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Monday, May 30, 2016

The End of Our First Leg

The last few days of our trip was generally uneventful (with the exception of a brake scare and almost running our of gas in southeastern Oregon). What this time of our trip did allow us was some time to reflect on where we'd been, what we'd done and what we want to do differently moving forward.

Heading into Utah was pretty exciting for us, as it was the first state on our trip that we were visiting for the very first time. We were all also really looking forward to visiting Zion National Park. The landscape in southern Utah is of course  very similar to Arizona, and we loved every second of it. 


Utah 2016

Utah 2016

As we got closer to Zion I couldn't wait to finally spend an afternoon in a National Park, hiking and taking in the majestic sights. Unfortunately the excitement was short lived. Upon arrival at the entrance to the park we were informed that our truck and trailer combo exceeded 50 feet and we wouldn't be able to make it through the tunnel. Thankfully we could still pull up to the Checkerboard Mesa viewpoint to see what we could (and make ourselves some lunch).


Utah 2016

Utah 2016

Utah 2016
{Daddy tickles before we hit the road again}

Utah 2016

Utah 2016

We were able to get the tiniest glimpse of this beautiful park and we'll have to go back one day (without the trailer), and also visit Bryce Canyon and Arches National Park.


Utah 2016


Utah 2016

Leaving Zion, we were now in need of a new route to the interstate as we were unable to pass through the park. With a suggestion from the Park Ranger and our trusty Road Atlas from Nat Geo we found ourselves headed through a mountain pass just north of the park. Brett wasn't too sure he wanted to test out our breaks on these roads with severe grades, but after consulting our maps all our options were the same, we just had to decide how far north we would travel. We decided to test our luck on the 14 and began our drive with both kids asleep in the back.

The way up the mountain had some steep grades and narrow roads, and it wasn't until we reached snow that we realized how high we were travelling. Even after hitting the first snowy patches we still had further to travel and we just continued watching the temperature drop. We thought a few times about stopping early, but the temperature was just too cold so we kept on, finally beginning our descent.


Utah 2016

Utah 2016
{Clearly we were not dressed for the weather outside of the vehicle}

The views were breathtaking... and our brakes made it nail biting. Our trailer brakes were not kicking in the way they should and we felt the trailer pushing our truck down the steep grades. Brett did a great job keeping his cool despite the situation. About 8 miles from the bottom of the mountain we came to a large pull over where Brett was able to finally stop our downward climb (with the help of the e-brake). We opened the doors to smelly, smoking brakes and knew we were all lucky to be safe and sound, and somewhere that we could give the truck a rest and the brakes a chance to cool off.


Utah 2016

Utah 2016

Utah 2016

We knew this was serious, so we made our way to Salt Lake City where we stopped for a few nights. This gave Brett a chance to change a rear caliper on the truck, as well as adjust our trailer brakes (which were long overdue for some attention, we found out). After a couple of days of rest and recuperation, we hit the road again, making our way to Idaho.

We didn't really know what to expect from this seldom forgot about state, and I must say our short stay there really impressed us. We decided to spend a night at Three Island Crossing State Park and it was the perfect spot to spend the night. The campsites were spread out nicely and it was not busy at all. We picked a spot on the inside of the park, so we had a ton of grass behind us, filled with dandelion seeds that we enjoyed a lot of time playing in. 


Idaho 2016

Idaho 2016

Idaho 2016Idaho 2016

Idaho 2016

After dinner we took a walk down to the day use area where we took in great sites near the river and learned a little bit more about the history of the area. Afterwards we returned to our campsite for a fire. It was really quiet and we were only one of two fires that we saw that night. We loved our quiet site here and would recommend spending some time here if you're looking for a great camping spot in southern Idaho.


Idaho 2016

Idaho 2016

Idaho 2016

Idaho 2016

Idaho 2016

The next day we left Three Island Crossing with the intention of making it to Boise for lunch, and then onto Oregon for the night. When we made it to Boise, we didn't want to get directly into the city with the trailer, but we lucked out when we came across The Flying Pie location on Broadway Ave just outside of downtown Boise. This was one of THE BEST Pizza places we have ever been! We ordered a Big Kahuna BBQ Pizza, an El Diablo and a Margherita - all were awesome and we were excited to eat our leftovers the next day as well. Super friendly service and fantastic pizza! What more could you possibly want?


Idaho 2016Idaho 2016

Aside from a little scare where we almost ran out of gas in northeast Oregon, things were uneventful until we stopped in Olympia on our last night of the trip. We ended up at American Heritage Campground and loved our very private site that backed onto the playground. The trees were tall, and the sites were well spaced. After dinner it rained a bit so we played a few games of "Pass the Pigs" before we went outside for a nice campfire.


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The next morning after my jog I took a nice hot shower in the clean facilities! Overall, great campground that we all loved and would definitely go back to again!

This first road trip was fantastic! We learned a lot about not planning too far ahead and letting us see where the day takes us. One night is never long enough anywhere, unless you're stopping in the middle of nowhere and most importantly get outside, enjoy nature and connect with people. Life is too short to be lived in one place, behind a screen and not getting out there! Even if it's just the next town over... see as much as you can. 

I told Brett just the other day, "You know, we may not end up somewhere and be mortgage free like we hoped, but we will never regret all of this travelling". It's true, I'll never wish this time away and I'm always excited for each new day we have together as a family. It's an exciting time... with a lot more excitement to come. I can't wait to see where the road leads next!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Celebrating 1!

Today's post has nothing to do with our travels, but is all about a little someone  who takes up such a big part of my heart! Our sweet Nolan boy.

