Four Corners

Standard

img_5756

Toby ended a busy day by walking ALL THE WAY from Arizona to Colorado…Show Off!

 

Each of the kids began this seven week road trip with a plan as to what type of souvenirs they would be collecting. They each had a plan to collect something from the stops along the way with the money they had saved.

Grace decided to buy patches from each national park to sew onto her favorite backpack, making it a special reminder of all the places she has been.

img_6096-2

Rusty decided to collect key chains that he could attach to his backpack.

img_6093-2

Molly opted to collect postcards from each place we visited. She chose postcards because they were inexpensive but also a great visual reminder of all she has done.

img_6088-2

Toby and I were collecting magnets from each stop to add to our magnet collection, as well as starting a sweet bumper sticker collection on the back of the Gnome mobile to highlight where it has been.

img_6105

And we’ve been covering the ceiling of our bus with flyers and ticket stubs.

img_6100

Ozzie decided to collect maps from every state we traveled through and every park we visited. This turned out to be the cheapest souvenir of all since free state maps are available at rest stops and National Parks give out park maps to guests.

img_6084-2

His choice to collect maps wasn’t surprising. Ozzie LOVES geography. He loves reading maps and can spend hours playing around on Google Maps. An Atlas is his idea of good bedtime reading.

Being such a fan of geography and maps, you can only imagine the excitement he was feeling as we drove to Four Corners monument…the only place in the United States where you can stand in four states all at once.

I remember thinking Four Corners was such a cool place as a kid, and have a picture much like this one that we recreated, with a hand in two states and feet in two states.

img_5775-2

The drive to Four Corners took us down poorly maintained back roads for a 40 minute drive off the highway.

Owned by the Navajo Nation this is a privately owned monument located on Navajo land in the middle of nowhere.

img_5740

The cost to enter is $5.00/person, which is a bit steep when you consider all that is there is a granite disk marking the boundary where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona meet,

but in the end we felt the fee was worth the experience.

Here is a little info about this unique place:

“The Four Corners Monument marks the quadripoint in the Southwestern United States where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet. It is the only point in the United States shared by four states, leading to this area’s being called the Four Corners region. The monument also marks the boundary between two semi-autonomous Native American governments, the Navajo Nation, which maintains the monument as a tourist attraction, and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Reservation.

The origins of the state boundaries marked by the monument occurred just prior to, and during, the American Civil War, when the United States Congress acted to form governments in the area to combat the spread of slavery to the region. When the early territories were formed, their boundaries were designated along meridian and parallel lines. Beginning in the 1860s, these lines were surveyed and marked. These early surveys included some errors, but even so, the markers placed became the legal boundaries, superseding the written descriptions of geographical meridians and parallels. This includes the Four Corners Monument, which has been legally established as the corner of the four states.

The monument where “visitors can simultaneously straddle the territory of four states” is maintained as a tourist attraction by the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department. Unlike many other attractions based on what are primarily political boundaries, such as the Berlin Wall, Four Corners Monument is an example of a political boundary that is a tourist destination in its own right. The monument consists of a granite disk embedded with a smaller bronze disk around the point, surrounded by smaller, appropriately located state seals and flags representing both the states and tribal nations of the area. Circling the point, starting from north, the disk reads with two words in each state “Here meet in freedom under God four states”. Around the monument, local Navajo and Ute artisans sell souvenirs and food. An admission fee is required to view and photograph the monument. The monument is a popular tourist attraction despite its remote and isolated location. As early as 1908, people traveled long distances to take pictures of family and friends at the monument in Twister-like poses, sitting on the disk, in a circle of friends or family around the disk, or for couples to kiss directly over the disk.” -Wikipedia

We arrived and were pleased to discover we were one of a few tourists there. This meant more of an opportunity to take multiple pictures, an opportunity that wouldn’t have been available had there been a line waiting. During busier times they ask that you limit the number of photos you take to three.

img_5741-2

Ozzie was beside himself, gleefully calling out, “I’ll see you in a little bit, Mom. I’m headed to New Mexico!”

img_5767

Tyler loved jumping the border lines with Ozzie, shouting, “Now I’m in Utah. Now I’m in Arizona. Now I’m in Colorado!”

We waited for our turn to take pictures.

img_5778-2

The actual monument was quite pretty, surrounded by the flags of each state and local tribal nations, with a granite disk reading, “Here meet in freedom under God four states.”

img_5773-2

We started by getting a group picture with the kids all picking the state they wanted to stand in. Grace opted to stand in the center where the four states meet.

img_5751-2

It was crazy to say,

“At this moment all my kids are scattered across four states!”🙂

Then some of the kids requested pictures alone on the monument.

img_5753img_5755img_5770-2

We ended our visit with a stroll around the booths that encircle the monument where Native Americans were selling their wares.

img_5746-2

We all enjoyed watching one artisan demonstrate how he chips away stone using deer antlers to create arrowheads.

img_5759

The girls loved all the turquoise jewelry and each bought a pair of earrings.

img_5783-2

There isn’t a lot to see or do at this stop. It is a 15 minute- 60 minute stop, but it is very cool.

It is one of those “Bucket List” stops. For where else can you go and say to your children,

“Kids, its time to go! Tyler, get out of Utah. Molly, it’s time to leave Arizona. Rusty, you need to head out of Colorado. Meet me in New Mexico at the bus. It’s time to leave.”

Very Cool!

Next Stop: Mesa Verde

 

Vacation Highlight Video #2

Standard

Grace has completed her second highlight video of our amazing journey, stealing snippets of time between schoolwork and touring to work on it.

This video highlights Week 3 of our trip, covering our time at Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons, Salt Lake City, Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, Newport Beach, California and Downtown Disney.

 The next video will be of our five days at Disneyland

We hope you enjoy reliving some of the highlights of  Week 3 with us.

What a trip it has been.

It has been a marvelous journey!

Arches National Park

Standard

After spending the morning at Bryce Canyon, and driving four hours to Moab, Utah, we arrived at Arches National Park at 5:00 pm. With us we brought the same heavy rains that followed us through Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

It seemed like we are singlehandedly bringing relief to the drought strewn areas of the west with the Pennsylvania rain cloud that we were carrying with us.

In fact we were told that we were experiencing a real phenomenon in Moab. “We rarely get rains like this,” the ranger informed us.

The rain was too heavy to see very far or to take cameras out in, so we decided to head over to our campground and return in the morning for a morning hike before we began our drive to Four Corners Monument.

The early evening allowed us to relax, organize the bus a bit, and let the kids play at the playground and game room while I fixed dinner.

The rains finally ended and the reward for our lost hiking time was this magnificent double rainbow that appeared above our campsite.

img_5508-2img_5518p1070377-2

The next morning we were back at Arches National Park early to explore the unique rock formations and arches that have made this area famous.

p1070413-3

Location: Utah

Established: November 12, 1971

Size: 76,359 acres

“This park contains more than 2,000 natural arches—the greatest concentration in the country. But numbers have no significance beside the grandeur of the landscape—the arches, the giant balanced rocks, spires, pinnacles, and slickrock domes against the enormous sky.

