Tag Archives: travelingwithkids

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

Crawdads

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

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

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

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!

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!