Just Do the Thing That’s Supposed to Be Done By Now

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I’m reading a book at the moment called “Write is a Verb” by Bill O’Hanlon. This is the same guy that wrote “Do One Thing Different” and was on Oprah, etc. It spoke to me from the library shelf as I was perusing non-fiction for brain food. I don’t know that I really wanted a book on writing. As it turns out, I really needed one. This blog doesn’t get nearly enough attention as it is, and I have had zero motivation lately to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, if you will. One of the points that O’Hanlon has repeated is that writing begets writing and not writing begets not writing. If you need to motivate yourself to write, sit down and do it. The only thing that is stopping me is me. I started this project to make sure my kids remembered their epic (or not so epic) journey. I’m not doing them any favors by sitting on my hands and ignoring the goal. Look at that! I just wrote 157 words. It’s already working!

And here I am, three days later, coming back for a second paragraph. So… maybe there’s still work to be done. Currently I’m in the back yard at my parents house as Wesson and Mara read a book while inside of a big, dry pool.

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They’re in the summer reading program at the library. Wesson is kind of a reluctant reader as of late but once he can be convinced to pick up a book he’s in it for at least an hour.

Three more days have passed by and I still haven’t finished this post.

And add another week…

*deep breath* Where did I even leave off last time? HOLD PLEASE. Ok, the last post has been re-read and we are ready!

We took ourselves back to East Michigan so that Mara could have an appointment with her new allergist. Normally this would be just a check-in/check-up if we were still in Kentucky. This visit, however, we spoke to the new doc about getting into an immunity study and also our concerns that she may be allergic to tree nuts. Good new/bad news? The good news is that she is NOT allergic to ANY tree nuts! HOORAYYY! The bad news is HOLY COW is she allergic to peanuts!!! The poked her arm with the peanut allergen goo and her whole arm started to turn red. They actually ended the test early. You know it’s bad when the nurse and tech turn white and whisper to each other “we have to stop this right now; she’s only six.” The doctor took one look at her arm and quickly but calmly asked if it would be ok to give her some Benadryl. They slathered her in calamine and  gave her sad, puffy arm a big ice pack. She got to pick lunch that day.

Now that we were back in town we got to go to unicycle practice again! It took the kids a minute to get their groove back but then they both started riding unassisted! And for more than one pedal! Here’s a short video of Mara riding! Look at that face! So much happiness! So many exclamation points!

Justin went out riding his bicycle in the park one morning and came home battered and bruised. He’d come around a corner, met a hidden staircase with the front wheel of his bike, and flew ass over teakettle. Maybe ass over handlebars is more appropriate. Just know that there was rotation and his bee-hind caught air. He admitted that he’d laid there for a good long while just taking stock of the situation. Thankfully he was not seriously injured and in an area where people are frequent. I don’t know how I would have found him had he knocked himself out. After a bike repair on the fly (HAH!) he gave up on the ride and wobbled the five miles home. The difference between he and I? I would have called for a ride.

Fourth of July was uneventful. It did manage to produce one of my favorite photos from this summer:

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Wesson was SO EXCITED about the parade; arms up and flag flapping away, waiting on the next float/group/band, and Mara was… not. She told me later that she’d saved all her flag waving for the end.

We all went camping at Terry and Charlie’s that weekend after the fourth. They were kind enough to let us run rampant with their go-kart and let the kids check out all their giant farm equipment. Have you ever been atop a combine? They are much higher than anticipated. This exploration also included their awesome pull tractor and the mega giant wind turbines.

 

They look like they’re about to drop an album.

Once we got back from camping, Uncle Steve took the chirruns to Build-a-Bear because he’s the best Uncle Steve ever!

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He only occasionally requires mild manual slave labor.

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The kids also ended up in a three day thing at the library called World Builder’s camp. They had a blast! They were with the most diverse group of kids I think they’ve ever encountered. And, in Lexington, there were never more than a few kids at the library programs. There were at least 50-60 kids participating, probably more. They made crafts and played crab soccer and worked with their groups. They even had team cheers! They have always loved the library, and to be able to be LOUD in the library was a wonderful new phenomenon. I had a conversation with Wesson on the second day:

Me: What did you do with the paper chain that you guys had made?
Wesson: We wrote ways that we could change the world on each link. I wrote one.
Me: What did you write?
Wesson: Become a spy! I can save the world and no one will ever know what hit ’em.

