A Home In The Mountains

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Grandpas Resting place

 

We came to this land in June of this year, in the midst of a heatwave. We thought we could make a home from the dust but we left after less than two weeks, frustrated. Our plans foiled.  Maybe it wasn’t time yet. Maybe we wimped out.

And so we left. For two months we traveled between Oregon and Redding, hopping between generous friends and family, trying not to burden, yet knowing five teenagers, three dogs and four cats is bound be be a burden regardless of our efforts at invisibility.

 

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Our Little Homesite

 

I don’t know what I thought I would find when I came back here.  That the trees which stood hundreds of years before would have regrown their roots?  That fallen needles would have replaced the soot and ash left behind by the forest fire that ripped through here just a few years ago? Few trees of decent size remain where giants once stood.  A little bunch hovers over my father-in-laws grave, loyal and protective of the one who’d nurtured their roots in life, as well as in death.

I don’t know if I thought it would all be easy, starting over with nothing but soil and a shovel.  I mean, we had just gotten our Alaska homestead halfway livable when we fled south in pursuit of another project. Maybe I’ve gone soft. Maybe I’m tired.  Either way, the first few days here I wallowed in depression and angst over all that lay before us. I cried in the small space of the motorhome while my teens stared and wondered what to do. The thick red dust, ashes, burned remnants of a quality of life that once thrived here, but now seemed impossible to regain. And the heat, the excruciatingly thick, hard-to-breathe heat that lay over the place. It was too much for our skin. Our eyelids sweated. Our shoulders burned. We didn’t want to do it.  Again.

And so we began to search for a rental house.  It took very few inquiries to discover what we’d suspected all along. Nobody wants to rent to a family with six teenagers, four dogs, three cats and zero rental history.  Oddly, if you own your home and don’t own credit cards, it’s somehow viewed as a bad thing. There’s something backwards in that.

And so we dug our fingers into the land once again. Some things are meant to be. I’m apparently meant to have an outhouse.

Six quarters, for three minutes  of public shower is pretty steep when there are eight of us, so we put together an old canvas shower stall we brought with us from Alaska, bought a cheap solar shower bag and strung it up with a piece of  yellow nylon rope, tied off to a branch. We have found nearby resources for hauling water in five gallon jugs. (read as: we fill our jugs at the local campgrounds when the host is away)  We leveled a spot for the motorhome where the old cabin used to be.  We set up a camp complete with barbecue and a tree stump table.  And Billy hung the door on the outhouse we built when we were here in June.  Camp setup: complete.

We take walks. Luke whips the other boys at poker while Anthony asks me again if I’m certain it’s illegal to gamble professionally at fourteen.  We metal detect old fallen down cabins so deep in the woods we wonder if anyone else knows they exist.  We read…a lot.  We search for arrowheads in the dried creek bed where water once flowed high on the banks. We ride bikes down steep hills (I see an ER visit in my future). Billy proved that the bigger the boy, the bigger the fort.  And on days when the heat overtakes us, we hit the water park in Redding,  we drive up to Lassen National Park and dip our bodies into the cool lake or we throw a line in the water at Hat Creek campground up Hwy 44 where Anthony caught his first trout.

Tonight as the sun set I watched my boys, all four of them, wrestling and chasing each other between the trees where my husband played as a boy.  “Get off grandpa’s grave,” I yelled as Billy and Anthony rolled around near the gravesite, coating themselves in thick dust and memories.

And then I remembered…that’s exactly what we came here to do. We just wandered a bit before we found the right path.

 

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Anthony making it to the top…

 

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Mya IN Lake

 

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Luke At Lake

 

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Robin Enjoying The Lake

 

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Reading As Always

 

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The Original Campfire ring

 

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Billy’s Big Boy Fort

 

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Camp

 

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The Shower

 

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Home On Wheels

 

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Comfy Cat

 

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Yatzee Tournament

 

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Getting mighty snug in here…

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Kids Aren’t Learning Anything

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“Mom, I need some more language arts worksheets printed,” said my nearly 15 year old this morning, who needs her world aligned at all times or she gets frantic. Order, structure, neatly stapled packets are a dream come true and the chance to organize canned foods makes her heart go pitter-patter.

“We’re not doing any worksheets today,” I said. “We’re going to clean the kitchen and then we’re going looking for those alligators.”

“But then we’re not learning anything!” she scowled.

The rest of the kids chimed in, ‘We’re not learning anything at all today?” they asked.  Because apparently if we’re not sitting with a worksheet or text in front of us, we’re not, “doing school” according to my kids.  Huh.

But what my kids don’t realize is while they think they lucked out with less often serious, sit-down-studies, I’ve orchestrated a well-planned winter of intensive education…and they don’t even know it.

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We drove the famous Alaska/Canada highway, studying the history of its making and involvement in the war along the way. We’ve extensively studied maps, planned routes, learned geography, stood in the ocean and wondered how far from home we were, then calculated it.  We’ve budgeted, planned, mapped and learned to live with only what we can fit in a duffle bag.  We learned how to traverse the metric system, calculate for kilometers, compute gas mileage and we know why the exchange rate is so poor.

