Hugely Pregnant in the Hot Desert

We’ll add this to the list of trips I never posted about because I was too pregnant to care and didn’t want to upset people by promoting travel during a global pandemic. I wish I could just stay in an underground bunker or at least some remote area far, far away from the nearest person until things are “normal” again, but we embarked on this quest to get out of our house before my pregnancy hormones drove me insane and I murdered Kevin.

Really nothing I’ve done since the beginning of the pandemic has felt like a “worthwhile” risk, but at least on this trip we had our own trailer, didn’t have to use any public restrooms, and were outside anytime we were around people. Also, I’m glad I have some photos of us traveling and hiking with masks on so that many years from now we can look back and be like, “Damn we really made it through a pandemic.”

My brother moved in with us for the second half of 2020 and we really wanted to take him to Moab because it’s one of our favorite places and we knew he would love it! We took advantage of the long holiday weekend and also hit up Goblin Valley on the way! Quite possibly one of the worst places to be in the middle of summer in your third trimester of pregnancy. By this point my feet were swollen, I had carpal tunnel in both wrists and had to sleep with wrist braces on, and I had to pee all the time. But yes, let’s definitely go hiking in the hot desert and climb on things.

I was determined not to let this whole pregnancy thing get in the way of having fun, but unfortunately my belly was literally getting in my way as I was trying to climb on things. Even on a previous Goblin Valley trip when I was not pregnant, I got stuck climbing a few times and Kevin had to help me get back down. If you’ve never been to Goblin Valley, there are not really “hiking trails”. You just start wandering around and you can stay down in the valley or climb up onto the mesas.

At first I was trying to take it easy but I really wanted to climb up to the mesa with Kevin and Alex, so I said “screw it” and decided my body could still be as athletic as it was pre-pregnancy. It’s harder to climb back down than it is to climb up though, so we were really stuck trying to find an easy way for me to get down until I got frustrated and decided to just pick a way and stick with it. Kevin swears that the way I chose involved jumping six feet down from a ledge and says that he was afraid to jump off of it and couldn’t believe I had done it pregnant. I don’t think it was that high, but everything turned out fine and they love telling that story now!

By the time we finished climbing around and had to head back because we didn’t bring enough water, it had to be a hundred degrees. We were hot and tired so we were like, let’s just get to Moab and set up the trailer. We get to our RV park in Moab and set everything up and the poor AC in the trailer is working its ass off trying to keep it cool, but it’s the middle of the day and there’s no shade. Kevin’s outside trying to put the awning up and Alex and I are laying in the trailer sweating and drinking two or three Gatorade Zeros. It was so miserably hot that I wanted to just drive back home. I also wanted to return the trailer because it was not getting cool in there and I was so pissed about how expensive it was and yet it couldn’t withstand the desert heat. Finally Kevin was like, let’s just go to the river, which was a whole adventure trying to find a secluded river spot but we finally found one (and ended up coming back to it the next two days)!

Looking back we should have just gone straight to the river instead of being miserable in the trailer, but we were so tired! The river time was so nice, even though we didn’t have chairs or inner tubes or anything. The one problem was that I hate going into rivers and lakes in bare feet. I don’t want my feet to touch the slimy rocks and sand, but my sandals were too tight for my swollen feet so as Kevin’s driving around looking for a spot to park and walk down, I am holding my swollen feet up to the AC vents trying to get them to un-swell enough to force them into my sandals. I wish someone would’ve just told me it was worth the money to buy new sandals and shoes to get through the last few months of pregnancy. At one point I was nearly sobbing over the fact that I couldn’t get my sandals on.

Aside from our afternoons spent at the river, we also went into Canyonlands and Arches and did some hiking! Thankfully, most of the people we encountered were wearing masks, but there were still way too many people especially inside Arches. We didn’t even hike to Delicate Arch because there was literally a line of people all the way around the bowl, waiting to get their photos taken by the arch. We could see even from far away all these tiny little dots and we were so shocked to realize they were all people. It’s one of the really popular hikes — the arch that’s on the Utah license plates — but that is the most crowded I have ever seen it.

We took a lot of really fun photos though and it was so fun to take Alex for his first time to these Utah national parks. The landscape is just so cool and we knew he probably wouldn’t get the chance to come back after he moved out, so I’m really glad we went. We didn’t go into any restaurants or shops, just got coffee outside one day and ordered takeout from a couple of our favorite restaurants. Also another moment where I was in tears, finding out the restaurant we wanted to eat at was closed when all I wanted was some weird jalapeño burger I had seen on the menu and had been craving.

We had to make a grocery store run to buy more Gatorade Zeros because it was so hot out and we were so thirsty. Still had to sleep with the AC on full blast to get through the hot desert nights. As much as we love to travel, we really have to stop doing it in the middle of summer. Hopefully we can get to a point where Kevin has enough time off that we don’t have to travel during holiday weekends like we usually end up doing. It’s nice to take advantage of the holiday but it’s always so crowded and we’ve started to realize that it’s nicer to travel to a lot of these places in the offseason!

One thing that made this whole trip worth it was taking these photos of Kevin and I because we have taken photos in the same spot before and didn’t realize that I am wearing the shorts Kevin was wearing in the first photo:

The next time we go to Arches, we’re going to recreate this photo again — this time with Sophie!

All in all, Moab & vicinity is always a 10/10 for us. It’s such a cool place and even when we’re miserably hot we find ways to have a good time and we always make hilarious memories that we end up laughing about later. So glad we got to share one of our favorite places with my brother and give him lots of awesome pics for his Instagram feed!

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Family Trip: Canyonlands & Goblin Valley!

Two of our favorite places with two of our favorite people!

Once upon a time, my mom and youngest brother planned a trip to see us in March 2020 — not knowing that the COVID pandemic would hit right about then. All of our plans were up in the air right up until the week they were scheduled to fly out. They ended up being able to fly here and we proceeded with our trip as planned.

Everything ended up being shut down the very next week, so in retrospect we probably should have cancelled this trip — but we had no idea how everything was going to go down and how serious the pandemic was at this point. However, I avoided posting anything on social media about this trip until much later because I felt guilty that we had traveled when we should have started quarantining, and I did not want to seem like I was encouraging people to continue traveling during this time.

I am really glad they ended up being able to come. We had a great trip! It was the first time we got to spend some 1×1 time with just my mom and Christopher — probably ever! My family is a big group — often referred to as the Kemper Party of 8, or however many people are there at the time — and it is really fun to do things together as a group, but I really enjoyed this trip with just the two of them!

We booked a bougie hotel in Moab — the brand new Hyatt Place — as a surprise. It was supposed to be a low-budget weekend but at the last minute we decided to splurge a bit on the hotel so that everyone would have some more room to spread out. We drove to Moab in the late afternoon/evening and took them to Pasta Jay’s for dinner. It was amazing, as always, but we ordered way too much food. I had just found out that I was pregnant a week before, and didn’t realize it yet but I would have some issues eating for the first trimester. Not morning sickness really, just a general lack of appetite and an aversion to food. So this became a theme for the weekend — me being super hungry and ordering a shit ton of food and then feeling full a few bites in.

Our hotel lived up to the expectations. It was brand new, really beautiful, and even had a hotel bar (a rarity for Utah). Kevin and my mom kept the drinking to a minimum that weekend since I could not partake. We tried several times to go in the hot tub and pool but it was way too crowded — and in retrospect, I am glad we didn’t, because COVID. We had some shenanigans the first night. Christopher normally sleeps with an industrial fan in his bedroom (no joke) so he was using some sort of noise machine app on his phone that was driving me insane. I threatened to get my own hotel room, and then told my mom that she had ten minutes left to read her book because we were waking up early the next day. These are now stories that I will never hear the end of anytime we are together.

The next morning we got up — not quite as early as we had hoped — and there were some additional shenanigans involving Christopher not being able to wake from his deep sleep, my mom spilling her tea several times, and the discovery that our hotel room did not have a microwave. I thought for some reason there was a hot pot in the room, and I thought Kevin agreed with me because he said, “It’s for rice” (he had actually said “it’s for ice”) so I said, “I know it’s for rice, it’s a hot pot” and then my mom spit the rest of her tea on Kevin’s shoes. Another story we will be telling each other for the next five years, and if it doesn’t seem that funny to you, I apologize — I’m really just putting it in here for the people that were there.

We headed to Burger King to grab breakfast and opted to go inside to order to avoid the dreaded drive-thru experience (wherein usually my mom is trying to keep everything organized by ordering for everyone from the backseat of the car, and then inevitably someone’s order is wrong anyway). Canyonlands (Island in the Sky) is about a 30 minute drive from Moab but it’s a very beautiful drive. It was not very crowded but we decided to avoid the visitor’s center since it’s very small and there’s not much to look at. We took them to all of the viewpoints and did a couple of short hikes, including our favorite Mesa Arch.

I convinced everyone that we should drive back to Moab the back way — on the windy dirt road that goes down into the Canyon and follows the river. I said it would only take like 45 minutes but it turned out to take much more time than that. Apparently my concept of time on these kinds of drives is completely unreliable and incorrect, but everyone had a good time and we stopped at a few places to take some pictures of the river.

Back in town, everyone was ready for a nap/some down time so we headed back to the hotel. I think we considered doing another hike but we were all pretty worn out by that point. When it was time to get up for dinner, we drove into town and walked around and went to a few of the shops first. There are a couple of shops there that I love and I stocked up on some homemade soap and artist-made cards.

We decided to eat dinner at a new place that was recommended to us — The Broken Oar. We waited outside for our table to be ready and while we were waiting, we befriended a neighborhood cat. I must have zoned out during part of the conversation because apparently Christopher said, “We should name this cat Georgie”, and then a few minutes later I said, “You know what would be a great name for this cat? Georgie!”

There really was too much comedic family material on this trip for any of us to handle.

I am so glad it was recommended that we go to The Broken Oar because it was absolutely fantastic! They had these sweet potato fries that were like a dessert fry — covered in sugar and honey and who knows what else. Christopher surprised all of us by ordering some sort of pork sandwich with extra sausage on the side (this was the kid who used to order a cheeseburger “plain” with nothing but the burger patty, cheese, ketchup and a bun). Once again I overestimated my level of hunger and Kevin had to eat 3/4 of my meal as well as his, but the fries were so delicious. We agreed that this might be our new favorite Moab restaurant.

