Seventh Inning Stretch

We made it to the seventh inning stretch (still alive and still married).  It is hard to believe our journey is about to come to an end.

Day 21, June 17, 2016: Bonne Terre, MO to Cincinnati, OH – 425 Miles

Again, we had another hard good-bye, this time leaving Fred in Missouri as we set out for Cincinnati.  The positive to this good-bye was what was waiting for us at the other end – two sweet boys (oh and their parents).

My parents drove up to Cincinnati from Tennessee and met us at the hotel.  Elizabeth, Ryan, Connor, and Nolan came to visit for a little bit before we went to dinner. Nolan is crawling like a champ and loves to eat. Connor is still the charming little guy we have always known and loved.

Before dinner, Nolan needed to get his clothes put back on… I walked into the room and saw this scene  – I am not real sure why it required ALL of these people to get a one-year-old dressed?  I mean, I know it has been 12 years since I regularly dressed a one-year-old, but my memory is that it was a one man job…


Connor, Elizabeth, David, Chip, Gillian, and Bev dressing Nolan

Once Nolan was dressed we set out for dinner.  Ryan and Elizabeth took us to an incredible local, farm to table restaurant called Bite.  They grow organic vegetables, herbs, fruits, and nuts on their two-acre property.  They also have free range chickens, a beehive, composting, recycling, and repurposing bins on the grounds.  We took a look around while waiting on our table.

The dinner was utterly amazing and obviously fresh!


Melisa, Bev, Chip, Ryan, Elizabeth, Nolan, Connor, David, & Gillian

Of course we couldn’t leave without celebrating the birthday boy’s 1st birthday! Chocolate cake and the Happy Birthday song for little Nolan! The big kids shared a chocolate cake also.

Connor spent the night with us at the hotel so he and Gillian decided to go for a late night swim.

Day 22, June 18, 2016: Cincinnati, OH

What a great way to end a three week road trip – celebrating Nolan Cash Johnson’s 1st birthday! Elizabeth did a beautiful job planning and decorating for Nolan’s baseball themed birthday party.

Everyone was asked to wear their favorite team shirt/gear to the party.  We all had a great time posing in our shirts with the birthday boy.

Time for presents and cake!  Nolan was definitely more interested in the tissue paper than the presents! He was also not so sure about getting cake all over himself… I think he prefers to be clean.

There could not have been a better way to end this amazing three week journey than celebrating this little human’s first birthday!

Next stop: HOME!


The Show Me State

Day 20, June 16, 2016: Bonne Terre/St. Louis, MO

Gillian and I had a wonderful mother-daughter day and took a trip into St. Louis while David and Fred went to their family farm.

We had planned to explore more of St. Louis, but as with almost every place we have been on this trip, it was incredibly hot! We went to the Gateway Arch, however, the Arch and the park area were under construction, so we did not get to see the museum or walk around the park. We rode the tram to the top and took in the great views of the city and river below!

After visiting the Arch, Gillian and I went to the Broadway Oyster Bar, an edgy local establishment, for lunch.  David and I ate dinner there two years ago when I was in St. Louis for work. It was just as tasty as I remembered it being!

Our last adventure in the city was to Park Avenue Coffee.  No visit to St. Louis is complete without this stop! The coffee is delicious and the Gooey Butter Cake is absolutely delectable!


After our trip to St. Louis we returned to Fred’s house.  Katie and Easton, as well as some family most of us had not met before – Jodi, Tony, and Mason all came over for dinner.  It was wonderful getting aquatinted with new family members!


Katie, Easton, Tony, Mason, Jodi, David, Melisa, Fred, and Gillian

(Sorry for the blurry picture – master of selfies, Gillian, did not do her best work here!)

Of course we needed a little baby snuggling to end the evening!

The Show Me State sure showed us some great food and great times with family!

Rolling Through the Heartland

Day 18, June 14, 2016: Boulder, CO to Topeka, KS – 559 Miles

There truly is not much in Kansas – it was a long 8 hour drive from Boulder.

I had originally booked a tent campsite at the Topeka KOA.  However, when I checked the weather that morning it said there was an 80% chance of severe thunderstorms.  I decided it would be safer if we changed to one of the camping cabins. Of course, since I did this, there was zero rain or storms… Oh well, the cabin was super cute plus it had AC and cable TV!

