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!

The Sweetest Farm Wedding in Upstate New York

This was the gorgeous view from the hilltop at the wedding we attending on July 3rd.

The night before we started our trip home, we attended my brother-in-law’s sister’s wedding at her fiancee’s family farm.

Wright’s Farm is the sweetest little family run farm in Gardiner, New York. They don’t typically hold weddings there, but they do have a brewery, apple and pumpkin picking and a farmer’s market. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Cute as it is normally, attending a wedding there is next level! Unfortunately they don’t normally do events, but fortunately for us, we were able to attend this one because the bride just happened to be my brother-in-law’s sister. Lucky us!

The cocktail hour started at the bottom of the farm in the brewery, which is run by the groom (and his now-bride!). They had live music throughout the day, which was very on-brand πŸ˜‰
After the cocktail hour, guests were sent up the hill to the tent for the ceremony. Although the forecast for the day was dreary, the afternoon/evening ended up being gorgeous, with no rain and, maybe even better, no beating sun. It was a perfectly lovely, overcast evening for a perfectly lovely wedding.
Wrights Farm wedding view
There’s nothing like a beautiful wedding with some of my favorite people.
Every last detail of this wedding was so pretty, from the location and music on down to the table settings and the food.
I love a good tractor picture!
My younger sister was in the wedding, and my older one attended as a guest, as well.
Grandpa Robert was there, too!
We loved the venue, what can I say?!
Andddddd … we like to party!
The perfect ending to a wedding that takes place the night before the Fourth of July? Fireworks, naturally!

That, my friends, was the farm wedding in a nutshell. There were so many more amazing details I could have captured, if I weren’t too busy having fun πŸ˜‰

Bis bald, friends! I’ll be back tomorrow with this road trip finale … our 3-day car ride back home!

Our Road Trip Continued: The Pennsylvania and Upstate New York Edition

Paddle boats on the lake behind our Airbnb in Pennsylvania were definitely a perk.

Welcome back, friends! After our delightful stay in Brigantine, we were ready to hit up our next destination β€” an Airbnb attached to Billy’s New Hope Barn in Honesdale, PA.

I should start by saying that the ride out to the farm was less than optimal. (Think lots of things going wrong, including traffic and car sickness … it wasn’t our best ride …) So by the time we arrived, we had all about had it. The farm itself was very sweet, with lots of rescued animals for the girls to fawn over and fall in love with. I, however, was ready for a delightfully decadent shower, or perhaps even a lovely bath.

That wasn’t going to happen here.

Staying on the farm is a unique (and ultimately worthwhile) experience, but it’s important to know what you’re getting into. I’d liken this stay to “glamping,” since there was a roof over our heads and running water, but it wasn’t fancy by any means (nor is it advertised as such … that’s just what I was hoping for at that particular moment in my life.)

Once we started to get over the effects of our gross ride, things got better. It was actually very sweet to see the girls react to the animals, to eat a picnic dinner on the table by the lake, to watch the fireflies outside next to a campfire and to fall asleep to the sound of bullfrogs, and all the other nature surrounding us.

The farm is right next to the cabins on the property, so we walked over pretty much as soon as we arrived.
After this trip Grace won’t stop asking for a cat, while Lotte has her heart set on a dog. Either way, I’m not ready for a new pet, so here’s hoping they forget soon!
I do love a cute barn scene.
There are a ton of animals on the farm that are being rehabilitated from less-than-optimal settings. The girls loved being able to feed and pet them all.
Too cute.
This was the view right outside our cabin, and the girls couldn’t wait to get out on the water with Chris the next day!
That quiet life.
Taking it all in.
I made Chris stay near the cabin on his run that night (hah!), but this view wasn’t too shabby!
Like I said, the girls were ready to go the next morning!

In all honesty, we decided to stop off in Pennsylvania β€” and in this area in particular β€” because my sister and I are considering getting a lake house together and we’re scouting spots. We love the idea of getting a place together where our kids can grow up and visit throughout the year. Living far away from family is hard, but if we had a place like that β€” and a trip like that β€” to look forward to every year, it might be just a little bit easier.

After our one-night stay in the cabins, we decided to check out Hawley, PA and the cute zoo β€” Claws “N” Paws Wild Animal Park β€” in the area. We only got to spend a couple hours in Hawley, but I can tell it’s a very cute area, so we definitely plan to be back!

