Sand, Science, and Chilies

Hey Guys! We spent one jam packed week in the Alamogordo area of New Mexico. This was our second visit to the Alamogordo area and we still didn’t get through our entire to-see list!

The first thing we did when we got back to town was grab one of our absolute favorite burgers! Rockin BZ Burgers is still as good as we remembered them to be.

The second thing we did was revisit White Sands National Monument to get

some sled time!

The Dude thought his sled was going a little slow so he waxed his sled up for some speed,

then he found the tallest dune he could find! We expected a scene out of Christmas Vacation when Clark sprays his varnish on the bottom of his sled. It wasn’t quite that fast, but he did say he could tell a difference!

We did a Ranger guided sunset stroll one evening at White Sands. I love how bright white the sand looks next to the vivid blue the sky is on a bright sunny day, but I have to admit…

I’m kind of digging how soft everything looks in the late afternoon lighting.

And Guys, check out this sunset!

 

We finally made it to the New Mexico Museum of Space History! We tried to make it last time we were in Alamogordo, but we ran out of time.

We learned about Ham, the worlds first Astrochimp who traveled into space in that little capsule you see in the picture above.

There was a whole section on Star Trek. Beam me up Scotty!!

There were some very cool exhibits! This one was a rumble pad where you felt the power of a shuttle take off.

We had way too much fun with the Whisper Dish!

We all took turns whispering and listening to each other from across the Museum park.

We found an old train trestle while we were

out exploring Cloudcroft. Check out the view we found! Can you find White Sands NP in the pic above? It’s there! Check the left side of the picture.

Oh! We found these really yummy and super huge biscochitos at a place called Rizo’s!

We never know what the grocery store is going to be like. The first time we visited Alamogordo we found Lowes and fell in love with it! We were all excited to go back to the tortilleria and grab some roasted chilies from the produce section!

We had to stock up on our faves before we left town. What’s not in the picture is the 10lbs of frozen green chilies we bought. We love green chilies!!

The only  other thing we had time for was hitting up the two pistachio farms to stock up on some tasties!

Alamogordo was one of our favorite places from our first loop back in 2015. When I added it to this loop I worried that it really wasn’t as great as we remember it to be. That burger wasn’t really that good. White Sands really wasn’t that fun. But, it was! Alamogordo is definitely one of our favorite places and after two visits…we still have new things to do there!

See y’all down the road!

#grandwesternloop

Categories: Foodie Find, grandwesternloop, National Park, New Mexico | Leave a comment

World of Zoo the Living Desert Museum and Zoo

To my fellow animal lovers, I bring you my second Zoo post, and this time it’s in Carlsbad,  NM. Now, the Living Desert Museum and Zoo was really neat since all the animals were found within the state park. I’ve been to a LOT of zoos but I have never been to one that is also a state park… how cool is that?!

I liked the views from the zoo, it was pretty neat!

They’ve got two Mexican wolves, sadly they are really rare, but they look amazing!

They’ve got various birds like the golden eagle, which was watching is very closely.

The horned owls took quite a while to find and were very neat, can you find them?

The last bird I’m going to share is a blue jay, isn’t it so pretty?!

I don’t know about y’all, but the prairie dogs were probably my favorite part, it’s hilarious to see their little tails wag when they run! It looked like they just got some food too!

The javelina decided to say hello and came right up to the fence! It’s nose was working trying to sniff out some food.

The black bear they have looked very sleepy. Not only was the bear sleepy,

but the grey fox found a patch of sun and decided to take a nap too! It looked very comfortable!

We must have come during the nap time because the porcupines was sleeping too!

Although the mountain lions were not happy with us making an appearance and kept going back where we couldn’t see them,

the bobcats however, decided to pose for us! Neat!

Walking around you could find some pretty flowers, you could also find some gypsum! We’ve been to some sand dunes made of gypsum, White Sands NP was awesome.

There is a nocturnal area where you can see some rattlesnakes, gave me the heebee jeebees.

Then you walk around the corner and BAM! Giant bat head. Kinda startled me, it’s hidden until you round the corner!

They have a plant area which when you go inside, prepare to take of your jacket because it is warm in there! That area has some plants from all over the world!

It had barrel cactus, some neat trees and pretty flowers.

The tortoise was a fair size and was on the move.

The bison were just lazin’ around like bison do.

The mule deer weren’t doing much either, but look at those antlers!

The entrance had a neat little museum with a touch table and

the coolest part of the museum, in my opinion, was the fact that it shows you what the area looked like a really, really long time ago! The area was under a sea!