This kid will be a force to be reckoned with in a few decades.

A while back, some wonderful person came up with the idea of having a giant kite festival on Belle Isle and won a $50,000 grant to pull it off. Thus, the Detroit Kite Festival was born.

The Lexington kite festival was always a major disappointment so my expectations were not very high. It seems like I’m knocking Lexington a lot this week. I assure you that I do love Lexington, however they can be a wet blanket sometimes if its not horses or basketball.

I do not exaggerate when I say there were at LEAST a THOUSAND people at this kite festival. The sky was FULL! Everyone had their kites up and flying, and they were all so different and fun! All of the kids were out there crafting free kites too! Everyone got to participate! There was even a stunt kite team that made their kites dance in the sky along with a musical soundtrack. With the river in the background, tons of wind, and plenty of sunshine, it was the perfect day and perfect place for this. They are calling it the inaugural kite festival, so look for it next year and don’t miss out on the fun!

Much like Wesson and his reluctant reading, once I sat down and committed to this post it all came spilling out! I have to stop myself now before I hit 1200 words. I just went back and edited and it’s now too late, I’m at 1253 riiiight here. I read something along the way that people hate reading blog posts beyond 800 words. I’m not sure if it’s true but I try to aim for that anyway. Hopefully you made it to the end of my meanderings!  Here’s one more sliver of nonsense: never buy apple scented dish soap. Ever.

Go out and fly a kite this week AFTER you’ve done one thing you’ve been putting off for a while. I’ll have a fresh batch of random thoughts for you soon!

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West Michigangster

Mara was covered in dirt yesterday, and I mean dirty. Head to toe dirty with a dirt mustache and dirt covered forehead, black toes, and knees that would make a bathtub cry. She topped it off with a ponytail that she put together herself. This was the first time she’d put in her own hair tie so you can imagine what a hot mess it was. Dirty and messy, she looked like the embodiment of a no-plans summer! I wish I had taken a photo. She assured me – for no apparent reason- that she hadn’t been eating dirt. Hmm.

Camper repairs may as well be toothpicks under the fingernails because that’s how it felt. We dropped our rig off at the shop May 24th and didn’t get it back until June 26th. The repair was plagued by inexperienced, rude employees and half-assed repairs. They also hit something with it, damaging the back corner, and they fried the battery. I wrote a big, long, bitchy paragraph about it here and then decided life was too short. Just because I can’t move on yet doesn’t mean you can’t.

Prepare yourselves for some smiley kid photos!

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Not this one. This one is titled “Mommy, give me back my bubble gun!”

I mentioned it briefly in the last post but just to recap we lived with Justin’s ever-patient Aunt Terri and Uncle Tom for the entire 4-5 weeks the rig was in the shop. We had originally anticipated this taking a week or so and kept ‘augmenting’ this estimate. They are worthy of sainthood. They had the perfect “basement apartment” set-up to absorb a family of four into their fray.

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They had the best blanket fort building materials

Plus, between their work days and their lake cottage weekends we were in the house on our own all day. I made dinner on most nights and we all ate together, which was nice! The kids had a big yard to play in and a cul-de-sac to ride their bikes. Mara took this opportunity to ditch the training wheels all together and ride like the wind!

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The kids even challenged Grandma and Grandpa Rowland to a bike race! Grandpa almost had Wesson.

Justin LOVED it here as there were tons and tons of bike trails to be had. His sister Stacey came over every few days to ride with him. I even went out a few times and bested my personal distance record. New routes are exciting!

Besides a few family visits, museums, and a picnic or two, we just hung out.

 

The kids (big and little) fished in the gravel pit lake across the road from the house.

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Look at that gorgeous garbage can sunlight! *BING*

It turns out that the kids are fishing kids. They practically begged Justin to take them out on the lake every night.

