Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Road Travel Necessities

I don’t need a lot when we go on a road trip. Whether driving somewhere just for the day or for a few weeks, I’ve always enjoyed looking out the window. Conversations with the fam are enjoyable too and there’s nothing like being cooped up in a car together to really bond and have some great discussions.

That being said, I do HAVE to bring a long just a few of what I call “Road Travel Necessities.”

~ My travel blanket. It’s a small blanket that my mother-in-law made and I save it only for travel time. It’s perfect to roll up and place in my carry-on bag for cold airplanes or to stash at my feet in the car. I often use it on road trips to cover and warm up my legs or to put behind my back or even to wrap around my arms. My husband and I like different room temps and this is great when he’s needing some fresh air and yet I’m still chilly.

~ My Ipod. Gotta have it. It’s got all of my current favorite tunes plus some old standby’s that are guaranteed to make me smile, ponder life, or belt out in song. Plus I have a lot of podcasts stored on it so can listen to inspiration any time.

~ My laptop. I never know when an article idea will strike me and so it’s nice to know I can grab this and start pounding away on the keyboard before my creative juices leave me for awhile. Plus, my girls can play a few games on here if it’s an extended car trip.

~ Water bottle. If I ever forget my water bottle – guaranteed I will be thirsty right away!

~ A couple magazines. Sometimes I do bring a book which I’m sure most people have as their car necessity item. But I’ve found that magazines take up less space and then I can throw them away along the line freeing up more room.

~ Sunglasses. Great for bright sunny days or for when I’m feeling really tired and I don’t want people in other cars to see me nodding off.

~ Cell Phone with charger. Important in case of emergency.

~ A few munchies. Normally something sweet, something salty, and something healthy thrown in for good measure. Yet somehow along the way it’s only the sweet and salty that seem to get restocked.



What are your road travel necessities? How do they make for a more comfortable trip?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Reminiscing

Here is a little recap of our road trip over the past three weeks. The song repeats twice (since I could only choose one song) so if it starts to annoy you - just turn the sound off. :) Enjoy!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Grand Canyon

We left Cortez, CO and the “cool” Mesa Verde ruins to head to the Grand Canyon. We were going to stop at Four Corners on the way. Four Corners is where the states of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado all meet at one point. They have a memorial where you can get some fun pictures of being in four places at once. Well, we were so disappointed to see that it was going to be closed until August for renovations. We decided to stop outside the gate anyways and take a few fun pictures showing our disappointment.


Some bikers showed up and were ticked that it was closed. They used some colorful words to express what we were also feeling – and we found the situation a little humorous.

The closer we got to the Grand Canyon, the hotter it got. I think we reached 100 degrees. We found some curios here and there alongside of the road with Navajo Indians selling turquoise jewelry and pottery. We stopped at about between 5-6 of them and picked up a few pieces of jewelry for me and the girls. My husband also bought a cool bow and arrow made by this one gal’s grandfather. We told him it was his Father’s Day gift from us (since we’d been on the road and not celebrated too much.)

We visited the North Rim at the Grand Canyon. I heard from a few people that it is prettier than the South Rim, but I wouldn’t know since I’ve never been to either before! We got a cabin right near the rim and our view was beautiful. The Grand Canyon is definitely majestic and powerful. You feel so small next to its grandeur.

I mainly visited because my husband has always wanted to go to the Grand Canyon. For me – personally – I was very nervous to be there. I don’t like being near cliffs and canyons very much and was surprised at how the paths had some drop offs and holes below the fences. We gave our girls strict instructions for “no messing around” and my husband firmly gripped my youngest by the hand. I’ve heard that 4 people a year fall at the Grand Canyon!

We ordered dinner from their deli instead of eating in their big dining room. I got a turkey and provolone sandwich with tomato and onion and the rest of my fam got a pizza. It was all very good. Just as we were getting ready for bed, I heard a strange noise like rain hitting the cabin. I told everyone to “hush” and said, “Do you hear that? Is it rain?” And as we all grew quiet, I heard a noise and preceded to look at the window right in front of me to see a huge white rat on the screen outside. I started to scream and then covered my face (trying not to scare my children) but it was too late. My oldest also saw it and proclaimed, “Was that a rat?” I’d heard that cabins near the rim have mice problems, so needless to say – I was on edge. Between my fear of rats invading our cabin and the forceful and powerful winds that invaded the canyon at night, I did not sleep good at all. I woke up at one point to find that my husband and oldest daughter were also struggling to sleep. Our cabin was nice, but our sleep was not! HA HA

We were all really wiped out the next day. My husband got up early to go take a walk and get some pictures of the canyon in the solitude as daylight approached. The funny thing is, we discovered that our clocks were wrong and he’d gotten up at 3:48 am! After a bad night’s sleep – that definitely leaves a tired man. I got up at 5:48, thinking it was 6:48. Sheesh.

We went ahead and hung out for awhile and then checked out. We used the porter because the parking lot was quite a ways away. They had construction up there (as did Mesa Verde) so the parking lot was a mess.

We took one trail and got some more sandwiches from the deli to eat at a picnic over by the trail. We chose a fairly easy one and it was a good choice. We had a great view and got to see the Colorado River way down below. After hanging out for awhile – we left the Grand Canyon.

We drove to Kanab, Utah where we spent the night. We visited this little museum/gift shop place where they had old movie sets. I guess quite a few old Westerns, etc have been filmed in Kanab. Who knew? So we had fun perusing and taking some fun shots along the way. Several of the sets seemed to be from “The Outlaw & Josey Wales” featuring Clint Eastwood.