Perched high above the Colorado River, the park is part of southern Utah’s extended canyon country, carved and shaped by eons of weathering and erosion. Some 300 million years ago, inland seas covered the large basin that formed this region. The seas refilled and evaporated—29 times in all—leaving behind salt beds thousands of feet thick. Later, sand and boulders carried down by streams from the uplands eventually buried the salt beds beneath thick layers of stone. Because the salt layer is less dense than the overlying blanket of rock, it rises up through it, forming it into domes and ridges, with valleys in between.

Most of the formations at Arches are made of soft red sandstone deposited 150 million years ago. Much later, groundwater began to dissolve the underlying salt deposits. The sandstone domes collapsed and weathered into a maze of vertical rock slabs called “fins.” Sections of these slender walls eventually wore through, creating the spectacular rock sculptures that visitors to Arches see today.

The land has a timeless, indestructible look that is misleading. More than 700,000 visitors each year threaten the fragile high desert ecosystem. One concern is a dark scale called biological soil crust composed of cyanobacteria, algae, fungi, and lichens that grow in sandy areas in the park. Footprints tracked across this living community may remain visible for years. In fact, the aridity helps preserve traces of past activity for centuries. Visitors are asked to walk only on designated trails or stay on slickrock or wash bottoms.

Did You Know?

There are more than 2,000 arches in the park; to be classified as an arch, the opening must measure at least three feet across. The largest arch in the park, Landscape Arch, spans 306 feet (longer than a football field) base to base. New arches are constantly forming, while old ones occasionally collapse—most recently Wall Arch, which fell in 2008.

Arches National Park contains ephemeral pools, from a few inches to several feet in depth, that are essentially mini-ecosystems, home to tadpoles, fairy shrimp, and insects. The pools form among the sandstone basins, within potholes that collect the rare rainwater and sediment.

About 300 million years ago an inland sea covered what is now Arches National Park. The sea evaporated and re-formed more than 29 times, leaving behind salt beds thousands of feet thick.

Another unique aspect of the park is its knobby black ground cover, which is actually alive. A biological soil crust, it is composed of algae, lichens, and cyanobacteria (one of Earth’s earliest life forms), and provides a secure foundation for the desert plants.”

 img_5532-2

We began our visit with a stop at the visitor’s center where the kids picked up the Arches’ junior ranger booklets and where we watched an informative 15-minute video entitled “Windows of Time,” about the formation of the arch features in the park.

img_5540-2

While in the visitor’s center we were informed that Delicate Arch, the most famous arch in the park, and one of the most recognizable symbols of Utah, was closed to the public due to treacherous trails as a result of unusually heavy rains the night before.

arch

Delicate Arch

 

The ranger told us all the other paths were open so we looked at the map, picked the route we wanted to take, marked the trails we wanted to hike, and set out on a fun journey of discovery through a beautiful world of nature’s rock art.

img_5552-2

Our first stop was Park Avenue Viewpoint for a view down an open canyon flanked by sandstone skyscrapers:

 img_5561-2img_5553-2

From there we drove over to Balanced Rock where we walked the 0.4-mile trail that loops around the base of this classic hoodoo, a strangely eroded rock spire 128 feet high:

img_5586-2img_5593-2

img_5607-2

Look how little the kids are next to it!

img_5610-2img_5615-2

 

Just beyond we turned onto the paved road leading to The Windows.

img_5728-2

There we took the 1-mile Window Trail that leads up to South Window, which is 105 feet wide, as well as gives amazing views of North Window and Turret Arch.

img_5633-2

The South Window Arch

img_5655-2

 

We all enjoyed the beautiful hike up to the arches.

img_5638-2

Except maybe Toby who ran the whole way up to catch up with us after parking the bus a mile away.🙂

 

img_5679-2

The weather was perfect and we were so glad we chose to wait until the morning to see these amazing sites rather than attempt it in the rain.

img_5635-2

The kids loved being able to climb and explore the rock formations,

img_5668

And it was awesome standing beneath such monstrous, natural structures.

img_5688-2

The North Window Arch

 

It makes a person feel so small…

img_5708-2

And makes God seem so big when you stand beside a creation as large and glorious as this.

img_5731-2

We could have spent days exploring this park.

img_5700-2

I’d love to come back someday and hike the Delicate Arch trail, but we still had a magnificent day and saw some incredible sites…

img_5656-2

One of my favorite days of the trip so far!

img_5681-2

Next Stop: Four Corners Monument

Bryce Canyon National Park

Standard

Location: Utah

Established: September 15, 1928

Size: 35,835 acres

img_5395-2

“Perhaps nowhere are the forces of natural erosion more tangible than at Bryce Canyon. Its wilderness of phantom-like rock spires, or hoodoos, attracts more than one million visitors a year. Many descend on trails that give hikers and horseback riders a close look at the fluted walls and sculptured pinnacles.

The park follows the edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. On the west are heavily forested tablelands more than 9,000 feet high; on the east are the intricately carved breaks that drop 2,000 feet to the Paria Valley. Many ephemeral streams have eaten into the plateau, forming horseshoe-shaped bowls. The largest and most striking is Bryce Amphitheater. Encompassing six square miles, it is the park’s scenic heart.

For millions of years water has carved, as it continues to, Bryce’s rugged landscape. Water may split rock as it freezes and expands in cracks—a cyclic process that occurs some 200 times a year. In summer, runoff from cloudbursts etches into the softer limestones and sluices through the deep runnels. In about 50 years the present rim will be cut back another foot. But there is more here than spectacular erosion.

In the early morning you can stand for long moments on the rim, held by the amphitheater’s mysterious blend of rock and color. Warm yellows and oranges radiate from the deeply pigmented walls as scatterings of light illuminate the pale spires.

There is a sense of place here that goes beyond rocks. Some local Paiute Indians explained it with a legend. Once there lived animal-like creatures that changed themselves into people. But they were bad, so Coyote turned them into rocks of various configurations. The spellbound creatures still huddle together here with faces painted just as they were before being turned to stone.

Did You Know?

Nineteenth-century Mormon settler Ebenezer Bryce, for whom the park is named, said it was “a hell of a place to lose a cow.” The canyon’s remarkable collection of whimsical hoodoo spires were believed by the early Paiute Indians to be people frozen in stone by the mischievous spirit Coyote. Early geologists feared the hoodoos would transform into humans.”

We awoke on Wednesday morning with grand plans to spend the day in Bryce Canyon National Park but ran into a few issues that delayed the start to our day. Freezing cold temperatures the night before made it so the bus didn’t want to start in the morning, and 7 days without medication made our boys also struggle with starting their day. We prayed for patience and divine intervention on both fronts, plugged the engine in to warm, and walked everyone over to the shower..

