Live…

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“Live for the journey, not the ending.”  ~M


Photo credit: Pixabay.com

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What are you called to?

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“A calling isn’t about your plan; it’s about your purpose.  It isn’t a goal you set and plow through life to achieve; it’s a journey you spend your whole life discovering.  But if you understand how it works, you’ll be able to participate in it, instead of simply watching it go by.” ~Jeff Goins

 

 

Day 19 of our 21 day adventure

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We are leaving Avon today and heading out to Grand Island, NE. I am eager to get going since I am not really fond of this place. Don’t get me wrong… Colorado is a beautiful place. In fact, I would say it tops some of the places we’ve seen on our trip, but at the same time I don’t feel like I belong here. The people here just seem very different from what I am used to, and I think it’s because I’m more of a laid back kind of girl, not a fancy schmancy girl like some of the ladies that I have seen around here.

IMG_2507After breakfast at the hotel, we are finally on our way. The rain had been intermittent today and is kind of nice since it has helped to cool things down. After several hours of driving we spot a rest area in Georgetown and decide to stop. After stopping, we learn of a train ride not far from where we are. I’m excited because I’ve never actually been on an old fashioned steam engine train and I’ve always thought it would be fun to take a ride on one.

IMG_2515Brian and I both agree that the train ride sounds like a lot of fun and so we head up to Devils Head Station to buy our tickets and board the train. Within 30 minutes we are sitting on an old steam engine train that uses oil for fuel. The views of the mountains are incredible and we pass over a raging river a few times on the route. The ride lasts for about an hour and we opt against the mine tour that is offered at one of the stops.

IMG_2541After disembarking the train, we enter the gift shop and spend some time there looking at all the amazing train memorabilia. We have had such a fun day and decide to stay in this town a little longer to grab some lunch. It’s still sprinkling off and on and we find a restaurant in the downtown section before the rain starts to really come down. The food is wonderful and the atmosphere is family style, which makes me feel quite at home.

IMG_2531After lunch, we head back to the car, weaving our way through the crowded streets and passing all of the small town shops. All of a sudden, the rain starts to pour and we quickly look for a place to take shelter. We dart into a coffee house that looks more like a library than anything else and both order some coffee while we wait out the rain.

IMG_2585It’s cozy in here and I know that if I lived here, that this would probably be one of my favorite places to hang out. The rain doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon and time is passing by quickly, so we decide to head out the back door of the coffee shop and make a mad dash for the car. Soaked to the bone, we are now in the car holding our warm coffees and trying to stop shivering. It reminds me of being a kid once more and playing out in the rain just for the fun of it. It’s sad to think that those days are long gone.

IMG_2592A few hours later and we have now arrived at our hotel in Grand Island, NE. With nothing left to do and still quite full from lunch, we decide to watch a movie and get to bed early. It’s been another great day and we only have one day left before we head for home.

Day 18 of our 21 day adventure

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It is with a heavy heart that we are leaving Zion today. I am dreading the fact that I have to say goodbye to my brother and nephew. I wonder how long it will be before I see them again. I only got an hour of sleep last night because I am coming down with a cold and can barely breathe.

IMG_2461The sun is just starting to rise as we say our goodbyes to David and Levi. We all have long drives ahead of us and are eager to get started to avoid the traffic on the roads. I spot my Spanish speaking friend who is just arriving for work and say goodbye to him as well.

IMG_2467As we make our way toward Avon, Colorado, the heat index starts to rise and it is now over 100°. I am feeling worse now because of the heat and my cold isn’t helping matters. Because of this, I am not being a very good sport about the long drive and exhaustion is starting to set in from getting so little sleep last night.

IMG_2465When we finally arrive at the hotel, the attendant is really rude to me and makes me feel even worse by something that she says. I always take everything so personally and it only gets worse when I don’t feel well.

IMG_2462We finally get up to our room and I crash on the bed. Both of us sleep for hours before we finally wake up feeling hungry. We look outside and discover that it has been raining, and surprisingly there’s a double rainbow right outside our window. Unfortunately, the rainbow is almost gone before I can snap a good picture.

IMG_2468We finally both drag ourselves out of the room with just enough strength to go pick up something to eat for dinner. The food ends up being terrible and I am really missing home-cooked meals at this point. Normally, we hardly ever eat out and I just haven’t been able to get used to the food on this trip. I think to myself… only three days left and I will be home, and right now I really wish I was.

Day 17 of our 21 day adventure

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Today we are traveling to Bryce Canyon and Kodachrome Basin State Park. The weather is beautiful and I am excited to explore a new place today. After getting ready, we stop at the hotel dining room for some breakfast. We have only been able to eat breakfast here a couple of different days now, because we always leave the hotel before breakfast starts. There is a cook here that I have made friends with, he spoils me with real eggs instead of the nasty scrambled ones in the heating pan. I am impressed by his generosity and wish I could meet more people like him. He has a thick Spanish accent and makes me feel quite at home, especially since I grew up in California and had many Spanish speaking friends when I lived out there. It always amazes me how you can make friends in the strangest of places and sometimes just being around someone for a few minutes can spark a friendship that can last a lifetime.

IMG_2029Feeling quite full after the hearty breakfast, we now make our way to Bryce Canyon. It’s a beautiful drive and every time I see a Hoodoo, I get excited and want to jump out of the car and take a picture. There are several rock shops along the way and we indulge our young nephew by letting him visit a few. I love rocks as well and end up buying a sandstone sculpture that catches my eye. There are quite a few other things I would like to get as well, but after looking at the price tags, I decide just to get the one sculpture.

