Arizona Magic

Since surprises are the best, and our kids get rowdy with anticipation, we completely took them by surprise when taking them for a year-long-planned adventure to Arizona.  We were “still unpacking” from our trip the weekend before, so the suitcases raised no suspicions.  We got everything ready, and scooped them into the car at 4:00am.  They asked where we were going, and we said, “On an adventure!”  They asked where, but we wouldn’t tell.  They each said, “Ireland!”  Haha!

I had planned the reason for going to Arizona, a year ago.  I let Daddy plan the events in between.  We started by visiting towns on Route 66 that inspired the Disney movie, Cars.  So cute!

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We also really enjoyed the Arizona skyline.  And the sky itself!

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Then, we went on to our big adventure for this first day.  We were doing pretty well with this whole “We’re not telling you where we’re going” thing, so we kept it going throughout the trip.  For the next venture, we needed to go into this forest.  It was quite cold, and there was no precipitation in the forecast, but here it was snowing.  And apparently they don’t plow this road.

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Disappointed, we turned back.  We don’t have 4-wheel drive, and we didn’t bring chains.  We talked to the man at the market down the road, and he gave us a vote of confidence that we could drive this snow-covered road.  In fact, he insisted.  So, we pressed on.

It was a very long, snow-covered road, and we watched the car’s outdoor thermometer continue to drop.  It sure was exciting, and we had the forest to ourselves.

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While it was fun to be in the snow, it was painfully cold in this particular spot.  Our fingers became more rigid with every passing moment, and as the kids started to complain, we knew we needed shelter.  All we needed was a nice cave.  Ah!  This underground lava river cave will do!

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Some fun photography tricks were needed to capture the interior of this underground wonderland.

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While the inside of the cave was a warmer 30-40 degrees, and it was great to be out of the wind, our cold-blooded little one couldn’t last too long.  We also wanted to be back to the highway before dark, as that forest road was more like an unmarked trail.  So, we didn’t explore the whole 0.7mi, but turned back.  Our first family spelunking expedition was a huge success!

While the kids stayed in the warm car, we snapped a quick photo in this wintery town before going to dinner.

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The next morning, we were back on the road to our next undisclosed destination.  The signs gave it away.  We were headed to the Grand Canyon.  I had never been!  Along the road, I caught glimpses of the canyon, and the small bits I saw, completely took my breath away.  It’s so much wider and deeper than photos can portray.  10 miles wide?!  A mile deep?!

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After our Grand Canyon adventures, we went to dinner in a cozy little town, all dressed up for Christmas.

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We checked into a wonderful old hotel, filled with children in pajamas, along a railroad.  We surprised the kids with new pajamas of their own.  I even made them special scarves.

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We explored outside, among the vast array of Christmas lights and activity.  We gathered at the train platform for a Polar Express presentation.

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The conductor told us to come aboard!  We were going to travel to the North Pole!

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We were served hot cocoa and cookies by dancing chefs!  When we got to the North Pole, it was beautiful!

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Then, Santa boarded our train!

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He gave each child his very own bell from his sleigh!  Our boys were over the moon!

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We started our train ride back home, singing Christmas carols and dancing in the aisles all the way!

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When we arrived back at the depot, we hugged our chefs good-bye, and headed back into our hotel.

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We soon fell fast asleep in our beds, where visions of sugarplums danced in our heads.

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After a magical night, we woke and got in the car for the long drive home to California.  We love you, Arizona!  We’ll miss you!

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