Bookdocking

Boondocking is an RV term, which means to camp without any water or electrical hook-ups. We first tried this type of camping in New York. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a pleasant experience – it got hot very fast and couldn’t run the AC except during two hour blocks in the morning an evening. couple that with an inaccessible fridge and no way to charge/use electronics and you end up with a very cranky wife, kids, and husband.

Beautiful site but far from anything and limited generator hours

When we decided to camp in Chicago, the only place available, that wasn’t an hour outside of the city, was a parking lot near the convention center. It was just a place to park – no hookups. I was nervos, so say the least. But, this time, things were a bit different – we had larger battery banks to run/charge our electronics a large water tank, a large gas tank for AC, no restrictions on AC use, and a much bigger fridge. We also did a lot of planning ahead of time – researching activities to keep us out of the RV during the height of the heat, pre-cooking food so we could keep cooking to a minimum, thus not heating up our RV unit, and covering all of our windows with space blankets to keep out as much heat as possible.

Not much to look at but we could constantly run the generator and it was close to everything

The results were much better this time around. Our location was ideal for exploring the city with our boys. It also encouraged us to get out more and stay home less.

I’m not sure what’s more amazing -that they’re in the bike or that they’re sitting next to each other nicely 🤔😆

The unknown cost however, is there. While we could run the AC to keep things cool, it does drain the gas tankl. By the time we made it to our last day, we were down to aquater of a tank of gas. After doing the math we discovered that we spent about $30 a day in gas, on top of $35 a night to park. That’s about the same as staying at a nice KOA, just without the ammenities.

Pro:

  • Cheaper
  • Awesome location
  • Encouraged us to get out of the RV

Con

  • More money to run the air conditioner
  • No Amenities
  • No shade

I think, overall, it was a great experience. We got to see a lot of Chicago. But I’m also glad we didn’t stay longer. Maybe Ill give this boondocking thing another try.

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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

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.

Meet me in St. Louis

Meet me in St Louis is one of my all time favorite movies. I love the look at this time period and the celebration of the worlds fair. Despite all of the news reports around St Louis, I really wanted to visit and have been looking forward to this stop for a while.

After a late night, we woke up mid morning and were on the road by 1030. The drive was fairly entertaining – never have I seen such a wide variety of billboards, covering almost all topics. My favorite was counting the number of billboards for the a candy store – 30 signs in 39 miles.

We chose to stay at a state park just outside of the city – absolutely beautiful park and in a pretty safe area (didn’t want to take any chances). After finishing our usual setup, we headed out to pick up some stuff that we needed.

First stop – Goodwill, of course. We found some great stuff – a new Bluetooth keyboard for my tablet (which makes writing a lot easier), a new swimsuit for me for $1.50, and a toy car for little-dude. He was so cute when he found it – like a moth to a flame. He saw it and was just drawn to it. I couldn’t leave without it

Next we hit up Walmart and Sam’s club to stock up on more fruits and vegetables. The car was definitely full when we were done. At this point, mini-man discovered the car that I bought for little-dude and he claimed it as his own.

Although I didn’t sleep at all, I wanted to go out. With just three days in St. Louis, I didn’t want to waste anytime. I heard a lot about a local place called City Museum – a large museum in a warehouse that is built large enough for adults to have fun. I was worried if the boys would enjoy it, but Damon and I both really wanted to go, so we took a shot.

OMG, I’m glad that we went. This place was amazing. Unlike other places that have defined spaces, everything here flowed together and intertwined. The amount of detail was amazing – anything that could be something to inter act with, including the balustrade on the staircase. Damon loved seeing how everything worked together.

He’s always been a fan of small spaces and details, so this truly spoke to his heart. Both boys loved being able to climb and touch everything. I loved being able to relax and watch them having fun

We started our second day a bit late thanks to another sleepless night. Which is unfortunately because there was a lot we wanted to do. After two hours in the car, running errands, the boys were getting figity and I was low on patience.

To help, we stopped at a local playground that had elements both boys loved – climbing. for mini-man and water play for little-dude.

After some playing, we headed to a different area of the park that was the central hub of the 1904 World’s Fair. As a huge fan of Meet Me In St Louis, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit this place that was essential in the movie. It was neat to see how similar the area was to the movie.

