Preface: I am catching up on my delinquent blogging for the last 2 weeks, so forgive the outdated updates on our travels.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 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 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.
I started the 3 day Shakeology cleanse last Monday. During the cleanse I drank 3 shakes a day and a salad with white meat for dinner. I'm not going to say it was easy, but I survived. The best part (even more than any weight I lost) is that I gained control over my food. I broke habits, stopped cravings, and let my body rest from the processed, rich foods of a normal day.
It's been a week of working back into "normal" eating, although I'm not sure I will ever be normal again. Now I know that I can say no to the licorice being offered to me or the enticement of a Pepsi. Now it can be my choice to indulge in these types of things, not a failure.
Going through this cleanse with our group of 46 people, including my mom, husband, sister, and more really helped me stay the course, too. Being encouraged and accountable to others is powerful motivation to stay the course. Thank you Chloe Gibbs for inspiring us and leading this group. I look forward to another 3 day cleanse this fall!
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I am a wife, mother, and exercise physiologist with one foot in the world of travel and one foot in the world of fitness.
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