I don’t know if you follow me on social media or not (let me take this opportunity to suggest that you SHOULD and you can find links right on over on the right margin of this blog page) but if you do, you might have noticed that we have been on somewhat of a amazing race across this great country! As a matter of fact, we’ll be gone from our lovely little farm for about five weeks total, and by the end of that first week, we had put our feet in the dirt of eight states if you can believe that!
Yes, we drove across the country again with our three kids (ages 7, 5 and 3), our two golden retrievers, and one kitten.here), I was pretty certain that we might never see the light of Memphis ever again. Well, God is funny like that. Two weeks later and we were back at the pyramid.
That night, after dinner, we drove all the way to somewhere in western Arkansas. The kids slept and we covered ground. Our intention was to get as far west as quickly as possible so that we would have more of the week we had allowed ourselves to get to California for Christmas doing the sightseeing we wanted to do. And there just isn’t a lot of good sightseeing in the Arkansas/Oklahoma area you might be surprised to hear!
So one thing I have to mention about our stop in Arkansas: On occasion we will spend a night in the Walmart parking lot. It does not bring me joy to share this with you. Did you know that you can camp in the parking lot of any Walmart, anywhere in the country? Well you can, and it’s free, and if you’re stopping at midnight, and leaving around seven in the morning to hit the road again, it’s not a bad option. Once you’re in your trailer, you might as well be in Hawaii because when the doors are closed and you’re tucked into your bed, it doesn’t really matter what is happening outside. However, in this particular case, we realized around midnight that particular evening in the Walmart parking lot that our heater was not working (don’t worry, it was just above freezing) and our batteries were not holding a charge. So no lights, and no heat.
It was a rough first night to our cross country adventure, I’m not going to lie to you.
Day two found us stopping for lunch in Oklahoma City. We intended to visit the tourist destination called ‘Pops’ which promised to be a giant soda shop. Although I do like soda, the draw for me was that I thought it was a museum. It was not. Or at least not the destination we went to- turns out there are two. But all was not lost, we did find a Trader Joes! That might not sound special to you, but when you’re nearest Trader Joes is an hour and fifteen minutes away from your house, you really appreciate coming across one.
We left Oklahoma and made it all the way to Texas before we stopped for dinner. Shamrock, Texas’ best rated restaurant on Yelp is a little joint called Big Vern’s Steakhouse. I ordered the ‘ranch sirloin’ as it was the only basic steak they had on the menu. I asked what ‘ranch’ meant and the waitress told me that it was a “Texas thing” that just meant steak. I asked if it was flavored with ranch seasoning or anything. She said it was not.
That night we stayed at a KOA in Amarillo. I love me some KOA’s. For the most part, you know exactly what to expect- clean showers, a playground, and a place for dogs to poop. This particular KOA also offered a horse corral too so that was nice, even thought we didn’t have any horses on this particular trip. It just felt really appropriate for Texas.
Looking back, it was pretty critical that we stopped at that KOA in Amarillo because it was the first showering opportunity any of us had had in two days, and it would be the last chance for about three more days. Go figure!
Day three sent us from Texas on to New Mexico, where we braved twenty something miles of unmaintained dirt road in our truck and trailer at about 10pm to have ourselves an adventure. Yes, that’s just how we roll. I’ll be honest, as the paved road ended and we found ourselves unable to drive faster than walking speed, I was praying that the GPS was going to lead us to an actual destination. And as we passed dead cows and abandoned out buildings in the middle of a cattle pasture, I was not entirely convinced that it would.
Chaco Culture is a National Historical Park, and it is in the dead middle of nowhere in New Mexico, and it is worth the trip if you ever find yourself bored in Albuquerque. You will absolutely need to be sure you have a working heater and batteries on your rig though, and thanks to Camping World we were qualified to make the trek.
Chaco Culture is the largest grouping of Native American ruins in North America, or so says google. The ruins date back to 900-1150 AD and the location served as a trading post for several tribes. They pretty much built the first version of apartments, or perhaps a hotel is more accurate, and it’s dang impressive. The kids had a blast and it totally served as an amazing homeschool day on the road. I have to tell you, this is exactly why I wanted to homeschool to begin with (well, I guess I never actually ‘wanted’ to homeschool in that sense of the word, but this was one of the pros for sure). We wanted to show our kids history. We wanted to walk in it. We didn’t just walk in this history, we camped in it! We were the only ones in the entire campground (surprising! At the end of twenty miles of unmaintained dirt road and everything!), and it was one of the most stunning locations of our entire trip. So cool to have it to ourselves.
The Grand Canyon was epic and we had it pretty much to ourselves. I guess the middle of the week before Christmas is a great time to see the sights!
We left the Grand Canyon and headed for the exact opposite of the Grand Canyon- Las Vegas. Generally speaking, I hate Las Vegas.
After 45 minutes of attempting to find parking for a giant truck and trailer- it does not exist, don’t let google or trip advisor fool you- we parked illegally and got out of the truck and ran. Yes, we ran one and a half miles to the Bellagio water show. I knew we had twelve minutes until the next show started and so we had no choice. That, and the whole parked illegally thing. I’m sure that us running away from our vehicle that was parked illegally behind a timeshare didn’t look suspicious at all.
We made it RIGHT in the nick of time to watch the 7pm show. And I have to be honest, that water show is NOT the amazing, impressive, must see event that drunk me remembers it to be. It was five minutes long and although the kids were totally impressed, I was completely underwhelmed. BUT the fact that we stayed in completely good spirits and no one fought with anyone- specific attention drawn to mom and dad not fighting- while we drove around for 45 mins and ran for three miles total (we had to run back of course), is a miracle and something to celebrate. Extra credit points go to this stop because the kids met Mickey mouse, Spider man and several half naked ladies on the strip who were all eager to shake their hands.
After a very celebrated first stop at In and Out- our first opportunity…
…we actually drove all the way into the middle of Death Valley National Park in California.
Did you know that Death Valley National Park is one of the biggest National Parks? It’s huge and there is so much to see! We spent our time at the sand dunes, where we summited the highest dune! It was pretty fantastic to watch the kids take on those dang sand mountains. It’s not easy, as you can imagine.
That afternoon, we busted a move and skirted the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains that I’ve missed so very much, all the way up to Minden, Nevada- our other home- where we spent one night with Nana and Ba (my in laws), before popping up over the hill down into the Sacramento Valley for Christmas with my mom.
It was quite the adventure, I assure you. Both the cross country trip- 8 states in 7 days- and the two weeks with family. 🙂
Our little family loves time on the road together- it’s probably when our family works the best. No one fights, we’re most present, and we learn a ton together. I realize that a week in a 19 foot travel trailer with three kids, two dogs and a kitten (the kitten is another story) might sound like a completely tortuous nightmare to most of you, but it’s our happy place. I can’t wait to hit the road again for our trip back home.
But first, a week in Maui with my love, sans the kiddos! Stay tuned for more adventure as we camp in the National Park on Maui and tackle the world famous ‘Road to Hana.’ Always an adventure with us! Ready to start the new year the same way we ended the last one: together.