September 20, 2015

Summer Adventures before Middle School!

We had the privilege of going on an incredible journey this year. The day the kids got out of school, we left for a 6 1/2 week adventure in the RV. We headed West and kept going for 45 days, 22 states, and 12,000+ elevation change. It was amazing. There are so many beautiful places in our country that everyone should have a chance to explore. We were lucky to have had this experience. It was perfect timing for our family.. new business for Jim and Carla (so we could work from the road), and the summer before middle school starts (when the kids still want to be with us as much as their friends). It was the perfect storm of situations so we did it! We took over 3K pictures so there were too many to put here, but we included a sampling from the places we went.

Once we got back, Kai and Sierra had a pretty low key month while Jim and Carla worked (from home). They were able to play with some friends and did do one camp - Photography Camp (with Mendy and their friends Sam and Alivia). We were able to pick up their middle school schedules on August 6th so they had a chance to walk their classes (this will be the first year they are changing classes).

Before school started on August 17th, we took one last trip to John Pennekamp State Park in the Keys. While we loved our Epic RV adventure, it wasn't relaxing. We were on the go every day for 6 1/2 weeks to make the most of the locations we visited. The Keys were very relaxing. It was a nice quiet week before the busy school year starts.

Here are a few of pictures of our Summer adventures!


The photo diary is below:

Epic RV Trip


Carla's Birthday - Camping Gambler Rogers
John Pennekamp Camping Trip - The Keys   Miscellaneous




Epic RV Trip (back to top)

We were able to work remotely so we headed West for a month and a half in our RV. It was an incredible experience for all of us. We saw friends, family, many national park, and truly beautiful areas of our country. It really was a once in a lifetime, epic adventure. We had a separate shutterfly site for our journey but included a sampling of pictures here. We were in quite a range of climates, states, elevations etc.

- # of Days Away from Home: 45
- # of Miles Driven: 10,497
- # of States Traveled Through: 22
- # of States We Stayed/Played in: 17
- # of Campgrounds We Slept in: 24
- # of Time zones Traveled Through: 4
- # National Parks Traveled To: 10
- Lowest/Highest Temperature: 45 F / 117 F
- Lowest/Highest Elevations Traveled: 0 ft / 12,183 ft
- # of Pictures Taken: 3,058




05-27-15 Bye bye Florida, we are Georgia bound 

Kai and Sierra finished up the 5th grade today at 1 pm (their end of elementary party) and last day of elementary school! 

We got home and were on the road by 1:30 (would have been sooner, but had to take a last minute shower to get all the glitter out of Sierra's hair from the party).  After a few stops along the way, we arrived at our first campground at 7:30.  

The traffic wasn't too bad, but we ran into some rainy weather.  Of course, it didn't really start until it was Carla's turn to drive.  Between that and getting used the extra "fish tailing" sensation of driving with all the extra weight, it was an adventure but we made it safe and sound.  

After a short walk (to see the resident goats), we had dinner and watched our first movie... RV.  Heading to bed shortly, since we'll be up and on the road by 6:00am.    On to Nashville, Tennessee next...




05-28-15 See ya GA, Hello TN, Hi again GA, Welcome back to TN 

We had another day of driving (out of GA, into TN, out of TN, back into GA, back to TN).  We got up at 530 AM so we could be on the road by 600 AM (which ended up being 620 AM).  Jim drove the first couple of hours and then had 3 hours of conference calls so Carla drove the rest of the way.  

We had some more rainy weather and got into the mountains... that was fun.  This is the first time we've had the RV in the steeper grades.  It was a good preview to bigger ups/downs we'll hit out West.  

What Carla learned:
1) The signs for "trucks" apply to us (i.e., driving slower than everyone, steep grades coming up)
2) Do what the truckers do
3) When going at a snail's pace up the mountain and riding the breaks down the mountain, form a single file line with the truckers
4) Put the hazards lights on like all the other truckers (when going up/down)
5) Watch everyone else fly by
6) When the truckers turn their hazard lights off, turn yours off and proceed like normal

We arrived North of Nashville around 130 PM, had some lunch and found a park to play in for a few hours.  It has been a relaxing day (other than driving in the mountains and the rain while remaining perfectly quiet, so the clients wouldn't know any of us were around).  

We head out in the AM for St. Louis!




05-29-15 Another travel day, but an afternoon of fun in St. Louis!   

We left Tennessee in the morning for our 5.5 hour drive to St. Louis, Missouri.  We traveled from Tennessee, through Kentucky and Illinois before finally arriving in Missouri.  The weather was supposed to be horrible today so we thought all our planned activities would be wet but we lucked out.  It was cloudy but the rain held off.

Jim drove the entire trip today.  It was pretty uneventful.  Although we did get passed by a storm truck... one of those you see in the movies that chase tornadoes).  Kai asked, "Should we really be going in the same direction as the truck chasing tornadoes?"  

We had an afternoon of fun planned in St. Louis.  We went to the "Arch" which was awesome!  Highly recommend it for anyone coming through this neck of the woods.  We went up inside it to the top which had a great view of the city from both sides.  They also had a cool movie which talked about how it was made.  

Afterwards, we went to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game.  It was a great game.  We left in the 8th inning so we didn't get caught in traffic but the Cardinals were ahead 3-0.  Kai and Sierra both used some of their loot to buy a souvenir (Kai - a spyglass from the Arch; Sierra - a Cardinals pillow pet).  We also got a National Park passport (and our first stamp).  

It was a successful day.  Tomorrow on to Kansas... long day of driving and not much to see, but we're a day closer to Colorado.




05-30-15 Long, long day.... tire blow out! 

Well the day turned out a lot different than what we anticipated!  We got on the road by about 800 AM this morning, making our way to Russell, Kansas (a 7.5 hour driving day).  We knew this would be a long driving day, just to put some miles behind us... nothing fun planned.  

About 30 minutes down the interstate, Jim could feel something wrong with one of the trailer tires.  Fortunately, we were near an exit and made our way off the interstate and to a parking lot close by.  One of the tires had completely blown out!

We had our list of emergency numbers handy and called for roadside assistance.  After waiting 45 minutes for the first one to be dispatched, got a call back that the truck didn't have the right equipment so they had to dispatch someone else (in other words, the 60 minute window started over again).  After another 45 minutes, the next driver came.  He had never worked on an RV and didn't know where to put the jack to lift the trailer up (scary).  He called his boss who came about 25 minutes after that and knew what to do.  Within 10 minutes the spare was on.

Now given this experience, we didn't want to get on the road again without a spare (especially on a weekend).  So we went to a small, local RV place who was too busy to help us on what was now Saturday afternoon.  He sent us to another business about 10 minutes away which turned out to be closed!  We then got on the internet and after calling a couple different tire stores, we found one open and wiling to help us.  

They had to send someone to their warehouse to get the tire, but they were AWESOME and very helpful.  We patiently waited, found a Taco Bell to eat lunch, walked the dog, played in their lobby, got some work done, etc., and finally about 330, they had our original tire fixed and back on the RV, and the spare was put back in it's spot.  

We were back on the road for the remaining 7 hours ... estimated time of arrival 1100 PM.  We packed sandwiches in the car for our dinner, so we could minimize stops ... we'll be pooped by the time we get in, parked, showered and to bed.  

Today was a bad luck day, but we made the most of it ... tomorrow will be better!




05-31-15 We aren't in Kansas anymore! Hello, Colorado.  

Given how late we got in, we slept in and took our time in the morning.  We explored the RV park and found the resident reindeer (the Mama just had a baby a few days ago).  Kai and Sierra found a couple of friends to play with while we cooked breakfast.  

We got on the road about 1030 for the long, flat Kansas drive.  It was pretty uneventful (which was a welcome change from yesterday).  Even though it was flat, flat and more flat, we actually gained 3,300 feet in elevation between Russell, KS and Aurora, CO.  We passed what appeared to be small oil drilling rigs and several windmill fields.  Oh - and there are skunks in Kansas.  We went though several "stinky skunk clouds."  We're not sure if it was from dead ones or mad ones, but it was unpleasant.  

And then there was the cattle farm near the interstate... that was particularly pungent!  

Colorado and the Rockies were a welcome site!  We are finally parked in a location for a couple of days.  We are excited to see our good friends, the Blackwells.  We went to their house for dinner, which was awesome (and left us with no RV dishes, which was a bonus). 

We are excited to investigate the state park tomorrow.  




06-01-15 Wildlife! (and some domesticated animals)   

Still adjusting to timezone changes, Jim and Carla were up early (like 530ish early), but Kai and Sierra slept in a bit.  After breakfast, we took a bike ride throughout the state park.  It is a beautiful park with lots of trails to explore.

We ran into several prairie dogs (so much fun to watch... like "whacka-mole" in a big field).  There were lots of babies and we even saw one nursing.  We also saw a rabbit and deer.  The altitude was getting to all of us a bit (little sleepy, and headaches).  We are drinking lots of water to try and get it in check before we go even higher.

In the afternoon, we went with Grace and Barbara to see her horse.  Kai and Sierra were able to help her groom him and get him ready for his exercise.  We explored the stables and saw many goats, chickens, horses, wild baby bunnies and even a foal (actually there were two babies).  

We had dinner with our friends, who were also gracious enough to let us use them as a laundry mat!

Great day... heading to Rocky Mountain National tomorrow!




06-02-15 The Rockies and Bigger Wildlife   

Today we headed to Rocky Mountain National Park.  We couldn't check in until 1pm, so we spent some time in Cherry Creek State Park.  Kai and Sierra still wanted to see the lake, so they got their bathing suits on and we went on a short walk to check it out.  The water was freezing, but they didn't mind.  They swam for a little bit and played in the sand, then we went back to clean up, close up and hit the road. 

It took about 2 hours to get to Rocky Mountain National.  The drive and this park do not disappoint.  Amazing!  We saw some big horn sheep on the way there (driving down the road with no where to pull over so no pics), elk, deer and a little chipmunk.  The female and baby elk are in the meadow by our campsite (what appears to be hundreds).  

The Blackwells took vacation to come up with us for a few days.  We all went on a short hike and then had dinner with some of their friends in town.  The weather here is amazing.  Kai is enjoying taking pictures of the wildlife and landscapes, so we have extra pictures!

We have no electric or water at this campsite so may be a delay on posting pictures.  




06-03-15 Elk, Horseback riding and Snow!  

