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…
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.
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.
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!
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!
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. 🙂
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!
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!
The bond we’ve created over these past couple of months with our children has been more momentous than I even hoped. The last day of our summer together, or as we’re calling it, Chapter 1, we sought out a nice little thrift store that had some of the most fun nostalgia I had seen.
I had a little puppy piggy bank, JUST LIKE this one, with one difference, mine had a little blue tear drop. I have no idea who this character is, but it whooshed me back to nostalgia before I even set foot in the store.
I suggested Ethan try on the bow tie, which always reminds me of his Grandpa Frank. I thought he looked so cute with his hat bow tie.
Joe and Ethan keep watching these Kermit the Frog singing videos (and Toad from Mario singing videos…so obnoxious) and this phone ALMOST found a place in our home because of that.
Then I ran into Care Bears and Polly Pockets merch. Care Bears was when I was little and Polly Pockets reminded me of all the little sets my sisters had. I had forgotten about them! We found a Star Wars set that reminded Eric of his big brother, who was always gentle and respectful of his toys. This set reminded Eric of a Star Wars toy Eric threw on the ground and shattered during a play session as a child, and how devastated his brother was that he was so destructive with that toy.
We were invited to dinner at Joe and Ethan’s Great Aunt and Uncle’s home, which turned out to only be about 8 minutes from where we were staying. I had not seen them in about 8 years, so I was looking forward to catching up.
They warmly opened up their home and gave us a tour of their property. Much of the art adorning their walls were created by their artistic family. Aunt Robyn makes award winning quilts, and she shared a current project she was working on for Joe and Ethan’s Aunt. She also shared images of a project she had created for a couple celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary. Loved ones received plain white tiles of cloth to write a note, then Robyn quilted them into one big love blanket. I think that is possibly one of the most beautiful gifts I have ever heard of.
In the back yard, they had croquet and horseshoes set up and the smell of fresh grilled food and a beautifully set table on the deck felt so cozy summer-y I wanted to squeal.
We met their young chickens, who have their very own chicken swing in their coop, which I loved, and their turkeys, who are only a few weeks away from being ready to process. We LOVED them.
Then we took a gander over to the garden, where they had beautiful organic produce. We were commenting on how much Ethan loves onions, and that he’d eat them like an apple when Uncle Lloyd casually strolled over with Ethan and told him to pull one out. Ethan was elated when he grabbed a perfect onion and Lloyd said it was all his. They did a little wash and cut and Ethan beamed and started his appetizer.
We then went over to the other garden, where there were fresh strawberries ready, Jill’s favorite. She picked a few and cuddled with them until they were washed and then saved them to eat with her dinner.
In the meantime, Joe grabbed a strawberry, did not care about washing it, and ate it before anyone noticed.
Aunt Robyn is a fabulous cook and she made one of the most delicious meals we had for a while. BBQ chickens, organically raised right over in the chicken coop, corn salad, pickled cucumbers and onions, French potatoes, watermelon, and, sticking to the tradition of the area, huckleberry ice cream for dessert. The conversation was delightful, and it was fantastic to catch up with them. Both Joe and Ethan decided they want a property like this when they are older, and want to be self-sustaining and have fresh foods at their fingertips.
Ethan and Joe played a few games of chess while the adults chatted and we played with the super sweet and adorable Golden Retriever, Maddie.
On the way to the airport the next morning, Joe and Ethan had a donut from a little shop hilariously named Gross Donuts. They said they were delicious, so the name is a lie.
We got to the airport and talked about how bittersweet it is for them to be leaving. They are excited to go see their dad, spend time with friends, have unlimited utilities and more space, but they are sad to be leaving our team and hoping not to miss out on too many experiences.
It’ll only be a few weeks, but my heart ached and I could not look away as the plane began its journey with cargo most precious to me.
But the real tear jerker was reading a heart-felt letter I requested Joe and Ethan type, a few weeks earlier, for me to read the day they left. Eric and I sat at a picnic table during sunset at the park we went that night while we talked about how much we miss them already and some of the hilarious memories we are cherishing from Chapter 1. We are so proud of the beautiful hearts of our children and feel blessed beyond words to be theirs.
We arrived at Farimont Hot Springs RV resort, a town located between Anaconda and Butte, MT, ready to check on the damage of our blow-out. Damage details: No power to the kitchen slide (no microwave, outlets or refrigerator), bumpy kitchen flooring with only one staple poking through the linoleum, and a bit of cosmetic damage on the exterior skirt panels. All in all, it could have been worse. We found a tire store and a hardware store that Eric was able to find some electrical parts he needed to put humpty back together. Eric was a rock star. He wired everything up and all is working perfectly again. He even re-sealed with a product the informercial makes too fun not to try…some Flex Seal. Yes, it’s actually kind of awesome and is working.
