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Posts Tagged ‘family road trip tips’

We are wrapping up Leg 5 of our Year Long Adventure, and we have spent around 120 nights in hotels over the past 12 months.  On Leg 1 of our trip we made reservations for each night of the trip before we left home. Now on Leg 5, we are true Road Warriors and usually we do not have reservations until the night before.  Sometimes we find ourselves not knowing which hotel or even which city we are spending the night.  This is the situation we found ourselves as we sat in the parking lot of the Miller Brewery at 4:30 on a Tuesday afternoon.

We had just completed the Miller Brewery Tour and we were scheduled to be in Chicago the next day.  It was 97 degrees outside, so we cranked the a/c in the van and started researching hotels with our iPhones.  One thing we have learned in our travels is that there are a lot of hotels in the Midwest that have indoor water parks.  A quick Google Search of “hotels in Wisconsin or Illinois with water parks” brought us a number of choices.  There is a Great Wolf Lodge in Wisconsin Dells which was a little over two hours away.  A two hour drive is nothing to us these days, but we had been to the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas, a few years ago and we were not overly impressed.  Another option that came up was Key Lime Cove in Gurnee, Illinois, only 60 minutes away.  After reading some Trip Advisor reviews and making the call, we were set to go to Key Lime Cove.

BEST DECISION EVER!!!

As we approached the hotel from the freeway, we could see 4 giant colorful water slides on the outside of the building. (Cue kids’ excitement)  We checked in quickly, dumped our bags in the room, suited up, and then headed down to the water park.

Key Lime Cove has 3 tube slides, 2 body slides, a lazy river, a wave pool, and a huge kid’s play area that features more slides and splash zones.  Since it is completely indoors, no sunscreen was needed. (Cue kids’ excitement again)

The "Tornado Vortex"

The girls riding on the "Tornado Vortex" in a double tube

"Scuba School" was fun for adults & kids alike

Lazy River

Wave pool

The one thing that we could not find at Key Lime Cove was LINES.  On our aforementioned trip to the Great Wolf Lodge, we once stood in line for over an hour to do one tube ride.  At Key Lime Cove our longest wait for a ride was probably around 7 minutes, with the average wait around 2 minutes.

Father and son bonding on a tube slide

The staff at Key Lime Cove were great, especially the life guards.  Everyone seemed truly happy to be working there.  The room was very comfortable and had a laid-back Caribbean theme.  The resort also offered many other amenities (on site restaurants, spa, arcade, kid’s club activities), but we did not have time to take advantage of them.  One of the coolest features was that the hotel wristbands have an RFID chip, allowing it to be used as your room key and charge drinks, etc. to your room while in the waterpark.  No worrying about keeping up with cash or the room key!

Multipurpose wristband

We had so much fun at the waterpark that we chose to stay a second night and make the hour long drive to and from Chicago for our prescheduled boat tour.   Even Mom rode all of the rides, and then proclaimed that Walt Disney was a liar.  She thinks Key Lime Cove in Gurnee, Illinois, is the “happiest place on earth”.  If only they had one in Texas!

We love this place!

Don’t miss any of the final moments of the YLA!  See real time updates by liking Year Long Adventure on Facebook.

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Leg 5 of our Year Long Adventure brought us to the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to tour the Miller Brewery.  Being big fans of both factory tours and Miller Lite, this is something we were looking forward to doing.

Welcome to Miller Valley

We started at the Miller Visitor Center and were pleasantly surprised to learn that not only was the tour free, but we were also going to receive free samples at the end of the tour. The tour starts with a short film that tells the story of how Frederik Miller emigrated from Germany to Milwaukee in 1855 and started his brewery.  He bought the Plank Road Brewery and made his first batch of beer with special yeast that he had brought with him from Europe.

The tour is a guided walking tour that covers 4 blocks, taking visitors to various stops around the Miller Complex.  Our guide was energetic and fun, and we learned a lot.  Unlike many of the other factory tours we have taken, visitors are allowed to take photos and/or video at any stage of the tour.

The first stop was the Packaging Center where the beer is put into cans and bottles.  The machines can fill 1400 bottles or 2000 cans per minute.  Long glass windows allow you to look down at the machinery in motion – very cool.

Cans rushing by

We are always amazed at the engineering involved in the factory process, and the Miller brewery did not disappoint.  You can see a short video of the machinery in motion here.

