The Traveling Home

Time for Change

Cynthia Comment
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It has been a few months now since we moved into a house…yep that’s right, I said a house!  We have had an interesting last six months mulling over what we would like to do next.  We feel that it is time to start settling back down into a more traditional lifestyle.  We love living full time in the RV, but it is not without it’s challenges.  As our children start post secondary, we want to be around to provide a firm home base that they can come home to.  So we are hanging up our Full-time RV living hats for now, in hopes that one day we will be able to put them back on.  

In the spring, Jeremie started to look into other sources of income to supplement his seasonal work of stump grinding.  He likes to drive and thought he should pursue RV Hauling.  This would entail driving to Elkhart, IN to pick up a trailer and then delivering it to retailers across Ontario and Quebec.  There was only one problem with this and that was insurance.  Although he had loads of experience hauling a fifth wheel, he did not have what the insurance company said he needed and that was, “commercial driving experience.”  They did say if he got his AZ license (transport truck) that would allow him to qualify.  So, starting in August, Jeremie began the transport truck course and completed it at the end of September.

We also started to think about where we were going to live.  Our original plan was to live part of the winter in Elkhart, IN and part of the winter in Florida (I liked that part!).  But then, Elkhart, IN in the winter, in our trailer, started to sound a lot less fun as I looked into what their winters are like (think Chicago).  Also, Jeremie was beginning to look into the option of long haul trucking.  With all this uncertainty of where Jeremie was going to be, we decided to settle on a home base and since our children love where we spend the majority of our year here in Ontario, we decided to rent a furnished home in the area for the winter.  Our plan, at this point, is to move back into the fifth wheel when the trailer park opens in the spring and then assess where we are at.  Actually, we were able to rent a house at the trailer park so the move was easy. :-)

It has been fun being in a house again.  It is funny what things have stood out that normally I did not give too much thought too.  Of course, having my own washer and dryer that does not cost piles of quarters to operate and I do not have to think about what gross thing was washed in there before our clothes were!  A dishwasher!  Oh! I have missed the dishwasher.  Hahaha!  The ability to send a child to go to their room.  Everyone has their own space.  But, I have noticed how we all still tend to congregate in the kitchen to chat or in the living room to watch our current favorite series on Netflix together….little things that are leftovers from life in the trailer.  Rosie is having a blast spreading her toys from one end of the house to the other (something I am going to have to reign in soon!) The house must seem so different to her.  And shoes are still a problem…we still have way too many shoes!

A friend brought his drone to our Christmas party and took this picture of the house we are staying in.  You can see the park's snack shop to the right of the house, the pool, and even a couple of the trailers.  Pretty neat, eh?

A friend brought his drone to our Christmas party and took this picture of the house we are staying in.  You can see the park's snack shop to the right of the house, the pool, and even a couple of the trailers.  Pretty neat, eh?

In a great twist of events, upon completing the truck course and getting his new license, Jeremie was offered a position at a large mechanic and towing company in Peterborough.  He now hauls heavy pieces of equipment, and all sorts of other things.  The most wonderful thing is that he is home every night.  We will miss Florida this year, but that’s okay.  The kids are thrilled to be here and are all enjoying a white winter which is soooo much better, and easier, in a house.

HOME AT LAST // ONTARIO

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We have been “home” at our seasonal campground now almost three weeks.  It is so hard to believe it has been that long already, probably because we have been been running full speed since we arrived! haha!  

The spring ground is so soft this year and our big ol’ trailer is just too heavy to move it onto our seasonal site just yet.  In fact, rarely have we seen the water levels get so high here at the camp.  Unfortunately, many of the surrounding communities experienced a lot of flooding this year and there was a lot of subsequent damage to homes.   So for now, we are parked in a temporary site in the transient camping area of the park.  This suits us just fine as we are a little more sheltered from the cold lake wind here, we are also right beside the shower house and laundry facility, and we are a straight shot across a small field from my parents’ trailer.  Little Rosie is loving getting up each morning and running to Grandma’s for breakfast.  Not sure why she prefers Grandma’s fun, sugary cereal to my stove-cooked oatmeal! haha!  It is great to have them so close.  We have missed them these last six months!

