Category Archives: Search by State

Fun in the Sun 4th of July

We headed to lake on the 4th of July! The boys wanted to play on a rope swing they knew of nearby and the day was spent playing in the water and eating. Good times!

 

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Around 3 pm the first thunderstorm rolled through and we knew we wouldn’t be able to get the boat out of the water in time, so we grabbed a sunshade we had on hand and got out of the water just in time. We played in the water some more after the storm rolled through only to discover another band of storms was right behind it, so we went back to our little shelter again for round two! After the coast was clear, we packed up our gear and headed back to the boat launch to end our fun-filled day!

Remember, if you can hear thunder, you can be struck by lightening! ALWAYS seek shelter out of the water if you find yourself in a thunderstorm. And if you have a cell phone, be sure to sign-up for FEMA automatic alerts — this helped us with the right amount of warning to get to safety before the storm rolled through and helped to keep our family out of danger.

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Hope you and your family enjoyed the day together as well no matter what adventures came your way!

Are you getting the itch to travel? Yeah, me too.

It’s about this time of year that we begin to seriously think about warmer days ahead and what new adventures might lie ahead for our tribe to explore.

It’s been awhile since we’ve been to the beach — at this point, I’m thinking a trip to Tybee Island, GA as it’s been about five years since we’ve been there with the kiddos. On my list of “things I’d love to experience” is a live hatch of baby sea turtles and this region of Georgia offers opportunities to experience those up close. My little girl LOVES sea turtles and the boys would enjoy experiencing this, too!

Sea Turtle Swimming in Ocean

I also love this area because of the rich history of Savannah, GA and my Pinterest page is busting with ideas that are itching to be explored.  From there we could head north towards Charleston, SC or south towards Florida.

martin-luther-king-572586_1280It’s also been on my mind to explore Birmingham, AL and surrounding areas a bit more. There is rich history here in Atlanta and in Alabama relating to the Civil Rights Movement and this might be the year that we deep-dive into that with a trip to connect the kids to those events through visiting the sites where they took place.  There’s also a couple of car-making factory tours that I would love for my older teens to go on with the right planning. (I’m thinking that we’ll avoid this region during the months when tornados are more common tho’ — i.e. spring.)

It also might be good to do something more humanitarian and take the kids up to Tennessee to see if we can partner with the ongoing efforts to restore the region where fire took it’s toll this past year in the Dollywood area.  :*(web-forest-fire-blaze

Hmmm… Decisions, decisions.

The reality is where we end-up going will partly be dependent on hubby’s work travel schedule.  But in the meantime, part of my process is to plan ahead by day dreaming on Pinterest. Pinning things that might sound of interest (should we get to that region), makes it a lot easier for planning to gel and come together when the time comes to put ideas into motion.

I encourage you to do the same today. Get a jumpstart on your own travel dreams with one of the boards I’ve started. And if you know of a great resource that I haven’t pinned yet, by all means send the travel idea my way. I love new places to visit and often locals know the best places to enjoy.

Let’s dream a little… So, where would you like to go and explore this year?

University of Washington | Remembering our Roots

As we gear up for the big football game (the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal) between our alma mater UW (The University of Washington) and BAMA (Alabama), my husband reminded me of how we stopped in for a short visit to the U.W. campus last summer (2015) to show the kids what used to be our old stomping grounds for several years as we got our college degrees.

We arrived on a three-day holiday week-end and made a quick stop at the columns and borrowed the bus lane for a few quick moments— the campus police were nice to us that day as no Joe Metro (city bus) was running through there at that time.  We wanted to dash across the street to show the kids the beautiful columns that once stood at the original University of Washington campus.  Visiting on the holiday was a good thing in that it made it less congested to drive through the campus with our travel trailer. It also made it easy to park on campus as we took up several spaces. (We really don’t recommend coming thru campus with a big RV set up unless it’s on a holiday or day where classes are not in session.) I remember us drawing a lot of attention from the students who were on campus that day and thinking to myself, who would have thought all those years ago that we’d be driving thru campus with an RV loaded with kayaks and five kids on our way from Georgia!?! Crazy!

