Whitakers Head West 2016: Part Six (the end!)

You can read all about our journey from Texas to California, and back, in parts onetwo, threefour, five and six! 

Thanks for being troopers y’all. I mean, it’s almost October and I’m just now wrapping up our summer vacation.

I think we call that LIFE.

There are probably close to 400 photos of our day in Arizona, but I’m gonna have to cut my losses and just show you the gems. It’s time for me to start packing for Europe. HA!

On July 27, we woke up reeeeeally early and had the van loaded and kids eating breakfast before sunrise. It was criminal, but worth it. That morning also marked our “official” 20th wedding annivesary. How about that? It was just us, six kids, a van loaded down with luggage and water and a bazillion snacks on our anniversary. The romance is just brimming isn’t it?

Why so early? I’ll get to that in a second.

On our way from Nevada to Arizona, we hopped up to Utah for a short bit. Hey Glen Canyon Dam, you’re beautiful!





Okay, here’s a word problem for you. Eight people have to drive five hours to reach Lower Antelope Canyon by 1pm. They start out in the pacific time zone, then move to mountain, then back to pacific. What time should they leave? I won’t embarrass myself by telling you how many times I did the mental math. It was ridiculous. Damn you Arizona and your not changing time zones. And all that math, only to arrive, check-in and be standing FEET away from the Antelope Canyon tour guide when they took off and then they wouldn’t allow us on the tour.


I might’ve used the mom guilt + Catholic guilt + traveler guilt + baby guilt to get us on the next tour. Whatever. It worked. Here’s where the wheels fell off. It was beyond hot. Like 110 degrees hot. In the desert. You dehydrate and don’t even know it. Gianna was losing her mind, Scott was ready to bail and the kids were starting to come unhinged. But dangit. We didn’t drive halfway across the country to fall apart at the 11th hour. Because there were so many people wanting into the canyons, the backup was pretty hefty and the shade non-existent. I finally found a tent, a breeze and some Hail Mary’s. We got our shade and second wind. Down into the canyons we went and it was a glorious 20-30 degrees cooler down there.

Feast. Your. Eyes. On. This. Awesomeness. {note, I can’t bring myself to talk until you see all these, keep on scrolling…}














Told you it was amazing. Originally, we planned to drive straight from California to the Grand Canyon, but at the urging of a friend, we made the detour in northern Arizona and added a day to the trip for this. The heat exhaustion and 18 gallons of water we drank were worth it. There are actually two canyons, upper and lower Antelope. We went to lower. It was a little trickier to get down into with all the kids, but the big boys took great care of Luke, Scott had Gianna strapped to him and I took point on the girls. My knee even held up on the hike in and back out.


That’s Will coming out of the slot canyon and I think it gives you a great visual on the hidden treasures of these geological finds. What a gift to have discovered them! Our guide was really fantastic, helping us get great photos, keeping the tour moving, but allowing for questions. Next time we go back, though, we’ll shoot for the fall and cooler temps!


I was all prepared to drive us the two hours to the Grand Canyon while everyone slept, but I hit the heat exhaustion wall. Scott took over, we all slept it off and got hydrated and woke up a much happier family. The canyon was even in the 80s when we arrived just before sunset.











The beautiful part of road tripping is being open to where life leads you that day. Just as we snapped those family photos, another family with two young boys stopped us and asked us to take a photo of their family. Turns out they have three older children and she was pregnant with baby six. They’re from Holland and we’re now social media friends. They even gave us some great advice on our upcoming trip to Europe. Isn’t it so great when you strike up a conversation with complete strangers and hear a bit of their life story? We ran into another family of soon-to-be-six at the gas station just outside of Flagstaff on our way to the hotel. We were comparing van stories. HA!




Our 20th year together sure hit the high note this year. What a gift to spend it feasting our eyes on a beautiful creation of God’s with our entire family. It’s a memory we won’t soon forget.

The following day, we awoke early and drove our way through New Mexico, back to the top of Texas in Amarillo. We even made a pitstop in Winslow. Cue the Eagles. If you’re too young for that song, I’m crying somewhere in a corner.




After a great night of eating pizza and exchanging card tricks with my grandfather (for the boys) and me sipping wine and reminiscing about high school life with a friend of mine and her family (for the girls) we spent our last day getting back into Texas. It took us a full day to get back home. Boy were we ready for our beds.


Before we left sweet Amarillo, we stopped off at St. Thomas the Apostle where we were married. It sure brought back some sweet memories.west-vacation_8209


We rolled into Austin, sorted laundry, put the crew to bed and the next morning they loaded up and headed out for camp in Arkansas. Road warriors, baby.

If you’re calculating the miles and thinking we’re crazy? You might be right. In total, 58 hours, six kids, one minivan with no van topper, three suitcases, three coolers, five states, 3,600 miles and too many potty stops to count – road trip 2016 is in the books.


  1. Eleonor on September 23, 2016 at 1:19 am

    I’m beyond excited that you are coming to Europe! We are in Belgium. Please let us know if we can help you with something.

    • Kathryn on September 23, 2016 at 3:34 pm

      Gah! Belgium. Next trip.

  2. Nicole on September 23, 2016 at 9:45 am

    Incredible! When you break it down like you did in that last paragraph, it puts it all in perspective! And then to head to Arkasas the very next day? Your family just earned Super Hero status. Antelope Canyon is on my list of places to see, as is the Grand Canyon. Thanks for taking us along on your epic road trip! Can’t wait for a HDYDI on your best tips for surviving a road trip.

    Enjoy Europe!

  3. Mike Perkins on September 23, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Lower Antelope Canyon!! Stunning. Better than Upper. Trust me. 🙂

    Winslow, AZ. You cannot credit the Eagles without also crediting Jackson Browne, who wrote the song and recorded it. The Eagles helped out with the last verse and so Jackson gave them permission to record it as well. :))

  4. Erin on September 23, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    The photos are gorgeous!

  5. Christina on September 28, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    What tour company and guide did you use?

    • Kathryn on September 29, 2017 at 9:01 pm

      I believe it was Dixie Ellis. But, Ken’s is good too. All the reviews I read were about the same for both. They’re located right next to each other!

  6. […] mean, these photos would never have been this amazing if not for SPS. […]

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