The Great American Road Trip Part II: 3,000 Miles in America

Three years ago my best friend and I piled in the car for a 2000-mile drive from Knoxville to Phoenix. In an effort to constantly outdo ourselves, this time we embarked in a 3,032-mile, 11-day, 12-state journey.

Great American Road Trip

A vital part of any road trip is the right playlist. Jill and I put an unhealthy amount of time compiling the right tunes for the trip. Below are 50 of our favorite road songs. Crank it up and use it as the soundtrack to this post (or your next trip). Good tunes never get old.

 

St. Louis, Missouri

No trip to St. Louis would be complete without a trip to the Old Courthouse and Gateway Arch. The Old Courthouse was the site of the Dred Scott trial where, during a less-than-enlightened period of our history, Dred Scott unsuccessfully sued for his freedom from slavery in 1857. It is required reading for every law student’s first semester of law school.

St. Louis Old Courthouse

We got up early the morning to take the first ride to the top of the arch. We are total nerds who purchased tickets for our 8:10 a.m. ride in advance.

Horse St. Louis Arch

But just because we were in a hurry didn’t mean we couldn’t stop and make new friends.

Panorama View From St. Louis Arch

The Gateway Arch rises 630 feet (192 m) above the city and (after a very unique elevator ride to the top) gives gorgeous panoramic views of the city. You can see for 38 miles on a clear day.

St. Louis Arch Sunset

I loved my visit to the top so much that I decided to return for another visit at the end of the day. This time I was in the last car up to the top and in the last group to leave.

St. Louis Arch Night View Panorama

It was yet another great, but completely different, view of the city. I could see two different sets of fireworks in the distance.

St Louis Arch Night

Saint Louis has so much more to offer than the Arch.

Anheuser Busch Clydesdale

We next headed over to Anheuser Busch for a brewery tour. Jill was excited about the free beer samples. I don’t drink beer so I was mainly excited about the Clydesdales.

Anheuser Busch Tour

With our early start, we were able to fit a lot into our day. Our next stop was at the Missouri Botanical Garden. The grounds were beautiful, but it was hotter than Hades outside.

Missouri Botanical Gardens

However, they did have a boxwood garden, which, due to my odd obsession with the smell of boxwoods was my favorite part of the gardens.

Missouri Botanical Garden Boxwoods

After some time in the heat we went in search of the legendary Ted Drewes for a delicious concrete (try the turtle). It lived up to its reputation and was totally worth standing in the rain.

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard

Jill lives in Arizona, and was utterly unprepared for the Missouri humidity. (Living in Nashville, it felt like a normal summer day to me–miserable, but something you just have to fight through). She headed back to the hotel and I took off for the City Museum.

City Museum 10 Foot Slide

The City Museum is a bizarre and magical place that blends an oddities museum with a multi-story jungle gym/amusement park and descends into caves below. Yes, really. One of the big draws is a 10-story slide, pictured above. For you legal nerds out there, this building was originally the home to the International Shoe.

Collinsville, IL

In the middle of our St. Louis day we took a brief excursion to Collinsville, IL to see the Chokia Indian Mounds. Chokia was the largest settlement of the Mississippian culture and was located on this site from 600-1400 A.D.

Cahokia Indian Mounds

There are 80 mounds (originally 120) scattered around 2,200 acres, with the largest rising 100 feet. It is believed that either a temple or the residence of the chief was at the top.

Wolds Largest Ketchup Bottle

While we were there, we took a short drive over to see the world’s largest ketchup bottle. As we were finishing up, a gentleman pulled up to take pictures as well. He said he drove over 100 miles out of his way to see it and that he travels the country taking pictures of water towers. He is my spirit animal.

Independence, Missouri – Truman Library 

Truman Library

The next morning we headed West towards Kansas City. However, first we had to stop to visit the Truman Library. Our last road trip included an impromptu stop at the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was so enjoyable that we now try to incorporate any presidential library we come across into our itinerary.

Truman Oval Office

The Truman Library did not disappoint. If you have an interest in Truman, World War II, or the 1940s and 1950s, then definitely pay it a visit.

Truman Home

Just down the road from the museum is Truman’s home. He lived here with his wife as president when he was not at the White House.

