We began our drive to Utah on July 31st. The car was packed to the gills with snacks and movies, and I drove while Christopher sat in the back with the kids. We managed the first four hours without stopping, which I took as a good sign. After lunch at McDonald’s, we kept driving, stopping at rest areas to use the restroom and run around in the grassy areas. The further east we got, the hotter it was. We thought we might stop in Boise, but kept driving and made it to Twin Falls around dinner time. We got some food from Wal-Mart (French bread, meat, cheese, chips) and sat on a soccer field to eat. We got a cheap hotel room at Shilo Inn, which had great reviews but turned out to be pretty shoddy. I took the big kids swimming while Christopher put Logan to bed, but after nine hours in the car, he wouldn’t go to sleep. In hindsight, I would have just kept driving. We could have knocked out another few hours of that fourteen hour drive, easily. The big kids eventually fell asleep but Logan just keep crying and crying. It didn’t help that he figured out how to defeat the GoCrib. On the first night. I checked out a Pack n Play from the front desk but Logan was still livid. I ended up driving him around Twin Falls until he fell asleep. As soon as I stopped the car, he woke up, but he was calm, and when I laid him down he slept for the rest of the night. Ben was between Christopher and I and this was probably the roughest night we had.
In the morning we ate our free breakfast and hit the road again. We had another five hours to the Hidden Springs Ranch in Altamont, Utah. We stopped in Park City and had lunch at Cafe Rio. Around four, we made it to Altamont with a car of cranky kids. We found our room–that we were sharing with three other families–and Christopher unpacked the car and made up the beds while I took the kids swimming.
Dinner soon followed, just sandwiches on the first night, and before long it was time to think about putting the little boys to bed. Once again, it was rough with Logan, especially with all the other people in the room. Once he goes to sleep, though, he consistently sleeps through the night. Ben, on the other hand, whined and moaned all night long. I think he was scared by himself in his bunk.
Breakfast began at 7 a.m. the next morning. So many people worked so hard in the kitchen to keep things going. Christopher and I, unfortunately, were able to spend very little time helping because Ben and Logan were a full-time job. We were the first ones in the pool just about every morning. The day was fairly unstructured. There was a game room for the kids, a huge lawn, and the pool. There was also a rec center with a gym and rock climbing wall. Gavin and Megan were in heaven with all the activities and cousins, not to mention an insane amount of candy, from the “Tiki Snack Shack” to the candy cannon that Uncle Alf shot off twice a day. Christopher and I basically kept Ben and Logan alive. The little boys did nap every day, which thankfully gave us time to climb the rock wall, shoot guns, and play some games. But when they were awake, we were busy. That first day Ben pushed his cousin Owen into the pool. Owen had to be rescued, and Ben was grounded from the pool for the rest of the day. Owen looked at Ben very suspiciously for the rest of the reunion.
Friday night was Fiesta Night, followed by a family talent show. We let Ben get up and sing Que Sera. That kid sure has no fear. That night I also asked my in-laws if Logan could sleep in their room, which was upstairs, private, and quiet. I also put Ben on the bottom bunk (a full) with a nightlight and a blanket covering it to make a “cave”. I also slept with him, Christopher slept in the bunk above us, and Megan slept above him. Gavin was on the top bunk of another family’s corner. We had a much better time the next three nights. Logan did fine with my in-laws, and Ben was a champ in his cave.
Saturday night was a family birthday party and gift exchange, white-elephant style. We took a six-pack of local root beers from the root beer store and ended up with a gift box (t-shirts, jam, and honey) from the Iowa City Farmer’s Market.
Sunday we went to Sacrament Meeting at the local church and then relaxed. We had a Thanksgiving-style turkey dinner. The boys took naps and we played some more games. When they woke up when went swimming again. That night we had a family home evening and slide show, although I think we missed it because all three of our boys were having meltdowns.
Monday was pack up and clean up. We managed to lose our football and Megan’s Keens. We said our good-byes and rode out around 11 a.m. Our first stop was lunch. We followed a random billboard to Dickey’s BBQ in Heber City, which ended up being our best meal on the whole trip. Brisket, pulled pork, sausage, mac n cheese, potato salad, even fried okra. With free pickles and ice cream. We left happy and full and headed to Park City. We checked out Utah Olympic Park and saw the museum and training facility. I had no idea ski-jumpers trained in the summer by skiing into a huge swimming pool. You learn something new every day. That was a lot of fun to watch. It even held Logan’s attention.
After we drove over to Park City Mountain Resort and rode the lift up the mountain, and the alpine slide down. Apparently the slide is one of the largest in the world, so we can check that box.
We headed south to Heber City again. Logan crashed in the car so we stopped at the playground for a few minutes. Then we got some pizzas and went over to the Heber Valley Railroad to ride the Creeper. I had heard about the train back when I was at BYU. They used to have college parties on it, and they also do Day Out with Thomas and Harry Potter and Polar Express. Well, we were there Monday night so we took the cheap Family Night train, and barely got on (took the very last tickets). It turned out to be a disaster. It was hot. It was crowded. It started at 7 p.m. Logan and Ben were content to sit for the first 10 minutes of the 90 minute ride. I ended up walking them individually up and down the train, from car to car, for the entire trip. Total bust.
Tired and defeated, we drove to Provo to spend the night. We booked the Super 8 next to the Riviera for old time’s sake. Expedia screwed up the reservation. While Christopher was dealing with that we wandered around the Riv. People were going out for the night at 11 p.m. The pool and hot tub and volleyball court were all hopping. Even Apartment 2 was open, and when I told the kids that was were I lived (and officially met Christopher), Ben had to go check it out. He ran over to the doorway (two girls were watching a movie or something) and said, “Hey, I’m Ben. I’m four years old. How’re ya doin’?” No fear.
