Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Twin Falls, Idaho

We weren’t originally planning to stay a whole week here in Twin Falls, but we knew that it was time to stay put long enough to get our converter replaced, so we wouldn’t have to stay plugged in to a battery charger nonstop any time we aren’t driving the RV.  We couldn’t complain about the price at Oregon Trail Campground either--$115 for a whole week with full hook-ups & cable even.  Steve also got permission to wash the roof of the RV, which is a big deal because most places don’t allow any sort of RV maintenance onsite.  It’s not a beautiful campground, but they do have a soft grassy area that Jake could crawl around on, with a very small playground, and a very nice sandbox!   The office area also has a fussball table, pool table, drum set, some weights, and a coloring area for the little ones.  The kids were happy with it!  The owners are super nice, too. 
The Snake River Gorge

They allow Base jumpers off this bridge

The girls completed their compositions on the Oregon Trail & presented them.  They were awesome!   Both girls did an excellent job at incorporating facts they learned at the Interpretive Center into their first-person fictitious accounts of their own journey on the Trail.  They even dressed up for the event, and of course, Genna couldn’t be outdone. J

Alyssa reading her composition in costume

Genna providing comic relief between readings

We noticed there were Movies in the Park on Friday night.  Even though the girls had seen Tangled before, we still went.  Great setting, perfect grass, and perfect temps.  If only we could have stopped all the smokers from smoking around us, it would have been absolutely perfect!

Besides RV maintenance & repair, we managed a visit to the local farmer’s market on Saturday morning.  Fresh, local produce & farm fresh eggs make me happy! J  We ate well this week!
Partial collection of our take from the Farmers market
We also visited Shoshone Falls.  Apparently, they’re spectacular in the spring but not usually by this time of year because they divert the water for irrigation.  We were told this was a record-breaking year, however, and they were still spectacular!  Beautiful!  Although you have to pay to get in, it only costs $3 a car, which also covers Dierke Lake.
Beautiful Shoshone Falls
They like to call this the "Niagara of the West"
It was actually super hot in the sun, and we all brought our swimsuits so we could go swimming at Dierke Lake.  They even had a diving board!  We ended up not staying very long because a storm blew in.  We left before the thunder & lightning, but honestly, it didn’t last long at all, and only a few drops of rain fell.

Honestly, that pretty much sums up the week…RV maintenance with a couple of fun activities strewn in there.  I would say that Steve & I celebrated our 14th anniversary this week, as well, but the truth is, there wasn’t really any room for celebration as we were knee deep in laundry & RV washing & waxing before leaving the next morning to begin our round-about trek to Yellowstone.  Bummer…looking forward to celebrating some other time though!  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

Remember those wicked sprinklers?  They were the motivation we needed to get an early start to hit the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon.  We needed that early start, too, because driving through mountains with an RV is slow-going.  The kids have far exceeded my expectations on how well they handle long drives though!  We stopped along the way in Walla Walla at a park for lunch to break up the drive, but we had a lot of miles to cover still to make it to our stop for the night close to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

We arrived after 3:00, & they close at 6:00 (you have to be out of the parking lot, down the hill past the gates at the bottom of the hill by closing time).  Hindsight is always 20/20, but I wish we had another hour there.  The girls were super interested in everything, especially since Steve told them that they were to write a composition, first person, about being on the Oregon Trail.  They were also trying to complete the requirements to be a Junior Pioneer, & they were to watch the well-done documentary that lasted 45 minutes.  It would have been better to forego the Junior Pioneer program, I think, so they had more time to focus on what was interesting to them to help them write their papers.  And, we should have eaten snacks before going because between the time constraints & nothing to eat since an early lunch, they both burst into tears as they were trying to hand in their Junior Pioneer booklets.  We simply ran out of time, so they missed the chance to play in the playroom for more than five minutes.  To say they were bummed we weren’t going back is an understatement.  They thoroughly enjoyed our time there & learned a ton!


