Monthly Archives: July 2015

Day 586 of Life on the Road as a Family

IMG_2868I wore this t-shirt yesterday for the first time and just LOVE the sentiment.  Eliza and I found it at Cotton On in Salt Lake City.  As I wear it in the future, it will remind me of all the great cities we’ve seen that I’ve always dreamed of, and all the incredible people we’ve met in those cities, and through this blog.  Life is good.

Advertisements

Day 587 of Life on the Road as a Family, Answering Questions

IMG_2897We made it back into Oregon this morning!  So exciting!  It feels so good to be so close to Bend and home.  No accidents, no hospital visits, no storms that damaged the rig – we feel blessed.  We’ve travelled for 19 months and 9 days and haven’t found anywhere as great as Oregon.  Yes, we’re biased!

Over the course of our adventure, we’ve been asked dozens of questions about the trip, many of them the same ones over and over, so I wanted to cover them one last time, while I have time.

Questions for the trip

 

  1. Why?

A: We wanted to show the kids how incredible the USA really is, to show them how regions are different, to show them that the news isn’t telling the good stuff, and to spend more time as a family before they hit high school and leave for college, or the military. Dan and I are very proud to be Americans and we know how lucky we are to be living here and we wanted the kids to know that, too.

  1. How can you afford it?

A: For years we spent less than we earned and saved a lot more, too. We sacrificed often. I wish I had a dollar for every time we were asked this question! We’ve spent about the same as we spend at home because the kids are no longer in competitive gymnastics.

  1. Most popular comment: “I wish I could do that, but” and then the person would list all the reasons they couldn’t go live their dream like we are. To that I say, “we had a list two pages long of why we couldn’t do this trip, and there were 15 reasons still on it when we left, and we still WENT.” At some point you just have to take a chance and LIVE YOUR DREAM. Whatever your dream is…
  1. How did you choose where to go?

A: We each had our own places we had to see and for years had kept a file of special places that we’d read about that sounded good. We left a lot of time for adding in things and if we missed something, we didn’t stress about it. We tried to pay attention to the weather patterns so we could be warm, but not too warm.

  1. How could you take your kids out of school?

A: Easy. We knew what they’d learn on the trip would be worth 10 years of brick and mortar schooling. We transferred to online schooling with our school district.

5.5 If you did it in 1998, why did you do it again?

A: In 1998, Dan and I had quit our careers, sold our home and put our stuff in storage to do a similar trip. We lived on the road for 6 months and many times we said, “when we have kids” we’ll do this or that. We had hoped to leave in 2010, but the economy tanked and we had to wait until late 2013. We did it again because we still hadn’t seen every state! Sally had 5 left when we started the trip, and still has Alaska to do someday. Dan did Alaska years ago. so only has North Dakota left. The kids have been to every state except Alaska, Montana and North Dakota. Sally: I really wanted to see the whole USA before I travelled internationally so I wasn’t one of those dumb Americans who knew nothing about my own country before going elsewhere and thinking that was culture. We’ve got culture in our own backyard!

  1. What do the kids think?

A: Honestly, it was hard at first, but of course, now they like it.

Eliza says “I think it’s great and it was worth everything. The only bad thing was online school and being away from my friends.”

Nate says “online school was horrible, but other than that, it was good. Trying all the food was good.”

Sally says “I was hoping they’d blog their thoughts the whole trip, but that didn’t really interest them. They were glued to their IPhones like every other teenager, so they kept in touch with friends.”

  1. What was the hardest part?

A: Leaving. We left a perfect life. The first 90 days were pretty tough. Dan had just retired, Eliza and Nate had left their friends, and Nate and I had bruises from bumping into things in the small space. In all my planning and reading of other families’ stories, I never even considered that it would start so rough.

  1. How did you choose your RV?

A: We lucked out! We’ve had RV’s since 1998, so we’ve had experience with different models. When we added the dogs to the trip, we knew our Class C (without sliders) wouldn’t be big enough for 6 of us. We started looking online for bunk model Class A’s (big front window) and had settled on a Tiffin when Dan happened to see this Monaco for sale in Bend.  Do your research. Inspect them carefully. Be ready for problems.

  1. What’s been the best part of the trip?

A: Spending time together as a family, seeing all this country has to offer. Living our dream. Seeing people we love all over the country. Getting to hug them and spend quality time with them. Those we missed seeing are the only regret of the trip.

