Forward, Not Backward

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

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

29749861_10156162786403548_4576108918823976960_n

The view from the front door.

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

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

30171149_10156165372788548_3989160727256408675_o.jpg

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

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

30073251_10156177639058548_8276639940745067927_o

We called it a team effort. *wink*

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

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

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

They had a make your own WWII poster station:

And don’t forget Rowland the Riveter:

30167640_10156187943088548_1053208946469316648_o

He’s the best! ❤

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

30073340_10156193275778548_1873560127022275774_o

Lake by the campground

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

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

30167674_10156194618468548_1027546510758457808_o

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

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

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

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

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

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

30167473_10156202584298548_5757608549572178728_o

His name is Hogwarts.

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

Oh, and looking for a house.

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

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

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

And it’s unique like us. 🙂

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

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

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

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.

26232516_10155905139963548_5189002687452532940_o

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.

26240852_10155905139298548_3335624127485617264_o

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

26220723_10155905136653548_1793892579586053903_o

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!

26221017_10155905385233548_5052719550732829340_o

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.

26232758_10155909826973548_2222360340085276577_o

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.

26756723_10155910608278548_6211116033706600917_o

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!

26678212_10155912639883548_8305619078215975937_o(1)

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

26677957_10155921987118548_5627682091838788495_o

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.

26678363_10155915529913548_5344135121345224670_o

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:

26849978_10155914755943548_8841552356054589097_o

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.

26962249_10155954502828548_4243613969874176660_o(1)

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.

26841302_10155954312863548_9175675631756209773_o(1).jpg

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.

26952274_10155954603783548_8924788667496973012_o.jpg

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.

27173664_10155954602678548_6429774343730888704_n.jpg

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.

27173114_10155969081848548_8506129801589274993_o

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

27173946_10155971947218548_4452761061177734858_o.jpg