Based on the variety of animals and how the animals were all happy and healthy, I give the Living Desert museum and zoo a 5 star review.

I’ll see y’all at the zoo!!

Categories: grandwesternloop, New Mexico, State Park, World Of Zoo | Leave a comment

The Top Of Texas

Hey Guys!! While we were in the Carlsbad, NM area we spent a couple of days at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas.

The Guadalupe Mountains sit right on the New Mexico-Texas state line. We were so close, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore another Texas National Park Unit!

Our first day at Guadalupe Mountains NP we did two hikes and the boys completed the Junior Ranger program.

We did the Pinery Trail which is a short trail to the ruins of an old stagecoach stop from the 1800s called the Butterfield stagecoach station. This was a super easy almost one mile paved trail.

The second trail we hiked was the Devil’s Hall trail. This trail started off great with about a mile of constructed trail. We saw some really pretty fall colors on this trail!

Just when you think the Devil’s Hall trail is going to be easy peasy the constructed trail ends and dumps you out at a wash and the “trail” follows the wash for about a mile or so. This was a difficult trail due to the fact that there wasn’t really a trail. There were several times where you could tell which direction you needed to go, but there wasn’t a definite way to get there. And there were a couple of time when we weren’t really sure if we were going the right way. The wash was littered with big boulders and slippery round rocks. So…the going was slow.

One of the things we learned while doing the Junior Ranger program here is what an Alligator Juniper looks like! The bark looks like gator hide. We had fun pointing out the different trees while we were picking our way down the wash.

At the end of the wash you get to a natural staircase that they call a “hiker’s staircase”. You can see The Dude making his way up the staircase in the pic above. It was a little tricky to get up with a camera around my neck. I ended up having to hand the camera up then scale the “staircase” myself.

Once you make it to the natural staircase you’re almost there! I probably took way longer than necessary because I kept stopping to take pictures.

Devil’s Hall turned out to be a short narrow canyon. We walked down it and explored the area for a little bit before turning around to traverse the wash again.

We did another hike on Thanksgiving Day. We did the Guadalupe Peak trail which is a strenuous trail that gains a total of 3,000 feet of elevation.

I try to do my homework when it comes to trails like this. Everything I saw said that if you can make it past the first 1,000 feet or first mile and a half then you won’t have any problem finishing the hike. What they failed to mention is that after that first mile you’ve worked so hard going almost straight up that your legs are shot for the rest of the hike. So, while the rest of the hike isn’t quite as hard…it feels just as hard because your legs are jello! And, I would like to point out…the entire hike is hard. Not just that first mile. Check out the switchbacks we hiked up in the pic above.

Parts of this trail are on exposed cliffs where if you slip…you slide a loooong way down.

Now that I’ve warned you how strenuous this hike is…lets enjoy some of the views! This view was about half way up at the end of one of the many switch-backs.

I thought this bridge was so neat the way it’s right on the edge of the cliff!

Once I got across it and to the other side I got a better look at it and wowzers! It really is right on the edge of a very high cliff!!

Funny story…there was a part right toward the end of this trail where we couldn’t really tell which way we were supposed to go. The couple in front of us each went a different way. I chose to follow the girl and well…we didn’t exactly take the easy way. See those two hikers on top of that rock in the pic above? Yeah, that’s the way we took up to the top. Notice we’re on the trail on the way down. It was much easier! But wait!! I’ve left out the best part!!!

Welcome to the top of Texas, y’all!!

Not a bad place to have a Thanksgiving picnic! We were so hungry from all of our hard work that we promptly sat down on the most comfortable rock ever and ate lunch before we actually looked around at the views. You’ve got to have priorities, you know. Food is very important. 😉

We wolfed down our lunch in record time and then took in the awesome views at the highest peak in Texas! Things sure look different at 8,751 feet up. Oh, I know…there are mountains that would make this one look like a mole hill…but y’all…check out that view!

We spent a good half hour or so eating lunch and taking in the views. We wrote our names in the log book and then started the looonng hike down!

It was faster going down than up and we made it back to our car and the most comfortable seats in the world!

I did find a couple of pretties. Do you remember those little pencil trolls that used to be so popular with the wild hair that went all over the place? That’s what this one reminds me of. Troll hair.

I see this pretty quite often, but still don’t know it’s name. I love it every time I see it.

Well y’all, we made it to the top of Texas and survived the hike! I would say the Guadalupe Peak hike is rated as thehttps://youtu.be/aOw-m8Imk_Y second hardest hike we’ve done so far. The Harding Ice Field hike still holds first place.

