Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Road Trip#5 - Life in the RV, welcome to Utah, Grafton Ghost Town

It was a love/hate relationship with the leprechaun RV. Without too much trouble Adam mastered maneuvering the 30foot long beast and parking it but going down crowded hyws, and twisting through snake like roads, climbing high up to 11000ft proved to be challenging. The RV rumbled and rattled making the ride anything but calm. On the plus side, it was convenient to tuck the boys in bed and continue with the drive. There were meals at our fingertips, and clothes to change into without lugging suitcases around. Except for a few nights in booked campgrounds, we were able to park for free in WalMart parking lots and in free campgrounds. There were some nights we ended up below rugged mountains in grassy fields. Those were our favourite nights with the numerous stars giving us a spectacular show and the moon glowing in the distance. The air was fresh and crisp and the smell of juniper burning on camper's firepits warmed our senses.
 For some reason we thought we would have more "down" time on the trip, reading, and sitting by campfires but instead it was a more frenzied pace driving from state to state, a total of 2700 miles.

We rented the RV with a winter special allowing us to pick up and drop off the RV in different states. Bedding, towels, and kitchen supplies were also provided for free.

These three amigos slept in their "fort" above the front seats.

Dragging a carseat through the airports and up the streets of San Fransisco for this little guy made the maneuvering around challenging. For the first day in the RV he sat in the car seat buckled up, the second day he sat in the carseat without his straps and then the third day we tossed the carseat near the back of the RV. Things got pretty relaxed in the back of the RV except the most important rule: make sure the fridge clicks. One jug of milk landed on Andrew's head, our lasagna landed splat on the floor twice.

As convenient as the RV was, parenting was a struggle at times without a spare room to separate the offending parties. In the mornings we would pass toothbrushes out and washcloths but since boys have no interest in hygiene, fooling around took place. We would forget which boy we would tell to "get going" and ended up repeating the same instructions 25 times to all the different boys. They could not get things done without fooling around because they were always in one another's way. For the most part the boys did well during the driving. We generally do not have anything visual playing during our road trips but instead listen to history, bible, and fun stories like Adventures in Odyssey. Finding water to fill our tanks and places to "dump" could be time consuming but it was way better than tenting!

One night after the boys had fallen asleep we were driving through the roads trying to find a spot to park the RV for the night. A gas station owner let us park in his parking lot  -right on the border of Arizona and Utah. In the morning we had a surprise for the boys with the big welcoming sign to Utah. It gives me a little thrill of joy to stand on borders!

Just inside Utah a few remaining structures of a Mormon town called Grafton stand alone off of a isolated road. Driving along a bumpy, rutted road we arrived at the town's cemetery, a sobering plot of land surrounded by the beauty of mountains. The graves tell the story of harsh lives for the settlers.

Three young brothers all died within days of one another from the dreaded disease of diphtheria.

Here a whole family is buried after an attack from Indians destroyed them.

Grafton was settled in 1859 as part of a cotton growing project ordered by Mormon, Brigham Young.
Two years after hard work and productivity a flood destroyed the town forcing the settlers to move one mile upriver. Isolation, silt in irrigation systems, and flooding discouraged the families. Along with the unexpected Indian attacks, the town began to falter in 1866.
This is a tourist spot, off of the beaten path - literally. The road was full of ruts and bumps making it adventuresome just getting there. Grafton Ghost town remains unknown to many tourists although several movies have been shot there.

"Look at these beautiful blossoms," I shouted to the boys. They immediately came running. Out of breath, they panted "Where's the opossum?!"

Friday, April 22, 2016

Road trip #4 - Ocean fun, Nevada's famous Hoover Dam, Arizona's famous Grand Caynon

On Saturday night we stayed in a WalMart parking lot right outside of LA. In the middle of the night I had the TV show, "COPS" theme song running through my head; "bad guys, bad guys..whatchaya gonna do when the come from you..."  I thought of potential shootings or drug deals going bad and our RV the cover for some gang fight. It was a relief when morning arrived. We were eager to be in LA bright and early Sunday morning so that we could go to John MacArthur's church.  Attending his church after years of listening to him on the radio was surreal. The crowds of people, the singing, the whole worship service, the courtyards and the bookstore were all a highlight. 

An early morning hike up a mountain.

Near Venice Beach we rented bikes to explore and burn off some RV energy. There were four traffic lanes for walkers and bikers.

Wherever we went, extra boys joined our family. I am not sure if it was the noise, or because of the larger age range in our kids but at every stop there would be extra boys.

Hoover Dam in Nevada turned out to be a disappointment for all of us. The line ups were extremely long and the tour itself was not worth the wait. Safety regulations due to 9/11 have changed the place dramatically making it hands-off and restricted.

Heading towards Arizona's Grand Canyon.

How refreshing it was to read this plaque.

The Grand Canyon is truly stunning with its width, depth, the Colorado River snaking through it, along with its deep, red colours. The problem is it is the most nerve racking place to be especially with five children. We had the youngest on a leash and I had two dog leashes hanging out of my pocket so if one of the boys showed any hints of being reckless they would be tethered and they knew it! Where there's walls (and there are hardly any), the walls seem awfully short. One lady told me there are 15 deaths per year at the canyon and the average of 2 people falling over walls. I had been nervous about this part of the trip and hardly slept the night before, hearing that didn't help!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Road Trip #3 - The Big Reds and Hwy #1

A highlight of this trip was camping for a night right in the middle of the Big Reds - tall, bold trees towering 300 feet into the sky, the tallest trees in the world. The magnitude of their strength and length was impressive.