Once again our evening hot tub plans were thwarted (thankfully) and we went to bed with minimal shenanigans. The next day we were packing everything up and heading to Goblin Valley on the way home. Somehow we ended up not eating breakfast before leaving town but by the time we got to the Burger King in Green River, it was like 11:02am and breakfast was over for the day. For those who don’t know me, I prefer fast food breakfast over anything else on the menu and this sent me into a brief tailspin where I debated eating gas station snacks instead of ordering anything, but begrudgingly decided to order a burger. To make matters worse, this is also a very podunk Burger King. There are some nice ones and this is not one of them, but Christopher got a BK Crown so he was set for the day.

We arrived at Goblin Valley around noon and set off on our adventure of the day. What I love about Goblin Valley is the fact that there are no trails, you’re just wandering around this giant natural playground. As Kevin and I predicted, Christopher absolutely loved it and was in heaven. My mom also had a great time and definitely leaped out of her comfort zone and was climbing on things and doing her own version of parkour about 30 minutes in to the adventure. Christopher ran off on his own and we had to keep track of him as he climbed higher and higher and eventually ended up on top of one of the mesas.

He also got a bloody nose right in the middle of our excursion — thank you, dry desert — and my mom had limited supplies in her fanny pack so that was an adventure in and of itself, but we made it without having to walk all the way back to the car. We stayed out there exploring for several hours before heading back for some lunch/snacks. Kevin and I really wanted to show them Little Wild Horse Canyon so we drove there, but everyone was pretty exhausted by that point and we all knew there was a 3 hour drive back home, so we ended up opting out of the canyon hike. I am excited for them to come back though so we can do it next time!

They flew back home the next morning and I think about two days later, everything started shutting down and quarantines went into effect statewide and there was a mad scramble for all toilet paper and canned foods at the grocery stores. It’s crazy to think that everything had seemed “normal” and we were able to take this trip right before we ended up being quarantined for several months. It was lucky that none of us got sick while on the trip, but I am so glad we were able to go before being stuck at home, especially since we didn’t know when we would be able to get together next!

Europe Adventures Part 3: Dublin!

**This is part three of our Europe trip, which happened in February, but I am just now getting around to writing about it!**

The view from our hotel room!

We landed in Dublin mid-afternoon, figured out which bus we needed to take to get to our hotel, and set off in the middle of a rain storm (it actually snowed for a few minutes too!). This was the last leg of our trip and I had purposefully booked a bougie-ass hotel by the sea, away from the city, thinking (rightfully so) that we might be tired of all the city life and ready to take a few days to relax by this point in the trip. We stayed at the Haddington House, with a view of the sea from our hotel room, and it could not have been more perfect.

The hotel had a restaurant in it so that’s where we ate the first evening and the food was absolutely delicious. My throat had started to hurt earlier in the day, which I was in denial about and would not accept the fact that I might have been getting Kevin’s cold, so I had a few hot toddy’s with dinner and those seemed to help.

Unfortunately, by the middle of the night, I could no longer be in denial about it and was forced to miserably accept that I was now the sick one. Thankfully, we still had some medicine that we’d gotten from my aunt before leaving Exeter. The next day, Kevin was forced to spend the day alone as I slept for most of the day and neither of us felt like going into Dublin to go sightseeing. He left on several errands throughout the day — in search of food, a pharmacy, and a walk on the pier. We had some burgers for dinner that weren’t great but weren’t terrible, and we should have gone back to the hotel restaurant instead. Kevin still wasn’t feeling 100% and I was at square one of the sickness, so we laid low for the entire day. I wish that I would have felt better but if there was ever a place to spend the day in bed and still have an amazing view out your window, this was the place to be. It didn’t feel like an entirely wasted trip, more like a lot more unplanned rest than we imagined.

The next day, I felt well enough to take a walk on the pier. It was cold and windy but the sea was really beautiful. Kevin also made us some espresso and we had a little breakfast coffee and cookies in our hotel room. There was a Nespresso machine in the room and Kevin fell absolutely in love with it and is still begging me to buy one for our house, along with the Nutella cookies that we found at the grocery store in Paris.

We opted out of Dublin but were going to visit a museum that was right next to our hotel, but unfortunately it was not open early enough and we had to get to the airport for our last flight(s) of the trip. We were flying from Dublin back to London and then flying from London back to the U.S. the next morning — early. Due to some weather issues, our flight in Dublin was delayed for several hours and we ended up not getting back to London until much later in the evening than we expected. At this point, the COVID situation was worsening and people in the airport were wearing masks. We were starting to feel some mild anxiety and concern over whether we would be able to leave the country and get back home.

We stayed in a hotel right by the London airport, ordered room service for dinner, and watched one of the Back to the Future movies on tv, which would have been a great night except for the fact that I was in the my nose is so stuffy I can’t breathe point of my cold. At this point, I was on the 4 hour cold medicine cycle and was certain that I was overdosing on the Sudafed nasal spray. I prayed for a miracle to happen and that I would feel better the next morning, but unfortunately I felt about the same. We visited the pharmacy at the airport before we left to stock up on all the drugs that had been keeping me sane for the last 48 hours. We bought a few more pastries from the coffee shop, and boarded our plane home.

The flight was 12 and a half hours instead of 8 and a half hours and leaving for a long flight in the early morning did not work as well for us as leaving in the evening did. We didn’t eat enough for breakfast and the meal served on the plane did not quite cut it. Kevin went and grabbed extra snacks from the flight attendants several times. I spent half of the flight with tissues plugging my nose because I got tired of constantly blowing it, and the woman behind us had a deathly sounding cough so I was certain I was going to recover from this cold only to get her germs. The flight felt like it took several days and we were ecstatic when we finally landed. Our ears were so plugged from being on the plane and being sick that we couldn’t hear properly for a couple of days after getting home. We ended up both being very sick for a couple of weeks but I can’t say it surprised me since we took so many flights during the trip.

We learned so much on this trip about what works for us and what doesn’t when it comes to international travel. This was our first experience so we really didn’t know what to expect. I’m glad that we packed so many places into such a short trip because although it was nice to check off so many things on the to-do list, we realized that we prefer a much slower pace when traveling. Visiting Exeter was the highlight of our trip because we got to spend time with family, which made us realize that we are probably much better suited to traveling in a group instead of traveling alone just the two of us. We didn’t love Paris, but really all we were there for was the Eiffel Tower, and now that we’ve checked that off our bucket list I don’t think we will go back — though there are other parts of France that I think we’d love to visit. We’d like to go back and actually see Dublin, but we loved the countryside and the hotel we stayed in.

The biggest learning experience for us on this trip was that neither of us are really into the traditional touristy things — which also usually take place in the city — and we’d much prefer to have a more leisurely trip in the countryside or less crowded places. The next time we travel internationally, we plan on visiting only one place and not flying to three different countries in a week and a half, and we also plan on traveling with other people — most likely my brother and his girlfriend on our next trip.

We also found that many of the ways we tried to make our trip cheaper actually made it more stressful and knowing that, we will pay more to have less anxiety and stress next time. For example, in London it was very easy to use the tube and the public transit system so we had no issues taking trains and buses everywhere. In Paris, the system was more complicated and there was a language barrier for us, so we would have been better off booking a more expensive hotel in a more central location so that we could have walked to more places easily. In Dublin, because we stayed so far outside of the city, it would have been easier for us and we might have actually made it into the city had we rented a car. Ultimately we weren’t doing an incredibly frugal “backpacking through Europe/staying in hostels” experience, so spending a little bit more money would have been fine.

Overall, we had a great experience and although it was fairly stressful being on so many planes during the beginning of the COVID pandemic, I am glad we got to take this trip as it seems that we will not be traveling internationally for awhile now. The good news is that we have plenty of time to research and plan for our next trip…we are thinking Germany!

Europe Adventures Part 2: Paris!

**This is part two of our Europe trip, which happened in February, but I am just now getting around to writing it!**

Originally, we were supposed to fly out of Exeter really early on Tuesday morning — like 6:30am early. After the fiasco of losing the blue backpack, I changed our flight to Tuesday afternoon so we’d have extra time if we still needed to get the backpack (and our passports) back. This turned out to be a good thing because Kevin woke up not feeling so great on Tuesday and ended up sleeping until about 11am.

Exeter was probably our best airport experience as it was such a small airport and the people were very nice. Unfortunately for Kevin, it was also a small plane. I like the smaller planes because there are only two seats in a row so I only have to sit next to Kevin and not some stranger, but they’re not as comfortable for someone with a 6’4″ frame.

I think our flight was barely an hour, maybe a little longer, and it was fairly smooth. When we landed, we entered an entirely different experience in the Paris airport. The airport is huge. I haven’t flown to many big cities so this might be the biggest airport I’ve ever been to. It was really crowded when we landed so we had to wait for a space for our plane. We walked out of the plane and followed the passengers in front of us into the airport building.

Immediately we felt like we were in the wrong place. It was like we had somehow gone through a door marked “unauthorized” and we were in this hallway that seemed completely separate from the rest of the airport. It was completely empty except everyone else who had just gotten off our plane. We could also see through the glass window another hallway mirroring ours, with the normal amount of activity you’d expect to see in an airport terminal. It was like we were trapped in some sort of airport alternate universe and couldn’t get back over to where we were supposed to be. We also kept passing doors with caution tape and KEEP OUT signs in various languages, furthering our suspicions that they had told us to go the wrong way when getting off this plane.

But, after about ten or fifteen minutes of walking, we finally made it out of the silo hallway and back into the regular airport traffic. We discovered that we had to take a train to the baggage claim. Not a short train ride, like a train ride that makes you feel as though you are actually leaving the airport and entering the city and you’re 99% sure you made a bad decision and must have gotten on the wrong train.

