Slow Travel with Children

slow travel with children

Many people are hesitant to travel with children at all, much less undertake slow travel with children. I confess that with my grown children I attempted to undertake a slow travel lifestyle, but chickened out after 6 months. It wasn’t the cost, which was far less than what it was costing us to live in California. Nor was it the stress. I think we all enjoyed the adventure and the closeness. It was simply ignorance. It made my parents uncomfortable and I worried that my ex, the children’s father, would object. In typical me fashion, I let my fears override my feelings and decided we had to put down roots. But I always look back on that time fondly. Great memories.

With my youngest, now 14, we began a full-time rving lifestyle when my mom was dying of leukemia in 2012. We packed up and moved in with my mom and dad for 6 months as she went through the dying process. I helped Dad with the funeral and all the stuff that came after, then we went back to our home base for about a year.

Next, the boy’s dad had to move in with his parents, to provide end-of-life care.  The next three years saw the boy and me traveling between grandparents and our home base in 3 states. In the mean time, my older children married and one moved to Colorado. We averaged about 4-6 weeks each stop in California or Colorado, with varying stays at points in between, including our home-base in Arizona and even the odd vacation to Texas, Oregon, Florida, or elsewhere. As homeschoolers (road-schoolers now) this worked for us. As a location independent crafter and writer, it also worked for me.

Although organized sports was out for us (praise be!), the boy had played ice hockey for a year, non-stop, before we started out and decided that kind of rigor was not for him. Nor for me, as it turns out. Not to mention the expense. That has not prevented us from trying new things. In Colorado, we did Tae-Kwon-Do for 6 weeks. We go shooting (guns) when we visit my daughter and her hubby. We also ride horses with them. We love fishing and hiking. We have a pool in my dad’s backyard (above ground). The boy has a new interest in archery and we have found a couple of great places for drop-in lessons, one for $15, the other $5. Wow. There are several archery ranges we can go to, to practice for free. I have decided to love this sport. And it is another one we can take with us wherever we go. I have transitioned from downhill to cross-country skiing. I much prefer the pace and the cost – free in most areas, if you have your equipment. We also keep our bikes handy, for exercise and transportation.

The boy and I have taken trains since he was an infant. He can probably navigate the Metro better than I can. He keeps in touch with friends online and we try to meet up with friends in whatever area we find ourselves.

Although taking short trips with children can get expensive and tedious, I have to say slow travel is fantastic and no more expensive than staying “home”. Whether you take your home with you, as in rving or living on a boat, or get long-term rentals, as in several weeks at a time, slow travel with children is a great life!

 

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Pikes Peak Cog Railway Adventure

pikes peak cog railway adventure

Pikes Peak Cog Railway,

located in Manitou Springs, Colorado, is a fantastic ride through dense spruce and aspen forests up to 14,000 feet. Our Pikes Peak Cog Railway Adventure started nearly 2 hours late. There were high winds on Pikes Peak, with gusts up to 90 mph. Because of this, we could only go up to 12,000 feet that day. We were given the option for a partial refund, or a reschedule. Since our tickets were comped and we had traveled nearly 200 miles, we opted to go ahead.

 

pikes peak cog rly gazebo          pikes peak cog rly stream

pikes peak cog rly sunlight thru trees

While waiting, we browsed the gift shop and snack bar. Tiny O2 canisters were available for those with altitude issues. This is the first time I’d seen them. What a clever idea! Downstairs from the covered seating areas we explored a little stream and enjoyed the shade.

Finally, our train pulled in.

pikes peak cog train

Our conductor, Elliot, was full of goofy tour guide jokes. And our engineer Nick did a great job driving the train up and back. I only had to talk to the man and the boy a couple of times about staying off their phones. The upward journey through the forest, with the heavy scent of pine wafting into the cars, was soothing. We passed several waterfalls, each accompanied by one of Elliot’s anecdotes. Pipe waterfall was particularly entertaining. The water falling out of a pipe…

 

pikes peak cog rly window crank

I think we had the best seats in the coach. Windows all around and right next to the engineer for the return trip. The side windows have hand cranks, just like the old automobiles. You can actually roll the windows down. The wooden seats are definitely not made for luxury.

 

pikes peak cogs

You can see the cogs down the middle of the tracks.

 

pikes peak cog rly hikers

Hikers can ride the train, too. I don’t know about the cost of that.

 

The train ride was so popular at one time that there were a couple of one-room hotels, which have collapsed and/or burned down since.

hydroelectric caretaker cabin

For many years there was a hydroelectric plant along the line and a caretaker lived in this cabin.

 

lake moraine from pikes peak

There is a beautiful view of Lake Moraine near the top of the pass. The lake supplies water to Colorado Springs.

