Pretty uneventful day today, other than picking up Steve, but since that happened at 00:35, it actually happened tomorrow. :-) YIPPEE, we are back together.
At the last minute, I decided to try to leave Custer a day early. I just thought that the 10-hour drive to Minneapolis and then picking Steve up at the airport at midnight was going to to be a bit much. Gratefully, the Bavarian Inn understood and were totally willing to let us check out a day early. So today, we left Custer for our six-hour drive to Sioux Falls, SD. That leaves a short four-hour drive to Minneapolis tomorrow and goodness, am I ever happy that I decided to ask about leaving early. So our story continues and tomorrow, after four months apart, we get to see Steve and have a week-long FAMILY HOLIDAY (minus Kiele:-( together. Cannot wait!!
We drove seven hours around the Black Hills today, which was a pretty incredible feat considering that we drove 10 hours yesterday. We saw the Needles Eye, a penis rock, drove Needle Highway, saw more bison than I ever imagined we would ever see, sat in a five-minute bison road block, went the wrong way (of course), visited Crazy Horse Monument (only to get our money back because we couldn't take Charley on the bus) and last but not least, visited the captivating Mount Rushmore. I don't know why I have always thought of Mt Rushmore as THE PLACE to see in America, but I've felt that way since I was young. So happy I was finally able to see the spectacular site and do so with the littles.
Oh what a day or should I say drive. I didn't sleep well last night so today was rough. I was so tired and the drive long, boring and mostly flat 10-hour drive did not help. Oh yea, not having any cell signal didn't help either because I couldn't listen to my podcasts and the kids decided they wanted to read, which meant about eight hours of driving through silence. I mean...don't get me wrong, I'm super happy the kids were reading but man, I was tired much of the drive. And I was beyond thrilled when we finally arrived at the hotel, BUT we arrived shortly after a massive storm blew through and that meant no power in the ENTIRE CITY. Lucky for us, there was one grocery store in Custer that has some sort of backup power and we were able to get some food for dinner (guacamole, salsa, chips, yogurt, strawberries and goldfish crackers). No power meant an early bed time for all, which honestly, made me super happy.
What an absolutely fantastic afternoon with friends. Three moms and nine kids and everyone got along brilliantly. Basically today was a dream come true kind of day, especially while traveling -- swimming, paddle-boarding, kayaking, smash ball, grilled hotdogs and s'mores. All. Day. Long!
So great to connect with good friends! The kids couldn't stop talking about how much fun they had and how nice the other kids were. As a parent, that is pretty much a dream come true, especially after not having a whole lot of friends around for the past three years.
Summer, Crystalyn and I (and eight of our kids) met up at Antelope Island. Such a lovely evening, as we walked and explored and laughed and complained (about how much the rocky lake bottom hurt our feet). Charley was usually out with the kids and ended up being one salty, sandy, hot mess.
Thank you Oma and Oma for having us, while en route to Virginia. The down time was perfect and so very needed. The morning walks -- yep, those were also welcome and needed.
Today was our day of moving East, to Salt Lake City, Utah. Only stopping once to use the restroom and another time to get gas, it took us about 7-1/2 hours. Charley has been doing great, with his security bed. As long as he has that little bed, his anxiety and barfing seems to be kept at bay. Once we arrived at the hotel, I got the kids Little Cesars, which Ryder declared was so good and his "second favorite fast food". Then I headed out for dinner with my dear friends, Crystalyn and Summer. Today was a safe, successful, good day.
...is still traveling.
And both kids killed the test. Okay, maybe they killed the large majority of the test and both need a little more summer practice with spelling and language structure. I mean...they did grade level, but we will focus our remaining summer days working on these subjects. I have to say, as someone who firmly stated that I would NEVER home school, this has been a most-magical three years of home / world schooling ever.
It's record-breaking heat here and in most of the southwest, BUT the mornings and evenings are absolutely gorgeous. Kate and I get our walk in every morning and then we hang out in their beautiful backyard in the evenings.
Today was a 10-hour drive from La Jolla, CA to Carson City, NV. Then I drove another 30 minutes to Reno to pick up my new Jeep Wrangler. I have always had a love for Jeeps and have owned two Wranglers in the past. Well, while we were in Europe, Steve bought me a four-door white Wrangler, to be picked up in Reno, near where Steve's parents live. It's beautiful and I'm so incredibly excited...blessed...and grateful. I have the most amazing husband ever!
Leah and I have been friends, since the very beginning of our photography journeys. I'm so grateful for her friendship, which has not only stood the test of time, but also the test of numerous relocations (for me). Japan-US communication was NOT easy, but indeed, we survived. And every time we see one another, we always talk about how beautiful the kids get along and how they pick up right where they left off, even though it's sometimes years since they last saw one another. Grateful!!
Bye-bye Europe. Hello America.
