Such a great trip! (pic heavy)

And…I’m back! We had a really good vacation, and it was super hard to get back to work today.

We started on Tuesday, Feb 21st. My husband had the van all loaded and everyone ready to go by the time I got home from work. We headed out and quickly got everyone settled into a movie, a book, or an app. We drove to San Antonio, Texas, and arrived in the early morning. We went to Denny’s and had the first and last sit-down-at-a-restaurant breakfast (Holy frijoles that was expensive!). Then we walked over to see the Alamo. It was the first day of a some kind of a festival, so there were bleachers set up and decorations. It was cool.

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We left San Antonio before noon and headed to Phoenix. Once again, we drove straight through and got to Phoenix around 7pm. We stayed at an Embassy Suites, which was great because we took the bedroom and the boys had the living room with a pull-out couch. We went to the pool that night and had a good time. The next day, we spent a few hours back at the pool, went to my university’s bookstore to get a diploma frame and some other stuff, found the graduation site and picked up my tickets for the next day, and waited for my parents and daughter to arrive. We had pizza at the pool and hung out together and then went to bed fairly early.

The next day was Friday: Graduation Day!!! After the free hotel breakfast (which was amazing!!), I went with my daughter and parents to the arena. My husband got everything all repacked into the van (wow did I just oversimplify that crazy process!!), and brought the boys over. I went up and got my regalia issued and was able to see my family for a few minutes before I reported to my seat.

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It was a really nice ceremony. Luckily I went pretty early on in the process, so I didn’t have to sit and freak out for long. Afterwards, we went outside and took lots of pictures before I had to turn in my regalia.

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My parents headed home, and we were off to our next stop: Colorado Springs. We arrived around 3AM, and after a frustrating search for a hotel room, we finally crashed at a Day’s Inn near Pikes Peak. After another free hotel breakfast, we headed out to Garden of the Gods. I LOVE this place!!!

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We then took the Cog Train up to Pikes Peak, and my kids got to see snow for the first time. That was pretty awesome, but my youngest was definitely not very impressed.

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My sister-in-law brought her three kids over to swim at the hotel that night, and we were pretty beat by the time we called it a day. The next day it rained all day. We met up with a university colleague for lunch and hung out with her and her husband for about 3 hours. Then we went to my sister-in-law’s house and hung out with them until about 5:00 when we went out for pizza. The next morning, we got up and made the drive through Wyoming…so pretty even with the darkness of clouds and rain.

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We arrived in South Dakota around 3pm and checked in to the Holiday Inn in Keystone. It is a GREAT hotel! The room was spacious and had 2 queen beds and a pull-out couch. The kids went to the pool a couple of times, and the breakfast had really good cinnamon rolls! We went out to dinner with some friends and their little guy that night to a restaurant that only serves either 6 oz or a 9 oz bacon wrapped filet mignon. It was pretty good too. The next morning we got up and headed out to Mount Rushmore.

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This mountain goat literally came right up to my youngest. He was like, “Do I pet it”? The younger goats didn’t have an interest in him at all. We hiked the Presidential Trail to the point where it was closed for updating.

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My two youngest did the Junior Ranger program and got “sworn in” and received a badge. That was pretty cool.

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After leaving there, we went to Custer State Park. We drove the Wildlife Loop and saw all sorts of animals.

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We then went and drove through the Iron Mountain Road and the Needle Road which had lots of tunnels like this:

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And just because I couldn’t help myself, I noticed that even South Dakota has a dirty mind:

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After lots of hiking on rocks:

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We headed back to the hotel. The next morning we got up early and headed out for St. Louis. We got there pretty late that night and found a hotel. This was the cheapest hotel since we were only going to be there for a few hours, and the breakfast wasn’t anything to write home about either. We went to the Gateway Arch the next morning for our last stop:

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After leaving St. Louis, we headed home. That was a LONG portion of the trip. We ran into some intense traffic, rain, construction, and quite frankly, we were all pretty much done with being in the van at that point. Everyone was getting cranky, my stepson was hacking up a lung (and got everyone sick of course), and we all just wanted to be home in our own beds. We got home around 3 AM on Friday. When we got up on Friday, I mowed the yard (man was our yard embarrasing!), and we sorted through all the mail and started laundry. Saturday morning, my husband and I got up and went on a memorial ride for a slain police officer in our area. It was a BEAUTIFUL ride! We spent the rest of Saturday doing laundry, cleaning, and putting crap away. Sunday we went to church (oh how I missed it!!), finished up laundry (yes there really was that much laundry), and relaxed. Today, everyone is back to work and school.

It was a really good trip, and I’m glad we were able to make those memories with our children.

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