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.

“F” if for Flowers, Floats, Fourth Festivities and Fire

Enjoying more time in the gorgeous forest just outside Yellowstone; not sure we’ll ever tire of this neighborhood. Joe makes an almost daily round of taking pictures of flowers in the different light. The forest floor is literally carpeted in these beauties, such a great time of year to visit!

We’ve held marshmallow roasting competitions, because why not make a competition out of everything? The “perfect” mallow to us is a crunchy lightly golden brown exterior with a gooey fall-off-the-roaster center. Our level of competence in marshmallow roasting is definitely increasing.

To celebrate Independence Day, we went out to eat at a cute little Mexican cafe on the Snake River. After a too-filling lunch, we went outside to explore the area a bit. There were SO many people! It really felt like a happy summer afternoon. People were using kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, inner tubes, and anything else that they could float on the river. The water was calm and probably only a few inches deep on the edges. Toddlers splashed around with their life jackets and laughter and chatter filled the air.

After lunch, we went to the hospital to have Ethan’s stitches removed, and then hit up the town for some holiday fun. The kids jousted, raced, bungee-d, bounced, and generally got stinky kid sweaty and hot, then cooled off with some shaved ice.

On the way back to camp, we saw a moose standing in the river. I had to pull over and get a pic. On the way back to the car, Joe says, “Ha! That’s ironic! A moose in the Buffalo river!”

Although it’s fuzzy, Jillian looks so stinkin precious in this picture it had to be shared.
The colorful flame was mesmerizing!

The next day we decided to make campfire donuts for breakfast and then go for a float on the river in a raft. The river was shallow in spots, so we had to do a bit of pushing, but it was a really cool way to spend the late afternoon.

We saw hundreds of wildflowers and beautiful river foliage, a moose, a beaver, cranes, seagulls, a very talkative orange-spot-wing-bird, a bunch of large fish in the water, a teeny minnow in our raft next to Eric’s feet (Jill wanted to keep it as a pet, we named it Meryl and set it free) and thousands of hungry mosquitoes.

At the end of the float, our whole crew was confident in their paddling abilities. I’m getting excited about the possibility of some whitewater rafting!

It was a dark and stormy night…

Quite an eventful weekend in the books. We knew to expect some drama, but just knowing it’s coming doesn’t prepare a family completely.

Friday was our leaving town day. Since I will be working remotely, and will be coming into the office occassionally, we’re trying to find boondocking spots to stay within an hour or so of the office.

Eric wanted to be sweet and tear down and set up camp while I was at work. We looked for spots on the motor vehicle use map (MVUM) downloaded from the national forest/state forest/blah blah app called Avenza. The spot I’d found looked great. It was about an hour from my office and in Idaho Springs, CO. The dots are the areas designated as dispersed camping spots, road says it’s for all vehicles.

As Eric headed up the mountain, I got the following text “Umm…”

Rough road, many hairpin turns, probably not the best way to start out our boondocking adventures. And then as we decided we’ll look elsewhere and turn around…I got another text from Eric, “emergency…call”

We had our first accident. Trying to turn around a 60’+ rig setup on a narrow road meant a nice deep jacknife to avoid falling off the cliff.

Chief and Liberty did not obey the current social distancing rules. Chief got scuffed, Liberty got dented and the trailer break emergency break-away thing engaged our trailer brakes. Thankfully, Eric is great at backing and backed down the road about a mile to a spot he could get turn around. Unfortunately, he also broke his hand by jumping out of Chief when they were partially dangling off the edge.

We spent the night at a KOA in Central City where we had full hookups and wifi to research a different boondoscking/free spot. After waking up early the next morning and scouting around, we decided we can’t use the MVUM maps. The spots we thought were spots didn’t exist for RVs. We decided we’ll need to just go on to a lake in Wyoming that a blogger had posted about being free and beautiful. Fingers crossed it turns out to actually be there.

But first, it was Jill’s birthday so we woke her up with our angelic-birthday-song-singing voices, ate (a very smiley) chocolate cake for breakfast, and headed to Chick-fil-a, one of her favorite places to eat. Happy birthday, Sweetheart!!

On the way, we encountered a severe thunderstorm, listened to Ethan’s weird and goofy Ethan-style happy birthday wishes over the phone for Jillian, which made her laugh hysterically of course, and was advised to pull over by a trucker.

After literally putting out a fire in the break-away box (I’d never actually seen a fire extinguisher working in real-life before this, so that was kinda cool), and duct taping an unlocked and flappy open window, we headed to the store to get ice cream and breakfast items to make for Jill’s birthday dinner.

After the store, we were only 20 minutes from our destination. However, Google maps guided us to a private entrance only and it ate up all but a sliver of daylight for us to find the location. We found our oasis. We were so happy to FINALLY have found a place to park for a bit!

The next morning we woke up to a beautiful view and a fresh start. A friend of mine once told me that she find heart-shaped rocks when she’s immersing herself in the moment. She would often say, “we are human BEINGS, not human DOINGS.” Ever since then, I’ve found heart shaped items (many times, rocks) and love taking a picture of them to remember those moments I was just simply “being” in the moment.

Nightly good-bye BBQs

We’re hosting small family BBQs with close family and friends in our mini-groups this week. It’s been full of good times and makes this adventure feel bittersweet. We have an incredibly loving and fun family and will miss them terribly.

Wading in the lake.

Learning how to cast and fish.

Making fire with only flint and magnesium (Joe is the only one of the kids who can do it so far, he’s our go-to fire starter).

Roasting marshmallows.

Making tiny s’mores with our mini marshmallows (our shopper accidentally grabbed them, but the girls were loving the teeny-ness so it worked out great).

And invoking so much laughter we cried. This has been an epic week and I’m going to miss all these humans so much!

Celebrating Eric’s birthday and deep cleaning Miss Liberty

We spent a good chunk of the day DEEP cleaning Liberty, prepping for move-in and testing all of her systems. I’m sure we did 403 things wrong, but all in all we were pretty satisfied and sore by the end of the day. Our last test was our ‘wireless’ connectivity test. Using our phones as hot spots and the chromecast in the tv, we put on the latest YouTube episode of one of our favorite full-time rv families and beamed with excitement and awe that all this is really happening.

Joe made sure to point out that I am a now a real live red-neck. I got my first little sunburn of the year in the most cousin Eddy way possible.

We made it back inside to make some brats about 10 pm and then made sure to wish Eric a happy 48th birthday JUST before it was over at about 11:15 pm. We all danced and ‘sang’ happy birthday to 50 Cent’s “In da club” and we partied like it’s his birfday. Ethan played the otamatone and we all cracked jokes and had a great time. It’s making my heart want to explode with gratitude for this great big, goofy, loud and giggly family of ours.