I have to begin by apologizing for being absent for a while! The last few months we have been moving more often and I have gotten so far behind that I am going to call this post my “catch up” post! I am going to catch you up and then commit to posting on a more regular basis. To make it up to you, we’ve added a ton of pictures at the end of this post!
OK, let’s go back to February!
Once my parents left for home we began the hike to New Orleans, LA. There was some pretty severe storms while we were driving but thank God we were always on the outskirts of the storm. It was a pretty long drive, and once we got to Bayou Segnette State Park it was around 10:30. It was hard to tell in the dark but the park seemed very lush with vegetation and quiet. We woke up the next morning to a wonderful surprise! The park was beautiful AND there was a huge playground, bathroom and laundry directly next to the trailer. Score! Brytan and Charlie spent lots of time on the playground with the family from next door who happened to be French Canadians and their three kids didn’t speak a lick of English. Brytan kept telling them words like “banana” and they would just repeat it over and over. It was quite comical and they were at the park for most of the time we were there! The weather was beautiful and we were able to have school outside on multiple days.
One of the first things the kids and I did in New Orleans was to go to the Audubon Zoo. It was beautiful! Very old and ornate and it had beautiful fountains and wrought iron gates everywhere! Definitely wins the “Most Beautiful Zoo” award! The kids were also excited to see their albino alligator and two-headed snake, both of which were really cool. That night we picked Scott up and headed out for dinner. We picked a place that TripAdvisor recommended for crawfish boil and decided to give it a try. This trip is all about adventure, right?! The looks on our faces must have screamed “First Timers” because the couple at the table next to us immediately made both Scott and I take turns at their table learning how to peel and eat crawfish. My opinion is that it is a lot like shrimp with a lot more work, and though it tasted good, sucking the head of the crawfish is still quite repulsive. Scott simply said that he liked the flavor but that the process was way too tedious for one little piece of meat. I guess we will never be true Southerners.
Early Saturday morning we decided to take on the French Quarter but first we made a pit stop at a local cemetery called “Hook and Ladder“. We knew, through Uncle Elden, that Scott’s Great Great Great Grandpa’s first wife and kids were buried there in the 1800’s. We walked and walked through the isles of above ground graves and began to worry that one of the old crumbling stones might belong to our distant relative. Suddenly, Charlie shouted that she had found it! Sure enough! There it was in a beautiful and very ornate tomb. It was very humbling to know that our relative from so long ago were buried there and their lives were lived in the very community that we were staying. The mystery surrounding the whole situation was that there were “fresh” fake flowers and wreaths adorning the tomb. Do we have relatives in the area that still go to visit the graves? I guess we will never know…
From there we boarded the local ferry and rode over to the French Quarter. We wandered for a few hours and checked out the local art shows in the streets and caught a wedding procession through the streets! It was very lively and fun. We took a tour by carriage and the tour guide was very entertaining. The disappointing part was that by 1:30pm there were people everywhere who were quite visibly drunk, so we decided to call it a day. New Orleans is a very old and unique city, but it was quite dirty and wild. Not our cup of tea, especially with the kids.
Dallas and Austin
On February 21st we left New Orleans and headed to Dallas. Scott’s Uncle Bubba and his wife Karen live in the area, as well as Scott’s cousin and her family. We stayed at another state park, Joe Pool Lake,and it was very nice. We were some of the only people staying there so it was quiet and serene. We met with Scott’s family for dinner and within minutes Brytan and Charlie and their 5 cousins were talking and laughing up a storm. All of a sudden, when we were about to leave, all of the kids came up with handfuls of coins and told us they were rich. Well, it turns out that the restaurant had a fountain that was full of coins. The kids thought it was a free for all and collected as many as they could. After a few laughs, all of the kids sadly returned their treasure and we made plans to spend some time with the cousins the next afternoon.
The “next afternoon” became every day that week including a couple of dinners. I had such a lovely time talking with Scott’s cousin, and her children were so sweet to C & B. They all played all day with Legos and toy guns. Charlie even got to have a sleepover with their daughter! What a fantastic week! At the end of the week we got to go out and see the beautiful property that they had bought where they plan to build their homestead. It is gorgeous and the kids loved launching model rockets and running around on the property. We ended our week with a breakfast at IHOP and many tears saying goodbye. We are so blessed to have such wonderful family around the country.
From there we drove to Austin for a quick stay. We tried some of the local food trucks and they were amazing. We didn’t have a chance to see all of Austin but we did get to visit Rex Johnson’s church, which was phenomenal! They have three services every Sunday morning and around 400 people at each service. It brought back so many memories to shake Pastor Rex’s hand at the door. He had preached at many family camps in Wisconsin when I was a girl. The church was so friendly and the music was amazing. Such worship! The preaching was on raising up kids to love God for themselves and also instilling in them a love for God and His word that will last them throughout their lives. What a service.
