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Turning Around

Having spent a fun-filled month with the Travaglinos of Fulltime Family fame, we headed on with our original plans to go east and up the coast. Occasionally we have dates to contend with- meet-ups with family or friends, scheduled events, etc. that loosely tailor our overall plans. We have a couple of those coming up- meeting up with Chris’ parents in Hilton Head, SC at the end of April (yay!) and the beginning of our seasonal site in NH on May 15th. Everything else is up for grabs.

So we begin to head leisurely in the direction of east. I am feeling the need again for some natural beauty and peaceful isolation so we head to a Corps of Engineers campground (aka- peaceful isolation) on the Florida/Georgia border. A few hours’ drive and the best spot in the campground happened to open up just as we were pulling in. It was available for two nights only (we were thinking 3-4) but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Done- corner spot on the lake with a pair of Canadian geese as neighbors.

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After setting everything up in our beautiful new yard, we find the Verizon data signal is abysmal and drum roll… that night our fridge dies. The data signal is so bad it takes Chris most of the night to troubleshoot the fridge issue. By morning he’s narrowed it down to the cooling whatcha-hoozie which is about $1,000 to replace. What the what?! He’s been saying all along that a residential fridge will be the successor when this one dies. At about $500 for a whole new residential fridge, we decide to go that route. But there’s the matter of putting it in… There was door frame measuring, current fridge measuring, comparing online measurements of new fridges and several calls to his buddy Chris Travaglino. They decide they can put it in together.

With my ice box (box with ice in it trying to keep my frozen meat frozen) in tow, we turn around and head back to Alabama for some more time with friends and a new fridge.

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Posted by on April 8, 2013 in Alabama, Florida, RV, Travel log

 

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Year 2 in Review (the 2nd six months)

Well, with all of this Alabama fun tossed with some cold germs, not much work on the year 2 slideshow has been had. The addition of a DSLR camera during our first year on the road yielded amazing photo memories of our travels and the kids’ growing years. However, the ability to snap six shots in as many seconds multiplies the work of choosing photos for said slideshow. It’s also a very emotional tumultuous process as I relive experiences and feel the presence of the family and friends with whom we shared them.

Anywho- here’s the map of the second six months of our second year! Yes, it’s just too much to even put on one map.

Click here to view the map in a browser and check out the highlights of our stops along the way.

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Posted by on March 21, 2013 in RV, Travel log

 

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Year 2 in Review (the first 6 months)

We started on the road mid-summer of 2010. We can’t actually remember the exact date! There was estate sale-ing and house closing and veg oil system installing and it really made our exact launch date a little muddy. But we don’t mind. Half the time Chris and I forget our anniversary until someone needs a calendar that day and it triggers the memory. So we mark our years on the road roughly by starting at the end of summer (when we originally left Texas after all the afore mentioned horsing around) and going until the following.

Why do we mark at all? We found after our first year on the road that it was pretty freakin’ fabulous to look at our map and a quick slideshow of the year to see where we’d been. We visit more places and do more things in a year than we ever thought we’d do (than most people visit/do) in a lifetime!

Have you seen our brief (we have an extended version as well but it’s LONG) highlight video of our first year?

I’m working currently on the video for the second year so stay tuned.

In the meantime, here’s a map of the first six months of our second year. Yup- just six months. And we never felt rushed.

Click here to view the map in a browser. You can click on the stops to see our highlights!

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Posted by on March 9, 2013 in RV, Travel log

 

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California’s a Big State (final post):: The Redwoods

North we go and once again find the coast.  At first site of the ocean (around Eureka, CA), the kids were so excited (and it was so beautiful) that we pulled the whole rig over for an ocean play break.  Chilly but awesome!
Hello again, Pacific!!!

Klamath, CA – right smack dab in the middle of Redwood State and National Parks.  State and National?  We’d never heard of this kind of park collaboration before so I was concerned our National Parks Pass wouldn’t get us in to the park or that there would be extra day use fees.  Turns out that we were not charged a fee (and I didn’t even need to present the pass) though there were fees posted.  The Junior Ranger Program was quite similar to the others the kids have done at other national parks except the lack of a present ranger at the visitors’ center prompted the gift shop attendant to leave me in charge of swearing in my rangers when their work was complete.  OK.  I guess this would have been a bother for the kids had they not done so many previously but they liked completing their activities at home and having the badge to add to their collection right away.  I did a little research after the fact to look into this ‘state and national parks’ thing.
Jurassic Elijah