No need to waste this forced delay.

By the time we returned from getting everyone clean the bus was ready to start her day and we headed out on our first priority mission:

Try to get the boys’ ADHD medication scripts filled.

At this point they had been without medication for a week. We had traveled through four states looking for a state with regulations that would allow us to get the meds our boys were in such desperate need for. We were hoping for luck in Utah.

We drove 20 minutes away to the town of Panguitch, Utah. We stopped in at the local pharmacy with fingers and toes crossed. They looked over the script and then informed us that they couldn’t fill it because:

#!: It was written over 30 days ago.

#2: It had multiple medications written on one script

Both “no nos” in Utah.

In desperation and on the verge of tears I asked, “Then what can we do? We cannot go another day without meds!”

She suggested we head over to their walk in clinic, explain our dilemma, show them the scripts, and see if a local doctor could reissue the same meds on a new script for the boys.

So we drove a few blocks away to the walk in clinic. The intake nurse was confused by our reason for coming into the clinic, having never dealt with an issue like ours before, but sent us back to begin registering and handling the insurance paperwork with another employee.

It wasn’t long before the entire clinic knew the McCleerys were there. Tyler’s constant chatter, loud booming voice, and rattling and banging of every object he encountered, and constant movement all successfully plead our case for the dire need for meds.

Eager to get us out of their office they quickly called our doctor in Pennsylvania to confirm the scripts. The clinic doctor then came out with the written scripts in hand, telling us there was no need to examine the boys, she could hear the evidence ADHD from her office across the hospital.

As we walked out, filled with gratitude and relief, the intake nurse met my eye and mouthed,

“God Bless You!”

img_5302

Then it was back to the pharmacy with the new scripts in hand. What a relief it was to walk out the front door with pills in hand. Immediately both boys were given their first dose of Concerta after a week without, and Toby and I did our happy dance.

img_5300

Within an hour we had our sons back and could see the relief they both experienced as they were able to finally have some control over their symptoms. It was like an itch in their brains that could finally be scratched, and the relief was visible as I watched the tension and energy leave their body.

With pills in system we decided to head over to Bryce Canyon and try to salvage what we could of our day.

The path to Bryce Canyon took us along Scenic Byway 12.

img_5310-2

What a gorgeous drive!

img_5305-2

We pulled off for some pictures.

img_5316-2

And so the boys could run a little. At this point the meds were kicking in and everyone was feeling better.

img_5335-2

Along Scenic Byway 12 we had the opportunity to drive through two red rock tunnels, cut into the existing rock. They were plenty big enough for the bus to fit.

img_5344-2

What a cool experience!

img_5348-2

Bryce Canyon offers free shuttle service into and around their park in an effort to cut down on traffic and parking congestion. This was good news for us. We have found parking our bus at some of the National Parks challenging simply because the parking was not designed to accommodate the large number of RV visitors that now visit the parks.

img_5469-2

We parked the bus at the shuttle station and showed our America the Beautiful pass to the cashier, who informed us that we only had an hour until the visitor center was closing. There was also unusually heavy fog…the worse in nine years according to a park ranger, that made seeing the hoodoos next to impossible, so we came up with a plan B.

img_5363-2

We decided to go into the park for an hour and spend that time checking out the visitor’s center and then return to the park the following morning for a little hiking before we got on the road for our 4-hour drive to Moab, Utah.

img_5360-2

There in the visitor’s center we were able to watch a 22-minute video about the history of Bryce Canyon and its unique geological rock formations called hoodoos. We also were able to learn about the wildlife found in the park, including the Utah prairie dog.

One of the things we were most upset about missing at this stop was the star gazing night hike.

img_5366-2

Bryce Canyon is one of the darkest spots in the United States, making it one of the best spots for star gazing and seeing the Milky Way. Unfortunately, the same low lying clouds that obstructed our view of the hoodoos also covered the sky, hiding any sign of the spectacular night sky above.

The next morning, we woke at 7:00 am to the sound of heavy rain on the metal roof of the bus. With a prayer that it would blow over, given a little time, we let everyone stay in bed and catch up on their sleep.

By 9:00 am the rain had stopped and we were seeing signs that the sun might make an appearance. We headed back to the shuttle station and rode into the park, bypassing the visitor’s center and instead riding the shuttle to Inspiration Point, one of four major lookouts over Bryce Amphitheater. Bryce Lookout was closed, along with many walking trails, as a result of the heavy rain the night before which caused some cave-ins and falling rocks. So we spent our time walking between Inspiration Point, Sunrise Point and Sunset Point.

img_5447-2

What an absolutely stunning place!

img_5392-2

As we stepped up to the edge of Inspiration Point, and looked out over the vista of red and orange rock, sprinkled with small evergreens, it took our breath away.

img_5393-2

The kids all agreed that although not as “grand” as the Grand Canyon, it was a lot prettier.

img_5456-2

I remember thinking the same thing when I first visited Bryce Canyon as a kid.

img_5463-2img_5401-2img_5435-2

img_5448-2

As we were walking the path around the canyon we passed this sign. As Tyler ran quickly by we realized he totally missed the gist of the message when he yelled back to us: “Look! If you pay $1.00 you can feed the squirrels!” Yeah, not one bit of correct information was interpreted from that warning sign.🙂

What a magnificent place!

img_5416-2img_5418-2

 

Then it was “On the road again”…

img_5471-2

Next stop: Arches National Park, Utah

 

The Grand Canyon

Standard

grand

“Vast, magnificent and inarguably beautiful, the Grand Canyon is easily Arizona’s most distinguishable landmark – and a natural wonder that you simply have to see to believe. Stretching 277 miles from end to end, steep, rocky walls descend more than a mile to the canyon’s floor, where the wild Colorado River traces a swift course southwest.

In the Grand Canyon,

” Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world.” – Theodore Roosevelt

grand-canyon-north-rim

Grand Canyon National Park encompasses canyons, river tributaries, and surrounding grounds. The Grand Canyon is situated in Arizona’s northwestern quadrant. With five million visitors making the trip to the canyon each year, Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. In addition, the park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. 

The Grand Canyon had a long and arduous road to becoming a national park, beginning in the 1880’s with several failed congressional bills. After making multiple visits to the area, Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a National Monument in 1908. The bill to grant national park status to the area was passed in 1919 and signed by then-President Woodrow Wilson.
 
There are two public areas of Grand Canyon National Park, the North and South Rims. At 7,000 feet above sea level, the Grand Canyon South Rim is the most accessible section of the national park, with numerous places where visitors can pull over to admire the views. The Grand Canyon North Rim, 1,000 feet higher than its southern sibling, isn’t as popular because it is harder to get to, especially when harsh winter weather closes access roads. By car, the trip from one rim to the other is 220 miles. However, if traveling by foot, the distance across the canyon is 21 miles via the Kaibab Trails.”

