Sunday, April 29, 2012

A wee frustrated

I just lost 3/4 of a post! So frustrating!

Driving down the Pacific Coastal Highway in California in the big blue van was a bit nerve racking. Not as bad as driving a little go cart of a car through the Dingle Peninsula of Ireland but still a nail biter none the less. Carmel was quite beautiful. We took time to frolic in the sand and tides.

We found another lovely place to stay. The Carmel River Inn has bungalows with fireplaces at surprisingly reasonable prices. We checked in, had a fire, and woke up to a secret garden. The grounds were in bloom with hammocks and porch swings and trails that the children played scouting cowboys.

Santa Monica was our resting ground. Hot dogs on a stick and the Popeyes cartoon were started there. North of Malibu, we visited Leo Carrillo State Park. What a wonderland with rocks to climb, caves to explore while ocean water splashes about, and tidal pools filled with starfish, sea urchins, crabs, mussels, and little squid were living. Thank you Kathy for the recommendation.

I must confess that we did go to Hollywood Blvd. We had some fun finding the stars for Bugs Bunny and Big Bird.

Leaving California, we spent the night at an old friend's house, whom we haven't seen nor kept in touch with in over 10 years. Thank you Facebook!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

San Francisco and beyond

With the snow storm we missed the gold digger sites and the story of Donner pass. But we did get to visit some Tyrrell family history from when my two oldest babes were wee babes. Our old apartment, from 10 years back when we lived in Sacramento, looks the same as well as the parks and such around it.

Old Sacramento looks much like an old western town. The boys were excited to find metal cowboy cap guns that they've been saving for.

In San Fran, we wandered through Ghiradelli Square and along the piers. We watched cable cars turn around and a man perform a Houdini like trick freeing himself from chains that attached him to a lamppost. Lunch was clam chowder in none other than the famous sour dough bread and shrimp eaten outside with the aggressive seagulls.

My favorite part were the elephant seals on pier 39. We could just watch them for hours.

Of course the best part was spending time with old friends from when Chris worked on the Simon Campaign, Dan and Alison Brennan. Alison has since become a best selling author of mystery/steamy romances.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Snow Chains

We played in snow in Wyoming, up high in the mountains but we didn't have to drive through any until we hit Reno. The highway pass over the Sierra Nevada-Donner Pass- required snow chains. Chris left us at 5am for a meeting in San Fran without knowing he needed chains. Thankfully he was able to buy them and have them put on when he got toward the pass. I, on the other hand needed to be prepared mentally and physically for going across. After a big breakfast, I bought chains and had the mechanic show me how to put them on.

Up the hill we went. I was surprised that it had stopped snowing and the roads were perfectly clear. Obediently, I stopped on the side of the road where the sign said to and put on my chains. I was so proud of myself. Then through the pass I went. And still there was n snow on the ground. Praise God! I've heard it can be really bad up their especially because of all the trucks. On the other side, I took off the chains and continued on our way. The snow started again, more heavily as we descended into Placerville. Then rain. Then bullet sized hail.

I crashed and went to bed immediately after arriving in Silicon Valley.

Salty Miles

Our stay in Salt Lake City was overcast and rainy so we missed the backdrop of the mountains. We visited with friends from Chris' law school days.

Then we drove and drove. I had no idea that the Salt Lake leads to something called the Salt Flats. It is flat for miles and miles, probably more like an hour of flat beach type sand. Morton's Salt company had a salt plant here. Then you get to the end that is hard flat sand. This area is called the Bonneville Salt Flat and is used for speed trials.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Friendly Blessings

Easter was spent with an old girlfriendish friend of Chris' whom he met in Paris 19 years ago and lives in Rapid City. What a warm and wonderful welcome her family extended to us. As we were planning this trip, my one request was that we wouldn't spend Easter eating at McDonalds. I got so much more than that. A real family dinner with good people who truly believe in the resurrection.

Leaving their house made me wish I had taken pictures of all the new and old friends we've met along the way. The doors that were open to hosting us for a night, sharing a meal, and using their washers. We are so richly blest!

Bad guys in the Badlands

The ooohhsss and ahhhhhssss from the back of the van made our whole trip worth it. No one (except me) had been to the Badlands before. It's amazing that you drive through grassland and more grassland and then suddenly you come to these huge canyons and castle type formations carved into the land. This used to be a great sea and the land is mostly soil, not rock. Driving along, we saw bison (lots of them), bighorn sheep, antelope, and prairie dogs.

