Happy Anniversary!

Ten years ago today we signed some fancy paperwork in front of a few people. It was a small group: Justin and I, a judge, two wonderful friends (who were so much better dressed than we were), and a newborn baby. He didn’t care that his parents should have gotten married two and a half years earlier like they said they were going to, he slept through the whole thing like it didn’t even matter. Pfft. Children, right? We took no photos that day, and honestly I don’t really regret that. It was our day, it wasn’t meant for anyone else. I remember it, and he might, so that’s good enough for me.

Well… there are these mediocre Sears portraits of us in our “wedding shirts” a few months later:

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Yes, Wesson, my feelings exactly.

We’ve actually been together for about a minute over fifteen years. He decided that he needed to work closer to home, transferring into my department, I made some cookies, which were apparently fantastic, and then the rest is history. I may have skipped a few things but if you know us, you can fill in the blanks.

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This is the earliest photo of us that I could find. He was getting ready to go to Iraq with the Marines, I was sunburned, it was June. He left in July. I didn’t get to see this photo until he brought it home from halfway around the world. While he was there, his family sent this ornament (something I am grateful for) to adorn the Christmas tree his unit had set up. I keep it now as a reminder that this life could have been so, so desperately different.

So why am I writing a vague blog post to you on this, the day of our 10th and/or 15th anniversary? Because you should know how wonderful this person is and how important he is to me. He volunteered to be a target for 16 years, facing the worst of the worst in multiple countries, and now he washes the dishes every night so I don’t have to. He grinds my coffee by hand, one cup at a time, every morning. He once defended me against a group of guys at a music festival by just looking really mean and making them run away. He also worries about babies judging him. He is 100% in when I have a crazy idea (ok, maybe 90%, depending on the situation). He laughs at my dumb jokes and listens to my mostly ridiculous rantings. He somehow always beats us when we play Monopoly. He homeschools his two clones. He makes beer, he makes adorable babies, he makes dreams come true, he makes things work properly by just being in the room (witchcraft, probably), he makes time for his family, and he makes us happy just by being himself. His presence is always a gift.

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We’d have never guessed this is where we’d be in life had you asked either one of us back in 2004. There was no way we’d be living in Michigan again, or could have ever possibly imagined a scenario where we’d be retired in our 30’s. I know that I use the word ‘adventure’ way more than I should, but man, what else would you call it? This hap-hazard adventure has been amazing, and unpredictable, and – at only 15 years in – is just getting started.

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I’m eternally grateful that I get to live this roller coaster of a life with the one person who makes it all worth while.

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Here’s to New Paths and New Goals

SIX MONTHS. We’ve been living in this sticks and bricks house in Michigan for six whole months now. I would say that I could hardly believe it but it was -15 degrees last week and that was very real. Our get up and go is a get up and stay. Now we eat our avocado toast in the same place every morning. No sigh necessary, we’re enjoying the challenge.

The house I gave you a glimpse of in my last post has been an adventure in itself. It’s a sprawling ranch on a five acre tract of grass with some woods around the fringe and a piece of creek in the back.

Our neighbors to one side have a similar situation, but instead of growing grass they lease the land out for corn and alfalfa. These people are the BEST! They’ve been nothing but incredible, saving our butts more than once from the monster that is our yard.

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Ducks lay white eggs, chickens are brown

They also have a bazillion chickens and ducks and like to share their eggs. There’s no need to tell you how much better farm fresh eggs are than the Walmart ones. The chickens get Justin’s spent beer grains in return and they are thrilled. I don’t know how we always manage to hit the neighbor lottery!

I started a blog post for you after we’d been here a month, but we hadn’t done too much beyond purchasing rugs. Twelve. I bought twelve rugs. And 14 packs of hangers. You don’t give these things a second thought until you have to buy them en masse.

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When I said we were enjoying the challenge I really meant it. I have never been more busy while also not actually doing anything. There is always some task to be accomplished or corner of the property to explore with the kids. Who knew we were actually buying 5 acres of chores? A barn full of projects? A house full of rugs and hangers? And when spring hits we’ve got one epic veggie garden planned. I’ve already got little sprouts going all over the front room. Justin also ordered 10,000 bees last week, so there’s that too. If you were concerned that we would have trouble being stationary, your worries are mostly unfounded. We are not bored.

So far we’ve had a few giant deer, turkeys (and BABY turkeys!!!), groundhogs (plural), a fox, a family of WHITE skunks, great egrets, at least three kinds of hawks, coyotes, lots of different little birds, and four million squirrels.

 

There was also this crazy Wild Kingdom battle between a squirrel, a gray tailed hawk, a hero crow, and an opportunistic second greedy squirrel. The hawk tried to carry off squirrel #1, and while he was flipping said squirrel around on the ground, a rescue crow was deployed from the alfalfa field. The crow started attacking the hawk! The hawk, not to be out bullied, turned and started chasing the crow in a high-speed pursuit all around our backyard field. While the birds were zooming around, squirrel #2 ran out and helped squirrel #1 to the nearby woods so that he may get eaten another day. Then #2 ran back out into the field to eat what #1 had almost been killed over. It was a roller coaster.

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David Attenborough should have been narrating.

The kids finally got ALLLL that snow they so DESPERATELY wanted.

 

I think it’s really pretty too as long as I get to stay inside under my electric blanket.

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Now, to our current business (and the REAL reason i’m harassing you with my words):

WE HAVE SOLD THE RV.

