Summary of what has happened with my family visit:

– 3,800 miles on the road

– 8 days of road trip

– 4 people in the car

– 3 Midwest weather related issues encountered (Snow, Rain/Thunderstorm, and Scares of hail/tornadoes).

– 2 places to visit (Mt. Rushmore and Grand Canyon)

– 1 family

From the point of view of having a successful road trip, I think we accomplished that. We were able to hit places we were setting out to hit and we did it (for the most part). And at the end, we haven’t killed each other yet. So, that’s a plus, and I have no regret on the trip itself.

My family is supposed to leave in a day. We still have one more full day together, but I’m already overwhelmed with a sense of wanting more time with them. My family wants to change the plane tickets so that they can stay 2 more days. But we weren’t able to talk to anyone from the airline until Monday morning and the flight was supposed to be Tuesday morning. So, we weren’t sure if we are going to be able to do it without much penalty cost. So, at the time being, I assume they are leaving as the initial plan.

It has been nice to have them around and being able to connect. It is hard trying to catch up over 8 years of not seeing each other in 10 days or so. I’m not trying to fill them up with every single detail of my life for the past 8 years. It’s just not practical. But they have been good in asking questions on what will be of interest to them.

I was told that I have a great family and I’m very lucky. I agree with that statement wholeheartedly. But I want to make observation not only with my family but with families in general.

We don’t pick which biological family we are born into. With that family, we are all predisposed to certain blessings or shortcomings.But we all have choices on what to do with our own family from here on. Instead of trying to focus on the shortcomings, I would like to count the blessings and thankful for the family I have. Instead of feeling stuck in a family, I feel like I’m fortunate and blessed to have such a family. It is like any other relationship, if you focus on the bad stuff, which everyone has, the relationship will spiral downward and it’s going to disintegrate quickly. If we focus on the good in people, which is easier to find with some people more than others, inadvertently, we will project positive attitude and thankfulness, which in turn will encourage better relationships.

Of course, during the trip, we had fights and arguments. That’s what family does. We know each other so well that sometimes we forgot to listen and respect other people. I’m pointing a finger to myself more than anything.

At the end of the day, they are still my family and I appreciate them so much for not only being a great supporter in my life, but also being who they are.

Family

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Trip with family. Day 9

April 25, 2010


It was nice to be home and woke up in my own bed. We had friends, the Burrs, coming down from Madison to see us. It was nice of them driving 4 hours to visit. We spent pretty much the rest of the afternoon visiting Lincoln Museum and getting some groceries and stuff for my house. I guess having one plate for a single guy isn’t good enough if you are having additional 5 people to entertain…:) Plus, I really need to get those anyway.

In front of my house

Sis and flowers

Along the road, my family kept asking for Chinese food. Sometimes, when the driving has to keep going, that option may not be feasible with the given time. So, I finally brought them to Little Saigon in Springfield, which I believe, met their expectations on what Chinese food supposed to be like. So, they were happy.

Enjoying Chinese food at Little Saigon

In Lincoln Museum, since we were only allowed to take pictures in the main area, these are the only pictures we were able to take.

Sis and young Lincoln

Blended in with the Lincolns

Trip with family. Day 8

April 25, 2010


This day was the last day on the road. We got home at 11 pm. It was the longest stretch I had to drive covering 861 miles and about 13.5 hours including the stops for bathroom break and meals.

The night before, we stopped at Amarillo, TX to avoid the potential tornadoes, I still think it was a good call. The driving was good the next day all the way up to Missouri. We drove through rain and thunderstorm pretty much the entire way from Joplin to St. Louis, which is from one end of Missouri to the other end of it.

Some of the good things to enjoy driving through the storm was able to see double rainbows like the picture below.

Driving in the storm

Double rainbows

After getting home at 11pm, we had our late dinner (yes, it was really late), my mom and sister didn’t waste any time to start cleaning up my house and organizing stuff. Know the cleaning and organizing were desperately needed, I let them enjoy the urge to do those things.

Mom cleaning

Sis organizing pantry

Mom cleaning bathroom

Dad just enjoys the couch

Home sweet home.

Trip with family. Day 7

April 23, 2010


After having breakfast at the hotel, we started heading home. We took several more pictures as we drove out of Grand Canyon. Since we figured that we might not see any more snow for the remainder of my family stay, we decided to play in the snow a bit more.

Ledge

Scared to look down

Snow angel

Collecting snow

Showing off the collected snow

Throw the snow up in the air

One of the reasons why people stop the car in the middle of the road

In an attempt to get home sooner, we changed the route home. Instead of going back to where we came from (AZ,UT,CO,KS,MO, and then IL), we decided to go through more south states. From AZ,NM,TX,OK,MO, then IL. This is the updated route: http://tinyurl.com/LicarusFamilyTrip2

This way, we just need to stay one more night instead of two. This also means I’ll be driving more hours per day. So, today we covered almost 700 miles.

