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!

Amarillo by morning

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Here, have the world’s largest pistachio as a gift for reading this post.

We got to Amarillo pretty early in the day so we had lots of time. After the camper was set up we headed for Cadillac Ranch! We stopped at the local Wal-Mart and ended up on this bad boy:

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YEE HAW!

Cadillac Ranch is an art installation put together by some guys from an art group called Ant Farm. It consists of several Cadilli buried nose first, together representing the rise and fall of tail fins. They are all at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza, oddly enough. They weren’t meant to be spray painted initially but it turns out everyone is totally cool with it, and the millionaire who owned the property where it lies encouraged visitors to the site so the gate to get there remains. Fun fact: the Home Depot in Amarillo sells the most spray paint of all the Home Depots. I think we were all really excited about Cadillac Ranch. It’s one of those places that we’ve read about a lot. Wesson was especially insistent that we go.

It was super windy and the field was a mud hole but we had a total blast! Mara was the only one to empty her spray can. The rest of us passed them off to a family that showed up as we were leaving.

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We also ran into the 2nd Amendment Cowboy over at the Cadillac Ranch RV park, no relation.

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After we had expressed ourselves through the medium of spray paint we visited The Big Texan Steak Ranch. This place used to be on Route 66, when the Interstate rolled through they were suffocated right out of business. The only way they could continue was to move to the freeway. It’s a really, REALLY different place. It’s very eclectic decor included farting mannequins, taxidermy by the truckload, a live rattlesnake, a shooting gallery, and lots of horns from long horns -some of which you can buy and attach to the front of your vehicle. This is also home to the 72oz steak dinner challenge. The current record holder is a 120lb woman who ate three of these such dinners in twenty minutes. That’s all three within the same 20 minutes. *blort*

They also offer a free limo pick up service. If only we had known about it ahead of time…

Wesson was the only one smart enough to order a steak – which showed up INSIDE A COWBOY HAT! While we were eating our incredibly delicious dinner and sipping on a ten sample flight of house brewed beer, the musicians came by. This was my favorite part of the whole experience.

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These two gentlemen sang and played their instruments to the tune of an old Hank Williams song. It was marvelous! I stopped eating and just sat there grinning at them like a weirdo. When they got to the next table a bass player joined them in a melodious rendition of “Amarillo by Morning.” They earned every penny they got that night.

The next morning we were off again! We aimed for a little town called Elida, New Mexico but discovered we could totally get to Roswell by quittin’ time. We parked in another whelming (not over or under, just whelming) park called Midway. Just a little dirt with a lot of permanent residents but it was full hook up for less than $13 again! Here we learned that our auto levelers are absolute garbage in high winds. Too much movement in the camper and it can’t tell if it’s level or not. Isn’t that great?

We drove into Roswell for groceries and to poke around for extraterrestrials. The street lamps had alien eyes and the businesses all had kitschy names. It was total tourist trap. We managed to snap photos with these two visitors on our way home.

On the road agaiiiinn… The next morning we drove through the mountains all the way up to 7,500 feet above sea level and parked at a really neat looking museum complex. It was completely out of character for the area but just the space we needed to pop the slides out and make lunch. Plus BONUS! They had SNOW! Snow is not at all what I like to see. The kids, however, thought it was incredible and proceeded to fill my pockets with it. They also lobbed snowballs at each other until their little fingers couldn’t take it anymore.

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Shortly after we went inside the camper another rv parked right next to us – and they were from Michigan! They were traveling virtually the same exact route we were headed. Small world!

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Our route took us directly past White Sands National Monument. We had initially written this into the schedule but the weather was supposed to be crappy. The weather was, yet again, all lies. It was gorgeous when we arrived! The gift shop sold us a couple of sleds and some wax, which was a complete scam and they made money hand over fist on these little disks. It was $17 for a sled, they buy them back from you for $5, resell them for $10, and will buy those resold sleds back for $3. Wax was $2 and was a 75 cent buy back. I found it, guys. This is what funds the National Parks system.

The sled scam was totally worth it, though. We drove out the the sand dunes and picked a good spot with a nice, steep hill and started throwing ourselves down it. The sand was soft and dry and the sun was warm. The whole thing was amazing!

