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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Florida fauna is out to get me

Or maybe I’m out to get it? I’ll just be over here watching my toes.

Justin was determined to see an alligator in the wild. He kept trekking into the woods to peer at Peace River in hopes that one would just be chilling on the banks. By all accounts this should have been the case yet every time we went out there, the alligators pulled a “see you later” and hid. His persistence paid off and Wesson was witness, as he was pulled into this gator hunt too. He immediately started forming a knife out of a nearby palm frond. This was the deal he had made regarding the hunt; we find one, I make a knife to defend myself. He might make a good survivalist some day.

 

It was just a little guy, thankfully, and Wesson didn’t have to go hand-to-… claw. The next park yielded a larger, more relaxed dinosaur.

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Blerg!

This one was, thankfully, on the other side of a lake.

Speaking of parks, we moved into Thousand Trails Orlando on the sixth in anticipation of a visit from these beautiful people:

Justin’s fab sister and her wonderful family came down for a whole week! Now, even when we lived in an actual house that didn’t move around, we hardly ever got anybody for a whole week. We lured them down with the help of Universal Studios, though, so there’s that. The kids got along famously as usual and the theme park was a blast.

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Sam decided to scare one of the Who’s from Whoville, and after his unsuccessful BOO he was chased down in what was probably the most hilarious cat and mouse game ever. Picture Sam taunting them from a gift shop window and the Whoville residents scrambling around. He eventually lost them and they ran off through Dr Seuss land. I kind of wanted to see what they’d do to him once they caught up but, alas, he was fast!

Wesson and Mara fell in love with this water slide ride in the Fivel Goes West area of the park. I think Wesson rode it NINE times. (One of the benefits of going during the week is that no one was there! No lines for anything!) He had very soggy pants after this.

We ended up there for two days, and that was just about enough. We have season passes due to an over estimation of how much the kids could actually do there and we weren’t qualified for the military discount when we purchased. Had we waited until that week it would have been a bit cheaper. Still, now we have a reason to come back down here in the fall, and it will still be ultra fun.

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Dinner on the second night was at Cici’s Pizza! Listen. Cici’s is like Little Caesars if Little Caesars had a buffet and dealt in more than just pepperoni. It’s an ultra cheap pizza buffet, and we go there when we’re STARVING and need food immediately. On this night they were employing the best, most patient balloon artist we’ve ever met. He spent FOREVER on this Captain America.

He created masterpieces for all five kids and walked away with a mountain of tips he most definitely earned.

After everyone went back to snowy Michigan, Wesson decided to create some excitement the hard way. After three whole days of not eating or drinking and literally laying flat out on the living room floor we trekked him over to the children’s hospital.

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It was the nicest hospital I’ve ever seen. They valet parked the monster truck for free, there was NO waiting in the lobby, and they treated Wesson IMMEDIATELY. From door to doctor was five minutes. He ultimately was just working through a virus. They loaded him with anti-nausea meds and Motrin, and after a popsicle went down fine they let us leave. He ate a donut on the way home and then asked to go to Disney World if that gives you any indication of his state of well-being.

Oh! I forgot to tell you about the dang tortoises! They were all over the place, and the park had created garbage can houses for them.

This guy was SO not happy with me. He was traipsing by the camper and I picked him up so that the kids would have a chance to get outside to see him. Once they came out I set him down and he hissed/grunted at me then charged at my toesies. They are NOT slow, people. Wesson is shown here proclaiming his innocence in the tortoise assault.

 

I also managed to piss off the Sandhill Cranes that were EVERYWHERE. I tried to walk up to get a good photo and was met with much dancing, flapping of wings, and tossing of dirt into the air. Justin, however, walked right up to them with no problem. Apparently I am no Dr. Doolittle and the wildlife of Florida knows it. They’ve probably been talking to the Vultures. Ehh, I’m watchin you, nature.

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This park also had the most bizarre speed limit sign I’ve ever seen. Whether it was a nod to Harry Potter or just a way to catch your eye, it worked. It’s now a month after we left there and Mara is still talking about it.

Our travels brought us back down to Peace River for Christmas and such. One day we all decided to go fossil hunting. We found one, alright.

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This big fourteen foot alligator watched us check him out the whole time. Thankfully he was on the other side of the river. I have real doubts on his aggressiveness, though. Everyone seems to see him in this spot everyday, yet I’ve seen people sitting and fishing in “his spot” as well. We moved up the river a little to dig around, anyway.

