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…

West Michigangster

Mara was covered in dirt yesterday, and I mean dirty. Head to toe dirty with a dirt mustache and dirt covered forehead, black toes, and knees that would make a bathtub cry. She topped it off with a ponytail that she put together herself. This was the first time she’d put in her own hair tie so you can imagine what a hot mess it was. Dirty and messy, she looked like the embodiment of a no-plans summer! I wish I had taken a photo. She assured me – for no apparent reason- that she hadn’t been eating dirt. Hmm.

Camper repairs may as well be toothpicks under the fingernails because that’s how it felt. We dropped our rig off at the shop May 24th and didn’t get it back until June 26th. The repair was plagued by inexperienced, rude employees and half-assed repairs. They also hit something with it, damaging the back corner, and they fried the battery. I wrote a big, long, bitchy paragraph about it here and then decided life was too short. Just because I can’t move on yet doesn’t mean you can’t.

Prepare yourselves for some smiley kid photos!

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Not this one. This one is titled “Mommy, give me back my bubble gun!”

I mentioned it briefly in the last post but just to recap we lived with Justin’s ever-patient Aunt Terri and Uncle Tom for the entire 4-5 weeks the rig was in the shop. We had originally anticipated this taking a week or so and kept ‘augmenting’ this estimate. They are worthy of sainthood. They had the perfect “basement apartment” set-up to absorb a family of four into their fray.

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They had the best blanket fort building materials

Plus, between their work days and their lake cottage weekends we were in the house on our own all day. I made dinner on most nights and we all ate together, which was nice! The kids had a big yard to play in and a cul-de-sac to ride their bikes. Mara took this opportunity to ditch the training wheels all together and ride like the wind!

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The kids even challenged Grandma and Grandpa Rowland to a bike race! Grandpa almost had Wesson.

Justin LOVED it here as there were tons and tons of bike trails to be had. His sister Stacey came over every few days to ride with him. I even went out a few times and bested my personal distance record. New routes are exciting!

Besides a few family visits, museums, and a picnic or two, we just hung out.

 

The kids (big and little) fished in the gravel pit lake across the road from the house.

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Look at that gorgeous garbage can sunlight! *BING*

It turns out that the kids are fishing kids. They practically begged Justin to take them out on the lake every night.

They held every fish that graced a line.

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The lake was FULL of bass and crappie, and Uncle Tom even caught a pike, which really shouldn’t have been in there so who knows where it came from.

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Maybe it got dropped from the sky like the TURTLE who fell from the SKY at the lake cottage. I know cats and dogs sometimes fall but turtles?! Some unlucky bird dropped their lunch on the roof, and he rolled down onto the deck where I snapped him up for the children to  investigate. Lucky, as I called him, was eventually set back on terra firma where he RAN to freedom. Turtles are not slow, y’all. We’ve been lied to all our lives!

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Let’s talk about Terri and Tom’s lake cottage for a minute. They have this little house on a completely different lake than the other house. Lakes everywhere!

Mara surprised me with this exchange while we were there…

Me: Look at the lily pads in the lake!
Mara: They’re just like in… umm….
Me: Princess and the Frog?
Mara: No, umm…
Me: The Little Mermaid?
Mara: No. MONET’S GARDEN!

Way to go, Mom, trying to dumb down her observations. She’s going to teach me to hold my tongue.

The kids were in the water from minute one and got their cousins in the drink too.

Ok, minute two. I managed to get a few snaps off before they got wet.

There is something magical about a lake house. I’m not a fan of being in or over the water. Put me on the shore, though, and I could stay there forever staring at the water and basking in the peacefulness.

Besides the ever-frustrating “WHEN WILL IT END?!?!” feeling regarding the camper we really did manage to have a good time lounging around West Michigan. Good times were had by all.

I’ll leave you with a photograph of the new sticker we picked up while we were there.

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We cackled like hyenas when we found it at the mall. People looked at us like we were nutty but have you met us? We really don’t care. Clearly we still don’t care what people think because that baby is on the back window of the camper, ready for the next big adventure.