It all started about a year ago, when Grant's cousin, Jessica, got engaged. Although she and her fiance live in Denver, they decided to get married in the Napa area of California.
Grant is originally from San Jose, California, and his parents still live there. On his dad's side of the family, everyone lives in California, Arizona, Colorado, or Nevada, except for us and his brother's family, who live in North Carolina. Because of the great distance between us and cost of traveling, especially considering the first 9 years we had kids when we lived in Virginia, we never took the children to family gatherings. None of the extended family had even met our girls.
But just thinking about plane tickets and rental vans and hotel rooms put the idea of taking the children to the wedding right out of the picture. Grant and I were planning on leaving the kids with my parents and flying out for a few days for the wedding festivities and leaving it at that.
One evening in early spring as we were lying in bed, nearly asleep, Grant exclaims, "I have a crazy idea!"
"Huh?" I drowsily murmured.
"Let's buy a camper and drive to California!!!" He was obviously very intrigued and excited about the idea.
"You have GOT to be KIDDING me." I was in disbelief. I had a wretched experience backpacking/camping once in college and have refused to even entertain the idea of camping ever since.
I thought he was just delusional in his exhausted state and shrugged it off.
Except he wasn't.
Within a few weeks, he had found a 2006 trailer on Craigslist and arranged for us to go look at it. He convinced me that we could try camping a few times throughout the summer to practice for the big trip and it would be so much fun! This would be our chance to see lots of places we had dreamed of taking the family in a much more economical way - and if it turned out we didn't like camping so much, we could always sell the trailer later.
Four "practice" camping trips later (just weekend trips within a 2 hour radius), we were beginning to feel as though we were getting this trailer thing down. Learning what was needed, what wasn't, how everything worked best, etc. Countless hours had been spent planning and packing and preparing and the TRIP was upon us.
(Oh, and I might add, the weekend before we left, my gorgeous younger sister got married, so we were ultra-busy for the entire month of October)
So here goes - a day by day rundown of our adventure of 2015.
Day 1 (Oct 15).
We drove. And drove. And drove. Through the corners of Northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri, and into Kansas, which lasted forever.
At a rest stop somewhere in Kansas
Kansas does really have some beauty - especially in the southeast corner. And we got our first looks at windmills. They look so tiny in the distance but when you get a chance to be close to one, they're staggeringly enormous.
We realized that our first error in the trip planning was in trusting Google maps's estimation of drive time. See, when speed limits are 70 or 75, but you can drive 60 mph either to save gas mileage or because of the heavy winds (of which Kansas has plenty - hence the windmills everywhere), it slows you down significantly. Plus we had to stop for gas more frequently than a normal car, plus all the potty breaks - well, let's just say that our first day, which was supposed to be 12 hours, turned into 16. Not a super great start.
Oh, and part way through that day, Grant realized we needed a new mass air flow sensor (don't ask me what that is) and we spent a good portion of the day calling Toyota dealerships along our path to see if they had one in stock. They didn't. We had to wait until the next day in Colorado Springs to get one.
Watching the sun go down and realizing that we still had at least 6 hours more to go was a little disheartening, to say the least.
So we finally made it to our campground south of Colorado Springs somewhere around 12:30 am. Grant and I had to set up the trailer in pitch black night, with little girls who were upset at being awakened from our stop screaming in the car. Good times, good times.