Beginnings and endings

Joe and Ethan were heading back to Colorado for a couple months to spend the holidays with family and friends who are still there. There were so many things we had not yet seen or done around the area, so we crammed as much stuff as we could during these last few days.

Went on a little hike with a few HUGE leaves.

We played ping pong.

Visited the lake the movie Dirty Dancing was filmed at, Lake Lure.

We visited a pinball museum with some great retro pieces.

Ethan made the layers of the earth’s crust in science.

Joe had many man-to-man late night talks with Eric.

We visited an apple orchard. They had animals, an apple cannon, and yummy caramel chocolate covered apples.

Ethan got an early birthday gift from his grandmother; a hydroponic pepper growing kit.

Eric and I went on a beautiful sunset date hike.

And we found out we were about to adopt this little guy. Be still our enchanted, doting, little hearts…

Golden Birthday

We celebrated Joe’s 17th birthday on the 17th. We don’t have much space for purchased items, and we’ve learned that we don’t NEED to buy things just because it’s a celebration, so we decided to take Joe on a little mini vacation.

Before we left, Ethan’s grandmother decided to take care of Joe and Ethan’s birthday at the same time this year. Ethan wanted a hydroponic pepper growing kit, so she delivered a package that Ethan has been over the moon about. He planted and labeled his seeds. Stay tuned for progress on those little things.

We went on another hike to take in the fall, the boys were so hyper and loud I didn’t have to worry about sneaking up on any wildlife, so that was a perk.

Because Joe has a strong passion for history, we decided to visit the oldest city in the US, St. Augustine, FL.

We got up in the dark for our 7 hour drive to the Ponce St. Augustine, our hotel home for the weekend. Once we arrived, we stretched out on our beds and marked our bed territory. After spending most of our latest showers in an RV sized shower stall, the double-headed shower this room housed was nirvana.

After we freshened up, we headed out to dinner at Scarlett O’Hara’s, less than a 15 minute walk away.

I was introduced to Cuban coffee when visiting my friends in Miami a couple years ago and haven’t had it since. I was on a mission to get some of it, so we set off to a Cuban restaurant for brunch.

Although delicious, the coffee wasn’t exactly the same, but the food was delicious. The tres leches cake we decided to eat for dessert was the best tres leches I’ve ever tasted. If you’re ever in the area, make sure to visit La Harencia Cafe and try it. Even Eric said it was possibly the best dessert he’s ever had.

The kids had a bit of school to work on, so we dropped them off at the hotel and decided to take the afternoon as a date. We rented a two person three-wheeled scooter and scooted around the narrow brick streets we couldn’t reach via car.

Joe needed more time to do his schoolwork and wanted to stay behind, so Ethan, Eric and I decided to find a beach and then grab something quick for dinner to bring back to Joe.

While we waited for our table, we brought Ethan to the shore so he could experience how nice and warm the ocean water is. He had a great time, and although he initially was just going to dip his toes in, once he realized how warm and wonderful the water felt, he couldn’t resist taking waves to the face, drenching his entire body.

The margaritas were so good I had to have two. We spent the evening barefoot, dining at a picnic table in the sand and enjoying each other’s company.

The next day, we got to celebrate Joe turning 17. We started off the day with an adorable little mini piñata filled with chocolate candies and a few gifts. The loofa was mine…he just got to use it to beat the pulp out of his piñata if he so desired.

Then we went to an old military memorabilia store. The owner beamed with passion about how he found the items in his shop, who owned them, the stories the items held and how much he loved what he did every day. He was enjoying telling us about the items as much as the boys were enjoying listening to his stories and tales about them.

We decided to try Peace Pie, the pie filling ice cream sandwich place next to the Cuban restaurant, for a fun and different treat. In part, they were good, but they were also REALLY hard if they were pre-made, so it took away from the flavor. It was hot, so ice cream felt nice any way we could have it.

Ethan’s was one of the VERY frozen sandwiches, so it was difficult to eat. It was either a brick or a melty mess. Eric decided to do a little pie ice cream sandwich face smash and had Ethan giggling ice cream bubbles.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the little downtown portion of St. Augustine. One of the buildings, the Lightner Museum, has a building that once housed the largest indoor swimming pool in the world. When we visited, though, it wasn’t full of water. It was filled with pirates eating and announcing their pirate club plans.

We then went to a restaurant that overlooked the ocean, called The Reef. If was absolutely fabulous food and the server was top notch in every way. We highly recommend it if you’re ever in the area.

