Thursday, June 28

Flaming Gorge N.R.A.

The next three days went pretty much like this: Wake up, eat, walk to the lake, play, play, play. Back to the bus for lunch, then back to the lake and play, play, play. When sun started setting we'd go back to camp where the kids would dress in their cami's, play marine sniper until dark, when the campfire was finally ready for s'mores.
Lake Flaming Gorge (56)
They'd eat their hearts content of s'mores while I grilled dinner, where it would finally be ready about 9:30. We'd crash immediately after eating, and restart the cycle all over again in the morning. It was a tough life, but some family had to do it.

Jewel overcame her fear of the water, while pretending to be Davy Crockett.
Lake Flaming Gorge (43)

I worked on my tan, while conserving energy for a hard day's work.
Lake Flaming Gorge (44)

Both boys learned how to row their boat, while Dad took a much needed break.
Lake Flaming Gorge (69)

They'd row to their own "Rocky Island" while Jake tried with all he had to catch a fish by hand, and Jewel learned the lovely art of relaxing.
Lake Flaming Gorge (27)
Forget math and english, we teach them how to enjoy life...there won't be a quiz later, however I may call for a do over.

Even the monster sized jackrabbits knew how to kick it here.
Lake Flaming Gorge (60)

When we had enough of our Sunny Cove, Joey rowed us around the bend, where we discovered cliffs!
Lake Flaming Gorge
Note the Strawberry Shortcake umbrella....I used it to dance around like Rihanna.

Joey tried to capture my cliff dive.
My cliff dive

I had better luck capturing Jonas. Look at him go!
Lake Flaming Gorge (85)

Jake stuck to his side of the cove.
Lake Flaming Gorge (114)
He's getting a little nervous we may just throw him over the cliff.

Originally we paid for two nights, but we had so much fun we had to stay another. Jake's biggest fear was that we'd have so much fun again on day three that we'd stay another night. No worries Jake, we'll get ya some electricity.

With no electricity, or generator to create some, we figure we have to get back to civilization. We don't want to go back over all those mountain passes we just came up, so we decide to keep heading north until we hit the next town of Rock Springs, WY so we can get to some Internet and figure out where we're going next.

*****added*****link to all the photos: Flaming Gorge

Monday, June 25

Making Lemonade in Flaming Gorge

After filling up with one hundred and fifty gallons of gas we steered both gas hogs West and made our first rest stop at Steinaker Dam & Reservoir, a little lake that Joey used to stop at ocassionally on his way to work.

Steinaker Dam & Reservoir

I was surprised with how pretty and blue it is, and especially liked the way the islands appeared to be sinking. While Jewel was helping Joey walk the bus (check tires and such) a big rig had a tire blow out that threw a huge piece of shredded tire, nearly hitting them. Also while we were there Joey called to confirm the job and they told him the client had postponed...and no idea until when. A simple phone call would have been nice! So now we don't want to drive all over the place, wasting gas with no end in sight so we pull out the trusty old road map. Since we're within miles of Dinosaur National Monument we decide to go ahead and check it out. We weren't going to because it's hot and all, but the surrounding landscapes are so beautiful and What the Heck? we have nothing better to do.

Dinosaur (13)

After stopping at the Visitor's Center, and then driving all the way up to the gate, we find out that the main attraction, the Dinosuar Quarry, is closed, and has been since July 2006. There are no hookups inside, plus no fossils, so we turn around after a little pow wow and decide to go to Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area (N.R.A.). N.R.A.'s are usually best enjoyed with a boat but oh well, let's check it out.

I don't think we're going to be disappointed by the looks of it.

Flaming Gorge Dam

We stop at the Visitor's Center and go straight for the water.

Flaming Gorge Dam

That was a long walk, I needed a break.

Can you see the face?
Face on rocks

After we're done playing we finally head to the visitor's center, only to get there two minutes after closing. So typical.

Over the bridge we go.
Flaming Gorge Dam (7)

Up, Up, and Up some more, at a whopping speed of about 20mph.....but plenty of time to enjoy the views.
Flaming Gorge Dam

We found camping, at the Mustang Ranch. Get your head out of the gutter. Our Mustang Ranch is a large campground with many secluded sites overlooking the lake, ours wasn't one of them, but it was a nice, sometimes shady spot with lots of trees and trails and no hookups. So we just park and look for a way to the lake. After a short hike we found Sunny Cove, and things are certainly looking sunnier. Let's play today, we'll think work tomorrow.
Lake Flaming Gorge (5)
Jewel's orders.
When we were heading to Wyoming to see Johnny we said we WERE NOT spending the night. We were going to visit for a few hours and head home, hopefully getting there around 3am. Instead we spent the night in their 35 ft. motorhome that already housed four people. Their boys hugged eachother's feet on the dinette bed, while Jake slept curled up in the driver's seat, Jonas on the floor, Jewel on another seat, and Joey and I took the fold out couch. And we slept good! We ended up hanging around all morning, watching Jewel play on the playground with other girls, until John got home from work. Shortly after we headed out and on our way back to the bus. Our five day quick trip to Texas and back turned into a fourteen day cross country trip that we weren't fully prepared for, so we couldn't wait to get back and sleep in our beds.