We had a full day.  The weather was awesome again (which the locals tell us is lucky for us... it rained the entire month of May).  We went on a 2 1/2 hour horseback riding trip through Rocky Mountain National Park.  We saw several elk in the woods (but it was tough to get pics on the horse while moving). 

Afterwards, we got some lunch and Sierra did a little shopping (her souvenir month is burning a hole in her pocket).  We met back up with Rob, Barbara and Grace and went up to the top of the mountain.  It was freezing!  The road just opened this week and there are spots where the snow is over 20 ft.  We went all the way to 12,180 ft... brrr.  We were in shorts in the AM and hats/gloves/coats by the afternoon. 

We saw lots of Elk today!  We also saw a couple mongoose, a pika (moved to fast to get a picture), many chipmunks, mule deer, marmot, and several birds.  Kai and Sierra are enjoying using Carla's old camera to catch the wildlife.  We have our own wildlife stalking club!

Tomorrow.. more in Rocky Mountain National Park!




06-04-15 Hiking day and our last day in Rocky Mountain National Park  

We had a great hiking day today.  We hiked up and down the mountain, about 6 1/2 - 7 miles.  We packed our lunch and headed out around 10am.  It was warmer than we anticipated but such a beautiful day.  We got ankle deep in the river when we were done... it was FREEZING! Guess we should have expected that since it is being fed by the snow melting off the mountain.  Took a while for the stinging to go away.  

Everyone is feeling slightly fatigued and ready for bed but we couldn't have asked for better weather (and wildlife cooperation) at Rocky Mountain National.  What a gorgeous park (and a break from technology... no electric, water and sketchy internet)!

We had our final dinner with Rob, Barbara, and Grace and said our goodbyes.  We miss having them in Orlando but are grateful to have them in one of our favorite states so we can see them.  

We head out in the morning for Mt. Rushmore.  Our adventure continues!




06-05-15 South Dakota and BUFFALO!   

We had a long travel day today.  We left Rocky Mountain National Park in the morning.  The weather had turned in the region.  It was cloudy when we left Colorado and rain was expected for most of our day.  We were lucky and only had some light rain in spots.  Unfortunately, the road on the last leg of our trip ended up being closed due to flooding in the area.  We had to find a different route to get to Custer.  

After searching for open roads on the internet (to make sure they weren't flooded too... a feature GPS won't give us), we found a new route.  It was a long road of nothing and we got there a little later than expected but finally arrived.  It started pouring as we entered the park so it was fun getting setup.  Our site is also on a little hill so we had new leveling challenges.  Throughout the day, we came across so many nice, helpful people.  It is always refreshing to see people so eager to help others.  

Once we got settled and it stopped raining, we took a drive on the "wildlife loop."  Wow!  It was dusk and the route did not disappoint.  There were herds of buffalo (including babies), deer, burrows, and prairie dogs. We plan to do the route in the morning as well on the way to Mount Rushmore.  We're hoping to see some bighorn sheep and pronghorns as well.  It's supposed to be cloudy/rainy tomorrow as well, so hopefully they're out.  We're heading out rain or shine so more pictures to come.




06-06-15 Bison, Pronghorns and the "Heads"   

We got up early this morning so we could go on the wildlife drive again in Custer State Park. The day was supposed to be dreary but the first half ended up being really nice and sunny.  We saw several pronghorns out again, and herds of bison (not buffalo like everyone usually calls them, including us until we looked it up).  

The light was nice so we spent time taking tons of pictures and video.  Afterwards, we headed to Mount Rushmore ("the heads" as Kai and Sierra referred to it most of the day).  It was really amazing to see in person.  The weather held off until we got to the top, then the rains came.  We hit the gift shop on the way out (Sierra's request everywhere we go).  

We stopped by Crazy Horse on the way back "home."  It isn't complete but will look great when it is... it is huge.  We relaxed the rest of the day at the campsite (and HMG got some work done).  South Dakota was a winner!

We head to Wyoming (Yellowstone and Grand Tetons) tomorrow!  Long drive ahead...




06-07-15 Wide Open Spaces... across Wyoming   

We left by 6AM this morning for our long trek across Wyoming.  Took several pictures of the changing terrain... going from vast plains to the Grand Tetons (with lots of variations in between).  The weather was clear except for a few brief rain pockets.  You could actually see the clouds of rain and know how long you were going to in them before coming out the other side.  

Sierra entertained us with her singing (i.e., "turn it up, this is my jam") along the way.  Both Kai and Sierra have read a bunch on this trip (and watched several movies).  Kai has actually finished 6 books already.  We are going to run out before we're back.  

We passed several pronghorn along the way.  They would be laying out on the fields with the cows and sheep.  We learned that most people call them antelope.  They are similar but not the same animal.  They are the fastest animal in North America.  We finally saw a mountain goat going 65mph down the highway so no picture but cool to see. 

By the time we got to the Grand Tetons, both Kai and Sierra thought they looked like teeth.  Sierra is calling them the "molars."  They are different than the Colorado mountains.  Funny to get their take on them.  Once we got into that park, we saw our first wildlife traffic.  Tons of cars were parked on the side of the road, the ranger was directing cars etc.  It was a bear!  There was no where to park our RV along the side of the road so we missed that but maybe we'll get lucky on another day.  

After setting up and dinner, we went for a dusk drive into Yellowstone.  We found out the short way to Old Faithful is closed (the bridge is out), so it's an 80 mile loop to get to it (after driving about 30 minutes just to get to that fork in the road).  

Yellowstone is huge so we're trying to figure out how we want to divide our time.  For tonight, we just did a short drive.  We saw several elk (including a baby and her mom which jumped out in front of our car... Jim slammed on the breaks to keep from hitting them).  We also stopped at a small geyser field.  It was the first time Kai and Sierra have seen them.  It was a nice "appetizer" for the big ones we'll see near Old Faithful.  

We're all tired so heading to bed.  We have full hookup at this campsite (yeah... nice, long showers), but no cell or internet in the campground or most of Yellowstone and Grand Tetons (and no TV reception).  It will be another "unplug" portion of the trip. We are winging it as we go. Never know what we'll run into from one spot to the next!



06-08-15 Yellowstone - The Disney World of National Parks 

We had a LONG DAY today!  Because the bridge was out to the Old Faithful (which we found out opens the day we leave town), we had a 2 hour drive around the park to get there.  We left at 630AM to beat the crowds.  We stopped at a few places along the way, but our plan was to get to Old Faithful and then stop at various locations in the park on the way back.  

We did get up there before it got totally nuts,  but by the time we left, it was crazy busy.  I know it's not their full summer rush, but it is the biggest crowds we've seen so far.  We did see Old Faithful erupt and then went around to see the various other mudpots, steam vents, hot springs and geysers in the area (and the bison who decided to hang out by Old Faithful... they had to put forrest rangers around the area because people kept trying to get too close to take pics... 3 people have been gored in the last 3 weeks for that reason).  After a picnic lunch (and some really cool makeshift teeter-tooters in the woods), we started our trek back out.  

Holy cow was it busy! Kai and Sierra said this is the "DisneyWorld of the National Parks."  All along the roads on the way out, people poured in and out, stopped in the road and on the side of the road etc.  We have turned into wildlife snobs.  We have seen literally hundreds of bison over the last week (very close up), so we don't stop at each siting.  For the other tourists, each time there is a "siting," there are 20+ cars that stop on the side of the road (or middle of the street).  

Then there was the bison who decided to lead the cars down the road.  That caused a nice backup too.  It was actually pretty funny to watch.  He finally got off the road, and then the cars could pass him but they took their time taking a picture up close before moving on (which we can relate to).  

We got "home," ate dinner and then needed to head to one particular lookout which got cell coverage.  We like where we're staying except there is no cell or internet in most of Yellowstone and Grand Tetons.  There is one spot we could get it so we could crank out some client work.  We were like Robin Williams in the movie RV.  The kids piled in the back and watched a movie while we worked.

Tomorrow is another big day... white water rafting in the freezing cold water.  We're all pooped from having fun, so Wednesday we will slow down a bit before our drive on Thursday!




06-09-15 White Water Rafting and Moose   

We went white water rafting today!  We were supposed to have an afternoon trip but they called yesterday and said they didn't have enough people (weight issue), so they rescheduled us to a morning one (scenic tour) AND a comparable afternoon one.  So we ended up with double trips.  The morning one was leisurely and we could take the big camera (no risk of getting wet).  The afternoon was another story.  The guide said the water temperature was 39 degrees.  It was mandatory to wear a wet suit (and they provided them).  

It was an awesome day!  The weather was perfect until our bus ride back to the rafting company.  It started raining with some small hail.  It stopped after about 5 minutes.  

We saw several eagles, marmot, American pelicans and a MOOSE!!!  

It started raining in the afternoon so we got caught up on laundry.  Tomorrow should be a down day!




06-10-15 Relaxing day / Work day 

We needed to catch up on some work today.  Given we don't have internet or cell at the RV, Jim went up early to work in the car in the one spot we found with cell service.  Kai and Sierra slept in until 10AM.  They were pooped out after days of activity.  Jim got back a little after and we had breakfast.

We went to the visitors center to get the Grand Teton passport stamp and look in the gift shop.  Afterwards, we found a hotel in Grand Teton with good service.  We worked in their lobby for a good bit of the day.  Kai and Sierra brought several things to occupy themselves.  They were great and patient!  They were on picture duty for the post as well.  They found a ground squirrel outside and took Carla's camera to get pics of that and the mountains.  It was a mostly cloudy/overcast/rainy day so a good one to spend indoors.  

After our dinner, we settled in for a Star Wars marathon.  We're on the 2nd movie.  Sierra said it looks like it was made in 1841, but Kai is enjoying it.  Sierra is waiting for the parts with Yoda and the Ewoks.  

It would have been nice to have a little more time here to check out some hikes in Grand Tetons but we need to move on.  We leave tomorrow for Montana (travel day), then Mt. Hood.  Our path is through Yellowstone out of the state.  The bridge is supposed to be reopened, but we're not sure what time... fingers crossed for the morning.  



06-11-15 Travel day to Missoula, Montana... Forrest stomach issues   

We had a 7 hour travel day today.  Jim had a conference call in the morning, so we were due to get on the road by about 9am (after he returned from "the internet spot" at the base of the Grand Tetons).  Carla, Kai and Sierra slept in a little later.  