After dinner we made a quick trip down to the little beach outside the restaurant. We’d hoped to do some fishing (neither Joe, Ethan nor Tiffany have ever fished in the ocean) but the winds were too strong for any decent fishing, even from the pier.

Out-and-about Asheville

Our first week in Asheville was filled with food, so we decided we wanted to spend more time DOing things.

At the little pond near our site there are several species of duck. The white ducks with cotton ball heads are our favorites.

At the Oyster Bar, one of the locals recommended a website I’ve now used at least a dozen times. It’s called romanticasheville.com and it lists waterfalls, history, seasonal info, hikes, scenic drives and much more.

We decided to take a look at a couple waterfalls. Eric has been to sliding rock before, so we made that one of our destinations. Five minutes before sliding rock we came across Looking Glass Falls. There were stairs to go down to the bottom where a person could take in the ambiance of it all. At the bottom about a half a dozen groups were scattered and one guy was even perched up on a rock meditating. It was very pretty and worth the two seconds that it took to pull over and check it out.

After Looking Glass Falls we went a few minutes further to Sliding Rock. We ended up being the last car allowed entry for the day, so we got in free and just about had the whole place to ourselves. Generally the lines stretch all the way up the rock!

To wrap up the week’s fun we went to a pinball museum. They have antique pinball machines and games and a TON of retro memorabilia. The pinball machines were super fun, Batman was my favorite.

Foraging for winter

We’ve been eating often lately. Like EVERY day. This post is filled with pics of us eating, sorry, but that’s what happened a lot this week.

Luella’s Bar-B-Que is a cute little place in downtown Asheville I’d highly recommend. The chef/owners and employees were all super kind and chatty, but the food…oh man, the brisket was sinfully delish. I’d recommend the mac and cheese, brisket and fried okra if you ever make your way to this little gem!

Eric and I went on a date to an Oyster bar, he loved them, I couldn’t muster the guts to try a raw oyster yet. Someday, but for now, Eric enjoyed them solo.

We also went to Juicy Lucy’s, a place that inspired Eric’s delicious burgers we make at home. It means the cheese is a layer inside the burger patty to melt instead of on top and is an amazingly “juicy” bite. The boys were all in burger heaven. Who am I kidding, I was too.

These friendly little beetles are EVERYWHERE in North Carolina. They are not dangerous, and are kinda cute, so we grab them and throw them back outside when they think they need to hang out inside.

The kids and I went on a hike to try and shake up some of this eating only thing while Eric worked. The leaves were starting to change and it’ll be cool to watch the variation of the leaves changes as we go through this season.

And then Eric and I went out to eat. again. with friends. We went to an adorable seafood restaurant and listened to live music and watched the sun set as we ate. It was a great end to a weekend and we’re so grateful to be able to spend time with friends, both familiar and new!

Change of plans

“The only constant in life is change”

– Heraclitus

Earlier in the summer, Eric bumped the scar tissue on his ankle and it became a tiny hole. Over the past few months, that tiny hole has grown into two holes and is now one large hole. It’s boomerang shaped, about 1-1/2 inches in diameter, and deep enough where we can see into tissue that’s not really meant to be visible. We’ve been nursing it for these past few months, and have worked with a wound care nurse for treatment, but working in the rain and mud on a mountain building a fence was making it hurt and it was starting to look and smell infected.

It was for this and a other reasons that we left the spot in Crumpler and set out for a different direction on our adventure. We like the idea of workamping, so we applied to some other resorts in the area. On our move-out day, Joe took pictures of the area we stayed and found a caterpillar he decided to name Einstein.

In the meantime, Eric and Ethan have established a fun bully/bully relationship. They dig at each other and have towel fights on the regular. The laughter is always music to my ears, and although I worry a little about things getting knocked over, we have yet to have an uncleanable/unfixable incident, so I welcome their play. Joe photo bombed with his bible – haha!

While we waited to hear back regarding our work applications on where our next stop would be, we decided to visit one of Joe’s longest and best friends, Evan and his family, just North of Raleigh. We enjoyed dinner, played a hilarious game, and caught up a bit with each other’s lives. Joe and Ethan stayed the night at their house and loved every second of their connection with friends.

We heard back from one of the places we applied located just South of Asheville. The work sounded enjoyable, the place looked fun, and they wanted us to head down in just a few days, so it seemed like a great fit. As an added bonus, a couple of Eric’s friends live in the area and the idea of being able to connect with them in person lit his heart.