They held every fish that graced a line.

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The lake was FULL of bass and crappie, and Uncle Tom even caught a pike, which really shouldn’t have been in there so who knows where it came from.

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Maybe it got dropped from the sky like the TURTLE who fell from the SKY at the lake cottage. I know cats and dogs sometimes fall but turtles?! Some unlucky bird dropped their lunch on the roof, and he rolled down onto the deck where I snapped him up for the children to  investigate. Lucky, as I called him, was eventually set back on terra firma where he RAN to freedom. Turtles are not slow, y’all. We’ve been lied to all our lives!

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Let’s talk about Terri and Tom’s lake cottage for a minute. They have this little house on a completely different lake than the other house. Lakes everywhere!

Mara surprised me with this exchange while we were there…

Me: Look at the lily pads in the lake!
Mara: They’re just like in… umm….
Me: Princess and the Frog?
Mara: No, umm…
Me: The Little Mermaid?
Mara: No. MONET’S GARDEN!

Way to go, Mom, trying to dumb down her observations. She’s going to teach me to hold my tongue.

The kids were in the water from minute one and got their cousins in the drink too.

Ok, minute two. I managed to get a few snaps off before they got wet.

There is something magical about a lake house. I’m not a fan of being in or over the water. Put me on the shore, though, and I could stay there forever staring at the water and basking in the peacefulness.

Besides the ever-frustrating “WHEN WILL IT END?!?!” feeling regarding the camper we really did manage to have a good time lounging around West Michigan. Good times were had by all.

I’ll leave you with a photograph of the new sticker we picked up while we were there.

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We cackled like hyenas when we found it at the mall. People looked at us like we were nutty but have you met us? We really don’t care. Clearly we still don’t care what people think because that baby is on the back window of the camper, ready for the next big adventure.

It’s Not a Truck if it’s Never Been in the Mud

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STUCK. SO VERY STUCK. That is how we started our visit to Michigan. Mud up to the middle of the wheels isn’t as entertaining as it sounds. We took the trailer off out of fear that it would tip, the ground was that wet. Justin tried and tried and tried. We put boards under the tires and we had traction grips (that were technically for the snow) that collapsed under the weight of our behemoth truck. It was rainy and gross and all I wanted to do was be warm in my RV with no mud!!!

Eventually an employee went driving by on his golf cart. He was able to call another off-duty employee who lived in the park and had a biggish truck. With his help, and the help of every scrap of wood in the entire campground, we were eventually free! All we had to do from there was recover the camper and it was not as easy as we’d hoped. After much destruction of property we hooked the employees truck to the camper and pulled him and the RV out of the mud pit with the F450. Part of the tonneau cover rail was damaged (still functional) and we also had to buy a new wiring harness for the trailer. A small price to pay, I guess. Oh yeah, and we were the only ones coming into the campground that day so everyone now knows exactly who we are. We really know how to make an entrance, don’t we?

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The aftermath

Besides cleaning the mud out of our shoes, that first week was spent pretending to be DaVinci. School is so much fun!

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It actually worked when we put it back together!

Riding unicycles with the Redford Township Unicycle Club! It’s a family requirement, y’know. Justin had to learn when he first joined forces with me. The kids are actually doing really well with it, and their newly found balance has extended itself to pretty much all of the rest of their outdoor activities.

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And eating Superman ice cream!

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Super awesome!

Until I’d moved from Michigan I had no idea that Superman Ice Cream was not a world-wide, readily available commodity. I really need the rest of you Superman-free states to get on board with this one. While we’re at it, I need everybody to roll out Ale-8-one and fresh Peets coffee as well. And maybe some HEB Brisket Burgers. Mmmm… Why is it that Jet’s Pizza is so much better in Michigan than it is anywhere else? And what’s up with 7-eleven, Moe’s, Taco Cabana, and Del Taco not being where I want them to be? I must be hungry right now.