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I had the original U.W. four pillars (shown above) on my graduation announcement. Funny how now, these four sons of ours represent what’s really important to me… they are the true pillars for the future…our best work.

The University of Washington has a gorgeous campus and it was fun to explore the places we once roamed. It was a bit surreal to take our children to places that existed in our lives before they were born, but I’m glad we did it. (Will have to take them again as the amazing Suzzallo Library’s Graduate Reading Room  — one of the top 10 most beautiful libraries architecturally in the US — was closed the day we visited.)

It reminded me that it’s good to have roots. I know a lot of readers following us on this blog are drawn to the idea of freedom traveling and the open road — don’t get me wrong, there is a a lot of good that comes from traveling, but I’ve also found that roots are just as important. When we came home after being gone for 101 days, it felt WONDERFUL to have a home to come back to and rest. It felt WONDERFUL to have people say, “We missed you” and for that feeling to echo resonating in our own hearts. Yes, it’s great to explore and travel, but I have found that the people and friendships we have at home are the ones that carry us along as we go. Share your roots with your children and also be sure to give them roots for their future as well.  I am thankful for those loved ones in both Seattle and Atlanta… we are doubly-blessed to have two places we can feel at home. Where do you call home?

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Do you REALLY know how petrified forests are made?

We knew that we would eventually take the kids to see Mt. St. Helens National Park as part of teaching them about geology and to see the history of the volcano that at one point had impacted our lives when we were their age.

We had watched this video by Dr. Steve Austin (see below) who challenged the incorrect view of how petrified forests were formed at Yellowstone and elsewhere. The thought crossed my mind to stop and show the kids the Gingko Petrified Forest that I knew was on the way just outside of the freeway system near Vantage, Washington.

To be honest, I know that this won’t be the most exciting topic to post about when you look at the pictures, but I wanted to show how if we know of a learning opportunity along our route, we try to work it in, trusting that it is a teachable moment and will expand the knowledge of the world for our children. Even if you think the kids won’t remember it, you never know how a connection to what they are learning will be made. My parents were both educators and my Mom still says today, “At what point does a child learn?” meaning that at any point in the learning process a connection might be made, so always be approaching learning from various angles.  Perhaps, you’ll learn a little something too by watching the video above as most people don’t know that this has been scientifically proven as a theory on how petrified forests are created.

RV going down the road in eastern Washington State

We crossed the bridge at Vantage and pulled off the freeway to drive about a couple of miles off the beaten path to the Gingko Petrified Forest. The kids were thrilled to get out of the car and stretch their legs for a bit.

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There’s a nice paved trail and maps to guide you along the way, but no ranger on duty or any sort of explanation on how these are formed for the public to view.

At each of the sites on the map, the petrified logs were encased with a wire protected with a locked frame to keep would-be thieves away. It was sort of a bummer to have to view the specimens in this way, but I can understand the need to do something to protect them. Never-the-less, the kids realized that at some point, this area had been a forest and there must have been some sort of calamitic event that would have wiped out trees that once grew here in this arid region.

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Lots of sagebrush in this region. Always keep your eyes and ears peeled for rattlers.
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Petrified log encased with a protective gate to keep thieves away.
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Petrified log encased with a protective gate to keep thieves away.
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Petrified log encased with a protective gate to keep thieves away (I managed to get a shot thru the wire grate)

Gingko Petrified Forest State Park
4511 Huntzinger Road
Vantage, WA 98950
Ph: (509) 856-2700

Hours:
Summer 6:30 a.m. – dusk
Winter Nov. 1 – Feb. 1, Weekends and holidays, 8 a.m. – dusk
Park Winter Schedule

FREE
(Note: There is a small cost to park if you do not already have a day-use parking pass)

Excerpt from Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park Web site on History of this area:

 “…one of the most diverse groups of petrified wood species in North America. Professor George Beck was the first to fully recognize the site’s significance. Upon his 1932 discovery of a rare petrified Ginkgo log (Ginkgo biloba), Beck led efforts to set aside this remarkable forest and preserve it. In 1935, as part of a grand vision to establish the site as a National Monument, Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park was born.