Because we have talked about everything, continually, along the way.

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We spent a day at a Japanese Internment camp where people were caged by their own government for their ‘own protection’ And for a couple of hours  my children saw life from a perspective they couldn’t have gained from any well written book because standing in those shoes is an irreplaceable feeling.  Standing over the graves, wandering the original buildings, searching the wall of names, and just being there. They will never forget that day.

But my kids think they aren’t learning anything.

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We explored a Railroad museum in the desert where we learned about turn of the century farming, the expansion of the rail system across the U.S. and the impact of that expansion on industry. We stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon, walked the streets of Tombstone, Arizona and explored the museums and history of the wildwest in every town along the way. We saw the inner workings of a gold mining shaft, rode a subway in downtown Los Angeles, looked across the Rio Grande in to Mexico from the sanctity of U.S. soil and talked about how their lives differed from ours. We determined rock classifications in the desert (is ignoramous a rock?), climbed lava formations, crawled through caves, and looked for gold in dry creek beds of Texas and Arizona.  We’ve found fossils, shells, arrow heads, uncountable bones and even petrified wood.  We’ve seen dolphins leap through the water and jelly fish float the surface.  And one of my favorites, we’ve stood at the feet of the Bristle Cone Pine.

But my kids think they aren’t learning anything.

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For three months my family, that hasn’t always been a family…these children, who haven’t always been siblings…have been together.  They’ve been loved by aunts, uncles, cousins, grandma’s they never knew existed. They’ve bonded in ways only a road trip can offer, supported each other, defended each other and learned more about each other than they could have had they spent seven hours a day in separate classrooms, in separate schools or in my kids circumstance…separate families.  And though we could all use some time apart…believe me…they’ve become closer as a family than ever.

But my kids think they aren’t learning anything.

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We’ve been to more museums, historical monuments and interactive science centers than we ever thought possible…and we’re not done.  We found starfish and sea creatures in the surf of California, felt the intimidation of gang members on the streets in passing, we witnessed the homeless on every corner and talked about the ‘Why’ of it all. We took advantage of having television in some of our stops to watch documentaries on the Depression, The Orphan Trains, Eleanor Roosevelt, The Dust Bowl, and The New Deal. Ask them about the KKK in the 1930’s, or the Union Strikes and why they happened, they can tell you.  We found how-to art videos on Youtube and learned how to draw faces, then practiced, together, for weeks while relaxing in the cabin up the Frio River here in Texas where Mya discovered a love of art she didn’t know she had and Robin lost herself in water color painting she’d never even tried before.

But my kids think they aren’t learning anything.

We’ve walked the beaches, ridden our bikes, looked for turtles along the piers. We’ve been inside crumbling Indian ruins, hiked red cliffs and touched cactus to find out why we shouldn’t. We climbed through a crystal cave, saw wild pigs, dodged thousands of deer and when the car ride became too boring, we searched all day for the elusive Northern California Zebra, to no avail.

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We’ve met people from all over the world, of different nations and skin color and religious background. We’ve made friendships with strangers and talked hours with elderly, so full of history and knowledge, that their time is invaluable. We’ve learned how to budget. How to make money last. How to feed an entire family on JackInTheBox tacos.

And my kids still think they aren’t learning anything.

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They don’t realize that I carefully filled their Nooks with classics and stuck them in a truck for 5000 miles.  And yes, somewhere in our spare time we’ve squeezed in ‘actual’ school work. When the weather keeps us inside we cram as much math, grammar, writing and science in as we can. And when the sun comes out, we sometimes multitask and study in the fresh air. Three of the kids completed 12 weeks of online creative writing workshop they liked so much it didn’t seem like ‘school’. The boys are teaching themselves how to code on their laptop, hoping to invent a million dollar video game and they all fight over computer time so they can earn badges doing math on Khan Academy. Mya is obsessed with her science class, which is her new favorite subject and racing to finish the year early, while Robin is elated to have finally found a math program she likes on the shelves of a thrift store and percentages are no longer her nemesis.

Yet, they still think they aren’t learning anything.

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Next week we head to Utah where we will be within a short drive of six ghost towns, abandoned mines and high desert terrain to explore.  Along the way we’ll hit the Alamo, a Marine Animal park, Carlsbad Caverns, several historical military and geological sites as well as another glimpse at some Indian ruins and the Grand Canyon.  I’m sure they won’t learn a thing there either and it will all be a big waste of time as they get further and further behind on their education because they haven’t memorized Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species like I did in ninth grade…though, the only time that knowledge has ever served me is in this sentence.

Yes, it’s really too bad my kids aren’t learning anything.

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Just Another Scenic Sunday 2-16-2014

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Cutie Birds on the Boardwalk
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SISTERS!
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Sunset Pelican
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Steven Skates the Bowl
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Luke…the reason they make helmets…
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Robin wanted to try skating…
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But her skateboard didn’t want to play…
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Anthony HAWK rides again…
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Anthony Hawk…trying to live up to his namesake
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And not quite making it…
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No Riley’s participated in the making of this awesome sand castle…
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Valentines Day evening on the beach…
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SURF OR DIE!!!
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Cute puppy on the beach!
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Yep…another bird.
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Mya carrying my backpack…
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Lunch
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Shell?
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Mya threw this fish back into the water to save it…and this guy scooped it up right in front of us.

