Where We Begin Our Summer Adventures

Summer! It’s so hard to believe that summer is almost over and the school year will begin soon. We have been traveling all over the country in our minivan, with lots of road trips adding miles to the odometer. Our first trip was out west, to visit my family in Des Moines, Iowa during Memorial Day weekend.

We have visited my family so often in Iowa that I thought we had done nearly everything near the Des Moines area. We’ve looked for bison at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Preserve, biked the High Trestle Trail, and walked along the Des Moines River in downtown Des Moines. Lily has fed the giraffes at Blank Park Zoo and we even took a paddle boat onto Gray’s Lake. And yet, when my dad mentioned visiting Ledges State Park, this was the first time I had even heard about it!

Our plan had been to go on Saturday, but unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate with our plans and it rained almost all day. Sunday was a beautiful day and perfect hiking weather; unfortunately my dad had to preach that Sunday and my stepmom had to play the organ at church. (Let’s just say I’m looking forward to my 75 year old dad retiring soon!)  Since Ed, the girls and I had attended church Saturday evening, we headed up to Ledges on Sunday morning.

Part of the road leading to the park had been washed away by a storm, so along with other visitors to the park, we needed to park in the parking lot at the entrance and then hike down the road into the canyon. There is also a parking lot on the other side of the park for visitors who would rather not hike down into the canyon. The road down, however, was a short and easy hike, and while the road wasn’t safe for cars, it was very safe for walkers. When we reached the bottom of the canyon and saw the water from Pea’s Creek flowing intentionally over the path, the girls were ecstatic! They love wading in the water!

The creek curved around throughout the park, crossing the path several times. There were also a couple of nice bridges going over the creek and steps going up to trails on the top of the bluffs. With only 4 miles of hiking trails, the park is relatively small and easy to explore, especially with kids. I’ve been looking at the trail map while writing this post, however, and I see we missed a trail down to the Lost Lake. The trail head is is a different spot from the main trails, so perhaps that’s why it’s called “Lost Lake.” We certainly didn’t find it!

This arched stone bridge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s.

After we hiked up and down the bluffs, we saw people wading up the creek and decided to do the same! We weren’t prepared for this part, however, and took off our shoes and socks. The creek had some sandy spots but was also rocky, so next time we’ll bring our water sandals! Hiking in the creek was really fun and showed us more of the bluffs from down below. Since this park is often flooded by the Des Moines River, however, it may not always be possible. The water was only up to our ankles when we were there in May.

Hiking up and down the bluffs was great practice for our next road trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. And it also made us hungry! We knew of a barbecue place in Ames that my stepmom had taken us to, but here was the challenge. We didn’t remember the name of the restaurant, and we didn’t know what street it was on. (And we don’t use our smart phones when we’re roaming!) But we figured, what’s the worst that could happen? So we drove to Ames and wandered around for a little while…and just as we were heading back to the highway, we found it! Hickory Park has great barbecue, and even more exciting to the girl, a candy counter! The candy ranges in price from a nickel to a quarter, so the girls had fun picking and choosing some candy for the road trip home.

Just a few weeks later, we got in our minivan again and headed East…to Maine!



Solo Road Trip: Part One

Of course, I wasn’t technically alone; Lily and Emmy were in the back seat. But I was driving 300 miles without my road trip partner-in-crime. Ed had to teach his class that weekend, so I was “on my own.” The girls and I left after school to go to a family reunion in Midland, Michigan. It was Friday, and also unfortunately was rush hour. It took us a while to get out of the Chicago area. Then it was smooth sailing through Indiana, where we found a Culver’s to eat dinner. Usually we get our food delivered to our table right away, but this time, it took 20 minutes for our food to come.

That was okay, I thought, because then we had time to call Ed and say good night. It was only around 7:00, but he was going to bed early because his class started early the next day.

Road Trip with Kids

After dinner, we had a nice drive through Michigan. It was getting late, and Emmy and Lily fell asleep. Everything was going well until we got to Grand Rapids. All of a sudden traffic ground to a halt. It took me half an hour to get through Grand Rapids because of a car that had obviously been on fire, and then a bunch of fender benders from the people who had been gawking at the accident. The lights from all the traffic and the city woke up Lily. It is also potentially my swearing that woke her as well.

Finally Grand Rapids was fading in the distance, and we were on our way again. The country roads were dark, and as it became later, there was less traffic. I’m usually not a GPS girl and rely on maps, but this time, the GPS on my phone was very useful. Suddenly, however, we lost an hour. I had been predicting that we would arrive in Midland at around 11:30 p.m., and then the GPS spoke up and said we would be at our destination at 12:39 p.m. Lily was very unhappy with this announcement; she wanted a warm bed to lie down in! After I explained that there was a time change, she felt a little better. She was still tired!

I began to worry a little bit. I’d never been to this hotel before; what if I was supposed to call for a late arrival? What if there was a mix-up with our room? Surely I didn’t need to worry about these things, so I pushed those thoughts out of my head.

As I drove into town, I had a new worry. Where the heck was I going to park? The hotel was right on the street in the downtown area, and I didn’t see a parking lot!

I passed the hotel and turned right. Ta-Da! There was a parking garage clearly marked for the hotel. I got my tired girls out of the car and headed for the door, wondering if I would find the lobby. Ta-Da! I saw three people as soon as I walked into the hotel. “You must be Mrs. Grabske!” a woman said. I was a little surprised, but not really. She explained that my dad had been telling her about me and that I would be coming soon with my two little girls. Before I knew it, we were checked in and I was tucking my two tuckered girls into bed.

My aunt said the next day that I had a God moment, finding the parking garage and checking in so easily. I thought it was just good luck, but as I thought about it, yes, I believe God really was taking care of me. Once again, I could see God’s fingerprints in my life. I don’t always notice them, or take them for granted, but He is always with me, protecting me. God moments, indeed.

Read on!  Part Two and Part Three