Chicago – Last Stop on Leg #4

Thank goodness our drive from Indianapolis was a short three hours. We managed to stop just outside of Chicago to get some supplies and have lunch. Since we made good time, I convinced Damon to stop at a nearby GameStop to get a Lego Dimensions set I’ve been looking for (so thrilled to find it!).

We made it to our destination, but it’s not an RV park – it’s a parking lot in the middle of downtown Chicago. Amazing location but ZERO amenities – no power, no water, nothing. To help keep the RV cool, we set about covering all the windows with space blankets.

A cheap way to keep the RV cool

We turned on the generator in the evening to help cool everything down then went to bed. We then learned the hard way that our Co2 detector works. Turns out our generator doesn’t ventilate out, it just settles under the RV. And with no wind to ow it away, it started to build up and seep into the RV. Opening windows and turning off the generator seemed to clear things up.

Needless to say, my mind was filled with worry, which made it very hard to sleep. By morning I was a zombie. However, the boys soon made it clear that they needed a day out.

So we walked to a nearby playground on Lake Michigan, filled with lots of swings, climbing equipment, and splash pad. Little-dude instantly took to the slide and splash area. Mini-man played a little, but was more interested in climbing a tree than playing.

Really cute playground that wasn’t busy

Me. I was tired and dehydrated. After we grabbed some lunch, I felt better, so we decided to take the boys to the Lincoln Park Zoo. This free zoo is adorable and filled with awesome animals.

Eavesdropping led us to this amazing view of Downtown Chicago

While we were there, we met up with Damon’s brother, who helped us get to a local grocery store to pick up supplies for our sailing trip that evening. Unfortunately, a storm rolled in, cancelling our excursion.

Fun fact: this zoo is free!

It was the last day before the weekend, and according to my research, Chicago is very busy on a weekend. So I wanted to get some more visits in before the crowds hit. First up – The Shedd Aquarium.

How to get the boys to look at the camera – give them food

Ever since mini-man started liking fish, I have wanted to take him to this aquarium. what was really fun, was he seemed to know where we were going. After parking the car in a parking garage, we had to walk to the aquarium through Millennium Park. About a quarter of the way through, mini-man jumped out of the stroller and insisted on walking the rest of the way. When the aquarium came into view, he sped up and couldn’t wait to go inside.

Unfortunately, the line for tickets was very long. Here’s a tip – buy them online before you go. I did that while waiting in line and not moving. Within a minute of finishing, I had my tickets in a pdf sent to my phone and was able to go straight into the building. Which also, magically, lets us skip the bag check.

He was in heaven

Once we caught up with little-dude and Damon, we went in. I kid you not, mini-man just walked ahead of everyone. He just had to see his sish. Fortunately, there’s a very large aquarium as soon as you get inside. Both boys sat there for a while just watching the dish. This was great for Damon and me, as we could cool down in the AC and get something to drink.

I love the Washed Ashore Project and the work -especially this otter 😍

Soon, we were being led through the whole place by the boys. The aquarium is four stories tall and filled with with all kids of exhibits. What I loved was that the Aquarium offered a wide variety of things for kids to touch and climb on.

After spending about five hours there, the kids were done and ready to leave. Little-dude fell asleep, so we took mini-man to the nearby Maggie Daley Park – which has an enormous children’s playground. Mini-man adored climbing one everything, and even ventured off on his own for a while. I love that his confidence is growing. While we were there, we met up with Damon’s parents, who came into town to visit Damon’s brother.

This place was huge but very busy

ONce, Jared got off work ,we headed to a local pizza place, Pizannos. Cause when your in Chicago, you gotta do pizza.

Broke my diet for this -but I made sure to only eat a few pieces 😜

Along the way, we did another Chicago staple – the bean.

Also known as the other endless cloud

The ride home was certainly interesting. We were in stuck in wall-to-wall traffic for some unknown reason. After some redirection from Google, we made it back and learned that the traffic was due to a Beyonce concert (For those of you reading this in the future – shes a singer).

That girl can sure stop traffic

We woke up Saturday and saw that the downtown area was congested again – this time due to a ‘back-to-school’ parade. Wanting to get out of the RV, but get away from the crowds, we headed to the suburbs of Chicago for some thrift store and grocery shopping.

I love seeing how much fun they have in thrift stores

Sunday, we decided to do something different. Since parking, and traffic, in Chicago is horrible, we tried biking. After a rough night, we loaded up my bike and rented a second bike for Damon to ride, and headed to the Navy Pier. The four-mile bike ride took us, mostly, along Lake Michigan, so we got to see a lot of the city. The boys objected at first, but soon fell asleep in their wagon.