On our last day, we got no sleep, again. But I was determined to get out. It was our final day and there was so much we wanted to do. First stop – City Museum.

Mini-man was excited when we went inside the building and lead is straight to the toddler area. It’s amazing how much there is to do in just this area.

We discovered how the museum got it’s name when we made it to the fourth floor – where they had lots of exhibits and displays with St. Louis statues and building exteriors from all eras. It was amazing to see the detail up close.

By the end of our visit, it stopped raining and the outdoor area opened. Knowing Damon loved stuff like that I let him go play while I took the boys.

Instead of going back to the toddler room, mini-man found the skateless skate park and had a blast climbing up and down while little-dude slept. When they closed, I had to, quite literally, drag mini-man out of the exhibit while carrying a fast asleep little-dude. Luckily, Damon caught up with us just as we left the exhibit and was able to help me.

I guess it was a good day, as both boys were fast asleep in the car. This gave Damon time to get some errands done.

In retrospect, I don’t think we gave ourselves enough time to enjoy St. Louis. As we drove past the infamous arch, we saw so much more we’d like to see – like a riverboat ride, or a baseball game, or more thrifting, or a trolley ride. It feels like there is so much more left for us to do. But alas, we have a schedule to keep and an amazing amount of things to see in our next stop – Indianapolis.

Branson, Missouri

To say this was a rough trip is an understatement. Mini-man didn’t go to bed until 2a and little-dude was up most of the night, which didn’t help with my cold. You’d think that this would mean a late start for us. But sadly, the boys were up fairly early.

Leaving early is usually a plus, but when your sick and tired, it makes for a stressful journey. All I wanted was a nap but that wasn’t happening. On the plus side, we did manage to stop at a Sams Club along the way to stock up on fruit and other supplies.

Once we parked and set up, I was in bed and fell fast asleep. It seems when illness hits this family, I get it the worst.

I spent the next few days in bed trying to get over this cold. It seemed to travel to my sinuses, which gave me a migraine that lasted for days. Damon was amazing during this time – he took mini-man out for shopping and lunch many times so I could try and rest. It also gave him a chance to complete a lot of projects we had going on – such as setting up our new entertainment systems.

By our last day I was feeling better but still nursing my headache. It was beautiful out and we wanted to take advantage. Fortunately Damon made a reservation for a boat out on Table Rock Lake.

To ensure maximum comfort, I made a lot of food and packed a lot of beverages. Nothing worse for a migraine than getting dehydrated, which is easy to do on the water.

I was also worried about the boys – would they have fun? Would they be scared? Would I be nervous the whole time worried they fall overboard?

That last fear was put to rest when we got on the boat, which was a pontoon with lots of seats and high sides. The boys tentatively took their seats but quickly started to cry once we got underway. About 10 minutes in, they both fell asleep. This gave Damon and me the chance to enjoy the ride. The wind and water were perfect and made me feel a lot better.

Once we got down one on of the side coves, we parked the boat and both boys woke up. I’ve never jumped into the water from a boat before and had a lot of fun dipping into the cool water. Little-dude became intrigued and followed me in. He liked swimming around as long as I was with him. To my surprise, mini-man wanted nothing to do with water and chose to stay onboard and eat.

The one thing missing from our boat was an anchor, so we so found our boat drifting toward the shore. Not wanting to keep moving the boat, we moved further down the river. Apparently this is just what mini-man needed. Shortly after we stopped mini-man got into the water. He spent the rest of our time in the water.

As for me, my food efforts paid off. I managed to keep my migraine at bay and actually enjoy myself. The young man who helped us quoted “lake days are nap days for kids”. He was partly right – the kids relaxed on the way back, which kept them wide awake until midnight. Just what we needed the night before we drive.

But at least we’re going someplace I’ve always wanted to go – St. Louis

Oooooooh-klahoma

Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain. That’s really all I know about Oklahoma; that and Chandler got transferred there. I felt like Chandler in that meeting where he got assigned to Tulsa – after three days of no sleep, I was feeling edgy and tired.