See y’all down the road!

#grandwesternloop

Categories: grandwesternloop, Hiking, National Park, Texas | Leave a comment

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Hey Guys! When I was planning the New Mexico/Texas part of our trip back in 2015 (the first time we were in NM) I skipped the Carlsbad area. I kept reading all of these sketchy reviews for the RV parks in and around the Carlsbad area. We were so bummed to pass this area by because we’d heard how amazing the Carlsbad Caverns NP is. But, without a place to park our home-on-wheels…we had to miss it.

This year as I started planning our #grandwesternloop I thought about the Carlsbad area again. There are two National Parks available in the Carslbad area and we love our National Park Units! So, I dug into the RV park search again. And again the park reviews weren’t the best. But, I felt a little better about one in Carlsbad so we took a chance and booked a spot for two weeks. We were completely prepared to move on down the road if the park ended up being totally sketchy, but it wasn’t! It was a decent park and we spent two very full weeks exploring as much as we could!

We finally made it to Carlsbad Caverns National Park! We didn’t make it during the bat flight program, but honestly…I’m ok with that.

The thought of around 400,000 Brazilian free-tailed bats flying over my head just isn’t really appealing to me. I wonder if they offer ponchos to keep the bat guano off of the people watching? The amphitheater where you can sit and watch the bat flight program is in the pic above.

Speaking of bat guano…some of the early settlers used to mine the guano to sell as natural fertilizer. I can’t imagine what that would smell like. We were there several weeks after the bats had moved on this year and we could still smell them.

I really wanted to see the natural entrance to the cave so we walked the steep, narrow trail down 750 feet to get into the cave.

I’m not a professional photographer. Far from it. I point and shoot. Seriously. So when I get into a cave with dim light…well, I take several hundred pictures of everything and just hope for the best. Fun fact: the first pictures taken in Carlsbad Cavern were taken way back in 1915 by Ray V. Davis.

There are more than 11o caves in Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Carlsbad has one of the deepest and most ornate caves ever found.

It’s hard to believe that around 250 million years ago the whole area where Carlsbad Caverns is found was under a shallow tropical sea. Yup, you read that right…a tropical sea! It was this start along with some twists and turns from Mother Nature that made all of the rock formations you’ll find in Carlsbad Caverns possible.

It’s amazing all of this was created one drop of water at a time over thousands and thousands of years.

There are several Ranger lead tours you can take plus a self-guided tour. We opted for the self-guided tour. When it was all said and done we walked about 3 miles. The thought of having to walk nearly 800 feet back up to the surface was a little daunting…

Y’all, I was sooo glad to see an elevator! It only took a couple of minutes to get back to the surface and the visitor center! Sweet! You can also go into the cave by way of the elevator, but I really wanted to see the natural entrance.

The CCC built all of the buildings in the pic above. They’re still being used today.

You might think the only thing to do at Carlsbad Caverns National Park is explore the cave, but you’d be wrong. There are several hiking trails

and even a 9 mile scenic drive! It’s a one way loop that isn’t as bad as it looks. We were told it’s better to have a high-clearance 4×4 vehicle, but we didn’t see anything bad. I wouldn’t recommend trying a trailer or RV on this road, but a car would work alright (in my unprofessional opinion).

We found this magnificent view on the scenic drive. I think…don’t quote me on this…that this was Rattlesnake Canyon Overlook. There was a little pull off so we all got out of the car and walked down a small trail to stand there with our mouths open just gawking at the view before us. Luckily, I remembered to take a few pictures.

I did find one pretty! I love that light lavender color!

The day we went to explore Carlsbad Caverns NP it was bitterly cold and extremely windy. We did one small hiking trail up top, but that’s all we could stand. It was just too cold for us. We thoroughly enjoyed trekking through the cave and the scenic drive! We ended up spending almost the entire day here and we really could have spent more time if it hadn’t been so windy and cold.

See y’all down the road!

#grandwesternloop

Categories: grandwesternloop, Hiking, National Park, New Mexico | Leave a comment

Back In New Mexico!

We’re back in New Mexico!! We’ve been missing that New Mexico vibe every since we found it back in 2015 during our first visit to the “Land of Enchantment”.

We spent two very very full weeks in the Carlsbad, NM area and Guys…we didn’t even come close to seeing it all! I can’t cover everything we did so I’m going to stick with our three favorite adventures in this area. Littlest will cover a different one for y’all in a different post! The RV park we stayed at had this cool mural on the side of one of it’s buildings.

