Sunday, June 25, 2023

A lick of our trip (in numbers)

When I think about this trip, I think about taking a long lick along one of those popsicles that has layers of flavour. You know, like the red, white, and blue ones? Or rainbow pops? Or something. There was just so much to see, so much variation in the landscape, so many different ways of living. We didn't get to dive in deep anywhere, but we saw a lot.

So I offer to you a lick...of our lick...of the United States. In numbers...

1: number of times a child vomited in the car

We actually had two sick kids this trip. Both Alexander and Phoebe came down with a fever within a few days of each other. We have a hunch their cousins shared some germs with them (specifically because Dean spiked a fever at the family reunion and Emily's kids went home with a stomach bug), but that's okay because we love our cousins anyway. 

Alexander was so sad the whole day we were at Yellowstone and went to bed with a raging fever. Luckily it's a short-lived illness and he woke up feeling 1000% better the next morning. He ran all around at Devil's Tower and Mt. Rushmore. 

And then we stopped for some lunch (which was more like dinner at that point) and he ate just fine. 

We were just packing up our picnic when Alexander evidently began to feel sick. He climbed into the back of the van, anyway, and got himself buckled in. I was just coming to put all the seats back together (we have to fold down the middle seat to allow him into the back seat) when he looked up at me with his puppy dog eyes, his hands clutching...the contents of his stomach...

"I feel like I might need to throw up," he gulped. 

"Oh, buddy! It looks like you definitely needed to!" I said to him and then hollered to everybody else, "Everybody out! We're going to need a longer break!"

We pulled out an emergency outfit and Andrew helped him get changed. And then we outfitted everybody with vomit bags, just in case. But we didn't end up needing them.

2: number of birthdays celebrated on the trip

Benjamin—in New Orleans on June 3! We had beignets from Café du Monde! I suppose that technically he still turned 11 in Georgia, but we celebrated in New Orleans, so we'll count it as out of state.

Mom—in South Dakota on June 22! We went to Devil's Tower and Mt. Rushmore and ate peanut butter sandwiches. This is the day Alexander threw up. So I guess my birthday present (besides an epic road trip) was that no one else threw up.

With Zoë having celebrated her birthday in Florida (in the midst of everyone having tummy troubles) and Grandpa who is due to celebrate his birthday in Texas (where he's headed for a business trip as we speak—we spent the afternoon unpacking and doing laundry and then Andrew drove him to the airport), we have successfully avoided celebrating any birthdays in Georgia in 2023 so far. 

Pretty impressive, no?

3: number of hammocks we set up in Grover

A last minute birthday gift for Benjamin was a set of two hammocks. We packed those, along with our older hammock (perhaps a birthday present for Rachel years ago?) to take to Grover. 

Packing for cross-country road trip and a camping trip was...a trick. But we managed to squeeze everything we needed in the van, the van top carrier, and Grandpa's car. We could have done with some more warmth at Grover. Those who slept outside were freezing, but I suppose we wouldn't have been as cold if we hadn't have been too stubborn to sleep inside the cabin (where Daddy, Zoë, and Alexander were nice and warm). Aunt Dorothy even reminded us (later, after we'd finished with the cabin) that we could have used the wood stove!

Anyway, I slept in the van with Phoebe because...she eats everything, you know...and the cabin has...mice friends...and I just couldn't with her. The three oldest kids slept in hammocks. And Grandpa slept in his car. 

We survived.

4: number of syllables in Phoebe's newest, longest word—elevator

Phoebe loves elevators. The lights, the buttons, the automatic doors, the movement. Somehow she knows that she should jump in an elevator (I'm not sure how or why). She surprised Andrew by pointing to the elevator doors at the Mt. Rushmore visitor's center and proclaiming, "El-uh-ba-tuh!"

4 also happens to be the number of hours in our longest stretch of driving (more or less). We made it from Spanish Fork, Utah to Shelley, Idaho (3.5 hours) without stopping and from Nashville, Tennessee to our home in Peachtree Corners (3.75 hours...but 4 with traffic) without stopping.

