Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day 12

July 31, 2008 – Thursday – Day 12

0600 Wake up. Get dressed, start loading the car.
0630 Wake the kids up so they can get dressed and I can finish loading the car.
0650 Ready to go. Grandpa has disappeared so I drink some coffee.
0700 Grandpa is home with breakfast burritos.
0735 Time to go.
0738 Gas. $3.74/gallon.
0747 Stop at the Starbucks Drive Thru. I wasn’t going to stop at Starbucks this morning but we were driving right by. And they have a drive thru… Really I had no choice but to stop.

0930 Crossing the Continental Divide. Elevation 7380 feet

1026 Passing by a bunch of Navajo cornfields. They look strange – so green out here in the middle of dry dry desert.

1055 Farmington, NM Gas $3.90 This area is a lot more industrial than I would’ve imagined. I guess it makes sense since it’s the only large town for miles and miles and miles. To the west there is a plant of some sort spewing smoke. Which would account for all the smoggy haze we’ve been seeing out here. It’s worse than Albuquerque. We pass a sign that says 4 Corners Power Plant so I’m thinking that must be what it is. As much sun as they have out here they should be using solar power.

12:20 p.m. Leaving McD’s in Shiprock. Service was excruciatingly slow.

12:49 p.m. Arizona!

12:59 p.m. New Mexico! We are arriving at 4 corners.

1:32 p.m. Leaving 4 Corners. We have now been to Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado in just 30 minutes!

1:34 p.m. Colorado!

2:16 p.m. Cortez, CO – I have decided that Colorado is much nicer, much more scenic, than New Mexico. I love them both but Colorado wins.

2:56 p.m. Arrive at Mesa Verde Visitor Center. We can see a smoke plume off in the distance. Looks like a forest fire.

3:41 p.m. Arrive at the Museum and trail to Spruce Tree House.

4:57 p.m. Back to the car. The altitude made it a tough hike but the kids enjoyed seeing the cliff dwelling. Ryan was disappointed that he didn’t get to climb down into the hole but there were some school groups there and the line was ridiculously long.

5:33 p.m. Made it out of the back and back to the main road.

6:35 p.m Arrive at Hotel. It is along the Animas River and we have a river view room.

6:50 p.m. There is an Applebees attached to the hotel and the sign at the front desk said that kids eat free. I have yet to have a good experience at Applebees but I’d rather not have to drive somewhere else to eat so we’ll give it a shot. Unfortunately it was another bad experience. We had to wait 20 minutes for a table (which is reasonable in my experience) and we were able to watch some of the X Games while we waited. Then we waited almost 45 minutes for food (which is NOT reasonable at all). The waitress was missing for most of the time so getting follow up service and getting our bill took forever as well. I had spilled my water at one point and had to clean it up myself. I don’t mind cleaning it, but no one had at least offered to help. I told Lana that my kids are too well-behaved in restaurants because if they were being holy terrors I bet the staff would work a little harder to get us out much quicker! The tip I left… pretty tiny.

After dinner we walked along the river near the hotel then went swimming. The water was ice cold so we didn’t stay long. Then back to the room to shower and go to sleep.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Day 11

July 30, 2008 – Wednesday – Day 11

0645 Wake up. Coffee and the newspaper.

0750 Shower and get dressed for the day.

0815 Catch up on my notebook – realize I need to update my license plate game. Here we go… Sonora Mexico, SD, OR, MO, UT, KS

0820 Write a letter to Ron and get his package taped up and ready to mail.

Lana and I went to Hastings to check out the used DVDs. I bought a Happy Feet game for Ryan’s new PS2 (a hand me down from my brother) and a few movies. Then we stopped by the post office to mail the package. The postal clerk was a bit grumpy over the customs form but now I know – always use the big one no matter what! We went home to eat leftover pizza for lunch but Grandpa had already given it all to the kids so we left again and went to Gardunos for lunch – yummy!!!

After lunch we took the kids to the pool then they played in the kiddie pool at the house. Grandma picked up dinner from Buca diPeppo since no one wanted to cook and no one wanted to take 12 people (6 kids!) to a restaurant for dinner out.

Over all a nice relaxing day. After dinner I cleaned out the car and got everything repacked and ready for our departure tomorrow. I missed my evening chat with Ron since I had to lie down with Felisa upstairs so she would go to sleep.

Double Trouble Strikes Again

Just a quick interjection here...

Felisa and Philip (also known as Double Trouble) have been thick as thieves all day today. Just a few minutes ago I was surfing the net, checking my email when I heard two little voices in the bathroom across the hall. Before I came in to check my mail, Felisa had been loitering suspiciously in front of the closed bathroom door but denied everything.

Mom: What are you doing?
Felisa: Nothing.
Mom: Do you need to go to the bathroom?
Felisa: No.
Mom: Why are you standing there? Is someone
-no answer so I shrug and move on-

Fast Forward about 5 minutes to the little voices in the bathroom.
Felisa: Maybe you should wash your underwear.
Mom: What are you guys doing in there?
Felisa: Nothing! (door slams shut just after I get a glance of a
half-naked boy)

I sent Philip's dad in to check out the situation. There had been a small accident. Jared took the offending undies outside to power wash with the hose and when he came back in he said they must've tried to wash them because when he got them wet, they were soapy!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Day 10

July 29, 2008 – Tuesday – Day 10

0705 Wake up. Enjoy some coffee and chat time with Emilio. Discuss possible plans for his trip to SD with us. Find out Lourna took Seth to work with her this morning. Poor little guy! Then time to pay bills.

0936 Leave the house to run more errands. Ron emailed me while I was asleep to add a few things to his list.

1032 Leave Office Max and Target with everything on the list.

1036 Stop at Sonic for a breakfast burrito then head for Los Alamos

In Los Alamos, we pick up a cranky Seth and take all the kids to McD’s for lunch. Then we drive over to Grandma and Grandpa’s L.A. house to leave all the kids with Grandpa while Lana and I go to the Science Museum. When we arrive at the house, Lana asked Felisa if this was the right place. She answered, “Don’t ask me. I’m not the driver!”

