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.

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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Life is Grand

Happy May Day! When you and I last chatted, friends, we were at Hole in the Wall campground in the Mojave Nature Preserve griping about the camper and it’s bent axle and wonky fridge and busted tires and dead battery. I just haven’t felt like writing lately. We’ve had such a challenging month between camper problems, truck implosion, wicked storms, and our first pukey sickness on our journey that I felt like everything I’d have to say would be fraught with disdain for life in general. Think happy thoughts, right? I feel like I’m back in my comfy hand-basket now and ready to talk! Let’s do it!

We wandered around Hole in the Wall before we beat feet out of there. Justin even harassed the camp host into opening the visitors center so we could stamp our National Parks passport.

We found a shop to look at the camper once we got to Arizona. We determined that the only thing we’d ruin by continuing was part of the tread on whatever tire was on the bent axle, and we could get the beast back to Michigan to do the work ourselves. Good enough for me! We ended up spending a few days in Topock, Arizona while this was happening. Our campground was just off Route 66, and we were finally able to get our kicks.

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This also afforded us a trip to Nevada! It was like, right there. To get the state sticker on the camper we need to actually do something in the state. We found a casino over the border with a big arcade for the midgets, and Justin and I took turns winning and then immediately losing. *womp womp*

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I never saw any burros 😦

Our next hop, skip and jump was to Bedrock. I wish that I was joking, but it’s my own fault. We needed a cheap campground near the Grand Canyon and they fit the bill. It needs A LOT of love.

At least there was no awkward staring.

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Oh yeah.

BUT, we got to see THIS:

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L-O-V-E

There are no photos that could ever really project the actual feeling of being perched on the edge of the world. All of the colors and the depth, layer after layer of history laying at your feet. If only those rocks could talk.

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The kids got to complete the Junior Ranger program while we were there. (This started a six day quest to complete as many Junior Ranger programs as we could get our hands on. We’ll talk more about that later.)

The park rangers were awesome, by the way. They were genuinely happy to talk to the little buggers and had great tidbits for them. Wesson asked this one about the California Condors and got a whole rescue story.

I managed to FALL DOWN at the TOP OF GRAND CANYON. *dry heave* I skinned both my knees because it was either let go of my camera, watch it topple over the rail, and save myself, or hang onto my camera and give back some skin. I can grow new knees and dignity. I texted my mother after it happened because she had very specifically told me NOT to fall while I was there. She suggested that Justin be in charge of the kids for the rest of the day.

When it came to lunch time we had kind of resigned to the fact that we’d have to go home to eat because we had neglected to pack a lunch like we usually do in these situations. Mara being deathly allergic to peanuts makes eating at random places a safety issue. On the off chance we’d get lucky I went into the cafeteria and asked if my peanut free kid could eat there. Not only was I met with an enthusiastic yes, the kitchen manager came out to talk to me about it. He waited around until Mara picked what she wanted and then cooked it himself! He even made a point to tell us that he’d rechecked all of the ingredients in every single thing and wore new gloves. I can’t tell you how much this means when you have a kid who’s life depends on it. It also allowed us to stay at the park that day and explore that much more. I am forever grateful to them for allowing us that small sliver of normalcy and safety.

We are driving through Ohio at this very moment. ” What about Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, you slacker?” Man, have I got some stories for you. Until tomorrow…

On a Dark Desert Highway, Cool Wind in My Hair

We’ve had an amazing – and I mean amazing – few months here in California, and now we’re on the way out. *insert saddest emoji you’ve ever seen* The bright, hot sun, the shimmery, sandy beaches, the awe-inspiring mountains everywhere you turn, the towering palm trees, the infinite Slurpees…. Uggghhh… Don’t make me go! If some mean person told us that we couldn’t travel any longer and had to choose somewhere to live, California would be my pick. Hopefully we’ll see it again next winter.  Let’s talk about what we’ve been up to in the last few weeks before I start having mixed drinks about feelings.

We did this garbage:

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We went another 15 miles, thank goodness. NO REPEATS, PLEASE.

We went to Coronado beach AGAIN because if I’m going to cry I may as well do it on the most beautiful beach in the vicinity.