The next stop is the Distribution Center that is the size of 5 football fields and holds nearly 500,000 cases of beer.  Here we learned a little about the merger of Miller and Coors, and also about all the different brands bottled by the two companies.

That is a LOT of beer

Next, the tour takes you across the street to the Brew House.  It is here where the beer is actually made.  It was around 110 degrees in the room.

The tour then heads to the historic caves where Frederik Miller would store his beer to keep it cool.  He would have ice brought in from frozen lakes in the winter to line the walls of the cave, making it the ideal natural refrigerator.

Historic caves

The final stop on the tour is the Beer Garden where each guest over the age of 21 is given the opportunity to sample 3 different beers from the Miller Family.  They also provide lemonade and cokes for kids or anyone who did not want beer.

Happy Anniversary!

It was our anniversary, so we toasted to 14 years of wedded bliss with the free beer and pretzels before we escaped to the air conditioned gift shop.

Our whole family really enjoyed the tour, and we would definitely recommend it if you find yourself in Milwaukee.

It is hard to believe, but our Year Long Adventure is quickly nearing the end.  For up-to-the minute updates, you can follow us on Facebook by liking Year Long Adventure.

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The Year Long Adventure has provided our family with many new opportunities.  One of the things we have really enjoyed is taking factory tours and learning how things are made.  On Leg 2, we toured Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream in Vermont and Herr’s Snack Foods in Pennsylvania (You can relive these adventures here and here).  Leg 5 led us to St. Joe, Indiana, and a tour of the Sechler’s Pickle Factory.  Our 9-year old daughter is a big fan of pickles, and our research told us that this was the only factory tour of a pickle plant in the United States.

Ralph Sechler started working in the pickle business in 1914, and by 1921, he and his wife were making and selling pickles out of their home in St. Joe.  Today Sechler’s makes over 40 varieties of pickles, relishes, and specialty items.  The company offers free tours of their factory, and they show guests their process for making and packaging their products.

Sechler's original home

Sechler's current factory complex

The tour was very interesting, and one of the things that amazed us was the amount of sugar needed to make sweet pickles and relish.  It was fun to watch the complex machinery needed to turn a cucumber into a pickle ready for shipment to stores.  Unfortunately, no pictures or video were allowed inside the factory, so you’ll have to trust us or schedule a visit to Indiana.

After our walk through the factory, we were able to dive into Sechler’s tasting table and sample some of their delicious products.  We ended our tour by taking a family picture with a giant pickle.  Good times.

Yes, we got to keep the hats.

St. Joe, Indiana, is also the home of the annual St. Joe Pickle Festival.  This annual celebration, held every year in August, includes events like the decorated Pickle People contest, Pickle Derby, and the Pickle Pepper Poker Walk.  Who knew pickles could be so much fun?

Don’t miss a moment of the YLA!  “Like” us on Facebook at Year Long Adventure.

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We were in Michigan, heading South en route to Indiana on Leg 5 of our Year Long Adventure when a unique opportunity presented itself.  While cruising down I-69, Dad saw a sign on the side of the road advertising a farm at the next exit where you could pick your own produce.  The turn signal went on, and we were off for a new experience.

Excited to pick some berries!

We followed the signs and found ourselves at Harvey’s Farm.  On this farm, established in 1984, Ron and Rose Harvey grow produce that you can pick from May to November.  We were there in July which put us right in the middle of raspberry and blueberry season.  We met Rose in the garage where she explained the process and outfitted us with the necessary buckets.

Quite excited, we walked toward the raspberry bushes in search of the elusive red berry.  We made our way up and down the rows of bushes picking berries.

With no experience, we found it difficult to keep each raspberry intact, and many came apart during the picking process.  It took a while to discover a method which resulted in the least number of squished or mangled berries.

We began with a lofty goal of filling two pint buckets, but we quickly decided that one pint would be enough for us.  The blueberries were calling, and we were getting hot.

We made our way back to the garage, picked up the blueberry bucket, and trekked to the other side of the farm to the blueberry patch.  There we found that blueberries are much easier to pick.

Picking berries in 90 degree heat is really hard work, and we developed new respect for people who work in the fields and provide us with produce.  With our bucket overflowing, we made our way back to the garage.  Ron weighed and bagged our berries, and we were surprised to find that we were leaving with a pint of raspberries and 4.75 pounds of blueberries for less than $10.