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We went back and forth on the matter; to sell or not to sell. Ultimately we were paying – BLEEDING money – for a second home that no one was using, and also stressing out over it rotting away. It wasn’t rotting, but you know us, we’re worst case scenario people, so it may as well have been. After a few months on RV trader and about 10 failed deals, we’ve been found by a family who is ready to start their own full time adventure!!! In less than 24 hours our mobile fortress will be headed to its new home in sunny San Diego. At least our camper gets to live in California, right? Don’t mind me. I’ll just be here, with the snow…

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Just like when you sell any home, you leave a little piece of yourself behind with it. A pang of sadness can’t be avoided. We get to keep the best parts of it, though. Look at this blog! Look at all the memories! The happiness! The celebrations! The anxiety! The challenges! The GROWTH. I will never regret having it, or it having us.

So that’s that. We’re officially mid-westerners (again for half of us), embracing our newly found OPE!’s and dreams. Don’t worry about us bohemians, though. We might be sitting still for a minute, but rest assured our adventures will never stop.

Forward, Not Backward

After we’d waved goodbye to Mexico and all it’s not so subtle ways to kill you we pointed our truck at the middle of Texas and drove like the wind. This stretch was a lot of little stays in a row. We were on a mission, and you’ll see why.

Every once in a while we come across a place that we didn’t know existed and truly wished we’d have hit the first three times we wandered by. Monahan’s Sandhill State Park is on that ever-growing list. The place is just a giant pile of sand – a sand hill, if you will.

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The view from the front door.

The kids LOVED this place! Really, truly loved it with a passion. Sometimes I think their whole outlook on life it to just exist until another pile of sand shows up. We were only scheduled here for one night and strongly considered extending a few more until we found out that high winds were on the way. The park ranger said that the sky was going to be brown and our precious faces would be sandblasted. Hint taken.

On we went, puddle jumping over to Dyess Air Force Base where they fly the B-1B Lancers. One of the things I like about the Air Force bases is that everybody flies a different set of planes. There’s always something new and interesting to learn about. Fifteen minutes after parking we made Nerf friends, of course.

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After a chilly few days at Dyess we landed in a good ol’ Thousand Trails park. Days in Texoma were spent fishing! Really. They fished the pond every single day we were there. I do not have a fishing pole currently, my time is usually spent baiting hooks and changing lures so no big deal. We found our way to Lake Texoma on one of the days, which is supposedly famous for it’s striped bass.

After a depressingly fishless hour or so, Wesson set his fishing pole down in defeat. I picked it up, dipped the line in next to the dock, and almost immediately pulled out a bluegill!

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We called it a team effort. *wink*

While we were here in Texoma Justin discovered a coolant leak!!! Extra !!! for good measure because if you remembered our last Spring in Oklahoma when our coolant/emissions system exploded you’d be extra !!! about it too. Thankfully this go ’round we have that extended warranty. A hundred bucks and a day later the local Ford dealership had a new radiator installed and we were back in business! Amazing! Buy the extended warranty, people. Just do it.

Our week was up, and we’d had our fill of sitting for the moment. Barksdale Air Force Base was calling our names. Barksdale is home to the B-52 Stratofortress, which is exactly as big as it sounds. These are bombers, so Barksdale is also home to a mile of munitions depots. I’m not sure why, but I always feel secure withing the confines of a military base – even though in reality it’s basically sleeping in a giant target.

They also have the Barksdale Global Power Museum. The planes line the street next to the air strip and there’s a building chock full of paraphernalia to gawk at.

They had a make your own WWII poster station:

And don’t forget Rowland the Riveter:

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He’s the best! ❤

Sticking with the pattern we made another hop, skip, jump to Little Rock Air Force Base. The Air Force runs a program called Frequent Camper that starts with five free nights of camping, and when we stay with them we are earning more free nights, basically. Look into it if you have base access, it’s a really good deal.

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Lake by the campground

Little Rock has the C-130’s and they buzzed right over the campground when they took off. If you haven’t seen a C-130, click the link and think BIG. You know what else was right over the campground? The speaker for the base. Reville at 0630, retreat and the National Anthem at 1630, and taps at 2200, all at maximum decibel. Two nights was enough.

Rolling out of the base we stopped to get milk and water at the exchange gas station and scored the deal of the century:

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Seven cents a bag for Cadbury Mini Eggs?!? The clerk was horrified when I retrieved an entire box of them but dutifully sold them to me with a judgy look on her face. Listen, you can’t sell the best candy on earth for seven cents without expecting someone to buy mass quantities. Can you imagine? “Oh, yes, I’ll take ONE.” PPTTHH!

The next hop got us all the way into Tennessee! Montgomery Bell State Park is just outside of Nashville. It’s another one of those beautiful little hidden gems. A bubbling creek and tall, waving trees. The very first people we met at this campground were from the tiny town of Dearborn Heights, Michigan! That’s where I grew up! It’s was so weird, but pleasant. Everyone we met here was pleasant, even the dogs.

Traveling further we made our way to and through Kentucky, and into Indiana where we spent one unremarkable night on a joint reserve military base which also housed a level one prison. No thanks!

UGH! FINALLY! We were in MICHIGAN! We spent a week visiting with family while staying at the best little campground in the Grand Rapids area: Steamboat Park! We stayed there last year and the owner had to forklift our camper back onto the truck, if you remember. In spite of that, he was happy to let us into the campground a week before they officially opened for the season. The river was a little flooded.

Supposedly the water was about three feet deep in the campground at the high point. I’m glad we missed it.

We ended up sharing our campsite with one of the residents:

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His name is Hogwarts.

After a week we moved to East Michigan and parked in the driveway at our legal residence, aka my parents house. Here, we’ve been schooling, unicycling, visiting the library, etc.

Oh, and looking for a house.

We have collectively decided that life on the road must come to a pause. Not an end, just a pause. The kids desperately want to see their grandparents more often, along with aunts, uncles, and cousins too. Wesson has it in his head that he needs snow this winter and it MUST be Michigan snow, although he’s never experienced a winter here so he may change his mind. This whole thing, this whole life, is about giving them new experiences, and this is all new for them. If we’re talking honestly, I’m in need of a break too. And Justin… he’d probably keep traveling forever, but he loves us (of course) and has realized that we all need to stop for a minute.