IMG_2038Down the road a little further, we spy a natural arch bridge that covers the highway. I can’t help but stop to take pictures. It doesn’t take too long before we finally reach Bryce Canyon. There are several places to stop and explore the canyon. By the end of our journey through Bryce Canyon, we have taken over 500 pictures and are eager to see how they all turned out.

IMG_2047Its lunch time now, and we find a burger place to stop at. The food isn’t very good, but we are all so hungry at this point, that none of us really care. There is another rock shop across the street and so of course we have to stop at that one as well. After going through a bunch of other small shops, we finally decide that we need to get going again.

IMG_2263There is one last place we want to stop at before we go all the way back to our hotel. Kodachrome State Park isn’t too far away and so we decide to head out and take a tour of the place. When we get there, I am amazed at how beautiful it is, and the crazy thing is, I end up finding an area that reminds me of my dream once more. Dying to explore the place, I find myself running off the trail in search of a closer look of the rock formations that surround us. My brother bravely follows me; knowing that I will probably get into trouble alone without him. I head in the direction of a place that looks like a good place to explore and my brother David stops to investigate an area where he sees some crystals poking up from beneath the sand. As he begins to dig them up, I take off and explore the remainder of the area.

IMG_2272It seems that I have finally found the one place that reminds me the most of my dream, and so I stop to take a few pictures. I am almost crying once again, the emotional connection that I have to this place is eerie and I am at a loss for words on how best to describe the feelings that are coming over me. It’s as if I’ve been here before, but now the entrance to the place in my dream is covered with a pile of rocks and I cannot enter the cave that once existed here. Knowing that we will probably get caught for going off the trail, I decide to find my brother and get back to the trail where Levi and Brian are waiting. I am surprised the park Ranger hasn’t been out to yell at us yet, as I catch a glimpse of his headquarters from where we are standing. Back on the trail, we hike for a little while longer. It’s starting to get late and we know that we need to get back before it gets dark. I feel so drawn to this place that I don’t want to leave. After taking a bunch more pictures, I finally convince myself that we must go.

IMG_2286During the road trip back to the hotel we stop and take several more pictures. The landscape is just breathtaking and I can’t get enough. Unfortunately, because of my hesitation to leave, poor Levi ends up having an accident in the back seat because we didn’t stop soon enough for a potty break. He feels just awful about it and I laugh because I did the same thing in the back seat of my uncle’s car when I was about his age. The day ends with us cleaning out the car and trying to save the upholstery. Even with this small hiccup, this has been one of the best days yet.

Day 16 of our 21 day adventure

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It’s another early day for all of us. We are trying our best to avoid the crowds and today we will be hiking in a place called the Narrows. The shuttle ride takes us about 45 minutes and it looks like it is going to be a beautiful day. I am a little concerned that I didn’t wear a warm enough sweater. It’s a crisp cool morning and I know that being in the water will only make things worse.

IMG_1901After hiking for about a mile, we are now in the Narrows. The water looks fairly calm and the skies are clear. Sandstone walls engulf us and make us feel small in comparison. The water has woven its path here for thousands of years and there is hardly any dry land to walk upon. Flash flooding is a danger in this area and so any signs of rain and we will have to head back immediately. Fortunately, the weather forecast isn’t calling for rain and so we should be safe for today.

IMG_1744The water is deeper in some areas and I don’t have a walking stick to judge the depth of the water. It’s a little unnerving stepping out into the water, not knowing what lies beneath each step that I take. There are a couple of times that my brother has to help steady me. The water is running pretty fast in some areas and I feel as if I will be swept off my feet.

IMG_1879Along the way, the water reaches us to my thighs and I feel a bit hesitant about continuing on since the water seems to be rising at times. Every step we take, takes us deeper into a maze of colorful rocks, formed by the brisk waters that shape and mold each tiny crevice. The rocks remind me of the leaves back home during the fall season. As I look down in the water, I can see a million different colors and the sound of the water playing its magical tune is soothing and begging me to continue onward.

IMG_1894After hours of hiking through the river, we decide that it’s getting late and that it’s now time to head back. The river beckons to me and my heart aches to continue on, but I know that if we don’t leave now, that our strength won’t hold out for the trek back. And so with regret, we start our return hike back.

IMG_1922As we get closer to where we began, the water seems to be getting deeper and there are now multitudes of people walking through the river. I am having trouble finding a pathway to walk through that isn’t too deep. With scores of people around now, I am starting to feel a little claustrophobic and walk as fast as I can through the murky waters to reach dry land.

IMG_1996When we finally reach the spot where we first entered the river, all of us are relieved and just want to get back to our hotel. We still have about a mile to walk before we get to the shuttle and when we finally make it to the shuttle stop, it’s a relief to find a shuttle that isn’t completely filled.

IMG_1761With each shuttle stop that we make, more people try to cram into the tiny bus and before long there are so many people that the doors are threatening not to close all the way. People are standing in the aisles, falling over each other and I am thankful that I actually have a seat to sit in right now. As tired as I am, I doubt I could stand for very long.

