Big Bend and Back!

So Joe had to take a week off of work in December or he’d lose the vacation time and found this out in December, so we decided to make the most of it and go to the nearest National Park to us and one we hadn’t seen yet….BIG BEND! 

It had been 4 months since we had last taken the RV for a spin.  That was partly due to the fact that our truck had been in the shop for 2 months (cracked head and lots of $$$) and partly do to be busy and enjoying being back at home so much.  But after 4 months, the itch to go on a camping trip, got to us!

With a little research, we found out that the only place in the park with FULL RV hookups was in Rio Grande on the SE side of the park.  So that’s where we made our 3 night reservation ($33 a night).  I did a little more looking around online for things to do in the park and looking over the park map.  It’s a BIG park!  I also asked some friends who have been about their experiences there.  We were looking forward to some serious star gazing, hiking, swimming, and Ranger programs!  Turns out, I should have found out MORE about Big Bend before going there, but more on that later.

We took Loralai out of school for two days and left EARLY Thursday morning (but not early enough), heading out on the 8  hour drive to Big Bend.  Our plan was to leave early enough for the girls to sleep for several hours of the trip, but school had reset my late sleepers into 6am risers, so leaving at 7am did not work.  Oh well, they were both good and did take little naps and watched movies and I didn’t even have to climb into the back seat, although I did manage to hit  my head on the DVD player that hangs down about a dozen times!  Once I relearned how to operate the DVD player by touch alone, there was less head injuries.  6 hours in, we made it to Fort Stockton, the only town between Austin and Big Bend, and stopped at McDonald’s.  Just 2 hours outside of Big Bend where we would hike and explore!  It was here that I somehow managed to step off the curb while getting the kids out of the truck and seriously sprain my ankle.  Crap!  Well life goes on, so we get the kids out and I limp into McDonalds and we eat gross cheese burgers while the kids play.  With the kids restored and ice cream in hand, we continue on our way to Big Bend with my ankle wrapped in ice and propped up on the dash.  Yahoo!

Ouch!

Knowing that Big Bend borders Mexico, we were expecting some border stops, but saw that they were only stopping cars that were leaving the park.  Okay.  Keep driving.  And driving.  There’s NOTHING.  Oh look, there’s a sign!  I think we’re in the park now but don’t know for sure cause no ranger is at the booth.  Huh.  Okay, I think we just keep going straight…..forever!  OMG, another ranger station (Panther Junction), and it’s OPEN!  So we go in, knowing we are still about 45 mins from the part of the park we are actually camping in.  Well one things for certain, we have to get Loralai’s JR ranger workbook!  We only have 2 days here!  $2 later we have the book and just as we’re about to head the rest of the way through the park to Rio Grande where we’re camping, a ranger calls our attention to a herd of javalina’s that are walking right past the front door!  Javalina’s are these little hairy pig looking things that actually aren’t related to the pig at all, but in fact related to hippos.  Cool, wildlife!  The girls loved it!

As it was starting to get dark and there are no lights in Big Bend at night, we quickly got back in the truck and drove the rest of the way to our camping spot and with the help of a fellow camper with a flash light, found our spot relatively quickly and got parked.  We were surprised to see it was just us and two other campers sharing the parking lot.  Huh.  That night I made ham for dinner and we all sat out under the stars as there was a meteor shower that night and the next.  Bummer thing was it was also cloudy and we couldn’t see anything.  Oh well, we put the kids to bed and Joe and I hung out a little longer outside to see if the clouds would clear, but no such luck.

