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.

All Sunshine Makes a Desert

PHOENIX!!! We parked our booties at West World right next to the polo fields. West World is a large event complex that’s owned by the city of Scottsdale. They host horse shows, polo tournaments, and other great big things. Guess what had just wrapped up before we got there! No, that wasn’t happening. That either. You know what, let me just tell you: BARRETT JACKSON! The auction with all the fanciest cars in the world had just ended on the 22nd (darn) and most of the cars had not been shipped yet so the view to the right was the coolest.

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Nevermind the glorious mountains

All week long we watched them load up the most incredible cars that we’ll probably never see again. Check out this coke truck, complete with glass bottles:

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One of the other RV’s about three spots down had Evel Knievel’s F150 parked next to it. It was purchased from Barrett Jackson back in 2011 and the owner brought it there to show it off while he undoubtedly looked around for more treasures.

We also saw lots and lots of airplanes go by while we were there as we were super close to the airport. On the first day some fighter jets flew overhead doing aileron rolls. Later in the week there was a red biplane that circled the area for a good hour.

Justin’s cousin Micah lives in downtown Phoenix so we were able to spend a really good amount of time with him that week. We all went to the Capitol museum together on Saturday.

On our way back to the truck we passed through a ton of memorials in the park across the road. The USS Arizona was one of them of course, and this one caught my eye:

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a memorial specific to Enduring Freedom. The memories of war efforts of the early 2000’s are especially poignant. Justin is still suffering the ill-effects of  his participation, some of which will never go away. Thankfully all of the men and women in his unit came home with him from both deployments. Even so, I’m appreciative that in a little park in Arizona people can pause a moment and show some gratitude for the ones who passed before us in the name of justice for all.

We also hung out with Justin’s Uncle Dana and Aunt Brenda that weekend! They are extremely knowledgeable in minerals, shells, and fossils. Their home houses many excellent examples of all of the above. We had fun ogling their collection! Uncle Dana was able to identify some things we’d collected and been hauling around in a bucket, some of which we’ve had since last July. They also took us all out to dinner at great place called A&M Pizza in Florence, AZ. The proprietors picked this location out in the middle of nowhere-ish in honor of their Grandfather who was from Florence, Italy. Delicious pizza and great company made for an excellent day!

What else happened that week? I let life get the best of me and yelled at a lady who let her dog pee on the water spigot next to our camper. She told me that she had no control over where her LEASHED dog went. I won’t go any further into the details of that “conversation” but I will say that everyone should take a valuable lesson away from this: if your water source is near the ground, it has pee on it.

The rest of our time in Scottsdale was spent relaxing, washing the camper and truck (it was caked in cow poop from who knows where), visiting the local science center, and being stuck in traffic over and over again. I cannot tell you how many red lights were ran or how many people tried to run us off of the road in Phoenix, mostly because there were too many to count. “Too many to count” is such a lame phrase. Everything can be counted, Lori, get your act together. Just know that the shoddy drivers were ubiquitous and we were not amused. *sigh*

The good outweighed the minor troubles, though. Family visits are the best and the mountains and weather made for a gorgeous week.

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Pro-tip for everyone lucky enough to live in a state with prevalent 7-Elevens: They sell these little books for $5 and they contain twenty coupons, each good for a small Slurpee. A 25 cent Slurpee makes everyone’s day!

Our next stop after Phoenix was nowhere. I mean, it was somewhere, technically California, but it was really nowhere. We ended up parked in the desert two miles from the Mexican/US border, with the freeway in the distance, on a Bureau of Land Management site called Pilot Knob. At least I think we were on it.

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We just kind of picked a spot to the side of a road that wasn’t on the map and set up camp. We have a generator and a large water tank so we’re mostly prepared for boondocking. We could probably last quite a while if we used paper plates and never took a shower. One night was all that we needed at that point, although, I would not mind going back there again for a few days. The kids had a blast running around in the wide open space, collecting small rocks, and drawing in the dirt but NOT TURNING OVER ANY LARGER ROCKS, FOR THE LOVE OF SNAKES. Once night took hold we stepped outside. The sky was phenomenal! I almost wish we had let the kids stay up late to see it. Almost. Also worth noting: the Mexican border was lit up like Christmas.

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Don’t tell me what to say, google!

In the next installment of “This is Our Life” we continue on over to San Diego County! Stay tuned!

Thanksgiving in a box

How does one cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner while living in a 5th wheel RV? My relationship status with dinner this year reads “It’s complicated.” I’m determined, though, and I’m documenting for posterity. I’ll forget all of this by next year.
Roasted sweet potatoes and apples in a honey bourbon glaze: http://www.myrecipes.com/m/recipe/roasted-apples-sweet-potatoes-honey-bourbon-glaze

I cooked the sweet potatoes on the grill ahead of time, then on turkey day I made the glaze on the rv stove, combined everything with the apples on the bottom so they’d cook faster, and roasted it on the grill in a 9×13 pan.

Baked beans:

The charcoal grill took point again! I cooked the bacon and hamburger in the electric frying pan, combined everything in the Dutch oven, and put it on the grill without the lid for an hour and a half.

Justin went out to buy charcoal the other night and came home with lump oak. I’d never used lump charcoal before, my go-to was Kingsford briquettes. I’m never going back! The lump oak has such a nice smoke to it, not overpowering like I anticipated, and burns HOT.

Stove Top stuffing: *womp womp* Something had to give, and honestly I do that every year. Maybe next year I’ll make the stuffing from scratch. Or not.

Mashed potatoes: This one was the same as usual. Boil potatoes on the stove, hand over the smushy taters to the kitchenaid mixer (pre-loaded with the rest of the good stuff) and let them whip.

Gravy: From a jar, like an animal. A smart, lazy animal.

Pumpkin pie: I’ll admit, this one stumped me for a little while. I decided at one point that I’d use the smoker but it only goes up to 275 degrees. Two days beforehand I ended up plopping the whole pie crust – in the aluminum pie tin – in the Dutch oven, filling it, and putting the lid on top. I put it directly on the hot lump charcoal, loaded the top with coals, and baked for 45 minutes. The edges were toast but the rest of it was great! We’re eating it, dammit.

I made four little pies with the leftover filling to tide us over until Thanksgiving. I baked them in the oven and it took FOREVER. I’m desperately glad that I decided not to use the oven for anything else. Propane cooking leaves a lot to be desired.

Rolls: Store bought, and I’m pretty sure I bought the wrong ones. We’ll find out in a minute. When I went to H.E.B. for groceries it was ridiculously busy. All of us chumps were trying to beat the crowd by going on Monday. I grabbed the first thing that looked like bread in small sections.

Turkey: 

It was brined overnight in a mixture of salt water, garlic, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. I rinsed it this afternoon and rubbed it with sage, thyme, garlic, and rosemary, and added butter pads all over.

OK, me. I hope you did a good job. If you didn’t, well… there’s always Christmas.