Just Another Scenic Sunday 2-9-2014

HUGE Scenic Sunday full of BIRDS! And some Dolphins. And other stuff too.

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Dolphins leading the ship from the harbor…
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Dolphins SO cute!
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And look, there they are again!
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Me, the husband, and this beach to ourselves all day long…
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Enough garbage washed up on this beach to fill a landfill. It was 99% plastics and pretty sad.
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The whole beach, for miles, is lined like this.
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This clam is happy it’s almost Valentines Day…
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TONS of starfish…
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Who thinks this pier looks like a scene from Zelda?
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And when the boat came through the fog to get us…we were a bit disappointed.
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Fellow survivors!
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Steven loves the sand!
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Them are some long legs.
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Pretty, yes?
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And away!
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Along came a black bird…
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RUN!
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Grumpy Guy….
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He seemed a bit aggressive…
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Close up
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And this is when he charged….
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Take off
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How YOU doin’?
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These guys were huge.
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They don’t want to share with the fishermen…
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Look how big he is! This fellow was putting on a show for us.
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Ya put your right foot in…ya put your right foot out…
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There’s only room in this bed for one dog…
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The Birds.
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And some more birds.
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Turn to the RIGHT…
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And some more birds…
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Guess what…birds!
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I love the way they all face into the wind.
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Cuties.
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Collisions.
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And this is seconds before I got an ear full of salt water.
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And one last picture of…birds.

Must Be Nice To Vacation All The Time…

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I’ve been asked the same question many times these past months as we travel.

“How are you affording to do this? Must be nice to vacation all the time…”

There is no secret. We’ve not a pot-o-gold buried on our back forty and we’ve no inheritance paving our way across the western U.S. The fact is we simply have very little bills. This was no accident and it certainly did not come easy.

My husband snores soft, oblivious, as I type next to him now because he woke yesterday morning in the arctic at 4:30 a.m. and worked most of the day. He flew to Anchorage, took our daughter to dinner and filled her gas tank.  He caught a midnight flight to Denver, sat in the airport for three hours, then flew to Texas and drove three hours more to our rented condo before finally dozing off just minutes ago. Somewhere in that he took me to dinner and listened to me ramble on, because I’d been without adult conversation for two weeks. That’s 42 hours mostly awake after working about 170 hours in the past two weeks.  And in twelve days he’ll do it all again.

Plenty of people work long hours, sacrifice for their families. Many far more than us. But somewhere along the way we made a choice to do things a little differently. We sacrificed in a different way than many and now, with this big trip, we are finally seeing the fruit of our labor. And I’ll not lie, the taste is sweet and I think…well earned.

We gave up all credit cards about eight years ago; forwent years of vacations; haven’t bought a ‘new’ car since 1993 and we still drive that same old truck. We’ve never bought a house that wasn’t a fixer-upper. Last year we gave up our big house, the luxury of public utilities and for a while, we even gave up having a toilet. No big deal, really, where we come from. Plenty of people live that way for a lot longer than us and are three times as tough.

Most of our things came from dusty shelves tucked in the back of second hand stores.  The art on my walls was painted by my mom. Our furniture is second hand and save for our winter gear, our clothes are mostly fabulous thrift store finds.  Twice a year we all get new tennis shoes and my obsession with Arc’teryx sweaters and Sporthill gear has landed me in the poor house once or twice but for the most part, we live frugal.

We don’t stray far from home. Our weakness is eating out and we normally share a meal. Once or twice a year we find ourselves in Anchorage overnight and splurge on a hotel room. Woohoo. While my friends take annual girl trips to warm places and I yearn to tag along, I suck it up and stay home.  Honestly, I hate that.

Sometimes I want to go back to the Visa life, splurge and purge, splurge and purge.  Several of my friends are able to do these things without immersing themselves in debt because they work hard and smart.  They made good choices from a young age. I try now to model myself after those people and wish I’d known then what I know now. Live and learn.

It’s a good life. I’m not complaining at all, just shining a light on the ‘how’ of it all.

We didn’t do all this just because we are somehow invested in making our lives more difficult.  We did these things because we had a vision. A vision of a life not shackled to debt, or a false sense of responsibility to a life we didn’t particularly enjoy in the first place. I don’t mean that in a ‘hippy-freak-bra-burning’ sort of way.  We just had a longing for something different.  We made a list of what we had to do to achieve our goals. And we did them.

And then we lived our life with purpose.

So when we found ourselves in the odd predicament of being somewhat homeless when winter in Alaska rolled around and our cabin wasn’t quite up to snuff, we weren’t in a bind. We weren’t scrambling to pull cash off credit cards to pay two mortgages.  We didn’t panic and take our big house back from the renters.  We said, “Hey…let’s take the kids on a big ol’ trip!”

And so we did.

