Out West 2015

10 Things to Know Before going on a two Month Vacation Out West

Now, having officially gone on a long trip, I feel quite experienced and thought I would compose a list of 10 things you all should know perchance you decide to go on a two-month vacation out west. Here we go!

1. Bring a Hoodie. When I was told to pack for a two-month trip out west, the last thing I thought I would need was my hoodie. “We’re going out west. Deserts, cacti, sand storms, scorpions. I’m not going to need my hoodie.” Thankfully I had the good sense to pack it anyway because we ended up wearing our hoodies at about every other stop. So pack it. You never know when you might run into several large patches of snow in the middle of June. 😂

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2. Only Drive 4 to 6 Hours at Once. We began our trip advising this tip, however, about half way through, we ended up driving 12 hours a couple days. We were glad to be covering more ground but 12 hours in a car, all day, with your family, and not much to do can get pretty boring. Not to mention how worn out you feel when you finally reach your destination.

3. Bring Entertainment. Whether you are the driver or a passenger, bringing something to do is essential if you wish to survive a long day in the car without going crazy. My siblings brought coloring books, games, and a couple of small toys while I brought along my journal (which has greatly helped me keep dates straight when blogging) and some cross-stitching. My mom brought supplies she needed to crochet birds (which she gave to each of our hosts) and my dad, who did most of the driving, listened to podcasts and occasionally, when on a long stretch of road in the middle of nowhere, would watch something on Netflix from his phone which was hanging on Jobie who was attached to the rear-view mirror.

4. Take Snacks. Bringing your own food is great when you are either in the middle of nowhere or you simply do not want to waste time picking something up. Having snacks nearby also prevents you from continuously stopping at fast food restaurants. Before our trip, my mom purchased a lot of protein cookies, brownies, and bars. These kept us full in the previously mentioned situations along with many others including hiking and or a long day in a park. Also, make sure you always have a full bottle of water. Protein whatevers make you much thirstier than you would imagine!

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5. Adjust to the Elevation. During our trip, we were constantly changing elevations. We learned pretty quick not to be way below sea level one day and way above the next. Spend about two days in one spot before moving on. This will help your body adjust.

6. Get a Travel App. My mom, who will do about anything to save money, used Priceline to book our hotels. This way we were able to find good hotels at low prices and occasionally get a really good deal. In the end, this saved us a lot of money.

7. Rest Between Tourist Attractions. Don’t plan your schedule so that you are doing something every day. You definitely want to heed this advice. We did not, once or twice, which caused us to be really worn out the next day. Although, for most of our trip, we did pretty good. For example: in San Diego, we had so many things we wanted to see and do but we made ourselves an A day-B day schedule. Let’s say we went to Lego-Land Monday but we would spend Tuesday chilling at our hotel watching TV, playing Mine-Craft, swimming in the pool, etc. Wednesday we would go to the San Diego Zoo and then Thursday we would, again, hang out in our hotel. Make sense?

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8. Phone Tips: We did a pretty good job at not dropping our phones but once or twice someone would “come out of nowhere” and accidentally bump the device out of our hands. With that said, I highly suggest buying some sort of protective case for your phone. We bought an Otter Box for Mom’s phone. It is big, black, and bulky but it does the job. You do not have to but, I suggest you get a case that is waterproof. Many times I found myself holding the phone over water and/or wishing our case was waterproof so I could take some cool underwater pics.

9. Packing Points: Pack as light as you can. I know this can be a struggle because it is one of mine. My goal was to pack only two bags: one for clothes and one for stuff to do. Somewhere along the line, two bags turned into six (clothes, stuff to do, purse, make-up bag, laptop bag, etc.). Haydn was very proud that he ended up being the only one who brought just one bag. I really wish I had packed lighter because, about a month into our trip, unpacking and repacking became very annoying. I did not even end up wearing half the clothes I packed. Speaking of clothes, I suggest this: 3 T-Shirts, 2 nice tops, 3 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of pants or leggings, and an outfit for Sunday. There is really no need for multiple outfits for church because, at least for us, we were in a different location every Sunday.