It was a shock to our systems moving from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon.

This probably wouldn’t have been the case had we visited the South Rim but we chose to visit the North Rim so we would be in closer proximity to our next few stops. As we climbed from the desert of Vegas to 8,000 feet elevation the temperatures dropped from over 100 degrees to 58 degrees.

img_5182-2

We also encountered our first rain of the trip since our first day in St. Louis. 

img_5193-2

The drive in was beautiful. The drive into the Northern entrance takes you through a forest of Ponderosa Pine and yellow Aspen trees. You have no clue you are approaching the Grand Canyon until you run into the Grand Canyon Lodge, situated right on the edge of the canyon.

img_5184-2

When we got out we were greeted with chilly temperatures, drizzly rain, and thick, pea soup fog. We were a bit disappointed by the limited visibility due to the fog but were determined to make the best of it and enjoy this once in a lifetime experience, nonetheless.

img_5201-2

“Can you see our breath?”

 

Our first stop was to the Ranger Station to walk through the visitor’s center and so the kids could pick up Junior Ranger booklets to work on while we explored the park.

img_5213-2

One of the requirements for earning a Junior Ranger patch at the Grand Canyon is to attend a Ranger led education program. We headed over to the lodge to sit in on one about condors.

img_5228img_5224-2img_5227-2

After the program we stepped outside where Toby and the kids caught their first sight of this awe-inspiring view. I had visited the Grand Canyon as a kid but was still blown away by the awesome site, not fully remembering how impressive the Grand Canyon is in person.

img_5231-2

The low laying fog prevented us from seeing the full vista, but it was still an incredible experience. We were able to walk along the rim and even step out  on a walkway that extended over the mammoth crevice.

img_5242-2

The walk out to the end of the walkway was heart stopping for Rusty and I. Precarious under the best of circumstances, after a day of rain the muddy walkways made the climb out to the edge feel down right treacherous.

img_5282-2

As Rusty creeped to the edge he just kept saying,

“Why are we here? Why are we doing this?!”

It definitely didn’t feel OSHA approved with its crumbling walkways and large gaps in the railing.

walkway

Rusty was shocked by the complete lack of safety measures and expressed his concern with:

“Really?!! Someone could die!”

To which a passing stranger responded with a laugh, “Only if they jump.”

Seeing the risks for two impulsive boys off their ADHD medication, Toby kept an iron grip on both boys.

img_5258-2

The walk out was terrifying for this Momma, who is scared of heights, but the views made the risks worth it.

img_5278-2img_5268-2

WOW!

We opted not to hike, as originally planned. The muddy trails made hiking challenging and by the end of the day the boys were having a harder time controlling themselves. So we stuck close to the lodge and just walked around the rim of the canyon.

After an hour in the rain and cold everyone was chilled so we stopped in the lodge café for hot cocoas to warm us up while the kids finished their junior ranger booklets.

img_5296-2

We left the Grand Canyon by 6:00pm for the long drive we still had ahead of us to reach our campsite for the night just outside Bryce Canyon.

img_5299-2

Next Stop: Bryce Canyon National Park

Viva Las Vegas

Standard

img_4974-2

Monday we found ourselves still stuck in Las Vegas waiting for some resolution with the boys’ medication dilemma. We decided to take advantage of the free shuttle service offered from our KOA campground to the Las Vegas strip.

Toby has wanted to visit the Las Vegas strip for years after seeing multiple documentaries about the different hotels on the strip. As someone who has worked in construction his whole life he was eager to see all the amazing architecture found in the themed hotels of Vegas.

There was a bit of concern about taking the kids downtown Vegas, but we were told that things were pretty tame during the day, and that was the case… for the most part.

img_4969-2

It was thrilling to experience the energy and sites of Downtown Vegas as we moved from iconic hotel to iconic hotel.

img_5002-2

Our first stop was the Venetian Hotel, known for its Italian décor and gondola rides around the hotel.

img_4971-2img_4984-2

img_4997-2

Check out this ceiling!

img_5006-2

 

It really was stunning.

img_5025-2

As we walked around the hotel we passed the wax museum and stopped for a quick picture with Nicholas Cage.

img_4979-2

Other sites we enjoyed were the Bellagio musical fountains,

img_5073-2img_5081-2

The gardens at the Flamingo,

img_5034-2img_5046-2

And the iconic structures like the Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower found on the strip.

img_5020-2img_5056-2img_5017-2

I thought the neatest sites were the artists and musicians that lined the strip. We stopped and watched one artist who was creating magnificent paintings using only spray paint and a knife edge.

img_5132-2

This is one of his finished pieces:

img_5133-2

Our final stop, as the sun sank in the sky, was M&M World…our favorite stop of the day.

img_5090-2

It reminded us a lot of Chocolate World in Hershey, Pa.

img_5106-3

It was four stories of M&M merchandise,

All 22 flavors of M&Ms,

img_5102-2

The M&M race car…Ozzie was in heaven!

img_5109-2

And a fun, free 3-D show starring the M&M buddies.

img_5104-2img_5116-2

When we left M&M World Vegas was lit up in a rainbow of colors…

and the more colorful residents of Vegas had also crawled out of their holes.

Along the strip their were all sorts of crazies dressed in sad looking Disney costumes charging money to pose with tourists. This was such a foreign concept for the kids who had just returned from Disneyland.

When Tyler wanted to run over and give a creepy looking Olaf a “warm hug” I had to explain that we don’t give warm hugs to Las Vegas Olaf, only the Disneyland Olaf.

img_5142-2

The entire walk back was like walking through a field of visual land mines with me averting their eyes with directions like, “Look left, look right…LOOK UP!” as we moved through “Sin City.”

img_5151-2

We were glad to make it to our shuttle bus.

Vegas was an interesting dichotomy of beauty and filth.

We are glad we had the opportunity to see all the good that Las Vegas had to offer, but I can honestly say it was a bit of a shock to the system going from the “Happiest Place on Earth” to “Sin City,”

I can now say I’ve seen it and don’t need to return.🙂

Next Stop: The Grand Canyon

The Hoover Dam…or as Tyler calls it, “The Hoover Darn”

Standard

Preparation for this road trip began months before we actually packed up the bus. There were so many things to figure out, so many moving parts involved in a trip this long and involved, that the preparations took a long time. There was the researching and planning of our route and what sites we wanted to see. There were the logistics of the bus conversion and making sure mechanically it would be able to handle a 9,000-mile journey over a variety of terrain. There were the school preparations as we worked with our cyber schools to make sure this road trip would be feasible with school work, and making sure we were prepared for how we would manage internet while on the road. There were campsites to book, menu and grocery planning, packing lists and home preparations for leaving our home and farm under the care of a house sitter for seven weeks.