  1. What’s your favorite place so far?

A: New York City! We didn’t expect to like it as much as we did. We are not city people, but we had a blast. We would have stayed longer if we could. Our RV park was across the Hudson in Jersey City, so we got to start each day riding the water ferries. We could see the Statue of Liberty out the front window of the RV. We were able to climb to the crown because we got tickets months before. It was all just magical. Eliza and I saw a play and watched the sunset in Times Square. We ate some of the best food of the whole trip. We will definitely go back.

  1. What’s been the worst place so far?

A:

Sally -New Orleans. We were ready to experience the history and beauty here, but we could barely find it. We aren’t recreational shoppers, eaters or drinkers, so that doesn’t leave much of New Orleans. Our negativity could be due to the continual rain and the fleas the dogs got at the RV park. Our expectations were too high . Beautiful gardens.

Dan – the Crazy Horse campground in New Hampshire

Nate – mosquitos in Michigan and Wisconsin. Likes the state, not the bugs.

Eliza – anywhere between Florida and Colorado – we were just doing school, the weather was terrible, and the RV was cold.

  1. How was the driving?

A: We have driven 19,000 miles in the RV and another 13,000 in the tow vehicle!!! That’s a lot of driving!!!

Dan – for the most part, pretty good. He didn’t like driving in Maine because the roads were so horrible

Sally – Great when I could get my hands on the wheel. Dan liked to be in control and felt responsible for our safety! Dan and I love drive days because we get to talk about where we’ve been and where we’re going while enjoying the incredible scenery of our country. I will miss it. I won’t miss the other crazy drivers who pass us on both sides. I will never drive in Houston again, worst drivers in the country. Florida was second. Gas prices were crazy all over, with Canada being the most expensive, even converting it. Boise has construction all over, ugh.

Eliza – the drive days were long at the end of the trip

  1. Did I read that you had problems with the RV?

A: Oh, did we have problems! We bought a new model so that we wouldn’t buy anyone else’s mistakes, but it seems to be that the RV industry thinks it’s normal for RV’s to have problems for a year, and the new owner gets to fix all of them. We spent the first 6 months at home with the RV at the dealer for one thing or another. One month on the road found us at a dealer in CA who helped us solve a huge problem – there was construction debris where it shouldn’t have been. We spent 3 days in Decatur Indiana at the plant getting two pages of items fixed. All under warranty. We had a “roadside” fix of a broken cable in Minneapolis and another onsite fix in New Jersey. We’re taking it to the Cobourg plant next week to get everything fixed perfectly in preparation for selling it. From talking to everyone else on the road, ALL RV’s have problems, but Monaco does a good job of working with you to solve them.

  1. Why did you leave in December?

A: When we found out that Dan could retire early, we decided not to wait for the school year to be out in June. Now we are so glad we left in December – we’ve gotten to see so much more of the country and NE Canada. We wish we had another 6 months.

  1. How is everyone getting along?

A: Pretty well, but we’ve had our moments. It helps that we all like and love each other. Dan and I have fought, mostly over driving, and yet, we’re living a dream, so we’re also happier than ever. Someone told me recently that it’s good for kids to see their parents fight, and then stay together, because that’s healthy and normal.  Eliza and Nate are getting along really well because they’ve only had each other. There weren’t a lot of teenagers on the road! There’s a Jimmy Buffet song that says “you take the weather with you” and we’ve found that to be true. Don’t expect an adventure like this to fix your relationships or change anything – you’re still you, you’re just you living an adventure. You’ll be you when you get home, just an enhanced, happier version.  We’ve had several people say they could never spend that much time with their family, that it would drive them crazy. That’s so sad.

  1. What was the hardest thing you ran into?

A: The weather. Everywhere, and I mean everywhere we went, the weather wasn’t “normal.” Hotter, colder, wetter or stormier than usual. We did a ton of planning based on the historical weather patterns, so it was hard to get used to the opposite. We were in the Denver area for the wettest May in recorded history. We were in Florida for the one winter I’ll ever be warm – and it wasn’t. Eliza and I wanted our money back! The only time we were grateful was the many weeks on the East Coast when the humidity wasn’t as bad as normal.

  1. Are you eating out all the time?

A: No, not really. We have a convection oven, 3-burner gas range and a big fridge – so we can eat anything we want, anytime. We don’t do fancy cooking, so the lack of extras was fine. We’re not foodies.

  1. What’s been your best meal yet?

A: Grandma Helen’s tops the list. We looked forward to it for months. Chicken enchiladas. The casino in St. Louis for Dan’s birthday was second. We aren’t gamblers, but we wanted a buffet so Dan could chow, and this place put on a spread that we still talk about. A deli in NYC was 3rd. Pizza in NYC was 4th. A bagel lunch in NYC. A Mexican dinner with John in AZ. Nate’s birthday dinner at Hu Hot outside Denver was great.