The next morning, we had big  plans!  First stop, check out The Hot Springs that were very near to where we were staying.  Here’s where we learned something VERY IMPORTANT about Big Bend that no one told us…..3/4 of the roads in Big Bend are narrow, dirt, off roading vehicle roads!  These roads are NOT meant for a full sized, dual wheeled truck to go down!  After turning onto one of these roads to get to the hot springs, we saw a sign about a mile of the way down that read, “No talliers or dual wheeled vehicles past this point”, to which I said, “Oh come on, we can make it.”.  It took us 2 minuets to find out that we could not in fact make it.  Thank goodness it was like we were the only people in the park, cause we were able to back up the way we had come and park next to the sign that we had ignored a few minutes before.  We figured the springs couldn’t be far though, and decided to walk the rest of the road to the springs.  It was doable and we made it to where all the rest of the “car people” got to park, where we again saw NO ONE and read a sign that said theft happened often in this area.  Here’s where I was really wishing I had brushed up on my knowledge of the conditions at the Mexico/US border.  I think I’d heard it was bad?  Well surely they wouldn’t let us hang out here if it was……would they?  Crap!  Off we go to hike down to the springs.  We meet a nice lady along the way that gives us her pamphlet that tells you about the sites while you walk.  There was an old store and hotel and petroglyphs to view along the way.  Now at this point we hadn’t been in the park long, but we had been there long enough to see that on everything the park prints, there’s a warning to NOT buy any products from Mexicans that may approach you.  They will be carted off and your stuff will be confiscated, etc.  So here we are walking, by ourselves, with our small (slow) kids and we come across a rock that is covered with handmade crafts and a hand written sign that says purchase these to help a small village in Mexico.  I start looking around at the cliffs above us expecting to see an armed gunman ready to get us if we buy anything.  There’s no one.  Then I look at the tall grass to the other side of us expecting to see people from Mexico crouched down and making sure their stuff doesn’t get stolen.  No one.  Cool stuff but Joe hurried us past it before Loralai could see.

The Hot Spring

We arrive at the hot springs.  Make that hot spring.  There’s a couple sitting in the one, sandy pool that is the hot springs next to the Rio Grande river in about 2.5 feet of water.  We don’t want to intrude on them, so we set up a little ways down the shore next to the river to eat our picnic lunch.  This is the first time any of us have actually seen the Rio Grande river.  Let me tell you, it’s not so Grande.  You could wade across parts of it without getting waist deep.  Evidently, Mexico had dammed up much of the water that used to flow to the river for farming irrigation.

Here’s the Grande (?) River
Joe on our walk back to the truck.

There was also no border wall, like I’ve seen in so many action movies, and no guards.  This really rocked my world.  I really had no idea what to expect the border to be like, but it definitely wasn’t a peaceful, slow flowing river, with no one there, except a couple of vacationers?  I could have walked across the river and touched Mexico, and believe me, I thought about doing it!  But it was hard to shake the unknowing of how things were at the border with the kids.  The lone tent that was staked across the river didn’t set us at ease either.  So with an escape plan in mind (run into the bushes and hide), we did let the kids play in the river and in the hot springs once the couple left.  We hadn’t brought bathing suits, so the kids just played in the their undies or less before it was time to go.  Once we had been there a little while and had yet to be attacked by anyone, we relaxed some and enjoyed the pretty views.  The walk back was good.  I actually stopped at the rock table and wanted to buy something, but we didn’t have cash.  Loralai complained a little, but I distracted her with songs and racing Daddy (I’m really going to be in trouble when distractions stop working with her!).  We got back to our truck which had not been stolen (yahoo!) and drove on to see the Chaiso Mountains part of the park, where the bears and mountain lions live!

Yay!  We still have a truck!

The Chisos Mountains were at a higher elevation and therefore much colder and windyer.  We drove to the visitor center there.  There was a small general store, a ranger station, and a lodge which looked more like a motel.  We walked around a little and then went into the visitor center.  After looking around and having the ranger there warn us that there was a mountain lion attack on a 2 year old just a few months ago in the parking lot, I sat down with Loralai to work on her Jr. Ranger packet while Joe took Bean to the store.  Loralai and I had been working on her packet for about 15 mins when the ranger told me we’d have to leave, since she had to run some errands.  I thought this was so weird, since we were probably only the 3rd or 4th people to even come into this station all day with the park being so empty and we’re there a few mins and she tells us to leave?  I mean when a place says there open hours are from ____  to _____, don’t they usually stay open during those times?  It just made me notice again how there really didn’t seem to be hardly any rangers working this park!  In the other parks we visited, they were swarming with rangers EVERYWHERE!  Whatever, we left and decided to head over to the lodge and see about excursions in the park.  River rafting was out since the river was so low and that pretty much left a car tour, showing many of the sights on the dirt roads that we couldn’t drive our truck on.  It would have taken 5 hours and cost over $250, so we decided not to do that. 

