It’s my RV and I’ll dance if I want to

I’ve started singing and dancing while I make dinner every night and the kids hate me for it. SO much eye rolling and impatient grunting, and that’s mostly why I do it. Why shouldn’t I share my obsessive ear worms with my family? Sharing is caring, children.

The morning after our extremely epic space adventure we woke up thinking we were going to have a recovery day. It was A LOT of walking for my two small tax deductions and my lovely retiree with the foot problems. By lunch time we’d decided that the weather wasn’t going to get any better that week, we should just bite the bullet and head to LegoLand.

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She caught air!

I have two things to say about LegoLand. First, I enjoy that the kids can ride the rides without us. I mostly detest amusement park rides, and the children like to be independent, so it works. Second, LegoLand is VASTLY overpriced. I thought this about the nicer one in California, too, and had I known the state of affairs in Florida I would have skipped the Merlin passes all together. The Florida location can best be described as teetering on the edge between shit-hole and novelty. The park really shows it’s age, and it seems that there are no efforts to update the place. Everything is extremely spaced out and hard to get to. We got lost several times – even with a map. I can hear you whispering to yourself that it was probably my fault. Hush, you.

 

 

Nobody was there, it was like a ghost town. We rode this ride at least five times in a row.

It was a submarine ride that swung outward on your command. It was probably not safe.

They also had a two story carousel which they rode first and last.

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Admittedly it was kind of neat. Who wouldn’t want to ride those life-sized Lego horses up there? (hint: me)

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We completed the whole park in about three hours. Because this was our second day in a row filled with walking and being in public, Wesson was in tears by the end and Justin was a hobbling mess. Mara was happy, though!

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I felt terrible for those vacationers who bought tickets at the gate. Spend your money on Lego sets instead and you’ll be much happier.

Two days later we were on the move! This little guy apparently did not want us to leave. He tried to jump onto Justin’s hand when he unplugged the camper.

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Hey.

The first night of travel was spent in a Bass Pro Shops parking lot! We love some BPS! Always there with a boat to play on, a line of parking spaces to hog, and a curb to hang our bed slides over.

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There was a roundabout to go through to get into this lot. Roundabouts seem cool until your vehicle is sixty feet long, then waterboarding seems more attractive.

The next day brought us to our first real stop: Pensacola Air Station!

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This campground was really nice! It was right by the water.

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Don’t you just freakin’ love a watery sunset? That strip of land over there is Alabama, FYI.

Most of the military installations have museums of some sort. This place had a whopper.

Wesson has been wearing his Marine cammies every time we go on a base just to let everyone know where his loyalties lie.

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Look at that face! That boy is precious. If that plane had wings he’d have been gone. The gift shop had something that Wesson has been pining over:

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Dress blues acquired!

Daddy has a soft spot and deep pockets for the little Marine boy. We tried to talk him into a haircut to go with the uniform but he LOVES his long hair. Nine out of ten people assume that he is a girl and engage him as such (sometimes I wonder about people). He is quick to correct them but is never offended because there is nothing wrong with being a girl. He is confident enough in himself that it just doesn’t bother him. Rock on with your luxurious locks, baby boy!

We were off again on January 14th, but instead of going to ONE place, we went to FOUR places; Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, in very specific order. This also gave us three new states on our states sticker map, effectively closing the tauntingly barren gap we had lying between Florida/Georgia and Texas. Some people only count the states if they’ve slept there, other people have more creative criteria. We just have to go there as a family while full-timing. There are going to be some pass-through states, It’s the nature of the beast. Mississippi is just going to have to get over it.

We got into Texas just in time for a nice ice storm. By the second day our camper-cicle was complete. The south has let us down tremendously this year. We’d have been better off going straight to California.

Instead of hanging out in icy Houston we opted to head north to warmer weather. Totally makes sense, huh? We planted ourselves in Whitney, just south of Fort Worth and just north of Waco. If you remember last years stay in Whitney, we had a tornado tear through and hop right over the campground! For this reason I was nervous, but honestly what are the chances? I wore pants to bed so that I wouldn’t get flung into the woods in my underwear. It was the least I could do. Thankfully the days were not stormy and my fears were unfounded.