And…in light of the last few days, I had to chuckle at this quote from one of the pioneer women on the Oregon Trail, “I am very weary of this journey, weary of myself and all around me, I long for the quiet of home where I can be at peace once more.” ~Agnes Stewart Warner, August 21, 1853  No doubt, their journey on the Oregon Trail was a much more dangerous undertaking than what we are doing today over 150 years later, but our journey also involves risk, and when things are not going so smoothly & I desperately need sleep, I completely identify with this lady’s sentiments!  When Steve asked the girls if we had lived back then, would our family go on the Oregon Trail, they answered, “You’d probably want to, Dad, but Mom would say ‘No’!”  LOL  However, considering one in ten died, I’m thinking I would indeed have to say “No,” despite having said “yes” to this current adventure!  
Wagon ruts

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chief Timothy Park, Clarkston, WA

Our time here at Chief Timothy was a bit of a mixed bag.  I’ll start with the good stuff.  Our site was along the river with gobs of blackberry bushes bursting with ripe blackberries free for the picking.  Yumm!  The plan is to make blackberry crisp now that our oven is fully operational!  There were some wild kittens living in those bushes, too, and our girls had fun putting food out for them & waiting patiently for them to come & eat.  There was also a beachy swimming area not far from our site that all the kids had a lot of fun at.  We also had great neighbors, super friendly.

Now, I’ll address the more challenging aspects of our time here.  At Chief Timothy, they run sprinklers for an hour every Monday, Wednesday, & Friday morning.  Now, that may not seem like a big deal, but let me tell you, these sprinklers are like turbo jet sprinklers.  One of the sprinkler heads was just off the paved pad for the RV, and when it went off, it was like a car wash jet spraying the side & underside of the RV by the door to enter & exit.  They shoot far & wide, with phenomenal pressure, drenching absolutely everything.  Sooo glad we weren’t tent camping because it would have been unbearable. 

Also, to continue on our little string of things going wrong with the RV, we had a bit of an incident upon our arrival to our campsite the first night.  Despite the fact the site was paved, it was very uneven, so while the kids went to play at the playground, Steve was working to set up & get things level.  He drove up on some blocks to help even things out, and forgot to chock before unhitching.  If we were on a completely level pad, that wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but we weren’t, & it was a big deal.  The RV slid off the blocks, clipping the left side rail of the truck & pinning it, and bending the front right “leg” that supports the front of the RV while unhitched.  Yikes!!!  Steve was sweating bullets, but fortunately God had already provided some help.  Just minutes before it happened, we got new neighbors, & Dwight was just the voice of calm that Steve needed to help him get the RV jacked up safely, so that we could extricate the truck and then rehitch the RV to the truck.  Now, we were stuck hitched to the truck until we could get the leg fixed, but we were stable & safe.  The truck was fine, just a nick on the plastic on the top of the bed.  Somewhat ironically, Dwight was only there for one night, just long enough to help us out. 

Of course, just because we needed a little more drama, as we slid out, we discovered that I had also made a big blunder & nearly damaged the master slide.  Steve had commented that he thought we could store things under our mattress, & I had done more rearranging in Moscow to better accommodate the pack’n play in our bedroom.  Although I showed Steve what I had done & asked if he thought it would be okay, we should have tested it.  We won’t be storing things under the mattress again, but thankfully, some renailing of boards was all that was needed to get our slide functional again.  Whew!!

 The next morning, after waking up feverish in the middle of the night again, Jake puked all over me & seemed to finally feel better.  Yay!  So off we went to town to try & get the leg issue resolved.  We met an awesome guy at Krueger’s RV (Jasen Skalicky) who spent hours with us helping teach Steve what he needed to know to not only replace the broken leg but also to teach us important maintenance tips that we didn’t know & help us with other questions/issues about the RV.  I cannot say enough about how patient & knowledgeable this guy is!  Ironically, one of the guys who helped us out in Coeur d’Alene gave Steve a card for this guy, but Jake ate the card.  Steve recognized his name when we met him though!
Our campsite backed right up to the river
Upon our return to our campsite, Steve worked the rest of the day to correctly install the new leg/jack & be able to finally unhitch the RV.  Yay!!  I should have just breathed a sigh of relief, but between the broken leg/jack, the master slide, a sick baby, and not nearly enough sleep….yeah, it wasn’t my finest hour.  Was I grateful??  Absolutely, but still, it was all feeling a bit much…   

View from the North overlooking Lewiston and Clarkston.  The huge decline was  a bit scary towing the RV.   We took these on our arrival from Moscow.  We didn't realize that we would be descending into a desert.
The Snake river winds through the two cities

“Come with me on this journey….”

