The ramblings of a woman,
wife, & mother, who loves:
Jesus / my man / the three,
learning about parenting /
mamahood / childbirth,
cooking foods healthy /
international / yummy,
pretending to garden /
write / design,
attempting to run /
exercise / lift weights,
enjoying traveling /
camping / adventures,
finding ways to love /
serve / sacrifice for others.

It is not to say she does these things
with style or grace, or even skill.

Fifth & Final Stop: San Francisco!

Fri Jun 6 15:43:00 CDT 2014 - Fri Jun 6 15:43:00 CDT 2014

Travel Log: 11 October 2011

This day started off craptacular but thankfully ended on a high note.

Fifth & Final Stop: San Francisco, California

Dairy allergies are a funny thing and people can react to them differently. For us, when it used to happen, it required incredible patience on our part till it passed. The patience was needed not only for dealing with the reaction but also for dealing with a child who purposefully disobeyed by eating the dairy in the first place. (Holy smokes, am I SO thankful we are through with that phase!) Just like one little white lie can lead to a thousand more white lies, so can one act of disobedience leads to much more disobedience. We tried to drive around and enjoy some time in Lake Tahoe, but it was not going to happen. Lake Tahoe was over. One forced smile photo and then we simply needed to strap everyone in and get back on the road. 


We were able to continue on the two lane Highway 50 up and over the Sierra Nevada mountains, stopping briefly for hot dogs at the goofy Weinerschnitzel hot dog joint. We crawled through Sacramento, made a dash for the city, crawled through the city, and arrived at our first VRBO, right on time: 4:30pm.

Fifth day of driving: 5.5 hours, 189 miles

(Would have been 3.5 hours without traffic. Good thing the morning's issues had us leave when we did, :)!)

Our first VRBO claimed to be a beautifully restored Edwardian flat in the Russian Hill district. Oh. my. goodness. It was too beautiful to be true. It was a typical downtown San Francisco flat, built on a steep hill, beautiful ironwork gate, 3 stories tall, huge bay windows, tall ceilings, gorgeous bathrooms, and a beautiful rooftop deck with views of the Golden Gate and Alcatraz. It had a perfect location in downtown San Francisco, on a quiet street off a busy street, secure underground parking, one building from mass transit, two blocks from Trader Joe's, an arm's reach from the Ghirardelli Chocolate Marketplace, and a stone's throw from the San Francisco Bay and Aquatic Park. (Ok, more like one building away from the chocolate fatory and 1.5 small blocks from actually touching bay water, but still, you get the point, it was close!)

After staying at countless rentals and hotels over the years, I still have a mini-freak out each time we arrive at a new place. If we traveled like "normal" people with only suitcases, I'm sure it would be different. But we don't. We travel with a big cappuccino maker and dirty bikes and school books and laptops and devices of all kinds. Plus, I'm a stickler for not wrecking or scratching anything in the places we stay in. So while we are trying to unload into a place, I am trying to make certain what its condition was before we arrived in order to make certain we leave it exactly how we found it.

It usually isn't until after we unload, unpack, start laundry, organize, rearrange, situate, plug in, grocery shop, unpack again, and organize again and then pour myself a drink that I truly r e l a x. And holy smokes, what a beautiful place to r e l a x...


View to the north from the roof deck, with view of Ghirardelli Clock Tower, Aquatic Park, and Alcatraz.


View of the roof deck itself. When not galavanting around the city, this is where I would spend all my "free" time, from morning cappuccinos to afternoon drinks. 

Seriously, we're not the fancy-smancy type. We get by with little and we really don't need much. (Just visit our house to know that! :)!) This flat was an amazing find and, continuing the theme since we decided to go to California, since our Miriam was returned to us, since we bought our "new" car, since we even arrived safely in SF, I once again spent a lot of time thinking about really, truly, deep-down, being thankful to God.

I used to write down all the blessings we had received and how God had provided for us. During that previous year of our crazy, a person I considered a friend questioned me about where those blessings came from and lowered the significance of them to being coincidence, not from God. (They lowered the significance of how I had seen God work throughout my entire life, as a matter of fact.) Add into it, how much the image of Christians thanking God is like a band-aid, catch-all, typical, empty, self-centered thing to do, and how often Christians are portrayed in general, why would I ever want to publicly thank God?

