Road Trip 2013: Day 10, September 8, 2013

(click here for today's pictures)
Giant Sequoias!

We slept crazy well last night.  Whitman did wake up once and I gave him a bottle that was in the fridge.  He usually holds his bottle without any problem but last night he was not going to hold his bottle.  I guess it was too cold for his little hands.  I thought about setting up and pulling his sleeves down over his hands but was too tired for that.

Pops called around 8 to ask for the girls clothes and woke us up-Robby’s alarm had
gone off earlier but I sure didn’t hear it.  It wasn’t too long before we were at breakfast eating away.  Robby left a few minutes early so he could get a cart and ice.  Then we were loading up-we did have one incident with the Kindles.  Campbell was playing hers and I took it from her to pack them up.  Her and Graham just fell apart expecting that they could play-a swift attitude readjustment to the rear helped.
This is day 10 (makes me so sad) of our trip and the kids have done really well.  Obviously, any type of traveling and especially traveling Dennie style is hard on the kids.  We pretty much go, go, go, go from sun up to sun down (well, maybe not exactly sun up but close).  Keaton probably has had the hardest time on this trip and she has started getting a bit fussy.  Whenever she is tired, she asks and asks for her milk.  It is a good thing we have a supply of it or she would fall apart!  Well, the candy nerds can calm her down too-or a sprite.  But milk is her preferred beverage.

As we drove up the hill to Sequoia National Park, we were showing the kids the trees.  We talked about how old they were and Graham said “I am going to guess that the trees is 100.  Or maybe even older than Pops.”  I told the kids that some of these trees would have trunks as big as our van.  Graham, my thinker, said that the next time we come he is going to bring a a measuring tape to just how big the trees are.  

Our first stop was a visitor’s center.  We stopped for the bathroom, to stamp our books and to take a picture by the sign.  Now on the way to the visitor’s center there was a park ranger giving a speech.  He was talking about bears saying that some tribes didn’t believe in killing bears, some tribes only had a few people that could kill bears.  As we passed, Pops added the the park rangers speech and said “in some tribes, when you see a bear you run like hell.”  And then Anderson said “run like hell?”  

Yesterday, we changed the car seats around and still have Whitman on the second row.  But now we have Reagan and Campbell on the third row with Anderson sitting very near Keaton and Graham also on the back row is Graham.  I am not too sure if things have been calmer or not since our seat changes.  I almost think things have been a bit crazier-seems like I am unbuckling every 3 and a half minutes to get something for someone.  Anyway, as we were driving we heard Graham start screaming.  Then he started shouting “no, no Keaton don’t bite me. Stop!”  I guess that he had his finger just a bit too close to her mouth and she didn’t like ti.  I don’’t know how that happened but it was entertaining for us.  

We went up the little hill-16 miles and 300 curves.  They didn’t recommend vehicles over 22 feet to be in this road-we are close measuring in at 19 feet long.  We finally made it to the top and started seeing the really big sequoia trees.  They are always something to see!  

Robby dropped us off right near the General Sherman tree and then drove over to the parking lot.  He had to drive and drive and drive to get to the parking lot.  He was beginning to think that he would never see us again but was relieved to see a trail to the big tree.  He said that is was a half mile trail and it was pretty much straight down the hill and he was happy to find out that a shuttle would take you back to your cars.

While we were waiting on Robby, the kids pottied and I changed two of the messiest diapers ever.  We waited on Robby for awhile and then started mosey-ing up the trail ourselves.  Our first stop was a tree tunnel that you were able to walk through.  In 2004, they had a tree that you could drive through-today you couldn’t take your car up there and had to ride a shuttle so we skipped in (especially since our car would probably be a bit too big for that tree and I know that Robby would probably just see how close the car was to fitting and might even try it after letting air out of the tires or something like that.  And then we would get stuck-sounds funny, but our car did get briefly “jammed” in a tree tunnel in Northern California years ago.  

The kids were pretty impressed with the General Sherman tree.  It is the biggest tree in terms of mass.  Everyone liked walking on the trail and running off some energy.  Robby had the kids sit on a rail to take a back picture and Anderson was beside himself afraid that they were going to get in to trouble.  

After we finished the little loop, Robby didn't think that we would have been up for the hike up the hill back to the car so we caught the shuttle bus.  There was a bit of concern when I said that we were catching the “shuttle”  Apparently the kids didn’t know what that was and thought a large rocket ship shuttle was going to come and pick us up.  Back to the car, we passed out drinks and headed down the mountain.  

