Even though we would be staying at Lazy Days in a week for Alumafiesta, we decided to go for a visit to the RV sales side of the business to check out their new RV's. Lazy Days is an Airstream dealer, so we wanted to see what the new 2014 Bunkhouse looked like since we have the first version from 2005. We'd been hearing a lot about it...some good, some bad...so it was time to check it out for ourselves.
Rob Brett is a salesman at Lazy Days. What we loved about his tour was that he was more than a salesman. He had a true passion for Airstreams that was evident from the start. His face lit up when he found out we wanted to see the Airstream Bunkhouse. While inside he pointed out all the new features like only someone who really knew Airstreams could do. He even asked what I liked most about the new model. Top on my list was the open floor plan. The "L" shaped kitchen counter was removed, and the table and couch were flipped which created more floor space. Add a shoe cubby and bigger windows, and I'm sold. Too bad the new sticker price is in the $88K range.
Every Friday, Lazy Days puts on a convection oven cooking demonstration. I barely knew how to operate ours, Troy had no clue, and our Airstream did not come with an owner's manual, we all decided to go to the seminar. John, the instructor, was a retired military man who taught us how to bake a soufflé in the convection oven/microwave combo. He was also a master story-teller who made the 40 minute cooking time fly by. Basic idea is "tell it what to become. Tell it how hot to get. Tell it how long to cook." If you cook with the convection oven setting use oven safe dishes (metal, glass). If you cook with the microwave, use paper, glass, etc. Also, ours requires a reduction in temperature and time by about 25% to prevent over-cooking. Since this seminar, we have enjoyed cookies, kale chips, and biscuits in the convection oven.
Preface: I am catching up on my delinquent blogging for the last 2 weeks, so forgive the outdated updates on our travels.
We received tickets to the Desert Museum from my parents before we left for our trip. It was about a 45 minute drive from the place we were courtesy parking so we got up early, packed a lunch, and headed to the west side of Tucson. We had heard that it was mostly outside so bring water, hats, and good walking shoes. But what kind of museum is outdoors?
Before we even got in the gate, there was a falcon presentation. This one was meticulously preening itself while we watched. Ever since seeing the movie RIO, Silas has been consumed with birds, so this was right up his alley.
This desert museum has been around for 60 years. All of the staff that we encountered were knowledgeable and friendly. The grounds were immaculate and the landscaping was so interesting. Both Troy and I came to independent conclusions that we never knew there was so much variety in vegetation in the desert. We were seeing it in the winter, so I can only imagine how beautiful it is in the spring. The hummingbird display would have been interesting if we didn't already enjoy summers full of hummers back home. My mom has created an oasis for them at our farm in Missouri so we see several dozen flying around the feeders at any one time. However, they all migrate south in the winter to this area, so I've been told. (Kind of like a small family flock I know.)
There was a show at 12:15pm that presented 2 poisonous animals native to the desert. We learned about and saw a live Gila Monster and Rattlesnake. After the lecture, we were invited to come up to the front to get a closer look at both of them. We highly recommend this presentation...well, all of us except Morgan. She was more concerned about whose lap she wanted to sit in. The rest of us learned that the Gila Monster bite is like a bulldog. Once it latches on, it stays on for up to 20 minutes. Their poison is in the tips of their teeth, so they keep injecting you with poison while they chomp down. We thought we were safe from rattlesnakes this time of year in Arizona, but that's not the case. Rattlers come out in the mid-day heat to get warm in the winter, so it was an eye opener for us to be more careful on our hikes about where we let the kids go. No more running ahead of us.
One of the highlights of this trip was seeing a roadrunner. The kids were bummed ever since we arrived in Arizona that they hadn't seen one, yet. Then Silas spotted one next to our truck while we were eating lunch. The kids were extremely quiet and watched him run around looking for food. Silas' famous quote after the bird ran away was, "I didn't know that roadrunners ran on roads!"
The cave exhibit was a favorite. Silas and Morgan were bats for Halloween last year, so wearing the bat ears was the best part.
We spent a long time at the microscope display that projected what you were seeing onto a TV screen. Ants, scorpions, gems, and centipedes were all examined repeatedly. They eventually learned how to zoom first, then focus.