Today was a very long flight (11 hours, 45 minutes to be exact) from Barcelona to LAX. Picked up our rental car and then drove to La Jolla, where Charley has been staying for the past three months. It was so great to see both Charley and Oma Terry. While we LOVED our European adventure, it feels awesome to be back in the US.
I was far from organized today, our last day in Barcelona, our last day in Europe. I guess I didn't realize how June would progress to be so touristy as April and May were, for the most part, non tourist months. So I looked (scoured) on the internet today for tickets to various sites and everything was sold out. We could have gone and waited in line for 2-3 hours, but nope, at this point, that is NOT happening. Finally, after more searching, I found tickets to the Park Guell fro 20:00 -- perfect. In the afternoon, we walked from Gaudi site to Gaudi site. Then I took Sky to do a bit of birthday day shopping. The time got a bit away from us but I thought, with an hour for dinner, we were still fine. Well dinner pushed things to the last minute and then when we couldn't find a taxi, we missed our damn 30-minute window. And so it was...we turned around and went back home. It's just the way things roll sometimes, especially when traveling for so long. We went back to the room, I did a few photos of Sky and the kids did some math. Tomorrow, with two months and 20 days of traveling is behind us, we fly to America. HOLY SHIT, I can't believe the time is here!
Took a three-hour bullet train to Barcelona today. Chilled in our hotel room during the heat of the day and then decided to explore the La Rambla area in the evening. We found the area quite crowded and touristy, but had an absolutely fantastic dinner off-the-beaten-path. One of my biggest tips for traveling -- turn right or left, from any main tourist path, and explore (that is where the magic is). By the time dinner was done, it was 21:00, so we walked home and went to bed.
P.S. I'm in love with our hotel, which is filled with mid-century everything.
More wandering to start my day. I love being outside in the morning because it's the only cool time here in Madrid. Around 13:00, it's in the 90s and it's been at least 100 each day we've been here. In the heat of the afternoon, we went to The Prado Museum. If I'm being completely hIonest, I've been feeling a bit burnt out and longing for home, so I wasn't overly excited at the thought of The Prado but OH MY GOSH, I am so happy we went. That museum was mind-blowingly amazing. The museum is huge, so I researched the most important masterpieces to see and read about each of them, to ensure we saw and were familiar with those pieces.
So what is the above image about? I wasn't exactly sure either, at first. There was a young man painting and shortly after we starting watching him, he left to take a break. I took this picture and then was scolded by security, "no pictures". So I asked her what this painting was all about. She said that students are allowed to spend a month on a painting within the museum. They have to apply and be recommended by a professor. After they are done, some keep the painting, other sell it. I asked why people can paint but no pictures? She said that photographs were banned 15 years ago because people weren't abiding by the 'no flash' rule and they were getting in people's way trying to take pictures. We saw four other easels, while we walked through the museum and one other young man painting. One of the paintings we saw looked pretty much identical to the masterpiece (I know it really didn't, but damn, it was close). So interesting, huh?!
After the museum, it was home for a bit of siesta time and then dinner. Hard to believe that tomorrow, we leave for Barcelona, our last stop on this dream-come-true European adventure. I am so blessed!
My day started with you guessed it, getting lost. I really do love wandering. I kind of have an obsession with street art, so that's part of the fun of it too. But I also love looking at the architecture, the windows, and of course, people watching. Madrid has some awesome window shopping too.
After lunch, we decided to visit the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, one of the world's largest museums of contemporary and modern art. Featuring Picasso, I absolutely loved it. The kids both declared that they aren't the biggest fan of Picasso, but I am absolutely fascinated by the man and his works of art.
Averaging around 10 miles a day, we are always exhausted by the afternoon, so siesta time it is until dinner. Dinner time has been around 19:30 or 20:00 lately, so by the time we are done, it's home and off to bed.
We flew very early this morning from Venice to Madrid airport and then trained it to Madrid center. Dropped off our bags at the hotel, but first we walked to the wrong Far Home Hostel, which was rather frustrating, but they were lovely and offered us cold juice and a place to sit to cool down. The thing about Madrid is...it's hot as shit here right now, with highs between 100 to 102 Fahrenheit. A military friend hooked us up with his friend, Bea. We met her after lunch and then walked with her all over Madrid, while she showed us some of her favorite places and sites we need to visit during our stay here. We parted ways after about five hours. Absolutely exhausted, the kids and I headed back to our hotel room, where I almost immediately fell asleep for a couple hours. At 21:00 Sky and I went back out to the square to pick up some sandwiches and off course, the city was just beginning to come alive, although I considered it still very hot at that time. We did a little window shopping and then back to the room. It's funny because I have one early riser / morning child and the other is an absolute night owl / miserable morning person. That is making things rather tricky in Madrid, where it is best in the mornings and evenings. Sky is painful to wake early and Ryder is miserable in the evenings. Fun-fun.