Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cuyahoga Valley and the Buckeyes

July 28th-Day 5

After a harrowing drive through a severe thunder storm with heavy, driving rain (We found out later there was a tornado warning in effect for the area), we arrived in Richfield, OH-not far from Cleveland. We ate dinner (hummus, pita bread, bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, cheese, and nuts), and went straight to bed. On the agenda for the next day was Kirtland and Cuyahoga Valley National Park. In the morning, it was cold and rainy, so we decided to start in Kirtland, where most of our activities would be indoors. The tour of the temple was interesting, but the real gem for me was the tour of the Whitney Store. I have heard the stories of the church history events that happened there my whole life. To see it all in person was insightful. One of the missionaries who took us on the tour was a student at BYU-I. She asked us about the recent flooding and said she couldn't wait to go back. The other missionary told us her family was the opposite of ours: She has 4 brothers. To that Wendy said, "That must me awful."

The weather cleared, and we went on our way to Cuyahoga Valley, where we had lunch (bagels with pesto, ham, and provolone cheese; carrot sticks). We forgot to bring the water, so I went into a gift shop to see if I could find some suitable beverages. I came out with a variety of locally made, naturally sweetened sodas, and some buckeyes-I saw something strange sitting on the counter and asked what they were. The lady guessed I wasn't local and explained that it was a local candy made to look like a Buckeye seed. It is made from peanut butter and chocolate which is a family favorite. So, we all got to sample some local treats.

A couple of short hikes and visitor centers later, Wendy and Nicole had earned their Jr. Ranger badges and we felt like we had a good feel for the park.
Kirtland Temple
Brandywine Falls

Boardwalk hike

Monday, July 28, 2014


When we planned this trip, we had grand visions of natural wonders, family and friends, seeing exotic places, and meeting interesting people.  We did not envision hardship.  Hardship, however, did come.

The first night, we set up camp to failing light with a squadron of dive-bombing mosquitoes.  The second day, while climbing Mt. Evans, we needed to do over a mile of bush-whacking through a mucky bog. The third day, we walked through Chicago without a shower since Rexburg.  The fourth day we weathered an intense rainstorm randomly looking for a place to stay while a tornado raged only 20 miles away.  During each of these trials, I never once heard the girls complain. Never once!

We did not plan on any of these trials, but they came nonetheless. Each time the girls displayed their can-do attitude, each time they shrugged off discomfort, each time they helped out their sister who was struggling, they became just a little bit stronger. I am coming to realize that possibly trials are an integral part of this trip and, quite possibly, a part of our life.  It is more important to weather these trials well rather than to simply run from them.

If only I remembered that when a semi drifted into our lane and almost smashed us against the barrier.  I saw it coming and took evasive action.  Unfortunately I let a word slip... which one of the kids overheard!  We spent the next ten minutes talking about defensive driving and how we need to do all we can to keep ourselves safe, even when we are obeying the rules and others are not. Trials tend to become excellent teaching opportunities,,, when we let them.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Indiana Dunes State Park

July 26th-Day 3

We were warned-something about bad neighborhoods and homicide rates in Gary, IN. Apparently, Indiana Dunes State Park is far enough away to not be a concern. It is a bit crowded, but well-kept and pleasant, and wow is it humid. It is near the shore of Lake Michigan and has some pretty serious sand dunes, too. The long (1100-miles in one shot) drive went OK. I slept from 9P until about 2A, while James drove and sipped on a Red Bull. I then drove for about an hour while James slept. He somehow managed on less than 2 hours of sleep for the night. After a quick stop at Trader Joe's for food for the next 3 days, we arrived in Chicago at about 3P and walked around for a couple of hours. We reminisced about the last time we were here and tried to park in a parking garage with our minivan and roof box on top then ended up not fitting and having to send someone (me) down to the bottom to stop traffic while James backed down the spiral to get out. to We did not make that mistake again. Somehow we managed to find meter parking relatively near where we planned to eat dinner. It's always exciting to be in a city. After walking around for a couple of hours, we went to "Unos" for authentic Chicago-style pizza. Super deep dish and loaded. One piece is more than a meal!

