Friday, September 16, 2011

Road Trip - Day 22

We woke up to slightly menacing looking clouds. It was neat watching those white ones at the tips of the mountain--they slowly poured over the top, it was really neat to see. It was eggs and pancakes for breakfast today--has anyone ever tried Pamela's gluten free pancake mix?? UH-mazing! I'll be getting the giant bag when we get settled in. That stuff rivals even the best buttermilk mixes out there.

There were tons of these guys all over. Russ quickly identified them all so that the kids would know which kinds bite and which don't. These are Black Harvester ants and they don't bite. There, you learned something today!

There was a lot of this...hemming and hawing about what to do for the day. We're finding that we can only stay in a place for a maximum of 3 nights and then we get bored with the area. This is day 2 and we were already getting a bit antsy.

Mama 'nuggles.

Russ had to get some paperwork printed, signed, and faxed for his new job, so we headed to the nearest library where I was amused to find this sign hanging in the bathroom. Poor toilets, I get a bit sensitive when I get crapped on all day as well.

What we thought was going to be a quick in and out thing turned out to be not so quick...

We finally finished up at the library and headed back to camp for some lunch and naps. I got lots of book reading in. I'm on to The Girl Who Played With Fire. Then after everyone woke up they were ready for some hiking. Me...not so much. So I dropped them off at the trailhead, a bit nervous as it was a 2+ mile hike and Russ was by himself with both kids in cacti country. Someone was bound to be wounded. ...oh well. I headed off to replenish our grocery supplies.

When they got back, everyone was alive and even un-maimed. They were all very excited to hear we were having hot dogs and s'mores for dinner. Mmm, yummy and oh-so-nutritious. Anyways, it started raining while we were getting dinner ready, so the kids took up residence in this special spot and it became just that for the rest of the trip...their special spot to sit together and giggle and eat. It was pretty cute.

After dinner, the kids asked to do their workbooks. Um, YES, PLEASE. And...that was about it for the day. A pretty boring one in our books, but we needed it.

Road Trip - Day 21

The plan this morning was to get up and head to the museum in Las Cruces, NM. Except that it was Sunday, and the museum didn't open until 1pm. Sorry museum, but we're getting a bit weary and will leave you in the dust. So we set out for our next stop--Tucson, AZ.

Of course what is a long drive without a stop for ice cream on the way?

There wasn't a real Arizona sign, so this would have to do. 9 states down, 1 to go!

After making a quick stop at Costco (where I thought the world was coming to an end with the chaos that we found there. Come to find out, that's just how it is at that particular store. Wow, I realized how spoiled I'd been at my NC store!), we headed to Catalina State Park just outside of Tucson. Do you see that...TREES! MOUNTAINS!!

We actually really enjoyed this site. It was pretty gloomy the majority of the time we were there, which made it nice and cool out (when the wind wasn't trying to blow us away), but there was just a lot of cool things to see here--long trails with indian relics and all sorts of wildlife, especially jackrabbits, which the kids were amazed by. And the other thing they were amazed by? Ants, of course.

Starting our first day off with a quick hike.

Can you believe these cacti?? Russ loves teaching the kids names of things, so they could tell you the names of half of the cacti on this trail. Even which ones are okay to eat.

After we finished up our short hike and some dinner, we decided it was time for a phone call to Bubba and Grandpa who were ironically in Florida!

The first night we were at this campground, the sunset was amazing. This is just the setting sun glaring off of the craggly mountains behind us. The sunset itself was utterly amazing. Aside for the visual beauty, coyotes began howling for a good 15 minutes at sundown. It was just spectacular.

Road Trip - Day 20

The next morning looked a lot like this. Russ sitting in a tiny chair in the corner, with his kids crawling all over him. Nevermind they had an entire room to themselves, including a king-sized bed...they just wanted their dad. Funny kids.

There was much squabbling over who got the prime spot on Dad's lap, and it all turned into this...

We got into the local Space Center for free with our passes, and Sam would not STOP talking about it all morning. So we went.

They had lots of interesting things to look at. Quite a lot, in fact.

Do you know how long it took us to go through this 5 story museum???
APPROXIMATELY 15 MINUTES!!!! All of that belly aching all morning long to come and see it and....we didn't get to see much more than a flash of everything going by. Sigh.

So we headed over to the dilapidated IMAX that was across the parking lot for a movie about the planets, hoping the kids would sit still. They did, for at least half of the half hour movie. Double sigh.

