2021: A Year in Review

They can’t all be good photos, right?!

Welp, friends … there goes another year. As the photo above indicates, we’ve had our highs and lows. I think the year didn’t quite pan out the way most of us were hoping it would, but still, there were bright spots to be found.

Here’s hoping 2022 brings you and your family all the happiness and cheer that you deserve! And here’s what we were able to get up to in 2021 …

April

We dusted off our travel boots for the first time in more than a year (!) this past April for a trip to the mountains. We headed to one of our favorite low-key spots β€” Granby Ranch β€” and the older girls even tried their hand at skiing for the first time.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Lotte, Grace & Emilia cuddled up on our couch in the cabin.
Chris and the big girls posing on frozen Grand Lake.
They look a little weathered here because this was after their lessons … but I HAD to get a pic of the two of them with their adorable little set of skis!
We wrangled the kids to take a quick selfie when we got out on the lake in Grand Lake.

June

By the time June rolled around, Chris and I were fully vaccinated, and we were able to start hosting some of our favorite people at our house again. We also went on a fun mountain/lake hike, Lotte continued her adventures in skiing and started running (well, that was pre-June, but I blogged about it in June!) and we continued to find adventures everywhere we could in the great Colorado outdoors. We also spent Father’s Day in one of Chris’ favorite places.

Grandpa came for his first visit in more than a year!
Lotte started track!
Evergreen Lake, Evergreen, Colorado
Evergreen Lake, Evergreen, Colorado
Me and my JMU girls πŸ˜‰
We sure do love a good splash pad!
Just a dad and his trio of ladies.

July

The end of June and beginning of July was a busy time for us, as we packed up the car and hit the road for our trip out East! We started in Colorado and made out way out to New Jersey and New York and then back, stopping in a number of states along the way. (You can find all the gritty details here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

Cody Park, Nebraska
Cody Park, Nebraska
The Bean in Chicago!
Brigantine Beach, NJ
These cutie cousins <3
With Atlantic City in the background
Staying at a real, working farm in Pennsylvania was … interesting!
One of the best stops on our trip home!
The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
entering Colorado on the way home
Colorado State Line

Then, at the end of July, our firstborn turned FIVE!

August

We hosted more of our besties in August, Lotte started kindergarten, Grace returned to preschool and we managed to make it to Frisco for one final summer mountain visit.

Frisco, Colorado
Frisco, Colorado
Em’s first Frisco visit!

September

We hosted one of Chris’ good friends in September, and they hiked a 14er (a tradition they started years ago). We also spent Labor Day at Standley Lake with friends.

Kayaking on Standley Lake
Kayaking on Standley Lake
Standley Lake, Arvada
Standley Lake, Arvada

October

We spent October in our traditionally favorite way … with all the fall activities!

December

As the holidays rolled around, we were really looking forward to spending Christmas and New Years with family back in New York. Unfortunately, Covid had different plans for us. Perhaps we’ll have better luck next year. Still, we managed to get a day in Manhattan, and we did get to spend actual Christmas Day with family, which was an upgrade from last year, so we’ll call it a win.

Times Square is never not entertaining!
Grace was very taken with the Rockefeller tree πŸ˜‰
Snow on Christmas Eve was a perk!
Christmas Day cuties
Merry Christmas to you and yours!

And that’s 2021, my friends. We’re looking forward to a quiet New Years Eve (and wedding anniversary, for myself and Chris <3) and planning for (hopefully) some fun travels to come in the New Year.

But until then … bis bald, friends!

The Drive Back: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado

On the road again!

After a glorious farm wedding on July 3rd, we were back in the car on the 4th to start our trip home!

As you can see from that first photo, most of us were unhappy about this …

Actually, Chris and I went back and forth quite a bit about extending our trip. We had booked refundable places to stay on the trip back, exactly for this reason. Ultimately, though, we decided to keep things as they were. We had jobs and summer camp and track practice and a home to get back to, as much as we would have liked to have stayed for longer.

It was Em’s first Fourth of July, and she spent it in the car! She didn’t seem to mind πŸ˜‰

The Long Road Home

Rather than driving straight through β€” like we did on the way out β€” we planned for three stops on the way back home. We stopped at a Comfort Suites in DuBois, PA, an Airbnb in Vandalia, Ohio and a Sleep Inn in Oakley, Kansas. We would also be making some touristy stops throughout, to break the trip up even more.

After saying goodbye to our family (we hope to see you soon!), it was a “short” four-hour trip to our hotel in Pennsylvania. Even though we arrived late, a super-wired Grace caught some fireworks at the end of the night with Chris. The next day we took advantage of the awesome indoor pool and grabbed some breakfast before heading out.

One of my favorite photos from the trip was taken at a gas station on our way to a hotel … go figure.
This random pic at another quick rest stop was another gem <3
We love hotels! (And are also very excited to be out of the car!)
I mean, look at this awesome pool!
So fun!
Naturally, I enjoyed from afar πŸ˜‰
Fun with luggage trolleys.