When Carla got up to let Forrest out, Forrest clearly was having stomach issues (diarrhea).  After coming back in, she slept for about and hour and 1/2, then started pacing again, then had an accident... uggh.  We kept her outside until it was time to leave.  

It made our trip longer today because we had to stop about every hour when she "told us" she had to go.  So she has left deposits throughout the state of Montana, from both ends (she vomited a couple of times too).  It made for a longer day but she was really good about letting us know "when it was coming," so we could pull over and let her out.  She seems fine other than that, so we think some of the scraps she got screwed her up (we mix real food with hers so she remembers to eat... tip from the vet for her doggie Alzheimer's).  Hopefully tomorrow she will be feeling better.  

Aside from that drama, it was an uneventful day.  The terrain changed a little but we're still in the mountains.. just at 3,200 ft instead of 9,000-14,000.  It feels more like rolling hills than big mountains.  

We got to our destination around dinner time and settled in for our 3rd Star Wars  - Empire Strikes Back!  

Tomorrow we head to Mt. Hood for a few days!


06-12-15 Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon - 10 hours later

Today was a driving day.  We traveled from Montana through Idaho, Washington, and finally arrived in Oregon to Mt. Hood.  One of the neat things about this trip is to see the various states and how different they are.  

Montana had rolling hills in many locations we drove through, Idaho was more mountainous and very green with pretty lakes and then we arrived in Washington.  We were only in Southeastern Washington, but it felt like the Midwest.  It was flat and had farm land as far as the eye could see.  There were many points it actually felt like we were driving in the dessert.  I'm sure other areas of Washington are beautiful but this time of year (most of the crops were gone so there were dirt fields everywhere), it felt like a really long stretch of driving.  It was very dry and lots of dirt.  The one cool thing was seeing the "dirt devils."  These looked like mini-tornados forming in the fields.  We looked them up to see they weren't dangerous (actually they dissipated about as quickly as they started).  

Oregon started out very dry, rocky as well but got more mountainous.  Actually Washington and Oregon were VERY WINDY.  We were whipping around alot.. it burns through gas quicker (and doesn't feel very good). As we got closer to Mt. Hood, it turned more green and lush.  It was beautiful.  Our campground (in a National Forrest) is amazing.  It looks like the Ewok village in Star Wars.  We've never seen anything like it.  The trees are HUGE and there are so many different types of green plants everywhere.  Our campsite is enormous.  We have room for the RV and at least 3 other tents (if anyone wants to come for a few days :)).  

We are here three days.  Our site doesn't have electric or water and no cell/internet.  The RV is our "tent" for the next few days.  We did see there was cell service at the general store so we can check in when we're near there.  We are looking forward to hiking/biking/fishing here.  The weather looks perfect for a the next few days (although it's chilly... we slept with lots of blankets last night).  

It's been a little over two weeks and we have a couple of observations:
- People out West seem happy and relaxed
- We are so used to being "on the grid" that it is hard to fathom how people survive with no cell, tv, internet (but they are happy...  hmm)
- You should gas up when you see a station... you may go 150 miles with no gas station or food source (or anything)
- Walmart is not everywhere... sure seems like it back on the East coast but we have traveled ALOT and not seen many
- Kai and Sierra are awesome travelers
- The only thing we'd change on the trip so far is adding a few more days to Grand Tetons/Yellowstone (and staying in different, multiple locations so we could enjoy 
each area without driving so much).  Yellowstone is HUGE.  You really need several days to experience and optimally, stay in the region of the park you are enjoying that day so you don't have to drive as far).  

Forrest continues to have issues.  We're hoping with her bland diet she will mend soon.  

Looking forward to tomorrow and enjoying this park!


06-13-15 Mt Hood, Lots of Hiking and Crack open the First Aid Kit   

We slept late this morning and it felt good.  We have been up with self imposed things to do or work for a couple of weeks.  Today we had no agenda.  After everyone was up and dressed, we went to the general store by the lake and got coffee.  We thought we'd be able to get internet there but as it turns out, it's very weak and not enough to get the internet hot spot.  Some emails would come through on the phone but even that wasn't consistent.  

We came back and got Forrest settled (she is still not feeling well), and went out on a hike.  It was 2 miles up and 2 miles down.  We gained 1,400 ft elevation in that time.  The view at the top was beautiful.  You could see 3 snow covered mountain peaks, including Mt. Hood.  Visibility was good today, so it was easy to see all three.  

Afterwards, we went back "home" for lunch and to chill out for a bit.  Kai and Sierra decided to take a bike ride on our circle.  It is hilly here so they were enjoying the ups/downs.  Jim and Carla were sitting in the campsite watching them circle.  We heard a noise and look over the bushes to see Sierra's bike flip about 7-8 ft in mid-air.  

We couldn't see or hear her.  We ran over there not knowing what we'd find.  She was getting up off the ground and upset.  We find out her brakes have completely gone out when she was going downhill.  Fortunately, she thought quickly and jumped off the bike before it crashed.  She skid down the road on her left side and helmet.  She is scuffed up ... shoulder, arm, knee, ankle, but nothing broken.  Her helmet saved her melon.  She is sore and will certainly feel it more tomorrow but we are very lucky it was not worse given the speed (for those of you with kids who don't like wearing a helmet... this is our third bike accident and the helmet has saved their head in all 3 occasions... you can tell from the damage.  Kai and Sierra are both good about the helmets and know it has kept them from getting hurt worse).  

After getting her cleaned up (which took stripping her down to get all the areas.. need to hit a store to replenish the first aid supplies... she put a big dent in them today), we rested for a bit and then tried fishing.  We didn't have any luck today and were all tired.  The hike around the lake to fish was another 2 miles (in total, we probably did about 7-8 miles today with all the hiking/walking).  We had a short fire tonight, dinner and then played a game of Pictionary, which was a blast.  Carla and Sierra's team won but "rematch" has already been called!

We'll see what tomorrow brings but really hoping no more accidents and that Forrest is feeling better (not sleeping very good having to get up with her in the middle of the night).  



6-14-15 Vet day

Well our day didn't go as planned.  We were hoping to rent a rowboat and try fishing 
again, however, Forrest was worst this morning.  She wouldn't eat or drink anything, had been up all night, was very lethargic and then lost bladder control.  After calling our vet back home, we decided to take her to the emergency vet (closest one was in Portland, about 1 1/2 hours away).  

They are still not sure the cause, but given her age, it could be something related to that or a bug she picked up.  They gave her IV fluids and antibiotic/anti-inflammatory, as well as a probiotic to take for the next several days.  We need to continue to keep her on a bland diet (chicken, rice, cottage cheese) until this clears up.  

Surprisingly by the time they finished with her, her energy level was up.  She's not cured, but much better than this morning.  We went to the store to get more supplies for her diet (as well as more first aid supplies for Sierra wounds).  Forrest was hungry after not eating all day.  

She has continued to have several small meals (and water) throughout the rest of the day.  It was a long day but we're happy it didn't take a turn for the worst.  We still need to watch her closely over the next several days and go back to the vet if she isn't better in 3 days.  
After we got "home," we made some dinner and hung out by the fire for a bit (then came in for another game of Pictionary.. girls won again).  It is our last day/night at this site.  It is a beautiful place... wish we had some more time here but it is time to move on to the coast.  We'll be in Depoe Bay, Oregon by tomorrow.  Our campsite there is full hookup and on the beach!

The adventure continues...


06-15-15 Mountains to Coast of Oregon

We drove the short 4 hour drive from Mt. Hood to Depoe Bay, Oregon today.  It was an uneventful drive.  The weather was nice.  We stopped one time to give everyone a break, including a cottage cheese snack for Forrest (fortunately, that is all she needed).  we crossed through Portland which was a really pretty city.  

As we approached the coast, it was much cooler, and foggy.  Our campsite is right on the beach.  We've never stayed at any place like this.  We are packed in with the other RVs but it's cool to see and hear the waves in and our of the RV (and to walk right out on the beach).  

It never rained today but was just a damp.  We took a short walk down the beach after getting set up.  There were some tidal pools at the end which has some neat sea creatures and shells.  The beach also had a ton of stones (the kind like they use in a stone massage).  It was really different.  

Hopefully we'll get a little sun tomorrow so we can see things better but it's a nice relaxing place.   

P.S. Forrest is doing better today.  She is still moving around slow but taking her medicine and eating/drinking good.  Still working to get her back 100% 


06-16-15 Sunny Skies in Oregon, but Forrest back at the Vet 

We had some work to do this morning (and laundry), so we got a little later start. Jim had one last mid-day call, so Carla, Kai and Sierra took a walk to collect more 'hot stones' and fly our kite.  It is nice and windy here so perfect day to fly a kite.  The sun was out so it felt a little warmer than yesterday but still cool (and the water temps are under 50).  

Forrest did great yesterday but today is not eating or drinking again; and her digestion problems continue.  She was weaker today and didn't want to get out of bed at all.  Once Jim finished his call, he found a local vet and we were on the way.  They ran some tests and determined she has pancreatitis (which is treatable, versus a tumor in her pancreas which they wouldn't be able to do anything about).  They "hospitalized her" tonight and tomorrow to pump her with IV fluids and antibiotics.  The vet was optimistic that 1-2 days of treatment would get her back on her feet.  

It was really odd and sad leaving her (and not having her in the RV).  As a distraction, we took a drive and saw some of the shoreline, then came back for dinner.  We finished the night with a bonfire on the beach (a first for us).  

We were supposed to move further down the shore tomorrow but have cancelled that portion of the trip to get Forrest well.  We will leave from here and go straight to Redwoods Park (hopefully on Thursday).  While Forrest gets her treatment tomorrow, we will probably drive around and try to see some more of the shore.   It was so nice to have a sunny day today... hopefully tomorrow will be the same.  


06-17-15 Whales!

Well, the extra and unexpected day in Depoe Bay, Oregon, allowed us to see the whales!  We have been looking but so far, no luck.  This morning, 3 came by (looked like a mother and 2 babies).  They were playing in the water, very close to shore (just beyond where the waves break).  It was very cool!

We did a little more site seeing to see some tidal pools and other areas of the Oregon coast (we spotted a fat harbor seal along the way). Most important (if you ask Sierra), we hit the little shops downtown.  She found a couple extra treasures to add to her collection.  

The weather was great today.  It was the sunniest day we have had here, however, still windy.  The warmest it has been is high 50s, low 60s, but with the strong winds, it feels colder.  The wind is great for the kites.  We have been able to get them up without even trying.  

