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…

Three birthdays and fourteen pesos

Can you believe that our girl Mara Layne turned SEVEN?! It seems like just yesterday that she was two years old, sucking her thumb, and being bossy. She has stopped sucking her thumb since then.

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She did all the regular birthday stuff, including the traditional Toys R Us trip and dinner of her choosing (Olive Garden). Wesson gave her this dress for her birthday. He said she needed a really nice dress to wear. Sweet boy!

Happy Birthday, sass monster. You make the days brighter!

Right after Miss Mara turned seven we got sick of playing in the cold and moved our spoiled butts to Palm Desert. Palm Springs Thousand Trails is there, and in true Thousand Trails fashion the campground is irritating in it’s own unique ways. The front office troll likes to torture people over their mail, and the palm trees, although great to look at, make getting into and out of your site almost impossible. Add the skinniest sites ever seen to the list and the warm weather is just barely worth the visit. We like the area, though, so that helps.

Everybody ended up with a cold just before we arrived. Everyone else got better within a day or two but Wesson decided to be an overachiever and turned his into bronchitis and an ear infection. We got to go to urgent care in California! How fun! After some heavy duty antibiotics and a few days of staying out of the dirt he was as good as new, just in time to turn NINE!!!

On our regularly scheduled birthday visit to Toys R Us we discovered that they were closing! *sob* Gone are the days of the traditional toy store. So sad! I can’t say that I haven’t contributed to it’s downfall, what with most of my purchases coming from the overlords at Amazon.com. We finished the day at Red Robin. He gets a free kids meal there every year and, like his mother, is all about the freebies.

Happy birthday, buddy! May all your dreams come true!

Wesson got a new scooter in that same week. It wasn’t really a birthday gift, more of a replacement for the one he had beat into the ground. When I went to toss the old one in the trash Justin stopped me and suggested we put it out by the dumpster in case someone wanted it. It was still ride-able, just not in great shape. Boy, am I glad I listened to him. No sooner was it out there that an inebriated lady and her male companion stumbled by. She immediately grabbed the scooter and tried to ride away, losing a chunky heeled shoe in the process. Then, her man friend decided to fold it up for easy carrying, couldn’t figure out how to do it, and ended up riding it home. It was such a sight that neither one of us could actually laugh. Best decision ever!

The morning of March 15th started like any other. Wesson ventured outside at about 10am and came running in with an unfamiliar bike headlight that he’d found back by our bicycles. It was puzzling but no one actually gave it much thought. A few hours later when Justin went out back to do something he started screaming several expletives. There, at the bike rack, where his big ol’ expensive top of the line Trek bicycle should have been was a pile of cut locking cables and a patch of dirt. Someone had STOLEN his bike in the night and left their own headlamp behind in the process. They also cut both ends off the cable which made no sense but maybe bike thieves aren’t the brightest crayons.

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Within the next few hours he was able to get a police report done and a claim in to the insurance company. The locking cable people even mailed me a new one, even though I’m not sure it will matter. By the next day he had a deposit in the bank account for the full value of his bicycle and all the accessories/upgrades at retail prices! So, if anyone is looking for a moderately used black Cannondale with pink brake cables, I’ll leave it unlocked tonight. Just make it look like a pro job, please.

A few days later Wesson started looking funny around his mouth. He’s had really badly chapped lips before because when he gets to chewing at them he won’t quit. This time, though, his cheek started getting red and the whole thing just kept getting worse. By bedtime on the 21st it was hot and nasty. We were supposed to be moving the next day so we made the decision to run him out to the emergency room right then instead of waiting until the next day. After he and I had been in the ER waiting room for about an hour and a half, I tried to leave with him, resigning to bring him back tomorrow because it was already 11pm. A different triage nurse than the first took one look at his swollen, red face and basically said no, you’re not leaving with that kid. She out mommed me, people. This is, apparently, what a staph infection in your face looks like.

Two antibiotics later we were touring California looking for a pharmacy that would take our veterans administration insurance. Wesson was thrilled to be running around CVS at 2am and shockingly he never once fell asleep during this whole adventure. We did not move the next day.