Jeremie has been hard at work getting his seasonal business up and running again.  He has a new website which we would love for you to check out:  www.jpstumpgrinding.com.  He is working hard now so he can play later.

And speaking of work, our little hiatus from homeschooling (while driving across the US) is over.  I have been so proud of our girls and their willingness to get their schoolwork done.  They each really understand their responsibilities and have been self motivated.  This makes my job sooooo much easier.  If only I could get Wesley to understand that if he gets his printing done, he can go play! haha! 

Our weekend's theme came from the Jamie Grace song, "Do Life Big."

Our weekend's theme came from the Jamie Grace song, "Do Life Big."

Our church held our ladies retreat here at the camp and it was a lot of fun helping to decorate.  I am so thankful for the creative talents of our daughter Emma-lee.  Not only did she pick up a lot of the supplies for me in town, she also kept me focused on the colour scheme and overall design.  Her season of wedding photography is also up and going.  She has been blessed with awesome clients who refer her and are helping her build a fantastic reputation in the area.  It is hard to believe that this is her third season.  We are so proud of her.  (www.emartandphotography.com)

Amy and Bethany will both be joining the summer staff here at the camp working in the children’s program.  This is the wonderful bonus of staying at this camp year after year.  Our youngest children enjoy the fun children’s program for ten weeks every summer and my older children benefit with summer jobs.  No one complains they are bored! haha!

We are happy to be “home” and back in our church.  I joked that I got my yearly quota of hugs on our first Sunday back to church!  Although I quite enjoyed our special family time this past winter, I also appreciate our friends and the importance of them in our lives.  What a blessing each of them are.

MEET-UP IN MISSOURI

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When we visited Chris, Dawn and their 6 daughters in New York last September, we made plans to meet up with them again while traveling through the US this season.  We were happy to make this stop just outside of Kansas City, Missouri at Lake Paradise RV Resort. 

It was so great to see our friends again.  We had so much to get caught up on and our time together simply flew by.  But even with so much socializing to do, we still did manage to take our huge group to a few fun locations.  And of course, since there were 12 young ladies to please, our first activity was an afternoon of thrift store shopping. Ha!Ha!

Daisy and Amy were so happy to find matching t-shirts. :-)

Daisy and Amy were so happy to find matching t-shirts. :-)

Our second outing was to Powell Gardens.  We were surprised at just how beautiful it was even though so much was still not in season.  The chapel was a favourite.  Not only was it beautiful, it also had amazing acoustics.  The girls had a lot of fun singing together in there.  Their voices all harmonized so beautifully together.  

Dawn and Chris met in Kansas City and lived there for a while, so when they offered to show us a bit of the city, we were thrilled!  They were fantastic tour guides as they showed us so many interesting sites including a Spanish themed shopping district, the Performing Arts Building and Hallmark where they both had worked many years earlier.  As a surprise for the children, Dawn had prearranged for us to stop by the Hallmark museum and Kaleidoscope.  

Even the Mamas made it into this photo! haha!

Even the Mamas made it into this photo! haha!

Kaleidoscope is a free children’s craft room which is owned by Hallmark.  The space reminded me of something from Dr.Suess and ALL the kids had so much fun.  It is a crafty kids dream come true!  Since Hallmark owns Crayola there was an awesome combination of supplies.  There was a glow in the dark room with wax paint and markers that glowed in black light.  There were paper eyeglasses to paint, puzzles to create and of course, kaleidoscopes to decorate. 

Our visit with our wonderful friends was definitely too short and we miss them all already.  Our next get together will not be until December and although it seems a long way off, we are thankful for modern technologies and the ability to stay in touch no matter where the travels of both our families take us. :-)

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO

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In 2015 when we were planning for our first year on the road, I asked the children to give us some ideas of places they would like to see.  They all agreed that they would love to go see where Focus on the Family records their Adventures in Odyssey show.  Unfortunately, we were unable to make the trip the first year because of the weather.  Colorado Springs was just too far north so, we decided to put it on the list for another time.