I read this quote in Francis Chan’s Crazy Love  (p. 23) this morning, & it hit me square between the eyes.  “Come with me on this journey.  I don’t promise it will be painless.  Change, as we all know, is uncomfortable.  It’s up to you to respond to what you read [experience].   But you will have a choice: to adjust how you live daily or to stay the same.”  Of course, the words in brackets are my own.  I feel like the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder (maybe knocked me down), & said, “This is for you!”  I think this post has been brewing for awhile, but it is not an easy one to write & publish.  To quote my brother, if you’re blogging as a journal, at times, it “feels like walking around in your underwear for all to see.”  Transparency is not so easy.

At times, I wonder why we’re on this journey.   I know that I felt incredible peace that defied all understanding as we stepped out in faith to make this happen.  I also know that the actual doing of this is hard!  That’s right…it isn’t easy.  Yes, we have seen & will continue to see amazing sights, we have connected with & reconnected with such interesting & Godly people, and we are getting more time as a family than we ever could have otherwise.  This is, however, a LOT of change!  Some days we cruise along & it is great fun, but there are days where we make mistake after foolish mistake.  The list of casualties when it comes to the RV is growing. (Ever watch that Robin Williams’ movie RV??)  Just in the last couple of days, we ruined the right front “leg.”  Yep, those costs add up, but even more than that, it hurts morale.  Fact is, we are still novices, and we have & will continue to screw up.  Some days, it is relatively easy to roll with the punches, & other days, not so much.  Somehow, even though I didn’t expect it to be all perfect, it is hard to admit that some days I feel a bit like an Israelite, longing for the way things used to be. 

With all that being said, I have to believe that He who started a good work in us will see it through to completion.  Sometimes I inwardly chuckle when I think about how we felt like God wanted us to give back on this trip…because so far, it seems that we are the “needy” ones.  It is humbling to always by the one saying, “Something is wrong.  Can you help??”  I know that we are learning valuable lessons about community.  No matter where we go, God wants us to be a part of community.  We are not in a little bubble, tending to our own needs & wants; we are constantly coming into contact with others who need what we can offer & we are constantly needing others.  Steve & I are learning how to be a united front in ways that we never have before.  We are learning valuable lessons about the impact of our words & actions.  Tight space constraints can make tempers rise in a hurry.  There is a lot of character revelation going on, & it isn’t all pretty!  I definitely feel like the Lord is seeking to refine us, & that is hard work!

Soooo…back to Francis Chan’s quote…we are indeed on this journey.  There were no promises it would be painless, & there certainly have been some growing pains.  The change is uncomfortable because change simply is, but it is up to each of us individually how we respond to what we are experiencing along the way.  With that said, Steve & I are the ones with the greatest responsibility for leading our family in the proper way to respond.  We do indeed have a choice: adjust how we live daily…or stay the same.  My prayer today is that we become better at choosing to adjust. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Moscow, Idaho

We decided to spend some time in Moscow based on this blog post by the Golden Gang.  They gave such glowing reviews for their time spent here that we decided that it might be a good spot to just decompress a little and try to figure out what sort of routine we should be striving for now that Steve is not working.  Living this lifestyle has made it very obvious that we have compartmentalized our roles in our family for the last nearly fourteen years.  I have been used to managing my routine with the kids, homeschooling, & regular household chores during the week, while Steve has faithfully gone to work & provided well for our family as well as handled most household maintenance issues.  Now, we are together in tight quarters all the time.  He is around & able to help more with the day-to-day work of raising the kids.  I would be lying if I said it has been easy to adjust to being around each other 24/7 with such tight space constraints; it has been challenging at times!  We are still negotiating how much alone time we each need, how much couple time we need, how much one-on-one time each kid needs, and how much family time is needed, and how in the world to accomplish all of it!   