It’s not cheap to travel but we’ve learned to skimp. We camp a lot, take full advantage of all willing relatives, and can make sixteen peanut-butter sandwiches on the go with nothing but a dirty pocket knife and a dog to lick it clean.

And now the money most people spend on a mortgage and car payment, we put into campgrounds and national park admissions. The dollars most spend just to keep four walls around them…we save, and escape those same walls.

It’s a choice we made and so far, a good one. Ask me again in the spring when we’ve no money saved to work our land and I may tell another story but for now we’re living the dream and I’m not quite ready to wake. And yes…it is nice to vacation ‘all the time’.

 

 

On The Road From Concan

Beezy In Hotel

This morning the kids and I planned to wake early and leave our little cabin up the Frio River here in Texas. Yesterday we packed the pop-up, cleaned up the cabin completely, and left out only our duffle bags and breakfast food.

Upon waking, I encountered a site that the family, as a whole, has sworn to never discuss either in public or private. Let’s just say there were two rolls of paper towels, bleach and a trip to the Laundromat involved before we could even eat our oatmeal. And that’s all we’ll say about that. Whatever you think happened, multiply it times ten.

I threw up a post on Facebook about how the day could only get better from there, a statement one should never say out loud, and headed down the road towards the beaches of Texas.

Now, we were in the “mountains” so to speak, up the Frio River in Concan. So as we headed south, the heat hit, and clothes started coming off. Windows cranked down, (all six of them) hair frizzing in the damp heat, air condition pumped up even though it doesn’t work and only blew more warm air, as we drove a couple of hours south.  We don’t really understand the term “Winter” as it applies here in Texas. I don’t think it means what they think it means.

I pulled into a Walmart Parking lot in Jourdanton, Texas to pick up some water bottles and walk the dogs. Turns out, I waited a bit too long to stop.  I pulled open the back hatch of the camper shell and the stench emitting from inside told the story. Beezy…had let loose. All. Over. The Place.

I pulled the two dogs from the back and quickly unhooked leashes they’d dragged through the poo, dropping them in a pile while Mya hooked the longer cable to each collar. I stared into the back of the truck. The kids stared at me. We all wondered the same thing…Just how much could we get for it right here in the Walmart parking lot?

As I yelled out orders, my feet began to burn. What the…?  I looked down at my flip-flops to find my bare feet completely coated in tiny ants.

And then I did the very volatile “ants-on-me” dance while strings of filth flew from my mouth. I don’t feel even God would judge me for that one.

I bolted into Walmart, eyes focused on the Pharmacy signs, found the nearest fellow in white and whined until he pulled a salve off the shelf. And then I did some more dancing while he told me at length…in monotone…how and why the salve works for what I now know are Texas Fire Ants, better known to me as Evil Ants from Hades.

Armed with the salve of my salvation, a case of paper towels and a fierce frustration with my day, I went back to the truck to begin to clean.

“Did you guys pick up those leashes?” I asked the kids when I noticed the crap-covered leashes I’d left near the lawn were gone.  They stared at me because that’s what kids do when asked such complicated questions.

Apparently, while I was inside the Walmart, somebody had stolen our leashes from the ground.

Our stinking, crap-coated, dollar-ninety-nine leashes had been swiped by somebody who in order to not be seen, would have had to stop their car, quickly reach out and grab the pile from the ground.

Leashes that from a distance I’m sure looked clean to the fast handed thief…but were actually covered in shit.

And that, my friends, is Karma.

An hour later, my feet smeared in gel, dogs somewhat cleaned up and leashless, we moved back on down the road.

We hit the Texas coast just before sundown and went straight to the campground we’d plan to use. But everybody else in Texas had gotten there first because apparently, the weekend of Super Bowl Sunday is a national holiday in Texas and folks flock in droves to the nearest resort area.

I checked us into the only hotel that takes dogs, thankful the room has a tile floor…just in case…and hit the hotel hot tub. And now I’m sipping on the Budweiser they gave me at check-in…that’s right, I was offered a complimentary beer from the front counter girl…and wondering what we’ll do next.

Y’All Come Back Now, Y’Hear?

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 “Whaaaat the blaaaazes are Y’ALL doing in Teeeexas?” I keep hearing over and over.

Well, they don’t say it like that exactly, but my ears have been Texasized now so that’s how I hear it. Plus, I really like to use my new accent, even if it is just in type.

Okay, here’s how it went down. This is mostly true with some exaggeration. (I am in Texas, after all…)

As most of you know, we left Alaska near the end of November, headed towards grandma in California.  We wanted to see a bit of the world. We wanted to visit with loved ones we rarely see.  And we wanted to get the heck outta the ice.  That and our cabin was not winter ready, blah, blah, blah. (click here for more on that) So we left.

IF I were smart, I would have journaled this entire trip.  I didn’t.  Hey, I’m on vacation.

