New Year, New Adventures?

It’s a new year!

We don’t believe in resolutions. Those are nearly a setup for failure.

We don’t believe in making sudden or drastic life changes overnight. Yes, it’s a new year, but it’s still just a single day.

We do believe in reflection and setting goals though.

The past year was rough. We lost another friend to cancer. Some family members aren’t taking the best care of themselves, no matter how poorly they’ve been treated or what has happened to them; they just won’t learn.

It’s been a year of emotions.

But a lot of good came out of the year too. We got a new-to-us truck and a new — and our first! — fifth wheel RV. We safely traveled the country and went places we’d only dreamed or read about. Both boys are now homeschooling and are still the best of friends.

Now we’re contemplating a major change over the course of this year…but that’s all we’re going to say about that right now.

Bottom line: live each day to the fullest, and remember that, in the end, you’ll regret the risks you didn’t take rather than those that you did.

Happy 2017! 

More To Do, Less To Hold

Two Christmases ago we were gifted a Disney annual pass by Papa ‘Skiy’s parents. The year 2015 was full of visits to the Orlando theme parks, and we had a blast.

When our passes expired, we chose not to renew them because it was too expensive and there were still things M ‘Skiy was still too small to do. Also, there were several things under construction that wouldn’t be completed until 2017 anyway. So we bought a Sea World annual pass for 2016 that included the waterpark Aquatica.

Sea World is nice, but the waterpark is amazing!

This year we decided to surprise the boys with Disney annual passes again. On Christmas morning, after they saw what Santa had brought and opened the few gifts we had gotten for them — mostly stuff for camping — they ventured out on a scavenger hunt that finally took them to an envelope with a paper inside informing them we would again be going to Disney in 2017.

This pass was different, though. Not only did it include the four main theme parks, but it also included the two Disney waterparks…and none of us had been to those yet!

So, yeah, many will think: “Whoopie! Disney! *Yawn*”

And honestly, we weren’t fans of theme parks ourselves.

But in 2015 our opinion of Disney changed. Expensive, yes. Crowded, quite often. But it’s additional family time spent together, and the service and treatment visitors receive are outstanding. You feel like a guest, not a customer.

In a period when the generation has become entitled and downright lazy, pacified with electronics, jam-packed extracurricular schedules, and “stuff,” we don’t mind theme park visits anymore. It’s another place to go and something else to do.

And we’ve always been more about experiences, not material things.

We do a lot and go many places together, and we’re not rushed or overwhelmed. We can’t slow down how quickly our boys are growing, but we can fill our days with memories and activities with them. Our shelves don’t hold trophies and our calendar isn’t jam-packed with this commitment and that event, and we’re okay with that because it doesn’t matter to them either.

We’re not rushing through life. After all, we’re not going to get out alive anyway, so what’s the point?

On those lazy mornings when they want to crawl into bed with us and just cuddle, we can do that.

On a random evening or weekend that we suddenly feel the urge to ride Expedition Everest, watch a fireworks show, or explore the tunnels on Tom Sawyer Island, we seldom need to worry about something on our calendar stopping us.

Expensive? Perhaps, but when you consider what we’re not spending in dues, fees, uniforms, and school supplies, there’s a good chance we’re still spending less than most.

And again, we’ve included our boys in these decisions, not made those choices for them. D ‘Skiy wanted to take Taek Won Do, so we signed him up. After he advanced to the next level, he asked if he could quit. He didn’t like being required to be someplace on certain days, at a certain time, and he didn’t like hitting. We didn’t push him and we didn’t sign him up for another month. M ‘Skiy enjoys playing tennis, and we’ve asked him if he’d like to take lessons or get on a league, but he said no, that he preferred just playing tennis with us, and that’s what we do.

As homeschoolers — well, unschoolers — our schedule is pretty relaxed. There are certain things Mama requires they do during the week because it’s required by the state, but we also take them to activities like a four-week-long Ninja Warrior obstacle training gym class and the annual Maker Faire Orlando, and we travel and camp a lot. These are things they enjoy and more we can do together as a family.

Many believe our sons should be on a more regular or tighter schedule. We disagree. They’re kids! Let them enjoy this care-free time of their lives. Halfway through their teen years their lives will become busier and more hectic. Fifteen years of actually being a child isn’t going to ruin them for life.

Kids are not little adults. They’re little people. What’s the point in over-scheduling? Why give them more stuff, just to toss it aside after a couple of weeks and forget about it?

Now, our kids have toys and their fair share of stuff. But these are things they love and play with almost daily: K’Nex, Hex, a Yamaha keyboard, popsicle sticks (yes, popsicle sticks), board games, rollerblades, archery supplies, tablets… And once we notice they stop playing with or they forget about something, we phase it out and donate it.