Now that we have the new welder, Joey needs to go back to work. We decide to stay where we are......until we wake up again. Then we want to go ahead and go with the WA/OR job. We prepped the bus to get back on the road, which meant I had to finish painting....and I did! (I'll share those photos later.) We had a last bonfire and cook out with Jimmy and Shirley and said good bye to Colorado a few days later. The plan is to stop a night or two in SLC, UT on the Great Salt Lake, then another State park in Idaho, and arrive WA the 27th or 28th.

Wednesday, June 20

Mt. Rushmore

A lot had changed in eight years, but it was still hot and crowded, at least this time I wasn't carrying a crying newborn.....and we were able to walk the President's Trail. Last time we didn't do it because of the crying baby, but also because it was too dang hot and it was a dirt trail. Now the trail was paved half way and stair cased the rest. It gave us a chance to get a lot closer, and to work up a good sweat.

Mt Rushmore (9)

When this family asked Joey to take a family picture for them, it took all I had to control myself from ripping the camera out of his hands, instead I captured the moment, which became my favorite photo of the day.

Not my Family obligatory picture

After that a woman offered to take a photo for us so naturally I jumped at the chance, but I was bummed to see the results. So after that when I'd see a family minus one I'd offer to take it for them, and I made sure I gave them picture postcard photos. I had so much fun doing that, I could have done it all day, but it was getting hotter by the hour.........So we headed South and found ourselves on the Iron Mountain Highway which is a mountainous route thru the Black Hills that has three strategically placed tunnels that were built specifically to frame Mt. Rushmore. What a nice wrong turn.

Mt Rushmore

Traffic Jam in Custer State Park

Traffic Jam in Custer State Park
That's how they roll in the SD.

Directly below Custer is Wind Cave National Park where we finally got to see prairie dogs.
Wind Cave NP

We didn't go to the cave, just stopped periodically to view wildlife, trying to make it to Joey's brother's family in Cheyenne. We stopped in Hot Springs, SD for a fabulous Mexican lunch. If you find yourself in Hot Springs, we highly recommend Mi Cocina, directly across the street from an unexpected waterfall and cute little creek.Hot Springs SD

It was dark, but we made it to Johnny's. We hadn't seen each other in almost four years so it was a much needed visit. John had just taken his family on the road a little over a month ago so we're so excited at the prospect of being able to do a lot of traveling together in the future. It's really good to reconnect, love you guys!
John and boys

Badlands National Park

One thing about tent camping...we're up at the crack of dawn! It was fun to see how the other side lives. The city campground in Sanborn, Iowa has a really nice bathroom, but it was the first time I had to pay for a shower. Two quarters got me eight minutes, all of which I didn't need, but since the water ran regardless if I used it or not, I soaked up all eight minutes greedily. (It's nice to have a powerful hot shower once in a while.)

I think we were actually on the road by eight a.m.! Wow, what kinds of mishaps, I mean adventures, can we get into today? The kids were not as bright eyed, they continued sleeping while we drove. They woke up somewhere in South Dakota, enough time to play even more Nintendo DS. We stopped at a rest area along I-80 and the Missouri River that happened to have a nice Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center, or some such name. We ran around outside some, taking in scenic views of the river, before heading inside.
Bridge over Missouri River

While Jonas and Jewel were in the rest room with me, brushing their teeth, a lady came in and said "no baths in the sink" and then walked into a stall. What the heck? Was she serious? I said, kinda snarky, that they weren't taking a bath, just brushing their teeth. When she came out she said that's what they tell the kids in school, because they come out with water dripping down to their shoulders. School humor, so over my head.....

On our way to Mount Rushmore, we realize The Badlands National Park isn't far out of our way so we decide to do the scenic drive all the way thru the park before camping at the other end. The Badlands is not a name that brings to mind beautiful scenery, but since it's a national Park, it has to be good, according to my book. Even as we pay and pass thru the gates, I'm not seeing much, but then it's non stop surprises, mile after mile.

Our first stop was the White River Valley Overlook, and is definitely named appropriately.
Badlands National Park, SD
Badlands National Park, SD
Badlands National Park, SD
Badlands National Park, SD

Badlands National Park, SD

Honestly, I'm trying to cut down on the pictures. It's so hard! If you're a photo junkie like me, you can see a slideshow of the whole day here, for the rest of you, I'll try really hard to keep it condensed.

These Yellow Mounds were among my favorites.
Badlands National Park, SD
As was this grassy valley among rocky mounds:
Badlands National Park, SD

Jewel overlooking the Pinnacles Overlook:
Badlands National Park, SD
There was a lady freaking out that Jewel was so close to the edge....clearly a city gal.

