Only Two More Hours . . .

Yes I know your hungry . . . Only one more hour . . . I hear you and we only have thirty more minutes . . . Almost honey . . . Just ten more minutes sweetie . . . Look, do you see it?  There we are, home for the night.

And then we get up and do it all over again the next day.  Over 1400 miles, in 7 days, going about 200 miles a days.  

Too much time in the vehicle, too little time enjoying our campsites.

So why?  To get settled into our COE (Army Corps of Engineers) volunteer spot before the campers start rolling in. John is volunteering at the Coralville Lake COE campground again this year, and since we had to have a new roof put on our camper while in Sierra Vista, AZ with multiple delays, we had little time to enjoy our scenery as we traveled across country. 

Although we do not like traveling this far in this short amount of time, we were able to plan it out so we only had to go about 200 miles a days.  This means we could get up in the morning, do our pack up things, drive for about 3 to 4 hours, and get to our new camp spot early enough to play or explore.  Ideally I would have liked to spend a couple more days at each of our spots but I guess we need to leave something to do for a later date.

Our first stop was a really nice rest stop.  Now normally we do not stop at rest stops for the night but this one was better than some of our paid camping spots.  I really would recommend the rest stop on I-10 just west of Deming, AZ.
Next we stayed in Alamogordo, NM and for this one we splurged and stayed two nights.  We just love this area, plus the kids needed the extra day to work on their Jr. Ranger badge/patch for the White Sand Dunes.  We tend to stay on base when in this area because it is centrally located and easy to get around.

Then we got up early, and decided to go an extra hundred miles and stop half way through the day in order to get a little further.  It was kind of rainy at the three rivers petrogylphs but we still enjoyed the little hike, and will make this another must-come-again stop.  The campground at the petrogyphs is really nice and they even have 2 full hook-up sites at the BLM area.   Our final stop for the night was at a really nice COE/State park in New Mexico.

We stopped at one of our normal stopping points - Liberal Kansas, County Fairgrounds, which I am not really recommending right now.  There was a lot of construction campers there because they are building a Wal-Mart super-center right across the street.  I doubt we stay here again mainly because it was getting congested and $30 a night for full hook-ups

Our next stop was a new stop, and the campground was really well maintained and easy to get to. There was a nice playground across from the water/electric site, and it was only $19 a night. Plus since it was still early in the season, we had the whole place to ourselves.
 The last stopover was in Missouri.  This little state park was in a beautiful setting back in the woods but only 5 minutes off I-35.  There were some hills getting back into it but it was totally worth it.
We were planning on spending one more night in Missouri but John decided to make it a long day and then be done traveling, so with some very road-weary kids we pulled into camp around 3pm.
We are now getting settled in for the next six month - SIX MONTHS.  Yikes that seems like a long time when I see it in print. I hope we can make it.  It will be nice to get the kids all caught up with their medical needs, and to have a home base for swimming lessons and day camps but SIX MONTHS is a long time for this rambling family.  I will keep you posted on how it is going but as the saying goes, "No news is good news".  :-)


Picacho Peak - Eloy, AZ

We were looking for a real mountain experience in southern Arizona, and this state park looked like it might fit the bill. I had grandiose dreams about us playing King of the Mountain, and reaching out to touch the clouds. The reality was even better than the dream; although, not near as grandeur. Picacho Peak state park was not a disappointment.

The days were beautiful, the sunsets amazing, and the nights magical.

We couldn't have picked a prettier time to be there as the flowers were just beginning to bloom. The Mexican Gold Poppies flowed down the mountain valleys like liquid sunshine.

The RV campground sat at the base of a smallish red mountain, and by the second day I let the three older girls loose on it. They could go wherever they wanted as long as the could turn around and wave at me. So about every 15 to 20 minutes, we would exchange far away glimpses of arms hailing us down. It was wonderful to give them some much needed freedom within arms reach.

One evening we took a sunset walk; watching the flash sink behind the phoenix mountain range, with the saguaro standing guard in the foreground was surreal.

Another day we hiked the children's cave trail, a supposedly easy .2 mile hike. It was definitely fun, and beautiful, but easy would not be in my description.

On the trail Joclyn fell, and her chin violently met a rugged rock in the middle of the path. I tried to play it off like no big deal but secretly I was think'n it probably needed stitches. Although, now she is fine and has a nice lightning bolt scar as reminder of the grand day.

The three older girls also received their Arizona Junior Rangers Badge after completing a very interesting booklet. One of the facts they learned was Picacho in Spanish means peak, so the parks name in translated to Peak Peak.
We only stayed 5 nights, which left lots to do on a second trip, and I would definitely add this to a must see list.