  1. What was your favorite campground?

A: Usery State Park outside Phoenix was amazing. Huge cactus right in the front window. It was warm in February, imagine that. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon. No utilities so it was a good old fashioned campground. Tom Sawyer along the Mississippi was outstanding for the view and barge traffic. Darlington Provincial Park outside Toronto was right on Lake Ontario and the view was breathtaking. Trail of Tears on the Mississippi had barge and train traffic, wow. Joseph Peninsula State Park is a hidden gem. Between a bay and the gulf, the wildlife and sunrises and sunsets were amazing.

  1. What was the most awe inspiring?

A: Niagara Falls. We were surprised at how beautiful they were. The roar and mist were awesome. The boat ride was a blast. You just cannot believe the noise and how huge the falls are, it doesn’t seem real. We’ve got waterfalls in Oregon, but these make your jaw drop. Seeing the Manhattan skyline at night was pretty cool. The Grand Canyon didn’t awe the kids like we thought it would – they’d seen so much already.

  1. What was the scariest?

A: Anytime we were near a tornado or hail. We really didn’t want our home to disappear or be ruined. There’s so little you can do to stay out of the weather. NYC wasn’t the scary place we thought it would be – even at night.

  1. What was the quietest time of the trip?

A: We spent December in the Keys and it was heavenly quiet at our RV park on the gulf side. The wind through the palms was the most soothing sound. Hiking on the north rim of the Grand Canyon was also peaceful. Maine, few people on the back roads. Campgrounds that were empty in the off-season were wonderful.

  1. Did you need a tow vehicle?

A: Yes! We did it in 1998 without a tow vehicle and couldn’t go all the places we did this time. Ours was so light we could barely tell it was behind us. You can tow heavy vehicles, but your gas mileage will be next to nothing. My favorite was a 40’ Class A that passed us – towing a truck towing a boat, with a golf cart in the bed of the truck. Talk about taking your home with you!

  1. Did you read anything to inspire you?

A: Besides the Bible everyday? We read “Your Money or Your Life” by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robins in 1998. It changed the way Dan and I wanted to live. We’ve never been impressed by money or titles, so for us it made sense. I reread it on the trip and loved it all over again. I also reread all of Jan Karon’s Mitford series and this time wrote down all the quotes I like, they are so inspirational. I lost track after I read 247 books in the 19 months. Dan read more classics, and spent tons of time researching math and science for the kids. They didn’t get to read as much for fun because of all the online school requirements.

  1. Can you come back?

A: Yes! And we expect visitors in Oregon, hint, hint…

  1. Was this your best experience so far in life?

A: Other than getting married, having kids, and Dan donating a kidney to Ryan, YES. Living our dream is such a thrill and feels so good to accomplish such a huge goal. Now we know we can do anything!

  1. Would you do it again knowing all you know now?

A: Of course! Absolutely. Would your children? Yes, tomorrow. It would be a lot easier next time; we’d know everything would be okay at the end. Life isn’t meant to be perfect and we are not in control. Any tough stuff that came our way just reminded us that we are always held with love in the palm of God’s hands, and we need to rely on Him first and foremost.

  1. Do you think it brought you closer together as a family?

A: Definitely. We were close before, but now we can name something funny that happened somewhere and just crack ourselves up. We had a perfect life before, with a strong faith, good marriage, happy, involved kids and a beautiful home, and we’ll have it again.

  1. Do you think it was the optimal time in the children’s lives?

A: Yes! As teenagers, they understood where we were and they are old enough to remember the trip and appreciate it. If we’d left in 2010, the kids wouldn’t have remembered as much. Also, we needed to do it before high school so they can enjoy those years with their friends. If they were younger, more things would have been a “wow”, whereas now they could see through them. I’m so proud of them for being polite to others the whole trip.

  1. What were your top three experiences?

A: Other than seeing family and friends:

  1. Niagara Falls and the kids getting to turn on the lights
  2. New York City – the subway, Statue of Liberty, food
  3. Nate – Grand Canyon, NYC, hiking
  4. Eliza – NYC, Cedar Point/Sandusky, hiking in the SW, seeing animals
  5. Dan – Niagara Falls, Grand Canyon hiking with Nate, seeing family and friends, cool bike rides
  6. Sally – NYC with Eliza, kayaking in the Keys, swimming at PEI
  1. What were the worst three experiences?

A: Other than people who don’t know how to drive?!

  1. The weather – hail, storms, floods, tornados
  2. People everywhere! Too many people all around us too often
  3. Online school – the busy work, hours and libraries
  1. What were your favorite moments?