Kansas City, Missouri

We were struck with a torrential downpour as we neared Kansas City and we worried that our sightseeing plans would be thwarted. Fortunately, the skies cleared for a very lovely day.

Unrelated side note: At this point, for an inexplicable reason, we started listening to Ace of Base’s “The Sign” on repeat for approximately 30 minutes. We had a few Ace of Base interludes throughout the trip. Please do not ask why. I don’t have an answer for you.

Kansas City WWI Museum

We started with a visit to the WWI Museum and Liberty Tower. From the top of the tower you get quite a lovely view of downtown. The WWI Museum has a wonderful collection and worth taking the time to see.

Kansas City Skyline Panorama

That evening we took a Segway tour of the town (read more about it and see pictures here) that took us through Westport, Country Club Plaza, and past several art museums. However, I wish I had more time to spend there and was able to see more fountains.

J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain Night

Kansas City is known for its fountains and apparently has the second most number of fountains of any city in the world, second only to Rome.

St. Joseph, Missouri – The House Where Jesse James was Shot

The next day we hit the road towards Sioux Falls, SD. The first stop of the day was the house where Jesse James was shot.

Jessee James House

It was a small museum, but really one of the cooler ones I have visited. I’d rank it as worth a detour. Jesse James was a notable Old West outlaw known for his bank, train, and stage-coach robberies. It is estimated that he killed at least 16 people.

Jesse James House Interior

On April 3, 1882, James took his guns off and stood on a chair in his home to straighten a crooked cross stitch pattern that hung on the wall. A member of his gang, Robert Ford, took the opportunity to shoot James in the back of the head in an effort to collect a reward. Instead, Ford was tried for murder and sentenced to death. Two hours later he was pardoned by the governor. (You can see the bullet hole in the top right of the picture).

Omaha, Nebraska

Omaha, somewhere in middle America . . .

Iowa Nebraska State Line Omaha

We made a quick stop in Omaha to go “bobbing” on the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge (standing with one foot in Iowa and the other in Nebraska). Being on the bridge is an interesting experience because you can feel it moving beneath your feet.

Spirit of Nebraska Wilderness and Pioneer Courage Park

We also took a few minutes to see a series of impressive statues in Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness and Pioneer Courage Park.

Sioux City, Iowa

Just stopped in Iowa for a minute. Gas here is confusing.

Iowa Gas

South Dakota

First impression: 80 m.p.h speed limit? Way to go South Dakota!

Second impression: Your interstates are really loud to drive on.

Overall impression: South Dakotans are the nicest people I’ve ever met.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sioux Falls was an unexpected delight. The Big Sioux River goes right through downtown and creates a gorgeous set of waterfalls.

Sioux Falls Train

Falls Park is just a quick walk from downtown. The pictures do not do it justice.

Sioux Falls Rapids

It was by far the most relaxing stop on our journey (which is really saying something).

Sioux Falls Rapids Panorama

Here is your own moment of zen:

Mitchell, South Dakota – Corn Palace

Whenever I told people about this trip, one of the first things they would say is, “you have to visit the Corn Palace.” It was supposed to be a-maize-ing. Perhaps we got there a little early, because while it is definitely good roadside kitsch, it was not the most exciting stop on the journey.

Corn Palace

Midland, South Dakota – 1880 Town

One of my favorite detours was to 1880 Town in Midland, SD. It has 30 buildings that date back to the 1880s to 1920s. It is great if you need to stretch your legs and walk for a bit.

1880 Town

I think we stayed here for close to an hour sightseeing.

Longhorn 1880 Town

Eventually I wandered up to an old church to visit with some longhorn. They were not particularly into talking to me and wandered away shortly after I took this picture. Rude.

Badlands National Park

If you ever get anywhere close to Badlands National Park, definitely take the time to pay it a visit.

Badlands National Park Sign

This was the first location we got to use a National Park Annual Pass I purchased while in St. Louis. The pass gets you free admission to national parks for a year and paid for itself on this trip alone. (I just have to be sure to use it once I get home.)

Beware of Rattlesnakes

The Badlands have been a work in progress for the last 500,000 years.