The tentative plan is to travel next summer into the northern snowy states and national parks that one cannot traverse with confidence in the winter. The camper will be sold this fall, and a new, smaller version will be procured in the spring. It’s a much better idea than trying to store it properly for the winter, and we can downsize just a bit if we aren’t using it as our primary residence. We can go camping actual!

Just a few days ago after a month of looking and being discouraged we found the house that has every single thing we scrawled onto our wish list. Seriously! All of them! It’s the unicorn we’ve been hoping to find. It’s in the city, it has acreage, it has a pole barn, it’s a ranch with a basement, it doesn’t have two regular bedrooms and one oddly tiny bedroom like every other damn house we’ve seen…

And it’s unique like us. 🙂

The wonderful people who currently own it have accepted our offer! Pending that the appraisal and inspection don’t come up with anything significant this week we’ll close next month and be in it by mid-July. Until then, we’ll be exploring like always. We’re hoping to get an in-state jaunt in before moving day, and the North American Unicycling Competition and Convention is coming up in July. We’ve got lots to keep us busy.

This is not an end to our journey, only a new set of experiences. By the time winter is over I’m sure we’ll be restless again and ready to wiggle, only this time we’ll have a home base to come back to.

Maybe you can come visit us this time! Five acres can hold a lot of campers…

Three birthdays and fourteen pesos

Can you believe that our girl Mara Layne turned SEVEN?! It seems like just yesterday that she was two years old, sucking her thumb, and being bossy. She has stopped sucking her thumb since then.

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She did all the regular birthday stuff, including the traditional Toys R Us trip and dinner of her choosing (Olive Garden). Wesson gave her this dress for her birthday. He said she needed a really nice dress to wear. Sweet boy!

Happy Birthday, sass monster. You make the days brighter!

Right after Miss Mara turned seven we got sick of playing in the cold and moved our spoiled butts to Palm Desert. Palm Springs Thousand Trails is there, and in true Thousand Trails fashion the campground is irritating in it’s own unique ways. The front office troll likes to torture people over their mail, and the palm trees, although great to look at, make getting into and out of your site almost impossible. Add the skinniest sites ever seen to the list and the warm weather is just barely worth the visit. We like the area, though, so that helps.

Everybody ended up with a cold just before we arrived. Everyone else got better within a day or two but Wesson decided to be an overachiever and turned his into bronchitis and an ear infection. We got to go to urgent care in California! How fun! After some heavy duty antibiotics and a few days of staying out of the dirt he was as good as new, just in time to turn NINE!!!

On our regularly scheduled birthday visit to Toys R Us we discovered that they were closing! *sob* Gone are the days of the traditional toy store. So sad! I can’t say that I haven’t contributed to it’s downfall, what with most of my purchases coming from the overlords at Amazon.com. We finished the day at Red Robin. He gets a free kids meal there every year and, like his mother, is all about the freebies.

Happy birthday, buddy! May all your dreams come true!

Wesson got a new scooter in that same week. It wasn’t really a birthday gift, more of a replacement for the one he had beat into the ground. When I went to toss the old one in the trash Justin stopped me and suggested we put it out by the dumpster in case someone wanted it. It was still ride-able, just not in great shape. Boy, am I glad I listened to him. No sooner was it out there that an inebriated lady and her male companion stumbled by. She immediately grabbed the scooter and tried to ride away, losing a chunky heeled shoe in the process. Then, her man friend decided to fold it up for easy carrying, couldn’t figure out how to do it, and ended up riding it home. It was such a sight that neither one of us could actually laugh. Best decision ever!

The morning of March 15th started like any other. Wesson ventured outside at about 10am and came running in with an unfamiliar bike headlight that he’d found back by our bicycles. It was puzzling but no one actually gave it much thought. A few hours later when Justin went out back to do something he started screaming several expletives. There, at the bike rack, where his big ol’ expensive top of the line Trek bicycle should have been was a pile of cut locking cables and a patch of dirt. Someone had STOLEN his bike in the night and left their own headlamp behind in the process. They also cut both ends off the cable which made no sense but maybe bike thieves aren’t the brightest crayons.

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Within the next few hours he was able to get a police report done and a claim in to the insurance company. The locking cable people even mailed me a new one, even though I’m not sure it will matter. By the next day he had a deposit in the bank account for the full value of his bicycle and all the accessories/upgrades at retail prices! So, if anyone is looking for a moderately used black Cannondale with pink brake cables, I’ll leave it unlocked tonight. Just make it look like a pro job, please.

A few days later Wesson started looking funny around his mouth. He’s had really badly chapped lips before because when he gets to chewing at them he won’t quit. This time, though, his cheek started getting red and the whole thing just kept getting worse. By bedtime on the 21st it was hot and nasty. We were supposed to be moving the next day so we made the decision to run him out to the emergency room right then instead of waiting until the next day. After he and I had been in the ER waiting room for about an hour and a half, I tried to leave with him, resigning to bring him back tomorrow because it was already 11pm. A different triage nurse than the first took one look at his swollen, red face and basically said no, you’re not leaving with that kid. She out mommed me, people. This is, apparently, what a staph infection in your face looks like.

Two antibiotics later we were touring California looking for a pharmacy that would take our veterans administration insurance. Wesson was thrilled to be running around CVS at 2am and shockingly he never once fell asleep during this whole adventure. We did not move the next day.

When we finally DID move, it was to a place called Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field.

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The campground itself is tucked away between the airstrip and the firing range. This place doesn’t really have any claim to fame, necessarily. They do, however, have a lot of arsenic in their water. A reverse osmosis system was set up at each campsite to make sure we didn’t let the government poison us with anything but propaganda.