By chance, I found out about a very cool place in Lincoln National Forest. I’m hesitant to even tell y’all the name because it would be a shame for it to be overrun with people and ruined.  But, because I love y’all so much…I’m going to spill it. Just for y’all. Sitting Bull Falls!

The CCC was assigned to work at the Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area in 1940. Most of the structures there today were built by them and they’re still standing strong.

A long long time ago a big portion of the United States was under a Permian Sea. The mountains we know as the Guadalupe Mountain Range is, in fact, an ancient barrier reef very much like the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia today. There are places where the ancient reef is exposed and you can see it. Sitting Bull Falls is one of those places!

On our hike to the top of the falls we kept marveling at all of the fossil bed we could see.

If you look closely you can actually see some of the ancient reef fossils! How cool is that? And how nerdy does it make us that we spent quite a lot of time looking at the ancient fossil beds? Don’t answer that…I don’t really want to know. We’re nerds and proud of it!

When we got to Sitting Bull Falls there was two other families there. One family was leaving, but the other family looked like they were…well, just getting started on a selfie session. They were selfie-ing fast and furious. So…we hiked to the top of the falls to kill some time and see what we could find. We found some really pretty fall colors!

We walked the path beside the stream that made the falls for awhile before heading back to the falls. When we got back that same family was still taking selfies. Seriously…how many selfies does a person need of the exact same spot?

Speaking of the falls…

There are actually three falls. You can explore all of the nooks and crannies at the base of the falls. The boys had the best time here!

We found this little pool of green algae that was flowing with the water. It would move and sway with the current. I took a video of it…hopefully the movement shows up in it. I’ll add it to the video that I’ll add to the last post for the Carlsbad area so watch for it there.

Here’s one more shot of the falls.

And…just in case y’all didn’t know…New Mexico is Cougar Country.

And…if that isn’t frightening enough…there’s all kinds of different types of rattlesnakes. I’m kind of glad I didn’t see these signs before we went on our little hike to the top of the falls.

Let’s see…oh yeah, foodies! Carlsbad was a total surprise to us! In a completely good way! I was expecting more of a wider spot in the road with some touristy shops, but it’s not that at all! We found a great little Mexican place called El Jimador,

another spot called Danny’s Place that not only had some great smoked meat but,

a pretty darn good smothered burrito!

And then there’s Church Street Grill with their Green Chili Burgers and their Texas Toothpicks (onion straws and strips of jalapenos). Guys…this place was soooo good! Too good! Like, I-need-bigger-pants-now good!

They’re not your typical pretties…

but you have to admit…they are pretty.

Well, I think I’m going to have to break the Carlsbad area into a few different posts. So stay tuned for the two National Parks we explored along with Littlest post on a zoo we visited!!

See y’all down the road!!

#grandwesternloop

Categories: Foodie Find, grandwesternloop, Hiking, New Mexico | Leave a comment

The Grand Canyon Of Texas

Hey Guys! The whole reason we stopped in the Amarillo area was to explore the Palo Duro Canyon State Park! We spent as much time there as we could in the two weeks we had in the Amarillo area.

Palo Duro Canyon is known as the Grand Canyon of Texas and is the second largest canyon in North America.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park measures in at 27,173 acres…so, there’s plenty of space to explore.

The CCC sent seven companies of young men and military veterans to work on developing roads, a visitor center, trails, bridges and a way to get down to the canyon floor. You can see what’s left of their camp in the pic above. The CCC worked here from 1933 to 1937 and the park officially opened in 1934.

I think the structure in the pic above is called Cathedral Rock. That’s what another hiker told us. And…it does seem to fit that name. If you look closely you can see the boys standing in the mouth of the cave.

We only did a few hikes in Palo Duro State Park due to time. My favorite hike was the Lighthouse Rock hike. We started out as soon as the park opened at 8am and had the parking area and trail pretty much to ourselves. We’d driven by the trail head parking area the day before and it was packed.

The Lighthouse Rock trail is right around 6 miles round trip and takes you by some fantastic rock structures!

This was our first glimpse at Lighthouse Rock. You can just barely make it out on the right side of the pic above about mid way up.

The trail officially ends and there’s no view of the famous rock you’ve hiked all that way to see. No view. But, you can scramble up about a quarter mile of this to get to the real view. The scrambling was difficult in a few places (especially with a camera around my neck).

We scrambled and slipped and slid our way that last quarter mile, but we made it!!

For those who are adventurous enough, you can scramble up onto Lighthouse Rock! It was sooo incredibly windy!!!

But, Guys…check out the view!