IMG_1854After returning to the entrance of the park, we race back to our hotel and rest for a while. The only thing that finally gets us moving again, is our appetites; and so we head back down to the city of Hurricane and order a pizza to bring back with us to the hotel. Tomorrow will be another long day and so we head to bed early. I am exhausted, but excited for tomorrow

Day 14 of our 21 day adventure

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I am so excited right now! It’s 5:30 a.m. and I am preparing lunches for our early morning hike up to Emerald Pools. We will also be hiking the trails of Kayenta and Temple of Sinawava. The day looks like it will be beautiful. The forecast is calling for a high of 84° and will be a much needed break from the average 110° weather that we had been experiencing in Las Vegas.

IMG_1234The hotel that we’re staying in is only .5 mile away from the entrance to Mt. Zion National Park, which makes it easy since we don’t have to drive anywhere and can just walk to the entrance of the park. After gathering up all of our gear for the day, we head out for the quick walk over to the entrance and to catch the shuttle that will take us to our first hiking location.

IMG_1248As we walk along, I notice a statue of a fawn right outside a local hotel and find it curious that it looks so lifelike. It doesn’t take us long to realize that it is indeed a live fawn who has apparently misplaced her mother. I am amazed that we are this close to her and yet she doesn’t seem alarmed in the slightest. Eventually the fawn gets tired of us looking at her and moves along into the brush from which she came.

IMG_1262We have now entered the park and the shuttle has just arrived. It’s 6:30 a.m. and we are only about 30 minutes from the hiking trail that will lead us up to Emerald Pools. I have seen pictures of this place and I’m hopeful that it won’t be very crowded since we are getting a fairly early start. After boarding the shuttle, I notice that it is really crowded and I am surprised that so many people are up at this time of day.

IMG_1293As we ride along in the shuttle, we see several small animals along the way. What I am most impressed by, are the deer that are grazing right next to the road as we pass by. We are literally a few feet away from them as we go by and the deer don’t even seem to notice us. It’s amazing to me that animals would act this way and I wonder how much more we will see of this.

IMG_1274As the shuttle makes its way through several stops, we finally reach our destination. It’s still a bit chilly out, but I have a feeling that I will warm up as soon as we start hiking through the mountains. The hiking trail to Emerald Pools is beautiful and as we make our way up to the top, the valley below offers breathtaking views. There are several areas that have naturally formed steps and we also come across a small waterfall the covers a small area on one of the trials.

IMG_1303Winding our way back further into the landscape we cross a brook and then head higher up into the mountains where we finally reach Emerald Pools. It’s beautiful here and there are quite a few people exploring the pools by way of the rocks that surround this alcove of emerald colored waters. The rocks cast shadows upon the water and the reflection is a magnificent sight. The beauty that lies within these rock walls is incredible and takes my breath away.

IMG_1323We stay for quite a while, immersing ourselves in the serenity and peacefulness of this place. Even with other people nearby, it feels as if we are the only ones here. Everyone seems to be respecting the tranquility of this lovely place as if it were a sacred shine that should not be disturbed.

IMG_1295The next trail we take is called Kayenta and it’s a short trail that leads us back to shuttle stop where we began earlier in the day. Hiking back down the mountain is a little bit trickier, as it has become more crowded now and we are taking a different path that is narrower and offers little protection from the cliffs edge. After a taking a short break to eat our lunch in the picnic area, we gather all of our gear and climb back onto the shuttle to our final destination which is a trail called, Temple of Sinawava.

IMG_1363The trail is beautiful, but very crowded. There are chipmunks and squirrels scurrying between our feet as we walk along the pathway. There are so many times that I have had to stop myself from nearly stepping on one because there are so many running about. The trail is beautiful, with the Virgin River running along one-side and a sheer rock face on the other. Water is trickling down from the rocks in various places and small ferns and moss are growing in abundance.

IMG_1434It’s strange to me to see this many types of different plants growing all together in the same habitat. I am amazed that all of these different plant species can grow here. I have never seen moss and ferns growing within a few feet of cacti and pine trees, and yet here they are. It reminds me of what the Garden of Eden might have been like. Especially because the animals here are completely tame and seem to love being around people.

IMG_1433Toward the end of the trail we come to what is called the “Narrows” which is a place where many people hike along the river for miles and miles. It seems like a beautiful place to go, but unfortunately we aren’t prepared to be hiking through water and so we immediately make a plan to come back here and hike another day when we have the proper gear to do so.

IMG_1408After such a long day of hiking, we all agree to head back to town. The shuttle takes about 45 minutes and when we finally arrive back at entrance to the park, walking back to the hotel seems like a long ways away. After stopping back at the hotel to freshen up, we all agree that we still need to plan something for dinner. Not wanting to spend a fortune on food, we all agree to walk down to the local supermarket to buy something to make. We visit a few local shops along the way and enjoy the local art and rock shops.

IMG_1382We finally make our way back and eat dinner in our room. It has been a great first day at Mt. Zion National Park and we are all eagerly awaiting tomorrows hike up to Angels Landing. Excited for the challenge, but knowing full well that we will need plenty of rest beforehand; we all turn-in early. It has been a wonderful, exhausting day and one that I will never forget.

Day 13 of our 21 day adventure

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Today we left Vegas and we are driving out to Pahrump to visit relatives. Upon arriving, we are greeted with warm inviting hugs and all decide to sit outside in the patio. It’s earlier in the day and the cooler air is a welcoming change from the Las Vegas heat that we have been dealing with for the last 7 days.

IMG_1228Aunt Bobbi gives us a tour of her vegetable garden and some of her plants. Poor Uncle Dave is pretty much bed ridden at the moment and so we are leaving him to rest quietly in the house. After a few hours of talking and catching up, we know we must leave, since we are meeting my brother David up near Mt. Zion today.

