Well, as you can see from the spacing of one post to this one….it’s been awhile! Between all the visits with friends and family and the activities, schooling, and just plain being lazy here and there, it’s proven difficult to write. Plus, as time gets longer, it becomes harder because of all the stuff I really want to write about. So, with that being said, I want to dive into a little of what’s been going on since December. Sorry, it’s long so you may have to come back if you’re truly interested!
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER – DECEMBER 19, 2017
This day was a good time by myself due to the high cost and low reward to get the kids there. We felt I was likely the most interested in visiting the center and I spent almost every moment here through the opening hours. I tried to see everything and still unfortunately I still left a few things left undone. The exhibits were awesome with some actually spacecraft and the tour around the area to see the launch pads really put a perspective on things. There were also some great 3D movies to show Outer Space and other cool space perspectives. I would suggest doing this if you haven’t already. Now, let’s just see how much I remember from what I learned here in 1 day.
While I was here, we stayed in Port (Cape) Canaveral, FL and this actually proved to be a great site. We were close to the beach and had some great weather for hanging out.
THE VILLAGES, FL (THE HOGGATT’S) – DECEMBER 20 – JANUARY 2, 2018
We spent a couple of weeks visiting my parents and putting the trailer in storage. We did A TON of things while we were in town. My parents treated us to an Air Boat Tour where we got to also hold a pet alligator (kids did too!) and seeing some great alligators in their natural habitat while running about in an Air Boat.
We spent a lot of time kayaking in some of the most amazing rivers nearby along with a family canoe trip that probably about gave my Dad a heart attack with trying to navigate the super thin river with my Mom in the front. Mel and I faired well but also got scraped up. The kids loved all of it while on the rivers since we got to see some abundant wildlife including manatee’s, alligators, monkey’s, fish, turtles, birds, and more. It really allowed us to appreciate a new perspective on Florida besides just beaches and we really enjoyed this aspect of our trip.
We, of course, also spent Christmas and New Years Eve here. Christmas turned out great and the kids had a wonderful time. Unfortunately, my brother’s family was unable to join us for the week due to sickness running through their family. Total Bummer! New Years Even was great since Melissa and I got to go out on our own for once! We enjoyed some live music and of course many different beers!
SISTERS! – JANUARY 2-4 AND JANUARY 4-7, 2018
From one family to the next, we spent a couple of evenings enjoying our visit with Melissa’s sister Evann near Tampa, FL. It was nice to see her and have a chance to catch up. Then, we traveled further South to an area just North of Lake Okeechobee, FL to visit Melissa’s other sister, Lisa. Lisa lived in a remote location that allowed her to have pigs, dogs, and a hedgehog. We barely had service and we spent some other fortunate time with her parents, Ron & Peg. The time here was short and sweet.
POTTS RESERVE – JANUARY 7-11
We spent more time kayaking in and around the area just north of Tampa, FL. We were able to see my parents again along with a trip from my Mom again to treat us to an old amusement area of FL. Again, amazing wildlife and more great kayaking.
APALACHICOLA NF, FRED GANNON ROCKY BAYOU STATE PARK, CHICKASABOGUE PARK, & DE SOTO NATIONAL FOREST – JANUARY 11-JANUARY 20, 2018
Okay, we ran through some areas in AL and MS so that we could get our state stickers and see a little of the area. Ultimately, we were working a lot and went from a no cell service area into other areas that we could get electric because the COLD was coming!
When arriving to Chickasabogue, I felt like I need my gun but the park turned out much better than the surrounding area. We pretty much hunkered down through the 16 degree temperatures and a little bit of snow (see pictures). It was definitely the coldest we’ve seen and totally unexpected along the Gulf Coast in Alabama. One resident said it was only the 3rd time in 10 years they had seen snow. Lucky us! We had one of our highlights in Biloxi, Mississippi visiting the Hard Rock and walking the area.
NEW ORLEANS – JANUARY 20 – 24, 2018
We sure have put in some driving time but made it here for a few days of walking around the area, seeing some of the history, and of course getting a quick fill of Bourbon Street as it starts to prepare for the big event of Mardi Gras. Luckily for us, the one good glimpse of some hooters came when the kids were preoccupied with something else.
I’m including a picture here of a quick tour of New Orleans and seeing where some famous people have homes including Sandra Bullock and John Goodman. This house, however, is the coolest for me as it’s the Manning household. Yes, the one Eli and Peyton grew up in and Archie still lives there. Overall the visit here was hard since, as adults, Melissa and I couldn’t really partake in some activities.
MORE FAMILY! HOUSTON, TX & AUSTIN, TX – JANUARY 24 – FEBRUARY 2, 2018
We visiting a cousin of Melissa’s, Vanessa and her family in Houston for a few days. It was nice to catch up with them and see some of their property with bees, small fishing pond, and area to shoot a few rounds off with Greg. It was a quick visit where we also stayed in an area that I swear was involved in a lot of drug deals and other suspect happenings at 3am. I didn’t sleep much here!
Next we went to Austin area to visit more of Melissa’s cousins Luke, Matt, David and families. We also got to know Neal & Donna here while staying on their beautiful property. We had plenty of space to roam and allow the kids to have fun with the other little ones. Neal was also wonderful to realize some areas we were heading to next perhaps require a gun. So, he allowed me to take handle on a spare Glock 23 he had. Austin was perhaps a let down as Melissa was really expecting to have a great time here. We pretty much ended up walking around a little, driving by most of it, and moving on. The parks in the area were great though and staying in nearby Pedernales Falls State Park was really nice.
BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK – FEBRUARY 2 – FEBRUARY 7, 2018
On the way in, we staying in what was likely the busiest Wal-Marts for camping you’ll ever see. Due to the size of TX and getting from one place to the next can be quite time-consuming, we broke the trip up in a Fort Stockton Wal-mart with about 25 other campers.
Moving onto Big Bend National Park, we were truly out in the middle of nowhere and hence the gun mentioned above. We spent a lot of time working here as well and making regular trips up to the camp store for their slow free wi-fi and allowed us to make calls through wi-fi and take care of some emails. We did some good hiking and enjoyed the area a lot.
Probably the most memorable aspect of this was the Super Bowl. We had to drive to the West side of the park and watch the Super Bowl at “nearby” (1.5 hours from our campsite) Terlingua, TX. We were in the one dive bar in town and enjoyed the game with a projector against a dirty white wall. The food and drinks were all served in plastic because, (yes, this is true), the entire town had no water. The one and only main water line had previously broken and was in the process of getting fixed. Apparently it’s not all that abnormal?? The locals were awesome though and everyone, including the kids, had a great time here!
SILVER CITY, NM – FEBRUARY 7 – FEBRUARY 14, 2018
The trip away from Big Bend required another stop over in West Texas. We stayed at a Harvest Host near El Paso called Licon Dairy. The place was a little diamond in the rough. Another sketch area but we pulled into this nice little farm area with plenty of animals for the kids to see and pet including a camel. This place sold some of the best Queso known to man, and it was healthy stuff too! – as far as milk and cheese products can be.
Silver City, NM popped up on our radar because Melissa once did a survey that said this is where she should live based on her answers. Turns out the area was actually really nice and not too far off from an area she/we would live in. It’s maybe a little too far out there with a too small of a town, but we really enjoyed our time here. After a long drive through the forest, we made a really cool hike to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument (see picture). This was something the kids really liked a well to see some unique like this. We got to actually walk through the dwellings as well.
TUCSON, AZ – FEBRUARY 11 – FEBRUARY 18, 2018
We made the trip here to really get our trip to slow down and allow ourselves some more time at each location. We planned a week and two spots to stay during this time here. We were North of town a little at Catalina State Park. The park was getting surrounded by new development and shopping but a really nice park. We made a mistake in our reservation and couldn’t fit on the spot we had. So they put us in overflow and we ended up liking our spot a lot more! Some decent small hikes here but we really enjoyed our movie night with the kids in a nearby Cinema. It gave us a little needed “regular life feeling”. We were ultimately kicked out of our overflow spot unexpectedly and then spent the rest of the weekend at the Airforce Base by getting sponsored by our friends Dave & Kelly. We didn’t know we were going there but it turned out a decent spot to get to visit the Saguaro National Park and hang out in a different type of situation. We also love seeing Dave & Kelly though so it turned out perfect and allowed us to hang out just a little more than their visit up to Catalina a few days prior.
PHOENIX, AZ (THE SHAW’S) – FEBRUARY 18 – 25, 2018
Phoenix turned out to be another family visit with Ron & Peg and an unexpected but great visit with Joe & Margarita (Peg’s brother and wife). The week here seemed to fly! Melissa had some much-needed girl time with her Mom and friends she got to visit. We spent some time at the local botanical gardens and during one of Melissa’s visit with a friend, the kids and I went to South Mountain and did a little playing around. The biggest fiasco of this whole thing though was we had planned on leaving our trailer with Camping World all week while we staying in the Shaw’s house. Camping World ended up having it for 6 working days to get some warranty work done on it. Well….not much I can say quickly here except that they absolutely SUCKED and was a huge waste of our time. For all those listening, I would seriously consider NOT ever buying a trailer from Camping World if you can help it. I could go on and on, but I won’t except to say I’m just glad to have the trailer back.
SEDONA, AZ (COCONINO NF) – FEBRUARY 25 – MARCH 2, 2018
We pulled up to maybe our coolest campsite yet! The view was amazing and the area was awesome! We did, however, have some crazy weather here and despite our best efforts, weren’t able to avoid the weather as seen in the below picture!
Luckily, it all melted fast! We were back to doing some amazing hikes and enjoying some of what Sedona has to offer. The kids have definitely proven to be great hikers and do some truly amazing trips on their feet! We’re so proud of them as they make it to the top of some huge hills and down some pretty lengthy routes. It all adds to our great experiences for sure! Another side note here, has anyone ever seen a crystal move to questions? Something we experienced and learned in one of the crystal shops in town was to put a crystal or other forms of stone on the end of a chain or string and learn the path it moves when you have yes or no questions asked of it. Your bodies energy really does have vibrations we can’t see and moves to the answers. It may sound a little hokey but it was quite cool and now Sydney’s newest “toy” is her crystal and necklace.
—–Well, I think that’s about all for now. I could have gone into more depth about some of these spots but hopefully my memory serves me well in the future. Moving forward I’ll try to write more about our weeks in locations instead of playing catchup and just doing what I can. This post ended up taking me a couple of hours and my figures are now quivering.