Grand Canyon and beyond!

“Go on with a spirit that fears nothing” -Homer

This week marked one month since we officially began our journey. We have covered a lot of ground, literally. So far we’ve seen, visited, camped and passed through 9 states, travelling over 3000 miles! I have really come to appreciate the sheer vastness of this country. I thought Canada had a lot of open space. America definitely rivals our country in expansiveness as well as beauty and diversity.

So far this adventure has been amazing. In all honesty, it was a bit of a transition going from working to being a full-time Mommy again; but I’ve settled in now and am enjoying *most* moments. I cannot rave enough about the kids adaptability. They are doing tremendous with the driving and haven’t complained once about the road trip. Though Taio keeps asking when we’re going to be at Nana and Grandpas. How do you tell a 4 year old that it’s nearly 100 hours of driving over the course of 6 weeks from Edmonton to Florida?! Nonetheless, they take on every day as a new adventure, go with the flow and are happy little beings. They have taught me so much already on this journey about living in the moment…among other things.

Yet another wonderful aspect about this trip has been the weather. Apart from our near flooding tent experience in Oregon, we haven’t had a drop of rain before that night or since. [Knock on wood]. And in fact, quite a few places have had record highs in temps. The exception being the Grand Canyon, and most of northern Arizona and New Mexico for that matter. It was a shock to the system heading to these parts after a week of low to mid 30’s in Las Vegas. So, our trip across these parts was brief, as we chased the warm weather. It was chillier than expected going into Arizona and New Mexico, getting down into single digits at night and even freezing on the first night after leaving LV. Fortunately, I had checked on the forecast beforehand and planned appropriately, booking a cabin instead of camping.

On Monday we went to the Grand Canyon, which was awe-some! Truly amazing views. And it was also very cold, with only our sweaters. Most other tourists were wearing winter jackets, hats and gloves. Somewhere between them and us would have been appropriate garb.  We took in the spectacular views, snapped some photos and carried on. It’s a challenging place to visit with little kids; especially those who like to run and play and jump and wrestle. It is mostly fenced around the Visitors Centre and beginning of the trails but as you get further away, the fences cease to exist. I’d like to go back and do some of the incredible hikes, or bike rides or white water raft even. They offer a 17 day white water rafting tour down the Canyon, camping along the way. That sounds like an adventure not to be missed!

From the Grand Canyon we had a big driving day and made it all the way to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Again the low temps discouraged us from tenting. I booked a hotel through Hotwire, for the first time ever. For those that are not aware, this site lists hotel prices, star ratings and guest reviews without revealing the name of the hotel. They list the normal going rate to make your bargain rate seem more appealing, enticing you further to book a room without knowing the hotel name. It’s a bit of gamble but I seriously lucked out with my first experience. I scored us a hotel room for $47/night which included a free breakfast buffet. The hotel wasn’t anything special, but at the same time it was worth far more than what I paid. And the breakfast was deluxe! I haven’t really been eating breakfast the last 6 months or so, as I’ve been Intermittent Fasting (eating between 11am and 7pm) but on the two mornings that we stayed at the Elegante Hotel, I ate the delicious freshly made omelet and bacon and coffee! Our super stellar deal of $47/night also included two alcoholic drinks per adult each night. Between the brekkie and the drinks, that alone covered the cost. I may just be using that Hotwire service again in the future!

Albuquerque turned out to be a very unique city. Beautiful architecture and stunning scenery. We took a stroll through Old Town one afternoon to appeal to the adult interests, before heading to a nearby playground to appease the little ones. While at the park, we had a funny encounter with an older gentleman who was looking after his grand daughters. He started the conversation with “your son tells me you live in a hotel.” I responded with “well at least he didn’t say we live in our van, which is actually closer to the truth!” We had an interesting conversation and he ended up recommending a nearby restaurant for dinner which served authentic New Mexican food. It was hands down, the best meal I’ve had in years. The food was amazing and even the kids tried and liked.

Our final morning we visited the Albuquerque Balloon Museum which is dedicated to the art, science, history, and sport of hot air balloons.  The kids had a great time with the interactive exhibits and activities and on that particular morning offered story time. Not only did we get free admission, the boys had a blast reading stories, singing songs and even petting the museums dog and mascot Jack.

From there, we headed four hours south to Carlsbad, New Mexico with a brief stop in Roswell to see the aliens. There are statues, carvings, and UFO paraphernalia throughout the town but not much else happening there. We stayed one night at the KOA in Carlsbad; our first tent camping night since before Las Vegas. The campgrounds were great. They had a tent village set up which included a fenced in area and patch of grass for our tent, picnic table, water, power and even a little storage cupboard for our food. The playground was amazing, and the pool looked nice. All seemed well and with lots of things to explore in the surrounding area, i thought perhaps we’d spend a few days exploring. I changed my mind at about 8pm that night. Out of nowhere, an overwhelming smell of crude oil took hold and seemingly got worse as the night wore on. There were similarities with our first night camping in Drumheller. Firstly, the weather dropped from mid 20’s to about 7 degrees so it was a crisp night’s sleep. Next, the coyotes that first night in Drumheller was nothing compared to the number of and noises coming from these pack(s) of coyotes I heard in Carlsbad. Not to mention the sound of some animal that I heard rustling about outside our tent. I can tell I’m becoming more accustomed to camping and being/living outdoors. I am no longer paranoid about being eaten by a wild animal, I don’t freak out about little creatures roaming around our tent late at night, likely eating our scrap foods (did I mention the skunk hanging about our site one night in Santa Cruz?) and lastly, I don’t even flinch at big bugs anymore! Regardless, Carlsbad and it’s foul oil smell was left behind early the following morning. We did make a trip to The Living Desert and Zoo before leaving town. It was a 1.5 mile hike through desert flora and fauna with indoor exhibits of snakes and reptiles, an aviary, and some random animals like bison, elk, bear and mountain lions. It was super hot but the kids walked almost the entire way and had a great nap afterwards.

From there we headed east for Texas. We spent an uneventful night in San Angelo before arriving in San Antonio yesterday. It’s hot and sunny and lots to do in this beautiful, green city so we’ll likely hang out here for a few days and explore the sights. We’re feeling at home in oil country.

I’ll post pictures soon! Y’all have a great weekend!