Cheyenne surprise

Day 11/12: Tuesday, May 31st & Wednesday, June 1st

My brother Ty and his wife Austin (who live in Florida) just happen to be visiting Austin’s family in Cheyenne, WY, so James and I had hatched a plan to show up and surprise them! The previous two years we surprised Ty on his birthday by showing up unannounced at his house (once in Cheyenne and once in Vero Beach), but this year we were still in school during his birthday and Florida was completely not on the way out west when we did leave on vacation! Thus we loved the idea of continuing our streak of surprising them and got my parents and Austin’s parents in on the surprise in order to make sure they would be at the house when we got there Tuesday evening.

Ty & Austin

While I was supper excited to see Ty & Austin, the even bigger surprise than us showing up in Cheyenne was that they didn’t know we were pregnant! I’d been wearing maternity clothes our whole vacation, so I figured with my baby bump showing they’d figure out I was pregnant pretty quick.

We drove straight through from Salt Lake City and got to Cheyenne around 8pm.  We pulled right up to Austin’s parents house and knocked on the front door.  James had been mean and hadn’t let me go to the bathroom before we got there, so as soon as Ty opened the door I grabbed him into a hug, said surprise, and then told him I really needed to use the bathroom! He was completely in shock to see us, but directed me to the bathroom and welcomed James.

After I got out of the bathroom, Ty kept looking at me funny, but didn’t say anything.  Then Austin got back from an errand and she looked at me a little strangely as well, but didn’t say a word either. Slightly frustrated because in my mind I obviously had a baby bump, I started dropping hints all over the place.  I talked about how much I had to go to the bathroom while we were on vacation, how much I’d been sleeping, how hungry I’d been and was, but nothing seemed to work. So finally as we were sitting around eating, James said something off handed about it being hard on him to stop so much and I said something to the effect of, “When you’re growing another human being then you can talk to me about it.” Ty looked at me incredulously and blurted out “Are you PREGNANT?” I laughingly smiled and said YES! He then said, I thought you were just FAT! Nice, huh? All of us had a good laugh over it and Austin said she was suspicious, but hadn’t wanted to say anything just in case I wasn’t.

The rest of the evening was pretty fun with us talking and then watching a late night movie.

The next morning James and I needed to get back on the road, but Ty and Austin went out for breakfast with us before we left so that way we could talk a little more.

Kona & Ty

It was a great surprise and it was awesome to not only get to see Ty & Austin, but to share the news about the baby in person with them!

Salt Lake City

Day 10 & 11: Monday, May 30th & Tuesday, May 31st

Monday afternoon as we got closer to Salt Lake City, it was rainy and a little icky (story of our last 3-4 days), but then we saw a rainbow welcoming us to town!

Rainbow on our way into Salt Lake City

I thought we were going straight into Salt Lake, but James had different plans in mind! He wanted to surprise me with a visit to Antelope Island!

Antelope Island is in Salt Lake and is surrounded by mountains. To say that it has phenomenal views is to not give it any justice. I’m not sure if it was the time of day that we were there or if it’s always that beautiful, but the scenery was just amazing.  Also we lucked out and the rain stopped and the sun even peaked out from behind the clouds for a little bit!

Along with the amazing views, what we also really enjoyed were all of the animals on the island! At first we didn’t see any animals and James was getting worried that he brought me here to see animals and there weren’t any, but toward our end of our visit we hit the jackpot! We were on the east side of the island and on one stretch of road we saw all of the following animals!

Some of the animals we saw on Antelope Island!

I think out of all the animals we saw the ones that I thought was the coolest was the porcupine! I’d never seen a porcupine in real life, much less out in the wild, so it was definitely a highlight for me!

We stayed at the park until it closed and then headed into Salt Lake City for the night.

Tuesday morning we woke up and decided to explore Salt Lake City.  Specifically we wanted to see the capitol building and Temple Square.

Our first stop was the capitol and we briefly stopped by the visitor center as well which ended up being a really good decision. The night before we had read about the Kennecott Utah Copper Mine outside of Salt Lake, but when James checked into it they said that the road there was closed. We mentioned this at the visitor center and the guy there called to double check and found out the road would be open by 10am!