Big Badlands Overlook Panorama

It is full of beautiful and colorful buttes, deep canyons, and towering spires.

White River Valley Overlook

Every stop along the loop had a different and spectacular view.

White River Valley Overlook 2

I only wish we’d gotten there earlier in the morning. The heat made staying out in the sun long periods very uncomfortable.

Badlands Panorama

To give you some context for the scale of the Badlands, this is a picture of me admiring the landscape.

Wall, South Dakota – Wall Drug

Unlike the Corn Palace, Wall Drug did not disappoint. Wall Drug is the ultimate tourist stop and has a little bit of everything. Those who told me to pay it a visit definitely undersold it.

Zoltar Fortune

The best part was my psychic reading from Zoltar, who gave the most on point fortune ever told.

Deadwood, South Dakota

Deadwood was one of the stops I looked forward to the most. Deadwood is an Old West town that was home to legends like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. It is nestled in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Dead Wood Overlook

The historic downtown area is a mix of tourist kitsch and beautiful old buildings. I never get tired of the look of small town South Dakota.

Deadwood

I got to meet Wild Bill himself outside of the legendary Saloon No. 10. The walls of the saloon are covered with Old West memorabilia and it was a fun place to see a show and enjoy a cold sarsaparilla.

Wild Bill

However, things did not end well for Wild Bill. About 30 minutes later he was shot by Jack McCall, who you see trying to escape below in a good ole fashioned shootout.

Deadwood Jack McCall Capture

We made our way up to Mt. Moriah Cemetery to visit Wild Bill’s grave.

Wild Bill Calamity Jane Graves

Calamity Jane’s dying wish was to be buried by his side. As you can see, her wish was granted.

Mt. Rushmore

We started the fifth morning of our trip with a visit to one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world.

Mt. Rushmore Flags

There were only a few people in the park when we arrived which provided a pretty intimate setting for viewing the monument.

Mt. Rushmore

It absolutely lived up to all of my expectations. George, Tom, Franklin, and Abe are literally larger than life. The faces of Mt. Rushmore are 60 feet high.

Mt. Rushmore Mountain Goat

After leaving the park we met a friendly mountain goat and her kids. She complimented my hat, but otherwise didn’t have much to say. She went on with her breakfast and we continued on with our journey.

Mt. Rushmore Lake

Our entire drive through the Black Hills was filled with wonderful beautiful surprises.

Crazy Horse Memorial

The Crazy Horse Memorial is just a short drive from Mt. Rushmore and worth putting on your list. Crazy Horse was the leader of the Oglala Lakota, the tribe that called the Black Hills their home.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Once it is completed, it will be the largest statue in the world. It is significantly larger than Mt. Rushmore and all four presidents will fit inside Crazy Horse’s head.

Custer State Park

Custer State Park is just a stone’s throw from Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse and it is not to be missed. In addition to beautiful scenery, there is a wide variety of wildlife. We saw prairie dogs, burros, and 2 herds of buffalo.

Custer State Park Prarie Dog

The burros, commonly called “begging burros,” went on a car-to-car hunt looking for treats and some friendly face scratchings.

Custer State Park Begging Burrow

One burro would not budge from in front of our car. Below is a picture of my failed attempt to reason with the burro to get it to move. Lesson: Lawyer skills will only get you so far if you do not have fresh apples with you.

Custer State Park Begging Burrow in Road

Despite the adorableness of the burros, the highlight of our journey through the park was spotting the buffalo.

Custer State Park Buffalo Panorama

There were a few hundred of them right off of the road. Custer is home to 1,500 buffalo, which is one of the largest herds in the world.

Custer State Park Buffalo

The buffalo are mammoth in size, weighing in around 2,000 pounds, which I am pretty sure is more than our car.

Custer State Park Buffalo Calf

Wyoming

Torrential rain and tumbleweeds.

Colorado

Nothing prepared me for the sheer massiveness of the mountains in Colorado. Even if all you do is drive down I-70, this state is worth a visit. I don’t know what I liked more, the dramatic rocky cliffs or the tree Bob Ross-esque tree-lined mountains.

Estes Park, Colorado – The Stanley

We spent the night at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The Stanley was the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining. It was built in 1909 and is legendarily haunted.