The Redwoods comprises such a big area of the coast that the Highway 101 runs right through it.  The scenic highway (parallel) takes the traveler west just a bit to drive among the towering redwood trees.  It’s really a breathtaking drive all the way up to Crescent City.  There are hiking trails at turnouts all along the scenic highway poriton so there really is no need to hit the visitor center unless additional information is required.  The park host at the RV park where we stayed gave us a great regional map and a finger-walking map-tour of the highpoints of the area so we were ready!  While Chris worked one day, the kids and I went off a'The Farm'nd found The Farm – Radar Station B-71 tucked in and overgrown overlooking the Pacific.  It is two buildings that were built in 1942 to look like an operating farm post-Pearl Harbor and equipped to monitor for Japanese coastal threats.  We felt like explorers and detectives and the like as we waded through tall grass to get down to the buildings and peered in the barred windows.  It sparked an in-depth conversation and some Google research (on the phone in the car) about WWII, Pearl Harbor, and the bombing of Hiroshima.  The historical perspective our kids have is so objective and impartial.  It is not based on some agenda-laden history text or a particular teacher’s biases or…. fear.  The discussions we have about human behavior and historical happenings are fascinating.  When we brought Chris back to check it out, it had been mowed.  So it did not seem as laden with ghosts and mystery but it was still cool.

We took a couple of hikes during our week in the Redwoods.  The kids immediately commented oGnome kidsn how they felt like gnomes in a giant world.  (We have a GREAT and heavily read book on gnomes so we’re up on our gnome knowledge.)  I couldn’t stop an internal giggle after that.  I did, too!  Then I read that the woodsy portions of The Lost World: Jurassic Park were filmed there and we imagine dinosaurs ambling, scurrying, and rumbling through the humongous ferns and collossal plants.  Then Chris remembered that the Endor scenes of Return of the Jedi were filmed among the redwoods and we were giddy with talk of ewoks.  Yes, these trees (and, for that matter, all of the giant plants and thick greenery) evoke a feeling of being small, childlike, vulnerable, inquistive, wild, and adventurous. 

We also spent a cloudy day at the beach before being warned by a passerby about sleeper waves.  Eek!  With all of the signs about being in a ‘tsunami hazard zone’, we didn’t know about these rogue waves.  Apparently it’s a pretty regular hazard.  Glad we had a lovely rogue-wave-free day before scurrying back to the car and home for dinner!
Kids in the distance

There are several Roosevelt elk viewing hotspots in the Redwoods as well.  Once nearly extinct, presElk at Prairie Creek Visitor Centerervation practices have helped increase their numbers to over 1,000.  We got a great roadside view of a small herd grazing across from the Prairie Creek Visitor Center. 

The night we arrived at our RV park in Klamath was the first Celtics NBA playoff game.  And we arrived to find that in my web surfing of the various local RV parks, I had inadvertently chosen one without cable hookup.  Chris was freaking out quietly when we got there (I had prepaid over the phone) but the host hooked us up immediately with a satellite box he had on hand.  Sweet.  We noticed chickens roaming the park near the office and were given 2 dozen free-range chicken eggs during our week-long stay!  I’m really glad we chose Kamp Klamath RV Park after driving around the area.  It was convenient to the highway but not right on it like most of the other parks.  They were a bit overgrown on the other side and sprucing up for the true beginning of their season (as fulltimers, we’re noticing we’re not always in parks in their on-season).  The cafe had burned down last year.  The playground was a small backyard type and grown up with grass.  But there was plenty to do in the redwoods.  The park host was on par with the sweetest, most helpful people we’ve met on the road.  That makes all the difference.  Sadie and I made him a flourless chocolate cake with some of the eggs.  🙂

Lots more photos of our time in northern California on Flickr!

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2012 in California, RV, Travel log

 

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California’s a Big State (Part 4) – Oregon House Farm & High Sierra Beef

We continued to head north from the RV docking point we used for San Francisco.  We’d been so busy with national parks and city touring that we were looking forward to some downtime.  Our first stop was two weeks at a campground/RV park on our Thousand Trails Zone Camping Pass in Oregon House, CA- about 1 hour south of Chico.  This is rural America.  The drive in was absolutely beautiful and the country began to remind us distinctly of New England.

