Wind, Sand, Snow…More Wind

Good lord…it’s windy. Winds from the south at 24 mph gusting to 32 mph…or 232 mph depending on your point of view. And whether you are driving an RV into the middle of a bunch of sand dunes.

Which we are…because well…if the wind is gusting to 232 mph, why not? How can this be a bad idea?

And, so, on this lovely day, we head out to White Sands with saucers. And we get plenty of wind, sand and drama (because of the wind and sand).

Finally…sledding on the dunes…
Keep your eyes covered…and the sand out of your hair!
She would never make it in the desert…or Saudia Arabia

Not to mention that some weather alarmist in the O’Reilly’s store in Alamogordo (the town near White Sands) says there is 9 inches of snow coming today (although he is not overly specific about that “today” part). So…back to Yahoo! maps and…I’m wondering whether Al invented the internet so we could all check on these freak weather patterns that are surely part of his global warming crisis…

Not that I’m a conspiracy theorist or anything…

Ok, maybe we should have listened to the alarmists…we drive out of one type of blowing white stuff (sand) and into another (snow). The road atlas is my new favorite book…especially when we are in the middle of “scenic” New Mexico where the Internet is still a good idea in theory but not so much in practice. We are constantly trying to find the sections of highway on the map that are closed due to bad road conditions while simultaneously trying to read the road signs through the snow that is covering them. I can tell you wish you had been there!

Yes, yes…I know.  This really looks like nothing to us seasoned Missourians…except that in general we are not driving RVs in the middle of New Mexico.  Next time, you can drive!

So…we did make it out of New Mexico intact and took the highway into Amarillo.  Guess how the highway was?  WINDY!  But we kept up a good pace so we could make it to Fernando’s (and got Jennifer as our waitress!) before they closed…followed by another stay at Fort Amarillo RV Park. Why mess with success?


Heading Out of Phoenix…

Despite the lure of the Tempe Block Party and the Fiesta Bowl festivities, we pack it up and head out of Phoenix. The “higher elevations” in Arizona are expecting somewhere between 2 inches and 24 feet of snow, so we opt to return by way of the southern route. Thank God for Yahoo! maps and…and a little common sense.

This decision also grants the wishes of the kids who have been requesting to return to White Sands for sledding…of course, we play off our destination change as “wish granted” rather than “Holy crap! We can’t drive through the mountains in 10 feet of snow in an RV!” Some may call that shielding or spoiling the kids…we call it parental karma.

And, since no good deed goes unpunished, we collectively spend no less than 3 hours routing, rerouting, remapping and re-researching RV parks on our changed destination as well as trying to find a Wal-Mart that sells plastic saucers (hoping to avoid the gift shop surtax at the Visitor’s Center). Did I mention thanking Al Gore for inventing the Internet in general?


It’s Game Day…Insight Bowl 2010!

THE game is today! What game?

The Insight Bowl!

Trying to curb my enthusiasm, I throw myself into laundry and grocery shopping. Let me say that laundry is much more fun when 1) you can sit by the pool in the sun while it is going and 2) you have multiple washers and dryers at your command. I need this type of deal at home…The kids stay in the pool all day – attempting to set some sort of prune record. Mike brings his laptop and works in the sun…his rationale being similar to mine on the laundry. I think we might be able to move to this RV park with the other snowbirds…

And then we are off to the game…

Too bad that Tiger really didn’t eat that Hawkeye…

Thanks to our great friend, Dave Woodward, we have near-field level tickets and a great view. If you are Tigers fan (as we are), then it was mostly a great game…at least until that 4th quarter interception (oh, and the multiple beer run-searches that were workouts on their own). If you are a college football fan, it was a great game. Period.

Here’s to a great basketball season!

No, we don’t know the guys behind us…
A moment of silence and prayer before the game…
Time out, regroup…a new plan?


Phoenix…and the Grand Canyon

Surely there is something to do in Arizona while we wait for the big football game on the 28th…

Oh yeah.

The 26th is about getting settled in at the Desert’s Edge RV Park, finding a great Mexican restaurant – Los Reyes de la Torta – via Yelp! (do you see a trend here?) and watching some movies from redbox. All as we rest up for a little 3-hour (one way) road trip on the 27th…

…When we pack up the rental car and head north to the Grand Canyon. It takes about 30 minutes before we 1) are very thankful that we are NOT in the RV and 2) start remapping our route home in our heads. It takes another hour or so before we stop for gas and a new road atlas so we can take action on that thing #2.