1:45 p.m. Arrive at the museum. I enjoyed reading the biographies and experiences of different people who had been at the lab during World War II. We also watched the movie about “The Town That Never Was”. We stopped at the gift shop next door to the museum. I picked up a book that I had been wanting for awhile but couldn’t find a souvenir book I was looking for. Lana found a few more postcards.

2:48 p.m. Headed back to the LA house. Elena called Grandpa. She and Philip have been sick but they are in Gallup and will be in Albuquerque tonight.

4:10 p.m. Stop for gas ($3.78/gallon) and pick up some consolation pistachios for Lana and beef jerky for Ron.

4:19 p.m. Stop at Sonic for cheese tots and coffee. They gave me the wrong coffee drink and the new flavor of cheese tots – not so good.

Head south, back to Albuquerque. When we exit the highway, we pull up right next to Grandma and Grandpa’s car. Elena’s car is just ahead of us. We couldn’t have planned it any better if we tried! Our car stops to pick up Papa Murphy’s Pizza for dinner then the Cousin Reunion Party kicks off once we arrive back at the house.

9:15 p.m. All the cousins are changed for bed and ready for their slumber party in the living room. We turn on Bugs Bunny cartoons for them to watch.

Hopefully they’ll go to sleep soon!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Day 9

July 28, 2008 – Monday – Day 9

0615 Wake up

0700 Call Shani to catch up on all the latest and greatest back home

0740 Ron texts me while I’m on the phone with Shani – guess it’s time for our webcam call! I get online and everyone (all the kids and Grandma and Grandpa R) come to see Ron and say hello. Ron gives me a list of things to send in his care package.

0805 Eat my breakfast burrito that Grandpa R got for me.

0825 Shoes on – time to go!

0833 Everyone is loaded up and we’re off to see the petroglyphs.

0838 Stop at Smith’s for gas ($3.82/gallon) and empty all the garbage bags in the car.

0841 ATM

0912 Arrive at the visitor center of Petroglyph National Monument. I have seen the signs every time we come to town and we are finally going to see what it’s all about.

0937 Leave the visitor center. Everyone bought something. Just doing our part to support the national parks!

0946 Arrive at the easy trail that we selected. They weren’t kidding when they said easy. That trail could hardly be called a trail. I think the loop was a whole 50 yards long. We went on the second easy trail on the other side of the picnic area and it is not much longer. At some point in my life, I have been somewhere with awesome amazing petroglyphs and pictrographs. It must’ve been somewhere in Utah. I don’t want to make too harsh of a judgement since we chose the absolute easiest, shortest trail, but I wasn’t awed and amazed by what I saw. Interested, yes. Amazed, no.

1017 Leave the trail area.

Drive to Old Town Albuquerque to visit the Dinosaur Museum and do some shopping. While at the museum we saw a show at the planetarium. Now that was awe-inspiring. It has been awhile since I have been to a planetarium show and therefore it has been awhile since I have been reminded exactly how vast Space is and how miniscule we are. They also did a short preview of a fractal show that is exclusive to this planetarium. The computer-generated pictures where amazing but psychedelic. I even had to close my eyes a couple times so that I didn’t get sick.

After the planetarium and the museum (and the museum gift shop of course!) we had lunch in Old Town. A bit more shopping. I found some awesome authentic Indian items (a tomahawk type thing and a rattle made from a turtle shell) but decided against buying them. Ryan bought an arrowhead. The girls found stuffed animals. And Lana found some southwestern souvenirs.

2:21 p.m. Leave Old Town and head home

2:37 p.m. Arrive back at the house.

We rested a bit then Lana and I went out to my favorite thrift shop and then to Target and Lowes to get the items Ron had requested. We also hit Sonic for happy hour (1/2 price drinks!) then home again. As soon as we got back the kids wanted to go swimming so we got in another short swim in the cold water before dinner. ALL of the kids went off the diving board. Felisa almost drowned me in the process but she thought is was great fun!

Dinner was noodles and fried rice – yum. Then Grandpa hooked his camera up to the big screen TV and we looked at pictures from the beach over 4th of July and of our trip to Petroglyphs and the museum today. I spent the evening uploaded pictures and then it was… bedtime!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Day 8

July 27, 2008 – Sunday – Day 8

0625 – Wake up. I think that is the most sleep I’ve had in weeks!

Shannon makes breakfast then we spend the morning hanging out and talking while the kids play one of their made-up games. Dana had suggested mini golf yesterday but the weather today is just as rainy as yesterday. Hurricane Dolly strikes again!

1112 – Car is loaded and we hit the road.

The kids are hungry so we decide to head back towards town to grab a bite before we go over the mountain on the back road towards Alamogordo. When we near the interstate there is a sign warning Transmountain Road is closed. Guess we won’t be going over the mountain after all. We discuss whether or not to go the long way around or to just skip the pistachio farm that may or may not be open on Sundays and just take the interstate up to Albuquerque. Albuquerque wins.

1159 – New Mexico!

12:28 p.m. I found a Jack in the Box in Las Cruces. Unfortunately it’s moving super slow and now I’m trapped at the drive-thru.

12:37 p.m. Finally leaving. Now I have a second complaint when I call 1-800-JackintheBox. See, I knew there was a reason I hadn’t called after the Texas problems! And even after all that I still like Jack in the Box and would stop again if I saw one!

12:59 p.m. Border Patrol checkpoint. It’s been a long time since I’ve been through one of these. Apparently we look innocent enough with our mini-van full of Virginians so the officer merely wishes us a nice day and sends us on our way with barely a glance.

