Nevada and California

Next stop on our list was Las Vegas, Nevada. We spent the night at Circus Circus and walked the strip in the evening. The next morning the kids were able to play in the Adventuredome. By noon or so, we were ready to hit the road.

Up next was California. We did not have a lot of time to drive too far into the state, but it was a state we needed on our map, so we decided on Death Valley National Park.

One of my favorite vacation pictures!

Not too hot considering it was June, but definitely hotter than we were used to!

Following Jim and Mary Beth to camp

Camping at Wildrose in Death Valley

Not sure what these are, but they were along the road in Death Valley.

Unfortunately, upon waking from camp in Death Valley, it was time for Jim and Mary Beth to head home. We had had such a wonderful time and it was hard to believe our road trip together was over. At the end of the road, they turned right, we turned left, and it was hard to see them go. We continued our way up California and found a campsite for the night in Markleeville. We were right on the river, so the kids had a great place to play and cool off.

Camp in Markleeville

Playing in the river

We entered back into Nevada, and since we were passing quite close to Reno, we decided to stop in to see my sister at work. We had been camping for a couple of days with no shower so we smelled of forest and campfire and sweat. Not exactly the freshest people around, but we figured a quick visit would be fine. She works in a doctors office, and apparently right after we left, one of the doctors came out of an exam room down the hall. He stopped right in front of my sister’s desk and asked, “What’s burning?” She laughed and said, “That’s just my sister!” We all got a kick out of that story…

Best. Vacation. Ever!

Earlier this week we returned home from what had to have been one of the best vacations ever. I have way too many pictures for one post, so I will share by state, but first, here is an overview of our GRAND adventure.

It all started when Rob’s sister, Mary Beth, and her hubby, Jim, came down for a visit. After a few days exploring the area around here, we all headed out together to Arizona.

Our first stop was Petrified Forest National Park. From there, we spent two days at the Grand Canyon.

In our quest to finish off the western states for the kids, a stop in Nevada was a must, so we hit the big city of Las Vegas.

From there it was off to California where we camped in Death Valley National Park.

WELCOME TO CALIFORNIA!! (We did not see a sign on the highway we were on…)

Unfortunately, this is where Jim and Mary Beth had to head on their way home, so we were on our own. We drove up through California, went back into Nevada, and continued on our way to Idaho.

There we had an amazing visit with my parents and my sister and her family. We celebrated my dad’s upcoming 70th birthday while we were there. The time went by way too fast, and before we knew it, it was time to head for home.

After leaving Idaho, we made it to Moab, Utah, where we spent the night. In the morning, we spent some time in Arches National Park before driving the final eight hours home.

 

It is hard to believe that after so much planning and anticipation, our vacation is over already. But, as with all good things, I suppose it had to end eventually. We brought home a lot of amazing memories from this trip, though, and it will never be forgotten! Time to start planning for the next one!!

Stay tuned for more pictures and stories from each state!

Hawaii!! – Part One

About two and a half years ago, my sister and I were presented with special bracelets from our parents. My dad was sending us on a trip to Hawaii with our mom! Mom had been to Hawaii many times, but she wanted to be able to share it with us as well, and this was to be our first mother/daughters get-away ever!

Surprise!

Surprise!

Of course, at the time, two and half years seemed like a long way off, but we had a lot of things to arrange. Rob and I were still in PA at the time and had no idea where we would find ourselves in two and a half years. My sister had to plan for the time off work. Not to mention both husbands would have to be able to take over home and kid duties for a while. Somehow, all the pieces fell into place, and before we knew it, we were on a plane bound for Maui!

We spent eight days and seven nights there, and we did something different every day! The first full day we were there, we went to Lahaina for some shopping and sight-seeing. While there, we found a shop that had every name you could possibly imagine on a bracelet! For those who can easily find their names, this may not seem like a big deal, but for those of us who can rarely find our names spelled correctly, it was really exciting! We not only found Caryn and Mariah, but they also had Catheryn and Trinity! Lahaina is a cute little town, full of attractive shops, good restaurants, and the oldest banyan tree in the United States!

Next up was zip-lining, which was a blast! I must admit that it was slightly scary at times, as I am not normally one to throw myself off a perfectly good platform in order to zip my way over canyons and such, but what an experience! There were five zips total, with the last one being the mort terrifying. It was so much fun that we did not even care that it was raining! Since we were already headed in that direction, we ventured up to Haleakala National Park next. You climb from sea level to 10,032 feet in 37 miles! It is one of the fastest elevation gains in the shortest distance in the world! And also very twisty, so you might want to watch the road if you are prone to motion sickness. 🙂

Let’s see, what next? The Luau! The Old Lahaina Luau is one of the most traditional Luaus. I had never eaten pork cooked underground before! The feast was amazing, the dancing even more so. An experience that will never be forgotten!

