Day 7 started out restfully. We had planned on sleeping in, and Philip worked for a few hours in the hotel room. After a giant breakfast buffet in the hotel’s restaurant (the boys’ favorite part of the day, I hear. Seriously- the way to their hearts is waffles, bacon, and muffins until they just can’t stuff their faces any more.) we got dressed and ready for the day. I looked over and Philip was closing his laptop, to my surprise and delight! He said he just felt led to stop where he was at which was a good thing, because a few minutes later we got a call saying check out was at 11 (it was 11:30)! Commence harried packing!! We got completely packed and out of the hotel I think in about 10 minutes. I’m thankful we have a pretty good routine down now! Everything has a spot and is staying relatively clean, thanks to organizing as we go. When we get outside it was hailing! So random…
We grabbed coffee at the same spot I hung out writing my last blog post the day before and got on the road. By the way, Williams, Arizona is the cutest little Route 66 town ever. We loved staying there, and might again someday. The downtown area is quaint, but everything is lit up at night, people are walking around, and it just feels safe and cozy.
The scenery turned from forest to desert, to hilly, to GORGEOUS mountains. The Black Mountains (the mountains on the east of the Colorado River) are void of any vegetation, but the road that winds around to the Hoover Dam are just impressive. We arrived at the Hoover Dam in the afternoon, too late for a “dam” tour, but we walked across the dam, explored it, and took some fun pictures. Philip and the boys went into the bathroom on top of the dam and they all came out saying it was the most awkward urinals they’ve ever used, because they faced the door! Hahaha.. Sorry guys.
We bought the tickets to walk through the museum and go out on the observation deck, which was ok, but we were glad at that point that we hadn’t forked out the money to take the “dam” tour. The kids had seen all they wanted to, and frankly, we had too. We made a hotel reservation for Las Vegas and headed that way.
We quickly read a few reviews for hotels in Vegas that would be appropriate for kids, but would be sorta fun, and picked the Paris Hotel. Our van is too tall for the parking garage so we had to park across the alley in an “oversized” parking spot, which we saw our first showgirls -and their butt cheeks- walking down the street. Oh boy… We managed to check into the opulent hotel and get up to our room. Deron’s comment, in comparison to the days before was, “Now THIS is a hotel!” We went downstairs for dinner, dropped a stupid amount of money on a decent, but not wonderful dinner, and had a lot more teachable moments during our time seated on the casino floor.
Fortunately our hotel was right across the street from the Bellagio, which was on my list of fun, FREE, and child-approved activities to do. The walk across the street was… interesting… and we kept a tight hold on their hands as we walked through the throng of people going this way and that, trying to hand you things and grab your attention in any, ANY way they can. The Fountains at the Bellagio play every 15 minutes, so we didn’t have to wait long. The show was fun, short, and we were ready to head back to our hidey hole of a hotel room to get some rest.
Take note. The Paris Hotel does not, does NOT have a coffee maker in your room. What kind of hotel doesn’t have a coffee maker in your room?! Las Vegas hotels, that’s who. Nickel and diming you until you’re broke…
We got packed up (which I’m actually starting to enjoy!) and found a local coffeehouse a few miles off the strip, which had the best mocha I’ve had in a long time! Thanks, Desert Wind Coffee Roasters!
Our stop this day was Death Valley National Park. We drove into the park and stopped at the first restroom in the arid, desolate park, which was the STINKIEST toilets I’ve EVER been to. Whew! And we planned out where we would stop inside the park. Take note, everything is very widespread out here. California deserts are BIIIIIIIIIG. Just driving to the first turn took at least 30 minutes of driving. I will say, this was a different beauty. The pictures, again, just do do it justice. The vastness is breathtaking. As we drove, the tiny amount of vegetation dwindled less and less, until there was nothing. No weeds, no wildflowers. No nothing. Only rocks. And sand. And more of the same. But the colors in those rocks and sand were amazing. We stopped at Zibriskie Point for a pretty overlook (where our family picture is) and our next stop was another 30 miles or so, around the mountains, down, down, down into Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, at 282ft below Sea Level. It’s a giant salt flat, and very warm. This was a highlight for me. It was amazing.
We drove back out through Artists Palette, Philip’s favorite part of the park, because it was a one-way road, through the colorful rocky mountains, with lots of twists and turns and drops and dips. He took a time lapse of it with our phone mount that I might post at some point. We then stopped at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and ran around in the hot sand, grabbed some snacky lunch from what we had in the back and went on our way… 2 hours later…. we would still be driving around in the mind-dumbingly dry topography. We’d never seen desert like this before. We drove through the valley, with just nothing on either side but distant mountains. Without cell signal. Hardly any people. Not the place to have car trouble, for sure.
Slowly, but surely the land started to change a bit. We found a gas station and the kids used their tickets for some junk food that made mommy’s tummy ache from the sheer smell (whoever invented Baby Bottle Pops has a serious problem). The ground started having a few weeds, some cholla cactus (that the boys were able to identify!) and slowly green covered the ground.
Our stay for the night was an AirBnb in Lemoncove, just outside of Sequoia National Park (why I picked it). We arrived, and I went to greet the nice older man that owned the attached house. It was large, but… retro. I had seen pictures of course, and the reviews were glowing, so I had good expectations. Thus began the worst night of our trip hands down…
Things didn’t look too terrible, except the couches had had much better days and the twin bed that Deron would sleep on was in a closet, and the “kitchenette” had a dirty drying mat, and the shaggy red and orange carpet concealed who knows what over the last 40 years. Still, “This was a cheap option, we’ll only be here a couple of nights”, I thought. We laid clean sheets and our pillows on the couches, and put the boys to bed. They fell right to sleep. Then we noticed the dirty toilet and… “what was that?”… chewing?! Mice chewed all.night.long. in the ceiling right above our bed. When Philip got up in the night to grab some kleenex from the bathroom, there was a roach on the wall, and I had noticed a couple other bugs as well. Then there was noise outside that sounded like glass being thrown into a recycling bin for hours in the early morning. Suffice it to say, we did not sleep well that night. AirBnb BUST.
We decided the extra money we paid to stay a second night was worth it to leave early. We packed up our stuff the next morning and were OUT of there.
A greater sigh was never had as when we drove out of that driveway. We’d find a place later for the night.
We drove into Sequoia National Park, only about 20 minutes into the mountains, the GORGEOUS Sierra Nevadas. We kept driving up, up, up into them, something I had completely forgotten about 25 years ago when I visited up there before in our dark blue station wagon. Not sure if it was the elevation change or the winding roads that made us all a little carsick, but we made it up into the Giant Forest, where the giant sequoias grow, up at around 6500 ft elevation. It was cold up there, about 35 degrees to be exact.
We walked a short 1/2 mile hike down to General Sherman, the biggest tree by volume and weight in the world. It is 275 ft tall and 36.5 ft across at the base. Pretty dang impressive. We saw a few others and hiked back uphill to our van, grabbed a little lunch form our cooler and ate in the car. Some of the other places you can visit up there were closed due to the season (there was some snow up there), so we called it a successful trip and enjoyed the views on the way out.
After we got down out of the mountains, my loving hubby found us a hotel in town and we decided to enjoy the cleanliness of the room, take hot showers, and order pizza in. It was a good evening. We snuggled, relaxed, read some when the boys drifted off to sleep and we all got plenty. Much needed rest.