Today – we are going home. There is a bit of melancholy knowing this adventure is over – but what a great adventure it’s been! I’m so thankful for these road trips and the memories they’ve created for our family. We have a long day ahead of us, but God has kept us safe. I don’t take that lightly.

It will be back to routine shortly. Sort of. I have my sister and her family coming in to visit in a week and then they will leave for their own vacation for a few days and come back through leaving my nephews to stay with us for a week. That will be lots of fun.

Have I ever said how much I love summer? I do.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Neat Place

***UPDATED*** I got a couple pictures to upload this morning before we hit the road - so yay! Enjoy this amazing place...
We spent our day out in Mesa Verde outside of Cortez, CO today. They have cliff dwellings that are pretty amazing to see. I loved our time spent there.

The weather was just about perfect. Sunny but not humid and not too hot.

We hiked to several of the dwellings and took a couple guided tours as well. It was so amazing to see a piece of history up close and imagine what life was like way back when. I don’t know why I haven’t heard more about Mesa Verde or why it’s not a more popular travel destination. It really is amazing and you get to see the cliff dwellings up close.


We even saw 3 mule deer at the park today – all of them were quietly right by where there were people!

Even though we had such a great day in the outdoors, we are all a little bummed tonight as we leave tomorrow and were going to stop by the Four Corners National Monument. And we just discovered that it’s closed until August. I’m thinking, “Why would they close in peak travel season?” So we are a little blue – but what can you do? We will head to the Grand Canyon anyways without this stop added in.

**Side note** For whatever reasons I cannot upload pictures. So sorry! But I'm hoping to do a slide show of our whole road trip when I get home and post it on here so will get some pics on here then.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Life Is a Highway

We've pretty much been in the car and driving yesterday and today. 8 hr drives (or so) each day. It feels so good to get out of the car at the end of the day!

We left San Antonio and made it to Amarillo last night. Stopped in some little town somewhere and ate authentic mexican food for Father's Day. I think the town was San Angelo. They had really good chicken tacos. Plus I saw a few real cowboys - hats, boots and all! :) Then my husband finally let me drive for him for awhile. :) He spent some time teaching my daughter how to solve the Rubic's cube while I drove.

Ran across a dry thunderstorm outside of Amarillo which was very pretty.

Today we left Amarillo and drove to Cortez, Colorado. We stopped in Albequerque for lunch at Cecellia's Cafe. The food was good but they didn't seem to have indoor bathrooms (which I really needed after a long car ride) so that was "no bueno."

We actually made it to Cortez early evening which is rare for us. We had some time so were going to go look at some trading posts, etc. They were all closed and it was only 6pm! Bummer. So we are relaxing a bit in the motel room - which is also nice. We seem to have been going non-stop this trip and relaxation is coveted.

Tomorrow we go into the Cortez cliff dwellings. I'm really looking forward to it. I think it will be a neat experience.

Then we head onto the Grand Canyon. Heard there is a fire near Flagstaff so we need to do some checking to see if it will interfere with our plans at all. And from the Grand Canyon - we head on home. It's been a blast, but I can't wait to sleep in my own bed again!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

San Antonio

We left Houston on Thursday morning and made a pit stop at some outlet stores. My daughter had never been to an outlet mall & really wanted to do some shopping at one. She was in her element & had a ball – it was so cute to see. We then made our way to San Antonio.


Our arrival in San Antonio wasn’t as smooth as we would have preferred. We had made a last minute change in motels before we went on our trip and it turned out to be a bad move. We only made the switch because of wanting/needing parking for our vehicle with the pack-a-sport on top. We don’t fit in a lot of parkades. But the motel didn’t have the parking it had promised us plus it was old, smoky & just an uncomfortable fit for our family. So during 5 o’clock traffic downtown we were trying to find somewhere to stay. We were stressed for awhile but finally landed upon a good solution thanks to someone canceling. We did, however, have to park in an open paid lot a few blocks away from the motel.


After finally getting into our room, crashing and calming down for a few – we headed out onto the “River Walk.” What a neat place. Beautiful with a great atmosphere. I really, really liked it.
Friday morning we headed to the Alamo. It was weird to be at this small mission/fort that I’d heard so much about. It’s surrounded by busy traffic and downtown buildings… a piece of history. I enjoyed our visit there seeing and hearing about it.



For lunch, we took off to Big Lou’s pizza. It has HUGE pizza and we were all very full after lunch. My husband wanted to take us to this outdoor market that he’d been to on a business trip years ago. He said that they had a lot of Mexican things for cheap. We were told the one he might have been thinking of was only open on weekends so we opted for another market that ended up being a very scary flea market. HA HA



We returned to our motel and walked down to the Mexican market nearby. It was a long HOT walk. Fun to browse but I was surprised how expensive everything was. I did land a Mexican blanket for $6.99 but that was all I bought. We trekked back in the relentless sunshine and I was about ready to drop. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the warm weather, but being out in the hot, humid conditions without much of a break really wears me down, I guess. I had to stop in the shade along the riverwalk for awhile and recollect. While I took a break, my girls enjoyed some ice cream and then we preceded to head to dinner. (I know – they had their dessert first and they DID eat a good dinner still!) We went to Rita’s Mexican food and although I would have loved to have sat outside on the banks of the water, we opted for the a/c inside.