This year we decided to travel across the mid-US during the spring to see parts of the country that would be too cold to visit in the winter, including Colorado Springs.  I had pre-booked our stay at Cheyenne Mountain State Park prior to us leaving Vancouver.  Unfortunately, I missed the part on the reservation booking where it mentioned there would be an additional charge for the vehicles.  So, we ended up not only paying for our camping fee ($30/night) but also an extra $14 per night for the two vehicles.  We didn’t know this was going to be our big splurge this trip, but I guess it ended up that way!  Oh well. We all really enjoyed having hook-ups after 12 days off-grid.  We are assuming that the park is so pricey because of its proximity to Colorado Springs city center.  

The campground is on the side of Cheyenne Mountain which is home to NORAD.  It is also across from Fort Carson.   Each day at 6:30am, the loudspeaker could be heard playing the Reveille and again at 5:30pm and then Taps at 10:00pm.  I found it quite hilarious and it was a clear reminder that we were in a military town.  

Our stay in Colorado Springs coincided with Easter.   Like most kids, our children love looking for candy Easter morning. Since the weather was compatible, Jeremie and I woke early in the morning and wrapped our trailer and vehicles in seven different colours of yarn.  Our neighbours must’ve thought we were crazy! When the children got up they were each given the end of one ball of yarn and asked to wind it up to get to their bag of candy which was hidden somewhere around the trailer.  This rather silly tradition was first started years ago while we were still in our house.  I would wind yarn all through our dining room and kitchen.  Now we are in the trailer, we have to get a little more creative. ;-)

After the morning fun, we got ready and drove to Redrock Church (which we found after a rather random internet search).  The worship music was awesome, and we were pleasantly surprised when the pastor announced we would be listening to Pastor Andy Stanley via video feed from Northpoint Church in Georgia.  It turns out that Redrock Church is a satellite of Northpoint.  Our home church in Peterborough also has affiliation with Northpoint (although not a satellite) and from time to time we will hear messages from Andy Stanley.  It was a wonderful morning and it made us look forward to our return to our own home church even more. 

On Monday we drove to the Focus on the Family headquarters and had a fantastic time touring the facility and exploring the Adventures in Odyssey children’s area.  They all took a slide down the three story slide and had fun seeing all the memorabilia from the show.  There was even a “Whit’s End” and the kids enjoyed a Raspberry Sunday and “Wodfamchocsod!”  At the bookstore we purchased two Audio CD collections: “The Ultimate Road Trip” (no idea why we’d pick that!) and “For God & Country” (American historical fiction).

Tuesday we drove to Garden of the Gods.  This city park was originally owned by a wealthy railroad man whose family, following his death, donated the land to Colorado Springs with the condition that it always remain a free park.  Although the unique rock formations were similar to what we had seen in Utah, what made it interesting is that it doesn’t seem to fit with the landscape of Colorado Springs.  

Look at Rosie.  She is pretending to sleep...what a funny girl!

Look at Rosie.  She is pretending to sleep...what a funny girl!

Jeremie really wanted to see if we could drive up to the summit of Pike’s Peak (elev. 14,000 ft.)  and after speaking to some very positive volunteers in the Garden of the Gods visitor’s centre, we decided to give it a try.  Well, we arrived at the entrance gate at the base of the mountain and learned that it is not a National Park (contrary to what we had been told).  It was already 2:30pm and it would take one hour and 154 switchbacks to make it to the top.  Once there, you were required to start making your decent by 4:00pm.  That would leave us only a short time at the top.  The road up was a toll road and it would cost us $42 dollars to drive it.  Yikes!  Well, I guess we will just be satisfied with a view from the bottom this time. Haha!

Tuesday night we were woken up by the wind.  The trailer shook and it actually felt like it would blow over.  Around 3am we noticed other rv’ers, whose units were being hit broadside by the wind, leaving for lower ground.  But even though we had such a restless sleep, we still woke early in the morning and made the long drive to The Great Sand Dunes National Park three hours south west of where we were staying.  We were leaving the area on Thursday morning, so we couldn’t really put it off.  Although it was quite windy and a little bit chilly at the park’s elevation of 8,000 feet, it was well worth the drive. We all had an absolute blast.  

We rented two sand boards from a nearby store and while we waited for Jeremie to pick them up, the children and I watched the film in the Park’s visitor centre and Wesley and Rosie completed their workbooks for their next Junior Ranger badges. 