Eventually we got ahold of our bags and were trying to figure out how to get an Uber or Lyft because Kevin was still not feeling great and we didn’t want to navigate the public transit system. Unfortunately, the airport wifi was not great and we also couldn’t figure out where we would need to go to wait for an Uber or Lyft to pick us up, so we ended up getting in an actual taxi, which was a very pleasant experience aside from the cab reeking of cigarette smoke.

It took about an hour for us to get to our hotel from the airport, so we really got to immerse ourselves in the Paris driving experience. It was around rush hour traffic time, so the motorcyclists were weaving through cars and there was a lot of honking, lane changing, and general chaos. Our cab driver did not seem to want to partake in this sort of aggressive driving — which Kevin said was likely because he wanted to get as much money as he could from us — but I was thankful because it seemed as though many people driving past us were minutes away from getting in a car accident.

We arrived at our hotel and paid about $80 for our cab. Because the buildings were so old in this area of town, our hotel did not look like much but we were stuck with it at least for one night. It was definitely a “don’t judge a book by the cover” moment though, because they had given us the ADA accessible room on the first floor so it was actually much bigger than all of the other rooms and it was very clean.

We did find out that it wasn’t exactly in a central area of the city when we embarked on our quest for dinner. Unfortunately that is probably the one thing I really did not do “well” when planning this trip. I could have done a better job of planning our hotel stays in areas that were closer to the places we wanted to see. In the case of Paris, I had avoided hotels really close to the Eiffel Tower because they were way more expensive, but it probably would have been worth it.

We found a pizza place on google maps that seemed promising for dinner (because Kevin wasn’t feeling well, neither of us wanted to go to an actual restaurant). The pizza place was even better than expected because it had a touch screen menu that you could use to order instead of trying to talk to someone! Paris was definitely the culture-shock, wow no one speaks English here, place for us. We secured our pizzas and walked back to our hotel room. The streets were incredibly crowded — with both cars, motorcycles and people — and everyone seemed to be in a huge hurry. Although our hotel was a little off the beaten path, it was nice that it was not on a busy street because I think that made it much quieter at night and in the early morning.

The next morning, Kevin accepted the fact that he really was sick and it wasn’t just the jet lag or lack of sleep. But we only had one full day in Paris so he had no choice but to suck it up. We decided to avoid public transit and expensive taxis and walk to the Eiffel Tower, and then if we were tired we could Uber back. We walked to a little bakery first and bought some delicious pastries and a baguette sandwich. This was the highlight of the Paris trip for us — the desserts. I think we could have spent an entire day walking around and buying desserts from different shops.

The Eiffel Tower turned out to be about a four mile walk, but it was a nice day and it was fun to walk through the city. Fun for me, tolerable for sick Kevin. When we got to the Eiffel Tower, it was super crowded and also partially under construction which was triggering to Kevin since Big Ben had also been under construction in London. We decided that we didn’t need to pay to ride the elevator up inside the Eiffel Tower so we ate the rest of our desserts on a park bench and enjoyed a few minutes of people-watching. Kevin didn’t want to continue walking around the city so we debated doing one of the bus tours, or one of the ferry tours. Ferry tours won out and we got on one of the boats. Luckily I think the tour only cost like $15 because it was incredibly lame and the bus would have been the better choice.

It started raining when we got back from the boat tour so we had to walk in the rain back to our hotel, which was fine for me because I had brought my raincoat but Kevin had left his at the hotel. We stopped at a grocery store on the way back to get some snacks and opted for a long afternoon nap when we got back to the hotel. We had planned on going back to the Eiffel Tower in the evening to see it lit up at night, but with Kevin not feeling well we decided not to do that. And we went back to the same pizza place again because we are creatures of habit and did not want to have any social interactions, plus I wanted to try a Nutella Milkshake.

If Kevin had been feeling better, I think we would have gone to at least one restaurant in Paris but we weren’t really there for the cuisine and neither of us drink wine. I think our biggest regret was not buying thousands and thousands of desserts from the bakery and packing them into our suitcases.

We had an early-ish flight to Dublin the next day so we were out of our hotel by 8am and took an Uber to the airport. Unlike the taxi driver, our Uber driver was all about speed and efficiency and I have never feared more for my life than I did on that drive, but in a thrilling sort of way. We made record time getting to the airport and had plenty of time to get through security (where an airport employee called us “funny Americans”) and hang out and grab some coffee while we waited for our flight. At this point, COVID was on the news and was becoming a bigger deal, although it still seemed to be isolated to China. Still, it was starting to become a bit nerve-wracking to be flying so much during this trip.

A few hours later, we landed in Dublin for the last portion of our trip!

To be continued…

Europe Adventures Part 1: London!

**I started writing this post back in March but clearly I was derailed, mostly due to the COVID pandemic stress. Kevin and I are healthy and doing well and I am finally back on track and working through my backlog of blog posts and life updates!**

In February, Kevin and I traveled internationally for the first time ever! It was a really awesome experience. We had a lot of fun and we also learned a lot about how we like to plan our travel and what we will do differently for our next international trip.

This was our first time on a long flight. I think Kevin has been on flights up to 6 hours before. The longest flight I had been on before this was like 3 hours. We left in the evening and had an 8.5 hour direct flight to London. Because Kevin is so tall, we paid a little extra for the Comfort+ seating which gives you quite a bit of extra leg room. We were in a row of 2 by the window, so we had no neighbors which was nice — however, we did not upgrade to the extremely bougie lay-completely-flat-and-sleep-comfortably seats.

The flight wasn’t too bad. We had a meal about 90 minutes in and then pretty much tried to sleep the entire rest of the flight. We had several free (alcoholic) beverages, hoping that would help us fall asleep. Kevin watched a few movies, and eventually I wandered back to an empty row and slept there for a few hours (the flight wasn’t full). Flying in the large plane made a huge difference for me as I usually get motion sickness when I fly, and the full-size bathroom was an added bonus.

Day 1 – The Arrival

We landed at like 11:00am London time. Kevin was keeping tabs on what time it was back home but my internal clock had reset to the time displayed on my phone. We had written down which train we needed to take in order to get to our Airbnb — we just had to find it. We ended up in what we thought was the right place — we confirmed with an airport employee who was standing there helping people — and we already had Oyster cards (you add money to them and can use them on London’s pubic transit system) from when my family had visited London. All we had to do was put money on them.

At first, we thought our cards weren’t working because we were out of the country — we kept getting a “card declined” error. But then they said that all of the machines were having issues, so they told us we’d have to use the cash machine to get cash. Fine. No problem. The cash machine only had an option to withdraw Euros, so that’s what we did. Then we’re putting the Euros into the machine and the same guy who told us to use the cash machine is like, “No, this machine only accepts pounds.”

At this point, my frustration bubbled over and I told Kevin I was leaving. I meant leaving this particular area and this super unhelpful airport employee, but Kevin asked if I was getting on a plane back home. We ended up just deciding to try to use the Oyster cards for this train ride, since they had some money on them — just potentially not enough. We walk over to the entrance and another employee asks us where we’re going.

And we find out that we were actually not even in the right place! Even though we had asked the other clearly very unhelpful employee and he’d said we were. It’s worth noting that literally everyone we met in London was so helpful and kind, except for that one airport employee who was — unfortunately — our first experience.

We get to the right place. The machines work. We load up our Oyster cards. We get on the train. We figure out what stop we need to get off at. We shake off our airport frustrations. We ride the train for 40 minutes to our stop — South Kensington.

We realize that London looks so much like Oregon. It’s very green, it’s raining, it’s kind of gloomy. We think this is sort of hysterical. We’ve flown 8.5 hours and somehow it looks exactly like the area we grew up in. Except of course, the really old buildings and the people driving on the opposite side of the road.

We get off at our stop. The train station is chaotic. We have to go up several escalators and flights of stairs. People are running up and down the escalators so you have to stay on the right side. We make our way out of the station and it’s raining. We have our directions saved, but we can’t find any street signs (we later realized that they’re on the buildings themselves). It’s raining and it’s busy — lunchtime — and people are smoking. However, Kevin’s entire trip was made worth it at this point, because we saw a man walking who got a piece of string stuck around his shoe and he tried to shake it off and yelled, bloody hell!

Finally, after about five minutes of wandering around looking for street signs, I pull Kevin into a Starbucks and order us coffee so we can sit for a minute and use the Wifi. We update the family that we made it safely, and we load our map to the Airbnb. We drink our coffees and wait for the rain to stop. Kevin’s backpack rips — not completely — but just enough that he can’t sling it over his shoulder anymore.

Our Airbnb is a 30 minute walk. We didn’t bring an umbrella, but the rain has turned into a drizzle. We can’t check into our place until 3:00pm so we set out in search of a nearby pub. It’s so fun to walk through the streets of London and look at the beautiful buildings. The drivers are a bit stressful to watch, and the roads are so narrow. Kevin is losing his mind over his ripped backpack, so I take one of his bags.

First meal in London!

When we get to the pub, we order burgers and I ask Kevin what kind of beer he’s going to order. He looks at me like I’m insane and says something about it being 6:30am. I say, no babe it’s 1:30pm. He tells me how he’s so jet lagged and tired and his body is breaking down. I ask the Airbnb if we can check in early. They respond immediately and say yes. We finish our burgers and walk over.

The Airbnb is one private room and bathroom inside a flat. It’s a very small room, with a very small bed — double beds are standards here — but Kevin doesn’t care. He immediately strips off all his clothes and gets in bed. I could rally and go sightseeing but not by myself, so I get in bed too. We take a reasonable nap — from about 2:00pm-6:00pm — and wake up just in time for dinner!

Our Airbnb hosts have left us a list of nearby restaurants and pubs. We decide to go to the Duke of Cambridge. It’s only about a five minute walk from our place, the food is superb, and the people are very welcoming. We thought we’d stand out like tourists for sure, but our server actually asks Kevin if he knows him from somewhere, which cracks us up. Kevin orders a Guinness and it is absolute perfection, everything he’s ever wanted.

We end up still going to bed by 10pm and I feel like I am back on a regular schedule — not jet-lagged — but Kevin continues to have issues with his sleep schedule for several days.