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She has a half-stache

One day Justin found a bike trail that he wanted to ride within the Cleveland National Forest and the kids and I tagged along to traipse through the woods. While he rode through puddles and such we lobbed giant pine cones and talked about habitats and life cycles. I do love it when we can pick our lessons right off the ground (and hurl them like grenades).

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Mara was too busy pouting about climbing the hill

While in Descanso we were lucky enough to be neighbors with a legend named Doctor Oliver Luck – an 85 year old Korean War vet who played trombone in the Air Force band (and with Duke Ellington), teacher of music, actor, two time Love Connection winner, and most importantly for this story a GOLD PROSPECTOR. For some reason he agreed to teach us how to search for gold. The process involved something called dowsing rods and included fantastically exciting stories about traveling to Papua New Guinea. We all had an appreciation for the octogenarian treasure hunter.

We soon moved off of the mountains to a park in Palm Desert which lived up to its name.

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Disregard the satellite dish

They even had sneaky cell towers that looked like palm trees.

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You can’t even tell. It’s magic.

The men decided to get haircuts while we were here. Wesson gave up the mullet he’d been cultivating for the last year and a half but still retained his long hair for the most part. Justin decided to lose a little more.

It was drastic but he looks GREAT! He kept the beard, of course. Nobody messes with the majestic brewers beard.

I have been thinking about jalapeno poppers since November, y’all. We were at some weird grocery store in Texas when I saw a $5 poppers kit. It came with eight peppers, a block of cream cheese, and a pound of bacon. As shameful as it is to admit, I do not like grilled bacon. *GASP* I know, I know. I finally sat down and found a recipe I liked. We’ve started making them and now cannot stop. We’ve been adding them to our hamburgers on the reg. I keep thinking of all those pathetic burgers that I cooked that didn’t have piping hot cream cheese filled jalapeno peppers on top and wondering where I went wrong in my life. If you want to change your world, go here: Grilled Stuffed Jalapenos

Speaking of eating cream cheese en masse, I finally purchased a bicycle. I sold my last bike back in September when it wouldn’t fit properly on our original bike rack. My unicycle has been riding in my spot on the newer roof rack. This time I ended up with a black on black Cannondale. Don’t ask me what kind it is beyond that. I know that it has two wheels and I like it, that’s all I need. I got it from this place that used a photo of their previous business card as their new business card just to induce aneurysms.

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Solo bike rides offer deafening silence and I kind of love it. Normally a bicycle purchase would not be a significant, notable event, however now that I go on bike rides by myself I get to take photos of places like this:

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Mount San Jacinto

And mysterious objects like this:

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Behind the campground a mile or two was Coachella Nature Preserve and the road there was shoddily blocked off for some reason. I think it probably had to do with the sand dunes overtaking the roadway.

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They also have something against pomegranates, so maybe the road was blocked off to keep dirty, dirty pomegranates away from their wildflowers? We may never know.

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It took me about five bike rides to figure out that the sidewalks here are so huge because the old folks like to drive their golf carts everywhere.

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There is also ridiculous amounts of golf cart parking at the grocery stores. This makes it extremely difficult to park my excessively large diesel truck when I’m trying to buy jalapenos.

Joshua Tree National Park was on the list of sights to see. The park is an intersection of two deserts: the Mojave and the Colorado. The Mojave has all the Joshua Trees and the Colorado has more brush and cacti. The children were more concerned with climbing than plant life.

We also looked out upon the San Andreas fault line. 

That’s where we lived, come to find out. IN the fault line. Thank you for behaving, tectonic plates.

Most of the National Parks have a Junior Ranger program. The kids collect workbooks at the Ranger Stations and once they are complete they get a badge or a patch. Here’s Mara being sworn in as a Junior Ranger.

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I like the program because A) it’s free and B) it engages us with the park in ways that we may not have considered. Because we’re doing a scavenger hunt or pretending to be lizards we’re actively looking for plants and animals and structures that would probably be overlooked. Lots of learning to be had!

Right behind this Ranger station was a place called the Oasis of Mara! Our girl has her own oasis, can you believe it?

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All in all I think they enjoyed themselves that day.

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Justin replaced the worn out, crooked Super Duty decals on the truck the other day with something a little more fun.

