We started the morning with doughnuts at the Excalibur. M.G. had slept through the drive down the strip on Wednesday night, but still found it impressive the next morning. M2 pointed out all of the sights to her and they both thought it was neat we got to go inside the castle hotel. He was pretty excited that he could share all of his Las Vegas knowledge with his big sister.
Standing at the Nevada/Arizona border and in two different time zones. Except that the times in both zones is the same right now because Arizona doesn't observe daylight savings time. Perhaps they would have found the pose more exciting if the times were different.
We got back on the road and finally made it to the Grand Canyon after stopping for lunch. This was one of the stops on the trip that M.G. was most looking forward to.
It was amazing to see. The visitor center had some nice exhibits to help the kids understand just how big the canyon is.
This was another location where we spent much longer than we expected and probably could have spent even more time if we had it. We hiked along the south rim and spent several hours here. I was surprised at how the thinner air affected us - it was an easy hike, but very tiring.
We had a picnic supper near our car before leaving the park. I always worry that the kids won't be happy eating random foods out of the cooler, but they seem to really enjoy it. We had planned to get to Albuquerque that night, but instead found a hotel in Flagstaff.
We realized we'd have to cover quite a bit of ground on Thursday. We had talked about seeing the sights in Albuquerque or Colorado Springs, but our extra long stops on previous days meant we had to keep on driving.
We ate lunch in Gallup, New Mexico and were sure to have some green chillies at The Chilli Factory. Our route ran along Route 66 and there were lots of signs and historic places.
We stopped for a picnic and some running around time in Las Vegas, NM. That night we drove on a smaller highway in Colorado to save some time. It felt like we were driving through the middle of nowhere and we kept seeing signs that said things like "Elk Crossing", "Coyote Creek", and "Don't pick up hitchhikers." (There were two prisons on this road.) We had seen elk near the road the day before, so we were on guard and as the sun went down we saw a lot of bushes and fence posts ready to jump out at us.
Our goal for Saturday was to just get home. We drove until we stopped for lunch in North Platte and then, avoiding the Nebraskaland parade, got back in the car and didn't stop until we hit Al's Oasis near Chamberlain, SD. I really enjoy ending vacations at Al's - the hearty food is so nice after days in the car and we had a chance to chat about all of our favorite parts of the trip.
It's a long, straight drive from North Platte to South Dakota and then another straight shot to Sioux Falls with very few spots to stop. I'm not sure how the kids did it, but we drove all day with only two stops and they didn't complain at all. With sweatshirts blocking the sunny windows they were in their own little space back there.
We made it home that evening around 9 PM and let them run around the yard for a long time. As I pulled M3 out of her seat she said, "Now we go to Grandma and Grandpa's house?" She had asked that a couple times on the vacation and even on the last leg was willing to stay in her chair if it meant seeing her grandparents that night.