We hope to get Forrest back tomorrow.  She has been two days on IV antibiotic/fluids for her pancreatitis.  We miss her and are ready to get her back and healthy (hopefully).  We are due to head to Redwoods National Park tomorrow, so it is mostly a driving day.

We hear the redwoods closer to the coast are very tall, whereas the redwoods inland (i.e., Sequoia) have a wider girth.  We are excited to see them...




06-18-15 Oregon to California (and we got Forrest back)! 

We talked to the vet first thing this morning and Forrest was well enough to be released.  They wanted the day to continue antibiotics and fluids but said we could pick her up around 4PM.  We had to check out of our site by 11AM, however, the park allowed us to move the trailer to a parking area until the afternoon.

We took advantage of our extra day and visited some more state parks.  We found some really interesting beaches with caves, fossils in the rocks, big stones, volcanic rocket etc.  It was a gray day but we had fun exploring.  We had Chinese for lunch, explored another beach and then it was time to pickup Forrest and hit the road.

She is doing so much better.  She has energy, is eating/drinking etc.  We have to continue some medicine for a week but she seems almost back to normal.  

We hit the road around 4pm (after going back and getting the trailer hooked up).  The route to our next destination (Redwoods National Forrest) was along the coast.  The Oregon coast is really beautiful.  Long stretches of beaches with huge rock formations jetting out of the shore and in the water.  When the tide recedes, it leaves tidal pools with all kinds of interesting marine life to check out.  

It took about 6 hours to get here and we couldn't full appreciate what we were driving into because it was dark.  However, we could see some massive trees along the way in to our campsite.  We're excited to see everything in daylight tomorrow.  Oregon was fun, but now we're ready to explore some California.

Oh.. couple oddball Oregon notes:
- Very dog friendly... people love their dogs here.  They are everywhere (shame we couldn't take advantage with Forrest)
- People are friendly but not overly approachable (i.e., not initiating contact unless you do).  It was much more like Orlando in that way.
- You can't pump your own gas (and gas was higher priced here... $3.05 - $3.24 / gallon).
- It is windy... even when it's warmer, it's windy and makes it feel colder (at least on the days we were here).
- The water is COLD!  It was about 49 degrees and we here doesn't warm up beyond the 50s even in their warmer months (July-August)
- When it's hot in Portland, the fog rolls in on the coast (Depoe Bay area where we were staying).  
- RV people (or campers in general) continue to be the nicest people ever.  We met some nice retirees on this trip.  The couple next to us even came over and got us when the whales came yesterday... they didn't want the kids to miss it!


06-19-15 Redwoods & Sequoias ... WOW!   

We slept in later than anticipated this morning.  We are at a campsite in the Redwood forest.  The trees are so tall and big, they block most of the light in the morning so it stayed darker than we're used.  The days are long here.  It is usually light by 6AM and stays light until 9PM.  Bonus... Forrest slept all night ... YEAH!

Jim had a call at noon so we did a little exploring in the morning and went to the visitors center to get a plan for the next few days (hikes etc).  One of the short drives we took was to the forest where they filmed the Ewok portion of Star Wars - Return of the Jedi.  Wow!  The trees were HUGE!  We've seen pictures but it was truly amazing to see in person.  

While Jim was on his call, Carla, Kai and Sierra went to a nearby beach/tidal pool.  We took some pictures/videos of the critters in the tidal pools then dug on the beach for agates/stones.  It was a really nice, sunny day.  After lunch, we went back to get Forrest for the afternoon.  She went with us on a couple of scenic drives through the redwood forest. We found several redwoods which were hollow.  You could look up and see all the way to the top.  Of course, we did some touristy pictures of the family "in the hole" too.    

We also drove along the coast a bit.  One of the overlooks was a popular viewing area for whales.  Just as we were about to leave, we finally saw a couple of whales surface.  The pictures weren't as good as the other day since they were further away, but cool to see.  Other than that, we haven't seen a ton of wildlife.  There are supposed to be Roosevelt Elk here but so far, no luck seeing those.  

It is a pretty area of the country.  The gas prices are ridiculous though... we thought Oregon was bad!  

After dinner, we made a campfire, played some cornhole and wrapped up the evening with a game of bingo.  

More Redwoods tomorrow.... 



06-20-15 Hike in the Redwoods!

Today we went on a longer hike through the Redwood forest.  We didn't take Forrest on this one since we went about 6 miles.  It was a lot of up and down terrain, but beautiful.  There were ferns, redwoods and sequoias everywhere.  The pinecones for the sequoias (the big guys) are the size of a big olive.  They hold 60-100 seeds and that is what starts the growth on these HUGE 1000-3000 year old trees.  Like any forest, you see down trees.  When one of those goes down, it's massive.  We saw several and it was cool to see the inside.  The outside of the tree is very hard and has twisty bark, but the inside is pretty soft.  It was actually layered and brittle like a sugar wafer cookie.  That explains why we saw so many hollowed out/standing ones you could walk or crawl through.  

It was very quiet in the forest.  It is very bizarre to not hear a scurry or slither.  There were no animals, except for a banana slug we came across.  It sure seems like it would be animal utopia, but apparently not.  We didn't even see one squirrel or anything.  It was a little eerie (like they must be watching us, but we couldn't see them... maybe we were being filmed for the next Star Wars movie :) ).  

We have totally lucked out on the weather... it was another beautiful day.  After our hike, we drove up to another cool spot.. Fern Canyon.  It is a place tucked in along the coast where ferns grow all along the canyon walls.  A stream runs through the center.  It was a really neat place.  

After our adventures, we went back to take Forrest on a little walk and car ride.  We gassed up and went to see the local harbor seals and sea lions.  

It was another night of Bingo (winner gets an extra $2 of Jelly Bellies when we get to the factory)... Kai won.  

On to Jenner, CA tomorrow (in transit to San Fran).


06-21-15 Travel Day & Happy Father's Day!  

Today was a 6 hour travel day to get further down the coast.  We are only staying in in this location for one night on the way to San Francisco.  We got up early for Father's Day.  Carla, Kai and Sierra made breakfast in bed for Jim.  We planned to get on the road early so we could celebrate Father's Day tonight.  

Before we left, we noticed that one of the trailer tires was starting to wear down and didn't want to risk it popping on the trip.  So we drove to the nearest small town (where we  had cell service again), and called AAA to come put on the spare.  The spare is a full tire so it will get us there.  We planned to stop later in the day to get a spare, but once again, we had many long stretches with no towns (i.e., no gas, food etc).  We weren't expecting that in California.  

The drive was pretty.  There were many rolling hills with lots of green.  It actually reminded us a little of the drive in the VA/ WVA mountains.  We were supposed to change roads to go along the coast to our next campsite, but when we got to the road and found that no trailers were allowed, so we had to change things around.  We decided to cancel our reservation and stay at an RV park which made for a shorter driving distance tomorrow.  

Given we weren't finding any towns to stop for lunch, it was 4pm before we hit any place near civilization.  We found a place to park the beast and a restaurant that allowed dogs so we sat down for a Father's Day lunch.  It was nice to get out of the car and have someone else cook a meal.  We only had a couple of hours of driving after that (mostly in wine country which was pretty).

We got settled, opened Father's Day gifts and watched the Lego movie (we have electric and water again... and cell/internet... woot woot).  It was a long day for Jim (lots of hilly, twisty driving)... not the best way to spend Father's day but travel timing worked out that way.  We'll probably celebrate after we get to San Francisco.  

Tomorrow Jelly Belly Factory tour!



06-22-15 Jelly Belly!   

We got on the road today for the short drive to the Jelly Belly factory.  We were very close to Napa and passed lots of vineyards and wineries on the way there.  It was a pretty drive.  

The Jelly Belly factory was awesome.  They give free tours every 15 minutes throughout the factory, so you can see the history, how they make them, how they package/ship them etc.  It is a working factory so we could see it all in process.  They also gave you samples throughout, which was a bonus... then at the end, everyone got a free bag of jelly bellies.  Of course, afterwards, you finish up in the gift store where lots more candy and merchandise is available for purchase. It was a lot of fun!  

Afterwards, we stopped at a tire store close to our next campground (to get the tire fixed from the other day).  While they were working on that, we went next door to the local deli for lunch/dinner.  

We only had about 45 minutes left to get to our campsite.  The roads were horrible... bumpy, potholes etc.  We weren't expecting that in California.  Also, our site ended up being  back in the mountains a bit.  It's very woodsy and lots of windy roads.  There isn't cell reception in the town we're in, but they have free WiFi so we can at least work a little in the mornings/evenings.  

There are lots of activities for the kids at our campground.  They have a pool (although it was closed by the time we got up there), basketball/woof le ball court, ping pong, tether ball etc.  Kai and Sierra played while we got caught up on a little laundry.  

Tomorrow we are off to San Francisco for the day!





06-23-15 In and Out of Prison today (Alcatraz that is)! 

We left this morning about 830AM for our 75 minute drive to San Francisco.  We figured we'd run into some morning traffic but not as much as we got.  It took 2 hours to get there. We checked out the Golden Gate bridge on the way into town and got a few pictures.  Our Alcatraz tour was at 130pm, so we needed to get parked and take the trolley down to the wharf.  On the way, we drove down Lombard Street (with all the other crazy tourists), then went to park our car.  

We have city passes which get us into several attractions as well as the city transportation (including the trolley cars).  It was apparent that we were not the only tourist in town!  After parking, we went to catch a trolley.  There was a long line of other people who had the same great idea.  After waiting a bit, we decided to walk to another stop further down.  After getting "butt in line" by people more "trolley city savvy," we made sure to get on the next one that passed.  Long story, short, it was now close to lunch, and all we had done was traveled to where we needed to go (except for briefly seeing the Bridge and Lombard street).  We were finally on the wharf.  

It has been 19 years since Jim and Carla were here on their honeymoon.  There was a lot that was familiar and the same, but Alcatraz had some changes.  They now have their own pier for the National Park Service (and the island has really made some changes... good money making changes for the park service; souvenir everything).  Luckily we checked the tickets because we had to head down several piers to get where we needed to go on time.  We didn't have time to eat lunch before hand, so just picked up a snack on the way.

