A family on the road living fulltime in an RV.

Tag: Adventure

Days 82-85: Franklin and Nashville Tennessee

We woke up this morning knowing we were headed to Nashville. We didn’t know that we would be spending the night with old friends. We didn’t know that we would…

We woke up this morning knowing we were headed to Nashville. We didn’t know that we would be spending the night with old friends. We didn’t know that we would be having dinner with new friends. We didn’t know that Franklin Tennesee was much more than a little suburb of Nashville.  We didn’t know that we would get to go on a date. We didn’t know Smoked Tea with Plum ice cream could be so good.

Old Friends – Mike and Jen moved to Franklin from Ventura 10 years ago. We parked our RV in their driveway on a quiet cul-de-sac next to a lake. We felt right at home. They showed around Franklin and took us to Leiper’s Fork. They made us dinner and we stayed up late sharing stories and laughter.

New Friends – We had just got settled when we got an invitation for dinner from friends of one of Brent’s clients. Brent had told his client that we were going to be in Franklin and much to our surprise and delight they called us. Dinner that with strangers ended as dinner with friends.

Date Night – Mike watched the boys one night so Brent and I could spend some time alone. Being the adventurers we are we went to Trader Joe’s. Romantic, huh? Afterwards, we drove around Nashville and spotted a little pizza and kebab place called PizzeReal.  As we waited for our food we decided to check the Yelp reviews. Not a good idea. The restaurant had poor reviews. We hoped for the best and weren’t disappointed with the Tusan Garden, pizza topped with kale, mushrooms, garlic, mozzarella, and labne.  Sooo good. It just happens that an ice cream place, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, we wanted to try was around the corner. We got a Black and Tan sundae made with Salted Carmel and Smoked Tea and Plum. Splendid, indeed. Do not miss Jeni’s if you are in Nashville.

Franklin – Franklin takes pride in her history. The downtown is lovely, clean, and quaint. The visitor center provides a plethora of maps and brochures. One is a historic downtown Franklin self guided walking tour map. There are six tours routes to choose from: the Great American Main Street, Art & Antique, Haunts a & Headstones, History Homs of Hincheyville, Battle of Franklin, and Margin to Main. Unfortunately due to rainy weather and time constraints, we didn’t complete any of the walks but we did see many places on the walks. One of which was the The Carter House grounds. The Carter House, a National Landmark, served at a command post during the Battle of Franklin and was the home of the Carter family who sought safety with their slaves in the basement during the battle. One of their sons, Todd Carter, had joined the confederacy. He was mortally wounded during battle and was brought to boyhood home to die.

Adventure Science Center – Our last day in Franklin was a rainy one a perfect day to visit the Adventure Science Center. It’s part of the ACST Passport Program which means free admission and I like free. The boys played giant instruments, zapped germs with lazers, and experienced what it would be like to walk in 1/6 gravity. Fun times for all.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Days 58-78: Hoosier at Heart

Traveling with our work and home in tow like a turtle time has allowed us an unusual amount of time to visit with family and friends. Our adventure started in…

Traveling with our work and home in tow like a turtle time has allowed us an unusual amount of time to visit with family and friends. Our adventure started in Santa Maria when we spent 10 days with Brent’s family. Afterwards, with short visits with friends and family in between, we traveled to Austin to spent 10 days at my best friend’s house. Now in the dead of winter, we just spent three weeks in Indiana.

Our visit in Indiana felt like we did so much and yet so little at the same time. We’ve been there many times so the pressure to “see things” wasn’t there and our first priority was family.

My parents still live in the same house I grew up in. The house sits on a hill that borders a wood, “the bottom ground”, that, as a child ,was everything from wild jungles to dangerous battlefields. It’s a strange and happy sensation watching our boys drive my mom’s golf cart through the paths just as, if I was lucky, I did with my brother in his golf cart.

Among the days hanging out “at home” we also…

Visited the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Always fun. Always magical. It’s a “must see” if you have kids and are in the Indianapolis area.

Visited the Indianapolis Zoo. I haven’t been in years and was excited to go on an oddly warm January day. I was especially excited to see the gibbons. Funny funky monkeys!

Visited Brookwood Farms. This is the stable where I spent showerless endless days grooming, feeding, water, cleaning, and riding horses. I used to happily sleep outside of my horses stall on a folding lawn chair. Brookwood is run by Rosie, a woman who has spend her life loving animals and kids. Every visit to Indiana includes a visit with Rosie at Brookwood.