Day 2 – Sightseeing

Before we jump into day two, a little more information on our first night in London. Double beds are the standard — and we recently upgraded to a California King — so the first night was a little bit of a rough adjustment (but much nicer than trying to sleep on a plane). It was also hot, with no A/C (because it’s winter) so we opened the window in the middle of the night and luckily it wasn’t too noisy outside (apart from some strange night birds).

I woke up in the middle of the night to pee — not unusual — but forgot about the wonky setup in our bathroom. It’s essentially a very tiny closet with a toilet and small shower, and the toilet/shower are on a raised platform. It kind of feels like you’re sitting on a throne while peeing. I remembered to step up onto the platform to use the toilet, but when I was done I forgot that I’d be stepping down about eight inches. In the middle of the night, in the dark, I essentially fell off of the toilet platform and caught myself/slammed my shoulder into the doorframe, and landed awkwardly on my right ankle.

Breakfast at Flour to the People!

Of course, Kevin stayed completely asleep for this and heard nothing.

We awoke fairly early to get started with our day. The plan was to hit up as many of the tourist destinations as possible. We googled nearby breakfast places and ended up walking a short distance to Flour to the People. It was a very cute restaurant with delicious food, but very tiny. A lot of the restaurants/coffee shops we passed were very small with limited seating. But the people were wonderful. We didn’t even feel like tourists!

We walked back to the South Kensington station and started our whirlwind of a day from there. We had a lot of places to cover, so we decided to go to the farthest place and circle back from there. King’s Cross was our first stop — and the Harry Potter store, of course, which was filled to the brim with people and screaming children and we bought nothing (although Kevin really wanted an authentic HP trunk, seeing as our luggage seemed to be slowly crumbling around us).

Next up was the British Library, which was massive but admittedly very cool. They have a lot of old books, manuscripts, paintings, etc. on display. And not all of it is that old. We saw some original scribbles of Beatles lyrics, as well as Shakespeare and other fascinating historical artifacts. No photos allowed.

Next, I think, was the British Museum. It’s really all a blur. We did so much walking and train hopping. It was a great way to get really proficient with the London Underground system in about eight hours. The British Museum was also a lot to take in. Even more massive than the library. We walked through almost the entire museum until everything started to blur together and our brains hurt. Although apparently we did not see the Rosetta Stone, which is there and is apparently very cool — and I kept thinking people were talking about the other Rosetta Stone (the whole language learning program — obviously named after this actual stone) so I kind of missed that whole connection. But there was a whole room full of clocks which I thought was really cool. And lots of statues with missing dicks — we were left to speculate whether they were just excessively touched over time or if someone had purposefully removed them. In comparison, all of the breasts seemed largely intact.

We stopped for a quick bite to eat after the British Museum and I discovered my love for baguette sandwiches. Next was Trafalgar Square, which Kevin thought was really cool and I did not quite see what the hype was about. We briefly walked into the National Portrait Gallery but left after walking through room after room of White Jesus paintings. I did see some really beautiful landscape paintings on our way out, so I went to have a look and by the time Kevin noticed I was gone, he’d already gone out the exit and they wouldn’t let him back in.

Kevin is not happy.

At this point, our feet were starting to hurt and we were getting burnt out by all of this museum education. We had a few more places to see. Big Ben — which apparently was Kevin’s most anticipated sightseeing venture in all of London — was under construction, so that was a bit of a bummer. Westminster Abbey was also closed by the time we got there — it closed early, at like 3:00pm, and they were also doing some construction there. We will have to go back and see the abbey and the Churchill War Rooms.

Our last stop was back near South Kensington — the Natural History Museum (Kevin was enthralled by the dinosaur exhibit and that’s all we did) and the Victoria & Albert Museum (which looked to us like a whole lot of the same stuff we had just seen at the British Museum, so we didn’t stay long). At this point, our feet were aching (and I realized my ankle was actually pretty sore from falling out of the bathroom) and we still had to walk all the way back home.

Walking through the streets of London was probably my favorite part of the whole trip — minus the fact that everyone outside is smoking. The buildings are all really old and really beautiful. It’s so fun to just walk through the neighborhoods. That, to me, was more fun than any of the museums. But Kevin and I are a rare breed of tourist — we tend to dislike the popular places that draw large crowds, and a lot of the trips we take are outdoor-focused so we’re used to wide open spaces. Being in a big city with a lot of people was different, but overall we really enjoyed London.

We had a slightly awkward dinner experience that night. In retrospect we should have just gone back to the Duke of Cambridge pub, but we wanted to branch out. We went to another pub, which I don’t remember the name of, and the food wasn’t great so I wouldn’t recommend it anyway. The pub we’d been in the night before had open seating, so we walked into this one and didn’t see a sign that said “please wait to be seated” and it seemed fairly casual so we assumed it was another seat yourself scenario.

When a waitress finally approached us with a weird look on her face, we realized we’d made a mistake. We apologized profusely and said we could wait or sit somewhere else, but she insisted it was fine and brought us menus and we went about our dinner. Everything seemed completely normal until she took our dinner plates after the meal, and then never returned. She continued to serve the table next to us, never asked us for dessert, and after waiting to try and catch her attention for an hour, and the table next to us (who had been seated after us, already ate their dinner and left) Kevin finally had to physically go up to her and tell her we were ready for our bill. The whole thing was incredibly strange. Kevin thinks she was salty that we sat ourselves. I think that she was just rude. But it was the weirdest thing we have ever experienced at a restaurant because in America, if your server hates you and wants you gone, they’re going to try and get you out of there as soon as possible. And in general, they try to get you out of there as soon as possible so they can get new tables. I will say that the general slow dining experience in Europe was very refreshing. No one rushing you out the door, instead letting you take your time with your meal.

Day 3 – The Journey to Exeter

To avoid another restaurant mishap, we went back to Flour to the People the next morning. We had really enjoyed their breakfast and wanted to try some different menu items. They were happy to see us back and we squeezed into a shared table at the busy, tiny restaurant. After breakfast, we took a bus to the London Victoria Coach Station, where it took forever for us to find a bathroom for Kevin — who was in dire need after trying espresso for the first time — and we also bought a new luggage bag, discarding the two bags that had ripped on the first day.

We had to wait a few hours for our bus to Exeter, which is where my aunt lives. I read a book while Kevin listened to a little British girl talk to her mom and he kept interrupting my reading to tell me how adorable her accent was and how we have to send our children to boarding school in London so they will have British accents.

Our bus ride to Exeter was a long one — almost 4 hours — and we were in the middle of some sort of storm. It was very windy, rocking the bus from side to side — and rainy, so it was harder to look out at the scenery, which was okay because it still looked just like Oregon to us, with a few castles sprinkled in here and there. Thankfully, the bus was equipped with a bathroom because I think I had to pee at least twice. I thought peeing on planes was unnerving but it’s even more strange to pee on a moving bus in the middle of a wind/rain storm.

After an incredibly long four hours, we made it to the bus stop at Exeter. My aunt was waiting for us outside and we hurried off the bus to greet her. Unfortunately, in the excitement of hurrying to get off the bus, Kevin and I had a miscommunication where he asked if I had all the bags, and I replied yes, thinking he had the blue backpack over his shoulder (he was wearing a blue raincoat). We didn’t realize until we were sitting down at a restaurant ordering dinner that we’d left the blue backpack on the bus.

It would have been a much more manageable, less stressful situation had our passports not (unfortunately) been inside the blue backpack. Other than that, the backpack had a bunch of my clothes in it and nothing else we really needed. I spiraled into an anxiety attack while my aunt called the bus company to try and figure out how we could get the bag back. Eventually, we found out where the bag would most likely end up, we felt assured that it would be locked up safely, and we knew we could not get it until Monday. After a few gin and tonics, I was able to power through my panic attack and move on.

I would highly recommend not losing your passports in a foreign country though, even if you are not prone to high levels of anxiety.

Day 4 – A Tour of Exeter

On Sunday, Kevin and I went out and explored the town with my aunt Cassie and cousin Amir. We absolutely loved the town. It reminded us a bit of the beach towns in Oregon. We enjoyed walking through the narrow alleyways and cobblestone streets, and despite seeming like a very small town, Exeter had a large city square with a mall that was bustling with activity even on a Sunday.

We spent the day walking around town and hanging out at home. My aunt cooked us a wonderful roast for dinner, and of course we had some more gin and tonics to top off the evening. We also spent about two hours looking at real estate online, specifically castles that we could buy for Kevin and I, my aunt and Amir, and my parents and brothers to all share.

Day 5 – Reunited with the Blue Backpack

On Monday, Kevin and I set off on a journey to find our blue backpack, which really did end up feeling like a journey to Hogwarts and back. We rode buses and trains the entire day. We started off the day with a tour of an Abbey out in the country. We missed our first bus initially because we did not have Apple Pay set up to buy bus tickets and we needed a wifi signal. Thankfully, we connected to the wifi of a local grocery store from the bus stop and were able to get it set up. In retrospect, we realized we were idiots and could have just used the “tap” credit card feature to buy the bus tickets instead. The Abbey was really beautiful and very secluded, but there wasn’t a ton to do there so we quickly hopped on another bus after our tour and left in search of the blue backpack.

We still weren’t sure where the backpack was but the bus company was going to either call my aunt and tell us where we could pick it up, or they were going to arrange to have it delivered to her house. The most likely place it would be was Plymouth, in a bus depot at the end of the line. We decided to bank on it being there and took the train all the way to Plymouth. It turns out the bag was not in Plymouth but they arranged to bring it there from wherever it had ended up, so we ended up arriving there only about 30 minutes before the bag did.

Reunited with the blue backpack!

Ironically, as the bus driver was bringing the backpack over to us, he spilled about half of a can of coke on it. But we did not complain because our passports (and my clothes and toothbrush) were back in our hands safe and sound. The train ride home from Plymouth was also very beautiful and we got to see the English Channel. It was actually a very enjoyable day, despite it revolving around getting our bag back, because we got to take trains all over the countryside from Exeter to Plymouth and back.

Thankfully, we had our passports again because the very next day we were scheduled to say goodbye to my aunt and Amir and head to our next destination: Paris!

To be continued…

Weekend Adventure: Petrified Forest & Grand Canyon

I’ve been behind on blog posts so far this year — and now with the recent quarantine it seems like a good time to get caught up! Today is the first day that I’ve actually felt like doing something “productive” during this quarantine time, so I’m taking that as a positive sign.

