Thursday, February 28, 2013

Road Trip: Day 14

Today we left Rapid City for the boring drive across South Dakota to Sioux Falls.  Except for a stop at the always-tacky Wall Drug, it was pretty uneventful.

When we got to the hotel, we went swimming.  Afterwards, we went up to the room.  We ordered pizza and watched ParaNorman, which might have been a tad scary for Calvin.  Fortunately, I think he's too tired for it to keep him awake!

When we asked Calvin what his favorite part of today was, he said eating pizza in the hotel room!  Tomorrow we head home!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Road Trip: Day 13

After last night's white-out conditions, we woke up to a calm, sunny Cheyenne morning, relatively speaking.  Apparently that area is pretty much always a little windy.  And since it was still around 20 degrees this morning, the first hour and a half of our drive was still pretty treacherous.  By the time we got out of the city into ranch country, the wind was blowing the snow across the road and causing some serious black ice.  Instead of the posted 65 mph, which basically means 70+, I could only go 50 or so.

Finally, by the time we were hitting a rest area around 11am in the middle of nowhere, the temperature had finally warmed up enough to start melting the black ice, speeding our progress.  We had lunch in the relatively large town (by Wyoming standards, population close to 10k) of Torrington, WY.

We followed US-85 a couple more hours north until heading east into South Dakota.  Shortly after, we stopped off at the Crazy Horse Monument.  The price is definitely a little steep for what you get.  It was $20 for us -- they charge $10/person... Calvin was free, which is good since he didn't get too much out of it -- to see a partially finished statue.  In fact, it doesn't really look much more finished than what I recall decades ago.  I appreciate that the scale is much larger than Mt. Rushmore.  But honestly, since you can't get very close to it (unless you shell out more money for a van tour), the scale doesn't really matter.

After that, we headed to Mt. Rushmore.  It was a much better deal at a flat $11, and that got us a pass that's good for the rest of 2013.  And Calvin thought it was pretty cool!

Then it was a short drive to Rapid City.  We had dinner at the Colonial House and then headed to our hotel.  When we asked Calvin what his favorite part of today was, it was "the mountain with the faces on it."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Road Trip: Day 12

Today didn't quite go according to plan but it all worked out eventually.  This morning, Denise decided she wanted to drive and promptly got pulled over for speeding.  In her defense, she was passing someone and the cop even said he totally understood.  Unfortunately, he came back and told us that Denise's license was coming up as suspended.  We both just laughed and assured him that it had to be a mistake.  But I pulled up the Minnesota DMV site on my phone and, sure enough, her license showed suspended.  Near as we can figure, it was from a speeding ticket Denise got in Iowa about a year and a half ago.  We paid it, but some lines must have gotten crossed somewhere and they must have suspended her license.  Of course this is all without telling us!  We had no idea that Denise has most likely been driving around for the last year and a half on a suspended license!  Hopefully it'll be easy to straighten out... once Denise can actually get a hold of someone!

So obviously I had to resume driving responsibilities and once again, we were off.  From Salida, we took some nice curvy roads through the Rockies.  Or at least they should've been nice if it weren't for the snow.  But we made it through, we just had to drive a little slow in places.  We made it to Denver with a couple of hours left for Calvin to play at the Children's Museum.  He had a lot of fun!

After that, it should have been an easy hour-long drive on the interstate up to Cheyenne.  But as we got close to the Wyoming border, we saw signs that said the interstate was closed!  So we were forced to take a fairly long detour through the middle of nowhere on gravel roads until we hooked up with US 85.  By the time we got there, the snow was blowing pretty good.  We continued north towards Wyoming, not even knowing if that road was going to be closed too and we'd be forced to turn around.

But we managed to make it, but it was full-on blizzard conditions by the time we pulled into the hotel parking lot.  I overheard that the interstates are closed in every direction tonight.  It's supposed to clear up tomorrow morning so hopefully we'll be able to get out of here so we can make it to Rapid City tomorrow!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Road Trip: Day 11

Thanks to Calvin waking up around 7am this morning, we got an early start.  We drove back through Monument Valley into Arizona to Kayenta before heading east towards Four Corners.  All the way through Four Corners into Colorado, there were constantly Navajo trying to hawk cheap crap but they're fairly easy to ignore.  Sadly, Four Corners itself is in the "Navajo Nation" and they stuck us for $6 to spend 5 minutes standing at the monument.