At the pier, we met up with Damon’s parents to ride the Ferris Wheel. This turned out to be awesome as it gave us a great view of the city. And both boys did great. They sat and looked around as we rode. I was slightly stressed when the boys tried to push on the doors but loved the experience overall.

High above Chicago

After a quick dinner at a nearby TGI Fridays, we got back on our bikes and headed back. We got about a third of the way back, when the boys freaked out so we stopped in front of the Millennial Fountain and let them play. They soon calmed down and we were able to go again.

Quick stop to fix the iPad

Then just as we approached the beach close to our RV, they freaked out again, so we pulled over again. The boys seemed to enjoy this stop a lot, as they could play on the beach.

Boys wanted out of the bikes and instantly went to the beach

Once they were done, we started to walk back to the RV. Im not sure why we did this. At the time, it seemed like the best option. But we started to feel tired and cranky on the walk back. Both boys wanted to be carried, which made the journey feel like it took much longer.

I collapsed when we got home – four+miles of bike riding plus walking and my legs were done. After sitting for a few minutes, I tried to get up and realized how much pain I was in. Sleeping was definitely interesting.

The next day was a monday and is was 80! Perfect day for the each. As soon as we set up camp, the boys were in the sand and clammoring to get into the water.

Wis!

We spent our last day in Chicago, back at the Navy Pier. This time, taking the boys to the Chicago Children’s Museum. This two story place is filled with a variety of activities that both boys loved.

This place was fun

We returned to our to a very hot, humid RV. At first we tried to cool it down by opening he windows and using fans, in an effort to save gas. However, that didn’t work and everyone felt it. I soon put my foot down and turned on the air conditioner. It might’ve cost us some gas but it was worth it as the cooler temperatures allowed for a much calmer evening.

And so ends our fourth leg of our journey. At this point, we don’t have leg #5 mapped out. We really should get on that. After next week, we have nothing reserved!

$35 a night with a view of downtown Chicago. Not too bad
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Indianapolis

After a too short stay in St. Louis, we hit the road to Indianapolis. We could literally tell when we left Missouri because the highway roads went from nicely paved to nearly destroyed. Unfortunately, we think these bad roads may have done something to the van, for as we made it to the RV park the brakes stopped working.

Once it stopped raining, we hit the pool. This is the first pool we’ve had in a while and wanted to enjoy it. Plus, after three days of non-stop adventure, we needed a down day.

The boys loved the pool. This is a perfect pool for kids – lots of splash area, a slide, and it only ever gets three feet deep!

Little-dude and I went back to lay down in the RV while Damon took mini-man to the playground. While there, they met the campground’s horses! Mini-man was enthralled – he fed them, petted them, and kept saying ‘neigh’. They headed back after that and both crashed.

Unfortunately, this was pretty late and we all napped til about 9p. This led to a really crazy night of one of the kids being awake and both parents becoming pretty exhausted.

We spent Damon’s birthday morning trying to catch up on sleep. Around noon, we decided to take the van into be checked. We figured, its better to take it in early in case it needs a lot of work.

After dropping the car off, we headed to a nearby mall – where both boys fell asleep. Damon and I walked around the Target and the attached mall, trying to keep the boys asleep. Now this place was the epitome of a dieing mall – almost everything was closed. The few places that existed only opened on the weekend. Realizing this wouldn’t entertain us for two hours, we walked to a nearby Five Guys for lunch.

By the time we reached the restaurant, we were hot, tired and hungry. There was no way we could keep walking around in the heat with the kids while we waited for the car. Thank goodness for Lyft! We were picked up pretty quickly and dropped off at Walmart – the perfect place to entertain us.

After a little bit of shopping, we heard from the mechanic …$1,500 in repairs (Ouch!). Apparently we had a lot of cracks and problems with the front of the car (I’m sure Damon could tell you exactly what it is). At least its getting fixed and, at this point, there shoudln’t be too much more that can break (right!?!).

Tired, we caught another Lyft back to the RV resort and headed to the pool. After such a long morning, it was great to relax and play at the pool.

We relaxed and got some projects done the following day as we waited for the car repairs to finish and we could pick her up. Unfortunately, they found even more damage and needed an extra day, plus $400 more to fix it. Oh well. It has to be done.

Around this time, mini-man brought me my bathing suit top. Gee… I wonder what he could want. So we gathered our stuff and spent the rest of the day at the pool and playground.

Saturday looked like our last day without any rain, so we decided to take the kids to the Indianapolis Zoo. Unfortunately mini-man chose to be a typical three year old that day. It all started with our walk to a nearby McDonalds for lunch. However, he didn’t want to do that and proceeded to kick and scream the whole way there. Of course as soon as he saw it was McDonald’s he calmed down.

