Vacation/National Park Week

Joe took off work this week so we could venture into some more remote areas without easy Internet access.  Here’s our week broken into our different destinations…

THE GRAND CANYON

A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!!  We arrived just before dark and were able to get a few glimpses of the canyon as we drove.  WOW!!!  We found our campsite in the park (Trailer Village) after having to turn around once.  Then we had a very stressful time parking the rig, as we went down the wrong residential road and then the wrong way on a one-way.  Luckily no one was coming while we drove.  Joe set us up in the cold and dark and we woke up to SNOW!

Later that day we went out to explore.  We went to the visitor’s center and had lunch at one of the lodges and listened to a ranger talk and saw a 20 minute movie on the canyon.  We visited some spots to look out over the canyon, but there was so much snow fog that we couldn’t see very much.  Still, even that was breath taking!  It was also FREEZING with a high of like 34 that first day, but very cool walking around in all the snow.  Here’s a few pics of us on the shuttle.

Our second day, the weather was much nicer and 12 degrees warmer.  Loralai made a friend at camp for about 10 mins named Tyler and they made snow angels and threw snow balls at each other.  Then we left to get on the shuttle bus.  One very cool thing about The South Rim of The Grand Canyon is their shuttle bus system.  There are buses that run every 10 minutes to all the shops, lodges, visitor centers, and major look out points.  We left to go and see some look out spots.  We did a short hike between two look outs.  It was only a .3 mile hike, but that’s all it took for Joe and I to reevaluate our system of carrying our stuff.  At this point we had a 10 pound diaper bag, a 15 pound purse, and a 20 pound baby to carry.  Add to this all of our jackets and hats that we were coming out of as it heated up.  We decided then that we would only bring a backpack and the ergo from then on!

Day 3 we really got wise and looked up a drop-in preschool for Loralai!  We would have left Bean there as well, but there were only openings for L.  The facility was adorable and a Montessori based program.  L immediately asked to go play when we got outside where the kids were and was too busy playing with her 2 new friends by the time I left, to say good-bye.  With only one kid in tow, and one we could carry at that, Joe and I headed to the back country offices to find us a hike!  We choose a 3 mile “moderate” hike down into the canyon to Ceder Ridge.  It was awesome!!!  Perfect weather and Juliet did great in the pack (Thanks Meg!).  Doing a semi-serious hike was at the top of our to-do list and we were so excited to actually get to do it!  Work struck later that afternoon as we returned missed phone calls, dealt with taxes, and returned emails.
The very beginning of our 1400ft decent.
Joe packed up the next morning while I took Loralai to get her 4th Jr. Ranger badge at the Grand Canyon.
Then we headed out!  We will definitely be back!  It’s an amazing place and there is a really cool community of rangers and residents that live there.  There’s even a K-12 school!  The whole time we were there, I kept telling Joe we could live there and he could be a ranger and I could teach!  Who knows?  :)

Goofing off late one night with nose strips.

BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
We spent Tues night in Mt Carmel Junction, a “town” just 12 miles from Zion NP at an RV park called East Zion RV.  It’s actually just about 10 RV spaces in a dirt cut out off the side of a Hwy.  Under $18 a night, so I didn’t care much once I knew Loralai would stay right by the RV.  Joe really didn’t like the road noise though.  We ate at the WORST restaurant EVER across the street.  The name of it was “Restaurant”.  Should have known!  I was okay with crappy food and expected it, but this was bad, expensive food!  I’ll stop going on about it, as long as everyone reading this promises to NEVER eat there……EVER! 
Due mostly to the road noise, Joe talked me into moving the RV to Tropic, a town 10 mins from Bryce NP and 90 mins from where we were.  We left super early the next morning, parked at Pioneer Cabins and RV and went to explore Bryce.  It’s the park of the Hoodoo’s!  Really cool sites to see!
The next morning we drove the scenic drive through the park and visited some look-out points.  Then we did a 2 mile hike with the kids to Queens Court, down into the canyon of hoodoo’s.  This was the highlight for me!  Loralai did great, as did Bean.  We meet some very friendly chipmunks.  They carry the Plague, you know, so there friendliness actually terrified us a little.  On our way out we visited the Prairie Dog field and saw lots of activity there and then went to the Visitor’s Center for…….you guessed it!…..to get L’s Ranger Badge!
She’s taking a moment to journal about her hike.  She drew the chipmunk we saw.
Cool park.  Everyone should see it at least once.  It’s an easy one to cover in just one full day.  FYI, there is camping IN the park for RV’s.  Everything we read said there wasn’t.  There is!
In other news, L learned to blow a bubble while in Bryce!
ZION NATIONAL PARK
So in Zion, there’s this tunnel…..
To get into Zion, you can enter from the east (us) or the south.  If you enter from the east, you quickly come upon “the tunnel” and find most of the park beyond, closer to the south entrance.  Well the tunnel is 1.1 miles long and only vehicles under 50 feet in length are allowed to pass through.  Joe wanted to go this elaborate, 90 min, trip around Zion to go into the South entrance because he read the tunnel was pretty white knuckle to drive an RV through.  Well I convinced him that was not necessary and we could certainly drive our RV through the park!  We pull up to the gate and guess who’s 51.5″ long?  Us.  So new plan, we drive the RV back down the road 12 miles to the East Zion place that we stayed at originally.  Traffic noise, but cheap, and close to Zion.   Unhook and go explore the park!

Second day, we are better at navigating the shuttles and have planned what hikes to do.  The day before we had hiked to Weeping Rock (which is where water seeps down the rocks constantly, hard to photograph well)

and Emerald Pools.

So this day we did a 1.5 mile hike to The Narrows, a trail that follows The Virgin River.  We saw lots of mule deer in the woods, lizards, birds, and a frog!   Loralai played in the river at the end of the hike and Bean played in the sand.
She had to climb EVERY SINGLE rock she saw!
Both days we had lunch on the lawn of the lodge under a big cottonwood tree and Loralai played with other kids there.  The visitor center was CRAWLING with caterpillars, so we spent a lot of time there collecting them and carried them with us on buses, etc.  I didn’t feel bad about this, since they were at an epidemic population according to an article I read in the Visitor Center.   
Zion is beautiful!!!  We saw bighorn sheep leaving the park both days.  I’m sure we will return!
Best Pic EVER!!!
It’s been a really good week!  So much beauty!  We did move around a lot though, so I’m glad to be currently parked in Las Vegas for a full 6 nights at Sams Town RV!  Even if it is 101 degrees.  Seriously.
And….We officially have a walker!!! 

STAY TUNED FOR A VIDEO.  PUTTING JOE TO WORK ON IT TOMORROW, SO CHECK BACK.