PS – the sand here is actually gypsum: calcium sulfate with two molecules of water! Exciting for me, possibly exciting for you? Eh, it’s my blog, I can be excited about the main constituent in drywall if I want to.

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GYPSUUUUMMM!

This was an experience that we will treasure forever. I truly hope the kids remember this one when they’re bigger. That’s why we document things, right?

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The road has been A-OK

16409386_10154873894943548_73649369_oWhere were we? Ah yes, Dallas. We were actually staying in Lavon on a pretty little lake of the same name. Five days of sickness made for not a lot of adventure. Wesson managed to bash his front, permanent tooth on the slide at the playground just to add a little variety to life. Thankfully it did not fall out.

The last day in town we decided to go find something noteworthy to stare at. We ended up at the Dallas Museum of Art because the playground we were trying to go to was closed for repairs. Y’know what? The best places we’ve ever visited have been on the fly. The museum was FANTASTIC! It was such a diverse collection and it flowed well. It was very easy to walk through. Four floors of amazing pieces; from sculptures and paintings to furniture and clothing. Some pieces were thousands of years old. They even had some scavenger hunts for the kids to complete that brought them to some works they’d probably never have given a second look.

The most noteworthy finds for us were two paintings by Claude Monet. Mara had just been studying Monet and for her to find some water lilies made her day (and mine too). The visit definitely opened our eyes to the fact that we’ve been glossing right over the art museums and not giving them a chance. They’re on our radar now, and we’ll be making time.

Next, we wandered over to Deep Ellum Brewery. The Deep Ellum area is a colorful neighborhood. There are murals and art installations all over and small businesses aplenty. The brewery itself was the work of some really creative minds. Take a look:


Sunday the 22nd we packed up and hit the road for some serious movement. The target distance is usually about 250 miles or less. That might not seem like a lot if you’re like us old people and you’re used to driving straight through, all night, 1,000 miles at a time to wherever you want for no apparent reason. With kids and house in tow this dance has become a lesson in patience. Get up at 0700, leave at 0900, get to wherever we’re going before 1600 and set up so that dinner can be made and bedtime can be standard. With these short jaunts somewhat planned out we were also able to fit in a little sightseeing at our stopping points.

The first hop was to a Texas State Park called Copper Breaks. This was a poor choice. The place was so damn beautiful and quiet and I wish we had not even stopped because I wanted to stay there much, much longer than the 17 hours we had allowed. The canyons were vividly colored with green copper breaks and red rock. A photo could never do it justice. I climbed atop the camper just to see as far as I possibly could with my camera.

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The picnic tables were covered in these cute little teepees.

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And the STARS! OH, THE STARS! The park was so black and the sky was so, so bright. It felt as though anyone could have reached out and ran their fingers through the constellations. The only other people in our campground loop were the camp hosts (from Minnesota) who could not have been nicer. I’m actually disappointed that we didn’t get to hang out with them a bit more.

Our next stop was supposed to be Amarillo, but when we checked the weather our entire route was being bamboozled by weather that was not conducive to hauling your house behind you. Amarillo had 55 mph winds, Albuquerque had snow, White Sands was supposed to be 45 degrees… if only somebody had checked the weather before we left. Way to go, self. So, we sadly routed ourselves to Elida, New Mexico instead and turned on the seat warmers. We got about 30 minutes down the road a realized we’d have to go through Amarillo anyway. “Let’s just see what the weather is like when we get there.” It was WARM and SUNNY! It was a tad windy, but who cares?!

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On the way we stopped at a little town square to eat lunch. It was the town of Estelline, Texas, population 136. It was the perfect set-up for us. Big, wide streets for the camper, a picnic area for lunch time, and space for little people to run in circles. It also had a post office with extremely inaccurate scales. That’s scales, plural. We kept our mail that day.

We pulled into a little campground named A-OK that was on the outskirts of town. I never saw another set of people in this park, FYI. Payment was on the honor system: cash through the slot in the door at whatever rate you chose off the list. The place was covered in dog poop.

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Menacing looking emu

They had a menacing looking emu (truthfully they always look menacing), a donkey, and two alpacas behind a suggestion of a fence. They offered a full hook up for less than $13, though, so I really can’t complain too much. It was A-OK.

We did some super cool stuff in Amarillo and I’ll tell you ALLL about it after bedtime. Or tomorrow. Maybe Friday?

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.