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The water was pretty fantastic, actually. This weekend the air force academy was in town to do some jumping so we got to watch the instructors out jumping for fun. They were doing some formations and at one point two guys came down with a giant American flag strung between them. It was quite a show! The F-16’s from nearby Luke Air Force Base were also conducting some training and would come in extra low and fast all day long with their roaring afterburners. I was also told that we had just missed the munitions training that made all the campground gravel jump up a few inches.

Nearby the community fire pit was a “bathroom” although I got the feeling as I was using it that it may have been a joke.

Our next adventure involved a week in Phoenix. Now, last time we were there we stayed at WestWorld in their parking lot for about a million dollars. This time around we were taking advantage of the Trails Collection with Thousand Trails. Basically, for an extra $200 per year you get access to about 35 more campgrounds within the system. We’ve used it a few times so far and with the exception of one hiccup (looking at you, Sherwood Forest) it’s been well worth the fee. We stayed at Monte Vista Resort right across from the pool.

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Our site was between two houses and had it’s own grapefruit trees. I ate at least one oroblanco grapefruit every single day (sometimes three).

There were always little quail roaming about the site. The poor timid little things didn’t want you to even LOOK at them, though, and it took me several days to even get a photo. We had great neighbors too! The elderly couple next door had one of their sons and his wife visiting and they had the cutest little Brittany Spaniel puppy! The kids were smitten. Everyone we met was more than kind, even the staff. The place is fantastically immaculate and they pick up your trash at your site – a miracle in itself! If you have a chance to stay here book as many weeks as you can.

As soon as we landed in Mesa we got ourselves together to go out for dinner with Justin’s cousin Micah and their Aunt Brenda and Uncle Dana. It was Dana’s birthday! When Dana and Brenda showed up to the restaurant we were sporting our birthday hats and a ridiculously giant birthday balloon.

We had lots of fun and stayed waaay too long, so long that I started feeling bad for the waitress, although after a certain point we weren’t bothering her just taking up her space. We made sure to tip her well, though, and when we left, we left our party hats stacked up on the table. As we were standing around outside still chatting away and taking photos we spotted the kitchen staff through the windows. THEY WERE WEARING OUR HATS! Our waitress had one on too! She finally spotted us and looked almost mortified but laughing hysterically. We all thought it was hilarious and awesome, of course.

The next day when I finally made it to a grocery store I discovered that their specific brand of Kroger was called Fry’s and IT HAD A BAR INSIDE OF THE STORE.

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Why can’t Kroger roll this out all over the place, huh?! Everybody needs a bar inside their grocery store! Just getting milk? Have an IPA first. Running in for diapers? Get a glass of wine, you deserve it.

We used the next weekend to go bowling with Micah and he kicked our butts. We have only been bowling with the kids twice before this, and they did ok with the bumpers in place. Justin and I should have opted for bumpers too, I think.

Easter also happened to… happen, while were here. Good guy EB left us all too much candy and a few toys.

And then we went SWIMMING!

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The pool is actually two pools separated by a really awesome waterfall that I never documented.

On our way out of Arizon we stopped at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base for a night. Our original plans were to head straight back to Holloman Air Force Base but we were off on the distance and it ended up being quite a bit farther than we usually plan for in a day. Check your route with your actual GPS, ok?

Davis-Monthan is where they have the plane grave yard!

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They need at least ten days notice to run background checks for tours of the boneyard. As much as I would have loved to do that, if you’ve paid any attention to our mildly interesting lives you’d know that we don’t plan for diddly squat. Our journey changes by the literal minute because of who we are as people: flighty, fidgety, and a touch legitimately crazy. This next paragraph will prove it.

Our next stop was another famcamp in El Paso that’s associated with Fort Bliss. While we were there we loaded up into the truck to go to the base museum as always and then suddenly we went to Mexico. It wasn’t really planned for? I mean, I had our passports so I had definitely considered it while I was getting ready to leave but it was a toss up until we actually crossed the border. Mostly we just wanted to use those passports we went through the effort of obtaining before our full-time nonsense began and just have the little mental everything-trophy that said we’d been out of the country.

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So we crossed the border. We made our way to a pretty good sized park that was supposed to have a history museum. The museum was going through a remodel as it turns out, so that was a no. Instead, we found a spot with a scary looking playground and let the kids out to run around.

It’s worth noting that the dirt in this park was at least 25% confetti, no joke. We tried to go to a big art installation down the road, and I think this is when we started to actually look around at the ‘roughness’ of the area.

We resolved, instead, to find a bathroom and then begin the process of heading back to the United States because the line for the border was a little lengthy. We stopped at that same park again when we spotted what appeared to be a public restroom. Except… an aggresive lady was charging people 5 pesos each to use the restroom. I paid her two US dollars to let us all pee, and wished those dollars good luck, not expecting change. She handed me four pre-measured strips of toilet paper. Just as I was about to go she gave me 14 pesos back! So not only did we get a ‘souvenir’ but we had a somewhat pleasant interaction in a foreign language. Ok, my Spanish sucks and I wasn’t paying attention so I almost went to the men’s room but Justin had his shit together. Later I discovered that she shorted me two pesos. I call that a tax for dealing with my dumb, needy, American keester.

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After we had safely made it back to the United States I posted about our field trip on Facebook, because of course I would. Every sane person on our friends list, border patrol agent included, pointed out that we’d gone to one of the most dangerous places in the entire world.

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Literally. The WORLD considers Juarez to be one of the MOST DANGEROUS PLACES. This is where I laugh to keep from crying. In the end, though, we survived it; “it” being our blatant stupidity and lack of googling.

And also the Mexico.

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California Rush

After our somewhat disastrous time in Arizona, we again headed out in a westerly fashion on February 9th. By mid-afternoon we were in one of our favorite nowhere spots: Pilot Knob!