Once we got settled in, David did some fishing while Gillian and I spent the afternoon relaxing and watching the very sad news.  We eventually had to turn the TV off.


After a quick dinner, we went outside and sat by the fire while Gillian made s’mores. It was a relaxing evening after a long day of driving.

Day 19, June 15, 2016: Topeka, KS to Bonne Terre, MO – 359 Miles

David went fishing before we set out for Missouri, which gave us a little extra sleeping in time.

We arrived at David’s brother, Fred’s home, late afternoon.  Our niece, Katie, and her new baby, Easton, came over for a few hours, as well as Fred’s girlfriend, Jeanne, and his good friend, Dave.  It was great to see everyone but it was most exciting to meet the newest member of the family, three month old baby Easton!  He is beautiful!

I think the extreme heat got to everyone because we were all ready for bed at 9:00!

Earning Our Keep

Day 17, June 13, 2016: Boulder, CO

Day 17 started with a visit to Pearl Street in downtown Boulder. We did a little shopping and Gillian got a henna tattoo in one of the local shops.

We made a quick visit to the historic HoIMG_2072.JPGtel Boulderado, the oldest hotel in Boulder, and where Kenny and Kelli held their wedding reception.  It is a gorgeous building.  Inside the hotel is the License No 1 Liquor Bar – a once illegal establishment – which now has the distinction of being the bar with the first legal license to serve hard liquor in a restaurant in Boulder.

Following the tour of the hotel, Kenny and KeIMG_2073.JPGlli treated us to a delicious lunch and local brews at the Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery, a fabulous local establishment.

Next on the agenda was a quick walk through of University of Colorado Boulder. It is a beautiful campus.



Gillian, David, Kenny, Karl, Adam, & Kelli at the University of Colorado Boulder

When we returned to the house, we decided we needed to earn our keep at the Kubalas, so David did a little yard wIMG_2077ork for them… he mowed the grass, pulled weeds, and trimmed some bushes.  I took a nap.

We ended the day with amazing homemade pesto pasta prepared by Kelli! We all ate huge portions because it was so delicious, even though all of us were still full from lunch!

The Kubalas were amazing tour guides, phone searchers, chefs, and hosts!  Once again, it is always sad to say good-bye, but we must keep on truckin’ down the road. Next stop – Topeka, KS.


Lost and Found

I love my husband dearly, but…

Day 15, June 11, 2016: Moab, UT to Dillon, CO – 290 Miles

I think I slept at least half the drive to Dillon – which I have not done since we left TN. When it was my turn to get behind the wheel, I remember waking up to make a gas station milk shake and grab a coffee.

We arrived in Dillon, CO at my cousin, Kenny’s condo in the mountains just in time for dinner.


View from the Condo

We had an amazing dinner prepared by Kenny and Kelli; shared great stories; and went to bed.

WAIT… I forgot – Gillian, Karl, and Adam FaceTimed their cousin, Lenna… here is the evidence… I think she is sad she isn’t with us – we are all definitely sad she isn’t with us!


Karl, Gillian & Adam FaceTiming Lenna

Day 16, June 12, 2016: Dillon, CO


We slept in a bit late this morning. Kelli prepared pancakes for us. What a wonderful treat!

After breakfast we set out for Keystone Resort. We took the Gondola to the top of the mountain.

It is unbelievable that we were in 110+ degree temps yesterday and playing in snow today.

It was a fantastic hike down the mountain until about 3/4 of the way down when David realized he had lost his phone somewhere on the mountain…

The strongest hikers were Kenny and Kelli and the only adults that knew their way around the mountain. Therefore, they hiked BACK UP the mountain we just hiked down to search for David’s phone.  (I tried to do “find my phone” but it was showing it was offline).

David, the kids, and I plus one dog hiked back down while Kenny, Kelli, and one dog hiked back up the mountain. Once we reached the bottom David went to lost and found to report the missing phone when, lo and behold, another hiker was in line behind him and had found the phone. At this point Kenny and Kelli were now at the top of the mountain and stuck. The gondolas had stopped running due to the lightening that was in the area.

We left with the kids to go back to the condo while Kenny and Kelli were stuck at the top of the mountain.When they finally got down we all went to a late lunch/early dinner at an excellent Mexican restaurant and then returned to the condo to pack up the cars to head to Boulder.

