Category Archives: Joys | Challenges

Protection & Providence: How a scary situation turned out to be a blessing in disguise

I was going back through my travel log/journal and I remember this moment so vividly. Those of you who have been following for awhile may recall that as we were gearing up and preparing to go on our cross-country trip, I felt really apprehensive the week before our departure. It seemed the closer we got to our launch date, the more it became a reality and these worries came out of no-where. Even with all the scenarios that I had imagined, the following event hadn’t even crossed my mind. Some people believe in luck or chance. We believe in divine providence.

In this particular instance, we had checked in at dusk to the new section of the Sun Lakes State Park. We had difficulty backing in as it was getting dark, so we weren’t fully aware that this new section they had put us in was on the outskirts of the park. Little did we know that a rattle snake would be hanging out in the bush only a few feet from our front door. Thankfully, our son was not bit when he went out to explore the next morning. Just a reminder how important it is to be aware of your surroundings when you are outdoors, even if you think you’re in a location that seems to be safe. Critters can move into campgrounds and the more populated an area, sometimes the better. We also carry a snake bite kit in the RV and when the boys go out to fish we have trained them in what to do should they experience a snake bite (Lord forbid).

We changed our reservation and moved that morning from Sun Lakes State Park up the road to the next RV campground as it was cheaper and closer to the lake (and less likely to have rattlers roaming around). The kids ended up having a blast swimming in Banks Lake and searching under rocks for Crawdads. Later on that week, we actually learned that my old school mate was camping right beside us! Come to find out she lived in the area and she had us over for dinner that week. Small world and a wonderful blessing that we likely never would have experienced had we not moved from our previous site because of not feeling safe.  Sometimes when we experience delays or face difficulties, they can be blessings in disguise.

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Quail scurry by as we check in at Sun Lakes State Park in eastern Washington

[Journal Entry July 11, 2015 Stayed at Sun Lakes State Park (new section — not the resort]—Just a quick update as there seems so much that has happened… today started out with Jesse killing a two-foot-long rattlesnake just a feet outside our RV’s front door. It had moved in overnight and Peyton heard it rattle in a nearby bush while walking by early in the morning while he was waiting on everyone to load up to go out to the farm. We are praising Jehovah-God for protecting our son who could have easily gotten bit. Needless to say, we moved out of that RV site and drove down the road a few miles to another RV site in the area so that we have more peace of mind about the safety of the kiddos.

We helped move machinery to the next field. (Many people do not realize that the header on the combine is actually wider than the gravel road!) The familiar bumpiness of driving into a field and the dust brings back so many memories (and makes me long for a good shower afterwards!) lol 

Since the heat caused things to be moved up in the timeline of things, Jesse offered to help drive truck and will be hauling in loads thru the week-end as well to help out. The boys have enjoyed taking turns riding in the wheat harvester (aka combine) and the wheat truck as it hauls the loads into the grain elevator. Peyton in particular has fallen in love with it all. As it turns out, his older two brothers, Joshua and Jason, have wheat allergies (and I think I have some now too now that I’m older!) Joshua really enjoyed hanging out in the combine, but poor Jason’s eyes couldn’t stop watering so he had to keep his time in the field short. He shoved kleenex up his nose to try and help — he was a sight! Poor guy!

Tomorrow we hope that the rain will hold off so we can bring in the rest of the wheat. Really tired after a full day, but incandescently happy. God is good.

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The remains of the rattler my husband got out of the bush and killed as it would endanger children that were playing nearby.
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Peyton counts the rings on the dead snake’s tail.
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Moving the combine to another field
Banks Lake State Park
Coulee City Community Park is a small park. They have a small playground, swimming area + dock, and a boat launch. There are no online reservations, but first come, first-serve. There is a drop box where you write down your space number and leave money.

(Journal Entry July 15, 2015 Coulee City Community Park)—Sitting here, thinking about how great God is… And in His perfect providence – how a snake motivated us to move to this new camping location for the week… Well, last night, Jason shared with me at dinner that a woman had approached him and asked if his mother was (my name). He didn’t mention this to me until late at night, so come to find out this morning that a friend and classmate of mine was camping right next to us! She recognized Jason from the photos I had put on Facebook and noticed our Georgia plates and put the two together! I am so glad she said something. I haven’t seen Lisa since my eighth grade promotion – and she and her family live right here in Coulee! What a special gift from the Lord to see my friend again! What a small world…

This is what the boys have been doing this week… https://youtu.be/SkN2qXEaH-g

Crawdads

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As I look back on this period of time, I’m so glad I didn’t let my fears keep me from pursuing this trip. I can rest that the Lord will take care of us each step of the way and once again answered prayer for protection. My kids were able to make new friends as I got reacquainted with old friends and we were able to make lasting memories as we brought in the harvest.

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5kidsandarv-approved5 Kids and a RV recommendations are based on personal experience and do not represent the business, agency, or not-for-profit we feature. We share our experiences in an effort to inspire parents to engage and explore with their children. As always, whenever trying something new, please use your own good judgement in what best suits the needs of your family to keep everyone safe while having fun.

5 Kids and a RV: “Let’s go learn something today.”
Copyright 2016

Wyoming & Montana | The Grand Tetons & Yellowstone

Just to recap, our journey westward was on a time crunch — we needed to get to Washington State in time for the wheat harvest which was coming early that year due to heat waves.  At this point in our journey, we had made it to Wyoming and the route that day was to see as much as we could see while passing through the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.  It was a Monday following the 4th of July week-end.

My friend, Jen, encouraged me to see the Grand Tetons, so this dictated our decision to enter Yellowstone thru the southern entrance.  As we got to the gate for the Grand Tetons, one good decision we made was to purchase a National Parks Annual Pass. We paid $80 for access to any National Park within the United States and it was money well spent, because we would go on to use this pass to cover our admission to not only the Grand Tetons, but also Yellowstone National Park, Mt. St. Helens National Park, Lewis and Clark National Park, The Redwoods, The Grand Canyon National Park, and the Carlsbad Caverns National Park (I feel like I’m missing one in this list — just know it came in handy a lot!) The pass is good for an entire year and covers admission fees for the entire family and your vehicle.  Note: If you have a 4th Grader in the family, you can get a free annual pass!

National Parks Annual Pass

You can follow details on the National Park’s website if you want to secure the pass before you travel, but we just purchased ours at the park’s entrance. Remember that with the annual pass, you can also get a discount on gift shop purchases which adds to your savings. And if you are over the age of 62, you can get a smoke’n good deal on this pass!

One thing we noticed right away was the cooler air and how FRESH the air smelled! The clouds hung low clinging to the mountains as we made our gradual climb that morning.

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We stop for a bathroom break and I managed to get all the kids to hold still long enough for a group shot.

