This summer the Alexanders made their usual pilgrimage to Wyoming as a way to escape the Texas heat. This summer has been a little more stressful than usual (buying a house, teaching a summer course, moving), so we were in desperate need of a break. As usual, this trip was packed with so many activities, I had to categorize them below so I didn't forget anything (which I will do anyway).
The Big Texan
This is where we had dinner the first night of our trip. If you have not been to The Big Texan in Amarillo, you are missing out! This is place is larger than life, and has a 72 oz. steak to prove it. None of us actually took that challenge, but we did watch one unfortunate soul try his luck with the big ol' slab of meat ... and fail. The food was good, the atmosphere was pure Texas, and this is a stop we will definitely make again.
Our second day on the road was highlighted by Casa Bonita, a unique Mexican restaurant in Denver. I have been to this restaurant several times, and this is one of those places I wanted to the boys to see before it's gone. I had very few memories of the food, and all I seemed to remember was the waterfall and video games. Well, every single aspect of the restaurant has not changed at all, even to a fault. There were some areas of the building that look like they had not been updated since it opened in 1974. Casa Bonita could definitely use a facelift, but the boys still had a lot of fun. OK, Gina and I did too ... just a little.
Cam and Kit
The highlight of our trip was getting see our cousins Cameron and Kit. They decided to come visit us from North Carolina, and the boys were thrilled to get to spend time with the cool older relatives. In fact, they were so thrilled that Sam and Nate pretty much did not leave them alone the entire time they were in Casper. We had fun hiking in Elk Horn Canyon, exploring western stores, visiting museums, and taking photos. The boys are already asking when they get to see Cam and Kit again.
One of our frequent stops in Casper is the North Platte River. This has everything a kid could want: water, a bike trail, rocks to throw, lots of dogs (not our own, by the way) and even minnows to catch. I like to go there to run on the trail, and the boys usually bring their bikes. We went down there several times on this trip and had a great time. Nate and I even caught some minnows to investigate while Sam, Gina and PaPa rode bikes. Yes, we put them back in the river so they could grow to be big, healthy trout that someone can catch and eat for dinner. We didn't get to go canoeing this time, but that is on our list for the next visit.
Of course, no trip to Wyoming would be complete without several visits to the cabin on Casper Mountain. This year we got to explore Elk Horn Canyon a couple of times, went hiking on the Braille Trail, and climbed around Garden Creek Falls. The boys got an extra special adventure this year they got to hike down to the big waterfall in Elk Horn Canyon. This is quite a technical hike and I was a nervous wreck the whole time. I was also worried that they would start to complain when they got tired, and on this particular hike there is nowhere to go but straight up the canyon when you want to go home. I reluctantly let them join Cam, Kit, Gina and I on this excursion, and they performed like champions. I guess it just proves that where there's a will, there's a way ... and no whining.
In addition to our many hikes, we also spent a night at the cabin. This is not quite the same as camping, but it's more comfortable. We met GiGi, PaPa, and Maw Maw at the restaurant at the top of the canyon, then proceeded to hike down and for the night after dinner. I can't remember the new name of the restaurant, but the food was pretty good. I was actually surprised at how many people were there, but this place can never seem to stay open for very long. The new owners did add on a little General Store, so maybe that will generate some business from cross country skiers and snowmobilers.
Another special excursion that was out of the ordinary was going to Tobin Ranch on Tisdale Mountain. This ranch is owned and operated by Mike and Chris Tobin, and we have known them for 30+ years. I used to work with Mike in Midwest when I was in college, and dad lifted weights with Mike for years at the YMCA. Our visit included getting to ride around the ranch on ATVs, see the bison jump (where Native Americans hunted bison by running them off a cliff), and feeding calves with a bottle. The Tobin's two adult children, J.D. and Brianne, even came out to get in on the action. Nothing makes you feel like an old man like seeing two adults who you knew as babies. We spent the last half of our visit feasting on a steak dinner and remembering old times. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me, and I hope we get to see this family again on a future visit.
We did many other fun things on this trip, but I want to keep this post under 10 pages. The boys got to go fishing at Yesness Pond, went to see Planes: Fire and Rescue, built with life-sized Legos, and spent a lot of time playing at GiGi and PaPa's house. I should also add, each of us had a run-in with a nasty GI bug, but thankfully we are all healed up now.
As always, we are thankful to be able to visit Wyoming every summer when the sun is scorching here in Texas. It's great to spend so much quality time with GiGi, PaPa, and Maw Maw, which makes it hard to leave. We can't wait for our next visit so we can see what adventures are waiting for us around the next bend in the river.
You can see more photos of our trip in our Photo Album.