Livin’ her best life, always!
Lotte was thrilled they had lions, as they are her favorite animal πŸ˜‰
These cuties <3
So much to explore!

After the zoo, we were finally on our way to upstate New York, where we would be spending the rest of our trip. That included a stay at Grandpa Robert’s in Newburgh, one night at my sister’s in Middletown and one night at my aunt and uncle’s in Goshen. My aunt and uncle were kind enough to watch the girls for us while we attended a wedding, and we were forever grateful!

I’ll post separately about the wedding β€” because the beauty of it deserves a post all its own β€” but for now, here’s a bit of what we got up to in New York …

No visit to New York is complete without a stop in Equilibrium, Chris’s favorite brewery.
Our stay with Grandpa Robert was delightfully chill, filled with barbecues and walks with Ranger.
It was love at first sight for Emilia … not so much for Ranger!
Me and my girl <3
Grace and Ranger, on the other hand, had a love affair going on!
Our last morning before leaving Grandpa’s.
The girls had THE BEST time at my Aunt and Uncle’s!
It was so sweet seeing them together, especially with Em, who they were meeting for the first time!
Seeing Em with my sister for the first time on this trip was pretty special, too <3
Cousin love.
These photos were actually taken on the night Chris and I went to the wedding and my aunt and uncle watched the girls. I mean … look at that face!
My aunt and uncle planned such a fun night for the girls β€” including cooking and campouts! β€” and we were so grateful.
Taking fabulous care of our kids AND making homemade scones for us the next day? I mean … why did we ever leave?!

We always have the best time when we head back to New York, but it’s usually really hard to fit in seeing everyone who we want to see. Even though this was a quick trip, we got lucky and were able to cram a whole heck of a lot of visiting in. I am so grateful for all the memories we made with so many people we love. This was one amazing trip that we won’t soon forget.

The Details

Most of this portion of our trip included stays with family, but we did visit a few noteworthy places:

I’ll be back tomorrow with one of the most beautiful weddings we’ve been to. Until then … bis bald, friends!

Brigantine Beach and a Big Reunion

A kind stranger offered to take this photo of our whole family after she saw me snapping away, and it’s one of the cutest photos from our trip!

Do you know that amazing feeling you get after you’ve accomplished something that you’ve been planning for a long, long time? And on top of accomplishing it, it actually went well?!

Well that was me and Chris the Friday we arrived in Brigantine!

The beach was about two blocks from our Airbnb in Brigantine, which was amazing since we were eager and tired after our travels!

After our monster road trip across the U.S., we were ready to relax on the beach, eat some good seafood and, more importantly, reunite with some family members that we hadn’t seen since early 2020. It was an emotional trip, to be sure, but I was prepared, and seeing my sister, brother-in-law and niece in person for the first time in 1.5 years was everything I thought it would be and more.

SISTER! YOU’RE ACTUALLY HERE!
Sweetest beach kiddos!
This collapsable Radio Flyer has been amazing ever since we bought, even on the beach. Would highly recommend!
Em was clearly very excited to meet her Aunt Stephie for the first time πŸ˜‰
Our cute crew. Yes, it took forever for us to all get out the door, but it was very worth it when we finally did.
Steph’s house was close to a beach that had more relaxed waves, and a glorious view of Atlantic City right across the water.
Two men and three ladies.
Grandpa came to visit one day, too!
So naturally we dressed all four girls in matching outfits for a photo opp <3
Cutest cousins!
We had a big ole’ seafood night for dinner the day grandpa came to visit, and it was everything I had dreamed of and more. (Em was thrilled by it, as well !)
Delight!
Rosalie’s love for Em was too much for my heart to handle.
Of course it went by way too quickly, but we managed to make the BEST memories.
Beachcombers … in theory.
Rosalie was just turning one the last time I saw her, and now she is a tiny human, running and talking. Seeing her this way, after so long, was just the best.
We sure do love Aunt Stephie <3
Ladies in yellow.
Don’t ask how long it took to get this picture!
The bunk beds are our Airbnb were a big hit!
These two snuck away one night for some gambling in Atlantic City which, we didn’t realize, was only a few minutes away from Brigantine. They really played up the part, wouldn’t ya say?
Ro and Grace have a dueling Boss Baby thing going on, but at the end of the day, they sure do love each other.
Family <3

Besides the awesomeness of seeing family, this was also our first family trip to the beach since we were in Australia, and Em’s first trip to the beach in general. The two older girls loved it so much, I have a feeling we might need to make regular beach trips a thing in our future, as well.