We got up bright and early the next morning to catch our flight to Oahu. Once we arrived, our tour guide picked us up and took us to Pearl Harbor. This was a surprise from our parents, something that was not part of the original trip. Pearl Harbor is a must see, and I am so glad we were able to go. All the pictures and videos you ever see will never prepare you for what it feels like to be there in person. I cannot even begin to explain how it felt to stand out on that memorial, knowing what lay beneath…

We spent most of the day at Pearl Harbor, but we still had time for a tour of Honolulu before heading back to the airport to catch our flight. We had about an hour to get off the bus at Waikiki Beach. We were all so hungry that most of our time was spent in Burger King, but we still had time to walk down to the beach. I was so amazed at how many people were there! Our beach in Kihei was so quiet, especially compared to the famous Waikiki.

I think this is a good place to end Part One of ‘Hawaii!!’ Stay tuned for Part Two! Mahalo!

Turkey Day Vacay

This year for Thanksgiving, we took a road trip to visit family. We had originally planned on venturing to the Spokane area to visit with Rob’s family, then down to the Boise area to visit with mine, before heading home. We later decided that we could not make that happen, so our plan was to visit Spokane now, and Boise later.

Plan A was to take Waldo, but about a week before we left, we discovered an issue with his front tires. Plan B was to rent a vehicle so we did not have to worry about any car issues that may arise. Deciding we were too cheap to spend that kind of money, we resorted to Plan C: taking our own car, along with all of our critters. For those of you who have never traveled 12 hours in a car with five people, two cats, and a dog, you may be missing out on something…

Charbie and Remi LOVING Jim and Mary Beth's fireplace!

Charbie and Remi LOVING Jim and Mary Beth’s fireplace!

Most people can probably make the 12 hour drive to Spokane in a day, but we are weenies. We made it about eight hours before it got dark, at which point we stopped to shop at Hi-Country Beef Jerky, then spent the night in Lincoln, Montana. I love small town motels, they do not seem to be as strict as large hotel chains. Normally there are occupancy restrictions, but not this place. They let all of us stay in one room with a double bed. And it was cheap! Thank goodness for sleeping bags and pillows in the car top carrier! (Funny thing is the kids were free, but we had to pay $10 for the dog!)

We got started in the morning just after the sun came up. It was hunting season, the there were deer everywhere. It made us glad we did not drive that particular stretch of road in the dark. As many of you may already know, Rob and I met in Missoula, Montana, so when we arrived in town right at breakfast time, we could not resist stopping at the same pancake house we used to eat at. Then we went into my old favorite new/used bookstore. After that, we drove through our old neighborhood, marveling at all the changes. The entire neighborhood was unrecognizable, all except for Rob’s old house, which was exactly the same, and Thermal Supply, where he used to work when I me him. A lot has changed there in the last 15 years…

Jim and Mary Beth's fantastic feast!

Jim and Mary Beth’s fantastic feast!

Needless to say, we arrived in Spokane later than we had planned, but arrive we did. Rob’s sister, Mary Beth, and her hubby, Jim, were nice enough to let us stay with them. Their quiet and peaceful house was anything but for the few days that we were there. We had such a wonderful visit with them, though, and it is always so nice being there.

My parents and beautiful sister came to see us!

My parents and beautiful sister came to see us!

Our time in Spokane was filled with family visits, dinners, a little shopping, and a whole lot of talking, laughing, and catching up. Mary Beth and Jim cooked the most amazing Thanksgiving dinner while we were there! Rob knew I was a little bummed about not being able to make it down to Boise, so he secretly arranged with my parents and sister to come up to Spokane for a day! (Thank you, Honey!!!) So we had members from both families in one place for Thanksgiving dinner, which was absolutely amazing!!

Eventually, though, it was time to leave Spokane and head for North Idaho. We were on our way to Bonners Ferry, where Liam was born many moons ago. Rob’s brother, Rich, lives there, and he invited us to stay with him for a couple of days. Their brother, Jeff, and his girlfriend were there, and we enjoyed another amazing turkey feast! The brothers had not seen each other in a few years, so they spent the night visiting and catching up.

Brothers!

Brothers!

And last but not least, we headed into Montana to visit with Rob’s brother, Chad, and his family. Unfortunately we only had about a day to spend with them, but we had a really good time. The kids had a blast playing with their cousins, Alex and Nick. Liam had fun riding the snow mobile while the twins enjoyed riding horses. Rob and Chad had not seen each other in a few years, either, so it was nice for them to have the time to catch up.

Rob, Nathan, and Chad visiting the horses.