“Visited” Slackers Toys R’Us and Walmart after midnight on December 24th in search of Harry Potter legos. Do not do this. Ever.

Ate at Roscoe’s Tacos. Possibly the least Mexican Mexican food ever. In a good way.

Ate at PapaRoux. Po-boys and cajun food in Indianapolis. Don’t judge. It’s good…really GOOD good! Don’t believe me? There was a line out the door in January.

Oh and I spent New Years squealing over pictures of hairless cats hoping Brent might change his mind about another pet. Yeah, I’m loads of fun. Loads.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Day 55: Watch Out for Them Biten Dogs

Last night we arrived at our campsite at Lake Eufaula State Park in Oklahoma before dark. No small miracle. The campground was nearly empty and deer were roaming. I’m loving the…

Last night we arrived at our campsite at Lake Eufaula State Park in Oklahoma before dark. No small miracle.

The campground was nearly empty and deer were roaming. I’m loving the off season. The campground was lovely with large sites, many overlooking Lake Eufaula, the largest lake in Oklahoma.

Unfortunately, we discovered the panel that holds in the insulation on the bottom of the trailer had come loose. We also realized that was why a guy was honking and pointing to our trailer earlier that day. When we stopped we couldn’t find whatever it was he was making such a fuss over. Now we know. Just dragging insulation. No biggie. :-/

After dinner we drove off the curb around the campground to look at the Christmas light display. The display was impressive and included a giant brontosaurus. Like I said, impressive. It was cozy in the cab of our truck with four people up front listening to bad pop renditions of classic Christmas songs on the radio.

In the morning, we went to the nature center and I drilled asked the ranger about venomous snakes. I have a habit of drilling asking anyone who might know anything about snakes everything there is to know. It’s neurotic charming.

Then it was time to hit the road and head to Arkansas. It feels like we didn’t really give Oklahoma a chance. After talking to the ranger about the geography of Oklahoma I was wishing we had more time to stay and explore the state.

The drive to Hot Springs was loooong. Brent may or may not have insisted on stopping for Starbucks at the busiest strip center in all of Arkansas.

That evening we had dinner at a small restaurant in Y City. I picked up a paper and began browsing the real estate ads.  A four bedroom house on 20 acres for 155K?  The prices of real estate are unbelievable when you are used to California prices. Do we have any California friends who want to move to Arkansas with us?

I was ready to move until…

…we stopped for a bathroom break.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Day 54: “Visiting with” Longhorns

We made it out of Texas. Almost. First we had to find some Texas Longhorn cattle. You see the other day Thing 2 and I decided we wanted to see…

We made it out of Texas.

Almost.

First we had to find some Texas Longhorn cattle.

You see the other day Thing 2 and I decided we wanted to see some Texas Longhorn cattle close up. So I went online to look for nearby ranches.  We started calling around asking if the ranches allowed visitors. One phone call (from Brent) went like this.

“Hi. My family and I are from California and we are looking some longhorn cattle. Do you have any that we could come and visit with?”

Pause.

“You don’t do anything like that? Oh okay. Well thanks.”

Mistake #1 – “from California”, i.e., weirdos

Mistake #2 – “visit with“, i.e., WEIRDOS

Who visits with cows? Weird Californians who live in a RV that’s who. He might as well asked if we could have tea time with the Longhorns. ” Oh but it’s organic green tea full of antioxidants.”

However, as it turned out, there was a quaint Longhorn ranch right next to our campground. It was a bed and breakfast, Front 30 Ranch Guest House, run by the friendliest retired couple. They even smiled politely when I asked if they minded if I did a workout with the Longhorns because working out with longhorns is much more acceptable than visiting with longhorns. Very gracious folks indeed. They walked us out to the pasture while the boys made friends with their dog, Abbey. We didn’t get to pet the Longhorns (Abbey made them nervous) but we got closer than we had ever been and had a nice “visit”. We also enjoyed visiting with the owners who shared how they had built and cultivated the ranch themselves.

Front 30 Ranch is lovely, almost as lovely as the couple who runs it. Large rolling meadows stretch into the surrounding cedar forests. The guest house with its inviting porch overlooks the serene pastures of the Texas Longhorns. It almost makes me wish we didn’t have our RV. This would be the perfect place to come and relax at Lake Texoma. Our boys would have happily stayed all day and so would have we had we not had to get on the road to Oklahoma.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

 

 

 

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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

I’m one of those moms that, even though my boys are nearing adolescence and can swim like fish, I knock on the bathroom door repetitively when either of them are…

I’m one of those moms that, even though my boys are nearing adolescence and can swim like fish, I knock on the bathroom door repetitively when either of them are taking a bath. Or a shower. They may slip. They may fall asleep. Mr. Bubbles may come up from the drain and sell them candy.