The mountain lion exhibit was one of my favorites simply because he was right up near the glass. We could look straight into his eyes and try to figure out what he was looking at. The keeper told us he was stalking the baby in the carrier behind us. Apparently he does that regularly when infants are around. Yikes!
The last stop of the day was at the aquarium. It was all pretty normal stuff until we got to the garden eels. We couldn't stop watching. All of us were intrigued by watching them "grow" out of the sand and all face the same direction until the fish swam overhead. That's when they would "un-grow" and disappear back into the sand. They were all different colors and simply fascinating.
The Desert Museum was definitely worth the trip. We loved the exhibits and the weather was perfect for a walk through the desert. As we were leaving the area, we noticed an old western-looking town. After a quick drive through we discovered that it was Old Tucson - a movie and tv set for quite a few famous titles like Little House on the Prairie, Tombstone, and The Lone Ranger. It was getting ready to close, but I think I will put this place on our bucket list for the next time we are in the area.
My mom's cousins, Steve and Donna, invited us to their house about an hour north of Tucson today. They live in Durango fulltime, but have a second home at a retirement community in Arizona. They invited us over for swimming and smoked brisket.
We are in Tucson courtesy parking at some friends' house. Our arrival in Tucson was the most difficult parking job we've had, yet...by far. It was a jigsaw puzzle with trailers and trucks as the pieces. We ended up having to back the Airstream up a driveway between the chain link fence and the cactus garden. At one point the turn was so tight we had to unhitch and reposition the truck to make the turn. But we made it and now have water, sewer, and 15 amp electricity.
We are parked under a carport for shade and there is a grapefruit tree right next to us. Outside the front door is a treehouse and our hosts have even provided a playmates for our children.
Our hosts are incredibly accommodating, and we've already learned a ton from them and the 3 other RV families that are courtesy parking here, too. One family is writing a book together. Another one was showing us impressive decline push-ups on the picnic table. Their kids are teaching our kids about Minecraft (an iPad game Silas got for Christmas). We now know what a cajon is (box-type drum you sit on and play) and have enjoyed hearing it played around the campfire. Most importantly we have met families who are rearranging their lives to accommodate environments for learning, exploring, and creating stronger relationships with each other.
We had no idea what to expect when we arrived at Sabino Canyon. It started off well because our National Park Pass got us in the gate for free. Then we went in the visitors center to inquire about hikes and the Jr. Ranger Program. We were handed a packet of about 5 sheets of paper of questions and pictures of plants and animals and told to take the 1/4 mile natural trail to answer the questions. Sure, we thought...piece of cake. So we decided to head a mile down the path to the dam so we could play in the water first and do the nature trail at the end. The walk was enjoyable, but nothing too strenuous or exciting. At one point Silas said "The end better be worth this walk." And it was. We found a little stream with rocks and boulders that were perfect for a young boy to navigate. The sun was hot and the water was ice cold. We all enjoyed the stop.
When we got back from the hike, we started the 1/4 mile nature trail so the kids could earn their badge. We all learned a ton about the desert on this short trail. We read every sign and answered questions about each plant or animal. Here are a few samplings of what we learned:
The Arizona state tree, the Palo Verde tree, has green bark because the leaves are not big enough to provide adequate food for the tree. The bark helps in photosynthesis.
Saguaro cacti (the big ones with arms reaching up to the sky) usually grow in a bush or small tree in the beginning so they will be protected from the elements and have a better start. They then out live their "nurse trees" and stand tall and alone when they are more mature. Their roots stem out from their base 100 feet, but are only a couple inches below the surface of the ground.
There are many different types of chulla cacti...teddy bear chulla, chain fruit chulla, etc. However, all of them are painful if touched a have a tendency to "jump" out at a passerby because the slightest brush up against them will cause them to dislodge part of the plant.
The 1/4 mile nature trail ended up taking much longer than we expected. By the time we finished, it was growing cooler and the sun was near setting. We rushed over to the visitor's center to collect the Jr. Ranger badges and certificates, but they were already closed. It was disappointing for all of us. So, we headed back to our "little home" (as Morgan calls it) and Troy promised to bring them back the next day to get their badges. On the return trip the next day, an open air shuttle trip up the mountain was in order. It took about 45 minutes to ride roundtrip and had 8 stops that you can get on and off as many times as you like. The day ended with an exciting trip to the laundry mat.