IMG_1237I am really excited about visiting Mt. Zion National Park. I had a dream several years ago that left me puzzled and searching for answers. After having the dream, I searched the internet for clues and I somehow came across pictures of Mt. Zion. After viewing the pictures, I realized that I had in fact dreamt of Mt. Zion, even though I had never actually heard of or seen this place before. Since then, I always knew that somehow… someday… I would visit this place. I am so excited for what may happen and I am curious if anything will spark a resemblance to my dream.

IMG_1484After a couple hours of driving, we catch our first glimpse of Great White Throne Mountain, located in Mt. Zion National Park. Its huge white peak stands out against the other red mountain peaks that surround it. I immediately get tears in my eyes as I recognize this particular mountain peak from my dream. I try to hide my tears, not wanting Brian to notice this sudden change in my emotions. It’s hard to put into words how I am feeling at this moment. All I can say, is that I know I have been here before. In my dream, I clearly saw what I am seeing now and I can hardly believe my eyes. It’s been 11 years since I had that dream, but I can still replay that dream in my mind as if I had just dreamt it.

IMG_1241It’s mid-afternoon now, and my brother has been waiting for us for a couple of hours. We pull into the Quality Inn, which is located in Springdale, UT. The parking lot is almost non-existent, and the people at the front desk aren’t the nicest people that I’ve ever met, but still… the room turns out to be nice and clean and I feel happy that we made the choice to stay here. There’s a pool right outside our room that looks inviting and on the other side of the parking lot is a crowded RV park.

IMG_1232After texting my brother to let him know that we have arrived, we meet up with him and my nephew Levi who is 6 yrs. old. It’s really good to be able to see them and visit with both of them. This is the first time that I am able to see my nephew Levi and he reminds me of my youngest daughter Autumn who is almost the same age.

IMG_1238We are all very hungry since it is now close to dinner time, so we decide to walk down the street to see if we can find a place to eat. We find a restaurant called “Wiley’s Ranch” and decide to try it out. I am surprised when we get our menus at how expensive everything is. My brother and I decide to order the fish, which ends up tasting like it’s straight from a box. The fish is so salty that I can hardly continue to eat it. I don’t like to complain though and since we paid so much for the meal, I try to eat as much as I can.

IMG_1488I’m enjoying getting to see my brother for the first time in about 8 years. It’s hard not seeing my family very often and I wish that we didn’t live so far away. I don’t have any of my family living near me and it has been this way for the last 21 years. I often find myself trying to forget them, so that it doesn’t hurt so much being away from them. I am thankful for this time that I can spend with my brother and nephew. I can only imagine the fun adventures that we will have this coming week.

Day 12 of our 21 day adventure

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After several suggestions by the locals, we have decided to visit Mt. Charleston. The weather is similar to yesterday. A few clouds are hovering over the mountains, but they don’t seem to stick around for very long. After about a 30 minute drive, we are now pulling into the visitors’ center. The views from here are spectacular and there are hardly any other tourists in sight. The serenity of this place suits me and I can’t get enough of the panoramic landscape that engulfs us. After a quick stop in the gift shop and after speaking with the attendant about where she would suggest that we go for an easy hike; we are finally on our way to see where the road takes us.

IMG_1105After following the winding road a short distance up the mountain, we finally pull into the parking lot for the trail-head that will lead us up to Mary Jane Falls. The last part of the name sparks our interest, as Brian and I both live for waterfalls! The map we have with us, shows that the trail is 3 miles long and explains that the elevation of the mountain is 9200 feet. In order for us to reach the top, we will have to climb 1100 feet. This sounds like a fun challenge and so we gather up our supplies and prepare for what seems like a fairly easy climb.

IMG_1225At first the terrain is sandy and there is a slight incline to the path. The trail is wide open and seems more like a walk in the park, than a hiking trail that eventually leads to a waterfall. As we continue further, we see a father with his three young children. He has one child strapped to his body and the other two are running free. After speaking briefly to the man, we learn that he hikes this trail by himself every year with his kids. I think to myself, well… if he can do it with three kids, this should be a piece of cake!

IMG_1130Hiking a bit further, we start to pass a slew of fallen trees and dead underbrush. The trail begins to get narrower and the path is littered with small jagged rocks. We are now at what looks like the beginning of the actual trail. Looking up towards the top of the mountain, we see nothing but switchbacks for as far as the eye can see. I start to feel like I have bitten off more than I can chew. I love a good hike, but I am not really sure that I am prepared for this.

IMG_1176I really love nature and have always loved a good adventure. This is one of the reasons why I joined the Army when I was 19 yrs. old. After going through basic training, nothing else has ever seemed as hard. Of course that was 24 years ago and I am not in the same physical shape that I once was. But because of my determined mind set, I never say no to a challenge. So with pep in my step, I decide to brave the mighty mountain. I think Brian is probably thinking that I will never make it, which makes me even more determined to prove him wrong.

IMG_1133The whole way up, people keep telling us that it is just a little bit further and with every step I hope and pray that they are right. The temperature has dropped significantly and I pull my sweater a little closer to my body, trying to shield myself from the brisk wind that is coursing through the trees around us. After about two hours, we finally turn the last bend. At last we see the waterfall that we’ve been so excited to find. This was the one thing that kept me from turning back; the thought of seeing this amazing beautiful waterfall! I am deeply disappointed by what I see though. Apparently because of the recent drought, the waterfall has all but evaporated and there is just a tiny trickle of water flowing from the top of the mountain peak.