In order to reach the dunes from the visitor centre you have to drive down to a parking area and then wade through a shallow creek.  It was interesting that walking through the creek on the way to the dunes, the water was absolutely freezing but, after several hours of playing in the hot sand, this is what happened on the way back!

In the warmer months, families bring bathing suits and the kids have a great time playing in the shallow water.  There were outdoor showers and flush toilets at the parking area but unfortunately for Wesley and Rosie, they were not yet in operation for the season.  Using a jug and water from the bathroom, we were able to get enough sand off the two littlest so they could at least get some dry shorts on before for the long drive back to Colorado Springs.  I am so thankful that I threw those extra shorts in as a last minute addition that morning.

We had a great week in Colorado Springs.  We appreciated the slower pace and look forward to our next adventure in Missouri!

ARCHES & CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARKS // MOAB, UTAH

Cynthia 2 Comments

Our journeys from Zion National Park have taken us north and then east.  After only one day of travel, we arrived at our free dispersed camping area on Willow Springs Road north of Moab.  We were amazed at how full it was.  Since I drive the van, I went ahead of Jeremie and scouted out the area to find a suitable spot to pull the trailer into.  Well, I drove down the sandy road for about 10 minutes to its very end.  I was shocked.  Every site was full.  Some of the larger sites clearly had multiple trailers on them.  As I drove back to Jeremie, I passed a family of 5 going for a bike ride.  I was sure I had passed their Airstream travel trailer on a larger site.  I suggested to Jeremie that we share the site with them.  They had kids and it did not look like they had any noisy off-roading toys with them (I had already passed by a lot of dirt bikes).  The site would be easy to back into and easy for us to leave from in a few days.

Just as we finished backing onto the site, the family returned and graciously said they did not mind if we shared the camping space.  It turns out that this family is also fulltiming.  They had sold their home on the West coast of the US and were planning to travel for the next six months to find a new place to call home.  As a graphic designer and physician’s assistant, they could pretty much land anywhere and be fine I think.   It was so nice to meet another family with young children and for the next three days, Rosie asked everyday if she could please go play with her friends next door. :-)

For our first day in the area, we decided to go to Arches National Park.  But as we were driving in, we saw signs that indicated that Arches was undergoing construction and that the campground was closed.  Uh oh!  Was this going to be another Yosemite experience?  Was the dispersed camping land full because all those people couldn’t get into Arches?  We had left early and were at the park before the visitor centre opened at 9am.  When the Ranger came out to open the doors for the visitors, he stressed that the campground was short-staffed and that there would be no guided tours or Ranger talks.  We picked up the Junior Ranger workbooks, and were told we had to return before 3:30 if they were going to turn them for badges.  The park was full, but didn’t feel too crowded as it is a bit like Joshua Tree National Park.  You drive from one trailhead to another and they are quite a distance apart.  Although we saw evidence of construction work at the entrance to the park, there were no traffic delays because of it.

Our plan for the day was to start at the far end of the park and work our way back towards the front.  We planned to do this over the course of two days.  I am not sure if we are just too spoiled now from all the amazing scenery we are seeing or what, but by the time we had done about 4 trails, the kids were done.  We decided to head back to the Visitor Centre to fulfill Wesley and Rosie’s Junior Ranger badges and then head into Moab. :-)

As we drove into Moab, we kept seeing Jeep after Jeep.  The off roading vehicles were everywhere.  The streets were lined with them.  Some were decked out with snorkels and winches and others were so old or so modified they had to be trailered.  We were not sure what was going on, but the energy was exciting.  This little town was overwhelmed with Jeeps and off roading vehicles.  Every little restaurant and store had a parking lot full of jeeps.  Then we saw it…the sign read, “Welcome to the 51st Annual Jeep Safari Week, 2017.”  Well, that explained it! haha! 

We found a lovely park next to the community centre/pool and all enjoyed relaxing in the shade while the little ones played and the big ones enjoyed the town’s free internet.

