Archive for July 2014

Our Colorado Trip–Next Stop: St. Louis

St. Louis Gateway Arch

Our first view of the arch as we walked toward it.

From Springfield, we drove for two and a half hours and arrived in St. Louis, Missouri. I had arranged for a FREE two-night stay at the Residence Inn Downtown {using a certificate that we earned when we bought new tires for our car!!} and we were thrilled with our accommodations. They even waived our nightly parking fee!

One of the best things about this place was that it offered a complimentary shuttle to anywhere within a 3 mile radius. Perfect! We parked and unloaded our vehicle and didn’t touch it again until the morning we left. A shuttle was available every time we requested one and the drivers were wonderful!

After getting situated in our room, we hopped onto the shuttle and were dropped off a short walk from the Gateway Arch.

outside Gateway Arch

This was my third visit to the arch, but it had been many years since I had been there last and I didn’t remember much about the area at its base. I’m pretty sure it has expanded greatly in the last couple of decades and now contains a small museum, a theater with a couple of informational movies about the arch and area, gift shops, a large ticketing area and unfortunately, a LOT of people. We like to avoid crowds and long lines, but since the forecast was calling for rain for the next couple of days, we bit the bullet and decided to purchase tickets and wait our turn to ascend the arch that afternoon so we would have a chance at a good view.

Our turn to form a line finally came, but unbeknownst to us, it was still a lengthy wait after that, shuffling through holding sections.

Finally in the pod–I love how this picture captured some of the anxiety on everyone’s faces.

Ready to ascend Gateway Arch

A moment later, a little more relaxed–sort of.

In the Gateway Arch pod

My cute family--going up.

My cute family–going up.

Once we got to the top, it was so incredibly crowded. We held our poor kids’ hands as they squirmed their way through the sea of people’s bottoms that were in their faces.

on top of Gateway Arch

They got to look out the windows, but I don’t think we spent more than 3 or 4 minutes up there before they asked to head to the pods and go back down. We were fine with that. I’m very glad that we all did it, but I would be ok if that was my last time. Ken agrees.

View of courthouse from Gateway Arch

View of the city and old courthouse from the pinnacle of the Gateway Arch.

Once we arrived back down on solid ground, it was quite late and the Groh family was hungry again. We started walking in the direction that we thought was the Spaghetti Factory and, fortunately, we got it right this time, but it was a bit of a stroll. My shoe buckle began bothering me from all the unexpected walking earlier in the day, and before long my ankle started to bleed. I had to take drastic measures and began walking with one bare foot, holding my shoe in my hand. Classy. Thankfully, they still allowed us into the restaurant.

I loved the decor of the Spaghetti Factory and the balloon guy made the kids pretty incredible hats.

St. Louis Spaghetti Factory

We got to see the full moon/super moon after dinner as we walked to catch our shuttle which took us back to the hotel. A good, full day.

Gateway Arch with full moon

Our Colorado Trip–First Stop: Springfield, Illinois

Last summer, we made our longest road trip to date by heading east to visit my sister and her family in upstate New York, with a stopover at our friends in Ohio. Since that was completely successful, we decided that this summer we would take an even longer trip and head west to visit my childhood best friend and her family, in Colorado.

Since the drive to the Colorado Springs area is about 20 hours, we thought we’d make a couple of stops along the way to make it a more enjoyable trip. We had initially planned to head to Springfield, Illinois–our capital city–and spend a day and night there exploring historical sites. But since we had to cut our vacation a little short due to Ken needing to get back to work, we chose to just spend a few hours there and then move on to our next destination.

Springfield, IL capitol building

Thankfully we had a beautiful {albeit very hot} day. We found our way to the capitol building and parked for free a couple of blocks away. According to our GPS, there were some restaurants within walking distance, so we locked the GPS in the car, deciding to wing it, and set off.

Well, I don’t know if the GPS was wrong, or if we were, but let’s just say we ended up having a bit of a Clark Griswold adventure! We walked…and walked…and walked, alone, through some neighborhoods that had seen better days; down one street and then another, sure that the restaurant we were desiring was on the next block over. It was so hot, we were fading fast. The kids were complaining, with their hands hanging straight down by their sides and their feet dragging a bit. We were irritable, sweating, thirsty and our stomachs were growling–I’m tellin’ ya–we would have been great Griswold fodder. It was so ridiculous–ha!

Anyway, we circled around and ended up on the other side of the capitol building and saw three ladies approaching in the distance. They were smiling and carrying take-home containers. Take-home containers!! I almost ran to them, but controlled myself and as we passed I asked where they had eaten. They pointed us in the direction of Obed and Isaac’s and we set off with renewed hope. Several minutes later, we were in a very quaint air-conditioned eating establishment, with our name on a list for a table. Apparently everyone else knew to come here.

After a very enjoyable meal, we headed back to the capitol building with restored energy and a little more spring in our step. {Notice–no pictures until the fed, happier Groh family appeared}

Lincoln Statue--Springfield, IL

A replica of the Liberty Bell.

Bell at Springfield, IL

Heading inside.

Walking into Springfield, IL capitol building

The beautiful rotunda.

Springfield, IL capitol rotunda

I didn’t take a picture, but the bathrooms in the building were awe-inspiring. I told the kids that it might be the nicest bathroom they’ll ever use!

Springfield, IL capitol building

Firemen’s monument–took this shot for Grandpa Groh.

Firemen's monument, Springfield, IL

One of the kids took this picture before we left  🙂  I love how they’re getting pretty good with the camera!

Kissing at capital, Springfield, IL

Off to Saint Louis!

 

 

A Memorable Fourth of July

Ella's first 4th of July

July 4th, 2011. Our daughter’s first 4th of July.

And friends {5/6ths of the Zidan family} stopped to visit us for a few days while on their way home from 6 months in Swaziland.

The Zidans

Ken had built a wooden ship in our backyard and finished it just in time to leave for China to meet and bring home our daughter, 2 months prior.

Ken builds a boat

Kids playing in front of ship

Ken put a bug in Jim Zidan’s ear about painting the ship while they were staying with us and Jim began drawing up a design. It was a brutally hot day–but inspiration struck and had to be dealt with.

painting the ship

Jim and Ken painting

Ken’s buddy, Jake, and his boys, came for the 4th and got in on the  fun…errrr…work…ummm…whatever.

Jim and Jake painting

Despite the dangerous heat index, we were all quite amazed and impressed with what was accomplished.

squid on the ship

crab side of the ship

Well done everyone! Well done!

The ship-painting crew

Happy 4th of July!!

Zidan 4th of July