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We parked in the same spot we did last year! There were some other RV’s across the way that were all parked in the same area. All this wide-open land and they want to be right up on top of each other. I’ll never understand it. I’d show you around but there’s nothing here. It’s just a patch of dirt and rocks (down a road that doesn’t exist) that the Bureau of Land Management owns. It’s quiet, it’s warm, it’s ultra dark at night (so many stars), and best of all: it’s free! The kids love it for it’s open space. They ran in circles, they flew the stunt kite, they played giant frisbee, and they collected ALL THE ROCKS and sifted ALL THE DIRT. Outdoor showers were necessary.

 

We usually end up in our locales around dinner time, which means I’m immediately busy as soon as I step foot out of the truck. We got here early enough in the day that we had time for day drinking and nothingness before dinner!

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See those mountains? Arizona is behind them.

We left our happy place bright and early the next morning, thinking we’d just get breakfast on the way. We’d totally forgotten that this piece of the route did not offer anything in the way of regular food. Last year we ate Slim Jim’s for lunch because crappy gas stations were all that we could find and no one had been grocery shopping (way to go, me). We, apparently, wanted to recreate the experience. On this day, armed with a gas station danish and the will to live, we disappointingly chugged along.

Guess who was waiting for us when we drove through El Centro! THE BLUE ANGELS!

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They flew so close to the ground and over our heads that you could read the planes and see the pilots. I don’t have a photo of that, of course, because I was too busy watching.

Our destination on this day was a place called Admiral Baker RV Campground which is the famcamp for Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. It wasn’t so much a campground as it was a big semi-circle shaped swath of RV spots situated somewhat around a giant open area with picnic tables and a playground. Within about 30 minutes the kids had been accepted into the giant horde of children (ok, 25 or so) that roamed the common space. This campground was fantastic for them and they absolutely loved being a part of this diminutive street-gang. Plus, SOCIALIZATION, amirite?

The campground was about eight miles from the base. We picked a day to venture out and ended up at their museum, of course. The Flying Leatherneck museum is just a small former office trailer type building but it also encompasses some fantastic artifacts outside. Right there, roasting away in the noon-day sun, was an Iraqi helicopter that some unit had taken as a war prize. The sign valued it at $2.5 million which I thought was generous, seeing as at this point it’s just a paperweight with a really ‘fun’ backstory.

At the base exchange we were able to score a cover (hat), a proper belt buckle, and some insignia for Wesson to go with his dress blues.

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Mara also somehow procured some cammies and a ridiculously priced hair-bow that she desperately needed.

Awww, Daddy’s little Devil Dogs.

Because we were staying in Miramar’s campground we were able to take advantage of a discounted whale watching tour that the MWR (think parks and rec) office was offering. The tickets were usually $55 and we got them for $16 each!!! What a great opportunity!

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Except… um… we don’t do well with continuous motion. Wesson hid under the table for a big chunk of the cruise, Mara laid on my shoulder, and I angrily held my lunch down.

Justin would have been strapped to the bow of the boat had they let him.

Through our angry faces and belly aches we saw a few whales (2) and, like, 23 dolphins according to Mara’s count.

Totally not worth the trauma for us in my opinion, but an experience nonetheless, and something cool that all sea tolerable people should do. Justin would go again! Maybe you can go with him.

Two days later we went to one of our favorite places! The waves of the ocean tried to bring back whale boat sickness but they couldn’t ruin Coronado Beach!

We also ran over to Point Loma and did the tide pools again.

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No octopus this time but we did see quite a few sculpin and some black sea hares.

On the way home we saw this dude:

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Some people’s children…

On February 15th our beloved rabbit Carrots Fuggles Secrets Funnybunny Rowland crossed over the rainbow bridge to the fields of kale.

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Long gone are the days of chasing Mara around the house, or sneaking out of her cage at night, or eating every damn laptop cord, you little shit…. Ahem. She had been residing in Michigan with my parents since we left their house in November. By all accounts she enjoyed stationary life and daily breakfast meetings with my mother. She only lasted about 12 hours after she showed signs of illness. We’re kind of thankful that she didn’t languish but it still sucked. She was also giving my mom hell in true Carrots fashion by going missing in the house (again) just before her end.  In her memory, I will share the most Carrots story of all the Carrots stories:

February 20, 2016 · Lexington, KY ·

I am about to paint a picture. Fair warning, the tale is wordy and gross. I don’t necessarily need to broadcast today’s happenings but I do need Facebook to remind me of the disgusting details of this day on it’s anniversary so that I may take a shower in remembrance. 1509051_10153112832698548_5432705213614927868_n.jpgThese events happened in a 25-30 minute window.

 

The kids were playing outside so I decided to grab Carrots and give her a good brushing since she has been blowing her coat all over the place. As soon as I picked her up I knew something was amiss. What’s that smell? I flipped her stout body over. There it was: a turd, the size of a Smart Car, stuck to her undercarriage. I’m exaggerating slightly, it was probably 4″x2″. That’s a little bigger than a Smart Car.

At this point I’m formulating a plan. How can I help this animal? Where should I attempt to do the helping? Why do I have this rabbit in the first place? I start to pull “things” apart and immediately she starts trying to run away. My instinct is to GRAB. I grabbed a full handful in a bad place. Now I’m tainted, but I finish the job. The children were a good 20 feet away the whole time and were complaining of the stench, you can just imagine my position. I enlist Wesson to find a tote bag and I stick the offending poop hoarder in it so that I can carry her without ruining my clothes.

17097645_10154970606523548_5940460959352225949_oAs the children are packing in their bikes etc. so that we can go inside, Wesson falls spectacularly and scrapes both knees. This was not an “oh man, I fell over” type fall that normally occurs. This was blood gushing down both legs and death rattle screaming (which he never does; he was HURT). Here I am in the back yard, bleeding, wailing child, rabbit in a bag, poop hands, and a Mara. Wesson manages to hobble in the house with Mara’s assistance and I run to the bathroom to furiously scrub my hands while a tote bag full of Carrots hangs from my shoulder. I throw the beast back in her hovel and take care of the boy. Mara was already picking out giant bandages. She is a wonderful helper in general, by the way. I never give her enough credit for that.