IMG_1148There’s a couple of caves that we can see from where we are standing. One of them is actually right behind the waterfall and there are people getting ready to camp for the night. It’s getting really cold up here and starting to drizzle out; I wonder how these people will ever stay warm up here all night. The rain starts to come down harder now and before we know it, it’s actually hailing on us. Once we hear thunder, we know that it’s time to go.

IMG_1147We race down the mountain as fast as we can. The steep incline has made the trail slick and the loose rocks threaten our ability to balance. I lose my foothold several times and do more sliding down the mountain than anything else. I am thankful when we finally reach our car about an hour later. The rain has now stopped and I am thoroughly exhausted, but exhilarated at the same time. I have completely surprised myself by making it all the way up the mountain and back down. It’s the first time in years that I feel I have actually accomplished something that I really didn’t think that I could do.

IMG_1181Feeling famished now from all the strenuous activity, we decide to head back down the road to a park that is listed on the map. Upon arrival the place looks like a nice spot to have a picnic lunch and so we decide to get out and do just that. It hasn’t even been two minutes since we left the car and the rain is beginning to pour. With the flood gates now wide open, we scurry back to the car and decide instead to head back to the visitors center. By the time we make it back there, the rain is still pouring and so we decide to eat our meal in the car. The view is still lovely, even through the pouring rain.

IMG_1178Once we are done eating, we drive back to the resort. We have tickets for the Brad Garrett Comedy Club show and we can’t exactly go there dressed as we are. After arriving back at the resort, cleaning ourselves up and eating a quick snack; we finally arrive at the comedy club. The place is smaller than I had expected and each couple is seated at a table for two. They first thing the waitresses do, is come around and take our drink orders and ask us if we want to buy a $12 bag of popcorn. I will never get use to the prices of things here in Vegas. They really do rob you blind, especially when you find out later that the cocktails are $11 a piece!

IMG_1180The show was really funny and three different comedians gave appearances. Unfortunately it wasn’t Brad Garrett’s night for entertaining. All in all though, the show was good and I was disappointed when the fun had to end. I am left wondering at this point how much longer I can continue this daily routine of being on the go, non-stop. These long days are finally catching up to me, and I am almost relieved that we are leaving Las Vegas in the morning.

Day 11 of our 21 day adventure

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I’m still laying here in bed contemplating the day. I am thoroughly exhausted after hiking all day yesterday and part of me just wants to stay here and lounge around for the remainder of the day. Brian looks like he could use a break as well. I know that I can’t waste my time here though. After all… we only have ten more days away from our simple life back home and I really want to relish every day that we have before the adventure ends. It’s not that I don’t have plenty of adventure back home, it’s just a different kind of adventure… one that involves two huge dogs, one small rat, two girls that tell me every day how happy they are that I’m their mom, a husband that works crazy hours for the Army and my job as: mother, teacher, and wife… and everything else that falls under these three categories.

IMG_1049I slowly drag myself out of bed and as soon as I finish getting ready, Brian starts to get ready too. After several attempts to leave the hotel, we are finally on our way. We’ve decided to go to Shark Reef today and then see a show at the Excalibur Casino called: Tournament of the Kings. After stopping for mochas to help us wake up, we take a wrong turn down Las Vegas Boulevard and find ourselves temporarily lost. Mandalay Bay is our first destination and I hope to win big; just like I did several years ago. Unfortunately, today is not my lucky day, and we head to the Luxor to see if our luck is better there. Still no luck… it appears that this trip is just not panning out for us and I feel foolish for wasting our money.

IMG_1045Back to Mandalay Bay we go after losing what should have been saved for future bills back home. Finding Shark Reef is next to impossible, since the crowds are still lurking about leftover from the 4th of July. We finally spot the ticket booth and make a beeline for the mile long line. As we scurry over, a young couple approaches us and asks us if we are planning to buy tickets for Shark Reef. Of course we tell them that we are, and they explain that they have two free tickets that they would like to give away and they ask us if we would like to have them. I look at Brian and he looks at me. I think we are both sharing the same thoughts about this. I wonder if this is for real or a joke. After all… who just comes up and gives someone free tickets that would otherwise cost $40? We end up graciously accepting the tickets and head for the entrance to Shark Reef.

IMG_1061As we stand here in line, I think both of us are wondering if the tickets are actually real. As we get closer to the entrance, I feel weird for not having to pay. When we finally reach the entrance, the tickets are well received and to my surprise, they actually work to get us in. I am still in disbelief by the whole encounter and I am feeling grateful that we were delayed and took that wrong turn earlier this morning.  I know that if we hadn’t taken that wrong turn, we would never have been in the pathway of the lovely couple that gave us these free tickets. This kind of thing seems to happen to us all the time, and I am always amazed at how God provides for us even when I make stupid decisions like foolishly gambling away money that I should have saved.

IMG_1038Shark Reef turns out to be kind of a letdown and I am relieved that it didn’t cost us $40 to get in. Isn’t that the way it always is though? The first time you visit a place it always seems more amazing and exciting than the second time you go. Why is that? Has the initial wow factor worn off? Or do things really just change that much? I can never really tell… It’s like eating sugary treats nowadays versus when I was a kid. For some reason, nothing seems to taste as good as it did when I was a little girl. Has the product changed or have I? I wonder if I will ever know…

IMG_1040It’s later in the day now and off to Tournament of the Kings we go! This is a dinner show and sounds like it will be a lot of fun. As we enter the arena, we are seated at a long banquet table near the front. Before long, the entire place is full and everyone is being served dinner. The fun part is… utensils are not allowed. Because of the medieval theme, we are required to eat everything with our hands, just like ladies and knights did back in medieval times. Not long after we receive our dinner, the games begin! Jousting is the chosen sport and we watch as the men are knocked off of their horses. The crowd is asked to take part in motivating the kings by yelling encouragements to spur them on. The show is exciting and ends all too soon.