A: Again, hugging family and friends tops all. Running the bases at Field of Dreams, hanging off the CN Tower in Toronto, riding the subway to Coney Island

Eliza –getting to Grandma’s, seeing NYC skyline at night, Niagara Falls

Sally – riding the ferry to Mackinac, diving into Lake Ontario, driving back roads of Maine, learning something new everyday

Nate –seeing the dead guy on the trail, seeing all the military related sites around the country, seeing the Blue Angels in Florida

Dan – getting done with a complicated drive day, arriving safely at the next campground, sitting at Niagara Falls, finishing big bike ride into Ouray

  1. How did you plan your route?

A: Dan did most of the hard work. Initially it was just to get to warm weather and then stay warm. We wanted to see things on our “list” and had to work in where all our friends and family live. There were places Dan and I had been before that we wanted the kids to see, and there were places that we’d dreamed about for years that we “had” to see. We used the Good Sam huge campground book, the internet, and a ton of phone time to make reservations and then confirm the reservations later.

  1. Where could you live forever?

A: Not the RV!

Dan – could live in Charlotte, NC, near his twin

Sally – Bend, Oregon

Eliza – Home, Bend, Oregon

Nate – Oregon, Miami, Florida (if there weren’t so many old people), Colorado, NM, Utah, AZ area, San Diego

  1. How many old friends did you see?

A: This was the best part of the trip – seeing old friends and family – beyond heaven.

Here’s the list of love:

Dad, Mom, Jeff, Shelby & Terry

Scott Mize – our first fun lunch

Hawk, Jen, Keira, Laurilei, and Aisling

John, Wilma and Steve

Eliza’s gymnastics team and moms

Joey and Olga

Jack and The Field of Dreams actors

Grandma Helen and John

Larry and Sandy

Josh, Anna, Evan, Andrew, Sophie and Liam

Sally and Teresa and Helen

Jay

Bob

Robert, Cindy, Andrew

Joey, Anya

Al, Sue and the dogs

Mike, Leigh, Ellery, Isabella and Samuel

Maureen and her family

Greg

Stacy’s mom

Lisa and Eric

Jim and Gail

Dave, Claudia, Luca and Owen

Kevin, Bridget, Greta, Jordan

Dad and Mom

Bend friends

Murray and Monica

Kurt, Cindy, and Katarina

Susan and Kaitlyn

Scott

Mr. E and wife

Ryan, Carrie, Mallory, Holly and Paige

Uncle Bob, Aunt Cathy, Amy

Joe, Sara, Maddie and CJ

Ryan’s whole family

  1. Where would you go back to and spend more time?

A: Grandma Helen, Uncle Dave’s, San Diego, the loop through Colorado past Rock Cut, NYC, Quebec, Montreal, upstate New York, outer banks of NC, Louisiana (Nate) for the food

  1. What sticks out in your minds? What do you keep coming back to?

A:

Eliza – the same places and times she’s mentioned before

Dan – the moment we pulled out of our home for the last time – exciting

Nate – got older and TALLER

Sally – Lived our Dream. We did it. We didn’t just talk about it, we did it. Took a ton of hard work and was worth every penny and every mile. Loved every minute!

  1. What will be branded in your lives forever as a family?

A: That we had to/got to spend 19 months within 40’ of each other! We were physically close the whole time…!

  1. What’s America really like up close?

A: It’s beautiful! No wonder they wrote a song about it!

Eliza – It’s very diverse and different than I thought it would be, but a good different.

Nate – that most places are very similar, but when you spend a couple weeks and do stuff in them you get to know them better and see how each state is unique

Sally – Incredible! I am so grateful to wake up in the USA each day. The people are nice all over, if you are nice to them. I was sad that we were in Chicago for the worst weekend of murders in history and wish that cities could figure out how to combat crime, deter gangs and provide housing for the homeless. I was astounded that the shopping experience is the same all over the country. Miles and miles of box stores just like home, even in Canada on the drive to Niagara Falls.

Dan – different than what he expected in some places. The NE was more treed than he thought it would be. It’s all pretty cool. Didn’t go anywhere he didn’t like.

Day 584 of Life on the Road as a Family, only 3 days until we’re home…

IMG_2783Nate and Eliza hanging out on Tablerock and checking out the Boise foothills.  It was a hot hike up to the top!  Ryan grew up nearby and Carrie does it all the time, but it was the first time for the rest of us. The view was worth the hike!

IMG_2786Our LAST hike of the trip!  Wah!  I’ve been weepy for the last 7 days. Last this, last that, oh, it’s been a BLAST.  Every minute.  I’d do it all over again.