 

With the children squared away I turn my attention back to the putrid furball. I decide the only way to help her is to try to soak her rear. I fill the bathtub with about an inch of water. Carrots was now holed up in her carrier, as she was somehow aware of what was about to happen. I grab the carrier and try to dump her out into the tub. I 12400786_10153760809958548_137939840111768259_nturned it completely sideways and she somehow stayed in there. I could have shook that green, smelly box with a paint mixer and that rabbit would have never came out. After several tries she unceremoniously plopped into the tub.

A few minutes into the spa experience the oven timer went off. MEXICAN LASAGNA! DAMMIT! Neither child can operate the oven. With Wesson maimed in the earlier melee, Mara was the unlucky soul. “Mara” I say, “Grab this paper towel and hold bunny’s head, she won’t go anywhere if you push on her head a little. Sit here for thirty seconds while I wash my hands and grab dinner out of the oven.” Wash hand: Check! Lasagna: Check! Mara:…

12193605_10153628935703548_761149071998762748_n.jpgAs I walked into the bathroom to sit on the toilet, Carrots decides in a rather abrupt fashion that she is done with OUR shit. She leaps on poor Mara, foul water spraying everywhere, scratched legs and scratched arms. I grab at her, pushing her back into the tub while Mara screams bloody murder and runs away. Carrots jumps onto the edge of the tub then up to my shoulder like she’s a damn shit-covered parrot. I grab a nearby towel, wrap the stew meat candidate in a burrito and leave her on the floor. Mara and I HAVE to abandon our clothes. I track her down – which was not difficult as she was still wailing. Amazingly enough, Carrots stayed where I had placed her while I tended to the injured “volunteer.”

Battered and soiled, with a broken spirit, sporting only my underwear, I complete the mission. Poop be damned, I won. The rabbit was dried and returned to her habitat, the tub was rinsed, the girl was consoled, the boy was bandaged, and the lasagna was delicious.

 

Our next destination was a Naval Weapons Station in Seal Beach, California. My Great Grandmother and her sister lived in Seal Beach when they were alive. I have fond (albeit fuzzy) memories of visiting them when I was just about five years old. This is where my Grandfather purchased the 1970 Ford Maverick I ended up with when I first got my license.

We made a quick visit to the beach while we were here. Wesson was brave enough to get in the water here with his newly acquired board.

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He was very matchy matchy that day. Such a big kid, too.

We also took the truck over to the Hoonigan Donut Garage!

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There was only one guy there working in the gift shop and no shenanigans to be had on this day. We couldn’t pass up an opportunity to peep in on them, though.

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If you decide that you really want to see the La Brea Tar Pits, by all means, go right ahead. I will tell you, thought, that it is almost impossible to breathe around the pits. It smells like a thousand parking lots being refurbished. The museum is really neat and worth a look. They have thousands of specimens on display, and a really good guided tour available. One of the areas where the workers are cleaning and assembling bones is open to spy. Behind the glass fish tank (people tank?) area there are people in white lab coats toiling away with their toothbrushes in hand. Our Kern County Museum Membership got us in here for free, FYI. Hooray for ASTC!

Goodness, I have the yawns. I’m going to have to chop this post into several as there’s just so much to share and I am TIRED. Every second traveling is like constantly discovering secrets that everyone knew about but no one shared. Even with the days we hated we still found pieces of this country to appreciate and love. I hope the kids remember even a small fraction of the things we’ve seen. I can’t wait to tell you more tomorrow.

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Cows are no help in times of crisis

There are few constants in our lifestyle, and really that’s part of the draw. We move, we travel, we explore, we end up lost but always find our way back to the sanctity of our rig (wherever it may be). On February 7th, this way of meandering just about brought this grand experiment to an end.

During the week prior to our entrance into Arizona, Justin had been plotting. He desperately wanted to hit a new trail of some sort. He always wants to go out exploring on his bicycle, find fun trails, and maybe try to throw himself over the handlebars.  I think if he were able, he’d be GO! GO! GO! on that bike 24/7. He totes mountain bike wheels with him as we travel (they lay across the bed on moving days, so glamorous) and really he had only used them once – in Michigan. Imagine his excitement when he found a trail that intrigued him that was on an actual mountain! Dreams come true! Pining over the planned excursion had him just about bursting with energy. All the plans and pining would prove to be almost pointless.

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I don’t think I mentioned it yet but we were staying about 20 minutes from Tombstone, Arizona at one of the Encore parks. We stopped there last year for a hot minute and stayed at a resort park with an observatory that shall not be named. This visit we did not see a lady wearing a towel on her head, smoking a Pall Mall, fighting a cat on a leash. I know, disappointing. I did, however, have a run-in with a guy who followed me around after I accidentally went into the men’s room when I thought it was the laundry room even though it was clearly marked and I’m apparently blind. All I wanted to do was leave packages of new, giant underwear on the laundry table so they’d find a new home. Anyway…

He set out that day at noonish, maybe later, and called me at 1:30pm to let me know he was there and ready to ride. The kids and I continued with our day indoors. We were not as motivated as the mountain biker and were content to be truck-less and lazy. About 4:45pm the phone rang.

“It’s gonna be a while.” Justin said. This golden trail on the mountain – this bicycling ADVENTURE – was, apparently, not well defined. Only small parts of it were even ride-able. Of the 25 miles he was supposed to traverse, he’d done about 15. Too far to turn back and really fighting the clock and the sunset to get through the last ten. I did as much pep-talking as I could and told him to scoot.