Wherever we are, I always check localharvest.org for local farms, farmstands, and farmers’ markets.  Since we eat paleo, fresh meats, eggs, vegetables, and fruits are our staples.  As you can imagine, this can get tricky.  No rice to fill a 3rd of the plate.  No beans to bulk up a meal.  No potatoes in the storage bin (anymore) to tide us over until we find a decent farmstand or market.  It takes some diligence and planning to ensure that our food supply is plentiful and sustained but it’s something we enjoy (the philosophy and the flavors) and believe in so it’s well worth the effort.  And there is less guilt when I buy those inorganic strawberries because I know our bodies are strong and healthy and can tolerate the occasional insult.
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We’re arriving in the north country a little early for the beginning of the farmers’ markets season so I was hoping I might find a local farm for meat, eggs, and seasonal produce.  My freezer stock of grassfed ground beef and cuts that I loaded up on in Tucson from the University of Arizona was waning.and eating grocery store meat is really a last resort.  We lucked out!  I found Oregon House Farm owned and operated by Jenny Cavaliere just 2 miles away – a cooperative member of High Sierra Beef who also operates a weekend farm store out of her 100 year old barn.  My e-mail inquiry to Jenny resulted not only in stocking our freezer but also a personal tour of her farm – 5 separate pieces of land – which included bee hives, calving cows (and calves!), chickens, sheep, and a peek into the life of a sustainable farmer.  Jenny also invited Sadie to sell her handmade felted pins, hair ties, beaded earrings, and flaxseed packs at the farm store the following weekend.
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Talk about knowing where your food comes from…  Jenny names all of her cows, walks among them in the fields, and they come down to greet her when she calls.  We talked freely about the processes and logistics of sustainable and humane breeding, feeding, and, yes, even slaughtering.  We even walked through the metal corral and down the ‘hall’ used to keep the cows still and safe for procedures and onto trailers for travel.
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You know, traveling is only partly about the places.  That’s how it starts.  The reason it continues and is fueled is the people.  Jenny is one of those people- who would take an entire afternoon to hang around in pastures sharing her passion with a family just traveling through.  Chris and I have been tossing around the idea of farming.  Jenny’s honesty about it’s 24/7 tether has put our dreamy prospect in check.  But this close connection has made us even more dedicated to knowing our farmer and their practices as much as possible.  Truth be told, there are a lot of different phrases used on packaging that are used to airbrush dirty or unhealthy practices.  My decoder ring can’t keep up with the myriad of ways that these practices get off on technicalities or fuzzy language and into the market.

Here are a couple of articles I like about grass-fed vs. grain fed beef:

Health Benefits of Grass Farming

The Differences Between Grass-Fed Beef and Grain-Fed Beef

And one to ponder about the ethics of eating meat:

Is Eating Meat Ethical?

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in California, Food, Travel log

 

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California’s a Big State- Part 3 (San Francisco!)

Where to park the RV when visiting San Francisco?  No where near the city, that’s for sure.  We planned to really immerse ourselves rather than driving to and fro so we knew we’d be Priceline- ing a hotel room.  But there is the matter of the rig.  We parked her at an RV park several hours outside of Dodge – er- San Francisco, locked her up, and headed to the Bay for a couple of days in our little VW Rabbit tow car.

The Golden Gate Bridge

Our first afternoon in town, we discovered the perils of having a car in San Francisco.  Parking is t_MG_1848ough to find and very expensive.  We paid $3.50/hour at a parking garage downtown (which was actually pretty reasonable comparably) and walked to Chinatown for lunch.  It is wild to walk the steep hills covered in city.  Sitting in the Capitol Restaurant was neat- we were flat and the world outside was at a very steep slant! And, as you can imagine, the food was delicious.  Then we walked to the California line of the Trolley.  And we found a fantastic playground in Chinatown on the way!  For $6/person, we hung off the side of the trolley all the way through the city just like the Rice-A-Roni commercials of my childhood.  What a thrill!  And the driver actually encourages you to hang off the side poles if you want.

Some friends we met in Tucson are originally from S.F. and gave us a recommendation for great ice cream – Mitchell’s ice cream served up at St. Francis Fountain.  It sure was – rich and creamy in a little diner that I’m sure hasn’t changed since the woman who recommended it was there as a child.  Old school charm.  And right down the street from Vermont Street – SO twisty! – and the up-and-down, steep neighborhoods that you think of when you think of San Francisco.  What the movies can’t show?  When you go up one side of these streets lined with tall, skinny, prettily painted, side-by-side homes, you may get to the stop sign at the top and not be able to see the road in front of you, the stop signs of the cross streets…  Really, you won’t be able to see anything but the sky.  Yeah, they’re that steep.  The up feels like a roller coaster.  Had Chris let off the break, the down would’ve, too.  Whoa!  There was lots of disbelief and giggling in our car.  We also stopped at McKinley Park for a walk on the trails- all on the side of a hill!  We settled in for the evening at a Red Roof Inn (they allow dogs and even had a discount for pet month in April because we brought Skooter) by the S.F. airport.  Cheap, cozy, and on the bay.  Skooter and I had a beautiful sunset stroll and even happened upon a dog park on the way back.