So here is the paraphrased version:

We drove from Alaska to Northern California in a week, covering just over 3000 miles. The husband still has a job to go to, so he had to catch a flight back north that Saturday. We spent a week with grandma, making her crazier than she already was, no doubt. The kids and I hit the road north to Oregon to see some family in Portland, including our oldest daughter, Heather and her man, Andrew.  We hit some thrift stores in Portland; spent a day at OMSI loving science; loved on my cousins beautiful family and took advantage of their hospitality. We went over to the Oregon coast and ate some icecream at the Tillamook Cheese Factory, then headed down the 101 intending to weave all the way down, hit the Redwood forest and be in Sacramento in time to pick up the husband from the airport. Plans changed when my truck broke down near Pacific City in the dark, narrow highway. Old friends, just nine miles away, saved the day and AAA paid off.  We spent three days camping in our friend’s driveway in the SNOW at the beach. We ate, we visited, we ate some more. The truck was fixed up for far less money than originally assumed and we hit the road again. Thinking there wasn’t time to make the Sacramento airport, I told the husband to get off the plane in Portland and headed back to my cousins. But my cousin, more wise to Oregon weather than I, said, “I love you, but leave.” So we hit the I-5 south, only stopping for pizza my aunt and uncle delivered roadside, and made it over the Siskiyou Mountains before another storm hit. Thanks cuz.

The husband came home and said, “Let’s go see some stuff.”  So we packed up the next day and drove straight across highway 44 to Reno where we spent two days throwing money away at Circus Circus, shoving quarters in as fast as we could.  Enough about that. We then went south on the 395, spending four days haunting museums, exploring the desert, and looking for abandoned mine shafts.  Japanese internment camp; railroad museum; desert museums; rock formations galore…it was a semester of history and science education in three days. It was awesome.

Meanwhile, grandma had driven down to spend the holidays at my sister-in-laws in Palmdale, CA and we were greeted with open arms by a slew of relatives.  Again, we shipped the husband off to earn the mighty dollar. Poor Dan. The family took us to experience thrift store shopping; a first train ride; daring the Los Angeles subway system; to City Walk at Universal Studios; to Ventura Beach; and treated us to Starbucks coffees galore.  We ate, and we ate some more. We had a heck of a time with the family. The husband came home and brought with him our son, Billy. We spent two days at Knotts Berry farm because Disneyland was out of the budget, and it was good times had by all.

What now, we wondered. A reader offered us a free place to stay in Texas. Texas? What the heck…Texas?  We came this far…why not?

And so we went east.

We went to the Grand Canyon then south through Flagstaff. We bypassed Phoenix because I lived there once when I was a pregnant/married/ignorant/teenager and I didn’t care to relive that insanity. Onward through Tucson to spend a day at Tombstone then across the I-10 through a thousand miles of desert, across New Mexico and into Texas. Whew.

Upon arrival we discovered the offered abode had been vandalized. Refrigerator full of maggots, mold, messes left behind by teenage burglars.  Discouraged, I pouted. My kids rolled up their sleeves and began to clean and I followed their lead because my kids are mostly awesome part of the time. Three days in we decided it just wasn’t going to come together and were directed by a nice lady realtor to a cabin up the Frio River, some 80 miles further up the road. And so we went east again.

Life goes in circles sometimes. Ours has taken us a full 4,287 miles, and landed us again in a little cabin in the woods. By day we explore the dry river beds, do a little school work and cook ribs on the porch in our flip flops and shorts. By night we bundle in for a dvd and butter coated popcorn.  It’s a rough life being a Winter Texan.

It’s odd, this feeling of freedom that comes with the nomadic life. Sometimes it’s troubling not knowing what the next day will bring. But then I just slam back some sweet tea, turn on the barbecue, and it all just melts away.

NEXT STOP….The beaches of Southern Texas. Stay tuned!

Just Another Scenic Sunday 01-19-2014

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Kids in front of Downtown Disney, drooling and wishing they were inside. We’ll go before we return to Alaska in the spring.
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Prickly tree near Knotts
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Mya being a puffer fish
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The Boys at the pool at Knotts Berry Farm
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Billy plays spring board for Robin
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Billy and Robin doing tricks
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Riding the roller coasters at Knotts Berry Farm
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Roller Coasters at Knotts
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Our favorite ride…the rafting trip!
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Rafting Ride
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Mya being a ‘lady’…
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Anthony being a ‘ladies man”…
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Billy’s arrival…reuniting with his cat, Fraidy…
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Grand Canyon, looking poised as always…
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This Six Door at the Grand Canyon…
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What ALL OF SOUTHERN ARIZONA…NEW MEXICO…AND TEXAS LOOK LIKE!
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Found this heart trunk tree while rock hunting up a dry river bed…
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Mya making dinner tonight….
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The kids loved the sites in L.A.
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Brotherly love…
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The Flinstone park near the Grand Canyon…
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Tombstone, Arizona
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Sometimes in the desert, the wind blows…
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Robins near-death-experience at the Grand Canyon (Disclaimer: no children were injured during the making of this picture…)
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Grand Canyon
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Grand Canyon
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Cemetery at Tombstone, Arizona
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Cemetery at Tombstone, Arizona
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Tombstone, Arizona
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1300 miles from California to Texas…