On the way back home we stopped by the Rio Grande Visitor Center that was nearest to our camping spot.  It was tiny and had one ranger working it.  She asked if we wanted to watch a film on the park and we were able to watch most of it, before Bean demanded to go!  I did learn before leaving that there were two rangers talks a day, throughout the entire park.  2!  A day!  And it’s a big park!  Thankfully one of the talks was close enough and we planned on going the next day. 

After that, it was back to the RV for dinner and more star gazing.  The clouds had cleared this second night, but the meteor show still wasn’t the show stopper we’d thought it would be.  I think we saw 6 shooting stars between Joe and I.

The next morning we headed to the ranger talk at Dugout Well Springs.  It was a talk on the plants in the area.  There were 3 other people there besides us.  It was a good talk and we learned about some of the uses of the plants in the area.  I was a little nervous about L possibly backing into a cactus which surrounded us on all sides, but we made it through unpoked. 

Ranger Dave
And here is the reason Dugout Well Springs is so special and a designated “hike”in Big Bend.  See that rusty metal on the ground next to Ranger Dave?  That’s an old “dug out” from when they were building the well.  Woopie!  So glad we got to see that!

The big plan for day two was to visit Terlingua, this little town just outside the West end of the park.  We’d heard it was a great little town and I was excited about eating Mexican food!  I asked the ranger who gave the talk about the town and to confirm that there were places to eat there.  He was like, “Um yeah, you can eat there.”  Okay, good enough for me.  On our 1.5 hour drive though the park to Terlingua, we also stopped at Panther Junction Visitor center to get some more info on the town.  When I asked the ranger at the desk if they had any info on the town he looked at me like, “Why?”.  Then he rummaged around in the back room for a while before he came out with a single pamphlet on the town.  I was like, “Thanks!  So there’s lots of stuff to do there, right?”.  And he was like, “Well what are you looking to do?”  And I was like, “Eat, and maybe ride horses”.  He was like, “Well there are places to eat there.”  At this point, I was a little put off by how blah everyone sounded about Terlingua.  But then I thought, maybe it’s just cause they are depressed that they have to live in Big Bend for months on end, and I put my big Terlingua grin back on my face and got pumped to eat some Mexican food!

Let’s got o Terlingua!

We drove the rest of the way to the town of Terlingua. Our firsts mission was to find the ghost town we’d heard so much about!  We searched HARD for it, but after turning down several dirt roads that read “Private Drive” about a mile down, we decided we’d go eat first and try again later to find the town.  So into the town we go.  My first thought, was WHY would anyone tell us to go here?!?!  Now I know some of our friends love this town, for some reason unbeknownst to me, so forgive me for what I’m about to say….  We drove through the small town twice just to be sure we were in the right place.  Sadly, we were.  It was just a poor, desert town.  Half the homes were trailers and the restaurant we were going to go to, looked too sketchy to even use a credit card at, not to mention what you could leave with after eating there.  So we searched for another place to eat.  We found what looked like the most commercial restaurant, The Starlight Grill, and went in.  We had to walk around to the back and past a huge flower pot full of cigarette butts and beer cans and went in.  The place was filled with smoke and dark and dirty.  By this point though we had been driving for hours and we hadn’t seen any other places we would want to go in.  One glance at the menu and my dream of mexican food was crushed.  That’s about the time I snapped.  SCREW BIG BEND and Terlingua!  Joe got me a beer (in a bottle) and we got the kids juices (also in bottles) and ordered the safest thing we could think of, french fries.  I proceeded to drink two more beers while the kids played with a little 4 year old girl who was there with her toothless, 50 year old dad.  The girls taught her to play “Ring Around the Rosie” and I texted friends to tell them just how horrible of a place I was in!  We all left an hour later with smoky smelling hair and empty bellies (and thankfully a buzz for me).  With another 1.5 hour drive back to our RV, the ghost town wasn’t happening and I had no hope of anything being great in this place anyways. 

