Category Archives: Search by State

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!

Atlanta, GA | Atlanta Botanical Gardens

The kids ready to enter the Atlanta Botanical Garden

    The kids ready to enter the Atlanta Botanical Garden

Those of you who know me, know that I like to grow things. I am wired to nurture whether it be children, critters, or plants. So, the Atlanta Botanical Garden has been on my wish list for a long time as a place to explore and we had the opportunity to do just that this last week! The main attraction was the Chihuly Exhibit which is placed throughout the entire garden to delight and give you the opportunity to explore the many types of gardens.  Here are a few of the highlights we saw along the way. Mind you, photos are great, but to experience these for yourself — you must see these glass and neon sculptures in person to fully appreciate them. They are amazing! #atlantabg #myfavchihuly

Chili Glass Sculptures at The Atlanta Botanical Garden
Chihuly Indigo Blue Icicle Tower, installed in 2015
LJ at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens
Our 6-year-old had to try out the cool outdoor seating along the Kendeda Canopy Walk.

As we entered the garden, we chose to go to the right and walk the Kendeda Canopy Walk to see four Chilhulys and the Cascades Garden where the giant topiary — the “Earth Goddess” — resides with a beautiful reflection pool full of brightly colored Chihuly glass. Nearly all areas are handicap accessible with nice wide paths to enjoy. If you’re limited on time and only have an hour to explore, you might want to check out some of their recommended “Power Hour” tours.

Earth Goddess at The Atlanta Botanical Gardens

The background on how the Earth Goddess was built and constructed to be a living topiary.
The background on how the Earth Goddess was built and constructed to be a living topiary.
The Earth Goddess at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens with Chihuly Glass Sculptures
The Earth Goddess at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens with Chihuly Glass Sculptures

Don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers along the way! 🙂 I loved seeing a beautiful bearded iris growing along the path — my Grandmother used to grow these along her house every year.

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Stop and smell the flowers!
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My Grandmother used to grow the most beautiful bearded irises.

The Atlanta Botanical Gardens make a great stop to stretch your legs if you’re visiting Atlanta. It took us about two hours to walk through the gardens at a leisurely rate, but I left feeling like I could have seen even more. We didn’t make it to the Children’s garden the day we visited, so we will have to go back and share that as well.

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The Atlanta Botanical Garden is a great place to stretch your legs and enjoy the sights while you take a walk.
Erin Castillo 2016 5kidsandarv.com
Blue and White in the Levi Parterre, a permanent Chihuly piece in the Atlanta Botanical Garden

For a moment I felt like a princess walking in her palace grounds with the groomed hedges in the Levi Parterre garden. Had it not been sweltering hot in the middle of July, I would have loved to sit on one of those benches for a bit. Definitely best to visit early in the day throughout summer months and prime weather conditions in Atlanta will be in the months of April/May and October/November.

Get great inspiration from the many beautiful planters at the Atlanta Botanical Garden
Get great inspiration from the many beautiful planters at the Atlanta Botanical Garden
Orange Glass Chihuly Fountain Sculpture by Gift Shop
Three Graces Tower  (2016)

I’ve been working on my own garden this year, so it was a real treat to see how professionals approached an edible garden. The vertical garden was a beautiful assortment of textures! I would have loved to see some aquaponics as an addition to how they were growing food.

Edible Garden

Edible Garden and perennial wall.
Edible Garden and perennial wall.
Garden Walkway
Walkway to the Edible Garden area.

Also on my wish list is to return in the evening with my husband to view the Chihuly Nights where the garden glass sculptures are lit up with neon. There’s a restaurant on location making it a perfect date night destination! (Garden admission is required to access the restaurant.)

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Chihuly “Saffron Tower” (2008) with water mirror reflection pool in the Glade Garden. Remember, they ask that you not throw coins into the water features.
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Tiger Lilies infront of the Zebra Reeds (2015)

The Fuqua Orchid Center was mostly closed off except for one small section, but that section was full of gorgeous and rare orchids to enjoy. It was like stepping into a slice of paradise! Own an orchid? Check out the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s blog.

Chihuly Black and Green Stripe Herons with Icicle Clusters (2015) in the Fuqua Orchid Center
Chihuly Black and Green Stripe Herons with Icicle Clusters (2015) in the Fuqua Orchid Center

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Stepping into the Fuqua Orchid Garden is like stepping into a tropical paradise!
Stepping into the Fuqua Orchid Garden is like stepping into a tropical paradise!

We ended up purchasing a membership since it was the best value ($109 for 2 adults and up to 8 children + you get 4 visitor passes to use throughout the year).  Don’t forget that your membership card also gets you a discount in the Gift Shop! Chihuly in the Garden and Chihuly Nights will only run from April – October of 2016, so be sure to stop in if you are traveling to Atlanta during those months!

