St. Louis - The Magic House

St. Louis was a bit of a disapointment for us this time around. The weather turned into typical fall weather, which was rainy, cold, and not much for outdoor activities unless you are a seal.

We actually pulled up into the parking garage for the Gateway Arch, got out, put all our rain gear on (it is about a 3 block walk from the parking garage to the Arch), stepped out to the edge of the overhang, watched the rain coming down sidewys for about 5 minutes, and decided the national monument wasn't worth our own personal discomfort, so we loaded a couple screaming, and disappointed kids into the Tahoe and pressed on.

The Magic House (St. Louis Children's Museum) was next on our list, and once we got there I think the kids completely forgot about The Arch. The Magic House lives up to its name. We spent 3 hours in kiddy Valhalla.
Lexi enjoyed applying one of her studies - the tangram. She just finished a story "Loawnu and the Fallen Ssky", which is about a women who put the sky back together - like a tangram. At home, Lexi had even made her own paper tangram to play with. So, it was a wonderful surprise to see, and play with, the tangram display at the museum.
The little ones enjoyed the water play - they stayed there for over 30 minutes. Maia figured out how to make a dam and spent hours rearranging the water.
There was also this amazing construction area where the kids could actually build and dig.
We finally wrapped up our visit in the magnetic area - we all took turns getting electrified.
I know the kids could have stayed a lot longer; however, the adults were EXHAUSTED! At least we all slept good that night.


Slowing Down

One of my problems while on the road is settling in. I always feel like we might be missing out on some great cultural or educational opportunity we might never see again. I want to jam as much adventure in as possible.

Last night we got into St. Louis (Scott AFB), and before I even drank my coffee this morning, I got on my Ipad to see what the hours were for the Gateway Arch, The Childrens Museum, The Cahoka Mounds, and The Zoo. But what I kept thinking was how nice it would be to have a down day. A lazy Sunday. After several hours of hem-hawing, we decided to forget the sightseeing and enjoy the beauty of US. I lounged on the couch - for the first time ever - watching Sunday afternoon football, and enjoying my view.

Maybe it is because it is a drizzly day or maybe it is because I realize this is our home (not just a vacation camper) that allowed me to slow down and relax. I am not going to feel guilty about letting the kids play in their room, or letting the dishes pile up, or ordering out.

And look what happened when I just let the kids do whatever

Maia drew a picture of our campsite - the road, grass, shower-house, and the camper.

I became to subject of a hair clip fashion show,

and now,

I am going to finish enjoying my snuggling and lounging.



Wapello Fairgrounds

Southeast Iowa has so many great things about it. Having grown-up here, I take a lot of them for granted, and only now as we are beginning our southward migration, do I really appriciate them. One of them is the small rural town in the fall. The bake sales and fall colors are my favorites right now.

Before finally leaving Iowa, we have decided to stop and stay in the little town on Wapello, which sits right on Highway 61. We are staying at the local fairgrounds - full hook-up on a cement pad for only $10 a night. Gotta love these small town rates. Not only is it a great little find but they have a free dump station, and a playground for the kids right out our door.

John enjoyed playing ball and disk golf in the crisp autunm evenings with the kids at the wide open field to the west. In it's prime, the field was home to one of the few horse harness racing tracks in Iowa.

With-in walking distance there is a Casey's General Store, a local Mexican restaurant, a tavern with food, a Dollar Store, and great views of the Iowa river - all of which we would visit again.

These kinds of days make it harder and harder to leave the Midwest; however, John does not own a pair of pants, only shorts, and he says, "If I can't wear my shorts because I'm too cold, then it is time to move further south". AND since he is the driver, I guess our stay here will be over soon.



Saying Goodbye to Sugar bottom :(

Sugar bottom campground was good to us. We always enjoy COE (Corps of Engineer) campgrounds but this one holds a special spot in our hearts. Not only is it an awesome campground with great hiking trails (a little cave with a creek for the kids to play in), a good disc gold course, and awesome bike trails but a great place for us to make the transition from homeowners to full-time RVers.

Sugarbottom sits on Lake Mcbride/Coralville Lake just east of North Liberty and about 15 min. north of Iowa City, which is nice for us since all the kids doctors are at the U of Iowa. The North Liberty community has a lot to offer - including a rec/community pool/library all in the same location, and our favorite shops in one stop - The Bluebird Cafe and Mail, Print, and More. We love Marrisa at Mail, Print, and More, so much that we made that our "permanent" address. We have a post office box there and she is going to box and forward our mail - she is soooooo awesome! Everyone we met in North Liberty went out of their way to be friendly and beyound helpful.