We got back to the RV and I continued drinking and made dinner.  By this point we’d been in the desert long enough for our clothes and RV carpet to be filled with these little poky seeds that fly around in the air.  They are like tiny thorns and just added to the kick ass time we were having.  At one point, Loralai said, “Now I bet these things will be in our RV the next time we go somewhere.”  Yep, we have that to look forward to too Baby.  Thanks Big Bend!  Then it was early to bed, since we planned on getting up at 5am to leave this waste land.
  
So let me wrap this up by saying, We DID NOT like Big Bend.  It’s cool to look upon from afar, and I’m glad the area is protected, and I’m glad others like it (although we didn’t see too many “others” while there), but this place is not for us!  Turns out that we like trees and waterfalls over sand and poky plants.  However, there are a few circumstances that I would recommend you go there…

1. You are running from the law and need a place to go where NO ONE else will be to hide.
2. You want to cross the Mexico border and don’t have a passport.  There is NO ONE to stop you in Big Bend.
3. You have to pay your dues as a beginner ranger before being placed somewhere/anywhere else.
4. You have an off road vehicle, no small children, and don’t mind getting poked.

We did have a boarder stop on our way out of the park.  It was our first one ever, so I dorked out and expect them to get us out of the car and have us “spread em”, but they just walked a dog around our rig and asked us about our trip and we were on our way!  HOME!  Thank God!

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The Interview

We have been home now for almost 4 months.  Our adventures are now memories and we’ve settled back into a more “normal” life.  Loralai has started Kindergarten and is doing great.  Bean is running and talking our ears off!  The kids are in swim class and gymnastics and Joe and I frequent the gym (all things we missed while on our adventure).  We’ve hosted Thanksgiving (my grand dinner party) and have decorated the house for Christmas and we haven’t stepped foot in the RV for probably a month or more.  So now that we’ve had time to ponder our adventures, and talk to friends about our time on the road, here are our answers to many of the questions we’ve gotten…

1. The most asked and unasked question, How did you afford to do this????

Most importantly, Joe worked the entire time (minus a few weeks of vacation time while in remote National Parks).  Joe normally works remotely from home, so during our trip he just worked remotely from wherever we were parked in our RV.  Secondly, as a Realtor, I had the flexibility to leave town for several months, and had a great partner, Phil Barton, who ran everything here on the ground, as far as showing houses went, etc.  I would just review the contracts and handle details as needed from the road.  Thirdly, we got lucky and after having the house on the market for lease for over 4 months, were able to find a short-term tenant who paid our mortgage and utility bills, plus a little extra while we were away.  And finally, we made a budget for ourselves while on the road.  I always planned to compair our monthly costs while on the trip, to our budget, but that takes time and effort, and I never got around to doing it, but here is the budget we tried to stick to…

$1000 Gas (I don’t think we spent this much monthly.  Gas quickly crept over $4 a gallon when we first set out, but then half way through the trip, it dropped well below $4 again.  I had figured $4 a gallon and 3000 miles a month with avg gas mileage of 12 mpg)
$600 Groceries (I shopped at Walmarts a lot.  I  think we did pretty good on this, maybe a little over.)
$900 Camp Fees (We did a little less then this I think.  Most places were around $30 a night, give or take.  Most expensive stay was a KOA in Great Falls, MO for $58 a night (stayed 2 nights and moved) and least was $13.50 a night in Roslyn, WA with water and electric only.)
$1000 Miscellaneous  This was EVERYTHING else!  (Oil changes, cloths, eating out, sight-seeing, etc) I want to say we did a little less then this, but I just don’t know.  We didn’t miss out on anything super fun, I can tell you that! 