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We’ve been meaning to do it for a while but they’ve been out of stock. If you want your own, you can find them and lots more good stuff here: Hoonigan

Today, we started our journey back East to take care of some VA business in Michigan. It is supposed to take us about six weeks to meander that way. The camper is being a butt at the moment, so I think our trip might be paused. A tire is wearing oddly, another has a bubble in it, and the fridge just went out a few minutes ago. All this as soon as we got to the gosh darn Bob Sagget mother trucking middle of nowhere literal Hole In The Wall campground in the flippin’ Mojave Nature Preserve.

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Look at this view before I implode.

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I climbed on top of the camper to take that photo, and I didn’t fall on a cactus when I came down the ladder.

Thankfully and inexplicably we have internet and phone service here, which is great because tomorrow we will have to find a camper doctor. We’ll also explore this park, because we didn’t come all the way out here for nothing. We need some happy. Whatever YOU do tomorrow, make sure that it makes you happy.

PS – this is the second time I’ve written this post. I had it almost finished yesterday and somehow deleted everything but one lower case n.

Here it is: n

A California Adventure and the Birthday Boy

Our second day at Disney was magical in its own way. It was dang near empty there by Disney standards. We rode all the rides we could stand and never waited more than 5-15 minutes each. The longest wait we had was for Anna and Elsa.

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Between you and me, they were disappointingly bland. The other princesses had personality, these two were not as exciting.

Pictures! Same deal as last time, we were more worried about having fun than documenting the shenanigans. Here’s a few miscellaneous snaps.

We met Mickey, Olaf, and Daisy!

And Minnie Mouse stole my child.

 

We were sitting on a bench when Minnie Mouse came walking by and Mara stood up. Minnie grabbed her hand and they both walked away!!! Justin and I looked at each other in shock, then had an “oh shit” moment like we forgot that we should probably follow them. When we caught up with them Minnie had found a spot in the shade to greet people and was interacting with Mara. The introvert had been kidnapped by a giant mouse and Did. Not. Care. She didn’t even know that she was “missing.” Her love for Minnie transcends all common sense.

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Wesson got this sweet hat, complete with his name stitched on the back. He was pretending that he was an airplane. Goofy would definitely approve.

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We ran into the very fun green Army men who had a little mobile dance party/cadence deal going on.

It was a great day! Disneyland and California Adventure far surpassed my expectations and the ridiculous price was worth every penny. There will definitely be a next time.

Another one of our fabulous birthday events was a trip to LEGOLAND! Wesson has been looking forward to this for years. He spent the day before we went randomly grabbing us and screaming “WE’RE GOING TO LEGOLAAAAAND” while simultaneously shaking our shoulders.

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LEGOLAAAAAAND!

They got fancy new Lego Batman shirts to commemorate the day. We were about five seconds into the park when we walked right into this:

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BATMAN!!! So, the kids were totally geeked. I was fairly horrified by the giant Lego Dark Knight. AND THERE WERE MORE…

Umm, do you see Unikitty? That was NOT a statue. There was somebody INSIDE that suit! I desperately wanted to stand around to see them try to walk out of the area but that probably would have scarred the children. Nobody cares that I’ve been scarred, though.

What’s more scary than giant people with claw hands? It turns out that it’s real people.

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These are the Lego Friends, and Wesson thought they were great. Mara was unsure about their validity, as the rest of the Lego characters actually looked like toys. Real people were not in the grand plan, yo.

Just like our two Disney days, we planned ahead! We were there on a week day so the lines were non-existent! The kids got to ride nearly every single thing, and most of it they were able to ride on their own. The rides there are pretty tame, made for the under 12 crowd. They chose to stay off the roller coasters and we walked past a few spinners we knew they would hate.

Wesson got a Happy Birthday button from member services when we walked into the park, and just like Disney every staff member we passed had a birthday greeting and a kind word for him! He had big smiles all day long.

We purchased passes for Legoland, Aquariums, Madame Tousseau’s Wax Museums, and other neat places so we can have fun and be horrified all year long!

What else happened? Wesson turned EIGHT!

Oh, boy. Where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday that he was walking way too early (nine months old – for real), riding his big wheel down the stairs (Hey mommy, watch dis!), and asking if we can harvest the inner workings of Big Ben to build a giant robot. As for that last one, we agreed that if the clock were to be decommissioned – which is not probable – I would assist him in drafting a letter to the government asking for the spare parts. It’s what a mother should do.