1:38 p.m. Police car on the side of the road with a flat tire. A few cars behind us is a Border Patrol SUV. Do you think he’ll stop to help? He doesn’t…

2:00 p.m. The first of several HEAVY rains that we drive through. These are the white-knuckled can’t even see the road type rains. We also see some big lightning in the distance.

4:00 p.m. Arrive in Albuquerque.

Grandpa is assembling his new grill so the kids and Lana and I go swimming while we wait for dinner. We only swim for about 20 minutes before Felisa is shivering and ready to leave. I give Ryan and Bella a 3-minute warning. 30 seconds later it starts to rain so we leave right away.

Dinner is delicious but apparently all the rain they got here yesterday has brought out the flies. They are EVERYWHERE! I’ve never seen so many flies around this place.

Finally it’s bedtime. On the news they are talking about all the flooding in Ruidoso which is near Alamagordo. Looks like we made the right choice by skipping the pistachios. Oh well. Maybe next year!

Hand Picture

(Day 7 added below... Day 8 coming soon!)

Some clarification... it is not a real hand. More like a prosthetic or costume hand. Two summers ago we found a prosthetic leg in the field on the ranch. Here's link to the leg stories. It's kind of mixed in with the rest of the posts and if you read backwards from the earliest date it makes more sense.

I meant to post a picture before I left Texas but didn't get a chance. So here it is now...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Day 7

July 26, 2008 – Saturday – Day 7

0625 Wake up, shower, start packing

0705 Wake kids up so they can get dressed and then I can finish packing

0740 Car is loaded. Time for breakfast.

0851 Leave the ranch… heading west again.

1054 Stop in Ozona, TX for gas. $3.95/gallon. We have driven approximately 2200 miles so far.

12:31 p.m. Ft. Stockton, TX for lunch at McD’s. As we were driving through town on the business loop, we saw an old man in an electric wheelchair driving along the road. Doesn’t look too safe to me!

1:07 p.m. Leave McD’s and get back on the road. Kids had a bit of a playtime at the playground. Hopefully they got enough wiggles out to get us all the way to El Paso.

2:48 p.m. – now 1:48 p.m. Time change to mountain time zone.

2:32 p.m. Sidetracked trains… I love it when I discover the origin of an expression! I talk about being sidetracked all the time. Today I saw those train cars sitting along a lower track to the side of the main track. What an a-ha moment. Those trains are “sidetracked”!!!

2:55 p.m. Out of gas! We have been in El Paso County for about 20 miles but this is the first gas station I have seen. Just as I’m looking over at the station trying to decide if I should stop there or keep going to another one closer to town, the gas light comes on. Decision made – we’re stopping here!!! Gas is $3.89/gallon.

4:00-ish Arrive at Shannon and Dana’s. I haven’t seen my brother in a year. He looks older and a touch heavier but otherwise still the same.

We grilled burgers and Dana made quesadillas for dinner. The kids (and the adults sort of, while talking) watched Evan Almighty and Surf’s Up.

9:00 p.m. In bed. The earliest bedtime we’ve had since hitting the road.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Day 6

July 25, 2008 – Friday – Day 6

0645 Wake up. Check my email and surf the net while I wait for the kids to wake up.

0730 Get everyone dressed and go to the house for breakfast.

After breakfast the kids are playing outside again with the cowboy guns and the rocks. All this fresh air is good for them. Mostly bug-free and humidity-free. Love it!

We decided to feed the animals this morning since we’ll be gone later this evening. When we go out to the field across the street, we find a hand stuck in a bush. There are many theories as to how it got there… we think maybe some guy was feeding the goats early this morning with his pajamas on. When he ran out of food, the sheep got mad and tore his hand off and took his pajama sleeve with it. Betty Lou called the ranch office to report it found but so far no one has called to claim it.

After all the hand and animal feeding excitement, it’s piñata time!


1:30 p.m. Grandpa Ford, Ryan and I are all changed into our jeans and ready to head for the stables for our trail ride. This was Ryan’s first ride. He said it was really fun and pretty easy except watching out for branches. He caught one on his neck and got a little scratch. I, on the other hand, wasn’t paying attention and caught a pretty big branch on the top of my head. If I hadn’t had my sunhat on, I’m sure there would’ve been blood. Even now it still hurts. And then by the end of the ride my knees were sore. Aging ain’t for sissies as they say!

After our ride I get showered and have a little quiet time before we head into town for dinner with Grandpa H and Evelyn.

4:52 p.m. Leave ranch

6:21 p.m. Leave Grandpa’s house after drinks and hors-d'oeuvres.

6:27 p.m. Arrive at Mamacita’s Mexican restaurant. It’s like a newer, brighter Casa Bonita but most definitely not nearly as cool. Food was good but dinner was long. Lana, Betty Lou and I ordered cheesecake to bring home for dessert.

8:53 p.m. Back at the ranch

9:41 p.m. Get kids into pajamas and turn on Backyardigans. Go back to the house to eat my cheesecake.

And now I’m tired and ready for sleep!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Day 5

July 24, 2008 – Thursday – Day 5

0650 Wake up. Bella is already awake and playing with the mouse and cheese tic tac toe game. I check my email and the weather forecast. Looks like rain all day so we probably won’t be visiting the Alamo after all.

0723 Go inside (we sleep in the barn/guest house) for coffee and breakfast.

1000 Back to the barn to shower (me) and get dressed (all of us).

When I get back inside, James and Lana are watching the news. Looks like a tornado touched down in San Antonio.

Lunch time

12:57 p.m. Lana and the kids and I leave the ranch, headed for the San Antonio Airport to pick up Grandpa Ford.

Once we get out on the highway, Betty Lou calls with an updated forecast. A tornado warning has been issued and the storm is heading up the highway between us and the airport. We find the news radio station to listen for updates and keep driving with our fingers crossed. When we get to Boehrne, the clouds are dark and hanging so low it seems like you could just reach out and touch them. We are looking for a tornado but fortunately do not see any. I am very relieved to put those dark ominous clouds behind me. The weather is a little clearer (we must be between bands again!) until we get into the city and are exiting to the airport.