After pool time and breakfast in PA, we loaded up the car again and headed to our next stop β€” a playground/picnic and then a splash pad, both in Ohio.

This playground in Ohio was so cute, and totally empty!
We only stayed here for a quick run-around and to have a picnic, but Emilia approved.
We drove about an hour from the playground to this random splash pad in Ohio. It was on the smaller side, but on a 90+-degree day, it definitely got the job done!
Splash pads and playgrounds really take it out of ya!
And we were off … again!
Thanks Ohio … we’ll see ya later!

World’s Biggest Things β€” The Stop We Never Knew We Needed

The rest of the trip β€” about four hours β€” to our Airbnb in Vandalia β€” was a bit rough, if I’m being honest. We were all pretty over the car, somehow both tired and wired, at the same time. Luckily, about an hour outside of Vandalia, we saw a sign for some of the Big Things in the Small Town of Casey, Illinois, and made the split-second decision to pull over.

Man, oh man am I glad we did … because how much fun are these?!

Who knew big things could be so much fun?!
It was late, and starting to get dark, so we couldn’t see everything, but what we did see was so. much. fun!
World’s biggest rocking chair! (Allegedly …)
This is the world’s biggest wind chime!
Next was the world’s biggest golf tee!
Then onto the world’s biggest mouse trap?! I don’t know, but we loved it all!
What would it be like to write with the world’s biggest pencil?
I don’t think this was part of the actual attractions, but at this point in our trip I sure didn’t mind seeing my kids contained somewhere I wasn’t πŸ˜‰
Checking out the world’s biggest mailbox!
There was a fountain behind the mailbox where you could throw in coins and make wishes. Bet you could guess what my wish was! (Hint: Getting to our next destination quietly was involved …)
Such an adorable town, and definitely worth a stop on your way by it!

Coffee, Dragons and Arches

After our pit stop in Casey, we still had a couple hours to our Airbnb in Vandalia, but luckily the stop did what it was meant to do β€” wear the kids out! They all fell asleep on the ride to Vandalia and, luckily, this Airbnb was glorious. Three bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a fully stocked kitchen with drinks and snacks. It was exactly what we all needed after a full day of travel.

This cutest little drive-through coffee shop β€” Shimoji Coffee β€” on the way out of Vandalia was so lovely!
The Kaskaskia Dragon is easy to visit on your way out of Vandalia! You can grab some coins at the store across the street to make him actually breathe fire!
About an hour later, we were at The Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Chris and I visited the Arch on our drive out to Denver from New York when we moved here, but it has since gotten an upgrade to National Park status. The museum is amazing now, and the grounds have even gotten an upgrade. It’s definitely worth revisiting if you haven’t been back in a while!
The museum is so much fun!
There are a lot of fun things for kids to do and see, too.

After our Arch pit stop, it was back in the car for a few hours, until we stopped for gas and went for a quick detour for treats at the Ozarkland General Store

One of each, please!
After Ozarkland it was on to Topeka, Kansas, where we stopped for dinner at The Pennant. This restaurant was perfect, because it had games and bowling and plenty of run-around space for the girls. Plus, it was right downtown, which was fun to check out!

Downtown Topeka, Kansas fun!

After dinner we had a couple hours to our hotel in Oakley. We picked that particular hotel because it was just a few hours from there to our home in Colorado, and we needed to leave early Wednesday to get back.

Grace, exhibiting perfectly how we all felt waking up early on Wednesday to head home after our whirlwind trip.

And that, as they say, was that, friends! After countless miles, five hotels/Airbnbs and 11 states, we were back where we started! Being home felt lovely and completely odd, all at once. We are so grateful that we were able to have this experience, to see our people and to check out so much of the U.S.

At the end of the day, we wouldn’t have done anything differently … except maybe pay more attention to the rules of Dramamine earlier on in the trip. Sorry, Grace!

The Details

Here’s a quick look at all the places we stayed, visited and ate at during this leg of our trip:

The Finances

Now for the super fun part … the money! We likely would have spent less money on this trip had we flown, even factoring in the cost of the flights. Gas is incredibly expensive right now, which was one factor. We also decided ahead of time that we didn’t want to scrimp on this trip. After not traveling for more than a year, we wanted to stop where we wanted to stop, eat what we wanted to eat, and stay where we wanted to stay.

And it worked out because, like I said, we wouldn’t have changed a thing. Here’s how our finances broke down. We spent:

  • Hotels: $1581
  • Gas/Tolls/Parking: $770
  • Food/Groceries/Entertainment: $1112
  • Miscellaneous: $250

The grand total on this trip was almost $4,000 which, of course, is a lot of cash. Considering everything we did, though β€” including places stayed, food ate, things visited β€” for five people, it really wasn’t all that bad.

Plus, as the kids say, YOLO, my friends … YOLO.

And that was our trip! I hope each and every one of you β€” who has made it this far in this post! β€” has something equally as adventurous and amazing planned for the summer. Until next time, friends … bis bald!