The Ragtag Travelers : Part 1

we just got back from our first major road trip with both babies and i am happy to report that things went rather well. just before we left i kind of fretted that i might be actually crazy to be attempting this six day trip including a 12 hour drive across Nevada with two little ones under two years old in a sedan jam-packed with camping gear, diapers and books, no cell phone, with a vague plan and very minimal funds. but it turns out our girlies go with the flow and truly seem to enjoy the dynamic nature of the road trip, we got along famously in cramped quarters and the joy of hanging out with our family in beautiful utah made even the most uncomfortable moments (twisted and bent over the carseat nursing polly to sleep while also giving my other arm to lucy to hold for comfort....) well worth it. 

so here we go. Utah road trip, may 2014....

we left at 6:20 a.m. to drive from placerville, california to provo, utah. obviously we needed some major park playtime along the way. somewhere in nevada....

we arrived well before dark which was our goal. (we all know how polly gets in the car after dark.)
anyway, this is provo. THOSE MOUNTAINS. you have to drive through hellish sprawl to get there, but provo proper is a charming historic town with lots of character and set in the valley of the gorgeous wasatch mountains. (other provo visits)

matt and amy have a wonderful bright, light house with lots of room for visitors and a huge green backyard complete with trampoline and garden and outdoor eating area. addie and art and utah were already there, along with my pops; now we were all together! the girls were so glad to be out of the car. lucy was THRILLED to see her cousin Utah. She calls him Ta-tah, and when we told her we were going to Utah, (his namesake) I think she thought we were driving 12 hours just to see Ta-tah. Which made perfect sense to her. 

Bella was giving wagon rides. She's the best little baby-friend ever on earth.

we arrived in time for a big quinoa-stir-fry dinner matt and art were cooking up.

next day, a morning walk to the coffee shop.

with a stop to write wishes on the chalkboard wall.

Juice n Java: bagels, journals, espresso, chai, drawings, nursing. 

we headed over to Pioneer Books next, which has moved to a new location, and even though it's a huge bookstore full of amazing used books of every walk of life, there was no one in there except us. kinda depressing for us future-bookstore-owners. when we imagine the future for books and bookshops, it is always with a leap of faith that a certain population will continue to prefer the real deal. in a techy-savvy city like provo, this begins to look like a worrisome prospect.

darin got some sci-fi and we bought a couple quaint 70's kids books: anybody familiar with this one?  we fell in love with it.

then over to Pioneer Park for some swinging and running around and making friends. 

Papa wore Polly all the way home. She fell asleep and I made him shade her from the strong sun with his hand. She is just such a dear little soul, never complaining, always quietly going along with the fun.

we enjoyed a little time back at matt and amy's house before hitting the road again. i love looking around their home in all the nooks and crannies. they have art from amy's family on all their walls, matt's book collection spilling into shelves in every room, color and nature and adventure spelling out the style of their vibrant family. it is so easy to be at home there.

in the afternoon we hit up a new burrito joint in town, Mountain West Burrito, with the cutest art on the walls.

and then headed down south to moab. it was a lovely drive: farmland, mountains, railroad tracks, the book cliffs pointing the way to our east. reading books to two busy babies, singing songs. getting sleepy.

here's how she says "Totoro" now...

Moab has changed since we were last there a few short years ago. It seems there has been some kind of explosion of off-road vehicle use and at some points we'd be stuck behind about 50 (i'm not even exaggerating) ATVs and UTVs (i was calling them dunebuggies, clueless about off-roading culture and terminology). This affected a lot more than just traffic. We had been hoping to secure a camping spot in one of the many non-reservable sites along the Colorado River. To our dismay, as we drove and drove and stopped and checked, they were all full. We'd see shiny metal trailers used to transport the off-road utility vehicles, as well as RVs and dirt bikes and every other type of motorized recreational vehicles you could dream up. 

Last resort, literally. We ended up having to take a site right in town at the Slickrock RV Park. We've stayed here before and even though it's crowded and doesn't really feel like camping, at least there is a beautiful view across the back field, it's locally owned, has cats living at the office, as well as clean bathrooms, and (most importantly) a SPOT AVAILABLE. Lucy was panting with excitement as we set up camp. Matt and Amy and clan joined us there a little later that night....

but first we met up with birthday boy Artie at Moab Brewery for little night out on the town, complete with cupcakes, presents, and some good strong Utah brews (haha, jk, but you can buy them by the bottle if you want the full strength kind.)

tent life at its finest! my daughters love sleeping in the tent! they both slept better than at home. they would smile with delight whenever we went inside to get something or change a diaper. it must be something about that cozy smallness and the homemade family bed and the closeness to the earth and the view out the front door.