Aside from the unfortunate circumstances of David loosing his phone and Kenny and Kelli having to hike all the way back up the mountain, it was a wonderful day!

Day 16, June 12, 2016: Dillon, CO to Boulder, Co – 77 Miles

After a long day on the mountain we set out for Kenny and Kelli’s house in Boulder. We ended the evening with a walk to a local ice cream shop!

A Night in the Devils Garden

Day 14, June 10, 2016: Las Vegas, NV to Arches National Park, UT – 475 Miles

We had a slight change of plans on this leg of the trip. Originally we were going to wake up super early the last morning in Vegas and head towards Utah, and hit Bryce Canyon and Zion on our way to Arches National Park.  Once again, sleep was more important – so we decided to skip Bryce and Zion and go straight to Arches. I was really torn about this decision, but I think it was the right way to go.

After a long seven plus hours of driving we arrived in Moab, UT to do a little grocery shopping for dinner.  We then went on to the park and drove the absolutely beautiful 18 miles up to Devils Garden Campground.

We arrived at camp and set up our tent and air mattresses in record time! We looked around at our amazing view for the evening! The pictures below are views from our campsite.

At 9:00 pm we attended a very informative ranger talk about the history of the park and the native people that occupied the area.  It was very interesting.

Following the ranger talk we enjoyed a campfire dinner, made smores, and did a lot of laughing.  After a restroom break, David and I were walking back to our campsite and realized we were the only ones in the entire campground with lights and a fire still going… it looked like a spotlight was on our campsite.  We decided we better get to bed!

Day 15, June 11, 2016: Arches National Park, UT

We woke up fairly early and broke down camp.  We spent the morning exploring the park a little and then enjoyed a short hike/nature talk with one of the park rangers.

We definitely did not have enough time at this park.  After our hike, we headed back down to Moab for a quick lunch at The Moab Brewery and then hit the road for our next stop.


Sleepy in Sin City

When did I get so old? I was in Vegas and all I wanted to do was sleep! Seriously. I am not kidding.

Day 12, June 8, 2016 – Leg 1: Grand Canyon National Park to Hoover Dam – 247 Miles


When we first entered the dam area we went through a security clearance and we were asked to pull over to have our vehicle inspected by guards… I guess we looked like terrorist because of all the stuff we had on top of the Explorer, on the trailer hitch cargo carrier, and piled inside.  HoweIMG_1826ver, once we opened the doors for the guards to inspect, and all our crap went falling out, I think they regretted choosing us for inspection! Also, one of the guards was (overly) impressed with David’s retractable ratchet straps. After asking all sorts of questions about the strap, they let us go on through without further inspection. I guess terrorists don’t pack like the Griswolds or have cool retractable ratchet straps?

I thought Watts Bar Dam was a big dam… not even close.  The Hoover Dam is one remarkable man-made structure. We did the power plant tour and learned the amazing history behind the construction.

Day 12, June 8, 2016 – Leg 2: Hoover Dam to Las Vegas, NV – 33 Miles


By the time we arrived at the New York, New York Hotel, checked in, and waited on the bell hop to deliver our luggage (so embarrassing the amount of STUFF we had on the cart!), we all needed a nap/rest in a real bed.

After our rest, we went and had a quick bite to eat in the hotel and then headed to the Luxor to see the Blue Man Group show! As an ex-percussionist, David was enthralled, and as a performer, Gillian was captivated. It truly was an impressive production.

Day 13, June 9, 2016: Las Vegas, NV:

I was still exhausted the next morning! We didn’t even leave the hotel room until around noon! We decided to take a walk on the strip and try to find somewhere to eat… that lasted about 15 minutes and we were back at our hotel eating.  It was unbearably HOT – 112 degrees to be exact.

Following lunch, we went back to the room and I took a nap for several hours! Gillian watched Netflix and David rested for a bit and then he went to the casino. By the time we all regrouped it was 8:00 pm!

Gillian and I took a ride on the Big Apple Roller Coaster at the hotel, and then we decided to take a cab to Fremont Street.  We walked around for a little bit and then back to the room we went!


