a little bit of busy
morning walk

westward

when i said things were going to be crazy? i didn't mention it was because we were taking a trip out west. a trip that would cover six days and five states - not including minnesota - and more than 2000 miles.

we made it. my car made it. and we had a great time.

the whole point of the trip was my cousin katie's wedding in boulder. but marc and i decided that since it had been years since we'd gotten away - even longer, if you factor in taking the kids with us - we would drive and make it an adventure. a day in denver ... a weekend in boulder ... and then stops at devil's tower and mt rushmore on the way home. unfortunately, there was a miscommunication in the planning stage, and marc blocked off tuesday to tuesday for vacation days, and i planned wednesday to wednesday. which meant that wyoming (devil's tower) and mt rushmore (south dakota) would have to take place on the same day.

that was not wise.

but we made it, and it was all great.

(highlights, with pix, in this album.)

we left bright and early wednesday, with the intention of making it to omaha for lunch. a friend, lisa, recommended jones bros for a good sandwich and cupcake, and it was the perfect stop for us. what's not to like about cupcakes and macarons?

Jonesmaca
then we trekked across the remainder of nebraska and entered colorado with enough daylight left to keep our eyes trained for something interesting.

nothing, actually, ever appeared.

IMG_9285
so we grabbed some thai in fort morgan, the sun set, and we arrived in denver in the dark - 16 hours after we left, figuring the next day would be better.

it totally was.

we had the morning to ourselves, so we headed to the denver aquarium. the kids love fish, we love fish ... and i'd read that there was a mermaid show. the idea of harper seeing REAL mermaids was too good to pass up.

and by golly, there were real mermaids.

IMG_9396
harp was speechless. and i was wishing i'd known about this back when i was in high school ... it would have been my dream job.

after the aquarium, we drove to my aunt & uncle's house in denver to hang out with the family and head en masse to boulder for dinner. somehow, seventeen of us fit around a table at a crowded pasta place, and we had a great time.

Pastajays
friday morning, that same group - minus three, who went horseback riding, but plus my cousin elizabeth and her boyfriend - headed to the flatirons in chautauqua park to go hiking.

IMG_9581
i had to go harper's pace, and she made it just over half a mile up then decided she was done. of course, about that time we reached the bluebell-baird junction and had no clue which way everyone else went ... the ones NOT going harper's pace. so her being done was okay ... otherwise, we probably would have turned the wrong way and ended up on the evening news. about half the group made it another three-quarters of a mile, and the other half pushed on to the royal arch. marc and henry stopped about ten minutes from the arch. they said the climb got pretty serious at that point.

henry had a blast ... i was reminded how much that monkey has always loved to climb. makes me wonder if he'll take that up as a sport someday. wouldn't surprise me a bit, but definitely scares me a little.

that night was the rehearsal dinner ... a fairly simple yet posh affair at a downtown art gallery. my sister and i laughed quite a lot and i realized how much i've missed living near her and hanging out. we can definitely get the giggles going after a few drinks.

saturday morning was unstructured, so most of us opted to hit the boulder farmers market. it was such an experience. now, we love our local farmers markets, but they are more urban and permanent. the one in boulder just appears by a bike path and green space. the vibe is laid back and friendly and natural. and the people watching is excellent.

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(i say "free spirits." marc says "whack jobs." poTAto, poTAHto. whatever.)

we spent about three hours wandering and sampling, then needed to get going. marc had forgotten a tie, my dad had brought one that wasn't in great shape, and my mom needed dancing shoes, so we smashed together in our car and headed to the mall for a quick errand. accomplished, we ate a quick lunch of shawarma and falafel (and the best lemongrass-ginger iced green tea i've ever had) and then returned to the hotel to get ready for the wedding.

the wedding was at the beautiful st julien hotel, and it was a wonderful evening.

Mob
Wedding
Mandm
i was having a great time dancing at the reception with my family, but noticed my husband and children's absence. they were out on the patio ... kids on ipods and husband looking at me like, "can we go now?" since we were at a different hotel than everyone else, i was - sadly - without options. (at some point in my life, i WILL stay and dance and have fun somewhere, dammit. maybe with my second husband.) but we had an early wake-up sunday and leaving was, probably, prudent. so i didn't pout. much. i'll just say that he's lucky he's hot.

