Thursday Thoughts #17

Thursday Thoughts

Now that you’ve read about the toys and gadgets that got us through a cross country road trip, I’m going to share the more exciting story of our journey, with lots of pictures!

Because we were moving two vehicles and two children my mom more than generously volunteered to help us. If she weren’t with us I have no doubt that the timeline you see below would have had another day or two added to it, and a whole lot more frustration. Being able to have two people in the car with the boys was amazing.

We planned the general idea of our route from Ohio to California but the details of each day’s drive weren’t hammered out until the night before. I was hesitant to book hotel rooms in advance because, truth be told, there wasn’t any way to predict how the boys would handle the long stretches of driving or how long 6 hours would actually take. We knew we wanted to start out on the North route to see friends from Auburn located in Omaha and Denver. After that we knew we wanted to stop at the Grand Canyon and I wanted to add a second detour to the Four Corners.

Day 0

Our movers showed up on the Monday after Easter to pack up our belongings and on Tuesday they loaded everything onto the moving truck. (I’ll do another Thursday Thoughts on handling the move later.) We knew we wanted to turn in our house keys that day and get started on the drive.

Day 1

To our surprise, loading day took under 5 hours and we were on the road a little before 3 pm ET after having grabbed lunch at a diner in town. After the boys napped for 2.5 and 3.5 hours we stopped at a Pilot for gas, bathroom breaks, diaper changes, and water. We let Firecracker run around in a grassy area and he had a blast running races against Daddy. Cross Country Move (1)

Another two hours later, at 8 pm CT, and we stopped for dinner in Bloomington, IL. We picked a pizza bar, Lucca’s, but almost had to search for something else. This place was the kind of restaurant where you need reservations. Not because it’s fancy, but because it’s that good. To our luck the reserved table of 6 dwindled down to a party of 2 so we were given their table and the two gentlemen sat at the bar. When we walked in I was surprised to see a fair number of children! They had highchairs, but no changing tables. Firecracker was provided two coloring books and a cup of crayons for use while we waited on our order. The pizza was incredible – thin crust, crispy, and cut into square, as all good Illinois pizza should be! Their sausage was easily the best I’ve ever had.

While at dinner we looked ahead at the map and called a couple of hotels less than an hour away. We ended up spending the night in Morton, IL. Both kids fell asleep after dinner but only Treat transferred to the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper without waking up, and he slept through the night! Firecracker ended up waking up on the walk into the hotel and picked up a burst of energy. He did not end up in the port-a-crib and instead had to be pinned down between us in the king size bed, where he did eventually sleep through the night.

Day 2

WDE 5 monthsBefore getting started back on the road I had to take Treat’s 5 month photos in the hotel room!

IMG_0742We got going at 9:45 am CT and drove until noon for lunch and gas in Iowa City. There was a big hill by the parking lot and Firecracker got out some energy running up and down it. Our next break was a rest area just outside of Des Moines where there was a small playground! Firecracker preferred to play with the rocks and mulch while I nursed Treat.

The early evening drive was fairly smooth; almost every toy was pulled out, and Scout
was a favorite. But, nearing our destination, Firecracker let out some crying outbursts of “Dada!” Thanks to the wonderful technology of Bluetooth, I was able to give Daddy a call and have his voice broadcast through the van’s speakers. It worked beautifully and we made it to Omaha a little after 5:30 pm CT.

We had a great visit with one of my best friends from college and his wife. Firecracker loved playing fetch with their dogs before we went to dinner where conversation was flowing as if 2.5 years hadn’t gone by without seeing each other.

Both boys again fell asleep after dinner and this time they both stayed asleep. Our hotel room had two queen beds this time and we put Firecracker in the center of one surrounded by pillows. He slept all night. Treat woke up around 2 am and stayed awake for 2.5 hours.

Day 3

We got a little bit of a late start owing to the need to give the boys baths. At 10 am CT we started the drive, this time Stuart joined me in the van and my mom drove our other vehicle. There weren’t a lot of opportunities to stop, and with 7-10 miles between exits every child meltdown got harder to stop. Around lunch time Firecracker really wanted a turn behind the wheel so after a very loud 5 minutes we took a break at 1:40 to eat.


IMG_0794It was my turn for a meltdown when we missed the Welcome to Colorado sign. We pulled off at the Welcome Center rest stop so I could calm down and decide if I was actually going to turn us around so we could cross the state line again. Thankfully they had the same signage at the Welcome Center and backtracking was not necessary. This Welcome Center was insanely hospitable, there were countless pamphlets for what seemed every city in the state and we were given a free state map. The volunteer staff tried to help us plan our route to the Four Corners, too. We spent an frighteningly long break at this rest stop.

Middle of Nowhere Emergency Diaper ChangeAbout an hour outside of Denver, Treat had a major diaper blow out. We literally stopped in the middle of nowhere to make a diaper and wardrobe change. I was quite thankful for the bed pad I’d put down. I was also quite thankful for deodorized diaper disposal bags!

We got to Denver around 7:30 pm MT.

The hotel had a full sized fridge in the room and I was able to completely refreeze the breast milk I was hoping to transport to California with us. (Spoiler alert, it didn’t survive…) Staying in the city meant our vehicles had to be valeted during our stay. I felt the pressure to unload the 50 million items we need each night quickly, I absolutely hate holding people up. Unfortunately in my rushed state I failed to grab food for Firecracker. Before we walked to dinner we had to ask the valet to bring the van back around so I could make him a sandwich. We met up with another friend from college and we got to meet his fiancé. We’re looking forward to seeing him some more, as we were stationed in FL together. His job sends him out our way every now and then and my husband’s his way. And of course we’ll see him for their wedding in the Fall!