Atlanta Location:

ADMISSION:

Adult $21.95
Child ages 3 to 12 $15.95
Child under 3 Free
Garden member Free

Weather Policy: The Garden is open rain or shine. Most gardens are located outside so dress appropriately for weather. There are indoor air conditioned and heated areas for visitors including the visitor center, café and conservatory and orchid center. Refunds or rain checks on admission ticket purchases are not granted for weather related reasons.

PARKING: On-site parking is available in the SAGE Parking Facility:

Time Period Cost
Drop-off period (0 – 30 minutes) Free
31 – 60 minutes $2.00
Each additional 30 minutes $1.00
Maximum daily rate $15.00

DIRECTIONS:
The Atlanta Botanical Garden is located adjacent to Piedmont Park at 1345 Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta, GA, 30309.

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REGULAR HOURS (as of July 9, 2016)

April – October
Tuesday, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Wednesday – Sunday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
The Garden is open from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Monday, July 4 for Independence Day.

Chihuly Nights Hours
Wednesday – Sunday, 6 – 10 p.m.

November – March
Tuesday – Sunday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Please note: The Children’s Garden is closed for renovations until summer of 2016. The Garden is undergoing capital improvements including renovated gardens and new amenities. Closed Mondays and in the daytime on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

REFRESHMENTS
In Atlanta, enjoy a Garden inspired menu from the team of Chef Linton Hopkins, a James Beard Award winner and popular local restauranteur, at the new Linton’s restaurant. Light snacks and refreshments are also available seasonally. Outside food and beverage are not permitted. During daytime hours, Garden admission is required for Non-Members. During Chihuly Nights, Garden admission is required for both Members and Non-Members.

Linton’s Information

For visitor info, go to the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Web site at http://atlantabg.org/visit/visitor-info

Be sure to observe this garden etiquette when visiting… http://atlantabg.org/content/1-visit/2-visitor-info/garden-etiquette.pdf

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Was this information helpful to you? If so, please click the links below to share on Facebook or pin to Pinterest so that others may enjoy this experience as well. Thanks for spreading the word!

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


Was this information helpful to you? If so, please click the links below to share on Facebook or pin to Pinterest so that others may enjoy this experience as well. Thanks for spreading the word!

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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Chickamauga Battlefield & the Chattanooga National Military Park

 

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I will never forget the first time I visited a historic battlefield from the Civil War in Atlanta and walked the rows and rows of headstones of soldiers that had fallen in battle. There was awe as I read stories about grandfathers, fathers, and sons all going out to fight and falling to their deaths as Sherman marched to Savannah. It was the first time I realized that what I had read about in my school books, actually happened and those families still remembered and felt that loss. It really happened. And there was a great cost to both sides who fought over this freedom.

Being history lovers, we always look forward to the opportunity to explore and learn something new — especially in our home state. So when we went to Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the nations oldest and largest battlefield, we were amazed at how much land this battle encompassed. We started out at the Visitor’s Center at Chickamauga (which I recommend you do the same). If you’re in a RV, note that they have RV parking to the left of the Visitor Center (just follow the signs) which is great!

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Chickamauga Battlefield - 5kidsandarv

We were surprised to see the largest collection of antique rifles we had ever seen. The boys were in rifle heaven.  They even got to see a blunderbuss — a rifle that they had seen on the TV show, Pawn Stars — and stood within inches of one (see pic below).  The Fuller Gun Collection of American Shoulder Arms collection spans about six rows if memory serves me correctly; certainly an impressive collection. There was even a rifle that had a built-in coffee grinder in the stock!

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Rows and rows of antique rifles - 5kidsandarv

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Peyton pointing at a rifle he likes

Wax soldier charging - Chickamauga Battlefield

Chickamauga Battlefield - Wax Soldier

They had some wax soldiers to help illustrate how the soldiers fought and even a real Battery Wagon. I especially love how they preserved the cannon balls that were lodged into the trees. I’ve seen this at Kennesaw Mountain National Park’s Civil War Museum as well and it just shows the reality of what was flying thru the air and the force that these pieces of artillery had to destroy whatever was in it’s path.  They also offer a short film, but we had arrived towards the end of the day after the last film had already started to show.

Canon balls embedded into trees

Battery Wagon from the Civil War - Chickamauga

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Model of a Battery Wagon and how it would have been pulled. Chickamauga Battlefield

There is also a selection of cannons in front of the Visitor Center, showing the variety of military arsenal used at the time. After we finished at the Visitor Center, we loaded the kids up and drove thru the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park where the battle took place. What impressed me was that there were a multitude of memorials erected in the memory of those that had fought. (Most of the 1,400 monuments and historical markers on the battlefields were planned and placed by Boynton and other veterans of the battles.) We would be driving along and a sign would simply state, this is where General so-and-so fell and died. Very sombering to know that a life — someone’s son, brother, husband, or father — ended there. We stopped by the Wilder Brigade Monument — a tower constructed around 1899 to aid in viewing the national park — and Jes and the older boys climbed the stairs to the top while I stayed in the car with the sleeping littles.