IMG_2797We hiked through the quarry on the way back down and the view was beautiful the whole way.  Creepy to be able to look into the Old Pen.  The city of Boise is behind them.

IMG_2806After a picnic lunch in the park, we walked through the Nature Center.  Nate was the only mature enough to take this photo and not be in it.  We’ve seen cutouts all over the country, but never of owls – so funny!

IMG_2821The night before we were able to hug Carrie’s side of the family, and tonight we hugged some of Ryan’s siblings and his dear parents.  Just the nicest people ever and we wish they all lived next door.  They were all grateful for Dan’s sacrifice and were kind about saying so.  For Dan it wasn’t a sacrifice though, it was a gift he was glad to give.  Seeing Ryan with his family made Dan’s kidney donation to Ryan even more poignant.

Another fun day in Boise; we’re exhausted!

Day 583 of Life on the Road as a Family, Boise

Carrie and I were up early to exercise at her incredible gym, Shine Fitness, with 8 other ladies who value a good workout. Angela, the owner, was kind enough to allow me to attend her class at no charge, and gave me a wonderful t-shirt to remember them all by.  It was a great, hard workout and they couldn’t have been more welcoming.  Perfect way to start the week!

IMG_2691

After a fun lunch at Big City, we all headed over to yet another bike shop to try to buy a tire for my recumbent bike.  Lucky me, Dan was able to fix my flat months ago, but the replacement tube we had for this flat was too big for the tire – even though they were both 20’s.  We didn’t know it needed to be a European 20, 406.  Now we know!

IMG_2705Our next stop was the Boise State Capitol and here we are in front of Idaho’s replica of the Liberty Bell.  Every state has one, with some being easy to find like this one, and others being hidden away.  We weren’t able to take a tour of the capitol because you have to make reservations two weeks in advance, and I hadn’t done so because we never even suspected that we would have to.  No other capitol we had been to required that!  We wandered around on our own, however, which was just fine.  Our LAST capitol of the trip and because we’d had an excellent tour in Salt Lake, we knew much of the area’s history.

Our LAST capitol, doesn’t seem possible.  We’ve toured:  Sacramento, CA, Phoenix, AZ, Austin, TX, Little Rock, AR, Nashville, TN, St. Paul, MN, Madison, WI, Montpelier, VT, Concord, NH, (we tried at Boston, MA, and Providence, RI), Washington, D.C., Richmond, VA, Jackson, MS, Little Rock, AR, Oklahoma City, OK, Denver, CO, Santa Fe, NM, Salt Lake City, UT and finally Boise, ID.

Sacramento is the most impressive, inside and out, and we thought it was funny that the tour guide said Arnold’s governor’s portrait wasn’t hanging in the capitol yet because Maria wouldn’t give it to him.  Phoenix was dirty, small and sad, but their outdoor mall was really well done. Austin was huge and fun because we toured with friends.  Little Rock was forgettable – so  much so that we made plans to go back the next year when we went through because none of us remembered that we had been there before!  Nashville had school tours going on, so we cut our tour short for the sake of sanity.  We’ve always liked St. Paul for its history, location and view.  Madison was another favorite. Right in the middle of town, they are so progressive that they have their farmers market on the grounds on Saturday and the place was hopping inside and out.  The tour of tiny Montpelier was excellent from start to finish and the capitol is beautiful.  You can skip Concord if you’re in the area, ick.   Boston was closed for some strange, unusual reason, and Providence was closed for Victory Day, which we’d never heard of. They are the only state to still celebrate this day on the second Monday in August- Victory over Japan.

I’m a little biased about the nation’s capitol and I think everyone should visit!  I loved seeing it again, and even with all the security changes, it’s a magical place. The story of our history depicted in the building and on the hill is incredible.

You can skip Richmond, too.  Our guide thought Virginia was the only state in the nation and continually referred to everything as “we are #1” in this and that.  It got to be a little bit much.  The capitol served as headquarters for the Confederate Army, too, but the building itself isn’t noteworthy and they’ve done a weird visitors center underneath it.

Eliza and I toured Jackson one Saturday afternoon after washing the dogs, so we were filthy. We didn’t expect it to be open, then didn’t expect to be let inside. They were in a special session. We didn’t stay long, so I would go back someday for the full tour.  Plus, I NEED to see the Sweet Potatoe Queen Parade.

Once again, Little Rock wasn’t memorable, but worth an hour to see the statue of the Little Rock 9 on the outdoor campus.  Oklahoma City was the only capitol to have a working oil rig on the grounds, which is so appropriate for their area.  Beautiful remodel on the inside.  We’ve always liked the Denver capitol for its history, location, and the famous step outside which is one mile above sea level.  The funny part is that different groups  keep measuring and so they move the marker!