Upon returning to the van, we realized we had a problem – two large bags of fresh berries and no cooler.  Unfortunately, a few days earlier, our cooler had become a bio-hazard (don’t forget to buy ice if you are storing anything other than drinks) and developed a strong odor that almost killed our oldest daughter when she opened it.  Needless to say, we currently did not have a safe place to keep our berries fresh.  Regardless, our family had a true family road trip experience, and we enjoyed the very delicious berries at room temperature for the next few days.  Plan on pulling off the road the next time you are in the neighborhood.

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We awoke on Friday morning in Minnesota to temperatures around 60 and a light rain – two things we would not be seeing for a the rest of the trip and well into our return to Texas.  It was hard to leave such a beautiful and tranquil location, but the Year Long Adventure must always move forward.  We left Little Sands Lake and started heading east toward Lake Superior.  In Akeley, Minnesota, we had a close encounter with Paul Bunyan.

Posing with Paul Bunyan

Our stop for the night was Ashland, Wisconsin, along the banks of Lake Superior.  Reservations had been made at the AmercInn there because of the promise of really cool waterslides at the pool.  We arrived in the late afternoon, checked in, performed the nightly luggage haul, and set out to check out the hotel amenities.  The kids got the chance to play a game of checkers on a giant checker board before we went down to dip our toes into a Great Lake.

Exploring the edge of Lake Superior

We then headed to quaint downtown Ashland to get a bite to eat at Deep Water Grille & South Shore Brewery, where a good meal was brought down by a bad waitress.  As we drove around, we Texans could not help but wonder what this place looks like in February.  We headed back to our hotel and spent the evening watersliding before heading off to bed.

Ashland was just a brief stopover before our intended destination of Munising, Michigan.  We drove for over five hours across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and still found ourselves along the shore of Lake Superior.  Now that is a GREAT LAKE.  In Munising, we learned that residents of the Upper Peninsula (the U.P.) refer to themselves as “Yoopers”.

Yooperland, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

The  AmericInn in Munising did not have a giant checkerboard, but the hotel did boast a set of giant Adirondack chairs as well as a waterslide.  Can you guess how we spent our evening?

This chair was too big!

Wheeee!!!

The next morning we arrived at the Shipwreck Tour Company for the 10:30 am Shipwreck Tour on Lake Superior and boarded the ship Miss Munising in search of downed vessels.  The ship is outfitted with glass sections in the bottom of the ship to allow visitors to get great views of these wrecks resting only a few feet below the surface.  Our tour took us to see three different shipwrecks during the two hours on the lake.

Getting ready to board "MIss Munising"

Upon departure, the passengers were split into two groups that took turns on the lower level so that everyone would have a good view.   The boat would slowly glide back and forth over the wreck site, while our guide described what we were seeing and told the story of how each ship sank, as well as other interesting facts about life in the area at the time and in the present day.  Lake Superior was and still is a major transportation route for goods, a fact that was unknown to us.

Peering down at a shipwreck through the glass bottom.

View through the glass bottom

The water was so clear that we were even able to see the ships from the upper deck of the tour ship.  The first ship we visited sank in a storm back in the late 1800s, and the second ship wrecked around 1920 when it ran into shallow ground.   One of the ships sank with a full cargo hold of iron ore so valuable that a salvage company spent many months recovering it a few years later.

View of a wreck from the top deck through the amazingly clear water of Lake Superior

We found the tour very interesting and would highly recommend it.  The boat and crew were both great, and the views cruising around Lake Superior were pretty “superior”.

An eagle by her nest on the shore of Lake Superior

Outside snacks and drinks are permitted and photos are encouraged.  Don’t forget your sunscreen AND a light jacket – we needed both at various times during our tour.

After the tour, we experienced a local delicacy for lunch at Muldoon’s Pasties.  Pasties (PASS-TEES) are a cross between a calzone and a pot pie, a pastry crust filled with a meat and veggie mixture with gravy on the side for dipping.

Beef Pasty from Muldoon's

The YLA gives pasties mixed reviews, but they are definitely quite filling.  We were fortified for our long drive across the Mackinac Bridge and deep into the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

Crossing the really long Mackinac Bridge, Lake Huron on one side and Lake Michigan on the other

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Part of the fun on this adventure is not knowing where you will end up at the end of the day.  We awoke in Joplin, MO, with the intention of heading North and making our stop for the evening in Des Moines, Iowa.  Dad spent a lot of the morning looking at possible hotels in Des Moines via TripAdvisor and hotels.com, but just could not bring himself to make a commitment to a specific hotel.

