Ballard Girls Road Trip: Day 6 (The Long Drive Home and Some Quotes)

Good news, I only took a few pictures on our drive home.

We stopped at Swig in St. George for shaved ice and cookies:

Sometimes Kaleigh is too slow to join in the group pictures, so then she gets her own: 

I had to take this picture of Leslie driving to show how close she sits to the steering wheel. Every time we switched back and forth, it felt like the automatic seat adjustor was moving in slow motion. 

Rachel took these pictures out the window while we were driving: 

There was a crazy dust/pollen/dirt storm and it left our Pilot looking like this: 

And that was our trip. Sorry for all of the pictures, but we didn't want Angela to feel like she missed out on anything. 

And here are some quotes. . . I will leave them anonymous to protect people from being embarrassed.

"Hey, that looks like Moses's brother."

"I need to wipe myself."

"This looks just like the spaghetti bowl in Salt Lake, except with palm trees."

"Being nervous makes your spit get all stringy."

"Kaleigh, don't ask anyone if they're boys or girls because they might be drag queens."

And that's a wrap. . . three more trips to go: South Africa, Hawaii, and St. Louis.

Ballard Girls Road Trip: Day 5 (Hoover Dam & Las Vegas)

We left the Garza's house early Monday morning, just as they were all leaving for school/work. They were fabulous hosts and I am so thankful that they let us stay with them. 

We picked up Gracie and Gretchen from Richard & Gloria's and were on our way: 

The drive to Las Vegas is only five hours, but the first hour is horribly painful because you have to travel through sprawling suburbia and stop at approximately 35 stoplights. I think we made it a full hour before someone needed to use the restroom. A couple of hours later, we stopped at McDonald's in Kingman, Arizona for lunch. My friend, Bridgett, is moving to Kingman next month, so I'll be seeing more of that lovely place. 

We continued driving northwest on Highway 93, which is so very desolate. I wish I would have stopped to take pictures of the long, bleak rows of mailboxes that seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere. But we kept going, thankful that wasn't our home. 

And then we got to the Hoover Dam. I prefer approaching Las Vegas from this direction because I think it's good to see the dam before the glitz of Vegas. Going to look at a dam might sound a little boring, but the Hoover Dam really is an engineering and architectural wonder. Nearly a million people tour the dam every year. 

The Hoover Dam was completed in 1936, two years ahead of schedule and $15 million under budget. It stopped the annual floods and conserved water for irrigation, industry, and domestic uses. Most importantly, the dam's generators provide electricity for Nevada, Arizona, and California. 

There were 112 deaths associated with the construction of the dam. Included in that total was J.G. Tierney, a surveyor who drowned on December 20, 1922 while looking for an idea spot for the dam. He is considered the first man to die in the construction of the Hoover Dam. His son, Patrick W. Tierney, was the last man to die working on the dam's construction, 13 years to the day later.

The dam is protected by two spillways, each containing four 100-foot long and 16-foot high steel drum gates. Each gate weighs 5 million pounds and can be operated manually or automatically. Gates are raised and lowered depending upon water levels in the reservoir and flood conditions.

Lake Mead is the reservoir lake created by the dam. It is the largest reservoir in the United States by volume (9.2 trillion gallons of water) and has a maximum water depth of 590 feet. It took 6.5 years to fill the lake. 

Drivers on Highway 93 used to follow the crazy curvy road right along the dam's crest until the four-lane Hoover Dam Bypass opened in October 2010. The bypass was actually constructed because of security concerns following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Until the bypass was completed, traffic was restricted over the Hoover Dam. Even with the new bridge, we still had to pull over and let them search our roof boxes before we were allowed to proceed towards the dam. There is a great Visitor Center, but we were short on time, so we decided we'd just view the dam from the Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which is the official name of the bypass's bridge:


A good number of Hoover Dam's one million annual visitors arrive on motorcycles: 

These next pictures were taken by Rachel:

She loves taking pictures of people taking pictures with their iPads: 

The kids recognized this road from a commercial: 

See how happy Kaleigh is when she is being carried:

And then as soon as she's not being carried, she puts on this forlorn face and acts like she's been abandoned:  

It was crazy windy. And poor Layla got something right in her eye.

