Tuesday, July 30, 2013

St. Louis Arch


The morning of our planned visit to the arch was met with some trepidation. The last time I visited the arch I was six years old.  I don't remember much except being scared to death and shedding a lot of tears.  I am thankful there were no tears this time (from me or the kids).

When we were talking about visiting the arch in St. Louis I received some very helpful advice "buy your tickets in advance".  We went online the day before we planned on visiting and purchased tickets in a package deal at a discount (Captain's Combo).


We allowed plenty of time for traffic and finding parking.  Even though it was already hot and humid, the walk through the park was pleasant because of the shade provided by all of the trees.


When standing next to the arch it is so massive.  We pointed out the windows at the very top, 630 feet up, to the kids and explained we were going to go inside the arch and look out those windows.


We went inside and were ready to begin the tour.  There are only 5 seats inside the capsule but we agreed to have Amada sit on my lap so we could all go together.  When the doors to the capsule opened I wondered how we were all going to fit inside, but we managed.  I was thankful there were windows on the door of the capsule so it wasn't too claustrophobic.



Once at the top I was so relieved when the capsule door opened.  There were people waiting on the stairs to ride the capsules back down.  When we arrived at the viewing area it was amazing! The kids were so excited and wanted to point out everything they saw.  We weren't at the top for very long before riding the capsule back down.


We had reservations for the Riverboat cruise on the Mississippi River in an hour and a half so we had time to kill.  We visited the gift shop and gave the kids snacks/drinks.

Then we spotted the Museum of Westward Expansion and decided to check it out. We were met by the Ranger who informed us the kids could participate in the junior ranger program. We gathered the necessary materials and began the activities.  This definitely made the museum more interesting for the kids.


When they completed all of the activities in their handbook we returned to the information desk and the kids all received junior ranger pins.  They were so proud of themselves!


Nicole

Supporting your fulltime RV adventures and aspirations

Monday, July 29, 2013

I apologize for the delay...


While I was hoping to post more blog entries on this trip, I haven't had great internet access despite staying at campgrounds that offer free wi-fi.  I do have internet on my phone however and I am trying to keep up with Facebook updates on our latest whereabouts.

Thanks for your patience.  I have so much to share.

Nicole

Friday, July 19, 2013

Six Flags St. Louis





Johnathan is our resident roller coaster expert, in fact, he is a bit obsessed.  Since we have season passes to Six Flags and knew we would be taking this cross-country trip, we planned to stop at as many of the Six Flags locations as we could.  {We've already visited both of the Six Flags parks in California.}  Once Johnathan found this out, he insisted on figuring which rides were at specific parks and what the height requirements for each of the rides were.  We actually printed him a list for each of the Six Flags parks height requirements and highlighted all of the ones he was tall enough to ride. He even looked up each of the rides on YouTube to see what they do.

We were extremely pleased when we arrived at Six Flags and were able to park in a handicapped spot in the first row. The way this specific parking lot is in relation to the front gate, there is no tram and really no need for one. We stopped at Guest Relations first to get a disabled pass for the boys, which allows them access to the rides without having to wait.  Since we have James' wheelchair/stroller, it is much easier getting on rides through the disabled entrance.

Our first ride of the day was American Thunder, a wooden roller coaster.  I thought this was fun, fast and smooth.




It was a hot and humid day, but we had a blast!  Both Daniel and I remarked at how friendly and helpful everyone at the park was.  Amada kept insisting she did not want to get wet, so Daniel took the boys on the log ride.


All 4 kids were able to go on Pandemonium so we let them ride without us.  It made it even since each car was able to hold 4 riders.  Well, as the kids were at the end of the ride it broke down.  I felt SO bad since neither Daniel or I were on the ride with the kids and they were stuck in the sun.  Luckily they weren't even stuck for 5 minutes.  And they didn't care because they asked to ride it again later in the day!


We decided maybe that was a sign we should stop for lunch.  After lunch we went on a dizzying ride and Alex wasn't feeling too good.  The ride "Dragon's Wing" was also in that area of the park and Daniel decided he wanted to go with Johnathan.  Amada really wanted to ride too and unbelievably she was tall enough. Alex wasn't too happy about not getting to ride even though he still wasn't feeling well.  I was able to take this video of them on the ride.

Daniel and the boys also braved "The Boss" which is another wooden roller coaster. However, it is taller and faster than American Thunder and more jerky.


Daniel and the boys rode several more roller coasters before I was exhausted.  We decided to give our feet a break from walking and try to cool off so we rode the train around the park. It was also something we could all go on together.  Towards the end of the day all the kids wanted to go on the giant ferris wheel, Colossus, which once again we were all able to ride together.  We enjoyed the beautiful views from WAY up there.



Before we left the park, we decided to get on the big inner tube water ride to help cool us off.  Amada went kicking and screaming, but was happy once she did not have to go under the waterfall.  We were done at the park by about 5pm, just in time to discover Steak 'n Shake {yummy!} before we headed back to the KOA for a swim.