Our next bit of drama was thanks to Lyft, and not our three year old, who was surprisingly well-behaved considering what we were doing. We ordered a four seater car to pick us up. What arrived technically a four seat car, but the gentleman driving it was so large that his seat backed all the way to the backseat, thereby eliminating a seat. Though we tried, we could not fit and sent him on his way. When we went to order a new car, Lyft tried to charge us! We had to wait for him to cancel the trip, which took some time.

Fortunately, our next driver was wonderful and very friendly, who got us to the zoo in no time.

The zoo is definitely one of my favorites that we have visited so far. It was a hot day but a lot of the exhibits were shaded or indoors. Lots of the exhibits were lush and designed for maximum viewing of the animals. It was great to approach each spot and actually be able to see the animals.

Once we made it to the back of the zoo, the boys were both hot and tired. We stopped for a bite to eat and drink, hoping it would revitalize them for more zoo fun, but, alas, it became quite apparent that they were done. And perfect timing, as our car was ready to be picked up.

On the way back, mini-man started to doze off but quickly woke back up (I’m talking minutes). I wish he’d stayed asleep. He started screaming and crying the last bit to the car. He was okay in the car, but once we got into Walmart he went into full melt down mode. We tried to calm him down, but he was hot, tired, and cranky – a very dangerous combination in a three year old. And, of course, it wasn’t until the end of the trip that he got what he wanted and calmed down – a popsicle.

I wish I could say it lasted, but as soon as we got home, the crying started all over again. At this point I was tired and emotionally spent from the stress of getting around the city, mini-man, and the heat. I put on Curious George for him and I curled up in a chair.

After a while, we all seemed to cool down, which put us all in better moods. So much so, that mini-man brought me my bathing suit top and tried to put it on me this time. I wasn’t in the mood for the pool, so Damon took both boys to play while I stayed behind. This gave me the chance to clean up a bit and make dinner. Sometimes all you need to reset is a time to yourself (that, and I had no wine in the house, so cleaning it was).

There’s was a lot that I had planned for us to do in Indianapolis, but after our zoo experience, we discovered that the kids just wanted to swim, play, and see the horses. Why force them out when everything they want to do is right here? Plus, we had a lot of adventures planned for our next stop in Chicago.

After swimming on Monday, we decided to go shopping to stock up for that next stop. We are full-on boondocking in the middle of the city so were trying to get ahead of the game by premaking a lot of food. We also managed to get in a trip to Goodwill, where we found lots of toys that the boys adored.

We had a big agenda for our last day – get ready for Chicago. I wanted to cook as much food as I could. Plus we wanted to pack and rearrange some stuff to make, what we think, we’ll need more accessible. About half way through rearranging stuff outside, mini-man screamed so I went to see what was wrong. Most times, this is irritating. This time, it was perfect timing.

After I restarted mini-mans DVD, which is why he screamed, I noticed a puddle of water near the door. Naturally, I assumed one of the boys spilled something. Then I noticed it was flowing from the bathroom. To which I concluded that mini-man left the sink running and it overflowed. Wrong again. Turns out, the culprit was Damon. He had dumped our tanks earlier and ran the washer to clean out the black tank and left it running. So it wasn’t just water running through the RV, if you catch my drift.

Thankfully, I came in when I did, so we were able to stop the flooding before it spread too far. Took about 15 minutes to mop up and sanitize. All-in-all , it could’ve been much worse.

The rest of the evening was uneventful and both boys were down pretty early. However, this led to very disruptive sleep, which led to a nice ally morning. At least we got a jump on our drive to Chicago.

Des Moines, Iowa

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Oh boy. The drive to our campsite was an adventure. We left early as we had a five hour drive ahead of us. To shorten the drive, a bit, we decided not stop at Walmart. Instead, we found a McDonald’s at a truck has station to make lunch for ourselves and get McDonald’s for the kids. During this stop, Damon decided to start the van to charge the battery. Somehow, the doors locked and the keys got stuck inside while the car was running. Everything seemed okay, so we continued on to our campsite.

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This is the first time Google directions has failed us. Our first attempt to find our campsite led us to a road that was closed for construction. Then it left is to a camp that looked like it connected to our campground but we couldn’t be sure the roads were public so we turned back. We talked to some construction guys who were able to point us in the right direction, which, of course, is when we see the detour signs to our campground. During this time, we’d been driving down very dusty, dirt roads – our RV and car looked great. It’s only after we find the camp that we discovered that the very first road we came upon an hour before led directly to the campground. Google was sending us down the “shortest/fastest route”, not the easiest route. I really wish Google maps would get an RV option.

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We arrived at a beautiful state park, with no cell service – of course. Since we couldn’t turn the car off, we couldn’t detatch it which meant we couldn’t park the RV. So we headed to the local Walmart – they have lots of parking where we could leave the RV while we waited for help, plus we could go shopping.