$3500 total monthly budget

2. How could you do it even cheaper?

You could move less often then we did (moving usually weekly to a new location 9+ hours away) and save a bundle on gas.  There are also plenty of campgrounds that are closer to $20 a night (if you don’t mind only having water and electric and no sewer hook-ups, meaning you’d have to go dump your tanks weekly).  We chose to stay in places close to what we wanted to do and with full hookups usually over the cheapest available.  You could also trim down on the extra costs like eating out and the expensive sight-seeing activities.  You could also look into “work-camping” where you work part-time at the campground.  This can be hard to get into though, and they usually want  you to stay in one place for at least a month.  Plus with Joe working and me having the kids 24/7 it limited the time I’d have to work.  But you can get free stays this way.  We did do A LOT of free stuff in all the different places, like visiting parks, lots of the cities, like Estes Park, had free shuttles, and several of the national parks had these as well, like Zion, Grand Canyon, and Rocky Mountain National Parks.  We did a lot of hiking and walking.  One week we just parked in our friends drive way and saved $200 on camping fees.  There were a few towns with Aquatic Centers that were only $5 for adults and kids were free where we could swim and play all day.  We also got the $80 National Park pass, that gets you into any National park or monument, knowing we would visit a ton and that saved us so much!  We kept busy doing FREE junior ranger programs and taking advantage of many of the amenities at the places we stayed, like a water park at one, ranger talks, putt-putt golf, beach access, etc.

3. What was your favorite part?

As far as choosing just one place, I can’t.  Top 5?  Grand Canyon, Roslyn Washington, Oregon (all of it!), Olympic NP, and Yosemite NP.  We seemed to enjoy the National parks and small towns more then anything.  We visited a few big cities, like Las Vegas and Seattle, and just didn’t enjoy them as much.  They were a little overwhelming and the faster pace of everything was difficult to navigate with kids.  They places we stayed in cities, also didn’t have any space for the kids to play outside.  In Seattle it rained all the time and Las Vegas was HOT.  Some of my favorite moments were just walking on the beach when it was foggy, or having a camp fire, or taking a moment to just think about what it would be like to live in the different places we visit.  I was surprised to find that I liked things like looking at light houses.  Maybe I’m getting old?

4. Worst part?
Flat tires and Odessa Walmart that first night out. 

5. Any regrets?
That we didn’t go to Canada or Glacier National Park when we were just 3 hours away!  We just ran out of time and Joe was out of vacation time, meaning we’d have to go over the weekend.  Plus, we had reservations in Yellowstone that locked us into being there at a certain date.   If we had gotten our passports prior to leaving, we could have at least visited Canada while staying in Northern WA, but live and learn and that just leaves something for our next Big Adventure!  I also wished we would have had seen Death Valley (Joe thinks I’m crazy for this, and says it’s just a desert.) and some of the CA coast and more National Parks in CA.  Time!

6. Challenges?
It was a challenge to find places were Joe could get strong enough Internet signal so he could work.  Despite our reviewing coverage maps, and calling to ask, we wouldn’t really know how the signal was until we got there.  There were a few times we had to leave and find another place.  Also, because Joe was working and answering phone calls in the RV, we had to leave everyday, rain or shine, so he could work in peace.  This did make is to we HAD to explore each place, like it or not!  It was also a challenge at times having the kids 24/7.  We were able to get a total of 5 dates in with the help of friends and drop in childcare and other times Joe would just let me GO somewhere ALONE.  Of course we were also trying to pack a lot into each place, and many times the kids would end up dictating what we actually got to do (much less).  I got better at parenting on the road as we went too though.  I learned to always have the following items, diapers, wipes, band-aids, lots of snacks, movies, baby carrier, and an exit plan. 

