Go West, Young Man

About a year ago, Cy, Ellie, and I set off on a grand family adventure. We loaded up in a new-to-us RV and headed north. We visited Ohio, New York, and Maine among other states. We learned the hard way that August in New England isn’t boiling hot like it is in Arkansas. We hiked, Ellie began exclaiming, “BITE!” whenever she spotted ice cream, and made more memories than we can count.

Exactly one year and one baby later, we decided to do it all again. This time, though, we headed west. We left on a Wednesday evening and managed to make it almost to the border of Oklahoma and Kansas. We quickly learned that RV life with an infant and a toddler is a little different than RV life with just one non-mobile toddler. The biggest differences seem to revolve around Savannah’s nursing schedule and Ellie insisting that she should be driving the RV rather than Cy. We spent our first night in a truck stop. Other than adjusting to the noises our sleeping beauties make ALL NIGHT our first night was uneventful.

The next morning we got back on the road as quickly as we could. Cy had a customer to visit in Wichita. The girls and I stayed back at the RV and went grocery shopping while Cy was gone. Once he returned, we made our way across town and surprised my grandma with a visit. Her birthday is in just a few days, and she’ll be 97 years old. Ellie and Savannah are her only great-grandchildren, but she hadn’t gotten to meet them (or Cy) yet. She loved getting to watch Ellie run around, and held a napping Savannah. She told me stories of raising her children and I reminded her of my memories of her cooking and going on walks with me when I was little. We stayed for a few hours until it was time for her to go to dinner.

After seeing my grandma, we weren’t sure what our next step was. We drove back to the Sam’s parking lot where we had left the RV. As we pulled in, Cy noticed three Beaver RVs who had just arrived for the night. We’re a family of extroverts, so naturally we pulled up and started a conversation with the owners. Cy talked to the men about their motorhomes and I showed the girls off to the women. They were so friendly, which is something we have found to be true of most RVers. They told us they were heading into Sam’s for a pizza dinner, and we decided we would indulge as well. We had a few more groceries to pick up, and afterward, found the three men outside our RV checking it out. They exchanged information with Cy and they traded stories from past trips. Then, we decided to drive a few more hours before bed time. As we pulled out of the parking lot, Cy honked the air horn in farewell, and they returned the favor. To my delight, one of their air horns played a festive tune!

A few hours later, we pulled into our home away from home, aka a Walmart parking lot. The next morning, we loaded the girls up after breakfast and hit the road. Ellie has a love hate relationship with our drives. She loves that her car seat in installed in between the driver’s and passenger’s seats. She gets to see out of the giant windshield and hold our hands whenever she wants. Her backpack rides by her side, filled with books to read and a coloring book to draw in. We spend lots of time singing her favorite songs – currently her most requested songs are The Little Red Caboose and I’ve Got the Joy Down In My Heart. All of that makes her happy. But, she is a toddler, so she spends plenty of time crying and whining because she’s tired of the car seat. We spent a little while in Dodge City, KS, then headed west to Colorado, where we found another Walmart parking lot to stay in. Once we parked, Cy discovered the RV’s computer engine was having some trouble. Since we’re stress eaters and there was a Wendy’s in the same parking lot we were in, Cy went and picked up frosties for the two of us after we got the girls to bed. We got some sleep, but left early on Saturday morning to get the RV to a mechanic about an hour away. We rolled in at 8am, and finally had a fix by 5pm. It was a long day. None of us were happy. I’ll spare you the sordid details. Cy reminded me that you always have to factor in at least one breakdown on a cross-country trip. I laughed, and agreed. We stopped for the night in Colorado Springs, where we knew we’d get to have some fun!

Cy and I have both visited Colorado Springs before, so we decided we would skip most of the attractions and just drive up Pike’s Peak. Cy had previously been to the summit, but when I visited during college, I only got to go partway up due to the snowy weather. When we arrived at the entrance of the drive, the park ranger explained to us that Savannah was too young to go to the summit because her lungs aren’t quite developed enough to handle the thin air. She told us we could go up about 13,000ft though, so up we went. It was my first time to be above the tree line. The views were incredible! I had forgotten how treacherous the road up the mountain was. Though I loved the view, I was also very nervous about the sheer drop-offs! Cy loved my dramatic reactions, which even Ellie noticed. She started saying, “It’s ok mama! Mommy, you’re good! No sad Mama!”

We pulled over to take some photos to mark the occasion, and then went back down the mountain to one of the gift shops where Ellie got to get her wiggles out and explore. The remainder of our day was spent at our campsite – The Garden of the Gods RV Park – so the girls could nap and we could organize the RV. We went on some family walks and Cy grilled steaks for dinner. After the long, hard day before, it finally felt like vacation. We enjoyed our time at the campsite and started planning the next phase of our trip – northwest to Yellowstone!


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