Day 4


The night was really rough. The time difference really got to Firecracker and he was overly tired, which meant next-to-no sleep. I woke up with him at 5:30 am MT and we took a quiet stroll down the hall until breakfast was served at 6.

We booked a hotel for the night and got an early start and walked to Starbucks before leaving Denver at 9 am MT. Firecracker absolutely loved riding on each and every luggage cart we needed to use.

The stunning drive took us through mountains and plains and very few places to stop. Good thing my boys (husband included) took long naps! It was an interesting drive leaving Denver – there were stretches of road where I was in the only lane headed West with three lanes of traffic heading East – and no median! Down mountains! I would have loved for Mom to have been the lead vehicle at that moment.

IMG_0846With stomachs growling we stopped in the tiny town of Saguache, CO. The diner where we ate was a great find. All of the food was fantastic. Mom got a BLT on homemade jalapeno cheddar bread. After tasting hers I regretted not doing the same. With breakfast served all day Firecracker enjoyed the fluffiest blueberry pancakes ever and I had French toast (because who can resist homemade bread!?). I don’t recall what they named the dish that Stuart ordered, but it was a flour tortilla topped with refried beans, potatoes, onions, cheese, a gravy-type sauce, and sour cream. I loved it! Mom also got a slice of homemade mixed berry pie.

Overall, we took a two hour driving break and did some walking down the main street and popped our head in some of the shops. They actually had a working paper press for their local newspaper which was neat to see!


We made it to Cortez, CO at 7:30 pm MT. We did laundry and went to bed.

Day 5

Today was a fun day. Our first stop was to the Four Corners! I was the only person excited about this pit stop on the drive, but by the time we left everyone was wishing we’d had more time and can’t wait to go back. We had a lot of fun taking pictures at the corner and we even got to do a little hiking nearby.

Four Corners Monument            Four Corners Hiking

At the Four Corners there are local vendors selling lots of jewelry and pottery. I got an ornament to commemorate our trip. There was also a stand selling fry bread. This pastry was delicious! We tried a few different toppings: apple butter, honey, and cinnamon sugar. (You can probably guess which one was mine!)

Fry Bread

We weren’t entirely sure how long it would take us to get to the Grand Canyon and at one point we pulled off on the side of the road to double check the maps. My car’s GPS was taking us to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which would have been closed at this time of year. Thankfully we thought something was fishy about how long it was supposed to take us and we re-consulted with Google. We needed the East Rim, cutting 3 hours off the travel time! There weren’t any good places to stay along the way past the Grand Canyon so our options were to spend the money in the tourist area or backtrack to Flagstaff. We called a Holiday Inn Express at the Grand Canyon and they had one room available, and at a decent rate. My mom was going to have to bunk with our family of four for the night.

As we approached the Grand Canyon we saw a sign that said $30 per vehicle. Well, we had 2 vehicles! I started to fret over the price and convinced myself that instead of thinking of it as a “per vehicle” cost, to divide that number amongst our party and look at it as “$20 per person and kids are free” which seemed much more reasonable.

Upon arriving at the entrance to the Grand Canyon I was reminded that as an active duty military member, we get access to all National Parks for free!

Both Stuart and I had been to the Grand Canyon as children with our families, but it was a whole new experience going as adults. Pictures can’t illustrate the sense of awe and wonderment that one feels looking at the expanse, seeing the reds, oranges, and browns. If the boys were older we would have planned to spend much more time at the Grand Canyon, but our couple hour visit was well worth it and we can’t wait to go back. I don’t know if we’d ever camp in the canyon, but we’d definitely love to do some actual hiking. Firecracker kept wanting to go “down” and I definitely watched my husband’s hold on him tighten the closer they got to the edge.

Grand Canyon National Park

Day 6

Somewhere still in Arizona (I believe Seligman), Firecracker got to watch his first real life train at one of our stops. There were a lot of train sightings along the way and he had fun spotting them from the car window.

This final day of driving was the hardest on me. I wasn’t mentally prepared for the expanse of desert after crossing the California border and there were only a handful of places to stop on I-40. Time seemed to stand still while we drove on a never ending highway of sand.

Day 7 & 8

We spent our first two nights in Los Angeles in a hotel by the airport while we waiting for our temporary housing to be available. Firecracker loved watching the airplanes land and take-off. My mom flew back to Florida on day 8. There aren’t enough words in my vocabulary to indicate how much we appreciated her taking so much time out of her hectic schedule to help ours.

Days 9 – 22IMG_0995

Two weeks were spent living in temporary housing while we explored the area and did some house hunting. The small space was equipped with a little kitchen, in which I made my Cali inspired Fish Tacos. While the boys learned how to share a room in hotels on the drive, they really started their co-habitation in our temporary living quarters. Firecracker discovered the joys of a community laundry facility and had great fun pushing the baskets across the room and being pushed in the baskets. Treat even learned how to roll over during our stay! The location of the temporary housing was 30 minutes south of where we ended up finding a home in which to live, and my boys definitely became less than enthusiastic about the traffic. Firecracker learned the phrase “slow traffic” from the van’s GPS.

I am grateful for the availability of temporary housing and the permissive time off provided to Stuart for house hunting. We were able to explore the surrounding neighborhoods and find the perfect fit for our family.

On day 24 the movers delivered {almost} all of our belongings. Stay tuned for that grand adventure next week (or the next chance I get to use internet)!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

6 thoughts on “Thursday Thoughts #17

  1. Wow, that is truly a ‘grand’ adventure, as you said. You drove right through my old stomping grounds of central Iowa, near Des Moines. My husband is from Athens, Ohio. Road trips like this are so memorable!

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