Marc
sunday morning came early and we drove an hour north of boulder to visit heather, who went to high school with marc in ecuador and whom i have since gotten to know on facebook. we are cut from the same cloth in many ways - talking to someone who shares your views with the same passion is refreshing. her magazine, get born, was how we ended up talking in the first place and realized we should really be friends. hanging out with her and her kids for a few hours was truly great. everyone had a really nice time.

Heather
after leaving heather's, it was time to cover wyoming. the plan was to end the day in gillette so we could wake up first thing the next morning and head straight to devil's tower without more major driving. well, that meant another six hours in the car. by this point, i think we were all a bit road-weary, but we pushed on.

wyoming started out quite lovely and surprising ...

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then got decidedly less so ...

Chugwater
but we survived, dropped our stuff at the fairfield inn, and crossed the road for a dinner at perkins that basically no one ate because we were too darn tired.

in the morning, we decided the kids needed to blow off some steam so we wandered to the "indoor pool" to splash around for a bit.

here's a lesson: when you read "indoor pool" at the fairfield inn in gillette, wyoming, please note that "indoor pool" in an understatement. this thing was full-on kidawesome. two slides ... lazy river ... separate pool for little kids ... separate pool for basketball. and we were the only people in it.

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the minis splashed and had a ball for an hour, then we pulled ourselves away for the one-hour drive to devil's tower ... after showering and packing up suitcases and checking out yet again. (at this point we were on day five, hotel number four.)

the drive to devil's tower went quickly, and when it appeared we were all awe-struck. what a neat place. the tower itself is amazing and cool as all get-out, but the 1.3 mile walk around it was truly great ... peaceful, lovely, fun. we had a really good time.

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too soon, we were done and back in the car ... for two more hours ... to rapid city, south dakota. the plan to squeeze devil's tower and mt rushmore into one day was ill-advised but unavoidable. however, we made the executive decision to eat our first good, relaxed, sit-down meal in the last six days, and found a steakhouse by our (fifth) hotel. we dined. we dawdled. we ordered dessert. and by the time we were done, we were relaxed and happy, but the sun was starting to set and the temperature had dropped into the mid-50s. and we were in shorts & t-shirts.

realizing that mt rushmore would probably be pretty cold once the sun was fully set, we opted for a quick run into a store for sweatshirts. there had to be one nearby, right? google map insisted yes, there was a kohl's right around the corner. well ... no. it was not. not there at all. so back to google ... was there a target? yes. two miles and 57 stoplights in the other direction. we got there, got shirts, and were back in the car in less than 10 minutes, but now it was 7:50 and the lighting ceremony was to start at 8 ... 40 minutes away.

we started driving, following google map's directions, and on the very last turn realized ... there's no way this is it. so i googled "mt rushmore" on REAL google, not maps, and it said, "turn around and drive 15 minutes THAT way, dummy." needless to say, we finally got to mt rushmore at 8:45 ... it closes at 9.

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it was still an awe-inspiring sight, and being there at night made it feel somehow more intimate and humbling and meaningful. so it worked out okay.

then they started locking doors and telling us to leave.

so ... 40 minutes back to our new hotel, to find toothbrushes and jammies and get a good night's rest before crawling back in the car for the eight-hour trip home.

we were so ready.

the good thing is, after all those states and miles and hours and hotels - and something breaking off my muffler and rattling around in colorado ... and then my radiator cap detaching from the hose and needing to be jury-rigged by my husband, wielding a pair of scissors from my son's backpack - we had a really fantastic time. every bit of it. and we may have even said, "wouldn't it be fun to drive to yellowstone and grand canyon?" without any hint of sarcasm. sure, the kids had their moments. and i may have had a moment. and marc had about as close to a moment as he gets. but that many days on a hotel bed can make a person need a moment now and then. overall, it was a successful, fun, memorable trip ... and the good moments way outweighed the bad.

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