Utah State Capitol building

After checking out the capitol, we walked down to check out Temple Square and the Mormon Temple.  The Temple is always something you hear about, so it was pretty cool to get to see it in person.

The Temple and the Capitol were both pretty cool, but what we really wanted to see was the Kennecott Utah Copper Mine!

Copper Mine

The Kennecott mine is the largest copper mine in the world and can even been seen from outer space!! The visitor center had a couple of pretty good movies and some great exhibits to educate visitors about the mine and its operations.

We enjoyed our visit to the mine, but were excited to get back on the road.  Our next destination was a surprise… well at least a surprise for two of our favorite people! 🙂



Day 10: Monday, May 30th

Monday morning we checked the weather report for Yellowstone and they were still calling for snow and suggesting anyone visiting have snow tires.  With safety in mind as well as knowing we wouldn’t be able to see everything we wanted to see because of the snow, we made the hard decision to skip Yellowstone for this trip. Instead we decided to go to Plan B, Salt Lake City!

Before heading south to Salt Lake City, we did a quick visit to Helena, the State Capitol of Montana.

State Capitol of Montana

While looking for other things to do, James found out that Argenta, Montana wasn’t too far off route, so after Helena, we set our course for Argenta! The funny thing about visiting Argenta, Montana is that we live in Argenta, Illinois! This Argenta was even smaller and more rinky dink than our Argenta, but it was fun to take the back dirt roads in Montana!

After visiting Argenta, we got back on course to Salt Lake City with an ETA of late afternoon!

Center of the Universe

Day 9: Sunday, May 29th

Sunday we continued east from Oregon into Idaho with no real destination in mind other than wanting to do “something” in Idaho before crossing over into Montana. Our next big destination was Yellowstone National Park, but we wanted to make sure we saw at least some of Idaho and Montana before we got there.

After doing some hunting online, we found the Sierra Silver Mine Tour in Wallace, Idaho and decided that sounded like something we’d like to visit.  By the time we got to Wallace it was way past lunch and I was starving so we decided to eat first. Pizza was sounding good, so we decided on the Pizza Factory which was in downtown Wallace and had the biggest and yummiest calzones.

The Pizza Factory in downtown Wallace

Unfortunately it also took a while to get and by the time we’d finished eating, it was too late to go on the mine tour (it was Sunday so it closed early).

With the mine tour out, we decided to wander around Wallace a little.  While we were eating, I had read that Wallace was where they filled Dante’s Peak, so I was excited to check out the town and see if I could pick out anything from the movie.

View of the mountains surrounding Wallace

While we didn’t see anything that looked familiar other than the beautiful mountains and scenery, what we did find was pretty cool – The Center of the Universe – which of course was pointed right at James! 😉

If some of you didn't know... Yes, James is the Center of the Universe! Or at least MY universe! 🙂

After doing a little shopping, we headed back on the road to Montana!  As we drove further east, we headed up into the mountains and the weather got worse and worse.  Yet we didn’t let that get us down because when we crossed over into Montana we completed our quest of visiting the 48 contiguous states!


Driving though Montana in the snow!

After crossing over into Montana and continuing east, we came down out of the mountains and the weather got better.  Unfortunately, when we stopped at a Montana visitors center we found out the weather at Yellowstone was really bad and that they were calling for 8-12 inches of snow! We knew it had been bad there, but we had been hoping that the weather would clear up before we got there, but it sounded like it was only getting worse.

With the bad news about Yellowstone on our minds, we stopped for the night in Missoula, Montana.

Mount St. Helens

Day 8: Saturday, May 28th

Saturday we headed back to the north and to Mount St. Helen’s in Washington State.

Mount St. Helen’s is another of our destinations that I was really excited about because even though I was too young to remember it erupting (May 18, 1980), it was inadvertently the first reason I ever got in trouble in school!

In first grade we were talking about Hawaii and what were the people going to do if the volcanoes there erupted. I raised my hand said they were going to have to evacuate.  I guess my first grade teacher didn’t think I was old enough to use a word like that and she told me not to use words I didn’t understand (even though I used it correctly!!).  I then told her that I did know what it means and that it meant that the people had to get in their cars and boats and planes and get away from the volcano (which for a first grader I think this is a pretty good explanation!). My teacher still thought I was sassing her and made me go sit in the hallway. Oh the horror! I had never gotten in trouble before at school (and didn’t again until I was in HS and got in trouble for reading a book instead of watching a movie, but that’s another story!) and was horrified to have to sit in the hall. So how does this all tie into Mount St. Helen’s? The reason I knew what evacuate meant was that I had recently watched the movie St. Helens on TV and had picked up that they had to evacuate because the volcano erupted! Needless to say, I’ve never forgotten this experience and Mount St. Helen’s!