We didn't even touch an interstate today!  We had a really cool drive through the Rockies to Salida, CO.  Thankfully, we got here during daylight hours and had a nice dinner at a Seafood Bar/Restaurant called Currents.  I had some great locally made wine!

Now we need to figure out what our route tomorrow will be!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Road Trip: Day 10

Today we spent the morning with Grandpa and Grandma Schmidt and Uncle Ryan in Phoenix, talking, looking at pictures, etc.  For lunch, by special request of Denise, we had some pizza at Sauce. Then once again we hit the road.

Since we had planned on taking a longer, more leisurely route back home, for the first time on our trip we spent most of the time off an interstate.  After taking I-17 north to Flagstaff, we took mostly U.S. highways northeast through Monument Valley just into Utah.  Tomorrow we'll drive back through Monument Valley so we can see it during daylight, hit the Four Corners, and then take another backroads drive through the Rockies to Salida, CO.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Road Trip: Day 9

Today we met up with my parents and Uncle Ryan, who drove up from Tucson.  Then we all went to the Phoenix Zoo.  We got to see all kinds of animals including giraffes, elephants, lions, tigers, and a whole bunch of others.  We even got to pet a bunch of rays!  Calvin was a little scared of them but he still pet a couple of them.

Just like the Minnesota Zoo, they had a petting zoo which is always a favorite of Calvin's.  He especially enjoys petting all of the goats.  And I do mean ALL of them!

We we asked Calvin what his favorite part of today was, he said the animals.  When he asked him to be more specific, he said the tiger!

Road Trip: Day 8

Since our trip to the beach got rained out yesterday, we checked out of our hotel and headed towards Coronado, but this time we went to the north side.  Even though that’s actually the side of the island that faces the bay rather than the ocean, there’s a boardwalk with a bunch of little shops.  After having lunch at an awesome little pizza place, we headed back to the other side of the island near the Hotel Del Coronado.  Calvin had a blast running around on the beach and into the waves.

Then we officially turned around in the general direction of home, taking I-8 east towards Phoenix.  All that playing at the beach must've worn Calvin out (or he was still catching up from Disneyland) because he checked out before we even left San Diego.  He slept for 3 hours in the car!  Then just a couple of hours later, we were in Phoenix and back to the Mountain time zone and sub-$4 gas (yay!).

Tomorrow my parents and Uncle Ryan will be coming up from Tucson to join us!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Road Trip: Day 7

Today was kind of a relaxing travel day.  After packing up everything from the hotel room, we spent the morning bumming around Downtown Disney. Specifically, we spent the majority of a couple hours of the morning in the immense World of Disney store and the Lego store.

Calvin fell asleep pretty quick after we hit I-5 south towards San Diego.  On the way, Denise and I hit an In N' Out Burger drive-thru.  We also took a short detour down to the PCH to get a peek at the ocean.

After finding our hotel and unloading some stuff, we headed towards the ocean so Calvin could play around at the beach.  But we had some bad luck in the weather department.  Even though San Diego supposedly has perfect weather year-round, a brief but nasty rain storm passed through while we were at Coronado Beach and we were forced back to the car.  Naturally, the rain was over by the time we made it back across the Coronado Bridge but it was too late.

So instead we bummed around Old Town.  Among the assorted little shops, we hit an old time candy store which Calvin obviously loved.  Then we hit the Old Town Mexican Cafe for a delicious dinner.  Calvin was pretty amazed by the mariachi band that came around and played for us during dinner!

Not surprisingly, Calvin said his favorite part of today was the candy store!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Road Trip: Day 6

Today was Disneyland: Day 2.  We went back to go to the other side of the park, California Adventure.  Calvin was very excited since that’s where Cars Land is.  On the way in, Calvin got to see Mickey again and give him a big hug.

Cars Land is basically an exact recreation of Radiator Springs, the fictional little town from the movie Cars.  Throughout our time here, I’ve been continually impressed by the attention to detail on the part of Disney.  They really think of every last little thing.  But with Radiator Springs, they really outdid themselves.  Denise and I were floored at how realistic everything was.  And Calvin could barely believe his eyes!