The Stanley Panorama

I initially intended to do an entire blog post about my stay at The Stanley, but despite taking a ghost tour, staying on the “haunted” fourth floor, and being told by two different hotel staff members that I would “definitely experience activity,” I have absolutely nothing to report.

Rocky Mountain National Park

We woke up the next morning and decided to skip time in Denver for an impromptu trip into Rocky Mountain National Park. (Yet another good use of our National Park Annual Pass.)

Rocky Mounatain National Park Overlook

The detour was definitely the right decision.

Rocky Mountain National Park Elevation

The drive up the mountain took about an hour as we winded through steep drop offs and scenic views. We passed several people on bikes on the way up, which was ridiculously impressive.

Rocky Mountain National Park Elk

On our way we encountered a heard of elk resting and grazing in a field and we pulled off to chill with them for a while.

Rocky Mountain National Park Snowfield Sign

Despite it being late June, there was still plenty of snow on the ground. If you know my love of snow, you’ll know that I was extra excited about this.

Rocky Mountain National Park Snowfield

We drove to the top of the trail and then climbed the rest of the way to the peak. I think things might taste better at 12,000 feet because the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had was at the visitor’s center at the top of the trail. I’m talking serious chocolatey deliciousness.

Rocky Mountain National Park Panorama

Morrison, Colorado – Dinosaur Ridge 

What is a trip out west without dinosaurs? We stopped at Dinosaur Ridge to satisfy our inner 10-year-old nerdiness.

Dinosaur Ridge SIgn

Dinosaur Ridge is home to dino bones, dino footprints, and a variety of interesting geological formations.

Dinosaur Bones

The highlight for me was seeing dinosaur footprints up close. Growing up on the East Coast this was not something I had access to.

Dinosaur Footprints

I was even allowed to climb the rock face and touch a fossilized alligator claw mark. It was huge.

Touching Dinosaur Footprints

Idaho Springs, Colorado – Whitewater Rafting

We finished our time in the Denver area by going whitewater rafting in Idaho Springs. You can read an entire post on it and see more pictures and a video here.

Whitewater Rafting Class IV

Glenwood Springs, Colorado – Doc Holiday’s Grave

To wrap up our Old West tour we stopped in Glenwood Springs, Colorado to visit Doc Holiday’s grave. Doc Holiday was one of America’s most celebrated gunslingers. The grave is part of a rather unkept cemetery and it took a little bit of a hike to get there, but it was worth it. They are actually unsure exactly where Doc Holiday is buried, but they know he is somewhere in the cemetery.

Doc Holiday Gravesite

Moab, Utah

One of the trip highlights was our time in Moab. Not only did we get to spend time in the area parks, but we did a little glamping while we were there. There are additional pictures in a glamping post that you can read about here.

Moab Under Canvas

Dead Horse State Park

Dead Horse State Park gets its name from the use of the mesa top as a corral for wild horses.  Cowboys herded the horses across the narrow neck of land and onto the point.  The horses were then fenced off with branches and brush. Legend has it that, for some unknown reason, the horses were left corralled without any water and they died of thirst within view of the Colorado River 2,000 feet below.

Dead Horse State Park Panorama

You may also recognize it from the final scene of Thelma and Louise where the ladies go crashing into the river below. (Sorry for the lack of spoiler alert, but you’ve had 25 years to see it.)

Dead Horse State Park

Cayonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is yet another jewel Utah has to offer. Short hikes can can get you to some truly beautiful sights. However, the trails can be pretty poorly marked leaving you to guess as to whether you are actually on a trail or wandering aimlessly through the park.

Canyonlands Arch

The park is full of a wide variety of geological formations including arches and (possibly) meteor craters.

Canyonlands Metero Crater

Arches National Park

Arches National Park has over 2,000 natural stone arches. We started our day by seeing the famed Delicate Arch.

Arches Heat Warning

The hike is listed as one of Arches “difficult” hikes and should be done early in the morning and with plenty of water. In fact, two people died on the trail the week we were there.

Delicate Arch Hike

Part of the hike was pretty strenuous and was directly uphill. (Those tiny things are the people ahead of me).

