Monday, October 27, 2008

Just another day

I've written about the fun and exciting adventures we've been on. I've shown you pictures of the awesome places we've seen. But what about days like this? Not every day is filled with new and exciting travels. We have days when Jason is working. School days. Weekends that we do nothing but relax. Days when we make check marks on the list of chores that need to be done. Those days are everyday when living in a house. We don't think twice about them. We may moan and groan a little but carry on the same. A few months ago I would vacuum every single day (extreme? some people thought so). I'd DRIVE 5 blocks to the grocery store to get milk or bread. There was always a load of laundry going. Who would dare to skip a day with a family of 5?
Things are a bit different now. I have learned to let the dirty clothes go. (or forget that they are hidden behind the shower curtain.) I really have no choice. I spend about 2 hours a week in a random town, in a dingy laundromat, usually talking to others about their travels as our clothes spin out the dirt. We no longer have a vehicle, other than our "home on wheels". And trust me, with the cost of gas, you don't want to drive it down the block for butter. We all have bikes and they are our means of transportation. We ride our bikes almost everywhere with backpacks on to carry our "souvenirs" home. I'm actually falling in love with bike transportation. (so are my hips and backside). I cant' believe the rusty bikes were stacked up against the house unused for so many years. I feel so lazy when I look back and thought it was a haul to the library only 2 miles away.

Now that we've made it to the Southwest we are staying still in towns for a week or more. Living in RV parks to explore the area around us or to work for a bit. It's nice to not empty our wallets into the gas tank everyday. The kids like the breaks. It helps focus more on school because we have more of a "routine" in the morning. They are able to meet other kids in the campgrounds and run, laugh and play. They spent the whole day yesterday with their new friend Michael building a tree house out in the woods behind the park.
I had planned on showing you pictures here of everyday life in a RV while on the road. Pictures of the kids doing school work, us washing the motorhome, haircuts and meal time. But i seemed to have misplaced my camera cord. The kids insisted a walk to the mini mart for slush puppies would help clear my head and I'd come back to find it, but nope. All I've found is a sugar rush. Perhaps I should use that energy to haul my dirty clothes to the washing machine. Giddy Up!

I'll end with a little introduction to Shawn Mullins. He is one of our favorite musicians and we're lucky enough to have scored tickets and a babysitter to our 3rd show this past weekend. He's been in our CD player since we left the northwest and is great road trip music to play. I insist on every one of you rushing out to your local music store and purchasing a cd. I won't tell you which one, they are all great.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Flagstaff VS Bend....Round 1

If I were brave enough to go out into the morning chill and take a picture right now, you would wonder if we were back in Bend, OR.
Ponderosa pine and Juniper trees, cinder pits, wildfires, obsidian chips, dust, hiking trails galore, all 4 seasons, and ski mountains surround us...ahhhhh, the high desert.
Instead of the Deschutes River meandering through downtown like Bend, here we have the ever present sound of the Santa Fe Railroad. The tracks lie right in the middle of historic downtown and all day and night the train horns blow as they trek on down the track. Dinner last night at the Flagstaff Brewery was interrupted by a train and the kids grabbing on to their water glasses with the shake of freight passing by.
Flagstaff is smaller than Bend, although with 2 Interstates running through, it feels a bit busier at first. The downtown areas of both towns have somewhat of the same feel although Flagstaff is a bit rougher around the edge. We kind of like that. The breweries here are filled with ping pong tables and live music instead of football games on TV and wealthy tourists. There seems to be a good music scene here although it may be too small for Coldplay to pass through. But let's jump for joy for one moment because Jason and I have tickets to the Shawn Mullins concert tonight and a babysitter for the kids!!!
We all rode our bikes to the Flagstaff AquaPlex a few nights ago for family swim. Water slides, lazy rivers, whirlpools and hot tubs filled up our night followed by some good needed sleep. Fun times like that help us feel a bit at home in unfamiliar towns. I'm slowing getting a sense of direction and almost feel confident enough to explore on my own with the kids while Jason is at work. There is a lot to explore here. So much so that it's a town that's now at the top of our list when the time comes to settle down.