We stopped in at Jenny Lake at the Grand Tetons and the water was beautiful and clear! (I’ll have to find my photo of us at the lake and will add it to this posting when I find where I archived it.)

The Grand Tetons

The mountains jutted up towards the heavens and literally we stood in awe of how majestic they appeared.

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We found a RV parking spot to park at the Grand Teton Visitor Center. Be prepared to hike to the sites from these locations! And don’t be surprised if cars take RV spots!
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Baby girl has the best big brothers!
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Some pretty wild flowers.
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A pretty meadow on the way between the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.
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This deer grazing at the Grand Tetons was incredibly tame! She grazed while onlookers swarmed around her.

Yellowstone was gorgeous! The scenery just went on and on… until your eyes landed on all the people. Granted it was a holiday week-end, but folks, it was crazy busy with bumper-to-bumper traffic often and fighting crowds of people just kills any outdoor enjoyment for me personally. In fact, we quickly learned that if you’re towing a RV, you can’t get off on any of the side roads to visit some of the main attractions which was a bit of a bummer.

Tip: If you want to explore Yellowstone, plan to stay for a few days and have a spot where you can unhook from your travel trailer so you can see the sights that are often found on side-roads.

We were surprised to learn that you have to have a permit to put your own kayak into any body of water within Yellowstone AND you have to have your kayaks inspected. I guess there’s some sort of weed that can be brought in on kayaks that they don’t want to propagate so this is a safe guard they take. We knew we weren’t going to take our kayaks down because I had done some research in advance and knew that we didn’t want to purchase the permit for the boys to fish when we really didn’t have a whole lot of time to see the sights.

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One of our teens — they love being in the great outdoors and exploring new sites!
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So many pretty waterfalls in Yellowstone!
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On our way through Yellowstone we had a great learning opportunity for the kids as we crossed the Continental Divide three times in three different spots!

We crossed the Continental Divide three separate times while making our way from the south entrance to Yellowstone to the north entrance of Yellowstone. It provided a great learning opportunity for the kids!

We went to go see Old Faithful, but it was so crowded that there wasn’t a single place to park! All the RV parking spots were taken with vehicles that were not RVs nor towing! Big bummer as my husband had to circle and wait for us to see when Old Faithful would do her thing. We decided that almost an hour-and-half wait wasn’t worth it given the crowds and parking situation, so we opted to keep moving through the park as we were feeling the time crunch to get to Washington State.  It was shortly after leaving the Visitor’s Center at Yellowstone that we hit a major delay. We sat in crawling stop-and-go traffic only to discover people were enthralled with a small herd of buffalo. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen buffalo before, but I was like, “Really people?” An hour delay for this?!

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We encountered a huge delay and sat in traffic for nearly an hour because of these creatures. A heard of buffalo quietly grazed while people gawked nearby.

We would later laugh about how we saw more natural wild life in Washington State than in Yellowstone! But again, that may not be a fair assessment, because we only went through Yellowstone in a day.

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One of the many steaming hot spring found along our drive.

One word of advice I’d offer… the way thru the north area of Yellowstone has some pretty steep drop-offs at spots and might be a little bit nerve racking if you’re a new driver in a RV. Even my husband was leery as we made our way through some narrow passages along a cliff side overhang.

We also hit an area of construction. Here’s another tip… If they mention there’s construction in an area, avoid it. Seriously — find an alternate route because you will be c-r-a-w-l-i-n-g at a snails pace AND your rig will get covered in dust, gravel and grime! Ugh!

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On our way out of the north exit of Yellowstone.

We did see some elk on the way out of the north entrance of the park. They also were really tame paying no notice to the people surrounding them.

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An elk grazing near the north entrance to Yellowstone.

When we left Yellowstone, we found the next town and stopped for dinner. We got out of the car and were SHOCKED at how dirty it had become from going thru the construction area in Yellowstone!

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Had to take a pic when we stopped to eat dinner that evening in Montana. Our poor vehicle and trailer was covered in dirt from the construction we went thru in Yellowstone.
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A close up of our running boards on our tow vehicle after we had left Yellowstone!

Feeling the urge to get as far as we could in Montana, we aimed our sights for Missoula, Montana and planned to roll into a Walmart parking lot around midnight to break our journey. When we arrived, we were surprised to find the whole back side of the parking lot lined with RVers tucked in for the night! We managed to find a spot towards the back of the lot and as we were moving the kids from the car to the RV, there was a truck that came through the parking lot with two guys yelling profanity to the RVers (and us), “This isn’t a F***ing RV Campground!” Over and over they yelled this at the top of their lungs directed towards the parked RVs. They past by yelling their rant and went to make another loop. My husband and I looked at each other and immediately decided to move on from that location. We didn’t need a drunk’n heckler and our safety sensors were tingling telling us to get out of there! So we loaded up the kids (it was about midnight mind you) and we got back on the freeway.

We used our app to try and find a spot to overnight and the first rest stop we came across was dark and unlit. We opted to continue to keep driving. It was about 1:30 am in the morning when we came upon the next rest stop (and last rest stop before heading over the pass). Thankfully, it was well lit and we pulled in next to a semi and helped get the kids to the RV where everyone immediately conked out after a very long day.  They were such troopers! We didn’t sleep long as the road noise was pretty loud from the nearby freeway, causing my husband and I to stir and wake around 6 am. We  got back on the road pressing on towards our destination and eager to cross into Washington State stopping to eat some breakfast after we got over the pass.

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Our overnight camping spot was a safe haven that night in Montana after a run-in with some crazies in Missoula, Montana.
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This is how we do breakfast on the go while traveling … some groceries that include fresh fruit and some muffins. And it does wonders for the driver to find a good cup of coffee for the road! 😉

In summary, I think my husband and I decided that in order to really do Yellowstone justice, we needed to NOT visit on a holiday week-end and we needed to plan to stay for at least three days so we could unhook and explore.

I do have to admit that the seismic activity in the area is disconcerting knowing that this was at one time a very active volcano.  I did love it for the educational aspect as we would go on to visit another volcano in Washington (Mt St Helens), so this was a great opportunity for the kids to see two very different types of volcanos. I will post about Mt. St. Helens at a later date, but for now, suffice to say, I am glad we saw the Grand Tetons, but Yellowstone was a bit of a bust and let down on a number of levels. Probably poor planning and expectations that were over-inflated on our part. Had we not been pressed for time and visiting at a time of year that wasn’t peak season, this could have been a great opportunity to explore and learn more about volcanos and geology.  It’s on our list to try again at a later date when time allows.


5kidsandarv-approved5 Kids and a RV recommendations are based on personal experience and do not represent the business, agency, or not-for-profit we feature. We share our experiences in an effort to inspire parents to engage and explore with their children. As always, whenever trying something new, please use your own good judgement in what best suits the needs of your family to keep everyone safe while having fun.