Speaking of food, I went to the local Kroger for groceries one morning and when I came out to put the groceries in the truck I noticed the back end was completely speckled with little black dots. When I looked at the ground I saw two trails coming from under the truck and tracing my route all the way through the parking lot. Sticking my head under the cab revealed a giant puddle. The truck had dumped three quarters of its oil on the ground! AARRGGHH! There was so much oil in the engine compartment that I couldn’t figure out where it had come from, and with the amount of truck blood it had lost I couldn’t drive it home. I had it towed to my parents house so that we could work on it near civilization and with help. By the time I’d waited for the tow truck, rode to my parents house, ranted about the truck, and procured one of their vehicles to drive back to the campground, I’d been gone from the house for EIGHT HOURS. I had also woke up at 6:30am for no apparent reason that day, so at hour twelve of my day when I was stuck in traffic on the freeway my head just about exploded. My family ate pizza for dinner that night. It’s the longest trip to the grocery store to date. I should have called Guinness.

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*SOB*

The next day Justin was able to determine that the oil was spraying out of the oil sensor! That’s not something that’s supposed to be possible. We’re all about impossible, apparently. It was a quick fix and we were back in business!

After we’d been at the campground in St Clair for about ten or so days we discovered that between all of our appointments and practices, etc. we’d have to drive 600+ miles that week. Barf! It was decided to move the camper to my parents house so that we could be closer to everything and cut that number down to less than 150. This is what it looks like to be there:

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Tight quarters! The kids definitely love it, though. Who doesn’t love being spoiled to bits at Grandma and Grandpa’s house? This arrangement also allowed us to do extra things we would have skipped, like watching flaming puck unicycle hockey. Give it a Google, it’s plenty of fun.

May 23rd we pulled out of there and headed west to the Grand Rapids area. We had a doctors appointment scheduled for our camper at the RV dealership. The sick fridge and axle were finally going to be looked at, as well as many other injured trim and seals we’d been saving up all year. Justin’s aunt and uncle were kind enough to let us bunk in their basement for the week that the camper would be in the shop. Four weeks later we are STILL HERE. I’m just glad that they are wonderful, tolerant people who haven’t snapped and put us on the curb yet. Hug your camper, people. You don’t know how much you’ll miss it until it’s being held hostage at the RV dealership.

I almost forgot to introduce you to my squirrel friend! I bribed him with some tortilla bits so that I could exploit him.

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He never told me his name. Maybe he’ll be waiting for us when we get back to the Detroit side next week.

I’ll leave you with Mr. Emerson and something we really, really needed to practice this month.

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Six States and Two Planets Probably

April 23rd we finally managed to escape the borders of Oklahoma. We headed through Kansas for a hot minute then finally into Missouri! Our next target was a little campground near Steelville. I was just referencing google maps and discovered that the worlds second largest rocking chair is located nearby the campground in Cuba, MO. Dangit! What a missed opportunity!

Before we could get there and miss out on the rocker we had to pass through Uranus. Uranus has all sorts of things going on. It must take a lot of coaxing to get people to stop in Uranus because it seems like Uranus spends it’s entire budget on billboards. We saw Uranus for at least a hundred miles.

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We stopped in Springfield around lunch time so that we could visit the Grandaddy of all Bass Pro Shops. Justin has wanted to go there since he was a small child. We’re out here making dreams come true, people!

The store is AMAZING! There were water features everywhere with waterfalls, big and small tanks, and ponds outside. Some of the store looked like the underside of a lake complete with duck butts, the bottoms of boats, legs dangling off the dock, and lures in the water. In one corner of the ceiling lake they had a giant alligator snacking on big ol’ fish.

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They even had some LIVE critters mixed in with all the taxidermy. The biggest fish (an alligator gar) in the whole Bass Pro system lives here along with turtles, alligators, and even a few ducks. They also had some hall of fame type displays, sporting arms history museum, a few restaurants, and a feeding demonstration in one of the large fish tanks. The presenter’s name was Scuba Steve.

Justin’s boyhood dreams were met that day! There was almost too much to look at and I was completely unprepared for how involved it would be. I’m definitely adding it to the list of places I wouldn’t mind visiting again in the future.

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Get him, brother!