IMG_1046Heading back to the car, we decide to try our luck one more time at the Luxor. Brian and I sit down at a Dungeons and Dragon game, which happens to sit two people at once. We agree that this is the final slot machine that we will play for the day, and we agree to gamble $5. The next thing we know, the machine awards us a winning ticket for $30! We’re so excited that we have finally won something!

IMG_1042With the night still young, we head back to the resort and check out the pool area which is on the fourth floor of the resort. We haven’t had a chance to see what the pool is like yet, and want to see the observation deck as well. Unfortunately, when they built the resort, they put the observation deck facing away from the strip and towards the airport instead. What a waste of a good view…

IMG_1070After enjoying the cooler night air for a little while, we head back to our room and watch a little bit of television. I am surprised to see that the only show that I really care to watch is actually on at the moment. So I plop myself down to watch the remainder of the Bachelorette. It’s Katelyn’s season and I am hoping that she picks Nick. It’s a nice way to unwind after a long day and the first normal thing I’ve done in the last eleven days.

Day 8 of our 21 day adventure

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We’re up early today and already making our way through a dozen different casinos. It’s only about 10:00 a.m. and I’m already exhausted from all of the walking that we’ve done. The slot machines seem to be all tuckered out from the brood of people that have flocked here for the Fourth of July weekend. I haven’t been very lucky today and feel like I may as well just be throwing my money at the wind.

IMG_0739As the day stretches on, we finally make our way to Caesars Palace, which is one of my favorite places in Vegas. The Forum Shops call to me, I have been waiting in eager anticipation to come back to this place. Our favorite deli is here; and  amidst the commotion, I look fervently to find it. My mouth waters as we search for the place that can offer up the best corned beef sandwich that I have ever laid eyes upon. My stomach is making strange noises now, longing for the six inch high sandwich that it hasn’t seen for the last decade. Unfortunately, after searching through the shops one by one, Brian and I soon discover that the deli is gone for good. Our favorite place to eat is now just a mere memory.

IMG_0740We decide to continue on, hopeful that we will find another place that is just as good, but unfortunately we end up having to settle for a quick snack and then off we go again to observe the free shows, erupting every few hours as we continue to walk along. The ceiling changes throughout the day and I am charmed by its effects. This place has such a magical feel to it and leaves me wanting more. The downside is, that the shops remind me of Beverly Hills, and so I don’t even want to walk into most of them. I fear the clerks may ask me if they can help me; in which I know that my reply would most likely be, “Yes, as a matter of fact you can! You can help me right out this store, because I am poor and just spent most of my money at your pilfering casino!” So instead, I continue on…

IMG_0746We finally make our way outside, and I immediately spot a couple of beaten down war veterans. One looks completely stoned out of his mind and the other keeps telling people that he just wants a shower and a nice warm bed like everyone else. The two of them make quite the pair and I wonder how they ended up here. Curiosity and pity for the two of them gets the better of me and I decide to walk back and strike up a conversation. I put a $5 bill in their can, which hardly seems like enough. Here’s somebody that obviously fought for our country and now nobody is fighting for them. With tears welling up, I begin to ask the coherent one, some questions. I can feel Brian’s eyes from off in the distance, probably wondering if I have gone out of my mind. The man that I begin speaking to, is friendly and tells me about his past. I can tell he is just as hungry for conversation, as he is for food.  After we briefly talk and I turn to go, he grabs my hand, kisses it, and says, “May God bless you.” A part of me wants to run and wash my hand in a gallon of bleach and the other half of me wants to reach down and hug this man to pieces! Instead, a tear slips down my face and I turn to go, knowing that most people around me will probably never even give this man a second thought. It breaks my heart, but what more can I do. I say a silent prayer for the two men and move on.

IMG_0747Brian is waiting for me over by the curb, giving me a confused look. I don’t say anything to him about what just happened and we continue walking down the strip. We have another show to see tonight; Le Reve, which is over at the Wynn and we slowly make our way over there, one casino at a time. I am quite tired after all of the walking that we have done today and when we finally reach the Wynn, I am hopeful that we will be able to sit down and wait for the show to start. Unfortunately there are no seats to sit upon and instead, we end up standing in line until finally the ushers show us to our seats.

IMG_0750The ambiance of the room immediately fills me with excitement. The room is dimly lit and there is a vivid display of colorful fabric hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the circular stage. The billowy fabric draws me in and leaves me in an almost trance like state. It doesn’t take long before the show begins and in an instant, the long clusters of fabric are yanked up into a mysterious black hole. After they disappear, dozens of acrobats make their way down from the same black hole. The acrobats land on the stage, which is now completely covered in water. They deliver quite a show as they dive and traverse the colorful waters. It is a spectacular scene and the costumes and settings remind me of the movie Avatar. It’s a shame when the show has to end and I am thoroughly worn out from the excitement of everything. Day 8 was surely a day that I won’t soon forget and I am really looking forward to tomorrow.