We walked through a forest that had interesting facts about certain trees located through out the trail. Adam could have been a tour guide with his careful planning and enthusiasm while exploring. At one point he had a group join us and listen to him while he was explaining and teaching information to the boys.
The trail we went on was called Henry Cowell State Park and we highly recommend it. 
Little did I know that these beautiful woods would be the last time I felt safe for almost the rest of the trip. 

Later that day we hit Hwy #1 a gorgeous, beautiful, scenic coastal drive.
Now people have told us that this beautiful drive could be a bit scary. Let me tell you that it was very scary sitting high up in a RV that jostled and rattled us around like we were clothes in a washing machine.
Curves, steep hills going upwards and downwards, hairpin curves, a cliff boasting of large, rugged rocks that met up with pounding ocean waves right below my door. On the other side of the RV, huge, tall cliffs with rocks falling down and littering the road below curved along side the road. One falling rock could knock our whole RV down the embankment. One little jerk of the wheel would send us plunging below. I was a wreck, gripping the side door, clenching my teeth, hitting my right foot under the dashboard -slamming onto my imaginary breaks, and then jilting my head to the left- in a severe motion as if my jerking movements would move the whole RV further away from the terrifying cliff. This went on for about 20 minutes until Adam told me to sit in the back. With Adam's careful concentration on driving he missed most of the scenery and yelled to the back for the boys to enjoy what he was missing. The boys peered out of the windows for a few minutes and then went back to their games.
Enjoy the next three pictures from the internet. My hand was too shaky to get pictures.

A popular tourist spot is McWay Falls. It was impressive but the thin snake- like trail to get there with five boys was too nerve-racking for me to enjoy.

We came across a bay scattered with elephant seals basking in the sun.

Morro Rock at sunset. This rock was in the news last week when a man wanted to impress the love of his life and proposed to her on facetime climbing to the top of the rock, 581 feet high. After his proposal he got stuck trying to get down and helicopters had to rescue him from a dangerous and precarious position.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Road Trip Part #2 - San Fransisco

For the next few blog posts, I hope to turn it into a travel blog.
 Because of airplane points, our family had the opportunity to fly to California during the two week long spring break. Adam spent many months researching for this trip but at times it was hard to find information on what would work best for this type of a road trip - tourist reviews weren't written with numerous children in mind. So here we go: Reviews from a family of seven - almost all of them being the male gender.
The plan was to spend a day touring San Francisco and then rent an RV for the remainder of the trip, travelling across five states and ending in Colorado. 
We were able to see the most beautiful parts of God's creation during this trip but we also had some  real "lows." Our trip to San Francisco started with a "low."
After travelling through airports and boarding planes for most of the day we landed in San Francisco late in the evening. We got onto a  subway (this sounds so easy but think counting kids, luggage, carseat, stroller, empty stomachs, and train doors that shut real quickly, possibly separating a child from the rest of his family).
The train let us off fairly close to our hotel but unfortunately we still had to cover many blocks before we arrived at the hotel. We ended up walking, late in the evening, on some of the most horrendous streets of San Francisco. I was certain crime was lurking around every corner as we stepped over filth and garbage. We were exhausted when we finally reached our hotel after trudging uphill (most of the way) with our luggage and five weary children, but not tired enough to notice the rats and garbage littered around the hotel. The area smelled dirty and it was loud compared what we were used to. Culture shock for myself and the boys hit.
All night long we heard police sirens and noise outside of our room. When morning finally arrived, Caleb reported, "bad dreams daddy, bad dreams!"
We were thankful when it was time to start touring San Fransisco.


We started our day with walking through China town. There were cool nic naks for the boys to see but it still felt like it was dirty there.

We found this amazing park in the middle of the downtown area. The boys who had a hard time walking through out the morning, suddenly had a burst of energy.

As we made our way up a huge, steep hill we came to the world's curviest road, ......
The boys gathered at the bottom of the road while I took a picture from across the street. To my surprise, a Chinese lady came, dumped her camera in Adam's hand and motioned for him to take a picture as she stood with her arms around the boys. And then the next lady came and another lady. I was gasping for air from laughing so hard.

Lombard street

Cars parked along the sides of road look lopsided, as if they are about to topple over.

The first feel of the Pacific Ocean while admiring the Golden Gate Bridge.

We ate our lunch on the famous Pier 39 while the dozens of sea lions entertained us.


A fascinating audio tour led us through the jail cells in Alcatraz.
We learned about the conception of the prison, life for the inmates, prison riots, and the escapees.
Somehow I pictured sharks with their sharp, razor jaws swimming in circles around the island but the waters seems quite peaceful.
We all agreed the tour was worth the money and as an added bonus you get a boat ride in the ocean!

Here is a picture of a former prisoner signing a book he wrote. We read that he was a master counterfeit artist, a trade he perfected while prison, for over 50 years. He was a sensation, signing for happy buyers and posing for pictures.

We finally reached our hotel late at night, walking about 15km that day along the steep uphill roads. Our first impression of San Fransisco was bad but we grew to admire the city during the day. The homes, with the famous front bay windows are beautiful.  Gardens are kept neat and tidy. The steep roads through out the city make San Fransisco unique, ready to be explored.