No exactly our best travel day

As we left Kansas City, we needed gas. Unfortunately, we were driving though small towns that all had height limits shorter than our RV. We barely made it to a truck stop to get gas. This search added some extra time to our drive, which I didn’t like. Then, about an hour before our lunch stop, we were detoured off the highway and onto a dirt road. We found out later that we were forced off the highway because there was no highway.

A much needed rest stop

When we finally arrived, we saw the effects of the detour- our back hatches and the engine of our car were full of dirt. Damon spent some time rinsing off our furniture and toys.

After another night of bad sleep, we decided to take the boys out in hopes of engaging them enough to sleep well the next night. After some prep, we loaded the boys into the car and … they both fell asleep. Yup.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

After a good nap, we headed into the Oklahoma Aquarium. This place is adorable. Very similar to the Oregon Aquarium in terms of cuteness. The boys liked seeing the turtle and the rays, but seems to get bored pretty quickly and asked to leave.

This exhibit was awesome and very different from the rest of the aquarium

We decided to hit a Goodwill close by, which was situated on historic Route 66! Looks like we hit this road in every state it crossed.

He hasn’t put his baby doll down since (he’s so cute with it)

We wrapped up our outing at Walmart. Once we got food into the boys, they suddenly wanted to play with everything. I guess we should’ve tried to feed them fresh food before the aquarium (we tried McDonald’s, but it was quickly rejected)

We arrived back to the RV in 101 degree weather and no power! The heat + our AC units was too much for the breaker and tripped. So while we waited for the RV to cool back down, we hung out in the kiddie pool. Did just the trick!

And I thought Florida was hot

The next day we were hit with even higher temps – 105+! After yet another night of no sleep, I was in no mood to go anywhere. However, I knew from our previous day that the RV was going to get hot. To combat that, Damon went to Walmart and came home with space blankets, which he taped to the front of the RV. It helped, but we still popped the breaker and could only run one AC unit at a time.

New shades for our girl

So we spent part of the afternoon back in the kiddie pool. I just wish there was a way to enjoy being outside at this campground without getting swarmed by bugs (we’ve already had two wasps and countless flies get into the RV). It took us til about midnight to finally get things cooled down.

How’d it get even hotter!?!

We took the kids to the Discovery Children’s Museum the next day. Although small, it’s perfectly tailored to little kids. They had a toddler area away from the other kids filled with hands on toys and activities. To my surprise, both boys loved climbing the two story tower, that was connected using clear packing tape. I had to go with them several times and it definitely tested my fear of heights.

A place where the kids could climb, in air conditioning, was reasonably priced and wasn’t crowded… am I missing something here?

When we returned to the RV, we were happy to find that the space blankets did their job and kept the unit cool. The breaker still popped, but not as often and when it did, the RV didn’t heat up nearly as fast. A great, and cheap, solution to this problem.

I woke up our last day feeling horrible. Turns out, despite all the fruit I’d been consuming the past few weeks, I caught a cold from the boys. I ended up spending all day in bed trying to get better while Damon handled the boys. At least it was cool for the most part.

Kiddie pools are the best

Unfortunately, I felt worse the next day as we headed to our next stop – Branson, MO.

To the Little Town of Pay-Ola, Kan-sas

Damon’s been quoting this line from Rock of Ages ever since he realized that our next stop was Payola, Kansas (near Kansas City) – the home town of main character Sherry.

The trip from Iowa to Kansas was frustrating to say the least – I guess it was just a sheet coincidence that it was Friday the 13th (suuurre). After a short night sleep, we started early but it meant that three of the four of us were very cranky. Add in an accident that stopped traffic for thirty minutes and an angry bureaucrat who yelled at us for no reason and we were all pretty defeated by our lunch stop.

It took an hour to get past this – and we were next to it!

Glad we stopped. Stopping almost always helps us regroup. The rest of the drive was better but still stressful. Damon was driving fast to try and get us to the post office before it closed – otherwise we’d have to wait until Monday to get them. I was dealing with two little boys who kept screaming at each other for no reason. This resulted in a pretty frazzled evening for the Damon and myself.