5 Kids and a RV: “Let’s go learn something today.”
Copyright 2016

Wyoming | Fried Beef and a Full Tank

As we left North Platte, Nebraska on a Sunday of the 4th of July weekend, we continued heading west through Wyoming. The road was straight and the land began to open up as farm land turned to ranch land with not a single tree in sight.  We saw dark clouds ahead and braced ourselves as we headed into probably the most intense electrical storm we’ve ever encountered in a RV.

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Now y’all we live in the South, so a storm with lightening and thunder usually doesn’t phase us too much because they happen pretty regularly from about May thru September as the warm air currents hit the cool air currents in our region. Sometimes the rumble of the thunder that rolls across the sky overhead will make the house shutter as the walls vibrate in response.

So, as we are beginning to drive into this pretty dark and imposing storm, it begins to dawn on me that there are no exits and that as lightening strikes on the open plain that there are no trees to attract the lightening to ground it. In some ways, we begin to feel like a sitting duck as we scurry along the highway. The rain the size of marbles began to pelt down on our vehicle  and the wipers swished back-and-forth just as fast as they could go.

Visibility began to lessen as we continued into the storm and the danger was evident in that we must keep moving cautiously, for if we stopped we might be in danger of another vehicle plowing into the back of us.  With our eyes fixated on the tail-lights in-front of us, we felt the dark clouds envelope all around us. We could only see about 20-30 feet ahead. Slowly we moved forward in faith with eyes peeled for any danger.

It was about then that my 5-year-old began to express concern regarding the storm. I could hear the fear in his voice, so I wanted to console him. I turned in my seat to talk to him so he could see my eyes and began to share with him the story in the bible how the disciples were afraid in a storm probably similar to the one we found ourselves in and Jesus simply slept peacefully in the boat through it. Luke retells that moment like this:

“As they sailed, He fell asleep, and a squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke Him saying, ‘Master,Master, we are perishing!’ Then Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters, and they subsided, and all was calm.  ‘Where is your faith?’ He asked. Frightened and amazed, they asked one another, ‘Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him!‘” — Luke 8:24

I reminded my son (as I also reminded myself in that same moment) that Jesus was able to command the weather so we could trust Him to see us through the storm. Peace. Calm. Trusting in our Creator and those big ol’ guardian angles. I could see the words encouraged him, but before I could turn back around in my seat, a sudden flash filled the cab and the kids’ eyes got the size of big saucers! Evidently, in the field we were passing, lightening struck and according to my older two boys, the lightening had struck a cow in the field! My two oldests (they are twins) shared that there was a burst of fire and a cow left laying on it’s side! Yikes! Even still, we kept pressing forward through the storm and ended up going over a bit of a mountain and emerged to blue skies. I remember feeling relieved to put the storm behind us. We safely made it through!

Out of danger, I finally had the forethought to take a photo of the storm before we passed through it. Those blue skies were encouraging to see!
Out of danger, I finally had the forethought to take a photo of the storm before we passed through it. Those blue skies were encouraging to see!

Some helpful things to know when it comes to driving in severe weather:

  1. Check your weather app before embarking for the day. Make sure you have weather alerts switched on to warn you of any severe weather warnings and allow the app to track your GPS so that the warnings will move with you and not remain static on a fixed location.

2. Know what your warnings are:

  • A thunderstorm or tornado WATCH means that conditions are right for a thunderstorm/tornado to develop in the watch area. Be ready to take cover or evacuate.
  • A thunderstorm WARNING means that a severe thunderstorm/tornado has been reported or detected on radar, threatening danger to property or life. Take cover or evacuate if there is time and a safe escape route.

3. If you are able to, pull off at an exit and find a parking lot to wait out the storm. If there are tornado conditions, seek shelter inside a brick-and-mortar structure building immediately and stay away from windows.

4. If there is low visibility, do not pull over to the side of the road along the shoulder as you could get rear-ended by travelers following behind you.

5. Never drive into deeper water with a RV. Fast moving water from a flash flood can be deceiving and dangerous. Flooding causes deaths each year, so be careful!


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When we reached Rock Springs, Wyoming, we pulled off of the Interstate and chose to eat at Taco Time before heading north towards the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. The food wasn’t anything to write home about and the service was less than par. But, considering there weren’t too many options in the area where we could pull off and park to grab a bite, it would have to do.

After we packed the crew back up into the Excursion, we started to head north on State Route 191 and my husband realized that we were at less than a quarter of tank in fuel and that we needed to look for a place in town that was open to refuel. Remember, it was already past 5 pm on a Sunday night on a holiday week-end. We had pulled out in the direction we needed to go (north) and we found ourselves quickly on the outskirts of town with no where to turn around for fuel and following a truck loaded with explosives (after it passed us illegally on a double center line.)

Lucky us — we got stuck following behind a truck loaded to the brim with explosives that was driving fast and then slow and then fast again.
Lucky us — this guy decided to pass us and then we got stuck following behind a truck loaded to the brim with explosives that was driving fast and then slow and then fast again.

We began to check our map app on our iPhone and saw a small service station not too far down the road. We pulled off. Closed. I glanced at the tank gauge. Below a quarter of a tank. I went back to the iPhone map app to see where we might find a place to stay for the night. The nearest campground was at least an hours drive or more and we would need fuel before then…

We drove for a good 20 minutes with no buildings in sight and my eyes couldn’t help to keep glancing over at the fuel gauge. We learned that we were on the Lewis and Clark trail and due to our fuel predicament, we didn’t even feel led to stop and check out a national landmark as it was getting towards dusk and we needed to fuel up — stat! And nothing was coming up in our search as a gas station!

I, beginning to worry, began to pray that we would be able to find fuel and pushed any visual of us stranded in the middle of nowhere to the outskirts of my mind. Probably sensing the urgency of our situation, one of our 14-year-old twin sons felt led to help in that moment. He took his phone out and began to ask how to use the map app on it. He quickly realized that he could look ahead of where we were traveling and began to scan for any fuel stations on his app. Ten minutes into his search, as we inched closer to “E” on our fuel gauge, he exclaims, “There’s a fuel station up ahead on the right! Look here!”  I thought he must not be understanding how to read the app, because I didn’t see anything coming up on my map app and when I looked out my window, there wasn’t any building or structure in view. But sure enough — he showed me his map quickly… and there was a tiny fuel icon with the words, “The Station.”

Fuel Station in Wyoming Middle of No Where

As we got closer off in the distance you could see some lights, but no pumps or station were visible from the road, so we  decided to turn down the gravel road and check it out. It turned out to be quite a large service station tucked in behind a hotel and main building with about seven to eight pumps. There was a convenience station, but it was dark and closed. As we rolled up to the fuel station we scanned to see if any pumps were open — thankfully they had pumps that could be used after hours with a credit card! Thank the Lord! Relief hit like a tidal wave as we heard that all familiar sound of the nozzle being fit into our fuel tank.