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The next morning we were up and out early to make our reservation for the 9:30 AM Alcatraz Cruises ferry to Alcatraz Island.  Although the island is a national park, the ferry that gets you there is an independent company so you have to pay.  No way around it.  It cost us $28 per adult and $17 per child (age 5-11).  There is no extra national park entry fee.  The cost of the ferry covers it and includes the headset audio tour.  The audio tour came highly recommended on the review sites and it was fascinating, riveting, and a little frightening.  We’re glad we went early because as people linger throughout the day (you take a scheduled ferry to the island but any ferry thereafter to return), it’s easy to see how the island gets congested with people and the audio tour could get dangerous.  We were already doing a little bumping as everyone was attentively following the directions in their ears.  The movie was also really interesting and told, not only of the time period when Alcatraz was a prison and of the families that lived there during that time (wow!) but also about its history before and after as the first U.S. built fort on the west coast and the occupancy of Native Americans in the late 1960s for 18 months to call attention to Native American rights initiatives.
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We got off the boat back on the mainland around 12:30 and hungry.  I had done some online research looking for little known, great places to eat on a budget.  Voila!  I turned up Tanguito from this Food Dude video– an Argentine food truck on Fisherman’s’ Wharf.  We walked the 2+ blocks and ate utter deliciousness- empanadas, short ribs, and garlic fries- handmade and delivered to our sidewalk table by the owners.  Feeling utterly satisfied, we wandered back the way the tourists do- down a boardwalk lined with gaudy beach shops, chocolatiers, stores with guys out front telling me I need a new lens for my camera, wax museums, etc.  The few street performers that were out were nothing too exciting so we kept walking to the historic carousel of Pier 39.

Tanguito short ribs
Pier 39 is a hopping place.  On this Friday, it was crawling with people.  The Pier 39 carousel was also brought to my attention by our S.F. native friend.  It was crafted and hand painted in Italy and is the only carousel in the country that sports murals of its home city.  It is gorgeous!  The kids liked the out of the ordinary animals to ride.  Sadie rode a dolphin and Elijah rode a sea lion.

Pier 39 Carousel 1
Speaking of sea lions….  There were a whole big bunch of sea lions down at the end of Pier 39.  Noisy and funny- we had a great time watching them.  Skooter was a little freaked out by them, though.
Pier 39 Sea Lions

We weren’t feeling like doing the tourist shopping thing but Elijah was very excited that there was a store for left-handers – Lefty’s–  there.  Turns out, they were also having a giveaway to left-handed shoppers.  He came away with a much-prized left handed pen.  It has improved his penmanship tremendously.  He loves it so!

After packing up the car on Saturday morning and checking out of the hotel, we headed for the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market at the Ferry Building. It was as big as I expected but much more expensive.  I guess in an area where everything is high priced, the farmers’ prices are up there, too.  We loaded up on produce, eggs, and a bit of meat – not knowing when our next good opportunity would be in our travels – and headed back to the car.  We stopped to eat some strawberries on a bench and then stopped again at a very cool fountain across the street that you could walk up on!  We also loved this cool sculpture:
When in San Franciso...

We all had a great time in San Francisco.  It ranks as one of those must-visits.  It is beautiful with lots of museums and interesting things to do and great eats.From what I experienced, I wouldn’t want to live there.  We didn’t find the vibe very friendly.  Skooter was one of few dogs we saw out on the three beautiful days we were there and was not very well regarded by passersby.  It was very expensive and parking was obscene.  I guess, being such a small city, bikes or mass transit would be a much better scenario for residents.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in California, RV, Travel log

 

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California’s a Big State- Part 2

From Santa Barbara, we had a lovely driving day through farm country… until we got near our RV park destination where we came upon agri-business farms- one after another with loads of cows in pens lying in muck and eating grain out of troughs.  No grass in sight.  No room (or reason) to roam.  Given our recent focus on paleo eating and continued desire to eat local and organic, this was eye opening for the kids.  I’ll get into food in another post but the visual of this was a great opportunity to talk about our choice to eat meat and where we get it and why.

We stayed at Sun N Fun RV Park in Tulare, CA because of its proximity to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and decreased cost with our Passport America membership.  There isn’t a whole lot to the RV park but it made a nice place to stay- safe, quiet, near enough to stores that we needed, a picturesque drive to Sequoia NP, and a tiny little pool where we spent some time each afternoon that we were there.