Tomorrow we will head into downtown St. Louis for a tour of the Arch and a Riverboat Cruise on the Mississippi.

Nicole

Supporting your fulltime RV adventures and aspirations

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

We Arrived In The Show-Me State



We made good time and had better gas mileage today.   We arrived at the St. Louis West KOA, which wasn't too full.  It's location is outstanding for what we want to do.  The kids spotted Six Flags on the way to the campground which amped up the excitement quite a bit.  However, we will make them wait until tomorrow for all of the fun.

We need to head to the grocery store and get caught up on laundry first.  Luckily we aren't very far from a Wal-Mart and were able to find everything we needed.  An added benefit to staying at a KOA campground is that they have laundry rooms.  I make sure that we save any quarters and they go into our laundry money bag.  We also found this collapsible wagon at Costco which fits the laundry baskets perfectly for a more convenient way to transport the laundry to and from the trailer.  When we are not using it, it folds up and stores easily under one of the bench seats in the van.


While James was "helping" me with laundry, Daniel took the other kids to the nice, big pool here.

 


Before we embarked on this 2 month cross-country voyage we practiced by taking small trips not far from home to see what we really needed to bring and where/how we would store items.  One storage dilemma we faced was what to do with ALL the dirty clothes.  Well we have this large storage area under our bed and it is perfect for 2 laundry baskets, plus other miscellaneous storage.  As I toss the clothes into the laundry baskets I sort them by lights or darks.  Then when we need to do laundry I just remove the baskets from underneath the bed with the clothes already sorted.


Get your walking shoes ready tomorrow because we are headed to Six Flags St. Louis.  The kids have waited long enough.

Nicole

Supporting your fulltime RV adventures and aspirations

Monday, July 15, 2013

In Route To Missouri

We knew we would have 2 days of driving ahead of us as we left Mt. Rushmore and headed to Missouri. What we didn't know is how windy it would be.  We ended up losing a hubcap to the van and the spare tire cover on the trailer somewhere in South Dakota.

While we didn't stop at Badlands National Park, we caught just a glimpse of the "badlands" from the road and they were beautiful.  They reminded me of a "mini" Grand Canyon.


We continued through a portion of Iowa and into Nebraska where we stopped for the night.  We lost another hour today as we crossed into the Central Time Zone, which made it feel like an even longer day.


We made reservations at the KOA in Gretna (West Omaha) just the day before.  We were ecstatic to have cell service and a better wi-fi connection.  And we were finally feeling the humidity.  This KOA had a great area for the kids to play, which is exactly what they needed after being in the car all day.


They also offered freshly-made pizza and boneless chicken bites inside the store & delivered them to our campsite.  Since we had been eating/snacking in the car all day, this was a nice and unexpected treat.  Our camp site had a little table area on a brick deck and lots of shade.  It was also a long enough site that Daniel didn't have to unhook the trailer from the van.


All the kids had baths and went to bed without any complaints.  They were forewarned that tomorrow is another "driving day" and we will be waking up early.  The kids are "extra" excited to arrive in St. Louis because they are aware we will be visiting a Six Flags park there.

Nicole

Supporting your fulltime RV adventures and aspirations


Mount Rushmore



The drive through Montana, Wyoming and into South Dakota was more mountainous terrain.  We saw numerous creeks & rivers in Montana and a lot of horses, which always excites James.  More of the same in Wyoming, along with many trains carrying coal.  I was fascinated with the huge fluffy clouds and rock formations in South Dakota.  Daniel says he's ready for some flat land though.

Cute little town in Montana



South Dakota skies

The kids are doing much better than I anticipated, but I believe it is due to having assigned seats, lots of activities to do in the car, and a variety of snacks when needed.

The KOA we stayed at is actually a resort, The Palmer Gulch Resort, and it is humongous.  They offer over 500 campsites, cabins, a lodge, restaurant, and many more accommodations.  You could make your entire vacation just visiting the resort (resort map).   They have 2 pools, water slides, pond with fishing/paddle boats, playground/basketball court, horseback rides, and chuckwagon dinners to name a few.  The only complaint I have is that I had a terrible time trying to connect to the internet through the free wi-fi they offer.




Mount Rushmore was only 6 miles away from the campground and we had no problems finding it.  Once we parked and began walking towards the monument, it took my breath away to see how big it actually is. Along the pathway there are flags of all 50 states displayed.  The kids were able to find the California state flag very easily.


After we marveled at the monument, we went downstairs to the museum.  We were all fascinated to see the actual tools that were used and the pictures of the carving process.  If we didn't have all the little kids with us we probably could have stayed several more hours looking at everything.  We also found out that part of the movie National Treasure 2 was filmed in this area.

The next 2 days will be long as we head to Missouri with an overnight stop in Nebraska.

