Family Vacation Part 10 – 7/12/2012

The last day of our vacation this year. Danelle and I were discussing that this vacation feels like it has been a flop. We have done the things we came to do [Leslie’s wedding], but there wasn’t a bang that seemed to make it all worthwhile. Of course, I can look back at almost every day and see memories that we’ll never forget, but its hard to remember that wen the kids just keep complaining.

Danelle and I made a decision that we hoped would make the kids happy. When we got to Springfield, Missouri, we stopped for lunch. Since we both went to college in Springfield and I was there recently for my masters degree, we knew a bit about the the city.

So we took the kids to the local Incredible Pizza Company. As we pulled up, there was a person dressed as a slice of pizza at the end of the parking lot. I parked near him and we went out to talk to the pizza guy. As it turns out, being friendly has its benefits. The pizza guy gave us cupons for discounted entry!

We had a nice pizza lunch and then played two games of laser tag and had an amazing family time bonding. It was just the thing to end our vacation on a high point!


Family Vacation Part 9 – 7/11/2012

If there was any question about where we went for vacation, we only had to look as far as breakfast. I’m not sure if Texas is full of itself, or proud. With a Texas size blueberry waffle in the shape of the state, we were full and ready for anything the day offered to us.

We arrived in the city of Lubbock Texas today. There, is the American Wind Power Center and Museum which was a defianate stop for us. We are huge fans of alternative energy as we have solar on our roof. I even went to a solar conference in Denver, Colorado to look into investing into wind energy.

The museum had about every kind of windmill you could ever want to look at. It was fascinating to get up next to one of the large 1.5 megawatt windmills on the ground as well as to walk up to the base of one that is operating. I can’t say enough good about this museum if you’re into wind energy!


One thing that I struggled with this vacation was the use of new technology. Danelle got her first smartphone before the vacation started. While driving, it seemed that she spent a large amount of time looking at her phone, playing with apps and maps. Driving in downtown Austin, I asked her where we should eat while driving through a high density food district. She went to her phone to see what was available. This upset me as I wanted her to look out the window and point to something that looked interesting.

Today however, using her phone, she found a restaurant that we never would have found without the Internet. She found a place that had tons of transportation related decorations and a train running from the ceiling. I wish I could remember the name of it to say thanks to the owners, but I didn’t get a photo of it. We would not have found it without the Internet and great reviews. So now I’m torn about technology and our search for food…

After a great morning and a great lunch, we were a short drive to Palo Duro Canyon State Park just outside of Amarillo. As we approached, I wondered where it was. The land seemed flat for miles and I wondered if we were lost. The road signs were there, but I wondered if it was some sick joke! Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small ditch on the north side of the highway. I followed it across the road to the other side and beheld the canyon system. It came out of nowhere! The canyon system was amazing and deep to the south of the highway. 

Palo Duro is a great place to visit, we wish that we had more time to hike around. It didn’t help that it was 100 degrees outside and we didn’t have enough water for an extended hike. We made a short hike to a tiny cave as a family.

Corvin and I did a 1.5 mile hike from the rim to the bottom of the canyon before we left. I wish that we had more time that all four of us could have done the hike. It was much easier than I expected with breathtaking views!

With the canyon visited, it was time to head towards home. We started heading east towards St. Louis. There was still time until we had to be back, but we decided that it was time to go home. The kids fell asleep around 8 and we started our longest drive of the vacation, not needing a bathroom or gas break for quite some time. We went almost four hours before we called it a night! Unfortunately all of the tolls on I-44 and some other random highway put a damper on our spirits. We spent approximately $11 on tolls. I wanted to stop sooner for sleep, but I wasn’t going to give any city along a toll road my business!


Family Vacation Part 8 – 7/10/2012

We woke up and spent this day driving across the plains of Texas. Our destination was Amarillo. I had heard that it has the second largest canyon system in the United States behind the Grand Canyon. Driving from Austin to Amarillo is quite the haul. With kids that don’t want to be locked up on a car, this makes for a long drive. Most of the photos from today were taken as a joke. With my parents van breaking down two years in a row during  vacation, we swore we would take photos of every repair shop we could find and make an album for my parents of the places they visited on their vacation. We took the pictures, but never got around to making the album for my parents…

What most amazed us about the Texas plains was the quantity of wind farms. There were thousands of wind turbines.

On an interesting side note, we followed the GPS from our phone a little too closely. It would occasionally take us down a business route where we should have just followed the signs which pointed to the GPS being correct, but not the best choice. However, this was one detour that ended up being great.

I was driving around 60 mph down the highway when I saw something that caught my eye on the road. I immediately knew what it was and gently moved the car to miss it. I started applying the breaks so I could turn around and get a closer look. Danelle asked what was wrong and I told her to just hold on so I could show her something. With no other cars around us, I pulled a u-turn and went back the way we came. I found what I was looking for and pulled off the road. With the camera in hand, Danelle and Sonora came with me. Corvin was uninterested even when I told him that there was a big tarantula in the middle of the road. Danelle was quite surprised that I could see it as fast as I was driving, but it seemed plain as day to me.


Family Vacation Part 7 – 7/9/2012

With the wedding over, it was the day where family started to all go their own way. None of us were anxious to leave as we don’t all get together this often.

Several people were going on to Corpus Christi, Texas for the rest of their vacation. I’m not sure what we were thinking, but we didn’t have any specific plans. We started by staying another full day in Austin. We found a high overlook over the Colorado river

We spent time walking around downtown Austin again and visited the Musuem of the Weird. Its definitely a tourist trip. The tour through the shop is not much, but the freak show at the end was decent. This city would probably be more fun without the kids…


Family Vacation Part 6 – 7/8/2012

Its the day of Leslie and John’s wedding. The whole reason that a bunch of family came to Texas this summer. We were excited about the event and looking forward to it. However, we had a whole day to fill before the big event. Austin has a very cool scene near the city center and it was time to check it out. I should mention again that it was prohibitively hot this summer, so we didn’t want to spend too much time outside.

Corvin and Sonora didn’t really want anything to do with any activity that wasn’t directly related to the hotel pool. Its frustrating for parents when we could have just gone to the pool at home. So the photo below shows Corvin’s interest in what we were doing, walking downtown. We saw a few shops and the capital.


Now the next picture is the center of much controversy in our family. The photo below is of “friend friend”. Sonora got friend when she was born at the hospital. Friend has been with Sonora and the family for over 6 years. Except, this is the last known picture of Friend. Somewhere on the trip, she was magically lost never to been seen from again. We searched everywhere we could think of. Called the restaurant we had lunch at and even talked with the hotel staff on the hopes that we might find her somewhere. Sonora and her mother both cried about the loss of Friend.

** UPDATE **

Sonora talked about Friend occasionally for months after loosing her. Finally after three times in a few days, Danelle ordered a new Friend off of ebay. Once new Friend got here, Sonora was so happy to see her. She started to question as the new Friend wasn’t torn/worn the same, but just gave up and enjoyed the moment. The next morning Corvin started crying and revealed to mom that he hid Friend behind the mattress in the hotel room. So mom/Sonora didn’t loose Friend. I think he forgot what he did until seeing Friend in person again…

We made a trip to the Lady Bird Johnson wildflower center for Danelle to see lots of plants. There, I found my favorite kind of cactus.

We didn’t stay at the wildflower center as long as Danelle wanted to, but that was because we had to get back for the wedding. Danelle and Sonora got dressed since they had to be there early while Corvin and I went to the pool. We swam for several hours before getting ready and riding with family to the wedding.

Without naming names, I’ll say that two of the ladies in the family got quite intoxicated and made for some minor drama and some major fun.