Some General, Vacation-Related Linkishness

It's tricky to come back from vacation. There is a towering stack of mail next to me, and my plants and flowers need some TLC.  Let's not even talk about the laundry.  Mostly, I'm a little wistful for the special connection that seems to come when we're all out of our ordinary lives–just Hubs, me and the kids, smooshed together in a hotel room overrun with collected seashells, mouse ears, granola bar wrappers, and good laughs.  It's a powerful lesson to me, really, about how easily I'm bound and distracted by the demands of daily-ness.  I need to do a better job of connecting to the people I love most, whether or not we're wearing magical mouse ears.

One of the best parts of this trip is how it seemed almost charmed–everywhere we went, we kept stumbling into unexpected treasures, helpful hints, and beautiful places. Before I take my last leap into reality, I thought I'd share some of our favorites and pass around a little link love, just for grins.  (And my understanding is that these days bloggers should make it clear–I'm sharing these links just for fun, not for any sort of compensation. There were NO special deals, I assure you–I have the completely obliterated travel budget to prove it.)

Jerome, Arizona 

On our way back to Oklahoma, we took a side route through the mountains of north central Arizona.  I must've slept that day in tenth-grade geography–I didn't know Arizona had mountains, at least not like these.  They were gorgeous, a striking mix of red-rock cliffs and evergreens.  And the cool breezes!  Oh, it was heavenly.  We drove up on Jerome purely by accident, but it was so picturesque I pulled out the video camera and filmed all of main street.  It's a 125-year-old town (with a colorful history) built almost vertically into the side of a mountain–an Old West version of Switzerland.  The main road through town is full of hard switchbacks, the kind I thought was reserved for four-wheel-drive dirt roads way up in the high country.  But this little town, now mostly artists and tourists, thrives in the most unlikely place, overlooking the valley where picturesque Sedona is located.  After our last (tricky) turn out of town, I told Hubs that we're coming back here, someday, and this time for a long stay.

LaBellavia Restaurant

LaBellavia is a tiny little restaurant in the historic part of Flagstaff.  It was the best breakfast I've had in ages–French toast made from whole-grain bread, served with strawberry butter.  Strawberry butter–isn't that the most lovely idea you've ever heard?  I suspect we might have world peace if the world had more strawberry butter.


Several people suggested I should check out RideMax, a parent-created software to help you chart out your plan at Disney World or Disneyland.  (If you just show up at a Disney park without a plan, prepare to crumble to the sidewalk in a ball of tears.  There is too much to see, and you must have at least a loose plan in place–otherwise you'll miss something wonderful.)  RideMax (which costs about $15 for a couple of months' subscription) allows you to input the rides you want into their easy spreadsheet, and they will build a custom plan for you, including walking times and (estimated) wait times, all in a way that minimizes walking.  We didn't stick to our RideMax plan with perfect precision (we're mind-changers in this family), but even then, it was invaluable.  We knew what to expect, we had a general sense of how to pace ourselves, and we saw all the stuff we really wanted to see.  I strongly recommend this, especially if you're a beginner at Disney.

Just Spotted

If you live in Southern California (or you're visiting there), bookmark this site.  It offers tons of suggestions for things to do with kids, specifically in Orange County.

Veritas Forum

Hubs and I love to listen to podcasts when we travel.  Scratch that–I love listening to podcasts when we travel, and Hubs is a good sport about listening along.  A friend recommended the podcast published by Veritas Forum, and it's definitely on our lists of favorites now (you can read more about them here).  We've heard so many good ones I couldn't pick a favorite, but subscribe and listen.  (But put on your thinking caps first.)


It was our favorite ride at Disney World, and it was our favorite ride at Disneyland.  If you go there, plan to ride it two or three or 28 times.

La Brea Tar Pits

We spent a couple of hours at the tar pits, and it was so interesting.  Several of you mentioned you had trips to Los Angeles in the works, and I recommend this as a fun and simple stop with the kids.  (It's cheap, too–and do you KNOW how hard it is to find something cheap in Los Angeles?  I think almost as rare as finding a Republican.)

By the way, thank you so much to those of you who weighed on this post with suggestions.  We completely altered our trip plans and included San Diego based on your recommendations, and we were so glad we did.  More than once I was scrolling through your comments on Hubs' iPhone, even while we were en route to our next destination–thank you!

26 thoughts on “Some General, Vacation-Related Linkishness

  1. Cindy McLean says:

    Welcome Home! I enjoyed reliving a trip to California my teenage daughter,my Dad and I took. He wanted to tal daughter to places he took me when i was a little girl. He loved being the tour guide! In L.A> we went to the tar pits…right downtown…amazing! Daddy passed away,unexpectantly at age 62 the next summer. Oh how I treasure those memories! No matter what we are doing,we need to make memories. What an awesome one you have made for your kids!!! (and you!!!)

