I spent last night arranging Grace’s college tours for February break. What!? How can this be? The actual reality of sending her off still isn’t real to me, yet it’s coming. And soon. Though sometimes the ups and downs of parenting can make life feel like it’s crawling at a snail’s pace, I’ve always been acutely aware that my time with my kids as the center of my world is short.For me, part of really getting to know my girls, has been yearly road trips with them during the summer. Just the girls. We talk about things from the silly to the serious, and as a mom, I find myself so thankful that they will, in fact, talk to me about just about anything. There is also plenty of really bad singing in the car, ridiculous selfies, and one year, even a side trip to stalk Harry Styles at his DC hotel.
We travel a lot as a family, so these trips without Jeff have always been pretty low key, but this past summer took us out West to Colorado and Utah, thanks to a hefty balance of credit card points, combined with the thought that Grace might want to check out CU Boulder.
Our “road trip” wouldn’t really start until we’d landed in Denver, where we picked up a rental car. We decided to spend the night in Vail because I knew I couldn’t drive much farther than three hours on day one. It’s a beautiful (if a bit Epcot-y in its perfection) place and it was definitely a great spot to spend the night.
When we arrived, it started to rain, but once the clouds parted we were treated to a rainbow over Vail Village.
At some point in the planning, Grace had starting asking if we could see the desert, and I soon discovered that Moab, Utah was “only” a 5 1/2 hour drive from Vail. So that would be our next destination. The drive, of course, took WAY longer than Google Maps says it will, because of stops, like the obligatory “Welcome to Utah” sign.
And a little detour through the ghost town of Cisco.
You can actually RENT the old Post Office to stay for a night, on AirBNB. Comes with it’s very own outhouse too. (If we had only known!)
The big surprise for the girls when we arrived in Moab, was that we were staying in a tent. They had no idea. We are not campers. I mean, we love the outdoors, but we don’t camp. Mostly because no one ever took me camping and I have no idea how to camp. I don’t know much about bear boxes, can’t make a fire to save my life, and I’m really not sure I could get on board with the whole shared bathroom thing. Maybe I’d like it but I don’t know because I’ve never done it (who out there wants to teach me to camp!??) But Moab Under Canvas had tents available with a KING SIZE BED, a mister to cool the tent in the desert heat, and its very own shower and toilet. How could we resist, really? And look, there was a lizard outside our tent, so we really were roughing it.
I have to laugh when I think about the tent, and how adventurous it felt. Then, once we were back in Boulder I was listening to my friend Caroline talk about how she spent some time in Utah also with just her girls, and how it was important to her that they know, that “mom can pitch at tent on her own!” “Yes! Same!”, I laughed. My girls now know that their mom, can FIND a tent on her own! And we can stay there, and we won’t be scared of bugs or wild animals creeping in in the middle of the night.
That tent was pretty freaking magical though, I must say. We went to sleep under the Milky Way.
And woke up to the sun rising over Arches National Park.Our big plan in Moab was to hike to Delicate Arch. It was 100 degrees, but we made it, and drank every ounce of the 6 liters of water we had between us.
That evening, on a tip I found online, we decided to drive about 35 minutes to Dead Horse Point State Park to watch the sunset (you might recognize it as the place where Thema and Louise drove off the cliff. When we arrived, the visitor center was closed, and we were the only people there. I have never in my life experienced the kind of silence I experienced in that place. There was NOT ONE SOUND, and it took my breath away. And I will admit — I cried (thought ask my family — that’s nothing new!)
In the morning we set out for Breckinridge, a totally adorable mountain town and a place I wish we’d been able to spend more time. We had one night there, ate some excellent tacos and then headed to Boulder in the morning.
We took the long way to Boulder, over some winding hills and through this town, that on the surface looked like the quintessential Western town. On closer look, all of these places were casinos! 🤷♀️
In Boulder, we rented a tiny cottage in Chautauqua Park, which is the most perfect little enclave of cottages at the foot of the Flatirons. The prices are really reasonable — comparable to a hotel, bur no hotel offered THIS view out the window and from the back yard.
Chautauqua is special to me, because it is the place where I took a really life changing photography workshop about six years ago, and I had always wanted to bring the girls there. I met up with some friends from that workshop and we sat out under the stars, catching up on the last few years.
We also did tour CU Boulder, and Grace fell in love with it. It is a bit further from home than we thought she’d go to school, but it’s definitely at in the top three for her so far. By the end of the tour I was ready to sign up too.
I can’t wait to see where our future travels take us, though I have a feeling next summer will be determined by college tour schedules. And then in 2019, there may be a trip to Ireland in the works before Grace leaves for college (Our overseas trips are usually whole family affairs, but for some reason Jeff has no interest in visiting Ireland!!) That will be our tenth year, and definitely not our last.
If you made it this far, here is a recap of our trips through the years: 2009: Storyland; 2010: Newport; 2011: Washington and Philadelphia; 2012: Acadia National Park; 2013: Camden, Maine; 2014: Lake Champlain, VT 2015: DC, Charlottesville, Philadelphia, and NYC; 2016: Burlington, VT, Montreal, and Quebec City