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After we got the car unlocked (which took the guy about 15 seconds to accomplish), we headed back to our campsite to set up – which took a couple of trys. The signs at our site were confusing, so we pulled in one direction. Then after conferring with out neighbors we realized we weren’t parked in the right direction, so Damon had to turn us around. Needless to say, it was a long day.

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The next day was the Fourth of July and we didn’t have anything planned. We spent the morning plotting our next several stops, including adding a stop in Indianapolis. We got excited, and wanted to plan more, but this is difficult without cell service – so we headed to McDonald’s. The kids got to eat while Damon and I planned our leg after Chicago.

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We drove around a bit afterwards to run some errands. No thrifting, as all the stores were closed. But we did get the car washed (which was desperately needed after our drive down a dusty, dirt road) and picked up stuff for a cookout.

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We spent the evening enjoying our outdoor campsite. Damon hung the festoon lights, set up chairs, and put out the rug, making the whole area feel very cozy. The boys had fun playing outside. We even roasted marshmallows and had s’mores (little-dude loved that).

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The next day we took the boys to the Blank Park Zoo – Mini-man loves his animal books and was very excited to go inside. Despite being the day after a holiday, it was pretty empty and they had a lot of animals out. We got very close to a tiger, giraffe, and penguins – all of which Mini-man adored seeing. Little-dude enjoyed walking around and climbing on anything he could. As for me and Damon, we had our first real experience in parenting in the summer – enduring the heat so our kids could have a fun day at the zoo.

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Afterwards, we hit a few thrift stores and scored some awesome toys for the boys – including a stuffed horse that mini-man is in love with.

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One advantage to being in an area with few attractions and no cell service, is you eventually run out of attractions and start to tackle the little projects that have been put on the back burner for months. Damon fixed several drawers, reattached some fallen trim, installed a new bathroom faucet, and reinstalled our digital picture frames. These small projects didn’t take long and it felt amazing to have them complete.

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Out last day in Des Moines was beautiful. We were outside when mini-man kept asking to ‘wis’ (his word for swim). Knowing there was a lake next to our campground, we thought we would try to have the kids swim in a lake for the first time (we tend to avoid lakes in Florida thanks to alligators).

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It took some coaxing, but once we got the kids into the water they were sold. The both ran around, splashing and playing to their hearts content.

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Afterwards, we took the boys to get something to eat when it became apparent that they still needed to play. Fortunately, there was a playground next to the McDonald’s and the boys had a blast running around. It was a wonderful way to spend out last day.

This stop very satisfying – we had a cook-out, went swimming, went to the zoo, and completed a bunch of projects. Now onto our thirtieth state – Nebraska.

Salt Lake City – Wrapping Up

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The wagon always mean we’re going somewhere fun

 

We ended the week back at the pool. The boys had a lot happen in just a few days, so a fun day at the pool was really needed.

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Someone got really big 

Saturday was a big day – little-dude turn one! We started at the pool where little-dude had fun and is getting more comfortable with the pool.

Then we went to a local thrift and scored big time! In addition to finding some great swim clothes for the boys we found this adorable basketball hoop. The boys wouldn’t stop playing with it in the store, got upset when we put it in the cart, and haven’t stopped playing with it since we got it home.

The following day both boys were sick. Mini-man was covered in bug bites and itching like crazy. Little-dude had a fever. Neither slept.

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Trains!

Luckily, with some help from the almighty Tylenol, they were pretty calm. This allowed Damon to run out and get some errands done. Later, we were even able to pick up a new train set for mini-man – which he dove into as soon as Damon brought it inside.

Despite another rough night, I knew we needed to get out, so we took the kids to the aquarium. Two hours of fish made mini-man very happy.

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Nothing better than fruit by the pool

Knowing we had just a few days left until we travel to Wyoming, Damon and I agreed that we needed to get the oil changes in the RV. So I took the boys to the pool while Damon drive the RV to the mechanic. Mini-man loved spending time in the water. Little-dude was still feeling the effects of teething and was content to just sit in my lap on a lounge chair. He even discovered blueberries and ate all the ones I brought (which was a pretty big container).

The next day hit a high of 97! So we did what any sensible parents would do – we took the kids to the aquarium. We stayed for hours and had a blast. Who knew that the best time to go would be late afternoon – hardly any kids and all the animals were very energetic.

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Definitely one of our favorite campgrounds – beautiful, pool, and close to transit

We had a lot to accomplish on our last day. Although our drive to Wyoming was relatively short, Google doesn’t take elevation into account – so we were worried that it would be a long drive and wanted to get an early start. To prepare for the drive, we started cleaning and packing things up. Fortunately, it’s an RV and didn’t take to long to pack everything up. Next stop – state #23 Wyoming.