Now you know the real reason we moved into an RV…Mommy can see or hear everything.

Except that I really want my children to like me so I try, as hard as it may be, to give them some freedoms. This means I let them decide if they want ranch or hummus with their carrots and when we are in private gated campgrounds I may let them explore a little as long as they have their walkie talkie. Oh the walkie talkies, not only are they the most fun words to say ever, they are the best purchase of the year.

This morning, Brent and I were sitting at the table still in our pjs trying to plan a route that we won’t stick to (not sure why we even bother) while the boys rode their bikes. It was a cool cozy morning and Brent and I were happily huddled up in our booth dinette when we got a call from the boys on the walkie talkie.

“We’re stuck in quick sand.”

Followed by static and laugher.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

Static, scuffling, and bits and pieces of a conversation amounting to nonsense between them.

Followed by…

“We’re stuck.”

“Give it to me.”

Silence. More static. More Scuffling. Laughter?  What was going on?

“What’s going on? Are you stuck or not? Are you playing around? This is not funny.”

Thing 1 got on the walkie talkie and said, “Yes, we’re stuck in the quicksand. Come here.”

I’ve really been working on not getting upset at the drop of a dime. Some people call it “chilling out”. As Brent was rushing out the door, he reassured me that everything was fine, that there wasn’t any “quicksand”, and that they are just playing.

So I sat at the dinette and waited for a phone call that everything was just fine. Then I noticed that Brent had left his cell phone and taken our walkie talkie. What the…

“Breathe deep. Everything is just fine. Just keep planning the route that we won’t use. They will be back in a minute.”  I told myself.

But what if it is quicksand? Did you see Never Ending Story? I’m still haunted by the horse part. I better consult google. My google search for “quicksand dangerous” taught me in 20 seconds that quicksand does indeed suck people down. Not only people but cars and locomotives. It also traps people leaving them defenseless against the wild animals that maul them and holds people for the tide of the ocean to swallow up.  Somehow I missed the part that most quicksand isn’t dangerous and is only a few inches deep.  Maybe I didn’t see that part because I took off running in my Ugg boots through the campground.

When I got to the lake I found this…

..muddy buddies.

I was, at the same time, furious and over joyed.

Dirty rotten scoundrels.

So much for the new boots.

We took them home, cleaned them up, loved on them, and then reminded them they better never ever do something like that again.

Yeah…right.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Day 47: Texas Junk Co

I prefer the musty smell of at thrift store over the plastic-y overly perfumed smell of a department store any day. This may have something to do with convincing Brent…

I prefer the musty smell of at thrift store over the plastic-y overly perfumed smell of a department store any day.

This may have something to do with convincing Brent to navigate our truck and trailer through Houston city streets looking for 215 Welch Street.

Or maybe it was because I really wanted a pair of Texan cowboy boots but didn’t want to spent a month’s food budget on such boots.

Or maybe it’s because I have a nine year old (who really wants his own pair of boots) to back me up.

Or maybe it’s because I’m cheap and adventurous but mostly cheap.

Welcome to Texas Junk Company.

(Texas Junk is actually open on Fridays too.)

Swoon.

Yes, let’s.

Vinyl, anyone?

I didn’t find a pair of boots but the little guy in the middle did.

A door to a door.

Texas Junk Co.

Don’t miss it.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

 

 

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Galveston

We spent the majority of the day doing school and work. After all, it was rainy and cold but come late afternoon I was itching to get outside.  The campground…

We spent the majority of the day doing school and work. After all, it was rainy and cold but come late afternoon I was itching to get outside.  The campground in League City was about 20 minutes from Galveston and Galveston is on the ocean. Our hometown, Ventura, is on the ocean and how I longed to inhale the cool salty sea air and be comforted by the crash of the waves.

Sometimes you don’t realize how much you miss something until you’re cramped in a 280 square ft space with 3 other people in the rain it’s gone.

There were only a few hours left in the day but we decided a few breaths of ocean air is better than none.

While Galveston is a town rich with history we decided we would skip the history and just be. I think the boys appreciated it.

We had coffee.

