Settling In

I’ve wanted to sit down and blog but so much had to be done to get us back up and running. Apparently we packed enough in our camper to never come home so it took awhile to get it all back in place and us on a routine again. And in all honesty, I wondered how every day life would compete with the amazing adventure we just had. It’s like reading a great book with an incredible ending. The second book never compares.

Now that we are back, we have had so many questions about our trip. I find it’s best to just answer simply because there are too many great things to share. Here are a few of the more constant ones…

Did you all get along? Really well in fact. We are used to being with our kids 24/7 because we homeschool so we have adjusted to live in really close quarters. Usually when someone gets annoyed (that’s usually me) people know to stay away! HA!

You brought your dogs? There was definitely no one raising their hand to take on life with a puppy. It was a really good bonding experience and the puppy can pretty much put up with anything now. The older dog is easy. She’s just along for the ride.

Why 45 days? Because Rad wanted a 30 day road trip and I wanted a 60 day one, so we comprimiesed.

Would you do it again? In a heartbeat!

Could you live in a trailer? Seeing the adventure it brought to us daily, maybe. But it would have to be bigger than 24 feet!

Did you want to come home? Once we turned the corner and started our journey home, we were ready to see home again..but it was bittersweet for sure.

What was your favorite place? New Mexico was gorgeous and our favorite park was Valley of Fire in Nevada. We hardly got to explore Oklahoma and Arkansas and want to go back and visit more of their parks.

Did we do school on the road. Sure. There was school all around us. We pulled out the books and did work but they in no way compared to touching and feeling and seeing Gods amazing beauty.

The biggest thing that changed for us is our perspective. Our small ranch feels huge. Our desire for more adventure is stronger. I’m perfectly happy with dirty kids and not clean sheets. The more dirt the better. (That was definitely not the case before). We learned to live one day at a time and fully enjoy that day. We are renewed and excited about what is next for our family. We have gained a better understanding of what really matters.

I am so very thankful that Rad’s idea of a road trip was so much grander than mine. I had visions of a week away to a hotel somewhere relaxing. What this created in us went far beyond what I ever imagined.

We had to start over with potty training a cattle dog in a “house.” I think she almost has it. Yet she has found her love of digging holes. This photo was after she got yelled at. The kids must have felt sorry for her and made her feel comfortable at home. Her life is too easy. We need to put this working dog to work!

Let the next adventure begin!

And for anyone interested in trying out camping on your own, here are some resources.

www.campendium.com is where you can find amazing state and National parks to camp in and people rate them so you know what to expect.

www.outdoorsy.com is where you can rent campers.

www.allstays.com is an app you need if you are traveling in an RV. It gives you truck stops (because you can’t always get an RV in and out of a typical gas station), restaurants, rest areas etc and most places are rated or give great info you would need to know.

www.everykidinapark.gov/get-your-pass/   4th Graders get a free national park pass so they can take their family FOR FREE to any national park. They have it based on age so we got in under that. This saved us quite a bit of money.

Day 43-45: Lots to Explore

I love that no matter where we find ourselves, the kids eagerly jump out of the car to see what the next location holds. This was the case at Village Creek State Park in Wynn, Arkansas. We had driven 500 miles this day and we were all done being confined. It was late in the day so the sun was setting. There were 3 campsites, we were at the lower one and we were ALL ALONE! We might have made lots coyote howling and owl hooting at very loud decibels. This location seemed very magical with a creek running all the way around the perimeter and a huge mountain beyond it. The kids were immediately over the creek and up the mountain as soon as their feet hit the ground. The clean dogs (I had bathed the day before with freezing water) were happily frolicking through the creek over and over again. This was only a stop over location but oh how we wished we could have stayed here longer. Gress collected all of his nature finds and left them for the next campers with a note made of rocks on the picnic table. I love him inspiring others to see nature all around them.

The next day we headed out early to again make it as far as we could. We made it to Cumberland Mountain State Park in Crossville, TN. We were hoping the sun would hold out for us to get settled but by the time we got there and navigated bad campground signage, it was dark. We saw amazing photos of this campground but when you get there late, and leave before the sun rises, you have NO idea what your surroundings look like. All we saw were shadows of what looked like a beautiful town.