Saturday we went to 6 Flags Fiesta in San Antonio. Some guy gave us a coupon in line that helped us save an extra $40 in admissions. I asked my husband, “Did you tell him thank you and give him a hug?” - which everyone found quite amusing. Of course a thank you was given…no hug.


We got the flash passes which are like Disneyland’s fast passes except you have like 4 different levels of a flash pass which can be confusing. We got the platinum. The main thing I liked about it was that you could ride a ride twice in a row if you liked it. I didn’t however, like having to tell someone waiting to get on the ride after us that we were riding it again. It was so awkward when they had been waiting in line longer. But it turned out to be a fairly worthwhile investment which saved us a lot of wait time in the hot, hot sun.


Even with some sunscreen (some put on a little late) we all got sunburned. We all enjoyed the rollercoasters except the “Rattler.” It was an old wooden coaster which I thought I loved. Wrong. Either that or I’m getting old. This roller coaster rattled us (thus the name) and shook us so much I heard my neck make a small cracking noise and I hit my ear on my husband’s shoulder. It really jolted us around. We ended up in the back; which I think only made it worse. I seriously could not wait to get off that ride and knew that I would have a stiff/sore neck later on You could really injure yourself on that ride. Even my girls talked about getting jostled.

My husband did have some adventure in the parking lot of 6 Flags. He went to get a t-shirt on after he got soaked on a ride and also to cover his sunburned shoulders. While he was out there, he heard a loud noise like someone dumping a lot of ice on the pavement or when glass falls apart. He looked over and met this guy’s eyes through some car windows; realizing the guy was up to something as he kept his eyes on my husband for a good 10 steps or so. He kept walking until he could safely look back and saw that the guy was gone and then he backtracked and saw that a car window had been broken. So he went to security and told them. They didn’t ask what kind of car, where the car was or anything. We talked about it and how, hopefully, he’d scared the guy off and they didn’t take anything. About an hour later we were going on a roller coaster near the front of the park & we could see out over the fence. My husband was pointing out the car to us & we could clearly see a broken window. Then we see security drive by slowly, stop & get out inspecting the car. So we knew they finally found the car –about an hour later.

Imagine my surprise when we left the park around 8:30 that night to see security and a group of about 7 or so peoplestanding in a circle. They were near the car that had gotten broken into so we slowed down. I, at first, thought it was the people who got broken into and that maybe they were upset, wondering what security was going to do about it. But after we’d slowly passed – I found out that my husband thought he recognized one of the men as the one he’d seen and heard previously. He said he hear d him talking about a camera not being able to see anything or prove they’d done anything. They also recognized my husband and were really, really watching us and him as we walked past and down to our car. It was uncomfortable. The police arrived as we left and I’m not sure what will happen to those men. I am happy that hopefully my husband prevented someone’s car from getting robbed (which was only 3 lanes from the front, by the way) and that somehow security had tracked them down and caught them. Maybe, even if they aren’t held or are let go, they will think twice before trying that again.

So it was getting late by this point. We’d had a long day. We were all hot, sunburned, and tired. My husband and I were feeling the effects of getting jostled on all of the roller coasters and we hadn’t eaten dinner. We landed at a Mc Donald’s not too far away and quickly ate as we were all in wet clothes from the raft ride we’d taken right before leaving. I heard a bunch of sirens as we were getting there and when we went to leave traffic was backed up on the freeway. We went underneath and saw we could hook up and over on the on-ramp to by-pass some of the mess. As we got on and passed the accident point, I saw a motorcycle on its side. I was only hoping that it wasn’t the guy I saw back out of McDonald’s without a helmet as we arrived.


So that was our exciting stay in San Antonio. Full of action! I did have fun at 6 Flags but I had a few complaints. The main one being the bag/locker situation. You can’t take your bags or drinks on some of the rides as your feet dangle and you have no floor. They do provide lockers but you have to rent them for a $1 and then you are told you are supposed to get your stuff right after the ride. If you leave it in a locker for more than 120 minutes, they will discard it. So you pay for admission. You pay for flash passes and then they want you to pay for lockers or you can’t go on some of the rides and not only that – you can’t keep your stuff in just one locker or they will toss it. So yah – that’s my main complaint and I wish someone would have told us about that. Thank heavens my one daughter had a fanny pack that we consolidated a few things into.

So today is Father’s Day. And guess what? We’re back on the road. I offered to drive for my husband but he’s still driving. He’s driven this whole trip so far. What a guy. We are on the last week of our adventure. It’s the point where your suitcases start to get messy and you get a little worn down but are still having fun.

We continue to covet your prayers. As you can see – they have truly helped and God has been watching out for us.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Houston

I think it took us somewhere around 5 hours to get from New Orleans to Houston. We stopped at a rest stop on the state line to get a picture with the Texas state sign. Unfortunately, our camera was fogging up from all of the moisture of our damp camera bag after our swamp ride ended in a downpour. So it looks like it’s foggy, but it’s not!

We had a fun discovery at the rest stop though. A cute little raccoon was hanging out in the trees by the rest rooms. She was so sweet! She was clearly visible but just on the edge of the trees; checking everyone out. I think she had her day and nights mixed up! HA HA But I loved seeing her.

We arrived into Houston near the end of the dinner hour and because we all felt a little trashed from our wet swamp ride, we wanted to check into our motel first and freshen up before eating dinner. We went up to our room to unload our bags and my daughter had to go to the bathroom and immediately got stuck in the bathroom. The door was warped or something and you had to really push and pull on it to get it to open after shutting closed. We thought, “This is not going to work” so we plodded back down to the front desk to ask for a different room. They gave us one across the hall to which we found a similar problem; just a tiny bit better. So we decided to just “make do” and throughout our stay never completely closed the bathroom door, but tried to stay away and give each other some privacy. The pool also ended up being closed for renovations during our stay which was a bummer because we’d planned on having some down time at this motel and time to take it easy. So needless to say, this didn’t end up being one of our favorite motel stops.