Gillian on Fremont Street, Las Vegas

There would have been a time in my life (around two weeks ago) that I would have laughed at someone going all the way to Vegas and sleeping the entire time! Well, to all you youngsters out there… your time will come also – when sleep is so much more important than partying all night long. In my defense, I think I need to visit Vegas when I haven’t been traveling for two weeks in a car with my husband and 13 year old daughter, camping for the three nights before arriving in Vegas, and when it isn’t insanely hot… those are my excuses for being so incredibly sleepy in Sin City!


Melisa, David, & Gillian in front of the New York New York Hotel and Casino

Camping at the Canyon

Unreliable phone service equals no blog posting while camping at the Grand Canyon. I am going to try to cover three days in one post!

Day 9, June 5, 2016 – Leg 1: Albuquerque, NM to Petrified Forest National Park -236 Miles

The Petrified Forest was not a planned stop.  Those of you who know me, know that I like schedules.  However, I had to use the restroom (no surprise to anyone who knows me) and since we have a National Park annual pass, we decided to make the stop.  I was glad David suggested the quick break at the park! We did not do the entire scenic drive, but we were able to get some great pictures of the Painted Desert!

Day 9, June 5, 2016 – Leg 2: Petrified Forest to Sedona, AZ – 154 Miles

Sedona was a planned stop.  One we wished we didn’t have on the schedule – not because Sedona isn’t absolutely glorious – we just had such limited time we could spend there. We were really trying to make it to the Grand Canyon before dark so we could set up camp.  By the time we had lunch in Sedona, we had to get right back on the road.  This is definitely a justification for another trip to Arizona.

Day 9, June 5, 2016 – Leg 3: Sedona, AZ to Grand Canyon National Park – 114 Miles

Well, we made it to the campground and got the tent set up before complete darkness set in – barely.  We did, however, have to blow up two air mattresses and cook dinner in darkness.  (Only one of the 5 lanterns we packed worked/had batteries).

Days 10/11, June 6 & 7, 2016: Grand Canyon National Park

If you have never been to the Grand Canyon – you MUST GO! Words and pictures cannot begin to describe the magnificence of this place.  IMG_1768

We began our first full day at the canyon with an amazing breakfast prepared by Gillian and David.

Following breakfast we set out to see the main attraction.  Wow! Just WOW!

Later that day we returned to our camp site and saw that our new (very large) raven friends liked beer. We had been warned about keeping all food put away and locked up – I didn’t think beer would be an issue.  I actually joked earlier that the only cooler that wasn’t “raven secure” was the styrofoam cooler we bought the day before for extra ice and the beer.  I told David we would return to camp with drunk ravens hanging out.  Sure enough… the ravens are beer lovers! I could probably get along with these birds!

After dinner, we went to the Star Party. For eight days in June, Grand Canyon National Park, in conjunction with the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association, hosts amateur astronomers from across the country, who volunteer their expertise, and offer free nightly astronomy programs and telescope viewing. We just happened to be visiting the Grand Canyon during the 2016 Star Party! We saw the moon, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn!

The second morning we enjoyed a ranger talk about the history of the Grand Canyon and then set out to see more breathtaking views.

Our last adventure at the Grand Canyon was a sunset tour.

Throughout our stay we ran into many Elk and Mule Deer! These pictures are at our campsite.

The Grand Canyon was good to us! I feel so fortunate to be able to be living this adventure! Everyone should have the opportunity to experience our world’s natural beauty!

The Land of Enchantment with a Teenager

Our baby girl turned 13 years old today. I feel old.


Gillian at Sandia Crest on her 13th birthday

Day 8, June 4, 2016: Roswell, NM to Albuquerque, NM – 183 miles

We were all exhaustedIMG_1627 from the long day we had the day before so we slept in a little bit.  We went to breakfast at the hotel and Gillian enjoyed a waffle that looked more like dessert! But, hey, it IS HER 13th BIRTHDAY!

Following breakfast we went to the International UFO Museum.  I did such a good job parallel parking in front of the museum that when I got out of the car I told David how good I did – in “our language.” (Gillian says David and I have our own language and we kind of do).  However, I realized right after the “words” came out of my mouth that another family was sitting outside, right next to our vehicle.  I believe they thought we were REALLY into the extraterrestrial lifestyle and that I was so excited about being at the UFO Museum that I was speaking an alien language. We all had a good laugh.

After visiting with the aliens we set out for the Albuquerque area to see our friend Bob. There is literally nothing for miles and miles between Roswell and Cedar Crest, NM.  We arrived at Bob’s mid-afternoon and relaxed on his beautiful deck before we ventured out to drive the scenic byway to the Sandia Crest.