Delicate Arch Trail

Many of the trails in the area parks were marked with cairns, or piles of rocks, as a guide.

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch was a pretty impressive sight (it is the one you see on the Utah license plates). It is 65 feet tall and basically in the middle of nowhere. (I am in the bottom right of the picture, for a size comparison).

Arches Petroglyphs

There were also some petroglyphs right off of the trail that date back to between 1650-1850.

Arches Double Arch

But Delicate Arch is just one of thousands to see. My favorites were the double arches in the windows section of the park.

Zion National Park

We made a slight detour on the way to Vegas to see Zion National Park. We didn’t have time to do any hiking or take the park shuttle, so instead we just drove the 12-mile road that went through the park and stopped to take pictures as we went.

Zion National Park Sign

But even though we could not see much of it, the park was still beautiful.

Zion National Park Panorama

And the sights we did get to see were absolutely worth the detour.

Zion Chekerboard

Las Vegas, Nevada 

We finished our trip in lovely Las Vegas! We turned the car in and finished our vacation on foot.

Las Vegas at night

Most of my trip was mostly spent either at the spa or taking a relaxing stroll down the strip in my introvert gear (floppy hat, big sunglasses, and Sinatra pumping though my earbuds). However, the highlight was a doors off helicopter ride right after sunset. You can read about the ride and see pictures and a video here. It was a wonderful way to end our journey before flying home.

Las Vegas Sky

Overall impressions of the trip

This was my first vacation in 3 years and it absolutely exceeded all of my expectations. There was not a single let down. I love traveling, I love seeing the countryside, and I love getting out and experiencing new places. I feel very lucky to not only live in such a beautiful country, but also to have the means to be able to see it.

One of my favorite parts was seeing the landscape change as we crossed the mid-west. Traveling through the Ozarks, the plains, Badlands, the Black Hills, farm country, Rocky Mountains, and the desert shows just how big and vast the country really is. Specifically, I don’t think I fully appreciated just how much farming is done in this country until I spent hours and hours driving past it.

Now that I can cross these places off of my travel list, I just have to start planning the next road trip. I am thinking about the Pacific Coast Highway or a tour of the North West.

Trip Tips  

To plan this trip I used one of my favorite websites, Roadside America. It is a great travel guide for unusual attractions, tourist traps, and all things kitsch. Trip Advisor’s lists of the top things to do in each city filled in our itinerary nicely. We were able to fit in so many amazing things because every stop, except Rocky Mountain National Park, was planned in advance using one of those two websites.

If you plan on doing any traveling this summer (or any other time) get a National Park Annual Pass. It is only $80 and gets you in to all National Parks for free. If we paid for each of our stops it would have cost us over $115. The pass paid for itself in about 9 days. It lasts 12 months from the month you purchase it, so you have plenty of time to get in as much adventure as you’d like.

If you plan on doing a trip like this I suggest investing in a good thermos for water. I got a 40oz Hydro Flask (in Vol orange) that kept my water icy cold all day long. I am not sure what I would have done without it. Many of our hikes would have been miserable, if not dangerous, without ample amounts of water.

Hydro Flask

Helicopter Ride Over the Lights of Las Vegas

My best friend and I finished or 3,000 mile road trip in Las Vegas (follow the blog to see a post on the trip next week). For me, Las Vegas is not about gambling, pools, and parties, it is about a endless possibilities of New Things to do. (See my previous Vegas posts on swimming with dolphins and taking a trapeze lesson).

Las Vegas Sky

My friend wanted to spend the day watching soccer so I went on my own hunt for how to fill my day. I decided on a helicopter ride, because why not? I started cold calling places to see where I could get a solo flight at the last minute. Skyline Tours delivered. Not only could they take me up, but they let me book my own private helicopter. I really don’t like to share.

Las Vegas Lights

I was given the option of flying “doors off,” which is exactly what it sounds like. There is nothing between you and the air. At first, I was hesitant about flying doors off and was going to opt out of it. However, I was persuaded otherwise and I am very glad for it.

Las Vegas Helicopter

Flying doors off was  exhilarating. It provided an unobstructed breathtaking view of the city below.