7. Did you make reservations at places?
No, not usually.  I wish I had made them at Yosemite, as it was completely booked up and we ended up having to stay in a motel while visiting and leaving the RV at our camping spot several hours away.  After that, I immediately called and reserved our spot in Yellowstone.  Other then those places though, I would just call ahead the week before or a few days before and make sure the place had availability.  This worked out most of time, but I had to watch out for holidays when things would book up and a few times I could have gotten a cheaper spot if I’d reserved earlier, but the freedom that came with just calling as we drove, was well worth it!

8. What was a typical day like?
Joe got up at 5am to work.  Me and the girls slept until 8-9am and got up just in time for Joe’s lunch break, so I’d make a cooked breakfast/lunch for everyone, while Joe got the kids dressed.  Then me and girls would go do something (park, zoo, tour Native American dwellings, shop, etc).  We’d head back to the RV around 2pm when Joe got off work and go do our second activity of the day with Daddy.  This way Joe got to see the different places too.  I tried to “scout out” things while Joe worked or do things that were totally kid centered and save the really cool sites for when he could come with us.  Then we’d all head back to the RV and I’d make something out of Cooking Light magazine for dinner.  I’d do a school lesson with Loralai, or we’d roast marshmallows or go on a walk, and then do the kids bedtime routine.  Kids in bed by 9pm and then Joe and I would usually hang out in our room and watch a movie or blog, or read until we went to sleep.

9.  How did you plan out what to do in each place?
The area Visitor Center was almost always my first stop.  There I would get maps, coupons, and talk to the locals working there about what the best things to do with kids were.  I would also Google the area and check out our National parks/monuments map.  Then I’d make a schedule for the week with a morning and afternoon activity for each day we were there.  Things of course got moved around based on the weather, or kids moods, but it was a great way for us to write down all the big things we “had to do” in each place and make sure we did at least those.

10.  What was it like having the kids all the time in such a small space?
Usually it was fine.  Loralai did take a while to adjust though and there was some MONSTER, KICK THE WALLS FITS!  The first month she was okay and just kept asking when we were going home.  The next month was the hard one and also when she DEMANDED that she would ONLY wear dresses.  Period!  I think it was her way of having some control.  So I bought her a ton of dresses and we all suffered through some loud, wall-kicking fits until she got used to things.  Bean wasn’t walking yet when we started, so she was filthy, crawling around outside all the time until she walked.  Sometimes the girls wouldn’t get along, and usually I’d just take them outside or to do something when it was really bad.  But usually they got along very well.  Better then at home even.  If I was having an especially hard day, Joe would take the kids when he got off.  Other times I’d keep the kids out late doing something and he would get a few hours to himself.  Thank God there were 2 of us!  We really enjoyed the close family time with very few distractions all in all.  There was no lawn that needed mowing, no friends to visit, no classes to attend.  It was just us and whatever we wanted to do that day.

11.  How did you keep everything organized with a family?
I had to first learn to STOP bulk shopping.  It was a hard habit to break.  We would grocery shop usually twice a week since our fridge could only hold so much.  We’d do laundry about once a week.  We did dishes after every meal since we only had 4 of everything and very little counter space, but we got used to this too.  There’s actually a lot of storage in an RV, so we had room for all of our stuff, toys, gear, etc.  A really useful thing I did was to get a wall length shoe holder for all of our shoes to go in and put it by the front door,  I cut and put another one of the side of  one of our cabinets to put all of our “pocket crap” in, like keys, change, head lamp, chap stick, etc.  It kept the counters clear and I needed all the space I could get!  Another issue was having a narrow, dark, deep pantry.  I realize we were lucky to even have a pantry, since so many of the rigs we saw didn’t, but the one we had wasn’t very user-friendly.  The biggest problem was that it was dark and deep.  To add to this, when we drove, things would move around and reorganize themselves despite my sticky shelf mats.  I eventually came up with a system that worked okay where I labeled each shelf with a different category (baking ingredients, kids snacks, adult snacks, cooking stuff, etc).  Then I would write each thing we had on that shelf in pencil on the pantry door and would try to erase and rewrite as we used and bought more stuff.  Really this amounted to, The Don’t Touch Anything Unless Your Name Is Aubrey Pantry System, and it kept me from killing anyone.  There were plenty of times the place was a MESS, just like at home.  But the beauty of a small space, is that it took very little time to pick up.  Even more difficult to keep clean was the truck!  I would clean it out and reorganize all the toys, jackets, maps, etc at least one a week, usually while the girls played inside it.  To add to this, despite my best efforts, I was never able to find a car wash to have the thing vacuumed out or washed throughout our entire trip.  One of the first things I did when I got home was to go and get it detailed.  She deserved it after everything!