When we finally DID move, it was to a place called Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field.

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The campground itself is tucked away between the airstrip and the firing range. This place doesn’t really have any claim to fame, necessarily. They do, however, have a lot of arsenic in their water. A reverse osmosis system was set up at each campsite to make sure we didn’t let the government poison us with anything but propaganda.

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The water was pretty fantastic, actually. This weekend the air force academy was in town to do some jumping so we got to watch the instructors out jumping for fun. They were doing some formations and at one point two guys came down with a giant American flag strung between them. It was quite a show! The F-16’s from nearby Luke Air Force Base were also conducting some training and would come in extra low and fast all day long with their roaring afterburners. I was also told that we had just missed the munitions training that made all the campground gravel jump up a few inches.

Nearby the community fire pit was a “bathroom” although I got the feeling as I was using it that it may have been a joke.

Our next adventure involved a week in Phoenix. Now, last time we were there we stayed at WestWorld in their parking lot for about a million dollars. This time around we were taking advantage of the Trails Collection with Thousand Trails. Basically, for an extra $200 per year you get access to about 35 more campgrounds within the system. We’ve used it a few times so far and with the exception of one hiccup (looking at you, Sherwood Forest) it’s been well worth the fee. We stayed at Monte Vista Resort right across from the pool.

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Our site was between two houses and had it’s own grapefruit trees. I ate at least one oroblanco grapefruit every single day (sometimes three).

There were always little quail roaming about the site. The poor timid little things didn’t want you to even LOOK at them, though, and it took me several days to even get a photo. We had great neighbors too! The elderly couple next door had one of their sons and his wife visiting and they had the cutest little Brittany Spaniel puppy! The kids were smitten. Everyone we met was more than kind, even the staff. The place is fantastically immaculate and they pick up your trash at your site – a miracle in itself! If you have a chance to stay here book as many weeks as you can.

As soon as we landed in Mesa we got ourselves together to go out for dinner with Justin’s cousin Micah and their Aunt Brenda and Uncle Dana. It was Dana’s birthday! When Dana and Brenda showed up to the restaurant we were sporting our birthday hats and a ridiculously giant birthday balloon.

We had lots of fun and stayed waaay too long, so long that I started feeling bad for the waitress, although after a certain point we weren’t bothering her just taking up her space. We made sure to tip her well, though, and when we left, we left our party hats stacked up on the table. As we were standing around outside still chatting away and taking photos we spotted the kitchen staff through the windows. THEY WERE WEARING OUR HATS! Our waitress had one on too! She finally spotted us and looked almost mortified but laughing hysterically. We all thought it was hilarious and awesome, of course.

The next day when I finally made it to a grocery store I discovered that their specific brand of Kroger was called Fry’s and IT HAD A BAR INSIDE OF THE STORE.

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Why can’t Kroger roll this out all over the place, huh?! Everybody needs a bar inside their grocery store! Just getting milk? Have an IPA first. Running in for diapers? Get a glass of wine, you deserve it.

We used the next weekend to go bowling with Micah and he kicked our butts. We have only been bowling with the kids twice before this, and they did ok with the bumpers in place. Justin and I should have opted for bumpers too, I think.

Easter also happened to… happen, while were here. Good guy EB left us all too much candy and a few toys.

And then we went SWIMMING!

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The pool is actually two pools separated by a really awesome waterfall that I never documented.

On our way out of Arizon we stopped at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base for a night. Our original plans were to head straight back to Holloman Air Force Base but we were off on the distance and it ended up being quite a bit farther than we usually plan for in a day. Check your route with your actual GPS, ok?

Davis-Monthan is where they have the plane grave yard!

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They need at least ten days notice to run background checks for tours of the boneyard. As much as I would have loved to do that, if you’ve paid any attention to our mildly interesting lives you’d know that we don’t plan for diddly squat. Our journey changes by the literal minute because of who we are as people: flighty, fidgety, and a touch legitimately crazy. This next paragraph will prove it.