Our first weekend adventure of 2020 took place the third week of January — and it almost didn’t happen! We got in a car accident on December 1st and still hadn’t gotten our truck back from the shop. We ended up getting the truck back only a few days before we had to leave. Then, we had a snowstorm.

But we checked the roads and everything seemed to be fine south of Provo, so we went ahead with our plans.

This trip was a huge undertaking for one weekend. Ironically, both of us had thought we had MLK Day off (Monday) so we figured we’d have an extra day to drive back. Turns out, neither of us had the day off so we ended up needing to come back on Sunday night!

We left Friday afternoon at around 2:00pm and drove all the way to Page, Arizona — right by Lake Powell — which was about a 5.5 hour drive. But since we left so early, we got there at a reasonable hour and had enough time to have dinner and pop into the hotel hot tub for half an hour.

Saturday morning, we were up early — 5:00am — for our 3.5 hour drive to Petrified Forest National Park. We got the sense that the landscape was probably very beautiful, but unfortunately couldn’t see anything because it was still dark. Kevin stopped at a gas station that was quite literally in the middle of nowhere.

Then we ended up stopping at the wrong town for breakfast — at a McDonald’s with no dollar menu. By that time, the sun was up and the terrain was boring (sorry, Arizona). Kevin saw a sign that said we were only so far from “New Mexico” and I had to explain to him that we were going to be driving very close to the Arizona/New Mexico border (I think Petrified Forest is about 60 miles away). At that point, I think he realized how much driving this weekend would really entail and his spirit was crushed.

We passed some sort of a meteor crater monument and contemplated stopping in, but it was kind of an all day/take a tour kind of thing, and we didn’t have that kind of time. I’m confident that we’ll be back down there someday and we can check it out then.

Petrified Forest was not what we were expecting. It’s right off the freeway, which was fascinating to me as I watched all of the people driving down the road as we took the exit, wondering if they realized that this cool little park was right here and all they needed to do was take a brief detour. The park is pretty small, compared to some of the other parks we’ve been to, and it’s not as hiking-centric.

Per usual, we stopped first at the visitor’s center to buy some stickers for our cooler and so Kevin could watch the video about the park. Then, we got our map and started our drive through the park. There is an old inn/restaurant called the Painted Desert Inn, which was really cool to explore. It looks more like a regular house than a hotel, and they’ve kept it beautifully restored.

Kevin thought the views of the park were pretty bland initially, which is one of the things that’s hard for us since a few of our first national parks had absolutely stunning landscapes (thanks, Arches), but it definitely got cooler the further in we drove. We did a few short hikes/walks and started to be able to see the petrified wood up close, which is really the entire point of the park. The wood is scattered all around and it’s absolutely beautiful.

One of the things I thought was super cool about the park is that part of route 66 is actually preserved within the park, and you actually drive across the freeway to get to the other side of the park. Again, this made me marvel at how many people just pass by the park during their commute and might never stop here.

All in all, I think it took us about five or six hours to get through the entire park. We didn’t do every single hike/walk, and we didn’t get to stop and look at every piece of petrified wood, but I would say this is one of the smaller parks that you can definitely visit in only one day. We only had one day, so we didn’t have much of a choice, but this park is probably one that we’ll cross off our list and won’t come back to. Whereas some other parks, I think you could go a dozen times and still not see everything.

From Petrified Forest, we had to drive to Williams, AZ (another 2.5 hours, back the way we came). We stopped in Flagstaff and had an amazing dinner at this restaurant called The Northern Pines Restaurant. It had great reviews but I was a little skeptical when we pulled up, because it was attached to a Days Inn — but oh my goodness, what a hidden gem of a place! I highly recommend eating here if you are in the area. They have amazing food and drinks.

But, part of me wishes we had waited until we got to Williams to eat because it’s a very small, tight-knit town and the businesses really look out for one another, especially in the offseason. When we checked into our hotel, they asked us if we’d eaten dinner yet and had coupons for various restaurants in town. We didn’t get to eat any meals here, except the hotel breakfast, but I think we will be back. It was a really beautiful little town. Some of the hotels were closed since it was the offseason but there were plenty of open restaurants and coffee shops — which we did hit up on Sunday morning. We do try and find small, family owned coffee shops to support during our weekend travels. Sometimes the coffee is great, sometimes it’s not so great, but either way, I feel better about giving my money to them instead of Starbucks (Kevin loves Starbucks though, so it’s hard to tear him away).

Williams is about an hour from the Grand Canyon, so we didn’t have too far to drive on Sunday morning. We drove in through the south entrance and surprisingly, it was pretty packed. I don’t even want to know what the parking lots look like in the summer. It was cold and windy, but sunny, and there was still a bit of snow on the canyon. Kevin had been here before, so he took me to all of his favorite viewpoints and even jokingly proposed to me again a few times.

We watched the park video — of course — and immediately started making plans to hike down into the canyon. I’m not sure when we’ll be able to do this, because I think we’d want to have at least a week off for that kind of excursion, but it’s definitely on our list.

We drove out a different way than we came in — to the east — which ended up being really cool, because there were more viewpoints to stop at along the way and they were significantly less crowded than the main areas of the park. It did take us forever to get out of the park due to the amount of times we stopped to take photos and look at the view, but it was worth it. The Grand Canyon is definitely one of those places that I could see us coming back to several times — especially to actually hike down into the canyon.

Once we finally got out of the park, we began the grueling six hour drive back home. Fortunately, it was light out, so at least we could see all of the beautiful terrain we had missed on the way in. We ended up stopping one more time at the famous Horseshoe Bend. It seemed like a good time to check that one off our list — during the offseason — and again, I cannot imagine going there during the peak tourist season because it was so, so crowded on a Sunday afternoon in January.

Several Maverick sodas later, we finally made it home. It was the farthest we’ve ever driven just on a short weekend (Friday afternoon-Sunday). And when I say we, I mean Kevin because he does all the driving. I’m really inconsistent with my driving speed and he likes to drive as fast as he is allowed, all the time, so he does all of the driving on these trips.

But, as much time as we spent in the car, we were stoked to knock two national parks off our bucket list in just one weekend in January. We’ve got several other trips planned in the upcoming months. I think a few of them will be postponed due to the current quarantine situation, but the good news is that they’re just weekend road trips, so we can reschedule them for anytime. I think we will still get to go on all the trips we have planned, even if we have to wait a couple of months.

Last year, we did a lot of traveling in the peak tourist season (i.e. May-September), so traveling in December and January definitely opened our eyes and made us realize that even though the weather might be more unpredictable, it’s so worth it to do some traveling during that time. We get to avoid the crowds and pay way cheaper prices for hotels. I think both of our hotels on this trip were less than $60 per night, and they were both nice hotels (I am very anti-Motel 6 if that’s any indication).

Coming up on the next blog post: our second adventure of 2020, the longest trip we’ve ever taken, and the first time we both traveled internationally (aside from Canada)!

Weekend Adventure: Death Valley National Park

Death Valley was our last weekend adventure of 2019. The name, Death Valley, took on quite a literal form when Kevin and I both got sick a few days before we were supposed to leave for the trip. It was just a regular head cold — nothing crazy — so we decided not to cancel our plans.

Well, we ended up being sick for almost two weeks so you can imagine how that weekend went. But we made it! The best part was that because Death Valley is only about an hour and a half away from Las Vegas, we decided to get a hotel there for the weekend. Vegas is about a five hour drive, so we left at a reasonable hour on Friday afternoon (also my birthday) and were on track to get there at a decent time until we hit some traffic on an unfortunate two lane highway in Arizona.

By the time we got to Vegas, we were tired of being in the car and we were hungry and I was really starting to feel like shit. Kevin still felt fine at this point so he was in good spirits (he loves Vegas, I had never been). But although Kevin loves Vegas, he has never driven to Vegas, so he’s never had to deal with having a car in Vegas.

A piece of advice for anyone who has somehow still never been to Vegas: do not take your car there. I don’t care if you’re within driving distance, just get on a plane or Uber over there because it is a nightmare.

In the last few years, we’ve been focused on paying off debt and saving money which has — naturally — turned me into a fairly frugal person. I knew Vegas would be an expensive place to visit, but we got a great deal on a hotel (which I still had to pay some absurd resort fee for). We’re in the midst of this sea of cars trying to get to the hotel and I’ve just had the realization that I could never live in New York (or really any city) and I literally at one point close my eyes while Kevin is driving because the whole thing is giving me too much anxiety.

We finally make it to the parking garage, and it’s at that point that I discover that not only am I paying that stupid “resort fee”, I also have to pay for parking for the entire weekend. I briefly considered turning around and driving all the way back home, but I knew Kevin would lose his shit if I even suggested that under these circumstances.

So we park in the stupid not free parking garage and head inside. It feels like we have to walk ten miles through the casino to get to the hotel check-in and I’m following the signs that tell us which way to go, but by the time we get there I have absolutely no idea how to get back to the parking garage.

I was aware that the air in Vegas casinos is 90% cigarette smoke, and I’ve been to a casino in Reno before so I thought I was prepared. I was not prepared to actually see people smoking indoors. That was strange. I was not prepared for my eyes to start hurting immediately upon entering the building. I was not prepared to be sick and to be surrounded by people. Obviously this was not the ideal time to be in Vegas, but there was nothing I could do about it.

We set off in search of a restaurant after checking into our hotel, and the restaurant was in another casino. I don’t know why this was such a surprise to me, but I literally started to cry as we stood in line waiting to get into the restaurant. I knew I was acting like a two year old, but I felt like absolute shit, I was literally carrying DayQuil around in my purse and drinking it, my eyes hurt so bad from the cigarette smoke, and I am not a big fan of crowds.

Unfortunately, there was nowhere to escape to in order to have a temporary meltdown so I swallowed my tears and told myself to stop being a little bitch and apologized to Kevin for being a terrible wife, and went and ate one of the best burgers I’ve had in my entire life.