We rolled into our new campground with sugar plums dancing in our heads.

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The whole place was decked out in Christmas paraphernalia. Poor Rudolph’s head was mounted on the wall in the office. There was a Santa approved miniature golf course.

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We stayed here for two nights, and by the end of the second day we’d been adopted.

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Her name was Midnight and she was the best girl. She napped in front of our camper for most of the time we were there. When we sat outside she’d sit next to us just like the above photo, and if we stopped petting her she’d protest. I sneaked her some ground turkey when I was making dinner because she totally deserved it. The woman who helped run the park said that Midnight had been abandoned and was a stray that never left. Justin offered (read pleaded) to take her but the gentlemen who owned the place was too attached. How could he not be? She’s a great old pup. It was for the best because we really didn’t need a dog in that moment. We would have made an exception for her.

The 25th brought us three states and two time zones again! We started in Missouri, traversed Illinois, and landed in Indiana. We actually got into the campground in Indiana a day before it was officially open. When I called to make a reservation the manager initially said no. About an hour later she called me back and said she’d decided that it wouldn’t hurt anything to let us in early. Success!

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The spot we were in was actually a seasonal spot that someone had been kicked out of when he’d altered the post and installed his own 50amp outlet. He had a pretty sweet spot! We never had any neighbors while we were there, and one side of the camper looked out to the nothingness. We were there for a week, which was great because I got hit with a terrible stomach bug the first night and spent a few days rolling around in agony. It had gotten Wesson in Elk City, OK and Mara puked in the truck on the way to Candy Cane. At least it took us out one at a time. Justin, of course, never got it because he’s a jerk who never gets the sickness.

Indiana had the very worst weather that we’d encountered. It was storm after storm after storm, sometimes a tornado would pass by in the next town, other times it was soul clattering thunder and lightning. At one point we pulled the bedroom slides in because we couldn’t take the rain banging on the ceiling while we were sleeping. By the end of the week we couldn’t wait to get out of the weather.

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We spent one night at one of our favorite Bass Pro Shops in Rossford, Ohio. The people who work here are stellar and I highly recommend living in their parking lot.

We’ll talk about our arrival in Michigan tomorrow because I want to end on a high note (hint: there was lots of mud). Airbrushed murals on the back of RV’s are my not-so-secret favorite thing. Enjoy these majestic road warriors I collected on the way to the mitten state. Happy Camping!

The Pioneer Woman Never Showed Up But Vicki Did!

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Copan Lake was a good, central place to be for our next few activities. It was a decent stopping point as well, and it pointed us north a little so that we’d go through Missouri instead of Arkansas as we continued.

Do you KNOW who lives in that part of Oklahoma? The Pioneer Woman! One of my personal travel goals for the year was to make it over to The Mercantile, Ree Drummond’s fancy store. If you’re not familiar with her, she’s a blogger  and star of her own Food Network show. And she just started a magazine. Oh, and the store. I’ve been following her through her various endeavors for years and years, even dragging a friend (hi, Melissa!) with me to a food show that came to town just so I could see her live cooking demonstration, hear her sing like Ethel Merman, and stare at her like a stalkery weirdo while she signed autographs for other people. Now that I’ve made myself look obsessed I’ll show you the photos I took of the bathroom at The Merc. That… didn’t come out quite like I’d heard it in my head. It’s too late to pretend that I didn’t take a photo of the toilet, humor me and have a look anyway.

They had real house-looking toilets, subway tile, lil’ hooks for your bag, paper towels in baskets, and wood everything. Even the baby changing table was fancy, for cripes sake. Look at that thing! It looks like a fold down desk you’d see in… a place where they have fold down desks. I guess that they ARE for baby “business.”

Ree’s photography peppered the walls in the whole building, and the bathroom was no exception. I imagine that the giant black and white canvas portraits of everyday life are some of her favorite shots.

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The merchandise was as varied as a circus. You could buy a set of cast iron skillets, a wooden bowtie, and a stoneware wiener dog plate. Toys and sundries surrounded tools and decore.