Welcome to Iowa!

Our plan was to stop in Des Moines because although it was a full six hours from Joplin, it was only two hours from one of our first planned stops the next day in Gladbrook, Iowa.  It was only 3:00 when we crossed into Iowa and stopped at the Iowa Welcome Center and Rest Stop.  While looking at the giant wall map of Iowa, we determined that we should keep moving on past Des Moines.  It has become a joke among the family that we cannot check into a hotel if there is still daylight outside, and we definitely cannot stop the day’s driving before 4:30 in the afternoon.  A quick search via the iPhone assured us that Marshalltown (the next pretty big dot on the map) had hotels, restaurants, and a Catholic church, so all of our needs were met.  The consensus was to head on to Marshalltown, another 52 miles past Des Moines.

Just a little longer, kids

Upon arrival, we checked into the AmericInn in Marshalltown, and then set off in search of food.  After driving through the newer areas of town, we found ourselves in the old downtown area.  We located the church we planned on attending in the morning directly across one of the more ornate County Courthouses that you will ever find.

The Courthouse

The #1 rated Restaurant on TripAdvisor, Zeno’s Pizza, has been a local favorite since the 1950s.  As we were turning around to park for Zeno’s, we passed the Orpheum Theater.  This restored theater originally opened in 1949 and has been showing classic movies for about a year.  That night’s feature was the 1959 Disney classic, The Shaggy Dog starring Fred MacMurray.

Zeno's

The Orpheum

The movie was set to start at 7:00 and we walked into Zeno’s at 6:26.  It was going to take some fortuitous timing, but since this is the YLA, we knew that it was going to work out.  We ate some really great pizza, paid our bill, and ran out the door on the way to the theater at 6:57.  Tickets were $3, drinks $1.25, candy $1, and homemade M&M cookies were $.50/each.  We all enjoyed the full nostalgic experience, complete with uniformed ushers and ticket takers.

It turned out to be a great night of unplanned family fun, and just another example that sometimes making reservations is not necessary.  We are supposed to end up in Bloomington, MN, next, but we might hold off on making those reservations just yet.

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Leg 5 begins!

YLA Leg 5: The Final Chapter begins in the state of Oklahoma.  We were delighted when Jennifer’s parents decided to join us for stops in Norman and Tahlequah to go down in history as fellow travelers in the Year Long Adventure.  Jennifer’s Dad (aka Grandad) was born in Oklahoma and does a lot of architectural design work in the state, so he was our de facto tour guide in Norman.

After we met Gram and Grandad at the hotel in Norman, we drove to see the campus of The University of Oklahoma.  On the way we passed Barry Switzer’s house (a Covert + Associates design) which is right off campus next to some of the Fraternity Houses.  We then went to the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History on campus.  The museum had some fascinating exhibits in science and nature, and the most informative and enthusiastic volunteer in the world.  It seemed at times like we were having a private tour.

 The museum has several massive dinosaur skeletons, most of which were found in Oklahoma.

Largest pentaceratops skull ever found

The exhibits were fascinating, especially the ones which showed the dinosaurs fleshed out in lifelike dioramas.   It is hard to imagine this area as a tropical rainforest as it was in the dinosaur era. 

After the museum we made a quick drive through campus before heading to dinner.  We remarked while driving by the Stadium that this was a place that most Longhorns probably do not get to see, as our football rivalry game is always played on neutral ground in the Dallas Cotton Bowl.

OU Stadium

We had a great dinner at Charleston’s and then headed back to the LaQuinta for a quick swim before going to sleep.

The next morning we awoke early to drive to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, for a visit to the Cherokee Heritage Center.  Jennifer and Grandad were very excited for this part of the YLA, as they can trace their lineage back to the Eastern Cherokee Nation that was forced to walk the Trail of Tears from North Carolina to Oklahoma.

The Cherokee Heritage Center offers a guided tour of a replica ancient village with costumed interpreters showing how the Cherokee lived back in the 1700s.  Our guide was quite knowlegable, and the tour was very interesting.

Also at the Heritage Center is a museum with interactive exhibits explaining the history of the Cherokee Nation and a second village representing how the Cherokees lived once they were relocated to Oklahoma in the 1800s.  The genealogy library at the center is open to the public and research assistance is available by request.