Our haul was… miniature.  We found baby shark teeth and maybe a few stingray remnants. Wesson put it all in a clear plastic bag labeled CLASSIFIED. He’s my boy and I love him.

Lots of people wade out into the river, alligators be damned. Yeah, we went ahead and passed on that.

25734251_10155866924793548_7834218055869901100_oChristmas came and went without any real drama. We frosted homemade sugar cookies, decorated our big, fake, white Christmas tree, and watched ALL the Christmas movies. The kids were absolutely spoiled rotten as usual and got everything they ever asked for.

Wesson ended up with a really cool drone from Santa. So far Justin is the only one that has come close to leaving it in a tree.

 

Wesson got it turned around a few times and ended up chasing himself. That was probably my favorite trick.

Mara got this glorious Elsa dress from Mommy and Daddy, and Grandma and Grandpa Susanka got her the stroller for her dolly that she’s been pining over forever. If I had to hear her ask One. More. Time. I think I would have lost what little sanity I had left. She about wore the wheels off the thing the first day she had it, and of course wore her Elsa dress the whole time. The campground got quite a show that week.

The kids also ended up with a set of never melting snowballs which have resulted in many hilarious snowball fights inside the camper. So far we haven’t lost any! Grandma and Grandpa Rowland said they thought the kids could use a little taste of Michigan winter and Wesson is especially grateful.

Here’s our Christmas card photo:

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…and the back:

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We’re so cute!

I’m going to share something with you and talk directly to my children in the process. This blog is ultimately for their benefit, after all. I might seem a little crazy here but I choose to believe that my perceived craziness is just part of my charm. *ahem* So, kids, listen. Every year I look at you and think, “look at these little people! They are the most peopley people they could be! They say the best stuff and the do the best things.” Then, you get bigger, and you say BETTER stuff, and do BETTER things, and make it really, really hard to be the straight-faced parent when you come up with something amazingly funny and your dad is inevitably no help as he is always giggling in the background. For example:

Me: Mara told me a story about a lazy susan earlier.
Justin: Mara!
Mara: IT WASN’T ME, IT WAS A GHOST!

It was a story about something that they were going to get me for Christmas but ultimately didn’t. If anything is to be learned about Mara, it’s that she can’t stand it when she has to keep a secret. She’ll do it, but as soon as the information is irrelevant it bursts out of her like a fountain. Do you remember this lady from SNL:

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She could rival Aunt Sue in the inability to withhold information division.

I decided to finish out the year with a ridiculously terrible ear infection that landed me in the emergency room because I quite seriously thought I had ruptured my eardrum again. PS – when you have a ridiculous ear infection, you can’t swallow or move your tongue at all without feeling like you’re being stabbed. I went to a different hospital than dear Wesson did and I still had the best wait time ever: five minutes from door to doctor. The doctor was a real A-HOLE but he was there quickly. Thanks to Doctor A. Hole I felt better just in time for our next move. It was relieving that we weren’t go-to-the-doctor sick at all last winter. Our track record this year is not holding up so well.

New Years Eve was low-key and full of s’mores and sparklers.

A new year for new adventures, new growth, new motivation, and new dreams.

And s’mores. Always s’mores.

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Catsup? Ketchup? Catch-up? It’s all sauce.

Crap everywhere syndrome is what I call it when my children get out multiple categories of things out and never put them back. It’s a curse that every parent is blessed with. Sometimes, amongst the chaos, we find the most wonderful keepsakes:

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She’s a master wordsmith.

It’s mostly word-for-word from a book she was reading at the time. I’m fairly certain the poop part was improv. After we found it and had thoroughly chortled, we helped her come up with some new similes that were not so crappy.

Remember when I told you we needed a new control board for the jacks? The control board came in, and guess what? THAT WAS NOT THE PROBLEM. It ended up being a jack motor, and thankfully General RV was able to get it ordered and installed in a miserable but timely manor. They also dented the camper twice, ripped off a corner, and lost a trim piece but I can’t with that. I had to let it go to be able to function as a semi-normal human and not have an aneurysm.

November 16th we FINALLY GOT TO LEAVE MICHIGAN! It’s not that we don’t love all of our wonderful family and friends, it’s that we were COLD. We headed straight down I-75 and spent a whirlwind few days in our Old Kentucky Home! Whispering Hills RV park in Georgetown was our base of operations again.