Our next stop was another famcamp in El Paso that’s associated with Fort Bliss. While we were there we loaded up into the truck to go to the base museum as always and then suddenly we went to Mexico. It wasn’t really planned for? I mean, I had our passports so I had definitely considered it while I was getting ready to leave but it was a toss up until we actually crossed the border. Mostly we just wanted to use those passports we went through the effort of obtaining before our full-time nonsense began and just have the little mental everything-trophy that said we’d been out of the country.

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So we crossed the border. We made our way to a pretty good sized park that was supposed to have a history museum. The museum was going through a remodel as it turns out, so that was a no. Instead, we found a spot with a scary looking playground and let the kids out to run around.

It’s worth noting that the dirt in this park was at least 25% confetti, no joke. We tried to go to a big art installation down the road, and I think this is when we started to actually look around at the ‘roughness’ of the area.

We resolved, instead, to find a bathroom and then begin the process of heading back to the United States because the line for the border was a little lengthy. We stopped at that same park again when we spotted what appeared to be a public restroom. Except… an aggresive lady was charging people 5 pesos each to use the restroom. I paid her two US dollars to let us all pee, and wished those dollars good luck, not expecting change. She handed me four pre-measured strips of toilet paper. Just as I was about to go she gave me 14 pesos back! So not only did we get a ‘souvenir’ but we had a somewhat pleasant interaction in a foreign language. Ok, my Spanish sucks and I wasn’t paying attention so I almost went to the men’s room but Justin had his shit together. Later I discovered that she shorted me two pesos. I call that a tax for dealing with my dumb, needy, American keester.

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After we had safely made it back to the United States I posted about our field trip on Facebook, because of course I would. Every sane person on our friends list, border patrol agent included, pointed out that we’d gone to one of the most dangerous places in the entire world.

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Literally. The WORLD considers Juarez to be one of the MOST DANGEROUS PLACES. This is where I laugh to keep from crying. In the end, though, we survived it; “it” being our blatant stupidity and lack of googling.

And also the Mexico.

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La fin de Janvier, and maybe a little FĂ©vrier

Hola, internet friends! It is I, the goose whisperer.

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Look at those fat puddles of hissing and fervor. They’ve been making a habit of stalking whatever I happen to be cooking outside. Chicken Taco Soup is not for you! Is there a good recipe for goose in the Instant Pot? Someone once said to me that you don’t really know that you miss Canadian Geese until they’re gone. I would like to at least give it a try.

Where did we leave off? Ah, yes. Texas!

From our trusty posting in Whitney, we ventured into good ol’ Fort Worth to visit Texas Christian University. Seriously, I was just as surprised as you are.

It turns out that the science building holds a very extensive meteorite museum! The Monnig Meteorite Gallery houses approximately 3,000 samples of meteorites from around the world – correction, universe. Their catalogue can be searched here if you’d like to take a look. The samples range from very small to very large, some being slices and others big fat chunks. The kids were excited because there were quite a few meteorites to lay hands on. We touched Mars, y’all!

This next thing I found on google maps just by accident. Did you know that they print money in Fort Worth!?

The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing is located there, and they offer TOURS! The only catch is that you have to leave behind every single bit of technology you carry on your person. No phone, no watch, and sadly NO CAMERA. It was such a damn shame too, because that place is super freakin’ neato. It’s a self-guided tour on an enclosed catwalk over the printing floor, but a tour nonetheless. Mara was extra excited about the little handheld telephone type speakers they gave to everyone. When you got to a number on the wall, you’d type it in to your device and a disembodied voice would tell you all about what was happening through the windows and below.

You guys, the employees on the production floor were SO HAPPY! Everybody waved at us as we awkwardly gawked at them and a few even showed us what they were working on. One guy took an uncut sheet of 36 hundred dollar bills and folded them like a paper airplane so that he could throw them to us. Damn windows. That same national treasure of a man also counted out ONE MILLION DOLLARS in hundreds, folded the sheets up in thirds, and hugged the mass of paper like a teddy bear. Someone somewhere is buying an industrial sized tub of gummy bears with a hundred dollar bill that man snuggled.

New Mexico was next on the adventure list.