It’s always hard to get a good perspective on how big things are in photos. Here’s a pic of The Dude standing near Lighthouse Rock. We had the place pretty much to ourselves. There were maybe three other people there and none of them stuck around long.

It wasn’t until we were on our way off of Lighthouse Rock that other hikers started to show up.

We didn’t see too many other hikers until we were almost back to our car. The empty parking area had filled up and people were waiting for places to park. We were home by lunch and ready to head off on another adventure!

We did find a couple of pretties!

I love these vivid purples!

Here’s a little video of all of our Amarillo area explorations!

See y’all down the road!

#grandwesternloop

Categories: grandwesternloop, Hiking, State Park, Texas | Leave a comment

Heading West

Hey Guys! We’re back on the road and heading west this loop! We’ll spend the next year making our way through twelve states before heading back to Missouri to visit family again. The plan is to finish up the remaining six states in the contiguous US left on our map, grab a few places we missed as we went through some of the states the first time, as well as, revisit a few of our favorite places. We’ll (hopefully) hit around 40 different National Park Units as we make our way through our #grandwesternloop!

We spent two weeks in the Amarillo, TX area. We don’t normally stop at “roadside attractions”, but we found ourselves at two different roadside attractions while we were in Amarillo.

Cadillac Ranch was created in 1974 along Route 66 just west of Amarillo by Chip Lord, Doug Michels, and Hudson Marquez . For those traveling The Mother Road this roadside attraction is a must. And don’t worry…it’s completely legal to spray graffiti on the cars at Cadillac Ranch.

We had to leave our mark. Can you find it?

We’ve heard that the city is thinking about closing Cadillac Ranch down because of all of the spray paint cans being left there. We saw quite a few littering the ground near the Cadillacs. We brought our own cans and we threw them away in the handy dumpsters the city has provided when we left.

The other roadside attraction we found ourselves at was the Jack Sisemore RV Museum. We weren’t really sure what to expect here, but we’d heard it was a neat stop and at a great price. Free!

Jack Sisemore has been collecting old RVs for over 25 years. He’s redone some of them and left some in the condition he found them in. He has several RVs in his collection put together to make this museum that you can walk through and see how much RVs have changed over the years. The oldest one he has is the 1921 Ford Lamsteed Kamkar you can see in the pic above. The Kamkar body was mounted onto a standard Model T Ford and came with everything you needed. It was made by Anheuser-Busch and sold for a grand total of $535.00 in St. Louis, MO.

This is a 1976 FMC and was owned by Max Factor, Jr. You might know him as the president of Max Faxtor Cosmetics. We had way more fun going through these old RVs than we thought we would.

Each RV that had been restored also had been set up with items popular the year the RV was made. Check out that video camera!

The kitchens were stocked with items from the specific year of the RV. Check out the old tins!

You might recognize this bus from the movie RV! It’s the one they used to film the movie!

The inside of the bus was…a little lackluster. I’m going to have to rewatch that movie and pay attention to the scenes shot inside the bus.

Some of the vehicles in the museum aren’t strictly…RVs, but they’ve been used as one. I love this old VW bus!

At the back of the museum they had an old gas station set up. Check out the air conditioner on this car!

Here, let me give you a better look at this beast of an air conditioner. Can you imagine sitting right by it? My head would be frozen! It was a true feat of engineering and could be yours for the low price of only $12.85!!

We snuck in a National Park that we hadn’t planned on. The Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument was a very cool place to visit. When we got there we almost didn’t make it inside due to an infestation of paper wasps. I didn’t get any photos…I was more worried about being stung, but oh my word…there had to have been a couple hundred wasps flying around the visitor center. It was slightly terrifying.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the actual quarry because we’d just missed the last tour. We did peruse the museum and watch a film about the area before heading out to see what we could of the park. This area was known for it’s flint. The Native Americans would come here to get the flint to make their weapons and tools. We were able to see and touch some of the flint!

Somehow we ended up on this one lane (but not one way) dirt road. We hoped it would lead to some amazing overlook of the flint quarry, but it just kind of wound it’s way around the area where Lake Meredith used to be. Our GPS was convinced we were driving through Lake Meredith.

Let’s talk foodies…we found an awesome burger joint called Hil’s Burgers in Canyon, TX! If you go…get the onion rings.  We also found a Torchy’s Taco in Amarillo…so we HAD to eat there. Once or twice…or more.

We also went to a very cool state park, which I’ll tell you about in the next post because this post is getting to be way too long!!

See y’all down the road!