We had a WONDERFUL time in Kentucky! We spent an afternoon at the Explorium with Wesson’s friend Harlie and her family. Horses to ride, dinosaur eggs to hatch, a bubble room, and good company! What’s not to love?

And we went to Monkey Joe’s with the always wonderful Nalleys! No one took any photos! We were too busy chatting, and the kids were all over the place. I think Melissa tried to take a picture at the end but the kids protested and that was it. That’s ok, we know what we all look like, and how could we ever forget them, anyway?

I also spent some time at the Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary Fall Bazaar catching up with a few police friends. Again, no photos. Way to go!

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You got it, G-Town!

Our next home was a Bass Pro Shops parking lot in Chattanooga. It’s perfectly fine to stay in a parking lot once in a while, and lots of people choose Walmart or Sam’s Club. I prefer a good Bass Pro, though. For some reason it feels less gross. Maybe it’s the clientele…

On our way through Georgia the next day we stopped to pee at Confederate Air Force Pad #1.

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I mean, we used our own bathroom while parked next to the missile. No one peed on any relics from the 60’s.

Can we talk about a rooster that needs to be battered and fried? The campground we stayed at in Georgia had the “best” rooster. Instead of a gentle wake up call when the sun came up he sounded as if he’d been a 40 year smoker. CAW-HOOOORK! CAW-HOOOORK! Please, Georgia, put it out of our misery.

You know what comes after Georgia: FLORIDA!!! We had finally made it! The sun was hot, and the air was hot, and the ground was hot…Maybe there are regrets? Nah. The first Florida campground we graced with our presence was covered in Michigangsters. The retired University of Michigan professor in the Airstream behind us was from Lansing (go figure), the couple next to us were from Kalamazoo and Silver Lake, and the young family on the other side of them were from Auburn Hills! We couldn’t have planned it, honestly.

Justin ended up saving the couple from K-Zoo almost immediately. Their jacks were broken and he found a way to fix it without too much labor, and then we noticed that they were leaking propane like crazy! They were thankful for his help and as much as we protested they insisted on giving him a little something in the form of a visa gift card. We immediately put it towards a fancy new microscope for the kids (ROOOOAD SCHOOOOL) and made sure everyone thanked them profusely. They were great people, and hopefully we’ll see them again down the road.

Oh, and my non-socialized homeschool children made friends immediately. Huh, who’d have thunk it.

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Real Thanksgiving went off without incident. I take that back, I burnt the ever loving crap out of the pie. I made pie crust from scratch – which was fantastic, by the way – and then I realized that I didn’t have a pie pan. In the spirit of improvise, adapt, overcome I made tiny pies with the muffin tins. I stuck my petite homemade delicacies on the grill and not so promptly made them inedible. Live and learn.

November 28th we went to Manatee beach! Yay! We needed a Christmas card photo and we really just needed to play on the beach.

Look at those pretty little beach babies! The sun was hot and the water was crystal clear. Many sandcastles were made. Wesson’s wish for the day was to “sit back, relax, and float” and he certainly made his dreams come true.

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We even got a somewhat decent family photo out of the day as well! Success!

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I really like this cute photo of Mara, but she was, of course, being sassy at the time. I had made them perfectly good hamburgers for lunch, and she stopped mid-burger to say:

Mara: Where do they sell brisket?

Me: Texas

Mara: Next time we move, move us STRAIGHT to Texas.

WELL! SOMEbody knows what she wants. I don’t blame her, I could use a brisket burger right about now too.

 

 

Justin and I had been collecting beer and tiny liquor bottles up until this point so that we could make each other adult advent calendars!

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That’s Justin’s collection. My tiny accumulation of bottles ended up as ornaments on the Christmas tree.

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We’re currently down to the last two and have only poured out two a piece. That’s a pretty darn good track record. Some may say that you never pour out a beer. We are of the party that says life is too short for shitty alcohol. Pour it out and move on to something better! That’s how you can tell that we aren’t alcoholics. *wink*

New destinations mean new places to ride our bicycles. Justin had been out a few times before I decided to head out myself and see what the area offered. I ended up in a nature preserve surrounded by vultures. I know, I know. That escalated quickly. One of the key features of this area is ALL OF THE BUZZARDS. Wauchula, Florida must be where all the good carrion is rotting. These bastards, however, were not moving out of my way when I wanted to ride my bike down the path.