Nicole

Supporting your fulltime RV adventures and aspirations


Friday, July 12, 2013

Yellowstone


The rest of the drive through Idaho was rather uneventful with not much to see but farm land and mountains.  We arrived at the KOA in West Yellowstone,Montana (at 6600 ft. elevation) just in time.  Not even 5 minutes after Daniel got the trailer unhooked and situated did the thunderstorm begin.  Here is a video I took of the hail.  It stormed (hail, thunder, lightning, wind, & rain) for a little over an hour then as fast as it started, it was gone.  Once the storm was gone, we took the kids swimming at the indoor, heated pool.  



The next day we packed a lunch and headed to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming (only 6 miles from the campground).  We had to wait a while to get into the park because of the time of day.  There was also a $25 entrance fee.  We started at the west entrance and made our way around the entire loop.  


We stopped at the Lower Geyser Basin to check out the Fountain Paint Pots.  There was a wooden boardwalk type trail that you walked on and made a loop around.  There were so many sights and sounds {& smells too}!


Next we headed around the loop to Old Faithful.  The parking lot was extremely full but we drove around until we found a parking spot.  We had packed a picnic lunch, but I was feeling really light-headed and needed to eat now so we sat in the car and ate sandwiches.  It dawned on me that I had forgotten to do my breakfast shake that morning.  By that time, everyone needed a bathroom break so we found restrooms.  We had read that Old Faithful erupts approx every 60-90 minutes, but we weren't sure when the next eruption would be.  Then we saw the mass of people waiting and figured it must be soon.  We were so lucky again...we only waited about 5 minutes and Old Faithful put on quite a show for us.  Here is the video I took of it.  We spoke to some people who waited over an hour.


We decided to complete the loop around Yellowstone National Park and I am glad we did!  Even though we were in the car {again!}, the amazing sights made it all worth it.  We saw Yellowstone Lake, waterfalls, bison, elk, and more geysers.  It took us about 4 hours to drive around the loop because we only stopped a couple of times.



Once we were back at the campground, the kids enjoyed playing on the playground, playing a game of miniature golf (only $1/person), riding bikes, and a campfire complete with s'mores.  


Tomorrow is a driving day so you'd better set your alarm because we will be leaving the campground at 7:30 am as we head to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore.

Nicole

Supporting your fulltime RV adventures and aspirations

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Goodbye Oregon, Hello Idaho



It was sad to leave Oregon because we were leaving family and we had such a great time visiting with them. We also noticed that Johnathan did not have quite the amount of behavioral difficulties as he usually does.  BUT, it was time to begin our cross country trip.


We followed along the Columbia River from Portland until we started heading southeast in Boardman.  Some of the views were absolutely captivating.


I did not realize, however, that not all of Oregon is green and lush.  In fact, some parts reminded me of southern California.  Once crossing the Oregon-Idaho border we entered into Mountain Time Zone. 


We stopped for the night at a KOA in Meridian, Idaho that has full hook-ups so we could run the air conditioner.  They were very accommodating considering we didn't have a reservation and the charge was only $33 for the night. This particular KOA must be a popular overnight stop because the RV sites were not spacious at all.  In fact, we were backed up to another rig.  They also advertise free wifi but after 45 minutes of trying to connect, I gave up.  However, we slept very well and were ready for more traveling the next morning.  


Disclaimer: Due to internet difficulties, I have not been able to keep the blog updated daily.  For the most up to date information regarding our cross country travels, please check Facebook.

Thanks for your patience,
Nicole

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Fourth of July


My husband and I were reminiscing about the 4th of July because this is generally a big holiday for us.  We enjoy hosting a BBQ for friends and family, followed by an elaborate firework show orchestrated by Daniel.  This has been our tradition for at least the last 12 years.  This was the first year we weren't at home for the 4th, but that didn't stop the party from following us.  We had a BBQ and an elaborate firework show at my brother-in-law's house in Oregon.  

Daniel decided to take a trip to Washington with our kids and nephews to buy fireworks.  He also purchased some from his sister & brother-in-law's church.


We were thrilled to be able to spend the holiday with so many family members.  It just wasn't quite the same without my mom or our oldest son though, as they were still in California.  

Our daughter, Adriana, will have a birthday at the end of the month but she requested that we celebrate it early since we won't be here on her actual birthday.



This year he passed the torch (literally).  Daniel uses a Bernzomatic Propane Hand Torch to light the fireworks and this year he allowed his nephews to be in charge of igniting them.  Daniel is very safety conscious which I feel is extremely important when handling explosives.

We've noticed that it takes longer for the sun go down here in Oregon, which made for a late night.  It also happened to be very cold so we all had to bundle up.  


Overall it was a great night and we made many memories.  Here is just a short video of our firework show.  And at the end of the night, everyone was exhausted.  I'd call it a success!


Nicole