We did freshen up and headed out to eat at Pappasitos Cantina. I’d heard it had good Mexican food and wanted to eat there. It did not disappoint. It was very crowded when we arrived. My husband and I split a chicken fajita (which was huge) and we got a huge basket of tortilla chips served with guacamole and salsa. They know how to do it right! Most Mexican restaurants I’ve been to serve you a tiny basket of chips & you have to ask for several refills. Anyways, the food was very good.

Wednesday morning we took our time getting ready for the day because we did not know quite yet what we would be doing in Houston. We looked at some brochures and some things we’d written down from looking online and decided to head the short distance to Kemah and visit the Kemah Boardwalk. It has rides, restaurants, stores, etc. When we arrived, we were surprised to find that hardly anyone was there. We weren’t planning on doing any rides since we are going to “Six Flags” in San Antonio. So we just walked around a little. We did see a whole bunch of catfish hanging out under a pier as people paid a quarter to toss some food at them (which my youngest did). We just roamed the boardwalk a little while and went in a few stores.

We then decided to head to Galveston, TX. We drove around and around trying to find somewhere to park in their Historic Downtown District because all of the signs said that it was paid parking and you had to pay at a machine mid-block. For the life of us, we couldn’t find the pay meter/machine. I think we wasted 15 minutes driving around, asking someone who was walking (who didn’t really know) and finally parking. The very first store we went into, my husband asked the salesperson. Guess what? He was told they took the meters down! But they left up the signs. Nice. That just perplexed us and I’m sure we’re not the first visitors who were confused by trying to figure out where to park and pay. Anyways, once that dilemma was solved we walked around and browsed the shops in the Historic District. The sun was beating down pretty strong at this point, but we got a little relief every time we went into an air conditioned store. I think the heat index was over 100.

We walked over to the water briefly and looked at a lot of oil rigging “stuff.” I have no idea what it was or how it all worked.

We were all wilted and ready to call it a day so we headed back to Houston to eat dinner at “Freebird’s.” Another good restaurant I’d heard about. We initially missed our turn and went to turn around and stumbled upon this place that makes big Presidential heads/molds. It was so cool. The funny thing is my husband had read about this place in Roadside America.com! He asked if it was okay to take some pictures and they were more than happy to let him – so that was cool. It was a fun place to stumble upon.

After about 20 or so minutes at the Presidential place, we found our way to Freebird’s. From outside it didn’t look like anyone was eating there and we got a little nervous but decided to go in anyways. Thank goodness, we did! The sun had hit off the windows to hide the people inside and we all loved this place. You order burritos on your choice of tortilla (wheat, regular, cayenne, or spinach) and then you can get all the fillings you want and the size of burrito you want. I got the smallest burrito on a spinach tortilla which ended up being really huge – and yes, I ate the whole thing! It was delicious. My husband got the next size up on a cayenne tortilla. The cool thing is, that they wrap your burritos in tinfoil. And everywhere they have tinfoil creations that people have made. I saw some pretty cool ones – a crab, a cross, rose, ballet dancer, etc. Kayla made a cowboy that was so cute and Eliseo made a tinfoil toilet. When we were ready too leave, a dude that worked there came up to our table and said, “That’s awesome. It’s going up on our wall.” We laughed about that. Eliseo’s tinfoil toilet was a hit. HA HA



We called it a day and went back to our motel to re-group for hitting the road again today. But just before bed, my husband Eliseo wanted some ice water. He asked our youngest to go and get him a “little bit” of ice in his cup. (The ice machine was just down the hall). He said he didn’t need a whole bucket of ice but just a little bit in his cup. She went and quickly came back with his glass and about 3 pieces of ice. We laughed really hard at her version of “a little bit.” So my oldest daughter cheerfully proclaimed that she could go and get her dad a little bit more ice. He readily agreed. The funny thing is, she came back with only about 5 pieces! He was expecting a full glass and it was just really funny how both girls barely got him any ice when he thought the whole glass would be a “little bit” compared to the bucket. We laughed pretty hard and I think it will now become an inside joke for our family.

Houston ended up being pretty fun. We made some great memories and had some fantastic food. The city has a great skyline with the tall downtown buildings but the traffic scared me to death. I’m so glad my husband has been driving! One last interesting thing was that we noticed the Houston traffic lights are sideways. We’d never run across those before – only vertical traffic lights. Who knew?


I continue to love discovering how diverse America is. We can live life so differently yet have hearts that beat exactly for the same things in life. That’s how God works in us. It’s simply amazing for me to see.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New - OrLINS


The drive to New Orleans from Atlanta was interesting. I started seeing landscaping that was a little more rugged than what I’m used to. We drove on highway that was on stilts because of the marsh/swampy stuff surrounding it.

We made a small detour off the highway so we could see the beach. We went to Biloxi, Mississippi and got out on the hot sand for a brief stop.


We were curious to see if we’d see any oil – we did not. However, the water seemed very dirty to us. I don’t know if it’s always that way or not, but it was brown and washing up leaves and junk. My daughter found a dead fish which she got a kick out of pulling ashore to check out – but then got grossed out when she could see it in all its torn-apart glory.