There was also the issue of medications. Both little boys are on a variety of medication that help with the symptoms of ADHD, anxiety and Reactive Attachment Disorder. They both receive therapy for early childhood trauma but the medications they are on help them manage their symptoms so that they can do the therapy work. These medications are essential for their well-being as well as for the functionality of our family as a whole.

Before we left we worked to get the boys’ medications stabilized and prepared for our time away from their doctor and therapist by filling their 30 days of medication the day before we left and then bringing their refill scripts with us.

I was concerned that we might have an issue filling their Concerta scripts for ADHD because it is considered a controlled substance. So I set aside time to speak with our pharmacist face to face. I expressed my concerns and she reassured me that it shouldn’t be an issue as long as I had paper scripts from the doctor and photo ID…

Boy was she wrong!

It has been a nightmare. For 6 days, through 3 states, with stops at 10 different pharmacies, we have tried to refill the boys’ empty meds.

Each pharmacy had a different reason for saying, “NO.” One refused to fill any out of state scripts for controlled substances. One wouldn’t fill the script because more than one medication was written on one script. Another wouldn’t fill any script that was written more than 14 days ago. Another refused to fill a controlled substance script without speaking to the doctor.

It was that pharmacy that resulted in an extended stay in Las Vegas. The pharmacist wanted to speak to our doctor. It was Saturday morning and our doctor wouldn’t be back in the office until Tuesday so we had to wait, with crossed fingers, that our extended stay in Las Vegas would pan out.

Those who have ever questioned the validity of ADHD, or who feel it is a made-up diagnosis to excuse poor behavior in school children, has never lived with an ADHD child. Let me tell you…IT IS REAL!!

Both boys have a diagnoses of ADHD but Tyler is far more severe. In fact his doctor says he has the most severe case of any ADHD patient she treats. When he is on his meds, which includes 5 different medications and 10 pills a day, he is still bouncy and distracted. Living with him off his meds in a little school bus…

Well imagine climbing into a refrigerator box with 33 monkeys and a Tasmanian devil and you just about have it.

The last few days have been challenging. We have had to adjust our itinerary and cut out a few stops to make this extended stay in Las Vegas work.

The blessing is: we are at a wonderful KOA campsite.

The staff is fantastic and there is a beautiful pool where we have spent much time allowing Tyler to burn off energy in the 105-degree heat.

img_4949

It also offered free shuttle service so we have been able to take advantage of sites in the area as we wait on news about the meds. While we were stationary we also had a mobile automotive service come out and do a little repair work on some of the wear and tear on the bus that came as a result of our climb and descent through the Rocky Mountains.

img_4961-2

It was nice to be able to have the mechanic come out to the KOA and work on the bus while we swam.

img_4954

One of the planned stops for our trip through Vegas was the Hoover Dam, or as Tyler calls it,

“The Hoover Darn.”

img_4857

He didn’t buy my explanation that the word “dam” in reference to a structure, wasn’t a bad word.

I don’t know what I was thinking taking two ADHD boys, who are off their meds, to the tallest man made, concrete structure in the western hemisphere.

I think I was just desperate to escape the confines of the bus.

While there I vacillated between a numbing fear that Tyler was going to bounce his way of the side of the dam and a temptation to push him over the side of the dam.

We drove the bus over to the Hoover Dam, a 30-minute drive from our KOA in Sam’s Town, Nevada.

When we arrived we were ushered through a security check point where Police Officers boarded our bus and thoroughly searched it, inside and out. All trucks, Vans and RVs had to be searched.

We don’t know if this is a normal security procedure or if it was a result of the bombings that had occurred on the east coast the day before.

We were soon through security and were told to head to parking lot 14 which was set up to accommodate larger vehicles.

img_4818-2

We were surprised, as we approached the dam, that we would be driving across the top of it. We thought only pedestrians we allowed on top of  it, so it was a thrill to drive across this mammoth structure.

img_4925-2

We parked and began the long decent, down numerous staircases, to the dam.

Walking across it allowed us the opportunity to move at a more leisurely pace, read the signage and take pictures.

img_4825-3

The boys lasted about 3.2 seconds before the first one was hanging over the railing in an effort to better see the water below.  From that moment on we had a firm hand-holding policy for both boys, but even with that safety measure I didn’t have any feeling in my legs and my heart didn’t stop racing until we were back in the bus.

img_4914-2

It was there on the top of the dam that we really got to experience Vegas heat at its best. The 105 degree temperatures felt even hotter as we stood on that enormous concrete slab.

img_4854-2

All around the dam were cooling stations. These giant, mist blowing fans were a lovely relief from the heat.

img_4833-2

But nothing felt as good as the wall of cold air that hit us as we stepped into the visitor’s center.

img_4906-2

We considered doing one of the two tours offered that allows visitors to go inside the dam and see the inner workings of the dam,  but we knew we would never make it with the boys in their current condition, so instead we just bought a pass to the visitor’s center.

Here we learned all about the history of the Hoover Dam, from the planning process, to the construction, to the science behind its inner workings, as well as its function today.

Here are some of the cool things we learned:

img_4889-2img_4897-2img_4883-2img_4844-2

img_4919-2img_4910-2

We didn’t realize that the Hoover Dam lies on the border of two states with one side rooted in Arizona and the other in Nevada.

It was a very interesting stop and our visit was packed with fascinating history and fun science.

(On a side note)

If we were to do anything differently we probably would have skipped the visitor’s center. It was $10.00/person but we didn’t feel we got our money’s worth out of the small visitor’s center. Quite honestly we could have enjoyed our visit just as fully having walked the dam and read all the great signage outside for free. 

img_4838-2

It really is an astounding place, well worth a visit if you are in the area.

img_4932-2

We ended our visit with a stop at the gift shop/restaurant.

The kids were really excited for this visit because of their exposure to the Hoover Dam after reading the Percy Jackson series. There is a great scene in one of the books that takes place at the dam…

So in honor of all Percy Jackson fans we bought some “dam fries” to share.

img_4934-2

All in all,

It was a “Dam” Good Day!

img_4861-2

 

 

Disneyland- Our final day

Standard

“To all who come to this happy place: welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past…and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts which have created America … with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”  -Walt Disney’s dedication of Disneyland July 17,1955.

p1070227-2

Friday marked our final day at Disneyland. It was a wonderful and magical week, but also exhausting.

p1070193-2

When we do a Disney vacation we do it hard, arriving before the gates open and staying still close, eager to soak up all the magic we can in our time there. So by the end of the week we were all spent.

img_3284

On Friday the park was open until midnight so we opted to sleep in and hit Downtown Disney before we went into the park, knowing we would have four extra hours to tour the park.

img_4398-2

As we waited for the shuttle bus to pick us up the kids kept themselves entertained with a game of “Bear, Hunter, Lass.” This is a game similar to “Rock Paper, Scissors” but you either pose as a bear, hunter, or lass. Hunter beats Bear, Bear beats Lass, and Lass beats Hunter. It kept everyone entertained until our shuttle bus arrived.

img_4732-2img_4730-2img_4728-2

By the time Friday had arrived we had ridden all the rides at least twice so we were able to move through the park at a more relaxed pace,

img_4424img_4570-2

re-riding favorite rides,

img_4716

stopping to watch street performances,

p1070148-2

meeting our favorite characters,

img_4548img_4556-2img_4565-2img_4542-2img_4546-2img_4539-2

and enjoying our favorite Disney treats.

