Summer Vacation 2019: Week 3

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Aaron and Erin at Grand Canyon

Continued from Summer Vacation 2019: Week 1 and Week 2

Grand Canyon Ranger Cut Out

Day 15 of our trip started with a new opportunity to embarrass the girls.

Grand Canyon 100th Birthday Cut Out

We never pass up those opportunities.

Squirrel Warning Sign at Grand Canyon

After a quick trip through the visitor’s center, we headed outside to catch our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon, and ran into this sign on the way.

The guidebook we received when we entered the park said that if you feed the squirrels, they’ll often bite you when you stop feeding them.

Not wishing to go home with the plague, we gave the squirrels a wide berth.

Grand Canyon

Rodent drama aside, the Grand Canyon was absolutely stunning.

Looking into Grand Canyon

It felt like we were on another planet.

Girls With Grand Canyon Behind Them

We walked around to several of the viewing areas …

Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon

Then, headed to Bright Angel Trail to hike. This is the trail that you can ride a mule down. We didn’t do that, but we did venture a short way down the canyon. Look at those switchbacks!

Girls Standing in Front of Tunnel on Bright Angel Trail

Sometime, I’d like to go back and do the whole trail. You can actually stay at the bottom, but you have to make plans in advance.

Mom and the Girls Standing in Front of Grand Canyon

Those views!

Cabins in Grand Canyon Village

The girls and I also loved the architecture and bold southwest color palette that was used throughout the Grand Canyon Village.

Closeup of Windows in Grand Canyon Village

Most of these buildings were designed by a woman named, Mary Colter …

Stone Cottage in Grand Canyon Village

and have been beautifully preserved.

Desert View Watchtower

The Desert View Watchtower that she designed is definitely the coolest.

Closeup of Watchtower

Just look at all that stonework …

Inside of Desert View Watchtower

and all those spiraling levels.

Indian Taco

After we left the park, we stopped for Indian tacos. We had them for the first time last summer, when we visited the Badlands, and were excited to have them again. We should have shared, though. They were huge!

Teepee at Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA

That night we stayed in another teepee at the Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA.

Inside of Teepee at Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA

This one even had electricity.

Ceiling of Teepee at Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA

If you’d like to stay in a teepee, check out my list of places you can book a teepee.

Wigwam Village in Holbrook, AZ

On the way out of town, we spotted a Wigwam Village. It dates back to the heyday of Historic Route 66. I’d always wanted to see one.

Petrified Forest National Park Sign

That day’s adventure took us to Petrified Forest National Park …

Desert Landscape in Petrified Forest

which isn’t the least bit forested. It’s amazing to see how much the Earth has changed over time. To think a forest once stood in place of this desert.

Petrified Wood

We walked out behind the Rainbow Forest Visitor’s Center to see examples of petrified wood.

Girls Standing Next to Petrified Logs

Crazy stuff!

Hiking Trail in Petrified Forest

Then, we hiked a couple trails. This one just kept going down and down and down.

Another Hiking Trail in Petrified Forest

I’d like to come back when we have more time to hike. There were definitely some interesting trails.

Painted Desert in Petrified Forest

And check out those painted desert views.

Lunch at Painted Desert Cafe

We stopped at the Painted Desert Visitor’s Center on the way out of the park, and I’m so glad we did. It housed the Painted Desert Cafe, which dates back to when Highway 66 ran through Petrified Forest.

Normally, we avoid park food because of the price, but this time we didn’t suffer any sticker shock. I paid $5.95 for the lunch you see here, which included two prickly pear bbq pulled pork tacos, Spanish rice and Chili Con Carne. Delicious!

That night we stayed in a cabin in the Tucumari KOA (in Tucumari, NM).

Blue Swallow Motel Tucumari, NM

Our friends did a Route 66 trip several years ago, and texted to say we had to check out the Blue Swallow Motel while we were in town. It was such a cool place.

Closeup of Blue Swallow Motel

All the rooms come with garages! Kind of makes me want to plan a Route 66 trip.

We had a lot of driving to do that day, but we still managed to fit in several fun side trips.

Cadillac Ranch

First up was Cadillac Ranch. This place was inspired by Carhenge, which we saw last summer.

Side View of Cadillac Ranch

It’s literally a bunch of Cadillacs sticking up out of the ground that you’re encouraged to spray paint.

Undercarriage of Car at Cadillac Ranch

I had seen online that people usually leave their unfinished cans of paint behind, so I was hoping that would be the case when we went.

And it was.

Youngest Daughter Spray Painting Car at Cadillac Ranch

Both of our daughters found a can of paint, and added their names to a car.

Oldest Daughter Spray Painting Car at Cadillac Ranch

Our oldest daughter had been trying to decide what to give her boyfriend as a souvenir, so I suggested she spray paint his name on a car, photograph it and then send it to the Walgreens back home, where he could pick it up.

That worked beautifully. We actually ended up finding a promo code for a poster print, so he got a colorful, one-of-a-kind poster, instead of a gift shop trinket.

Combine City

Continuing our transportation theme, we headed to Combine City next, where a farmer decided to “plant” his combines in a field when he was done with them.

Closeup of Combine City

This wasn’t nearly as cool as Cadillac Ranch, but it was still worth a peek.

