Open Road

Open Road

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Where do I begin OR are we that close to the end?

As I write this, we're on Day 53 and I simply cannot believe it.

The time is flying by so fast it makes my head spin. It literally seems like yesterday that I was loading Harvey up with gobs of stuff (that I now know we didn't need) and stressing about the trip. Now, we're over 2/3rds of the way through, and we've done so much, seen so much, experienced so much... I don't know where to start.

By way of updating, I think Jason's last post ended at Zion National Park, which was by far the favorite Park of the entire family. After staying at a dust bowl which you could barely call a campground, we headed to Bryce Canyon. Think Grand Canyon, but smaller and more colorful. This campground was beautiful! No electric, no water, but tons of personality and a sky so full of stars, it lit up the place. I saw my first two shooting stars! It was here, too, that we discovered that singing and dancing made the kids totally embarrassed and in fact, they threatened to climb up on the roof of Harvey. That's all it took.  Jason and I broke out into song (loudly, too, I might add) and up they went. What a quiet five minutes that was. No doubt our neighbors appreciated it too!

The kids had been wanting to go horseback riding, and Bryce Canyon proved to be the perfect place. I took advantage of four hours of alone time (not so good with heights) and the three of them took a three hour trip to the bottom of the canyon. They loved it! They also came back covered in pinkish red dust, which did not come out in our most recent trip to the laundromat. The next morning was hilarious because they discovered soreness where they didn't know they could be sore! But we still managed another night of hanging out at the campfire, talking about our best moments and Jason even gave a rather poetic lecture on share price dilution. The kids actually listened!

Then, we were off to Arches National Park. My earlier concerns about looking at rocks was starting to come true. A beautifully scenic place, with amazing arched rock formations, captured our attention until we hit the heat of the day. We were officially "rocked" out. Jack and I gave up on the last bit of the hike, and drank the water that we were supposed to use to keep our lunch cold. It was hot! Fortunately, relief was in sight! Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area!!!

We rented a rather scary looking pontoon boat and spent the entire day on the water. Swimming, splashing, admiring the beautiful scenery. A truly wonderful day. We have missed being on the water since of course our boat had to stay in storage. What a great break it was! It truly is the only way to see Flaming Gorge! Plus, no one got sunburned.

With no time to waste, we made the trek to Rocky Mountain National Park. After hearing at the front gate that only one campground still had vacancies, we were a little worried. See, we've been making reservations only a day or two ahead of time. Just trying to keep our schedule flexible. It hasn't burned us yet, but we were pretty close this time. We rushed to the open campground and easily found a great spot. Whew! After making a de-lish dinner a la Jason, we were joined by not one, not two, but 14 huge elk. Literally in the campsite next to us. They walked casually around, ignoring all the gathering people, and ate the old ash out of empty campsite fire pits. Baffled by this, we asked the volunteer ranger about it and he said the elk eat the ashes to get minerals, such as salt, then spit out the rest. Interesting. We could have sat there for hours watching them. Beautiful, graceful creatures. The ranger also said that during the fall rut, the big boys come down from the ridge opposite us and the "mating" happens right there in the park. Hmmmm.

We so enjoyed the Rockies. We hiked on the alpine tundra, about froze to death up there because it was so warm in the valley and we were ill-prepared. The first night, we arrived at 12,000 feet to be met with fog and clouds, so we couldn't see much. Next day was better! As we did another hike to Alberta Falls, I was inspired to sing my favorite songs from the Sound of Music. The kids were mortified which made me only sing louder. I mean, REALLY! Jason got a lot of it on video, so that we can continue to embarrass them for years to come. How do you NOT sing "Climb Every Mountain" when you're hiking in those hills? Our fellow hikers surely thought I had lost my mind.

It was here in the Rockies that I experienced an emotion I hadn't expected. I started grieving the end of the trip. We only had four more weeks to go, and then life would be different again. I was happy here. I had my family within arms length 24/7. We did everything together. We laughed. We cried (yup, a few times). We talked. We debated. We played hours of UNO. We made plans. We were together. Team Woods. What would be different when we got back? Would we still eat as healthy as we had been? Would we continue to hike as much as we had been? Would I still be okay not showering for three days? Would we still be full of wonder about the amazing things around us? Would the kids immediately go running back to their friends and leave Mom and Dad wondering where the time went? Since we will only be home one week before school starts and Jason goes back to work, we don't exactly have a lot of time to ease back into our life, routine and schedule. So, yes. I'm already sad about the trip coming to an end. Never expected to feel this way in a million years. Strange, huh?

The reality of it is that this trip was always going to have an ending. We are going to drive up our street, park Harvey, Toad and all the bikes, greet our family and friends, and hug our silly dog, MuddPie. I know the memories of this trip will last a lifetime and then some. Our kids will never forget it, both for good reasons and bad.  I understand and appreciate that. Jason and I have been blessed with this opportunity and pinch ourselves daily. He just said yesterday, "Are we really doing this?" Still feels that way.

I've started getting prepared for that big transition in September. The school supplies have been purchased and stashed next to our bed. Golf lessons have been scheduled. The competition dance season schedule comes out next week. Haircuts are on the books. (Note to Kathy, Amanda, DiDi and Jill - I'm sorry, but you have your work cut out for you!) Orthodontist and dentist appointments are on the calendar. PTO meetings, Book Club get-togethers - it's all on my schedule. I just need to remember to stay in the moment and enjoy this time - not get bogged down with all the other preparations. We still have a lot coming up. White water rafting is the next biggie. Oh, and we all ate rattlesnake last night. The fun times just keep coming.

And yes, it tasted like chicken.

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