They also sold Pioneer Woman brand jeans and those lovely flowing floral printed tops she always wears. All of this could be expertly wrapped at their gift wrapping station in the rear of the store.

There was also a cafe and candy shop upstairs. I had heard that the Pioneer Woman herself is found sometimes just hanging out up there at the cafe tables, chatting up fans and customers.

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I had also read that some of the kids worked in the various areas, and her husband Ladd’s father sometimes greeted people at the door. This day provided no members of the Drummond family. *womp womp*

Look at these neat little tables! Every inch of this place was a labor of love.

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There is also a restaurant inside The Merc. We weren’t interested in eating there, it was kind of early in the day and we have food allergies. When we left there at 10am the line just to get INTO the restaurant for lunch was all the way down the block. Grown people and small children were huddled together in blankets under giant propane heaters waiting for their turn to shuffle into the building. You’d have thought that Ree herself was in the kitchen cooking the food and hand feeding folks.

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Sorry, lady, you’ve been blogged.

I’m glad that we got to experience The Mercantile. Who knows, maybe we’ll end up in that part of town again some day.

That afternoon we headed into Kansas to meet someone near and dear, more so than that Pioneer lady. It was Vicki!!!

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I “met” Vicki about 15 years ago on a guinea pig forum called Cavies Galore. Once the forum dissolved we found each other as Facebook friends. She has the best status updates, by the way. Her long declarations of love on her children’s birthdays are some of my favorites. We’ve picked her homeschooling brain on several occasions (all FIVE of her kids are/were homeschooled). This was the first time we’d met in person and it was long overdue. She is just as wonderful as I’d always thought that she would be! We really need more visits – LONGER visits.

We met up at the Little House on the Prairie house just to make things interesting.

It’s actually just a collection of buildings on the site where the Ingalls family once lived. The current owner built a little cabin that may or may not look like the one Laura Ingalls Wilder had lived in when she was there. There was also an old post office and a little school house that had been moved to the property in an effort to save them from demolition.

It really was lovely! More new experiences and more new faces. I can only hope that we’ll recreate this wonderful day again soon.

The Day That The Truck Did Not Survive

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Mountains!

April 13th we headed down the road, high on all that sweet, sweet National Parks fun. We were finally going to experience something that we’d been talking about for an entire year: The Musical Highway!

“…the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT), along with the National Geographic Channel, had the idea to make a roadway that sings—literally. Enlisting the help of San Bar Construction Corp., a New Mexico-based company that designs and constructs traffic control devices and signs, NMDOT created a length of roadway between mile markers four and five that plays music whenever a vehicle drives over it.

But there’s a catch—the tune, in this case “America the Beautiful,” only works when cars are traveling at exactly 45 mph. The road’s purpose is twofold: to encourage drivers to stay the speed limit and to bring a little excitement to an otherwise monotonous highway.” – Source

You can hear our truck singing here. Pretty darn spiffy if you ask me!

That night we decided to boondock at another truck stop, this time it was a place called Russell’s. The building looked pretty ordinary from the outside. Once inside, though, you could tell someone had sunk their life into the place. There was a full 1950’s diner, complete with Coke memorabilia, black and white tile, and those awesome red and white seats. There were shelves all around the ceiling with model cars and trucks, and nestled in the back of the store was door to this:

 

A car museum half the size of the whole building! It had about twenty classic cars, a few motorcycles, TONS of memorabilia from lots and lots of different areas. NASCAR, I Love Lucy, cartoons, brands, cash registers… There were even a few collections that were donated by people who liked the place. It was a really neat find! The open road seems to always hold surprises.

The next day started like any other. Wake up, pack up, hit the road. We woke up in New Mexico, we’d be driving through Texas, and we’d be in Oklahoma by dinner. Three states and two time zones in one day! It was mostly uneventful and peaceful save a few tiffs from the back seat.