I couldn’t take enough photos in Sequoia NP to satisfy my desire to capture its beauty.  The first day we were there, the kids picked up their Junior Ranger workbooks at the Visitors’ Center and worked on them there a bit with the information provided.  Then we proceeded into the park from about 1,000 feet of elevation to 6,000 to see the Sequoia trees.  It was interesting to note the distinct differences in the elevation zones.  Snow!  The zone with the sequoias had snow!  I think the kids were more excited about the snow than the trees.  Maybe we played them up too much…  Oh well, at least there was snow.  It was funny (growing up in New England) to see our kids look like Bambi on ice walking on snow.  We gave them a few tips.  The trees are extraordinary.  They are the biggest trees in the world by volume (not the tallest).  The diameter of the largest (General Sherman) is over 36 feet at the base and the massive girth continues to the top.  We came prepared with jackets but it was still pretty cold so, after walking the General Sherman Trail (very crowded- it was Good Friday) and taking turns with other tourists for photo ops, we headed back down the mountain. 
General Sherman
The Kids Stand in a Sequoia Fire Scar
The kids worked on their Junior Ranger books at home and we went back out to the park on Monday for hiking, exploring, on-site Junior Ranger work, and their swearing in back at the Visitor Center.  🙂

Tunnel Rock

Waiting for a free RV spot at the Thousand Trails park near Yosemite National Park, we stayed 10 days in Tulare.  It was a relaxing time for decompression after so much busy Legoland/family time/etc. since leaving Tucson.  The drive to Yosemite was thrilling as a passenger, nervewracking (I’m told) as the driver- twisting and turning up, down, and around the sides of mountains with long sprays of snow-melt waterfalls visible on the opposite mountainside.  Sadie lost her lunch into our stock pot and we pulled over one other time to put out two random rest area fires.  Who starts fires (and leaves them burning) at a California turnoff?
Our campsite at Yosemite Valley
I considered that maybe Yosemite wouldn’t live up to the hype.  We’d been hearing about this national park for… ever.  It’s so huge.  Maybe we’d see the ‘wrong’ stuff and miss out on the greatness.  The Yosemite Lakes Thousand Trails is located 5 miles from the entrance to the park.  5 miles.  That is fantastic.  From the main entrance, it’s 24 miles to the Yosemite Valley Visitors’ Center.  And, oh, what a 24 miles it is – views of Half Dome, 2 feet of snow on the ground, driving directly under the base of Bridal Veil Falls, and right next to El Capitan.  The parking area is about 1/4 mile flat walk to the Yosemite Valley Visitors’ Center (there are others but they were closed this early in the season).  We talked with a Ranger who gave the kids their Junior Ranger worksheet (much less involved here in the way of puzzles, word finds, etc. This one focused on experiential learning which worked out well so we could really make the most of our time in the park.) and talked with us about available hikes.  The kids requested a ‘rugged’ hike (sweet!) so we headed off for Upper Yosemite Falls.  Rugged, indeed.  It was about 4 miles roundtrip with a 2,600 foot elevation gain and well worth it.  We spotted a bobcat during our hike!  After viewing the upper falls, we were pointed to a little offshoot of the trail that took us down to a breathtaking view of the upper, middle, and lower falls.  Wow.  Elijah talked most of the way down about how eating paleo has made a tremendous difference in his wind, strength, and endurance.  Huh.  OK.  The hike wore us all out and the descent took its tolls on Chris’ knees.  The kids were intent on getting back to the Visitors’ Center before they closed to turn in their work for their badges.  This was the first park that had a sign-in book.  The kids liked that and were taken aback by the standing ovation preceeded by an announcement of their achievement.  It’s a little different everywhere we go!

Sarah and Chris hiking Upper Falls

Chris’ knees took a few days to be up to extended walking- never mind hiking.  Our second day in the park was lower key and it felt great to already have Upper Falls under our belts and to just meander around the park.  We walked up under Bridal Veil Falls (wet, wet, wet!), picnicked under El Cap, and walked the paved path to the base of Lower Falls.  While much of the park was closed, we felt like we’d landed in one of the most awe-inspiring, spirit-filling places on earth.  The waterfalls flowed fully and loudly with snow melting in ribbons off the tops of the mountains.

Upper Falls

The excitement doesn’t stop…. We were on our way to San Francisco! Stay tuned…

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2012 in California, RV, Travel log

 

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