2:24 p.m. Arrive at cell phone waiting area. Lana and I read the USA Today paper that we got from the hotel yesterday while we wait for Dad to call.

3:11 p.m. Dad finally calls. His flight was delayed in Houston. It has started to rain again as we try to find our way back to the terminal. The signs are minimal at best and I end up in a taxis only lane. I eventually find a way out and back over to the passenger car side of the road. We open the door and Dad jumps in. Then we can’t find our way back onto the highway we came in on. Too much construction and too few signs. Spend a lot of time going around in circles. Stop for gas ($3.93/gallon) since we’re almost out. Get directions and finally get on the highway headed back towards the ranch. No dark ominous clouds this time, just rain off and on.

5:17 p.m. Arrive back at the ranch after a much longer trip than I had anticipated. Grandpa Hunley and Evelyn have arrived just in front of us. Must be dinner time soon!

The kids played with the toy cowboy guns and water guns outside while the grownups had drinks and appetizers. Dad got a tour of the barn. Then dinner and cake for dessert. After dessert, the girls returned to their wooden hammer toys while the grownups talked some more. Grandpa and Evelyn left at 9 and I brought the kids to the barn for pajamas, movie, and bed.

9:59 p.m. The kids are watching Madagascar and laughing hysterically.

10:45 p.m. My blog is up to date and I’m hoping the movie will be over very soon because I am TIRED!

*Update on my license plate game:
Today we saw only one new one – Mexico. We think. I told Lana it counts as – 2 points since it almost caused an accident by stopping right in front of me on the highway.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Day 4

July 23, 2008 – Wednesday – Day 4

0615 Wake up. Check my email and chat with Ron. The kids woke up in time to see him and talk to him via webcam. I got an email that Darby seems to be feeling better this morning so that’s good.

0715 Breakfast at the hotel. Ryan had a Texas-shaped waffle. They even had peanut butter. Just last night I was thinking that next year we need to travel with a jar of peanut butter for those occasions that Bella won’t eat anything but bread.

0817 One load has already gone to the car. We gather up everything else and head for the front desk to check out.

0824 Leaving the parking lot after refilling water, changing batteries in the cd player, and emptying trash bags. Almost left my notebook in the back seat. That would’ve been awful. I can’t drive on a road trip without my notebook to catch my thoughts.

0834 – Miss our turn onto Hwy 31. Maybe if they would actually put a sign up it would be easier to find! We only saw it because Lana happened to turn and see the sign that was pointing the other direction.

0849 Cows!!! I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more cows and other interesting scenery today since we’re off the interstate.

0907 UFWB (Unidentified Flying White Birds)

0927 Lana says she saw a deer behind a fence.

0937 Pecans! I always regret not stopping for pecans on these trips so today was the day. We stopped at a pecan shop along the highway. We also saw a dog which is what Lana was searching for. (I’m still waiting for my armadillo!)

0952 Gas at the station next door to the pecan shop. $3.79/gallon

1004 Stop at the McD’s drive thru for an iced coffee to tide me over until we stop for lunch at Jack in the Box, probably when we get to Waco.

1018 Donkey and a cow in the field

1103 Waco, TX - Getting on I-35 South. Felisa is asleep so we decide to go a little farther and stop at the next Jack in the Box.

1120 Find out Lana has eaten turtle, frog, rabbit, and squirrel at some point in her life. This is an example of one of those interesting tidbits that you can find out about someone while driving endlessly together in a car!

12:10 p.m. See a blue exit sign with Jack in the Box. Lana says that it would probably be closed. I’m pretty sure she’s joking until… we pull up and the parking lot is blocked by cones because the JITB is closed for renovation. What?!?! But I’m hungry! And I have to pee!

12:12 p.m. A few raindrops. Are they from Hurricane Dolly?

12:23 p.m. See another blue exit sign with Jack in the Box. We park the car and get out. Everything is going fine until… the door is locked. Closed. Two JITB’s in a row are closed. A worker comes around the corner to tell us that it is closed for renovation. He assures us that the next JITB is only 2 miles and it is indeed open. Do we take his word for it? I’m hungry and about ready to give up. Lana is getting pretty hungry too.

12:29 p.m. As the man promised, there is another Jack in the Box a few miles down the road. And it is amazingly enough, actually open and serving food. Unfortunately the air conditioning in the dining room is not working so I get my JITB fix but sweat to death in the process.

1:12 p.m. Leave JITB

2:22 p.m. Stop at the LBJ Historical Park in Johnson City, TX. We always drive by but never stop. We had some extra time this afternoon so I decide to check it out. Turns out we are at the LBJ boyhood home. We miss the tour of the house so just peek through the windows. We skipped the hike through the settlement area because it was pretty hot. We walked through the museum display of his political career and presidential accomplishments. It was quite interesting. I had no idea that he had been a teacher. Then (the kids’ favorite part!) … the gift shop. Bella bought a jackrabbit stuffed animal and Felisa chose a bird that sings. Ryan ended up with a book about presidents. I really wanted to buy the armadillo stuffed animal – it was really cute! – but I resisted and bought an armadillo postcard instead. We opted to skip the tour of the Ranch because it would’ve taken way too long.

3:14 p.m. Leaving LBJ park. Favorite parts:
Bella – listening to excerpts of LBJ speeches in the museum
Ryan – seeing the boyhood home
Felisa – buying her bird
Lana – the museum
Sheila – the museum in general and the stepping stones that LBJ had all special visitors sign when coming to see him at the ranch.

3:58 p.m. More hay bales in the field… which brings up a question. How many horses/cows does each bale feed? How long does a big bale like that last?

4:14 p.m. After meandering through Fredericksburg, we made a wrong turn on the ranch roads. Called Betty Lou and got back on track.