10. Take Your Time: This tip pretty much explains itself. Do not rush through things. You can always come back next summer. We had to rush through one or two things during our trip but that was not fun because we couldn’t pause to admire whatever we had come to see or we could not read the signs that contained so many interesting details. So, yeah, take your time, make memories, and have fun.

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Out West 2015

There’s No Place like Home

We left on May 22nd and, after two months on the road traveling from Greenville, SC to California and back, we returned home on August third.

It was so strange, home. Due to being on the road for so long, all our memories of it felt like a dream. When we first arrived I was so happy I almost cried as I walked around the house touching everything I laid my eyes on. However, as I unpacked, I began to feel incredibly bored and longed for the next adventure. By nightfall, it was our trip that felt like a dream, and I found myself saying, “There really is no place like home.”

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Out West 2015

Greenville, TN

August 1st, Kyler’s 18th birthday, we arrived at the Johnson home in Greenville, TN. After church the next day, we sent Kyler and one of his friends off on an errand while we hurried home to begin decorating.

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After our “very well organized/amazing” surprise, we ate lunch and chatted with party guests until cake time.

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As the day continued, cake time became pool time.


During the evening we were able to hang out before going to a relative’s house for dinner.

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At dinner, I “snuck away” in hopes of getting some cool pics. I later returned to fetch Hanna.


The ride home was a fight between the luxury of sleep or the fun of being awake.

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Back at the house, we wanted to have fun while mourning our last night together while, at the same time, becoming more and more sleep drunk.

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I hated having to say goodbye the next morning. See you in December, dear friends!


Out West 2015

Silver Dollar City

On July 30th we left the Blackert family’s home in Dearing, Kansas and arrived at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stamped that evening in Branson, Missouri.

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We spent the next day in Silver Dollar City.

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Johnson family, here we come!

Out West 2015

Dearing, Kansas

On July 22 we drove from OKC to the Blackert’s home in Dearing, Kansas. The Blackert family have been good friends of ours for a while. It was great to be able to spend a week plus a day with them. The evening we arrived we went to the first performance of Into the Woods which Lena (the Baker’s Wife) and Heide (Red Riding Hood) were in.

We spent our first day catching up with each other, whether we were doing chores, swimming, or baking cookies. After dinner, we went to see the second performance of Into the Woods.

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Day two: Lena, Haydn, Ansa, Heide, and I began carrying out our plans to do a small performance of The Phantom of the Opera for the adults. We spent most of the day rehearsing. Cast list:

  • The Phantom – Lena (Act 1) & Tristen (Act 2)
  • Christine – Tristen (Act 1) & Lena (Act 2)
  • Raoul – Haydn and Lena
  • Meg – Heide
  • Carlotta – Lena
  • Firmin & Andre – Haydn & Ansa
  • Madame Giry – Heide
  • Background Dancers – Heide & Ansa
  • Prop Girls – Heide & Ansa

Nadia returned from a mission trip our third day in Kansas. We spent most of the day rehearsing Phantom but also watched Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and went swimming. I (and a few others) went with Mrs. Blackert to watch Lena and Heide’s third performance of Into the Woods.

On Sunday we joined the Blackert family at their church. After lunch, Mr. and Mrs. Blackert, along with Nadia, Sarah (a cousin), Ansa, and me, went to see the fourth performance of Into the Woods.


We spent the rest of the afternoon finishing rehearsal of Phantom and then performed it during dinner that evening.

During the performance someone we all know and love removed my mom’s phone from the spot I had it filming the performance from so our 40-minute play was not recorded. Lena and I, along with the rest of the cast, were not very happy about this so we planned on spending every free moment we had, during the rest of our time together, filming our production.

On July 27 we went to the Dalton Museum in downtown Coffeeville.