Salt Lake City – Continued

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Nothing quite gets a place clean faster than company coming

After a long day exploring Salt Lake City, I wanted nothing more than to sleep in. However, my in-laws were coming to visit, so I did what any daughter-in-law would do – clean! Thankfully, it’s an RV and I got the place looking pretty good in no time.

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Learning about creating islands at the aquarium

We decided to take them to the aquarium, knowing that the kids would have a great time with them there.

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Stopped him long enough for a picture (he looks so thrilled)

Being one of mini-mans favorite places, he basically went off on his own while I followed him. I think we saw each exhibit three or four times.

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He loves his new sish towel from Grandma Barb

At this point, we’d done a lot and the boys needed a down day. So we spent the next morning at the pool, swimming and playing with water toys.

Damon’s parents came over in the afternoon and we just hung out enjoying the outdoors. This could not have worked out better. The boys had so much fun with bubbles, chalk, water table and water beads, which gave them the perfect opportunity to bond with their grandparents.

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My clean room quickly destroyed by projects. At least little-dude was having fun

On their last day, Damon and Phil spent part of the day fixing things on the RV, while Sue and I played with the boys

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Three Generations

We ended the visit with a cook-out to enjoy the great weather.

Salt Lake City

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I’ve been looking forward to this stop since we started planning this leg of our journey. Why? Because it’s packed full of awesome things for is to do with the boys – two aquariums!, A children’s museum, parks, and a zoo!

As much as I wanted to hit the ground running, we were stopped by summer colds (and we were doing so well on the illness front). Luckily, we seem to get it at different times, so each of us had their bad day apart from everyone else.

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I love with the boys playroom

We did push ourselves a little in order to get food and some things for the playroom. We currently have a TV in the upper corner of the playroom, but it’s hard for the boys to see. So we’ve been on the hint for a smaller TV that we could mount lower. After scowering thrift stores, regular stores, and the internet, we found just what we were looking for on Salt Lake City? In fact, they’d just put out this TV as Damon was standing there!

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sish!

The days of errands and illness caught up with us and we needed to get the boys out. After a bit of a rough start, we managed to get the boys to the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium.

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Shark – wow

As soon as we put, mini-man knew where we were and wanted out of the car. We were definitely going way to slow for him.

We spent almost three hours walking around each exhibit several times and saw lots of fish, frogs, sharks, and many other animals. This place was the perfect mix of everything the kids are interested in at the moment.

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wis , juice (mini-man for swim and water)

When we got back, the boys were still energetic, so we tried to take them to the playground. Ha! That lasted less than a second as mini-man headed straight for the pool.

And somehow, after all that we managed to finish a lot of projects in the playroom. The new TV is mounted and hooked up to internet, the shoe rack is fixed, and the play cabinet knobs are secured. No wonder we were all tired by the end of the day.

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I love otters

After seeing the the following week brought temperatures in the 90s+(!), we decided to take advantage of the nice Saturday and visit the Hogle Zoo.

At first mini-man wasn’t into it. Then we saw the giraffes. Suddenly, he became very invested and started going from exhibit to exhibit, very excited. His favorite, by far, was the phephants 🐘

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I don’t think this guy has a lot of experience

Unfortunately, we had some problems getting to the zoo. The van was having some issues with the electrical system – sometimes it worked and sometimes the battery was dead or the car had very little power. After getting it checked out, we learned that we needed a new alternator. At least we could get it fixed fairly fast.

By Monday, we felt adventurous and decided to explore Salt Lake City. We took the trolley, conveniently located next to our campsite, and headed to Temple Square – home to the main temple for the Church of Latter-Day Saints.

This place was beautiful. Everyone was friendly and welcoming. It felt like a very calm place to worship.

Since there wasn’t much for the boys to do at the Temple, we moved on and went to the Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum.

This place was built for Damon – you could build, play pretend, and it had a lot of variety.

The boys had fun too – it was a great place for them to explore and get some energy out.

At this point, I was starving. Having walked around downtown in 100+ heat, I was in no mood to cook, so we went to the Cheesecake Factory.

Unfortunately, we didn’t know the trolley system that well, so we walked 15 minutes in the heat, only to learn that the trolley stopped right at the restaurant 🤦.

Fortunately, this lesson came in handy for the journey home, and the next day, when we went back for dinner.

We accomplished quite a bit in our first week in SLC, and we were just beginning.

Coos Bay, Oregon

Our original master plan was to get to Seattle, Washington by May, assuming that we’d have some warm, spring weather to accompany us along the way. Unfortunately, the weather this year has been quite unusual.