12.  Were you ever scared.
Yes, at the Odessa Walmart the first night out.  We had no idea what we were doing and quickly learned that we would NOT being parking over night at Walmarts to save money.  We just had that moment of, What the hell are we doing!?!?!  And what if people don’t do this cause it doesn’t work?  Turns out that it turned out okay.

13.  How was driving all that way?

It was pretty good.  We really stretched it out over several months, and we tried not to drive more then 8-9 hours over 2 days.  We did stop at A LOT of McDonalds!  I was so sick on McDonalds by the time we got home, but after making your two little kids sit for several hours while driving, you HAVE TO go somewhere with a playground, food, and easy RV parking.  This almost always meant McDonalds.  Bean would nap for a couple of hours each drive and Loralai would watch at least 1 movie (with head phones), so it was usually okay.  There were plenty of times though, that I considered facing my fear and almost certain death, driving the HUGE RV (which I never did), and make Joe deal with the kids!  There were also times that I had to get in the backseat with the kids when they were nearing the end of their rope.  We played “I spy” and counted and sang and just plain ignored the kids at times too.

14.  How do you think this benefited your family?

We all got closer.  And we saw SO MUCH!  Loralai really learned a lot through the Jr. Ranger programs, and she also got really good at making fast friends.  I think I learned how to chill out a little more and live in the moment.  And Joe learned to be more easy going and to say “yes” more.  Bean just liked being with all of us, my happy girl.

15.  Who did you visit?

The first friendly face we saw was a month and a half into our trip, when we saw my God Mother, Patty in Ashland.  A month and a half later, we visited my brother and sister and their mom in Great Falls, Montana.  Then we met up with Joe’s parents in Yellowstone for a week right after that.  The very next week our friends Hilary and Phil came to stay with us in Estes Park, CO for a few days.  Our last visit was to stay with our friends, Chelsea and James in Woodland Park, CO.

16.  So how was showering in an RV….really?

It was tight!  But doable.  We go really lucky and found an RV with a tub.  You don’t realize how rare this is until you start looking at RV’s.  So bathing our thankfully little kids was easy.  Plus it was so tight in the bathroom that you got the added bonus of being able to sit on the toliet while you washed them.  It was like a built in stool.  We had a 6 gallon hot water heater on the rig.  Knowing this, at first we were very careful showerers.  I would line up all my shampoo, conditioner, and wash in such a way that would promote the fastest grab time.  Then we would actually turn the water off while we soaped up and then turn it back on to rinse.  When staying in a place that’s 27 degrees, the last thing you want is for the hot water to run out while you are soapy and wet.  But, as the hot water never did run out, I got more lax about hurrying so much, and eventually stopped turning the water off between rises.  And wouldn’t you know it, 6 gallons of hot water is actually enough to get you through a normal speed shower.  Who knew?  Plus the tiny, closet of a bathroom would stay really steamy and warm while you dried off and got dressed.  There were only two places to stand while you did this, in the tub, or in the one person standing place in front of the mirror, so everything was in arms reach.  It was tiny, but you had everything you needed and there’s something cool about simplicity.

17.  Would you do it again?

YES!!!  OMG YES!!!  I read something right before leaving on our trip….  Be the interesting person that you want to know.  I feel more interesting now.  Smarter.  More traveled.  More open.  Our experiences are really the only things we can take with us and this was one heck of an experience that we shared as a family.  We’ll do it again!  And again!  And again!

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