When we got into Oklahoma and stopped for fuel Justin noticed that the wheels were streaked with some kind of fluid. Thinking that we’d busted a hub seal again we headed for a Ford dealership because the previous repairs are warrantied for two years. When we got into the dealership though, they had a much, much worse diagnosis for us. The trucks emissions system (EGR) dumped all of the coolant, and the head gasket had blown. If there was ever a time where you’d use the phrase ‘catastrophic failure’ this would be it. The truck was basically dead. To have Ford work on the truck would cost about $13,000 and that would be replacing the horrid EGR system with exactly the same parts, a recipe for future disaster. Luckily one of the shop guys also owned his own shop. He came out to talk to Justin and after a lengthy discussion it was decided that we’d limp to a campground and he’d come pick up the truck that night on a trailer.

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We found a ridiculously affordable campground with a full hook-up in Elk City, Oklahoma called Elk Creek RV Park. You’ve heard of it, right? No? Neither had I until we were unceremoniously trapped there for a week. Their rate sheet was kind of comical. It was $35/night or $100 for the entire week. They cashed in on everybody who was just passing through, and that place was about full every night. Almost nothing exists in Elk City, there’s a Wal-Mart and a Bar-S hot dog factory. No problem, we surmised out loud to each other, we’ll just rent a car. This is how my conversation went with the townsfolk: “Well, Patty used to rent cars but she stopped doin’ it.” I called about four places who rented U-Haul trucks and no one had anything smaller than a 25 foot box truck. The nearest rental car place was 80 miles away and contrary to their well publicized slogan they will not “pick you up” when you are in the middle of nowhere. At least we still had our bicycles.

The second day in paradise I decided to go grocery shopping at Wal-Mart. For some reason I had it in my head that I was going to get everything we needed all in one trip. I set off on my new bike to save us all from starvation and had immediate regrets. 1) It was really windy, 2) There were hills, 3) The crank assembly on my bike started to come apart almost immediately. Any sane person would have turned around right here. NOT ME, THOUGH. 4) I had to ride in the road with the cars

And on the way back, I had all of these regrets PLUS: A) Looming threats of rain, B) A new bike basket that I had to hold up because it rubbed on my front tire, C) 80 pounds of groceries strapped to my back like I was a human pack mule

I walked some of this leg of the trip. I had bruises in my armpits from the backpack when I got back to the camper. I soothed my misery with the ice cream I had fat-assed all the way home. Justin was quick to point out that I had purchased expired bread. *SIGH*

Justin made several more bicycle trips to Wally World before the week was over – several more REASONABLY WEIGHTED trips.

Thankfully the Easter Bunny was able to find us while we were pretending to be Okies.

These bubble guns that the Easter Bunny left us were the BEST THING EVER. We’re still playing with them on a regular basis two months later.

The rest of the week was uneventful. The mechanic sent us naked chassis photos at one point.

So dirty! It took a whole week to get our chariot back in operational order but we had an incredible mechanic on the case. He was committed to the cause and did some things other mechanics wouldn’t have even attempted. We owe him our love and affection until the end of time.

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It LIVES!

We bid adieu to Elk City the next morning in what turned out to be tornado weather. We enjoyed quarter sized hail and no visibility, rivers up to the tree tops, and an interstate that looked more like a parking lot – and that was just through Oklahoma City! By day’s end we were nestled in at an Army Corps of Engineers site to the north on a pretty little watering hole called Copan Lake.

I know that every sunset is technically the same sunset that the Earth has seen for billions of years. It still makes me happy to witness the process. Being able to watch the horizon meet the fire in the sky is a gift, it means that we’ve survived another day. After the week we’d had this sunset was well deserved.

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National Parks Four, Five, and Six, a Zip Line, and a Punch to the Eye

“There is nothing so American as our national parks…. The fundamental idea behind the parks…is that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Cousin Teddy had a way with words. According to the Ancestry.com app on my phone, Theodore Roosevelt is my seventh cousin, four times removed. Whether or not that’s true has yet to be determined but I like the idea. It gives me the notion that maybe the draw to explore these wild, wonderful parks is in our blood, and adventuring was our destiny all along. Also, maybe the kids are supposed to be presidents. Or maybe they should be photo-shopped riding atop a moose. Either or.