However, we much prefer going places and doing things, namely together.

Must Come To An End

On the evening of Friday, August 26, we set out on the adventure of a lifetime.

Well, it was a cross-country trip.

Okay, it was a three-month work-related field assignment for Papa ‘Skiy and everbody tagged along.

But it’s something none of us were ready to return home from and something we’d all jump at the chance to do again.

We returned home late on November 18, which was also Papa ‘Skiy’s 43rd birthday, but not before spending a couple of days with his parents in Fort Myers to celebrate with them as well.

Once we’d returned home, we looked at the final numbers that we put on both our truck and our fifth wheel: 12,100 miles and 8,079 miles, respectively. Our truck was our mode of transportation for work, sight-seeing, to and from airports, and errands, in addition to pulling our home across the country.

Our only problem was discovered as we were heading home after visiting Papa ‘Skiy’s parents, which were the final 200 miles of our journey. Before our trip we upgraded the tires and rims of our fifth wheel, and apparently the company that sold us the rims inadvertently suggested rims that were too weak for our RV. As a result, every single rim was cracking, two of them to the point the cracks went completely through the rims.

We limped home slowly but safely.

Other than that, we never had a tire blowout, mechanical or structural problem, or disappointing campground experience. Not one. Surprisingly enough, we were never tardy to one of Papa ‘Skiy’s assignments either. Even when we had to drive from Colorado to Virginia in only two days! Papa and M ‘Skiy did end up with a cold after our flight to and from Washington, and Mama and M ‘Skiy did have an ER visit each (Mama fell on her shoulder bike riding in Indiana and we were concerned she tore something, and M ‘Skiy cracked his head open sledding on snow in Alaska and required staples) but untimately everyone is fine and in excellent health.

If someone would have told us those three months were going to go nearly flawlessly, we wouldn’t have believed them.

Now it’s back to everyday life again.

We thought we’d be homesick. We thought we’d be anxious to return home. After all, our house is more than 2,100 square feet and our rig isn’t even 285 square feet.

But we weren’t.

It will be great to catch up with friends, stretch out a little, and use a larger and faster washer and dryer again.

However, we’d be lying if we said we’re not already longing for another extended road trip again.

Cabbage Key

Our final, final stop before heading home was to Fort Myers to see Papa’s parents. It gave us a chance to see them after being away for three months as well as celebrate Papa’s birthday…which is today!

On the evening of the 16th we set up our rig at San Carlos RV Resort, a campground we’ve been to before and loved and is probably the most-convenient and affordable family-friendly RV park in the area. The next day we met Mama’s in-laws at the dock on Captiva Island to board a boat bound for Cabbage Key. The boat ride was long and slow, but we were kept entertained by the many dolphins that followed alongside as we floated across the water.

Once we arrived to the island we dined at the only restaurant there (Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant), walked the sandy paths, and climbed the water tower for a view of the area. The entire area was very pretty.

Earlier today — Papa’s birthday! — we checked out from the RV park and met Papa’s parents at the local Bass Pro to have a delicious lunch at Islamorada Fish Company.

It was a nice brief visit with his parents and he had a nice birthday…

…but now we’re actually heading home.

Nearing the End of a Journey

We’re now Florida-bound, wrapping up our 12-week adventure. For the most part, the map above was our route. There may have been unexpected changes, such as moving across the state of Georgia due to Hurricane Matthew and flying to Alaska out of Kansas City instead of Denver, but the main idea is there…and a picture speaks a thousand words.

In that short time period we camped in 12 campgrounds in 9 different states, drove through 20 states (not including our home state of Florida), flew to and stayed a week in each Washington state and Alaska, and created countless new memories with our sons.

We wore bathing suits and shorts in Illinois and Georgia, and we donned multiple layers to protect us from below-freezing temperatures in Alaska and Virginia.

We admired the views from atop the Space Needle, hiked paths within miles from the peak of Mount Rainier, slowed waaaaay down for the horse-drawn Amish carriages in Ohio, rode in a horse-drawn carriage in Indiana, and explored the depths of the Luray Caverns.

We watched families of elk explore a Washington village, two bull moose spar for the affection of a female in Alaska, bald eagles soar the Alaskan sky, and antelop graze in Colorado prairies.

We were in Illinois for Labor Day and Grandparent’s Day, Ohio for Columbus Day, Colorado for Halloween, and Virginia for the history-making presidential election and Veteran’s Day.

We attended a Rennaisance Festival in Wisconsin, went to the theater of a childhood idol of the boys AND Mama ‘Skiy in Washington, partied alongside other goers at an American Red Cross street party in Indiana, and took the boys on an educational tour of Civil War points of interest in Virginia.