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This fuel station was such a relief to find in the middle of nowhere! Learn from us and fill up right as you exit the freeway before moving on as you may not have road-way to turn around!

A lesson was learned that day to fuel up first thing off the freeway before driving away from the interstate.

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My husband smiles, thankful for answered prayer to find a fuel station in the middle of no where!

We decided we had enough excitement for one day and chose the next RV park that we encountered. We pulled in and stopped in at the office as dusk brought the day to an end. They had a spot we could pull through and camp for the night. Score! We didn’t even unhook from the tow vehicle and just put down our stabilizers to settle in for the night.

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Our gorgeous view the following morning from our campsite in Wyoming.

With the kids all tucked in their bunks and beds, I laid down and began to recount the day… So thankful for protection from the storm, answered prayer in finding a spot to fuel despite our lack of forethought, and a quiet spot to lay our heads down that night.  And I slept in peace, thankful for answered prayer.

Isaiah 26:3

The next morning was going to be another full day as we looked forward to seeing The Grand Tetons for the first time and Yellowstone!  And we were only two days from Washington State!

Pinterest Wyoming Fried Beef and a Full Tank


5kidsandarv-approved5 Kids and a RV recommendations are based on personal experience and do not represent the business, agency, or not-for-profit we feature. We share our experiences in an effort to inspire parents to engage and explore with their children. As always, whenever trying something new, please use your own good judgement in what best suits the needs of your family to keep everyone safe while having fun.

5 Kids and a RV: “Let’s go learn something today.”
Copyright 2016

Booneville MO | Authentic Vintage A&W and Frothy Frosty Root Beers

On our cross country road trip to Washington state, we cruised through St Louis this time ’round and waved to the arch as we went by on the bridge. We had tried to launch our trip a few months earlier and we were in St. Louis, MO camping and sight seeing when we had to turn back for home. (Long story, but the company my husband worked for at the time announced they had sold the company and were issuing live final checks, so we had to be physically home to manage that transition, but that’s a story for another time.)

St Louis, Missouri

As we drove through Missouri, the hours on the road were beginning to be felt. Our goal each day was around 500 miles — about 8-10 hours of drive time at our pace. We needed to take a break, so when we saw a A&W restaurant road sign it peaked our curiosity.

When I was a little girl, my grandparents would take me to an A&W Drive-In in Electric City, WA.  I loved the frothy foam and vanilla ice cream on top of a big heavy frosty glass jug of root beer.

A&W Vintage Menu
This menu board is similar to the ones that my grandparents would use to order from when I was a child. They were fashioned after the drive thru menu where you would press the button and speak thru the speaker to place your order. Check out those cheap prices compared to today! Photo Credit: oldlarestaurants.com
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Photo Credit: Yelp.com

Each of the A&Ws in the 70s used to have an old fire pit in the center of the restaurant that you could sit around (like the one pictured above). In the particular A&W I grew up with, you would sit down at your booth and there was this sort of little juke box looking menu at each table that served as your menu. I believe you could even use it to “call in” your order if I recall correctly (I was only 4 or 5 years old at the time). We would get a the appropriate sized burger — a Papa, Mama, or Baby or Teen Burger or a hot dog and of course that a root beer!

The 3-Bears way of ordering food!
Photo Credit: Flickr

We did have to drive a mile in off Interstate 70 (see map below). We took 40 in and their parking lot was empty enough that we were able to pull in with our rig and trailer without an issue and park.

Kids sleeping and watching a movie on iPhone

Map to A&W in Booneville MO
Map to A&W in Booneville MO
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The exterior of the Booneville MO A&W. Photo Credit: Yelp.com

A few things had been updated in the restaurant like the lamps and the seats reupholstered. But there was the fire pit (see pic above of this A&W) with the original chairs around it. Pretty cool!

A&W Pitstop Experience

And those big heavy frosty frothy mugs were just as I remembered! Our kids were love’n it!  By the way, don’t miss a great teachable moment! A root beer float is a great way to illustrate and experience the three states of matter: liquid [root beer], solid [ice cream] and gas [frothy fizzy bubbles on top]!

A&W Pitstop Experience

A&W Pitstop Experience
Notice how the burger and fries wait until the root beer is enjoyed and gone?! Mmmmmm – so good!  lol

A&W Pitstop Experience

A&W Pitstop Experience
Our youngest son thinks all fries should be dipped at one time! ha!

With tummies full and old and new memories cherished, we loaded up our tribe to head back down the road. The kids quickly settled in and we made good progress to Nebraska. When we had to stop and do a bathroom break in Nebraska, this was our view. I personally love how we can just pull over on an exit and use the bathroom without having to worry about stranger danger at a public restrooms or unwanted germs!

Our view for a bathroom break

Taking a quick bathroom break
My super travelers!

The next day would be the Fourth of July and prove to be a difficult day. Be sure to read about it here!

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5 Kids and a RV recommendations are based on personal experience and do not represent the business or not-for-profit we feature. We share our experiences in an effort to inspire parents and caregivers to engage and explore with their children. On occasion we may post a review or provide information as an affiliate.

5 Kids and a RV: “Let’s go learn something today!

When things don’t go as planned … two lessons learned on the Fourth of July

At the midpoint of our trip when we were half-way from Georgia to Washington State, we had our first obstacle to overcome. The previous day had been full of rough roads from construction in Nebraska and we were looking towards less jolting and smooth roads in Wyoming with the Grand Tetons as our destination that day. We had started out around 9 am, pulling out of a Walmart parking lot after overnighting in the parking lot next to some semis. This was the view outside my bedroom window that morning…

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We were all in good spirits as it was our nation’s birthday, July 4, 2015. We were making our way through Nebraska with our five kids ages 2 to 14 and our RV travel trailer towing behind our Excursion. We had only been on the road for an hour-and-a-half and had already pulled off on the road twice for potty breaks when one of my oldests said, “Is it possible to stop at the next exit? I need to go to the bathroom.” I sighed in exasperation and said, “Really? Seriously?! You couldn’t have gone the other two times we stopped?” It wasn’t that it was an inconvenience to stop (we are towing the family bathroom right behind us so it makes it actually quite easy when it comes to bathroom breaks) so much as it was one more delay to progress as I was eager to get to Grand Tetons.

But as it may, we were nearing the noon hour and my husband saw a billboard for Taco John — a fast food place we used to have in his hometown growing up — and as it had been over 20 years since he’d had a taco from there, we decided to make our stop the next exit in the little town of North Platte, Nebraska — home to Buffalo Bill — to see if those tacos were as tasty as we once remembered them. Taco John was about a mile or two in off the free way, and our GPS helped to route us to it quickly taking us through town. But as we pulled up to park near Taco John, my husband started pumping the breaks and with a concerned look on his face simply said to me, “Our brakes are squishy. I think they may be going out. The pedal is going all the way to the floor.” He was able to stop in a spot that was off the main road and near the restaurant, so we just decided to go ahead and feed the family and deal with the problem on full stomachs.