We missed our turn to Prairie Dog Town and the campground so when Joey realized this he quickly backed up to turn around. Only, remember that welder he didn't want to trailer back? Ya, he forgot about it. The trailer didn't hold up well to a jackknifing.
Remnants of a trailer

Someday I'll tell the tale of how we lifted a five hundred pound welder, but first I must get thru the day. Joey was so sick over the accident we decided against going back into the park and focused on a hotel room instead, preferably one with a water slide. All along this stretch of I-80 are billboards for indoor waterpark hotels, so when we get to the turn off for Mount Rushmore and two hotels with waterparks we get online and check their prices... Back on the road, we look for a hotel with just an indoor pool, and the signs are blinking $49.95. Only turned out it was PER PERSON! So we head towards a campground, with a heated pool, but we so do not want to camp. They have a cabin available, and it's right across from the pool. After a long day in the sun, that was just what we needed.
Goggle Jewel

The Badlands were fun, but tomorrow we meet four President's.

Tuesday, June 19

Day at an Iowan Farm

After spending the night with friends in Iowa we all decided to go with them the next day to do chores at their friend's farm. Originally the guys weren't going to go but Angie convinced them we'd get them done in half the time if they helped, so they loaded up all the kids in the back of their truck, and us ladies took the air conditioned, non dust swirling, van, and we were off. Last time we'd been to Kathy's farm the kids got yelled at for chasing the geese and ducks, and for just plain running around. This time, Kathy is gone and the kids can go wild. Jewel starts up right where they left off...
Goose chasing

Turned out to be a really good thing the guys came, there were seven goats on the lamb! It was hilarious watching everyone chase the goats, but ended up turning our one hour chore into three hours. Still, it was quite an adventurous time! This goat tried to eat me:
Iowa goat

While "Guard Goose" attacked anyone that neared the feathered babies:
Guard Goose

Joey ended up standing guard so the kids could capture the baby ducks that had just been born hours earlier.
The Stand Off
They were catching them to protect them from the cats, and to eventually be adopted by our friends. Our friends that will soon be moving into our old farm house that my cousin is currently living in. That is one popular piece of property!

Jewel was in heaven with those baby ducks! She was holding one the entire time we were on the farm!
More Duck Lovin'

Joey grew up on a ranch and he swears this is how you walk the cows.
Doing farm chores
He did other questionable things with the milking machine, but I'll spare you that picture.

Jewel wanted to hold a big chicken so bad, that our friend's boy nearly collapsed from exhaustion, but he caught her a chicken.....but there was no way she was going to hold it....but isn't she perty?

Then Jonas had to test his chicken chasing skills, and proud to say he came out victorious!
Chicken Jonas

Jake didn't have as good of luck with the cow, but he had fun trying.
Wrangling calves

Jewel doesn't care about anything, she's in duck love.
Duck Lovin'

Goat Girl taking a break from milking:
Goat Girl

And when we finally let her out of her cage we went back to their place where more friends came over to see us.
bouncing with old friends

It was a good day, and while we had planned to stay another night we ended up heading out just before dark. We had another friend to meet in NW Iowa so we met him at his campground, and slept in a tent! I was actually looking forward to tent camping for a change, but after the insanity setting up the tent caused, and the horrendous musty smell of a Vietnam era tent, it may take a while to get me back in one. We're not even half way home yet.....tomorrow, South Dakota!

To see the rest of the pictures click here.

Monday, June 18

Thinking Outside the Welder

Manny benefits of a welder

Towing the welder turned into a blessing when we found ourselves dead in southern Iowa, late in the evening, on Father's Day.

Sunday, June 17

Escaping the Texas Heat

Despite the heat and sunburns, we had a really great time in Texas. Our quick business trip turned into a really nice visit with family, and even an unexpected visit with old friends. Joey's old high school girlfriend, to be exact. I was a little nervous to meet her, but she was as great as Joey always said she was. I felt instantly comfortable, and turns out we have a lot in common. Not only do they also homeschool their three kids, but they've often dreamed of selling everything and hitting the road in an RV. We're looking forward to many family vacations together.
Family Friends

The sun finally went in hiding and allowed us a couple cool days before heading back home. My brother's family came over often and we bribed him almost as often to just leave the kids with us.
It's finally raining!

Jonas wore himself out chasing butterflies.
Hunting Butterflies

We won the bid for the welder, and Joey couldn't have been happier. He barely slept all night in anticipation of picking up his new machine, and it turned out the ol' guy that had completely rebuilt the '59 Lincoln, was just as excited. He worked meticulously on the welder, and it showed, but he had no idea what to expect, so he was thrilled to get what he did for it......he deserved every penny.

So we decide to leave the old welder in Texas, putting it up on eBay, when our friends back in Colorado call and say they want to buy it. We really don't want to tow it back, but he's offering full price, and he's a friend, so Joey mounts it on a small trailer and we haul it back. Oh yeah, we also decide we're not going straight back, we're going to pay a quick visit to Iowa and then go back to Colorado.

We couldn't leave without some excitement first. I talk Mom into making those big onion blossoms that we've been talking about for years now. Only let's not make sure we don't overflow the deep fryer as Mom drops the onion in. Holy crap, I managed to turn the electric burner off but we couldn't put out the fire so I ran out to Joey screaming for the fire extinguisher. He grabbed it off his welder, since their kitchen extinguisher was nowhere to be found, and ran in and saved the day. Actually my Dad had Joey give it to him and then had to ask how to use it, just details, but he did save the kitchen. :)

After the fire
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