How I Spent My Summer Vacation

With a few years of COVID teaching behind me, I needed a break.  My wife and I have been to 47 states, but we’ve spent less than 8 hours in Colorado (and most of that trying unsuccessfully to fix a flat tire).  So neither gas prices nor inflation nor crazy weather nor a three month old baby were going to stop us from a exploring the heck out of Colorado (although man did they all come close at certain points).  3 1/2 week road trip… here we come!  This is how we spent our Summer vacation.

Frank Llyod Wright’s masterpiece Fallingwater. These two and the baby weren’t allowed in… their reputations must have proceeded them!
Fort Necessity., Pennsylvania.. where George Washington first rose to fame!
Someone found a fossil (Ohiopyle State Park, PA)
Toy and Plastic Brick Museum… 4 stories of the most absurd and amazing Lego sets you’ve ever seen.
Hocking Hills State Park, OH, home of amazing hiking (wait? Ohio!?)
Early morning light at Hocking Hills, because we get up way early to beat the crowds.
President William Henry Harrison’s grave… the best President for only living for a month, or the worst? Hard to tell!
Visiting Great American Ballpark in Cincinatti to see the Reds play the Braves. Very sad the Braves dominated the game. Very sad. Go Phils!
Childhood home of Daniel Beard, one of the founders of the Boy Scouts of America. Kentucky.
View of Cincinnati from Kentucky.
St Louis Arch on the 4th of July? You betcha.
Ulysses S. Grant’s house on the 4th of July? You betcha.
The Big Fella celebrating his 3rd birthday on July 4th in Illinois. Plenty of fireworks to celebrate!
Harry Truman’s house. Visited his grave later that day.
Courtroom prop used in the monumental Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court Case, which we saw at Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas
The terrifying atomic canon in Kansas. This was built to launch nuclear shells at enemy troops… whose bright idea was this anyway?
Eternal resting place of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower in Abilene, Kansas
There’s no fun like changing a baby in 105 degrees fun!
Mount Sunflower… the highest point in Kansas! It’s easy to make fun of a state high point that’s like six feet above the land around it, but this high point is still three times the elevation of New Jersey’s High Point.
Camp Amache, CO – a Japanese Internment Camp from WWII. This has been voted in by Congress as a National Historic Site, but the land hasn’t been acquired yet.
Think your house is old? This was billed by Ripley’s Believe It of Not as the oldest building in the world, as it’s build of petrified wood that is millions of years old.
Old Bents Fort in Colorado, an important trading post on the Santa Fe Trail.
Old Bent’s Fort, where you can make friends with a snake while trying to walk into the bathroom.
When you have a nice, indoor space to sleep in a hostel, it’s all sunshine and rainbows (Colorado Springs)
Garden of the Gods in Colorado is stunning… and a town park? What a crazy state Colorado is.
My car has successfully climbed Mount Washington twice, so my wife’s van had to show it up by driving up Pike’s Peak. 14.000+ feet. Wife was fine. Kids were fine. My stupid asthmatic lungs made me feel lightheaded and we had to head down pretty quick.
Florissant Fossil Beds in Colorado features some amazing petrified tree stumps!
Colorado has a lot of straight roads in the middle of nowhere with views like this… what a place!
The UFO Watchtower in Colorado. If I see a roadside attraction, you bet we stop.
UFO Watchtower. The owner once replied to someone who was stunned at how short it was, “you don’t have to be too high up here to see a long way.”
Kite Flyer celebrated turning 5 while at Great Sand Dunes National Park. Happy birthday!
Great Sand Dunes is just that, a lot of really big sand dunes…
… that you can sled down. Kids had a blast.
We make it a rule to cook dinner away from our campsite, to best avoid bears that might eat our children. Sometimes, that leads to some pretty awesome experiences, like this sunset in Mesa Verde National Park.
Yucca House National Monument, one of the country’s oldest, even if there isn’t a ton to see above ground.
Lucky enough to snag tickets to tour the Long House in Mesa Verde National Park. The cliff dwellings are really amazing.