4:18 p.m. Pass a construction crew taking their afternoon Coke break in the shade.

4:19 p.m. Get a strange look (and a wave!) from a rancher that we pass along the road. I guess my minivan with the luggage rack and Virginia plates looks out of place on the back roads of Texas Hill Country.

4:39 p.m. Arrive at the ranch.

We spend the evening playing with the dogs, feeding the deer and sheep, eating dinner, showing off my scrapbooks from last year’s trip, and unloading the car. The kids watch a DVD until 10:30 p.m. and I stay up much too late updating my blog through day 3.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day 3

July 22, 2008 – Tuesday – Day 3

0605 Wake up. I must miss my little cub scouts – I was dreaming about them. And I wasn’t even yelling at them to sit still and be quiet in my dream!

0735 The car is repacked. Many pictures have been taken. We load up into our separate cars and off we go… we’re headed for Texas and Kim is headed for daycare drop off then work.

0746 Stop at McD’s for breakfast and coffee. Kim called and advised us on a better route out of town to avoid the rush hour traffic.

0815 Leaving McD’s with full tummies. The kids also got some playground playtime.

0920 Leaving the Tuscaloosa Travel Center. Bella and Felisa each bought an alligator tooth necklace with some of their money from Grandma D. Gas was $3.89/gallon. We have driven approximately 1000 miles so far.

0925 Gummy snacks – bears and worms – that Lana had packed for the kids. Someone asks “If you could be any color gummy bear, what color would you be?” I choose orange since I like orange flavor the best, Lana chooses red, and Felisa chooses Purple.

0926 – 0947 (and then some) Felisa is playing a sound game. She makes a crazy sound then Lana and I try to guess it.

0947 Pass a car towing a car towing a car. With no sign about “vehicle in tow”. Looks illegal to me…

1026 Mississippi!

1028 There’s a house driving down the road. And it’s hogging up both lanes!!!

1045 National Air Station Meridian/National Guard helos flying over. Which reminds me (again) that I did NOT get the helo ride on the ship that mini boss promised me. (I was in the Navy, serving on a ship with a helicopter attached during times underway. A few times people on the ship got to have a little ride in the helicopter. The air dept assistant promised me a turn. I never got to go. I’m still carrying a grudge, obviously!)

1047 Cow statue (but still not a single live cow has been sighted since we left home)

1109 Cows!!! Finally! And one of the cows has even escaped out the fence and is eating grass alongside the interstate. I have no idea why I enjoy seeing cows along the road when we go on trips. But I do. And I have been missing them…

1123 Stop at Wendy’s in Forest, MS for a potty break. Get chicken nuggets as a snack for all of us. The kids had all eaten cinna-melts at McD’s for breakfast so hadn’t had any protein yet today.

12:12 p.m. Pearl River. Spot our first train of the trip.

12:26 p.m. Horses, goats, corn AND a farmer!

12:50 p.m. Crossing the Mississippi River into Louisiana!

12:53 p.m. Louisiana (at least initially) has no trees lining the highway. All the way across Mississippi, all we could see was a solid line of trees along the middle and both sides of the interstate. No scenery to break the monotony of driving. No cows, no nothing!

1:08 p.m. Dead armadillo.

1:23 p.m. Stop for lunch at Sonic. While we were eating, the fan was blowing, the radio was on, the DVD charger was plugged in and it was really hot (like almost 100 degrees!). When we were ready to go, the car wouldn’t start. Dead battery. D-E-D dead. (Does anyone know what movie that D-E-D dead line is from?) Fortunately one of the girls who work there had jumper cables (do I have any? I should. But I don’t know if I do. And IF I do have them, they are certainly buried under a big pile of luggage!) and another girl who works there had good car-jumping knowledge and we were up and running fairly quickly. Phew! That was close!

2:04 p.m. Leaving Sonic in Delhi, LA

After the dead battery incident, we decide against stopping immediately for gas and instead drive for an hour with nothing on in the car except for the air conditioning. No radio, no DVDs, no nothing.

3:10 p.m. Stop in Ruston, LA for gas. $3.97/gallon. When we arrive, the pumps are all flashing the message “Pump has been Shut Down” I go inside to check and the clerk tells me the pumps will be back on in about 5 minutes. They had to turn them off for shift change. So I decide to use the bathroom while I wait then go back out to pump gas. After I get my gas, I call the hotel to verify our reservation and late check-in. At the rate we’re going we may never get out of Louisiana!!!

3:16 p.m. Squeal my tires as I exit the gas station which garners a “Whoa! Dude!” from Ryan in the back. I was turning left across traffic, looking for a good opening to turn out. Lana said “hit it and git it” so I did! In my defense it was a steep drive. I’m sure on a flat drive I wouldn’t have squealed the tires…

3:17 p.m. Pass a Ryan’s Restaurant. (seems to be a chain in the south)

3:18 p.m. Felisa says that there isn’t a Felisa anything in Virginia so we ask her what sort of place she would have if she had one. Lana says Felisa’s Puppy Place which makes her smile. Then she decides on Felisa’s Puppy Shop. So be looking for it in another 20 years or so…

3:21 p.m. Car thermometer says 102 degrees!

3:23 p.m. See another dead armadillo on the road. I think we’re up to about 7 for today. For once I would really like to see a LIVE armadillo.

4:08 p.m. Barksdale AFB jets are flying overhead. Kids think it is pretty cool. As do I.

4:26 p.m. See a billboard with an armadillo picture. Maybe that’s a sign that a live armadillo sighting will come soon. Kind of like the cow statue then the cows earlier today …

4:28 p.m. Texas!!! The exits start at #635. I think we may have some driving still to do…

Mom calls to report Darby not feeling well. Won’t eat. Actually covered his food dish with the towel it is sitting on. Not sure how that is even possible. Tell her to call the vet to see if the Dr. might still be in the office. She calls back later and says she was able to make him eat a bit of an ice cube so she would give him until tomorrow to perk up before she makes an appt. for him.