This was our last night sleeping in the camper. Maybe I imagined a great last location with lots of conversation around a roaring fire to end our adventure. It wasn’t that at all. It was simple and quiet and I think we all felt mixed emotions about ending our time on the road. It was bittersweet for sure. The next day we would drive to Rock Hill, SC and empty out the camper in a hotel parking lot and sleep in comfy beds with unlimited hot water showers and frolic in a pool. Mcree agreed the hotel is awesome and he slept so well he wants to stay in the hotel forever or visit one more than once every three years.

Today we head home. This is where one story stops, and another begins. I don’t know what is next for us with so many areas. I do know that wherever we find ourselves, adventure will always be a part of our lives! We are so very thankful for this pause in one area to create space to adventure together.

 

Day 41-43: More Snow and Surprise Views

It’s been a long couple of days, so much so that I can’t exactly remember where we have been this week. After stopping in Flagstaff, Arizona during the snow storm and letting the kids frolic in the snow that next morning, we drove through 4 more snow storms on our way to who knows where. Rad was over it. Eventually the snow let up even though the temperatures where in the 20s and low 30s. We drove as far as we could and ended up at Santa Rosa State Park in New Mexico. By the time we got there is was very dark so we had no idea what was around us. That feeling is always a little creepy for me. I had visions of us being the only ones there and someone coming to get us. HA! I was relieved when there were several campers at the campground.  Rad came out of his deep sleep on alert about 2am and yelled, “who’s there.” Lucky for us there was no one there so it was either a dream or the sound of flapping dog ears against a cabinet. Guess I will keep my creepy thoughts to myself next time to not induce bad dreams. Once the sun rose that morning, we realized what beautiful surroundings we were living in. There was a HUGE lake, a dam, and a great little playground to burn off some energy before heading out early again.

We were trying to make some headway as our time was coming to an end. Every stop meant more to explore yet little time to do so. It makes me wonder if I would do the trip backwards next time to spend more time in different parts of the U.S.

This next day led us to another long day of driving where we ended up stopping at Red Rock State Park in Hinton, Oklahoma. This park was beautiful. And empty. There were over 45 spots to camp at and I think there were 4 of us, spread out in different sections of the park. We got there pretty late so with head lamps on, the kids played in the woods and on the playground well into the night. We decided we needed a rest day the next day to explore and clean up the camper and car a bit. We hiked the whole trail around the park and at one point, Gress asked if he and Mcree could go explore the mountain themselves. So, Rad left them with walkie talkies in hand and told them to find their way back after they climbed the mountain. We have been trying to give the boys freedom when we can to help them be more confident and brave boys. Not going to say my mama heart didn’t cringe a little at the thought of having to seek a search and rescue to find them. Surprisingly, they found their way back well before we did! HA! The boys also found a very cold river running through our campground and proceeded to play in this for hours. At one point, I looked over and the boys were without shirts and shoes, wading in the water. I love the campsites that have places to emerge in nature right at our campsite.

We were thankful for that added day and the following day we headed out again to see how far we could drive. It seems once we made the turn toward home, time has sped up. Trying to savor these last few days.

(Let the drumming and loud music singing begin)..This particular day this little girl had enough of us! HA!

A Puppy and Some Random Thoughts

This puppy. It’s a good thing she is cute. We loaded up in Winslow and drove away, only to realize she wasn’t in the car. She was at the top of the hill, digging a hole. I wondered if we were farther if we really would have come back for her. (JOKING!) Meanwhile, the other cattle dog Luna is the first one in the car staring at all of us to make sure we know she is there. Rue, as a puppy, is mostly a good traveller but she hasn’t figured out a way to tell us she has to go the bathroom while road tripping so instead of barking, she just hops up on the front seat armrest and pees. And well, pee doesn’t just stay right there but drips down where you can’t clean it up. So very gross. What’s even grosser is that she ate half my yogurt and granola that was in the car while I was loading up and then I ate the rest, only to find out it had been half consumed by her. We occasionally leave her in the car when we go somewhere for a short while. We figure Luna will keep her in line. So far she has opened a banana and spread it all over the front seats, punctured a water bottle and must have swung it around the front section of the car. Where is Luna during all of this you ask? Often times she is sitting straight up in Mabry’s car seat. Such a rule follower she is! Meanwhile, Rue ate a sheet of scratch and sniff stickers, and while in the camper (which she is normally kenneled here) for less than 5 minutes, she ate my very expensive mouthpiece I have worn every night for the LAST TEN YEARS! I almost killed her but Rad reminded me she is a baby. She just realized what birds are and chases them around in the funniest way. She excitedly barks at deer from the car windows and can’t understand why they don’t respond. She shivers, a lot. We think her little internal heater is broken. She likes to sit right next to the floor heater when she is cold. She is a joy and quite a handful. She has sure added to the adventure.