Thursday, October 23, 2008 of climbing,hiking, biking, smiles and fun

We left Bend, Oregon last August to explore our country, learn more about ourselves and each other and maybe find a "new home". Moab, UT was the first town we stayed in that we could maybe picture ourselves living in. Of course we've really just started this search and have lots more to explore. Adventure wise it had lots to entertain us. Rock climbing, National Parks, hiking, biking, rivers, etc. But it's also a very small town (no Target here) and it gets HOT in the summer. We're talking 98 degrees hot 3 months in a row. Being there in Oct. in 80 degree weather while Bend was getting it's first blanket of snow was heaven to us. We couldn't help but call our friends to brag that we were going swimming in an outdoor pool! Yee-Haw

The kids loved rock climbing at The Feathers in WA and are somewhat addicted now. Moab is famous for rock climbing. So the first stop....finding a kids harness and rock climbing shoes for Ani. She's in love with the sport, now searching climbing videos on the web and asking when the next outing is. When she grows up she's going to be an Olympic champ. By then it will be probably be an event.

We liked the feel of Moab so much and there was so much for us to explore that we decided to hold base camp here. We stayed at an RV park with caretakers that were so nice to our kids and us. They came by every day to take the kids feed the fish in the pond and complimented us more than once on how wonderful our kids are. (pat on the back).
We spent our first full day out at some rocks along the Colorado River. They even had rock art nearby. Ani scales up the rock like a natural. Kaleb is a pretty amazing climber himself. He scaled a 5.9 like a champ. Jay was able to climb some more complicated rocks with a couple from Colorado. Even Avery tried it out. Now I climbed a bit when I lived in Seattle but I'll just say it right here...... I'm a mother of 3 and a weak wimp now. I'm scared to death of falling and your likely to find me clinging to the rock with tears in my eyes begging Jay to lower me. It's only when I raise my voice and my frustration echos throughout the canyon that he listens. :)

We took the next 2 days to really do....nothing. We'd been going, going, going since leaving Anacortes, WA that it felt good to just relax. We swam, we read, we napped, we drank margaritas. We met lots of nice people around camp. The kids were able to socialize and play late into the night. Cheap glow sticks are hours of fun! Saturday was the farmers market in Moab and we're trying hard to buy fresh, local produce. Being late in the season there wasn't much to chose from, but we still had fun. Moab has a great bike trail system and we biked from one side of town to the other without having to cross a street. We stumbled across a rad musical playground. I am going to petition for every town across America to build one of these!

After a stop at the local thrift store we rode our bikes to the BMX track. To our surprise they had a local competition going on. We tried hard to get Kaleb to compete but it was a solid NO! We stuck around and cheered for the little kids and clapped when they got their awards. Then it was the Chinchen's turn to race. Who knew we'd be some competitive against each other. Ani had no mercy when it came to racing her mom and flew right on by giggling the whole way. I was no competition for Kaleb as he aired over the big dirt mounds.

What's left? We saved the best for last. Arches National Park!!!! Located just 5 miles outside of Moab. Could you even imagine?

I don't even know if i should try to describe the beauty within. Words will do no justice. I think I'll just say that make it a priority to find time in your life to visit. I'll just leave you with pictures and your own thoughts.

We're in Flagstaff now. At 7000 ft. the altitude shocked us the first 24 hours. We looked like some pathetic tourists crawling through town holding our chests. We've recovered now and will be here til Nov. 1st. Jay found a temporary job at a local cabinet shop. It's nice to make some money, be able to check out the town and see if it's a place we want to come back to. Flagstaff is a lot like Bend. It's amazing. I could take a picture outside right now and you wouldn't be sure what town we were actually in. They do get more snow here which Kaleb is fine with, he wants to make sure he doesn't forget how to snowboard. This is one requirement from him...find a home that also has snow.
Lot's of adventures to be had here. They have cliff dwellings nearby, volcanoes to explore, lots of hiking and Shawn Mullins is playing here Sat. and we think we found a babysitter.