 

p1070135-2

Turkey Legs…

p1070120-2

Matterhorn Macaroons…

img_4615-2

And of course…Dole Whips!

 

Here are some highlights from our final day:

Autopia 
Feel the wind in your hair while cruising down one of 4 picturesque lanes—humorous billboards on the sidelines give drivers a wacky look at the world from the car’s perspective. While twisting around the track, you’ll pick up the pace under a small bridge and pass iconic attractions like the Matterhorn Bobsleds in the not-too-far-off distance. Go for your own personal best or compete against family members and friends. When the checkered flag comes down, coast back to the pit a champion!

img_4596-2img_4604-2img_4607img_4594-2

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters

Evil Emperor Zurg is stealing batteries from helpless toys to power a new weapon of destruction—and Buzz Lightyear needs your help!

As a Junior Space Ranger, it’s up to you to maneuver an XP-40 space cruiser through the shadowy Gamma Quadrant and fire lasers from an onboard cannon to stop Zurg and score points.

img_3613

img_4580-2img_4575-2img_4582img_4587-2img_4579-2img_4588-2

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Streak through a legendary gold-mining town aboard a rollicking runaway mine train.

Amid rugged bedrock and desert cactus, venture inside a barren mountain to the Big Thunder Mining Company, established in the early days of America’s Gold Rush. Traipse down and discover a mysterious 5-car locomotive waiting to take you on a journey inside an abandoned mine shaft.

Hang Onto Your Hats
Hurl forward into the darkness of a tunnel as the train’s wheels chug back and forth across a winding track. Swoop around sharp turns and dip and drop into canyons and caves, darting through the ghost town of Big Thunder.

Peel under a booming waterfall, past rock formations, and dodge a rumbling boulder from an unexpected landslide. Glimpse the remnants of an earthquake and behold a bevy of local critters—including bats, opossum and a goat with a stick of dynamite in his mouth—before hastily making your way back to the safety of the railroad station.

p1070096-2img_4420img_4407-2

Finding Nemo Submarine

Embark on an undersea research expedition to an active volcano and dive into a new Finding Nemo adventure along the way.

Climb down an open hatch inside a research submarine operated by the Nautical Exploration and Marine Observation Institute (N.E.M.O.) and take a seat in front of a crystal-clear porthole. As your friendly captain gives the order, an upward flow of bubbles suddenly fills your window view: your underwater adventure is beginning.

Forge ahead on a research study to a newly discovered volcano, sailing past divers photographing colorful sea life and age-old artifacts of an ancient civilization scattered along the seafloor. Then, hang on as your sub dives further down to avoid a coming sea storm.

Nemo’s Adventure
Having made your way to deeper depths, a familiar sight suddenly comes into view: Nemo and his turtle pal Squirt—and as can be expected, Nemo’s dad Marlin and forgetful friend Dory aren’t far behind. Thanks to special “sonar hydrophones” located inside the submarine, you can hear what everyone’s saying!

Follow Marlin and Dory on their quest to find Nemo in an exciting underwater adventure reminiscent of the hit film. Hold on tight as you ride the East Australian Current and sail through a graveyard of sunken ships. Catch up with Bruce the Shark and his gathering of fish friends and avoid a floating WWII mine. Evade the toothy bite of an anglerfish, weave your way through a school of translucent jellyfish and even find yourself inside the belly of a gigantic whale.

Maintaining the humor and heart of the original film, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage immerses you in your very own unforgettable underwater adventure with many of your favorite Finding Nemo friends.

p1070131p1070124-2p1070125-2

Indiana Jones Adventure

Take a cliff-hanging journey through the chilling dangers of the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. With Indy’s help, escape the supernatural pull of the Gates of Doom—beyond which lies eternal torment. Careen along precarious precipices that plummet into molten lava in the Cavern of Bubbling Death, avoid the screaming undead mummies of the temple’s past victims and swerve to avoid lava eruptions, swarms of insects and evil wraiths.

As you narrowly escape a collapsing bridge to find yourself face-to-fang with a giant venomous snake, you’ll wish that you never dared to test the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Just when you think you’ve made it through safely, a massive boulder rolls straight in your direction and only one man is brave enough—or crazy enough—to save you… Indiana Jones!

The Troop Transports

Indiana Jones Adventure is neither a roller coaster nor a typical slow-speed attraction like the Haunted Mansion. You’ll board a 12-person troop transport for a fast-paced thrill ride that realistically simulates driving fast over rough terrain. The experience is truly unique—and truly exciting.

img_4496-2img_4482-2img_4488img_4623-2img_4489-2

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Driven mad by his first automobile, Mr. Toad embarks on an uproarious trip toward “nowhere in particular”… and you’re invited! Recreating the frenzied journey of J. Thaddeus Toad, Esq. from the Wind in the Willows segment of the animated film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is a frantic flight through the English countryside the whole family is sure to love.

Hold On! Stroll through a well-manicured garden into a lavish manor known to all as Toad Hall. Hop inside a 2-person, open-air buggy and begin your wild drive by zooming beneath the vaulted ceiling of the main parlor, the cheerful song “Merrily On Our Way” playing overhead. Skid past teetering stacks of books in a library and barrel through a fireplace before hurtling wildly into a formal dining room, dishes rattling and glass crackling. Then, careen through a wall-sized window and race past a riverbank narrowly missing a sheep herder and his flock.

That’s when the motor mayhem really begins! While avoiding a platoon of pursuing policemen, you’ll crash through scaffolding, splatter a stack of pies, smash crates and even ignite a fiery explosion. But when you’re caught and sentenced for your runaway crimes, it looks as if the jig is up. Will you escape your punishment? Or is something even more dire waiting for you down the road?

img_4367-2img_4372-2img_4366-2img_4371-2img_4364-2

Jungle Cruise

Cast off on a thrilling expedition where tigers, gorillas, elephants and maybe even a headhunter await your arrival.

Trek to a dusty tropical jungle outpost—overflowing with cargo nets, wooden crates, rusty lanterns and faded marquee signs—and board a weathered tramp steamer for a tongue-in-cheek adventure through some of the world’s most “dangerous” rivers. Led by your trusty skipper, leave civilization behind as you cross continents and oceans through untamed waters rarely seen by man.

A True-Life Adventure
During your lively 7-minute journey, encounter awesome wonders of nature amid some of the world’s most exotic locales.