It breaks my heart to say but during that previous year, unlike the Biblical character of Job, I slowly caved under the pressures of life, the words of the people around me, and I could not bear to rejoice or speak much of God. I knew He was there, through it all, but... but... I just was so dizzy and weak from the funnel

Finally being "alone" while driving out to California, with only my family, I was able to see through the things I had been listening to that were false. I felt so hopeless before leaving Iowa that, as I mentioned, I truly thought we were going to die on our journey. But with each new day of our journey, I was able to see the good of the last year, see the tethers, see the slivers of hope.

And now, here I was, drinking a beer on the roof deck - I was able to be thankful for the previous year, thankful for the crazy, life altering experiences, thankful for the grace, thankful for a new friend who had been a soft voice of truth through the chaos, thankful for the forgiveness for all the terrible errors I had made over the previous years, thankful for the many blessings - thankful to God.

This was only the beginning, these next five weeks we were going to be spending in California were truly a time of change for me and my faith - but oh, in such a good way! :)!

We planned to spend 8 nights in this beautiful home before moving to the suburbs for the rest of our California adventure. From here on out, the kids and I were going to begin a week of amazing adventures.


Fourth Stop: South Lake Tahoe

Fri Jun 6 09:22:00 CDT 2014 - Fri Jun 6 09:22:00 CDT 2014

Travel Log: 10 October 2011

This day was not about the stop, but completely about the journey.

Fourth Stop: South Lake Tahoe, California

This was going to be a SOLID 12 hour day of driving. Like the trek from IC to EP, we would be driving straight from Moab, Utah to South Lake Tahoe, California. That means driving 90% across Utah and 100% of Nevada, stopping just a few feet from the Nevada border in California. 

The drive across the middle of Utah and Nevada is the less traveled path with gas stations marked by the number of miles to the next, 100 miles the norm. However, the view of the drive, oh my, oh my. The morning sunrise drive across Utah was breathtaking, the rolling hills, the intermixing of the red sandstones and the navajo sandstones, the buttes and mesas jutting up here and there, and the green brush spattered throughout.

The four lane interstate through Utah abruptly takes a sharp turn to the south, refusing to go into Nevada. Turns out the two states had a big disagreement ages ago and Utah refused to make their interstate end in Nevada. Because of this, you have to continue west on the two lane Highway 50, the path of the original Lincoln Highway across America. 

While the Utah section of this road is not well maintained, you do get to drive past the Sevier Lake, a dry salty lake in western Utah. The white auora of the salt mixed with the haze of the sun and desert, created this moonlike glow in the horizon and we couldn't help but stop. The signs warn of a $500 fine for having to be towed out of the lake and you can see the tire tracks of donuts that were spun. Josh and the kids walked along the edges and had the odd experience of walking on something that isn't dry but it isn't wet, either.


(Photo credit because I can't access my photo database right now, eekk! But this accurately shows what Sevier Lake is like.)

Once in Nevada, the quality of the road of Highway 50 increases as the speed limit increases to 85mph. Prior to leaving IC, Josh had read up on this road and learned via Wikipedia that this 409 mile highway through Nevada was nicknamed "The Loneliest Road in America" by Life magazine in 1986. This is a completely accurate description. We also read up on the three towns and one tiny ghost town, each spaced about 100 miles apart. Stephen King had driven this Highway 50 and used the tiny ghost town of Ruth as inspiration for his book, Desperation. (Which my husband found appropriate to read when he wasn't driving, :)!)

The geography of Highway 50 through Nevada is something else. For 25 miles you drive on a flat, generally straight road, sometimes desert or plains, with nothing in sight, no cars, no houses, no wires, no signs, nothing. But off in the distance you can see a mountain range. And as you reel in the range, it isn't until you are right at its base that you are quickly shot zig-zagging up 2000-3000ft and then quickly brought back zig-zagging down again and you are driving on the flat incredibly straight road, sometimes desert or plains,... but off in the distance you can see the next of the total 17 mountain passes you will be quickly be thrust up and over.

The funny thing about Highway 50, though, was how different we felt while driving it. As we were well into the rhythm of flat plains to sharp mountain pass to flat plains again, I was slowly becoming more and more depressed and I could not wait to get off this ridiculous road. At the same time, my husband was becoming very introspective and thinking deep. meaningful thoughts about his life and loving every minute of it. 

US 50 from Josh Cramer on Vimeo.

(This video is of our return trip on US50, but I wanted you to experience it now.)

The part of the final leg of this journey does include what the state of Nevada has called "The Most Dangerous Highway in the State," the 50 mile portion of highway between Fallon and Dayton. However, after that and Carson City, it is a beautiful mountainous drive up to South Lake Tahoe, California.