I’ve talked about museum memberships before (I think). We’ve taken advantage of the wide reciprocity of the Lake Superior Zoo membership in the past. We took a break last year, because you can only visit so many children’s science centers without wanting to pluck your eyelashes out because of the redundancy. This year, we opted to buy a travel membership from Kern Pioneer Village in California because of their broad reciprocity. They are members of Time Travelers, North American Reciprocal Museums, Association of Science-Technology Centers, AND Association of Children’s Museums. If you do any traveling AT ALL this is a worthy investment. Anyway, for this reason we headed out to Waco one day to visit Baylor University and their AMAZING natural history museum. On the way, we saw a sign for something called Waco Mammoth National Monument. Whaaaaat?! How did we not know about this! Plans changed immediately.

 

…and we were SO glad that they did! The tour was fantastic! There have been 26 Columbian Mammoths found in this area, in what is the only nursery herd that’s ever been found in the US. The ranger that led us to the STILL ACTIVE dig site was awesomely friendly and gave us great information. Wesson is, like, the BEST person to have on your tour because he eliminates the awkward silence that is inevitably applied by adults who are still awkward and don’t ever give the docent anything to work with. He’s the participant that you wish that you were.

Also exciting? JUNIOR RANGER PROGRAM! This was surprising because the place has only been in the National Park system for two years.

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Can you find ROADSCHOOL in there anywhere?

The kids had to take their Junior Ranger Pledge with one hand on a Columbian Mammoth tooth!

Thanks, Ranger Rachel from Virginia!

While we were in Waco last time I saw this big greenspace and drove right by, not even realizing it was that place from that show.

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I BARELY know who Chip and Joanna Gaines are but I wasn’t going to skip this again. The shop is exactly as clean and stylish as you would expect.

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This is only one part of the warehouse

The outside was a big, green area of fake grass where kids could play and adults could lounge around on giant beanbag chairs.

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Overall it was ok, nothing to repeat, but now we can say that we did it. If they were there behind the register slinging bags of fake flowers and gingerly wrapping giant timepieces it would have been more of a thrill.

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Saturn V shirt , like a boss.

 

The kids finally got to ride their unicycles! We’ve been lugging them around since we left Michigan in November, and Wesson hopped right on! Mara is almost there. If she believed in gravity a little less she’d be riding circles around her brother. For the record, that tennis court said no bicycles or skateboards and said NOTHING about unicycles. Also, we didn’t get caught.

If you want to learn more about unicycling, check out the Unicycle Society of America! This year’s North American Unicycling Competition and Convention is going to be held in Livonia, Michigan and if you’re in the area it’s worth a stop to see some awesome people do *almost* impossible things.

I had thought that I’d squeeze the rest of January into this post but we are so active right now life is moving faster than my fingers. I have SO much to tell you. Come back soon!

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse, and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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The Tiny Blue Dot

Here we are, still sitting around in Texas. The next month is going to involve oodles of jaunting here and there so taking a few days to basically do nothing is not unwarranted. Well, the kids still have to do their school work, Justin still does the dishes, and if I don’t wash anyone’s clothes they start complaining about the lack of pants. We live in the woods, children. Who needs pants to live in the woods?

New Years Day we moved back to Orlando with several touristy goals: First, the happiest place on Earth:

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The other happiest place on Earth. Did you know that there is a whole beach shop dedicated to Hulk Hogan? DID YOU KNOW?! I sure didn’t, or we would have trekked here long ago.

Justin and I giggled our way through this building sized shrine to ol’ Thunder Lips. The kids were… confused.

To be fair they have no frame of reference for this because we’ve been denying them the physical theatre that is professional wrasslin’. Wesson thought the car was cool, though.