By the time the film was over, it was lunch time. We decided we'd head to the next closest state park and check in, eat lunch, nap, and stay there that night. Well, Russ's GPS wasn't working so well and the signs were awful, so we ended up having to do a U-turn in the middle of nowhere (but on our way to Mexico, ha!).

We decided to just forget this campground and keep driving (although I was super nervous...things didn't turn out so well the last time we'd tried that! lol) to our next scheduled stop. On the way we had to swing into White Sands National Park though. Sam was asleep, so we didn't get to explore but for a few minutes. But isn't it awesome?? It seemed like we should be slipping and sliding all over the road, because it looked so much like snow and ice. Was really quite amazing.

Then we got back on the road and headed to the South Llano River State Park in New Mexico. We weren't too impressed with this place at first, but it grew on us (even though we only stayed one night, lol).

The view from our campsite.

Had to include a photo of my new favorite shoes. I feel so fast in them and love that socks are not a requirement.

"I hungwy."

The kids were having a great time balancing on these posts and having dance contests.

After dinner we decided we needed to do some hiking. I was a bit nervous as the smell of rain was on the air, and these clouds were in the distance...

After their Uncle Chris took them hiking, these kids think that hiking can only be done in the desert on a dirt trail. We were hiking along the Grand Canyon on the paved trail and they refused to believe that it was "real hiking". So they were in heaven with these trails.

This is the Rio Grande. And a storm that was about to electrocute us...we got bookin' real quick after this and even got stopped by a ranger to make sure that we were getting back to camp. It's not good to be the tallest think on the landscape when lightening storms come around...

It was a pretty good day...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Road Trip - Day 19

It was a bit chilly when we woke up...

The original plan was to hit the Living Desert Museum and Zoo, the come back and stay another night here, then head to Carlsbad Caverns the next morning. However, we weren't huge fans of this campground, particularly the little scorpions that Brooklyn found... So we decided to pack up that morning and do both the Zoo and Carlsbad in the same day, PLUS drive to our next campsite. A little daunting? Yes. But after the previous boring day, we were up for the challenge!

Russ has slowly been teaching the kids how to help set up and put away the camper, and we've got it down to a science at this rate. Sam does the big crank, Brooklyn takes care of all of the little cranks, putting the little pieces of wood away, and closing up the latches. Makes it much easier for Russ and I to run around and tuck everything in. Both Russ and I were surprised at how much help they turned out to be! Ha!

First stop, the Living Desert Museum and Zoo in Carlsbad, NM.

It was kind of a neat little zoo. I'm glad we went first thing in the the time we left it was sweltering! And it was only 10:30am!

Anyways...when we first started going through the zoo part, I was a bit nervous as there were these birds and animals in very small cages, and not seeming quite so happy. However, I finally realized that each of these animals has been injured and were in rehabilitation. For example, this bald eagle could not fly. Brooklyn was ecstatic that she was able to see both the bald and the golden eagle so close.
Favorite parts of the zoo:
Brooklyn: "All of the big birds, especially the golden and bald eagle. And the big elk with the huge antlers and the bison and snakes."
Sam: "
My part was looking at lizards and sideeeeers." (Not sure what sideeeers is...)
Russ: The crystallized gypsum.
Trista: The Mexican Wolves and the cougar that was pacing and got real close.

Then we started out for the Caverns. Along the way, Brooklyn decided she was in quite the talkative first I think she was thinking out loud, but then I started asking questions, and then she realized I was typing what she said, and then it turned into quite the dialog about what she thinks about her are a few experts:

I think I’m going to be a cowgirl….don’t type cow woman…cowgirl."
I think I’ll go to college in 6 years. I don’t know where yet though, maybe in the wild wild west. I think I’m going to study maybe inside a horse maybe..."
"Maybe I can be an explorer or anything. Yeah. Maybe I can just be a gypsy."
"Oh yeah! And I think I’m gonna have some a lot and a lot of chickens and I think I’m going to sell eggs. And eat eggs. And that’ll be my job. And I’ll make $65 in one year. And I think I have a gate there and when the gate is open I’ll have a sign there too. And the sign will say EGGS FREE FOR SALE!"

Brooklyn's thoughts entertained us all the way to the Caverns. The craziest part about visiting the park was that Russ and I were just there 8 years ago. And things were SO different--no jobs, no kids, not married...just crazy how much things have changed in such a short amount of time!