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It’s not that I was necessarily scared of them, it’s that 1) I thought that if they all took off at once I’d be collateral damage and take a wing to the face or something or B) I would scare them and then they would projectile vomit on me. Yes, that’s a thing. No, I do not want to experience it first hand. I sacrificed this man to them and waited to see if he’d make it through unscathed.

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Thank you, random walker!

While I was waiting I saw this sign next to the alligator infested lake:

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I bet the buzzards did it.

Good news! He lived! He cleared the path and I triumphantly rode my bicycle through the area and beyond. On the way back the vultures were having some sort of meeting with a (live) cat – in the middle of the path AGAIN. I did what I should have done the first time and made a lot of noise, and everybody begrudgingly trotted away.

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Note to self: put an air horn on your Amazon Wish List.

It’s, like, three sleeps ’til Christmas right now and I’m missing all of December on the ol’ blog so you know that you’ll be hearing from me again tomorrow.

I’ll leave you with this found masterpiece, fresh from the depths of Florida:

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Ruff, indeed.

You’re welcome.

September!

Have you ever tried a jackfruit? Here I am assuming that you’ve seen a jackfruit or even heard of them. Hang on…

So, that’s a jackfruit, and a lovely woman (left) who sells their innards in Colorado. The only reason we ended up with a small portion of this gargantuan wonder is because I’ve been shopping at a really interesting fruit market in Redford called Randazzo’s. Every time I go there I get all the “normal” stuff and I also buy something unusual for everyone to try (I’m currently harboring a persimmon that I haven’t gotten around to figuring out). Anyway, it took me a good long time to be brave enough to tote home some jackfruit. As I pushed my cart through the market, I was stopped at least four times by others who weren’t brave enough to procure their own but had to ask me how it tastes. “We’ll see!”

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I’m happy to report that it tastes exactly like Juicy Fruit gum. We ate fist-fulls of the ultra sweet bulbs of goodness. It had kind of a rubbery consistency and is apparently a good meat alternative when picked before ripe, although we haven’t ventured down that road. It was a yummy adventure that we didn’t even need to travel for, and overall broadened our palates by trying all these new foods. Bonus!

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Along with strange fruit, September brought us another trip to Grand Rapids while our camper was supposed to be in the shop. We were there for a week and they never did the work but if I start telling you about that I will probably set this keyboard on fire. Instead I’m going to tell you about the awesome bike trail over there. I’m pretty sure that we’ve talked about Kent trail before when we were marooned at Aunt Terri and Uncle Tom’s house for a month. It was also the dead of summer there and ultra hot. This time it was cooler weather and SO GREAT. Justin rode his usual billion miles. I ended up riding the farthest I ever have at 15.08 miles! I had it in my head that I was going to ride out to the bridge he and Stacey were always talking about. It was totally worth it.

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so peaceful and still

 

While we were in town we also met up with Justin’s parents for some Craig’s Cruisers madness!

 

 

The kids LIVE for go-karts, I dread when they get their licenses. Maybe we can turn them into race car drivers.

Along with the super fun go-karting and lots of arcade games we divided into teams for laser tag. The boys kicked our butts. *womp womp* It was still a fun day with Grandma and Grandpa!

I’m going to tell you about this fruit market only because I never want to forget where it is or what it’s called. I actually stopped there to buy green peppers. This is what I ended up with:

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Look at all those bombers! The 2015 Alaskan Smoked Porter! The Expedition sixer! ALL THE WOOT STOUTS! SO MUCH BARREL AGING! As I was loading my cart like a drunk kid in a candy store the owner loudly proclaimed “BEST SELECTION! IN! AREA!” in the most wonderful accent possible. Thank you, Ken’s Market on 28th Street, for selling the fruit I’ve always wanted.

September was also a pain for some of us. Justin had a septorhinoplasty (nose job) at U of M hospital in Ann Arbor. It’s been a long time coming, as he broke his nose as a young child. My parents were kind enough to hang onto the little children overnight and all day so that we could be at the hospital at the crack of dawn. This was their first sleep “away from home.” I silently had a cow to myself while the children were just excited to be somewhere besides the camper AND with Grandma and Grandpa. Like we haven’t spent the entire summer sleeping in their back yard or anything…

Justin survived the face assault and was eventually happy with his less crooked nose and extremely open airway. The first few days were murder. Once the doctor removed all the hidden baffles from way up in there life got more awesome. We won’t talk about me elbowing him in the face. For the record it was an accident. It had nothing to do with Ken and his wondrous market.