5:58 p.m. Arrive at hotel after a long drive down to and around Tyler, TX. The hotel is just as it was pictured on the internet. What we can now see, and what wasn’t pictured, is the fine location – between the pawn shop and Chinese buffet on one side and Goodwill on the other. The good news is that we can walk to dinner.

There is no water in the hotel room because they are fixing a pipe in one of the rooms. The kids have way too much energy after today’s crazy long drive but I don’t want to take them to the pool until I know there is a shower available for them to get clean afterwards. So after I quickly check my email (yea! Internet! I have missed you!!!) we walk next door to the Chinese buffet (where by the way, there is not a single chicken entrée that isn’t fried!). While we’re there, Allie calls to check on us because of Hurricane Dolly who is headed for Texas. Told her we were fine – all sunny where we are! – and I would email her later with more details. By the time we get back, the water is on so we take the kids to the pool for an hour to get the wiggles out. Leave the pool at 9:15. Go back to the room to shower and change. Still can’t get them settled. Finally we are all in bed. Lana and I have just drifted off to sleep when the phone rings. It seems the desk clerk has found Bella’s backpack in the lobby. I guess she must have put it down there when we arrived to check in and forgot to bring it to the room. It pays to have your belongings labeled – we got it back because it had our name in it!

So finally, after a long, long day we sleep…

(An update on my license plates for today: KY (full points this time because it was on a car!), AZ, MI, AR, CO

Monday, July 21, 2008

Day 2

July 21, 2008 – Monday – Day 2

0615 Wake up – first time using my cell phone alarm.

0650 Mike made bacon and eggs for breakfast. Mmm…

0746 All packed and ready… leaving Lana’s house.

0751 See two chickens alongside the road, outside the auction barn. How random is that?!

0757 Segment on the radio about travel mooching… where you call a friend and crash at their place on your way through town on vacation. Hey – that’s me! I’m a travel moocher!

0954 Georgia! Cross the Savannah River.

1020 Gas $3.91/gallon
1111 Leaving McD’s after a breakfast/lunch/playground stop.

12:40 p.m. Atlanta has bad air – yuck! L

2:00 – time change – 1:00 p.m. Stop at Alabama Welcome Center. Text from Ron to check on our progress.

1:26 p.m. Pass the snack box – snacks for all of us!

1:37 p.m. Alabama radio seems to have a pattern – every other station is Christian Rock alternating with Country

2:40 p.m. Leaving Talladega Raceway. Had extra time to kill (we called Kim from Atlanta and she seemed a bit surprised that we were coming so soon) so we visited the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame. I would’ve loved to take a track tour also but we didn’t have that much extra time. Maybe next time we pass by…

2:43 – 2:43.5 p.m. Rain. Like 10 whole drops.

2:50 p.m. Crossing Coosa River – it’s a crazy mixed up river that goes back and forth. Felisa says “It’s following us!”

2:57 p.m. Passing Chula Vista … Wait, isn’t that a city in CA?! Wow- we made good time. Blew right past all our stops in AL and TX!!!

2:58 p.m. Possible armadillo sighting… or was it a rhinoceros? Lana says it’s a rhino. It’s her game and that’s the way it’s going to be. She’s been giving me a hard time about my license plate game and how I supposedly keep changing the rules. Sadly, it was roadkill. Just once I would like to see a LIVE armadillo. Oh and speaking of the license plate game… here’s what I saw today: Ontario, MS, WA, KY (though this one only counts as half a point since it was a commercial van – not a semi but not a car either), KS, MD, CA, LA. And double points for Rhode Island!!!

3:10 p.m. Stuck in a traffic jam. See a billboard for Birmingham Race Track. The animal on the billboard looks like a camel. So they have camel racing in Birmingham?!? Okay, maybe it was a really a dog… Oh and the billboard across the road says it’s 105 degrees outside. Yikes!

3:23 p.m. Make it to the construction zone that was causing all the traffic.

4:00 p.m. Arrive at Kim’s house. She’s still at work but her parents came over to let us in. We visit with them and get some good stories about Kim. Leave it to the parents to tell embarrassing stories about us…

5:15 p.m. Kim’s home from work.

5:30 p.m. Off we go to Chili’s for dinner – yum!

7:00 p.m. Thunder and lightning and pouring down rain outside. We all get completely soaked on the way to the car. And I do mean COMPLETELY soaked! On the way back to the house, there are trees down and we have to go around the back way. Once we get home, there is a very close, very loud crack of lightning. Yikes! Do a quick unload of the suitcases and sleeping bags during a brief let-up in the rain.

The kids play until 8:30 then we clean the playroom, and get the beds ready. All are asleep by 9:30.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Day 1

July 20, 2008 – Sunday – Day 1

0515 Wake up. When I decided that leaving at 7 was a decent hour, not too early but not too late I forgot that meant I had to wake up much earlier than that 0500 is not such a decent hour!

0708 Leave home. Wow – I’m impressed that we actually made it so close to 7. I was aiming for 7 and hoping for 7:30.

0712 Post office to mail the bill that snuck past and is due now!

0715 Stop at McD’s for coffee and breakfast. As we’re driving around town I’m struck by how quiet everything is – not many people out and about at 7 on a Sunday morning. They messed up our order so we had to park and go inside to fix it. When we got out Ryan said “It feels weird to walking around outside so early!”

0728 Finally leaving McD’s. After we fixed our order and went back to the car it occurred to me to ask if anyone needed to go potty. As I suspected, Ryan and Felisa hadn’t gone when they got up and got dressed. So we all went back inside McD’s AGAIN!

0742 Hear on the radio that it’s National Ice Cream Day. Apparently Ronald Reagan declared it 24 years ago. At first I think that’s impossible. He wasn’t president 24 years ago. Then I do a little math and wow, do I feel old!