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5 Kids and RV Taco Johns in Nebraska

After our crew had eaten, Jes popped the hood on our towing vehicle and checked the brake fluid reservoir. It was empty! We had topped off all fluids before embarking on our journey across country and we quickly concluded that something must have happened while towing. But where we had parked was not a spot where Jes could safely get under the vehicle to check the brake line. So we had two things to solve: 1) figure out where to get more brake fluid on a holiday when stores were closed and 2) to find a safe spot to check out what might be causing us to lose brake fluid.

We checked our GPS and spotted a Ford dealership around the corner from where we were parked and thought they might be able to help us fix it… Nope. They were closed to celebrate the 4th of July.  We then spotted a auto parts store not too far away… Nope. Closed for the 4th of July.  We saw a small grocery store near the dealership and had hope — surely they would have brake fluid? They did, but it was the wrong kind. The reality of our situation began to sink in at that moment. We headed down the road and saw a small gas station open with a mini mart and we thought we might stop and check there… While my husband headed inside the “what ifs” began to hit. I began to worry, “What if we can’t find anyone open?! What if no one has the special brake fluid we need?!” As almost as quickly as the worried thoughts had come, I knew that worry was simply a lack of faith, so as I sat in the cab waiting with the kids, I bowed my head and we prayed for God to help us find the right oil and to figure out the situation. And then we continued to wait.

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As we waited, my middle son noticed two women smoking in a not so safe spot — not to far from propane tanks!
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Hooray! The right kind of brake fluid! Making a special note after this experience to always have a couple of these stowed away!

Thankfully, my husband emerged quickly from the store with three containers of brake fluid. He topped off the reservoir and closed the hood and I hopped out of the vehicle to help him navigate backing the RV onto the street as there was no way to pull forward and around in the tiny parking lot of the mini-mart gas station.

He drove slowly through town and navigated back to the Walmart Super Center located near the freeway and parked toward the back of the lot by some semis that were stopped to rest. The kids hung out in the car while I watched the area around my husband while he climbed underneath our tow vehicle to check out the brake line. Sure enough, some how the back brake line had gotten severed and  crushed and was leaking a steady stream of fluid. There was no way we could head over a mountain pass, let alone get on the freeway with our vehicle in this condition. Feeling stressed, both my husband and I, along with our children, bowed our heads in prayer, asking for God’s wisdom in how to handle the situation we found ourselves in at that moment.

Sure enough, some how the back brake line had gotten severed and  crushed and was leaking a steady stream of fluid.

Then with a deep breath, we went into problem solving mode. Our next thought was to see if we could get to a spot where we could unhook our tow vehicle from the RV. There were two RV places to stay nearby. One was flooded by the river and closed leaving us only one option. The good news was it was nearby. We called ahead while we sat in the Walmart parking lot and thankfully they had a spot open for us to park and stay the night while we came up with a game plan. We ended up checking into the Holiday RV Park and paid about $43 for the night after Good Sams and cash discounts.

Once we were settled in our site and unhooked, my husband began calling around. We tried the nearby Pilot truck stop and unfortunately they didn’t have anyone working because of the holiday. We also tried calling Good Sams which we had purchased for emergency situations such as this, but it wouldn’t be until the next Tuesday (3 days later) until they could send someone out — the day we were suppose to arrive at our destination.

After exhausting all of the options available to us, Jes decided to attempt the job himself — he had done jobs like this with his father who was a mechanic and even though it had been about 20 years since he had turned wrenches with his Dad, he felt confident he could fix it with the right tools and parts. So he unhooked the truck and he and our middle child (armed with extra brake fluid in the car) drove a mile to the nearest Advanced Auto Parts store — the only one we could find open on the holiday — to see if he could find parts to fix it himself. In the meantime, the heat of the day was setting in and it was over 96 degrees out, so I took the other four kids to the pool in hopes that it would lift our spirits.  We had been on the road for three days and laundry was already piling up, so we started a few loads to run while the kids swam.

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Cooling off in the pool at the RV campground we found on short notice.

While four of our kids and I were at the pool, Jesse and our middle son were able to find the parts needed to repair the severed brake line. They returned to the campground and were busy with the repair underway only to discover that he needed one more piece to finish the repair. Since everything was taken apart, he couldn’t simply drive the Excursion at this point, so he and our middle son took the pieces they needed and began to walk a mile+ back to the Advanced Auto Parts store in the afternoon 96 degree heat.

Upon arriving at the Advanced Auto Parts store, the manager who had helped them previously, noticed how hot our son looked and gave him a free water when he went up to buy one. And the part that we needed was not readily available in their inventory listing, so the manager began to take down boxes of other parts to see if the same part could be found in another box. He was able to successfully find the needed part and even took it back to crimp it with a special tool needed to join the two together — a tool we didn’t have — to connect it to the other part Jesse had brought with him.  It was because of this one man’s willingness to help us, that we were able to finish the repair job.  Jesse and our 11 year old son walked back once again in the heat with the parts that were needed.

I had just changed out of my swim suit when I went out to check on how things were going with the repair. Jes had returned from the auto parts store and had just put everything back together and was ready for me to help bleed the brake line and showed me for the first time the pieces that had been damaged. Our best guess was that it had happened the night before while going over some bumpy construction as at one point, we remember being concerned about the bumps. We had evidently bottomed out and hit the pavement  and the brake line got not only crushed, but severed in that moment.

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We definitely bottomed out and hit the road as we went through that construction! Here you see the line crushed and broken in half.
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Jesse happy after a job well done! Thankful for how God answered our every prayer and that my husband had the ability and faith to complete the job!
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This pedal matters a lot when you’re traveling by RV!
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Our son with the water bottle he went to go pay for and the manager paid for it himself in the spirit of Independence Day.

With the truck repaired, we decided to drive it for a bit to test the repair out before hooking up and heading across a big mountain range. We drove it through town, grabbed some dinner, stopped in at a “tourist trap” for the kids to shop a little bit and came back to our RV to rest and finish up laundry. There’s something about taking a shower in a normal shower that refreshes you as well.  The kids recall laying on the merry-go-round that night and spinning while fireworks exploded in the area around our campground.

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No, this isn’t a real fort. It’s a store with some tourist paraphernalia to see and buy.

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We would have loved to check out Buffalo Bill’s place in North Platte, Nebraska, but had to save it for another time due to the holiday and needing to stay on our travel schedule.
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Our 2.5 year old daughter sizes up the native american in the grassy area behind the tourist shop.