The birthday boy requested lunch at Red Robin, a trip to Toys R Us for his birthday freebies, tacos and creamed corn for dinner, and to spend the afternoon at Coronado Beach.

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Happy birthday, beach boy!

The kids ended up finding another set of kids who were wearing Marine Corps hats just like them! Instant friends!

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We all love this beach! Look how happy these little boogers are!

My little buddy had a wonderful day! I only hope that the rest of his 100+ years can be filled with as many smiles and as much happiness. This kid is going to do amazing things. Correction: This kid is going to KEEP doing amazing things, and I can’t wait.

Ten Bottles of Glitter

Look at this gorgeous sandy water! Just LOOK!

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I don’t even care that the photo takes up the entire screen. It was so sparkly! If you haven’t guessed the locale yet it’s Coronado Beach, in front of the famed Hotel del Coronado. The hotel was built in 1888, and at the time was the largest resort hotel in the world. It is currently the second biggest wooden structure. The beach itself is one of very few beaches that has mica in the sand, which looks like flecks of gold. Mara said they had to have dumped at least TEN bottles of glitter in the ocean. Technically she’s not wrong.

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I have no idea who this footprint belongs to.

These guys are always so happy to be on the beach! Can you blame them? They roll around in the sand, haul buckets of treasures out of the water, and build castles with moats and flags – the whole nine yards. Part of Wesson’s actual schoolwork was to build a castle of some sort, so this was *technically* a school trip. Ahem. They left there with half the beach in their shorts and the other half in their hair.

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We also learned about Sand Dollars, AKA Snapper Biscuits, AKA Sea Cookies that day. They are burrowing sea urchins covered in tiny hairs that move independently and the little wiggly hairs definitely don’t creep me out in any way whatsoever. Look at the variety of colors that washed up onto the beach. I don’t think that I was aware that they were anything but the bleached, white “test” that’s usually found. Any day we can literally pick our lessons off the ground is a great one. “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

This was the view from the bridge that we had to cross to get to the island:

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And this was the view on the way back:

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Sleepy beach baby, clutching a platypus

We had tons of fun and will be back there in a few weeks. We’ve been trying to talk the kids into checking out a different beach. They’re insistent that we go back to the one with the fancy sand and the warm, hot sun.

A few days later California got rocked by the heaviest rainstorms that they’ve seen in six years. We decided to move off the mountain a few days early to avoid any potential mudslides or high winds. The Weather Channel had this to say about the situation:

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Someone made a typo or we’re all about to land in Oz

The bad news is that we didn’t get skipped by the storm but thankfully our site didn’t flood and we never lost power. Yeehaw!

Moving to this new park, Wilderness Lakes, gave us a site with a full hook up! BONUS! I have been keeping the laundry bucket empty and it’s been a dream come true. We also get to wash our dishes indoors and use our own shower! I like camping, I really do. I also like not packing a shower bag, as it turns out. “Glamping” would be a closer term for the thing I love.

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On February 18th, Carrots Fuggles Secrets Funnybunny Rowland turned TWO! In proper, traditional Rowland fashion, her bedroom was decorated overnight and when she awoke in the morning Mara provided her with a stylish birthday hat. She took her decorations down right away. She had no appreciation for my toilet paper streamers. As you can see from the above side-eye, she had no love for the hat either. Poor, tortured, traveling bunny.

The Disneyland post is next, people, and I am so excited to tell you about it! We have one more visit there this week and then I will fill you in on the Disney goodness all at once.

Sneak preview:

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I Missed the Octopus

I wrote half of this post and Word Press decided to eat it. *sigh* It’s never as good the second time around, kind of like reheated leftovers. Lets try to make this blog post tasty Thanksgiving leftovers instead!

On our way from Pilot Knob to Pio Pico we stumbled upon El Centro! Can you believe it?  THE BLUE ANGELS! Apparently The Blue Angels practice in California in the winter and we just happened upon them! We pulled over to watch them swoop back and forth. I tried to take photos but they were just too fast and high up. They dove and rolled and performed their close quarter maneuvers. It was like our very own air show!

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A beautiful photo that I did not take.

