Forward, Not Backward

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

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

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The view from the front door.

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

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

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

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

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We called it a team effort. *wink*

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

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

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

They had a make your own WWII poster station:

And don’t forget Rowland the Riveter:

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He’s the best! ❤

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

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Lake by the campground

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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His name is Hogwarts.

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

Oh, and looking for a house.

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

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

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

And it’s unique like us. 🙂

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

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

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

Why are you driving a new truck and why are you still stuck in Michigan? October, that’s why.

Remember when I told you about Justin’s new nose? Eight days later he tried to kill it and the rest of him.

22104405_10155639151228548_4883393787004605937_oThat’s a brand new bicycle, FYI. He says that if you don’t crash at least once a bike ride then you aren’t doing it right. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I live with. AND I have two little people who act just like him. *sigh*

We need to talk about the truck for a minute or two. The front end of the white beast started to shimmy and shake like crazy. After we’d sunk a week and several hundred dollars into replacing most of the front end it was better but not great. Then, the oil leak. Ohh, the oil leak. In the middle of the engine compartment was a tiny seal that was leaking ever so slightly. The mechanic wanted TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS to fix this seal. I don’t know about you, but I can only take so much bullcrap from one vehicle. Between the thousands we put into it in Oklahoma and the thousands they wanted to fix it now… it was the oil leak that broke the camel’s back. We eventually found a great truck for a great price at the dealership where we’d been taking the crap truck for service.

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Out with the old, in with the new!

And that’s the story of how we went from a 2008 F450 to a 2015 F350. The last truck was paid for in cash, and the dealership was nice enough to buy it from us and sacrifice it to the truck gods or push it off a bridge or whatever you do with trucks that make you furious. This new one has a payment on it but it has warranties out the tail pipe and we won’t get stuck in Oklahoma again. *crosses fingers* Plus, cooled seats, so totally worth it.

 

 

The day after we took ownership of the new truck, Justin had to haul the camper to the shop to do the work they didn’t do last time it was there. On the way to the RV dealership the rear drivers side brakes seized on the new truck. ONE DAY. WE WENT ONE. DAY.

So, he dropped off the trailer and went straight to the truck dealership. While on the way there the RV dealer called and said that the part we needed (gutter) showed up damaged and they wouldn’t be able to do the work. This was different from the last two times they ordered the part in that they ordered the RIGHT part this time but, alas, it was busted. The truck dealership said “well, it’s already ruined. Go get your camper then bring the truck back and we’ll fix it.”

On the way back to the house from the RV dealership the SPARE TIRE FELL OFF OF THE UNDERSIDE OF THE CAMPER. A nice man flagged Justin down and told him about it. Thank goodness he did because it was not really a spare tire, it was the actual rim from the camper as the spare was currently on an axle. Justin brought the whole rig home and we ripped out to Telegraph Road to find the runaway wheel. Thankfully it had either landed in the median or some kind soul had flipped it into the grass.

Back at the house we backed the camper into it’s proper spot in the driveway, just as we had a million times before, except this time the awning got caught on a house gutter and ripped a big ol’ hole. WHYYYYY!!!????

Just about that time my mother came home with her Terrain which sounded like someone was repeatedly killing a cat. It was promptly towed away.

October 10th = terrible day. Ultimately everything worked out. The truck was repaired under the warranty, the wheel was undamaged, and I was able to patch the awning. The Terrain had literally nothing wrong with it. We may never know why. I will be hiding on this anniversary next year and hoping for the best.

Switching gears for a moment: “Hey, how do you homeschool when you travel?”

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By really pissing off the mailman, that’s how. Two grades worth of books, 50 or so in all, delivered mostly one by one, single-handedly funding the United States Postal Service. Praise be to you, Wonder Woman, for the blessing that is Amazon.com.

We ended up in Grand Rapids again in October for a baby shower that we didn’t actually attend because I came down with a disgusting cold. Still with me? Good. Anyway, we stayed at this really nice little campground in Georgetown Township called Steamboat Park.

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They had a big riverboat and were adjacent to a tiny airport that was used maybe once the whole time we were there. When I say adjacent, I mean that the end of the runway was the road to the campground.

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As soon as we got there we started having leveling system issues. One service call later it was determined that the control board was going out and we’d need a new one. The tech was really nice but please listen to me when I say stay the hell away from anyone related to TerryTown RV Center. Three weeks later we are still waiting on a part that they were supposed to order immediately but just decided not to. Eat shit and die would be the least hostile thing I can think of saying to them.

The kids played mostly peacefully in the yard while we fought the leveling system. To quote Mara:

“We were fighting about what game to play together so we decided to just color rocks with chalk. Now we don’t fight, and I colored one brown so it looks like poop! We’re both happy!” – Mara, 6 years old

Despite our jack issues we had a good weekend! Justin’s parents and sister Stacey came out for burgers and a campfire. I got to try a new meatless burger recipe on Aunt Stacey and the kids suckered her into a bike ride. Saturday we went to Robinette’s orchard and picked apples with another one of Justin’s sisters and her family. The kids got to play with their cousins which is always great.

 

We came away with oodles of very excellent Fuji apples and some monster pumpkins! It was good experience to have the kids pick the apples directly off the tree. Learning where your food comes from is important.

 

Giant chairs are so “in” right now.

We were originally slated to leave on Monday but left on Sunday instead because I was ill and it was also about to rain for three days straight. No one wants to fight their jacks in the rain. The campground owner happened to hear that we were having jack problems and he kindly brought over his forklift to put the camper back on the truck.

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Make friends wherever you go, people.

When we finally got back to Dearborn Heights there were a billion books waiting to be unwrapped (see the above prayer to Wonder Woman) and these super cute canvas prints I had ordered.

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The perfect size and shape for cramped camper walls! I ordered them from Canvas People and they were exactly what I wanted them to be. They always have coupons, it’s worth a Google before you order.

What’s the best part of October? HALLOWEEN! Our little Marine and Tinker Bell came away with more candy than any child should ever have, and we only went around for about 45 minutes.

 

Unlike years past there were TONS of houses lit up and TONS of kids roaming the sidewalks. Uncle Steve and Grandma Kathy came with us, and Grandpa Mike stayed home to hand out treats to the masses.

 

 

October was a trying month to say the least. We were supposed to leave for Florida on November first, yet here we still are in the soon-to-be tundra we call Michigan. If only Lippert would send me a damn control board! We’ll be doing the “Orlando shuffle” soon enough I guess. If you’re already in Florida, save us a spot at the beach, would you?