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Our 5-year-old checks out a diorama of Buffalo Bill's Show in North Platte, Nebraska
Our 5-year-old checks out a diorama of Buffalo Bill’s Show in North Platte, Nebraska

Buffalo Bill diorama

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Buffalo Bill (William Cody) started his famous Wild West Show near his ranch in North Platte. The first rodeo was held in North Platte on July 4, 1882.
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One of our older boys wanted a “Jack-alope” which we thought looked good on the dash. It’s good to find ways to smile through difficult circumstances! 😀
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Leaving our emergency overnight pit stop — the Holiday RV Park in North Platte, Nebraska. It cost about $49 after discounts were applied. At the time of our stay, they had a pool, playground, showers, playground, and small RV spaces.

With all of us clean, fed, and with clothes folded and put away, we tidied up our trailer and started out for Wyoming the next morning, refreshed and ready to continue our journey towards Washington State.

Now, a year later, as I reflect on that fourth of July, there are two main takeaways from that experience:

  1. Don’t fuss over delays — they may very well be God’s providential answer to prayer.
  2. One person can make a difference in someone’s life.

PROVIDENCE:

Before leaving the comforts of our home, I had all sorts of scenarios run through my mind of what could happen and this one was not even one I had considered. The timing of how everything transpired that day was more than “coincidence”; my husband and I believe it was providential. Had my son not asked to stop to use the bathroom, we would have continued on the freeway and very well could have been without brakes to stop traveling at a high speed! When I think of what could have happened, I shutter at the thought and am grateful for God answering many a prayer for protection as we traveled.  As we recount all the things that happened that day…

  1. We were able to stop safely.
  2. We were able to drive the car and travel trailer a short distance to find brake fluid on a holiday when a lot of stores were closed.
  3. We were able to find the right kind of brake fluid.
  4. We were able to get back across town to a better spot.
  5. We were able to find a spot that was reasonably priced to stay the night and unhook to deal with our emergency.
  6. We were able to make it within walking distance to the one open auto parts store in town.
  7. We were only able to fix the repair with the help of a kind and generous person — otherwise our trip would have been delayed and we may have missed out on wheat harvest.
  8. We got a chance to rest a bit in the middle of our journey and clean some things.

God, in His goodness, answered the prayers of all of those who were praying for our safe journey. There would be many times those brakes would be pushed to the test and the brakes would hold firm and keep our family safe (I’ll have to write about the California experience sometime.) And our kids learned one more time, that we don’t serve an imaginary God, but the one true God Jehovah-Jireh (our provider) who cares for our every need.

HOW ONE PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE:

The gentleman that helped my husband that day at the auto parts store went over and above to help meet our needs that day.  My husband shares that had he not helped search through boxes for the right part and offered to use his machine in the back to do the step we had no tool to do, we would not have been able to complete the job and we would have had to have waited for a mechanic which would have cost us days in the schedule and possibly affected our ability to get to Washington in time for wheat harvest which was coming early that year due to the high heat.  This manager at Advance Auto Parts store, not only went beyond in his customer service, he also encouraged us and especially our son learned a lesson on the power of kindness as he received a fresh ice cold water to quench his thirst.

OH! AND ONE MORE THING…

I guess there’s a bonus tip from what we also learned … it is a good idea to keep some extra brake fluids in our storage area for unexpected issues! From North Platte, Nebraska we headed out towards Wyoming which I’ll share more about in another post. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more…

— Erin & Jes + our 5 kids and a RV


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5 Kids and a RV recommendations are based on personal experience and do not represent the business or not-for-profit we feature. We share our experiences in an effort to inspire parents and caregivers to engage and explore with their children. On occasion we may post a review or provide information as an affiliate.

5 Kids and a RV: “Let’s go learn something today!

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Midori Monday :: Midori Garden Journal

Today, I’m not thinking of going on a trip somewhere (gasp), but thinking about planting roots… roots for our garden this year, that is. Today’s tasks included creating some recyclable planting pots (my eldest made fifty pots today in fact) and my kindergartner started his science experiment of watching a seed grow in an unused CD/DVD case.

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So, with my farmer-gene in full-swing today, I thought it would be a great time to do a Midori Monday™ — that’s where I share something about the Midori Traveler’s Notebook and how easily it adapts to whatever you need to organize, track, or journal.

“…my Midori is the one I’ve seem to connect with and stick with the longest (which says a lot really.)”

I’ve been using the Midori Traveler’s Notebook for about a year-and-a-half now. I’ve tried organizers from the office store, I’ve tried digital planners, I’ve tried journals — it seems like I’ve tried a million different systems, but my Midori is the one I’ve seem to connect with and stick with the longest (which says a lot really.) There are two sizes of Midori’s: passport and regular. I went with the taller format of the regular, because I like space to write and draw. And I love the leather! Here are some pics of my Midori when it was brand spank’n new!

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“I unplugged from Facebook and the time I would have spent watching everyone live their lives, instead I began to pour into my own life through writing or getting creative and challenging myself to draw.”

I was first attracted to the Midori Traveler’s Notebook, because I was getting tired of Facebook. I wanted to UN-Facebook. I wanted to record life as it happened without the whole world knowing about it. So, that’s what I did. I unplugged from Facebook and the time I would have spent watching everyone live their lives, instead I began to pour into my own life through writing or getting creative and challenging myself to draw. There was something about putting a pen to paper that was therapeutic. It also ties in well with my love of scrapbooking, paper, and stamping. It was a total win-win on a number of levels for me. I loved it so much, I got one for each of my boys to take on our cross-country trip (more on that later.)

But the challenge was in how to make time for me to write or draw when I had a spare moment. I loved the idea that I could take this system with me and pull it out of my purse to doodle or write while I was waiting for the kids to finish (at the time they were volunteering at a horse stable for an hour each week.) So, after lots of research, I purchased myself a regular-size leather Midori Travler’s Notebook (knockoff because I liked the color stain better than the original options) of off Etsy and made it into my wallet/journal/sketchbook/organizer. And it’s been awesome. Like a fine wine, it just gets more beautiful with age as it does life with me.

“The system adjusts to me…”

One of the many things I love about the system is how I can easily pop journals out when they are full and replace with a new one or add an additional journal based upon what is happening in life. The system adjusts to me, not me trying to fit someone else’s organization system. For example, my garden journal! I have created my own custom garden journal that I use to track my seedlings and plantings. This is great, because when I’m at the garden center, I can quickly see what I already have in progress and what I need to get to supplement my garden. It also makes a great reference point for the following years as I evaluate what worked and what didn’t work and have a record of my garden planting layout.