#grandwesternloop

Categories: Foodie Find, grandwesternloop, National Park, Texas | Leave a comment

It’s Not All Fun And Games

Hey Guys!! One of the main reasons we took a travel hiatus is to work on the growing list of projects for the RV aka…our home. We do little odds and ends while we’re on the road, but there are some things that would be easier to do while stationary. I thought I would let y’all see  a few behind the scenes of what it takes to keep this nomad life of ours going.

The very first thing we do every time we driveway camp at my (Jennie’s) parent’s house is to clean out and organize our “basement”.

We take everything out, reevaluate its place and if we still want/need it, and clean out all of the bays under the RV. The first year we left we had all of the bays totally packed. Completely filled. There wasn’t a single inch of free space. Now…we’ve actually got quite a bit of empty space in our “basement”. The longer we do this nomadic life thing, the more we realize life isn’t really about the “stuff”…it’s about all of the memories and moments.

Once we got everything cleaned out and reloaded we put new seals on the bay doors that needed it. The seals are what keep the wet and dirt out of our “basement” and off of our stuff.

We (I’ll say we, but really it was just Jerl) did some electrical work. We (there’s that we again) added a strip of  electrical outlets under a lip on our closet.

A couple of our light sensor switches (I totally just made that name up…I don’t really know what it’s called) went out on the main control panel so Jerl took a look at all of those wires too. These switches tell us if our water pump and arctic pack is on or off. So, they’re kind of important.

So…funny story (not really…heavy sarcasm). The bottom slide out compartment in our freezer broke and so our freezer door wouldn’t stay shut. We looked and looked and looked some more for the part or for someone who could tell us where to look for the part and no one in six or seven states could help us. Y’all…we had to keep the lock strap on our freezer door or the thing would just stay open. That’s not helpful. While we were back in Missouri we finally found a place that could look up the part we needed and actually order it! We did a little happy dance after it was fixed!!

We have three ceiling vents in our RV. Two of them are in the bathroom with these little dinky fans that help ventilate the…well, you know. Our plan was to replace all three with an upgraded fan. We started with the one skylight that didn’t have the fan.

We LOVE it! It’s a reversible fan so not only can we vent air out when we’re cooking we can also pull cool air in to help cool the RV on days when it’s not hot enough to turn on the AC. We only got one switched out because we simply ran out of time due to some unexpected injuries. I’ll fill you in about those later.

We replaced this doo-hicky in both of our hot water tanks. The bottom one is the one we took out and the top one is what a new one looks like. I’d say we replaced it just in time. What the heck is it? Well, it’s actually called the anode rod and it helps protect the hot water tank from mineral build up and rusting.

We took out all of the cornice boxes around all of the windows (I’ve disliked these from day one)

and my (Jennie’s) mom and I made curtains!! It took me forever to pick fabric. For…ev…ER! And then when I decided I went back and found that one of the fabrics was almost gone! Sheesh! I bought up the rest of it that day and luckily we had enough for the curtains and a small pillow! We lined all of the curtains with the grey insulating material you see in the picture above.

And, because I’ve already gotten several questions about that insulating fabric…you can see the details in the picture above. I got it at JoAnne’s back in the upholstery section on the big, long rolls.

The curtains made a huge difference in the way the RV looks and feels. It feels so much more homey and comfortable now. We’re loving the curtains!

And… because I love the fabric…here’s the fabric that I almost missed out on. The big curtain in the back. When I first found this material there were five full bolts of it. Five! When I just happened to stop in to have one more look there was on partial bolt. One. And it was almost empty. I grabbed it and carried it around the store in a panic trying to finalize my decision on the other fabrics. That’s what I get for procrastinating and trying to wait for a good coupon.

Jerl fixed a leak in one of the slides. It had been leaking for sometime and we’d had it in to the shop. They pros couldn’t find the leak, but we kept seeing evidence of it, so Jerl took matters into his own hands…and leak be gone!

If you look back at the very first picture on this post you’ll see our trusty 4Runner. We had to replace her this past summer. Our first thought was to get a truck, but we couldn’t find one that fit us better than our old 4Runner so we ended up with a newer 4Runner. My (Jennie’s) dad and Jerl worked on getting her ready to go.