Alcatraz was a huge hit with the kids.  We watched the movie and took the audio tour (narrated by the prison guards and some of the Alcatraz prisoners).  Afterwards we walked around some more and hit the gift shop.  Sierra has been spending some of her money at most locations, however Kai has been saving up.  He had a hard time deciding what to get here... so many good choices.  Sierra chose a poster of the famous prisoners (their mug shots) for her door.  Kai bought a plaque for the wall (of one of the prison rules), a poster of Alcatraz and a box of prisoner profile cards (45 cards of prisoners and their records).  They had a "guest prisoner" here today signing a book he wrote.  He has been in prison 50 years and just got out this past year (was excited to pay taxes for the first time in his life!).  

After we took the ferry back, we had lunch... Clam Chowder in a Sourdough bread bowl for Kai and Carla!  Carla has been waiting 19 years for that and it was good.

It had been a long day and we needed to get back to Forrest.  It's hard to believe we spent the entire day and have so much left to do.  

We will go to Monterey tomorrow.. the aquarium and the 17 mile drive, then relax a bit at the campsite.  Thursday, we are back in the city to hit the other items on our pass and let Sierra shop in the city (we still have passes for a boat tour, and two different science type centers, plus we need to see the sea lions on the wharf).  We plan to leave earlier and hopefully get a little bit ahead of the traffic.  




06-24-15 Monterey Today! 

We ran a few errands on the way to Monterey today (including a Walmart trip... you have to buy your bags here or bring your own).  The route to Monterey passed a lot of farm land. It was interesting to see miles and miles of produce fields.  For some reason we thought maybe there was a machine to pick them, but it's people.  We saw buses of workers picking both strawberries and romaine lettuce.  

We got to the Monterey Bay aquarium around lunch time.  We spent a few hours exploring.  It is a really nice aquarium.  After hitting a couple of stores, we drove on to the 17-mile drive.  There were several deer on the golf courses along the way and on a few stops, we saw sea lions, harbor seals and ground squirrels.  One ground squirrel was so obese, it was actually a little sad.  Guess he's been overfed despite the "don't feed the animal signs."

We got back to the campground around dinner time.  The kids went swimming in the pool for a bit while we got dinner ready.  

Tomorrow is supposed to be another San Francisco day, but we have quite a bit of work to do, so we'll see how the day goes!


06-25-15 San Francisco Day 2!  

We had to do some work today so got a later start.  Jim was really happy Sierra wore her newly purchased "snapped back hat" which he said makes her look like a hoodlum (He was really happy throughout the day as she turned it sideways to pose for pictures .. she is proud of her hat). 

The good news with our late start was that we missed morning traffic and it only took an hour to get into the city.  We were able to take our boat tour and go to the Exploratorium (both part of our city pass).  Unfortunately, by the time we got to the Exploratorium, we only had about an hour to spend.  It was a really cool place.. could easily spend a few hours there.  We'll have to come back some day.  

We also walked around the wharf a bit and saw several street performers which was fun.  Getting out of the city was an experience.  There was constructions, closed streets, and LOTS of traffic.  We felt like trapped rats in a maze.  After an hour of being re-routed and navigating all the stop/go traffic (lots of left turns with pedestrian crosswalks... so about one car gets through on a green light), we finally got out on the freeway.  

The city was fun but wore us out.  The kids even said, "it was fun but I wouldn't want to live here."  Too hectic for our blood!

Jim and Carla have spent time over the years in various cities on business, but "the big city" was new to Kai and Sierra.  Seeing all the homeless people, many of which were strung out or mentally ill was the topic of many discussions.  San Francisco is a fun city and one that feels pretty safe, but we did see a lot of homeless people in many different areas of the city... sad.  

Tomorrow, onward to Yosemite... back to the woods!


06-26-15 More California Traffic and IT'S HOT!

We got up this morning and did more client work until our 1pm checkout time.  We were heading to Yosemite today, which was only 3 hours away, so we didn't need to get moving too early.

Once we got out of our little town and hit the California freeway, the day turned out a little different.  The traffic was wretched!  

It took 6 hours to get to Yosemite instead of 3, moving along a good bit of the way at no more than 30 mph.  We were able to enjoy the golden, rolling hills at a leisurely pace.. ha ha.  As we got closer to Yosemite, the elevation increased (and there were more trees).  We had to go up a nice, relaxing 8 miles of switchbacks up the side of the mountain towing the trailer.  The sign at the bottom said "turn off the air conditioning in your car for the next 8 miles."  Oh, did we mention, it was 104 degrees outside!  

We went from average daily temps in the 60s for the last several weeks (we're getting a lot of use out of our pull-overs), to scorching hot.  People say that the heat doesn't feel as hot out here... humidity or no humidity, 104 is HOT!

In looking at the weather for the rest of our trip, the coolest temps are in the mid 90s during the day with several locations over 100.  It should get us ready for our trek back home to hot, humid Florida.  

We're staying at an RV park this time so we have full hookup and internet (but no cell service).  They have a pool, so we all took a dip before settling in for the night.  

Tomorrow we'll likely venture out to Yosemite.  


06-27-15 Yosemite with all the other tourists! 

We had to do some more HMG work today so didn't leave until late morning.  Yosemite was only 30 minutes down the road.  We got to the park entrance in that amount of time, but what we didn't consider was that it was another large park which takes another 30 minutes to get to the main visitor center area.  The other surprise is that EVERYONE ELSE IS OUT OF SCHOOL NOW!

We are used to vacations on FL schedule where no one is out of school we we go, so it's quiet and not busy.  Now that it is so late in June, everyone is out and I swear everyone is here.  We spent an hour driving around, being re-routed by the park rangers because no parking was available.  We finally found a spot so we could at least scope things out and do a short hike.  

Yosemite has bus transportation throughout the park which is really good.  The buses come every 10 minutes, so we never had to wait too long.  We went to the visitor center and watched the brief Yosemite history movie and got a game plan for the little afternoon we had left.  We found a very short hike that was along the river.  It was an easy one with gravel paths and bridges.  The hike wasn't very long, but we took a break to cool our feet off in the river for a bit.  The rocks are mostly granite here.  It is cool to see them in the river in all the colors you would see for your kitchen counters.  For fun, we also dug around in the sand to see if we found gold... we did not.  

After that short adventure, we took another quick one to see one of the waterfalls.  Again, it was more of a commercial, paved hike.  The traffic was crazy, so we were glad to be taking the buses around the park.

The park is beautiful.  The mountains are a lot different.. they look like stone slabs that grew straight out of the ground.  

Even though there was a lot of traffic leaving the park at the same time, it was moving.  We got "home" for dinner and a quick swim before dark.  

Tomorrow, we plan to leave very early to beat the crowds (and heat... it was 102 today), and go on a hike off the beaten path. 


06-28-15 Awesome hike in Yosemite... need Aleve!

We got an early start today to beat the crowd.  We were up by 6am and and on the road by 630AM.  The park traffic was really light which was a huge change from the day before.  We easily found a parking space and were off for our hike.  It was one which went by a waterfall and then a 2nd trail which continued on to a second, higher waterfall.  It was supposed to be 99 degrees today but ended up being a little cloudy which kept the temperature cooler.  

The hike ended up being quite a challenge.  We hiked 4 miles up and 4 miles down... and another 1/4 mile back and forth each way to the car... for a total of 8 1/2 miles today.  The hike up was literally straight up.  We didn't have any flat area in the 2,000 ft elevation change.  It was a lot of stones, rocks, roots, and steps to navigate.  We took a slightly different route down which had a little bit less grade, but was more slick (all the dirt on the stones).  Our legs felt like jello by the time we reached the bottom.  We were pooped.  Kai and Sierra did amazing.  They were practically running up the mountain on the way up.  They kept having to wait on Jim and Carla (mostly Carla).    

It was strenuous, but worthwhile.  The views were amazing.  We wouldn't have seen them in any other way.  There weren't many people out early, so it was nice to experience Yosemite this way (much better than the cattle call below the day before).  By the time we got back to the bottom, there were lots more people on the trail trying to get a glimpse of the waterfall from below.  

We got to the car and drove to another spot close by to go for a quick swim and eat our picnic lunch.  Because it was still overcast, the water felt much colder than the day before.  Kai and Sierra went in briefly but Jim and Carla only got knee deep.  The highlight of this spot was the couple who decided to strip down and change into their bathing suits right beside us.  After seeing the man (only Sierra saw him changing), she declared she would now be scarred for life.  Then Carla looks over and sees the woman take her top totally off to put on her bathing suit!  We told the kids they were likely from Europe and to look the other way!  

We got back to the campground in the late afternoon and chilled out for a bit, then went in to a local Mexican restaurant for dinner.  It was a really tiny, little town but the restaurant was good.  
Tomorrow we head to Sequoia!


06-29-15 Travel day & Sequoia National Park!

Today we traveled for about 3 1/2 - 4 hours to Sequoia National Park.  On the way, the terrain was very desert looking, except for the fruit farms.  Pretty much the entire drive was in the middle of various fruit trees.  We could see peaches, walnuts, oranges and olives (and many others we couldn't identify).  There were also grape fields for California raisins (at least that is what the sign said).  We also passed the fields which grew Halos (the awesome little mandarin oranges).  

Typical of what we've experienced in California, the roads were horrible.  They don't seem to invest any tax dollars in the roads.  

We are only in the Sequoia area for the afternoon.  We got the RV settled, had some lunch and then went to the park (we changed our reservation .. we were supposed to be staying up a mountain about 6500 ft; we decided it would be less stressful to stay at the bottom).  The park ranger directed us up the mountain to the General Sherman (very windy road with lots of switchbacks.. we were happy to not have the trailer).  The General Sherman is the biggest tree in the world!  Now we can say we've seen it.  There were other very large sequoias here, including one which we drove through.  These trees are really interesting.  They are different from the California Redwoods.  They are wider whereas the Redwoods are taller.  The bark on these trees is up to 31 inches.  It insults the trees and protects them from fire (explains how they live so long).  

We also took a hike up a huge rock which had awesome views of the valley.  It was not for the faint of heart.  There were narrow paths with steep drop-offs.  Jim was happy to be back on the ground when we were finished.  

The trek down the mountain was 45 minutes through the windy switchbacks again.  We were up to 6,750 ft at the top, but only about 800 ft at the bottom.  The bottom is very arid and looks more like someplace near the desert, but as you got up towards the top, it was very green and lush (where the sequoias grow).  It didn't even seem like the same place.  