Always leading the way on adventures.
But really, what’s not to love about the beach?
This one slept most of the time, but when she was awake, she loved to take it all in.
Many-a-shell made it back home with us.
In his element.
Our traditional in-the-air photo with Lotte, the beach version.
Sand castles for the win.
Everything about this one is 100%.
Em wasn’t quite sure how she felt about the actual water, but she was happy to partake from the shore.
My sister and I even managed to get away for a solo lunch, just the two of us. This was my first of many lobster rolls, and it was everything I want in life.
Food just tastes better at the beach, am I right?
Especially ice cream!
And watermelon!
Sweetest little ray of light.

The Details

This was the Airbnb where we stayed which, like I mentioned, was about two blocks from the beach. It had two rooms, and the girls loved staying in bunk beds together. There wasn’t a pack and play, so we did have to bring our own. That was fine, since we were planning on doing that anyway, but it’s something to keep in mind if you are traveling with your own little ones.

Some food spots I would recommend include:

β€” Brigantine Bagels: A MUST for bagels and coffee, if you want my opinion

β€” Laguna Grill & Rum Bar: Steph and I ate here for lunch when we escaped, and it was just the delightful beach scene we were looking for. There were places to eat both inside and outside, live music and lots of delicious seafood to pick from.

β€” Crab Shack Seafood: We picked up the seafood for our seafood night from here β€” lobster rolls, crab legs, muscles, clams, corn and Caesar salad β€” and it was all so good!

β€” Aunt B’s: Stop here for ice cream at some point in your trip … it’s delish!

The last time I was in Brigantine I was in high school, and while it was a great trip then, this visit really topped the charts. We stayed until Tuesday, so for three full days, and it was the perfect way to start our whirlwind trip. It was so nice to have some time with just Steph and her family, and to start off with a relaxing (is anything relaxing with kids?) first leg.

And that was our beach trip, friends! Until next time … bis bald!

1,834 Miles & 8 States: From Colorado to Brigantine, New Jersey

It was pure joy for all of us when we finally arrived in Brigantine after our overnight drive!

Happy Friday, friends! The photo above was taken the morning after we arrived in Brigantine, which was around 2 in the morning. Despite that early morning entry, someone (aka Lotte) was up and at ’em on Saturday morning, ready to start her vacay! I was totally here for that, so we hopped in the car and headed to get some Brigantine Bagels for the family while we waited for everyone else to wake up and for Steph & Brian & Rosalie to arrive … but I digress.

First …. we drove across eight states to get there!

We picked the girls up from summer camp around 1 MT and hit the open road!

We really wanted the girls to get one more day of summer camp in, and for Chris to work one more day, before we left for our trip. So we decided to leave right after picking them up on Thursday, around 1 pm MT. They were so excited when we got them, and totally ready (although possibly completely unaware of what it would really entail!) for the ride! We decided to head out via Nebraska, so we could add that state to our list, and to head back the same way we came when we drove out back in 2015 when we first moved here.

Driving overnight was a conscious decision we made to get to our destination more quickly (and to save on hotels), but we knew we’d be exhausted driving home, so we planned to break the trip up into three nights on the way back. Now, having completed the trip, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Driving through the night was hard at times, but the adrenaline really kicked in (for me, at least, the Red Bull kicked in for Chris), and it wasn’t as bad as you might imagine.

The Nebraska/Colorado state line

We were super excited for the girls to tick a bunch of states off their list as well, but unfortunately most of the state line signs were directly on highways, where it wasn’t safe to stop. We did get this doozy of a photo as we entered Nebraska, though ….

Such road trip newbies, just entering Nebraska from Colorado!

We also stopped in Nebraska for an extended period, since we found an amazing park that had multiple playgrounds, wild animals, a train museum, some amusement parks and fountains and so much more. If you ever find yourself on a cross-country trip with kids that includes Nebraska, I can’t recommend Cody Park in North Platte enough!

Fun animals in Cody Park
Cute playground equipment for all ages!
Lots of room to run!
The objective was basically to tire these kids out at all costs!
This felt particularly appropriate, considering our trip was over the July Fourth holiday.
Emilia was seriously a rockstar on this trip! She definitely enjoyed the moments when she was out of her carseat, though πŸ˜‰
Always exploring.
Success!