Magnificent View from Bob’s Deck

Words cannot describe the extraordinary beauty of this place.  I don’t even think the pictures do it justice!

Of course we had to get a couple of selfies before we headed back down the mountain!


David, Bob, Melisa, & Gillian at Sandia Crest


David, Bob, Melisa, Gillian & Max at Sandia Crest

Following our trek up to the crest, we went to a local BBQ restaurant for dinner.  When we got to the restaurant, I went into my bag and realized my wallet was missing. Panicked, I called the last place I had it out – atop Sandia Crest at the gift shop.  It was not there.  David and I raced back to Bob’s house and thankfully it was sitting on his sofa. I guess it fell out of my bag.  A few Corona’s calmed my nerves once we arrived back at the restaurant! After that we enjoyed a wonderful meal and conversation with Bob.

New Mexico truly is the Land of Enchantment and my princess celebrated her 13th birthday there! Gillian ended her birthday the same way she started it – with a big pile of whipped cream!IMG_1673



Every Good Vacation Includes a New Sink

4.5 days of rain.  A lot of rain. Now on to the desert.

Day 7, June 3, 2016 – Leg 1: Dallas, TX to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM – 463 Miles

We had a bright and early start to the morning with yet another day of driving in the pouring rain. The morning was pretty uneventful aside from me cursing the rain gods. We finally saw the sun somewhere in west Texas.

We were stupidly amazed by the windmills.  It may have just been the tediousness of being in the car all morning – not real sure.  But we took about 50 pictures of the windmills and all three of us were way too excited about seeing them.  Therefore, I must share our excitement in the form of multiple windmill pictures. For your viewing pleasure below is a sample…

After what felt like an eternity, we finally arrived in New Mexico! As I was trying to capture the perfect picture in front of the New Mexico sign with my selfie stick (on a pretty much empty road), Gillian exclaimed how embarrassing we were.  Another point for my mom scorebook!


Gillian, Melisa, & David crossing the New Mexico border

Our next stop was at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  We had an amazing ride going in to the park, enjoyed a picnic lunch, and hiked down into the cave.  It was breathtaking.

After a quick purchase in the gift shop it was time to hop back into the Explorer.

Day 7, June 3, 2016 – Leg 2: Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM to Roswell, NM – 107 Miles

We didn’t have too bad of a drive for our second leg of the day.  We made a quick stop for silly pictures at a trading post along the way.

As we were driving along, out of the corner of my eye I saw this:

For some of you, this is probably insignificant.  So, let me explain.  David and I went on a cruise for our honeymoon and had a stop in Mexico. After a GREAT time on an open bar boat excursion, with multiple conga lines with tequila at the end, we went shopping. Long story short, we came home with a gorgeous, hand painted Mexican sink! Yes, we are the only people on Earth that go on a honeymoon and come back with a sink.

Unfortunately, when we got home, we realized we had nowhere to put the sink.  It sat in a box for eight long years until we were finally doing some home remodeling.  Just so happens, at the point when our contractors were about ready to work on our master bathroom, we were going on a another cruise with a stop in Mexico… Yes, we bought a second sink so we each had one.

We were so excited about our sinks, but when we got home we realized they did not match AT ALL – when we were purchasing the second sink, we swore we remembered what the original looked like.  We went with it anyway and installed both sinks (and a couple of lizards) in our new master bath.  Unfortunately, during installation, the contractors cracked the original we bought on our honeymoon.  David was able to make it work, but to this day it is still cracked.

Enter today, June 3, 2016 – we drove by this little store, I spotted out of the corner of my eye, and I said something along the lines of, “Aww that store has sinks like ours.” David literally did a u-turn in the middle of the street and went back to the store.  Needless to say, we are now the proud owners of THREE hand-painted, Mexican sinks! All from various vacations over a 13 year period of time.


David & Melisa – so proud of the new sink

Onward to the home of aliens and UFOs.

We finally made it to our hotel in Roswell and were starving.  After some quick pics with aliens, we walked next door to a Mexican restaurant.  We did a little birthday celebration at dinner for Gillian since my baby girl turns 13 tomorrow!!

Another adventurous day for the Griswolds… oops, I mean Fuhrmeisters.