By Erin Huffstetler | 09/26/2019 | 4 Comments
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Day 15 of our trip started with a new opportunity to embarrass the girls.
We never pass up those opportunities.
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.
Rodent drama aside, the Grand Canyon was absolutely stunning.
It felt like we were on another planet.
We walked around to several of the viewing areas …
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!
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.
The girls and I also loved the architecture and bold southwest color palette that was used throughout the Grand Canyon Village.
Most of these buildings were designed by a woman named, Mary Colter …
and have been beautifully preserved.
The Desert View Watchtower that she designed is definitely the coolest.
Just look at all that stonework …
and all those spiraling levels.
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!
That night we stayed in another teepee at the Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA.
This one even had electricity.
If you’d like to stay in a teepee, check out my list of places you can book a teepee.
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.
That day’s adventure took us to Petrified Forest National Park …
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.
We walked out behind the Rainbow Forest Visitor’s Center to see examples of petrified wood.
Then, we hiked a couple trails. This one just kept going down and down and down.
I’d like to come back when we have more time to hike. There were definitely some interesting trails.
And check out those painted desert views.
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).
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.
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.
First up was Cadillac Ranch. This place was inspired by Carhenge, which we saw last summer.
It’s literally a bunch of Cadillacs sticking up out of the ground that you’re encouraged to spray paint.
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.
Both of our daughters found a can of paint, and added their names to a car.
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.
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.
This wasn’t nearly as cool as Cadillac Ranch, but it was still worth a peek.
Slug Bug Ranch was a bit cooler.
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.
Several people stopped to photograph them while we were there.
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.
It was awesome. The guide filled us in on the history of Bricktown, while we floated down a canal …
lined with beautiful landscaping …
sculptures, murals and bridges.
It was such a nice way to end the day.
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?
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.
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 …
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.
Then, we duck into this door, and they’re really questioning my sanity.
Then, they see this. The Crystal Shrine Grotto. And they’re more confused then ever.
Because the Crystal Shrine Grotto is weird and cool and creepy all at once.
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.
But, he doesn’t stop there. Nope.
He then fills the cemetery with faux bois trees
and more faux bois trees.
He builds faux bois bridges …
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?
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.
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.
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)