Other random thoughts…

My kids have finally been introduced to Cup of Noodles. They might just love it and so do we because it makes an easy dinner on a very cold night.

Rad loves to play classic rock (from his high school days) and sing it at the top of his lungs. It is quite entertaining and usually he sings it to me I think just to enamor me or make me laugh out loud. It’s the old Rad I know and love. (The video doesn’t play despite the way it looks…you are welcome!)

I did my hair for the first time in over 30 days. I knew we were heading into no showers for 3+ days so figured one part of me better be under control.

How are people’s RVs and cars staying so clean. Is there a secret to showing up and looking like you just pulled out of a no dust storage unit? You are making us look bad people!

I love a little girl who can’t tell time. She will ask, “how much longer do we have?” And our response was, “4 hours”. And she said, “that’s not bad.”

My kids now think that EVERY TIME we stop for gas, they should all go in and pick out a snack and a drink. We stop for gas A LOT!

One thing we didn’t consider was time zone changes. We think we are ahead of the game and will get to camp early and then bam, the clocks change and we are an hour behind. Probably should pay attention to these things.

So many random thoughts, many I can’t complete with busy kids and on being on the go. I love the days where the complete thoughts keep coming.

Sorry for the delay in blogging. We didn’t have cell coverage for days and ran out of data twice now. We had to wait until we could find free wifi.

Day 39: Not Where We Thought We Would Be

We left Zion National Park on Saturday, January 20th, the day all National Parks were shut down by the government. We knew bad weather was coming so we opted to leave early, which happened to coincide with the rain, and snow looming nearby. We had no idea where we would end up but we thought maybe a full days drive would get us somewhere interesting.  We headed up over 8000 feet on our way to Flagstaff and beyond. And there we found a snow storm. Usually we would jump for joy and all exit the car and proceed to frolic in the blanket of white. However, pulling a trailer on roads not plowed or sanded and then having to descend the mountain with slick roads was just plain scary. What seemed odd during this storm was that we never saw another car. I’m pretty sure I held my breath for the majority of that section of road. We hated to disappoint the kids, but safety was calling us down the mountain. We also desperately needed to provision with food, gas and we had no more dog food. We usually don’t get that low on things but Zion was a pretty remote location with not a lot around.

We had no idea what was on the other side of this stormy mountain. What a surprise! It was completely different than what we had just come through. It was massive and beautiful. We had just entered Glenn Canyon and soon passed over the Colorado River. It was truly spectacular. We were glad to be back to better weather and faster driving.

Then comes weather challenge number 3. First rain, then snow, and now wind that just about knocked you off the road. You’ve got to be kidding me. We were in the depths of the Navajo Reservation with not much around but little mountains that clearly had been carved by the wind. The wind gusts clocked at 47mph with a constant wind at 27mph. Not fun. Between the snow and now the wind, the drive was challenging. Rad was ready to move on!

We arrived in Flagstaff, Arizona where snow started again. We toyed with the idea of just letting the kids frolic for a bit and move on, and then find a ski mountain somewhere in North Carolina toward the end of our trip and let them experience it there. We took time to stock up on food, dog food, and some snow clothes for the kids. By this time, the snow was covering the streets and at 28 degrees it wasn’t going anywhere. Reality hit that Rad was tired, the kids wanted to play in the snow, we had gone too many days without showers, and it would take us many more hours to get somewhere with a decent campground. So we stayed. The kids were thrilled. From the moment we arrived at the campground to well after dark with headlamps on…..they played in the snow. This might just be their best memory yet!

Day 38: Renewed Spirits

Every day is a new day to start over. This morning, our last full day in Zion, we decided to see more of the park which included heading through the tunnel in the mountain. We saw different mountain rock structures, ascended over huge cliffs to a grand overlook while bravely scaring some ram off the trail. We found the other entrance to Zion which brought different wide open ranches and flat lands against the huge mountains far beyond. It was gorgeous. It is warmer and sunny here today which always makes the days much more enjoyable. A snow storm is supposedly coming through tonight and while we would love to experience that, we don’t really want to be stuck here for days on end (with no food, no shower (going on day 3!) and freezing water tanks). This place feels like the grand finale. What we see beyond this won’t compare in grandeur. As soon as we arrived back at camp the boys ran to the river and have been playing it ever since, until one little girl went for a swim. Brrrr! We are glad we got to experience this place but are looking forward to making our trek home.