Just Another Scenic Sunday 01-05-2014

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Placerita Canyon, California at the “waterfall”. Not.
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Kids had their FIRST ICE CREAM TRUCK EXPERIENCE! And learned about false advertising…
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Went swimming the day after Christmas…that’s just weird.
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Kids and cousins sporting their “Grammy Jammy’s”!
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Robin
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We took a subway at Union Station in downtown L.A. That was an experience…
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Universal Studies “City Walk” We couldn’t afford to go inside…so we walked around outside and gawked. hahaa
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Outside Universal Studios wishing we could afford to go inside. haha
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This is what teenagers do…. SELFIES!
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This is what I do.
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Red Rock Canyon, California.
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Boo boo and Luke and Red Rock
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The family hiking at Red Rock. We don’t like trails…
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Discovering a cactus…
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Discovering why you AREN’T SUPPOSED TO TOUCH THE CACTUS!
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Robin at Red Rock
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Mya, Bagel and Luke hiking at Red Rock
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Flower down on Olvero Street in L.A.
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Union Station, L.A.
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You don’t see veggie bins like this in Alaska!!!!
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The husband turned OLD. Robin filled his bed in the trailer with balloons…and a plastic snake. Bwahahahahhahaa
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Luke got a haircut from somebody besides Grandma and didn’t like it one bit.
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Luke sleeps in a zoo.
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We splurged at a crab shack this week at Ventura Beach. I pigged out.
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Crab plates…we can’t afford to eat the rest of the week, but it was fun. 😉 ha
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Steven at Ventura, CA beach
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Ventura Harbor
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Sparklers…and playing with the exposure time.
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Ventura Beach…Mya makes faces at the camera. It’s what she does.
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Steven at Ventura Beach
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Luke lounging in the surf.
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This shows the boys personalities. Luke is drenched…Anthony is trying everything NOT to get wet.
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Anthony at Ventura Beach.
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And the surf snuck up on him…I totally saw it coming.
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And finally, he’s wet.
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I TOLD you Mya makes faces at the camera…
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These boys are so happy.
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Discoveries in the sand.
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And we all got a ‘contact high’ standing next to this truck…
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Ventura Harbor
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Ventura Harbor

 

Just Another Scenic Sunday 12-15-2013

This week we traveled over to Reno, spent two nights at Circus Circus in their mid-week absurdly cheap rooms, then we headed down the 395, eager to get out of the city. We camped two nights and spent three days between Reno and Mohave, landing tonight in a hotel because seriously….we were filthy and tired. Too tired to post more than pics…but then again, it is just a Scenic Sunday.

THIS WEEK WE…

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Were busted by hotel security while descending 22 flights of stairs…
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Discovered Robin is super good at the Jump Rope game…
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Learned how to feed a family on appetizer plates…
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Enjoyed life in a pop-up trailer…
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Snapped pictures of the girls sleeping…
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Found some friendly horses…
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And wished they were ours….
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Luke at the Laws Railroad Museum
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Robin, Laws Railroad Museum (which we LOVED LOVED LOVED)
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After three days of camping…we NEEDED this.
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What trailer life is REALLY like…
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Laws Railroad Museum
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Laws Railroad Museum
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Horse Nose…just because.
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Random Horses
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Laws Railroad Museum
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Laws Railroad Museum
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Laws Railroad Museum
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Anthony has a thing for hearts…
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At the Japanese Internment Camp….which we LOVED to visit and learn from.
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Manzanar (Loved this place)
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More History education this week than all last school year. Love it.
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Somewhere near Lonepine, CA
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Remnants of the past at Manzanar National Park
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Boys were enthralled with this dried up drainage bed.
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Walking the barbed wire fence at the internment camp.
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Memorial stone at Internment Camp
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Cemetery at Internment Camp
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Father and Son
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Robin, WHINE, Snivel, It’s TOOO HOT!
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Dome at Fossil Falls
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Luke and Fossil Falls
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No, this picture is NOT upside down. Robin, Robin, Robin…
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Luke, Fossil Falls
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Somewhere south of Lone Pine, CA
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The scary road the Ancient Bristle Cone Pine Forest
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A Bristle Cone Pine, ancient tree….so cool to stand among these.
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Sun at Ancient Forest
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Six Door at the Ancient Bristle Cone Pine Forest
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At Manzanar
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Down in the rocks at Fossil Falls

Just Another Scenic Sunday 12-18-13

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Cousin, Mary….”I dare you to take me out of this sink…”
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I can’t stop taking pictures of Mary…
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COUSINS!!!!
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Bagel and Beezie are SO happy to be be out of the truck!!
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Booboo…FREE AT LAST!
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Enjoying the beach, despite the snow!
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“Put me back in that truck and see what happens…”
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Mya and her babies…
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Luke on the beach…
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Anthony on the beach…
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Mya enjoying quiet time with her dogs…
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Robin and Beezie…
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Bagel
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Snow angels in the snow/sand…
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Snow/sand angel

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Discount wine…
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Sister time with Mya and Heather…
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THRIFT STORE SHOPPING!!!
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My beautiful cousin Mary!!!!
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When you tell a two-year-old to smile…
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Anthony and Heathers man, Andrew playing Wii U. Who’s having more fun?
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Tillamook Cheese Factory…
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Popup trailer getting smaller by the day…
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Boys at the Beach for…
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Our gracious hosts and old friends, Larry and Patti, when we broke down in Pacific City, Oregon.
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Luke making friends with a deer…

Bison Of British Columbia

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I’ve actually have nothing funny to say about today…which is good news since that means nothing bad happened. Good for us, bad for entertainment value.