We moved for 30 days and I ignored you

WELL! Here we are, a full month-plus since our last conversation. I know, I know. I’m supposed to be keeping you up to date. Would you accept this cookie as an apology? It’s a Keebler Elf with chocolate creme, of course you will.

The sale of the house closed as planned on the day planned. We drove our rig to the closing and hit the road immediately! I’m going to rip out a quick list of places we’ve stayed and then we can elaborate on a few, ok?

  • Bass Pro Shops – Portage, IN

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  • Aunt Terri and Uncle Tom’s House – Grandville, MI (No photo. Dangit.)
  • Camp Dearborn – Milford, MI

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  • Stacey’s House – Holland, MI

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  • Doctor Dan and Amanda’s House – Nunica, MI

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  • Conestoga Grand River Campground – Coopersville, MI

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  • Aunt Brenda and Uncle Dale’s House – Brooklyn, MI

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  • Mom and Dad’s House – Dearborn Heights, MI

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  • Cabela’s – Noblesville, IN

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  • Lousiville Slugger Field – Louisville, KY

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14958416_10154572305768548_1484912478_nThe first thing we did in Michigan was have our heating system fixed at the dealership,because if you are going to voluntarily live in the cold you should probably have heat. Don’t ask me why it wasn’t working, it must have known that we needed it. While it was being fixed we drove go karts and Mara won a big stuffed animal out of a claw machine. She is the Babe Ruth of claw machines. She once won TWO stuffed animals at the same time AND gave one to her brother. A winner with a heart of gold!

We spent a week at Camp Dearborn then headed to West Michigan again. On the way we stopped in Lansing and hung out at the state capital because *ahem* roadschool, remember? We did the tour of the capital building and checked out the awesome state library. On the way back to the East side we stopped there again and visited the state museum. Such a neat place as a whole, rich in history and easy to enjoy.

We visited the USS Silversides museum in Muskegon one afternoon and played on a torpedo or two.

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When we left the West again we headed to Aunt Brenda and Uncle Dale’s house for a week of visiting and fun. While we were there Mara finally got to shoot her rifle. She’d only had it an entire year. Everybody got to shoot that day! It was also a great opportunity to brush up on firearms safety with the children. If you haven’t had that conversation with your kids I highly recommend you do so.

We left there and spent ten days at my parents house. We somehow got the camper in the driveway and although it barely fit between the houses and fences I’m glad that we got to spend all those days there. The kids really got comfortable and we all had a great stay. With Grandma and Grandpa there we had an opportunity to take the kids out one at a time for some fun on their own. We took Wesson to ride the bumper cars, he jumped on a sky bungee thingy, and we got Slurpees. Mara wanted to go to Build-a-Bear. On our way into the mall we stepped into a puppy store and played with the cutest little Daschund. He immediately started licking Mara’s face and made it extremely difficult to hand him back over – that is, until we found out it was close to $3,000 to love him permanently.

What else did we do there… Hmm… we watched flaming puck unicycle hockey, made bacon pancakes, went to unicycle practice, attended Pumpkin Palooza in Plymouth, carved jack o’ lanterns, and went trick or treating!

 

Are you tired? Because I’m tired. We’re at Slugger Field for another few minutes. We came here so that Justin could brew some beer with Goodwood Brewing. It was part of his prize for winning his category in the homebrew competition at the Kentucky State Fair. It lead to creation of his own blog and I’m super excited for him. He’ll be brewing with other people around the US and Canada as we travel. You can follow Roadbrewing.com for updates on that portion of the adventure.

Surprise! I never finished my blog post and now we are in Lexington, KY! We had a great dinner with friends and after we replace two dry-rotted tires on the truck tomorrow we’ll be headed to Tennessee. The destination is really San Antonio, Texas so that Justin can have a small umbilical hernia fixed at the awesome Veterans hospital. We are going to slow-roll our way down there. I promise and pinky swear that I will update you sooner than thirty days from now. I’ll sign off with a selfie of me wearing my sunglasses indoors and a hat that I didn’t purchase, because that’s what the cool kids do.

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Hookin’ ain’t easy, kids.

 

 

The countdown has begun! Or began already? It’s happening, let’s just go with that.