Las Vegas Aerial

We took off at the North Las Vegas Airport and flew down the length of one side of The Strip, looped around, and flew up the other side. We flew so close to the Stratosphere that it seemed like I could reach out and touch it.

Skyline Helicopter

This experience is one I would absolutely repeat, despite my fear of heights and flying.

Here is a video of my ride:

If you want to do your own tour of Las Vegas, visit Skyline Tours and they will give you a night you’ll never forget.

Glamping Under the Stars of Moab

Glamping. What is it? Glamping is short for “glamorous camping.” It takes the splendor and isolation of camping and combines it with hotel-like creature comforts like real beds, furniture, and modern plumbing.

Moab Under Canvas

Or, if you do it Tom Haverford style, it is this:

I don’t recall where I first heard about glamping, but it has been on my To Do list since I learned that it exists. For our glamping experience we spent the 7th night of the 3,000 mile road trip at Moab Under Canvas. (Stay tuned for a post on the road trip next week).

Moab Under Canvas Tent Map

Moab Under Canvas is located just minutes from Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dead Horse State Park. The glamp grounds are separated from everything else around so all you see are tents and nature (and tiny fluffy desert bunnies).

Moab Under Canvas Tents

When we got there we were immediately taken by the mellow vibe of the grounds and the people who worked there. It was clear our stay was going to be special.

I booked a deluxe tent for a little extra space, privacy, and an in-tent full bathroom. (I had tent number 4 on the map above). When I fist saw the interior of the tent, my reaction was essentially this:

The tent was gorgeous.

Moab Under Canvas Delux Tent

The furniture was simple, but classic and cozy. There was no power in the tent so it came with 3 lanterns, which I largely used to not bump into things as I wandered the grounds at night.

Moab Under Canvas Inside Delux Tent

The best part of the deluxe tent was my own private bathroom. It felt a little weird to bathe by lantern light behind a sheet of canvas, mainly because I am pretty sure the lanterns cast shadows on the tent for passersby to see. But, the water was piping hot and that is really the only thing I cared about.

Moab Under Canvas Bathroom Deluxe Tent

The view from the tent was breathtaking. The front of the tent overlooked the desert and Arches National Park in the distance. The shaded porch provided the perfect spot to kick up my feet and just enjoy my surroundings. This was particularly nice because, unlike the East Coast, there are basically no bugs to bother you in the desert so you don’t have to worry about mosquitos or other insects flying in your face while to try to relax.

Moab Under Canvas View

At night, Under Canvas hosted a bonfire complete with s’mores. Yum!

Moab Under Canvas Bonfire

As the sun set, the landscape and night sky were transformed. Somehow, almost impossibly, becoming more beautiful than before.

Moab Under Canvas Directional Sign

Under Canvas also had two common areas. One (pictured below) in which you could relax in front of a fire or play board games and another where you could charge your devices or connect to their ethernet.

Moab Under Canvas Main Tent

Finally, it was time to retire via lantern light. I really think their bed was the most comfortable one I’ve ever slept in. At first, I had a little trouble falling asleep. Every time I heard a noise I wondered if someone was walking toward my tent. However, within a few minutes I was fast asleep.

Moab Under Canvas Delux Tent at Night

I got up at 6:00 the next morning just in time to watch the sun rise from my front porch. I think this may have been the first time I have ever just sat and watched this occur. The sun delivered.

I was able to order breakfast through Under Canvas which was both delicious and extremely convenient. It saved us an extra stop before our morning hike in Arches National Park.

Moab Under Canvas Sunrise

There are two other Under Canvas locations in Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. If you can make it to one of the locations, don’t hesitate, just do it. But a warning, they sell out quickly, so plan early.

Special shout out to Sam, our hostess with the mostess, for making our visit extra fun. While the experience itself was truly unique, this was one of those occasions where the people who worked there set the mood for our entire stay.

Whitewater Rafting in the Rocky Mountains

Adventure makes life more interesting. It also makes road trips more interesting. I wanted to make the most of my time in the Denver area so I jumped at the chance to add some whitewater rafting to the itinerary.