During the midst of the Great Depression, emergency work relief funds were used to protect and develop the park. Between 1934 and 1938, Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees, as well as local emergency work relief laborers, built much of the park infrastructure we see today, including ranger residences, an interpretive center, and a trail-side museum and trail system. In 1965, the park was formally registered as a National Natural Landmark.”

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On the way over the ridge (we decided to take the old highway to Ellensburg, Washington — the scenic route), we saw up close the wind turbines in full action. It stood as another lesson in energy production after visiting the Grand Coulee Dam prior.

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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

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

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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

Grand Coulee Dam | Steamboat State Park – Part II

This post is continued from
Grand Coulee Dam | Steamboat State Park Part I


5kidsandarv-approvedAbout 15-minutes down the road from Steamboat Rock State Park you’ll find Electric City and the Grand Coulee Dam. We used the grocery store, Safeway, to restock our fridge and supplies and enjoyed a dinner or two at Pepper Jacks Bar & Grill — a diner that was a blast from the past. I remember Pepper Jacks well, because it was the first date night Jes and I had after several weeks of being on the road. We were camping with family and they generously offered to watch the kids to give us a needed break (evidently they thought we were looking weary from our travels), so we headed to the one restaurant we knew of in town, Pepper Jacks. As I was eating my meal, I asked Jes what the slits in the bottom of the cups were for and we quickly figured out (after watching a waitress bring drinks to a nearby table) that these slits allowed the cups to stack! I’ve eaten at a lot of restaurants, but this was a first for me and we loved it! Here Jesse entertains me with some tricks! (And no, they didn’t fall!)

Pepperjacks Restaurant in Electric City, Washington

While in the area, we took the kids to see the Grand Coulee Dam.  It was originally built for irrigation and job creation, but ended up playing a key role during WWII in supplying energy production for factories and airplane manufacturing plants. The Grand Coulee Dam was the world’s largest concrete dam (until China built their dam—see video below) and remains the world’s second largest concrete dam (according to the tour guide) with nearly 12 million cubic yards of concrete throughout. That’s enough concrete to build a 4′ wide x 4″ deep sidewalk around the equator twice and 4x more concrete than what was used to build the Hoover Dam!

It generates 6,809 megawatts — enough to power 2.3 million households for a year. Comparatively, the Hoover Dam only generates 1/3 of that power. Eleven states as well as Canada benefit from the power produced by the Grand Coulee Dam. Furthermore, the spillway on the Grand Coulee Dam is twice the height of the Niagara Falls! Cables 5″ thick carry power generated by the Dam and the Columbia River.

You can see glimpses of our tour here:

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5 Kids and a RV Crew in front of the Grand Coulee Dam spillway

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The spillway on the Grand Coulee Dam is twice as high as the Niagara Falls
Sheep crossing over the Grand Coulee Dam Historical Archive
Had to take a picture of this photo in their archive book showing sheep being herded across the spillway. Now security prevents anyone from getting close to the spillway.
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This vintage poster communicates the project and the regions that would be affected.

If you want to learn more about the Grand Coulee Dam, visit this link >> http://www.usbr.gov/pn/grandcoulee/index.html

This is also a great video on the history of the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam here for your students/kiddos to learn more about this impressive project.

If you’re kiddos are learning about hydro-electric power and engineering marvels, here’s a documentary you may want to watch as well…

Here’s a list of the top 10 Dams to visit in the — something that I think every student should see at least one so they understand how power is produced.  http://www.citi.io/2016/04/29/the-top-10-grandest-american-dams-to-see/

If you’re in the Grand Coulee area and want to visit the dam, check out this link >> http://www.usbr.gov/pn/grandcoulee/visit/gcvc.html for details on when the Visitor Center is open to the public.