One thing that stood out to me was the "untamed" grasses in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. They look like they need to be mowed, but it's not that they are being neglected; I think it's just the terrain. The grass seems rather long and houses are on stilts by the water. So different to see!

We made it into New Orleans in the late afternoon where we checked into our motel and crashed. Then we decided to go ahead and trek on down to the “Riverwalk” and eat dinner at the Hard Rock Café. Enroute on the Riverwalk, a gentleman was playing jazz tunes on his trumpet. He stopped us of course, and wanted to play something for us to which my husband tried to get him to play “Summer Breeze.” He paused and thought about it and as my husband tried to help him recall it, he would go “Shhhh! Shhhh!” Hushing him with his hand. It was funny. He finally played a tune – which wasn’t Summer Breeze and concluded telling a lady as she was walking by with her dogs that they were going to kill her. We got a kick out of him. Our first welcome to New Orleans.

The Hard Rock was nice to enter because of the air conditioning. Plus I got a huge “Haystack Salad” which was delicious. I wish I could’ve taken some of the leftovers with me! We also discovered the correct way to pronounce New Orleans. It is “NEW ORLINS” not “NEW OR-LEENS.” So there you go.

We concluded our day with a swim at our motel’s rooftop pool. Love those. We had it all to ourselves and played “Marco Polo” to which I’m not so good at. HA HA

Monday we got up and headed into the French Quarter area. It was hot. It was humid. It was sticky. Each store we went in was a relief from the heat.

They were making a movie on “Royal Street.” I tried to ask what it was called but couldn’t understand the guy. Cap Shaw? Something like that. So we had to hurry along or get out of their shot every time w crossed their “movie shooting area.” All I saw was them squeal a car up to the door of this place and run out. So maybe it’s an action movie.

We took a picture by the Bourbon street sign. I got a little feisty about Bourbon street as a lot of the adult clubs are on this street. I didn’t want to walk it.

We ate Beignets at Café Du Monde. Someone should have told me how messy these things are! But boy, were they delicious. They are a hot donut pastry thing with powdered sugar on them. Mmmmm…..


We saw the Cathedral. Walked some more. Ventured into the French Market and Flea Market area where I was told you could get things cheaper than in the French Quarter shops. You could. The girls and I scored some New Orleans masks. BUT….the atmosphere was a little uncomfortable for us. The smells were terrible. My husband and daughter smelled and saw someone smoking marijuana. We tried not to hang around too long.


We were done with the French Quarter by mid-afternoon. We were so hot, we were wilting. I will say it was fun to see. It has a lot of “personality” and “atmosphere” to it. But for me, it was more run-down and dirty than I imagined it would be, I guess.

On our way back to the motel, a storm quickly came in and we got caught in it since we were walking. When it decides to rain in the South - boy does it rain! The sky opened up and just poured. Luckily we were only like a block from our motel and we made it in just before we were too soaked.

This morning, we got up and headed for our swamp ride. The closer we got, the more nervous I got about the alligators. We went with “Airboat Adventures.” Let me just say, it was a blast! I loved it. It was so fun to ride the airboat. I never once felt unsafe. And yes – we saw alligators. We saw maybe 15 or so alligators. Some while driving – others while we were stopping and they’d swim away or up to us to get marshmallow treats. The biggest one we saw was around 13 feet (I think). I loved the beauty of the swamp. The tons of fireflies that were flying around, the sounds, and the airboat ride itself was really fun. The saddest thing for me was hearing that the oil spill mess is only about 9 miles out and heading that way. They said they might have to shut down their swamp tours in a week or two and in all likelihood those animals are in true jeopardy of dying when the oil seeps into the swamp (which unless they do something fast – it WILL.) Who would have thought I’d feel bad for an alligator? But I did. We also saw a little baby wood duck which my youngest and I got to hold. So soft and sweet!

About the last ten minutes of the two hour adventure, the storm came in again. We’d heard the thunder earlier and gotten wet a tiny bit but it stopped. Not this time. I told my husband that God has a sense of humor because I’d debated whether or not to curl my hair and get pretty in the morning or not – and I’d opted to go ahead. But God – in all his humor – dumped the sky down on us and we were soaked through by the time we got back to land. I mean S-O-A-K-E-D. I felt bad – we didn’t even tell our guide “thank you” we just hopped off as quick as we could and got to our car. A few minutes up the road, we pulled over and dug into our suitcases for dry clothes as we didn’t want to sit in wet clothes for our 5 or so hour drive to Houston today. I think the downpour will just be part of the fun memory though and I’m so glad it happened at the end instead of the beginning of the ride.
So, we’re on the road again. Saw another semi completely on its side in Alabama on the way to New Orleans, a pretty bad crash today, and some near misses with people swerving in front of us and flipping us off. You must be praying – for God is keeping us safe.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mmmm....Mmmm....Good!

We didn’t actually leave Georgia yet. Yesterday we spent some time in Atlanta. We started out our day by going to the World of Coke. My husband is a huge coke fan. He won’t drink any other soda – only coke. So it was a must-stop for us.

It was interesting, but one thing I was bummed about was that we somehow missed seeing the actual bottling process of coke. And once you exit into the coke store, you can’t re-enter the tour area.

We tasted coke products from all over the world. I got a little sick from so many different carbonated tastes sitting in my stomach! Some were pretty decent – others (like the “Beverly” from Italy) were just outright nasty. I had to drink a few more just to get the taste of that one out of my mouth! We also got a small free bottle of coke. In fact, we all bought a small bottle of coke outside in the heat later on in the day. Nothing like drinking ice cold coke out of a bottle, I tell ya.