Our spot had free WiFi (which turned out to be so awful that we didn’t even use it), showers, laundry, a little store and full hook-ups. We gave the trailer a much-needed interior scrubbing. Having a clean home makes momma, aka me, so happy.
The resort was around the corner from Fairmont Hot Springs, a 115-degree spring that they mix with cool water and allow bathers to enjoy, for a fee, of course. The day was expensive, but super fun. We spent the day lounging in and by the pool, drinking smoothies and splashing each other in the water.
The second I hopped in the warm (100 degrees warm) pool, Ethan and Joe surrounded me and flipped me off my serene floatie. If anyone wants a couple stinky children, please feel free to message me. 😉 Eric asked Gabe to get on his shoulders, so Gabe did. It was cute how sweet and unassuming Gabe was, being all smiles on Daddy’s shoulders. Then, suddenly, Erin flung his upper body forward and Gabe face planted in the water and came up laughing so hard and saying he wanted to do it again. I wish I had that first launch on video, but instead I got all videos after it. Eric became the pool attraction and all the kids wanted a turn, even Joe, who outweighs Eric.
We barreled down the hot springs water slide, for an additional $10/person fee of course, and Gabe and Ethan went about 467 times. The most animated rider though was Eric by far. We all would sit at the bottom of the slide and hear to hear and see what Eric’s reaction each time will be. The funniest exit is when Eric yelled, “Bob Saget!”, which is Eric’s g-rated swearing inspired by a YouTube video (NOT APPROPRIATE FOR ALL AUDIENCES – Bob Saget explaining Tourette’s Guy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGssXhgLVcI and Tourette’s Guy’s Bob Saget and others compilation – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2NM7QyHlyY – by the way, Tourette’s Guy is a comedian/actor, he doesn’t really have Tourette’s). After the Bob Saget yell, we hear three thumps and see Eric launching out of the end.
Lake Hattie helped us create some memories. Some good, some not as good. We learned that the rocket fireworks with the large wax wicks just blow up in your face when lit. We learned that this location is either VERY windy or clouded with swarming hungry mosquitoes. We’re learning how to co-habitate as one big happy family of emotions and different needs and desires. We’re learning how precious of a commodity fresh water, tank capacity and power can be, and we’re learning how to manage our messes in such a small space. I think we all feel a bit beat up with the roughing it, but it’s been a great way to learn what we really need.
The first day the band was back together, the weather was beautiful and sunny. The lake water was cold, but the air was nice and the wind wasn’t insane, so we swam, fished and made little clay sculptures. No fish caught, but enjoyed anyway.
The reception was so unpredictable at the lake that I had a hard time staying connected for work. We’re now looking into adding another phone carrier for some redundancy and connectivity.
Eric taught us some tips on how to skip rocks. Crouch low, flick your wrist and voila! We all practiced skipping rocks and we eventually all got it.
Then finally, we caught some fish! Eric said Jillian has some of the best luck fishing, and sure enough, she caught the first one!
Then Eric, and then Joe! Eric taught us how to clean the fish, which I think secretly was his favorite part of the whole catch, and I tried be strong and not think of them as pets but as food. Joe played with his fish’s head, stuck a screaming chaser into it and asked if he could set it off. I wasn’t thinking the head would go far and I had visions of fish shrapnel flying everywhere. We had three little headless trout (their heads fell off, ok?) in our fridge waiting for consumption.
Jill and Ethan are really blossoming in facing their fear of bugs and crawly things. Jill was playing with a lady bug and a giant beetle and Ethan has named all moths Greg so they are less scary. They are even saying “hello” to the little bugs that are flying around now.
Gabe decided to play either Boba Fett or do a modified yoga triangle pose, while squirting water from the squirt gun straight into the air. The wind was so strong that it blew away and not even a drop landed on him!
On our way back to Lake Hattie from Colorado, Joe bought a bunch of fireworks. The first couple of nights, when we had many neighbors staying with us for the weekend, Eric and Joe put on shows with the big-uns. Even Gabe, who has been afraid of fireworks until now, joined in and lit off some bottle rockets. PSA – lanterns don’t work very well in windy Wyoming. We’ll have to try again somewhere calmer.
On our last night at the lake, Eric and I attempted to float in the lake just off the shore. It was windy, so we basically just ended up constantly on shore, but we still got in the water for a bit and enjoyed the peace. We then burned the last of our firewood, roasted hot dogs over the fire, cooked up the trout and talked about things both serious and silly around the campfire.
Eric noticed that Ethan has a lot of Chimpanzee sounds, and now we all laugh when Ethan plays off of it. Here’s a goofy video of Ethan playing it up and us trying to get him to recreate his sounds. Probably going to have to “catch” him doing it and hope the camera is nearby in order to share the authentic sound.