Whitewater Rafting Class IV

We went to Rocky Mountain Whitewater Rafting in Idaho Springs, Colorado for an afternoon of rafting on the beautiful Clear Creek. The weather started out a bit dicey and thunderstorms were predicted all afternoon. In fact, we received a flash flood alert en route to Idaho Springs.

Me: Should we be in a river when there is a flash flood warning?

Jill: It’s ok, we’ll be in a raft.

Whitewater Rafting Guide

Magically, our weather luck continued and the rain cleared just as we prepared to depart.

Whitewater Splash Point of VIew

We started with a series of Class II and Class III rapids before hitting the more dramatic Class IV rapids. I was a little nervous about my prospects of staying inside the raft after my disastrous kayaking experience, so I dug my feet into the raft as deep as possible to secure myself. I even used one foot to kick the other one to wedge it in as far as it could go. I was determined to stay put.

Whitewater Rafting Clear Creek

We rafted down the river for approximately 8 miles and ran rapids called the Hemorrhoids, Deliverance, and Outer Limits, among others. We got thrown around a fair bit, but we all managed to stay in the raft.

Whitewater Clear Creek

Just in case things got a bit too wild, there was a safety guy in a kayak who stayed ahead of us in case we needed fishing out. On the more intense rapids, a guy with a rope (who you can see in the video below) stood on the shore to drag us in.

Rafting Clear Creek

It was a chilly day in the 50s but our wetsuits kept us pretty warm and dry. That was a pleasant surprise. A few times icy water managed to make it inside of the top of my wetsuit . . . which definitely woke me up.

Clear Creek Water Wheel

When we weren’t paddling or navigating the rapids we got to enjoy the scenery of Idaho Springs.

Paddle High Five

We passed beautiful hills, dramatic cliffs, gold mills, water wheels, and waterfalls.

Whitewater Guide

If you are visiting the area, I definitely suggest enhancing your stay by experiencing a little white water. If you choose Rocky Mountain Whitewater Rafting, ask for Steve.

You can watch a video of one set of rapids here:

 

Riding a Segway—Like A Boss

I am currently on a 2500-mile cross-country road trip with my best friend (more on this in a post next week). In addition to visiting new cities and states, I wanted to incorporate a few New Things into the journey (more posts on this later too). One of our first stops was in beautiful Kansas City, Missouri. While planning our visit we discovered a Segway tour of the town and we thought it would be a fun way to see the city and cross something new off of the To Do List.

Segway Lesson

I presented the idea to my friend Jill, and upon looking at photos of the tour she said,  “Awe. We have to wear helmets like a bunch of dorks.” When the trip was threatened with rain, she voiced another concern. “If we have ponchos and helmets we are going to get beat up by somebody.” Fortunately, the storms passed us by and nobody got beaten up for being a dork.

Segway Practice

The tour began with a brief video and riding lesson. It took me a few minutes to get the hang of it and to not spin in circles when I was trying to stay in one place. But, I eventually got the hang of it. It is pretty easy to maneuver and it moves with the weight of your body: lean left to go left, right to go right, forward to go forward, and back to go backwards or stop.

Segway Pratice

The tour took us through Westport, Country Club Plaza, and past several art museums.

Kansas City Segway Tour

At one point in our journey we headed down a quasi-steep hill in a park. We took it a bit fast and I could hear Jill struggling behind me. I am not sure what happened next, but I heard the distinct sound of Jill falling and a Segway crashing. This is how I picture it:

Gob Segway Gif

Somehow Jill flew off of the path and her Segway went into a tree.

Jill: Don’t take my picture you f***ing b****!

Me: ::Laughing and taking pictures::

Jill: I can hear you laughing!

Me: ::Laughing harder::

Jill: Stop laughing at me! You are so mean!

Me: ::Laughing even harder::

Jill: You better not put this on your f***ing blog!

Me: ::Laughing and crying::

I was laughing so hard that this was the best picture I got. Don’t worry, she’s fine.

Segway Accident

Other than Jill’s tumble, the tour was a lot of fun. Whoosing around on the Segway created a nice breeze on an otherwise hot and humid day. Not to mention the joy of zooming down the sidewalks past all the bipeds who haven’t yet experienced the Segway life.