On day seven we spent mostly hung at the Blackert’s house although we did film act one of Phantom.

On July 29 we went to the Woolarock Ranch in Oklahoma.

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When we returned, later that evening, we filmed act two of Phantom.

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On July 30 we left the Blackert home. It was hard to say goodbye. I cannot wait to see them this December!


Next stop, Silver Dollar City!

We reached our 10,000-mile mark just outside of Coffeyville, KS.
Out West 2015

OKC, Oklahoma

IMG_8250My family and I returned to the Heffernan family’s home just as the sun was setting on July 19th. John and Joel, my twin cousins, were very excited to see us. We didn’t do much the next day, having toured Oklahoma City the last time we were there. The 21st, also known as National Junk Food Day, was spent swimming in the neighborhood pool. That evening we held a slideshow so Uncle John and Aunt Chris might catch up with our latest adventures.

Out West 2015

Fort Worth, Texas

My family’s original plan was to go to Mexico on our way to Texas, however, due to multiple warnings from multiple people, we changed our plan and headed for Arizona instead.

We drove all day, July 13th, and arrived at the Miller’s home on the fourteenth. It was hard to believe it had been an entire month since we were last there. We stayed the night and then left early in the afternoon the next day.

July 16th we left a hotel in New Mexico and arrived at another in Texas. The next day we drove three hours to the Drigger’s home in Fort Worth, Texas. We spent the rest of our day chilling at their house.

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We hung out at their house most of the next day as well although, we did tour the AT&T Stadium.

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After the church service Sunday morning we went to Joe T. Garcia’s Outdoor Mexican Restaurant. It has to be the most beautiful restaurant I have ever been to.

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After lunch, we parted from the Driggers and spent the rest of our afternoon touring the Fort Worth Stockyards.

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Out West 2015

San Diego, California

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Tuesday was a rest day as we settled into the house we would be staying in that week.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The next day was spent in Lego-Land California. I loved all the figurines around the park.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

The ninth was also a rest day. It was on this day that I realized that this was our last stop before we turned east. It was hard to believe that our trip was almost over.

Friday, July 10, 2015

On Friday we were at the San Diego Zoo. It was cool although, I didn’t have as much fun as I did in Lego-Land. My siblings and I really enjoyed the Skyfari. It is basically a ski lift that takes you from one side of the zoo to another. It is the fastest way to cross the zoo.

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Saturday, July 11 and Sunday, July 12, 2015

My family and I spent the next two days resting before packing up and turning east.

The bird Mom crotched for our hosts
Out West 2015

LA, California

Saturday, July 4, 2015

We left San Francisco and spent the day driving towards LA on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). This is where we were when night fell, a moving pinpoint far from any major city, so my family and I didn’t get to experience Fourth of July fireworks. Having been looking forward to such an experience, I was disappointed.

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Sunday, July 5, 2015

We drove most of the next day as well although we did explore the college my dad graduated from 15 years ago. At 5:50 PM, we parked at Santa Monica Beach (a.k.a, Muscle Beach). Among the many talented people my family and I saw everywhere we looked was a Jamaican roller-blading while playing a drum and a lady with whips. The weather was terrific, and the scenery was beautiful.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

We toured the U.S.S. Iowa (a famous battleship), LA/Hollywood, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the famous Hollywood sign.

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Out West 2015

San Francisco, California

Thursday, July 2, 2015

After leaving the Dosti family’s home, we spent the rest of our day driving to San Francisco, California. Since we arrived later in the day we were able to see the fog that makes that city so famous (FYI, it really is as foggy as they say).

Friday, July 3, 2015

The next day we went to Muir Woods where we spent the afternoon looking up at giant Redwoods and trying to convince ourselves that the huge patches of three leaf clovers all around us are Redwood Sorrel. We were amazed by the beauty we encountered around every corner. After dinner, we spent the evening exploring the city.

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