We’ve been crazy busy for the last few months pouring our blood, sweat and tears into the house so that some other brave soul could come along and call it home. I once described it as having a 60 hour per week, seven day a week job that broke my spirit day in and day out. The children took the brunt of the madness, being ignored for the sake of getting things done. If one word could describe those two months it would be neglected. Neglected projects we had to finish, neglected children, neglected sanity. Document the good and the bad, right? We’re back from the madness, though! We barely know what to do with each other now that we aren’t so busy.

The house went up for sale on August 26th, and in six viewings and less than three days we were under contract. We’ve spent the last month doing the back and forth dance that is selling your home and I am happy to say that the closing date has FINALLY been scheduled for next Thursday. I couldn’t put enough a’s in my YAAAAAAAAAY if I wanted to. In the month we’ve been waiting, we went on a few adventures. Let’s share!

Cumberland Point Campground was our first outing. We scheduled this trip so that we wouldn’t be in town when the house was being shown. It was extremely awkward and off-putting to have people traipsing through the house while we were here. We left for a few, we hid in the camper for some like creepers. By the time we left for camp, though, we were already under contract. This is what we woke up to every morning:

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What. A. Dump. Waking up on the lake every day was the best. We took the opportunity to  hike down to the rocky beaches on the peninsula we were occupying. I say ‘hike’ like we aren’t a family of small children and people with foot problems.

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Look at the tops of the trees left from when the dam flooded the area!

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With the exception of a few that showed up on the last day we were basically alone in this camp with another couple who happened to pick the spot right next to us. Our lucky RV neighbors, Jim and Laura, were a retired couple who were on the tail-end of a trip to Canada. They were the most helpful, kind, wonderfully social people with the best booze. We picked their well-traveled brains all week long. With any luck they will be at their home in Texas when we get down that way.

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*womp womp*

On our way out of the campground the TV antenna was assaulted by the wind or maybe a tree. It definitely didn’t break off because we left it up. We’d never do such a thing.

After a few more weeks at the house we packed up and moved to a little campground in Georgetown Kentucky called Whispering Hills. There wasn’t much whispering and the hills were missing, but the campground was decent. It was nice to have a full hookup in the camper. We ran both air conditioners and used our own shower! I even plugged in THREE things at once. It’s the little things in life that keep us going. Other than a donkey on the nearby farm that wouldn’t shut his donkey hole HEE HAW HEE HAW HEE HAAAAAW (always in threes) it was quiet, and that was just what we needed.

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Trying out our new fishing poles

I wish i’d have had the washer/dryer hooked up already but because we didn’t I ended up chatting with a wonderful woman from Pensacola, Florida when I went to do the laundry. She started in right away, like I was a cousin she hadn’t seen in a year or two, and filled me in on everything the family was doing. She and her husband were headed up to Ohio to meet some people they had met on a previous excursion. Although I cannot remember her name, she was a wonderful laundry companion and I hope we see each other again down the road. I would have pegged myself as a hermit and an introvert, and I still kind of do, but it turns out that I love to chat up a stranger. Who knew?

At the end of the week, with no closing in immediate sight we resigned to the fact that we’d have to go back and sit at the house again. Then, the stars aligned and gave us a date. We’ll be here until next Thursday. The REAL adventure begins!!! For whatever reason that old Cheryl Lynn song popped into my head just now, funky beat and all. “What you think ah! What you feel now! What you know ah! To be real!” It’s real, y’all, and it’s finally happening. Hold me.

Part Two: That time we almost fell off of West Virgina

Ok, so we would have also been in West Virginia when we hit the bottom of the ravine. Just stay with me. And just a side note, none of the photos in this post are mine. I was too busy wishing I had worn my brown pants to take any photos during this ordeal.

We booked a nice place with the Army Corps of Engineers as a stop on our way home from Annapolis to break up the long drive back to Kentucky. When we clicked on the map button on their website *boop* it sent us to google maps, which then routed us to said boop. I am telling you right now I will never trust a boop again. It started out a two lane road, going over a questionable bridge, seen here:

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I had doubts, people, but semi trucks were using it so we trucked right along with them. We eventually turned off the paved road onto dirt road and felt uneasy but we kept going because the map said go. Then I saw a chicken and the road turned into one lane of dirt and empty promises. We drove for nearly an hour through the backwoods of West Virginia with our giant rig, stressed and doubtful, and never saw any people. I could see the campground on the map, we had to be going in the right direction. That’s when it happened. We were about a quarter mile from the campground when we came across a turn that should never have existed. The road was soft, the ravine was off to one side, the solid rock wall to the other, and there were no guard rails. The first attempt to turn the corner left us stranded and absolutely stuck. Backing up made it worse. Going forward made it worse. The rig was tipping to the ravine side. Justin started to panic, I started to panic. What do I do with my kids? Do I get them out and move them down the road? Do we hope for the best and inevitably flip into the ravine together? As I contemplated the fact that we had absolutely no cell phone service and no one would know we were missing, a truck showed up.