5: number of gorillas we saw at the Hogle Zoo

We were spoiled rotten by my sister Kelli! She treated our family with a trip to the zoo, where we got to see Zoë's favourite animal—the gorilla! (Kelli also gave Zoë a stuffed gorilla for her birthday/baptism, which has been a huge hit; her name is Emerald (after The One and Only Ruby and The One and Only Ivan and those stories)). There were five gorillas in the enclosure. The baby's name is Georgia!

Funnily enough, there was also a penguin named Georgia at the aquarium (where we went with Naanii).

Anyway, the zoo also had several owls for Alexander to see...but no buffalo for Benjamin.

So after we finished at the zoo, Kelli said she'd like to take Benjamin and Zoë out for some spoiling before driving them all the way back to Spanish Fork. She took them out for a gelato dessert, to blow some bubbles and play with her dog at her house, for some chicken wings, Antelope Island State Park to find some buffalo!! They saw a large herd and Benjamin was very happy about it!

6: the hour we got up at way too often on the drive home

It turns out that driving west is a lot easier on your circadian rhythm than driving east. Getting up to hit the road was easy on the way out to Utah. Phoebe kept waking up at 8:00 or so, Eastern time, so we'd easily leave the hotel at a decent hour. Coming back home...waking up at 6:00 in the morning was a real drag because by the time we were waking up at 6:00 in Tennessee, it was only 5:00 in Utah time.

7: number of states we traveled through to get to Utah

This is true, but is a little bit boring. But I can't think of anything else with a 7. So this might be edited out later.

8: number of Junior Ranger badges the kids completed (each)

Chalmette National Historical Park (Battle of New Orleans)
Carlsbad Caverns
Grand Canyon (South Rim)
Capitol Reef
Devil's Tower
Mount Rushmore
Mormon Trail

It's a good thing we got National Park Passes this year! Grandpa's lasts indefinitely because he got the special senior pass. Ours has to be renewed annually, but it's a steal of a deal when you factor in all those entrance fees we would have otherwise been paying! And the kids have so much fun doing the Junior Ranger program (especially Benjamin, probably).

9: number of people in our party

We're pretty much a traveling circus, but I do have to say that our packing system worked wonders. We packed everybody's clothes into bins according to day rather than person and it saved us a lot of headache. And by "headache" I mean packing and unpacking the van.

10: number of minutes Phoebe was distracted by the water table at the aquarium before she noticed she was with Naanii and Bumpa rather than with Mom and Dad

Phoebe can be pretty shy, which is a difficult thing when you're visiting a billion new people and places. She was still rather shy around my parents when we went to the aquarium (June 17), but my mom had gotten tickets for the virtual reality (VR) presentation in the weird U2 claw stage thing. Phoebe was too little to go, so we had to leave her with them. 

To my surprise, she happily toddled off to the water table with my mom and we snuck inside. 

She lasted all of ten minutes before she had a meltdown. And my parents still had 20 minutes to go. 

They even bought her a little peanut butter sandwich (for $3.26!!), which Phoebe then refused to eat, in the hopes that food would placate her (but clearly it would not). 

Still, I was proud of Phoebe for being brave for a little while, and thankful to my parents for watching her while the rest of us took a virtual reality journey under the sea.

11: number of nights we slept at Aunt Linda's

Poor Aunt Linda! She is used to having a quiet, peaceful household...and then we descended upon her in all our...chaotic...glory. 

Her basement was recently finished. At least, it feels recently finished to me since it wasn't finished when we moved away in 2019. But, to be fair, Grandpa spent his last night in Utah at Aunt Linda's house before he moved out here last March, so it was finished then. And I saw it in September when I went out there. 

Anyway, it's beautifully finished now, and she let us have the run of it. Andrew and I were in the official guest bedroom; Rachel and Miriam slept in Linda's office; and the little kids slept sprawled all over the floor. 

Aunt Linda cooked some yummy for for us (brisket for Father's Day!), let the kids pick her strawberries every day, played games, and ignored all the chaos banging around in her basement.