The next day we decided to visit another nearby National Park called Canyonlands National Park.  My goodness! This place was as amazing as it is huge!  We only visited one third of the park called “Island in the Sky.”  The other two thirds, “The Maze” and “The Needles”, were far below us as we viewed them from on top of a Mesa.  From our vantage point we looked down on the dirt off-roading trails below and wondered what it would be like to be down there.  The drivers would be looking up at the immense wall of the mesa, but they would also be able to look down into the lower valley of either the Colorado or Green River.  It was like we were seeing two canyons simultaneously.  The immense space reminded us of the Grand Canyon.  It was incredible.  We were so happy we decided to go there.

Later when we returned to our campsite, we learned that our neighbours had been far below us, swimming in the Colorado River.  They had blast on their paddle boards and playing on the beach.  The area surrounding Moab is anadventurers dreamland.  There is so much to see and we could have easily stayed there a lot longer but, it was time to move on to Colorado. 

ZION NATIONAL PARK // UTAH

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Our trip back to Ontario is flying by so quickly.  I cannot believe that our time in south-western Utah is already behind us. 

Utah is an absolutely beautiful State.  The varying landscape is incredible.  We camped about 15 minutes outside of Zion National Park for three nights on BLM land and enjoyed the wide open space of the desert.  Our nearest neighbours were a group of Airstream owners circled around a common space like the old pioneer wagon trains.

We spent two days exploring Zion National Park.  The place was definitely as busy as Yosemite National Park, but so much more organized.  Like Yosemite, Zion also has a shuttle bus which runs along a route of trailheads.  But, cars are not allowed on the Zion bus route so there was no traffic congestion and, unlike Yosemite, Zion’s roads were not under construction.  Bikes would be an awesome addition to your experience as there are several trails that are bike accessible and if you don’t want to take the shuttle bus (the lineup to get on the shuttle at the visitor centre was insane) you can simply ride your bike to the next trail head.  We decided to walk the Pa’rus trail hike that went between the first, second and third stops of the shuttle bus run instead of standing in line to get on the bus.  Further down the route the line-ups were not so bad and we were able to get on the bus no problem (although sometimes standing room only).

Our first hike was the Watchman hike which was a two hour hike, although with Wesley and Rosie, I think it turned out to be quite a bit longer than that. ;-)  We had a great time on the trail and ate a picnic lunch at the top of The Watchman while enjoying a view of the valley below.

After the hike we visited the museum and the children listened to a Ranger talk about the park as part of the requirement for their Junior Ranger badges.  

We ended our day by riding the bus all the way to the end of the route and walked the Riverside Trail to The Narrows.

I should note that since parking in the Park can be a problem, the Park has a free shuttle service that runs in the small town just outside the Park, where you can park in lots (for a fee) or on the street.  This free shuttle will take you to the Park’s entrance.  We were, however, able to find parking in the overflow parking area next to the Nature Centre and Southgate Campground.  We arrived just after 9am our first day and well past 10 the next day.  There is also a dump station beside this parking area and a place to get fresh water.  So, each day we made sure to bring our empty water containers to fill them.  We also brought our garbage and recycling here as well.  The dump station was too small for our large trailer so on our way out of the area we stopped at the Maverick gas station in La Verkin where they have a free dump station (we also bought diesel).  The overflow parking also happens to be at the trailhead for both the Watchman hike and the Pa’rus hike. 

The second day at the park, we seemed to move a little more slowly.  The children picked out some souveniers from the gift shop (We collect postcards from each of the parks we visit.) We enjoyed another picnic lunch and then made our way to the museum for Wesley and Rosie to hand in their Junior Ranger workbooks and get their Junior Ranger badges.  Emma-lee’s foot was really bothering her and Rosie did not want to go on another hike so we left them to have a “big sister-little sister date” and went on the Weeping Rock hike.   Although fairly short, it was amazing.  The water is soaked in through the top layers of sandstone until it gets down to a denser layer of rock where it cannot permeate.  As water will always look for an easy way out, the water squeezes out through the layers of rock thus making it looking like the rocks are crying.  Scientists have tested the water coming out of the rock and believe it to be 1200 years old.  How neat is that?!