Probably the best part of this was that for less than three American dollars you could purchase your very own blonde beauty:

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I walked out of there with two amazing gifts; one being a bottle koozie emblazoned with the pythons of a legend, and the other wasn’t for me. My brother is a collector of socks, so it would have been shameful if we had not sent Uncle Steve some friends.

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HOLY COW, YOU GUYS. I just went looking for a photo of the socks to show you their majesty and I didn’t have one of my own so I mined their website. In that process I learned that you can have anything you buy from them signed by Mr. America himself for a mere $75! Missed opportunity. In looking for a way to ship these bad boys to Michigan I saw a pasta box and got an idea.

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Ahhh, I crack myself up sometimes. I wonder if any postal workers got a chortle from his peekaboo grimace. Good news! He was still peering out of his sarcophagus when he arrived at his destination.

We also went to Madame Tussauds wax museum and Sea Life aquarium that day. They are both part of that Merlin pass we acquired last year so this was free! Madame Tussauds was SO BUSY that we could barely walk through. The wax figures were much more lifelike and disturbing than I had anticipated, and Oprah was probably the creepiest. She looked as if she’d come to life at any moment and I watched every corner for a camera crew to pop out or for her to blink or breathe or waiver. *shudder*

The kids had a school assignment to pick a creepy wax person to do a report on the next day. Wesson picked Neal Armstrong and Mara’s choice was Serena Williams. I don’t have a photo of Mara with her subject (though I wish that I did) but I do have this awkward ET photo. Did you know that Serena was a homeschooler? From Michigan?! Mara chose well. Wesson picked exactly who I expected him to. If the boy doesn’t end up in some facet of the space exploration industry I’ll be shocked.

SeaLife was typical. They had some really cool sea turtles, one of which had been rescued and rehabbed with some weights on his shell to balance out the fact that he was missing a flipper.

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Not this one

I’m mostly thankful for the existence of zoos and aquariums, although the more I visit the more I regret. We always start out the visit excited to see some new, unusual animals but ultimately just leave there feeling sad for the creatures who are trapped and on display. Some day there will be a happy medium.

Y’know what happens when someone tries to hulk the washer open when it’s still locked?

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Justin claims that other people have done this frequently and that it wasn’t just him and his brute strength and impatience. He’s not wrong. Still, now I have to open the dang thing with a pair of needle-nose pliers because as I wrote way up there somewhere, kids complain when they don’t have pants.

Speaking of pants, this is a good time to point out the reason that we are in Florida: WE WANTED TO BE WARM. This, however, is the year that Florida decided to participate in winter. What the heck, Florida? Get your shit together! Below freezing temps were present for so long that alligators were frozen in the waters with their sad, little snouts poking through. Iguanas fell out of trees, too cold to move. Couldn’t you have waited until next winter?

A reprieve in the weather allowed us to do one of the most awesome things I think we have ever done in the history of us.

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Kennedy Space Center, y’all. THE Kennedy Space Center, the place where they launched the space shuttles. We’ve been to the rocket center in Alabama and touched a moon rock, and we’ve been to Johnson Space Center in Houston and sat in original mission control, and we’ve gotten birthday cards from real live astronauts. Cape Canaveral is the real deal, though. It’s just different – more important.

Today, as I write this, it is the anniversary of the Challenger disaster. I don’t remember the event, though I’m told that I had a toy space shuttle that I’d crash, mimicking what I had seen on television. The more I learn about the incident the more disgusted I am about the whole thing. I’ll let that go for a moment. If you’re motivated to learn more it’s worth a google. (This article about Columbia is definitely worth reading as well.)

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We were not prepared for what was inside this building. The first thing that you encounter is a line for a film. Uuugghhhhh. I HATE waiting around for lame movies about stuff. Just show us the info and let me poke around.

If we had skipped this movie we would have missed out on the most awe-inspiring, overwhelming display of sheer power and artistry I’ve ever seen. It was almost too much, emotionally and visually. Then, you get to see it  for real; a grandiose relic of our exploration history. Words cannot describe the experience accurately. Impressed is just not enough.