We explored.

We found a knight in not so shining armor.

We enjoyed the architecture.

 

We found a surfing sharkman.

We played.

(I can’t tell you how much I love this guy!)

We watched the sunset.

We searched the sand.

Thing 2 found the most lovely black shell.

For a few hours we simply enjoyed being and I think we all came back to the RV feeling a little more alive than before.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

 

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Day 31: On the Steps of the Admiral Nimitz Museum

We slept comfortably at the rest stop last night.  This morning we even got up and made pancakes. After walking the dogs and picking burrs (I’ve never encountered such villainous flora.) out…

We slept comfortably at the rest stop last night.  This morning we even got up and made pancakes. After walking the dogs and picking burrs (I’ve never encountered such villainous flora.) out of our shoes that had tagged along from Marfa we hopped back on the I-10 towards Austin. When people say Texas is big, they aren’t kidding. It stretches on for miles and miles as if it’s its own country.

I had been anticipating driving through Fredericksburg on our way to Austin. Although, I had only been to Fredericksburg once before and for no longer than 30 minutes it holds a significant memory.

My freshman year in college in Santa Barbara I took French. In class with me was a girl with porcelain skin and strawberry blond hair from Texas. She and I would often chat in class. When I found out she too wanted to pursue the career of an actress, despite not really knowing her, I casually suggested that we move to LA for the summer instead of back home. Much to my surprise she said yes and we made plans.

She went back to Texas and I went back home to Indiana for a week to visit family and get my car, “Peanut”. Then my dad and I drove off to Texas.  I’ve always loved road trips with my dad, they are some of my most favorite memories and this one was no different. He went with me as far as San Antonio and I dropped him off at the airport early as the sun was rising. I’ll never forget the ache in my heart that morning as I pulled out of the airport by myself watching the planes take off through the the streaked sky.

I felt alone, excited, and scared.

After spending a few days with another college friend in San Antonio, I headed to Fredericksburg where I was to meet Juliana, my friend from French class, and her dad on the steps of the Admiral Nimitz Musuem to begin our journey west.

My map skills must have been better back then because I found the museum on my own without the help of an “app”. I didn’t even own a cell phone.  It was just me and my little red Peanut who was on her last leg all too ready to overheat on a hot Texas summer day. (Driving through El Paso without air-conditioning and the windows down in 100 degree weather is not fun.)

Today, I wanted to relive those first steps of that pivotal journey in my mind. I wanted to remember driving the hilly highway 290 through the pecan trees while listening to the Tori Amos Little Earthquake album. I wanted to remember what it felt like to be 19 and free from responsiblity. I wanted to remember looking through the pink lenses of my sunglasses. I wanted to remember seeing Juliana and her dad finding me on the steps to begin our adventure. I wanted to remember the exhilaration of being an excited 19 year old girl as we headed west.

I would not drive back east for another 15 years.

A crazy LA summer, a fifteen year old friendship, and a new life later, I find myself again on Highway 290 passing those steps where I naively felt like my “adult” years began. The dreams I had did not fold out as I had hoped. I would have never imagined I’d be driving back east, my home in tow by a big diesel truck filled with boys. My boys. Boys who I love with with every cell of my body and my spirit beyond.

Life looks different at 34 than 19. Prescription lenses have replaced pink lenses. Responsibility has replaced most of those old freedoms but inside I hear her. As we drive past the steps of the Admiral Nimitz Museum, I hear that 19 year old girl. She reminds me that her heart is still wide open for whatever God sets out before her. Wide open like the road ahead.

Love and Laugher,
Jenn

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Uh-Oh.

Today, we left Carlsbad, New Mexico, bound for Marfa, Texas.  We weren’t too far down the road when we came upon a pleasant surprise- Guadalupe Mountains National Park. How one…

Today, we left Carlsbad, New Mexico, bound for Marfa, Texas.  We weren’t too far down the road when we came upon a pleasant surprise- Guadalupe Mountains National Park. How one just stumbles upon a national park, I don’t know. If we were better planners we would have noticed that we would be passing another national park.  It’s not exactly rest-stop-sized. If we were better planners we would have made sure we made time for it.  However, we are only sort-of-kind-of following a plan so what’s a few hours to stop and drink up God’s beauty and get my “passport stamp”. I gotta have my stamps.