Did you know? The four Union generals given credit for bringing an end to the Civil War (Generals Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, George H. Thomas, and Philip Sheridan) were all in Chattanooga in the autumn of 1863.

Chickamauga Battlefield Tower

Chickamauga Battlefield Tower Top

Did you know? Arthur MacArthur, Jr. was awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery in the Battle of Missionary Ridge, November 25, 1863. His son, Douglas MacArthur, was awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II.

Cannons on display at Chickamauga Battlefield

Chickamauga Casualties

Did you catch that? About 37,000 men that were killed, wounded or missing! A battle that included 124,000 men! That’s a huge confrontation!

So, when I saw the little cabin (see pic below) used as the outpost for treating the wounded on either side, I couldn’t help but to think of the numbers of men lying in this very grassy knoll, probably lined up in row after row, hoping to live and survive the excruciating pain as they faced an amputation to survive… Be sure to read the following taken from the reader-board shown next to the boys. (Still can’t believe this home housed a family of NINE!)

Snodgrass Cabin - Chickamauga Battlefield

Snodgrass Cabin

We only spent a few hours at Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park as we were headed towards Chattanooga to camp, fish and explore, but we saw a lot, learned more about the Civil War, and it didn’t cost us anything but our fuel. (Awesome!) Hope you check this out if you’re in the area! It’s worth the visit and if you end up visiting, be sure to leave a comment of how it was in the comments below!

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WHAT KIDS CAN LEARN THRU THIS EXPERIENCE:

  • Civil War History
  • Battery Wagons
  • Cannons
  • Visual progression of how guns and rifles developed over time

You’ll walk where Confederate and Union soldiers fought in the bloodiest two-day battle of the war on September 19-20, 1863. The Visitor’s Center offers exhibits, bookstore, Fuller Gun Collection of American Shoulder Arms and 23-minute film.

Cost to go thru the Visitor Center:
Adults – Free
Seniors (65 and over) – Free
Active Military Personnel – Free (with ID)
Students – Free
Children 12 and under – Free*
*Be sure to ask for a Junior Ranger Packet which is free and a great teaching tool.

Point Park on top of Lookout Mountain is the only Designated Fee Area located within Chickamauga and Chattanooga NMP. The fee is $5.00 per adult (age 16 or older). Children 15 years or younger are free.


TIPGet a national parks pass and gain free admission into any National Park in the country.


Hours:
Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center is open daily from 8:30 am to 5 pm Eastern Click here for more details.
*Visitor Centers are closed New Year’s Day and Christmas.

Tours:
The historic Cravens House on Lookout Mountain is open for tours Saturday and Sunday afternoon from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the summer. Cravens House closes at 5 p.m. Contact Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Center at 423-821-7786 for additional information. For additional tours offered click here.

Pets are more than welcome in the park. However, please remember to keep them leashed at all times.

Be sure to check the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park Web site for possible re-enactments around the time of the battle’s anniversary (September 19-20)

See Map Graphic
Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park
3370 Lafayette Rd
Fort Oglethorpe, GA 30742
(706) 866-9241

Also nearby is the 6th Calvery Museum, Lee and Gordon’s Mill, and Lookout Mountain, tour Ruby Falls and ride the world’s steepest passenger railway at Incline Railway.

Map of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park 

Click Map to Enlarge


Was this information helpful to you? If so, please click the links below to share on Facebook or pin to Pinterest so that others may enjoy this experience as well. Thanks for spreading the word!

 

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

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!

What Donna taught me…

While in college, I worked in the Public Relations office.  This is where I met Donna.

Donna was well-traveled for being in her 50s and one thing I quickly learned about Donna was that she always had an upcoming trip on her calendar. She was a fascinating person to listen to as she shared about different sights she had seen and things she had experienced. (I can still picture her with her 35 mm camera hanging on a strap around her neck.)

We became such good friends that after I left college we would continue to stay in touch — she was like a Grandma to me. On one of my visits home, I went to visit her.  I was surprised to learn that Donna didn’t live in a brick and mortar house — her home was at a mobile home park. As I entered her small living space, my eyes quickly surveyed the room and noticed that not only did she have hand-crafted items for decor (like the vibrant afghan crocheted quilt that hung over the back of her sofa), but scattered throughout the room were found objects she had treasured and brought home with her from various trips from all around the world.

In the last five years since her passing, I have finally realized the greatest gift Donna gave me… I saw how she prioritized what mattered to her and on her one-income working as a professional she chose to live simple when it came to her physical home and live large in the world she loved to explore and travel.