Once we got back to the RV (driving through a town where everything is named "Sierra" after the Sierra Nevada mountain range), the kids went to the swimming hole to cool off before dinner.

Another fun day... off to Vegas tomorrow.  


06-30-15 Travel day, Las Vegas & It's hotter than Hades! 

Today we traveled for about 6 hours to Las Vegas.  We left about 730AM.  Similar to yesterday, we passed lots of fruit trees and other produce (i.e.,. corn, some kind of greens).  We have seen more farm land in California than anywhere in the Midwest.  For whatever reason, we were expecting more of that in the Midwest and not so much here.  These fruit trees are huge and healthy even though there is such a drought in California and the rest of the area around the farms looks like desert.  It's interesting.

We leave California today.  While it has some amazing parks and scenery, it has a lot of "oddness."  They charge higher prices for gas if you use credit or debit (if you pay cash, you get a lower price).  For the first time today, we got charged a fee for using a debit card to make a snack purchase.  It's like going back in time.  We're used to everything on debit or credit... seriously who carries cash (our entire budget relies on tracking purchases which is difficult to do with cash)?  And off course the roads are HORRIBLE (believe we've mentioned that daily since we've been in this state)!  Everything here is more expensive than other states we've been in so far (although gas in Oregon was a close 2nd).   It is a huge state with lots of variation in climate, terrain etc. and many beautiful things to see so you grin and bear the "oddness."
Onward to Nevada!  The temperature was 101 as we started driving there (supposed to have a low 87 today and a high of 111).  Holy mother of pearl.. it's hot!

We drove in the Mojave desert for most of the day.  We passed some odd things.  There was a field with a bunch of commercial airplanes.  After looking it up, we saw that the Mojave airport is a storage area for most of the commercial airlines. We also would drive for miles and miles with nothing but desert, then a "trucker oasis" in the middle of nowhere with gas stations, fast foot joints etc.  The temperature kept climbing.  It got to 117  at the highest point.  When we were going up inclines in that heat, we had to turn the AC off.  We would roll down the windows to at least get hot circulating air.  This must be what a tator tot feels like in a convection oven.  We passed many windmill farms (before the desert) and a solar panel farm in the middle of the desert.  We were happy when we finally made it to Vegas.  Our campsite is like a resort.  There are 5 pools.  We couldn't get in one fast enough.  It was 111 when we arrived.  

We swam for a couple of hours.  Fortunately, Jim doesn't have much tolerance for the heat/sun and he came back to the RV, to find the AC was off.  It wasn't cooking in here yet.  We ended up calling maintenance.  There was a problem with our site's electric and it was flipping the breaker.  They had to come and replace the outlet and breaker to handle the load.  We didn't want to leave Forrest and the RV until we knew it was going to stay on for sure, so we got a little late start to the strip.  

Kai and Sierra were in awe as we drove down the strip... all the lights and flash.  We had already prepared them for some of what they would see.  After driving the strip, we parked at the Aria (parking is free at all the casinos).  Typical of Las Vegas, it's easy to get lost finding your way out... liked trapped in a maze.  We were routed through the casino (Sierra held her breath because of all the cigarette smoke).  Kai noticed how everyone seemed to be dressed up (except for us in our everyday clothes).  We finally made it out and took a walk down the strip.  We had warned them not to take anything handed to them (fortunately the people had the sense to not pass their flyers to kids or us).  There were lots of street performers and various people in costumes posting for pics for tips(including some scary looking Mickey Mouse ones Disney wouldn't be happy with).  We passed many homeless and strung out looking people.  Overall, it was pretty tame and nothing unsafe.  We live in a bit of a bubble everyday, by design.  This was such a teaching experience for them.  They had loads of questions and we all left with same impression (Vegas is flashy and cool to see, but sad at the same time... the irony of passing a Ferrari then a homeless person within a short period of time is very sad... and a few hours is enough to check it out and move on).  

Vegas was on our list because Sierra wanted to stop here ... we weren't sure why, but it was mainly shopping and the fact she thought she'd find lots of claw machines.  She was disappointed that there wasn't one claw machine, but did get to go in several shops (her souvenirs came from the huge M&M store).  We left at 1130PM and were only 5 minutes from the RV.  It was 103 at that hour!  Fortunately, the AC stayed on for Forrest.  

Tomorrow we head to the Grand Canyon!




07-01-15 Travel day to the Grand Canyon & Hoover Dam!

After we got to sleep last night, Jim and Carla woke up in the middle of the night to a lot of noise and swaying.  The wind was really whipping around.  We brought the awning in and checked the weather.  There was a heaving wind advisory for our area.  We are basically in a trailer park so wanted to make sure a tornado wasn't headed our way.  It passed in the night and we woke up to temps in the 90s (and no wind).  

We did some work in the morning before heading to the Grand Canyon.  We stopped at Hoover Dam on the way.  What an engineering marvel!  It was really impressive.  We had Forrest and she wasn't allowed on the dam so we couldn't do a tour (nor had we allotted time for it.. we were content to just walk on it).  Jim stayed in the car with her while the rest of us walked across.  We have now seen solar power, wind power, and hydro power on our journey.  Pretty cool!

Afterwards, we continued to the Grand Canyon (leaving Nevada and moving into Arizona, our 17th state).  We crossed a lot more desert but then surprisingly, as we got closer to the Grand Canyon, we saw trees and signs that there was wildlife.  We were envisioning everything being rocky desert here too.  The temperature was hot most of the day, but as we got closer the temps dropped to the 80s after a rain storm. There was steam coming up off the roads and grassy areas.  At first, we thought it was a forest fire, but turned out to just be steam.

The park seems really nice.  We got all set up and the kids made some friends while we got dinner ready.  We drove around for a little while after dinner (but it started raining so we haven't see the Grand Canyon yet).  

We plan to get an early start for a hike tomorrow.  They advise not hiking in the heat between 10 and 4 (supposed to be about 100 tomorrow).  

Looking forward to checking it out!


07-02-15 Checking out the Grand Canyon... it's big!  

We should have gotten up earlier today, but we were tired so everyone slept until about 730.  We spend the day up high on the Rim Trail and hit the various visitor centers and gift stores along the way.  The Grand Canyon is massive but the time of day we went made for hazy views.  It was still beautiful.  

We walked most of the Rim Trail and then got on the bus to check out a few other areas.  The bus transportation is great here.  It runs every 10-15 minutes and gets you to most areas of the park.  We got out at several spots along the way to get some pictures, then back on the bus to the next stop.  We were gone a good bit of the day (took a picnic lunch to eat along the trail).  

After our hike, we went back to the camper to rest for a bit, then Carla, Kai and Sierra went souvenir shopping while Jim stayed back to work a bit.  

Tomorrow we plan on heading out at 400AM to hike down into the canyon.  Originally we planned to hike down and camp at the bottom, but our permit didn't come through so we're just doing a day hike.  The temperatures are supposedly 20 degrees warmer in the canyon than on top, so we want to get out and back early.  Hopefully we'll get some good sunrise views.  

We had a "carb" spaghetti dinner to prepare us, then started a game of National Park Monopoly before early bedtime!


07-03-15 Grand Canyon below the rim...9 mile/6 hr hike 

We left at 415AM to catch the bus for our trail head.  As we approached the bus stop, we saw the bus pulling away... uggh.  We then ran/walked fast to another bus stop (in the dark).  After sitting at that one for several minutes we thought we'd missed that one too.  We moved to another and heard the bus come back to the last stop so we ran to meet it. 

Nothing like starting our long 9 mile hike with a little run.  

We were on the trail a little before 500AM after filling our water bottles.  It was still semi-dark when we started.  We got to see the sunrise around 530AM.  It was beautiful and the color in the canyon was amazing.  From the top, it tended to look hazy but below the rim, at this time of day was very vibrant.  There weren't many people on the trail this early so it was really quiet.  The trail was 4.5 miles down.  Within that distance, we changed 3,040 ft in elevation.  It was a long haul down, but we made good time.  We did good with breaks and hydrating and after taking a break at the bottom, we started the 4.5 mile/3,040 ft hike back up.  That was challenging and we had to take a lot more breaks but completed the entire hike in 6 hours.  

The few people we ran into on the way down were American.  The tourist population here is interesting.  Yesterday, we didn't run into any other English speaking people.  We heard many European accents, Asian accents etc.  This morning, we only ran into American folks on the way down.  However, on our way up, especially in the last 1 1/2 hours that changed (really late to be starting a hike since the sun was up).  Everyone coming down after about 930 were European.  It was the oddest thing.  Lots of people come to see the Grand Canyon... just didn't seem to be a lot from the US when we visited.

After we finished our hike, we treated ourselves to ice cream at the top.  We were all exhausted.  We caught the bus back to the RV and all showered, then laid down for a bit.  Afterwards we worked some and then resumed our Monopoly game (Kai and Sierra talked about it much of the day).  After dinner, we took a break and went to see the sunset.  It was a cloudy night so not as spectacular as pictures we've seen, but pretty darn beautiful.  None of the National Parks have allowed dogs so we haven't been able to take Forrest on hikes (not that she would have been up for it the last couple of weeks).  However, the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon allowed them.  We took her tonight and she was a ball of energy.  She practically ran the entire thing.  She has been back to normal (eating etc) but it was really fun to see her this active.  

We enjoyed our time here... beautiful place!

We leave tomorrow to visit family for July 4th!  


07-04-15 Happy July 4th in Phoenix  

We left the Grand Canyon about 930am  after a little work and breakfast.  We hadn't gotten pictures of the sign at the front, so we stopped on the way out.  The drive to Phoenix was about 3 1/2 hours which was shorter than we anticipated.  The drive was uneventful, but one cool thing we noticed as we got closer were the big cactus.  Sierra said they looked like the ones from the cartoons.  Also, the gas was about a $1 less than California which was awesome!

We arrived in Phoenix around lunch, got the RV settled and then headed over to Matt & Robie's house (Jim's brother's family).  We haven't seen them in years so it was awesome to finally be here and visit. We went to their friend house for a July 4th cookout/pool.  We ate way too much good food and then it was time to go over to the clubhouse.  Their neighborhood clubhouse puts on a July 4th celebration with lots of activities for the kids, a pool and a big fireworks display.  

It is warm here but not as hot as Vegas was (reached 100 today).  Kai and Sierra spent most of the time in the pool and didn't even have to get out for the fireworks.  We were able to just lay in the lounge chairs and look up.  It was a really nice, relaxing day.  