Another piece of advice: don’t go to Vegas if you can’t drink. I will never understand what compels people to take a family vacation there, but if you do drink alcohol — you’ll want to be able to drink it there. Because I was so sick already (and we were getting up early to go to Death Valley), I didn’t want to compromise my immune system even more by drinking so I did not have a drop of alcohol the entire time I was there. I can’t say for sure, but I’m almost positive the only way I could have an enjoyable time in Vegas is if I were drunk the entire time.

But I have learned my lesson. If cigarette smoke kills your eyes and makes you feel sick, you hate large crowds of people, and you hate paying extra for everything — Vegas may not be the place for you. I can now say that I’ve gone once and I won’t be going back.

Unfortunately, on Saturday morning I was not miraculously better — and Kevin woke up feeling like shit. Walking through Vegas in the early morning when everyone’s finally gone to bed was a surreal experience. We made it to Death Valley by 9:30am, and the drive was actually beautiful — we will have to go back and explore the Red Rock area just outside of Vegas sometime.

Surprisingly, there were quite a few people at the visitor’s center. I don’t know why but I think we expected no one. We got our map of the park and watched the movie (Kevin’s favorite part if you have been following our national park travel for awhile), which — as an added bonus — was narrated by Donald Sutherland! We also found out that it was the 25th anniversary of Death Valley National Park — which felt really special because I had just turned 25 the day before — so the day was shaping up to be a good one.

At the very least, we were determined to make the best of it. We were now both drinking DayQuil out of my purse every 4 hours and we had almost gone through an entire box of tissues.

We discovered that — unbeknownst to us — Death Valley is actually the largest national park in the continental US (one of the Alaska parks is the largest overall). So, it turned out that we were going to have to do a lot of driving in order to see everything. Luckily, we were putting miles on a rental car because the truck was still in the shop (we got in an accident on the way back from Oregon over Thanksgiving).

Immediately after reading the map, I told Kevin we would have to come back at some point (with the truck) because there are a whole bunch of ghost towns in the park. Most of them are off dirt roads and in remote locations so we couldn’t take the rental car, and we didn’t have enough time.

Since we were both sick, we decided this would not be a hiking-heavy trip. Kevin wanted to see the Charcoal Kilns so we drove there first. I think it took us at least an hour to drive there — maybe longer, I dozed off in my DayQuil haze — if that gives you any indication of the vastness of this park. There is a trailhead up there for an 8.4 mile hike to Wildrose Peak that I definitely want to do when we come back.

Next, we drove to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. I wanted to do the Mosaic Canyon hike but you have to drive several miles up a gravel road and we decided not to try it in our rental car. So we’ll save that for the next trip as well. The sand dunes were really cool though. It was like a little beach in the middle of the park, where the surrounding landscape looks completely different, and obviously there is no water in sight. You can walk miles out onto the sand dunes, but we walked about 50 feet from the parking lot and called it good.

Next, we drove to Badwater Basin, which was by far the highlight of the trip. It’s a bit of a walk out to the salt flats, but so worth it. Because it’s winter, they were covered in a few inches of water and that made it look so much more beautiful — and it made our pictures look really cool because you can see the reflection of the mountains in the water.

We took the artists’ drive loop on the way back which is a one-way 9 mile scenic drive through some beautifully colored hills. You can stop at a place called Artist’s Palette to take pictures, but it was getting late at that point so we just drove through. I highly recommend driving this way on your way back from Badwater Basin. The road is very narrow and has some crazy twists and turns that make you feel like you’ve been swallowed up by the landscape. It’s incredible.

There were a few other places in the park that we didn’t have time to drive to — Keane Wonder Mine, Ubehebe Crater, and all the ghost towns — but we got to most of it in one day. We’ll definitely come back and do some actual hiking, maybe next fall/winter.

My biggest takeaway from this trip was, why on earth would anyone want to come here in the summer? I cannot imagine doing Death Valley in the summer heat, especially the salt flats and sand dunes. I would highly recommend visiting in the winter. The weather was great. It was cold and I wore a jacket most of the time, but didn’t need it once I started walking.

We returned to Vegas — after a quick stop at the grocery store for more cold medicine and Powerades — and got in a brief fight in the middle of the casino over where to eat dinner. The place we wanted to go was booked for the night, but we ended up eating at a different restaurant that had almost the exact same menu. Kevin is apparently obsessed with Gordon Ramsay so we ate at his burger place on Friday and ate at his restaurant inside Caesar’s palace on Saturday.

The point of all that being, Kevin got to try Beef Wellington, and it was just as delicious as he always imagined. I was feeling better on Saturday night and actually told Kevin I would be down to go have a drink somewhere, but we had traded places at some point that day and Kevin was now feeling like absolute shit so we ended up back in our hotel and in bed before 11pm (we like to party hard).

Beef Wellington in all its glory!

On our way back home on Sunday morning, we stopped at Hash House A Go Go in St. George, Utah. Ironically, there is also one of these in Vegas and it was recommended to us, but we wanted to get the hell out of there by Sunday morning. I only bring this up because if you do go to Hash House A Go Go, you do not need to order your own food — split it with someone, the portions are huge. Kevin and I made the mistake of each ordering some insane fried chicken/waffle/benedict concoction and did not finish either of our meals.

And that concludes our last national park adventure of 2019! We’ve already got a 2020 travel calendar up and plan on visiting at least 10 national parks this year, and I can’t wait to share our adventures here! We’ve already had one trip in 2020 so I’ll be writing another blog post here shortly.

A quick administrative announcement: Kevin and I both deleted our Facebook accounts at the beginning of 2020, which means we no longer have our Life After Oregon Facebook page. If you’d like to follow the blog, you can subscribe to it by entering your email on the left side of this page. You will only get an email when a new blog post is published, I won’t be spamming you with anything else 🙂

Weekend Adventure: Great Basin National Park

During our summer travels, we’ve spent a lot of time driving south on I-15. At some point, we noticed several signs for Great Basin National Park and we were like, “Where is that? Is there another national park in Utah that we missed?!”

Turns out it’s in Nevada, but it’s right on the Utah/Nevada border so it was still only a 3 hour drive for us. We decided to do some research and see what there was to do there in early August, and ended up booking a cave tour for the Lehman Caves for Saturday, August 17th. Kevin had been wanting to go to the Timp Caves all summer and we hadn’t been able to get reservations, so this seemed like a fun thing to do instead. Plus, another national park to check off our list!

We got to drive a different way, which was the highlight of my trip although it was an incredibly boring drive. There was a really cool lake bed that we passed on the way that I’d love to go back to. We weren’t entirely sure how you got out to the lake bed, but we could see tire tracks. I always tell Kevin to take detours like this but he’s usually focused on getting to our destination and tells me we’ll go on the way back (and then on the way back I just want to get home so we don’t stop).

At some point during the drive, a large bug (or possibly a bird, or a rock — we don’t really know) hit the sensor on the front of our truck that is apparently used for just about everything. All of a sudden, all these warnings were popping up that said things like “Cruise Control Malfunction” and “Sensor Malfunction”. One of the unfortunate things about having the fancy new technology is that these alerts wouldn’t just go away and we couldn’t use our cruise control because the sensor is used for the fancy “distance pacing”.

So we had to pull over and we cleaned off the sensor in the front and that fixed the issue, but for a minute Kevin was freaking out thinking the whole truck was going to blow up or eject us out of our seats or something. That was the excitement of the drive. On a scale of 1 to Kevin’s contact falling out of his eye for no reason, it was a 6.

By a stroke of luck, the park is actually located in the pacific time zone so we got to arrive an hour earlier than expected. We had plenty of time to drive into the park and set up our tent at one of the campgrounds, and then wander back into town to decide what to eat for dinner. There is literally the park, and the tiny town outside of it — nothing else.

And — as an added bonus — every gas station is also a mini-casino. We don’t have gambling in Utah and we always forget how weird that is.

There were no fast food options in the tiny town of Baker, Nevada so we decided to look on Google Maps to see which restaurants had high reviews. We decided on Kerouac’s — not yet knowing that we’d spend 3 days eating at this same restaurant.

It’s one of those restaurants that gets creative with their menu and you end up ordering something that you’d never normally order. It was a small restaurant and we sat in close quarters with other guests, which Kevin found to be strange and I’m very used to from working in the restaurant industry. The couple sitting next to us told us the fries were really good so we started off with an order of fries as an appetizer and then ordered some really strange pizza special that Kevin really didn’t want to order (because it had no meat on it) but I insisted and it was the best pizza I’ve ever had.

They also had some fun cocktails and a lot of great beer (we ate here 3 times — we got to try several food & drink options). If you happen to find yourself in the tiny town of Baker, Nevada, I highly recommend trying this restaurant. I think it’s open seasonally but I’m not positive. We ended up eating dinner here on Friday and Saturday, and returned for brunch on Sunday before heading home. It was way more than we normally spend on food for a weekend but so, so worth it.

We slept so great the first night here because the temperatures cooled down to a reasonable level. The hot weather has been our biggest struggle with camping in the summer. Our small tent holds a lot of heat and we’ve discovered that sleeping in it without the rain fly on is the way to go. Plus, you can see the stars that way.

Our cave tour was at 9am on Saturday, so we had a quick breakfast and drove straight there. Our guide told us before the tour started that Great Basin is one of the least visited national parks in the U.S. Ironically, there was a guy in our tour group who works at Zion and said he likes to come to these less crowded parks on his time off. It was such a stark difference from the more popular parks.

The cave was amazing. We did the grand tour that allows you to go in most of the caves — if not all of them — and Kevin loved every second of it, although we found out he had the crazy eyes in both of the photos we took. We took a lot more photos in the cave but many of them are blurry and the ones that aren’t just don’t do it justice.

It was a 90 minute tour so it took up most of our morning. After the cave tour, we decided to drive around the park’s scenic drive and see if there were any hikes we wanted to do. Oh, and of course we had to watch the park video at the visitor’s center (a must for Kevin). We decided to hike up to the Bristlecone Pines (aka gazillion year old trees). It wasn’t too long of a hike and we were able to make it a loop and see a couple of really beautiful lakes on the way back down. It was a bit rough hiking at 10,000 feet in elevation (particularly when one of us — me — may have been slightly hungover) but it was absolutely gorgeous and the weather was perfect, not too hot and not too cold.