Which brings me to an article today that really resonated with me…and reminded me of my friend Donna.

Jay Cassano of Fast Co. writes, “Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Gilovich. “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

“The Science Of Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things”

My friend Donna didn’t need scientific data to tell her that people mattered to her. Or that travel brought her a sense of happiness since she was an explorer at heart.

And those who are selling their homes and hitting the road in their RVs to work jobs from anywhere in the country are not odd or gypsies… they have simply decided, like my friend Donna, that stuff isn’t as important as experiencing life with others.

That’s why we do what we do. We live simply on one income and say ‘no’ to a lot of material things, so we can say ‘yes’ to experiences together as a family.

In the article, Cassano writes, “We consume experiences directly with other people,” says Gilovich. “And after they’re gone, they’re part of the stories that we tell to one another.”  This is indeed true for me personally. My life intersected with Donna’s for a little while and she inspired me with how she chose to live life in setting priorities in order to do what she wanted to do. Thank you for that, Donna, I miss you friend. Today, I’m remembering your smile, the camera that hung around your neck, and the cardigans you crocheted for my twins when they were born. Donna, you are part of my story.  ♥

Our life when not RVing | Part-time Job for the between travel times

One of the things about being home we’ve had to consider is how our eldests (we have twins) could earn money to fund their many interests.  I think we’ve come upon something that fits our need to hit the road and has the flexibility to say “no” when it doesn’t fit our family plans. What is it you ask?  Working as a background extra on a movie set.

moviemaking

My older three were recently booked for a movie as background extras and it has been a great fit for our family. Since we homeschool, we can work our studies around when the boys have to work and the work environment when the boys are on location is such that while they are waiting to be in a shot in the holding area, they can work on an assignment.

Atlanta is becoming the second Hollywood some say — filming popular motion pictures like the Hunger Games and the TV show, the Walking Dead. If you want to get started in working as a background extra, you’ll want three professional photos of yourself in various outfits. You’ll also need to know your measurements like height and weight. These details need to be included on the photo along with the color of your hair and eyes — and finally your age.  The casting company will send out certain criteria they are looking for — usually with an age range. If you fit the age range, you’ll want to submit your photo via email and the details that are listed in the casting call. Then you wait. And wait. And maybe you’ll be chosen or maybe not.  I met one father of a 15 year old that said his son had been in four movies as a background and submitted for about 20 casting calls — so don’t expect to get in each time.  And as for our experience, they chose people from all looks and ethnicities, so you never know what the casting company will go for when they are looking for background extras for their movie.

Be prepared for a long work day as a background extra. You’ll need to plan on additional time getting to and from the job site. In addition, you need to expect to work a long day.  Law dictates that anyone who is under 18 is limited to a 10-hour work day, so the kids get paid their hourly rate for the first 8 hours and then overtime is at a designated slightly higher rate.  They expect you to be there no later than 15 minutes prior to your call time (your call time is when you clock in essentially.)  So, a 10-hour work day is really an 11-hr plus commute time there and back for us. When we were called to work as a background extra, the casting company called and discussed what days we would be working. The start time usually varies and you won’t know your call time until the day before. In our case, this movie has the boys booked for 10 days that vary over the course of several months.

Be prepared to furnish your own wardrobe as a background extra. Depending on the needs of the film, the casting company may ask you to bring several outfits. You are to arrive ready to go in the outfit that you like best, but be prepared that Wardrobe may change you into something else. They will also have some clothes as an option depending on your fitting size.  I do have to say that this is the more difficult part of this job for me as I scramble the day before their booking (because they don’t tell you until the day before what you’ll need to bring) to pull together enough wardrobe for three people to bring to set.

If you are interested in looking into this as a possible source of income, you can do a local search for casting agencies in your area. Not only L.A. films, but also in Chicago, New York, Atlanta, and elsewhere around the nation depending on the movie being shot’s needs.  You can also go onto Facebook and “Like” these casting companies and select the default to show alerts in the top of your feed. (Heads up: I don’t understand Facebook’s algorithm because I’ve done this step, but it still doesn’t post alerts in my feed, so I have to go to the page to check on updates.) Just be forewarned that you want to make sure it’s a legit casting company. Some have posed as a casting company and requested information including social security numbers. Be careful when submitting that you are working with a reputable casting company.

You have to be able to keep a secret. You are often asked to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement promising that you will not share details about the film or share on social media sites film details.  You are not even allowed to take photos on set.

If you’re looking to pick up a part time job that gives you flexibility to travel, this is one option that you may want to consider.


*Due to a non-disclosure release form the kids signed, we can’t go into details regarding what the movie is, where it is being shot, or specifics about the movie until after it has released in the box office.