We spent the night at Matt and Robie's house (the RV is only 15 minutes away but it was nice to just stay put here for the night).  Forrest and the kids LOVE their 3 dogs - Bella, Bessie, and Bea.

Tomorrow we will hang out here and use the "Higgins' laundry-mat" --- HUGE PLUS!!!!  We are overrun with laundry at this point and being able to do while visiting and relaxing instead of hanging out in a laundry mat is a gift!


07-05-15 Higgins' House of Fun!

Today was a nice, relaxing day.  We woke up and Matt made us white chocolate, blueberry pancakes.  Sierra was playing on the trampoline early and recruited Kai after he woke up.  They loved hanging out with the dogs too (so did Forrest).  They all got along so well.  

We took a quick trip to the trailer to pick up a few things (Robie came along to check out the RV).  When we got back, we started our laundry and went to the pool.  It was a perfect day for it.  Throughout the day, we went through 4 loads of laundry (again THANK YOU MATT AND ROBIE for loaning us your washer/dryer).  When Colin got home from work, we had a great dinner.  

Kelly had to leave for work, but Colin took the kids to play basketball.  They loved the cousin time, and an added bonus for Sierra.. they had an extra long board they gave her to bring home.  She has wanted one for a long time.  After basketball, we all took a walk (Sierra/Colin longboarded) in the neighborhood in hopes of finding some jack rabbits (which we did see) and lucked out, seeing three red-tailed hawks.  They were beautiful ... hanging out waiting on a jack rabbit dinner to run by.  

We stayed at the trailer tonight so we could get an early start tomorrow AM to El Paso.  We had a great visit and will miss them. Hopefully it won't be as long before we see them again.  

Onward to El Paso tomorrow ...(Thanks again M/R for the meals, place to stay, July 4th entertainment, K/S goodie bags, freebie goodies and washer/dryer etc).  


07-06-15 Long travel day through New Mexico to Texas!

We left Phoenix this morning for the 9 hour trek to the El Paso, TX area.  We initially were going to stay in El Paso but decided to push through to Van Horn (about an 1 1/2 hours further) so we don't have as long to drive tomorrow.  

We liked Phoenix.  There were very cool and different cactus everywhere and even though the temperature was hot, there was a nice breeze (at least while we were there).  The roads around town and on the way out of town were nice and smooth and the gas prices were a bargain compared to the other West coast states.  Matt and Robie said it's similar to Florida, in that there are hot summers, but the winters are mild and beautiful.  

The views on our trip today were of lots of foothills, mostly in the distance, and lots of flat ground.  We passed the continental divide again (about the 3rd or 4th time this trip), and Mexico.  El Paso is right on the border of Juarez, Mexico.  We could see the fence dividing the countries as we drove by (and of course the houses you could see on the other side of the fence were different than the US side).  

We were on the same road all day (Interstate 10).  It was funny listening to the GPS instructions periodically... "keep straight on Interstate 10" ... all day!  We drove through three different states and changed to three different time-zones.  We started in west coast time, then mountain time in New Mexico and part of Texas, then central time in Van Horn.  We will be in central time until we get beyond the panhandle of the Florida.

Once outside of El Paso, we had to go through a Border Patrol check point along the interstate (with drug dogs).  I took some pics on the way in but didn't want to get us in trouble by doing it where they could see (not sure if there is some rule about that).  We had to stop and they asked Jim how many people were in the car and he says "Just 4 kids and our dog" ... as we were driving off, we all realized what he'd said and were laughing.  The guy didn't even notice.  They didn't check our car or the RV like they did before Hoover Dam (before Hoover Dam, we had to pull over and the federal agent went in the RV, checked the car, looked under everything etc).  Maybe they were just looking/sniffing for drugs versus "Mexican people smugglers."  There were several signs along the way when we were close to the border to "not pick up hitch hikers in this area."  Another different experience!

Today was just a travel day.  Once we got here, we fixed our dinner and are settling in for the night.  Tomorrow we head to San Antonio.  Our hope is to get there by the afternoon so we have some time to check it out.  From here on out, we are only in each place one day as we make our way home!


07-07-15 Another long travel day to San Antonio! 

We left this morning at 7am for the 8 hour drive to San Antonio.  The travel was fine most of the day, but some storms were brewing  and there ended up being 25 mph wind gusts for the last 3 hours of the trip (including through Downtown San Antonio area).  It wasn't fun driving and feeling the wind slam into the trailer, then the swaying.  The breaks on the trailer actually engaged a couple of times to straighten it out.  It probably didn't look as bad as it felt.  

Other than that, the travel was uneventful.  We did pass a forest fire in one spot and saw several oil rigs and wind mills on the drive.  

Once we got to our campground, we got settled and caught the city bus to the downtown area.  We took the tour of the Alamo and then checked out Riverwalk.  It was a neat place!  There were lots of restaurants and shops along the river.  We ate dinner and did a little shopping, then caught the bus back.  We were out of a few things, so hit Walmart.. it is the same everywhere.  There were like 2 people open and working so the lines were about 8 deep.  It should have been a quick  trip... oh well.

Tomorrow we head to New Orleans!



07-08-15 New Orleans & Ghost Tour 

We left around 800am for New Orleans.  The trip took longer than we thought after stopping a few times and hitting rush hour traffic in Baton Rouge.  Luckily we did miss Houston rush hour early in the trip or it would have been a longer day.  The drive out of Texas was more long/flat and we ran into similar wind issues in the morning.  However, beyond Houston, it was calmer.  As we exited Texas and got into Louisiana, it started looking much more like the Tidewater area of Virginia.  There were many bridges and lots of green trees along the way.  We also crossed a lot of swampy areas.  

We didn't arrive to the campsite until about 615pm.  It was a really, nice RV park, but located in a "not so nice" area of town.  It was actually right by the interstate and St. Louis #2 cemetery.  It was within walking distance to the French Quarter, but we had to walk around some graffiti/run down/abandoned/semi-dark/buildings to get there... not pretty or comforting.  

We had booked tickets to go on a ghost/vampire tour of the city at 800pm.  We went by and got our tickets then walked around the city a little bit.  We hit Bourbon Street briefly, which had lots of odd street performers (including a vampire on stilts with kept licking his chops at Sierra) and shops with items in their windows we hurried the kids by.  However, off the beaten path, they had some nice stores and restaurants as well as the big St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square.  Similar to Las Vegas, this city was a big discussion/learning experience for the kids.  Lots of questions about the homeless, strung out people, impoverished people and the irony of it being so close to this huge, amazing Cathedral.  It is really hot/humid here and people put their garbage out on the street curb.  As a result, the city had a garbage smell almost everywhere we walked.  The look of the city in places is really charming.  There are so many old, colorful walls, doors, shutters etc.  They have a lot of character and add to the charm.  

Our plan was to try and eat a little something before our tour, but we ran out of time.  We really enjoyed the tour.  The tour guide was a real character.  She knew her history but also had a funny sense of humor (Sierra thought she was like Ellen DeGeneres).  It lasted about 1 hour and 45 minutes.  At one point in the tour, a homeless (and "mentally not with it") person came up the guide and was asking her all kinds of questions.  The guide was great with her but we ended up having to cut that point short to move on.  The guides have a challenging job with all the people driving behind them/hollering, police going by, sirens etc... all while they are trying to talk.  

We were starving after the tour, but most of the restaurants closed at 10, except for bars/restaurants on Bourbon Street (which we weren't going back to).  Kai and Carla missed out on getting a Po'Boy, so we'll have to get one of those another time.  We decided to go back to the RV.  We walked rapidly, looking back over our shoulder the entire time (although a police station was very close to where we were staying and the police presence in this town is heavy... bikes, cars, horses etc).  We made it back to our "compound" safe and sound (the nice RV park is surrounded by gates with sharp razor like protrusions on the top).  We thought we would go to the pool to decompress but it was busy with adults having their evening cocktails and cigarettes, so we skipped that too.  

We had dinner and then were all pooped and ready for bed.  Between the ghost tour (talking about all the ghosts in the town), "some creepy people" we saw, the creepy walk home, the cemetery about 100 yards away, and the sirens we kept hearing going by the interstate over our camper, Kai and Sierra had the heebie/jeebies.  They took showers lightening fast and then insisted on sleeping in Jim and Carla's room.  

We didn't get to the cemetery today so we plan on sleeping in and hitting that tomorrow...



07-09-15 Beignets, St. Louis #2 Cemetery and off to the beach!

It was not as restful of a night sleep as we would have hoped.  Kai slept on the floor and was flopping around so we kept here him bang the wall.  Sierra is like an oven when she sleeps so Jim and Carla felt like they were in a furnace.  We had to wake her up and put her back in her bed for the night.  Fortunately she didn't wake all the way up so that didn't cause any drama.  

We all slept until about 800AM.  We were so tired after these last few travel days.  We left our "compound" and went to Cafe Beignet in the French Quarter for breakfast.  The walk there took us through many of the same streets as the night before.  Lots of store owners out cleaning their sidewalks (from who knows what kind of mess left the night before), and putting lots more garbage out on every curb... so much for fresh, morning air.  But we couldn't leave the town without trying the beignets.... they were really good.  

Afterwards, we walked back towards our RV park.  We noticed some things during the day we couldn't see at night, like the "security" people have on their houses.  I guess people must try to climb to the upper levels, so they have very sharp things to prevent entry... razor wire, lots of broken glass bottles etc.  Interesting!

We stopped at the St. Louis #2 cemetery before packing up.  St. Louis #1 cemetery is the most famous one (Nicholas Cage has his "pyramid tomb" in there for when he passes and the famous Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen tomb is there), however there has been so much vandalism in the recent years, that the church closed it to the public unless you are on a guided tour.  We really just wanted to see the above ground tombs so #2 was the same in that regard.  It is really neat to see so many very old tombs and they are like no other cemetery we've seen.  Many of them have multiple family members inside (some dating back to the 1800s and recent family members added within the last couple of years... not sure how all that works... will have to research!).  Some you could tell were dated back to the big Yellow Fever epidemic (in the 1830s), and many were so old, they were crumbling.  

It was so hot/humid out already, we were completely sweaty by the time we finished our short jaunt.  This is preparing us for our Florida return.  We got on the road about 1045 for our trek to Panama City.  We were originally going to Tallahassee but found a nice state park in Panama City for a night.