We split up the drive into a few days, a Walmart for a night, a Flying J truck stop for a night, and a Cracker Barrel for a night. While spending our night at the Walmart, a plant/floral delivery truck driver rolled up and unloaded his truck. As he was going through his goods, he had a few items that were “unsellable” to the Walmart store and he was going to throw them away. Eric, loving free things, accepted these rejected plants. I believe he may have forgotten how much space we actually have, the entire trailer was littered with plants! I put them in the base of the shower during transport and they took up the entire floor space. Ethan has since decided they are his plants and he enjoys caring for them every day.

We actually had a pretty nice view for a Flying J truck stop.

I’d never been to a Cracker Barrel before, and Eric said it was an experience to have, especially now that we’re in the South. On the way in we walked past one of the thickest and brightest green caterpillars I’ve ever seen. He called it a tomato bug, but I think he looks like star of The Hungry Caterpillar! When we ate, I had biscuits and gravy like a good Southern girl and loved every minute of it. Joe and Ethan both became addicts of their menu, and Eric was satisfied with some fried chicken. Definitely fed our souls!

Joe and I went to Ingles, a grocery store, across the street from Cracker Barrel. I was in organized-can-stacking heaven. Joe and I were so happy about how pretty the store was that I took a few pictures. I love when people take pride in their work.

When we arrived at our new workamp location we were stoked. It seems like a good place to stay still for a bit, but you never know what life will bring you, so we’ll just have to see! The owner of the RV resort lives across the pond and took this picture of our arrival saying that she thought it was a pretty setup. 🙂

A footnote (ha, pun intended, I made myself giggle), Eric agreed to go into a Dr. for his ankle. We got some antibiotics and were told the care we were doing was perfect (thanks Kelly!) and sent us on our way. His pain has been greatly reduced, and he has an appointment with a local wound care nurse to help us if we run into any other issues. 🙂

It’s so hard to say goodbye

The day after getting set up, we attended a little orientation from the owner of what we could and couldn’t do and where things were around the property. We were told we can’t go on the resort really unless we were working, and if a guest of the cabins said hello or wanted to talk, that we were to say hello back, put our head down and keep walking. A bit strange to me, a person who believes in friendly hospitality, but she said she had an issue in the past, so we accepted it and moved on.

There are egg laying chickens on one part of her property and meat chickens on a different part of the property. The egg laying chickens were right by our site, and she told us the more food scraps we feed them, the more eggs they produce. So, we saved all of our scraps and gave them to the chickens. They were so cute, they would RUN to the fence to fight over whatever was given! The thing that surprised us most was that they fought over the eggshells.

I noticed that Ethan and I had a similar level of care in our footwear choice to feed the chickens. We’re pretty stylin’.

It was fun to get eggs in an unlimited quantity and cool that they were all different shapes, sizes and color!

Since we really couldn’t explore the property much, we decided to get off property as much as we could. There was a mountain near Jefferson, called Mount Jefferson, where a person could hike and stop at some of the vistas. It was absolutely beautiful.

It takes a lot of groceries to feed this crew. On our way home we stopped by the store and had to use Ethan’s lap for some grocery storage. The kids thought it was awesome and Ethan kept asking us to put more groceries on top of him so he couldn’t see.

Ethan and Jillian had a chocolate chip cookie bake-off. We were happily the taste testers and judged. We couldn’t decide which was better, they were both actually delicious, but were were amazed at what a difference there was between the two recipes.

Joe received a Pho kit for Christmas last year, and he decided that since Jillian LOVES ramen so much, he’d make it for their last night with us. Jillian did like it. 🙂

The next day, our crew was broken up again. This time, it was Gabe and Jillian leaving. They are going to spend a few months with their mom in Florida, which is bittersweet. We are so excited for them since they are really looking forward to spending time with their mom and younger siblings, but our family just isn’t complete without them.

We left for the airport around 4:30 am and drove to Charlotte for them to catch their flight. Only one parent could walk them in, so Eric took them to their gate and sadly watched as they departed. We look forward to having you guys back, but we hope you have a blast with your mom!

Chapter 2 – Heading East

Our next journey is a workamping experience. We’re planning to help renovate cabins, take care of farm chores, and assist with the Healing Springs guests as needed.

Our journey out was a long and tiring one. It snowed, in the beginning of September, for our first two days on the road and then continued to rain the entire trip with the exception of a few hours. Sheets of rain, snow, and Joe’s stuffed animal was our view most of the way.

It was so cold that the fly that was once flying around decided to become a frozen bat fly. It was not scientifically proven or anything, but it is the story I tell myself.