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I’ll be sharing more inserts that I’ve developed and use in the coming weeks, so stay tuned to learn more!  Since you’re a friend of this blog, you can get this garden journal at a discounted price using the code: BLOG15OFF

Click here to view DIY Garden Journal that fits the Midori Traveler’s Notebook ($2.99).

Click here to view the Printed Garden Journal that fits the Midori Traveler’s Notebook ($8.99).

Not a gardener? No problemo! Stay tuned for more ideas on how the Midori Traveler’s Notebook might work for you (especially as a travel journal).

3 Safety Tips to Know before You Go

We had been hitting the books hard this past week with school and the guys were ready for some R&R, so when we saw that the weather was going to be a warmer winter day in the 60s, fishing was the order of the day.

My 15YO dove into our Falcon Guide for Fishing Georgia and we settled on his idea of a nice little lake near a Girls Scout Campground called Lake Marvin, just of I-75 near Calhoun, GA.  We didn’t mind driving a ways and a small lake sounded manageable for keeping tabs on the boys while they fished.

First off, if you have an RV, this is NOT a RV-friendly route. As we came within a few miles of the lake, we immediately began to climb a hill with a severe grade and sharp switch backs. Great for a motorcyclist wanting to enjoy a fun ride — not great for a RV trying to just get up and down the hill and around corners. DO NOT attempt this in an RV, I repeat, do not attempt this hill. We were not towing our RV when we took this day trip and I’m glad for it. It would have been a nightmarish repeat of our California experience (which I’ll post about another time). But I digress.

Lake Marvin near Calhoun GA

So we arrive at this pristine pretty little lake just down the road from the Girl Scout Camp. It has a boat launch and a dock that squeaks when you walk on it (and it even squeaks from the water movement — lets just say it’s got a very squeaky dock.) Signs about use were posted and it was pretty clear that if you weren’t there to fish, you were considered to be trespassing (I’ll come back to this in a bit). Cost to launch a boat was $2 and each angler was $5. Kids under 12 were free to fish, so we only needed to pay for our two older boys and their launch fee.  (By the way, all funds go to help keep the lake stocked and cared for by the Girl Scouts Organization according to signage — a great group to support so be sure to pay the fee.) There was a primitive restroom just off of the parking lot as well. The location was nice and clean and the garbage can we used had been recently emptied.

Lake Marvin rules

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fishing poles waiting to be used

fishing off the dock

So, we unloaded the kayaks and the boys were on their way in no time. We set up our 6YO on the dock with life vest and fishing pole rigged and ready to cast and our 11YO worked on making some hot chocolate on a little camp stove we brought along.

Lake Marvin Kayaks

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Hot chocolate

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It was a quiet site with only the occasional motorist going by on the road not far from where we were situated.  Our 3YO busied herself with finding pinecones and my husband even set up our son’s hammock and took a bit of a rest. Ahhhh, this is how a Saturday should be spent… simply relaxing. Our 6YO son decided it was more fun to throw pinecones into the lake instead of fish, so an imaginary naval assault broke the quiet calm.

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Kickin it in a hammock

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About a couple of hours into our visit, a car pulled into the lot and some teenagers — two boys and a girl — got out and walked off down a little trail along the lake. They seemed to be local. No fishing rods were in hand, so technically, they were breaking the posted rules. Not too long after, they re-emerged and headed off down the road. Then about a half hour later, another car pulled in to the parking lot. This group of three — this time, it was two women and a man — looked a little unsavory and their car looked like it was being lived in with stuff piled in the back seat leaving only room for someone to sit to the side.  What was odd from the get-go was how one grown woman asked the other grown woman to hold her hand on the way to the bathroom. My Mama-safety-senses began to tingle. That is not something most women say, nor do. Even still, we greeted one another and one of the women grabbed a fishing pole and headed to the dock. She hung out for about 10-15 minutes on the dock and then gave up declaring that no fish seemed to be biting.  (And no, she didn’t pay the $5 use fee.) They said good-bye to us and loaded up into their car as if they were going to leave and then oddly, they pulled back over near the bathrooms and turned off the car, then got out and all three went to the restrooms. The two women, oddly enough, went into the same restroom and were in there for about 15 minutes. Folks, I had been in this restroom earlier and it was not roomy. It was basically an open hole with a toilet seat. Noticing their odd behavior, my Mama-safety-senses were in full alert mode and I was put a little at ease when my husband showed me he was packing. There was no wi-fi or phone signal in this location, so if we were robbed or if Lord forbid something worse happened, we needed to be able to defend ourselves. Like a mother hen, I kept my younger three close and ready to throw in the back of the truck if need be while my husband watched the situation. Eventually the women re-emerged from the bathroom, got in their car and drove off (thankfully) down the road.

I know the purpose of this blog is to encourage you to travel and explore, so I don’t want to instill fear, but I want to be open in sharing this experience because the reality is unfortunately that we live in a world where there are some folks that break the law and aren’t safe. I was glad my husband was prepared to defend us if needed and doubly-glad that we didn’t need to take action to defend our family. Trust your gut in these situations. It’s better to err on the side of over-safe than not safe-enough in my opinion. It was a great opportunity to talk with the kids after-the-fact about maybe putting some better boundaries for our family in place when we go to a location. We need to be able to communicate to get help if need be so cell service is a must, we need to definitely keep within eye sight of one another, and we need to be prepared to defend ourselves if needed.

This is not a location we ever intend to ever go back to — not because the boys didn’t catch anything that day — but it just doesn’t have enough visibility nor is it monitored enough to keep those who aren’t using the lake for fishing away.  So, as for fishing, the trip was a bust, but we still had some great relaxing moments and were reminded that whenever we are out and about, we need to be watchful and aware of our surroundings.  And if you live near this lake and know history of this area, I hope you feel free to share your experiences in the comments below. I’d like to think this is an isolated experience on our part, but locals would know the situation probably best. Just be safe in your travels while having fun!

Don’t blink

If you’ve been wondering why it’s been quiet … I’ve been working on pulling together a Florida trip to share with you — it’s one of our favorites — and I’m really excited to post that soon as it is a trip we’ve taken twice and took instead of going to Disney World one year (because, yes, it was that good). No spoilers on details yet, but I will let you know that we are going to share all the highlights so you can take the same trip (but without all the planning).  Stay tuned, you’ll get the inside scoop right here!

While thumbing thru our pics for my project, I ran across this shot from 2014 that just made me take pause.  I took this shot while we were embarking on our first long trip with baby girl — the kiddos look so much younger here!  When you’re living life at full speed, pausing to look at moments like this seem in the scheme of things like such a blink.

Home is Anywhere I am with YOU!