 

 

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Beyond the shuttle they had a very kid-friendly set-up to show how the shuttles would glide their way back to earth. Run up and bank on the turn once, twice, three times, then SONIC BOOM (stop on the boom button on the floor) then glide gracefully down to earth via a huge, fast slide. The slide built up so much static electricity that when it zapped Mara she got a huge blister on her hand. Yes, you CAN receive an electrical burn from static! Live and learn?

There was also a mock-up on the shuttle to play in, and a tiny International Space Station to crawl through. They had a massive 3D ride too but we passed on that (it was too roller coaster-y).

Mara got to take a photo with the astronaut that sent her a birthday card. Well, kind of.

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The bus tour of Cape Canaveral was great too! We got to see where Boeing is putting together the Orion capsule, the infamous vehicle assembly building, and Space X!

We also saw the Falcon 9 Zuma rocket on it’s launch pad.

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We’ll talk more about this in a second. 😉

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Twins!

The bus dropped us off at the place we had been itching to visit since long before we walked through the gate. The last Saturn V! We had seen the other two in previous outings (Alabama and Texas). Justin got a Lego Saturn V for Christmas so it was only fair that we pack it along with us to see the real deal. (Note: This one is made with some replica parts. The only one that is original and flight ready is the one at Johnson Space Center in Texas. Go figure.)

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To get an idea of just how big this Saturn V butt really is, look at tiny Wesson.

The Saturn V building held one of those touristy photo station things that they have literally everywhere at all the Orlando attractions where they make you stand in front of a green screen and make a face or whatever. This is the first time I’ve ever actually purchased their offerings.

We laughed, and laughed, and laughed. Even days later we’d look at our family floating through space or in the ISS and let out a snort. I don’t know why they’re so great, they just are.

 

After we’d seen the new Mars rover prototype and had what Mara described as the best apple juice in the whole world, we left Kennedy Space Center to do something we’d never thought we’d ever do in a million years, the REAL reason this day was the best day ever: FALCON 9 ZUMA ROCKET LAUNCH!!!!!!!!!!!!(x1000) *flailing Kermit arms*

Since NASA wasn’t going to allow anyone in Cape Canaveral for the launch we got as close as we possibly could at the local jetty. We sat in pitch black darkness on the white sand beach of Port Canaveral waiting for the launch window. They said it could be any time between 8pm and 10:45pm. Right at 8pm on the dot:

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That is not the sun or the moon, that is a SPACE ROCKET! We watched an actual, real rocket shoot up, up up into outer space. It lit up the night sky until it was a tiny bright dot, and just like that it was GONE.

After a few minutes a weird piece of something came spiraling down directly over us trailing fuel behind it and making the sky look like a nebulae. This ultimately landed in the ocean. (I think that this was part of the reason the mission was ultimately a failure, but who cares! It was pretty!)

Then, the reusable first stage BURST through the atmosphere, bringing with it SONIC BOOMS! Wesson said that getting to experience his first sonic boom was the best part of the whole day. It landed safely back on Earth just East of where it took off. Welcome home, little buddy!

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Ol’ Musky sure knows how to put on a show. He’s not just making his dreams come true, he’s putting space exploration back into the dreams of an entirely new generation of people. For that, I am grateful.

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I’m cold and I forgot about you

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I did it again. I went an entire month and never told you about the cool things we did. Mostly because we really didn’t do a whole lot, and partly because I’ve been avoiding sitting down to write anything at all. Today we are trapped indoors by unforgiving temperatures. Our water hose is frozen but not our spirit! This has happened before, and thankfully we have a water holding tank (and booze) to tide us over until we thaw.

15935777_10154789463658548_555591730_nLet’s see, where did I leave off? Oh, right. NASA! The first week of December we stayed at Lake Conroe for a few days and visited the Johnson Space Center. The real, actual NASA mission control. There were so many great things to see and do. My favorite part of the whole place was the tram tour. We went to old mission control and sat in the viewing area. I can only imagine what a privilege it would have been to be there while it was operational. Justin’s parents were kind enough to gift us a membership to the space center so we can go back as many times as we want!