It was a very nice couple who couldn’t believe we had made it as far as we did. The gentleman assessed our predicament and decided that we could probably do it but we’d have to really work at it. Thankfully he was able to guide us backward away from certain death and around the bend. It was not as easy as that sentence would have you believe. Trust me when I tell you it was horrifying and it still takes my breath away thinking about it. After thanking him profusely we headed to camp. Here’s where I tell you we had a great time and went home the next day, except that didn’t happen. We made it to a camp, alright. THE WRONG CAMP. An extremely shocked camp – I heard one unseen person exclaim “I can’t believe they drove through THERE with that RV!” The magical boop, the one that sent us to our near death experience, was a lying sack of boop.hjklThe woman running the camp store was kind and generous and talked me through getting back to town so that we could follow the signs to our actual campground. She also asked if we had seen the bear that had been lurking on the road we had just traversed, and expressed that she’d like to have some bear meat so maybe it would visit camp soon. With that parting thought I again expressed our gratitude and we set out to follow the directions. Along this new, non-threatening route we saw this:

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I would have been more interested in this tidbit if I hadn’t wanted to cry right then.

Somehow we made it back to the green, scary looking bridge, except this time it looked like a dream come true. Pavement, structure, people, vehicles. All things I will never take for granted again. It was now time to find our actual camp; a place that was, although not as far, still back in the woods. I decided that I had experienced enough of the wild and begged Justin to get us the hell out of West Virginia. We drove to the nearest rest area, cooked hot dogs on a camp grill, and stared at each other with disbelief that we had actually survived that experience unscathed with our rig undamaged. We decided to camp in the parking lot of a Cabela’s that night. Justin graciously drove another hour to get us there even though he truly did not want to drive any longer. Could you blame him?

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I lied, I took this one.

It was incredibly hot, it rained like crazy, and the hawks would not shut their beaks, but it was wonderful.

While we were lost in the woods, my parents were on the way back to Michigan and blew out BOTH camper tires, one at a time. They ended up leaving it on a farm in Ohio and retrieving it the next day.

In true pile-it-on fashion, the shit storm continued the next morning.

Wesson woke up with what sounded like croup. You know the barking, if you’re the mom you can probably identify it in your sleep. He was so, so sick. We were only a few hours from home, though. We decided to get him home and to the doctor. On the way there he told me that he had a knot in his hair that had to be cut out. I kind of dismissed it at the time and told him we’d deal with it when we stopped. When we finally sat down to lunch I ran my hands through his hair and found the knot he was complaining about. It was a TICK! He went straight to the doctor! I’m glad we did it this way because they were able to extract the whole creeper and identify it as a lone star tick, something we may or may not have done (on both accounts). We haven’t seen any adverse affects from the tick so far. He does now have pneumonia and may be asthmatic – something to investigate further once we get rid of the sickness. Breathing treatments are his current reality.

This was a learning trip to say the least. I’m thankful that everyone made it home and that we’re all alive. Wesson will recover. Hell, we’re all recovering. Maybe we can manage to never repeat these events. I can tell you this much, though: I will never go through West Virginia again.

We survived ten days in a row!

We were back in town for three days before we packed the new fiver and hit the road again. If you are unfortunate enough to follow me on facebook you probably caught on that we were in Maryland for HomeBrew Con, and Washington D.C. because why not.

I started to write an incredibly boring post. It was seriously terrible, even more so than this one. I had three paragraphs of a snooze-fest written but I just couldn’t subject you to that. We had auto-leveling troubles and it rained every time we put up or took down, but none of that matters. We had a mostly great vacation. Let’s just look at some photos, shall we? Let’s do this!

First, Pennsylvania. We stayed on top of a mountain!

