I am finally getting round to writing about our travels. It will no doubt be a several-part affair as our weeks were full and there are tales to tell 🙂 Yes, it’s going to take me a little while, but I am really looking forward to revisiting our trip now we are back home in the UK.
For the most part, we really enjoyed the trip, but there were certainly challenges with changing accommodation every three days (I would recommend a minimum of 4 days per location if possible) and the long (4-6 hour) drives. We invested in a dual in-car DVD player before our trip, which took the edge off the long journeys for the children. They enjoyed watching a couple of DVD’s from our own selection on each journey and it helped pass the time. Our children rarely watch films, so they were rather pleased with this arrangement 😉 We could think of no better alternative, so we set the car up accordingly and they were happier for it. As there were no car seats, we bought a couple of cheap cushions from Walmart for the girls to sit on and they had their blankets (and cuddly toys) to cuddle up with in the back.
By the end of the five week trip, I do think they might have been tired of watching the same DVD’s again….yet another repeat episode of the Waltons, Bewitched, Pollyanna, Calamity Jane, High Society, Winnie the Pooh…!
As an incentive for the girls to stay positive on the long journeys (ie no bickering, complaining etc) – and because we wanted to reward them for their patience – we gave them a $1 each per successful long journey. By the end of the trip, they had managed to earn a nice couple treats, which they appreciated 🙂
The car journeys were the only time my husband and I really got to talk freely, without the children listening in or interrupting (we all went to sleep at the same time, which was always rather late and slept in separate rooms, each alternating sleeping with one of our two daughters as they were having fears and it was all so unfamiliar to them). I really appreciated the long drives for this opportunity to talk with my husband, discuss life and share our thoughts and dreams and of course for the time to knit and to stare with wonder at the endless yet varied scenery. I do love to drive in the States – the distances, the expanses of land, the differing scenery- it is all so awe-inspiring (for this girl from a small island!).
We hired a very comfortable car to help make the journeying easy and it was a good base in-between accommodation 🙂
Anyway back to the beginning….
The flight went really well – after my eldest daughter’s months of anxiety about the flight, it was a real relief to actually be on the flight! We upgraded to Premium Economy to make it a more comfortable experience and it was well worth the extra money. We had really good service, spacious leg room, room to move around and a better rapport with the flight attendants. Both my daughters delighted in discovering the ‘goodie’ bag on their seat before the flight (ear plugs, sleep mask, headphones, small cushion, blanket, toothbrush, toothpaste…)
For the flight, I packed a couple of soft fleecy blankets that my daughters use for camping, so they had something cosy and familiar to snuggle into. I also packed each of them a drawstring bag of ‘tricks’.
These included their favorite snacks, writing materials, stationery, activity books, a few small toys and some soft cuddly socks.
They were delighted to discover these new treats. I would definitely recommend packing something similar for long haul flights to keep your children entertained.
It took us almost a week to fully acclimatize to being in the US: to the different foods (it was incredibly tricky to find good vegetarian options that the children would eat – they are creatures of habit. On travel days we often let them have ice cream, crisps or a muffin for lunch as there was nothing else they would eat!!! Eek!); the higher prices; the different currency; getting used to tipping; the bigger cars and roads and even the language differences (you say tomato I say tomato….). The jet lag and a change in altitude to over 8,300ft (when we live at sea level!) didn’t help : we were waking and sleeping early for the first week and were often light headed and out of breath and my eldest felt quite nauseated by the change in altitude with daily nosebleeds 😦 , but we still tried to make the most of where we were (since we were only ever anywhere for a maximum of four nights) and the scenery is just so stunning.
Our first stop was Grand Lake, Colorado, a summer and winter playground.
We stayed in an A-frame house in the midst of a pine forest (booked through VRBO) .
It was situated a short walk from tranquil Columbine Lake
and was a lovely cosy start to our holiday.
We spent the first couple of days taking in our surroundings, exploring the area a little and enjoyed a daily ritual of a morning coffee and snack at the Blue Water Bakery. For old times sake, we visited Lemmon Lodge, where my youngest was conceived – she’s an American girl :-).
It has a sweet waterfront beach area and jetty, where we spent some time playing, splashing and enjoying the view.
What we were particularly looking forward to on our trip was seeing the different wildlife and even in those first few days, we weren’t disappointed. On our arrival at our holiday home, we came face to face with two lady moose wandering about our property 🙂
And on our second day, we also spotted a large male moose down our road with huge beautiful velvety antlers (when I didn’t have my camera with me – sob!).
We ooh-ed and aah-ed over the tiny cute chipmunks scampering around the area
and about the town.
and coo-ed over the delicate little hummingbirds paying an evening visit to the many feeders hanging up in the town. They are so so tiny, graceful and just so perfect. 🙂
We enjoyed discovering many new beautiful wild flowers including these pretty Columbines 🙂
As I explained in my previous post, we settled into a rhythm of sorts, spending our first day in a new property (and location) finding our feet and staying close to home. On our second day we typically went exploring.
On our second day in Grand Lake, we visited the Rocky Mountain National Park. The entry fee for a car is $20 (valid for seven days). Unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side and by the time we reached the top of Trail Ridge Road on the west side, we were in the middle of a thunderstorm! We later realised we should have left earlier in the day, as the thunderstorms tend to be in the afternoon. We did spot an extended family of deer and enjoyed the staggeringly beautiful scenery on our drive up, but as my eldest is petrified of thunderstorms, we did not do any exploring.
Yes it was pretty cold up there!! The road is only open from May-October.
here my youngest is comforting my eldest during the storm – it made her smile!
When we drove down again, the weather had improved, so we went for a short walk along a trail.
and took these photos.
We visited the Rocky Mountain National Park with my eldest in 2008 and took a very sweet photo of her with a Michaelmas daisy when she was just a year and a half old – it is such a precious innocent photo. We tried to recreate it – the daisy looks so much smaller with our now ten year old! Her sister also wanted a photo of her own 🙂
We noticed a lot of the pine trees were stripped bare and looked a very sorry sight. We were informed that pine beetle was doing all the damage and there was an aerial spraying campaign to eradicate the beetle and protect the trees. We found the same problem across the country. Those beautiful trees looked such a sorry sight 😦
Back on the road…..
Our next stop was staying with my friend Katharine and her two teenage children in Carbondale, Colorado. We have visited twice before and really love the liberal vibe of the town. Everything is easily accessible and it is a very friendly place. The main street has plenty of cafe’s, thrift shops, a couple of small brewery pubs and the whole area is very bikeable.
On our first dayy there, we spent quite a bit of time ducking in and out of cafe’s, playing cards, as our friend was working from home and it was thundering outside again. 😦
here we are playing one of our current favourite card games Sleeping Queens
On Saturday we went for a hike with our friends up the Avalanche Creek Trail which we all really enjoyed. We had to ford a river on our way there (thank goodness for our sturdy car) and hop across another on our hike (my youngest got very wet feet!).
We discovered a wild raspberry patch much to everyone’s delight.
and enjoyed spotting the native flowers, including wild rudbeckia (a very popular garden plant back in the UK).
Just because…. 🙂
At the end of our hike we had a very refreshing (icy!) dip in the mountain stream.
The views and the scenery were breathtaking and it was so great to get moving physically after feeling so out of breath for a while.
We also visited a yoga/wellness centre near town with my friend Katharine
where we walked a great reflexology path and a meditative maze.
I must say it was so good to spend those four days with friends and to fully acclimatize to being away in a cosy home environment. Our friend Katharine also gave us a big cool box to use for our journeying, which was such a great gift (we had planned to buy one anyway). It meant we could transport things from one property to another without spoiling.