Lost in the Swell

Ever heard of it? Yeah, us neither. We headed into Utah without really a plan or even a clue as to what magical landscape this part of the country held. We've seen pictures and heard stories but one can't even imagine til standing deep within a red walled canyon. Layer upon layer of the earth's different sediments above you.
The Swell is desolate desert badlands with Native American rock art panels thousands of years old and dinosaur fossils over 100 million years old, hidouts and evidence of shoot outs from Butch Cassidy, canyon gorges rising 1000 feet below you or mesas towering 1000's of feet above you. No paved roads to be seen and 2000 miles of roads on BLM to explore. Now how could you pass a place like this up.
We picked up a nifty brochure at a small local museum with self guided driving tours inside. The route we picked would eventually drop us out to I-70 in southern Utah leading to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. It is labeled as a day drive. HA!
We drove down the Swell as it was getting to be dinner time. We didn't make it far in and found a nice pull out with a fire ring already made. We explored a small canyon at camp, had dinner and a nice big fire. As we slept that night the wind started to pick up. Seems to be the theme for us while camping in canyons. The next morning we decided to brave the winds, put on some sunglasses to block the flying sand and head around the bend to hike up a canyon known as Furniture Draw. It winded through canyon walls and while I enjoyed to view, I couldn't help but become paranoid as the clouds north of us showed rain and I swore a flash flood was going to round the bend at any moment sweeping my family away. We've all heard the stories.
We braved the wind and sand storms back to the motorhome to venture on. We read that just beyond our camp was a dinosaur footprint on top of a sandstone ledge. Avery just couldn't get over this. I think it's been her favorite spot on the trip thus far.
We camped just down the road from here and the local sheriff that patrols this land got a kicked out of us only accomplishing a mile a day. We were really cruising if we got past 2.
The highlight of this road is a panal of petrogyphs over 2000 years old. The "artwork" was done by Barrier Canyon people. Little is know of these people and they are still a mystery to us today.
We took the opportunity to have "art class" here and the kids pulled out their journals and spent time sketching the wall.

We drove as far as the dirty San Rafael River that night. We pulled into a camp early and hiked up a cayon along the river. We were having a blast til we were somewhat deep in and found some cougar skat. We paused, thought about it for a minute and carried on. On our way back we walked along the riverbed. 1/2 a mile from camp we found what looked like drag marks in the sand, from a BIG animal. Lets say perhaps an antelope or bighorn sheep was at the river drinking earlier that day and the cougar whos' scat we found was hungry, snuck up behind it, grabbed it and drug it into the bushes. That's exactly what it looked like to us. And it seemed to be pretty recent. For a moment Jay thought he was The Crocodile Hunter as he followed the drag into the bushes. Then the lightbulb in his head clicked and he quickly turned around and let's just say we made lots of noise, walked much faster back to camp as I told the family we would be going INTO the RV as soon as the sun went down. :) (Bawk, Bawk).

The next day we drove to the The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry. The Quarry is a National Landmark and home to over 15,oo0 bones excavated from the Jurassic period. I'm still new to traveling and don't always complete my homework so it was a surprise to us that we are now in the "off-season" and museums we want to see aren't open every day in late fall. We were a bit disappointed, but being the adventurers that we are, took another dirt road, hopped out and hiked around the desert. We did our own digging and Kaleb found what we were latter told to be a fossilized dinosaur tooth. Jay found a turtle shell. So we may not have been able to go in, but we didn't leave empty handed. Shhhhh......

4 days had gone by and now we were ready for a little bit of civilization and hot showers. We opened out to I-70 and drove onto Moab, Utah.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Time flies when your having fun

I can't believe that 2 weeks have passed since i last wrote.
We've seen lots since Missoula. So much so that i wish i could just invite you all to chill around the campfire with us, roast smores and share stories. We all have our favorite moments and version of what we're seeing.
I'll just start where we left off and play catch up over the next week.

It was getting chilly in Montana and we decided we would leave before the snow started to fly. The plan was to go to Yellowstone and Jackson but with a HIGH of 25 we skipped that part. Do you blame us? I couldn't wait to feel some heat from the sun so it was time to start heading south. We found some unexpected fun in a tiny town called Anaconda, MT. With a name like that you have to stop and check it out. We found this crazy slide down the side of a big hill.

Avery didn't want to have anything to do with this slide. But being the parents that we are, we thought she needed to experience this. You can tell by the last picture what she thought about the ride. Even the dog got in on the fun. But only because she isn't smart enough to figure out that she can go down the steps as well as up. And with feat that we were going to leave her stranded at the top, she came running/sliding down after us.

After a quick stop in Butte we drove late into the night. Through Montana and Idaho and into Salt Lake City. We spent the night in the ghetto of Ogden in a auto parts store parking lot so that Jay could fix the broken alternator belt the next morning. Good Times!

We drove into Provo, UT the next morning to go to The Earth Science Museum. Dinosaur fossils and awe galore. Kaleb can't get enough of this place. I think he's going to be a geologist when he grows up.