Out of Sequoia National Park and into Kings Canyon we went.  We stopped at General Grant’s Grove and since our sleeping kid count was 3, I stayed in the car with the sleepers while the others went for a bit of a hike.  Well, after setting in the car waiting on the others for about 10 minutes, I realized that there were 4 kids in the car with me and not just 3!  Goodness, I can’t believe I didn’t see Graham’s head back there nodding away. The trees are just amazing-no words can really describe.  Nor can words describe all of the tourist here-bus loads of folks.  Busses for foreigners, busses of old people, just busses everywhere.  There are men wearing all white, tattooed people on motorcycles, old people using their ipads to take pictures, foreign folks with fancy cameras.  I tell you there is so much to see in America.  Beautiful country we live in.  

After they returned from their walk, we went a bit down the hill to a picnic area.  The weather was pleasant and occasionally there was a breeze that was a bit chilly.  The best weather that we have had so far on the trip.  We unloaded our picnic spread and feasted on our sandwiches-turkey, cheese, pimento cheese, peanut butter and jelly.  We also had some pretty spicy potato chips that Robby bought in a Mexican Walmart.  Robby studied the map some after we ate and the rest of us walked around exploring.  Campbell found the biggest pine cone ever and was so proud of herself.  And even Keaton was trying to climb in between the kids like the other kids.

After lunch, we went for a bit and then Robby dropped me off at the Kings Canyon visitor’s center so I could stamp everyone’s books. I am just a sucker for gift shops-I never buy anything but I just love looking at all of the stuff.  I take pictures of the kids books and then amazon them when I get back in the car.  There is so much stuff out there-my kids could learn all about these places that we stop at….or maybe not.    

Back on the road, we headed out of the park and as we neared Fresno, we started seeing more and more fruit trees-peaches, nectarines, walnuts, grapes, plums.  We probably saw more fruit and veggies that that but just didn’t know what we were looking at.  Robby pulled off the road and Pops and I stopped at a fruit stand.  We bought plums, nectarines, peaches and grapes and then we went climbed back in the car we had Nonna start cutting away.  Pops and I ate a nectarine and peach with Nonna and Reagan helping a bit.  I will leave the plums for Pops to eat later.

As we were nearing Yosemite about an hour away, we could start seeing the smoke.  I guess is just makes everything hazy because we can’t smell it or see it where we were.  Anderson will probably have to do his inhaler for the next few nights just to be on the safe side.  And since the first is still going on, the road that we were planning on taking out of the park tomorrow is closed so Robby had to cancel the hotel for tomorrow night and adjust our route a bit (most people would dread doing stuff like that but he likes all the planning.)

We stopped at a gas station to fill up before getting into Yosemite and to use the restrooms.  As we were getting back in the car, Anderson asked if that was our destination.  A gas station?  I tried to explain that the gas station was not our destination but instead it was Yosemite National Park-”ok” was his answer.  He didn’t really care--I guess he is just along for the ride.

At the gas station, we moved Keaton’s car seat to the second seat near Whitman.  Our thougth was that she would be less entertained up there and possibly go to sleep.  About 15 minutes later, Graham, who had been sitting by Keaton, shouted “Where’s Keaton?” Keaton was up front being pretty talkative until she suddenly stopped talking.  I didn’t think anything about it until I looked back and she had Whitman’s can of formula in her lap with formula all over her and in her car seat.  Robby had to pull over to clean her off and to dump a few bottle fulls of formula out of the car seat!

Before long we were inside of Yosemite National Park.  Robby was trying to get us to an overlook so he was flying over the curves.  Meanwhile, Anderson, who had drank a liter of water and was sitting in the way back playing on his kindle, said “I don’t feel too good.”  That caused me to assess where the nearest towel was, how to unbuckle my seat belt and I quickly I could get to the back if necessary.  Thankfully Anderson made it and his tummy calmed down.  He has never gotten car sick before but has become airsick before so I am always a bit cautious with him.

At Mariposa Grove we walked around to look at more of the awesome sequoia trees.  They are just amazing and are absolutely huge.  We could have walked much further down the trail but alas it was time to move on so we could get to the hotel.  

The drive up the hill was beautiful and we even saw 3 deer.  So we have driven 2,700 miles to see animals that we have in the back yard!  And then we started down the hill-Pops was pretty surprised that we had to go back down the mountain that we had just drive up.  We are staying in the valley after all.  