The Santa Fe capitol looks like any other corporate building from the outside, so we weren’t sure we were in the right place. It is in the shape of the Zia Sun Symbol, which is a circle with four points radiating outward.  It is also on their state flag, too.  It represents:

-the earth, with its four directions,
-the year, with its four seasons,
-the day, with sunrise, noon, evening, and night, and
-life, with its four divisions—childhood, youth, manhood, and old age

We had to make an appointment, but we called the same day and got one for an hour later.  Our guide was a college student who was working there for the summer and was able to answer every question we had.  Santa Fe is famous for its art and the capitol has over $6 million worth hanging on its walls.  We could have spent a week and not seen it all. They are juried in and most of the art is by famous local artists.  It’s the best art we’ve seen anywhere on the trip.

Salt Lake was a nice tour and a great view from their hill.  Their remodel and earthquake prepping is amazing in its scope and expenditure.  So Boise was fun because we toured with Ryan and Carrie and the kids.

IMG_2732Our last capitol (Well, until we drive to Salem someday…!)

Day 582 of Life on the Road as a Family, Boise, Idaho, with kidneys!

IMG_2681We’ve been looking forward to spending time with  Ryan and Carrie’s family for months!  We finally got to meet their adorable daughters in person when they came to the RV for dinner.  Dan donated a kidney to Ryan on July 2, 2012.  Carrie is Dan’s cousin, Ryan is her husband.  Dan’s mom and Carrie’s mom are sisters.  It’s a miracle that the donation came together as it did, and this was the first time we were able to celebrate Ryan’s health and Dan’s donation together.

In 2012, Dan had started the process to donate a kidney anonymously.  For years, he had wanted to give this gift.  There are over 80,000 people on the waiting list for a kidney, so we knew it wouldn’t take long.  Meanwhile, in Boise, Ryan’s kidneys were failing and he was going to be put on dialysis, waiting for a kidney.  Carrie posted a prayer request online that Dan’s mom Helen forwarded to him and after Dan read it, he told his mom he would start looking into the chance that his kidney might be a match for Ryan.  When Dan and Carrie talked on the phone the next day, it was the first time they had met! They are cousins, but Carrie is much younger and they had lived in different states their whole lives, so had never met.  Ryan and Carrie then had to decide if they wanted Dan to start testing, as you can only test one donor at a time. Ryan has many siblings, but for health reasons, two of them were already unable to donate.  In Ryan’s case, a sibling’s kidney might end up with the same damage as his own because his body would attack it, too.

Once they decided yes, Dan finished his testing in Bend and a date was set for all of us to be in Seattle.  It all went very fast.  We cancelled a vacation to Yosemite, and instead spent my 50th birthday literally running from doctor to doctor to make sure Dan was cleared to donate.  We had a scare when spots were found on his lungs and had to make the informed decision that it wasn’t cancer, and many doctors agreed.  (It was probably calcium deposits from inhaling grain dust and other things growing up on the farm in Iowa.) Still so scary that he was risking his life for someone else and might have health problems of his own.

But we were praying constantly.  For guidance. For peace about the decision and the timing. For Dan’s safety during the surgery and for success and health for Ryan after the surgery.  As you can see by the picture, Ryan is healthy!  He had a harder time than Dan did after the surgery and still has to take medication, but he’s a different color than he was the first time we met him (3 days before surgery) and he’s living a full, happy life with his family, thanks to Dan.  Dan’s recovery was minimal thanks to an incredible surgeon and the great physical shape he was in.  (Anyone can donate, please look into it!)

We spent two weeks in Seattle before Dan was released to go home, but we didn’t spend much time with Ryan and Carrie because he was in the hospital for longer and having some difficulties. We were so glad that the surgery had gone well for him, but we didn’t want to be intrusive.  Dan had undergone a battery of tests before the donation, including a psychological one regarding his feelings if the donation didn’t work out.  He said that he’d be fine if the kidney “didn’t take” for Ryan, but in reality, he still felt responsible and so was happy that the surgery worked for Ryan.

The next few days are our chance to spend time with Ryan and Carrie and the girls and we are so grateful for the opportunity.  Look out Boise, here we all come!

