When our big summer plans for a road trip to Marfa Tx ended up falling through for multiple reasons we were left scrambling to figure out how we might "make up" for it. Naturally, being the kind of people we are, we ended up waiting until the very last week of summer break to decide where we might want to go. In fact the night before our trip we were still on the fence about whether we were heading up the coast or to the desert. Though the more I thought about it the more I realized I was really craving something a little different. After all, we had seen our fair share of beaches all summer long. I also imagined Arlo would like to see the Grand Canyon for the first time since I was about his age when I visited it first and knew it would be something special he would remember about the summer of 2014.
We packed the car the night before and headed out around 4 in the morning. Our first stop, Williams, Az. Along Route 66, a half hour drive to the Grand Canyon. Our saving grace: the Hotel Tonight App that helped alert us to what hotels still had vacancies in the area for the night.
The car ride up, though, was rather disastrous. Rex, never one to adjust peacefully to long car rides, managed to fire up every single one of our last nerves till finally we all saw our breaking points. 6 hours of non stop whining & fighting. Elbow to elbow in a cramped backseat made for some pretty trying patience on all of our ends. I know I went through various phases of screaming, begging, threatening - all kinds of desperate tactics that ultimately proved ineffective in the end.
On the bright side, we did find a few kicks on Route 66. For me it came in the form of an adorable old turquoise shop where I took home a beautiful antique necklace. For them, a zip line ride across the strip and a western gun show played out in the streets which they found downright hilarious. We ate Mexican food and passed out in a dingy hotel just before 9:00. Once we finally made it to the Grand Canyon the following morning, I felt, at first, a sense of relief. We had made it to our indented destination. A sensation that lasted about 5 minutes. Maybe.
See, the last time we visited this state park, it was snowing heavily. Mike and I had just started dating and we took a romantic train ride to the canyon, where, because of the heavy snowfall, the entire hole was covered in a heavy white mist and I could honestly not see much of anything. I wasn't scared then and only remember being mesmerized by it's beauty. This time, the breadth of the canyon, clear as day, made me sick to my stomach upon first glance. I broke out into a cold sweat, followed by a sudden whirl that whipped around inside my body and up through my head making me think I was surely going to faint. That, coupled with the overwhelming sense of anxiety while tending to three (well, ok, two) naturally curious little boys, itching to examine every inch of that damn rim, proved too much for me to take. I was a mess. In tears, ragged and manic. Begging them to pull back, get away, "sit with me!!
"But you're the one who planned this" Mike would remind me a couple times, to no avail. He was right. I knew this, but in the midst of this kind of boiling panic attack, reason slips right out the door and I didn't care why we were there or who's idea it was, I just wanted out.
Finally, I was calm enough to agree to sit in the shade with Leon, Jack and the baby for a bit while Mike took Arlo and Rex down one of the trails. We waited, noticeably tense, with our ice cream cones watching all kinds of wobbly toddlers running reckless along the edge. Tourists heaving their children up onto the edge for an array of photos. People smiling, genuinely interested in studying every inch of that God Awful death drop. The simple sight of which seemed to pain just as much as chasing after my own children. So I sat there in silent horror. Cursing myself for ever concocting such a stupid plan.
When they returned they seemed ready and willing to leave. Apparently the trail they walked was so narrow at one point that the group ahead of them turned back in fear. Mike said both boys had taken note, made the turn, saw the cave, and were suddenly more than ready to get back. A few of the photos of them on this trail, a million foot drop 2 feet away from them on one side is a vision I can surely live without ever reminiscing. Even nearly two weeks later, I skip right past those photos on my camera every time.
Our second stop redeemed the entire tone of our vacation. For me anyway. We made it to Sedona and it was far prettier than I ever imagined. We spent two days there amidst that beautiful red rock landscape and fell in love with the quirky downtown strip full of so many great restaurants, new age centers, and shopping options. We rested, stocked up on small souvenirs (mood rings and rubber band guns) went out for a fancy dinner and hunted down a local skatepark just before sunset. The following day we made the most of hotel swimming, long naps, a jeep tour along the rocks for Arlo and Mike, and later, dinner at a perfectly kitschy alien themed burger joint where we sat in a big black booth under red lights and devoured plates full of Neptune fries and blue planet burgers while eyeing the walls lined from floor to ceiling, with photos of supposed "sightings." All in all it was a city I would gladly return to at the drop of a hat. I love Sedona. And would really like to see it again in the Fall.
Lastly, on route to home, we decided (on a whim, of course) to book one last night in Palm Springs. We found a cute, stylish Hotel thanks again to our trusty hotel app, and spent the last part of our vacation in a hot tub, where Jack was free to roam around the hotel grounds and where Rex learned to swim! Arlo and Mike spent a couple hours at a water park nearby while the boys and I had lunch and lounged around the pool.
Breakfast at The Ace was our last stop. We talked about kindergarten, and what the school year might have in store for them. We took Photo Booth pictures in the lobby before heading home and everyone fell asleep instantly. The last two hours would prove the only silence our car would know the entire trip.
Looking back, I am always thankful for these kinds of vacations. Regardless of the effort it takes to get us there, and in spite of plenty of moments where Mike and I both feel completely overwhelmed, frustrated and beside ourselves, it's always worth it in the end because for me it's always about the experience. The good, the bad, the everything. Even when that includes far more tears and trials than seems fair.