When we arrived at Pio Pico RV Resort, everything looked promising. It appeared to be a nice big park nestled between the mountains with it’s own store! We quickly realized this was too good to be true. The staff was incredibly rude immediately. Then we found out that the park was full and we’d be in overflow across the road. If we wanted a main park spot we had to be at the gate every day at 0830 to stand around and hope our name was called, then randomly take whatever spot was available without knowing if we’d fit or what the site looked like. Also, there was absolutely no cell phone service. If we had an emergency at any point we had no way to call for help unless we went to the ranger station. As we contemplated that fact, Justin found a GIANT bubble in the trailer tire that wasn’t there when we arrived.

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It had formed while driving through the park that we couldn’t stay in. We pulled into an overflow spot, changed the tire (I have THREE different roadside assistance programs, by the way, but could not CALL anyone), and went back to ask the snotty woman to take us out of the system.

We high-tailed it back forty minutes in the opposite direction and landed at Oakzanita Springs in sunny Descanso, California. The campground is off of a road that winds up into the mountains, I think it was old highway 79. The staff was wonderful, the campground was very mountainous but not treacherously so, and although they were pretty full, we didn’t feel like our presence was a burden. The super cute town of Alpine was close enough that we weren’t truly out in the middle of nowhere. We ran into a little fog being so high in the mountains, though.

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There was also this very concerning sign on the bathrooms:

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EEEEEE!

After a few days of recovery from the long, repeated puddle jumping, we had a family visit! My maternal Grandfather’s sister, Aunt Gerry, lives about an hour and a half north of the campground. I had alerted them that we’d be in town for a while and made arrangements for a visit. The drive out there was AMAZING! And also nauseating. It was twisty, hilly, and fast, with a few mountain switchbacks, and LOTS of citrus groves. We had to pull over twice to let little bellies settle. I’m thankful that the GPS sent us that way because it was a gorgeous drive, however, we wont go that way again. We spent a few hours with Aunt Gerry, had lunch, and even saw her daughter (mom’s cousin) Donna for a few minutes. It was really nice to see some family again and get to talk about days past. Aunt Gerry gave us a big stack of these awesome cookies, pizzelles, to take home. I need to add a pizzelle maker to my wish list.

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I started eating this one before I remembered to take a photo

We also went to the tide pools that week! Cabrillo National Monument is located off the coast of San Diego on a peninsula that also includes a marine sanctuary area. The tide was especially low the day that we went exploring. All of the park rangers pointed at our nice looking shoes and then asked where we were from. The fact that none of us had on slop boots or sandals or water shoes was a dead giveaway that we had no idea what we were getting into. Supposedly you could also see whales migrating from this area but FOG. SO MUCH FOG.

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This is the ocean. No, really.

We walked down the rocks and sand, not really expecting to find much, but hopeful to at least catch some crabs. We saw boring clams carved into the rocks, sea urchins covered what seemed like every inch of the place, tons of different types of seaweed – some of which was so unusual that it looked fake.

Two different types of sea hares made their presence known. They’re similar to giant slugs. I didn’t touch them to find out, but something tells me that they are probably pretty squishy. The highlight of the whole experience was a super cool octopus! He was just swimming along in one of the pools, stretching his tentacles and shoom, shoom, shooming along. When he saw that we were following him he hid under a rock. *sad face* Thankfully I thought I had gotten a pretty excellent video of him. Later, when I tried to show it to the Ranger, I discovered that I had gotten a one second video of my finger instead. Ooh well. Sometimes it’s better to just enjoy the moment anyway, right?

The kids thought it was awesome that they were actually touching the bottom of the ocean. I think that I was the only one that ended up with really wet feet that day. We did well despite our ‘pretty shoes.’

We also popped in at Marine Corps Recruiting Depot for a hot second. We may go back for a graduation ceremony when we get back to the area in a few weeks.

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I also made this bad boy after seeing yet another camper with an airbrushed masterpiece across the back.

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The children ran outside to see if it was really on there and Justin threatened to kick me out if it ever became reality. No love for Carrots.

I’ll leave you with a recipe for Kentucky Bourbon Burgoo, because you always have leftovers and you have no idea what to do with them. Improvise a little, throw in whatever you’ve got, and for the love of all things try lump charcoal at some point in your life.