Our first stop was in Ellis, KS, a cute little town with historic buildings lining brick paved streets and friendly townspeople. We stayed on the dammed up river at a free campground with water, electric and a bath house. It’s a town I wouldn’t mind going back to visit when we have more time.

On our way out of the park, Eric noticed we the specialty bracket that holds our sway bar on was broken and we needed to pick one up since the wind gusts were already making it difficult to tow the trailer. I wandered into all the little hardware and parts stores in Ellis with no luck, but they did know of a place about 30 minutes away that I could check. I set out, amazingly found the bracket, grabbed everyone some lunch and headed back.

When we showed up, Eric had just changed one of the tires and we were excited to get back on the road and attempt to be on schedule. As I watched Eric pull away, the ground started heaving.

The tongue jack was left down from changing the tire. He attempted to bend it back so it would recess back into the housing, but the metal was kinked and it wasn’t going to work. We had to cut it off. Of course, we didn’t buy a Sawzall in Yellowstone, we rented one. Joe had the idea to call the classic car restoration shop we drove by a few times and see if they have one. It was a great idea, because when I called, the gentleman on the phone was super sweet and said he’d be right there with some tools to help. We got the tongue jack cut and now needed to go to Camping World in Kansas City to pick up a new one.

Our next stop was a place called Santa Fe Safari RV Campground in Chanute, KS about 2 hours South of Kansas City. The site was basically a parking lot, but it had electricity and water hookups and it was very inexpensive. The surrounding park was awesome though. There were several themed playgrounds in addition to ponds, ballparks and rec areas. We found a tree that had dropped these fruits, we called them brain apples (actual name is osage orange), so Joe chose to do some research. Just ask him about them…he spent at least an hour reading about them and their origins and if they are edible and how they have pesticides in the trees, etc.

Since Joe missed out on the Kansas City field trip when he was in middle school, I promised him we would take him to the WWI Memorial and Museum whenever we passed near Kansas City. So, off Joe, Ethan, Jill and I went to the museum. They have so many artifacts and the museum was very well done. We didn’t have as much time before they closed as we wanted, but we are grateful we were able to go honor some of our nation’s heroes.

Our next stop was in Western Tennessee. The campground I planned on visiting, Edgar Evins State Park, was awesome. The only problem is the roads were very steep and the campsites were actually decks, that although looked super cool, wouldn’t fit our rig. On our way out, we saw some wild turkeys, and although I don’t like whiskey even a little, I had to giggle about seeing Tennessee Wild Turkey.

So, we set off to find a different spot. Joe found a little place close by that had space. When we got there, we felt the Southern hospitality a person hears of. The owner of the store/restaurant/campground, Big Puckett, welcomed us and told us to make ourselves at home and then come join for the all-you-can-eat fried catfish buffet. We sat at one of the picnic tables on the back porch while the locals rocked in their rocking chairs and moved about like every one of them were hosting the party. Battered deep fried food and a fire burning in the porch fireplace filled the air with warmth as we listened to the sounds of happy chatter, mixed with pelting rain on the tin roof, and a local band who played some good ol’ classic rock. Joe and Ethan enjoyed the catfish, but the fried chicken was so good I’ve been wanting it ever since. What an unexpectedly heart-filling evening!

Oh. And our sink fell off.

End of summer lake fun

As we rounded out our trip from the Northwest expedition, we made met up with my Dad and step-mom at Alcova Reservoir in Wyoming. There were fires all over the Western side of the country and it was tough to breathe and see. Didn’t stop us from having a great time though!

Eric played “king of the dock” with the kids.

We had a blast being tossed around on Big Mable!

Boating on a lake is my happy place, always has been, and this weekend brought back some of the best warm fuzzy childhood feels. Eric, Joe, Jill and Ethan all fished, unfortunately with no catch, but there was almost always a pole in the water trying.

Heading South

After Bonners Ferry, we were on a mission to make it South to meet Tiffany’s Dad and Chrisma at a lake and then to the Denver metro area for Tiffany to work and us to switch out summer stuff for winter stuff.

Our first stop was another fairgrounds in a place called Moscow, ID. It was a relatively quick and uneventful stay, but we did have a nice little bike ride to Idaho University. Tiffany thought the place felt like Hogwarts with its vividly colorful sunset and interesting architecture.

After Moscow we went to Boise and Idaho Falls, for one quick night each. We weren’t too impressed with those towns, so we quickly got out. On our way leaving Idaho Falls though, we went past Shoshone Falls. It was an oasis in the middle of a desert-like landscape and was a great place for a picnic and walk to break up the day’s drive.