How quickly a time has gone by! This day last year started out as what I thought would be a typical Thursday. I enjoyed a quiet morning with my Mom and Halle, playing at the park. In the afternoon I had a little nap before doing a few groceries and then cuddling up on the couch with Halle to watch some of her favourite shows. I felt a little off, but nothing that signified to me that I would be welcoming a son later in the evening.


Nolan Newborn

After dinner we all joined Brett at his softball game, and by the time we were leaving the softball field I felt some minor cramps. We arrived home just before 9 and at 10:48 that evening I was holding my baby boy for the first time.


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His birth was fast and furious, but I look back on it fondly. For the most part, it went exactly how I wanted and it was the type of birth that made me feel strong and empowered afterwards. From the start we seemed to fall nicely into a routine as a family 4, and Halle could not love him more.


Nolan Newborn


Family Photos - Oct 2015

I've loved watching him grow into the stubborn, funny, smart, loving one year old that we have today. He's so different from his sister at this age, but still has a startling amount of similarities to her.

My heart melts when he smiles and points at me and says "Mama", and I laugh every time he shakes his head "No!" at us - especially when we know he means "yes". He's been pretty easy going and seems to adapted nicely to our new lifestyle.


Nolan 7 Months

He's been slower on walking and talking than his sister, but he always lets us know exactly what he wants. The other day when we arrived in Las Vegas, he walked a long distance assisted for the first time and it made me so excited.

The other day I thought back to the whole year we spent trying to add to our family. At the time each negative pregnancy test was heartbreaking and frustrating. The months seemed to drag. Now, a year after he arrived, I realize how short that year actually was and I know that he was well worth the wait that we did endure. We received the perfect addition to this family unit!

Nolan 7 Months

It's a little bittersweet knowing that he's 1 now. Our baby is no longer a baby, and very quickly becoming a toddler. He's brought so much more love, laughter and joy to our little family and we all look forward to watching him grow. 

Happy Birthday my sweet Nolan! I love you so much and I'm so thankful to wake up to your tiny face every day! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Unplanned Adventures

The Grand Canyon was by far the largest planned visit on our trip - we knew we wanted and needed to see that, so anything afterwards we considered a bonus. We had no plans leaving Williams, other than to make it back to BC in time so that we could do a couple of things before catching our flight to Florida.

The day we left Williams, we had some high expectations of getting as close to Zion National Park as possible. After reviewing our National Geographic Road Atlas, we decided to take a little detour at Sunset Crater National Monument, where there was also a vista point for the Painted Desert. This is part of why we love our Road Atlas! It has been great for finding other nearby points of interest, and has helped us to plan detours when necessary. We do have a GPS, but the Road Atlas is an invaluable tool on this type of road trip.

Sunset Crater was one of those unexpected beauties we stumbled across during our travels. It was visible from the road, but when we turned off the main road and onto the scenic bypass its beauty was more evident. I wish I was able to get some good shots of the Volcano itself, but we never got out of the car as we were still trying to make good time. I was able to get a few photos of the lava fields as we drove by, but they don't quite capture just how impressive they really were. They stretched on for ages, and I wish we had been able to join those exploring them on foot. 


Arizona 2016Arizona 2016

Arizona 2016

As we continued on, we drove past the entrance to the Painted Desert Vista point and needed to find a turn around point. This is the part of the trip where we realized we were having some brake issues. The trailer brakes weren't working properly, which was putting a lot of strain on the truck brakes. Once Brett was able to stop us, the truck brakes were smoking and stinking - so we let them cool off for a bit before making our way back towards Flagstaff. Brett had noticed some brake fluid on a rear tire, so we stopped at an O'Reilly's Auto parts for a new rear brake Caliper and during that stop made some lunch. 

After leaving Flagstaff for the second time that day we knew we would not make it as close to Zion as we had hoped, but we decided to give it a good try. That afternoon, we drove through the Navajo Reservation, which is the largest land area retained by a U.S tribe. The reservation covers a total 27,425 square miles, occupying parts of northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah, and northwestern New Mexico. The hills were beautiful and the majority of the land was untouched. It was a natural beauty that we enjoyed the entire drive. Many times Halle would exclaim, "Look at that!" from the backseat. I was thrilled that she appreciated the natural beauty almost as much as we did.


Arizona 2016

Arizona 2016

Arizona 2016

Arizona 2016Arizona 2016

Arizona 2016

Arizona 2016

Just as you leave the Navajo Reservation, you enter the small but pretty town of Page, Arizona. We made it to the edge of the town where we crossed over Glen Canyon Dam and National Recreation Area. We thought it would be a nice place to stop and see, and it was also getting late, so we decided to turn around the park overnight at the Wal-Mart in town where we had seen many other RV's stopped for the night. It seemed like a nice small, safe town and it meant free camping for the night. Surprisingly, it was one of the best sleeps I'd had in a long time as Nolan also decided to have some nice long stretches of sleep that night.

The next morning after breakfast we stopped at Glen Canyon to take in the sights of the Dam and learn a few things at the visitors centre. Halle earned two more Jr. Ranger badges there for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and for Rainbow Bridge National Monument. 


Arizona 2016

Arizona 2016

The Dam itself is a concrete structure, similar to the Hoover Dam and stands 216m, while Hoover is 221m. It was an impressive site to take in and Halle enjoyed learned about the area. We'd love to go back one day and actually hike there, as well as visit Powell Lake in Page.


Arizona 2016

Arizona 2016
Arizona 2016

Arizona has so much beauty to see and between our two visits to that state,  I feel that we have barely scratched the surface. There is so much to see and do there, we will most definitely return for a third trip in the future. 

Have you visited Arizona before, or do you have any tips on some of your favourite places and spaces? Where should we go the next time we're in Arizona. We need some "must see" spots!