On the 27th we drove to San Antonio and checked in at Green Lake RV Resort. It is very new and is probably the most beautiful RV Park we have ever stayed at. They offered golf cart rentals at a super low price so we rented one for the entire stay. The kids were over the moon! The day after we arrived, our friends from Wisconsin, the Matteucci family, came to visit! What a lovely week! We were curious to see how it would be to have 9 people staying in the trailer at once, but it was totally fine! We loved being together the whole time and each night was a fantastic sleepover for the kids. We spent a lot of time at the campground fishing, driving the golf cart, and swimming in the pool. The weather was beautiful all week and the kids were never bored! Jenni and I decided to take the kids to tour the SAS Shoe Factory as a field trip and it was so cool! They hand sew all of their shoes and some of the women have been in that same job for 40 years. Our tour guide told us that the company truly values its employees loyalty and a few years ago surprised all of them with a Christmas bonus! $1000 for each year they had been with the company! Some of the women were given $35,000 and more! What a life changing gift for them!
On that Friday, the dads were able to get away from work and they came with us to explore The Alamo and the River Walk of San Antonio. The day that we were at the Alamo was during the 180th Year Anniversary of the historic battle. They had many people dressed up and telling their “stories”. When we got to the River Walk which was only a few blocks from the Alamo, we bought tickets and took a boat tour. If you are ever near San Antonio, go to the river walk! It is breathtakingly beautiful and it winds along the river right in downtown! There are tons of amazing shops and restaurants. We had such a wonderful week with our friends, and made so many memories, that it was really hard to say goodbye.
After Ron and Jenni left we needed to cheer ourselves up so we went to visit The Natural Bridge Caverns. It is a series of large underground caverns that you can tour and they also have an ice cream shop and zip lining, a ropes course and gold panning. The caves were really neat but it was super humid inside them which gives me really bad heat sickness. It also made me a little more uneasy than I thought it would. When I saw the switch backs going down into the cave I got pretty anxious and just kept thinking, how far down does this go??? It was really cool and the kids loved it, but the part they enjoyed the most was after we came out of the caves. Charlie got to do the ropes course and Brytan and Daddy did a giant, human-sized maze.
We ended up staying at the resort a week longer than expected because Scott had to go back to Wisconsin for 4 days for work meetings. I wasn’t worried about him being gone. I’m not much of a worrier anymore, and I figured the kids and I would do something fun. We ended up going to the DoSeum (instead of museum, you DO things) in San Antonio. What a cool place! There was a whole section where the kids got to be spies and figure out a mystery, and they had amazing outdoor playgrounds. The kids played literally all day and didn’t want to leave when the place was closing! Great place to take your kids if you are ever in the area!
We were super excited to pick Scott up at the airport on Friday night and he was so glad to be home. We were talking about how much we love being together all the time, just the four of us, and how we are going to struggle to adjust going back to “normal” life when this is all over. I’m not sure…
Alpine and Las Cruces
From San Antonio we drove to Alpine, TX, and stayed at Lost Alaskan RV Park. It is literally out in the middle of nowhere west Texas. Everyone told me that the drive across Texas would be so boring and long, but I actually loved it! The roads were easy and the views were amazing! Scott probably got so sick of hearing me say, “Look at that!” and “That is so beautiful!” At one point I saw wild goats eating the grass on the side of the road and not long after that Scott saw a family of six wild pigs walking down a frontage road! Never thought we would see so much wildlife out here.
We only stayed in Alpine for five days but we saw a lot. First we visited the Historic Fort Davis which was a small fort built along the only road between San Antonio and El Paso at the time. All of the settlers that traveled to find gold passed through the area and the army had soldiers stationed here to protect the travelers from bandits and Indians. There were a lot of restored buildings and people in costume so the kids loved it. We also had a “moment” when the bugle played The Star Spangled Banner and every person there stopped and turned to the flag with their hands over their hearts. It brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of how blessed we are to live in this wonderful country and how privileged we are to be traveling it and seeing all that it has to offer. While were in Alpine we stopped at a Western wear store and had the kids try on cowboy boots and hats, and by the time we were leaving the store Charlie really wanted boots! It was so cute.
We also got to visit the McDonald Observatory and attend a Star Party! We had to drive about an hour up into the mountains to the observatory at 9pm and there were about 200 people there. We all sat in an outdoor amphitheater and the guide had a strong laser that he used to give us a constellation tour! It was amazing and you could see so many stars and satellites. They had around 40 telescopes of varying sizes and shapes, some as large as a building set up to show us all different stars and planets. Jupiter happened to be really bright so we got to see it and 4 of its moons. The best telescope was on the moon and we could actually see craters. It was amazing!
On the 16th we headed to Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and stayed until the 19th. We were only there for a few days so I took the kids to the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, and, because we were the only ones there, we got a lot of attention from the guides. Charlie got to talk to the man who trains the horses for a long time. Charlie has decided that she really wants to ride. She has been talking about it on our entire trip and we are starting to make plans to try to make her dream a reality!