 

windy point pikes peak

We had to stop at the Windy Point Station,

elevation 12,000 feet, due to gale force winds at the 14,000 ft. peak. The wind was blowing so hard that large sticks and numerous small items were picked up and flung over the train and station. We could feel the strong vibration of the wind when we put our hands on the windows.

 

cog railway car     cog railway outhouse

The Mountain View stop

at 10,000 ft has some interesting sights. There is an old train car, OUT house, and hiking trails which cross several streamlets. It felt nice to get off the train and stretch our legs. We had time for a bit of hiking and photo ops with some interesting scenery.

 

colorado springs from pikes peak

At one point you can even see the city of Colorado springs in the distance.

 

pikes peak train

Descending through the trees

gently brought us back to reality. The October weather had been so mild, and the sun so welcome, despite the wind, that we all felt our Pikes Peak Cog Railway Adventure was over too soon.

Check out our YouTube video on this post. To plan your trip click here: Pikes Peak Cog Railway.

 

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Arroyo Seco, New Mexico via Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

arroyo seco, new mexico

From our spot in southern Colorado, we cut across US Highway 64 to enjoy a scenic drive past Earthship Biotecture communities. Spectacular is the only way to describe the view from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Our destination for the day, Arroyo Seco, New Mexico.

rio grande gorge bridge

We didn’t stop to photograph the Earthship homes but they are private residences anyway, so that might have been rude. We did stop to take pictures on the bridge, however.

rio grande gorge steel bridge

Awarded “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in the Long Span category in 1966, it was dubbed the “bridge to nowhere” during construction because there were no funds to finish the road on the other side. The Rio Grande river runs from southern Colorado to Mexico. About 10 miles outside of Taos, it flows through a 50 mile long, 800-foot deep canyon created by earthquakes millions of years ago. From the top, it is hard to imagine that the gorge is home to a rich and diverse ecosystem. Petroglyphs are evidence of early human habitation. There are also supposed to be hidden hot springs and ruins. Consequently, I will need to return in warmer weather to investigate.

la santisima church arroyo seco nm

The town of Arroyo Seco, New Mexico was originally settled on a Spanish land grant, in 1745. The historic church, La Santisima Trinidad, occupies a prominent place in the town. Arroyo Seco currently caters to tourists and retirees. Only 7 miles from Taos, it is a convenient stop for skiers and hikers. Get home cooked burritos and burgers at tiny convenience stores and food stands along the main drag. Boutique shops feature local artisans and upscale gifts.

arroyo seco, new mexico mercantile     asnm mercantile pottery      asnm mercantile antiques

Arroyo Seco Mercantile

carries everything from antiques to handcrafted soaps to toys. Seems like the shelves are bursting with color.

asnm mercantile candles     arroyo seco nm mercantile storefront

A tiny garden

next to the Mercantile offers a picnic table, benches, and waterfalls, in addition to a reconstructed log cabin dating to the 1860’s. Our visit fell during the Christmas season, and the garden was decked out with a nativity scene and Christmas bells.

arroyo seco, new mexico mercantile garden nativity

Francesca’s Clothing Boutique

carries reasonably priced and southwestern flavored apparel.

asnm francescas clothing boutique     francescas clothing boutique

We didn’t browse half the shops but there is certainly something for everybody in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico. Handwoven rugs, pottery, fine art, and jewelry are just a few that we missed. For more info, you can visit the Arroyo Seco website.

 

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Universal Studios and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

hogwarts express

Our trip to Florida was much too rushed, but we thoroughly enjoyed our day at Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The rides:

Hogsmeade – The Hogwarts express sits just inside the gates, awaiting passengers to be ferried between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley (requires a separate ticket or park-to-park admission. We felt the park-to-park admission was worth it for the day).

Tour Hogwarts Castle while you wind through the line for The Forbidden Journey. The Dragon Challenge seemed a bit too extreme for us, but the Flight of the Hippogriff was loads of fun, soaring past the pumpkin patch and Hagrid’s Hut.

Hogsmeade Station experienced a brief shut down as the train underwent some minor difficulties, so we continued to tour the town until we were able to board the Hogwarts Express. We love trains, even if it is just for a 5-minute ride to the other Universal Park.

 

diagon alley

Diagon Alley has quite a bit more shopping and a few more rides than Hogsmeade, but it also closes up earlier, so get there with enough time to enjoy all it has to offer.

 

escape from gringotts          harry potter dragon

Diagon Alley – Escape from Gringotts is rollicking fun. Atop the bank is a fire breathing dragon. Inside is an opulent reconstruction of the movie set, designed to entertain you as you wind through the line for hours awaiting your 2-minute experience. We were lucky. The longest lines we had to wait in were about 30 minutes. Without the express pass.