Speaking of picnic, Tiffany has a “no eating in the car” preference. We stopped along the side of the road and she made peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. As she was putting everything away, her open-face sandwich slid down her arm, skidded on the stitching on the leather car seat and landed on the not-so-clean floor mat. Everyone got a good giggle out of the ironic karma of it all.

About 12 minutes from our destination for the night, we had another exciting tire blow out. It blew out on the couch slide side this time. Our poor Liberty looks like she’s been off-roading on some very low clearance trails. We need a giant band-aid. Eric got us all fixed up and back on the road. We’ve realized that duct tape really is quite the useful tool on the road.

The next day we landed at some National Forest Service land just outside The Grand Tetons. Gabe and Jill have a checklist of setting up and tearing down that they are getting very good at executing!

This little slice was a welcome sight after staying in what equated to parking lots for over a week. We had been irritable and tired and we realized part of it was that we had not been in nature for a while to recharge ourselves. We tend to be at peace spending our evenings stargazing and sleeping to the sound of rushing water from the river. We’re learning these little things about ourselves and it’ll be a guide for our adventures in the future.

This site was gorgeous, or as Jillian says, Goblin Core. The flowers and butterflies felt unreal, there were so many varieties of both!

Since it was a hot summer day, we went down to the river for a dip. It was so cold that it made our legs numb, so instead of swimming, we just waded.

Undesirable as it may be to him, Eric actually does need rest sometimes, so I begged him to do that while Jillian and I played in the water. He hides his stillness misery well.

After dinner, Eric held Jillian in his arms and they danced to music from our little boombox by the fire.

On our way out of the Tetons, we went down a steep 10% grade mountain and had our very first pull over to let the brakes cool moment. Chief and Liberty were fine, but the brakes were pungent. The view was worth it though, such a pretty drive. Those Tetons are definitely otherworldly.

Wedding Crashers

Eric here, humbly taking on the task of trying to write this part of the blog. I’ll do my best and please make fun of me if you need to!

We decided to stay at the fairgrounds in Bonners Ferry, a little town very close to the border of Canada in Northern Idaho. Who would have known that this little wonderful slice of Idaho is actually a slice of heaven to us. No bugs, beautiful weather, and some of the nicest people!

After we set up, I wanted to cheer Tiffany up from missing her boys. We decided to have a nice date night out in this little wonderful town. The restaurant we wanted to go as our first choice was closed for a private event, so we ended up at a place where the fried ribs were heaven. We had a great meal, had a great conversation, and as we began to walk back to the camper, Tiffany heard some music and decided she wanted to go dancing. We walked that direction, and the music turned out to to be at the restaurant we wanted to go as our first choice. They were having a wedding. Tiffany, as beautiful as she always is, began to dance in the alley. I grabbed her and started dancing with her, giggling about how it would be funny to crash the wedding. Suddenly, one of the family members, by the name of Jessica, invited us in to join the wedding party. Who were we to decline such a wonderful and gracious act? We chatted with all the guests, wished the bride and groom the best and Tiffany danced with all the little flower girls. We decided we love immersing ourselves in a place like this, it was a great time.

Soul Sisters, Tiffany and Jessica at the wedding

Jessica, and her husband, Mark were two of the people we really made a connection with. We all thought it was crazy how similar Jessica and Tiffany were, and decided they were soul sisters. The morning after the wedding Tiffany received a text asking us to go with them on their boat for the day and visit a place at the lake called The Sandbar. We were so excited and rushed to meet them and get in the water.

At the sandbar, a group of boats meet up, blast some music and tie together for one big floating party.

One of the kiddos untied one of the floaties and the girls went floating off. Thankfully, Gabe was a hero, jumped in and brought them back to the boat. It was a great day and we were so grateful to be invited!

Rescue swimmer Gabe

We worked up an appetite and Jessica and Mark decided we must go to the restaurant on the beach. The owner of the restaurant was a client of Jessica’s and a neighborhood friend of Mark’s, so we were given incredible service and seating priority. We had a delicious dinner while listening to live music and watching the sun set over the lake. It was a great ending to a fun day.

Jillian quickly made a friends with Mark’s daughter, and at the end of the day, they had a sleepover where they made lip balms, enjoyed some girl talk and maybe even slept a bit.

Northern Idaho has unexpectedly become one of our favorite places,  who would have thought that little tiny sliver of a state would bode so much activity and wonderful people. We enjoyed our time there and we are looking forward to another visit in the future.

Gabe occasionally will write us a “POTD – pun of the day” – here was the one we came home to, and here’s the illustration Jill decided was appropriate with it.