This year, we chose to spend Christmas with Justin’s Aunt Beth who recently moved to….Arizona! The desert is definitely an unusual Christmas destination, but we were super excited to go explore the other side of the country since we rarely leave the eastern seaboard.
The only troublesome part about spending Christmas in the desert was JAKE. I spent a lot of time worrying about how Jake would do on the plane, how the logistics of the stroller/car-seat would work, how Jake would do with the time change, etc. Jake recently suffered through a string of ear infections (or a single infection that just never went away, possibly), and even though he was healthy as of our take-off date, what if his ear infection came back?? I had no shortage of issues to worry about.
So…four days into our vacation…how is everything going? I would have to give you a mixed review. We’ve had a pretty good time in the southern portion of the state, but our venture into northern Arizona was less than perfect. And thanks to Justin’s favorite Christmas present (a selfie stick! From my sister, Heather—we did Christmas with my family before we left on our trip), I can tell you the story of our vacation fail through a series of selfie fails.
Our flight took off from Memphis, which was a road trip within itself (about 6 hours away from Knoxville, and over $1,000 cheaper than flying out of our home city). This is a nice family photo in front of the Mississippi River just minutes after Jake made a break for it—running down the boardwalk—and was “rescued” by a kind police officer. He was not happy to be returned to his family after only a couple of minutes of freedom, and he scowled at the police officer (rather than thanking her) when she delivered him to us.
Here is a picture of Jake on the plane, enjoying his flight. Not to worry—he wasn’t like this the whole time! He was mainly antsy while we were sitting on the tarmac waiting to take off, and after we landed when we were waiting to get off the plane. He was fine while we were up in the air, thanks to our friend Elmo.
We spent Christmas day with Justin’s Aunt Beth, but decided to head north on the day after Christmas. Aunt Beth warned us that it might be cold, but honestly, I kept thinking, “This is the desert! We used to live in PITTSBURGH. How cold could it be?”
Try a low of 18 degrees, with 30 mph winds. In the desert!?!
It was the kind of cold that takes your breath away as soon as you open the door. The kind of cold that makes your face go so numb that you struggle to smile for a photo or pronounce your words correctly. The kind of freezing temperatures and slicing winds that make you gasp for air and swear that it is TOO COLD TO LIVE. (According to this Florida girl.)
This is us in Sedona, just three hours north of Aunt Beth, but somehow thirty degrees colder (I guess because of the altitude). As you can see, we are NOT wearing coats, oblivious to just how cold it would be when we hopped out of the car for this photo. Windy much?
It was beautiful there, to be sure, but everything fun to do was outdoors (I saw a group preparing for a Jeep tour in the mountains, and they looked like they were bundling up for an expedition to Antarctica) so we left and stayed in Flagstaff for the night. The weatherman on TV excitedly bragged about record-breaking winds as we prepared for our trip to the Grand Canyon in the morning.
I had been to the Grand Canyon once before on a family trip when I was in seventh or eighth grade, but it was not as I remembered it. I remember nonchalantly pulling over to the side of the road, getting out of the car, and looking at the Grand Canyon. On this trip, we spent 25 minutes waiting in a line of cars to pay a steep entrance fee to the state park, and then we spent another thirty minutes circling a crowded (and icy!) parking lot searching/battling other drivers for a spot. To make matters worse, Jake WOULD NOT STOP SCREAMING. I’m not sure what was wrong with him, but I thought that when I got him out of the car he might stop.
Justin dropped us off at the curb because he had circled the lot five times without finding a spot, and I needed to use the restroom. The men’s restroom had no line, of course, while the women’s restroom had 17 women waiting outside of the door to get in. Jake was screaming and crying so loudly that people kept turning to look at me, (probably) wondering what I was doing to mistreat him. “Is it his teeth?” the woman waiting in front of me asked sympathetically. “Maybe he’s working on a new tooth.”
I wanted to lie and say, “Yes,” just to give her a reasonable explanation, but instead I told the truth: “I have NO IDEA why he’s crying.” She gave me a dark, judgmental look. A janitor came to my rescue and unlocked a family restroom for me to use with Jake. He must have heard him screaming from a mile away.
We TRIED to enjoy the beautiful views of the Grand Canyon. But it was cold (thankfully, not as windy as the previous day), crowded, and Jakey wouldn’t stop crying. Here’s a short video, so that you can experience it with us. Warning: don’t watch this unless you’re ready for the un-sugarcoated realities of traveling with a toddler:
Thankfully, the second half of our trip went much more smoothly (and WARMLY). A second post is to follow. 😉