When we arrived in Moscow, it was a Friday, and the first place we wanted to stay, Robinson County Park, was full…though we narrowly escaped an ugly encounter with a metal post while trying to squeeze in through the narrow entrance gates on a gravel downhill in an attempt to check out the campground & turn around.  (This is a beautiful, quiet little campground, but if you’ve got a big rig, beware that the entry gates are narrow, so plan your approach carefully!)  Our second choice was the Latah County Fairgrounds, also full, thanks to a gun show we had no prior knowledge of.  Weekends in the summer…  We did locate an RV park in Moscow with availability where we stayed for 3 nights while we waited for the Latah County Fairgrounds to open up.  We were so glad we made the switch though! Here’s why:
  1.  This playground was totally & completely awesome.  The kids played there everyday, twice a day at least.  The slides were fast, and there were multiple monkey bar options.  It was so close that the girls could go play at the playground together without Steve or me having to take them.
  2.  Nice neighbors.  The first campground we stayed at here in Moscow was quiet, and there was considerably more space between RVs, but part of the fun of doing this is meeting new people.  We’re so glad we got a chance to meet Mrs. Lucy & Mr. Jim!  And a big thanks to Mr. Paul for teaching Steve how to grease the RV wheels.
  3.  Right across the street from the supermarket.  It was so nice to just walk over to Safeway to get whatever we needed or wanted whenever we needed it. 
  4. An awesome city water park!  It was so much fun that we spent two Saturdays here!   Great slides & a super fun obstacle course the first time we went!  Steve was determined he’d be able to complete the obstacle course without falling off; good thing he’s a persistent guy since it took 6 or 7 tries before he accomplished it! J  Genna even finally overcame her fear and went down the little kid froggy slide just before we left on our second visit, after I bribed her with Skittles.  Once she started, she didn’t want to stop!!
Our awesome neighbors Jim and Lucy.  This was taken right after we got back from going to church with them
Two fun waterslides
They had an obstacle course that they set up while we there
Our girls took a turn spraying 
Girls had no problems
Course was much harder for those who weigh close to 200
Enjoying the giant snow cones they sell here

Steve also spent quite a bit of time biking on the trails around here & totally loved it!  The pace was slow enough that we had a chance to discuss priorities & managed to come up with a fluid routine.  I was excited, & the kids were, too.  Routine spells rigidity & boredom in Steve’s world, but he seems to be coping. ;)  Steve also started reading short stories to the big girls from "Stories to Remember", an old literature textbook he picked up at a garage sale.  He would read the short stories and then assigned writing compositions to present to the family after each reading.  I’m so glad he took this on; the girls have written some excellent compositions, & not to be outdone, Genna always grabs a book & paper & takes her turn to stand on the stool in front of the fridge & present some crazy story of her own.  Love, love it!! 

There are two bike trails that head in opposite directions leaving  Moscow.  They were formerly rail lines.
View from the Latah Trail, they call this landscape the Palouse
Palouse gives way to forest as you approach the town of Troy
Love the Palouse

We’re so glad we stopped awhile in Moscow!  We had a chance to enjoy the area & all it has to offer without feeling rushed.  Despite spending 9 days here, the kids wish we could stay even longer!

And this little guy got his second tooth!  Unfortunately, its advent brought with it fever, crankiness, & an upset tummy, but he’s on the mend again.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Coeur d' Alene, Idaho

Fun times here in CDA.  After leaving Spokane, we opted for a short drive and a couple of low-key days with Steve not working.  We spent the evening in the city, walked the boardwalk, dipped our feet in the lake, walked around the city park (great park!), and played on the big wooden playground.  The parking is free, up to two hours, so we did have to rush to make it back to avoid parking fees. 

"The worlds largest floating boardwalk"
Our first moose sighting
Water RV's aka yachts that cost as much as a house
Lake Coeur d' Alene

On our way back to our campground, we stopped to purchase a toaster (decided this was worth the space) and a vacuum.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Our vacuum died just days before our house went on the market, and we had yet to replace it.  I think/know we were immobilized by trying to find the perfect vac for our new home---not too big or bulky yet that works halfway decent.  Cheap vacuums have a tendency to agitate Steve’s asthma, so I wanted him to make the final decision. We had “gotten by” simply by borrowing vacuums of friends & family along the way, but the lack of vacuum had been a sore spot for quite some time, I admit.  Sooo…we’re currently trying out an Electrolux Ergorapido that we found on sale at Target for $90.  So far, we really like it, and would recommend it.  It is crazy how much dirt, dust & hair accumulate in this place daily!  

Since we were all up super late & really enjoying ourselves, I strongly encouraged Steve to consider staying an extra night so that we weren’t pushed for time.  He acquiesced, and so we were anticipating a relaxed, fun bonus day.  Not so much… 

We’ve been having issues since Spokane with our radio turning itself on and off.  When I mentioned it to Steve, he assured me that it was Genna sneaking in and turning it on.  I was pretty sure he was wrong, but I couldn’t prove it at first.  However, this morning, the radio turned itself on and began blaring music.  I reached over, turned it off, except it wouldn’t turn off.  While Steve was working on trying to figure out what was going with the radio, I discovered that the fridge “Check” light was on, so clearly there was some sort of power issue.  Our fun, relaxed bonus day just turned into a stressful, “what in the world is going on?” sort of day.  Once again, trials make good opportunities to get to know your neighbors who are older, wiser, and more experienced with rvs.  We cannot thank God enough for the people he has placed in our path to lend assistance just when we need it most!  Not only did our neighbors help Steve sleuth out the problem, they loaned us a battery charger which temporarily solved our issue AND they helped us light the pilot on our oven for the first time!  Woohoo!  We celebrated with a Wacky Cake ala Shanan, which we burnt sooo incredibly bad because Shanan placed the cake over the burner instead of on the rack…and neither Steve nor I realized what she had done despite checking on it!  What a huge flop…but it really was amusing, & now, we know how to use our oven!!