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Our Week In Flagstaff, AZ

Flagstaff was a nice surprise after spending a week in the desert!  Lots of tall pine trees and mountains surrounded us.  We woke up every morning to look out at the San Francisco Mountains.  Flagstaff is a city of less than 5000 people.  Very historic town located along Route 66 with trains that still run regularly through the middle of town.  There was a large college population too.  We stayed just 5 minutes from downtown at a place called Black Bart’s.  Yep, it was a lot like its name sounds.  The pros were that it had lots of tall pines, and it wasn’t very full, so we had space from neighbors.  The cons were that it was located right off a pretty busy road and right next to a parking lot that would fill with 18-wheelers every night.  Not that I’m complaining.  It was fine with us and under $30 a night with full hook ups.  This and the fact that we didn’t know the code to get into the public bathrooms, led Joe and I to take our first showers in the RV.  We both agreed that it wasn’t a bad little shower.  It’s in NO WAY a great shower, but not bad.  Meaning the hot water did not run out!  I will say that nothing motivates you to lose an extra 10 pounds like showering in an RV shower. 
On our first day in Flagstaff we did a few Easter activities since we had driven most of Easter Day.  One activity the kids really liked was when Joe and I packed tiny lunch items into plastic eggs and hid them around the camp.  Once Juliet and Loralai tracked them down, we had lunch at the picnic table. 
Then we went to the Visitor’s Center, saw a train really up close, and went to a GREAT park with super grossly full port-o-potties.  L made 3 friends that day.
We did a lot of great things in Flagstaff, like eating pizza in the college part of town (Man, I wish I was still in college!  You can dress horribly and no one cares and you don’t have to deal with your kids crawling under the table while eating your delicious pizza.)  We also went to the Aquaplex which is this indoor swim-a-palooza, and for only $7 for each adult.  Score!  We did some not such a big hit things too, like visiting the Lowell’s Observatory ($11).  It’s this place that this dude built to study space.  I think it’s where Pluto was discovered or something?  I didn’t really pay much attention, because I was trying to keep my 4 year old from breaking things in the expensive gift store, and had to keep leaving the auditorium because my 1 year old wanted to say “Hi” very loudly to everyone in the room.  I quickly discovered that we would not mesh with the tour crowd (avg age 65), and decided to take the girls to tour the grounds on our own.  I had no idea where I was going or what we were looking at.  After 10 minutes of wondering around and looking in small museum rooms, I decided that if something has the words “Observatory”, or “Museum” in it, it’s NOT for us!  Also on the “Bummer List” was visiting what I thought would be a cool, local 1950’s style restaurant called Galaxy Café to have milk shakes.  It was really run down and had terrible food.  Think lower quality then Denny’s.  We did have a really nice waitress though.
I think we would all agree that our most amazing day was spent visiting Walnut Canyon Nation Monument.  This monument preserves a 400 foot deep canyon that Native Americans inhabited over 800 years ago.  There were 300 rooms built into the sides of cliffs and we could walk through several of them.  Joe had to work, so it was just me and the girls.  You had to walk down like 250 steps and then of course back UP those same 250 steps on the trail.  I was hesitant to go down into the canyon with a 4 year old in dress shoes and carrying a baby, but Loralai talked me into it and I’m so glad she did!  I moved Bean to my back and she slept the whole way.  Loralai was a champ and was totally fascinated with the cliff rooms!  We both learned SO MUCH!  I got a National Park Passport Book (Thank you Chelsea) and got my first stamp.  I also learned that there is a Junior Ranger program for 4 year olds and up!  Yahoo!!!!  Well you better believe I got in on that pronto!  We got our Junior Ranger activity book, and found a cool place to picnic.  The girls played with rocks and bugs and ate, and Loralai filled out her book.  Then we went back into the office to have her sworn in as a Junior Ranger!!!  She was so proud! 

Later that day, once Joe was off, we drove to see Sunset Canyon NM, which preserves much of the site where a series of volcanoes erupted 1000 years ago.  Still lots of black lava rocks, and L got her second Jr Ranger badge.  It was a really good day!

We also ran a lot of errands.  The thing about going on a trip for 4.5 months, is that it’s not all a vacation.  There were several trips to Home Depot, Camping World, Wal-Mart, and Gas Stations.  We also did our laundry at Black Bart’s laundry mat.  I learned that I hate doing laundry in a laundry mat and I need to use twice as much soap as I did.  It’s just hard to wash and fold 4 loads of laundry with 2 kids!  And it kind of grosses me out to not know what was washed right before my loads.  Sorry.

Friday, once Joe got off work, we unhooked and headed for The Grand Canyon.  On the way there, we stopped at Wupataki NM, that preserves a Native American “City” from 800 years ago.  Very cool!  Ranger station closed before we could get L’s badge, so we will have to mail in her activity booklet for that one.