Just take my money so I can get a goofy shot of my kids in four states at once. New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah! This is a Navaho Tribal Park. Sadly, the fry bread stands weren’t open yet.
We ventured into Utah to visit Hovenweep. A 2 1/2 mile hike in the desert heat brought us to some amazing ruins.
Climbing out of the desert, we see some amazing mountain valleys.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is amazing to see and terrifying as a parent whose small children aren’t always good listeners (especially when dad is terrified of heights)
Back into Utah one final time to see Dinosaur National Monument. 1500 fossils sticking out of the ground in this building, was thrilled to live a dream I’ve had since I was about 7 or 8.
Dinosaur National Monument also features some amazing (but hot) hiking.
Finally heading back East, we stop to pay our respects to the legendary Doc Holliday. Then we found a closed interstate through Glen Canyon that took our drive that afternoon from two hours to five hours. *sigh*
After 11 days of driving around, we reach our main destination – Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, where we’d spend six days and nights of awesomeness.
Oh, hi elk.
After dinner stroll? Why not see a moose uncomfortably close up (I picked up the Big Fella, because I was nervous I’d have to bolt).
Hiking at 12,000 feet has its advantages, like making new animal friends.
Bighorn sheep? Check. Watched it get into a showdown with a moose!
More elk? Check!
After dinner, we’d head out for some short hikes and much improved chances of seeing wildlife.
The alpine areas are stunning
I never pass up a good roadside oddity, and the world’s largest key collection was much more impressive than I could have imagined!
Thought we saw an otter, but it was a muskrat. Still pretty awesome. Then we met a ranger who was originally from Philly and got his accent to come back really badly and his co-workers probably made fun of him for a week. I’m genuinely sorry that the kids had eaten all the Tastycakes in the car so that we couldn’t share some butterscotch krimpets. He also gave us some amazing advice on where to look for animals, which led to our bighorn sheep viewing!
Our big hike of the trip – just over six miles up to Dream Lake, around Bear Lake, and then down to Bierstadt Lake. My kids are amazing.
Dream Lake was very dreamy.
One good hike deserves another, so the next day The Pres, Tree Rider, and Kite Flyer did another 3 1/2 miles to a waterfall…
… and back to this amazing lake.
Our final day, the kids went on a bird walk with a ranger while I stayed with the Big Fella and wandered a meadow.
Final sunset over our campsite at Rocky Mountain National Park. An amazing, amazing place.
A natural fort on the edge of Colorado near the Wyoming border.
Alas, my hoodlum children were finally locked up in Wyoming. Fell in with some bad company.
We weren’t in Wyoming long, but we were in Wyoming long enough to find crazy wind sculptures.
After visiting the highest point in Nebraska, we stayed with friends in the least densely populated county in Nebraska.
After a whole day driving across Nebraska, my wife and kids took a well deserved break with friends in Lincoln while I went to visit Homestead National Historic Site in Lincoln.
A massive day of driving, but still had time to visit Herbert Hoover’s grave in Iowa. Our fourth and final dead President of the trip!
After a day at a geocaching festival in western Ohio, it was time to make a break for home.
Always happy to be back in the greatest city in the world, even if that means we’re creeping down the Schukyll Expressway.
Home! 5 kids, 25 days, 2 birthdays, 18 nights camping, 13 states, 6,589 miles, 17 national parks and national park service properties, 4 presidential burial sites, 1 hour of sandboarding, temperatures between 42 and 107 degrees, meeting some old friends and making some new ones… good trip!!!

Thank you to my amazing wife for spending 3 1/2 weeks in a tent with a tiny baby, to my kids for being awesome, to all the friends old and new that we saw along the way, and to all the animals that posed for pictures.  This is a Summer none of us will soon forget!

Except the baby.  He has no idea what the heck happened.

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