Segway Museum

I also learned Segways have an added value. If a creepy guy starts hitting on you, you can just quickly scoot away. No more awkward uncomfortable conversation with strangers, ladies!

Segway Fountain

Overall analysis: Walking is for the birds. Segways are the way of the future.

Basket Weaving

If you are itching for something new and crafty to do, I highly recommend a basket weaving class. In just a few hours you can create something completely unique.

Finished Basket

I went to Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary for my class with basket weaver Janet Lanier. Owl’s Hill is an 160-acre nature and animal preserve in Brentwood, Tennessee. I didn’t have time to explore the property, but I did see a beautiful deer grazing right outside of the window as I made my basket. It was a very peaceful afternoon.

Basket Weaving Materials

We started out with a wooden handle and the spokes that would make the frame of the basket.

Basket Weaving Base

The base of the basket was formed by interweaving the wooden spokes.

Basket Weaving Foundation

Once the base was formed, round reed was woven through the spokes to secure the frame. The wooden reed had to be kept wet to make it flexible and easy to manipulate without breaking.

Basket Weaving Layers

I decided to add in a little color to the basket, so every few rows I added maroon reed and seagrass. Seagrass is actually a grass that is hand twisted into cord.

Basket Weaving

The alternating over-under weaving process was repeated until I reached the desired height. Or, more accurately, I ran out of time and had to make it to a hair appointment.

Basket Weaving Bottom

Eventually the shorter spokes at the bottom were trimmed and tucked into the weave to finish the bottom of the basket.

Basket Weaving Top

The top of the basket was finished with half round weed lining the rim and smaller reed was wrapped through the open holes in the basket. To get it a little extra flair, I added some of the maroon seagrass to the top.

Completed Basket

Voilà! A completed wine basket! It took a few hours and a little hard work, but I am pretty happy with the final product. Plus, I am now ready for life on the prairie. I can’t wait to return to Owl’s Hill for another class or for when I have some time to explore.

My First Obstacle Course Race: The Insane Inflatable 5K

Two things you should not do: (1) Attempt to run a 5K when you literally cannot remember the the last time you ran, and (2) attempt to do so when it is 90 degrees outside. But if you are going to do it, it might as well involve a dozen or so awesome inflatable obstacles. Last weekend the Inflatable 5K visited by town and I took that opportunity to tackle my first obstacle course race.

Inflatable 5K Starting Line

The race started with a climb up inflatable steps and a slide down the other side. Game on.

Inflatable 5K Big Balls

All of the obstacles were a little bit different. The one pictured above (“Big Balls”) was full of, well, giant inflatable balls.  You had to push your way past the 5-foot orbs to make it through to the other side.

There were volunteers at every inflatable offering encouraging words. Considering how hot it was outside, I am really not sure who had it harder, the people running or the volunteers standing in the sun. Either way, I really appreciated having them there.

Inflatable 5K Slingshot Climb

The “Slingshot” was the first obstacle (of several) with a rope climb. This probably would have been a little less difficult had I not also been attempting to carry a GoPro.

Inflatable 5K Crash Course

It was only 9:30, but the blaring sun made some of the obstacles a bit scorchy on the skin. It was definitely motivation to get up quickly and keep moving.

Inflatable 5K Wrecking Balls

Some of the obstacles were surprisingly difficult, like the “Mad House.” There was something about running up and down a a moving surface that made each step simultaneously more fun and more challenging.

Inflatable 5K Mad House

When I signed up I intentionally chose a wave that had fewer people in it. However, in hindsight, I wish I’d picked a fuller wave.It was a lot more enjoyable when there were several people scrambling on an inflatable at once.

Inflatable 5K Finish

The finish line had the biggest slide of the day. It towered over the starting line next to it. I slid to victory, anxious to collect my first medal and sit down to a delicious carb-filled breakfast.

Inflatable 5k Finish Line

Walking in to the event I overheard a woman exiting say that it was the hardest 5k she’d ever done. At the time, I thought to myself that it couldn’t be that bad and it was just a bunch of bouncy houses. It turns out she was right. The 5k was surprisingly exhausting. I keep telling myself it was the heat and not the excessive amount of time I spend sitting at my desk each week. Either way, I am looking forward to the next one.

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