We even had to make an emergency drive back home to prepare and protect our house from the looming Hurricane Matthew…which turned away last-minute and just enough so our house and neighbors were safe.

We still have more than 1,000 miles before we’re back at our house, not including a couple of stops to visit the boys’ grandparents first, and we’ll still have two more states to add to the number that we’ve driven this trip. When all is said and done, we’ll have driven more than 8,000 miles towing our 5th wheel and 12,000 miles for our truck alone.

Wow. Those are some figures!

Given the opportunity, we’d do it all again.
Could we? Please?!

Historic Virginia

The final three-month field-assignment stop landed us in Virginia, just outside Maryland and less than an hour from Washington, D.C.

This state is the location of Arlington Cemetary, many battlefields and monuments, and the famous Luray Caverns. Virginia is also where Mama and Papa honeymooned 15 years ago!

For one week we stayed at the beautiful Bull Run Regional Park, and we witnessed staff erecting and testing the annual holiday lights displays. Mama and the boys frequented the large playground, and the boys took part in a nature scavenger hunt that the park ranger had arranged.

Being so close to battlefields and monuments, we took a few drives and some walks to these historic areas. We crossed over and walked under Bull Run Bridge, along the river, and down paths that led us to not only battlefields but also locations of homes that no longer remain. We found a Civil War cemetary and a location with retired cannons and Bull Run memorials and monuments.

While at the park’s campground, we were also glued to the television as a historic presidential election took place, resulting in the surprising win of Donal Trump over Hillary Clinton.

At the end of that final week, we decided to stay a few more days in Virginia, while Papa enjoyed a much-needed vacation and break from working days and nights. We moved from Bull Run to Outlander’s River Camp, only a few miles down the road from Luray Caverns.

And we went to the caverns too!

It had been 15 years since Mama and Papa honeymooned in Shenandoah Valley, and in 2001 they had also went to Luray Caverns. Imagine how surreal it was to now be taking the boys there!

Not only did we take the tour of the caverns, but we also completed the garden maze and the boys took on the multi-story ropes course. We browsed the Toy Town Junction and Car & Carriage museums located on the premises as well.

Papa had read about an isolated road that went into the mountains and led to an overlook of Shenandoah Valley, so we packed a lunch and drove up there one day. The boys had a blast climbing the rock formations and the view from the top was breathtaking.

Finally, it was time to head south. We plan to stop by Mama’s parents on Florida’s west coast to briefly visit, having been gone for so long, on the way down to Papa’s parents even further south, where we’ll celebrate Papa’s birthday.

We’re looking forward to seeing family and friends again.

But we can’t say we’re ready for this adventure to come to an end.

Phew! Now We Can Breathe!

How on Earth we managed to drive more than 1,700 miles in 2 days, we’ll never know!

We left Denver late-afternoon on Friday, November 4th. In 24 hours we drove more than 1,000 miles, and it was Mama behind the wheel for more than 90% of that, giving Papa a break and a chance to sleep, seeing how he’d worked days and nights that week and would be doing it again the following week.

It was best that we put so many miles behind us in one day though. It allowed us to have a little wiggle room, in the event we ran into any issues along the way.

The drive was beautiful, though. We saw antelope and deer, and the desert hills through Nebraska were unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

On Saturday we wasted no time, and late Sunday we pulled into our destination in Virginia: Bull Run Regional Park.

Again, we have no idea how we pulled it off, but we did. In that short time we drove through Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

We had no problems at all. We were very fortunate!

And the boys? They were just looking forward to the next park!

Halloween In View of the Rockies

We’d love to say we actually got to drive up into the Rockies during our stay in Colorado, but things came up…

We arrived just north of Denver the day before Halloween, staying at the Fort Collins/Lakeside KOA. On the way there we looked up Halloween events so the boys would have a chance to dress up and have a little spooky fun, seeing how we always take them to local ones back home.

Just because we’re traveling doesn’t mean we can’t keep with tradition!

We found out about a really neat trick-or-treat event taking place at a park in Ft. Collins called The Farm on October 30th, so we ran to Walmart for costumes and dressed up. It was incredibly organized and so much fun. Businesses from the area dressed up “doors” throughout the farm and kids were to knock on each “door,” say “Trick or Treat,” and somebody on the other side would open that “door” to present a treat. There were dozens of them! Then there was also a tractor-pulled hayride. The entire event cost a small fee, but it was unique and we highly recommend it!

Papa reported for work the next day, and that night we took the boys trick-or-treating in various neighborhoods. The boys collected so many goodies that M was unable to carry his bag anymore!

