Photo of the Month: Evening Light in Dog Cove

Photo of the Month: Evening Light in Dog Cove
Showing posts with label Cracker Barrel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cracker Barrel. Show all posts

Monday, December 26, 2022

Western Adventures For 2022

This year, my family and I made it back out west after a year off. In that time, we added a new family member which would make this trip both richer and also more challenging. That also had a lot to do with why we missed a year. In case you forgot, the last time we were out west was for our epic trip to Glacier National Park for a TON of hiking and northern Idaho for my quest for a bull trout. Those stories encompass some of my all time favorite adventures, so we had high hopes for this next installment of our western adventures. 

The first challenge of traveling cross country with a one year old was how to keep her entertained and also not lose our minds with her fussing. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to break out one of my favorite traditions, driving late at night cross country. This is something I've been doing ever since I started traveling out west and have done many times since. On some of the trips, it was a most of the night type drive, with a couple of hours spent in a rest area. Occasionally I would even drive straight through the night without stopping. For this trip, our plan was to just take advantage of the first hours of the night. We figured the little one would fall asleep shortly after sunset and give us some uninterrupted driving hours. The goal was to find a hotel somewhere around St. Louis.

Well, like most well laid plans, things went awry. The baby slept beautifully which made our traveling much more pleasant. We stopped for supper around sunset at a rest area in southern Illinois along I-24 just north of Paducah, KY. A quick picnic included some time for the little one to run around and burn a little energy. After that, she went to sleep easily enough. 

By the time we were approaching St. Louis, it was getting late enough that we were ready to stop and get some good rest for a hard drive the next day. My wife started checking for hotel accommodations online. My first inkling that we were in trouble came when I asked her what she was finding and her reply was a looooong time in coming. Apparently there aren't enough hotel rooms in the St. Louis area, or maybe there was a big event going on that we didn't know about. Either way, there were no rooms to be had. 

As I was starting to get a little tired already, I told my wife that I wouldn't make it that far. She thought that she might be able to drive farther, so we just kept moving. By the time she took over in the middle of Missouri, I was shot. With some instructions on where to go, I crawled into the back seat with the baby and tried to get some shut eye. 

There are a few things I remember from that night, including some confusion on the Kansas turnpike that ended with us having to drive through a toll booth because we didn't have the right ticket to pay our toll. That required some "fixing" later on, but it eventually was taken care of without any penalties. In between the catnaps, I also remember lightning and some heavy thunderstorms that we managed to mostly dodge in between. When Leah finally pulled into a rest area in central Kansas around 3 or 4 am, I was still shot and she was getting pretty tired. We both slept as well as you can in a car that is overloaded with little wiggle room, but I was feeling much better when the sun started to come up around 6 am. 

We hit the road into a bright day with endless possibilities and soon had our first fun experience with the baby. With COVID and a general preference for eating at home, we hadn't had her in a restaurant yet. That changed at the Junction City, Kansas Cracker Barrel. She thought it was great having someone else bring us our food and we were glad to eat after a long night. We were in for a treat as well. Cracker Barrel is not typically known for being vegetarian friendly. As vegetarians, we have learned to work around that. Now, they are at least making some token steps towards accommodating other dietary preferences. We enjoyed the Impossible Sausage (plant based imitation sausage) with our hash browns and scrambled eggs. Thanks to Cracker Barrel for offering that!

After breakfast, we headed out feeling content and wide awake thankfully. The hilly part of Kansas soon gave way to the wide open plains. I always enjoy driving across the plains. The big views are a tremendous part of the appeal. I don't know if I would enjoy living there long term or not, but even the consistently strong wind is enjoyable at least in short bursts.

Wide Open Spaces in Kansas


The rest of Kansas flew by. The 75 mph speed limits out west are fantastic. As someone who enjoys speed, it is nice to be able to roll around 80 mph without constantly looking over my shoulder for the local tax collectors. We stopped for lunch in Colby, KS at the Oasis Travel Center. They had an amazing playground that was perfect for little bit to run around and play. While I normally don't like taking 45 minutes out of my day that could have gotten me much farther down the road, she needed to run around, and it was all worth it to watch her have fun. 

Playing!


Not long after that lunch stop, we crossed the line into Colorado. Our first camping reservation wasn't until the following day, so we needed to figure out a plan. This time, we didn't wait until the last minute, having learned that lesson the hard way our first night on the road. With a hotel reserved in Loveland, Colorado, we kept rolling into the late afternoon and right up to a Red Robin in Loveland. Little bit had gone from never having eaten out to doing it three times in one day! Each time was better than the last. She got a kick out of having food brought to us ready to eat and liked the French fries way too much. 

The last adventure for the evening was watching her experience a hotel room for the first time. She loved everything about it, including jumping up and down on the bed. She's small enough now that we can get away with that. 

Not much more than 24 hours after leaving Tennessee, we were in Colorado and ready for the adventures to begin. Since we drove through the night instead of stopping as planned, we had freed up an additional day. Leah had a good friend who recently moved to Denver, so we made plans to hang out with her and hike the next day. We watched the last of the twilight fade over the Front Range, and then went to bed. Exhausted but glad to be a little ahead in our itinerary. We were excited to start hiking, camping, fishing, and otherwise adventuring...

Twilight over Loveland Colorado