Fourth day of driving: 12 hours, 728 miles

Our hotel was directly across the state line to Nevada, the neon casino lights were brighter than the ones in our hotel room. We threw together a hodge podge dinner with the scarce restaurants still open and went to bed, completely wiped, but once again thankful for another safe drive.

What we didn't know was that our dairy allergy child had got ahold of some dairy and tomorrow would prove to be a massive challenge of patience.


Third Stop: Moab Pause!

Thu Jun 5 17:30:00 CDT 2014 - Thu Jun 5 17:30:00 CDT 2014

Travel Log: 9 October 2011

Our extra day planned in Moab would be our gateway drug to this amazing part of Utah.

Third Stop: Pause in Moab.

At National Parks you can buy a National Park Pass that is good for a whole year and will get you into all the National Parks for free. (With a couple exceptions.) We knew we would be visiting other national parks in our trip and bought the year pass. Every year since, we have continued to buy the pass, have never regretted it, and definitely get our money's worth! 

Arches National Park is a short 2 mile drive north of Moab and, as the name implies, home to the beautiful arches you see on the Utah signs and license plates. We chose our first hike of the day to be the longer hike to Delicate Arch, the most famous arch. Being the morning in the desert in early October, we didn't know exactly what the weather would bring. We wore light coats and packed day packs with stocking hats and light gloves, shorts, ball caps, lots of water, and snack bars. Being this was the kids' first big hike in the desert, we didn't know what their attitudes would bring either.

I would love to tell you that all our children LOVE hiking as much as my husband and I do, but truth be told, 2/3 of our kids are not fans of hiking because a "normal" hike for our family is generally intense. The 2/3 will do it, but we have to find ways to entice or distract them along the way. This hike we enticed them with hunting for collared lizards and desert kangaroo rats and having awesome trail snacks.

The beginning of the Delicate Arch hike is a gradual, crushed gravel path that is fairly low rolling. Then, halfway to the arch you have to climb up a massive, steep, slickrock face. At this time, our children were shedding clothing and stopping painfully often. (I never thought we would make it to the top.) Once to the top of the slickrock, the hike becomes a trail more than a path, it is harder to follow, and has cairns leading the way. (The cairns served as a new distraction tool, "Who can find the next cairn first?!" See what I did there? :)!)

The last 200 yards of the hike are along a rock ledge about 3' wide. The ledge drops way down to the left and is a wall on your right. I had the kids walk with their hands on the wall in order to keep my heart in my chest. But my faster pace heart was blown away by the beauty at the summit. The view of Delicate Arch is amazing. The slickrock bowl you have to walk in to get to the arch is another heart beater, but completely worth it.  


The kids had made it the mile and a half to the summit but as we started the trip back some attitudes were starting to wane. We changed the subject to hunting lizards and spirits were revived! Parents FTW! We got off the main trail and out of sight and the kids hunted lizards atop this beautiful slickrock area for a solid hour. When it was time to finally make the trek down, everyone was ready and excitedly talking about the near catches they had.

lizard hunters

Then just as we were ending the hike a child called out, "A lizard! I can catch it!" And he did. And it bit him. And he was shocked. And he was embarrassed. And he quietly cried to himself. Poor guy.

We would continue this day in Arches with a hike to Sand Dune Arch and Landscape Arch. Landscape Arch, being our last hike of the day, after hiking 4 miles already, was like pulling teeth to get there, but knowing if they survived it, we'd have time to go to the massive sand hill. And they did it. And 1/3 of them liked it. :)!

In order to make certain we sucked all the marrow out of this absolutely beautiful day, we decided to put off dinner a little longer and drive up along Potash Road just in time to watch the sun set through the canyon. Potash Road continues along the Colorado River and goes west from the town of Moab. It is home to a famous climbing area called Wall Street, has lots of petrogylphs, actual dinosaur tracks, and countless hikes and canyons that shoot off from the river. 

Third Day: ? hours, 6 miles of hiking

By the time we returned to our hotel, it was way past bedtime. We ordered Thai take-out and everyone recounted the stories of our not-so-lazy but definitely peaceful-pause of a Sunday. From finally being able to laugh about the lizard bite to enjoying running up and down the 100' Sand Hill, everyone was in good spirits as they snarfed down pad Thai and curry. The day truly felt like an honest to goodness family vacation day.

