Monday, September 26, 2022

The Evans Family Transcontinental Spectacular

When Phillip was prepping our kids for our family vacation last month, he told them that we were "going to take a car and a plane and a bus and a subway and a ferry" and my 18-year-old interrupted with "and a hot air balloon and it's going to take 180 days."


I don't even know what to call our last family vacation. I titled this post "The Evans Transcontinental Spectacular" but I feel like I should have called it "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie."

How It Started

The initial idea was pretty straightforward: we needed to drop off our newly-minted college freshman at college in Utah. 

Then we decided it was also a good opportunity to visit with our Utah relatives, and the whole family should go.

Then we discovered that tickets to fly directly there from here cost a fortune right now, and that's where the train started to veer into Crazytown.

After some sleuthing, Phillip found cheap tickets from NYC to Las Vegas and wondered: were we willing to drive to New York, fly to Vegas, then rent another car and drive to Utah? 

Well... sure! It could be fun! We could even take a day to sightsee in New York, then take another day to sightsee in Vegas... 

(Phillip even suggested taking a detour en route from Vegas to Utah to stop by the Grand Canyon but I put my foot down. I was already beginning to suspect we were literal insane people, no need to prove it.)

Leading up to the trip, we neatly divided the labor: Phillip handled planning the trip logistics and I handled tearing my hair out getting our daughter ready to leave for college. 

I had no idea how many loose ends there are to tie up before a young adult can move their life to another state. If you don't know what I'm talking about, bless you and I won't spoil it for you.


We filled the trunk of our van with 8 carryon suitcases (one for each of us), strapped two big moving boxes of my daughter's college belongings to the roof, and we were off to New York.

The drive was a little stressful as I thought about the ten million things that could potentially go wrong with so many moving parts on this trip, but once we finally got there and parked at the airport I started to enjoy myself.

Backpacking around New York City

We parked at the airport, packed a changed of clothes in our backpacks, and headed out by subway to see NYC. That night we'd check into a hotel downtown, but we certainly didn't want to be dragging our rollerbags around with us until then.

We took the Staten Island ferry (for free!) and saw the Statue of Liberty. My kids said it wasn't as big as they thought it would be, but were impressed with the size of the pedestal. Go figure.

Statue not pictured, but it was there.

From there we took the subway to the 9/11 Memorial and came up in this futuristic transportation hub that looked like the place where Harry Potter went after he died to chat with with Dumbledore. 

I looked it up and this is called the Oculus, and it was built after 9/11 to replace a destroyed train station.

No offense to the NYC subway system, but it is filthy (we saw actual New York rats crawling on the tracks and they weren't even the yuckiest things down there) so coming up to this Oculus thing was quite a change.

We had some yummy street food and checked out the 9/11 memorial for a bit, then headed north to see Grand Central Station, Wall Street, and Times Square.

My girls are huge Marvel fans so they were really excited to be in the place where Spider-Man did this thing and Captain America did that thing... I don't watch superhero movies so I just did the mom thing where I didn't know what they were talking about but I nodded and smiled, happy that they were happy, and they knew I didn't have a clue but they loved me anyway.

Not the best picture of Times Square, but if you came to this blog for quality photography you'd have left a long time ago.

That night we slept at a hotel and, carrying our clothes on our backs once more like hermit crabs in the morning, went out to explore the city for one more day before flying to Las Vegas. 

This was my very favorite day. We split up and Phillip took the older kids to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I got to take the little kids to all the fun places. 

They posed with giant creations in the Lego Store:

Danced on the floor piano in F.A.O. Schwartz:

And played in the revolving doors at the American Girl Store until they got yelled at:

After that, our plan was to meet up at the New York Public library. 

Feeding bagels to the pigeons outside the library.

The public library is beautiful but my kids were utterly unimpressed. In fact, they were incensed that there was no children's room, so we ended up going across the street to a regular library branch where they could read Dog-Man comics while we waited for the other half of our family.

When the rest of our family arrive and the 8 of us were all together again, we did a quick walk-by of the Empire State Building (again, they were unimpressed) and headed back to the airport to leave for Vegas. 

I'd like to remind everyone that we still had two gigantic boxes to retrieve from the car and haul through JFK airport, which was not easy, but I loved that it was a late flight so we could see all the lights as we were leaving the city.

The view was worth being dead-tired when we got to Las Vegas.

In Which We Breeze through Vegas

The next day was Sunday, so we went to a local congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We'd more or less randomly picked a ward, so we were surprised when we introduced ourselves in Sunday School and someone on the other side of the room yelled, "Phillip! It's almost like we're cousins or something!"

It actually was his cousin, you guys. (He's got a lot of cousins, obviously.) It was a very random meeting that probably confused everyone in the room, including us.