The weather was pretty good before we headed up the mountain, but the further we got, the more snow there was on the ground and the more it snowed! It was also VERY cloudy! Going up the mountain it was twisty and curvy, but beautiful as well!

The visitor’s center at the top of the mountain overlooking Mount St. Helen’s was pretty interesting and I really enjoyed the personal stories they shared as well as the movie about the eruption.

Mount St. Helens

Coming back down the mountain, we stopped at Patty’s Place for lunch and hands down they had not only a great clam chowder, but a phenomenal berry cobbler!

Amazing restaurant we ate out outside of the park

After our meal, we continued north to Olympia, the State Capitol of Washington.  This capitol building was very nice and there was even a couple getting their wedding pictures on and around the building.

State Capitol of Washington in Olympia

After Olympia we made it a little bit further north before turning east and heading back inland. James was in the mood to do some mini golf, so I did some quick research on my phone and found a mini golf place right along our route.


James getting ready to line up his shot

We drove a little further east towards Idaho (our next destination), before stopping for the night in Cle Elum, Oregon

Oregon Coast

Day 7: Friday, May 27th

Friday we continued our trip north on Highway 101 as we traveled along the Oregon coast.  The weather was definitely not cooperating and was still cool and rainy, but we decided to make the best of it and didn’t let it stop us from having a great time!

The Oregon coast is absolutely breath taking and we really enjoyed the fact that our route really did seem to follow the coastline.

Our first stop was at the Cape Blanco Lighthouse and point, which is a contender for the most western part of the continental United States.  It’s also the only lighthouse in Oregon that you can actually go up and tour the lens of the lighthouse!

After the lighthouse, we headed back along the coast, taking a brief detour at the free Botanical Gardens in Cape Arago State Park.

Even though it was raining the entire time we were there, the flowers were still absolutely amazing and we had a great time trying to capture the perfect pictures.

Some of the amazing flowers at the Botanical Garden

Traveling along the coast just wasn’t complete until we pulled off and briefly put our toes into the refreshing (COLD) Atlantic Ocean!

Our next stop along the coast was to check out the carnivorous plants at the Darlingtonia State Natural Site.  I’d never seen carnivorous plants in the wild, so it was really fun to see them in their natural habitat.

After driving approximately 250 miles up the Oregon coast, we stopped for an amazing meal at The Chalet Restaurant and Bakery before heading east at Newport to Salem (the State Capitol of Oregon) where we spent the might.

Out of all the state capitols we’ve visited on our travels, Salem had to be the ugliest of them all!  It was just awful and completely not fitting with the amazing beauty of the rest of the state!

Oregon State Capitol: Salem, OR


Day 6: Thursday, May 26th

Thursday the weather wasn’t cooperating very much and it was cool and raining on and off. Yet we trooped on and headed north on US Highway 101 to the Avenue of the Giants!

Willits, California! Gateway to the Redwoods!

The Avenue of the Giants is a scenic alternative to highway 101 and literally winds it’s way through the redwoods. Driving through the forest of towering redwoods was awe inspiring and an amazing experience.

Avenue of the Giants

One of our first stops along the Avenue of the Giants was Humbolt State Park, which is literally intertwined with the Avenue.

Loving our trip through the redwoods!

The park had a number of pull offs where we could get out and walk into the forest and we definitely took advantage!

We also went on an unanticipated hike through the forest while hunting for the largest redwood at the park.  Somehow we ended up on the wrong trail, but eventually we finally found it!

Overall, the park was amazing and we had a great time wandering through the forest of giant trees!

We got back on Highway 101 and continued north to Redwood State and National Parks. When we got to the park we stopped to check out the visitor center and watched their film on the forest before heading into the woods!

