2017 Vacation: Road Trip From Denver to Houston

For our big vacation this year, we flew to Denver, drove to Tulsa for Adam's sister's college graduation, and continued onto Houston to spend more time with his family. Previously, the most we'd ever driven with our kids was five hours, so we were a little apprehensive, but it actually went really, really well. 

The one thing we weren't worried about at all was our flight from Seattle to Denver. It's just over two hours and up to that point we'd only flown much longer distances with three kids (to Montreal and Orlando) so we figured this would be a piece of cake. Well, we made the rookie parenting mistake of switching Betsy to a new pacifier the night before (the ones she had previously were for babies 6-12 months). She decided she hated the new one about halfway through the flight and screamed the rest of the time. We switched back as soon as we got our luggage from baggage claim! 

We were in Denver to visit our good friends from college, Matt and Kelly. (They visited us in Seattle two years ago.) Their three kids are each a couple months younger than ours, almost to the day. They were such gracious hosts! They served the most delicious food the whole time and even had two guest rooms in their basement for us. We arrived on Saturday evening and went to Latin Mass with them on Sunday morning. 


It was snowing when we arrived on Saturday, but it was in the high 60s on Sunday so the snow melted very quickly. Claire and Jude had a great time playing in their backyard that afternoon while the little kids napped. All the kids played together incredibly well the whole visit. At one point, I said to Claire, "Jude is a pretty nice friend, huh?" and she replied, "Yep. I think I want to get married to him when I grow up." (Which means Kelly's and my plan is working out quite nicely so far, ha ha!) 




After dinner that evening, we went to a park in their neighborhood for an awe-inspiring view of the Rockies. Wow!






On Monday, we drove up into the mountains to have lunch at Beaux Joe's Pizza (apparently a Colorado institution) and walk around Evergreen Lake. Aren't Betsy and Mary Catherine the cutest baby friends?







On Tuesday, we drove up to Mount Genesee for another little hike and picnic lunch. Because a couple baby girls took very short naps, we had some extra time that afternoon, which we spent at the Littleton Museum. It's right next to the library about a mile from their house and it's basically a way better farm park than the ones by us here in Seattle. Many more animals, like peacocks and donkeys, a log cabin, and a historic farm house.


 We got an early start on Wednesday for our longest drive - about eight hours to Wichita, Kansas. We rented a minivan because it was just a smidge more expensive than a sedan. We were driving a Kia Sedona, which must have a large middle row middle seat than our Toyota Sienna, because we were able to fit Claire's car seat there. It helped so much with her carsickness, plus she was great at entertaining Betsy. We stayed with my friend Abigail's parents in Wichita that evening. They were such generous hosts, even when we got there an hour later than we'd hoped because we forgot to factor in the change to central time. With two guest rooms in their basement and many awesome toys, it was much, more nicer than staying in a hotel and we were very grateful.


Before leaving Wichita on Thursday morning, we stopped at Eighth Day Books, an independent Christian bookstore we'd read about on Rod Dreher's blog. Adam and I could have spent all day browsing there! But, since we had three small children with us, we had to settle for taking turns making a quick lap around the store while the other parent watched the kids in the basement children's section. It was a pretty great children's section though - we picked out two more chapter books to get us through the rest of the trip (The Moffats and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.) Adam also got a beautiful little icon for his desk at work.


The Pioneer Woman Mercantile is about halfway between Wichita and Tulsa (it's a three hour drive total) so we had to stop there for lunch, of course! We didn't arrive until about 1:30, but there was still a line to be seated, even on a weekday. Handily, there's also a deli counter where you can pick up ready made sandwiches. We shared two turkey clubs, which came with pasta salad, grapes, a cookie, and strawberry lemonade. After lunch, we browsed in the mercantile, where I picked out a vintage jadeite platter, and then picked up some croissants for breakfast the next day at the bakery upstairs.




 We arrived in Tulsa late Thursday afternoon and checked into our very nice two-bedroom Airbnb. Adam's parents and two of his brothers also came for the graduation, so almost the whole family was together. We had planned to go to the Clear Creek Abbey on Friday morning, but ultimately we decided that we all just needed a morning to rest. There's pretty much all we did in Tulsa between graduation events - take our kids to parks, let them nap/play at the Airbnb, and enjoy a few favorite restaurants we don't have in Seattle (Pei Wei and Jason's Deli).





Our kids weren't perfect, but overall I think they did really well at the graduation, various festivities, and baccalaureate Mass at the Newman Center. It was nice to see where Katie went to school and to celebrate her accomplishment!



We left Tulsa on Monday morning and opted to split the drive to Houston into four-hour chunks, spending the night in Dallas in between. We got to stay with our dear friends from Seattle, Bruce and Leslie, who moved to back to Texas last year - they are originally from the Houston area too. We had such a great time catching up with them and are very grateful for their hospitality. We had tentatively thought if we had extra time in the Dallas it would be nice to check out the George W. Bush presidential library at SMU or the Magnolia Market in Waco. And we have a couple wonderful friends from high school we would have loved to see in Dallas too. Unfortunately, we were feeling a bit rundown by this point on a two-week trip with three small children (I was also in the first trimester of pregnancy and still feeling a bit crummy) so we had to keep things as simple as possible. We did at least squeeze in a stop at Buc-ee's on the drive to Houston!


We arrived at Adam's parents' house late Tuesday afternoon. The big highlight of Wednesday for the girls was experiencing Build A Bear for the first time. They are still talking about how much fun they had. Aren't grandparents they best? For the grownups, the highlight was dinner at the Cajun fish place Adam's parents are always raving about - it definitely lived up to their very high praise.





On Thursday, we met Aunt Jenn and their cousin, Estelle, for lunch at Torchy's Tacos in Rice Village and an afternoon at the Houston Children's Museum. It was really fun to take my kids to the children's museum I fondly remember visiting as a child. Although, of course, they've remodeled the entire thing since then and replaced all the exhibits I remembered.








On Friday, we went swimming at the home of one of Adam's mom's (and my mom's too!) great friends. I think the theme of this trip was wonderful hospitality - Linda was so nice to open her home to us and even provide frozen pizza and fresh fruit for lunch. After a particularly rainy winter and spring in Seattle, it was really great to experience all the sunshine and warm temperatures in Oklahoma and Texas. Swimming outside in early May was the icing on the cake.


We crossed one more favorite restaurant off the list on Friday evening (a local barbecue spot), spent Saturday morning packing, and flew back to Seattle that afternoon. Equipped with the right pacifier this time, Betsy did much, much better, although I am very glad that was her last flight as a lap baby. Adam's parents will be married for forty years next summer, so obviously a family reunion is in order to celebrate. We spent a lot of our time in Houston discussing where we should go and the location that was decided on will be seriously amazing! The only downside is that we have to wait a whole year to go. Of course, we hope we get to see everyone in Seattle before then. After all, we will have a new baby to snuggle with pretty soon...


  1. Aww, I'm sad we didn't get to see you while you were here, but it sounds like it was a jam-packed whirlwind of a trip! We just did a big road trip too... Houston to St. Louis and back with stops in Fort Worth, Fayetteville, Bentonville, Branson, and Troy, MO on the way there, and stops in Conway, Little Rock, and Hot Springs coming home. We were totally insane to do it with such little kids, but it all worked out much better than we expected!

  2. I forgot you would be on campus! The Newman Center is where I basically lived junior and senior years. And where I slept a few hours a night is over looking the fountains- hopefully the girls got to play in those after graduation? �� And 8th Day Books IS a wonderful trap. Glad you saw it!

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