We enjoyed the view as much as we could with all of that wind.

Here are the five girls. The sixth one was still against the side of the bridge, mourning that she had to walk. 

I finally gave in: 

We walked back to Nevada:

And then we finished our drive to Vegas. We stayed at the Cancun Resort, which is located a few miles south of the Las Vegas Strip: 

We picked this hotel mostly for its swimming pools: 

I wasn't super impressed with my camera on this trip. (My old Leica would have taken a much better photo than the one above.) This shot was taken with my iPhone (with an Instagram filter): 

And this one with my camera. Better, yes. But not by too much.

Maybe I have unrealistic expectations or maybe I just need to learn how to use it properly.

Anyhow, the girls had a great time swimming:

And going down the slides: 

Rachel hit her head on the slide and spent some time hanging out with me. I pretended to take a picture of Rachel so I could get a shot of the girl in the background taking a "selfie".  

This went on for quite some time and was thoroughly entertaining. I finally had to tell Rachel to stop taking pictures of her: 

When everyone was finished swimming, we got dressed and went to the Strip. This was Gracie, Gretchen, and Layla's first time to Las Vegas. Our first stop was the Roller Coaster at New York, New York:

The ride is usually $14 per person, but Ether Wong hooked us up with some buy one, get one free coupons. Kaleigh was too short, so I rode to keep the numbers even. I took this picture, and then was immediately reprimanded for having my phone.

It was a little embarrassing. . . they actually held the ride while I went and found Leslie to give her my phone. They don't actually care about people dropping their phones, she just want to force you into buying their expensive pictures. 

I'm glad we've checked that roller coaster off the list for Rachel and Lucy. It's actually pretty jarring and I'd just as soon never ride it again. 

Next stop was M&M World:

I'd also prefer not to sit through this movie again, but it's sort of mandatory on your first visit: 

The thing with my camera is that when I'm taking the pictures, it seems like they are good. And then when I download them, I'm really disappointed. . . 

Oh well. Then we were on to World of Coca-Cola. Kaleigh was absolutely enthralled by the Coca-Cola Polar Bear, which was a drastic change from our visit a few years ago. 

The girls were crazy giddy to pick out their souvenirs. I was just glad that I didn't have Adam with me. During our September 2010 trip to Las Vegas, I walked the Strip with all four kids while Steve went to a food show. While we were in the Coke store, we narrowly avoided a dangerous situation when Adam climbed onto the outside of the escalator. I barely grabbed him in time to pull him off. 

My favorite part of going to the Coke store is the Around the World Tray. I can't believe it's still only seven bucks. 

Sixteen different Coca-Cola drinks from around the world. . . here's the first tray:

I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves. I'm posting all of them because I think they are so funny: 

Here's tray number two: 

Rachel and Gracie dramatically moaned after trying most of the drinks. Layla was very composed and kept saying, "It's okay." But then she finally got to one drink and announced, "Okay, that's a bad one."

And the soda that gave Kaleigh all of those painful facial expressions in the photos above? She decided she wanted the whole thing to herself:

I am completely confident in saying that nobody else had as good of a time as we did with our Around the World Tray. . .

But if you want me to be completely honest, picking out souvenirs at the Coke store was the most exciting part of the whole trip:

We walked outside just in time to pose for a picture with Elvis: 

He was raising money for a charity, so he was less creepy than some of the other performers on the Strip. I really, really, really wish I could have talked Lucy into singing a duet with him. Kaleigh walked back to say goodbye and Elvis gave her a plastic lei. She kept telling me, "That man was really nice."

We couldn't resist the Minion: 

But there were just too many. Kaleigh wouldn't stop talking to all of the characters. . . so I decided I was going to have to carry her. 

We walked all the way to the Venetian. Which is a long walk. Especially when you are trying to shield five girls from the craziness of Vegas. And especially when the five-year old falls asleep, but then keeps jerking around in her sleep making it hard to keep ahold of her. 

But we finally make it to Tao. We were a little worried that some of the girls might not like the food, but then they ate this huge dish of Lo Mein before I even got a picture of it: 

My favorite thing at Tao is the giant fortune cookie:

Immediately after I took that picture, Lucy squealed that Kaleigh (who spent the entire dinner asleep on the bench) had peed. Kaleigh doesn't ever have accidents. Ever. So of course it is bound to happen when you are out to eat late at night with six kids at a fancy restaurant in Las Vegas. I flipped into ninja-mode and wrapped Lucy's jacket around Kaleigh (who was suddenly awake, disoriented, and very ornery). I hauled her out of there so fast that I really don't think anyone else noticed what was going on. I was trying to hold her as far away from my body as possible, so she didn't get me wet. But she was crying just wanted to wrap her arms around my neck and hug me. It wasn't easy. We ran into a store, quickly grabbed some clothes, paid for them, and hurried off to find a restroom. . . which of course was all the way through the casino. 

It was past 11:00 pm and Kaleigh was not happy. I felt the eyes of all of the other women in the restroom judging me as I stripped off her wet clothes, discreetly washed her down in the sink, and then dressed her in her new Minnie Mouse pajamas. (They are so large that they are actually Rachel's new Minnie Mouse pajamas.) 

As I was carrying Kaleigh back upstairs towards Tao, I called Leslie to tell her they better save some of the fortune cookie for me. But it was too late. I was crushed. I really should have ordered one to go and eaten the whole thing by myself. . . I certainly deserved some sort of award for how I pulled off the pee situation. 

But instead, we started the long walk back to our car, which was parked clear back at New York, New York. I was struggling with Kaleigh, who was back to jerking around in her sleep, making it really difficult to carry her. And Lucy was going downhill fast. We really needed our husbands to save us! We decided that me, Lucy, and Kaleigh would take the bus back to NY, NY and Leslie would take the other four girls to see the fountains at Bellagio. And then we'd drive back and pick them up. It was a good plan. Except that we still had to walk to the bus stop. And then we had to wait for 15 minutes. And then I had to hike up the steep stairs to the second level of the double-decker bus. And then the bus was so incredibly slow because of all of the pedestrians blocking the road. And in case you're wondering, it's not actually a good idea to have kids on the Strip at midnight. We got off the bus in front of Monte Carlo, and then we still had to walk what felt like five miles to get to the parking lot back behind New York, New York. I know this probably sounds ridiculous, but it was so hard. Lucy had completely crashed and was spooked by everyone and everything we walked past. I kept telling her (and myself) that we were almost there and to just keep going. I don't think I've ever been more relieved to see my car.

By the time we pulled out of there, Leslie and the other girls had almost caught up to us and were only about a block away. . . we would have been better off staying with them.  

We drove back to our hotel and I was so frustrated that all of the parking spaces were full. Leslie knew that I was done and kindly offered to drop us off up front and she would go find a parking spot and walk back by herself. And for that, she deserves a prize. 

We got everyone up to our room and ready for bed. And you better believe that everyone slept well that night. 

As we were riding the elevator down from our hotel room the next morning, I asked the girls, "Now, can you imagine coming to Vegas for five days?" (I think that's how long Dave and Leslie spent there for their anniversary trip.)

One of them replied, "Five days? That was only one and I am so tired!"

And then Rachel corrected her, "That was only five hours!"

By my count, that was my 14th trip to Las Vegas. We love Vegas, but it's like eating Chinese food from the food court at the mall. . . . as soon as you're done, you decide you don't need any more for a good year or two.