About fifteen minutes after that, I got another call. “I really just don’t know where I am.” Hmm, no. We talked about what to do, what he could do, and what could possibly be done from where I was. Some people will tell you to stay put if you’re lost, because then there’s a better chance of someone finding you. He was not prepared to spend the night on a mountain, though. Ultimately, I vehemently encouraged him to keep moving, keep heading down the wash he had found, and he’d be clear eventually. It was his only hope of not spending the night in the trees. He did not sound encouraged but promised to keep going. He said he was going to send me photos of where he was currently so if it became an issue there’d be a place to start. This was a TERRIBLE idea. Cell service was spotty and this killed his phone immediately. Now, he’s stuck on a mountain with no map, no phone, and 45 minutes before real darkness was to set in. There are no streetlights in real nature, people.

I messaged a friend who I knew had been rescued at one point, half-jokingly but totally not: “How much does it cost to rescue a mountain biker who got lost in the woods?” She called me immediately. After we talked about it, she convinced me to figure it out NOW while there was still daylight to be had. She reasoned that if we were to wait until it was already dark that the search and rescue team would just wait until morning.

While I was calling about ten different numbers trying to figure out who does what, Justin was plodding along. He was now CARRYING his bike along the craggy terrain, literally slicing all of his exposed skin to shreds in the brush. He said at one point he seriously considered leaving that not-so-cheap bright orange Trek bicycle laying against a tree because although it only weighs a few pounds, a few awkward pounds get heavy when you have to heave it through the brush. He didn’t think he’d make it off the mountain before dark if he had to carry it.  Really think about this. He’s now in survival mode. Would you be strong enough to leave behind one of your prized possessions – and your mode of transportation – for the sake of survival? About that time he ran into a herd of cows. What?! Who leaves their cows on a mountain?

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It’d be a shame if I RAN YOU OVER

These were not savior cows, they were jerky cows who initially refused to get out of the way no matter how much prodding and yelling was had, then stampeded by him in a violent fashion. Thanks for nothing, Elsie and friends.

Meanwhile I had finally gotten someones cell phone number who then gave me the non-emergency number for the sheriff’s department I needed. Name, phone number, description of the person and his belongings, address… “Wait, you’re from Michigan? WHAT THE HELL IS HE DOING OUT THERE?” As I tried to explain it, he sighed. They’d start moving people.

Ten minutes later another Deputy called me instead of Justin by accident. Not the vote of confidence I needed but it was a productive conversation. We discussed clues Justin had given me as to his whereabouts and possible outcomes to the many scenarios. He told me he’d call when they figured out anything at all. The Deputy pinged Justin’s phone right after this and found him in the middle of nowhere. Nowhere near a trail, or road, or known areas. SOMEwhere, but also nowhere. Memories of speaking to a park ranger last year about how they had to call in the Navy to rescue someone from the volcanic fields in northern New Mexico rattled around in my head.

As darkness set in outside there was literally nothing to do but wait.

Right before it became so dark outside you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, Justin miraculously made it out of the mountains of his own volition. He was still desperately lost. At least he wouldn’t get eaten by a mountain lion? As soon as he hit the small dirt road he took off like a lightning bolt in a random direction. No map, remember? He found houses that were away from the road, not something you really want to ride up on in the dark. He stopped at every house and yelled to them that he needed help, but he never saw any movement. Finally, after miles, he came across a ghost town. No, really. It was on a road called Ghost Town Road (that’s how you know it’s authentic). As he sat there and pondered in what direction to ride or what to do in general he saw headlights. Could it be?! YES! People! He flagged down two gentlemen in a truck who just happened to be headed through that area and were eager to help a lost soul. They were able to plug in his phone and get it working again. As soon as the phone turned on, it was the deputy calling.

“Where the hell are you?” Once they determined he was alive and well they started a deputy his way. The two dudes in the truck had to go but would be back that way in a few. When the truck pulled away and took it’s warmth with it, Justin realized just how cold the desert can be. Up until that point he’d be running on adrenaline and his motivation to get home. When the guys rolled by again, they found him to be a shivering mess. Thank you to the kind souls who wrapped him in a tarp and a jacket so that the Sheriff’s department wouldn’t have to bring me a popsicle.

Bedtime came in the camper for the two young adventurers. I hadn’t expressly discussed the happenings with them, as I really didn’t have any answers, and at that point I didn’t know if he was going to be home that night or if he’d be hardcore camping. They knew, though. The camper isn’t big and the story wasn’t hard to piece together from my phone calls. Mara had a fit first. Daddy was never gone at bedtime. He hadn’t missed a bedtime in years. To their credit they just can’t remember when Daddy worked every single night and Mommy successfully put them to bed without issue.

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NOT useful, google!

Suddenly, my phone lit up like Christmas! Text messages! And they were all from Justin! It was all those photos he was trying to send me earlier.

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There was a selfie in there, but I decided to forgive him.

He must be back in cell phone range! And then the phone rang! HOORAY, HE’S ALIVE! A very brief “I’m good, a deputy is coming to get me” and I reassured the kids that Daddy would be home to smooch their little cheeks soon enough.

Nine hours after he had left, Justin climbed through the door, covered in cuts from head to toe, on the edge of exhaustion. He was home.

Damages were insignificant. Other than the many new scars he obtained he cracked his phone screen when the bike mount broke and shot it into the dirt. His Garmin watch said about 6,000 calories had been burned. Not the best fitness plan! In the days afterward I’d think of things he should take with him next time, like a battery bank or an emergency blanket. He stopped me at one point and said “No, you don’t understand. There won’t be a “next time.” It’s hard to admit your faults. Lessons were learned that day.

Neither of us breathed a word of the incident to anyone for over a week. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was just too scary to think about all the what-if’s. I haven’t had to worry about him so much lately since he’s not with the police department anymore or out in that other desert with the Marines. I’m out of practice.