Throughout the sometimes perilous voyage, take in lively narration from your friendly skipper, known for a brave heart and a clever joke… or two.

img_4503img_4505img_3466

King Arthur Carrousel

Climb aboard an ornate carousel horse and gallop through a whirling backdrop of color and sound.

Make your way beneath a vibrant medieval tent within the Castle Courtyard and select one of 68 wood-carved white horses—or one intricately carved chariot. Accented in soft pastel and jewel tones, each magnificent steed is posed in a fanciful leaping position. Once chosen, hop atop your charger and prepare yourself for a royal ride as if you were a part of King Arthur’s royal army.

Test Your Horsemanship
As a classic Disney tune echoes to the sounds of an old-fashioned fairground organ, parade up and down in a gentle counter-clockwise direction atop your majestic horse. Spin around and around and feel a cool breeze brush across your face as you view a menagerie of classic Fantasyland attractions in the not-too-far-off distance—including Sleeping Beauty Castle.

p1070109-2

I found my Prince Charming!

Nobody could pull the Sword from the Stone…

img_4672-2img_4690-2

 

Command your prancing horse as the prince or princess of your very own fairytale by day or embark on a journey at night, basking in the magical glow of the carousel’s 3,328 shimmering lights.

A Fairytale Come To Life
During your whimsical journey, relive the classic Disney animated film Sleeping Beauty through a series of 9 illustriously hand-painted vignettes on the inner rounding board above the horses.

img_4661

img_4680-2

Space Mountain

During Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort, brace yourself for eerie encounters with spooky star fields and menacing meteors. From September 9 through October 31, Space Mountain will be overtaken by an ominous and powerful phantom force bent on your destruction.

Flight of Fright
As the universe’s newest explorer, you’ve been recruited to investigate a creepy cosmic phenomenon within the darkest regions of Space Mountain. But when your starship becomes mysteriously possessed by something sinister, your voyage takes an unexpected detour into a shadowy realm—an uncharted galaxy where haunted star clusters, supernatural supernovas and spine-tingling phenomena threaten you at every turn.

Bumps in the Dark
Dip and careen past spectral stars and scary satellites during your spirited space ride in the dark. Shiver and shudder amid the inky blackness—glowing apparitions reaching out in all directions to grab you. Behold ghoulish orbs of light, howling comets and materializing meteors. And shriek in fear inside a wicked wormhole—piercing screams, ghostly music and inhuman sounds echoing all around.

Will you make it back to Earth… or will the phantoms of Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy haunt you forever?

p1070184-2

It was a magical day that ended in the most magical way.

p1070213-2

Thank you, Walt Disney, for sharing this place of joy and inspiration with us!

img_4640-2

Ridemakerz

Standard

On our first day at Disney, when we spent the evening at Downtown Disney, the boys spotted this:

img_3203

And while the three older kids were clamoring at the chance to relive their childhood memories at Build-A-Bear, the two youngest were begging to use the last of their saved allowance money at Ridemakerz:

“Calling all speed demons and concept “car-tists”: Customize a vehicle with your choice of body, color, rims and more!

Cruise into RIDEMAKERZ and create a 1:18-scale model car that’s truly one of a kind! Select a body style and chassis then decide whether you want your racer to be radio-controlled or “free wheel.” Then kit it out with colors, paint details, rims and tires, real working lights, sounds, sporty accessories and decals—a staggering 649 million combinations are possible, and that’s not even counting individual decal placement!

Choose the exotic car of your dreams, a truck just like dad’s, a Batmobile, or even Tow Mater, Lightning McQueen or other characters from Disney•Pixar’s Cars. You’ll also find RIDEMAKERZ vehicles and accessories sporting the designs of custom legends Chip Foose and Fireball Tim Lawrence as well as popular body styles including:

Ford Mustangs

Dodge Vipers

Chevy Corvettes

Hot rods

Pickup trucks

Concept cars

The expert pit crew at RIDEMAKERZ can help you pick out and assemble your parts at your own hands-on machining station, and you can even try out different combinations to see how they look and work together before deciding on a final product. Once it’s revved and ready, take your custom creation for a spin around the store’s test track!

Welcome to a wonderland of chrome, horsepower and pulse-pounding sound where the only limit is your imagination.”

Knowing my sons, and knowing how fleeting the “must have” items on their wish list are, I made them a deal. I told them that they couldn’t use any of their saved allowance money on a Disney souvenir until Friday, our last day at Disney.

I figured this would help prevent buyer’s remorse and cut down on impulsive buys that they would regret later.

I told them that, after a week of seeing all that Disney gift shops had to offer, if they still wanted to build a custom car at Ridemakerz, we would take them.

Friday morning arrived and Tyler and Ozzie both woke up with one question on their lips:

“Can we go make our cars?!”

We decided to do it first thing, before going into the park for the day. So as soon as the store opened we were waiting at the door.

img_4801-2

It was a very cool store, and a regular wonderland for little boys, but very pricy.

The boys soon learned that their $40.00 was not going to stretch as far as they first thought. With every custom detail comes an increase in price, but that didn’t change their mind. This was the memento they wanted from Disney.

So we began.

img_4743-2

What made this souvenir neat was that you weren’t just getting a toy truck, you were also getting a unique experience.

Step one was to pick out the body of the car you wanted. They had Disney themed cars like Pixar Cars characters or Marvel themed trucks, as well as dozens of sports cars and street cars to choose from.

img_4747-2

It was interesting to see the thought process of both boys as they picked out their cars. Tyler really wanted a remote control car (which was an extra $25.00) so he picked the least expensive body with no customizations to have enough money to afford that.

Ozzie was much more interested in creating his dream vehicle and gladly sacrificed the remote control feature for his dream “push car.”

img_4759-2

He wanted a truck.

He hemmed and hawed over the make, model, color, and customization.

He was in heaven!

Once the boys had decided on their vehicles and picked out their tires and rims, it was time to assemble their cars.

img_4763-2

Both boys LOVED using the “power tools” to construct their vehicles.

The store concept was clever and the experience was one that will be remembered. Both boys made it out of the store on budget, spending $40.00/each…a miracle since it would be easy to spend hundreds on a customized vehicle.

But the boys were more than pleased with their “inexpensive” versions of Ridemakerz.

img_4799-2

These smiles speak for themselves. They love their customized cars.

img_4802-2

California Adventure- Day 2

Standard
img_4144

Waiting to enter!

 

Disney California Adventure is divided into seven themed areas called “districts”. While our first day at California Adventure was spent primarily exploring Cars Land, our second day was spent exploring the rest of the park.

img_4181-2

California Adventure was my favorite of the two Disneyland Resort parks. I enjoyed the fact that it was unfamiliar and didn’t resemble a park we had visited before. This park had an old Hollywood feel and celebrated all things California, from its seaside amusement parks to its National Parks.

