon glow, because otherwise we would have missed it completely… all four hot air balloons.
So we hopped in the minivan this morning and headed to Colorado Springs. On the way, we stopped at the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center. On the way in, Max said, “I think we’re going to see not real dinosaurs Ava! They’re just dinosaur bones. A real dinosaur just bite me… AAh!” Ava replied, “A t rex just bite me… Aah!”
The kids had a good time at the dinosaur place, but they really just wanted to explore the gift shop and buy everything there :). We ended up getting these dinosaur heads on a stick that bite…. not my choice, but whatever. I wanted to get the dinosaur teepee, but Josh didn’t think we could fit it in the minivan. So dinosaur biters are what we ended up with.
After the dinosaur place, we headed to Garden of the Gods, which we heard was amazing. Of course, both girls fell asleep on the way there and were still asleep when we got there. I wasn’t about to wake either of them up, so I hung out in the car with them while Max and daddy went exploring.
They eventually woke up and we all headed out. There were huge rock formations everywhere and plenty of smaller ones where climbing was allowed. The kids were in heaven. We spent a good hour and a half walking around climbing on all the different rocks.
it’s like she’s saying, “where is my crib?!”
After Garden of the Gods, we headed to Seven Falls. The kids and I took the elevator up to the top and daddy decided to take the stairs… all 185 of them. After we looked for a couple minutes, we headed back down. Daddy wanted to climb the stairs on the other side (224 steps) and Max decided to go with him. Ava, Lia, and I just hung out and ate some dinner while we waited for them.
After Seven Falls, we were all pretty worn out, so we found a hotel and crashed. Of course, the one thing I asked when I called about the hotel is that we get one with internet. So of course, our room didn’t have internet… whatever.
Things I learned on day 7 of our road trip:
1. I’m still upset about the balloon festival.
2. I could save $20 or so by skipping the paid portion of most tourist attractions and taking my kids just into the gift shop.
3. My kids will happily eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day and not complain about it.
4. You should ALWAYS check your takeout food order, even when you’re the only one in the restaurant and the guy who rang you up checks your order. They messed up Josh’s tacos and forgot to give us our free dessert 🙁 The food was pretty good though.
Busy, busy day. We saw so much beauty on Day 7 it was crazy. And, I’m short on words tonight 🙂
Lia partied a little too hard last night and was ready for her nap before we left the hotel in the morning 🙂
We stopped for a bathroom break in Woodland Park. I checked the GPS and found this sweet dino museum less than a mile away…it was awesome!
Our best/worst purchases of the trip were these dinos. Best, because the kids love them and haven’t put them down since. Worst, because they usually end up hitting each other with them.
Then we hit up the Garden of the Gods (thanks to the Cole family for the recommendation) It was absolutely amazing. Max and I headed in first, because the girls were napping, but we quickly headed out, because Max was “cold.”
Ok, girls woke up, it warmed up, so the Solars trekked through the Garden as a family. Max & Ava were climbing on any rock they possibly could.
Then we headed to 7 Falls, which was also pretty. Note: This shot was taken
at ISO 100, 1/5 shutter, and f/16 aperture, hand held 🙂
My brave little Max climbed up 224 STEEP steps to the top of the falls. Let’s just say that I held on to his hand TIGHT. I was so nervous, but at the same time, I’m not about to tell him no when he’s perfectly capable of climbing those stairs. I wish I would have gotten a shot of all the stairs we climbed up (you can see the stairs in Jenny’s shot here), but all I could think about was holding his little hand as tight as possible. He was pretty proud of himself (the shot below was taken at the top) once we made it to the top…and I was too 🙂
Ava wanted to go to the top, too, but we wouldn’t let her, so we took her picture at the bottom of the falls 🙂