The next thing on our agenda was to eat lunch at Chik-Fil-A. Not just any Chik-Fil-A but THE original. They call it the dwarf house. I’m not sure why. It does have a red roof and a dwarf door on the outside but other than that, it seems fairly normal. Our dear Georgia friends drove up for one last visit before we leave the state. It was so nice and we had a fun lunch together doing lots of laughing. We talked a lot about Southern expressions and they got a kick out of making me say, “Git ‘er done.” Unless you’re from the South and have friends from the Northern U.S. such as us, you may not find the humor in that like we all did.

I will say that Chik-Fil-A lived up to its reputation. It was very good and I’m already ready to go back. I’m also told I need to try a chicken biscuit for breakfast sometime, so hoping to run across more on our trip.


We stood out front for a little while snapping some photos, laughing some more, and once again putting off saying goodbye. But it had to be done. So sad!

In the afternoon we trekked back into town to tour the CNN studios. I must admit, I’m more of a “Fox” fan--- but I do love the news and love to know what is going on in the world, so it was an interesting tour. It being Saturday and not having any breaking news going on; the studios were more quiet than normal, I think. Still I found it fun.

For once, we made it back to our motel fairly early in the evening. It gave my girls some time to swim which they jumped at.


Today we are once again on the road. We’ve been on vacation for one week now. Two more to go. Hard to believe we aren’t even half-way done.

Please continue to keep our family in your prayers as we do so much driving across the states. For safety and health. Thanks so much!

Friday, June 11, 2010

I Left My Heart in Georgia

I’m starting to lose track of what day it is. It’s kind of fun that way. I do know that the last two days were very special. We met up with some friends in Georgia who have become very dear to us. We have all been pouting that we live so far away from one another.


This family has 3 daughters. One of them who is into cosmetology. She gave Kayla a haircut and showed her how to apply mascara for the very first time. And she gave Kamica a makeover. She did a stunning job and my jaw literally dropped as I saw my daughter and the future I was facing as the dating years are fast approaching flashed across my mind with amazing force. I’m not sure I’m ready! HA HA


I smelled a magnolia flower. Huge flowers with a lovely scent.

I tried sweet tea. How can you be in the south and not try sweet tea? I am not a tea drinker but I wanted to try it. At first I didn’t really care for it, but then it grew on me and now I’m ready to try some more. We were made an amazing meal with a chicken/rice casserole and a pineapple casserole with bread, peas, and grilled corn on the cob. For dessert we had a yummy strawberry cake concoction.

It’s getting really ironic how the rain keeps following us on this trip. We tried to head into Chattanooga, Tn to walk along the river front but a storm came in. So after chatting and sitting in the cars for about an hour, we all headed back for a late movie and a second dessert of brownie and ice cream.

We did however make it into Chattanooga on Thursday night. Very pretty! It had a great atmosphere down there and our family had Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for the first time. I really think I’m way over my limit on desserts! I’m getting full just typing about it.

We stayed up until 2:30 am talking last night on their beautiful Southern front porch complete with rockers and porch swings. I’m tired today but it was worth every second and I’d do it all again.

I’m dubbed “Mama Sanchez” and “Idaho Mama” to my Georgia girls and it endears them to me even more (if that’s possible).


My Southern friends are a blessing to my heart. It’s amazing to think we met online about 5 or so years ago. I look back and now think that it is a God-ordained friendship. It tears me up to be so far away from them! But I am so thankful for this opportunity to get to come to Georgia, spend time in their home, meet their boyfriends and just “be” together for a little while.


The funny thing is … I started talking Southern! I didn’t intend to, but knew from the “get-go” that it would be very easy for me to pick up since it’s so catchy to me. Sure enough, I was talking to my daughter and she said, “Mom? Did you just say that to me in a Southern accent?” And I was like, “I think I did!” Then I heard myself do it a few more times during the stay. So funny! There must be a Southern bone in me somewhere.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Today, we headed into the Smoky Mountains. Got a late start because of our late evening and honestly – just because we were all dragging our feet not wanting to say goodbyes. Stopped in Gatlinburg, TN for an hour or so and went in a few shops. Cute place but super packed with people and cars! Crazy. Then we stopped in Cherokee where my youngest got to feed a 4 mo old baby grizzly bear a bottle and we all got to pet her. She was so cute. What a cool thing for us to get to do and we all enjoyed it! The only sad thing was it was at a petting zoo and we felt really bad for some of the animals – especially the bears and tigers who were in small confined areas on cement. Not much natural about it. I hate seeing animals pace back and forth ; knowing they so long to be free.


I was hoping we’d have an early evening tonight but it looks to be another late one because of our little adventure through the Smoky Mountains. But there will be time to rest. Right now we’re living life. Really living. Going out there and seeing things, seeing people, doing things we don’t normally get to do. It’s one of the reasons I love road trips so much.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Loveless Cafe & Fireflies

On our way into Tennessee last night we started observing a fellow driver on the road who seemed either drunk or “high.” This woman was weaving and I saw her almost hit the back of two semis as she drifted over into the other lane. Then we saw her almost go off into the grass on the other side and when the lane narrowed and went into one from two, she still stayed out to the left. She’d speed up and then slow down. We finally decided to call it in to the highway patrol. When my husband said, “How would you feel if she killed someone – or herself and we’d done nothing?” That’s all it took for me to pick up my cell phone.

