Thursday, August 4, 2011

Homeward Bound

Upon arriving back at the hotel after our rafting excursion, Scott asked if we wanted to head toward home the next morning or stay one more day as originally planned.  We had planned one day with no activities as some down time before the long journey home.  The plan was just to stroll through a couple of the ski villages (Vail, Breckenridge), browse the shops, and then turn in early for a good night’s sleep before the 27-hour drive home.  We all decided to hang around for one more day as originally planned.

We settled in for the evening to relax, but the people in the room above us did not.  This particular hotel in Colorado had been extremely crowded since we had arrived… the continental breakfast had been a zoo the past two mornings.  We tried to ignore the stomping overhead and attempted to drift off to sleep.  At some point, we all zonked out until around 5:00 AM when the people above us decided they had slept long enough.  Fortunately, everyone else slept through it, but I’m a very light sleeper, so my snoozing was done.  Finally at around 7:00, after two hours of overhead banging and stomping (I think at one point they might have been doing some break dancing up there), I decided to get up.  I tiptoed over to Scott, gently woke him up, and said, “Can we go home today?”  We had no adventures left for our trip, no scheduled fun activities left, no new scenery to take in, no fabulous places left to explore, no exhilarating and exhausting hikes to trek, nothing left on the itinerary to keep us going.  Therefore, I was done with hotel living and all the noises that go along with it.  He said yep!  So we got dressed, got packed, got nourished, got loaded up, got checked out, and got in the car.

We stopped off in one of the ski towns first so the girls could grab their souvenir postcards from Colorado… and so we could say we strolled at least one ski town.  Then we hit the road toward home.  We had decided to drive until we couldn’t drive any longer with a goal of making it to Kansas City, Missouri.  That would give us a 10-hour drive for the day.  Also, since we would be driving through St. Louis on the way home, Scott wanted us to go to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis – since he had been to St. Louis several times on business, and had been up to the top of the arch a couple of times, he wanted the girls and I to see it too.  Driving through Kansas was pretty cool, and I was able to get some great pictures.

Doesn't this cloud look like Winnie the Pooh (laying on his back)?
Do you think I've been in the car too long?

A storm cell off in the distance.
Thank goodness it wasn't twirling... or anywhere near us!

We spotted another storm cell a few miles away from the other one.

Kansas sunset

We made our goal of Kansas City, Missouri at around 11:30 PM.  We got out of the car and were met with a blast of heat and humidity!  Humidity… back to the land of humidity.  Ha!  We unloaded the van, crashed into the bed, and slept until just barely before breakfast ended the next morning!  After eating breakfast, packing, and loading up the van, we set our driving goal for the day… Frankfort, Kentucky with a stop off in St. Louis.  We arrived at the Gateway Arch around 2:00.  Scott wanted the girls and I to go up to the top.  Since Scott had already experienced the ride up, he explained how it worked.  It wasn’t your typical elevator… since the Arch is curved, the elevator to the top is actually a 5-seat “tube”, and it takes four minutes to get to the top.  I’m extremely claustrophobic, and so is Emilee, so she decided to stay down at the bottom with Scott.  Ashlee really wanted to go up, so I decided to man-up and go with her.  We got in line to buy our tickets, and the first question the ticket seller asked was, “Is anybody claustrophobic?”  Oh, dear!  I could feel the color draining from my face.  We got the tickets and waited for our time to line up for our ride to the top.

While we were waiting, we noticed a display on the wall that compared the size of the Arch to other structures.  We spotted the comparison to Mt. Rushmore and had to grab a picture.  Our original itinerary had included a visit to Mt. Rushmore.  However, about halfway through our trip Scott started worrying about the girls not having any down time between our trip ending and school starting - our original schedule had us arriving home only four days before the first day of school.  So we cut out a few activities here and there to put us back home a few days earlier.  So, although not the real thing, I got a fun pic anyway!

Standing in front of "Mt. Rushmore"
When the time finally arrived, we got in line, turned over our tickets, and took our position at our elevator.  Eight 5-person tubes went up every five minutes.  We would be in a tube with a mom and her two sons, 17- and 11-years-old.  When our “tube” door opened, the other family climbed in, Ashlee climbed in, and I seriously thought about not climbing in.  At this point, though, I was committed.  I took my seat, the door closed, and my heart rate immediately doubled.  I told you that my mind was a dangerous thing.  The first thing that went through it when the door shut was that we were going to get halfway up this thing, it was going to stop, and we would be trapped.  Also, it was 100 degrees outside and there was no air in the tube.  I immediately started blabbing 90-miles an hour hoping to take my mind off of being stuck in a tiny tube dangling a million feet in the sky with no air coming in.  So glad God had already planned who I would be stuck in the tube with.  Ashlee was cool as a cucumber – not the least bit affected.  Emilee would have rolled over and died on the spot.  And the family we were airborne with was great.  The 11-year-old kept me entertained and answered the three million questions I asked in my babbling spree.  I was never so glad when the four-minute ride was over and the doors opened up.

Five-seater capsule

This is a model of the 5-seater capsule elevator
to the top of the Arch.
Extremely small when the doors are closed!
Ashlee was taller than the capsule, and
we had to duck down to get inside.

We walked a few steps to the top to overlook the city, and the view was amazing.  We could see the river on one side and the city on the other. Here are some of the pictures from the top.

The illuminated sign to the right of Ashlee's head says, "Welcome to the Top!"
Ash and I spent a few minutes with our faces plastered to the windows and then got in line to head back down the same way we went up.  We told the employee at the top that we were ready to go back down, and he sent us to our elevator position.  Coincidentally, we ended up getting placed in a tube with the same family we went up with.  And once again, the 11-year-old kept me entertained and kept me from panicking about getting stuck in a tube.

When we got back to the bottom, we found Scott and Emilee.  Scott was grinning pretty big… knowing how claustrophobic I am, I’m thinking he really enjoyed imagining me in the tube!  But I have to say… I did great, and it was a lot of fun!

We then headed back to the car to finish out our day’s drive to Frankfort, Kentucky.  We landed in Frankfort that evening, unloaded the van one last time on our trip, and hit the bed.  Breakfast the next morning was one of the best hotel breakfasts we’d had… it was a nice ending to our hotel stays!  Then, for the last time, we loaded the van back up for the final leg of our journey home – only seven hours until home!

One last swipe at the bug guts!

Service with a smile!
We hit the driveway to our house at 5:30 PM, jumped out of the car, and walked into the house together!  Thanks to my best bud, Tammy, my house was nice and cool!  We had cranked the AC up to 85 while we were gone, so not only did she come by the house a couple of days earlier and took the thermostat down to 72 so it would have time to cool down before our arrival, but on a weekly basis she kept an eye on things, watered my plants, moved Scott's car around in the driveway, switched lights on/off, set our garbage out, made sure nothing was out of place inside, etc., etc., etc.!  Such a relief for us while we were away!  Upon entering the door, everybody just walked around the house aimlessly for a few minutes checking things out while Scott turned the water back on.  Then, for the last time, we unloaded the van.

NC State Line!

Pilot Mountain - getting close to home

Pulling into our neighborhood!  There's no place like home!
It’s amazing how quickly things go back to the norm after being away for almost eight weeks.  I got started on the mound of laundry, Scott got started on sorting through the mound of mail, Ashlee found her computer to check email and facebook, and Emilee ran for her room to facetime her buddies.  And I have to tell you that we all slept like logs in our own beds!

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you made it back home safe and sound. I know jumping in your own bed was probably the biggest treat of the day! Thanks for sharing all your adventures. I (kinda) feel like I've been all over America with you all! Love you!