All that fishing in Goose Island State Park and no one ever caught anything. We dipped our fishing lines in the shallow waters of a stocked pond at Lake Conroe, armed with hot dogs and a dream, and caught so many fish we lost count. We also found out the children will hold the fish in their bare hands and the mother will not.

On our way back to the San Antonio area we met up with Santa! He’s a class act, that guy. Always a smile on his face.

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We high-tailed it back to Lake Medina to meet with Grandma and Uncle Steve! My Mom and brother came down to hang with us and watch the kids while Justin had umbilical hernia surgery at Audie Murphy VA hospital. Surgery went well! No complications! We put them up in a cabin across the path from us at the campground. Our Thousand Trails membership provides us with a couple of weeks of free cabin stays, thankfully, so we can have visitors. It was nice to have everyone in the same area. We’re happy that they were willing and able to fly down. Uncle Steve rented himself a fancy Mustang convertible. Thankfully Texas provided him with a few nice days to enjoy it.

Picture time!

After our visitors left we kept a low profile for a few weeks. We hit a few museums (DoSeum and Witte), we played on a few playgrounds, we made Christmas Cookies and decorated the camper.

It was an unremarkable time and lovely to be sitting still. Christmas eve we went SWIMMING. Can you believe it? The pool was colder than an ice cube, but they did it anyway. Wesson declared that it must be a new tradition. We’ll see where we are next year. Maybe they’ll be joining the polar bear club.

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In the past I have come across people who ask “You’re atheists, why do you celebrate Christmas?” Because it’s fun, it’s a reason to spoil your kids, a reason to make memories, and a gentle reminder to appreciate the things and people in your life. It shouldn’t matter to you or me how others celebrate any holiday. Do your thing, and if people get joy from being with or without their families, regardless of why or how, just be glad they still celebrate anything. Eat a Peep shaped like a tree, hug your kids, be kind to your neighbors, and have a holly, jolly whatever you want.

And here we are in Whitney, Texas at Lake Whitney RV resort. Earlier in the week we went to the natural history museum at Baylor University. They provided tons of great learning opportunities for these curious few. Live and fossilized vertebrates, modern and historical methods of communication, a kid’s weather station complete with green-screen, and much more fun! We saw only a small portion of what they offered before we had to leave; we may have to go back.

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We will be in the greater Dallas/Fort Worth and San Antonio areas indefinitely. Justin has to complete the evaluations needed to get a disability rating from the VA. He has a few ongoing things that need to be addressed and the VA has legitimately been so wonderful to him so far. He’s getting help navigating the system from some amazing people at Disabled American Veterans. Hopefully they will all be swift (hahaha, i’m dreaming) and he will be through the process in no time.

In the week after Christmas we hit 100 days!!! We sold our house on September 29th and hit the road the same day. We had been living in the camper for a few months prior to that but the ceremonial termination of the mortgage is the real date of independence, one we can be most proud of.

Until next month…

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Don’t call me Dorothy

 

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The second largest live oak tree in the world is behind that fence. Neat.

Here’s my attempt to write things down before “HOLY CRAP I FORGOT TO WRITE STUFF DOWN” sets in. I’m making an effort, people; Be proud of me. I’m doing this while riding down the bumpy freeway. I’m sure I’ll catch the typos later.

This week we were in Rockport, Texas at Goose Island State Park. The park had A LOT going for it in terms of scenery.

One heck of a front yard

Every night was a new, more beautiful sunset, the kind that make you sigh heavily, relax all the way down to your soul, sink in your chair, and wonder what you did to deserve such a watercolor-painted sky. “It  certainly can’t get better than this.” Oh, but it does.

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The kids fished in their front yard EVERY. DAY. They caught nothing but fun. There were few fish who wanted to make friends with the fishermen.