The Trail of Tears

After the tour of the village and the museum, Gram & Grandad headed back South and the Clays continued northward in the quest for the final five states in this Year Long Adventure.

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Editor’s Note:  Due to a broken computer and getting back to life upon the return of the trip blog posts for Leg 4 of our YLA are about 5 – 6 weeks behind reality.

The Four Corners, located on the Navajo Nation Tribal Lands, is the area of the U.S. where the states of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico all come together at one point. This means that you can actually be in four different states at the same time. When we discussed the possibility of taking the Year Long Adventure with our then 8 year-old daughter, a visit here was one of the selling points.  She loved the idea of being in four states at once, so a planned trip here helped close the deal.

In the late afternoon on May 19, we left Mesa Verde National Park outside Cortez, Colorado, during a snowstorm.  We were in the home stretch of Leg 4 of our Year Long Adventure, and this is the part of the trip where the actual value of upcoming stops is REALLY scrutinized. The trip from Cortez to the Four Corners Monument is about 50 miles, and unfortunately, not in the direction of home. Mom and Dad explained the situation and without hesitation, the kids unanimously voted to go, even though it would add 2 hours to the drive.  We headed toward Four Corners through this very desolate part of the country, enjoying the incredible rock formations lining the road along the way.

When we were almost there, we noticed that a big thunderstorm was beginning to form in our path.  We pulled up to Four Corners right around 5:00 and paid $15 entry fee.  Most of the vendors were hurriedly packing up due to suddenly strong winds and the ominous skies above.

Luckily, because of the time and the rapidly approaching storm, there was not a big crowd.  We only had to wait for one other group to take their pictures before we had our turn. Everyone took a turn at being in four states at once, photos were snapped, and we RAN back to the car.  Seconds later, the huge thunderstorm hit.

Apparently, we sacrificed the quality of the shot in the interest of speed. Oops.

A girl's dream being realized: four states at once!

We were only at the Four Corners for about four minutes, but it was great to check another item off the YLA Bucket List. It was a much more exciting visit than if we had to wait an hour in 100 degree heat for the same experience, and in the end, our 9 year old left with a giant smile.  Priceless!

The rainbow after the storm.

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Editor’s Note:  Due to a broken computer and getting back to life upon the return of the trip blog posts for Leg 4 of our YLA are about 4-6 weeks behind reality.

A thousand years ago a group of people lived in Colorado.  They sought protection from their enemies and the weather in outcroppings in the sides of mountains.  They built very well planned out villages that had hundreds of residents.  Flash forward 1000 years and their buildings and villages are still here today at Mesa Verde National Park.

Pueblo cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde NP

Mom had this place on her Year Long Adventure Bucket List from the early planning stages. Leg 4 had us returning to Colorado on our trip through the southwest, so a stop through Cortez was on the itinerary.

We left Moab, Utah, with temperatures in the mid-40s and rain.  Cortez is about a 2 hour drive from Moab, and it continued to rain off and on through the trip.  We reached the entrance gate to the park to find that the main park attractions were still about 20 miles away up a winding mountain road.  It was cloudy, but not raining at the time.

As we made our way up the winding road towards the Visitor Center, the temperature kept dropping.  Soon we started to notice strange white flakes falling from the sky.  We were shocked to find ourselves driving through snow on May 19.  As we arrived at the Visitor Center, we found ourselves in a full on snow storm.

We spent around 15 minutes in the Visitor Center and returned outside to find that the snow had waned.  With the break in the snow, we decided to head down one of the self-guided trails that leads to a Pueblo Cliff Dwelling site.  Some of the more difficult trails require visitors to obtain a free tour ticket to enter.

View of cliff dwellings from the head of the trail

The ¼ mile trail that led to the site that was an easy hike. The site was really cool, and our kids really enjoyed the visit.  The highlight was getting to climb down a ladder into one of the underground rooms of the dwelling.  The site is in excellent condition, so it was really hard to believe that people had lived here 1000 years ago.

Close up look at Pueblo Cliff Dwellings. Is that the sun?

Climbing down into the kiva, an underground ceremonial chamber

Inside the kiva

Once we made our way back up the trail, the wet weather moved back into the area.  The kids quickly finished their Junior Ranger books, and we left.  Our voyage back down the mountain road took us through what we Texans would call a “blizzard”.