Soon after we got back onto the freeway in the direction of Indiana, Nicole said she had to go to the bathroom-BAD. We took the next exit and soon realized we were in a bad part of town. We wanted to get out of dodge, but when you have to go, you have to go. So, we found a gas station and pulled in to the parking lot. James said, "I am going in with her and you stay in the car and lock the doors until I get back." It turned out to be a very educational moment as the kids asked questions about why these people are the way they are.

After arriving at our destination, pleasantly surprised to find that it is not scary, we set up camp, hit the beach, and took our first showers of the trip so far. Running water really is a wonderful thing. And these showers were free, and mostly clean. We then went to bed early and slept late-so late that we missed church. Wendy said, "Well, I was looking forward to 3 hours of church, but now I guess we'll just have to go back to the beach and read scriptures." So, they went to the beach and I'm sitting here, following the shade as I work on family history in my swim suit...

Mt. Evans, CO

Near the start of the hike

A brief rest before a steep climb

The scrambling was the most fun

Past the hardest part!


Mt Evans July 25, 2014-day 2

We arrived at Guanella Pass Campground, which is near Georgetown, CO around 7:00P. We made dinner and set up camp. Everyone was in bag (bed) at 9:00. In the morning, we quickly ate breakfast of apple cinnamon bread, almond butter, yogurt, granola, and cherries. After breakfast and packing up camp, we drove to the trailhead and Wendy and I said goodbye to James, Christine, Amber, and Nicole as they set out on a 5-mile, 3100-foot elevation gain hike to the top of Mt. Evans (14,200 ft).

Wendy and I planned to hike around Echo Lake and drive to the summit to meet up with the happy hikers. As we hiked around the lake, Wendy and I had a fun conversation, prompted by this question: “Mom, if you were rich, what would you buy?” I turned the question back to her and she quickly said that she would buy the biggest sofa she could find so she could have the box. THE BOX. When I asked her what she planned to do with the sofa, she said she hadn’t thought about that yet.

After hiking around the lake, we headed to the summit. You can actually drive most of the way to the top if you don’t mind hairpin turns with serious exposure off the edge of an impossibly narrow road with no shoulder. Once we got to the parking area, we made the arduous ¼ mile trek to the summit. While we were up there, it snowed briefly. After hanging out at the top sharing some Jelly Bellys with Wendy, we decided to go down to the car to wait for the others. When they arrived, we exchanged stories about our day and got into the car to find a spot to make lunch. Ahead of us we have an overnight drive to get to Indiana Dunes State Park, not far from Gary, IN. The few people I have talked to who know the area say it is a bit scary. We are hoping for the best, both for the long drive and our next destination.


It's been almost 2 years since my last post on this blog. I have periodically been posting on my food blog, but family and school have gotten the best of me, and some things just have to go...However, this year we are doing another cross country trip, and I want to document it for posterity, or something like that. Our main destination is New England, but there are many interesting stops between here and there.

As we have talked about this trip with people, their main questions have been basically, "How?" and, "Why?" The answer to the first question will hopefully be answered within the text of the posts. The answer to the second question is easily summed up as follows: We do this because we get our family to ourselves for an entire month. No friends, no lessons, no house cleaning or yard work. We also do it becuase we live a sheltered life in our little monoculture town, and we like to introduce "the world" to our kids on our own terms. We see new and interesting (and sometimes disturbing) things, and then we have hours in the car to talk about what we saw and discuss things together. We also do it because we can. An endeavor like this is not for everyone. It requires a LOT of what my Dad would call "hassle." You have to be willing to put up with a lot of inconvenience associated with being on the road. If that's not your cup of tea, than don't do it! We camp most nights, prepare most of our own food, and even wash our dishes. Showering in public showers or in a bathing suit under our solar shower, or going without a shower for longer than you would like is not everyone's idea of fun. Especially for a family with 5 girls. But for some reason, it's worth it to us, all of us. I'll never understand why our kids don't complain when I expect that they will, why they somehow just suck up the hard times and revel in the good times, but they do. We do it because it brings us closer as a family and teaches us to deal with inconvenience in stride and appreciate all of the conveniences we usually have. We do it for all of the "magic moments" that happen when you least expect them.