When we arrived in the Phoenix area, God decided that he needed to teach me a lesson. We pulled into the Arizona Maverik RV Park and I was very disappointed. It was really small and there was no clubhouse or pool. We ended up parked next to the enormous pile of junk at the back of the park. Here’s the lesson, within 5 minutes of being there, at least 5 families had come out of their trailers to welcome us and tell us that they were having a BBQ that night and we were invited. This truly has been the most friendly park we have ever stayed in. To the point that on Easter Sunday, the owners of the park left Easter baskets for each child staying there at the door of their trailer. And another mom organized an egg hunt for all of the kids! Lesson learned, don’t judge a book by its cover.
The reason we were in Phoenix was actually for Spring Training! It was a tradition for Scott and his Dad to go to spring training with Scott’s cousin Tim and his dad Dennis. So we thought it would be so much fun to continue that tradition with our kids. Darrell and Donna arrived on Monday afternoon and the very next day we went to our first game, the White Sox and the Giants. The kids loved it and the energy at the park was fantastic. The only draw back was the heat! Man was it hot and “somehow” we ended up in the wrong seats so we were nowhere near the shade. Bummer. I ended up taking breaks from the sun with the kids and luckily there were a lot of seats open in the shade so we were still able to watch the game. That day both kids caught a ball so their biggest desire was fulfilled. The looks on their faces were priceless! The rest of the week was filled with games, all of our seats were amazing, like front row, thanks to Scott. We even got to meet Brewers Ryan Braun and Jonathon Lucroy, who were the two players that the kids wanted autographs from. Charlie really got into getting autographs on her ball, which she autographed first herself. She got so many that at one point a player handed the ball back to her because he had already signed it. Too funny!
One of the best parts of the trip was getting to spend time with family and friends. We got to go to Encounter Church two weeks in a row. It’s a new church that was started by Mark and Robin Seagraves who were the assistant pastors at the church that Darrell and Donna attend in California. Scott’s cousin Timmy and his family, as well as Timmy’s parents, also are on the volunteer team at this church. It has only been around for six months and it is amazing! They meet in a local High School and they are so organized. They have an established children’s ministry and a discipleship ministry and the music is fantastic! I was so blessed by the music. We were lucky enough to spend Easter there with Scott’s family and we felt so welcomed. Tim and Audrey and their son Hudson were so wonderful, taking us out to lunch our first Sunday and having us over for dinner while we were there too! They are so sweet and we can’t wait to see them again soon! Tim’s parents, Dennis and Susan, are also avid 5th wheelers and it was so nice to talk travel with them as well. Sweet people!
Our second week in Mesa was spent playing outside with the other kids in the RV park. The kids were literally outside from morning till dark everyday, and, man, were they filthy when they came in! Yikes! It’s so dusty here everyone’s feet are black by the end of the day. Right before we left we stumbled upon Goldfield Ghost Town and spent the afternoon panning for gold and wandering around the town. It was really neat but windy, so we kept getting sand and dust blown in our eyes. One of the things you learn when you live in the desert.
On the 2nd of April we pulled out and headed to Needles, CA. It is west of Phoenix about 4 hours, in the middle of nowhere. But a beautiful nowhere. There are mountains all around us, and the The Palms RV Resort, our new home, is gorgeous! It is right on the Colorado River, with river access, and has a resort style pool with palm trees and tennis courts. We are enjoying our time here and this last weekend we went to Oatman, another ghost town about 40 minutes from here that has wild burros wandering around the town. We stopped on our way into town and thank goodness Stella is so tall because the burros could only reach their noses in the truck to get the Pepperoni Pizza Combos that we were feeding them! Ha ha ha! We had a lovely time wandering the town and watching the daily gunfight on Main Street, which was actually the old historic Route 66. On the way home we took an “alternate route” that ended up being 20 miles or so on a gravel road through the mountains. It was awesome! Stella performed like a star!
So far this has been a nice week. The heat is a little much. The highs have been up to 99 degrees, but it has started to cool down. I guess the heat was good though because it made me stay inside and get most this post written! Yay!
This past Saturday we made the 2 hour drive to the Hoover Dam! When we arrived it was raining and windy but within about 45 minutes it was beautiful sunshine. I mentioned that I was so glad for it and Charlie quickly informed me that it was her doing! She had prayed as soon as we had arrived that the rain would stop and it did. Good thing we have a little girl with a heart full of faith! As we walked through the exhibit describing the process of building the dam and its current functions, the kids were really intrigued and enjoyed hearing the stories of some of the people who lived it and learning how the electromagnetic turbines work. By the time we went outside and actually saw it, we were all spellbound by its size and presence. It was amazing to think that so many thousands of men worked 24 hours a day, 363 days per year for five years building it! And they finished 2 years ahead of schedule. Scott said that is what happens when people are really willing to work hard. It ended up being a wonderful experience and a lovely drive.
Well, that was a long one, but we’re finally caught up. Check out all the pictures below. Here’s to keeping up from now on! Thank you for sticking with us!