Luckily, we’re not on a tight schedule, so we decided to adjust a bit. Instead of running up to Seattle, we chose to slow down and spend some time near the beach in Oregon. Again, assuming that the weather would be nicer.

This decision resulted in a much shorter drive for us, from the Redwood Forest to Coos Bay, Oregon. We continued on the 101 and it’s still as twisty as ever – it’s not a lot of fun to have constant turns in an RV (similar to waves at sea).

One nice thing about short drives is you arrive at your site pretty early. As it was our only nice day during our stay, we went for a walk. The campground was beautiful and I could see it’d be very popular in the summer.

The rest of our trip involved cold, rainy weather. As an added bonus, our site was very dirty which created a lot of puddles and mud. So even when we got a dry day, our site was still wet.

We took advantage of our extra time and had our car fixed up (again). Luckily, the mechanic was in the downtown area of Coos Bay, which was very walkable and had lots of stores to visit. Our favorite was an adorable thrift shop that had a dedicated kids room. The boys loved playing and exploring – we walked away with quite a few new toys.

Afterwards we stopped by the local library, where the boys enjoyed pulling books off the shelf.

Once we got the car back, we headed to Walmart. Mini-man is currently fascinated with fish and now spends most of our time at Walmart at the fish tanks.

We spent the rest of our time trying to keep the boys entertained in the RV (which isn’t easy). This insipired a new project for us – turning the dining area into a play area for the kids. We realized we’ll never sit around the table until the boys are older. No sense in keeping something that we rarely use.

As soon as we donated the table and chairs, the boys were enjoying the new space. We even got an old DVD player and set it up to play Elmo’s World on repeat. It keeps mini-man entertained and gives us a bit of a break – win-win.

I’m looking forward to our next stop – South Beach, Oregon. It’s close to the beach, supposed to have nicer weather, and has some cute local attractions (like an aquarium!). Fingers crossed it fulfills our expectations.

Back to the Cold in Yosemite

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Enjoying one of our last warm days for a while (It’s almost spring, right?)

After finally finding warmth, we drove back to the cold in Yosemite. Turns out, it was warm here until recently. Only when we show up do they have a huge snow storm. I think we might be affecting the weather some how.

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During our drive, we experienced a first for us! When we stopped for lunch, we parked on a small road that had access to an exit. Unfortunately, by the time we were ready to leave, other trucks had shown up, complicating our exit. There was a small gap, so we tried to navigate through it and got stuck. In order to get out, Damon had to block the exit to the restaurant, unhook the car, and move the RV out. Apparently, this is common for class-a’s with tow vehicles.

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Why, Smokey! We meet again.

We arrived at our campsite just in time for the rain. Not feeling particularly adventurous at this point, we settled in for the night

After some rough sleep, we decided to get out and get the boys some fun. First stop, the Children’s Museum of Sierra.

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The kids had so much fun

This place is amazing! Four large rooms fill to the brim with toys and activities that the kids could play with. Both boys had a great time – so great that Damon was able to sneak out and get some car stuff done. Now we can finally get the car registered.

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Our new ride for the week. Not our preference, but it worked. And came in handy, in more ways than one.

The rest of our very wet afternoon took us a “red tape” adventure. Turns out that until we get our paperwork filed, were not supposed to drive our car. So we very carefully drove to a rental place in nearby Fresno to get a car for the week.

This wound up being a blessing I disguise. You see, the van’s been going through oil and smelling over the past few weeks. What better time to get it checked out than when we have a rental car. Unfortunately, we ran outta time and had to leave the van near the rental place for the night.

Since we were in Fresno, we decided to get some shopping done. Totally scored a Lego Dimensions game for half off (I know it’s discontinued but we have all these figurines now and I’m curious, some Lego tape for mini-man, and lots of food! The real fun part was figuring out how to fit this all in our rental truck.

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Gotta love the toy aisle

The following day we made a plan to get the car to the mechanic. While the kids and I had lunch at the McDonald’s in the local Walmart, Damon set about rearranging the cars.

While we were at Walmart, and just as Damon joined up with us, an amazing milestone happened – little-dude to his first steps! I love that they are side-ways steps, since he’s been practicing on the furniture that way 😆

After that, we decided to try some local pawn and thrift stores. Unfortunately, we struck out and didn’t find anything. But, we did hear from a local guy selling his PS3 and games for a great deal, so we went to meet him. Now we can play Lego Dimensions!!

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After an accomplishing, and exhausting, day, we treated ourselves to dinner at BJ’s.

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By Sunday, we’d done a lot and decided to have a nice day at home – which included installing and playing Lego Dimensions (of course 😆). That game is a lot of fun. I’m really glad that we got into it now, when everything’s on sale!