0748 Hit a license plate bouncing around in the middle of the road.

0911 Call Allie with an ETA

0930 Stop for gas. $3.87/gallon

0940 Arrive at Allie’s house.

1113 Leaving Allie’s. This was a quick visit but nice. It let the kids get their wiggles out before we spend the rest of the day on the road.

1124 Stop at Sonic for a breakfast burrito and coffee then call Lana with an ETA for her.

12:22 p.m. Decide to play the license plate game with myself. So far today I have seen NH, NJ, GA, FL, VA, NC, IN

12:30 p.m. Fantasize about getting a maid when I get back. My house is miraculously clean today (I NEVER actually get it clean before we leave on a trip even though I always intend to get it clean) so wouldn’t it be nice to keep it clean when I get back. I when I say clean, I mean picked up. Other than vacuuming the living room and entryway, I didn’t actually CLEAN anything. But if someone was coming to clean my house, there would be my incentive to keep it picked up more often.

12:49 p.m. North Carolina – finally! It seemed very far away today.

12:54 p.m. Realize that we haven’t seen any cows yet today.

1:15 – 1:29 p.m. McD’s stop – potty, coffee, playground, and happy meals in just 14 minutes. They’ll eat in the car while I drive.

1:56 p.m. Get a text message from Ron. Weird because I was JUST thinking about him! And how cool is that – he can text me from his email. Isn’t it amazing how technology has advanced so much and improved deployment communication?!

1:57 p.m. Falls Lake (outside of Durham) – smells like stinky fish. Yuck!

2:28 p.m. It has been sunny all day. No sign of Tropical Storm Cristobal. Guess we’re too far inland to be affected.

3:45 p.m. Stop at a church parking lot. I’m sleepy and need to walk around a bit. I ask the kids if they want to watch a movie. Maybe that will help keep my mind occupied and awake as well. We’re getting close to Charlotte so almost there.

3:52 p.m. Oh sure – now there’s a rest stop. Where was it when I needed it?!?

4:20 p.m. Uh oh. I think we’re lost. Get the map back from Ryan and figure out that I should’ve turned onto I-77 instead of staying on I-85. Oops!

4:35 p.m. South Carolina

4:49 p.m. Stop for gas. $3.79/gallon

5:05 p.m. Arrive at Lana’s.

Mike made “chicken” (otherwise known as roast pork loin) for dinner and Bella ate it all up. Mashed potatoes and –yummy!- homemade noodles. And peas.

And now Bella and Ryan are on the couch playing footsie – just like my brother and I always did growing up. (the version where you lie end to end on the couch, put your feet together and push against each other). What’s the proper term for that? Mercy? Foot wrestling?

An update on my license plate game: AL, NY, SC, TN, OH, IL, TX, PA, and US Govt.

And so ends the first day of Big Trip 3!!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sturgis, We Have a Problem

So instead of sleeping, I thought I'd surf the net a little and look for attractions/hotels near Mount Rushmore. Sturgis, home of the big annual motorcycle event happens to be near Mt Rushmore. And you'll never guess when this year's motorcycle rally is scheduled... Aug 4-10. Which is exactly when we are planning to be in the area. Preliminary searching is not showing any available rooms anywhere within 100 miles. Looks like I'll have to break out the atlas and do some further investigation on this one.

Darn it.

4 Days and Counting

Or is that 3? We leave on Sunday morning for Big Trip 3 and I'm not ready. I washed the last big load of laundry tonight so now I have to let everything finish drying on the line (the humidity is coming back so it'll take longer). I have to fold all the laundry that is dry. I have to gather and pack and prepare. And I still have 2 days of bible school left. I finished tomorrow's preps so just one day of prep left but two days of energy required. It has been hot so add that to being tired after teaching the preschool all morning and I just don't feel like doing anything in the afternoons.

It'll get done. It always does. Just for once I'd like it to not be done at the last minute!

Oh and I must admit that the suitcase full of laundry is still sitting in the middle of the living room floor. Apparently the "ignore it and it will go away" method isn't going to work this time. Tomorrow I might just have to bring it upstairs and sort it all into the baskets. I figure none of Ron's clothes will be coming with us on this trip so there's no rush to get it out of the suitcase. I've got 6 months to get this particular load of laundry done!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

WARNING: Laundry By Mail

This is a public service announcement to all you moms and wives out there... Beware of suitcases delivered by mail.

We got home from bible school today to discover a suitcase on the porch. At first I was surprised but then I remembered Ron telling me he had sent his extra suitcase home from Tampa before he left the country. The kids had lots of guesses as to why it was there - including that someone was here visiting. Once we were inside they wanted to open it and see what was inside. I was hoping to find Ron inside but the size and weight of the bag made that very unlikely.

So we opened the bag and what to our wondering eyes should appear but a suitcase full of... are you ready for this?

Dirty laundry.

That's right, folks. For the right price you too can send your laundry home by mail.

(**Disclaimer: I don't really care. But you know I couldn't pass up such a great blog entry... Love you, honey!)

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Well, it's about that time of year again when I decide to redecorate my blog...

What I should really be doing is sleeping since it's almost midnight and we have to be up early tomorrow for the first day of Vacation Bible School. Oh and in a week I'll be in South Carolina - our first stop on Big Trip 3. Can you say Not Ready!?!

Okay, time for bed...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Phone Is Fixed

The phone has been down since Thursday morning. Thankfully the internet was untouched or else I may have gone completely crazy waiting for the repair man. Even more good news - the repairmen work on weekends now. My original appointment was for tomorrow (Sunday) but this morning I got bumped up to today. Woo hoo!

So the diagnosis...

The invisible phantom phone line hiding behind the movie screen in the basement (which is just a long white cord hooked up from the wall jack and into NOTHING in the media closet) apparently decided to quit working. And since I had long ago forgotten that phone jack even existed, I failed to unplug it when the computer voice told me to unplug and check all phone lines.