Today we drove through the rest of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and finally hit Florida (so 4 states in all).  We stayed in Central timezone for all ... tomorrow back to normal on EST.  We ran into rain in Mississippi and Alabama.  In the summer months, never want to wish no rain on people, but it's not fun to drive in.  From what we can see, Mississippi and Alabama were both similar to our drive in New Orleans... coastal, with lots of green, bridges etc.  We've been trying to take pics of all the state welcome signs... Alabama is the first state we've hit which didn't have one... strange.

The rains starting coming in even heavier after crossing the Florida border.  We stopped for lunch to wait out the storm.  Once we got back on the road, the storm had passed.  We decided to take the more scenic route that the GPS outlined (which was supposed to be the same distance as the interstate route... NOT).  It was prettier but lots of stop and go. We got to Panama City about 615pm.  

After we got settled, we went to the beach for a bit before dinner.  We got there in time to see the sunset, which was nice.  We came back and ate dinner, then finished our monopoly game.

Tomorrow we will go to the beach for a little bit and then head home!


07-10-15 Panama City Beach ... then HOME!!

We had a work call in the morning and then went to the beach for a few hours.  After gallivanting around the US, west coast Florida beaches are still one of the most beautiful things around... white sand, crystal clear blue water.  Kai and Sierra swam around trying to catch fish with their nets, but had no luck.  

We went back to the camper and ate, showered, stripped the beds, got laundry ready and closed up.  We were on the road by 1130 for the trek home.  It was nice weather and a pretty uneventful drive (other than a couple of rain storms).  

Thanks to everyone who has followed our adventure!  It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity we are very fortunate to have had.. our "perfect storm" in life allowed this and we're grateful.  It was amazing quality, family time (please remind Kai and Sierra of this if they get rotten in their teenager years).

To close out, here are some fun statistics...

- # of Days Away from Home: 45
- # of Miles Driven:  10,497
- # of States Traveled Through:  22
- # of States We Stayed/Played in:  17
- # of Campgrounds We Slept in:  24
- # of Time zones Traveled Through:  4
- # National Parks Traveled To:  10
- Lowest/Highest Temperature:  45 F / 117 F
- Lowest/Highest Elevations Traveled:  0 ft / 12,183 ft
- # of Pictures Taken:  3,058

The rest of the weekend will entail unpacking, cleaning (including removing dirt from 22 States), laundry and grocery shopping... whoopee!

Back to reality and figuring out the rest of the Summer!



John Pennekamp Camping Trip - The Keys (back to top)

We had made reservations a year ago to go back to the Keys for a week - at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park this time. It was a fun week, but we all agreed that Bahia Honda State Park last year was more of a favorite. This one was nice but it backs up to more mangrove swampy areas so the mosquitos were really bad. The snorkeling was off the rocky beaches in more of a lagoon area so the water wasn't more murky than what you'd expect in the Keys. Still - it was great family time and we had a nice week!


d Loaded up and ready to go!


We made the mistake of trying swimming the first night... and got swarmed by the mosquitos... we biked home as fast as we could so we still had some blood left.



Checking out the underwater!


The Higgi minus Mom.

Kicking up some "dust" in the water.


Very cool picture Kai got of a small jelly fish in the water.



Neat, reddish color coral in the water.


Snorkeling in the rocks.



The roots of the mangrove treats were neat. They are all underwater and grow nice looking coral.


Underwater forrest.



We came across this blue coral. It really stood out next to all the green algae.


They had a man made ship wreck in the water. It created some nice areas for the tropical fish.



Peace out!


Kai found a hermit crab.



One of the beaches at John Pennekamp.


Sierra and Carla saw this blue crab underwater.



Pretty smile even underwater.


Wish we could have caught one of these guys for our tank.



Jelly and his reflection.


These jellyfish were really interesting. They looked like plants at the bottom. They were completely camouflage until you saw them move and their jelly underside.



They were really cool to watch in the water swimming around.


This was a cool picture so see it from underneath with the palms and blue skies in the background.



Fort Higgins. We setup our tent in between the two cannons.



Kai going into the abyss (there was a really deep hole in the center.. you couldn't see down very far).



Relaxing in the Florida sun!


The light shining into the abyss.



One day there was an iguana who ran across the beach.


Best homemade ice cream ever!



Corney picture as a souvenir.


Our beauty!



Sierra doing what she likes best... playing outdoors.


Cool picture of the kayaks put up for the evening.



The majority of the state park land mass is the coral reef.


"What are you looking at?"



"I bet I can climb faster than you think!"


It was neat to see these birds in nature (and not just in the neighborhood yards looking for worms).



A little fishing time (although we didn't catch anything). Sierra called it "water fishing" since we could stand in the water and fish.


We found a baby!



"Smile for the camera."


"Give me a 12"



"Peace - Monopoly Rocks!"


We love Monopoly National Parks.



Our neighbors camper caught fire.


He wasn't home, but we saw some people run behind our camper so we looked out (Carla thought they were running because they saw an iguana). When we opened the door, we saw the flames coming out of the roof.



Jim and a few of the neighbors got his propane tanks off and used our hoses to put water on it while we waited for the fire trucks.


The entire inside was trashed. It burned everything. Carla filled out the police report after it was all over.


After the fire, we were in no mood to cook. We went to the other side of the island to a restaurant for dinner.


The sunset was beautiful.



The next day, we took a snorkeling tour out to the reef.


Jim - ready to relax.



The Higgins' crew.


The moon jellies were out. They weren't horrible but it did put a damper on the snorkeling. We were looking out for those as much as the fish. Luckily we survived without anyone getting stung.



We saw this blue school of fish several times. They were really pretty.


We swam by this cool coral.



Christ of the Abyss.


Christ of the Abyss is a 8 1/2 foot, 4,000 pound bronze sculpture of Jesus Christ that stands in 25 feet of water off of Key Largo, Florida. It is located near Dry Rocks, about six miles east-northeast of the Key Largo Cut, in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.



Sierra swimming into the arms of Jesus.


Kai meeting underwater Jesus!



Fishes, fishes, everywhere.


"Snorkeling is cool."



Kai swimming into the abyss.


Our blue school of fish again.



The fish were feeding on the algae.


"What do you want?"



Love these colorful parrot fish.


Carla and Sierra selfie!



We all wore shirts to help protect from the jellies.

"Mask face."



"Suction face."


Mama found the iguana!



These are a nuisance to folks in South Florida but we love them.


John Pennekamp had a nice aquarium we went to.



These land crabs were everywhere. You didn't see them much but their holes were everywhere.


Pretty flowers.



This kind pelican posed for a picture (helped that we were carrying a bucket of fish).


Sierra feeding the tarpons at Robbies in Islemorada.



Check out the mouth on this guy! He took the fish right out of Kai's hand.


Kai and Sierra trying to get the fish to jump again.



We got squid and tried fishing from the pier!


Unfortunately, we still didn't catch anything.



She has a beautiful smile even under the water.


Kai found two fish which imprinted on him during our last snorkel day.



Peace out!


The fish would stick close to him and swim around him when he was underwater.



When he would start to swim, they would nestle in the small of his back and swim with him. They did this for over an hour until he got out of the water. .







Carla's Birthday - Gambler Rogers RCA Camping (back to top)

Carla's birthday fell on a Friday this year, so we decided to make it our September camping weekend (plus Kai and Sierra has the following Monday off).


We went to a new campground this time. Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area was about an hour north.


We left after the kids got home from school and were able to get setup pretty quickly. The campsite was new and nice.


We found a good seafood restaurant by the ocean for Carla's birthday dinner.


They had a band playing music.


We waited for a seat on the top of the restaurant, so had a birthday drink while we waited.


Rum punch!


IBC Rootbeer in a bottle to celebrate.


Hanging on the rooftop, enjoying the sunset!


The weather was perfect for the birthday dinner!


The girls!



Pretty girl!


Kai and Sierra made cards for Carla's birthday.



We checked out the nature trail.



We almost ran into this guy.



We found several cool underwater hermit crabs... but Jim wouldn't let us bring any home :(.


Playing with the long telephoto lens.



Our old girl liked her hike.


Kai's picture of a dragonfly. We saw a bunch of them. He did a great job getting some close-ups.



We saw these flowers everywhere at the park. They were pretty.


The weather was kind of cloudy for the beach, but there were good boogie boarding waves.



Kai and Sierra racing to the shore.





"Ah, that was a good one!"


Handsome dude!



"You're so funny!"


Cool snow crab!



The weather was cloudy or raining most of the weekend but we had some good pockets to still hang at the beach.


Vines grew from the sand dunes with these pretty flowers.



There were a couple of sea turtle nests on the beach. They were due to hatch any day.


Burying Sierra in the sand.



Storms coming in... time for a silly picture.


"How about a nice one? Close enough"



We tried fishing - Day 1.


No luck today!



Boogie boarding day 2!


Smile for Mama!



"Hurry, take the picture."


Dad liked the cloudy, cooler weather at the beach.



Kai decided to be buried to warm up.


Almost done burying him.



All is covered except his head.


Time for a posed picture.



Who can get the ball first?


It's not a soccer ball but still fun kicking it around the beach.



Check out that form!


Happy guy!



The lady next to us had extra bubble wands she shared.


Time to go boogie boarding again.



We decided to go fishing down this little scenic road.


We tried our luck at a few different spots.



We tried but didn't catch any here.


Our last fishing spot back at the campground. Unfortunately we didn't have any luck.



However, this dolphin came swimming in looking for fish.


He caught some but not us.



This lizard was hanging out with us on the pier.


Kai got another great close-up of one of the dragonflies.



We really want to bring this crab home... he had a cool shell.


Our last night and a beautiful sunset. Great birthday weekend.



Miscellaneous (back to top)

In addition to all the fun described above, we had lots of other miscellaneous adventures (see below).


Sierra got her ears pierced.


They turned out good and she had done awesome taking care of them (cleaning and rotating 3 times a day)


The first day of middle school.


They were excited and did great. They change classes this year.


They have 7 classes on a 1400 person campus with 7 buildings and have 4 minutes to get to each class. They haven't been late yet!


Mom had to hide to get the bus picture.


Kai and Sierra were mortified at the thought of getting their picture taken at the bus stop.


Incredible rainbow across the street.


"Got a rainbow in my hands."


Sierra is playing the tuba for band.


It is loud in our house.


Kai is playing the tuba as well.



It is really loud in our house.




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