From the Dancing Eagle Casino we could extend our reach to three new places. El Malpais (mal pie EESE) National Monument was the next stop in our National Parks quest. Early explorers called this place El Malpais (which means ‘the badlands’) because most of the area is rough volcanic rock and their horses were unable to traverse the impossibly jagged ground. Honestly, people have trouble as well. We met the Chief Ranger for this area and El Morro and she told us about a man who was rescued from the area within the last year. It took them almost two hours to get to him on foot, and when they finally did reach him they couldn’t evacuate him. They had to call the Navy. Yes, the Navy had to rescue them from the middle of New Mexico. Not to discount the terrible experience for the man who was in trouble but hot damn, that had to be a cool rescue operation. The Chief said the planes whooshed by about 200 feet up from the treetops. I could tell that she was a little excited about it too. Good job, random unprepared hiker!

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This Ranger was super excited about the Junior Ranger swearing in and made sure to grab his awesome hat

After we had explored the museum and completed our Junior Ranger program (YAY) we headed out to explore the park we’d just learned about.

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La Ventana Natural Arch was so high and gorgeous. We stood quietly for a few minutes (seconds probably) to just take in the surrounding and ended up hearing some elk honking away. Justin also thought that he saw a large cat up in one of the holes in the wall but I’m going to pretend that he didn’t.

We also drove over to the sandstone bluffs to look out over the lava field. Again, a moment you could never fully capture.

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That little pool was teaming with life in the form of water bugs of various sorts, unaware that they are several hundred feet into the sky. I would have gotten a better photo of how high up we were but it was really windy and there is nothing to stop you from flying off into the lava rock. I’m adventurous but not stupid. Ok not that stupid. Ok, I wasn’t willing to go to the edge that day. Continuing…

The next day we drove in to Albuquerque to visit Petroglyph National Monument. It’s in a different kind of area compared to other parks. The pieces of land included in the monument have neighborhoods all around them instead of being out in the middle of nowhere. We were able to complete our Junior Ranger goals at the visitors center before we went out exploring.

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This Ranger was one of my favorites, as she was genuinely excited about ALL of the parks and not just her own. The rangers in general thought the kids were just awesome in their little vests covered in badges, clutching their Junior Ranger Camelbak bottles. We got a little carried away – but for a good cause.

The basalt rocks in this area have kind of a black varnish on them due to the desert environment and it provided ample canvas for the migrating travelers to etch a picture or two down to the gray basalt. No one is really sure what all of the glyphs represent and it’s offensive to ask the natives. We can only speculate what they mean. Some of them are obvious, like a bird or a snake. Others may have been placed there by ol’ Uncle Bob who wasn’t right in the head. We may never know.

We also went to a really cool city park in Albuquerque that had zip lines! The kids could have stayed there all night.

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The sixth park in our wondrous National Parks tour was a place called El Morrow National Monument, El Morrow meaning ‘the headlands.’

This area saw travelers of all kinds because it is the site of an ever present watering hole. People traversing the West could count on the pool at El Morrow which is fed from the runoff of melted snow from the cliffs above. The area is also significant because when people came through here they felt the need to write their names on the wall.

It’s pretty neat to see all the different names and such, and the park has done a great job at gathering information about a good majority of the people and including that in their self-guided tour.

I brought the selfie stick with us that day, a device that is incredibly superfluous yet fun to embarrass your family with.

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I LOVE this photo of us for a few reasons. One being that it shows the pool at El Morrow, another being that it captured the moment right after Wesson had inadvertently punched Mara in the eye. Justin and I were smiling like fools, oblivious to the collision,  Wesson with his ‘shit happens’ face, and Mara mid un-grinning. Candid moments caught on camera! Thanks, selfie stick! Before you tell me what a crappy parent I am for getting the giggles when I look at this photo, she was fine. She didn’t even cry and I don’t think that her eye was that black.

We had done it! Six parks in six days, and six Junior Ranger badges! I just love what we gain from the programs. In fact, ANYONE can complete the program, it’s not just for children. I’m looking forward to seeing just how many parks we can visit before we stop traveling. Who am I kidding? We’re never going to stop.

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert

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