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Beautiful! Next, we moved to the Navy base across the river from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

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This was our spot for an entire week. My parents camper was to the left of this photo, flying the Army flag of course! On the last day the incoming recruits PT’d through the camp.

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*sigh* Couldn’t you just stay there forever? We visited lots of places in the area. When we went to Baltimore we ran into some cadets from the academy who gave us a tour of their ship. They were training for the summer and were stopped there for a few weeks.

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We couldn’t be in Annapolis without visiting the state capital, now could we? Especially since it was here that General George Washington resigned as General of the Army so that he could become the first President of the United States. I’m getting boring again, aren’t I? Whatever! Look at George!

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Not Martha Washington, just some random citizen who wrote down what she had witnessed. Weird, right?

The docks in downtown Annapolis were full of awesome, extremely expensive boats and I somehow never took any photos. Consider yourself spared from the jealousy. Justin and I went back down there the next day to eat dinner after HomeBrew Con and Fort McHenry. I ate my first crab cake! It was incredibly fresh and wonderful, an event I will repeat again. But now, HomeBrew Con:

That’s right, it’s a selfie in front of a giant beer. Deal with it. We sampled a ton of great and not so great beers from around the country, some homebrew and some commercial. While we were childless (thanks to Grandma and Grandpa) we toured Fort McHenry. If you don’t know how important this Fort is to our very existence, I encourage you to read about it. This is one of those places that makes me think we missed out on all the good stuff by being born in the present day. The revolution, the patriotism, the unknown. It’s all excitement to me but it was probably horrifying at the time. Just let me have my delusions, please.

Frances Scott Key peered at the flag waving in this very spot from the boat he was being held on in the river and penned a poem that would become a national standard. That poem is four times as long as you think it is, FYI. https://www.nps.gov/fomc/learn/historyculture/the-star-spangled-banner.htm

Ok, ok. On to Washington! That spot in front of the Lincoln Memorial overlooking the reflecting pool is my happy place. I could sit there for a lifetime! There’s just something wonderful about it, even in the sweltering heat, that I can’t quite put my finger on. The wide open sky and the monuments all around add a whimsy to it all.

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Just leave me here.

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The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History was a hit for these two obsessive learners. They were eager to see all they could. Mara, especially, took her time and made sure she saw everything, down to the last bug.

On the last day in the area we toured Arlington Cemetery and watched the ceremonies at the tomb of the unknown. We were joined there by a few groups of WWII veterans from Honor Flight. What an honor, indeed! They were a great bunch of men and women, and always had a kind word for those who stopped to greet them and thank them for their sacrifices.

It’s worth noting that this day was the US Army’s birthday, and there were no Army events happening anywhere! Rude!

We had the opportunity to be present for the Sunset Parade at the Marine Corps War Memorial. The commandants own Marine Corps marching band put on a wonderful show, as did the silent drill team. It just so happened that the Secretary of the Navy and the Commandant of the Marine Corps were also there to observe! I met a wonderful older woman on the Marine Corps bus over to the memorial. She told me all about when her husband was in the Navy and she pulled her kids from school to homeschool them. She drained their bank account and sold everything and started following the husband around the world while he was on the ship! They would stay in people’s homes while they were on vacation. Sounds like such an adventure, doesn’t it?

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This is where Justin could sit forever.

We saw much, much more than I have shown you here. I could drone on forever if you let me. Washington D.C. is one of those places that I could visit a thousand times and never see and experience everything that I want to experience. We are going to have to come back here for a month when we finally hit the road.

PS – I have written a second post about this trip. Again, if you are my facebook friend you may have read briefly about our troubles in West Virginia. I will publish that post eventually. Let’s just think these happy thoughts together and you can read all about the bad stuff tomorrow, ok?

 

 

 

Plans, or maybe a lack of plans.

Am I supposed to write a meaty post on my first day of blogging? I’m still in my lazy clothes and my tea is too hot to drink. I don’t know that I’m prepared for blog life, let alone life in general just yet. Let’s try it anyway.