There are only 2 National Parks in Texas, Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  Guadalupe Mountains is actually an ancient coral reef and now home to many animals like rattlesnakes- I don’t think there is a place out west they don’t exist- elk, mountain lions, black bears, mule deer, turkey, and golden eagels.  (I learn stuff from the Jr. Ranger programs too.)  However my favorite part was the The Pinery, ruins of a mid-1800s stagecoach station. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable in the RV, I can’t imagine a stagecoach.

Remember what I said about planning? Well my map app and I don’t get along too well.  We had been on the road about an hour after leaving the park and I was talking to my dad when Brent says, “I need to talk to you.”

Uh oh.

Brent  – Were we supposed to turn back by the park?

Me – I don’t think so. This is our road. I think…

(Please God, let it be so.)

I look at my phone which has horrible reception and the map page won’t load.  Of course.  Finally, it loads and…we missed the road.

We. missed. the. road.

Again.

What is the navigator supposed to do??

Cry.

Sob.

Sob big giant tears and choke out, “Maps are just so hard for me. I’m a girl. My brain doesn’t work like yours.”

Yes, I admit I actually said, “I’m a girl.”

I know. (Boo. Hiss.) For the record, I don’t really believe that but I’m not above using it when it could get me out of potential trouble.

Brent, the sweet loving husband that he is, told me a few minutes later that it was okay because I was just “lost in the moment enjoying myself”. Enjoying myself I was. The vast barren landscape of west Texas is almost too beautiful for me to bear. I could stare at the horizon for hours. It’s a good thing because we had hours to go.

We pulled into Marfa, an eerily quiet town, hungry. It was already dark so we stopped at the first and only place we saw with a light on, Pizza Foundation. Unfortunately, they were out of pizza which was our first indication that nothing about Marfa is normal.  The folks at the pizza shop without pizza, sent us down the empty street to Cochineal. One minute it felt like we were in a nearly deserted ghost town and then next minute it felt like we were in a trendy LA restaurant. Chochineal was full of hip folk and couldn’t seat us for 45 minutes. We headed back out into the empty streets to find Jett’s Grill at the Hotel Paisano.

The hotel is best known for housing the cast and crew from the classic movie, Giant starring Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. Which got me thinking if I was going to see ghosts those two wouldn’t be so bad.

After driving up and down the quiet streets, we finally found it and stumbled in tired and hungry and cranky from the long day of driving. Like Chochineal the patronage of the restaurant didn’t match the town. I suspected I’d see cowboys or rugged oil men but instead there was a Woodey Allen lookalike in one corner, a hippie with skin tight purple capri pants and pilgrim shoes in another, a family whose young child disappeared halfway through dinner a few tables over, and us.

After finishing dinner we headed to our campground and we pulled into Tumble In campground to this…

An empty “office” in an empty campground. At least they didn’t forget the holiday cheer.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

 

 

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Day 27: The Magic and Mystery of Carlsbad Caverns

Today, we visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  We opted for the self-guided tour with an audio guide.  We were all happy we got the audio tour because not only could…

Today, we visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  We opted for the self-guided tour with an audio guide.  We were all happy we got the audio tour because not only could we move at our own pace ,we learned a lot.

The descent into the cave is something I’ll never forget.  I really didn’t know what to expect.  We wound down the path until we came to this massive black mouth. It was sublime. The cave was first discovered by a 16 old boy, Jim White, when he saw what he thought was a volcano or twister in the distance.  He set out to investigate and discovered bats coming out the cave. Can you imagine?!?! Over the next several years, Jim White continued to explore the cave using homemade torches, lanterns, and ladders. Talk about brave!  While I’m adventurous,  I think I prefer the paved paths and lights that are present today.

The cave was magnificent. Crazy. Grand. Beautiful.

A whole other world existing below the surface of the earth.

The only thing that would have made this visit better is the BATS who had already migrated to Mexico for the winter.  I love bats.  They are so cute.  (I’m also the girl who had pet rats as a teenager.)  Thing 2 and I play this game in the mornings called “baby bat”.  We pretend we are bats. I wrap my wings around him and we snuggle.  My bat voice a really bad Asian/British/Southern/what-the-heck accent.  Baby Bat tells me he is hungry for “fish”.  I have no idea where we got the idea “bats eat fish” but that is what Baby Bat always wants.  I had never really considered a bat’s real diet which turns out to be insects.  Recently, Baby Bat has been wanting “cat” and Mama Bat reminds him “bats don’t eat cat” but it doesn’t seem to help.  Any excuse to chase Meow Cow.

Ummm anyway…

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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