If you’ve been putting off a family trip, can I just encourage you to stop putting it off. This is your year to make it happen! Don’t wait for things to be perfect. Start planning. Start selling something to put in your savings jar. Put the money you’d use to buy a latte in your savings jar. Pick a realistic goal and go after it!  Take it from a Mama who sees her boys quickly turning into men… you only get them for a season…

 

So you don’t think you have enough money to travel…

Quote by Graham Cooke
Our boys exploring the gentle giants — Redwood trees in Northern California — something that has long been a dream of ours to experience.

When you have a dream and chase it, you say no to the things that you might want now in order to experience what you want later.

When everyone is at a movie opening night, you wait to watch that movie until Apple has a digital rental for $4.99.

When others are eating out, you’re eating at home and fixing dinner even though you’re tired and don’t feel like it.

When others get a fancy latte concoction at the local coffee bar, you’re brewing a pot at home.

When others go out for ice cream at the ice cream shop, you go to the grocery store and buy what’s on sale and have a sundae party at home.

When others are upgrading their phone to the latest technology release, you say to yourself, “My phone is just fine – thankful it works” and avoid the Best Buy or the Apple Store.

When others are getting a new car (or new used car), you take care of the one you have and remain thankful she still carries you where you need to go and throw some duct tape on that seat that’s starting to tear from use.

When others go to the nail salon to get a mani-pedi, you pull out your nail clippers and nail polish and give yourself your own mani-pedi.

You clip coupons and look for deals when you have the time to do so.

You don’t run into town whenever you need something, but instead make purposeful trips and stock-up.

You cancel that outrageous Cable/Satilite contract, buy an Apple TV and Netflix membership and your annual cost goes from $1,800 (estimating an average bill of about $150 a month) down to roughly $200 only annually.

Delayed gratification. It’s tough. It’s no fun. It’s doesn’t earn you popularity points on Facebook. But that’s OK, ’cause you’re on a mission to make a dream into a reality.

But when you say “no” to the things that bring pleasure now so you can say “yes” to experiencing something you’ve always wanted, well — there are no words to describe how that moment feels when you reach that goal. Simply amazing.

Want to travel, but you don’t think you can afford it? It’s like Mr Cooke says, “… you must be prepared to do things you’ve never done before.”

Now go chase that dream!

Dream Big! You can do it!

My Top 12 Reasons of Why I Like to RV

Just out of curiousity, I did a quick search to see how RV was trending… so often we seem like the only families at campsites during the off-peak week-day visit.  I was encouraged to see that it is on the rise in the 35-48 age group telling me that more families are opting to use a RV instead of investing in another time share property or staying in a hotel.

Benefits of RVing

So it got me thinking… as a mom to five kiddos what are some of my favorite things about RVing?

1. Bathroom breaks while traveling are MUCH easier. If the kids need to use the restroom, no need to stop and use an unsanitary bathroom at some truck stop or fast food restaurant where you worry if you’re picking up some virus — nope, with a RV, you just alert the driver that you need to “go” and at the first available exit that offers a large parking lot or wide road shoulder area you can simply open the door to your RV bathroom and take care of business quickly and back on the road. Easy peasy — especially with kids!

2. It’s MUCH cheaper than getting a hotel room.  With five children and two adults, we would either have to get two hotel rooms or a hotel suite that has a common area with two adjacent rooms — at the time of this posting that runs about $150-$200.  A typical RV overnight, full hook-up site runs from $35-$55 depending on the time of year and the amenities offered — even cheaper than that if you are off season and stay a month!  That’s about a 77% savings per night putting money back into our pocket to see and do more.

3.  I get to sleep in my own bed.  Call me a germaphobe, but I really like using my own pillow, my own sheets, and sleeping in my own bed.  No bed bugs. No wondering what happened on my bedsheets the night before. I can rest easy knowing what has been on my bed and in my bed. ZZZzzzzzz…

4. No hidden cameras. No wondering if some hidden hotel camera has someone watching me sleep, get it on with my main man, or watching me change.  Believe it or not, this is something that creeps me out about staying in someone else’s condo or in a hotel room. It should creep you out, too. Unless you’re an exhibitionist of course. (Of which I am not.)

5.  I feel more relaxed. Yes, you still need to honor quiet hours and be courtiuos to your RV neighbors, but it wasn’t until we stayed overnight in a hotel room not too long ago that I realized how stressful it felt to keep kids quiet because people were on the other side of the wall.

6.  Feel more connected to the outdoors. I have four sons and a daughter. I am convinced that kids need to be outside, exploring their world and learning thru those experiences.  And there’s something comforting about sitting around a campfire and breathing it all in — these are magical moments for our family where we feel connected.

7.  A door that will lock.  OK, my husband laughs at me on this one, but I love the Jim Gaffigan joke about being pre-packaged for the bears.  I seriously like keeping bad things out and good things inside of my RV.  Maybe that’s silly, but for this girl, it helps me get my guys outdoors while also meeting my need to keep them safe. Win-win.

8.  A sense of community.  I absolutely love how RVers will reach out and say ‘hello’ to new neighbors and share from their resources. In a recent trip to the Florida panhandle, we had a neighbor give us a bag of satsuma oranges (delicious!) and another neighbor brought back oysters from the sandbar they went out to and some conches to show the boys.  You do not get these kind of experiences in a hotel or in renting a condo — at least I haven’t experienced that and I’ve done a good bit of traveling over this life of mine.

9.  I don’t have to get on a plane to experience another part of the world.  Planes are great if you want to get somewhere quickly far, far away, but I really don’t like the process of having to micro-manage the packing for the kids, worrying about getting thru security in one piece with five kids in tow, and then keeping the kids content on a plane so that they don’t disturb nearby neighbors.  This probably would also fit under #5, but feeling less stressed means I live longer, my husband is not as stressed also, and we can travel at a pace that works for everyone without worry about offending a fellow passenger.

10.  I get to bring everything I need for comforts from home and the kitchen sink. Literally.  Well, within reason of course – there are weight limits. But I am not limited by a 50 pound piece of luggage… I can plan ahead and bring along things that will make our travels easier and more enjoyable.  So instead of always having to eat out, we can actually cook a meal and save money so we can explore more!

11. I like a good adventure.  For fun, my grandparents use to take us for “rides”. They lived out in farm country and as a child I would question their mode of entertainment, but they would take me to the lake where we would look at the geese and the newly hatched gosslings… they would take me to stop and look at the miniature grand canyon feature near their home… and we’d drive thru the nearby park to see what the tourists were doing and do some people watching.  What they taught me was to notice. To pause and take in my world. And this has stuck with me over the years I think. I want my children to never stop noticing the little things. I want them to grow an appreciation for history and the diversity of people.  I want them to experience new things and grow as a person in a positive way from those experiences.

12. As we experience new things as a family, we grow as a family.  Sharing new experiences together is not only fun, but it also is deeply satisfying to me personally.  I’d rather make a new fun memory than spend money on a toy to keep my child occupied.  I only have them for a short season. The time to explore and be together is now.