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The last time we came through southern New Mexico, it was a pass-through state. We really didn’t accomplish much, and that was OK. This visit we were determined to see the things we’d passed by and ignored for times sake. Have you ever been to Carlsbad Caverns?

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As you know we LOVE us some National Parks! My mother has spoken not so fondly about the caverns in the past, as she had visited as a child and HATED it. I had high hopes, though. We were privileged to have Justin with us as his handicapped feet bought us a pass on the elevator straight down about 800 feet to the big room, skipping almost two hours of hiking!

The big room in the cavern is really pretty, and over the years they’ve put in actual paved walking paths, about a thousand lights, and even a snack bar. I had it in my head that I wanted to walk the whole mile and a half trail through the big room. These guys frequently ride their bikes WAY farther than that, they can walk a measly 7,920 feet.

They were MISERABLE. Honestly, by the time we got to the last half mile anxiety was winning. I was freaking out internally, the kids were tired and hungry, and Justin’s feet were barking. In hind sight, the cavern looked the same all over. We could have spent twenty minutes down there and been done. We did it, though, and we don’t have to do it again! Some regrets!

The next day we used our spiffy new military ID’s to gain access to a campground inside Holloman Air Force Base. We got there on a Friday when no one was flying, and the silence continued until Monday morning when the zoomies woke up for work. SO MANY PLANES. Fighter jets, reconnaissance planes, cargo planes… they all wooshed past the camper on repeat for the entirety of the day. I really like base campgrounds, and I really like planes. Sometimes, though, you just want to complete a full sentence before the jets go by again.

They had a small air park that included a drone! One of the units at this base is made of drone pilots.

 

Why were we at Holloman? Two reasons: New Mexico Museum of Space History and White Sands National Monument!

The space history museum housed some fairly significant artifacts, such as the daisy track, once used to test deceleration techniques:

…and I don’t think they actually know the meaning of “fun fact.”

The first chimpanzee who went to space is buried here.

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Well, his skin is, anyway. Horrified yet? After a failed bid to have him stuffed (public outcry and all), his skeleton was shipped off to the National Museum of Health and Medicine and the rest of him buried in the front lawn at the museum. RIP Ham!

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White Sands was a whopping FOUR miles away from Holloman. Our stop here last year was very brief and expensive. They have that sled scam going on, funding the entirety of the parks system. This year we stopped at the local Walmart and procured $5 sleds. Take that!

Can I just say how much we LOVE White Sands? A LOT. It’s one of our favorite places by a mile. We started the Junior Ranger Program before we headed out for the really good stuff. Most of the programs can be completed in the visitor centers but White Sands requires some outdoor participation.

If you’ve never thrown yourself down a giant dune of gypsum you’re missing out!

The sand was so white and the sky was so blue!

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Do me and you a favor and make your way out here, please? It’s such an experience.

When Justin decided that he wanted to ride the roads at the monument on his birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY YOU ADVENTUROUS SOUL)

 

…we were all too eager to tag along for more sledding.

When Justin was done with his birthday ride, we did what any reasonably sane adults would do and geared up the turbos to rip donuts on the flats with our F350 dually. You know you would too, stop playin’. One problem, though: NOBODY SHUT THE TAILGATE.

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Helmets, sleds, an entire bag of lump charcoal, and sad, sandy Crocs as far as the eye could see. *sigh*

Worth it.

Now listen, my next post takes us into Arizona. Only a handful of people know what happened on our second day there, and most of them are Sheriff’s Deputies. I will write as fast as I can, just keep in mind that everyone is alive and well and we know exactly where they are.

 

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

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

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

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She caught air!

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dress blues acquired!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Can you find ROADSCHOOL in there anywhere?

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

Thanks, Ranger Rachel from Virginia!

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

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

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This is only one part of the warehouse

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

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

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Saturn V shirt , like a boss.

 

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

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

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

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

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The Tiny Blue Dot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Not this one

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Twins!

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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?

I’m cold and I forgot about you

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

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

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

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

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

Picture time!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next month…

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Don’t call me Dorothy

 

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

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

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

One heck of a front yard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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