ROADSCHOOLING! Yes, we are going to roadschool for the next few years. Roadschooling, for anyone who is reading this and doesn’t know, is a growing trend among people who have lost their minds. It involves hitting the road, usually with a camper or RV, and homeschooling your kids along the way; letting the traveling take the lead in education. Why read about history when you can FEEL it and SEE it and LEARN it right where it happened? Why not learn about nature by immersing yourself in it? Why not learn about cultures by meeting the people? Why not test the tolerances of your family by getting rid of most of your belongings and trapping yourselves in a large aluminum box? Ok that’s too literal. Step back a moment for the bottom line: Why READ when you can DO? Sounds better than watching a YouTube video, eh?

I hear a few of you mumbling “WHY? What catastrophic event is causing you to abandon your life?” No catastrophe, per se, and no abandonment. My Husband retired from the police department back in December because of a few injuries, and because of that he receives a monthly pension. He’s currently in physical therapy, trying to regain some of the mobility he lost and relieve some of the pain. The therapist seems VERY optimistic that he can feel a lot better than he currently does, and so far PT is working (YAAY!). He’ll not be able to continue his chosen profession, but he’ll at least be able to enjoy life a little more. Now, with four people who stay home and one also earning a living staying home, why should we actually STAY home? Why can’t home go with us? We discussed this at length over and over and OVER again while we waited for the PD to make their decision in regards to his abilities.

During the struggles with the police department there was a sudden depression of funds. We cut back our expenses substantially and made sure to keep up on all of our debts. We were also able to pay off all of those pesky credit cards. We will have absolutely no problems living on his pension alone. I hear you mumbling again “Why can’t YOU get a job?” I totally can, and have before, and probably will in the future. I can also pose the question back at you; Why? If we can afford to live comfortably on just the pension, why not enjoy the opportunity to watch our kids grow? Financially, it’s staggeringly less expensive for us to live on the road. Among our tools to facilitate this is a National Parks Pass. Campground fees at the National Parks are half off with a National Parks Pass. Because of his injuries, Justin was able to get one for free. You may or may not qualify for one as well (more info on that here, I encourage you to look: https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm ).

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Midgets One and Two

“WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!? SOCIALIZE THE CHILDREN!” You scream. What about them? If you have ever met Midget One and Midget Two you’d know that they are two of the most outgoing and talkative kids around. Wesson lives his life like he is in a constant political race; figuratively shaking hands and kissing babies 24/7. He ALWAYS stops to say hello to children and grandmas, and he’s constantly including random children in his activities at the playground. I’ve seen him get through to the shyest of children, boys and girls alike. Mara soaks up his charisma as well, following her brother around, gathering children, and participating in whatever the adventure may be. I have no doubts that they will make friends wherever they go. They will most likely also see some of the same kids time after time as we travel, as there are TONS of roadschoolers wandering the open plains, hiding from winter’s icy grasp.

Which brings me to the subject of winter: NO.

“How long do you plan to skirt the responsibilities of conformity, you heathens?” Until we get tired of it. Until we find the place we’re meant to live. Until we get sick of eating s’mores every day (not gonna happen, s’mores for LIFE!). It’s a big ol’ country – and an even bigger world. We have lots of places to be and all the time in the universe to be there. We can inspect every little caterpillar, climb the trails, soak up the sun, splash in the lakes, visit the monuments and wonders, stare in awe at the stars in the sky, and appreciate each other’s company for as long as we please. Sounds like a dream come true to me!

So far, we have the truck – a big, BEEFY Ford F-450 crew cab. We’ve ordered a new custom built 5th wheel RV that should be done in the next few weeks, just in time for a camping trip we’d scheduled without actually having a camper or truck (or prospects for either) at the time. The house needs a little (ha) work before we can sell it. The basement bathroom currently has no walls. Walls are a luxury item, right? RIGHT?! The drywall and tile is in the garage, and the garage door opener quit yesterday. Quit, quit. Like, never working again. *sigh*

A good portion of the things in this house will be sold and of course some will come with us. A family member has agreed to keep a cargo trailer full of items we’ll need when we decide to buy another house. (You know who you are! THANK YOU!)

The purpose of starting a writing journey this morning in my jammies with my hot-ass green tea is to chronicle our actual journey. The good, the bad, and the ugly from start to finish. Mostly for ourselves so that we can look back at a yearbook, remembering the fun and terror and what-have-you, but also to impart the current happenings to any friends and family who’d like to keep up with us. I hope that I haven’t rambled too much in my first official post. If I’ve forgotten something here, shoot me your questions and I’ll do my best to pretend like I have the answers.