We stayed in our first Walmart parking lot last night in Palm Desert, CA. All the campgrounds here are pricy at $60-110 per night. We had full water, full batteries, and empty waste tanks, so why not stay somewhere free?
Palm Desert was actually pretty fabulous. Mountains all around and a Costco. What more can you ask for. However, when we walked into Costco, we thought we had mistakenly walked into a retirement center. We were the youngest by far. Please don't think that I am against old people. I would have been just as shocked to find a store full of teenagers or 2 year olds. The sheer number of this particular age group is what was notable. There were young old people all the way up to old old people. The only people under 65 were the ones working the checkouts. After taking a stroll down EVERY aisle (Troy-ism), we ate beef brisket, salad, and a raspberry smoothie for a late lunch.
I went shopping BY MYSELF at Walmart that evening. It has only been since having kids that I've learned to enjoy a grocery trip - alone. Now that we are in the Airstream, that alone time is even more precious. Shopping at Walmart seemed the right thing to do since we were parking in their lot for free. Silas got a new pair of cowboy boots because Troy and I are tired of him taking so long to put his lace up tennis shoes on all the time. He also got a pair of those squiggly shoelaces that don't require you to tie them. Hopefully these two items will make our lives easier. Morgan got a $4 sundress because I brought too many long sleeved shirts for her on our trip. They were both thrilled with their gifts, and we now had food to last us through our next few days of boondocking at Quartzsite, AZ.
The Walmart parking lot was quiet, safe, and we were tucked against a retaining wall, so it felt very cozy. There was also a Starbucks just across the parking lot that I walked to in the morning to get some work done while Troy and the kids did their school work.
It was an easy day because we only drove 1 hour down the road to our next stop...Desert Center, CA. It was a tiny town with a 55 years old and older resort called Lake Tamarisk RV Resort. They let us stay the night there since we were just passing through. Rumor has it that years ago it used to be an Airstream only park, but after a tornado caused severe damage, it was rebuilt as a 55+ resort. Some people are in RV's while others are in little houses. We were right next to the office which housed the laundry room, the showers, and the pool. I even had a quiet place to work in the club house the next day, and the brand new playground was only a short walk away. We did not want to leave and definitely hope to stay there again someday!
"I'm never ever coming here again. I don't like oceans, sand, or tide pools." (Morgan, age 3) She did not like getting her feet wet or touching icky things. All she wanted to do was go back to the beach entrance and play at the playground in the sand.
Part of her dislike stemmed from the fact that we parked at the wrong end of the beach and had to walk 30 minutes down the beach to get to the tide pools. By that time she was tired. Also, the tide was starting to coming back in, so we didn't get to explore all of it. If you go there, check the tides and go just before the peak of the low tide.
The tide pools that we explored were fascinating. They had pools of their own on top of the rocks and were in a bigger pool below. There were clumps of living shells all over them and tons of sea anemones. We had fun touching them and watching them close up. They have lots of little "fingers" that feel tacky when they are open. When they close, the fingers disappear inside and there are shells on the outside, maybe to help them blend in or protect them from other hungry things?
We saw the place we should have entered the beach. It was a steep staircase coming down from the bluffs. So if you ever come here, be prepared to walk 30 minutes one way down the beach or do a lot of stairs.
Our walk back to the truck was framed by a gorgeous sunset. It gave us a chance to capture some interesting sunset silhouette pictures. The grand finale was playing on the playground until the last bits of daylight slipped away.
Thank you Leigh from Aluminarium! My family loves these. I left out the coconut flakes and substituted maple syrup for the agave nectar, but they still turned out fabulous. This was also the first time I ever used our combo microwave/convection oven for baking. Since I realized AFTER I already mixed everything up that I didn't have a cookie sheet, I baked the cookies in a pyrex bowl. I could only cook a few at a time, so it took forever...but it was worth it.