It’s late, we drove about 13 hours today through windy, mountainous, freezing, roads and we’re tired. We drove, we ate, we watched me cower behind the truck while a buffalo circled around behind and then we drove some more. We dodged elk, caribou and bison wandering around in the road. We’re in Fort Nelson, British Columbia and are thankful the worse of the temperatures are behind us. It’s minus 13 and windy.

Here’s some evidence of our day….sorry my eyes are not letting me tell any tales.  Now I’m off to get some sleep so we can wake and do it all again.

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South of the Border (Canadian That Is…)

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We bedded down last night in Tok, Alaska in a highway frontage hotel.  If I have learned anything on this trip so far it’s that there is no need for an alarm clock with five kids, three dogs, and two cats who are all used to the silence of the backwoods. Nobody sleeps through hotel noise. Sometime around four a.m. the dogs jolted us awake with a howl that would make a huntin’ dog jealous when a trucker out front started his rig. And so began our day.

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Tok is about 90 miles from the Alaska/Canada border and so we hit the crossing fairly early. The nice lady commented about the length of the truck and the husband said something about us being long enough to span two countries. I gave him a ‘look’ because for years he’s been told not to joke with the border folk. Some day he is going to get us deported. We handed over passports and birth certificates which she examined and had each child say their name through the truck window.  “You had two children in 1999?” she asked.  “We both had affairs,” replied the husband and I pinched him on the elbow.

Once that was cleared up she waved us through, declining our offer to leave her a “Border Cat”.

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The first time I came up the Alcan (Alaska/Canada) highway was in 1979.  The worst stretch of the whole trip back then was between the border and Kluane Lake. Thirty-four years later and it hasn’t changed a bit. It resembled a well groomed off-road track of broken pavement and wicked frost heaves. It seems no matter what they do, it just goes from bad to worse.  Near Beaver Creek, Yukon, a particularly evil frump sent the kids heads to the ceiling and the bike rack hanging off the receiver hitch buckled.  Cool. Two thousand dollars in mountain bikes barely hanging on and we were miles from anything.

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If you’ve ever seen one of those circus acts where sixteen clowns pile out of a car and run around like idiots with no real purpose at all, this is what we looked like on the side of a snow blown road in the Yukon today.  Only it was somewhere around negative twenty windchill and we were, for some reason, completely ill equipped for the weather. Boys in t-shirts grabbed dogs by leashes and took them for laps around the pull-off praying they would pee (one hasn’t peed yet).  The girls and us parents pulled the bikes from the teetering rack and one by one, tried to shove them into the tiny space once occupied by dogs. The food tub, duffel bags, bedding all went into the cab to make room for the bikes and then boys, girls, dogs, elephants and lions piled back into the cab. Meanwhile the cats huddled somewhere deep in the bed of the truck, now trapped behind a mountain of bikes half hanging out the canopy door.

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We rode like this for a couple of hours.  Our food froze in the back so we shoved ham and cheese slices in the glove box, the warmest place in the car, to thaw. I made ham sandwiches and we sneakily ate them behind the dogs heads, switching hands as they twisted to see what was the smell. Beazie crawled from the third seat onto Mya, who already held Bagel, then across the laundry basket of food to Robin where she snuggled in like she’d found home.

Early in the evening, having lost about a half a day between the dogs, the bikes, and my leaving my Ipad under the pillow in the hotel which sent us backtracking, we hit the town of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory at the advice of a few fine Canadian folks.  We found a brand new bike rack at Canadian Tire (Coolest store ever, btw) and again battled the bikes, the cold and the dark. A fellow with a rich French accent visited us while we worked and we took turns warming ourselves in the cab of the truck between bolts, washers and curses.

Halfway thru assembling the new bike rack with numb hands the good people of Whitehorse reminded us it was Sunday night and every light in the vicinity went to black. Good thing I had a flashlight between chattering teeth and another stuffed inside my bra.  (cabin life finally pays off) As we fastened the last bike into place under the lights of the Walmart parking lot next door, a red fox casually moseyed by while the locals didn’t even seem to notice.  Just like home.

Tired, frustrated with our loss of time and chilled clear through we called it a night and checked into a pet friendly hotel. We’ll rise early tomorrow and attempt to make up some time.

I flipped off the hotel light switch a bit ago and Luke jumped up to go turn on the generator.  You can take the kid out of the backwoods…but you can’t take the backwoods out of the kid.

South From Alaska

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I was born a nomad.  In my forty-two years I have lived in 18 different homes in four different states and yet I feel like I’ve been stationary my whole life. My feet get the urge to wander and my family knows it’s time when I start thinning my belongings to a manageable heap.

