Tag Archives: Phoenix

Day 13: Phoenix, AZ to Ventura, CA

We stayed at Aloft hotel, which was the most hip hotel of our road trip.  The room was comfortable with a modern design.  That morning, Kid C continued with her ritual of drawing on hotel paper.  We also took some fun family shots before we checked out:


Kid C busy drawing




M & the kids

At 10:00AM, the temperature had already reached 86 degrees and would reach the high 90s by the afternoon.  Our plan for the day was to have breakfast, fill up on gas and head out of Phoenix.

We ate at Matt’s Big Breakfast, which was featured on The Best Thing I Ever Ate and Diners, Drive-ins & Dives.  The service was excellent – servers were accommodating to our kids (and happily cleaned up a big water spill courtesy of Kid A) – and breakfast was very satisfying.



Kid A petting the pig statue


The kids were fascinated with this pig


Matt's Big Breakfast: The Chop & Chick


Matt's Big Breakfast: Homemade waffle with thick-cut bacon


Kid C's Look of Concentration

After breakfast, we felt energized and eager to finish the final leg of our road trip.

Views on the road in Arizona:

IMG_5228IMG_5221IMG_5229We were surrounded by miles and miles of dry terrain, flat desert with mountains in the backdrop.  I noticed there weren’t as many rest stops on this stretch of road and M pointed out that the temperature was 103 degrees.  It’s no wonder why the speed limit was 75MPH.

Views as we reached the AZ/CA border:


After much anticipation, we finally reached the state sign we were most looking forward to seeing.

IMG_5239As we passed the California welcome sign, we cheered “Pacific Standard Time!” and felt a sense of relief and excitement. The kids, on the other hand, were not aware of this momentous event.


Sleeping Kid C


Sleeping Kid A

The first part of our drive into California was mostly desert.  We decided to stop in Indio for lunch.  When in California, a stop at In-N-Out is always on the agenda.  The staff was especially nice at this location – they gave the kids stickers and a few of the staff even signed a hat with notes welcoming us back to California.  (I had a brief conversation with the cashier and mentioned that we were driving cross-country.)



Kid A greeting customers at the drive-thru

We finished up lunch and continued our drive.  It would take over 3 hours (without traffic) to get to  Ventura.

After we passed Palm Springs, we saw hills upon hills of huge windmills.  We later learned that this was the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm.

IMG_5260After taking the 10W to the 210W to 118W to the 23S, we saw this sign:

Shortly after, we saw these views:

IMG_5282IMG_5288IMG_5289We made it to Ventura about 7PM, just in time for us to have dinner with Nana & Grandpa.

It had yet to sink in that we made it through our cross-country adventure.  We drove through 14 states, about 3500 miles, in nearly two weeks and Team Noren was still intact!

Day 12: Santa Fe and (driving to) Phoenix, AZ

After a good night’s rest, we were eager to get back on the road and get closer to our final destination.  Our morning routine included diaper changes, giving kids their milk and a mini-breakfast snack (usually cereal or cereal bar).  All of the following would happen thereafter:

  • change kids into their day outfits
  • pack away kids’ beds and clothes
  • M & I get ourselves ready
  • pack away our clothes
  • pack away toiletries and potty seat

At this point in our road trip, we were be able to do all of this by 9:30AM.  The kids kept themselves entertained that morning.


Morning playtime on Kid C's bed


Kid C having morning snack


Kid A snack time (notice cereal in bib's trough)

To save time, we had breakfast at the hotel and then packed up the van once again.

We thought we’d stay in Sedona, AZ for the night.  After doing quick research, it seemed like Sedona was a destination for a spiritual retreat versus a quick overnight trip with kids in tow.  Stopping in Flagstaff seemed to be the next logical choice.  We would see how the drive went and decide whether we would book a hotel in Flagstaff or try to make it all the way to Phoenix.  Only time would tell.

  • Santa Fe to Flagstaff = 383 miles
  • Santa Fe to Phoenix = 529 miles

Views during our drive out of Santa Fe:

We planned to stop for lunch in Gallup, NM and used Yelp to find Jerry’s Café.  (I wanted to have one last sopapilla while we were in NM.) When we stopped to fill up on gas, I saw a sign that read “Fry Bread – one block away”.  We had about an hour until we would reach Gallup, I’d never had fry bread, and I was starting to get hungry… So, fry bread, it is!

One block away from the gas station, we pull up and see this stand-alone building:

IMG_5097Not sure what to expect, we found a treasure trove of Native American crafts – some rugs, blankets, jewelry, but mostly pottery.  We hadn’t purchased a single souvenir up until this point, but we ended up buying a couple of vases here.  The pieces were “Horse Hair Pottery” – pottery that is fired first and in the middle of firing, horse hair is applied.  The pottery makers were Navajo tribe and Pueblo of Jemez.  I felt like we stumbled upon a cool, little shop.

But back to the Fry Bread… there was a single window (to the left of the shop’s entrance) with the Fry Bread menu written on a paper plate.  You had the option of having cinnamon, powdered sugar, or honey drizzled on the fry bread.  Or you could have all three toppings. 

IMG_5098Of course, I opted for all three.

IMG_5099It was a delicious treat that we all enjoyed.  (Yes, I shared.)  Next time, I would stick with just honey or honey & cinnamon.  The powdered sugar was just an added mess with no added flavor.  The fry bread was crispy and surprisingly light, with just the right amount of sweetness.

With our fry bread fix fulfilled, we continued on to Gallup.


Got a cool shot of a train


We made it to Jerry’s Café and I was especially looking forward to trying another sopapilla. (Because, you know, I wasn’t eating enough fried foods with drizzled honey that day.)



Jerry's Cafe: Chile Relleno plate


Jerry's Cafe: Sopapillas


Jerry's Cafe: Combo plate (with a taco, tamale, enchilada and maybe there was even a tostada)

The restaurant was full of local folk – always a good sign.  They had a kids menu and a high chair – another plus for us.  Our server was pleasant and our meals were tasty.  The sopapillas were crispy and delicious.  With drizzled honey, it was even better.  Eating good Mexican food always reminds me of being home.  I started to feel like we were closer to California than ever before!

We tried to let the kids walk around a bit before we plopped them back into their car seats for the next leg, which was nearly 3 hours until we got to Flagstaff.  We waited about an hour into our drive before we played the other movie loaded on the iPad, which was Cars.  Kid C was especially mesmerized by the movie and would blurt out Lightning McQueen’s catchphrase with an enthusiastic “Ka-chow!”  It was the most fitting kids flick for our little adventure.

Views as we neared the Arizona state line:



Arizona - The Grand Canyon State Welcomes You

We ended up having dinner in Flagstaff at Beaver Street Brewery restaurant, which was fine.  Nothing exciting to report.  At dinner, we decided to continue on to Phoenix.  We knew that the kids would fall asleep on this leg and as long as M had the energy, we would get to Phoenix in about 2 hours.  I was too tired to drive at that point.

We booked a hotel while we were on the road and arrived in Phoenix at about 10:00PM.  Total mileage for the day was nearly 530 miles, just a few miles less than the longest driving day of the trip (aka: Omaha to Denver leg).  We were exhausted, yet glad to have made it to Phoenix that night.  We were one day away from reaching California.