After a few hours of video games, we headed outside for some fresh air. Mini-man had fun with his bicycle and building set while little-dude practice walking with his toy truck (he’s getting pretty good at it 😍).

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Still excited about the Lego Dimensions deal we found, we decided to head into Fresno for the evening and do some more shopping – where we scored a Cyberman from Doctor Who!

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The next day was our nicest, and warmest day, during our stay, so we decided to head to Yosemite National Park.

Knowing that we had a two hour drive ahead of us, and to the cold no less, we prepared like crazy – food, drinks, toys, cameras, tablets, and anything else we could think of. Luckily, the kids fell asleep pretty quickly.

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Another blessing in disguise for our car troubles – having the truck for this trip. Over two hours we saw lots of hills, winding turns, and complicated directions. At one point we had to follow a government snow plow to avoid a clean up crew working on a part of the mountain. This would’ve been a much harder trip in the van.

Speaking of the van, thank goodness we got into the shop (another blessing), it had a lot of issues – brakes almost gone, rear shocks shot, serpentine belt about to break, and cylinder head seals almost eroded. Imagine driving that up and down a mountain.

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Since it was snowing in multiple areas of the park, we opted to take the more scenic route that was longer but didn’t require any snow chains. It was a fascinating drive – it was amazing to see how the road evolved over the decades.

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Once we arrived, we parked at the visitors center to stretch out legs and check out the area. The kids were really happy to get out of the car. The walk to the center was so serene and beautiful – the smell of pine instantly relaxed me. And you can’t miss the half-dome in the background.

The visitors center had a cute walk-through that explained the history of the park. My favorite part was seeing photographs of the same fall from different time periods. The kids loved the hands on elements. After a quick stop at the gift shop (a must), we picked a few areas to visit and headed back to the car.

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Time sure flies when your having fun – we managed to spend two hours in this area! With a long drive ahead of us, we decided to just hit a couple of places. First was Bridal Falls, one of the many gorgeous water falls in the park. Since Glacier Point was closed, the road to half-dome, we continued on.

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We then stopped at Tunnel View, a stop that gives an amazing overview of the valley. It was amazing to me to see the beautiful views and the juxtaposition of the snow capped mountains with the green valley below.

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At this point, both boys had fallen asleep, so we decided to head back home. So glad that we got to experience this gorgeous park.

Our last full day and we were busy! It’s so great that we’ve accomplished so much during this stop – car, paperwork, video games, children’s museum and Yosemite – which led to a very busy last day.

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First up, visiting the thrift stores and pawn shops one more time. Unfortunately, we struck out again. This trip hasn’t been great for our thrifting. We did walk away with another Lego Dimensions character. Can’t wait to see if we find any new ones in the next city.

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On our way to the grocery store, we finally got the call that our car was ready! Woohoo! So Damon dropped us off and raced to drop off the rental truck and get the van. Luckily, the people at Enterprise were really nice – not only did they stay later for us, they drove Damon to the repair shop!

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Meantime, I was chasing mini-man around Walmart, while trying to calm a very tired little-dude. I finally wrangled mini-man and took both kids to the toy aisle to play. Thank goodness for the toy aisle.

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With a long drive in the morning, I’d hoped we’d go to bed on time. No such luck, both kids seemed wired once we got home, with mini-man becoming so over-tired that he became delirious and extremely loud. I guess we tried to do too much.

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Just another lesson learned, I guess. At least we have some fun things planned for the kids at our next stop – San Francisco.

Seeing Sequoia

California is known for many things, but one of the things I’ve always wanted to see, but never have, is their magnificent sequoia and redwood trees. This stop, I get to strike one of those off my list.

Our drive got off to a late start thanks to little-dude waking up at 3 a.m., then mini-man waking up at 5 a.m. Damon let me sleep while he played with the boys, which meant he got no sleep. Once I got up at 7 a.m., Damon went back to bed to get a couple hours of shut-eye. Fortunately, our previous day’s cleaning spree meant that we didn’t need to do too much to leave.

A few hours later, we were ready to go. Before we got too far, we stopped by the bank to get Damon’s debit card, which had been taken the day before for safe keeping. For some reason, though, the bank cut up his debit card. They said it was for our safety, since we’d lost it … even though they were our bank and they had it. Who’s gonna take it? One of your people? Oh well. At least I have my card, so we continued on.

We arrived out our campground by mid-afternoon, after a very bumpy ride (Hey California, how about making your roads a little less bumpy!?!). Due to the rain, we settled in for the night.

I wish! Between both boys I got no sleep. I managed to get a small nap, but you all know it doesn’t makeup for no sleep.

By the afternoon, we loaded up the kids into the car and headed for the Sequoia National Park. Even though it’s just a few miles from our campground, it’s 7000ft up!, which meant over an hour drive.