Days 579- 581, 3 Island Crossing State Park, Idaho

IMG_2516The drive from Salt Lake City to one of our favorite state parks was a long one so we all move around the rig and change seats during the day.   Eliza and I are sitting (buckled) in the front passenger seat for one of our last times, so we took this selfie and then we just couldn’t believe who was lounging on the couch behind us!  Jessica isn’t supposed to be on the furniture!  But look how cute she is…

IMG_2528Taken from the Emigrant Museum, the Snake River is that green belt in the middle and the cut in the mountain in where the wagons came down the hill in the mid-1800’s.  This was the most dangerous river crossing of the whole Oregon Trail.  They had been travelling for over 4 1/2 months and the last two days of 30 miles were without water. They were happy to get to the river for their livestock to be watered, but then they had to get themselves and their belongings across.  Many emigrants didn’t know how to swim, of course, so there were many fatalaties.  The local Native Americans helped when the tensions weren’t high.

This is our 3rd time staying at this campground. The first time Dan and I stumbled upon it and we were just entranced by it’s beauty and quiet location. The museum is tiny, but chock-full of history and done in a manner that honors both the emigrants and the Native Americans; as in, it tells the truth, not the truth our history books taught us.  We stayed here in 2008, and wanted to come back so the kids could see it and learn the history of the area again.

The town of Glenn’s Ferry itself is cute and we were able to do our grocery shopping, but the real draw is the river, the huge green trees all over, and the peaceful setting.  We knew this part of our last week on the trip, so we cherished every minute.  Great meals, fun bike rides and non-stop games inside, outside, and by the fire.  It’s probably the laziest we’ve been the whole trip!

IMG_2582

Day 578 of Life on the Road as a Family, Antelope Island, the Great Salt Lake

IMG_2421We headed to Antelope Island today to swim in the Great Salt Lake. The Island is 75 miles long by 28 miles wide and has a 600 bison, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, badgers, bobcats and tons of birds living on it, but we felt lucky to get this close to this huge guy!  There are signs all over warning people to not get close to them, so I love that the lady in the Jeep Cherokee is hanging out the window to get her picture.  Look at how big he is!  We had seen them up the hill to the left when we drove the road out to the original ranch and I commented on how skinny he was.  Uh, maybe not!  We watched him lumber across the road and when he turned his head toward us, I was hoping he wasn’t coming our way.

IMG_2440Here’s Nate and myself and Dan IN the Great Salt Lake.  We did it!  Please notice who’s taking the picture – the only smart one in the family. Seriously, we had read online about how gross the flies were at the beach, and how you should just go see it, but not plan on swimming.  The brown stuff on the beach are dead bugs, interspersed with dead seagulls and other unmentionable things.  To get to the water we had to walk through swarms of flies.  They weren’t biting, but other big bugs did, right through our layers upon layers of OFF.  There were 4 other families way down the beach taking their time getting in, too.

We were determined to get in, however, and I am so happy we did.  When we were here years ago, we swam in the resevoir nearby, but the salinity was less than the actual lake, so we had to come back and try it.  It was worth all the gross stuff, even the brine shrimp and algae IN the water didn’t stick to us.  The brine flies were on top of the water, too, and would barely move as you swam.  I was very careful to keep my mouth closed.

But the “swimming” for 20 minutes was still fun!  It could hold you up in a sitting position without even trying, and to swim on your stomach, you really had to push your legs down, because they’d rather be on top of the water.  We kept yelling for Eliza to come in, but she declined.  She doesn’t mind that she didn’t swim in the Great Salt Lake, and she also didn’t have to take two showers afterward!

IMG_2461The view of the lake from near the car.  We walked for about 15 minutes to get all the way out there to “swim.”  The water levels change during the year, and right now, much of the water has evaporated.  The 2.2 million pounds of minerals that are leftover are a light grey and are both heavy chunks and light oolitic sand.  Not your normal beach.  We did see tons of birds we didn’t recognize and learned that this is the Pacific Flyway stop for 9,000,000 birds each year.  The funniest part was the marina with one boat – who would want to ruin their boat out here?!

IMG_2475The view on the drive back, a 7 mile causeway that joins the island to the hopefully brine-fly free afternoon we are looking forward to!  Not the day at the beach we expected, but quite the adventure.  You have to go see it for yourself – just don’t plan on swimming for long.

Day 577 of Life on the Road as a Family, Salt Lake City

We spent the day in Salt Lake City and were amazed by how many new businesses there were, how much construction is going on, and how diverse the population is now .  All of it is nice to see, the city really is booming , but it was also obvious what the costs were – air pollution and filthy water. 

 

 
The Capitol was closed and remodeled from 2004-2008 and it was beautiful from top to bottom .  Literally the bottom –  265 base isolators were put in so the building will shift 24″ side to side when an earthquake hits .  After the San Andreas fault, this area is the second worst in the USA.  Who knew ?!