Slug Bug Ranch

Slug Bug Ranch was a bit cooler.

Closeup of Bug at Slug Bug Ranch

The VW Bugs were placed on the property to draw business to the store beside them. Unfortunately, the Bugs lasted, but the store didn’t.

Row of Cars at Slug Bug Ranch

Several people stopped to photograph them while we were there.

Bricktown Water Taxi

We arrived in Oklahoma City that evening, and headed off to our next activity: a tour on the Bricktown Water Taxi.

I’ve wanted to visit the San Antonio Riverwalk ever since I saw a documentary about it on PBS, so when I discovered that Oklahoma City had built their own version of Riverwalk, I knew we had to go.

Bricktown Water Taxi in Canal

It was awesome. The guide filled us in on the history of Bricktown, while we floated down a canal …

Landscaping Along Bricktown Canal

lined with beautiful landscaping …

Waterfall Along Canal

waterfalls …

Sculpture Along Bricktown Canal

sculptures, murals and bridges.

Bricktown Water Taxi Tour

It was such a nice way to end the day.

Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas

Our drive the next day took us back into Texas briefly.

When we passed through Paris, Texas, we could resist stopping to see an Eiffel Tower wearing a cowboy hat. Isn’t that the craziest thing?

Train Delivering Food at All Aboard Restaurant and Grill in Little Rock, AR

That night we stayed in Little Rock, Arkansas. The restaurant we planned to eat at was closed, so I did a bit of Googling, and turned up All Aboard Restaurant and Grill, where your food is delivered to the table by train.

Train Starting to Lower Food

There are tracks along the ceiling for a little toy train to run on. When it gets to your table, it places the food on a platform …

Food Being Lowered to Table

which is then lowered to your table. It didn’t cost any more than any other restaurant, and we all found it amusing.

The next day we drove to Memphis, TN, where no one but me knew where we were going. I had planned this leg of the trip, while Aaron was dropping off our car in Seattle.

And I couldn’t wait to see everyone’s reaction to our first stop.

First, Google directs us to turn into a cemetery, and everyone starts questioning if we’re going the right way.

Then, I instruct Aaron to park, and we get out and start walking.

By then, the kids are in overtime questioning why we’re in a cemetery.

Entrance to Crystal Shrine Grotto

Then, we duck into this door, and they’re really questioning my sanity.

Crystal Shrine Grotto

Then, they see this. The Crystal Shrine Grotto. And they’re more confused then ever.

Statues in Crystal Shrine Grotto

Because the Crystal Shrine Grotto is weird and cool and creepy all at once.

Crystal Formations in Crystal Shrine Grotto

Here’s the back story: an insurance agent decides to buy land and start a cemetery. He then decides he wants it to be artsy, and decides a grotto would be just the thing to console grieving people. So, he hires an artist to bring his vision to life. This artist is an expert at concrete and faux bois, and he spends the next several years creating a crystal-encrusted grotto.

Inside of Door to Crystal Shrine Grotto

But, he doesn’t stop there. Nope.

Faux Bois Tree at Crystal Shrine Grotto

He then fills the cemetery with faux bois trees

Girls Standing inside Faux Bois Tree

and more faux bois trees.

Faux Bois Bridge

He builds faux bois bridges …

Faux Bois Covered Bridge

and even faux bois covered bridges.

Over 10,000 people travel to the cemetery each year to see the grotto …

And now my kids think I’m even crazier than they already did.

So, where do you go after an excursion like that?

Fountain at Peabody Hotel

To see the Peabody ducks, of course. They were the big (free) finale to our three-week trip. We drove over to the Peabody Hotel early in the afternoon to secure a spot near the elevators.

Peabody Duck

And waited while the Peabody ducks splashed around in the lobby fountain. Then, we watched them walk down the red carpet to the elevator, as they headed up to their rooftop suite.

Peabody Ducks Taking Elevator

Incidentally, moving ducks are even harder to photograph than moving chickens. This was my attempt at photographing them. Oh well, I tried.

We waited a few minutes for them to get settled; then, took an elevator up to the roof, so we could check out their digs. Pretty swank set up.

When we got home, everyone who knew we’d been gone three weeks figured we’d be ready to be home. But really, we would have stayed gone longer, if we could have.

Some Ways We Saved on This Trip

  • We stayed at KOAs for 10 of the nights, and used our KOA Rewards membership to save 10% on each stay, while also earning points towards free stays
  • We stayed at Choice Hotels for five nights. They have a summer promotion they run every year, which gets you a free night for every two stays
  • The train doubled as our lodging for two nights
  • We ate two meals a day for most of the trip. We started with a hearty breakfast, then had liner
  • We brought lots of road trip snacks and water from home, so we wouldn’t get stuck overpaying for these things
  • We bought an America the Beautiful Pass, which covered our entrance to all the National Parks we visited
  • We allowed ourselves to splurge on a few experiences; then, built lots of free activities around them
  • We stuck to our souvenir tradition of buying pressed pennies and vinyl stickers (for the girls’ water bottles)

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  1. What a fun adventure! My husband, daughter and I spent July road tripping through the US. We hit many of the same spots you did. Now I want to go back. Just incredible!

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