At the end of the trail, it is always good to know home is just a couple miles away.


Signal Hill - Petroglyphs in Saguaro West - Tucson Az

 One more must mention place in Tucson is
The hill rises out of the Saguaro West National Forest, and isn't widely published but well worth the easy to moderate hike. I only say moderate because you do have to climb up a little hill, which was no trouble for us and has a nice path with timber steps.
If one did not want to climb the hill, the place is still beautiful and the petroglyphs can be seen from the base of the hill. There are several scenic picnic areas at the base of the hill worth exploring.
It was a sunny afternoon when we packed a lunch and headed up past the desert museum, and into the dusty hills. To get to the petroglyphs, at the top of signal hill, I had to take a bumpy dirt road. There are two ways to get to the hill - the long way and the short way, and since I was driving I am sure you can guess which way we took.

We seen petroglyphs in Albuquerque at the Petroglyph National Park, and I must say that these were just as nice if not clearer. I especially love coming back to a subject after some time has lapsed with the kids because I get to find out what really mattered to them. In this case, they remembered a lot more than I did, which also reenforced that the hands on education they are receiving is working.

I am beginning to wonder if Tucson ever has a bad day. Once again this was a sun shiny day with a slight breeze keeping us comfortable down in the wash as the kids stopped to play in the sand.
 I had to drag the kids out kicking and screaming with promises we would come back.


Why I Love Our Life

It is easy for me to get caught up in all the really cool places we see. I blog about it, I spend late evenings planning online, and my adventurous personality revels in the next big travels. BUT If you ask me why I love our life, and I answer honestly, it has very little to do with the adventures.
I love our life because I get to love on my kids all day everyday. I get to snuggle with them in the morning; see the excitement of the beautiful world unfold through their eyes; learn about really cool things with the funniest kids in the world (I do realize I might be a bit biased).
There are a lot of days we just spend time hanging out with each other - talking about whatever is important to them that day. These are the heart building days, and I am learning all to quickly these days are very limited. In less than 10-15 years, they will be venturing out into the world on their own.
Don't get me wrong, I want them to grow up, and I am looking forward to John and I having a new lease on life. I only hope as we all grow older, we still enjoy spending time together. I look forward to  hanging out with them as adults. But right now I LOVE and cherish these simple days.


Reciprocal Museum Passes

If you are like us, and enjoy spending time at local museums, zoo's, and other cultural institutes, you really should check into a reciprocal museum pass, and if you are lucky a local museum may even offer a multiple reciprocal pass for multiple institutes across the nation.
I first learned about these passes while looking through the roadschool link at the Families On The Road (FOTR) website. They even listed a couple of the cheapest ones nation wide. We have chosen to support institutes that we frequent more often because of the in house discounts and programs.
In Tucson, these memberships made our stay really fun and educational. I can't imagine our stay without the zoo and desert museum memberships. These places also get bonus points because the curriculum we use, Oak Meadow, has curriculum ties to the natural world, which means I can set up the weekly plan, take the kids to the museum or zoo, and let the experts do the teaching :) And most weeks we visited both places, so we could also talk about ethical and global best practices as well.
I blogged about The Desert Museum the last time we were here, but it is so worth another recap. The Desert Museum is a zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, children's museum, and natural history institute all rolled into one. A most stop for children of all ages - including the adults kids.
Once again it was cheaper for us to buy the family membership pass, and go several times, than to make a one time trip. One of the nice things about the membership is you also get a free coffee or ice tea and discount at the reasonably priced food court every time you go.
We visited the beautiful outdoor museum a total of 6 times, and each time we seen and learned new things. Our favorite activity was the Mineral Madness Weekend. When the kids arrived they each got an empty egg carton and then walked around to various stations to participate in mineral themed activities, and earn a mineral to put into their egg carton. Now, 4 weeks later, the kids are still analyzing their minerals, and can even identify minerals like Micca and floridite in found rocks.
I know there are a lot of reasons to not love a zoo ethically, and I am sorry if I offend anyone, but we love a nice zoo. Tucson is a big city zoo with a small hometown feeling. We spent several days at the zoo and enjoyed all aspects. We were even lucky enough to hook-up with my grandparents for the day, so the kids got to spend time with Grandma and the Greatparents :)
Our zoo membership from back in Iowa expired in 2014, so we opted to buy our reciprocal zoo membership for the Tucson Reid Park Zoo, and we will be able to use this pass at different zoos all over the nation. This allows us to spend our time lollygagging around and not rushed because we know we can always come back. The other nice thing about buying into a membership pass is that by the second visit to any zoo it has usually paid for itself.
Each kid has their favorite attraction at the zoo but one we all enjoyed over and over was the elephant exhibit. There is a relative group of elephants with Mom, Dad, Sisters, Brother, and a new 6 month old little female. The activities around the elephants are very hands on and cultural. Some of the kids watch the elephants as the zoo keepers train and work with the elephants, while other kids play on drums, and others climb giant ant hills. The elephant exhibit is a total experience.
Another add on to the zoo is one of Tucsons Aquatic centers shares the parking lot with the zoo, so bring your suit and you can go swimming when it gets too hot at the zoo. We did this on several occasions, and it is only $1 for children and $2 for adults. The twins chose the zoo and swimming combo for their birthday - nothing better on a warm Feb. afternoon than playing in the water after running around the zoo.