Even the seasoned anglers were having trouble. One nice woman gave my kids an anatomy lesson on a flounder she’d caught. I saw one other fish that week and it was a Wesson-sized behemoth someone had caught offshore. They all had fun casting and reeling anyway. Mara used her time to collect shells and fall face first into the water. She wanted to test her life vest, I guess. Thankfully she was in about two feet of bay and just gave the water a smooch, catching herself with her arms. No tears, just a lots of PTOOEY-ing and laughing.

We took advantage of the awesome weather one day and hit the nearby beach. It was a weekday so except for the occasional runner it was blissfully quiet.

The kids ended up acquiring a kite along our travels in Michigan. Justin happened to grab it on the way out the door that day but failed to bring the kite string. Wesson’s fishing pole was the cure. It was a very Dad solution. This will be the only way we fly kites from now on.

We also took the ferry to Port Aransas! They had five big ferries running. We were first on the boat both times so we had a big, wide window to see all that was happening. Fun fact: all the boats were named after state roadway engineers. We had the GPS running the first time through and when the boat started moving, the Garmin lady said “in one-quarter mile, exit the ferry.” It gave me a “hah!”

We took the kids to the University of Texas Marine Science Education Center. They had some wonderful hands on things to do and some saltwater fish habitats to explore. There was a telescope set up to look at a nearby lighthouse and we ended up seeing a pod of dolphins as well!

Just inside the doorway was the jawbone of a giant whale. As we were investigating a woman who was hurrying by stopped to talk to the kids. She shared a tidbit and acted like she had to go but then talked to them about the dolphins, then a whale skull, constantly trying to get away yet sucking herself back in, like she had an uncontrollable urge to share and educate. My guess is that she was a professor and probably a parent. We roamed in the wetland education center as well and peered at different birds.

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We drove on the actual beach next to the actual Gulf in our monster truck.

Some creative driving inspired us to order a HOONIGAN sticker for the truck.

We managed to get the kids to walk out on the South Jetty into the Gulf of Mexico. It was a little chilly and a lot windy so we didn’t go fishing but it is on the list for next time.

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We had plans to bring the camper here and spend two nights living on the beach but the weather had other plans. Saturday was the end of our reservation in Goose Island which was fine because that spot was so incredibly windy and a hail storm was coming. Storms rolled into the area on Friday and as of now it is still raining.

Our next scheduled spot was in Galveston Island State Park and they were getting tornadoes. We strongly considered going to Mexico because it was dry and warm and they have tacos. We opted to just go inland a bit and ride out the angry sky. Goliad state park was our new heading and it was perfect. Our benchmark for perfection is rather low, though. It had a full hook up (sewer, water, and 50 amp electric) and a level, pull-through spot. If you’ve ever been in a RV here’s where you say “ahhh, paradise.” It rained the entire time and threatened to flood but a least there were no tornadoes. The park had plenty of historical sites to explore and I wouldn’t mind coming back here again when it’s dry. That’s probably the worst part about traveling when there is inclement weather. I wanted to see all the things and all the things were wet.

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These guys pulled into the park and just about made my day. They ended up parking across the street from us and left the next day before I could ask them any of the many, many questions I had.

We’re now at Lake Conroe RV Resort just north of Houston. THEY HAVE A KROGER NEARBY! I am way too excited about a grocery store, but if you’ve ever shopped at a small town, hole in the wall grocery before you know the struggle. Give me my normalcy, please. Moving on…

We are here because Justin’s parents bought the family a membership to mother-freakin’ Johnson Space Center. As in, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” The place where they run the International Space Station. The original mission control. I’m not excited at all. We plan to spend the next few days immersed in NASA. You WILL hear about it, whether you like it or not.

Friday we head back to San Antonio to set up camp at Medina Lake again. My mom and my brother are coming down for a visit and to watch the midgets while Justin has hernia surgery at the Veteran’s hospital. All that is for another day. For now, enjoy the sunset.

“When twilight drops her curtain down, and pins it with a star, remember that you have a friend, though she may wander far” – L.M. Montgomery