  2. Melissa says:

    I’m so glad you had a great trip! I’m a Phoenician. To get a break from the heat, we frequently take little jaunts up to the northern part of the state. In fact, today sounds like a good day to get out of here since it is 113 outside right now. : ) Jerome is one of my favorites. If you do visit AZ again, (you should definitely visit in the fall) make sure you drive the 89A through Oak Creek Canyon into Sedona and then up to Jerome…prettiest drive ever.
    Thanks for the link to LaBellavia, I’ll have to try that next time I’m in Flagstaff…strawberry butter sounds delightful.

  3. lisavanmac says:

    Jerome is such a quaint little town. It was a place we visited (sort of happened upon) on our honeymoon to the American Southwest almost 6 years ago. I still have my turquoise jewelry we got at a little jewelry store there.
    I enjoy reading your blog. I’m married to an Okie. He grew up in SW Oklahoma…farming and ranching. Went to school at OSU…and ended up in Houston and in my life. All of my “in-law sort of people” still live in OK…southwestern, central, and southeastern.
    Sounds like you had a wonderful vacation!

  4. Emily C says:

    I have really fond memories of touring Native American ruins, and then wandering through Jerome with my grandparents 20 years ago.
    I’m so glad you had a wonderful vacation! My hubs and I are in the works of planning a trip next summer (kid free! love grandma), and depending on where he attends school for a PhD, Disneyland may be on the list.

  5. Dale Best says:

    My wife and I honeymooned in Sedona and one of the day trips we took was to Jerome. What a cool little ghost town on the side of a mountain! When you go back, be sure to visit a little eatery called The Haunted Hamburger. Their burger are some of the best I’ve every had.
    Dale Best

  6. Ashley says:

    I have to tell you, I’ve lived in AZ my entire life, and it’s been so fun to hear you describe with excitement things that I’ve seen a million times and don’t even look twice at. Thanks for making me appreciate my home more šŸ™‚

  7. Stephanie says:

    Clearly, you’ve never been to Arizona before…because mountains are our “crowning glory.” šŸ˜‰ That…and our sunsets…Arizona sunsets are unbeatable.

  8. kelly says:

    Thanks for the shout out! We love hearing that you had a great time in California! Come back & visit anytime! It’s been fun reading your adventures!

  9. Kate says:

    I’m so happy you guys had a great trip! We’re looking at doing a similar drive sometime in the next year, going from Austin to L.A.
    My husband and I lived out there when he went to Fuller a few years ago and we want to get back and visit friends. West Texas is quite a stumbling block though- you get to beautiful Balmoreah, and then you get miles and miles of nothing but cacti watered by the occasional desperate bladder.
    Your happy experience is helping me work up the initiative to start planning. Maybe some tranq guns for the minivan ride with the kids would help too.

  10. Texas in Africa says:

    So glad you had a great trip! And SO glad you weren’t in San Diego at the same time as my friends last weekend. They managed to overlap with National Gay Pride Week, which made for a slightly more educational family vacation than they’d intended.

  11. Ginger says:

    Looks like yall had lots of fun. So, are those loads of laundry worth it? Hmmm… the jury is still out on that… ha!

  12. Cousin Matt says:

    Ahhhh, Jerome, Arizona. The parents of one of my good buddies were so enamored of that town almost thirty years ago that they named him after it. Glad you got to see it, as well as The Canyon. Sorry I couldn’t make it down to see y’all–I’m on call all the time these days.

  13. Phebe says:

    Hey, my husband and I stumbled upon Jerome, AZ, too! I think that was the time we had to stop to hose down her carseat after she had an accident…
    Anyway, if you go back to Jerome, check out the ghost town (down the road behind the little fire station, I think?). It’s really kind of weird and cool and creepy all at the same time. It’s basically a little mining town that was abandoned around the 1940’s or so. The houses and shops and all still stand–most with the furniture and goods intact. You can walk all around in there–like you’re going back in time about 70 years or so…
    BTW, I lived in the LA area for 6 years and never made it to the tar pits–what a shame!

  14. Phebe says:

    Oops, I mean we had to hose down my baby daughter’s carseat. I should read my comment before posting… šŸ™‚

  15. Kristen says:

    Okay, I live in Orange County and had never seen the Just Spotted blog. Thanks for the tip! And yes, I’m another native who has never seen the tar pits. Gotta get on that!

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