Driving back down the mountain in an intense snowstorm

We were two cars in front of a snowplow (on May 19!)  It was a bit scary (ok, terrifying) to be driving on a curvy, mountain road with limited visibility, but since you are reading this, you know that we made it down safely.

Snowplow in rear view mirror.

Where is the edge?

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Editor’s Note:  Due to a broken computer and getting back to life upon the return of the trip blog posts for Leg 4 of our YLA are about 5 – 6 weeks behind reality.

We left Bryce Canyon en route to Arches National Park, one of the “must-see” places on our list when we began planning the Year Long Adventure.  The drive between the two parks was spectacular and varied.  Holding our breath, we traveled on roads with names like “Devil’s Backbone” across high mountain passes, trying to ignore the steep drop offs on both sides.  Dad was able to commemorate his 40th birthday by standing in a field of snow on a mountaintop, a very unique opportunity for a Native Texan born in mid-May.

Celebrating 40 in Utah

The winding road took us through two more National Parks:  Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Capitol Reef National Park.  The rock formations were amazing, and the kids were inspired to name each feature they saw.   We arrived in Moab in the early evening, just in time for a quick stop at the Arches Visitor Center before it closed.

We're here!

We gathered Junior Ranger Books and park information so we could plan the best way to use our time the next day.  We did not have a hotel reservation at this point, so we rode down the main drag of Moab, reading hotel reviews on Trip Advisor on our iPhone.  Dad decided to approach the La Quinta Inn Moab with his freshly honed negotiating skills to seek a deal or upgrade, and ended up getting the two room suite for only slightly more than the price of the regular room.  Once you go “suite”, it is hard to go back.  Happy Birthday, Dad!!

We awoke Wednesday morning, hit the breakfast room, and stopped at a grocery store in Moab to get picnic supplies for lunch.  This is an important step when visiting Arches because there is no food sold within the park.  Our excitement started to wane as we approached the park entrance and raindrops began to fall on the windshield.  A quick check of the outside temperature on the dashboard display informed us that it was 48 degrees outside.  Things did not look good for a day at a park that involves a lot of hiking.

Rain, rain, go away!

We took the road into the park as heavier rain started to fall at a faster pace.  Most of the major geologic formations lie along the main park road, a loop with stops at the best viewpoints.  Because there were no Ranger tours available, Mom ran through the rain to purchase a driving tour guidebook.   As we drove, we learned about the geological processes which create these incredible fin, window, and arch formations (simple explanation here), making them even more amazing to behold.

By the time we reached the parking lot for the first big attractions, “Double Arch” and “Turret Arch”, the rain had almost vanished.   Decked out in our rain gear, we quickly hiked the short trail to “Double Arch”.  We were able to climb up directly under the arch and were amazed at the viewpoint.  The size of the immense arches is truly amazing when you are standing close to them.

"Double Arch" from a distance

Underneath the massive "Double Arch"

We then crossed the road for a quick climb to “Turret Arch” and another photo opportunity.  By the time we reached the car, the rain had started to pick up again.  Sadly, this would be the pattern for the rest of the day.

View from under "Turret Arch"

The next hour was spent driving through the rain, looking at the incredible landscapes, and stopping at viewpoints.

Sightseeing in the rain

Taking pictures proved difficult through droplet covered windows and/or driving rain.  It was only raining lightly when we reached the viewpoint for the signature arch of the park, “Delicate Arch”.

Delicate Arch looms in the distance. To hike or not to hike? That is the question.

The viewpoint is still a mile hike from the actual arch, but we decided not to make the trek for a closer look.  This was one of the best decisions we made on the trip as 10 minutes later, the torrential rains came.

Back in the car, we made our way to the end of the main road where the park campsites are located and found some truly hearty souls sitting under their tents in the heavy rain.  The storm broke long enough for Dad and the girls to go search for one last arch, and they were rewarded with a pretty cool site.

The hike to the secret arch

One last arch

On our way back out of the park, the rain stopped a final time, allowing for a quick walk around Balanced Rock.  This is an amazing site where a boulder the size of several school buses balances atop a rock spire.  It is also a great trick photo opportunity.

Balanced Rock

Don't knock it over!

Arches National Park is a beautiful park, but not the best place to visit in the rain.  Moab was a cool little town with a laid back feel to it.  Hopefully we will get the chance to return some day during the dry season to try our hand at more hiking and perhaps river rafting at one of the many nearby sites.

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