After loving these so much, I went to Walmart and bought a 12 inch round cookie sheet for the next time I make these. Got it back to the Airstream and there were little handles on it which made it too big to fit in the convection oven. Fortunately, we were boondocking that night in the Walmart parking lot, so I was able to return the pan and walk across the street to Kohls. I knew they would have a large selection of perfect small, round cookie sheets. Wrong. They had the same ONE as Walmart. So, I ended up buying a square brownie dish. It mostly works, but the corner catches as the turntable goes round and it doesn't have all the surface area I had hoped for. I made the kids chocolate chip cookies on my new pan tonight and am about to try my second batch of breakfast cookies. Last time I only made a 1/2 batch just in case we didn't like them. They were all gone at breakfast. This time I want leftovers for another morning, so we are going to do a full batch. I highly recommend this recipe. Not only do they taste great, but their ingredient list includes ground flax, coconut oil, nuts, dried fruit, and oats. So they basically rock in the nutritional arena and are vegan and gluten free. It could be the way my convection oven cooked them, but mine were a little crumbly, so make them small "one-bite" sized or eat over a bowl and spoon up all the goodies that fall off at the end.
We left San Diego and travelled up the coast to Guajome State Park near Oceanside, CA. It is about 6 miles inland from the beach, but the camping is much cheaper and has more amenities. So, after settling in, going to the playground, and sending Troy to the grocery store, we decided to head to the beach.
The ranger at the campground told us about the Oceanside peer. It is one of the longest in the US at almost 2000 feet long. It's FREE to walk and fish and someone had already paid our parking meter for 3 hours before we got there. Score! It's a long walk in the wind down the peer, but the different sea birds along the way make it enjoyable. Morgan was upset because she thought the pelicans were eagles. Silas just wanted to see a shark. Troy was making a beeline for fish and chips waiting at the end of the peer at Ruby's Diner. I was freezing, so anything out of the wind sounded great to me. Note to self...ALWAYS take a jacket to the beach.
After our snack, we played on the beach and watched the sun go down again. It never gets old. There was also a playground in the sand directly behind us, so it was like cookies in one hand and cake in the other. Happy kids. Happy Parents.
We really enjoyed our visit to Oceanside, especially this time of year. There were no crowds, plenty of parking, the pier and surrounding area was immaculate, and the sunset continued to increase in beauty even after the sun was down. I tried to take pictures, but they did not do it justice. If you ever have the chance, pay a visit to this charming town.
We know you will never forgive us for taking your grand children away for such a long trip, so we want to dedicate this blog post to you. Maybe it will help you forgive us just a little.
Ode to Nana and Pawpaw:
We like the snakes that swim in the lake.
But we love you more than a dinosaur.
The only zoo we know is the St. Louis Zoo. We love it because it's pretty awesome and FREE. You can see most things in about 3 hours. So when the San Diego Zoo charged us $30-40 per person to get in, you can imagine our shock. In our minds, we planned to be there a typical "zoo day" and then head to Old Town San Diego to walk around. But that was not to be. We stayed until the zoo closed at 5pm, so we were there 7-8 hours!
We rode the tour bus and the skyline lift and saw pandas, baby giraffes, and koala bears. We were awestruck (at least Troy and I) by the lushness of the zoo and the topography. At the Scripps Aviary, the path just kept going down, down, down with layer upon layer of paths, plants, and animals. The kids were troopers, but we did breakdown and rent a double stroller.
Silas and Troy rode the sky lift 3 times, but I was happy to stay on the ground. I don't know what happened to me, but after having children, I seem to have developed a fear of heights. So, Morgan and I got a soda and ate an apple on a bench while taking silly pictures of ourselves.
It's day 4 and we are 1000 miles into our trip West. Our first night on the road was a stay at a dumpy campground just before Joplin, MO. None of our stuff was in the right place. We had to move 2 things to get to the thing we wanted. We were still winterized due to freezing weather, so we didn't have use of the bathroom or kitchen which made it a little less comfortable.
Day two ended in a great KOA outside of Oklahoma City. The day was beautiful so we de-winterized, played, and relaxed at the campsite and didn't hit the road until 1pm. That doesn't even include our TWO stops before ever getting out of the Oklahoma City city limits. (once for gas and much needed bath for the Gray Whale and another for a potty emergency) This late start made it a hard travel day. We broke our own rule and drove until after dark trying to our next stop.