Although it was a restless night for the older girls, they did manage to sleep most of the night (thank you, Benadryl, I have no shame in my game!), which I was forever grateful for. Emilia actually slept through the entire night for the first time ever! Maybe I should have her sleep in the car every night?

After Cody Park, it was a straight drive β€” with stops for gas β€” throughout the night, until we reached Chicago around 6 in the morning. We weren’t going to stop at first because it was raining, but we thought the girls could use a stretch, and I’m so glad we did! Visiting The Bean (Cloud Gate) in Millennium Park was one of my favorite memories from the trip. Plus, because we were so early, we were one of only a handful of people there.

Heading into Millennium Park which, by the way, doesn’t open until 8 a.m. Good to keep that in mind if you’re planning a visit!
We had to wait a couple minutes before we could get in, but this artwork installation nearby kept the girls occupied!
Such a fun place to visit with kids!
So cool, even in the drizzle!
We are all looking a bit rough after our night in the car! My little travelers, I love them so much <3
All the angles …
Pure delight … mostly at being out of the car!
.Chicago is such a beautiful city to visit, even if only for an hour!
Did I ask them to point to The Bean? Obviously πŸ˜‰ My girls have gotten very good at following photo directions.
The cutest little Chicago tourist!
Puddle jumping … why not?!
Farewell, Chicago … until we meet again!

The last time I was in Chicago β€” for Chris to run the marathon β€” I didn’t get a chance to visit Millennium Park or The Bean, so it felt super special to go back with our kids.

After Chicago we pretty much bolted to Brigantine, with a couple of stops in between for gas and to get some wiggles out. It was an epic trip, and I only would have wanted to make it with these amazing people.

A couple things I learned along the way:

  • Dramamine only works when you administer it correctly … poor Grace!
  • The Office Ladies podcast is amazing to listen to on a forever road trip.
  • Keep an extra trash bag or two around, you will definitely need it!
  • Be up for anything and game for plan changes if you do this kind of trip with kids … it’s the only way to get out alive πŸ˜‰

And that’s it, friends! I’ll be back next week with the first leg of our actual vacation … Brigantine Beach with family we’ve missed oh-so-much! Bis bald, friends!

We’re Back! Our Cross-Country Trip With a 4-Year-Old, 3-Year-Old and 6-Month-Old Was a Success!

We missed the actual state line when driving back, but took this cute photo at the visitor’s center … it’s one of my favorites from the trip!

We’re back, friends! It will take me a few days to get back on track here, to catch up with some work stuff and to get all the photos I want to include uploaded and edited and what-have-you, but a few highlights to look forward to in the coming days include ….

  • We saw SO MANY family members we’ve missed over the past 1.5 years!
  • Our kids were ROCKSTARS! I mean, don’t get me wrong, we all had moments! Like, lots of moments! But honestly, we had a great time on this huge car trip, and we’re pretty sure the kids did, too!
  • I feel like a superhero for having done this (and Chris feels the same!), so now we’re all … hmmm, what else can we do that’s crazy and fun?!
  • I will share all the financials of this trip which, despite being flight-free, probably ended up being more expensive than had we actually decided to fly! (Gas is expensive right now, peeps!)

I hope you guys all had great Fourth of July holidays, and I can’t wait to hop back on here soon with all the updates! For now … bis bald!

The Road to Brigantine Starts Now …

Oh hey open road … here we go!

Our bags our packed! The itinerary is planned! The kids (the older ones, at least) are excited! The checklist is … checked!

Today’s the day! We are hitting the road for our partial cross-country trip from Colorado back to the East Coast in just a couple of hours! Stops include Brigantine Beach in New Jersey first, my sister’s in Pennsylvania second, then on to New York to see all our East coast family that we have missed so much over the past 16 months of this pandemic.

We originally had flights and a car rental booked for this trip, but considering that the kids can’t get vaccinated yet β€” and with all the lovely news about the craziness that’s happening on flights these days β€” we decided a few weeks ago to throw in the towel on flying and hit the open road, instead!

Ready to roll!

When we started planning, we got lucky and found a pretty awesome general itinerary for a similar trip on Trippy. So we took that template and made some modifications to end up with the trip that we’ll be taking. We plan to stop every four hours so Chris and I can switch driving and get gas, and the girls will get out and run around on a few of those stops. Here’s hoping they sleep well overnight, and that the snacks and entertainment hold out! Em is, of course, a bit of a wildcard when it comes to sitting in a car seat for 30+ hours, but we’re as prepared as we possibly could be. Wish us luck!