From here we headed east to the center of the state to a Price. We found the information center here and loaded up on brochures. We were told of a town called Huntington where we could camp. We spent the night camping near the reservoir.
Here we read about the San Raefael Swell. Most people who think of Utah think of Canyonlands, Zion and Arches.........The Swell isn't well known and those of you who know us know that we like to be off the beaten track. The land is full of history. The Spanish Trail cuts through it, Butch Cassidy hid in it, the dinosaurs roamed and the Native Americans call it home.
We spent 4 days wandering about The Swell. And this is where I have to leave you. The RV is packed and ready to hit the road. We're at a crossroads right now. One road leads to Mesa Verde and Durango. The other down to Flagstaff and Sedona. I guess we'll pull out and see which way we turn. I'll catch up soon.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The shake down

Sunset in The San Juan Islands

Well, we did it. We've hit the open road. We said our tearful goodbyes once again to loved ones and began the journey. I wish I could say it was as easy as turning on the cruse control and enjoying the scenery, but that's not how the story goes. It's been test after test and amazingly we still have a sense of humor about it. Let's start from the beginning.

The boat is complete and in the water. She (and Jay) passed the big test and she's floating!!! It looks absolutely amazing. What a relief to be finished and have it turn out so good.

Then our adventure began. Or so we thought.......

We pulled out of Anacortes, Wa late in the afternoon. With a quick stop scheduled in Mt Vernon, we'd be on the road soon. HA!!!

We had battery charging issues while in Anacortes. We bought a brand new battery and thought the problem was fixed. 20 miles out we were losing charge and fast! We pulled into an auto parts store, tested the alternator and was told it was bad. We decided to purchase a new one and fix it ourselves in the parking lot. As the kids and I took a walk, Jason got to work. I couldn't believe he was almost finished by the time we got back. 2 hours later we were back on the road.
20 miles later.....we were losing charge yet again. Humph.....

Luckily, we knew some good friends of the family lived right down the road. We played it smart, made a call and asked for a place to "park and charge" for the night. Tom and Crete live on some amazing property and have been extremely generous to us. During our stay in WA they have treated us to an amazing dinner, delicious wine (they own a winery), helped on the boat and helped Jay figure out the problem. The culprit....the alternator belt. GO FIGURE. Jason now changed the belt and the spark plugs while he was at it and once again...hit the road.

You ready for this......yes, 20 miles down the road......the wind blew the lids of the containers that were on top of the roof right off. Pull over, take them down, shove them in the RV and hit the road again.
40 miles down the road, wind still blowing, crossing the floating bridge outside of Seattle with white caps on either side, through the tunnel and......

The hood flew open while driving down the Interstate. At that point it was nothing but laughter and curiosity as to what was next.

We were treated that night to a perfect camp spot along the Columbia River Gorge in Wa.

We pulled in with enough sunlight to take the kids "real" rock climbing for the first time.

Now if you don't live on the coast but are curious as to what hurricane strengh winds feel like, take a trip here. I was ready to pull out my wings.

We woke up the next morning and actually made it across 2 state lines, the panhandle of Idaho and into Montana. We spent the night in the mountains of western Montana and got up the next morning headed to Missoula. A quick stop to make breakfast had Kaleb asking "Dad, what is that green stuff pouring out of the engine?" Good question kid! So that's why the heater wasn't blowing air. We did what we could, stopped every 20 miles or so to add water and made it to Missoula. We spent yesterday on a wild goose chase looking for a auto store, finally found the part we needed, fixed it in the parking lot again and enjoyed a late afternoon play stop at a local park. Decided that a KOA was in order to do laundry and spent the night. Let it be known that KOA's have FREE, HOT showers. HOORAY!!! (I spent all my quarters on laundry though.)
So Jay went under the rig to check things out, found a lot of holes in the exhaust pipe and when I went out to see what was up he was down there welding them shut. Fun times let me tell you.
So it's been one test after another, but we're not giving up. We're learning along the way. We're going to stay in Missoula until at least Friday and check out the local and nearby scenes.
Then it's time to hit the road. Old man winter isn't far away. I can see the snow up on the mountain tops from here and the kids pulled out the hat and mittens this morning.
Lessons have been learned, patience have been tested, but we're all still smiles and enjoying our time.