We nixed our plans to head to Dallas due to changes in weather and a postponed visit with friends. Instead we headed across I-40 toward Amarillo, TX. ***Side note...guess what song came on the radio while we were pushing to get to Amarillo by sunset? Our campsite in Amarillo was an oasis called the Oasis. It was amazing, if we could have enjoyed it. Since night temps were around 20 degrees, we couldn't use the full hook ups, and it was dark, so we could barely see its beauty. About 1:30am, the wind started. I have camped many times in my life and never experienced wind like this. No storm or rain, just wind. It howled and shook the Gray Whale and kept us up most of the night. Silas was convinced that we were going to flip over or be lifted away. By morning ice had formed on the inside of all the windows, but the wind had died down slightly. We were still nervous about towing on the interstate in these winds because they were 25 mph gusting up to 45 mph, but the winds continued to decrease throughout the day, so it was fine.
Last night we made it to another great campground in Albuquerque called American RV Park. We want to stay here forever. Nice bathrooms, playground, level sites, complimentary continental breakfast each morning, and free wifi, We may stay a couple of days to relax and see the sights around Albuquerque.
***Another side note...this is the song the kids were singing in the truck on the way here..."If I were a turkey, I'd live in Albuquerque."
Before I finish, let's look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of healthy choices on the road.
Good: The pre-cooked chicken breasts I froze came in handy tonight for a quick dinner of chicken, green beans, and strawberries. Breakfast smoothies have been an easy start to our day.
Bad: I'm still trying to get in my physical therapy exercises to rehab an injured foot, but I have to admit that it is a challenge to do them all twice a day. The best place I have found to get in a few sets is at the playground. There is always a bench or bar that can be used for a few different exercises.
Ugly: 3 of the 4 of us have had "stomach" issues...ok, I'll just say it...diarrhea. We don't know why. Something wrong with the fresh water tank? Different eating habits? A bug? We have a whole camper water filter attached where the city water comes in and then we filter it again in a Brita filter. Tomorrow are going to empty the fresh water tank, bleach it, and re-fill it. I would hate to switch to buying all of our water.
That does it for our update. To all our family, friends, and soon-to-be-friends, safe travels and WanderWell.
This is our Airstream that we will spend the next 2 months in. We call her the Gray Whale. Gray because, well, she's gray. Whale because she is one of the longer Airstreams. Also, Troy has had a love of both Airstreams and whales since he was a small boy, so it just fits. The Gray Whale was born in Jackson Center, OH in 2005 and we are the second family she has taken care of. She has twin bunks in the back, a kitchen and dinette in the middle, and used to have a queen bed in the front. We recently took out the queen and turned it into a loveseat for more sitting and floor space for our family.
You can travel all you want when you retire. Don't take risks. Play it safe.
These are just a few of the "rules" that we are breaking in 8 days.
In 8 days we leave on a trip that we have been planning for and dreaming about for over a year. My family and I are trading the cold and snow of Central Missouri for the sunshine and adventure of Southern California and Arizona for a couple of months. Why?...Why not?
So, again, why not? Because it's crazy! We're too young! Who does this? Actually, lots of people. Young families, retirees, working couples. We know a few and hope to meet more in the coming months. This is not a vacation. It is living, working, homeschooling, cooking, exercising...all of the same things we do at home but will now do on the road in an Airstream (aka tin can/silver bullet).
SInce the name of my business is WanderWell and I am in the fitness industry, this blog will focus on the ins and outs of making healthy choices while living on the road. How do you exercise in a campground? What can you cook in a tiny kitchen with small freezer space that is quick and healthy? How do you maintain healthy relationships with your family living in such a small space All. The. Time.?
A second focus of this blog is to record the way our family grows and changes during this trip. Hopefully this is the first of many adventures, but I imagine that we will grow the most in this first trip. RVers are incredibly aware of their energy consumption like gas, battery power, and electricity, as well as their consumption of resources like fresh water, space, and money. They also tend to be more in touch with the weather, the earth, and sunrise and sunset. Plus, they we have found them to be an easy going, friendly group of people. Curiosity is king and an opportunity for learning is around every corner. My family and I can take lessons in all these areas.
It's time to wrap this up. Our D-day is now within the 10 day weather forecast on my phone. That means there is much to do. Check back here as frequently as you like to see where we are and how we are getting on. We would love to hear from you in the comments below or via email.
I am a wife, mother, and exercise physiologist with one foot in the world of travel and one foot in the world of fitness. This blog is a mixture of travel adventures and wellness topics that affect women and their families. We've travelled, first in our Airstream and then in Australia, while attempting to balance work, life, health, and relationships. It's been an amazing journey so far. Join me as we navigate new places, adjust to small spaces, and meet new faces.