We ended up having some time to kill before our favorite restaurant opened for dinner so we drove down a dirt road that was on the park map and ended up seeing a whole herd of elk, which made the whole trip worth it for Kevin. There were a bunch of other hikes in the park that we’d love to do when we return, but a lot of them are long and more suited to backpacking — so that’s on the list for next year!

We returned Sunday morning to our favorite restaurant for a farewell brunch and then headed home — forgetting that we wanted to stop at the lake bed, of course.

I am really surprised that this is one of the least visited national parks. It’s absolutely beautiful and there’s so much to do. There are several short hikes, a beautiful scenic drive through the park, tons of long hikes that would be great for a full-day hike or a backpacking trip, and the weather is great even in the middle of August! I would highly recommend checking out this park. It doesn’t have the flashiness of the other parks and there’s not a town filled with huge hotels right outside of it, but that was part of the appeal for us. We’re excited to return — hopefully next year — for a weekend backpacking trip!

Weekend Adventure: The Narrows (& More!)

I’m a few weeks behind on blog posts and I almost forgot to write this one! We went back to Zion National Park a couple of weeks ago because we didn’t get a chance to hike The Narrows when we were there and this was a bucket list hike for both of us.

Because we were going to do Zion one day and Bryce the next, we decided to go the hotel route rather than the camping route. I’m planning to do a blog post about traveling and finances once summer is over, but being able to choose to stay in a hotel on some of these weekend trips has been a great privilege. It is tough camping in southern Utah in the summer heat!

I have been using Delta Hotels recently because I have a miles card and I can get double miles if I book a hotel from their site — and I’ve noticed the prices are the same as Expedia, which is what I used to use. I found a killer hotel deal in Hurricane, UT — about 20 miles from Zion — for like $60 for the night. It was a newly built hotel and they were offering half price deals for the weekend.

For anyone interested (and none of this is ever sponsored), it was called My Place Hotel. I believe it is a local chain because there are several in Utah but I’m not sure. It’s more of an extended stay hotel so our room had a full fridge and stovetop, which we didn’t need — but we couldn’t beat the price. I love staying in brand new hotels because you know no one has ever smoked in them!

The Narrows

We had to get up a little bit earlier since we weren’t staying right outside the park, but we still made it up to The Narrows by like 8:30-9:00am. Had to wait a short time for a shuttle but not too long. We wanted to go early in the morning because we knew it would just get even more crowded later in the day, but the downside to that was that it wasn’t quite hot enough yet for the water to feel super nice.

It definitely was not cold water though. We had a few people ask us if we were going to do this hike in wetsuits and those crazy looking water shoes and we were like no way. We both hiked in normal clothes and sandals and that was absolutely fine.

I will say that closed-toe sandals are 100 times better. Kevin was wearing Keens and had 0 issues. I was wearing Chacos and kept stubbing my toes on rocks and also ended up with a huge blister on my foot from my sandal rubbing in the same place the entire hike. I enjoyed hiking in sandals and don’t feel like the crazy water shoes are necessary, but I may be investing in some closed-toe sandals now.

This hike was not at all what I expected. I think I expected — based on the Instagram photos I’ve seen of this place — that we would be wading through the river the entire time. You do have to walk in the river most of the time, but it’s only deep in a few sections and some of those can be avoided.

I will not sugar coat this — this was not one of my favorite hikes. I’m going with the unpopular opinion on this one. At one point I turned to Kevin and said, “I am not having a good time.”

It’s really hard to walk up-river, sliding on slick rocks, going against the flow of the current, with a ton of people around you doing the same thing. Kevin has done a lot of fishing and river walking and was a million times more prepared for this hike. He’s also way taller than me — and weighs more — and I am convinced this also made things way easier for him.

It was a fun couple’s trust exercise though, because we didn’t get walking sticks so we spent the whole time holding hands and trying to make sure the other person didn’t fall. Kevin did fall once — while holding the go pro — and we can now say that it has survived being crushed into a rock by Kevin’s full weight.

And I don’t mean to say that there weren’t fun parts, but I definitely didn’t leave going, “Wow, I can’t wait to do that hike again!”

We hiked about 2.5-3 miles in — we think — and then got to a spot where Kevin couldn’t touch the bottom and he didn’t want to leave our backpack and keep going — or get the backpack wet — so we decided to turn around. Which was a good thing, it turns out, because I already had this huge blister on my foot that I was luckily able to ignore for most of the walk back.

The return trip downriver was much more enjoyable and I think that if we do this hike again, we will definitely get a permit and hike down from the top of the river. There were so many more people on our way back — and this was a source of frustration because there wasn’t really a clear direction or flow, people were just walking any way they pleased. It was really entertaining though to see so many people slipping and falling and getting drenched.

So, here’s what I would recommend if I could go back and give myself advice before this hike:

  • Ignore the crowds and go in the afternoon when it’s hot. You’ll enjoy it more if you can swim/crawl through the river rather than hike through it.
  • Consider taking a picnic lunch and walking in until you find a nice spot and just swim/sunbathe/eat all afternoon rather than walking upriver for miles.
  • Wear closed-toe sandals and bring a walking stick.

All in all, Kevin and I decided that I like hiking on the real ground — not through rivers — and I like swimming, but not this half-walking/half-swimming business. I’m really glad we did this hike and it’s helpful to remind myself that just because everyone is out there doing it for the ‘gram doesn’t mean it’s going to be a completely 100% fun experience.

Bryce Canyon

We finished our Narrows hike midday, had an overpriced lunch at a nearby restaurant, and headed over to Bryce Canyon National Park for our second hike! We scored on another hotel — well, actually a mini log cabin — in Tropic, UT just outside the park. It was normally some absurd price — like $350 — and we got it for $150! It was absolutely beautiful and we were stoked that we got it for such a bargain price!

One thing we haven’t quite mastered on these adventures is nap time. We were so exhausted after our morning hike, but when we got to the cabin it was a really awkward time — like 5:00pm — too late for a nap but too early for dinner and way too early for bedtime. We ended up finding a nearby pizza place and still going to bed at like 8:30 because I could not stay awake any longer.

And then of course, we slept in until like 8:30 so we got too much sleep. We had decided to use the shuttle inside the park so that we could do a hike without having to walk back to our car. We started our hike at Bryce Point and hiked to Sunrise Point. It was an absolutely beautiful hike and even if you don’t have time to do a long hike at Bryce, I would highly recommend doing one of the shorter hikes down into the canyon.

After the Narrows hike, this felt like a piece of cake. Hiking on solid ground, with no water and no slippery rocks?! Aside from the array of band-aids I had on my feet to protect my blisters, it was paradise. Still quite a few people, but not nearly as many as we were expecting.

The hike was about 5 miles total and so worth it. My only complaint is that part of the hike we had to walk on a shared horse trail and there was literally horse poop every five feet. Smelly and gross and with such a highly trafficked trail, I’m surprised no one maintains that better. But I’m not sure what would be done — would you pick it up or just slide it off to the side? Either way, not a huge deal but it did get smelly there for about half a mile.

10/10 would recommend any hiking route in Bryce Canyon. We wanted to do a longer hike which is why we started at Bryce Point, but there are shorter (and longer) trails too! It’s absolutely beautiful and definitely worth walking down a short way from the view points. Even if you don’t want to do a full hike, it’s nice to take a few steps away from the large crowds and get a few nice photos for the ‘gram.

PSA: Don’t do stupid shit for the ‘gram. You don’t need to walk off the trail or get too close to a cliff or something just for a good photo. But I do like taking photos without other people in the background, so if you’re into that — hike on a trail at Bryce instead of just walking out to the viewpoints!

I’m really glad we went back to both of these parks and finished up the hikes that we really wanted to do! There are a few other hikes we’d like to do at Zion but they’re closed right now, so those will be on the list for next Spring!

P.S. Check out Live A Great Story if you want to see some awesome people living their best life! My mom bought us the Live A Great Story flag and we love it! We love taking a few photos with it every trip to celebrate this wonderful story we’re living. This is not sponsored, I just really love the message. You can search their hash tag on Instagram to see some amazing stuff!

Weekend Adventure: Bryce Canyon National Park

We got to check off a huge bucket list item with this trip! We’ve officially been to every national park in Utah!

I’ve been in a bit of a slump for the last two weeks and this trip was so, so good for my soul. One thing that’s been difficult for me during these weekend trips is balancing all of the doing with just being. We did not do all of the really long hikes we wanted to do this weekend, and that’s okay, because we can come back!

That’s been a key mindset shift for me as I feel like my travel personality just goes until she collapses and she will force herself to do a 7 mile hike she doesn’t want to do because “we’re only here for 2 days and we must do everything“. That may be true for some trips we take, but for these Utah trips we can always plan another one.

And that’s exactly what we decided to do! We are doing a Zion/Bryce combination trip this weekend that is solely focused on two hikes we haven’t had a chance to do yet!

Anyway, back to our Bryce trip. It started out a little dicey. We left a bit later than usual, after stopping in Provo to see a dear friend who was in town! We visited with her for awhile and then hit the road, driving straight into a torrential downpour.

The thing about Utah is, when it rains it really does pour. We even joke about how the raindrops are actually much larger here than the raindrops in Oregon, and it’s actually true. In Oregon, it rains all the time and you kind of grow accustomed to this steady mist that follows you as you go about your day. Occasionally, it will really dump on you but it’s usually steady, just there to remind you that it’s never really going to be summer. In Utah, rain is rare but every single time it rains I think we’re going to be stuck in the middle of a flash flood.

In this case, we actually had to slow down significantly on the freeway (due to other people freaking out about the lack of visibility) until the rain let up. And then of course, everyone slowed down to check out the six-car pile-up on the other side of the freeway.

But eventually, we were able to really get going and we settled in, continuing our trend of listening to the End of the World podcast. We decided to stop at a drive-in that we found on google maps when searching for restaurants. It was in Beaver, so that was about five minutes of immature laughter about stopping in Beaver and eating in Beaver and snap chatting these jokes to my mom, who then had all her own jokes.