We got off the highway about 2 miles later so I’m not sure if they caught up with her to pull her over or not, but I’m hoping. She was being VERY unsafe.

We made it into Tennessee around the dinner hour which was perfect since we wanted to stop and eat at the “Loveless Café.” I’d heard about it a few years ago. They serve home-style southern food and a lot of Country Music stars like to eat there. Alas, we didn’t see any during our visit. But we did have a fun dinner. I tried the “Loveless BLT” with fried green tomatoes instead of regular tomatoes. I had never had them before. I’m still not sure what I thought of them! HA HA They seemed a little salty – hard to pinpoint the taste. I don’t think I love them, but I am glad I tried them. My husband also tried cheese grits. Some of you southerners are probably laughing at us but we’ve never eaten these foods before! I tasted his grits and to me they tasted like macaroni and cheese sauce with little lumps of “something” – not sure what. HA HA So – dinner was a fun adventure. The Loveless Café also has wonderful homemade biscuits. My girls were not too adventurous but I have hopes that as they get older they will expand their food horizons. I have!

We went into their store after dinner and browsed around. They had bacon flavored floss in there. Are you kidding me? That sounds so gross to me.

After dinner, we drove around Franklin for a bit. We went across this bridge and you could see this long road below with huge estates and lots of grass on their acreage. It was so stunning! You couldn’t pull over on the bridge otherwise we would have taken a picture.

On our way to our motel, it had gotten dark and we started seeing fireflies in the grass. The way they were lighting up, it looked like the grass was sparkling. I just loved it. I love fireflies. How can you not? They are so cheerful. They looked like glitter and they would be exceptionally festive on the fourth of July, I’m thinking!

We are now headed to Georgia to visit some friends. We’ve had another downpour today. Sigh.

Sure hoping we lose this rain soon!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Arkansas

We drove through Kansas amidst a downpour yesterday. Pretty miserable driving conditions but good news…no tornado! YAY.

We stopped for a late lunch at a Spangles. Never been to one before and never heard of one before. It was a 50 style fast food diner. Most of the fam got milkshakes or smoothies and the hubby got a chili burger. He said it was “Okay.” I got a turkey pita sandwich which was slightly warmed and it was pretty good. We had driven ahead of the storm at this point but it caught up with us so we again set out in the pouring rain. We passed an overturned semi at one point that I’m guessing high winds had knocked over. Glad we missed those!

Once we hit Oklahoma the skies started to clear a bit and the temp slowly warmed. We went underneath an overpass at one point and saw a policeman stop in the middle of the other side of the highway. He got out and his car was blocking traffic. As we passed we saw him look up so I looked behind us and up on the overpass traffic was blocked everywhere. I’m not sure if someone was up there threatening to jump, throwing something down onto the freeway or what. But they didn’t block our side just the other side so that was kind of odd.

We got out in the cold wind and took pics by the Oklahoma sign and quickly went on our way.

By the time we got to Arkansas the skies and the temp had considerably improved (and so had my attitude!) We were all singing and in generally good spirits when we landed in Ft. Smith to spend the night. The town had some character and I liked what I saw of it. Plus our motel was nice and I got a pretty good night’s sleep.

Today we stopped for lunch in Scott, Arkansas at Cotham’s. It’s known for it’s “Hubcap”-size burgers. We saw it featured on Man Vs. Food. Rachel Ray has feautured it and I guess President Bush also reportedly ate there. It’s in an old hardware store on the river. The place definitely had atmosphere to it. My daughter, Kamica, was a little freaked out. The place was packed when we got there. You just park out in the field across the street and there were lots of cars.


I split a burger with my man. It wasn’t exactly the size of a hubcap like we expected but it WAS pretty big and it was messy and juicy. It was good. We also all split their famous Mississippi Mud Pie which finally got Kamica to smile. It was rich and delicious.


All in all, a fun visit. And I’m loving Arkansas’s weather.

Now, we are moving onto Franklin, Tennessee for the night. Loved, loved, loved Franklin two summers ago. I’m also loving all the Christian billboards I’m seeing with scripture verses or sayings on them in the South. We need more of those in the North!

Please keep praying for our family as we have been doing a lot of driving. We’ve been in the car over 25 hours in the last 2 days. Thanks!



Monday, June 7, 2010

Chili Pepper Tour

Yesterday we left Idaho for another 3 week road adventure as a family. The day was pretty uneventful and things went fairly smoothly; for which I am very thankful for. We drove through Utah, Wyoming and into Denver where we met up with my cousins for dinner. My cousin Tamie, had a huge dinner waiting for us with roast beef, bread, fruit salad, sweet potato fries, and regular salad. She went above and beyond - my plate was full! She also made us a great dessert. I forget what she called it but it had chocolate cake with pumpkin, cool whip and butterfinger on top. I’ve already asked her for the recipe! It was so great to see my two cousins whom I don’t get to see much anymore. And I even got sweet hugs from her little
boys when I left (who had been very shy upon our arrival). It touched my heart and made my whole day!


We left Idaho in the dark and pouring down rain yesterday. So even though Denver was very windy, it was so nice to feel warm! Today we are driving through a very grey, rainy, chilly state of Kansas. I think things will heat up as we head South…I’m counting on it anyways.



The only other thing that stands out to me from our first day is driving through Wyoming and wondering where all the cows and horses were. It was pretty desolate. I thought Wyoming was known for ranching? I was just a little surprised is all.


