Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Epic Road Trip Finale: The Long Road Home

After some amazing time in Virginia and London it was eventually time to hit the road home. We planned to go back the southern route. As we left, we planned our first stop to be Hillybilly Hotdogs, a roadside dive in West Virginia apparently made popular through some Food Network exposure. The ambiance is trailer-park meets graffiti and we had the option of sitting in an old bus for lunch.

Exploring baby:

Graffiting kiddos:

We got the weenies, though most surprisingly, the bacon blue cheese garlic fries were amazing:

We stopped that afternoon in Kentucky, where John took some more time behind the wheel, his favorite activity!

We made decent progress with plans to stay in Columbia, MO for the night. Things of course got delayed by a car sick 4 year old but we eventually made it to Columbia for the night. This was exciting as the next day we had planned an early birthday surprise for Matthew, and he was certainly surprised, if not overwhelmed! We got up early and headed to Legoland in Kansas City.

Unfortunately, Legoland does a timed entry and we were unable to get in until later that morning, so we hit up the aquarium first.

Checking out the turtles, it was an odd aquarium experience to say the least and besides the rushing water they played really loud obnoxious sound effects throughout. I was annoyed just as much as Catherine:

Checking out the touch pools:

John contemplating the sharks as they swam past:

Hanging out inside the fish tanks:

And this pic ended up out of order:


More time in the fishbowls:

For good reason, the Legoland Discovery Centers get mixed reviews at best. However, for a 4 and almost 6 year old, everything was awesome :-) Finishing up the Kingdom ride:

The Star Wars room:

Building with the giant blocks:

Building and racing cars:

More Star Wars:

More rides:

John and the puppy:

More racing:

Catherine and the Lego Friends. She was so excited!

A life sized Lego chair and couch:

John on an elephant!

Matthew and Catherine in a sea of Legos!

We let Matthew choose our dinner location to finish out his birthday celebration and not surprisingly he chose McDonalds so off we went! silly kids in the car:

We surprised Matthew with a birthday cake!

And off we went toward Cheyenne. Halfway across Nebraska the sun set and the skies started to darken. About an hour later the winds picked up and the driving rain and hail started. We ended up parked under a gas station covering for about an hour waiting for the rain to slow and visibility to improve. We made it to Sidney, NE eventually for a few hours of sleep and then it was on to Wyoming.

We were greeted by picture perfect skies the next morning!

And made it just in time for the Frontier Days parade. It was the perfect western exposure for the kiddos with plenty of horses and good old western fun.

Union Pacific mini-train:

We stayed the night in Cheyenne with some dear friends from elementary school and their adorable little batman!

The raucous party float:

Besides the parade, we just enjoyed the company of our friends, caught up on some sleep and enjoyed some of the simple pleasures of Cheyenne outside the chaos of the rest of Frontier Days. It was a fantastic time with some fantastic hosts.

The next day we had one more stop to make at grandma’s house. Grandma’s downstairs had some plumbing issues so we all camped out upstairs.

One happy baby with great grandma:

On our final day, we made it to the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center. We pass through the Cody/Powell area often but rarely when the center is open so we took advantage of our mid-week travels and I am so glad we did. The center addresses the history of Heart Mountain and its role in Japanese-American relations in World War II. The interpretation deftly addresses big ideas and language about how/what/why Japanese Americans were sent to the middle of nowhere Wyoming and what happened to many of them afterwards. I was thoroughly impressed and though it was a hard museum for the kids to “get” I’m glad we took them and will take them again as they get older.

Learning about the packing rules and limits internees were given.

We got caught in another big hail storm at Heart Mountain (water was pouring in the door of the facility) and then it was time to head home. Happy campers at our first breakfast at home:

Though John might have been ready to hit the road again, he spent a lot of the next day in the suitcase!

And some snuggles at home with daddy!

Though our trip ended a month and a half ago, it’s still fun to listen to the kids describe some of their favorite parts and randomly share things they saw and learned. It was an overwhelming trip for us adults I know it was for them as well. I have a tough time balancing a reasonable amount of fun stuff versus making the most of our time and packing it all in should we not make it back to some of these places.

Heartbreakingly, they also ask when we get to go back to see Amma and Papa and Mas and Pas all the time. Luckily we have visits on the calendar from both sides of the family to look forward to soon! And though the logistics and travel of this year’s trip were crazy and long, I’m not so certain we’ve ruled out doing it again. Surprisingly, I not only didn’t want to kill James after 30+ days with him straight, but I kinda fell in love with him even more (I know, sappy right?!?!)

Anyway, next up are some much less epic and much smaller Watson adventures in the great Rocky Mountains!

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