The Grand Canyon (South Rim view) is amazing, stupendous, breathtaking, awe-inspiring…and COLD. Thankfully, we all brought our winter coats. We walk a mile-long South Rim trail and watch the sunset from Yavapai Observation Station (which is enclosed with heat!). It is also THE BEST spot to watch the sunset – really. There are posters that say so…and here’s a pic to prove it (just in case any of you are doubters…you know who you are!).

Max & Mara at Mather Point
Bundled up after the South Rim walk
Sunset at the Grand Canyon
See…I told you!  Yavapai Point is the best!
Sunset at the Grand Canyon…another view

We all agree that we want to come back…during a summer…and do a white water raft river trip.

We further invest in Wendy’s (thinking maybe we should also buy stock not just food) for dinner and head home…watching the car thermometer tick up the whole way. I’m starting to think we should move to the Southwest…


Christmas, Aliens and Lots of Sand

Santa brings stockings to the RV…and a note that everything else is in KC. Oh, the anticipation. Max now wants a BB gun thanks to the movie from last night and begins doing research on ebay, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s online. Mara is (and has been) texting her friends often…no break there even for Christmas.

Carlsbad, NM sunrise

After seeing a great sunrise in Carlsbad, we’re off on today’s adventure: White Sands – by way of Roswell. We are so preoccupied with the nasty vibration that has shown up since last night that I completely miss my photo ops with all the aliens! Good grief!

We survive the drive and arrive at White Sands National Monument (which is open – although the visitor’s center is not) and head into the dunes a couple of miles. We are not the only ones there, so it doesn’t even seem weird that we are doing this on Christmas. Mike and the kids have an amazing time in the sand – and get some great pics in the process. Mara wants to go back…maybe the next time with plastic saucers to “sled” over the dunes.

Max “jumping” the dunes

Mara enjoying the sand
Mike taking a flying leap

I get a pic of the kids by the sign…that nearly mirrors the one taken about 35 years ago of me and my brother when we visited. Holy crap…that makes me sound old.

In mid-afternoon, we pack it up and start the drive to Tucson. The highlight of the evening? Christmas Dinner at Denny’s (attached to a truck stop)! It was hard to outdo the Christmas Eve dinner at Wendy’s, but I think we might have managed it. We so rock.


Christmas Eve and Carlsbad Caverns

Bright and early on Christmas Eve, we head out of Amarillo aimed firmly in the direction of New Mexico by way of Lubbock. The holiday makes for decent travel (although not always the best roads). Thankfully, the drive is uneventful although our campground choice is further away from everything than we would like (including a nice leisurely 15-mile drive up a gentle long steep hill that we thought we might need to push the RV up).

Not having enough driving, we started the RV back up and headed to the other side of Carlsbad towards Carlsbad Caverns. The same light holiday traffic on the roads also means less tourists in the caverns. We get there near 3 p.m. and take the elevator down to the Big Room. Oh. My. God. It is just amazing to us that places like this exist…and just get stumbled upon by hikers or geologists or people like us. And they are still discovering new caves and byways and all sorts of interesting things each day.

Max and Mara at Carlsbad (duh!)
One view in the Big Room


On a bit of a down note, we walk out to have Mike study the front tire and see steel belts showing. Uh. Oh. It’s 4:45 p.m. on Christmas Eve in Carlsbad, NM (population 27,000). I get on the phone with the campground for a recommendation, call them to find no answer…but a hotline number! One and half hours, over $200 and a Christmas Eve dinner at Wendy’s later, we are in good shape…Big Thanks to Carlsbad KOA and Forrest Tire! We follow up our unconventional dinner with a viewing of A Christmas Story…a perfect ending leaving us in a new search for a smiling duck to have at some meal on this trip…


P.S. – The dusk bat flight only happens from May to October, so we didn’t see a repeat performance of the one we had seen in Austin, TX several years ago. It is literally like watching some weird movie to watch them come out. In Austin, it’s from under the Congress Bridge; here it’s from the cave entrance. There are likely other places to experience the same thing and you should definitely try it – especially you Twilight fans!