 

It was a hard decision. Not only did we really love our old 4Runner…she was totally paid off.  But, we can now flat-tow and get rid of our big, bulky, heavy trailer. The trailer has caused us some issues on our travels. We always had to make sure we could get a pull-through spot or if a pull-through wasn’t available we had to make sure there was a spot somewhere for our trailer. Some parks let you park on the grass right next to your spot…most don’t. Some parks want to charge extra for either another spot or storage. So, while we’ll miss her and the no payment it was definitely the right decision to replace her. *sniff sniff*

Ever wonder how to replace a mattress in an RV? Well, it’s actually pretty darn easy! We ordered ours from a company called Mattress Insider and they shipped them to us in the boxes you see in the picture above. So, getting the new mattress in the RV was easy peasy!

When you take the mattress out of the box it’s wrapped up tight. We found it easier to cut the wrap than try to pull it apart.

Once you cut the wrap, you unfold it and the mattress expands…and viola! New mattress! We got new mattresses for all of the beds. After two years of sleeping on the factory mattresses it was time for an upgrade. Our backs are thanking us!

Getting the old mattresses out the door wasn’t as easy as getting the new ones in, but with a little muscle we  made quick work of it.

In between all of the projects and explorations, life happened. Mr. Man got started on straitening his teeth with the help of appliances

and these trays. We were able to get all the trays he’ll need to take with us so over the next year his teeth will straighten out and when we get back to driveway camping next October we can go back in for a check up.

Littlest had a pretty big growth spurt which effected his vision so we had to find somewhere to get his eyes checked and get him some new glasses.

Mr. Man and Jerl took a quick trip down to Texas to get a driver’s permit. We’re late on doing this. Mr. Man isn’t in a hurry to drive…this doesn’t bother me at all. I get it. I’m not a driver either.

Jerl had a retina detach from his cornea. He had to have eye surgery. He’s actually still recovering from it, but is able to drive. It’ll take a solid three months for it to really heal up and then he’ll need new glasses. Remember that bit about me not being a driver? Well, thank goodness we were around family when this happened. My parents watched the boys while his parents drove us around to Jerl’s various doctor’s appointments. This is the injury that put a stop to any more big projects. Hard to work on something if you can’t see it properly.

Oh yeah…and three of us got a stomach bug. Gross.

 

 

So, while 16 weeks sounds like a lot of time…well, you know the saying…time flies. We started our Grand Western Loop on October 28, 2017. This loop will take us an entire year and will allow us to finish up 49 of 50 states with Hawaii being the odd state out. We had planned on doing Hawaii this past late September/early October, but with the growing number of projects we decided to put it off and take care of business instead. I’m so glad we did or we would have been in Hawaii when Jerl’s eye crapped out. That would have been…bad.

Well, Guys! That’s it for this post! The next post will be the first in our #grandwesternloop so stay tuned!

See y’all down the road!

Categories: Keeping It Real, Missouri | Leave a comment

George Washington Carver National Monument

Hey Guys!! This week we’ll finish up the National Park Units we squeezed in during our 16 week travel hiatus. I’ve only got one more park to tell you about, so let’s get going!

George Washington Carver was born a slave on the Carver farm around 1864. He and his mother were both kidnapped from the Carver farm. George was found and returned to the Carvers, but they never found his mother. He was orphaned and nearly dead from a bad case of whooping cough so he was excused from most of the daily chores. This extra time gave him the opportunity to explore and start learning about plants.

 

In the visitor center museum, you can learn all about George’s life from his early explorations in the forest all the way to his teachings and findings as an adult.

George Washington Carver had many accomplishments throughout his long life, but he’s most notably linked to his discovery of 300 uses for peanuts.

The day we went to GWCNM it happened to be Prairie Days where the park sets up all kinds of interactive displays to show what life used to be like on the prairie for early settlers. The picture above shows some of the medicines a field doctor during the Civil War might have had in his medical bag.

Volunteers (adults and children) came dressed in period appropriate garb to spend the day showing the public what it might have been like on a typical day during prairie life.

We walked around learning about the different skills needed to survive during the 1800s.

The boys learned how to make a candle.

You could even take a wagon ride through the prairie! The bumps and bruises were free of charge.

The boys earned two different badges at George Washington Carver National Monument! There was a special book and badge for completing ten Prairie Day activities.

There were sooo many pretties out in the prairie! So…many!

I only got pics of these two though. I didn’t really want to go traipsing through the tall prairie grass to get pics…sorry guys. The itchy threat of ticks and chiggers out weigh my need to show you all the pretties.

We ended our day with a trip to one of our favorite foodie places. Eagle Drive-In in Joplin! My (Jennie’s) parents had never been before so we were able to show them one of our favorite places!

National Park Units are a huge part of our travels. I did an official count on the number of NPS Units we’ve visited during our travels. As I’m typing this…the count is 89! We loved getting to share the experience with my (Jennie’s) parents during our hiatus!