The Grand Coulee Dam has a laser light show that they do in the evenings. Check the schedule for play time. They’ve updated it since we saw it last and I actually prefer the previous version of the light show that would boom out, “I am the mighty Columbia!” rather then the new politically-correct Native American version. To each his own, but it may help your kiddos understand more of how water can be used as a powerful force to produce energy. There’s not much to do in the evenings in the area other than sit around the campfire (which I love) and gaze at the stars (again I love to do this), so keep it as an option to check out if you’re in the area, but don’t feel like you’re missing out on something spectacular if your timeline can’t accommodate it.

There are guided tours at the Grand Coulee Dam, but they have really restricted what you can and can’t see since the 9-11 attacks and the reality of possible terrorism threats. There is a high-level of security in place throughout the facility and be forewarned that you are being watched by many a camera. I actually found comfort in that security was beefed-up and am glad for it. You can learn more about the tour schedule here  >> http://www.usbr.gov/pn/grandcoulee/visit/tour.html 

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Can you imagine the trust that was required for the divers that would work on the Grand Coulee Dam? Whoever was operating this was their lifeline!

In all, if you are in the region or live in Washington State, we highly recommend a week get-away in the Grand Coulee Dam / Banks Lake area. You can relax and enjoy the recreational area (fishing, kayaking, hiking, boating, horse trails) and teach the kids a few things too while you’re there by going to the Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center and Tour the Pump House. But heed our advice, book early because this place fills quick. Have fun!

—5 Kids and A RV


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

Grand Coulee Dam | Steamboat Rock State Park – Part I

5kidsandarv-approvedWhen I am talking about Washington with someone from out of the area, there are two assumptions that usually happen with most who have never been to the State… 1) I find myself needing to clarify that I’m talking about Washington State and not Washington D.C. and 2) that the entire state is not a rain forest (as it is commonly assumed that all of Washington experiences Seattle weather). Seattle can be very wet indeed (I should know, I lived there for ten years), but many people don’t realize that the Cascade Mountain Range puts the western side of the state in a rain shadow and is fairly dry. When it comes to eastern Washington, water brings life to an otherwise arid region. This is the region we spent some time exploring and stayed a couple of weeks in the Grand Coulee region camping at Steamboat Rock State Park campground.  This campground is clean and easy to access. If you love to hike and play in the water with a boat/kayak, this will be a great destination for you and your family. It is a popular destination with the locals that are within driving distance, so we recommend booking in advance whenever possible.

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Our rig and set-up in front of Steamboat State Park
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Our twins venture out on their kayaks for a day of fishing on Banks Lake Reservoir  — created by the Grand Coulee Dam Project. There is a trail that you can hike to the top of Steam Boat Rock. The vista is worth the hike which takes 3-4 hours to go up and come back down.

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The boys’ catch for the day… Note: Be sure to check out fishing regulations for each state you visit as they vary from state to state. In Washington State (at the time of this posting), a fishing license is required for all individuals 15 years of age and over (our guys were 14 years old here.)  To learn more visit wdfw.wa.gov for Fishing and Hunting Regulations within Washington State.

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Big brother was so proud of his little brother!
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Our youngest son (age 5), pulled this beautiful bass out of Banks Lake. Nice catch!

Steamboat Rock State Park
51052 Highway 155
Electric City, WA 99123
Ph: (509) 633-1304

Campsite & Group Accommodations
Ph: (888) 226-7688

Hours:
Summer  6:30 a.m. – dusk
Winter  6:30 a.m. – dusk

The park is open year-round for camping and day use. The campground is partially open during the winter.  Park Winter Schedule

The main park has 26 tent spaces, 136 utility sites, three cabins, one dump station, six restrooms (four ADA), and six showers (four ADA). The park also has 12 primitive non-reservable boat-in campsites with vault toilets and water.