Rob, Nathan, and Chad visiting the horses.

As is usually the case when on vacation, the week went by way too fast. Before we knew it, it was time to head home. We were able to visit with Rob’s aunt and uncle on our way out, but we were pretty much out of time. We left on Saturday, thinking we would make the 12 hour trip in one day this time. We got a late start, though, and only made it to Butte, Montana before it was dark and we were tired, resulting in hotel room #2. (This one had two beds!) We woke up Sunday morning with 522 miles to go until we were home. About eight hours later, we pulled up to Waldo, thankful to have made it home in one piece.

We quickly learned that Waldo had been busy while we were away, but I will share that story with you tomorrow…

For now, I want to sent out a huge THANK YOU to all of our family. You took in not only the five of us, but our fur-babes as well, and we cannot THANK YOU enough. For taking time out of your schedules to spend time with us, THANK YOU! For driving eight hours just to see us for a few hours, THANK YOU! For making us feel so welcome in your warm homes, THANK YOU! For the laughs and the love, THANK YOU! You are all so amazing, and we love each and every one of you dearly.

Endless Possibilities

It never ceases to amaze me how fast time goes, especially when you aren’t paying attention. It seems like just yesterday we were anxious to set out from Great Falls and head for Kentucky, our first stop as full-time RVers. Now here we are, almost four months later, and our time in Kentucky is almost up.

Our job as part of Amazon’s CamperForce is coming to an end. Peak season is ending next week, and then we will set off once again. The only difference this time is that we still do not know which way we will go. There are so many options and we have yet to narrow it down. I suppose with only a week and a half to go, we might want to get on that.

There is a chance that we will be able to stay on with Amazon through January, but we have not heard for certain yet. There are many more people wanting to stay than positions available. We should know tonight, hopefully, whether we will call this campground home for another month. If that is the case, we have a little more time to figure out our next destination. If that is not the case, then we have a lot of work to do.

A family of five can really spread out when stationary for four months. Things will have to be stowed for travel again, Cricket the Canoe will have to be loaded back up on top of the van, the boxes of donate items will have to be dropped off.

I admit that I am a little anxious. I am a lover of what comes next. I have a wandering soul, and she sings when we are heading somewhere new. There is so much in this great Nation to see, and I want to see it all. I am greedy that way. If we end up staying here a little longer, then we will have more time to plan and to fatten up our wallet. If we go… well, if we go, then the possibilities are endless.

Amazon has been a really good first stop for us. We have worked harder perhaps than we ever had before, but they have treated us well and have taken good care of us. We are planning on coming back again next year, though perhaps not to the same location. But that will depend on where we plan to be come next fall. Rob and I are both in better shape as well as a few pounds lighter. Walking an average of 11 or so miles a night will do that to you. Neither one of us are complaining, though.

With all the noise and sensory overload that takes place on a regular basis, we are definitely ready for a little time off. We are thinking perhaps a nice Forest Service campground for a few weeks might be just what the doctor ordered. Quiet. Peaceful. There shouldn’t be too many campers this time of year, so hopefully the kids will be able to run wild a little bit. Or a lot. They truly are cavekids at heart. Nothing beats watching them collapse at the end of the day, exhausted from play and covered in dirt.

After a life of knowing exactly what to expect each day – what time to be to work, what time to have the kids to school, what time to get up in the morning – it is somewhat liberating not knowing what comes next. The ability to choose. (Scary, but) Priceless.

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Update: On December 23, our season with Amazon will end. Time to get busy…

A Hawaiian Birthday

Casually, you climb back onto the boat after a scuba diving adventure. It is

A difficult task, I am sure, spending your birthday in Hawaii, but you can handle it.

Rest and relax and soak up some sun, and enjoy an absolutely beautiful day.

You deserve the very best on this day and always. So go make some

 Noise, go make some memories, and know that you are loved.  

Happy Birthday, Mom!!

Disney Dreams

The kids have been asking to go to Disney World ever since they could talk. This is not a trip we could take without a lot of prior planning and saving. And, since every penny counts, I picked up an electronic bank after Christmas so we would have a special place to watch all those pennies grow. We decorated it with stickers and put in all the change we could find at the time.

 

Since then, I have been pretty anal about making sure all the change I can find goes into the jar. (I think perhaps I am as anxious to go as the kids.) Unfortunately we need our quarters for laundry so very few of those make it in, and they are the ones that would make our savings grow faster, and we rarely use cash, making change even more scarce. Pennies and nickels and dimes don’t add up quite as fast, but we are getting there.

So far we have enough saved to buy a hot dog and a soda. We are eating an elephant here, and while, at this rate, it may take us 12 years to make it there, we will make it. We will be victorious. We will be Disney bound.

Someday.