We’re eternally grateful for those two guys in a truck, and the Sheriff’s department who ultimately came to rescue him from nowhere, and even Alisa who told me to get my shit together while the day was young.

Those cows, though…

La fin de Janvier, and maybe a little Février

Hola, internet friends! It is I, the goose whisperer.

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Look at those fat puddles of hissing and fervor. They’ve been making a habit of stalking whatever I happen to be cooking outside. Chicken Taco Soup is not for you! Is there a good recipe for goose in the Instant Pot? Someone once said to me that you don’t really know that you miss Canadian Geese until they’re gone. I would like to at least give it a try.

Where did we leave off? Ah, yes. Texas!

From our trusty posting in Whitney, we ventured into good ol’ Fort Worth to visit Texas Christian University. Seriously, I was just as surprised as you are.

It turns out that the science building holds a very extensive meteorite museum! The Monnig Meteorite Gallery houses approximately 3,000 samples of meteorites from around the world – correction, universe. Their catalogue can be searched here if you’d like to take a look. The samples range from very small to very large, some being slices and others big fat chunks. The kids were excited because there were quite a few meteorites to lay hands on. We touched Mars, y’all!

This next thing I found on google maps just by accident. Did you know that they print money in Fort Worth!?

The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing is located there, and they offer TOURS! The only catch is that you have to leave behind every single bit of technology you carry on your person. No phone, no watch, and sadly NO CAMERA. It was such a damn shame too, because that place is super freakin’ neato. It’s a self-guided tour on an enclosed catwalk over the printing floor, but a tour nonetheless. Mara was extra excited about the little handheld telephone type speakers they gave to everyone. When you got to a number on the wall, you’d type it in to your device and a disembodied voice would tell you all about what was happening through the windows and below.

You guys, the employees on the production floor were SO HAPPY! Everybody waved at us as we awkwardly gawked at them and a few even showed us what they were working on. One guy took an uncut sheet of 36 hundred dollar bills and folded them like a paper airplane so that he could throw them to us. Damn windows. That same national treasure of a man also counted out ONE MILLION DOLLARS in hundreds, folded the sheets up in thirds, and hugged the mass of paper like a teddy bear. Someone somewhere is buying an industrial sized tub of gummy bears with a hundred dollar bill that man snuggled.

New Mexico was next on the adventure list.

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The last time we came through southern New Mexico, it was a pass-through state. We really didn’t accomplish much, and that was OK. This visit we were determined to see the things we’d passed by and ignored for times sake. Have you ever been to Carlsbad Caverns?

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As you know we LOVE us some National Parks! My mother has spoken not so fondly about the caverns in the past, as she had visited as a child and HATED it. I had high hopes, though. We were privileged to have Justin with us as his handicapped feet bought us a pass on the elevator straight down about 800 feet to the big room, skipping almost two hours of hiking!

The big room in the cavern is really pretty, and over the years they’ve put in actual paved walking paths, about a thousand lights, and even a snack bar. I had it in my head that I wanted to walk the whole mile and a half trail through the big room. These guys frequently ride their bikes WAY farther than that, they can walk a measly 7,920 feet.

They were MISERABLE. Honestly, by the time we got to the last half mile anxiety was winning. I was freaking out internally, the kids were tired and hungry, and Justin’s feet were barking. In hind sight, the cavern looked the same all over. We could have spent twenty minutes down there and been done. We did it, though, and we don’t have to do it again! Some regrets!

The next day we used our spiffy new military ID’s to gain access to a campground inside Holloman Air Force Base. We got there on a Friday when no one was flying, and the silence continued until Monday morning when the zoomies woke up for work. SO MANY PLANES. Fighter jets, reconnaissance planes, cargo planes… they all wooshed past the camper on repeat for the entirety of the day. I really like base campgrounds, and I really like planes. Sometimes, though, you just want to complete a full sentence before the jets go by again.

They had a small air park that included a drone! One of the units at this base is made of drone pilots.

 

Why were we at Holloman? Two reasons: New Mexico Museum of Space History and White Sands National Monument!

The space history museum housed some fairly significant artifacts, such as the daisy track, once used to test deceleration techniques:

…and I don’t think they actually know the meaning of “fun fact.”

The first chimpanzee who went to space is buried here.

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Well, his skin is, anyway. Horrified yet? After a failed bid to have him stuffed (public outcry and all), his skeleton was shipped off to the National Museum of Health and Medicine and the rest of him buried in the front lawn at the museum. RIP Ham!

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White Sands was a whopping FOUR miles away from Holloman. Our stop here last year was very brief and expensive. They have that sled scam going on, funding the entirety of the parks system. This year we stopped at the local Walmart and procured $5 sleds. Take that!

Can I just say how much we LOVE White Sands? A LOT. It’s one of our favorite places by a mile. We started the Junior Ranger Program before we headed out for the really good stuff. Most of the programs can be completed in the visitor centers but White Sands requires some outdoor participation.

If you’ve never thrown yourself down a giant dune of gypsum you’re missing out!

The sand was so white and the sky was so blue!

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Do me and you a favor and make your way out here, please? It’s such an experience.

When Justin decided that he wanted to ride the roads at the monument on his birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY YOU ADVENTUROUS SOUL)

 

…we were all too eager to tag along for more sledding.

When Justin was done with his birthday ride, we did what any reasonably sane adults would do and geared up the turbos to rip donuts on the flats with our F350 dually. You know you would too, stop playin’. One problem, though: NOBODY SHUT THE TAILGATE.

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Helmets, sleds, an entire bag of lump charcoal, and sad, sandy Crocs as far as the eye could see. *sigh*

Worth it.

Now listen, my next post takes us into Arizona. Only a handful of people know what happened on our second day there, and most of them are Sheriff’s Deputies. I will write as fast as I can, just keep in mind that everyone is alive and well and we know exactly where they are.