So when we bought our 40 acres three years ago and began to create a life, a homestead, a permanent abode, my family was a little hesitant to believe I’d last. Well, there is still no place I’d rather be than right here in my cabin. No, really. 

But sometimes life changes your plans and the best thing to do is let go of the reigns and see what happens.

My mom-in-law turns 80 this year (I know women don’t like their age broadcast but I think 80 is something to shout about) and we’ve not lived near her for more than 20 years.  And so when the cabin didn’t quite reach the stage you might call, “remotely close to finished”, and we realized our feet may freeze to the floor if we stay still long, we devised a plan to spend the winter in the southern states so our kids can get to know the grandma they’ve been deprived of all these years.  

I’m gonna talk shop-lingo like a girl for a minute…be patient.  About a month ago the husband and the boys pulled the motor of the truck to replace the Timing Chain Cover because it was cracked and leaking oil. Leaking oil by the gallon equals not ready to drive 3500 miles.  In order to replace the timing chain cover, they had to pull out the entire motor so they could drop the oil pan and get some tube out of the oil pan. Thanks to Youtube, they found a way they could only ‘Lift’ the motor a ways to get the oil pan off, thus not having to remove the transmission, an act which makes the husband cuss like a sailor.  Okay, so several long days of greasy work and they put the whole thing back together.  We started the truck, nothing leaked, everyone is happy. 

SO, then we spent the next few weeks working on the interior. We pulled the seats; pulled old carpet and Rhinolined the floor, replaced the headliner; put new bucket seats up front; ran an external heater to the back seat; new speaker wires, etc. It looked beautiful and again, everyone was happy.

We we’re about five days shy of the husband going back to work with plans to leave for California the day of his return, when we started the truck. Uhoh, oil everywhere.  Hours later we tracked to leak to a missing seal. Again, most of the motor was disassembled, the leak repaired, the entire thing put back together. Woohoo, we said, we are going on vacation!

Again, we started the truck and took it for a test drive. A mile down the road we pulled over, looked under the truck, and a long stream of profanity flew from both our mouths. Oil, all over the road.

Upon investigation we discovered the oil pan was had sprung a leak. Or three.

Long story short, we dropped the six door off at Elite Diesel in Soldotna, Alaska and said, “Forget it…you fix it.”

The husband left for work and I called in an order for an oilpan via a local parts store who at this point, I am sure would like to remain nameless. But since the following was not their fault…it was the Soldotna Napa.  ‘The oil pan is a week out,’ they said, ‘coming from Kansas.’ And because we live in Alaska we are used to that. NO problem. The husband was gone to work for two weeks anyway.

And a week went by. Then ten days. I called Larry at Napa, who by this time recognized my voice. Larry did some dialing and found my oil pan has taken a little trip of it’s own. From Kansas to Idaho….to Alabama (twice) to Memphis Tennessee and had landed in Jacksonville, Florida. Cool. Trying not to freak out as our window of opportunity flies out the window, I called Keith at Ford in Kenai who assured me he can get one out of Sacramento the following day.’ Woohoo,’ we said, ‘we’re going on vacation!’

Now I’m sure the conversation between Keith from Ford and Blade from Elite the following day was more of an argument over who was going to call me, the nagging wench who harasses them on an hourly basis to finish her truck because the cabin is getting colder and smaller by the day. But Keith must have lost the toss because he called to tell me…my second oil pan had been sent to the wrong dealer. 

F#$$^%##%^…

I called Larry at Napa, “Did my oil pan happen to arrive from Florida?” I asked.  “Sweetie…” said Larry, “I don’t think you are supposed to leave Alaska.”   Bite me, Larry, I’m outta here one way or another.

I slept on it, letting Larry’s words sink in. Maybe the auto parts guy was right. Maybe all these issues were a sign. I’ve been following signs for years and it’s always worked out, but my drive to get south was stronger than my brains at that point.  So when Keith from Ford called me the next morning to say he’d managed to get me a third oil pan all the way from Sacramento in less than 20 hours, I wanted to kiss him through the phone. Kudos to Keith! It pays to have childhood friends in high places.

Four days in the shop and the engine was out, fixed up, and put back in place. Yesterday (Friday Nov 15, 2013) the truck came home. Since we’d spent a month or more preparing, the cabin was ready, the kids were packed, and all was in place for the trip. We spent the day playing a giant game of Tetris with the kids/dogs/cats/stuff in the truck and left half of it behind on the floor of the shop.  A good nights sleep and we were ready to roar at six this morning.

And then we saw the giant puddle of antifreeze pouring from the bottom of the motor as it warmed up in the dark driveway.. The husband high tailed it to our shop six miles away, the boys snapped into action as well-trained shop technicians, and half an hour later the leaky hose was back to work.

Meanwhile, the girls and I packed up our three dogs and two cats into their cubbies amongst the luggage. Nermal threw up all over my camera bag and Beezie is in heat…but other than that they appear to be handling the drive so far.

We hit Anchorage, then headed up the Glenn Highway towards Tok where we will spend the night. I’m typing this as the sun sets behind us and the moon reflects off snow coated spruce in the distance.  One long day nearly down, six more to go.

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