We also made a stop at one of the Minuteman Missile Silos used or rather not used during the Cold War.

The kids enjoyed getting Junior Ranger books in which they did activities to earn a badge.

Next stop Mt . Rushmore.

Where the buffalo roam

Leaving South Dakota, I got really nauseous and dizzy for a spell. I realized later that it probably had to do with the elevation.

We drove to the far southwest corner of Wyoming to Mountainview, where we met up with a friend's mother. She led us 45 minutes up the mountain to her "cabin" in the woods. It was incredibly built with real huge logs and details that were truly unique.

This "pioneer" woman wanted us to shoot beaver but there weren't any beaver to be seen while we were there. Instead we hiked through the mud and snow, learned about tracking animals mainly by their poop, and learning to lash poles together--we made a rustic chair. Chris also took the kids on ATV rides. Let's just say we were all a little muddy by the time we were through.

I also found it amusing that I was fine hiking through snow, sometimes knee deep, but completely winded walking up or down the stairs.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Prairie Trail

Good Friday wasn't our normal Good Friday. We drove the Laura Ingalls Wilder Highway through Mankato, Sleepy Eye and Walnut Grove. We spent about an hour at the museum. It was really neat to see a replica of the Plumcreek dugout home.

We then went to Tracy for Good Friday services. The service was so beautiful even though Little Dude and Doodles were a bear. Little D was so attentive when they took down the covered crucifix from the ceiling then uncovered Jesus. He was so tender when we went up and touched the feet of Jesus. Doodles was insistent that she touch Jesus' feet. Afterward she kept repeating, "I touched Jesus' feet.".

We then drove and drove to Wall,SD, where the famous Wall Drug is. It's story is about a pharmacist and his family wanted to open up their own pharmacy and traveled to towns trying to find one with a Catholic Church so they could attend daily mass. They bought the drug store with a $3000 inheritance and moved to the small poor town. Business was slow for years until the pharmacist's wife on a particularly hot day and hearing motorists on the highway thought that the motorists must be thirsty. She made up signs offering free ice water. That was all it took. Now the place is on the map still offering free ice water, 5 cent coffee and sooo much more.

We stayed down the street at the Sunshine Motel. It was super clean, cheap, and the owner was so attentive and grateful for our business.

Twin Cities

Hotel bunk rooms have become our new thing. The Radisson at the Waterpark of America was fantastic! Free passes with your room.

The Cathedral of St. Paul is absolutely divine. Our children were totally in awe and speechless as we entered which is unusual and didn't last but a few moments.

I was surprised by the middle eastern population in Minneapolis. And the food---oh my!!! We ate at Holy Land. Some kids were in tears because we ordered for them, wanting to try new things. Once they began eating they were all smiles and their plates were clean!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

With ease

Even though we've been getting to hotels pretty late and most of the kids have fallen asleep, we've managed well. Our system has been to put everything they need for the night in their overnight bag(each child has their own in a different color). This includes pj's, a pull up if needed, and their clothes for the next day. Chris and I also have a bag. Our clean clothes are kept in drawers in the van so I can fill the bags each day handily from each of the drawers. Then the only other bag that needs to come in is the toiletry bag. Our only snafu was allowing little man to walk into the hotel without shoes, which were required for breakfast the next morning.Eau Claire, Wisconsin had the best hotel to date for families. Two sets of bunkbeds, the twin up top and double on the bottom, plus a queen. Let's just say it was a sleepfest for our clan. Too bad it was only one night. Thank you Metropolis Hotel for thinking outside the box.Soon I will post photos...I promise.

Saturday, March 31, 2012


For those of you who don't know, my family is just beginning a 6 week trek across the USA. 7 children, one in utero, over 6,000 miles, 29 states. For those who might find this an opportunity to do whatever in our house while we're gone: it's being lived in so no, it's not vacant and secondly, we have seven kids...they've already trashed anything of value!Now for snippets from our trip thus far: We've had many chuckles trying to say "toy boats" five times fast. No one's been able to do it!We spent a maddening twenty minutes trying to find a turnpike ticket that we either a) already paid b) never had c) merely dreamed aboutIn fact, the booth we parked in front of was where you pick up the ticket, NOT where you pay. We had a good hearty laugh after that.Our first big stop was in Steubenville, Ohio to see good friends of ours. Rob, Tom, and Emily are godparents to some of our children. I promise to figure out how to post photos from my phone soon!