The next post is the last post for our travel hiatus. It wasn’t all fun and games, Guys! In the next post I’ll tell y’all about the many projects we got done while we were driveway camping.

See y’all down the road!

 

Categories: Missouri, National Park | Leave a comment

Battlefields

Hey Guys!! We managed to sneak in four National Park Units during our 16 week travel hiatus! One of them, Homestead, I’ve already posted about. I’m going to try and squeeze both of the battlefields into one post. We’ll see how it goes.

I’ve confessed to y’all before that when we started this nomadic lifestyle, I didn’t plan any battlefields at all. I wasn’t interested in walking around a big field that so many people had died in, but then we toured our first battlefield. Little Bighorn Battlefield was…eye opening. It was also during this visit that we all realized how important it is to go to these battlefields. To learn, to see, to remember. The boys learn more history in one day at a battlefield than they do in a week of history lessons. They retain the information. They get to put a physical place with the stories. Needless to say…we visit every battlefield we can. It makes me sad to realize everything we would have missed if Jerl had never talked me into Little Bighorn.

The first of the two battlefields we visited was Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. We spent some time going through the museum and getting ourselves aquinted with the overall view of what happened at Wilson’s’ Creek before we set off on the auto tour.

I feel like you can get a better idea of what the soldiers lives were like and who they really were when the National Park Service has displays like the one above set up with personal items.

It’s always nice when there are a few trails that lead you off the main auto tour road. We hiked this short one to see Wilson’s Creek. The spot was kind of grown over, so I didn’t get a good shot of the creek itself. We were impressed with the size of it though.

The Ray house was used as a Confederate field hospital during the battle,

but was originally used as a post office since it was built along Wire Road. It was called Wire Road because of all of the telegraph lines that lined the road linking the nation.

The battle at Wilson’s Creek in 1861 was the first official battle of the Civil War to take place in Missouri.

Missouri saw fighting for the next three and a half years as raiders destroyed anything military or civilian that might possibly aid the enemy.

There were sooo many pretties at this battlefield,

but in the interest of keeping this post semi-short I’ll just

share these three. This last one is my favorite. I have no idea what it is, but I love the way it looks…and the purple color!

We ended the day with some grub. We went to the Black Sheep in Springfield and got one of the biggest burgers we’ve ever seen! It tasted as good as it looks!

The second battlefield we visited was the Pea Ridge National Military Park in Arkansas.

I love it when there are interactive displays! It keeps the kiddos more engaged and curious.

Are you wondering what the answer is to the question? What did soldiers carry into battle? Half of a two man tent, a miniature bible, a blanket, letters and photos from home, tobacco, a small sewing kit, and some personal hygiene stuff like a razor, brush, soap…and if they were lucky they might have a spare set of socks and a shirt. This, of course, would vary from soldier to soldier and what they could afford to bring with them from home.

I can’t tell you how many battlefields we’ve been to off the top of my head…quite a few. This was the first time we were able to hold one of the guns the soldiers carried. The guns were heavier than we thought.

After we perused the museum, we set off to explore the battlefield armed with a map, the audio tour, and my trusty camera. We encourage y’all to purchase the audio tour any time it’s available at a battlefield. It truly adds so much to the whole experience.

In all of our travels, we’d yet to actually set foot on the Trail of Tears. The boys have learned about it…we were close to it several times, but this was the first time to walk a part of Telegraph Road. Telegraph Road would later be renamed Wire Road.

Pea Ridge was the battle that kept Missouri in the Union.

Each battlefield is different. Different landscape, different feel, different story.

Elkhorn Tavern was used as a supply base for the Union until it was captured and held by the Confederate troops.

It ended up being a field hospital caring for both Union and Confederate wounded. The original tavern was burned in 1863 by Confederate guerrillas.

This field was the main battlefield at Pea Ridge. There are some traces of the trenches the soldiers dug. If you look very closely, you can see a cannon here and there. And if you listen hard enough…you might be able to hear the echos of the gun shots, the shouts of the men, and the canons going off.

The boys learned some valuable history and earned another Junior Ranger badge at Pea Ridge National Military Park. It’ll be our last battlefield for a while since we’re heading west for the next year.

There weren’t as many pretties at Pea Ridge, but I do love this one.

In the next post I’ll finish up with the National Park Units we visited while on our travel hiatus! There’s just one left, but I thought this post was long enough as it is. So, stay tuned!

See y’all down the road!

Categories: Arkansas, Foodie Find, Missouri, National Park | Leave a comment