Mesa Arizona. Back when we were dating and first married, my wife and I used to do "suicide trips" like this quite a lot…drive 10-15 hours to go to an event and then drive 10-15 hours home immediately afterwards.
Since we're a bit older now and because we have young kids, we decided to rent a hotel room in between rather than driving straight through. We also brought along Lynette's sister to help with the kids on the ride as well as to watch them during the wedding itself. The hotel room was a good idea…but I think a better idea would have been to fly. I'd forgotten how cramped a body gets after 26 hours in a car.
We got up and hit the road at ~4 AM on Saturday. I don't think anybody actually slept those first few hours like we hoped, but some at least got a little rest. The wedding started at 6 and we had dinner reservations for the kids at 5:30, so we didn't make many "extra-curricular" stops on the way down. We had a quick pit stop for breakfast around 7:30 and crossed the Arizona border a couple of hours later.
Unfortunately, we hadn't planned our lunchtime stop well and we ended up literally in the middle of nowhere by the time everybody started getting hungry. We stopped in a little 1 hotel/shop roadside stop around 2 but sadly found that the restaurant was only open during "core" meal hours and were closed now for the break between lunch and dinner. We continued a little farther, hoping to find something, but with no luck so we settled for some Gas Station food (which filled the bellies but wasn't a big hit by any of the passengers).
Thanks to Arizona's reluctance to adopt Daylight Saving's Time, we actually gained an extra hour and checked into our hotel at about 4:30, giving us nearly an hour to stretch our legs, relax on a soft bed and generally freshen up before heading to the dinner/wedding.
The wedding (and the kid's dinner) was at the Rockin' R Ranch in Mesa. I'd checked out the website a little bit but still wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised at the depth of theme that the Ranch had. After crossing over a bridge and through a rock cave, we emerged into an Old West Town. An old timer was tending his dutch ovens busily cooking up some biscuits for dinner. He paused to give us the low down on what to expect and the timing of things both for the dinner show (for Karla & the kids) and the wedding.
We wandered around the Wild West for the next little bit having fun with the various activities and taking fun pictures. A collection of clothes and accessories was set out for the kids to dress up. There was a spot for kids to pan for gold. Julia tried her hand at roping a cow. Jason and Julia took turns shooting an old Colt .45 (and they both did pretty good).
Lynette and I then went to join the wedding party and left the kids to have fun with other activities and prepping for the dinner show. The wedding was nice. We were set up in a back area of the ranch with an old time church and some other buildings to set the atmosphere. The outdoor ceremony was very nice and all of the family was very kind to us (the non-family out of towers). I was glad we could make it down.
After a couple of hours, we sent a message to check on the kids (after all, they'd been awake far longer than they're used to) and all gathered together to share some wedding cake and watch a quick gunfight at the end of the dinner show before heading back to the hotel.
The next day, we slept in to a more reasonable hour but were still on the road by 9. Knowing we'd be getting to bed late anyway, we did make a couple of brief pit stops along the road at some interesting scenic locations. Probably the most interesting was a little placed called "Cliff Dwellers." The area is just off of the freeway in an area littered with giant red boulders. Now, these aren't the "cliff dwellings" of ancient native american tribes (Anasazi and such), but something a little different.
The history is that in the ~1930s a woman was stranded in the area and built herself a kind of lean-to around and beneath one of the boulders. Over time, she bought the property and built actual houses, shacks, cabins, dugouts, etc around a number of the boulders in the area. It was pretty cool to see these 20th century primitive dwellings. And it was a nice break from the car ride…the kids liked running around and crawling in the various makeshift homes.
From there, we made a couple more stops for gas and dinner as we slowly made our way home. There were some gorgeous vistas as we crossed over the mountains and wound through valleys. We managed to pull into our driveway just before 12:30. After a bit of necessary unpacking, we crashed and slept the weekend away.
Overall, it was a fun trip….but our bodies have been continuing to complain about being stuffed into the same basic position amid stale air and muffled smells for 2 days.
I'm a fan of road trips and I love being able to pull off and check out cool roadside attractions. But I think next time we do a road trip, I'll need more down time in between the driving times…in order to recover and feel a little less dead by the end.
I'm glad we could make it down for the wedding though. It was a fun trip and I would do it again…I'd just fly if given the choice. ;)
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