Day 2: Tonkawa to Amarillo…by way of some dunes

The day dawned beautifully, and Mike captured it perfectly while walking around the field, oops, I mean RV campground, we had crashed at for the night. We were unbelievably thankful to happen upon this little place. I kid you not – it was a field beside a house that had “sites” (and I use the term loosely) with electrical hookups and cold, cinder block (but very clean) bathrooms.

Tonkawa sunrise

It was exactly what we needed at the end of that first night. And even better – it was a total bargain at $16. We like to call those little finds our “Super 8” campgrounds. They are great when all you are really looking to do is get off the road and get a good night’s sleep.

With that done, we were back on the road to Little Sahara State Park further west in Waynoka, OK. And it’s just what it sounds like…SAND DUNES! Not quite as white as the ones we discover later, but fun and not like that sand you sink into at the beach. This was almost like flour…

Max & Mara at Little Sahara

From OK we went west mostly (and a some south)…into Texas, specifically Amarillo (which had Mike singing that classic country song…). The day ended with a trip to Fernando’s restaurant found via Yelp! (which we also used in Hawaii to find Cilantro’s), and a check in at the RV park. Our home for about 36 hours was the Fort Amarillo RV Park which we highly recommend. Indoor pool for the kids, decent workout room, and the nicest staff. Plus, it had one of the bonuses we’ve come to like about certain RV parks…proximity to the roads we are traveling coupled with big intersections for those wide RV turns.

Dinner at Fernando’s


P.S. – Our server at Fernando’s was Jennifer (awesome name!) – and she made that meal a great experience…and she mixes fabulous margaritas (not El Patron exactly but still good).

And We’re Off…Again!

While we were in Hawaii (just scroll through the posts for June and July to get a view of some of our adventures there…like Max getting stung by a man o’ war, a submarine adventure with the Gs, our hiking in the ‘Iao Valley and a very awesome snorkeling trip on the Trilogy), Mike and I mapped out an idea to see the mainland – also known as the contiguous 48 states.

It’s a goal of ours for the kids to experience a variety of things and places – not just exotic ones – but also the national areas that we sometimes take for granted. And, with that, a plan was born.

The first plan was to head to the Northeast during Christmas break – based largely on the idea that the NE (DC in particular) is a tourist madhouse in June and July. That lovely idea was really just about to hit the hardcore planning stages when I (the family COO in addition to head family photojournalist) remembered what the NE was like during Christmas 2009. Not pretty – OK, maybe REALLY pretty just not tourist or RV-travel friendly.

And Plan B was born…head to the Southwest. It’s our first extended, high-mileage RV trip – let’s not complicate things with frozen water lines and having the RV get buried in 20 inches of snow. Are we smart or what?! Handily enough, the MU Tiger football team got a bid to the Insight Bowl in Tempe. Nice of them to work with us on that!

And with that optimistic outlook, we head out of KC on 12/21 southbound to Oklahoma.

The house vomited into the RV…


P.S….We brought along 3 laptops, one USB data card, a MiFi card, 3 cell phones and 2 digital cameras.  Hate to be out of touch with you all!

‘Tis the Season…

The only thing that rivals the end-of-the-school-year rush of activities is the holiday season rush of activities. The main difference being that the holiday stuff revolves around programs (of the singing variety generally) and comes with many more lights and heavier clothing.

It almost makes you long for New Year’s resolutions…and the crowd at the gym that comes with it through February. Almost.

Never ones to miss out on a holly jolly Christmas opportunity, we kicked it off shortly after Thanksgiving (if you don’t count our viewing of the Plaza lights not-so-official lighting ceremony)…and pretty much got it all done by 12/12. That’s us…overachievers. Oh, but we had our reasons (besides the school calendar)…more on that in a coming post. In our whirlwind tour, we hit Crown Center and Christmas on the River in Parkville.

Gator Choir at Crown Center
Christmas on the River with Park Hill School District Choirs

As if all the scheduled school stuff isn’t enough, I win two tickets to the opening performance of the KC Ballet’s The Nutcracker along with tickets to The Sugar Plum Fairy Luncheon. Mara and I get to dress up for a fancy girls-only outing for free (even the parking was covered)!