The next day — November 1st — Papa’s two colleagues that are on this field assignment with him (they’re doing night-time hardware installations while Papa does the daytime training regarding the new software involved) ventured off into the mountains for a bit of hiking. One of them lost her footing and could no longer walk. By the time help had arrived for her it was getting dark and had begun snowing. In the hospital she found out the extent of her injuries: she had broken her leg and foot in three places. She was going to be okay but she was derailed the remainder of the trip, which meant the current one in Colorado and the next one — the final one — in Virginia.

And Papa, in turn, not only needed to work days, doing his training classes, but also at night, to assist his other colleague.

Talk about some long days and a rough week for him…

On the positive side, we had already celebrated Halloween and there was a huge playground and a lot to do at the campground, so although we rarely go to see Papa that week the boys had plenty to do to keep them busy.

But one big challenge still lays ahead of us. Since Papa we needed to help in the evenings and his colleague’s injury resulted in everying getting pushed back a day, it’s going to be almost impossible to make the cross-country, multiple-timezone trek from Colorado to Virginia…in only two days.

Let’s see how that one goes!

Update: Papa’s co-worker flew home at the end of the week in Colorado. She required surgery but it was put off due to the swelling. She has since made a full recovery and is able to walk again, after months of needing a scooter to support her leg and physical therapy.

The Last Frontier

Up until now, Washington was our favorite stop on this journey.

Then we touched down in Alaska!

Washington has some steep competition here!

We couldn’t have gone in a better week either. The day before our plane landed Alaska had their first snow storm of the season. And during the entire week, it never snowed again and the temperature never rose above freezing.

It.Was.Perfect!

And you can tell we’re Floridians when we admire and get excited over something like the amazing details of the snowflakes!

Mama wanted to see one thing especially though: moose. We were informed they’re shy and there’s a good chance we wouldn’t see any…and for most of the week, we didn’t.

Although the first day Papa reported for work, there was a young bull on the property!

Mama was jealous.

But, oh, the snow! The weather was clear, cold, and crisp, and we planned ahead, bringing snow suits for the boys and multiple layers for everyone.

And just how cold was it? Well, one morning Papa got a cup of coffee from the hotel lobby before driving to work. When he tried to set it in the cup holder of the car, some of the coffee spilled. He grabbed a napkin to clean up the mess, but when he turned to wipe it up the hot coffee had already frozen! In just a matter of seconds!

Yup. Cold.

This was the boys’ second time seeing snow, their first happening earlier just this year in February. And that’s all they wanted to do all week: play in the snow! Fortunately, the around around the hotel had plenty of the white stuff, and they played in it until Mama was numb from the cold and demanded breaks.

When Papa wasn’t working we drove to the mountains, looking for wildlife, letting the boys sled down snowy hills, and walking on nature trails. One took us to a popular location for beavers, but the lake was frozen over and we saw no signs of the buck-toothed critters.

Then we found out about a park near the airport back in Anchorage where moose tended to live. We drove there one night…and saw several moose, including one mother with her calf. But it was dark, and it was difficult to see them well.

So the day before we were set to fly out of the Pacific Northwest, we decided to spend the day at the same park. At first we didn’t see any moose. Then we went for a walk on a trail…when a young male crossed the path directly in front of us! He was knock-kneed yet graceful, and he wasn’t at all bothered by our presence.

He was pretty photogenic too!

After the walk and letting the boys sled a little more, we climbed back into our rental car and started to leave the park. On the way out, we noticed several cars ahead that had stopped and people standing outside their cars, looking through a chain-link fence.

There in the field was a female moose…and two bull moose, with their massive antlers locked in battle! It was like a National Geographic special on TV, only it was live and happening a few dozen yards from us!

We were in absolute awe!

We watched the display for about half an hour, and then we called our Alaskan adventure a successful one and headed back to the hotel to pack our belongings.

At the airport the next day Mama started talking to a woman working at one of the shops there. She had asked how our trip was, at which time Mama went on and on about the bull moose we had seen fighting. The woman was amazed, informing Mama that she’d lived there for more than twenty years and had never seen bull moose fight!

We got lucky.

As much as we loved Alaska, we were ready to get back to the continental US, where we didn’t need to don two or three layers of clothes just to go to a grocery store and it didn’t take half an hour for our vehicle to warm up.

We can’t wait to go back though.

Oh, and did we mention that our cat Luna joined us here too, flying with us on four more planes?!

When we touched down in Kansas, we found out the weather in Alaska finally rose above 32 degrees and the snow was melting away.

We definitely got to see Alaska during a beautiful time.

And let’s not forget about the moose!