While we were driving through New Mexico, I found out that there had been 35 tornadoes found in Colorado, Kansas and Texas. We could’ve seen one of those if we stuck with our initial plan. Tonight, we were planning to stay at Elk City, OK. It turned out to be in the middle of one of the most severe hail/thunderstorm activities. With the warning from Peggy, a friend of ours, which has been monitoring the weather for us, we decided to stay at Amarillo, TX. This city is just outside of the east side of the tornado watch boxes, with Elk City in the middle. So, we are grateful for the warning and we are able to make a better decision.

After canceling several motels and booking one, I’m ready to crash. I have had enough excitement for the day. Tomorrow, we aren’t completely clear yet. We might still run into one of those as our path is going through the severe thunderstorm/hail/tornado areas. But at least it’ll be a daylight. We are hoping not to spot any of them tomorrow, but I think it’ll be cool to be able to spot one, as long as it doesn’t chase us. If we do spot one, I think my family would’ve experience midwest weather related issues within 10 days. From thunderstorm to snow to tornadoes.

Here are some of the pictures that show some drastic weather change within several miles.

Hovering dark cloud

Spotted a rainbow

Less than 10 miles later, no sign of dark clouds

20 miles later, more dark clouds

Trip with family. Day 6

April 22, 2010


Leaving from Moab, UT we drove straight to Grand Canyon. I was a little bit concerned with the weather. Not only it was forecasted to snow, but the wind will pick up as well. I was also concerned that the driving will be very bad due to the road conditions. It turned out that for the most part, the weather was nice and the driving wasn’t too bad.

Here are some pictures we took along the way

Somewhere in Southern Utah

Somewhere in Northern Arizona

We were hit with huge wind gust causing dust storm

The temperature on the road has been between 58 F and 74 F. But as soon as we are about 20 miles away from Grand Canyon, the temperature was dropping rapidly to around 32. It started to switch from rain to snow.This is what it looks like at Grand Canyon park on April 22nd

Snow on the ground

My sister was all excited because this is her first time seeing snow coming down and being able to feel it. We took a picture as soon as we were able to stop at the info center.

Excited for the snow

I also didn’t realize that we are crossing another time zone, so we got extra one hour again by visiting Grand Canyon.

The rest of the pictures are taken at Grand Canyon. Initially, because of the snow and fog, it was hard to see much. But it didn’t take long for the sun to come out and the fog to slowly go away. After that, saying the view is breath taking is an understatement.

We have reached the main purpose of the road trip, which is the Grand Canyon. From here, we’ll try to get home as soon as we can. My parents would like me to drive straight home without stopping. I looked it up on google map and I found out that it’ll take 1 day and 5 hours straight to do it. So, I’ve decided to stick with my initial plan, which is to have 2 stops before reaching Springfield, IL.

Trip with family. Day 5

April 22, 2010


We left Cheyenne,WY at around 10 am. It took us about 1.5 hours to get to Denver,CO. We went to outside street mall. It was fun to see around the different stores. One of the first stores we visited was the chocolate store.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory

Outside street mall

Strolling

We also got a ride on a free shuttle that brings up along the street mall.

Enjoying the bus ride

From Denver, we headed west. We stopped at a scenic area and took some pictures while doing some stretches.

Scenic area on the way

We also visited Vail, CO

She found a new friend

She's excited to finally touch real snow. Old and dirty, but real.

Along the way, my sister was taking tons of scenic pictures and I am posting several of them here

Scaling the rock

Going into a tunnel

Rain

Finally, we arrived at Moab, UT and tried out local pizza joint.

Zax Woodfire pizza

Trip with family. Day 4

April 20, 2010


We are in the groove of waking up, packing up and load our luggages in the car efficiently by now. We left around 7:30am. Early enough to take our time to have breakfast at Perkins.

Nice breakfast

We got to Mount Rushmore at around 1:15pm local time. I totally forgot that we’ll be going across different time zone. It actually turned out to be good since that means we got an extra hour that I forgot to plan for. I’ll worry about losing one hour on the way back later.

On the way, we stopped at this pretty interesting gas station. They have a bunch of pretty good looking preserved animals.

We are approaching Mount Rushmore with rain over the horizon.

Rain

I also stopped at this gas station that’s pretty retro. The reason I ended here was because I was at the last drop of my gas. I couldn’t take a chance of going another 10 miles with that low of tank. It was interesting that not only there’s no credit card swiper to be used outside, the owner has to come out and read the amount. The warning sign on the front said to not leave the dispenser alone since it may not stop after it’s full.

Retro gas pump

So, my sister wanted to take a picture on the road side.

In the middle of nowhere in Wyoming

And here are the pictures at Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore