Portland Onward

The incredible journey rolls on!

After our hole up nights in Spokane we ventured onward to Portland for our first ever Life is Good conference. Passing the Multnomah Falls for our first ‘real super tall’ falls sighting was a blast! We also enjoyed the other beautiful sights right around that state park area. 20170525_192210Oregon is just breath taking, in so many ways. The falls, the mountains, the river, and then the ocean! We landed in Portland a few days earlier to spend with a sweet friend from the Peace Corps. She generously hosted us for two nights and we got some nice perusing of Mt Taber where we could spot Mount St Helens and Mt Hood as well. Such a gorgeous day we scored trapsin’ around there. We also visited this cool little bird sanctuary/gardens called Rhododendron Garden. Tons and tons of some really cool ducks, and the greenery ain’t to shabby either.

It was a blast cooking in a real kitchen! Made some Domoda (a West African dish) that is just sooooo fun too cook with/for people who appreciate the dish. The kids and I had been craving it for some time. Being on the road alters you intake quite drastically. We’ve been super healthy. I can count on one hand the number of times we have eaten out in the last months, but that said, if you’re camping stove is tucked away…. you alter what you eat quite a bit. I think I’m about to go completely raw just to alleviate thinking about it any more 😉

Any rate…. we enjoyed cooking on the stove! And next day headed to our LiG conference. It was hosted at an Embassy Suites which you know is like living in luxury. The made-to-order breakfast omelets and the free happy hour are incredible…. but my all-time-favorite is the insanely huge king size bed and blackout curtains! Even my early risers were not waking before 9am every day! We had lots of fun meeting new people, expanding our growing tribe of cool people. It was fun to be amongst this long-standing conference and enjoy their activities. We had lots and lots of fun! Even got swimming and hot tub soaking in too!

20170528_131213It was another amazing birthday at the end of the conference! D turned 13 on us! I can’t believe how much the time has flown. For her birthday, knowing we would be on the road when she decided, she requested to visit San Francisco to visit Japan Town and also a favorited Kawaii shop of a YouTuber she knows and follows. It’s been high on the list for a very very long time, and since we knew were doing the conference in Portland I told her it’d be possible to make the visit. She was ecstatic of course. The store she wanted to visit was not open except for weekends, so for her actual birthday we headed from the conference to the Oregon coast. We stayed in a yurt for two nights at Umqua Lighthouse State Park and spent endless hours on the ocean side. Beach combing, fishing and seal lion spotting. It was such a magical time. It was just so beautiful, and the weather cooperated with us the entire time. Plenty of campfires and cooking, which made us all happy. Super great sleeping, and the yurt was so fun! (Our first experience in a yurt!)

In the midst of all of the conference and birthday hoopla, we celebrated another lost tooth!20170601_115421 Somehow in the mix of adventure, life is still happening! :) From Umpqua we headed down the coast to CA. San Francisco bound we passed this most incredible rest stop…. I was just driving along thinking we would not make our first stop for another hour and a half or more, and then I spot all these people turning off the road, and I glance over at these masses of amazing rock, a climbing hill, and gi-normous waves lapping to the coast. I pop a quick U-y and head back to see the sights. We climbed out and all gasped…. it was such an amazing spot. We trekked all over the place, made some sandwiches, cut a watermelon, and at least two hours later we were ready to depart again.

That evening we made it all the way to the Avenue of Giants. I just had to pass through one of my most favorite spots before arriving in the big city. We ended up boondocking on the Avenue and waking to the Giants early in the wee hours of the morning. It’s such a magical place to visit. Awe-inspiring. Breathtaking. We took the Avenue straight to 101 and ended up on 101 to SF….. which was so cool cause the last time we did this trek we were on 1, right along the ocean. That is an amazing drive as well. 101 was super cool to experience cause we could see a whole new part of the country, and you get to experience Redwoods for miles and miles. At one point, we pulled off at this super cool gift 20170603_175652post/shop and we were the first people in for the day…. the cool owner let the kids feed the fish their breakfast. I purchased some super cool bumper stickers to add to the bus, and we toured his amazing wood sculptures. It was a treasure trove for sure.

Since we had left so early we arrived in San Francisco by early afternoon. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, we landed in Japan Town for a little poking around, and then cruised over to the Kawaii shop. Nothing disappointed! Everything exactly as she anticipated and she thoroughly enjoyed her extended birthday. We enjoyed some Chinese food (another birthday wish) and headed to a hotel. Fortunately, I had a hotels.com credit to use for our hotel this time around cause MAN! SF is expensive! Not to mention…. ‘holy California gas prices Batman!!!’ I will not be sad to depart from the state, merely due to the cost of being here! But happy we got to hit all of our favorites before doing so.

Today we depart the comfort of the hotel and make the trek to LA to visit my brother and family for the evening. From there the trek through AZ and finally to NM. We are all kind of excited to have a spot to land for a few weeks. And to have time to plan future treks. But I, for one, am already relieved that the trek has taken a slower pace and the trek is ours to command now. Time is on our side and we can venture at our own pace.

AND…. sunshine!!! I’m welcoming the warmth and long-overdue sunshine! (Never enough if you ask me 😉 )

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Illinois Beach State Park

If you caught the last post, we are putzin’ around Chicago for a spell and awaiting the ability to make a few upgrades (namely new tires) our rig so that we can continue on our journey. I have to say that Chicago is truly the least RV friendly city I have ever (ever) experienced. There are few-to-none places you can boondock and certainly RV facilities far and few between. We’ve been fortunate enough to have a friend here and there host us in their driveway which has been super amazing. But in effort to regain some sort of ‘normal’ life, we needed to escape the city for a spell. We decided Illinois Beach State Park would be a cool…. and most affordable…. escape. We booked 5 days, four nights up there and headed up for a long-extended weekend.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t give Illinois the credit it deserves. When I am wrapped up in city life, I will easily admit to ‘nature’ in Chicago not necessarily going hand-in-hand. But of course, once you escape that, or find it’s alcoves, you will come to appreciate just what Illinois has to offer really. Same holds true for Illinois Beach State Park.

Now, this was our first experience at an RV park as well! We had been boondocking, or staying with friends. We had not utilized a park yet, and so this was our first. I successfully had our first dump, which was quite an amazing feat in and of itself. I had been holding the kids off from ‘fully’ using the facilities other than the emergency pee simply cause I did not know how to to actually empty our tanks AND I did not know where we were actually going to come across our first opportunity. So this was great timing. It was definitely time to get it done, and it was in a non-busy, non-rushed atmosphere where I could put all of my newly acquired YouTube knowledge to good work. After our first, I felt far more comfortable and knew I could handle it all now 😉 .

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We drove around the park when we arrived and the office was closed with a note that stated “go pick your spot and come back at 4pm.” So we did just that. We drove around to each of the various sections and truly picked the most beautiful one. It was a longer hike to the playground, but right across from the bathrooms and showers, and just steps from a beach pathway. Within the first hour of us being there we were greeted with a pair of deer, a few raccoons, a snake, and skunk (fearful of us thank goodness…. off he ran). We also could hear many owl and eagle calls through the trees as well. We were quite happy to have landed in a nature-heavy area with RV season seeming to be tail-end. There were very few spots filled in the park. A few showed for a Friday and/or Saturday night, but even then it was quite an empty park and perfect time to be there.

We had an electrical hook up which was perfect. Little-to-no wifi connections though. But with the amount of time we were outdoors, that did not seem to matter too much. We did several hikes a day and the park is close to a business district as well, so a mere mile walk westward into town and you could grab something if you happened to need it.

Several bonfires during the day and evening as the temps were quite cool. We were quite thankful for the working RV heater we had, and had strong empathy for those tent campers that showed up on those cool, cold nights!

Being right on the beach we had several beach walks and collecting of rocks, which also lead to rock art designs with sharpies. That was a super fun activity to do with the teens. The little did lots of widdling of sticks and collections of various nature items. Oh yeah, and we finally got our map up on the outside of the RV. We had been talking about how to track our travels and this seemed like a super duper fun way! You’ll see the kids have already been *all* over the place! It was fun to reminisce each of the trips when we did it!

It was a super great time, and after the 5 days we were sad to depart. Definitely a place we’d return to again!

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Cathartic

Seems to be the word of the month….

I know it’s been awhile…. I have been recuperating….. regrouping….. and thinking….. a LOT.

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Apparently after my last post, and even with my new found outlook on ‘home’-owning…. The universe felt we (namely * I * ) need another swift kick in the a$$.

After having the very kind soles in OH take extremely good care of us and being given another clean ‘bill of health’… I slapped a new rubber roof on our rig and felt very helpful for the adventures ahead. I was still nervous, mind you, of (a) what the oil gauge may do to us on our way to AZ and (b) whether my roof job would truly hold or not… but nonetheless, this was where we were and I was feeling really good. There was only one way to figure it all out, and that was to live it!

So off we traveled. Saying another fair well to our dear friends in OH and beginning our trek southwest. I was feeling quite at ease when a good two hours into the trek the oil seemed to be strong and steady. I was feeling good about the engine and knowing that if I held a sturdy 60mph then I’d be a-okay getting down to AZ. With the amount of time we had to get to AZ and the fact that the RV was holding strong, I figured I’d just keep on driving till I needed a sleep. After all, my crew mates could sleep as they needed and were quite comfortable, so I could get the miles behind us and keep on moving.

At that time, that seemed like the best laid plan until about 11p – 12a just on the outskirts of Indianapolis I started to hear something flapping. It was a strange noise…. One I had trouble identifying. At the beginning of it all I was pretty sure something up top the rig was flapping around and needed to be secured once more. I turned to K and said “oh no! I think something is flying off the rough!!!” He says the noise did not sound to him like it was up top. Then I began to panic. A huge massive semi passes us to the left, as they have been most of the day. The pull from the semi’s are quite grand on our rickety rig. This was what seemed to be the final straw, however. When this rig passed us to the left there was this huge explosive noise… a loud bang…. And then somewhat silenced. I freaked and immediately got off the highway. We seemed okay but still sort of clueless about what had just happened. Until, that is, we begin to accelerate again at the stop light. I knew then…. We had tire issues.

20160925_090602We pulled off to investigate. Searched on top and below. And finally came to see that it was one of our interior rear tires…. Not only a flat, but a complete and utter blow out. And it’s the middle of the night…. AND…. We are quite clearly in not the best part of Indianapolis.

I ask K to map us a Walmart. I just need to get us somewhere we can boondock, regroup and think things through. We hobbled our way to a Walmart and went in to get some water, food and use the facilities. The guard asked us if that was our rig over there and instructed us that this was not typically a spot for RV’s. He says, “we don’t usually allow overnights. We are not a 24hrs. spot and, well, this is not the best part of town you know.” Oh great…. You just had to say that in front my kids did ya?

We climb back in and hunker down for the night. I notice the Walmart tire and car repair garage and figure we ask them in the AM what they may be able to do for us.

Early AM I race outta the RV and into the car care area. I point through the window and let them know what had happened. They look at our rig and shake their heads saying…. “Oh man that’s a BIG RV…. I don’t think we can even fit that in here…. Let alone have the right tires for it.” The woman behind the desk is quite friendly and offering other information about spots in Indy that may be able to help. The gentleman goes out to the RV and checks out the tire ID and comes back saying he’s not seen that kind of tire in many many moons. My hope deflates quickly and I begin to worry again…. I can barely move on this tire and if I have to take it elsewhere I may loose my you-know-what.

The woman is quite kind and gives us a number to call. The RV spot is *very* hard to get a hold of. In the meantime, I call our AAA can they explain to me that I need to ‘up’ my membership to RV status and even IF I do that, it would not be valid for 72 hours. I finally reach the Indy RV spot who tells me that he does not do tires there, but refers me to a spot who may be able to help. At the very least, they offer on-site service. Phew…. Feeling a bit better.

That is… until I call them. They tell me they don’t have the tire. And that most places will not have the tire. That having that specific tire means we need to order it and won’t likely receive it till later that week, being that it was a Saturday and the tire could not be ordered till Monday. MONDAY?!?!? LATER THAT WEEK!?!?!? AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

I can’t sit in the not-best-part-of-town-Walmart with my kids for the WEEK!!!!!

I called a few other places and seem to be receiving the same information. So I opt for the 1st service to come on out and at the very least put our spare tire on. If the spare is on there, I can head back to Chicago and figure it out there. Perhaps someone in Chicago operates on a Saturday, but even, at the very least, we would have friends to stay with and figure it all out…. Verses sit in the Indy Walmart for a week or longer.

The service comes out and begins working. He mentions another spot that may be able to help and true to the other spots, they do nothing for people on a Saturday. World stops in Indy on a Saturday folks. Just keep that in mind should you be traveling through town. He puts the spare on for me and say, “Well… the spare is likely the next to blow, I feel I should warn you. It’s in bad shape as well. But it will carry you to a spot to get it fixed.” I am thinking…. “a spot to get it fixed?!?!” I had NO intentions of staying in Indianapolis at this point. I was burnt out. Fried. Crispy. WELL-over done. I was emotionally a wreck and totally spent on all we had been through with this rig to this point in time.

I ask him if he feels it’s ok driving up to 45-50mph. He seems to think it’s just fine. So that solidified my decision…. I was going to drive back roads at 45 mph all the way back to Chicago. Once I could feel safe and secure again, I could make next plans and figure out what to do.

A mere 6.5 hours later, we pull into a friend’s driveway. Nothing like open arms and feeling like you are safe again. I know I slept VERY well that night. Like a rock. But now the decision making had to happen. What to do? Replace the tires? Sell the RV? Still go to AZ and make it to Free to Be?

The decision is made at the very last second…. We opt to rent a car and make it to AZ for the conference. We rented a truly fabulous Ford Transit 350, which I have to say, was the BEST decision at that moment. I needed to be free of the rig to regroup. I need to cathartic trip to sooth the mind and sole. I need a *smooth* ride! I needed to visit Arizona. I needed the cathartic adventure to figure out where my mind and sole rested with this entire thing.

The conference was great. Arizona was fabulous! The time away even more so! After the conference we took some time to check out some local neighborhoods that I had been eyeing on Craigslist. It was good to narrow down options and ideas should the idea of settling somewhere become the main topic. What surprised me most, however, was how much I would fall in love with Albuquerque!!!

We opted to go for a night there as K wanted to create a self-tour of all of the Breaking Bad filming spots. I was excited about this too as I had watched the series along with him. It was going to be super fun to see the filming spots! What I did not realize though, was that we just happened to land there the week of the International Balloon Fiesta! So we then opted to stay two nights in order to see and check it all out. First day we see all of the Breaking Bad sites, check out some local neighborhoods (as I was already falling in love with the place!), and visited Old Town. It was such a great time! Next morning, before sunrise I drive us to a spot where we can see both sunrise and the balloon fest start. It was such a truly magical morning! We began our trek home from there…. But as we pulled out I felt very sad to leave. The spirit, the atmosphere, the nature, climate…. Just about everything we experienced felt wonderful. The one and only thing I did not check into was the unschooling community. (I did check the homeschool laws though 😉 I just did not reach out to the community just yet.)

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Onward and upward, homeward bound. We pass by Amarillo to see Cadillac Ranch and leave our mark. Oh! Forgot to mention, just prior to Albuquerque we passed by the Zuni nation and nearly came home with a stray dog 😉 I wanted to visit because I had a friend who lived there for some time, long ago and I wanted to visit and see the reservation. While we were there the kids fell in love with a stray and even called SBJ to see if he’d be up for us bringing him home. When we went back for it, he seemed to sort of be hanging around a house so we were not sure he was completely stray to begin with. I told the kids they needed to ask to avoid the police chasing us out of town. But they were kinda chicken to go ask 😉 I will whole-heartedly admit I was a-okay with that cause I could not envision this journey with a new found friend! They were a wee annoyed with me, but at that point in time, I could not fathom the drastic change in family membership.

From there…. many other cool stops. We spent a night in St. Louis. We visited Lincoln’s home in Springfield, IL. After picking our rig back up we had some super fun nights in a local hotel with friends. And then it was time to get back to reality. K had an orthodontist appointment and we needed to figure out the ‘what’s next’ to our story here.

That’s where we seem to be at this moment…. The what’s next portion. We are good, locally, on our tires, but we need to replace them to take off again. We had been doing quite a bit of boondocking in the city but quite frankly…. It’s super stressful. Chicago is *not* (even in the slightest) a very RV-friendly spot. We also still need our generator connected, so that makes it a bit more challenging in that we are not totally contained/sufficient just yet. Once we have power and tires, we are in pretty good standing. We just are very (very) low on funds to do so with everything else we have had to put into it. So are here, regrouping and figuring it all out.

Through it all we celebrated a second birthday of our little C and a sixth birthday or our special M. M lost a first tooth in AZ! And we’ve been enjoying the Halloween season upon us!

OH…. Also…. Let’s throw this into the mix. As we thought we were preparing for the CampForce Amazong job in KY, we received word that SBJ did not get it due to some paperwork being missing (on time). Then…. Just as we are regrouping on that turn of events, I begin interviewing for a very fabulous online/virtual position that I would love to have, and he gets a “wait we still have space in KY for you” email from Amazon, AND he’s in negotiations regarding a promotion at current work position! So the other monkey wrench is whether he joins us or not. Does he forego promotion for the Amazon? OR take the promotion over Amazon? And then if he stays, where will he stay? Housing has been a huge issue since we began. And it was ok for the time being because he was joining us in a few short weeks. But at this point, if he stays for the promotion and more permanent solution needs to happen.

AND…. Then if he stays, do we travel short term and relocate back to Chicago? Do we eventually try to move to Albuquerque? AHHHHH!?!? The choices!!!

All the while, we left the city and have been staying at Illinois Beach State Park for a period. It’s been SOOOOOO much better than the city. Cathartic really. It’s been lovely. Chilly. But lovely. The current attempt is to (a) figure out what SBJ will do regarding work, (b) try to fix our generator and tires, and (c) plan to stay an extended period with friends on their farm in OH. That time will also likely be the most necessary and cathartic to figuring out the ‘what next’ from there.

Till then…. I’m off to enjoy this insanely warm October day (for Chicago that it is)… and the rest will hopefully reveal itself to us as the end of this month comes, and the new moon enters! We intend to enjoy a ghostly Halloween above all else! Our most favorite holiday will be the priority and the rest will come to us as it needs. Perhaps I will begin a “support Nakita Baby Nomads” campaign to help us acquire new tires 😉

Happy Halloween All!!!!

 

 

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It’s Final

Woke up this morning with a sense of peace about a MAJOR family decision.

We have just returned home from a magical month long adventure eastward. (I will post pics and adventure details soon!) While on the road we visited friends who live on a farm in SE Ohio. It just so happened there is a rental property on that farm that potentially we could rent in the very near future. We fell in love with the area, but more importantly the people of the community. During the trip we began investigating the potential move. It’s been the most serious we’ve been about moving with a pending lease renewal in a long time. Each year our lease has come up for renewal, let’s say in the last 5-6 years, we have a family discussion about it. We may even go as far as investigate potential move-to areas, but ultimately, we have stayed put. The cost of a move, the decision to move, the process….. just about everything about it has prompted us to extend our lease for “just one more year.”

This spring we asked for a short-term summer lease so we could figure out what we’d like to do. It feels like it’s really time but we just did not know when and where. Phoenix has always been high on the list, but we know absolutely no one there, it would be a vast difference, and let’s face it…. interviewing for jobs out of state is just pretty much impossible. And so moving would mean moving with a little moola to rely on, and that’s just never really been in the bank for us in the process.

So, coming up at the end of this month, our lease is over once more. We have the option of extending til spring of 2017. This last journey is one of many 4-6 week long journeys I have done with the kids. Each time I am on the road with the kids we fall in love with the adventure, journey, experiences and do not want it to end. I read about fulltimers through FB and blogs over and over with deep envy thinking ‘one day’….. but one day does not seem to be coming.

While we investigated this potential move SBJ was able to check out local employment opportunities and some things look promising. The hitch is that the rental home needs a great deal of work. Much of which does not appear to be able to be done by September 1st. So we are looking at least some sort of gap in housing. There are temporary housing options we could consider, but frankly I’m weary of moving a family of 7 just to have to move again in a short bit of time. While we await word on what may transpire on that end, we venture home and settle back into the typical (or not so typical) routine.

We’ve been gone a month. This is not the first time we’ve done these long adventures, as I mentioned before. This trip however was perhaps the last nudge needed to bring us over the cusp?! Driving back to Chicago I felt a growing sense of a deep dark lull I wanted to kick to the wayside but finding extremely challenging to do so. Instantly we returned, unpacked and showered, I was on the computer investigating ways that we just take off in 4 weeks. Just four short weeks, sell and store all we own and hit the road full time till things pan out as they may be intended!?!?! Sounds nutzo, eh?

BUT as I diligently look into vehicles we co-habit the idea feels more and more feasible! All I need to do is secure a vehicle larger than our van, and get rid of all of our SH#@! No biggie. Clear out and make way! I can do this! With no rent looming over our heads, this IS a feasible feat. (Of course is scares the you-know-what out of me!!!) But it IS feasible!

I lay down to rest last night and woke up with the massive rush of “YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” We CAN do this. This will work out. I simply need to tell our rental company “no” we are not renewing and ALL will fall right into place as it should. To hold onto the lease out of fear is what will hold us back from moving forward. So, we…… after 12 years of living here….. are *not* going to renew our lease. We are saying no to the tie, and YES to the adventure!

Whew.

Now I gotta start purging!

 

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