Why is Moab one of our favorite places on earth? I've written about it before....many of my favorite authors say it so well: it is paradox and bedrock, red sand and ancient waters, legend and landscape and love. Petroglyphs, cryptobiotic soil, globe mallow, sage. There is something in this land that transcends time and place, haunted with histories and secrets, a great power. I don't take it lightly, we step differently here.

Despite the crowds, I will be back and back again. It really doesn't make much difference to these red cliffs and old scripts on stone. I just might not return in April or May.

 a couple Moab favorites: 
morning coffee at Wake n Bake, and a visit to the Back of Beyond Bookstore (thank goodness it's still thriving) where they have a crazy cool collection of rare Edward Abbey and Cormac McCarthy books. Plus a very vibrant kids' section.

Meanwhile Matt had been searching out a campsite for us for the next two nights. He found one at a place we considered our last resort, Kane Springs campground, which from the road looks like a big dusty parking lot. But it's right on the Colorado River, and he found a big site under cottonwoods with a picnic table and firepit, so we were set!

Kids doing what they do best: upsetting ant hills, clambering up rocks, getting dirty, feeling free.

Near the campground was a lovely nature trail through the Matheson Wetlands Preserve. The trail was lined with Russian Olive trees that smell so sweet, blooming bright orange globe mallows, and all manner of birdlife. Along the way we ran into a rattlesnake (Darin, Bella, Orion and Lucy got to watch its swirling departure); Jarom found a geo-cache (my first time witnessing the process) and Addie discovered a tiny nest of yellow warblers. 

We took no shortage of photos: some are Darin's; some are mine.

back at camp we cooked a big mexican feast (well, mostly amy cooked a big mexican feast) complete with fresh guacamole. it was a nice leisurely end to a beautiful moab day....

and the best part of camping is going to sleep looking forward to more adventures tomorrow.....


Teeny said…
Great post Heather! I got to go check out all of those links, and read up on ones that I had missed previously. One of my favourite and consistent themes on your blog is your family ties and love....and lady, you certainly delivered em up here! Hey, before I forget, geo-cacheing. We've logged into it and found a few locally....I was really averse to it initially as I was imagining my kids wanting to constantly be online finding more and looking at updates (like facebook) - but thankfully, that didn't happen. They aren't addicted at all. I got to love camping a little more at the beginning of this year, and I can imagine how frustrating it was to see all of those mammoth vehicles just taking up so much space!!! grrr! As always, I love your stories and photos - wow Lucy is looking so confident! Good job mama! xo
Unknown said…
Oh my goodness, and I do mean goodness. So many babies. So much beautiful family.
You are feeding my wanderlust in a terrible way.
I agree with Teeny, there is something about the way that your big, wonderful family weaves into your story that captures my heart. It certainly makes me want to have a half dozen more kids so that they can experience the same thing over and over again.
There is so much beauty in this post! Beautiful babes, beautiful family. Beautiful landscapes, beautiful adventures. I really want to go camping with my girls, but it almost always rains here and my 6'4" hubby never fits in the tent!
polly compost said…
i love seeing everyone at amy's! her house is so inspiring to me! we're going on a few trips this summer and i'm fretting myself about the long hours in the car with my boys, so thank you for your courage to roam with children! the whole corporatization of moab......... truly, there is nothing i openly despise as much as off-road gas-glugging, soil eroding forms of 'recreation.' it's time to go all abbey monkey wrenching on this whole shebang. love the snake! love the adventure!! love the pictures!! love the whole fam damily! xoxo
anne said…
i've been itching to go camping and now i'm dying to! such a beautiful trip!
Cel said…
What a lovely trip! There used to be a HUGE used bookstore up north here in Ontario and I loved stopping there as a kid. I was heartbroken to learn it had closed down when the owners retired and no one wanted to buy or take up the business. Books forever for me! And I don't know if it's just a terrible coincidence but the whole ATV thing has sprung up here too and I had just the same problem with campsites and people with machinery already having taken them over. I was actually forced away from my campsite because the people over the hill made me feel unsafe, bleh! You're making some great memories with the kidlets though, they'll be some real nature and camping lovers for certain just like their ma and da :)

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