The first leg is over.

2643 Miles
58 Hours
6 States
5 National Parks
3 National Monuments
1 State Park

And now rest.

Yesterday, Monday, we woke up from the best hotel of our trip.  If you are in Durango, do not want to spend an arm and a leg on a hotel, and want a clean/fun place with gracious and helpful staff - stay at the Best Western Mountain Shadows.  We were blown away by the newness and cleanliness of the room, the comfort of the beds, the "bubble pool", the staff, and the price.  After tax:  $79, making it the 2nd cheapest hotel on the trip thus far.

After breakfast, and working in the room for a bit, I remembered that there were tables in the pool "bubble" building.  This is what I saw as I walked up to the door with my laptop:

Hannah yelled, "Daddy!  Come work in here!"

So I did.

One of the best offices I've ever had...

Unfortunately, 11AM checkout eventually arrived, and we had to leave.

But we couldn't leave town without stopping for this:

A good friend tipped us off to a GREAT meal.

The other place you need to visit in Durango is the Irish Embassy Pub.  The food was AMAZING.

We hit the road to hop the pass and hit our last national park: Great Sand Dunes.

But first, we needed something.  I come from a family of fishermen.  My dad, brothers and I have a tattoo saying as much.  That being said, I'm not that good at it.  Not like my family.  A few years back, my dad wrapped up his goal of catching 50 fish in 50 states in 5 years.  I typically fall in and end up packing out a hundred yards of tangled line.  That being said, I love to fish.  My wife and kids love to fish.  We had been driving past great fishing water for a week without stopping.  We needed to fish.

We stopped at a little pond a guy tipped me off to in Pegosa Springs, CO.  It was around lunch time, and we had 30 minutes to blow.  15 minutes in, I caught my first Colorado fish:

A fun 21" spawner.  She was ripped up pretty badly from spawning, but put up a heck of a fight.  Yes, I released her Norm.  :)

The kids ran up, begged to touch the fish, and we were satiated.  I packed up the pole, and we got back on the road.

It's the little things.

We had a little altitude trouble as we went over Wolf Creek, and the car started giving me some lip.  Hannah said, "Mama, I see all the yellow sparkle things!" when we got above 10,000 feet.  She was staring at white paper.  We got off that pass as quickly as we could.

The kids fell asleep as we made our way through Rio Grande basin, but woke up as we started rolling up to the park.

Great Sand Dunes is stunning.

Many kids hate dirt.  I am so thankful that our kids crave getting dirty and a hands-on connection to the world around them. They have a great example to follow in it with Elyse.  She was the first to plop down in the sand and start doodling.  I love her.

We still had another 3.5 hours left to Colorado Springs, and one 9,300' pass.  I knew that there must be snow up there.  I did not expect this much:

And it was cold - well below freezing up there.

It's been really neat to see so many different cultures and climates in such a brief span of time.  And to see the spaces in between the places.  We intentionally took routes that were maybe 30 minutes longer on some days, just to see new things.  When we look at a map of the Southwest, we now know what those areas look like and what kind of people live there.

The Southwest US holds people and landscapes of grit.

And I cannot wait to come back.

We got in to the Springs around 9PM last night and are staying at the home of some dear friends.  I did need to make one stop last night for restocking:

 Open 24hrs baby.

Open 24hrs baby.

The folks we are staying with just returned from a trip to Papua New Guinea, where they saw 25 years of work come to fruition:  Translating the Bible (Gen & NT) in to a tribal language, for a tribe that had no written language.  It was an incredible feat and sacrifice and inspired us greatly.

 Those "x's" are a throat sound that's hard enough with one in a word.

Those "x's" are a throat sound that's hard enough with one in a word.

Beyond the awesome hospitality and fellowship, we're also lovin' this town's location: