We left Iowa around 7:30am on Tuesday, July 30th. We decided to drive straight through on the way there to save time. My in-laws were watching Channing for the week so we had to keep the travel time brief. I offered to drive a couple of times but Jon said he didn't need me to. He pulled over once around 1:30am and slept for half an hour. I had only gotten about 5 hrs of sleep the night before at best, getting everything ready, so I was exhausted. I can't fight through it when I'm driving so I wouldn't have been much help anyway. I slept (if you can call it that....I think I got one hour-long stretch and the rest was 20 or 30 minutes at a time) and the boys and I woke up for good around 5:30am. I was transfixed on the sunrise over the "Arizona" mountains to my left and was trying to take a picture but couldn't get a good one. I saw one sign for San Bernardino National Forest or something and one for Sun City Storage but I thought there could easily be those places in Arizona. I almost texted my best friend joking that I was in her town (she lives in Menifee, formally Sun City.) I had my nose in my phone and didn't see any other signs.
We pulled into a neighborhood around 6:30am and I thought, this is weird. There's not going to be a big resort in a place like this. Jon and I were both making comments that this didn't seem right. He kept driving, looking at the GPS and looking at the street signs and house numbers. We were both confused and he was saying the GPS must be wrong. We stopped in front of a house and he started looking something up on his phone. I looked around and all of a sudden noticed all the license plates. They said California. It was seriously like a twilight zone moment. I said it out loud to Jon and I can't even remember what he said. He was just as shocked. I seriously thought Jon somehow missed a highway and he accidentally drove us to California. I pictured us turning around and backtracking several hours. I felt almost sick to my stomach.
Just then, someone is walking down the driveway to my left and my brain is telling me one thing and my eyes are telling me another. Its my best friend, Candy. I sat there in utter silence for several minutes with a blank expression on my face while she has a huge grin on hers. I didn't know what to do or say. Jon completely tricked me. The entire Arizona trip was a cover. We were just there to stay the week with Candy! That has to be some kind of record for the greatest trick anyone has ever pulled. I mean, he deserves an Oscar for all of that acting. Jon LOVES to surprise me. He's constantly concealing information or trying to surprise me with stuff but most of the time I either suggest we do the very thing he was going to surprise me with or guess it before it happens. He rarely pulls off a big one. Well, he was absolutely successful and he was so proud of himself!! It took me several minutes to recover (and wrap my mind around the fact that there was no trip to Arizona) but I was thrilled we would have a week with almost our whole families together! He knew the only way he could pull it off is if he drove straight through and he hoped I'd sleep until we got there. He was also too afraid to let me drive in case I saw the destination on the GPS.
The last few times Candy and I have seen each other have been with no kids (this one was a surprise too! & in 2011) or with just her oldest daughter, Ava (2010 & 2012). I had never even met her five year old son, Ricky, or her 11 month old baby, Roman! We packed the kids together in my van and headed off to breakfast at IHOP and left Jon at her house to take a nap.
That afternoon at a park was a hit when the ice cream truck showed up:
The next morning we planned on going to an aquatic center but when we left Candy's house at 9:30, it was barely over 70 degrees! The weather was unbelievable out there. Amazing how cool it got at night. And it never got too hot the whole time we were there. It was far too cold to swim right away so we stopped and hiked around this boulder field that was really close to her house. Jon and I agreed this was our favorite part of the week. I'd much rather be out in nature where my kids are free to explore than anything else. It makes us all so darn happy.
The lichen on the dead branches was beautiful.
Candy's kids call this Eagle McGeagle rock. So every time we drove past it for the rest of the week, they yelled out "Eagle McGeagle!"
Jon joked about camping out under this rock but of course they all believed him and were seriously disappointed when they realized he was kidding:
Ava didn't care what flavor it was....as long as it was PINK!!
When we left them, the kiddos were dipping their feet in this fountain. It wasn't a shock to come back to this:
Our last day there was Ava's birthday. We drove out to Candy's brothers' house in Costa Mesa and went to Huntington Beach. I was sorta obsessed with their avocado tree and all the fruit trees behind their fence. (phone pic)
I saw this painting hanging up in Mark and Jonathan's garage and fell in love with everything about it. I asked Jonathan about it and he said he found it by someone's trash can on the side of the road!! Talk about one man's trash is another man's treasure! I joked with him about selling it me and showed it to Jon and told him how much I loved it. Well, unbeknownst to me, Jon talked Jonathan into selling it to us and put it in our van without me seeing it. I saw it when we got back to our hotel that night and was so shocked and excited! I can't wait to hang up a piece of California in our house.
We left first thing the next morning (on Monday) and took two days coming home. We considered the Grand Canyon but decided to stop at Arches National Park in Utah instead. It was a 10 hr drive from where we were in California. I'm so glad we drove that way. Utah is utterly amazing to drive through. I wanted to stop at every scenic lookout and take it all in but we were trying hard to make it to Arches before nightfall. I snapped this picture really quickly of this train riding through the desert. I loved the colors and the lettering. Seriously...the photographer in me was dying that I couldn't photograph every bit of it. But alas, my camera was dead anyway. SO heartbreaking.
So that was our trip! Completely exhausting, but well worth the memories and time spent together. It was nice for Jon and Candy's husband, Richard, to get to know each other better. The sweetest thing was how much Bennett and Dawson talked about Channing. I'm not even kidding when I say they missed him more than I did. It was so cute how much they wanted to snuggle baby Roman. He was a good substitute for the week. Channing did so well at Nana's house (better for her than he is at home lately!) It's always so comforting to know my boys feel just as at home over there.
Back to the grind this week and nearly back to school!! It's so bittersweet. Exciting to think about a calmer routine but that also means the end of summer and my heart can hardly take it. I'll hold on as long as I can.