As amazing as Redwood State and National Park was, by the time we got there, I was feeling pretty tired.  Thus we decided to check out some of the more prominent areas of the park before stopping for the night in Crescent City, OR,

Lake Tahoe

Day 5: Wednesday, May 25th

Wednesday we got back on the road and headed towards Carson City, the Capitol of Nevada.  We drove past the capitol, but didn’t really see any place to park or pull over for a picture, so we kept going without any pictures.

After passing through Carson City, we headed west into California and crossed over right by Lake Tahoe.

I’d always heard a lot about Lake Tahoe, but never realized how truly beautiful it really was.  I have to admit I was completely blown away by it!

Enjoying Lake Tahoe!

We stopped at a number of viewpoints for pictures and overall really enjoyed our time cruising around the lake.

Unfortunately, the weather didn’t hold and it started getting nasty out.  It started with rain, but soon the rain turned to snow and the snow turned into some nasty conditions.

We finally made it out of the snow and into Sacramento, the State Capitol of California.  Similar to Carson City, we didn’t see a good place to get out and take pictures, so we enjoyed it as much as we could as we drove by.

Our next major destination was the Avenue of Giants (Redwoods), along the California coast, so we headed west through California and up and around San Fransisco onto highway 101.  The start of the Avenue of Giants is around Willits, CA, so we decided to stop shortly outside at the larger town of Ukiah, CA.

In Ukaiah we enjoyed a nice meal and then went to the movies to see Fast Five before we called it a night.

Hoover Dam

Day 4: Tuesday, May 24th

Tuesday morning we got another early start so we could make it to Hoover Dam before it got too hot.  Hoover Dam is another destination that I’ve wanted to visit forever and was actually one of the places on our trip that I was most excited about visiting.

We crossed over the new bridge (that replaced Hoover Dam as the main route across the Colorado River) from Arizona into Nevada and didn’t get a good look at the dam until we wound our way back around to the dam.  It was impressive, but didn’t seem quite as big as I thought it would look.

After parking and entering the visitor center, we got in line for the tour.  As we got to the front of the line, the attendant asked if we wanted to do “the whole dam tour.”  Hearing this was pretty funny because I had flashbacks of National Lampoons Vegas Vacation and the Hoover Dam tour they went on!

We ended up doing the whole tour, which included the power plant and the dam.  Our tour guides were very informative and overall the tour was quite interesting and educational.

After the tour we walked around the top (bridge) part of the dam taking pictures and then got back in the car and drove across the dam and up the hill to get a view of the other side of the dam.  We then went back across the dam and to the area where you can get out and walk over the new bridge and take pictures of the dam.  Overall a great experience, but it was HOT by the time we left and I was definitely getting worn out!

Our next stop was Las Vegas and the Pinball Hall of Fame. I didn’t realize it until we were planning this trip, but back in James’ college years he would play pinball games a lot and was apparently pretty good (not that it surprised me!).

The Pinball Hall of Fame didn’t look like much on the outside, but once you got inside it was nice and cool and there were plenty of pinball games to play!  The games were from the early years of pinball in the 1950’s through to the 1990’s.  Most of the games were only .25 cents to play, but some of the newer ones were .50 cents!

It was a lot of fun to play the different games, but I have to admit my favorite was Gilligan’s Island – Kona’s Treasure! I may have been a little biased because it literally had my name all over it, yet it really was fun to play!

My name – Kona – comes into play because on Gilligan’s Island, episode “Waiting for Watubi,” Skipper digs up a Tiki Idol that he says is Kona (a Tiki god of some type).  This Kona Idol then brings all sorts of bad luck because it was disturbed and it takes the “Great Watubi” to save Skipper from the evil Kona idol.

My favorite part of the pinball game was if you got a certain thing, the machine would say in a deep scary voice…. “Kona’s getting ANGRY!”… LOL!  Very funny!

After playing for a while, I was getting tired and more than a little nauseated (yep, the Gummy Bear back at work growing) and James’ wrists were actually getting sore!  We were planning on stopping and actually getting out to walk the strip a little, but the oppressive heat was really getting to me and I felt absolutely awful.  I asked James if we could just drive down the strip for today.  James was in agreement because he wanted to get headed north, so we drove the strip and decided we’d come back at a later date and actually “do” Vegas.