As soon as we came in, we saw Red (the fire engine) and Calvin got to take his picture with him which he thought was pretty awesome.  For some reason, from the first day to the second day, Calvin developed cold feet regarding rides.  I had to practically drag him onto the Luigi tire ride.  Afterwards, he said he had fun on it but that didn’t seem to help with getting him onto other rides.

For breakfast, we dined at Flo’s V-8 CafĂ©.  After breakfast, we saw a familiar face in front of the Cozy Cone Motel… it was Mater!  I can’t even describe how excited Calvin was!  So we all got our picture taken with him.  After checking out the rest of Radiator Springs, we passed the Cozy Cone again and there in front was none other than Lightning McQueen!  If Calvin was excited to see Mater, this was easily double that.  So of course we had to get our picture taken with him, too!

Before this trip, we told Calvin he could pick out a Lightning toy for doing a good job with potty training.  Since I’m a softie, I caved and bought him a giant Mack with 15 cars inside that he really wanted.  It’s his new favorite thing!

Right before leaving for our midday break, Denise convinced Calvin to go on a Bug’s Life ride which he also really enjoyed… after the fact.  We also did a Bug’s Life 4D which is kind of neat.  Denise and I had already done the same thing at Disney World, but you actually get air blown at you, the seat moves when “bugs” are supposedly crawling underneath you, and so on to add another dimension of realism.

When we came back, Calvin got to meet Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates!  As if Calvin didn’t think that was cool enough, Jake grabbed Calvin’s Lightning McQueen car that he was holding and played with it.  So now it’s officially been blessed.  Afterwards, we went on a Monsters, Inc. ride.  Then we went on what we thought was a Muppets 4D thing but to our surprise, it turned out to be a 4D preview for the new Oz movie.  That was a little bit scary for Calvin but he made it through it.

After that, we caught the Pixar parade which was really awesome.  It had elements from all of the Pixar movies.  We all loved it.  Then we headed towards Radiator Springs again which we were all excited for since, in the movie, it was all lit up with neon at night.  It definitely didn’t disappoint!

Somehow we managed to get Calvin to go on the Mater tractor ride which is kind of like a Scrambler/Tilt-A-Whirl type thing.  He really loved it!  In fact, he told us later that it was his favorite part of today.  We then went to Paradise Pier, which is a boardwalk-type area, and went on a Little Mermaid ride (Denise’s favorite) and a Toy Story ride.  We then finished up rides with a spin or two on the giant Mickey ferris wheel.

Even though Calvin was getting pretty tired, it was almost nine o’clock at this point so we decided to stay for the 9:15 water show.  It’s a pretty incredible combination of Bellagio-style water jets, colored lights and Disney music from most of their movies.  Calvin got really into it and even clapped at the end of most songs.

Once again, he didn’t even make it to the park exit before zonking out in his stroller!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Road Trip: Day 5

Today we were at the Disneyland gates waiting to be let in when they opened at 9am.  Calvin couldn’t contain his excitement!  We briefly saw Mickey and Goofy on the way in but we had to hurry past and make it in time for the “character breakfast” reservations Denise had scheduled for 9:10.  Fortunately, the sighting seemed like it was too quick and Calvin was too amazed to really realize what was going on.  But once we got to our breakfast at the Plaza Inn, it finally sunk in that he was actually going to get to meet some of the characters that he’s seen on TV for as long as he can remember.  Anyone who’s seen a three-year-old go through that can attest to how absolutely touching it is.  During the course of breakfast, Calvin got tableside visits from Minnie, Chip and Dale, Captain Hook, Rafiki, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore.

With the exception of the break we took for lunch and to rest in the hotel room, the majority of the day was spent going on rides.  We went on a Buzz Lightyear ride, an underwater submarine Finding Nemo one (twice – Calvin loved that one), a jungle cruise, a Roger Rabbit ride (who’d have thought that would still be around?), a Winnie the Pooh ride, a Peter Pan ride, a Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and we took a train ride around the park.  We also spent a fair amount of time in Toon Town which is a very toddler-oriented area where Calvin got to play in Mickey, Donald, and Goofy’s houses.  He also (finally!) got to meet Mickey and Goofy!  We even got to see the nighttime parade down Main Street.