And of course we had to do the face-in-the-hole photo.
The first thing we did was go up on the observation deck of the museum. You got sweeping 360 degree views of the entire desert. And I didn't take a photo because it was pretty much exactly what you imagine...a giant desert. One unique thing was that there had recently been an large fire--it burned up thousands of acres. You could look out and see how close it had come to the little village that is near the caverns. Our ranger said that it came within 3 feet of her house, and at one point the thermometer in her kitchen window that read the outside temperature read over 230 degrees. Crazy.

Anyways, then it was time for the caverns. We'd been psyching the kids up for weeks, and they had been TALKING about it for the big moment where here and Brooklyn didn't really seemed all that impressed. Yup, I see the giant hole. Yup, thousands of bats inside. Pitch darkness, no problem. Cool as a cucumber (not that she looks it in this photo, lol).

It took Brook a good 20 minutes of walking to finally become immersed in it as she tends to do.

It was at this point where she said, "Hey look, that looks like a whale's head!" that she was totally into it. And can you guess what this structure was named?? ...Whale's Head. No joke. (Ugh...dumb Blogger isn't letting me put the photo in. GRRR.)

I was grateful for the rangers posted every so often, awaiting questions, as I couldn't answer most of the ones she had. I was a pretty proud mama though when the ranger was answering her, " did all of this happen?!" question and the woman said something to the effect of, "well these rocks are all made up of sea stuff like sponges, you know, like Spongebob Squarepants." Brooklyn looked at her like she had a third eye. I said, "You know, like coral...that kind of sponge." "OHHHH!!!" That's my girl.

I was impressed with how well the kids did. I didn't get much complaining from Brooklyn about the 2+ miles they'd walked until the very end. Poor Sam though, Russ and I took turns carrying him for the last quarter of the trek. I'm sure it had nothing to do with skipping his nap, seeing a zoo AND the Caverns...

I couldn't resist a photo of "the twins". Hehe. Oh come on, you know you would have taken a picture too.

We were about to the end and a few of us were running out of gas...

So. I have become very anal about having a Plan over the past few years. I planned out this entire trip from how long we'd be eating at certain restaurants to what exhibits to see when at the zoo. No, we didn't always stick exactly to everything, but it was good to have the guideline. Well. This was my first time deviating from the Plan. (Insert nervous gasp here.)

Like I mentioned earlier, the plan had been to camp at the previous camp site for two nights instead of one. Well, my first problem lay in the fact that I never wrote down the exact name of our next campground we were going to. I just thought I'd figure it out on the 3 1/2 hour drive to the area where it would be. Ugh. What a nightmare. I couldn't figure anything out on Russ's dinky little phone.

So it's dark out. We've gone up to some 6000' in elevation into the mountains. It's cold. We follow the winding, narrow forest road, wondering if we're going to be able to get back out when we finally find the first campground. Closed. Closed?? Huh?? Let's keep driving...and it dead ends into another closed campground. I hop out to go look at the information board that is absolutely bare.

Someone comes out of the camper that is parked in the Camp Host's spot, asking if I needed help. Go figure, ALL camps in the area had closed for the season just two days ago. Sigh. He gave us directions back the way we came to another individually owned campground that might be open.

Did I mention that it was cold and dark? And that I forgot to pack anyone more than a thin, long-sleeved shirt? Ahem.

So we decided that we don't want to backtrack and it's only a half hour to the nearest campground in the direction we'd go tomorrow anyways...let's try that. Back DOWN the mountain, into the desert again...into the city...and hey, lookie there. The GPS routed to the Camp Headquarters where THERE IS NO LIVING SOUL AT 8PM. Doh.

Russ and I give up. We haven't felt the need to find a hotel (even though Sandia will reimburse us some of the cost) thus far, but at this point we FELT THE NEED. So we headed to the nearest Super 8...which was right next to some very exciting rodeo grounds...go figure, nothing available.

Okay, let's check out this Holiday Inn. Nope, some military reunion. You're kidding. Both the kids and adults are so tired we're ready to cry at this point.

Fine. WHAT ABOUT THE BLOODY HAMPTON YOU have anything available??? I said, "We'd like a room with double beds." And she says, "We don't have any queen doubles available, but I do have a King." Fantastic--two king beds? WE'LL TAKE IT.

We get to the room....oh....she meant one king bed.

So yes, I shared the bed with two sick kids while Russ slept like a baby on the floor. Good times.