I showed the kids Christopher’s balcony where we used to swing in the hammock, the clubhouse where we had ward activities, and the laundry room where we
made out did our laundry. By the time I got back to the Super 8 we still didn’t have a room, so we bagged it and drove across the street to the Marriott, which was three times as expensive but oh so nice. That was definitely the nicest place we stayed, and we enjoyed every minute. We all took long showers and snuggled in our beds. Despite the 11:30 bedtime, Ben was still up before seven. Like clockwork, that kid. We ate a leisurely breakfast, and when everyone else was still sound asleep, we walked over to the football stadium. It was empty but unlocked. I might have let Ben run around on the field but signs warned against it. Instead, we sat in the 50-yard-line seats and chatted. I told him the field didn’t have chalk lines on it because it wasn’t time for football yet. He said, “No problem. I’ll just sit here until it is time for football.” That’s my boy. On the way out, I taught him the fight song.
Across from the stadium was a new earth science museum, but it unfortunately wasn’t open until 9, and I didn’t have my cell phone. When we walked back to the hotel, it was 9 right as we walked in. By that time everyone was eating breakfast, so we ate a little snack and packed up to go. We drove the 5 minutes to BYU and spent 20 minutes getting lost in construction trying to find a parking space, and ended up back in the Marriott Center (not the hotel) lot. We walked from the Marriott Center past the bell tower to the Wilk and started the morning right, with some scoops of ice cream from the Creamery. The Cougareat looked exactly the same with the glaring addition of a Chick-Fil-A! I almost got myself a chicken sandwich right then. In fact, one of my goals was to eat at CFA while out of Seattle and I passed up the opportunity about five times. After ice cream, we bought t-shirts and hats and hoodies at the bookstore and got separated. I ended up walking with Megan and Logan down to south campus to see the Maesar building while Christopher took the other boys in the Clyde to see all the engineers in their glory. They found a box of spare electrical parts and played with those while Megan ooohed and aaahed and talked about how she cannot wait to be a college student in seven years. And Logan whined and fussed about being in his stroller.
We decided to eat lunch at JDawgs, wondering what all the fuss was about. Not a good experience. The kids were rotten and we didn’t think the hot dogs were that special. Maybe it was the too-sweet sauce, just like Cafe Rio. Mormons like their sugar apparently. Then, we hiked all the way back up to our car, a good 20 minutes. I didn’t remember campus being that huge, but then again, I wasn’t hauling four kids around while I walked it. Campus was, however, as beautiful as I remember it. It made me want to be in school again. Christopher, too.
We headed north and stopped at Thanksgiving Point, which I had seen an ad for earlier. Tuesdays in August admission is $2, which was a score. We checked out the Museum of Ancient Life, home to one of the world’s largest displays of mounted dinosaurs. Admission was $10 and we could have spent all day there. It was almost as impressive and more kid-friendly and hands-on than the dinosaur displays at the Smithsonian. We had to pull out kids out of there because we wanted to check out the farm, too. For another $10 we got to pet the farm animals, milk a goat, and take a wagon ride and pony rides. Logan’s admission was free and didn’t include a pony ride, but he pitched such a fit when those big kids got on their ponies (“Horsie me too!”) that the lady let him ride, anyway.
We got more cheeseburgers from In-N-Out and spent the night at a nice Best Western Plus in Midvale. The beds were big and we had Megan, Gavin, and Ben share a queen, sleeping lengthwise. While Christopher got Ben and Logan to bed, the big kids and I enjoyed the pool and sunset.
We had intended to stay in Utah through the week, but by Wednesday morning we were exhausted. We decided to check out Temple Square and hit the road. We started parking at City Creek and made our way over to the Conference Center. We walked in and started taking a tour, which would have been fabulous. In addition to hosting conferences and events the Conference Center is also an art gallery, and the art was gorgeous. Some really interesting pieces like an Old Testament piece once owned by Napoleon’s brother, and all the Arnold Friberg (who was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on the Ten Commandments) Book of Mormon paintings. Unfortunately, the boys were too squirrely and we had to keep moving. We walked over to the Church History Museum, which was perfect. It has a children’s museum on the top floor and everyone loved it. Next to the children’s section was a huge exhibit on the History of the Church and Scouting, with a large Norman Rockwell Boy Scouts exhibit borrowed from the National Scouting Museum. I learned that Rockwell began his career illustrating for Boys’ Life magazine, and was very involved with the BSA. It was cool to see so many Rockwell originals in one place.
On our way out of Temple Square, we knew we had to stop in the visitor’s center and see the amazing Christus statue and take our obligatory family photo. Well, that was Ben’s last straw, who leapt from the “Christmas statue”, ran down the ramp screaming and hopped on the escalator down to the basement level, where he skulked around until we could catch up to him
and beat him. Actually, he received a lecture about how people come here to feel the Spirit and learn about Jesus and he was making it hard for everyone to do that. And then we immediately left Temple Square before we were banned for life, or at least completely ruined the experience for everyone else!
We thought we might get lunch at Squatter’s but they were sadly out of root beer so we stopped at Wendy’s for more cheeseburgers and got the heck out of there. We ate lunch at a Noodles and Co. in Idaho and kept driving. Everyone fell asleep but when I stopped for gas in Oregon they woke up. Christopher wanted to check in a hotel but I was just so done with portable cribs and driving I told him I was fine to make it home. I pulled in our driveway around 2:30 a.m. They were watching Charlie and Lola and Christopher was talking in a British accent that sounded like Maggie Smith. Loopy and thankful to be home, we crawled happily into our beds.