Buena Vista Street

 

img_3697-2

As soon as we entered the park Ozzie spotted Oswald, the precursor to Mickey Mouse. He was Disney Studio’s first animated character in the 1920s and 1930s. Ozzie was so excited to tell Oswald that they shared the same first name!

img_3703

We also ran into Mickey Mouse on Buena Vista Street!

Buena Vista Street is the first “themed district” inside the main entrance of California Adventure Park, taking its name from the street on which the Walt Disney Studios are located. Buena Vista Street includes an immersive recreation of early 1920s Los Angeles when Walt Disney first arrived with Mission and Art Deco facades housing shops and restaurants. A recreation of Carthay Circle Theater, which showcased the world premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 sits at the end of the street, serving as the visual anchor for the district.

A statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse, titled Storytellers, is located near the Carthay Circle.

img_4353

The Red Car Trolley travels from the entry, up Buena Vista Street toward the Carthay Circle, then down Hollywood Boulevard towards the Tower of Terror.

img_3923-2

It was here on Buena Vista Street that we found the Newsies performing. Molly was thrilled to stumble across this impromptu performance, being a huge fan of this Disney musical.

img_3840-2img_3865-2img_3849-2

Paradise Pier

img_4009-2 

Paradise Pier spans 15 acres and is the largest themed “land” in the Disneyland Resort. Paradise Pier is themed as an idealized version of popular coastal boardwalk.  The district’s attractions, such as California Screamin’ (a launched steel roller coaster built to appear as a classic wooden coaster) resemble the timeless amusement park rides found at many boardwalks.

img_4188-2

img_3824-2img_3815-2

This became a favorite ride for Toby, Grace, Molly, Tyler and I. Ozzie and Rusty opted to stick with some of the tamer carnival rides.

img_4016-2

Here you will also find Toy Story Midway Mania. Toy Story Midway Mania! is an interactive 3D attraction inspired by classic midway games.

img_3874-2

This is a favorite ride at Hollywood Studios, Florida, so it was fun to ride it again. The Paradise Pier landscape was a perfect fit for this ride that takes you through Andy’s new Midway Mania toy game.

img_3896-2

img_4290

This ride was our longest wait since they don’t offer fast passes for this particular ride. While we waited for 45 minutes to ride we kept ourselves entertained by playing “Heads Up” on Toby’s phone.

 

img_3879-2

Finally it was time to embark. We grabbed our 3-D glasses and were ready to play!

img_3885-2

 

Mickey’s Fun Wheel is a 160-foot tall Ferris wheel overlooking Paradise Bay, a large body of water that dominates the Paradise Pier area.

p1070064

img_3825

img_3899-2

We chose to ride in the stationary cars for the sake of those of us with a fear of heights…Rusty, Ozzie and I🙂

img_3903-2

img_3910

Toby looking bored. Grace enjoying the ride. Tyler scoping out the shortest lines… and Ozzie trying to not throw up with anxiety!

 

In the evening we returned to Paradise Pier for Disney’s big nighttime show. All I can say is…WOW!!

A hydrotechnic show, World of Color is performed nightly on the waters of Paradise Bay (using fountains, projection, and flame effects) and showcases a series of vignettes from numerous Disney and Pixar films.

img_4124-2

img_4131

What an incredible show!

Much like the Disney World show that uses the castle as a backdrop for projections, this 30 minute show uses a wall of sprayed water as the “screen” for various Disney movie clips as they tell a story through music, lights, and fire.

Grizzly Peak

 

p1070079-2

Riding Grizzly Run Rapids

Grizzly Peak Airfield is themed to an airfield in California’s High Sierras in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The featured attraction is Soarin’ Around the World, a ride that simulates a hang glider tour of locations, landscapes, and landmarks across six continents of the world.

img_3913

We were excited to see the new “Soarin’ around the World” ride, after so enjoying the original “Soarin'” ride that highlighted sites in California. Our reviews of the new version are mixed. Some preferred the new Soarin’ while others felt the original was better. My thoughts… I prefer the sites and video clips on the new ride, but miss the smells and experiences of the original ride.

img_4272-2

Pacific Wharf

 

Pacific Wharf is based on Monterey‘s Cannery Row area, especially as depicted in John Steinbeck‘s novels, and also resembles San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. It includes the Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill, Pacific Wharf Cafe, The Lucky Fortune Cookery Chinese restaurant, Wine Country Trattoria restaurant, Mendocino Wine Bar, Sonoma Terrace, a Karl Strauss beer truck, and a margarita stand. The district also features the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop, and the Boudin Bakery‘s Bakery Tour, touring the sourdough bread-making process, featuring a video of Rosie O’Donnell and Colin Mochrie explaining the history of the bread.

img_3867-2

Here the majority of our time was spent buying homemade sourdough bread. After trying our first sample of this amazing sourdough bread while on the bakery tour, we found ourselves returning to buy a $5.00 loaf a couple times a day to snack on while we walked around the park…a cheap and delicious Disney treat!

img_3828-2img_3810-2

Hollywood Land

 

Hollywood Land, is an area inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1930s.It includes attractions based on film, television, theater and a subsection called Hollywood Studios which is designed to appear as an active studio back-lot. A variation of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction from Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened in 2004. The Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! attraction is also featured in the district, based on the characters from Disney·Pixar‘s Monsters, Inc..

Grace was excited for this particular ride and she dressed accordingly for the experience.

img_3681-2

At Disneyland costumes are restricted for guests older than 14 years old. This rule has resulted in a Disney fan tradition called “Disney bounding,” in which guests dress in street clothes that are reflective of a certain Disney movie or character. It is a more subtle nod to their Disney favorites.

Grace had planned Disney-bound outfits for the week we were at Disneyland with Wednesday’s outfit being a nod to the Monsters Inc. movies. She made a Monsters University hat to wear by dying a white ball cap blue, distressing the edges. and sewing on patches. She also wore a sock pinned to her back.

img_3928-2

Her “2319” may have been too subtle a nod however, because she spent the day explaining the sock  to well meaning adults that would stop her and whisper, “Honey, you have a sock stuck to your back.”

The joke wasn’t lost of the Monsters Inc. cast members though. As soon as she approached the ride they began shouting, ” 2319…We have a 2319!”

img_3943-2img_3939-2img_3937-2

One of the coolest experiences of our time at California Adventure was the Frozen show.

The 2000-seat Hyperion Theater located in the center of Hollywood Land currently presents Frozen – Live at the Hyperion.

img_4235-2

This is a new show, replacing the live Aladdin show that used to call this theatre home. Having watched clips of this live musical on YouTube, I was SO EXCITED  to see it in person.

img_4237-2

It exceeded my expectations.

img_4269-2

It was a Broadway worthy production of  a favorite Disney movie.

img_4265-2

I think the live version may have been even better than the original cartoon with its charming puppet portrayals of Olaf, Sven and the trolls.

img_4253-2

It was a magical way to end another magical day!