We made it to our camp ground in The Grand Canyon just as it got dark.
Things worth mentioning, that were not mentioned above….
At Black Bart’s there was a Prairie Dog that we would see running around.  Joe especially got a kick out of this!  Never seen a wild Prairie Dog before!
Ravens are HUGE!!!!
Because there is no water to begin with, in an RV toilet, you get a very undiluted urine sample every time you go.  I have concluded that I need to drink more water.
We have rented the house from April 20- July 31st.  Yahoo!!!!  $$$  The renters have 5 dogs.  Seriously.  Sorry neighbors. 
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New Mexico

We have completed the first week of our trip.  And we’ve also finished visiting our first state, New Mexico.  The desert in April feels GREAT!  High of 80’s and lows of 30’s at night.  Once we arrived at Bottomless State Park near Roswell, NM we were just relieved to have made it to our first destination.  Another little surprise was that we had good enough internet for Joe to work from the rig instead of having to drive into town everyday.  The state park we stayed in had 7 spring fed lakes and was located near the Pecos River.  Gorgeous clear water, and red cliffs surrounded us all around.  There weren’t many campers there, besides us.  Everyday after dinner we all did a little hike together or just walked around to look at things.

Day 1- I took the girls into town to The Roswell Visitors Center, a free museum, and then spent the next 3 hours visiting several stores trying to get a phone and line added to our plan for Joe to work with.  I got enough literature at the visitors center to plan out the rest of the week.  Note to self, ALWAYS go to the Visitors Center on the first day!
Day 2- Ranger station and hang at the RV.  Played outside a lot, did a mile hike to see Lost Lake on Daddy’s lunch break, and played at the playground.  Kids got a little more sun then I would have liked despite their hats.  Note to self, ALWAYS carry sunscreen and APPLY regularly!

Day 3- Free Zoo, Park for picnic lunch, and visit the Nature Preserve.  The nature preserve was really neat!  We watched a film on the park and did the auto tour around the wet lands.  I let Loralai sit in the front seat for this and she got a kick out of it.

Day 4- Finally took the girls swimming at one of the Bottomless Lakes.  Salty!  And cold!  Not Barton Springs Cold, but still very cold!  Loralai built a dam system in the sand and Juliet nursed for half an hour while looking around her.  We go back to the RV to collect Joe and visit the UFO Museum.  Blah.  Then dinner at Martin’s Capital Cafe for some local food.  YUM!

Day 5- Drive to Bluewater State Park.  Short one night stay, but we all hung out on the lake’s shore and skipped rocks for awhile and it was beautiful and special.  Bean through the biggest fit when we left the lake.  We hunted for our Easter Egg’s in the morning and said “Good-bye” to NW.

The desert is beautiful in a way that I do not fully understand.  I’ve never spent much time in a desert before this week.  The nights and mornings a very cool.  The sky’s are brilliant at night.  Although, after a few days, I was wishing for more trees and green.  Also a little disappointed that on all of our hikes, we didn’t see so much as a lizard in the way of wildlife! 

It was a great start to our trip, as we are still very much feeling things out!  Somewhere around day 3, I started doing a little learning time with Loralai where we work on Math and Letters.  I’d like to build on that in the upcoming weeks with more time for art and sensory play.  May try some geocashing too and I plan to have the felt board made this week.  I did start her very first behavior chart and it’s working out nicely…..for now.

Easter on the road was a little, tiny bit lonely.  We had a lot of fun dyeing the eggs and decorating them at the RV dinning table.  Then I hid them around our camp site the next morning.  A special prayer at dinner that evening, and that was about it for our Easter.  Since we were driving most of the day, I have some Extended Easter plans for tomorrow.  ;)

Loralai is starting to feel a little homesick.  She keeps asking, “Will my friends be there?”, when I tell her we are going somewhere and she’s desperate to meet ANY kid she sees!  She’s also said a few times that she wants to go home.  This is a huge change for her and I’m sure it feels like we’ve already been gone a really long time to her.  I just try to help her meet EVERY kid that will stand near us long enough for me to start talking to them.  Other then that, we talk to Nana on the phone a lot and play with Mommy, Daddy, and Bean (who never seem to play “right” it seems). 

We just arrived in Flagstaff, AZ (about an hour from The Grand Canyon) today and will do some exploring tomorrow.  We are now ahead 2 hours earlier then our regular time in Austin.  Which means, Joe technically has to now get up at 5am for work each day!  LOL…  We’ll see how he does tomorrow morning….  Staying at “Black Bart’s RV Park”.  http://www.blackbartssteakhouse.com/rv.html Nice having full hook-ups, including sewer so we don’t have to worry about filling up our tanks during the week.  $28.65 a night means we are still coming in below my estimation for $30 a night.  :)

We miss you guys!!!!!  Muah!