A day of research, short tempers, and fortunately, fabulous weather & soft grass to play in, and we determined that the converter on the RV was at fault.  No problem…we have a warranty, right?  However, it turns out that the mobile guy who Steve spoke to informed us that the part would need to be ordered & our warranty doesn’t cover shipping ($75 for overnight), and he told Steve that we could get by for as long as we needed to by using a battery charger.  Steve decided we’d go ahead & take off for Moscow, ID as planned and attempt to get it fixed there.   He took the three girls out for an afternoon of fun at Faragut State Park and I had a few peaceful hours with Jake.   Faragut State Park used to be a Navy base during WWII, and is a place we would like to camp the next time we return to the area. 

Swimming in the chilly lake            .
Gorgeous Lake Pend Orielle (pronounced Ponderay)         .

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Spokane, Washington

Steve needed a place to train his replacement to finish his last week of work, so he asked for some input on Facebook for places to accomplish that.  One of the responses included an offer to stay in Spokane with an old friend from summer camp & college.  It had been years since they last saw each other, but we decided to give it a whirl.  We want this trip to be more about saying "yes" than "no" and putting relationships above things.

Apparently I had briefly met Rebecca and her husband Matt and first child nearly 14 years ago, but I had no recollection.  Nonetheless, we took her up on the offer and were blown away by their family's hospitality!  Their 11 year-old daughter Abbi got along fabulously with our 10 and 8 year-old daughters, and their 15 year-old son Lucas had a soft spot for Jake that was apparently mutual.  Even Genna fit right in, playing with toys, and sucking Rebecca's husband Matt into grandiose imaginative play.  Steve was able to talk for hours a day on the phone to train his replacement while the kids were otherwise engrossed in play elsewhere.

Alyssa, Abbi, and Shanan

Rebecca gave me a much needed break and took all the girls to pick raspberries at her parent's place while Steve went mountain biking with Matt.  Even though I still had Jake, I was reminded that sometimes you just need enough quiet and space to hear yourself think & sort things out a bit.  That's certainly more challenging to accomplish in this way of life, but I am realizing it is important to find a way to make that happen.

Rebecca also insisted that we let her & her family watch all our kids, so we could go out on a date completely childless!!  Wow!  What a treat!  We totally needed that.  Thank you, thank you for making that happen!  We went to Riverfront Park in Spokane, fabulous place to walk around, with or without kids.

Spokane Falls

A big thanks to the Bartholomews for loaning an extra bike for me and a bike trailer for the little ones and for suggesting the perfect spot to go biking as a family.  We managed an eight-mile bike ride on the Centennial Trail.  It was absolutely beautiful, the weather was perfect, and the kids did awesome.  The river was so clear that nearly everyone took a dip in it before biking back to the truck.

Floaters down the Spokane river as seen from the Centennial Trail

We have really enjoyed all of the free parks here in Spokane.  They are everywhere!  After church, we took an afternoon to explore the perennial, rose, & Japanese gardens at Manito Park per Rebecca's suggestion.  There was so much there that we didn't even see, but we so enjoyed our time there.

Just prior to leaving here, thanks once again to Facebook, we had a chance to meet up with an old friend of mine from camp 18 years ago, as well!  Wow, how time flies!  It is so fun to reconnect with friends and see evidence of God's blessing in their lives.  I also love that our kids are getting so much better & faster at making new friends!

Spice and Renee Welch and kiddos
We're so grateful that we have had time here to rekindle old friendships and make new ones!  Thanks Rebecca, Matt, Luc, and Abbi for making us feel at home, for letting us invade your space, for loving our kids, and for showing us what to see & do in Spokane!  Our time here has been priceless!

Luc, Jake and Rebecca
We drove from Washington to Idaho and went to Texas Roadhouse for dinner