Boon-docking in Tucson - The Hidden Gems

Boondocking is a great way for us to camp for several reasons:

  1. It allowes us to save some camping fees, so we can spend the money on some great adventure or museum pass. Nightly rates range from $20 to $40 in Tucson, so a couple nights of boondocking can really add to the FUN fund. When boon-docking most places are free. We have run into a couple places that charge a small fee - anywhere from $1 to $8 a night.
  2. It takes the pressure off me to be the good neighbor. Not that we ever try to be bad neighbors but when our neighbors are paying $30 a night and our kids are having an off day, and multipule multdowns, I feel quilty that we may be spoiling their paid for spot. When we are out boon-docking I figure they aren't out anything and can move to the otherside of the hill or parking lot if they don't want to listen to it.
  3. Most boon-docking we do is out in BLM land (Bureua of Land Management) and great places for the kids to hike, run, and just be kids. We usually tend to get a lot of "schooling" done while at BLM land because it is more laid back and we can get dirty.
  4. We also meet the coolest people while boon-docking because the saying really is true - birds of a feather flock together.

The two really cool places we boondocked in Tucson where at Snyder Hill, South of Tucson on Ajo and San Juaquin, and Casino De Sol, also on the south side of town off Valencia.

  1. Snyder Hill is BLM land and we stayed 14 days. Most BLM land has time limits posted at the entry points and Snyder Hill allows a person to stay 14 days in any 28 day period. This place is really fun for the kids. There is a smallish mountain/hill they can climb where they can venture out on their own, yet I can have a visual of them. Plus the sunsets a beautiful here.
  2. The Casino is a paved parking lot on one side of the Casino, next to the ampitheature, with lots of really neat people. They say you can stay here infanately except for a few days or a week in April, when the casino asks everyone to leave for about a week, and then you can come back. Staying here is also free, and it sometimes nice to have a little pavement under your feet. We stayed here for a total of 8 days. We actually went to the Casino for 3 days before we went to BLM land because of the record setting rainfall, which would not have been fun in red, wet, sandy clay. We then went back to the casino after our time at Snyder Hill because we were waiting for some mail to arrive. We liked Casino because John could go in at night and watch the craps games after the kids went to bed, and one evenign the kids and I went over to the spa like swimming pool and hot tub - total FUN!

We stayed a total of 22 days without being plugged into or Hooked up to something other than our solar panels. Water was a bit of an issue at times, but mostly we just went down to my moms and filled up our containers. We dumped 3 times in those 22 days, and that was $18 each time, so I figure we saved about $422 by roughing it for a couple weeks, which is awesome because that is almost the cost of the whaling boat trip I want to take in San Deigo in a couple weeks. Not too shabby in my book.




Reid Park - Oasis in the Middle of Tucson

I could really see us settling down in Tucson, except for the hot summers.  Tucson is for the young and old, and since we are on a set income we really have to watch where our dimes go, and Tucson does not disappoint. 

Feeding the Ducks

In the middle of the city is the Reid Park complex with a rose garden, a series of little fish/duck ponds, playgrounds, a stage, the Reid Park Zoo, aquatic center, golf course, and bike/walking paths connecting them altogether. 

At the Waterfall

Today was a free day exploring the lay on the land. We took a picnic lunch, started at the playground, off 22nd street, and walked over to the little duck pond.

We Love Swinging
We even had time for some theater.  Hanna is currently reading The Wizard of Oz, so the chosen chapter was the monkey scene.  Gotta love homeschooling - we had the best seats in the house :-)

Sleeping Monkeys