We also paid a visit to our old neighbors, who moved to Las Vegas about a year ago. We dropped by their place to catch up, have some snacks, and of course, let the kids swim in their pool because it was 115° outside.

And when the sun started to go down, we took the kids and went to the Las Vegas strip to walk around for about an hour. 

We only saw it from a distance, but the kids got a kick out of New York New York section since we were just there.

Las Vegas is such an unusual place. I mean, our first clue should've been when we got off the plane and there was a bay of slot machines at our gate. But I think I'm still trying to figure it out. 

You've got this desert. But there's this little strip in the middle of it with flashing neon lights and a Statue of Liberty and an Eiffel Tower and hotels shaped like castles and pyramids and the Roman Pantheon. I mean, what even is Las Vegas?

These were the thoughts going through my mind as we checked out the lights, occasionally positioned ourselves to block the kids' view of naked ladies with feather headdresses, and ended up at the Bellagio fountain to watch the show.

I admit I don't fully get Las Vegas, but I liked it and enjoyed how different it felt than anywhere else I've ever been. 

And now that we know Phillip's cousin lives there, maybe we will go back sometime and figure this place out.

The Drive to Utah

The trip had gone amazingly well so far, but remember those two giant boxes of my daughter's college belongings I won't let you forget about? Well we'd planned to strap them to the top of the rental car, which this morning we discovered did not have a functioning luggage rack.

We tried a few things that didn't work, and finally ended up unpacking the boxes and ferreting away the contents in different locations in the car. (We'd packed boxes rather than suitcases because I'm a cheapskate and wanted to recycle the boxes after we got there instead of paying to fly empty suitcases home, but here was another reason I hadn't quite anticipated.)

It was probably a good thing anyway, because we didn't have to worry about boxes coming loose from the roof while we were blowing through the desert at 80 MPH for 6 hours.

Take a right and go 400 miles. I guess we didn't really need our GPS for this part of the trip.

For such a long drive, I honestly think it went by pretty fast. Most of it was so gorgeous, I wouldn't even mind doing it again.

The view from the window.
Once we were in Utah, we stayed with Phillip's parents for several days. The kids played with their cousins, their aunt and uncle's electric scooters, and Mario Kart while we cleaned out the last of Wal-Mart's stock of XL twin sheets and shower flip-flops with our oldest daughter and helped her get situated at college.

We also took the kids to see a spray park, a few museums, and the Salt Lake City temple of our church, which is currently so encased in scaffolding you can't even see the temple underneath. 

I knew they were reinforcing the foundation, but I had no idea.

So Long, Farewell

This trip was a first for us, in many ways. For starters, we'd never gone on a family vacation before and left two of our kids behind. On purpose.

Our oldest was at college, and the 14-year-old was staying behind to drive with Grandma and Grandpa to Washington state for a "boys' retreat" with his cousins. 

We'd planned to get up early and drive back to Las Vegas to catch our return flight that same afternoon, but we worried about accidentally missing our flight if we ran into car trouble, so Phillip looked for a place to stay for a night in Vegas. 

Because it was a weeknight AND most people were back in school AND we were booking at the last minute, Phillip scored a fantastic deal at this posh resort.

There were several pools, some waterslides, a waterfall, and a game room. It was definitely the fanciest place we've ever stayed, and probably the fanciest place we ever will stay so I hope the kids didn't get used to it. 

We enjoyed everything except the way our bare feet immediately melted to the molten ground when we got out of the pool.

Let me tell you, though, when you're used to 6 kids, 4 feels like basically nothing. I kept looking at the four little ducklings trailing behind us and thinking, "Wait, this is it?" 

We hung out at the pool for the rest of the night and the next morning until it was time to check out, and then we went to the airport.

We arrived at midnight in NYC and then drove straight now. Well, not quite straight home. 

We had to stop once for a bathroom emergency, and even at 2 AM I found the humor in the signs distributed throughout this rest stop along the freeway:

The employees seem like "glass half-empty" people.

Never have I seen such comprehensive signage in a bathroom stall.

Less than a week after we returned, school and all 500 of the kids' fall activities started, and I've felt ever since that I've been shot out of a cannon into the center ring of a circus of my own making. 

But it's my circus and I love it, even if it does make me incredibly tired. At least we didn't try to squeeze in a visit to the Grand Canyon.

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Unknown said...

We will work on that Grand Canyon or Yellowstone or some other great national park next trip! We loved having you here.

AnneMarie said...

Wow, what a neat trip/vacation! And that's pretty awesome that you guys got a good deal at a super posh resort-what a fun experience!

Terra Heck said...

Wow, what a trip! But seems like it was worth it for the most part. I wish your daughter best of luck in college this year.