 

knight bus            grimmauld place

Other fun highlights outside Diagon Alley include the Knight bus (outside only) and 13 Grimmauld Place (outside only).

nine three quarters

Kings Cross Station – entering platform 9 ¾ was not as exciting as we had hoped, but we got over it, as the excitement of boarding the train mounted.

The food:

 

leaky cauldron

In Diagon Alley, traditional pub fare is available at the Leaky Cauldron, along with pumpkin juice and butterbeer. We had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, with butter beer and pumpkin juice. Altogether too much sugar! I got a tummy ache.

Carts throughout Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley purvey bottles of ice cold pumpkin juice (be ready for the $7.50 price tag) and mugs of butterbeer.

The shopping:

 

magic knitting needles

Ollivander’s wand shop offers instruction in choosing wands – economy or deluxe. The deluxe version allows the wizard to perform magic at several spots in the wizarding world. Got wands for me – Molly Weasley, of course; the boy – Sirius Black (who knew?!), and my daughter – Snape.

Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes offers just about everything it does in the movie and more. We made sure to get a chocolate frog, peppermint toads, and some other delectables. Quite a few visitors toured the park in Madame Malkin’s “bespoke” robes. Luckily for my wallet, I had made us robes a few years ago, which were still quite serviceable. No wonder I identify so closely with Molly Weasley. It was great fun going through the shops and looking at all the wizarding items. Borgin and Burkes’ shop is as creepy as it was in the movie.

The rest:

raptor

Back in Hogsmeade, we decided to explore other areas of the park and made our way to Jurassic Park, where we narrowly escaped being lunch for a “friendly” velociraptor. Jurassic Park was exciting, especially since we had recently seen Jurassic World in the theater.

By the time we made it to Marvel Super Hero Island, it was raining. Not wanting to crush our belongings in ride lockers again, we took turns under the umbrellas with the backpacks.

spidey ride

Adventures of Spider-Man in 3D is thrilling. The close calls really get the adrenaline going. Storm Force Accelatron is a good old fashioned spinning ride.

At the end of the day, it was relaxing just to sit and enjoy the atmosphere of Hogsmeade – something we should also have done in Diagon Alley.

hogwarts castle

Note that Universal does not allow guests to bring in coolers and the lockers are quite small. Certain rides have lockers available for personal items, but they are also very small. Free for the duration of the ride, though.

My notes for future visits – keep backpack light. Just a few snacks and water. Shop just before leaving – your wands will get crushed in the tiny ride lockers. The “all day” lockers are not much bigger than the ride lockers, but if you must bring additional items, they’re a good option. they are located in the Marvel Studios area of Islands of Adventure. Also nearby are the cell phone and tablet charging lockers. This was a new feature to me and seemed like a very good idea. Though I carry my own power pack, there was a time I didn’t, and phone and camera batteries can get used up quickly on trips like these.

 

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Florida – Making the Most of Not Enough Time

florida cranes

The Silver Bullet is coming up on her first birthday. With me, anyway. Last year, the man-of-the-place purchased a truck bed off Ebay, and decided for the price of shipping, we could go to Florida to pick it up and have some fun while there. It also provided an opportunity to test out the new-to-me truck, pulling the trailer on a long drive. She did very well, by the way.

truck, bed, trailer
Silver Bullet, carrying truck bed, hauling trailer.

Although the trip was way too quick and not scenic enough, (we stayed on the interstate) we were in a time crunch, to not spend too much time away from the abuelo. From Colorado, we made dry camp in a parking area outside Amarillo, Texas. The following day we stopped to have lunch at Cracker Barrel with my brother and his wife.

cracker bqrrel checkers

After our lunch date, we zipped along into Louisiana and stopped near some train tracks, where we could put the slide out and cook some dinner. Another early start. Another long driving day and we made it to Florida. We parked it at a farm, thinking it was the one we were headed for, but it was next door. Luckily the guys were friends and were very patient with our goof.

tropical palms florida

After picking up our merchandise, we treated ourselves to 2 nights in an rv park (which we got for ½ price with our Passport America Membership) and went to Harry Potter world at Universal Studios. Had a great time.

harry potter dragon

While in Kissimmee we also did the brakes and enjoyed the pool at the rv park. Very much.  Then it was back to long driving days.

tropical palms pool florida

We zipped through Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, getting introduced to boiled peanuts on the way – yum! Rivers and swampland were visible from the interstate, but we didn’t get off to explore. Sheets of rain slowed, and at one point completely stopped our progress for a while. When we finally emerged, we were grateful for dryer weather. Even though fuel prices were significantly lower in the southern states.

gas price mississipi

This would be a great trip to do again, sometime. With plenty of time to explore, and no torrential rains or potential floods to contend with.

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