The surgery was on the 22nd and by the 29th we were at Legoland Discovery Center in Auburn Hills if that gives you an indication as to how he was feeling. We took the kids out for a day of fun because they’d been patient with the surgery nonsense, and we still have those pesky/handy Merlin annual passes we bought in California. We were able to play at Legoland…

 

 

AND Sea Life Aquarium!

 

 

After we did all the super sweet “free” stuff we had a great dinner at Rainforest Cafe! (allergy friendly, FYI)

 

 

We’ve been there several times but this was the first time Mara vocalized that the animals were really creepy. They totally are, girl. Maybe that was our last Rainforest Cafe meal.

Judging by their little smiles I’d say they had a great afternoon! They were dragging their tiny feet by the time we made it back to the truck. I’m surprised that they didn’t fall asleep on the way home. We hope that you had fun, kids! You always deserve it!

 

It’s Not a Truck if it’s Never Been in the Mud

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STUCK. SO VERY STUCK. That is how we started our visit to Michigan. Mud up to the middle of the wheels isn’t as entertaining as it sounds. We took the trailer off out of fear that it would tip, the ground was that wet. Justin tried and tried and tried. We put boards under the tires and we had traction grips (that were technically for the snow) that collapsed under the weight of our behemoth truck. It was rainy and gross and all I wanted to do was be warm in my RV with no mud!!!

Eventually an employee went driving by on his golf cart. He was able to call another off-duty employee who lived in the park and had a biggish truck. With his help, and the help of every scrap of wood in the entire campground, we were eventually free! All we had to do from there was recover the camper and it was not as easy as we’d hoped. After much destruction of property we hooked the employees truck to the camper and pulled him and the RV out of the mud pit with the F450. Part of the tonneau cover rail was damaged (still functional) and we also had to buy a new wiring harness for the trailer. A small price to pay, I guess. Oh yeah, and we were the only ones coming into the campground that day so everyone now knows exactly who we are. We really know how to make an entrance, don’t we?

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The aftermath

Besides cleaning the mud out of our shoes, that first week was spent pretending to be DaVinci. School is so much fun!

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It actually worked when we put it back together!

Riding unicycles with the Redford Township Unicycle Club! It’s a family requirement, y’know. Justin had to learn when he first joined forces with me. The kids are actually doing really well with it, and their newly found balance has extended itself to pretty much all of the rest of their outdoor activities.

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And eating Superman ice cream!

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Super awesome!

Until I’d moved from Michigan I had no idea that Superman Ice Cream was not a world-wide, readily available commodity. I really need the rest of you Superman-free states to get on board with this one. While we’re at it, I need everybody to roll out Ale-8-one and fresh Peets coffee as well. And maybe some HEB Brisket Burgers. Mmmm… Why is it that Jet’s Pizza is so much better in Michigan than it is anywhere else? And what’s up with 7-eleven, Moe’s, Taco Cabana, and Del Taco not being where I want them to be? I must be hungry right now.

Speaking of food, I went to the local Kroger for groceries one morning and when I came out to put the groceries in the truck I noticed the back end was completely speckled with little black dots. When I looked at the ground I saw two trails coming from under the truck and tracing my route all the way through the parking lot. Sticking my head under the cab revealed a giant puddle. The truck had dumped three quarters of its oil on the ground! AARRGGHH! There was so much oil in the engine compartment that I couldn’t figure out where it had come from, and with the amount of truck blood it had lost I couldn’t drive it home. I had it towed to my parents house so that we could work on it near civilization and with help. By the time I’d waited for the tow truck, rode to my parents house, ranted about the truck, and procured one of their vehicles to drive back to the campground, I’d been gone from the house for EIGHT HOURS. I had also woke up at 6:30am for no apparent reason that day, so at hour twelve of my day when I was stuck in traffic on the freeway my head just about exploded. My family ate pizza for dinner that night. It’s the longest trip to the grocery store to date. I should have called Guinness.

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*SOB*

The next day Justin was able to determine that the oil was spraying out of the oil sensor! That’s not something that’s supposed to be possible. We’re all about impossible, apparently. It was a quick fix and we were back in business!

After we’d been at the campground in St Clair for about ten or so days we discovered that between all of our appointments and practices, etc. we’d have to drive 600+ miles that week. Barf! It was decided to move the camper to my parents house so that we could be closer to everything and cut that number down to less than 150. This is what it looks like to be there:

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Tight quarters! The kids definitely love it, though. Who doesn’t love being spoiled to bits at Grandma and Grandpa’s house? This arrangement also allowed us to do extra things we would have skipped, like watching flaming puck unicycle hockey. Give it a Google, it’s plenty of fun.