12: number of cousins at the Heiss reunion

Aunt Emily and Uncle Jacob were both at the reunion with their kids: Gavin, Maren, Logan, Arwyn, Carter, and Dean. Our six kids account for the other six present at the reunion.

Even Aunt Katharine surprised us by showing up (and what a happy surprise that was)!

We also were lucky enough to run into Riley while out on a walk, and had a nice visit with him, his dad, and his mom. And on our way home from the aquarium we stopped by for a visit with cousin Kayl.

So we got to see all of our Heiss cousins!

13: number of touristy things we did on the road

In addition to the 7 National Parks (and/or memorials and/or battlefields and/or whatever), that we stopped at:

  • Chalmette National Historical Park
  • Carlsbad Caverns
  • Grand Canyon
  • Capitol Reef
  • Yellowstone
  • Devil's Tower
  • Mount Rushmore
We also hit up:
  • The Alamo
  • San Antonio's beautiful river walk
  • New Orleans' French Quarter (including a jaunt along Bourbon Street)
  • New Orleans' Riverfront
  • Nauvoo
  • Carthage Jail

14: the number of places I've celebrated my birthday

It's possible this list isn't entirely accurate, but to my calculations, I've celebrated my birthday in the following places:

Raymond, AB (lived there)
Burnaby, BC (lived there)
PoCo, BC (lived there)
Calgary, AB (lived there)
High River, AB (lived there)
Orem, UT (lived there)
Amman, Jordan (lived there)
SanDiego, CA (while visiting)
Cairo, Egypt (lived there)
Durham, NC (lived there)
Kissimmee, FL (while visiting)
Spanish Fork, UT (lived there)
Peachtree Corners, GA (lived there)
Somewhere along I-90, SD (while traveling)

It's possible I've missed a birthday location here or there. My mom could probably tell you better (at least about my earlier years, when we moved around a lot). And...I'd have to go back and see when I celebrated my birthday at, like, girls' camp or on vacation elsewhere that I am not currently recalling.

But I couldn't think of anything for this might be edited out later as well, anyway.

5: Number of "Who Was" books we read out loud in the van

We read seven on the way out:

What was Hurricane Katrina?
Where is the Mississippi River?
Who was Louis Armstrong?
What was the Alamo?
Who was Davy Crockett?
Where is the Grand Canyon?
What was the Wild West?

The kids had travel journals where they had to answer certain questions about their reading (mainly, telling three things they learned and three things they wondered about, as well as other little writing prompts) and also had places to record their experiences at our various stops. 

I don't think they read the books out loud in Grandpa's car, but they read them to themselves.

Here are the books we read on the way back:

What is Juneteenth?
Who was Sitting Bull?
Where is Mount Rushmore?
Who was George Washington?
Who was Thomas Jefferson?
Who was Abraham Lincoln?
Who was Theodore Roosevelt?
Who was Johnny Appleseed?

16: Number of hotel rooms we booked (2 rooms X 8 nights)

We were on the road for 10 days, technically, but we slept two nights at Grover. That means we spent 8 nights in various hotels across the country. We are really looking forward to being in one spot for a while (and sleeping in our own beds)!

17: Number of family members at Zoë's baptism (and the number of states we visited)

Zoë got baptized on June 10th in the swimming pool of one of Naanii's friends. I hope Zoë will write a post about her special day. We had the following people present:

Our family (8 people)
Grandpa Frank
Uncle Matt
Aunt Linda
Uncle Trevor
Auntie Josie
Auntie K
Uncle Bruce

We went to a park for refreshments after and had a wonderful time playing with Auntie K! And it was nice to have my mom and Josie and Uncle Bruce join us in singing the song Grandma Conrad wrote about baptisms.

18: Number of states visited (almost) but (for real) the length of the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge

New Mexico
South Dakota

I think that's all of them. Though Andrew informs me that we skirted around on the Illinois side of St. Louis and never crossed into Missouri, so that's only 17 states. 

Still...18 also happens to be the length of the longest bridge we drove on—the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge. That bridge went on forever! We were so impressed watching the countryside unfold around us. From swamp to desert to prairie to mountain. It was incredible!

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