We have no idea where we will stay for the next few days. We are stuck between wanting to experience snow and wanting to get out of freezing conditions. We shall see what tomorrow holds.

 

Day 36-37: Inspired Out

After reluctantly leaving Valley of Fire, we headed north to Utah to camp at Zion National Park. I had been there as a child but couldn’t remember what this park was all about. We were told if you liked Valley of Fire, wait until you see Zion. How could it possibly be more amazing than what we just left? We were camping in the off season which meant only one campground loop open there and it was on a first come first serve basis. That always makes me nervous but we managed to get a great site where the kids and dogs could roam. We took a sunset drive through the park and yes, the cliffs were vast and HUGE and unlike anything we had seen yet. It was magnificent. Wow, how small we felt, and what an awesome God we have to create something so deep and wide.

Maybe it is 30+ days on the road, or maybe the kids minds have already been blown away too many times, but we all felt like the drive through (without experiencing any hikes) was enough for us. The park doesn’t allow dogs except on one boring, flat, safe trail. The rocks are too huge to climb. There is a river running through our campground where the boys have made boats from branches and have been over there doing whatever boys do near water. (Thankfully no one has gone for a swim yet although the question has been asked way too many times). We took a short walk to lunch and the huge mountains were all around us. The boys were most interested in the huge digger and construction that was taking place. Mcree sat at his own table to make sure he got a front row seat. Kids are kids. Will they remember the magical sights each location held? Doubt it. Will they remember the Park badges they earned or take away any bit of knowledge about certain parks? Nope. They will remember the fires at night. The high cliffs they climbed. The “treasures” (aka rocks) they collected along the way. They will remember being free to explore the wide open spaces. I wonder how much of these experiences are being weaved into their character, where they will be comfortable to wander, and take life as it comes, and experience adventure right where they are. That is our hope. I love being able to change our environment even for a short while and learning to be uncomfortable in the unknown.

 

Alone Time

It’s hard to grab a little one on one time with these kiddos. When Gress asked me if I wanted to go on a hike, and no one else wanted to go, I jumped at the chance to have some time alone with him. I love his sense of adventure and how every square inch of open space is an opportunity to explore what is right under his feet. This particular hike we set out in search of fossilized rocks. Surprisingly we found a few and had lots of great conversation along the way. Thanks Valley of Rocks for so many nooks and crannies of great finds!

Day 33-35: Saying Goodbye and Hello to Awesome

We said goodbye to family in Prescott, and hit the open road to Nevada to camp at Valley of Fire State Park just an hour north of Las Vegas. We left early in hopes of snagging one of the “first come first serve” sites, which go quick.  People from all around drive through this park for the stretch of amazing rock formations and incredible hikes. When we arrived at the park gate, we found 40+ cars in front of us and we were sure we would be boondocking or finding another park. Lucky for us, we got one of the best and last sites at the campground. This park was incredible and hands down one of our favorites.

We have gone back over our favorite landing spots to evaluate what makes a park great for us. This is how we rate a great park: 1) Access to things to explore right around the campground where the kids can run wild without much supervision. 2) A dog friendly park where dogs are allowed on all trails. Leaving the dogs locked up while we exercise ourselves is such a bummer for us. 3) We realize the season we are camping is not popular so we have had most places to ourselves. This is an incredible way to experience nature. 4) Hot showers, electric and water hookups, a dump on site right at your camper, and space to feel like we have room to spread out without bothering anyone.

 The things to explore at Valley of Fire were INCREDIBLE. The kids climbed huge rock formations, found a group of mountain goat rams (Gress might have charged at them with camera in hand…don’t ask him about it….he is quite embarrassed after a fellow camper told him they could actually turn and charge him). We hiked one of the most amazing hikes (White Domes) we have done yet. Our jaws were dropped the WHOLE time and the kids climbed higher than they ever had before. The kids found fossilized rocks and the boys took hikes alone for hours on end (with walkie talkies in hand). There were cold showers and no dump site at our camper, but, we could see past that because of how amazing the sights were. The days were warm, I laid in a hammock, took a nap, and rested more than I had yet. I didn’t want to leave. But we had to move on as there was more to see and we had to start making the curve home one of these days. I hope to come back here one day.

Camper Life

A lot of life happens in this camper. There is art being created, meals being shared over great conversations, morning snuggles to get warm, and spectacular views just outside our windows. Just a few steps away, adventure awaits us. Here we go!

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