John also got volunteer job for the summer there, so we got a full service hook-up, a nice wide cement pad on a private loop, and all the fun we could pack in - all in exchange for 21 hours of service. Life really is good.

We had campouts with friends, many smore's consumed around amazing fires, every piece of playground equipment climbed on, geocache found, disk golf baskets rattled, sandcastles built and washed away, birthdays celebrated, and too many footprints left to be counted.

But as the saying goes, "All good things must come to an end", and our end is now. October marks the end of the average campers season, so our job here is done. On October 1st we start the migration south. As one door closes another opens.
Thank-you Sugar bottom for all the great memories!





So I Have NO Residential Address - What's the Big Deal?

Apparently, it is a big deal to the State of Iowa. It is not enough for us to have a mailing address. To be a law abiding resident, we must actually have a place of residence, besides an RV. I can't just say, I live in an RV, here is my P.O. Box, and here is the $3000 I owe you in taxes. Ohhhhhh nnnnoooo, they won't take my money (I know, there is a first for everything) and give me a tag without making me feel like a criminal. Instead, we have to spend two days getting documentation stating we are "residing" in a campground just to pay our taxes, then get our tag and title.

Day 1 - 5+ hours

John leaves early to get to the courthouse to pay the taxes on an RV, which we bought out of state. Seems like an open and closed deal. When he gets to the courthouse, he is informed that I need to be present since my name is on the title (okay, I understand that), and to bring a piece of mail showing our new address. That was 3 hours.

So, John comes home, eats lunch, and my wonderful mom volunteers to watch the kids, while both of us go back down to the courthouse. We wait in line, and then are told the PO Box where our mail is sent will not work. We must have a utillity bill or landlord contract in order to say we live in the county or a Drivers License with our residential address on it - both seem impossible to get, since we don't live at any one address. The person then goes back to "talk with the supervisor" leaving us at the front counter for what seemed like forever! I now have a taste of the fustration felt by homeless people - treated like we have done something wrong because we choose to live the life as a minority. The courthouse employee suggests we go to the DMV and change our Drivers License, and then come back with the new residential address on our license, which BTW isn't open on this day. Making notes on our documentation, the clerk shoos us on. That was 2 hours.

We go home, and I want to CRY because I know the DMV is going to want the same type of physical address as the courthouse, and how do I produce something I don't have. I am aggitated and stressed and the more I think about it the angrier and more fustrated I get. And I feel like my kids are deliberately pushing all my buttons - all I am asking for is a peaceful transition to bed, so I can figure out what I am going to do - is that really too much to ask for - apparently YES. I am finally able to get on-line to research things, when I find out I can change our address online YEAH, so I do but then realize the DMV only wants a change in MAILING address. How do I get a change in residential address? I changed our mailing address, and I guess I wait until day two to see what the DMV says when I physically go there. I then changed our address on our vehical insurance to show the campground as our physical address. I printed out the new insurance form, and hope to use that as one form of proof and our reciept from the crampground as our second form of proof. Only when I change the address on our auto insurance the rate goes up $143.00. Apparently living 5 miles down the road from North Liberty (a town of over 10,000), to the county of Solon (a town of maybe 500) it is risker to drive (must be all those suicidal cows that might run out in front of me while I am driving), so now to add insult to injury I have to pay for proof of my resedency. UUUHHHHGGGG! And all this is just to see if this MIGHT work.

Now my delima - on day two at the DMV, do I tell them the truth or just try and slide one by them? What happens if I get caught trying to pull my campground spot off as a proof of residency? Should I be upfront and honest in the hopes they will take pity on me and give me a new drivers licence with a change of residency? Only time will tell.

Once again, I feel like Big Brother is try'n to hold us back. I have to make up some B.S. to live the good life.

I wanna know, what does a person, who is living off grid - no electric or water bill - being totally self sufficient do? How do they prove their residency to pay their taxes? The state would rather have me make up some pseudo residency than just take my real P.O. Box - really???? What's the big hairy deal with a P.O. Box for an address?

Day 2 - 2 hours

What a difference a day makes. With a plan in place, we headed to the DMV. We were in and out within 30 minutes and 20 bucks lighter. New licenses in hand with a Mehaffey Bridge campground address (and when asked by the DMV cleark if this was were I lived, I simply told her I live in an RV and that is were we were at now - she didn't even seem to care), and we were off to the courthouse. With the little kids in tow, we walked right in to the courthouse, with no waiting line, showed them our new licenses and wrote a check for a large sum of money, and walked out with the trailer tag in hand. It took us more time driving around than we actually spent inside the building.