So the very nice Verizon guy came and went on a phone line treasure hunt through the house with me. When I raised the screen to access the crawl space, the phantom line appeared.

And nothing makes you more conscious of a completely trashed out messy house than a strange repairman traipsing throughout, looking into every crummy little nook and cranny… Bleh! Or more “blonde” than a phantom invisible phone line in (sort of) plain sight!

Oh well… maybe I’ll be a water-cooler story back at the garage…

Oh and I almost forgot this part... while the repairman is collecting his tools in the garage, the phone rings. I figured it was just him, making a test call. It wasn't. It was a political survey call. My phone has been working for less than 5 minutes and the repairman is still in my garage. And I get a political survey call. After I laughed at the surveyor, I told him no thanks and hung up. I'm not wasting my precious phone on a stranger!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Update on Project Happy

I gathered a little more intel on Project Happy yesterday and today...

It was, as I suspected, the brainchild of Ryan.

Project Happy was designed as a defense against the Rotten Stinkin' Day Man. Ryan told me he had a feeling he might be in our area so he was protecting the house.

Happy Powder can also be used as a defense against the Rotten Stinkin' Day Man. Just hold it close to your heart and think a happy thought.

And now here is a sampling of a few Project Happy Pictures...

This one is in my room.

This one is outside the TV Room in the basement.

And this one is my favorite...

It's inside the TV Room in the basement.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Project Happy

I'm not sure who the ringleader is on this one... probably Ryan. He said that they are working on Project Happy. Putting happy pictures in every room of the house. Except the kitchen. Because there's so much stuff around - no room for a happy picture. I lobbied him though and convinced him I could have one over this sink so that way I could be happy when I'm doing the dishes.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Movie Madness

I went to the movies yesterday. Twice.

I still can hardly believe it - twice in one day. Me. At the movie theater.

First I went with Grandpa R and Melissa and the kids to see Wall-E. Good Disney-Pixar flick. I noticed the Disney Castle logo scene before the movie has been redone with fancy computer graphics. And the Magician short before the movie - Hilarious! We were all cracking up. Feels good to laugh like that.

I enjoyed the earth conservation and anti-consumerism messages of Wall-E. And by the end of the movie I could totally relate to the Gene Shallit review of "for a movie with only two words spoken throughout, it was surprisingly good." After about the first 20 minutes of the movie (in which there are only two robots and only two words!) Felisa asked, "Is this it? Just a movie with two robots?!?" The lady sitting in front of us was laughing at that one.

Next on the list - a "date" with Shani. She ended up with free movie tickets from the grocery store about a month ago. It was my last night with in-house babysitting so we decided to go for it. Off to the 8 p.m. showing of Sex and the City. As we were sitting in the theater waiting for the movie to start, I remarked that this is the second rated R movie I have been to in the last month. Whoa! I'm really getting crazy now! The movie was good. Then we hit the bar for drinks and dessert at 11. P.M.! On a Monday night! And the really crazy thing was that there were other people there too and children as well (well the kids weren't at the bar but were outside in the mall area). Crazy, crazy world!

And now I am off to take Darby to the vet for a checkup and shots. We'll see if he still likes car rides after this!

*Edited to add... Ron went to the movies last night too, down in Tampa. He saw Wanted. His review: Decent action flick.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


So he's gone. For real this time. No more bonus weekend visits or holidays. All day today the Montgomery Gentry song "Gone" was running through my head while I was doing the laundry and helping pack. And by helping I mean staying out of the way. :) Here's the chorus to the song:

This is gone (gone) gone (gone) gone (gone) gone
Gone like a freight-train, gone like yesterday
Gone like a soldier in the civil war, bang bang
Gone like a '59 Cadillac
Like all the good things that ain't never coming back

Not completely appropriate since he is coming back. It may seem like forever but it's only 6 months. This other song "What Kind of Gone" (Chris Cagle) is better since it's about the different kinds of gone.

well theres gone for the day and gone for the night and gone for the rest of your dogone life

Gone for the rest of the dogone year.


After many tearful goodbyes (I've been crying off and on all day starting in mass) we dropped him off at the airport. As we kissed goodbye the rain started to fall gently - just like tears.

Grandpa R is here now. He surprised us at the beach this weekend and today he took the train down to stay with us here for a couple days. (Maybe the kids will be able to convince him to stay later than Tuesday). We would've given him a ride back with us but we had carpooled and every seat in the van was full, plus Darby on the floor. I think it's kind of funny how different guys end up coming in to deal with the aftermath of Ron's departures. In college, it was Travis. Just a friend (though I'm pretty sure he wanted it to be more than that) who came to Chicago for a week to visit and hang out. Too bad he was stuck with depressed ol' me who couldn't even eat because I might never see Ron again... This time Grandpa R has the duty. Maybe someone should have warned him!

And so today I will cry and tomorrow I will turn my attention to the business of living. January will be here before we know it.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Coffee Thief

We are leaving today for our annual 4th of July Beach Trip. As usual, I'm not ready to go yet. So, I woke up early (before 6 - I did hit the snooze a couple times) and came down to the kitchen. I started with the dirty dishes left over from last night and prepping the fruit I picked up at the farmer's market yesterday while the coffee was brewing. After a while, I looked over at the coffee pot and noticed that it was only at the 4-cup line. Hmmm... I thought I made more than that. I know I didn't make a full pot this morning but really, I was sure I had made more than 4 cups. Did Ron come down and get coffee while I was out of the kitchen for a few minutes? No, surely I would have heard him. Oh well. So I added a cup of water to brew it up to 6 cups then got back to work. A few minutes later, I glanced down at my own coffee cup as I was passing by. Oh look! There's the missing coffee!!! I had poured myself a cup but hadn't added the cream and sugar.

Yeah. Um. I just don' t even know what to say.