Luckily, the kids fell asleep and I could enjoy the beautiful scenery. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. Little-dude is going through a ‘I hate my car seat’ phase, which means he cries non-stop. Nothing seems to help him – I hope he gets used to it soon.

We’d almost made it to our destination, the Trail of 100 Giants, when we hit a road closure – snow had blocked our way. At least we learned this now and could try again.

After an hour drive back down the mountain, we headed for dinner. When we arrived, we stumbled upon a local Goodwill! Thinking we wouldn’t find anything, we went in for a quick look.

We. Were. Wrong! We found so much stuff here. Awesome 1980’s Sesame Street books, magnetic toys, a Connect Four, a mystery toy box, and a great GPS!

After the previous day’s long drive to a closed road, we learned our lesson and decided to ask before we drove anywhere. Turns out, the area we wanted to see was snowed in and not accessible by cars.

We did learn that there’s a Grove of trees about two hours away but the thought of spending one of our only nice days in the car didn’t sound appealing to me. Instead, we went to lunch.

There’s at least three

While we were out, we discovered a few thrift stores nearby, so we walked to them. While the Goodwill stop was a bust, we scored at b the .99 cent store – dozens of Lego Dimensions characters, candy, and some cascarones (which mini-man wanted to open in the store).

On the way home, we heard something hit/tumble across the roof of our car. We didn’t think much of it and kept going. 10 minutes later, Damon realized his phone was missing!

So we went turned around and went back to the place where we heard the sound. While Damon searched the side of the highway, I took a chance and called his phone. I heard it! I searched the car frantically but couldn’t find it. Once Damon got back to the car I told him I heard it and had him help in the search. He found it stuck in the roof rack on top of the car. Turns out, he left it on the roof of the car and it tumbled across when we sped up. Luckily, it got stuck and there was no damage.

Once we got home, it was still nice out, so we pulled our outdoor stuff and enjoyed the evening. Mini-man was thrilled to break his eggs (finally!).

The next day, we expected rain, so Damon played with the kids outside for a bit while I cleaned the playroom. Don’t know what happened to the rain, but glad the kids got to play.

Later, Damon and I did a major purge of the kids toys. We realized that a bucket and a hose kept their attention longer than most of their toys. So anything that was a one-hit-wonder (only kept their attention for a few minutes) got donated or stored for future use. Man, does the playroom look so much better.

Per usual, on our last day we get ready to leave. Unfortunately, when we pulled into this sure a few days ago, our living room side got stuck half-out for some reason. The motor engaged but the slide would barely move. Now that we need to leave, we had to figure out how to get the side back in.

Then I remembered that our auto-level jacks couldn’t finish due to slope of the site. Turns out, the slide twisted due to the unevenness of the site. Once we raised the jacks, the RV straighten and the slide started working! Score one for the wifey 😆

So now we say goodbye to Sequoia. I wish we could’ve seen more of the trees but weather has not been our friend lately. Hopefully we’ll have better luck in Yosemite.

Rough Ride Near the Rio Grande

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“Roughing” it in the desert

After a long car ride, we woke up at the Seminole Canyon State Park refreshed and happy to be back on the road. This park is very close to the Rio Grande and offers many trails down to the river. Since it was the first real nice day we’d seen in a while, and the last warm one we’d see for some time, we decided to get out.

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The bike ride that didn’t go quite as planned

For the first time in months, we broke out the bikes and decided to explore the campground. We learned pretty quickly that the so-called ‘bike trails’ that led to the Rio Grande were basically rock covered dirt paths – not suitable for kids. We met another biker along the way who told us that the path was hard and he walked a lot of it.

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Checking out the Welcome Center

Instead of trudging forward, we decided to go explore other, paved, areas of the park.

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The boys love getting outside

By the time we got back to the afternoon, we were ready to relax. Since it was so nice out, we set up camp outside. It was amazing to spend time outside again! I loved seeing mini-man feel comfortable to walk around and explore a bit on his own ❤️

The next few days were spent inside as the weather went crazy! Temps dipped into the 30’s and the winds reached 70mph!! I’ll admit, I was soooooo glad that we were in the new RV. I remember high winds in our travel trailer, and it wasn’t fun. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like in this weather.

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Unfortunately, our week started to slide south. Damon got really sick and ended up going to the ER with food poisoning 😞. And this was a day before we were supposed to leave. But we regrouped and decided to stay a few more days to let him recuperate.

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Turned into a great decision, as both the boys and myself got sick. I guess the family that gets sick together, stays together.

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Family time

By Thursday we were well enough to continue on. And not a moment too soon. It can be a bit much when it’s cold, your sick, and there’s NOTHING nearby for 40 miles! Can’t wait for all of us to get better so we can start enjoying our adventure again.