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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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.

 

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