To be honest, we hadn't really enjoyed time like that in the last year, just us 5, being ourselves, watching cartoons in the hotel, truly enjoying life together. For us as parents, all the "fun" moments we had during the last year were shrouded with the weight of all the other issues bearing down on us and our smiles were forced. For our kids, while they did not feel the weight like we were, they could see it in us. They knew. But this day, this day they could tell, they could tell it was not forced.


Second Stop: Moab

Mon Jun 2 16:23:00 CDT 2014 - Mon Jun 2 16:23:00 CDT 2014

Travel Log: 8 October 2011

Second Stop: Moab, Utah!

Ignorance is bliss isn't always a bad thing.

Take, for example, driving Peak to Peak Highway and I-70 during a snowstorm.

When we headed out at 10AM that Saturday morning with the snow gently falling, we weren't overly concerned, we were too enamored with the beauty of it all. Thankfully, my Minnesota-bred husband is great at driving in snow and naturally took driving the winding, snow covered highway of Peak to Peak with great skill. 

By the time we got to I-70, the snow had picked up. Everyone on the interstate was caught off guard by the first snowstorm of the season. The interstate was covered in snow, the plows had not arrived yet, no lines were visible on the concrete, trucks were over-crowding the chain stations, and while some cars sought to take refuge at the over crowded chain stations, other cars, like us, tried to keep moving, some better than others. 

Inch by inch we moved and it seemed like all the cars around us were participating in a slow motion ice dance over and down the mountain. I would think you would be able to YouTube a video of "The Blue Danube Waltz" being played as cars did this dance. You know, they slide to the left, spin to the right, trucks taking baby steps forward while others rush the audience. If you found that then you could share in our experience driving over the pass that day. Well, maybe it was more like Elaine's dancing over and down the mountain but still, you get the picture. :)!

All in all, it took us twice as long to get to Vail for our lunch stop, but we were all incredibly thankful for our safe passage there considering all we had just seen. By the time we were back on the road, we experienced the awesomeness that is snow melt in Colorado. The snow was already melting on the roads,  the clouds had passed, and the sun was beautifully shining. From then on, the driving conditions were completely normal, like it had never even snowed.

Driving down the west side of the Rockies was the beginning of all new experiences for me until we reached San Francisco. The terrain of the west side of the Rockies is incredibly different than the east. All of us were once again in awe of our surroundings as red rock walls replaced the gray rock walls of the east side. Then there was the winding roads, the tunnels for holding your breath (driver not included), and the beautiful rushing Colorado River... amazing. We finally felt empited out of the mountains when we came upon the beautiful sandstone Book Cliffs by Grand Junction. 


Our EP friends told us about the "back road" to Moab through Cisco and how even though it is a tiny bit longer, you will not be sorry. Wo/man, were we glad we took their advice! The back road, i.e. Highway 128, continues to take you right along the Colorado River. It twists and turns, as rock formations begin cropping up on all sides, antelope are jumping across the plains, and tall towers of red entrada sandstone show up seemingly out of nowhere. It was hard to tell if the red canyon walls were growing taller or if we were shrinking lower as we made our final approach. We were racing a magnificent sunset, but were not fast enough and it was the canyon's turn to empty us into a now dark town of Moab.


Second day of driving: 10 hours, 394 miles

(Yes, it should have been 6.5 hours without the snowstorm.)

We made it to our hotel, ordered delicious Paradox Pizza and PBRs, and settled in for our two night stay in Moab. 

Wait... Pizza and a dairy allergy? Yep. By now, we were a year into living with a dairy allergy and knew some questions to ask to make certain the pizza we order has no dairy - besides asking for no cheese. Most crusts are dairy free, though you need to ask them if they put butter on the crust for baking. Most sauces are dairy free, though you need to make sure they don't put grated parmesan in their sauce. Most toppings are dairy free, though some Italian meatballs/sausages have cheese added or milk as a binder. But, it is totally easy otherwise... until you don't ask.

As we went to bed that first night in Moab, I was once again overwhelmed with thankfulness. Thankful for another safe trip, thankful for the amazing beauty we got to experience, thankful for the gift of my family... but I was most thankful for a pause in the intense insanity of the previous year. The snowstorm was truly nothing in the grand scheme, (we weren't being blissfully ignorant after all, :)!). We were given a beautiful gift during our travel days to spend time focusing on our hearts, our relationships, without all of the insanity distracting us. 


First Stop: Estes Park

Mon May 26 09:47:00 CDT 2014 - Mon May 26 09:47:00 CDT 2014

Travel Log: 7 October 2011

It was a Friday morning when we packed up and headed west.