I can see why these are the plain states

The next day was productive but equally stressful. During lunch, Damon and I were trying to figure out our internet situation. We currently have unlimited internet with Cricket wireless and use our phones as mobile hotspots to stream movies and use our laptops. But after a text from Cricket we learned that we needed to upgrade our plan to keep streaming. Ok, no problem, except, according to Cricket, our phones don’t work with mobile hotspot (even though we’ve been using them like this for a year). So it looked like we needed to get a new phone to use as a mobile hotspot. We thought about switching to Verizon as they have better coverage but we quickly learned that wouldn’t work as we’d have to buy new phones and pay more per month for a plan.

At an impasse, we decided to go to the aquarium with the boys. We’d been to a SeaLife Aquarium in Orlando and quite enjoyed it, so we expected something similar I’m Kansas City. However, this is an aquarium that squished into a tight space that’s shared with another attraction. Just trying to pick up my tickets was a hassle. The staff was friendly and helpful in getting me to the right place but definitely took too long to get the passes.

I’m glad there were fish in the lobby to entertain the boys while we got the tickets

The inside was very detailed and offers a lot to see. However, the walkways were small and an adult stopping basically blocked the whole path. It was worse in the shark tunnel, which had no ventilation, and every person had to stop to take pictures. The boys liked the fish but were not interested in staying.

Very detailed and lots of variety

To top off the experience, for me, I destroyed my phone when it fell out of my pocket and into a toilette when I went to the bathroom. Not the end of the world, as we were talking about new phones anyways, but still aggravating as I couldn’t use it at all until I got something new.

This guy would lay on the tubes for a while then swim to another tube and lay on it

Since we were out, and it was still early, we decided to go to Ikea to get a new table top for our living room table (we were looking for something more stable). The boys seem to have more fun here – there’s lots to see and touch. And we successfully walked away with something, plus more (cause it’s IKEA – there’s always more).

Really neat to see the original Walt Disney Studios

We stopped for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, which has a 40 minute wait. To pass the time, we hit a nearby thrift store and got gas. We literally got back to the restaurant as our pager was goin off. Good sign, right?

Food!

I wish, it took almost an hour for our food to arrive. Our waitress was wonderful but was hindered by a severely backed up kitchen and a food runner who was completely lost. She addressed our issues as best she could, so we talked to her manager and made sure that she didn’t have to split her tip with anyone – it didn’t seem fair after she did a good job and others didn’t. On the plus side, little-dude discovered ketchup and loved it.

This stuff is awesome!

After a quick trip to Walmart, we headed home tired and frustrated. After two frustrating days in a row, Damon and I were kinda stuck on how to move forward. We wound up staying in the RV and it turned out to be the best thing we could’ve done. I discovered that my iPad used my SIM card, so I could use that as my phone until we got a replacement phone. We cleaned, we relaxed, we played with the boys – it was just what we needed. Which helped us find a solution to our phone issue – Damon is going to get a cheaper, cricket approved phone to use as a mobile hotspot and I’m getting his phone, which is the same as my old one, since I love that phone so much. All issues addressed for the smallest amount of money (hopefully).

These geese swarmed the campground after the rain.

After another long night (seeing a pattern here?) we set out to get a table top, phone, and groceries. After stopping at a great pawnshop and several cricket stores Damon walked away with his new phone and I had a new iPad. It was a very productive trip, but I was very tired.

We spent the next day relaxing at home to recover from our busy yesterday. Got lots done – laundry, dishes, cleaning, and cooking. All ready to head to Tulsa.

Even rough days can end with a rainbow

Omaha

After a wonderful time in Iowa, we headed to Omaha, Nebraska. Although it was supposed to be a short, two-hour drive, it stretched out due to a few pit stops.

Follow the red paved road??

The first was a much needed stop at a truck wash to give the RV a bath. We’ve owned her for seven months and have never washed her. It was desperately needed, especially after our last stop when we drove down the dusty roads. Now she looked so shiny!!

She’s never looked better

Our next stop was our customary stop for lunch and grocery shopping. Now that I’m trying to eat healthier, it seems like I’m speeding through fruit, vegetables, and chicken much faster so it was great to stock up on more food.

Lake front property for only $30 a night!

All this meant that you we didn’t get to the campsite until 6p. When we saw our site, we were very excited to get set up to enjoy the scenery.

After we set up, we noticed that we were in a great spot for the sunset and decided to break out the drone – something we hadn’t done in a while. I’m glad we did because we got some great video.

A wonderful way to end the day

After we all got a lousy night sleep, I woke pretty groggy. Some turn to coffee to get started after a bad night’s sleep. Me? I clean. I hadn’t even changed out of my PJs and I was putting laundry away. I don’t know why but cleaning energizes me.

Since all parties were tired we decided to keep it low-key and just do a little shopping. Found an amazing Goodwill where Damon found some fun stuff for the boys.

I love that he’s finally getting into stuffed animals

After striking out at the next few stops, we stopped at a playground so the boys could play. This particular playground included a splash pad that little-dude adored. His water loving older brother, however, wasn’t a fan and he wouldn’t go anywhere near it.

I may have gotten a little wet

Usually after a long day the boys konk out early. But for some reason they didn’t go to bed until really late, which late to some serious sleeping in. So much so that we didn’t get out of the RV until after lunch.

I make this look good

Which was unfortunate because we found an amazing Children’s Museum that the boys loved. It had a lot of activities that they both enjoyed – climbing, water play, and balls, to name a few. I was such a shame that we got there so late and only had a few hours to play.

Lots of stuff to do

After another difficult night, the boys woke up early this time. Even though we were all tired, I was glad that we could get to the Children’s Museum early.

I have to constantly remind myself that he’s only one

However, we didn’t get there until early afternoon, earlier than the day before, due to the boys falling asleep in the car. I’d hoped we would spend the afternoon there but it was soon clear that neither boys wanted to stay for very long.

My little monkeys

On our final day, we decided to take the boys to the lake that’s attached to the park we were staying in. To our surprise, this lake was filled with the friendliest fish you’d ever see. Mini-man was thrilled! He was able to walk around and see the fish close up.

Nothing better than swimming with sish

We got up early the next day and hit the road to our next stop – Kansas City.

Aren’t we adorable?

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.

The Road to I-oh-way

“Funny, I thought it was pronounced ‘I-OH-Wah'”

“Oh it is, but we just don’t like anyone else to say like that”

The Music Man is one of my favorite movies. And every time I hear Iowa, I think of this line when Professor Harold Hill first gets off the train in Iowa.

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But before we actually get to Iowa, we had a few stops to make.

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After having some fun at Mt. Rushmore, we headed east, across South Dakota, and stopped in Chamberlain. Along the way, we passed a time zone and got pushed back an hour – which sucked since we had to adjust our schedules (from driving to sleeping). 😑

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Although we only stayed one night, the campground was nice and have us a good place to play outside.

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We started just before noon the next day for Sioux Falls and arrived fairly quickly.

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This proved wonderful as it gave us time to go run errands. The boys were thrilled to get out of the RV. We even scored a cute power wheels for little-dude for just $3!

After a long night, we spent the next day relaxing and enjoying

We spent our last day exploring Sioux Falls. First stop was the butterfly garden and aquarium. This place was adorable. The first room had cute aquariums fill with fish and a touch tank with the friendliest rays I’ve ever seen (truthfully – they liked attention and interacting with people).

The next room was the butterfly room and it was filled with butterfly’s. Little-dude loved it. Mini-man didn’t mind them but didn’t like them coming near him.

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The butterfly garden and aquarium were in a park with an incredible playground – comprised of several climbing towers, suited to kids of all ages. Mini-man had a blast checking out each tower.

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After a quick stop at a thrift store (where I found these awesome Disney record books), we headed back to the RV for some pool time.

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I’m super proud of little-dude, who is getting used to the water and even had fun in his float.

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Afterwards we stopped by the camps playground for some more fun. It was an interesting playground as it was completely surrounded by tents. When your camping, it’s considered a common courtesy to not walk through other people’s sites. So we were confused as to how we were supposed to get to the playground with walking through a site. We have up and just walked through an empty site.

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You’d think that after all that the kids would go to be on time – nope. Midnight bedtimes and both woke up at 7a. At least we got an early start for our five hour journey to our 28th state, and our stop for the Fourth of July – Des Moines, Iowa.