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WE DID IT! We Started Our Trip!

I half can’t believe it, but we’ve done it!  After 2 months of delay and 8 months of planning, we finally left for our trip on April 1st!  April Fool’s Day you say?  Yep.  There were no flat tires or trailers unhitching on the interstate, but we did have some “interesting” adventures….

We pulled out of the driveway 1 day, and 2 hours later then planned.  Lots of neighbors and friends sent us off with wonderful gift baskets, borrowed items, and kind words, honestly making us question why we were even leaving in the first place.  But that’s the great thing about good friends, they encourage you to seek your happiness, even when you will miss one another so much (Insert Fantastic Friends and Family’s Names Here…you know who you are)! 

So we waved goodbye to Nana, whom we’d miss so much, and headed out to our first planned destination….WALMART parking lot in Odessa, TX.  Things were going pretty well as we hit the road.  Mommy had packed several new toys and activities never before seen, and enough snacks to feed The Dugar family.  We made it past a lot of cows and wild flowers before we even had to turn on the DVD player.  Success!  Our little Beana decided to go easy on us and took a 2 hour nap.  Cool Rest stop.  Gas Station.  Gas Station.  Gas Station.  Damn this truck uses a lot of gas (12.2 mpg)!  Baby wakes up.  Loralai’s movie ends.  Mom now in the backseat.  And I say, “Hey Joe, lets go to this cool state park I saw on this map instead of Walmart tonight.  It’s only 30 mins further down the road.”  He agrees.  We get to the park.  The park is called Monhana Sandhills SP.  It was truly JUST sand hills.  That’s it.  No trees.   No park.  JUST SAND.  We took one look and both thought, “Who would come here???”, and then I also thought, “SNAKES!!!”  Rather then pay the $20 to say here, we being the wise and experienced RVers that we are (3rd trip now), decided we would drive back the 30 miles we had just come to the Odessa Walmart.  We would actually end up staying at this Sandhills Park before the night was over, little did we know.

We go into Walmart, happy to finally be at our stopping point, to buy some stuff and find dinner.  The place was PACKED!!!  It was after 8pm on a week night.  Every person there had at least 3 kids with them.  Lines were 8+ baskets long.  “Whatever, we have arrived.  Lets get some food!”  As we shop we start to notice that a lot of the other customers are shopping in their PJ’s, and are under the age of 21, with 2 kids.  As we wait for the better part of an hour in line, we also notice there are more face tattoos in this Walmart then Joe and I had ever seen in one place before.   Then your mind starts to really search around.  I saw what could be construed as gang attire and a baby with a shaved head (I’m not really sure what that means, but it worried me.).  We make it back to the RV silently to find that we have no electricity from the RV batteries.  We eat our food in the dark, and decide the Sandhills place didn’t look so bad. 
So we drive back down the direction we had just come for 30 miles.  “60 extra miles total!  I wonder how much in gas that cost me!”  Thankfully the gates were open and there was an easy pull-through site.  Parked at 10:30pm and in bed, both Joe and I thinking, “What have we done!?!?!”.

We woke up feeling better.  It’s amazing how wonderful just having electricity can make you feel!!!  The girls actually loved playing in the sand.  And it was so soft!  Later found out we could have checked out sand boards to slide down the hills on (Next time!).  
Back on the road, we head to Roswell, NM.  Trip goes well and we find our destination, Bottomless Lakes SP.  And there is were we BE for the entire week. 
Couple of notes…
I have not had to figure out the laundry thing yet.  Yay!
Life still coming, bills to pay, calls to take, taxes to work on, emails to send.  Trying to minimize.
NO TV!
Traveling is fun!
Traveling is scary!
Having kids 24/7 is Hard Work!
I really wish I hadn’t forgotten the humidifier!…and the peanut butter!
Chapped face.
Kids getting dirty and I like it!  REALLY  DIRTY!!!
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