Category Archives: Travel

Road trips will always be near to my heart

When I was very young, perhaps four or five, I remember my dad waking me before the sun was even up. He scooped me in his arms, blankets and all, and carried me to our family van. Strapping on my seatbelt, I settled in and rubbed my groggy eyes. My brothers and sister scrambled in after me.

My mother said a prayer before we began, and then we were on our way.

This wasn’t an unusual occurrence. At least three times a year, for as long as I can remember, my family would pack up the van and head out on our next road trip.

Most of the time, it was either to visit my grandparents and dad’s side of the family in Pennsylvania, who live about a 12 hour drive away; or to vacation in Florida where my parent’s own a timeshare, which is about a 17 hour drive.

Needless to say, long road trips don’t really phase me.

In fact, road trips are good for my heart. Back out onto the road, with nothing planned for the next day except to get passed the next exit. I would always bring stacks of books with me and plenty of crayons to color with in my coloring books to keep me busy. My brothers would bring DVDs so they could watch on my dad’s laptop and my sister was content with just her music. But the best part is not having to do anything.

Of course, there were also some rougher memories as well. I can’t tell you how many times my father threatened to “pull this car over!” and how many times he followed through. Or how many times one of my brothers were grounded for teasing me, or how many times I cried as a result of their teasing.

There was one particularly bad trip to my grandparent’s house one year during Christmastime. It had snowed so much (I think at least a foot, but probably more) that almost all of the exits were closed. My parents were tired and it was near 10 p.m. but we hadn’t eaten dinner yet due to the snow. There had been so much traffic that we watched all three Lord of the Rings movies – extended editions, mind you – just in the state of Ohio.

Note: Ohio does not normally take 12 hours to drive through.

We finally found an open exit and my dad pulled off. We turned into the first restaurant and just as my mom walked up to the door, the manager changed to sign from open to closed. My mother was furious and we were all crabby, but we finally managed to find an open Steak ‘n Shake. My two brothers were constantly teasing and picking on me as we ordered and waited for our food. I remember that I ordered chicken fingers and fries. My brother said one more mean comment and I snapped; I took a chunk of my chicken tender, dipped it in ketchup, and then shoved it in my brother’s face and smeared it all over.

In my head, I didn’t expect him to retaliate so fast. :P

He was shoving his food in my face as well and my mother was screaming at us both. My other brother was cackling in glee, while my dad and sister were oblivious to the whole debacle, absorbed in their own conversation at the other end of the table.

We both were grounded.

But even these memories we laugh about now. (I still take the stance that my brother deserved it.)

On Friday night, just like the old days, my family prepared for a road trip. There are some differences today. My parents no longer own a purple van so we took two separate cars instead. My eldest brother didn’t join us for this trip, but our family expanded last year, so Andrew was joining us for the first time.

Despite all of these differences, some things never change. Vacation in the Gray family remains the same: Daytona Beach, Florida.

Colorado Springs | Day Five & Six

Garden of the Gods

Our last stop on our spring break trip was Colorado Springs. We drove in during the morning, but the weather was really rough and I wish we would have left the night before. It started out as a rain and snow mixture, which just made visibility awful, but then it just turned to snow and the roads started to cover. If you can imagine an anxious mother who is teaching her kid to drive, that was me constantly telling Andrew to slow down or be careful. :P

We didn’t do much the first day because it was so cold and wet outside, so we just hung out and watched TV in the hotel room. I had packed a ton of chips and snacks for while we were in the car, but we hadn’t really touched them yet, so we chowed down on those. It was wonderful just being able to lazy around.

Because we didn’t do anything the first day, we wanted to pack everything in to the second day. We started with Garden of the Gods, a national landmark known for its odd red rock formations. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, perfect for walking around. We stopped at the visitor center first for a map.

View between two rocks

The trails were paved and there were signs everywhere discouraging visitors from straying from the paths to preserve the park and reduce injuries. I was a bit disappointed by that because I really enjoy going off the trail and exploring on my own – and after visiting Rocky Mountain National Park where exploring is encouraged, it was a bit of a letdown.

That being said, all of the rocks were really pretty, and there was one spot where you were allowed to climb up on one of the rocks, so that was fun! We got in a good amount of exercise, too!

Me in the garden

The biggest attraction at Garden of the Gods is Balanced Rock, but I honestly was not that impressed. I don’t know if it was the angle or I was just expecting something way crazier, but it just looked like a rock sitting on a rock. XD

Balanced Rock
Balanced Rock

We had a little bit of time to kill before lunch, so we went to Red Rock Canyon Open Space, which had a ton of trails for hiking. It almost seemed like a continuation of Garden of the Gods because the rocks were that same pretty red color, but it was a different location and you were allowed to go off the trails which was great.

For lunch, we went to a local Italian Bistro called Paravicini’s. It was the cutest little corner restaurant and everything was so good. Andrew and I both ordered a chicken parmesan, and for dessert we ordered an ice cream parfait that had caramel and nuts and some kind of butterscotch liqueur and it was like I died and went to heaven. Unfortunately, we devoured it before I could take a picture. XD

Andrew had a phone interview at 1:00 for a hospital he applied to work at, so we went back to the hotel so he could prepare for that. (Side note: he was just offered the job last Friday!! I am super proud of him! :D )

View from about halfway up Pike's Peak
View from about halfway up Pike’s Peak

Pike’s Peak was next on our list, the highest summit of the North Range of the Rocky Mountains. Unfortunately since it was still considered winter there, we couldn’t drive all the way to the summit. We were still able to do 13 of the 19 miles, and got to see some pretty cool views! Honestly though, after the views in Rocky Mountain National Park, I wasn’t super impressed.

The farthest we could go up.
The farthest we could go up.

Overall, Colorado Springs was fun and I’m glad we visited, but I honestly wasn’t that impressed. I think if we were to visit Colorado again, and if I were to give advice to others, I’d recommend staying longer in Rocky Mountain National Park and just skip Colorado Springs.