We have dubbed this road trip the “Chili Pepper Tour” because when we first plotted things out on the map, the shape of our drive looked like a chili pepper. As we adjusted things somewhat, the shape shriveled a little. HAHA – But we have kept the name because it so fits our family.

(Keeping their eye out for tornados!)


We’ve only just begun this adventure.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

On The Road of Fear

Well, we just embarked on a family road trip. So exciting. The one we took the summer before last created such wonderful family memories and bonds with all of us. This one – this one is going to be a little bit different.

This road trip seems to highlight some really fearful areas in my life. We are driving through tornado alley during tornado season. Going through New Orleans in hurricane season. We plan to do an airboat ride in the swamp and see alligators up close. And – go to the Grand Canyon.

Each one of these things causes great fear to rise up in me. Whether it’s the thought of being on the flat plains of Kansas with nowhere to run when a tornado strikes, the thought of getting chomped on by an alligator, or my daughter falling off the cliff in the Grand Canyon – doesn’t really matter. These thoughts have each been mine. I’ve owned them and I’ve seen them very vividly played out in my head.

What may seem silly to someone else is a very real fear to another. My fears grew when I became a mom and they grew – and well – they grew some more.

I’ve decided I’m done with them. No more. I refuse to be run by my fears. I refuse to allow Satan to rule my mind in this manner. So, this month – I’m facing several of them all at once.

Please keep me in your prayers over the next few weeks as I attempt (with God’s strength and courage) to face some of my fears. I know that He will have special thoughts and words for me as I overcome each one and I look forward to leaving them in the dust where they belong instead of letting them reside in my heart and head.

Friday, June 4, 2010

End of School Papers


One thing I love about school ending is the papers and things your kids bring home (or you discover crumpled up inside of their backpacks.)


This is from my youngest.


I AM


I am from 10 karate belts, light brown rabbit skin,

and the plaque with Korean writing on my wall,

My favorite red tree and little toy mice,

Red roses and yellow daffadils,

A cluttered desk is where I'm from.


I am from "Kayla!!! Come here!"

and "I love you!"

From my sister,

saying "Stop it!" and "I'm NOT grumpy!"


I am from happy Easters and snowy Christmases,

and the colorful 4th of July,

Sub sandwiches and taco spaghetti,

chilli dogs and pizza,

Cinco de Mayo is where I'm from.


I am from my dad's delicious hot dogs,

my sisters volleyball tournaments,

my moms scrumpcious cooking,

and my grandma's backyard full of grapes

is where I'm from.


I am from the Snake river canyon

and amazing Panama,

Boiling Arches National Park,

and green Yellowstone

is where I'm from.




She also wrote this:


A FLY


I'm a fly on the wall

I'm a fly at the mall

at the zoo

and where cows go 'moo

I am a fly

that is no lie,

I am in your food

that's when I'm in a bad mood

when I fly by,

you here my cry,

it's a simple buzz,

and I look like fuzz

and when I fly by,

you here my cry,

and I'm in your food

when I'm in a bad mood

I am a fly

that is no lie

I'm a fly at the zoo,

and where cows go 'moo

I'm a fly on the wall

I'm a fly at the mall.



Think she gets her creative writing talent from me????

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Running Out of Breath



Crazy busy. That’s what my home has been like the last 3 or so weeks. I’m amazed that I haven’t gone insane. I don’t thrive on busyness – I thrive on consistent and steady. Like the turtle, but maybe a little bit faster pace. J

It all started when we decided to send our girls back to a Christian school for next year. We ended up having multiple visits with interviews, testing, dropping off papers, etc. This pushed our already-full schedule to full tilt. Everything seemed to land within these three weeks and most of it had to be done. No rescheduling – no different dates. We are leaving for 3 weeks this weekend… so it all has to be squeezed in and accomplished before we leave.

My daughter had a small oral surgery. Had to be done. Had to be done because today is hopefully her last ortho appt before removing her braces. She also has a volleyball camp this week that happened to land on her last week of school because her new school is already out. So I’ve been driving to take her at 9am and go back and pick her up at 12pm and then today back again to get her for her ortho appt which could not be re-scheduled. I think she’ll have been at school for a total of 2 hours. But she had to be there. Had to turn in locker stuff and p.e. stuff. No skipping for her.

Last night we had a long-planned concert. Carrie Underwood. Who could cancel that? It was fabulous. Huge Carrie fan, I am. Sons of Sylvia opened for her and they were fab too. I went and bought a few of their songs on Itunes….aaah, but I digress.

Busyness.

I am so ready to go out of town and get away. I am so ready for sunshine. We have had the coldest, grayest, wettest year ever. We missed Spring – completely. In fact, I’ll be happy if its 70 today, without the sunshine.

Racing. That’s what it feels like we’ve been doing. Racing. Running to and fro.

I don’t think life was meant to be lived at such a frenzied pace. And yet at the same time, I think God knew we’d be running it at so many times on so many levels.

In Hebrews 12:1 – 2 it says, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

With perseverance. So that is what I’m trying to do. Be intentional as I wade and weave my way through the ins and outs of my days right now. Hoping I can find a few spare moments in the next couple of days to finish packing. Find time to still talk to my God and not let Satan so “busy” me that I ignore the very one who holds my days in His hands. And I can find ways to be thankful. Thankful for a full life. Thankful for children that rely on me. Thankful – but still hoping not to reside in craziness forever.

‘Tis a season. One where your attitude makes a world of difference. I’m so thankful God has helped me hang on to mine….

I’m not out of breath yet.

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