May 23rd we pulled out of there and headed west to the Grand Rapids area. We had a doctors appointment scheduled for our camper at the RV dealership. The sick fridge and axle were finally going to be looked at, as well as many other injured trim and seals we’d been saving up all year. Justin’s aunt and uncle were kind enough to let us bunk in their basement for the week that the camper would be in the shop. Four weeks later we are STILL HERE. I’m just glad that they are wonderful, tolerant people who haven’t snapped and put us on the curb yet. Hug your camper, people. You don’t know how much you’ll miss it until it’s being held hostage at the RV dealership.

I almost forgot to introduce you to my squirrel friend! I bribed him with some tortilla bits so that I could exploit him.

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He never told me his name. Maybe he’ll be waiting for us when we get back to the Detroit side next week.

I’ll leave you with Mr. Emerson and something we really, really needed to practice this month.

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Six States and Two Planets Probably

April 23rd we finally managed to escape the borders of Oklahoma. We headed through Kansas for a hot minute then finally into Missouri! Our next target was a little campground near Steelville. I was just referencing google maps and discovered that the worlds second largest rocking chair is located nearby the campground in Cuba, MO. Dangit! What a missed opportunity!

Before we could get there and miss out on the rocker we had to pass through Uranus. Uranus has all sorts of things going on. It must take a lot of coaxing to get people to stop in Uranus because it seems like Uranus spends it’s entire budget on billboards. We saw Uranus for at least a hundred miles.

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We stopped in Springfield around lunch time so that we could visit the Grandaddy of all Bass Pro Shops. Justin has wanted to go there since he was a small child. We’re out here making dreams come true, people!

The store is AMAZING! There were water features everywhere with waterfalls, big and small tanks, and ponds outside. Some of the store looked like the underside of a lake complete with duck butts, the bottoms of boats, legs dangling off the dock, and lures in the water. In one corner of the ceiling lake they had a giant alligator snacking on big ol’ fish.

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They even had some LIVE critters mixed in with all the taxidermy. The biggest fish (an alligator gar) in the whole Bass Pro system lives here along with turtles, alligators, and even a few ducks. They also had some hall of fame type displays, sporting arms history museum, a few restaurants, and a feeding demonstration in one of the large fish tanks. The presenter’s name was Scuba Steve.

Justin’s boyhood dreams were met that day! There was almost too much to look at and I was completely unprepared for how involved it would be. I’m definitely adding it to the list of places I wouldn’t mind visiting again in the future.

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Get him, brother!

We rolled into our new campground with sugar plums dancing in our heads.

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The whole place was decked out in Christmas paraphernalia. Poor Rudolph’s head was mounted on the wall in the office. There was a Santa approved miniature golf course.

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We stayed here for two nights, and by the end of the second day we’d been adopted.

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Her name was Midnight and she was the best girl. She napped in front of our camper for most of the time we were there. When we sat outside she’d sit next to us just like the above photo, and if we stopped petting her she’d protest. I sneaked her some ground turkey when I was making dinner because she totally deserved it. The woman who helped run the park said that Midnight had been abandoned and was a stray that never left. Justin offered (read pleaded) to take her but the gentlemen who owned the place was too attached. How could he not be? She’s a great old pup. It was for the best because we really didn’t need a dog in that moment. We would have made an exception for her.

The 25th brought us three states and two time zones again! We started in Missouri, traversed Illinois, and landed in Indiana. We actually got into the campground in Indiana a day before it was officially open. When I called to make a reservation the manager initially said no. About an hour later she called me back and said she’d decided that it wouldn’t hurt anything to let us in early. Success!

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The spot we were in was actually a seasonal spot that someone had been kicked out of when he’d altered the post and installed his own 50amp outlet. He had a pretty sweet spot! We never had any neighbors while we were there, and one side of the camper looked out to the nothingness. We were there for a week, which was great because I got hit with a terrible stomach bug the first night and spent a few days rolling around in agony. It had gotten Wesson in Elk City, OK and Mara puked in the truck on the way to Candy Cane. At least it took us out one at a time. Justin, of course, never got it because he’s a jerk who never gets the sickness.