Regardless of the fact that I told Kevin I couldn’t live in a town called Beaver, the drive-in was delicious. Hands down the best fries I’ve ever had and the burger was definitely in the top 5. It’s called Mel’s Drive-Inn and I highly recommend trying it if you’re ever in the area (but they are closed on Sundays, much like the entire state of Utah).

After we ate dinner, we got back on the freeway and Kevin proceeded to miss our exit and we had to drive 12 miles down the freeway before we were able to turn around. The weather had improved but we could still see thunderstorms and dark clouds in the distance, and it seemed like we were headed in their direction.

Which we were, in fact, because we stopped at a gas station in the middle of nowhere and I had to run through the rain to the bathroom in my t-shirt and sandals. Because of course we never pack rain coats for these trips. It’s Utah, it’s summer, and we’re going to the desert! Not that I could have worn a coat anyway because it was raining but still like 80 degrees out.

We had camping reservations at Kodachrome Basin State Park — per a recommendation from a friend — which was past Bryce Canyon National Park. This was the first time we’d be arriving after dark and we’d never been there, but it felt like we were driving out to the middle of nowhere. How could there be a state park 10 miles down this road to nothing?

But there was, and we finally arrived and located our campsite, and then proceeded with the lovely task of setting up our tent in the dark. It wasn’t terribly difficult and I think we still managed to get everything set up before 11pm. We had no idea what our surroundings looked like but we could see that there were some hills or mountains nearby because lightning would light up the sky in the distance and illuminate them. We watched the sky and the thunderstorms for awhile before going to bed.

Kodachrome Basin State Park

We woke up to an amazing view and decided this is definitely one of the best campgrounds we’ve ever stayed in. Our campsite was right by the bathrooms (but not too close) and there was so much room for the tent, as well as a fire pit and picnic table! It got cool enough at night that we weren’t sweltering, and there weren’t too many pesky bugs. I got a few bug bites but they must have been from normal mosquitos and not those mutant ones that make me swell up like crazy.

Bryce Canyon

We were up at a reasonable hour, and in case anyone is wondering — I am the morning person in this relationship. I set the alarm, I get up and get ready, and then I tell Kevin I’m leaving him at camp if he doesn’t get up in five minutes. On the mornings when we’re packing up to leave, I will just start packing everything up around him until he’s forced to get up because I’ve let all the air out of the air mattress and folded up all the blankets.

The beginning of our sticker collection!

We got to the visitor’s center at around 8:30am I believe, and Kevin decided we should just watch the video now since we were already there. I found a card and some stickers for my mom (and stickers for us as well — since we are now collecting stickers from each place we visit and putting them on our cooler!) and we sat down to watch the 22-minute film.

After we watched the movie, we decided we would drive all the way to the far end of the park and work our way back from there. We like to stop at every view point or anywhere that has a sign with information you can read, so this takes awhile. There was a short hike — I think maybe a mile — at the far end of the park that we decided to do to get our legs moving and see the views. It was a great little hike with spectacular views and I cannot remember what it was called so I’ll have to edit this later, but it’s literally at the very end of the park.

We saw a beautiful deer and two rattlesnakes (which give Kevin the creeps but I think they’re cute) on our short hike, and we walked out to each of the viewpoints and decided to practice perfecting our kissing photos. Kevin complains because I am so short and he has to bend over so far, so he always thinks his neck looks wonky. The struggles of being married to someone who is a foot shorter than you!

We meandered back down the road, stopping at every single viewpoint to take pictures and play Pokemon Go (because, we are adults). There weren’t too many people until we ended up right in front of one of the shuttles and we had to make sure we got our pictures before they got there and let everyone off. The photos below were taken just a few minutes apart!

We saw absolutely stunning views everywhere we stopped. I would highly recommend taking the full scenic drive and stopping at each viewpoint. The stops closer to the entrance of the park were more crowded, since that is where many of the hiking trails start and also within the main shuttle route. Although it is sometimes frustrating to try and take a photo without people in the background, I really am happy that the shuttles make it accessible for so many people to visit the park. I think it’s much better to have a shuttle than to have everyone driving and have the need for large parking lots.

People do leave an impact, of course, and we make sure to clean up all of our trash (and occasionally other people’s trash) when we are visiting the parks. Overall, despite the large number of people at Bryce, the park was incredibly clean and people were very kind and respectful of one another.

We wanted to do one of the longer hikes that would take us down into the canyon, but by this time it was around 1:00 or 2:00 and we were really tired and burnt out. We decided we’d hike the next morning and we didn’t need to force ourselves to do a hike if we didn’t want to. We drove into Panguitch to try a different drive in — Henrie’s Drive-In — and this turned out to be a good idea because it started raining the minute we decided to leave the park.

Henrie’s Drive-In — although not as good as Mel’s — did have a bacon burger and it was delicious. We had to wait quite awhile for our food because it was lunchtime in a tourist town, but we didn’t mind. The place was packed but we waited long enough that we snagged a table, and proceeded to listen to an older gentleman telling everyone his entire life story.

I try and be respectful and chat with people who strike up conversations with me (and luckily this gentleman didn’t) but when you’re telling everyone who happens to sit at the table next to yours about your divorce and how you still love your ex-wife and you got 50% of her pension, it’s a bit much. By the time we left, we knew pretty much everything about the last couple of years of this man’s life and he wasn’t even talking to us!

On our way back toward Bryce, we stopped at a local coffee shop (this is turning into a thing of mine, supporting the local coffee shops — especially in Utah) because we needed a little pick-me-up. Hilariously, I ordered a vanilla latte and when she handed me my drink I told Kevin that it definitely looked a lot like a macchiato. But I said nothing and we drove away. Minutes later, when I took a drink it was definitely a caramel macchiato.

I don’t know why, but this was so funny to us. Sure, we’ve had our drinks messed up before. Like you ask for it iced and they make a hot one, or you order a really specific drink (I’m talking to you, mom) and they don’t make it quite to your liking. But I’ve never ordered one drink and received a completely different drink! And no, there was no one else there so I didn’t get someone else’s drink. But, it was a great caramel macchiato so I did not complain!

Despite really wanting to make the most of our day, the coffee did not help as much as we thought it would and we still felt super tired. So we decided to head back to camp and spend the afternoon reading! I read an entire book cover-to-cover (Bird Box – 10/10) and Kevin got halfway through a new book. We had a late dinner and drove around the state park for a bit before it got dark, and then finally we decided to try out these supposedly awesome showers.

I am not exaggerating when I say that the showers at this campground are better than any shower I’ve ever been in. No house, hotel, or spa has had better showers. They are definitely very new, very clean, and have a detachable shower head and a shower that comes out of the ceiling. I shit you not. At a campground. These are the times we live in, and I am here for it. I am here for the glamping experience. Of course, being that they are so nice, there are only two showers in each bathroom — but we didn’t have to wait!

I was already planning to recommend this campground to everyone I knew but now I really will, because damn if that wasn’t the best shower I’ve ever had in my life. We stayed at the Basin Campground. There are 3 campgrounds but I believe this one has the nice facilities. If you did stay at one of the other campgrounds, I’m pretty sure you could still drive over and use the showers if you wanted to do that.

Day Two

We got everything packed up by 9:00. I did have to pack up everything around a sleeping Kevin and he finally got up after all the air had gone out of the air mattress. On our way out, we stopped at a map of the area just outside the park. We saw that there was an arch nearby, just down the gravel road, and it seemed like a cool mini-adventure!

But, some things are just not meant to be and after a whole bunch of driving and turning down dead-end roads we never found it! The elusive arch! I can’t even remember what it was called but one day we will return and we will find it. The only thing we can think of is that we didn’t drive far enough down the road, but we’ll never know.

We decided that since we were already in this “hey where does this road go?” mood, we would take another detour down a road with signs for something like Sheep Creek and Jim Hollow. We ended up on a dirt road and passed a sign saying “dead end” but kept going for several miles, and ended up at some remote, long-forgotten trailhead. We could see Bryce Canyon from there and it looked to be an old trailhead for horseback riding since it was far from anywhere. It had an old bathroom that was in a terrible state, and there were bees nests everywhere (not my jam) so we left fairly quickly but it was sad to see such a neglected and forgotten trailhead. I hope someone comes and fixes it up!

Kevin really wanted to hike Mossy Cave so we stopped there. It’s not really a hike, it’s like a half a mile round trip, so lots of people were there milling about. The cave itself wasn’t that cool but apparently it is covered in icicles in the winter so Kevin definitely wants to come back and see that. He’d already decided that he wanted to come and stay at the lodge at Bryce Canyon this winter. We walked over to the waterfall as well and I walked in the water since I had my sandals. We tried to take a few pictures of the cool colored rocks in the water but they didn’t come out too great. This was actually one of my favorite places and I definitely recommend going. It’s such a quick hike and so worth it to see the waterfall and the surrounding area.

By the time we finished our little walk to Mossy Cave and the waterfall, it was already noon and it was very hot out. Neither of us really wanted to do a long hike and even though a part of me wanted to force myself to do it because we’re here, I resisted and we decided to end our weekend trip and head back home.

It’s so easy to form this mentality that you have to do and see absolutely everything when you travel, and I’m sure there will be times where we visit a place that we might not get a chance to come back to — and those times we’ll force ourselves to keep going even when we’re burnt out — but for now, it’s so nice to be able to say “we can come back” and enjoy an afternoon reading a book with no agenda whatsoever.

It’s also hard on these summer trips because it can get so hot and we are tent camping, so we have no way to just turn on the a/c for a minute. We have mixed it up with some hoteling here and there, but we don’t always get a great night of sleep. I think that if we continue to tent camp in the fall and winter, we’ll sleep better in the cooler temperatures. We also started these weekend adventures in the summer, so next year we’ll probably get an earlier start and visit some places in the springtime when it’s not as hot and not travel during peak summer tourist season.

But I would rather get a crappy night’s sleep and wake up in Kodachrome Basin State Park with that incredible view, than to get a great night’s sleep and wake up in my apartment with nothing to do. We are so privileged and fortunate to be able to do all of this travel, and at some point things will plateau and we won’t be going somewhere every single weekend but for now, I’m enjoying every minute of it.