We ran into some rain and cold throughout the day but we didn’t let it ruin our day.  On the way out we bought Calvin a Lightning McQueen hat with Mickey Mouse ears.  We didn’t get a chance to ask him what his favorite part of today was since he passed out in the stroller on the way out, but my guess is that he would pick that hat!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Road Trip: Day 4

After around 2,070 miles, we finally made it!  We got up bright and early this morning in Richfield, UT, and hit the road.  We made it to Las Vegas by lunchtime and had the buffet at Treasure Island.  We spent a little bit of time just walking around The Strip and enjoying the sun and the warmth.  We walked over to The Venetian so Calvin could see the gondolas paddling around in the river inside the hotel!  He thought that was pretty cool!

The drive from Las Vegas to Disneyland didn’t go quite as smoothly as we had planned.  After days of open roads, we hit some nasty traffic on I-15 headed to Los Angeles.  So with stops and everything, the drive that should’ve been four hours or so was more like seven!

But we’re safe and sound at the Annabella Hotel right across the street from Disneyland ready to hit it tomorrow.  When asked what his favorite thing from today was, Calvin told us it was his own room at the hotel!

Road Trip: Day 3

Today started off with a trip to the Downtown Aquarium in Denver. We already knew Calvin would love it since he's always loved looking at fish.  But even before we got in the door, Calvin was totally floored by a woman near the ticket line who was showing off a gigantic Golden Eagle!  All he could do was stare at it!  I don't think he was aware that birds came that big!  Once inside, as we had thought, Calvin had a great time.

While we were looking around, I pointed out a funny looking little crab to Calvin and he promptly responded, "That's a spider crab!"  Denise and I both blew it off that he was just saying it looked like a spider, which it kind of did.  But then Denise looked at the sign next to it and, to our amazement, it was actually called a Spider Crab!!  When we asked Calvin how the heck he knew that, he replied very casually, "From Octonauts."  So thanks, Octonauts!

Because of all that, we didn't get on the road until after noon.  And then, just outside of Denver, we drove up into the mountains so we could get out and prove to Calvin that we were, in fact, in the mountains.  He kept telling us that we weren't. He then became obsessed with mountains and kept asking when we were going up another mountain.  Much to his disappointment, he slept through most of western Colorado and therefore missed most of our drive through the mountains!

Once again, we asked Calvin what his favorite part of today was. Was it the awesome aquarium he got to go to?  Driving through the mountains?  Going to McDonald's?  Nope.  He said it was picking out his snack at a gas station!

Anyway, after around 500 miles driving, we didn't get to our final destination, Richfield, UT, until around 9:30pm local time.  Tomorrow on to Anaheim and Disneyland!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Road Trip: Day 2

After a continental breakfast in Lincoln, NE, we hit I-80 and headed west towards Denver.  We drove somewhere in the neighborhood of 530 miles.  As anyone who has driven through most of Nebraska and northeastern Colorado knows, that drive is very uneventful.  Just miles of farmland and cows.

Once we got close to Denver, Calvin thought the mountains were pretty cool but we kept telling him to wait until tomorrow when we continue our drive west up into them!  We were in a little bit of a bind since we had told Calvin we would go swimming but our hotel only has an outdoor pool which is closed for the season.  Fortunately Denise thought about her YMCA membership.  We found a Y only about 5 minutes from our hotel and went swimming.

After that we went to good ol' Casa Bonita.  We got to see cliff divers (which thoroughly amazed Calvin!), a puppet show, a haunted cave and a bunch of other things.  The food is very average but it was worth it for the rest of it!

Continuing our tradition, we asked Calvin what his favorite part of the day was.  Was it seeing the mountains?  Going swimming?  Seeing cliff divers?  No, it was getting ice at the hotel with me!

Tomorrow we're planning on visiting an aquarium before hitting the road for Utah!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Road Trip: Day 1

Day One of our odyssey with a final destination of Disneyland launched a little later than we had planned.  We had to give the house a final once-over since it's on the market and we had a three year old to get going.  We officially got on the road around 10:30am and after 471.2 miles we're in Lincoln, NE.  Despite the fact that Calvin kept asking if we're going on vacation, he did very well!

The highlight of the trip was definitely The Amazing Pizza Machine in Omaha.  That place puts Chuck E. Cheese to shame!  It's enormous and the games are crazy!

We started a new tradition today where we ask Calvin what his favorite thing was that we did today.  Would he say hitting the great open road with Mom and Dad? Going to the awesome pizza place?  No, it was jumping on the beds in the hotel!

Tomorrow we head to Denver!