Our tour was excellent .  Because we showed an interest, our guides took us to many areas that they usually don’t include.

  

 

I’ve taken dome pictures all over the USA, and Austin is still my favorite, but this one is pretty good !  The murals tell the history of Utah, of course , and if you look closely ,you may see the seagulls in the dome itself. Early on, the settlers crops were being eaten by locusts and the sea gulls came in to eat them up, hence saving the settlers .   The marble is from Georgia and is cold to the touch .

  We learned a ton about Utah today and I hope the kids have a little more knowledge about how the West was settled .  None of us knew that mining was/Is so important .  I was impressed that the Utah territory  allowed women the right to vote until the guide said they weren’t allowed in as a state until they rescinded that right .  Argh .
  
After a fun lunch at the fancy City Center downtown mall, we headed to the LDS Temple Square for a tour led by a young lady from the Phillipines, and another from Spain.  This pic is in the Tabernacle, with the famous organ behind us .  We heard the pin drop on stage and then came back later for the 2pm concert .  Oh, I will never forget the look on Nate’s face when the music started.  Pure pain.  We have heard better organs , so maybe it was just an off day .  We left early .

Our tour ended with a short movie that moved you through different rooms.  The emphasis was on family, spending quality time together .  Funny, I think we get that message already, we’re on this adventure together !

  
This 11′ marble statue of Jesus was in a round room at the end of the tour.  The mural on the wall took 3 weeks to be painted .  Pretty.

Dan and I had been here before, but this time it didn’t feel like we were pressured .  The whole area was immaculate, with flowers in bloom and not one speck of litter .  The only hard part was seeing the families with multiple children – as in 5, 6, 8 kids .  Do they not know that the world’s tremendous population is causing global problems with our earth’s resources ?  Seeing a man with 2 wives and 8 kids made me cringe , but was a good conversation starter with the kids.  

All in all , another interesting, perfect day on the road with my family .  Only 10 days and we’re home !

Day 574 of Life on the Road as a Family, Canyonlands NP & Dead Horse State Park

IMG_2122Driving out to Canyonlands, we ran into a rainstorm that lasted for about 30 minutes.  We could see for miles and there was lightening right where we were going.  Not that we would turn around! What’s a little water when you’re exploring?

IMG_2132The famous view of Canyonlands!  It’s crazy to stand there. As far as you can see there are “canyons within canyons” as Dan says.  The colors were muted, but we could still see the layers and how the water has worn away the mountains.  It’s stunning.

IMG_2157Just heaven to hike with my family!!!

We hiked the mile out to Grand View Point, and once again, the write up on the hike was incorrect.  It was easily over a mile and the elevation gain was closer to 500 feet than the 50 feet they stated.  So strange that whoever does the write-up’s for all the tourists can’t get it right.  We run into that continually, so we end up not really believing anything we read about a hike.

IMG_2158That’s Nate, of course!  I’m so proud  – he sees a rock pile/mountain and he has to climb it.  Yes!

IMG_2161Our selfie at the very end of Grand View Point.  Dan says this is his favorite selfie of the trip, so I have to include it.  I got all of us in it, which is a miracle.  18 1/2 months of practice and I finally get a good picture!  We are all so happy to be exploring every day in new and interesting places, AND we’re getting closer to home…

IMG_2177Nate is checking out the view and raising my blood pressure at the same time.

IMG_2215After finishing with Canyonlands, we drove to Dead Horse State Park and paid the $10 to drive in.  Dan has seen this iconic picture for years and wanted to see it in person.  That’s the Colorado River behind us. The Green River is over to our west and joins with the Colorado further south of where we are.

The park got its name from an annual wild horse round up that the cowboys used to conduct, running the horses out to the end of this mesa, across a 30′ wide neck, and then they would close it off with brush and junipers to keep the horses there.  The cowboys would pick which horses they wanted, and then they left the others there to die without water, within sight of the river.  So sad and absolutely horrible.

We hiked around the point for an hour, and enjoyed the views from all the different sides.  The views of the river were better here than from Canyonlands, so we were pleased to have taken the trouble to come this far.

IMG_2226We ate Kevin after our picnic lunch!  It’s been in the trunk of the tow vehicle for at least a month; none of us can even remember buying them.  When Twinkies went off the market we were joking about it, and when they came back on the market, we thought we should try them. So funny. We haven’t bought them in years, but we remember them as bigger and having more filling, darn.  Still, Kevin was a fun addition to another perfect day on the road.  Back to the RV park to swim, nap, and eat another great dinner.  It doesn’t get any better than this.