For several days we had been keeping a close eye on our weather apps. It appeared the weather was going to be decent for us until we reached Salt Lake City and then it would be dicey. We threw into the cargo area of my Mazda CX-5 an emergency kit, snow cables, gloves, a couple sleeping bags, a shovel, and kitty litter - just in case. The morning of Christmas Eve, we left our house and headed south and then turned east. I felt sorry for our three boys as they sat crammed together in our little Crossover SUV, but they had their electronic devices to entertain themselves and actually didn't squabble much. We took a couple strength breaks including a quick walk around the Stonehenge Memorial in Maryhill, Washington. That evening, we stopped at Ed's sister's house in Ontario, Oregon, right on the border between Oregon and Idaho. We had Christmas Eve dinner with his sister and brother-in-law. The following morning, we left early as we knew we had a very long drive ahead of us, so after breakfast and goodbyes, we were on the road again.
Drive, drive, drive was our mantra for the day as we crossed southern Idaho and dropped into Utah. Finally, we reached Salt Lake City, where we fueled up the car again and purchased snacks. It began to snow lightly, but was not sticking to the roadways. When we reached our turnoff just outside Spanish Fork, the snow was really beginning to fall. I was exceedingly happy Ed was driving. As we crested Solider Summit, the snow was sticking to the roadway and some cars pulled over to chain-up. Ed trudged ahead in our little all-wheel drive vehicle, which seemed to be handling the roads fine. Then almost as soon as the snowstorm started, it stopped, and we were meet with the sun breaking through the winter clouds. We continued our trek through Utah and into Colorado, arriving at my sister's house a little after 8:00 pm. They were saving Christmas dinner for us and soon we were enjoying each other's company and appreciating the fact we not stuck in a cramped car any longer.
On Saturday, we all went to the movie theater to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Some of us had seen the movie already, but that did not stop us from seeing it a second time and spending time with the family. In addition, I think I appreciated the movie more the second time around. That night, we drove around Grand Junction looking at the holiday light displays.
On Sunday, we all went to church in the morning. After church, our family drove up to the Colorado National Monument. Much of the park was closed because of the weather, but we were able to drive up to the top of the overlook and took some pictures.
The next day was filled with running errands. It had snowed in Grand Junction and the kids wanted to go sledding. However, we stuck out finding sleds. Everyone else had the same exact idea and all the stores were sold out. Nonetheless. Elizabeth was able to call in a few favors and found some sleds to borrow and the kids were able to go sledding. I was surprised we never saw a snow plow while we were there. My sister told us Grand Junction didn't have them, because they don't see snow very often in the high desert. Nonetheless, we had no difficulty getting around. The weather was pretty nice for us while we were there. We woke up to a light dusting of snow a couple times, and at night the temperatures got down to the single digits but during daylight hours, the sun was out, although cold. We did have to replace our windshield wipers by the time we got home due to the freezing and then thawing, then freezing again.
The following day was my parents wedding anniversary and my sisters and their spouses and Ed and I started the morning taking them out to breakfast at the Egg and I restaurant. We had a very pleasant experience and the food was good and hot. I wish we had one near us in Washington. My parents went to a private dinner by themselves later that evening. With 17 people around, we all chipped in with food preparation, cooking, doing dishes, taking out the garage, etc. The boys spent most of their time downstairs in the family room playing video games, while the adults usually either watched television or put together puzzles or played board games in the recreation room. Most of the family was there, except for two grand kids who were serving LDS missions and one who couldn't get away from work.
On Tuesday, Ed and I drove to Dead Horse State Park in Utah. The park provides a dramatic overlook of the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park. The views were just amazing, and I was sorry we didn't have another day to explore Canyonlands. Hoping for another trip to southern Utah soon. We then spent the rest of the day in Moab, before heading back to my sister's house. Yes, we do need to come back and explore this area more.
On Wednesday, all of us drove to Arches National Park. We spent the day driving through the park and taking little hikes here and there. It was cold, but the sun was out. Although, this was the first time I had ever visited Arches, I believe I probably would enjoy the park more in the winter than in the summer, because it was not miserably hot and the park was not very crowded. The snow on the ground and covering the sandstone arches, made the desert landscape more unique, in my opinion. I'm sorry we didn't have time to hike to Delicate Arch, but daytime hours limited what we could do. We did however take the back roads winding around the Colorado River on our way back to Grand Junction, the roads were a bit rough, but the scenery was amazingly beautiful.
On Thursday, we started our trek back home, but first we stopped in Salt Lake City. Michael wanted to visit his old LDS mission stomping grounds. (He served two years at the Utah-Salt Lake City Mission). We stopped at one of his favorite restaurants, where he often ate lunch. We ate lunch there and chatted with a couple of the ladies who worked there, that fondly remembered Michael. Then stopped to visit a few members of the church at Wards he had been assigned to. He was hoping to visit his Mission President, but the Mission office was closed for the holiday. That evening, we walked around Temple Square enjoying the Christmas lights and the Salt Lake City Temple. We also enjoyed hearing some performances at the tabernacle. We were disappointed we missed touring the conference center, as they closed tours early because of the holiday. We spent the night at a La Quinta Inns and Suites in Layton. La Quinta is usually our go-to hotel when traveling, but was not very impressed with this one. Service was good, but the inn seriously needs to be updated and the room and bathroom didn't feel very clean. But for one night stay, and being just off the freeway and next to a mall and several restaurants, it wasn't too bad.
Two other things disappointed me about this trip. The first was Kroger Company. We had made a quick snack stop at a grocery store in Grand Junction and when the checker rang us up, she asked if we had a City Market card. I shook my head. Then she rudely said to us, "Well, then I will just have to charge you full price." I was totally taken aback. This is why I hate those stupid shopper cards. First, I don't think it's anyone's business how we shop, what we buy, or where we buy it. Thank goodness Albertsons stopped this madness. The thing that really ticked me off was her attitude and if she had just followed up with one qualifying question; i.e. "Would you like a card?" I could have stated, "No, we live in Washington state." If she had told me City Market was a Kroger Company, the light bulb would have gone off inside my head. "Oh, okay, we have Fred Meyers and QFC's in Washington." As it is, I am not a fan of Kroger stores anyway. And encounters like this is what continues to keep me away from shopping there.
I was also very disappointed in the Golden Corral. I usually love Golden Corral. Unfortunately, there is only one in the whole state of Washington and its several hours away. Nonetheless, by the time we had checked into the motel for the evening, we were all very hungry. And one of these reasons we picked this particular place to stay was it location next to several restaurants. We were finding it impossible to locate a place that was open. Everyone closed early for the New Years Holiday. However, we did find Golden Corral open. We walked in and paid for our meal, only to discover we were the last customers to come in for the night. Therefore, the food was not fresh or warm and had been sitting under the heat lights all night. The slice of roast I had was as tough as a leather shoe and I can't even find the words to describe how gross the mashed potatoes were. The staff was polite, but we felt like they were staring at us, just waiting for us to leave. I will think twice before visiting another Golden Corral.
New Years Day we drove all day long. We had good weather all the way home, except it was cold. My normally blue SUV had turned white with brine and road grime. We told the boys we could stop in Broadman, Oregon for the night, but they all wanted to get back home, so we continued to drive the rest of the way, arriving close to midnight. Our dogs were happy to see us. I felt sorry for the lady who pet sat for us. The coldest week we had all winter (low 20's) and our furnace blew the circuit breaker. The house was freezing! Thank goodness Ed had a couple more days off from work as we searched for replacement circuit breakers for our Carrier furnace. He went back to work the day after he made the repairs.
Life is either a great adventure or nothing ~ Helen Keller