First stop: Estes Park, Colorado!

In the days prior, I had successfully emptied our refrigerator, emptied the garbage cans inside and outside, and completely cleaned the interior of our home from top to bottom, inside and out. Call me an extremeist, but before leaving town I cleaned my house to the point that if we all died, going through our possessions would be an easy task. We even finally had our will prepared prior to leaving for California because, friends, deep down inside, I never thought we'd return. 

The kids were all locked and loaded in the car with each kid having a bag that included their own stash of: granola bars, fruit bars, beef jerky, crackers, fruit snacks, water bottle, books, journal, pencils, new toys for each, handheld devices, headphones, and some odds and ends. I also had a Target plastic bag within arm's reach for each child, just in case someone got car sick.

We packed one large suitcase for the kids' clothes, one carry-on sized suitcase for Josh and one for me, Oscar (our espresso maker), schoolbooks' box, Josh's road bike, and backpacks packed with clothes for our 5 car travel days (so we wouldn't have to unpack the large bags at our 4 overnights).

We met dear friends at the gas station in IC and wished them well as they headed for the East Coast and we headed to the West Coast. Deep down inside, I never thought we'd see our friends again.

Halfway through Iowa, about 2 hours in, Miriam threw up all over herself and the car in her far backseat. She didn't reach the Target barf bag for the first vomit, but did for the second. (I'm so thankful for leather seats and we didn't have to get the car detailed like that one time in Thunder Bay, :)!)

Nebraska was its normal uneventful, sleepy self and the kids ate way more of their car snacks than they should have.

Driving through Colorado for the first time with the kids was wonderful! The kids were amazed at even the blowing tumbleweed, which was worthy of multiple videos by them. Once we started heading up the mountain the "ohs!" and "ahs" were constant. Then a, "I saw a baby mountain goat on the rocks!" discussion kept their spirits up for that final push. However, the mountain goat wasn't enough to stop our kids' typical last-half-hour-in-the-car-craziness / oh-my-goodness-get-us-out-of-the-car, but we made it to Estes Park.

First day of driving: 12 hours, 804 miles.

Our good friends in EP were kind enough to have dinner, drinks, and a fire waiting for our arrival. It was wonderful to spend our first night of our big adventure chatting with friends, laughing and talking about life and the future - both the known and the unknown. Spending time at friends' home that first night was a great transition for our Three, too.

We went to bed on a warm, sunny fall day but woke up Saturday morning with snow gently falling and a storm rolling in.

storm rolling in

Even with the cloudy skies - hanging out in flip-flops in snow, eating a good filling breakfast out with our friends, stopping to take countless photos of huge elk herds bedded down in open, snowy fields, and trying to capture in video the beauty of the yellow aspen leaves against the snow covered pine trees... we were completely blown away by the first stop of our big adventure.

When we first got onto the road that Friday morning before and were praying for our big adventure ahead, I could not stop crying - mostly fear but a little excitement - I was convinced we were saying goodbye to everything.

But here we were, onto the second leg/day, and praying for the drive ahead. We survived vomit in the car and were about to drive through a massive snowstorm over the Rocky Mountains, and my heart was pouring over with gratefulness and hope. I had the four most important people in my life with me and I knew we were still never / not alone. "The Lord will never leave you, nor forsake you." Though I was shaky and had made mistakes in the funnel I had been in, God never changed - I was finally starting to see that truth again.

I'm also happy to report, there would be no more vomit for the remainder of our trip. Phew!


More Results


Welcome! I am glad you're here! If you are new and would like to get caught up on what's going on, check out these quick links to get you started:

About Me and This Blog...

Begin Our Adventures of Fall/Winter 2012 to CA, MN, CO
   Ladies Trip to Napa Valley
   My Parents Rode in a Plane!

Begin Our Adventures of Summer 2012 to MN and CO
   Vacation to the North Shore and Cabin
   Boulder for the Summer
   Life in Boulder

Begin Our Adventures of Winter/Spring 2012 to UT
   The Drive to CO/UT Begins
   Vacation in Moab
   Living in Moab / Denver

Begin Our Adventures of Fall/Winter 2011 to CA
   The Drive to CA Begins
   Living in the SF
   Living in the Suburbs
   Coming Home to IC

Begin Our Adventures of Summer 2010 to Eastern Europe
   Life at Czech English Camp
   Travels in Germany & Austria
   Travels in Czech & Poland


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