After meeting up with Emma-lee and Rosie once again, we decided take a drive up the Zion Canyon Road to check out the mile long tunnel (built in the 1930s) that connects the south and east sides of Zion National Park.  It is also the continuation of highway 9.  The road takes several switchbacks up the canyon wall and the views are spectacular.  The tunnel has look outs along the outer wall and then eventually opens up to a what seems like a whole other park.  The landscape seems so different than in the canyon.  It seemed drier and the deciduous trees were replaced with coniferous ones.  We also had the privilege of seeing a lot of wildlife there too.

Upon leaving the Park for the final time, we made a quick stop back at our trailer to pick up our shower things to go to nearby Sand Hollow State Park where you can purchase a shower for $2/person.  Of course, you could buy a timed shower in the town next to Zion National Park, but it was $4 for a 5 minute shower…a bit pricey for this family of 9! :-)

We loved Zion National Park and would definitely like to come back, but not while Wesley and Rosie are still so young.  They are simply too young for a lot of the big hikes that have big drop offs and are too lengthy for their little legs.  I felt like two days was enough time for our family, although, you could easily spend a couple of weeks at this park exploring trail after trail.  It is so diverse and so very beautiful.

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK // CALIFORNIA

Cynthia 2 Comments

First off let me just say, we all love Joshua Tree National Park.  After our stay last winter, the children all asked to come back.  This year we chose to try something new and parked ourselves on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land right outside the park entrance.  For Canadian friends, this land is similar to Crown Land in Canada.  

Our spot was beautiful.  Our large window faced south over the valley and the view of the Colorado Desert was breathtaking.  On the door side of the trailer (north), we had shade from the sun and two small Ironwood trees.   We loved the feeling of absolute privacy, of not being afraid of how loud we were being, or feeling like we were on display.  Actually, in this regard, it reminded us of our former home in the woods.  Nice and quiet with neighbours far enough (but not too far) away.  There are probably at least 10 other camping units out here with us scattered up and down the dirt road.

We were also extremely privileged to see the desert in bloom this year.  After such a white winter, I just loved all the variations in colour!

Our first day in the park we went immediately towards the Skull Rock trail.  There were a lot of people there (all the campgrounds were full in the park) so we went back towards a smaller day use area and just walked straight out from the side of the van and had a whole boulder climbing area to ourselves.   Everyone was so happy and excited to be there.  This was something that the kids had all be waiting to do.  As a parent, it reminded me of the Bible verse where it says,  “The Lord delights in giving good gifts to his children.”  They all were having a ton of fun and it was so great to watch them enjoying themselves.  After several hours of climbing, we went back towards the visitor centre picnic area for lunch with the intention of doing another hike in that part of the park, but the sun and challenging exercise of boulder climbing had really zapped everyone of their energy.   We decided to go relax at the trailer for the rest of the afternoon.  

We really wanted to go see Key Vista which overlooks the San Andreas Fault and the whole valley during the sunset, but we headed out too late.  The park is over 700,000 acres and we misjudged just how long it would take to get there.  We drove as far as the Pinto Valley from the south entrance and enjoyed the incredible view of the sun’s glow on the distant mountains.  It is really so peaceful at Joshua Tree National Park…so very quiet (well not in our van or trailer, but outside. :-P) When we saw a sign that it was another 38 miles to Key Vista, we knew it was time to turn around! I think it may be something like two hours driving from where we were camping.  Yikes! If you are coming…make sure your gas tanks are full!  Honestly, you are so busy looking out the window, you are totally unaware of time or how long you have been driving.  The scenery is so varied and so beautiful.

The next day we returned to Joshua Tree and ended up chatting with a couple who were boondocking next to us.  We ended up on the same hike and after a little bit learned that they had been coming to the park for 35 years.   We could have spoken with them for hours but ended up going in a different direction part way up the trail.  If you are reading this Phyllis and Keith, it was lovely to meet you!  Thank you for taking our family picture! 

 

Notes about Boondocking:  We did not fill our tanks with water.  We took the children for a swim and shower at a public pool in Palm Springs the afternoon of our last day.  We used 6 one-gallon jugs of water which we refilled at the dump station at Joshua Tree each day.    We dumped our tanks at the same dump station before we headed out on the road.  We have a National Parks pass. :-)