The ocean-withdrawal gloom was heavy as we left the coast and climbed into the Sierras. However, with their massive lodgepole pines and spotless white snowfields, we quickly remembered that there are many other beautiful places in our world other than the ocean. The higher we got, the more abundantly clear it became that we would have trouble finding a campsite on one of the many forest service roads due to the record snowfall still tenaciously clinging to the earth. We got as far as Kirkwood and made the executive decision to pull over for a snowball fight and ditch camping in favor of an extra night in Tahoe.
Any second thoughts about leaving the coast quickly evaporated upon seeing Lake Tahoe. Royal blue and ringed with blindingly white snow-capped peaks, it truly is something to behold. We checked into the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe in Incline Village, enjoyed a quick happy hour at the well-appointed club lounge and hit the pool.
You know when everything has been going so perfectly, there is just bound to be a fuck-up? Two weeks of exceptional toddler behavior came crashing to an end during a 3.5 hour boat cruise (over naptime… #parentingfail). What started as a picturesque ride across the lake quickly escalated into a rare Crosby temper tantrum, threats of “no pool”, videos on demand and three Budweisers each. Cros called our bluff and we spent the evening sequestered in our hotel room watching Anchorman. While we were bummed to miss out the evening hot tub and firepit, we figured this was expected at some point after two weeks on the road.
Monday morning brought Crosby better spirits and another beautiful day. We got late checkout, splashed in the pool, and hung out on the Hyatt’s private beach. We wish we would have discovered this the day before and skipped the boat ride as we could have spent all day enjoying the blue water and sunshine with a cooler of beers posted up in one of the cabanas.
Nonetheless, we hit the road for the next destination – Park City, UT followed by a visit with some old friends Amy & Jeremy in Salt Lake City. Leaving Tahoe later in the day, I forgot that we would miss seeing the Bonneville Salt Flats. Molly had really wanted to see them so it was a bit of a bummer to drive through the area in the dark. The trip sponsor (Molly) had to work a bit the next morning, but we still managed a quick morning swim in at the Hyatt Centric Park City before poking around town a bit and heading down the mountain to see our friends. It was great to catch up and the kiddos had a blast playing in the yard and watching movies.
We said goodbye on Wednesday morning and continued east toward Steamboat Springs, CO. For lunch, we decided to picnic at Dinosaur National Monument in Jensen, CO. These types of stops are what make roadtrips so great – having the time and flexibility to see and do things that that wouldn’t be destinations in themselves. Seeing thousands of priceless dinosaur bones still embedded in the limestone at the Quarry Visitor Center was astounding although Crosby was slightly disappointed that the dinosaurs were “not walking” (he had been watching Jurassic Park in the car).
Feeling like locals, we rolled into Steamboat Springs, CO in the early evening. Molly and I spent some time here just 9 months prior in celebration of our 10 year wedding anniversary. We were all smiles to be back with Crosby in tow. After a quick pit stop for groceries, we checked into cabin 4 at Strawberry Park Hotsprings just in time for an evening soak.
The following morning brought cloudy skies so we made breakfast on the porch and headed to town for some shopping and fishing. In August, Molly splurged on some skiis in preparation for teaching Crosby so we returned to the Ski Haus for boots to complete her set-up. Conveniently enough, there is a liquor store on the first floor of the Ski Haus which lubricates the wallet. I got a license, spring flies, and river intel at the Steamboat Flyfisher while somehow avoiding purchasing myself a new heavyweight fly reel for fishing back in Wisconsin. We walked down to the to a small beach area on the Yampa near the botanical gardens, picnicked, fished, and even enjoyed a few moments of brilliant sunshine. An afternoon thunderstorm chased us off the river so we returned to Strawberry Park just in time for a mountain hail storm. Thanking our lucky stars we were not camping, we headed down to the hotprings as soon as the storm passed, found a pool which was a perfect temperature for Crosby, and played the afternoon and evening away. Not every kid gets swimming lessons in mountain hot springs!
Friday it was time to head east again. We tried to get a morning soak in but Crosby had skinned his knee playing outside the night before and the hot water was pretty painful on the fresh scab. We departed more hastily that we would have liked and pushed up over the pass toward Fort Collins. The original plan had been to camp in Poudre Canyon that night forgetting that it was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. After finding all the campsites full (duh!), we aborted mission, headed to town, had a burger and a beer at Coopersmiths while booking a night at the Residence Inn Fort Collins. It was almost an out-of-body experience watching Cros play in the kid-friendly Old Town Pedestrian Mall after spending so much time here as a couple on vacations (1, 2) in years past.
We closed out our epic road trip with an overnight at Molly’s aunt and uncles’ farm near Omaha, NE and a quick stop at my sister’s farmette in IL to pick up a vehicle. Both were great spots to unwind and mentally prepare ourselves for reentry into the real world.
Upon returning home Sunday, I had mixed feelings. One second, I felt as though we had been gone forever; the next, only for a few days. After introspection and discussion with Molly, the consensus was reached that although we had been gone 25 days, driven over 5,500 miles, and seen countless wonders; we had done it all at the mercy of a two-and-a-half-year old’s attention span. There were far fewer moments for Molly and I to kick back, relax, and savor our surroundings. During past adventures, these pauses defined our experiences and were the points we remembered most vividly. However, this vacation we found that while we did enjoy a few flashes of our old style, our richest memories were of Crosby when he was held in awe by things as simple as an “ant castle” or the fact that the dinosaurs at Dinosaur National Monument weren’t alive and walking around, but had died eons ago. While these experiences are mundane to adults, it brought a new sense enjoyment to these discoveries when viewed through the eyes of a child.