Individual campsites are reservable April 1 to October 31. Campsites are available on a first-come first-served basis from November 1 to March 31. Utility sites have full hookups. Maximum site length is 50 feet (may have limited availability). Tents must be placed within the designated tent pad.  There are mosquitoes during the summer months, so mosquito control occurs as required by the Grant County mosquito district evenings when weather permits. Two vehicles are allowed per campsite; campsite fee includes payment for one vehicle. Extra vehicle fees are due upon arrival. If you need to work with an internet connection, it also has (sometimes spotty) Wi-Fi. We recommend asking for a spot that has a stronger signal as it does vary depending on where you are camping.

Reservations can be made online or by calling 888-CAMPOUT (888-226-7688). For fee information, check their camping rates page.

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RV Packing Organization Tip: We pack the quilt my step-mother made for our kiddos — it is a panel piece of fabric with a picture of roads and buildings. It doubles as a spot for our littles to play with toy cars and army men (light weight and easy to travel with) and it can be used for nap time as we travel in the car or at bed time for extra warmth when needed.

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5kidsandarv littles in a hammock

RV Camping Tip: Pack a lightweight hammock as there are trees in some sites that were planted as a wind barrier and the spacing is such that you can hang a hammock. Here our littles have fun hanging out in the hammock.

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Some sites have RV and tent pads. Our site happened to have a tent pad, so our middle son who loves to tent camp (we call him our outdoorsman) had fun camping outside for a few days.

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Our son, Peyton, actually remembered a technique he had learned that the Native Americans used to pin down fish (sometime spear fish as well). He made a small version of the spear to trap crawdads he found in the shallow areas of Banks Lake.
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L.J. catches another bass — he’s on fire!
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Joshua likes to take his metal detector out to search for treasures. He found a lot of pennies!
Wild Turkeys Grazing at Steamboat State Park in Washington
Wild turkeys were grazing one morning outside our site. We also saw wild deer as well on occasion.

There is plenty of wildlife to enjoy in the area. We saw wild turkeys, wild deer, and quail while visiting. If you like to hike, there is a trail not too far from the campground that takes about 4-5 hours round trip.  Plan on 45-min to an hour to hike up and time to explore at the top and then another 45-min to an hour to hike back down.

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Recreational activities abound, but there are other things to do in the area as well… like see the Grand Coulee Dam — the largest hydroelectric concrete dam in the United States.

(Continue Reading)


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

Bringing in the Wheat Harvest

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We arrived right as the wheat fields were ripening.  The summer had a wave of hot days — earlier than what’s typical, so the wheat ripened quick in the head. Thankfully, the protein count was usable, so we were able to harvest as planned.

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The kids loved riding in the air conditioned combine.

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Our middle son keeping cool in the summer heat during harvest.
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Jes and L.J driving the wheat truck and helping to bring in the harvest.
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Joshua checking out our wheat field.

If you’ve never seen the process of harvesting wheat, check out this video:

I always tell folks that God must have a funny sense of humor, because I come from a long line of wheat farmers and I’m allergic to gluten. In fact, when our teenage twins experienced their first day of wheat harvest, one of my sons had a bad allergy attack – swollen eyes/stuffed up nose. Yep, he’s def’ my son! lol

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Shoving kleenex was the only way to deal with the allergic reaction I suppose. Poor Jason!
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He found some swim googles and figured he could wear them as a defense against the wheat dust that gets kicked up into the air when the combine is cruising by or unloading a load of wheat into the wheat truck.
Removing the Combine Header to drive the combine across Coulee
Before we can drive the combine on the highway, we have to take the header off (otherwise it would be too wide to go down the road and would impact oncoming traffic.)
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We often eat lunch out in the field. On this day, I took out pizza. Here L.J. kicks it in the combine tire.
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She never gets Cheetos, so this was a special treat!
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Driving out rig out in the field made things a little dirty and dusty!

Despite the allergies, I still love being part of bringing in the harvest and sharing it with our children.

Wheat field roots and wings

(Below: our twins when they were two years old — standing in one of our wheat fields.)

Twins in Wheat copyright 5kidsandarv


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