Another adventure…

Photo Credit: northlandadventurer.com
Photo Credit: northlandadventurer.com

I am currently away exploring once more.  This time I am visiting Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands.  I am hoping to see the Perseid meteor shower and maybe some northern lights.  I will continue my posts when I return in a few days.  Until then… I will miss all of you!  Have a wonderful week and if you live in a climate like mine, don’t forget to enjoy the warm weather days while you can!  😉

Day 4 of our 21 day adventure

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After three days of exploring our country from dawn until dusk, today we are taking it easy. It’s 11:00 a.m. and we just finished eating breakfast here at the Sleep Inn, in Idaho Falls. We only have a four-hour drive today, with our final destination being Orem, UT. We are excited to make our way to Orem, which is just outside of Salt Lake City. We are planning to stay in Orem for a couple of days so that we can get a good feel for what the area is like. I am hopeful that this may be another place that we can add to our list of possible places to move to.

IMG_0534 copy for WPUnfortunately, the drive to Orem, is leaving me a little bit disappointed. The traffic reminds me of big city living and It’s hard to navigate through the streets due to the high level of traffic on the roads. Thankfully, it doesn’t take us long to make it to our hotel. The unfortunate part is, our hotel is being completely renovated both inside and out. The ruts in the street are so deep, that driving through them is difficult. When we enter the hotel, the lobby is completely torn apart and the hustle and bustle of construction is happening all around us. We are quickly regretting our decision to stay here for two days, but are trying to stay positive. After attempting to check-in an hour early, we are told that we will have to wait.

IMG_0552 copy for WPWe decide to head out and explore the area while we wait. I remember reading about a place called Bridal Veil Falls and so we decide to see if we can find it. After about 20 minutes of driving, we have made our way to the entrance that leads to the falls. A bike trail weaves its way around the base of the hills and we walk along the bike path, taking in the beauty of the trees and listening to the rushing waters of a creek that flows alongside the trial. It’s nice to be out of the city traffic and away from the construction work, but the temperature is over 100 degrees and quickly zapping the energy right out of me. The walk is easy though and it doesn’t take us long to find the base of the falls.

IMG_0546 copy for WPThere are quite a few people here and some are actually trying to hike all the way up to the top of the falls with small children. I have to admit, it’s making me a bit nervous watching the hikers climb their way to the top. There isn’t a path leading up to the top of the falls and the terrain is extremely rocky and steep. The falls are beautiful, but it is definitely not tranquil here. There are about 100 people trying to cram into the water that is accumulating at the base of the falls. It doesn’t take long for me to feel overwhelmed by the heat of the day and the crowds of people, so we head back after a taking a short walk past the falls.

Photo Credit:  www.byubites.com
Photo Credit: http://www.byubites.com

The traffic is even worse on our way back to the hotel, and after checking in, we decide that we need to plan something different for tomorrow. After talking it over, we agree to head to Las Vegas a day early and we decide to make reservations at the Luxor hotel. After making reservations and cancelling our extra day in Orem, we head out to find a place to eat dinner. After driving around for a while, we finally settle on Smash Burger. Their food is okay, but not something to write home about. After finishing up dinner, we head over to the local mall which is located within a mile of our hotel. After perusing the shops, we decide to head back to the hotel to watch a movie. Today wasn’t the most memorable day, but we are certainly looking forward to tomorrow and excited for the days ahead.

Day 1 of our 21 day adventure

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It’s 10 minutes to 4:00 a.m. and I am wide awake. My alarm is set for 4:00 a.m. but my mind is in a hurry to start the day and doesn’t want to wait to be alerted. I scramble to my feet, excited to start the adventure of my life. An entire three weeks without the responsibility of caring for 3 lovely children, 2 huge dogs, 2 smelly rats, and 1 very large house that is a pain to clean! My poor husband is still snoring away, unaware of my excitement and eagerness to get going. I race to the shower, thinking about all the things I still need to do before we leave. Shower behind me, I’m a mental mess now, dripping water all over the place as I hastily dry off, fearing that I’ve forgotten something. My impatience is growing as I return to my bedroom and find that my dear sweet husband is still sleeping peacefully. The low sound of his rhythmic snores begins to echo in my brain and pulls me into a tizzy. In a semi-aggravated state, because obviously he isn’t aware of my eagerness to begin our adventure, I begin the process of waking him up by gently pushing against his shoulder. He lets out a few deep snores and smacks his lips together a few times before he turns to face me. I can tell that he is obviously not excited about getting up this early in the morning and he looks at me quizzically, one eye closed as he tries to adjust his eyes to the light coming from the bathroom just behind me. After several blinks, he is finally awake and sitting on the edge of the bed. I can hardly contain my excitement any longer and throw my arms around him in a tight embrace. “It’s time to get going!” I announce. He gives me a bit of a smirk and then trudges to the bathroom to escape my cheery disposition. I am a little disappointed in his response and hope that he will have a little more enthusiasm during the next three weeks.IMG_0168

After a little coaxing, saying goodbyes, packing the car, re-packing the car, and last-minute straightening and reminders to everyone, we are finally on our way. It’s now 5:15 a.m. and I am already annoyed because we have to stop for gas since we forgot to fill up the gas tank yesterday. I really just want to get going. The good thing about stopping is, now we have our morning coffee and soda to get us through the next 8 hours until we arrive at our first destination which is Mitchell, SD. I don’t know why I am so excited about Mitchell, SD in the first place. The only thing we plan to do there is visit the Corn Palace, and if I remember correctly, the last time I was there 11 years ago, there wasn’t much to see. Brian grabs my hand and bows his head in prayer. I quickly bow my head as well and pray along with him. With a final “Amen!” and a shared thought that passes silently between us, we head out onto the highway to continue our journey. We drive for about an hour, before both of us have to pee. Now we are second guessing our choice in drinking coffee and soda. This could make for a very long trip if our bladders keep forcing us to stop. Oh well, at least it’s just us that we have to worry about. If the kids were with us these stops would be a whole lot longer. IMG_0171