Indiana had the very worst weather that we’d encountered. It was storm after storm after storm, sometimes a tornado would pass by in the next town, other times it was soul clattering thunder and lightning. At one point we pulled the bedroom slides in because we couldn’t take the rain banging on the ceiling while we were sleeping. By the end of the week we couldn’t wait to get out of the weather.

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We spent one night at one of our favorite Bass Pro Shops in Rossford, Ohio. The people who work here are stellar and I highly recommend living in their parking lot.

We’ll talk about our arrival in Michigan tomorrow because I want to end on a high note (hint: there was lots of mud). Airbrushed murals on the back of RV’s are my not-so-secret favorite thing. Enjoy these majestic road warriors I collected on the way to the mitten state. Happy Camping!

The Pioneer Woman Never Showed Up But Vicki Did!

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Copan Lake was a good, central place to be for our next few activities. It was a decent stopping point as well, and it pointed us north a little so that we’d go through Missouri instead of Arkansas as we continued.

Do you KNOW who lives in that part of Oklahoma? The Pioneer Woman! One of my personal travel goals for the year was to make it over to The Mercantile, Ree Drummond’s fancy store. If you’re not familiar with her, she’s a blogger  and star of her own Food Network show. And she just started a magazine. Oh, and the store. I’ve been following her through her various endeavors for years and years, even dragging a friend (hi, Melissa!) with me to a food show that came to town just so I could see her live cooking demonstration, hear her sing like Ethel Merman, and stare at her like a stalkery weirdo while she signed autographs for other people. Now that I’ve made myself look obsessed I’ll show you the photos I took of the bathroom at The Merc. That… didn’t come out quite like I’d heard it in my head. It’s too late to pretend that I didn’t take a photo of the toilet, humor me and have a look anyway.

They had real house-looking toilets, subway tile, lil’ hooks for your bag, paper towels in baskets, and wood everything. Even the baby changing table was fancy, for cripes sake. Look at that thing! It looks like a fold down desk you’d see in… a place where they have fold down desks. I guess that they ARE for baby “business.”

Ree’s photography peppered the walls in the whole building, and the bathroom was no exception. I imagine that the giant black and white canvas portraits of everyday life are some of her favorite shots.

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The merchandise was as varied as a circus. You could buy a set of cast iron skillets, a wooden bowtie, and a stoneware wiener dog plate. Toys and sundries surrounded tools and decore.

They also sold Pioneer Woman brand jeans and those lovely flowing floral printed tops she always wears. All of this could be expertly wrapped at their gift wrapping station in the rear of the store.

There was also a cafe and candy shop upstairs. I had heard that the Pioneer Woman herself is found sometimes just hanging out up there at the cafe tables, chatting up fans and customers.

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I had also read that some of the kids worked in the various areas, and her husband Ladd’s father sometimes greeted people at the door. This day provided no members of the Drummond family. *womp womp*

Look at these neat little tables! Every inch of this place was a labor of love.

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There is also a restaurant inside The Merc. We weren’t interested in eating there, it was kind of early in the day and we have food allergies. When we left there at 10am the line just to get INTO the restaurant for lunch was all the way down the block. Grown people and small children were huddled together in blankets under giant propane heaters waiting for their turn to shuffle into the building. You’d have thought that Ree herself was in the kitchen cooking the food and hand feeding folks.

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Sorry, lady, you’ve been blogged.

I’m glad that we got to experience The Mercantile. Who knows, maybe we’ll end up in that part of town again some day.

That afternoon we headed into Kansas to meet someone near and dear, more so than that Pioneer lady. It was Vicki!!!

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I “met” Vicki about 15 years ago on a guinea pig forum called Cavies Galore. Once the forum dissolved we found each other as Facebook friends. She has the best status updates, by the way. Her long declarations of love on her children’s birthdays are some of my favorites. We’ve picked her homeschooling brain on several occasions (all FIVE of her kids are/were homeschooled). This was the first time we’d met in person and it was long overdue. She is just as wonderful as I’d always thought that she would be! We really need more visits – LONGER visits.

We met up at the Little House on the Prairie house just to make things interesting.

It’s actually just a collection of buildings on the site where the Ingalls family once lived. The current owner built a little cabin that may or may not look like the one Laura Ingalls Wilder had lived in when she was there. There was also an old post office and a little school house that had been moved to the property in an effort to save them from demolition.

It really was lovely! More new experiences and more new faces. I can only hope that we’ll recreate this wonderful day again soon.