After making it out of Vegas, we headed north-west through Nevada towards Carson City.  That part of Nevada is pretty barren and there really wasn’t too much to see and very few choices when it came time to stop for the night.  We ended up staying in Hawthorne, NV and eating dinner at one of their local diners.

Grand Canyon

Day 3: Monday, May 23rd

Monday morning we woke up bright and early, determined to make it to Meteor Crater (about 30 minutes west) when they opened.  We had a big day planned and we wanted to make sure we had time for everything.

Meteor Crater is something I’ve wanted to see since the early 1980’s when I saw the movie Starman with Jeff Bridges, so I was super excited to get to see it. The crater is a meteorite crater impact that stretches 1200 feet in diameter and is 570 feet deep.

Meteor Crater

The museum and movie were pretty interesting, but the main attraction was definitely walking around the rim of the crater. Unfortunately the wind was wild and it got even worse the higher we climbed.

Overall we had a good time and I was happy to have finally fulfill my childhood dream of visiting the crater!

Our next stop for the day was one of our bigger destinations of the trip, the Grand Canyon!

We came in from the east side and followed the road west along the canyon to Grand Canyon Village.

View from one of the many scenic overlooks at the Grand Canyon

I’d been to the Grand Canyon before, but it was James’ first time so he had a great time checking out all the different scenic viewpoints and taking a ton of pictures!!

Unfortunately as amazing as the Grand Canyon was, I got tired pretty quickly and was also pretty nauseated  (the little Gummy Bear must have been pretty busy in there!).  Thus by the time we wound our way to the visitor center and Grand Canyon Village, we decided we were done and ready to move on.  As we headed out of the park, I realized that we were going to pass almost right by Bearizona, so James and I decided to stop and check it out.

Luckily by the time we made it to Bearizona, right outside Williams, AZ, I’d taken a nap and was feeling much better!

Bearizona is a drive thru wildlife park that while relatively new (only 1 year old), was pretty darn awesome!  I have to admit James and I had a really good time driving through the park and taking pictures of the different animals.

Just a few of the wild animals we saw driving through Bearizona

And then there were the bears of course! The older ones were allowed out in the open part of the park and could come right up to your car, while the younger ones were kept inside smaller areas until they got bigger.  Regardless, they were pretty darn cute and doing some of the funniest things.

The Bears of Bearizona

After leaving Bearizona, we got back on the road and headed west.  Our next major stop was Hoover Dam, so we wanted to get as close as possible before stopping for the night.  Along the way, we decided to stop at Delgadillo’s Snow Cap  in Seligman, AZ.

Delgadillo's Snow Cap

Delgadillo’s is an experience, and that’s about the best way to explain it!  While I had read about it online and “thought” I knew what to expect, I was completely caught off guard when I tried to open the door and it would not budge at all! Check out the picture below and see if you can tell why I was so confused…

Things aren't quite what they seem! Which door knob is the right one? Needless to say I didn't get it right the first time!

I went for the door knob on the right that had the “Pull” signs by it, but that knob was a complete fake! The correct knob was on the left and rather inconspicuous compared to the right one!!

Once we made it in, we walked up and they asked what we wanted.  I asked about their ice cream and the guy (I think the owner) proceeded to “scream” (ice cream = I scream) their selections to me!  That got a good laugh out of us and we went ahead and ordered soft serve cones.  When the guy went to give me mine, he asked if I wanted any mustard with it and pretended to spray me with mustard! In actuality it was an empty mustard container with yellow yarn attached to the spout, so it looked like mustard really was being sprayed at me!  I dislike mustard with a passion, so this got a really good scream out of me before I realized it was fake and started laughing.  Granted I think James enjoyed all of this a little more than I did because he gave the guy $10 for a $4 bill and told him to keep the change!

After our ice cream adventure, we drove a little further before stopping in Kingdom, AZ for the night. Kingdom was a pretty interesting town and I wish we would have had more time to explore it, but we really wanted to get to Hoover Dam first thing in the morning!

I did however enjoy the decor of our hotel for the night, which included this full length picture of James Dean on the door to the lobby restroom. I’m not sure how I convinced MY James Dean to pose in front of the other James Dean, but I absolutely loved this shot!

My two James Dean's... I like the one of the left a little bit more though!