About 20 rest stops later… we are finally here in Mitchell, SD. We head over to our hotel which is a Comfort Inn. The place is pretty nice and the bed feels comfortable as I sprawl on top of it in happy revelation that we finally made it here. We decide not to lug all of our stuff in right away and head out to find the Corn Palace first. We don’t want to miss our opportunity to see this wonderful sight and were afraid it may close early. After taking a few wrong turns, we finally find it amidst the crowded buildings in the downtown area. It’s muggy outside, there’s road construction going on, and we aren’t quite sure where to park. Eventually we find a public parking lot across from the Corn Palace and park the car. I am grateful that we have finally made it here and just want to see something exciting and take lots of pictures. I am a little disappointed at first glance to see that they aren’t finished with the new exterior of the Corn Palace. Every year they change the theme and designs. Once inside the Corn Palace we are able to view pictures of the Corn Palace from all of the prior years. A Corn Palace Video blares in the distance, explaining the story of the Corn Palace. There’s a gift shop in the middle of a stadium seating area that gets our attention. We walk around the place for a while and discover some interesting facts. We learn that over 275,000 ears of corn are used each year in redecorating the Corn Palace and that all the colors of corn are naturally grown from special seeds raised just for the Corn Palace. Each color is apparently planted in separate fields to maintain its pure color and the Corn Palace Festival Committee selects a new theme each year.IMG_0167

After taking lots of pictures, buying a few souvenirs for our girls, and perusing the local shops in the area; we head back to our hotel to figure out what else we should do. Both of us are tired and hungry and noticed a Ruby Tuesdays Restaurant just a short walk away from our hotel. We decide to call the kids before we go and eat dinner, but unfortunately we now find that we have no cell service and no internet. A wave of heat hits us as we head out towards the restaurant. The temperature and humidity have been rising all day and even the short walk to the restaurant feels overwhelming. The restaurant is almost empty and I wonder if we should go elsewhere. A vacant restaurant in my opinion, is usually a bad sign. We order some burgers though and the pretzel bun burgers we order are really tasty. We order cocktails and spend a good amount of time talking and laughing. It’s the first time I’ve sat down with my husband to have dinner alone with him in what seems like ages. With full bellies and feeling a little lightheaded from the cocktails, we decide to walk to a nearby mall. It feels good to walk around holding hands and just be together as a couple. Exhaustion soon starts to overtake us though and we decide to head back to our room. Both of us plop down on the bed and fall asleep within minutes. The early morning, the long drive, the excitement of the day, and the fullness of a good meal, have laid the foundation for a good long rest.

Upon waking, we are both excited to be here on our own and decide to explore the waterpark.  The hot tub looks appealing, but we soon realize that it isn’t working and head for the pirate ship instead.  Still tired from a long day, I am feeling like we should just go back to our room, but Brian has other intentions.  Splashing his way around the ship like a 5 year old boy, he soon has me gallivanting around with him and I feel embarrassment wash over me.  Brian stands under a large bucket of water that keeps heaping loads of water over his head.  I am reminded of a childhood that didn’t allow for such experiences and wishing I could be little again.  As the sun begins to set, I am happy for our first day of fun and looking forward to the days to come.  Maybe I will find the little girl inside of me after all…

Our Latest Adventure

Just wanted to share our most recent trip to the park with all of you.  It was quite muddy that day, but at least there weren’t too many bugs lurking about.  We had a blast despite ending up with mud caked to the bottom of our shoes. 🙂

Monroe 7This was the start of the path leading into the woods from the children’s play area.  Every time I see a path like this, I feel inspired to write something  about it.  The woods were so tranquil and quiet.  The only sounds that could be heard were the faint rustle of the leaves in the wind and the birds merrily singing nearby.

Monroe 5Along the path, we spotted this tree off in the distance.  I wanted to get a closer look, but it was so far off the path and with the ground being so muddy, this is as close as I could get without getting stuck forever!  I wonder if an animal lives here.  It sure seemed like a cozy little place to snuggle up and take a nap.

Monroe 4These plants to the left, covered almost the entire forest floor.  Not sure of their name.  They were about 3 ft. tall, with tiny white flowers at the tips, and because of their height, it made it impossible to veer off the path too far.

Monroe 1Here’s a better view of the flowers that were perched at the top of each plant.  Like I said, I am not sure what these were, but they were a beautiful sight for sure!

Monroe 9   The trees didn’t quite have all of their leaves yet, so you could really get a good view of the entire forest and all of it’s hidden secrets that laid scattered about.  I enjoyed watching the butterflies fluttering by, and my girls were looking for curious things to collect.  I think the only thing we really collected though, was about 2 inches of mud on the bottoms of our shoes!

Monroe 11   This was the end of our journey through the woods and I decided to take a picture of the sun peering through the trees as we made our way back to the play area.  It is always hard to leave such a peaceful place behind and I felt a bit sad when we had to leave.  The good news is, that we can go back another day and have another adventure waiting for us once again!  I am already excited just thinking about it!