The kids busied themselves with making animals out of sheets of aluminum foil.  Anderson gave up and made a basketball.  Graham made a flamingo.  Reagan and Campbell made baskets out of their aluminum foil.  Reagan said she filled hers with M&Ms and Campbell said that she filled hers with lots of tiny balls.  Then she said “that are very, very cute.”  That is not the only thing that she has said.  That child has talked and talked and talked-I don’t know what Ms. Hannah will do with her during school.  We may need to invest in a muzzle for the child!  If someone has not invented child sized muzzles then they could make a fortune!
The sun was beautiful tonight.  At first it was red and then it turned a beautiful shade of pink.  We went past the setting sun as we drove past one overlook.  It was fairly odd looking with the sun being in the smokey haze above-odd but beautiful.

We arrived in Yosemite Valley just before dark.  It is stunning-one of my favorite places ever.  When you get out of the car, it is similar to getting out of the car in New York City-you look up to the sky in ever directions.  But in Yosemite Valley, it is not skyscrapers it is mountains.  It is truly amazing.  We drove past El Capitan where rock climbers sleep on the side of the mountain for a night or two while scaling the mountain.  We past a meadow where we have had a picnic lunch before.  We passed the trail to Yosemite Falls which appears to be dry right now.  I could stay here for a week, I think!  

At one time, we had talked about staying for two nights here.  It was actually on our rough draft.  But then we changed it to just one night.  One of the reason being that lodging is pretty expensive down in the valley.  Another being that you just never know how much time you will need someplace.  We would have had a bit more time here today if we had not gone to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks but they were well worth the trip.

Robby and Pops checked into the hotel here and then we all went to see our rooms.  They are a bit lodgy feeling.  The kids were immediately in love with the rooms-bunk beds!  The closet had a curtain so I was a bit worried that we wouldn’t be able to get Keaton to sleep but after a hard day of traveling, she was out like a light.  Now there are bunk beds but only one double bed.  That left Whitman, my bed mate, without a bed.  We shoved Whitman at the foot of Reagan’s bunk bed and I guess that Robby and I will have to share a bed tonight.  

After scoping out our room, we walked over to the mess hall to eat. They had just closed the grill lines but they still had pizza, soup and sandwiches.  Robby and I both had tomato soup and it was outstanding-Reagan also had quite a bit of my soup.  After supper, we walked over to the little amphitheater area.
At 8:30, they had a program about bears so Nonna, Pops and the kids stayed for the program.  They said that program was good and Reagan said she even asked a question about bears-if they saw in color or black and white.  But she doesn’t remember the answer!  She even participated in the program-I think I understood that she was the lunchbox.  When we came back, the kids were all sitting still watching the movie about bears.  It was one hour so after a few minutes, Robby suggested that we all leave.

Oh, yes-what had Robby and I been doing during the movie?  Well, we were unloading the car.  They have no carts here and our building is about 20 yards from the parking lot.  And to make things more interesting, since this is bear country you have to take every single food item (opened or closed) out of the cars.  And trust me, we had a lot of food items in our car!  Robby and I made about 5 trips each and then were unloaded.  He moved the car (hoping the bears couldn’t really smell all of the crumbs we left in the car-we probably have enough crumbs in the car to feed a family of bears) and while Robby moved the car, I tried to unpack and get the room organized.
So Robby just posed the question that if the bears could open the car doors like opening a soda can (a fact from Reagan), then why don’t they just come right through this patio door that I am sleeping next to.  And if they can smell for such a long distance (another fact from Reagan) then couldn’t the smell the food in my room while they are sniffing around my car.  Just wondering those things tonight!  Now some of the above facts are from Reagan-she was so excited tonight to see me and tell me all of the things that she learned about the bears.  She said that now she had even more questions.  
After we left the program tonight, the boys went back to the room with Nonna and Pops.  It is their turn to spend the night with them and they didn’t want for Nonna and Pops to get out of their sight because they were afraid someone would change their mind about letting them stay in their room.  The girls, Whitman, Robby and I walked around a bit and ended up in the lobby.  They had coloring pages that Reagan and Campbell diligently worked on.  Reagan even asked the lady if she would hang it up for her.  
Back in the room, the girls had showers though Keaton did not want to be in the bathtub for anything.  We passed out a few cookies and something to drink and then it was bedtime for all.  This has been another wonderful day.

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