So now we walk around with a license stating we live at some BS campground address just to satisfy some crappy law that needs some major revamping.


Happy Campers!

Everything is offical - house sold, new (to us) truck, and new camper. Life is grand - now - because getting here was pure insanity but totally worth it. What is that saying about all good things . . . .

The insanity began when we started to close on our house on Tuesday morning only to discover, at the closing table, that we needed our septic tank pumped and inspected BEFORE we could close. At 11 am, with everyone gathered around the closing table, I began going down a short list of septic inspectors - one lucky man answered his phone and spent the next 4 hours in the brutal August sun locating, digging, and pumping our septic tank. Finally at 4 pm I had a reciept to take to the bank - only to find out the next day it was not the correct piece of paper the buyers lender needed. So, now two weeks later there is still money in esgrow waiting out the septic tank sample results. I guess that is what we get for selling with out an agent. Please keep your fingers crossed that everything else comes out okay.

John then had to call the guy we had planned to by a truck from, and tell him that we couldn't do it because we didn't recieve all our money at closing. I felt so bad for John, he had his heart set on that blue truck, so I spent most of the night on the internet searching for trucks, and low and behold, the truck that my dad and had looked at the previous week was still available.

So, on Wednesday my dad and John went up to buy the 2005 RAM 2500 from the Dan Deery dealer in Waterloo - no grass grows under our feet. This truck was quite a deal and pulls the new camper great.

We talked a lot about getting a passenger van and straight trailer, so we could all fit in one vehical and wouldn't have the expense of an additinal vehical; however, in the end we went with a camper that had more room, and we will just have to bite the bullet on keeping a second vehical for awhile.

A 356QBQ Heritage Glen from Forest River
and it is a BEAST!
(Just call me the Khaleesi and it Rhaegal)

And 7 days later, we drove over 900 miles with 7 kids and 2 dogs in less than 36 hours to pick up our new home. I bought it over the internet from RV wholesalers in Lakeview, OH, and couldn't be happier. I saved a little over $8,000.00 rather than buying it locally, and even got an extended warrenty with it. We left Wed. at noon, got into Fort Wayne Indiana at midnight, woke up at 6 am to drove into RV Wholesalers at 9:30 am. Did our walk thru, got a 5th wheel hitch installed, signed our papers, and on the road by 11:30 am. Pretty fantastic to do all that with our tribe in 2 hours.

As we pulled our new home across Illinois, we stopped at a Walmart to get subway and ate lunch in the house, which we decided had more room in it, with the slideouts in, than our old camper with the slideouts out. We love the U-shape dinette because all the kids can sit at the table and eat or play games.

John's two favorite things about the camper are

The remote for slides, awning plus other outside things, and the outdoor kitchen.

My favorite thing is the electric hot water that is always ready for me, especially for my morning shower :)

The kids love their new bunk room and we are loving our own bedroom, so all in all I would say we are pretty happy campers.




Emptying the Rooms

I wanna say it is official but everyone says it's not until closing day, so I am not going to officially say it but we are making big plans. 

We are emptying the rooms, one by one, hauling stuff out to the garage for this amazing moving sale.  I am overwhelmed with tears on most days from anxiety, and loss of my worldly treasures.  We are getting rid of everything except those extra special, can't live without, items. Our therapist says take lots of pictures, so the photo journaling begins. If anyone has any good electronic journaling website - please pass them on to me.  I would like something a little crafty looking, so I can write and photo too.

We are at the same time excited to be researching new vehicles and campers. So far in the lead is a Nissan NV passenger van, and a quad bunkhouse straight trailer.

The van has 12 seats and can pull up to 9500 lbs, so I think we should be good to go.

The campers we are looking at are all the same set up - just staying under the weight is the major factor.
Right now the brands in the lead are the Wild-wood and Passport.

Also during this time, John got a volunteer position up at Coralville Lake (Corps Campground) - sugar bottom campground - as a maintenance guy.  He gets to ride around on the gater fixing signs and picking up tree limb and debris.  He is loving it.  The only down side right now is that he is up there, putting in his 21 hours, and we are 1 1/2 hours south cleaning the house - I think he definitely is getting the better deal. We are hoping this will get our foot in the door, so we can get more volunteer jobs like this.  We love it!  Sugar bottom is perfect for an active family - it has a beach, several playgrounds, biking and hiking trails, and disk golf - what more could we ask for.

Please send us lots of energy vibes and well wishes.  We are ready to get this party started!

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