Sunday, March 23

The End

For our final leg of the trip we decided to check out Lake Powell.
Lake Powell
We've been talking for a year now about buying a houseboat here and living on it for a couple months at a time. Now we're beginning to think that's too limiting.

We continued on through Monument Valley.
Monument Valley
Where Joey tried to jump ship.
I'm on a Road to Nowhere

No one wanted him so he was forced to continue on with us through Mexican Hat,
Mexican hat

And then finally making it all the way back home. Where we were happy to discover that all the snow had melted! It didn't make it any easier to get back in the groove of working, though. We spent the next week trying to figure out what our next move would be. And we came up with a plan! Then another plan. And yet another one.

First we decided we'd sell the bus and move to Maui.
Then two days later we decide to just rent in Maui for six months and then decide whether to sell the bus or not.
Then three days later we decide to keep the bus parked as is, go live in Maui, and Joey would commute back and forth for work.
Today....we're going to Maui for one month, and not making any decisions.

Thursday, March 13

Slight detour

Originally we planned on heading straight home after Jordan's deployment but we felt bad for not taking the kids to an aquarium while we were in San Diego so we promised them we'd take them to another place they've been wanting to go. Can you guess where?
Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Hint: Colorado River runs through it.
Grand Canyon

You're so smart. The Grand Canyon!

We came up through the southern entrance, staying outside the park the first night and catching the Grand Canyon Movie at the IMAX theatre before heading into the park the next day. The movie claims to be "the most watched IMAX movie ever" but they really should call it "the most expensive IMAX movie ever that really isn't even worth it" but, at least I have the ticket stubs for my empty scrapbook. It was good in that it told the story of the peoples of the canyon, rather than the geological history, which was cool, but it definitely needs to be's probably also the "oldest IMAX movie ever".

This was our very first view of the canyon.
Grand Canyon
Yes...I was surprised to see snow. It was nice, though. I didn't cry, I was saving that for Colorado.

Grand Canyon
I was also wearing red, and one lady asked me if I did that on purpose so I could find everybody. So maybe I'm a little obsessed with red.

We drove the entire length of the southern side and after the locals gave us the stare down we decided against staying another night.
Grand Canyon Elk

We exited throught the eastern gate and kept on going. And so did the canyon. Outside the park has almost as many pullputs for viewpoints as inside, only they're surrounded by local artisans, making uncomfortable at times to even pull over. One particualer spot, I believe they called it "The Little Grand Canyon" had probably fifty booths set up at it, and in order to get to the viewing point they actually fenced off the parking area forcing you to go right down the middle of their booths. Joey stayed in the car while the kids and I attempted to make it through without buying anything. One dream catcher later, and we made it.
Little Grand Canyon

Just the hike alone was worth it.
Little Grand Canyon

Having the kids fight over giving eachother bunny ears while standing on the edge was a little scary.
Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon
Luckily, no one got hurt and they remain best friends forever.

Wednesday, March 12

Joshua Tree National Park Revisited

Since the temperatures in Joshua Tree were back up we decided to try tent camping again. This time it wasn't a three day weekend so we pretty much had our choice of primo campsites. This time we made sure to pick one that would shelter us better from the wind, in case there were any, which there wasn't, but none the was a sweet spot.

Joshua Tree campsite

enjoying a rock solid nap
That even came with it's own couch. Jewel had a quick nap before heading into Twenty Nine Palms to meet the family at their hotel, and then go out to supper.
supper with everyone
Afterwards we brought Joey's sister back to camp with us, where for a few hours we didn't think about Jordan, her son, going off to Iraq. Instead Gina focused on holding up the massive rock that looked like it was going to crash down on our site.
holding up the rock

The next day after saying good bye to everyone we came back to camp, intent on a hike, and crashed instead. We ended up staying another night since the weather was so fabulous. And there were still many rocks to climb.
climbing at camp

Joshua Tree Nat Park

desert outhouse
The boys can't even use the outhouse without me documenting it.

It's no wonder their favorite game is "hide from Mom!"
and I ran......

It's OK, just gives me incentive to get a DSLR which doesn't have that delay. Muaahhaaahuahuahua

Sunday, March 9

from boy, to man

Fourteen years ago this cute little guy was skipping down the aisle as the ringbearer for our wedding.
wedding pic 001

I never imagined that one day he would follow in his Uncle and Grandfather's footsteps and join the United States Marine Corp. I for sure never thought we'd be gathering in the middle of Twenty Nine Stumps to ship him off to Iraq.
Jordans deployment

I grew up an Air Force brat and always felt it was every red blooded American male's duty to serve our country....that is, until it became a reality. He's just a kid, he's got a cute girlfriend and a whole life ahead of him, and now we're hugging good bye so he can go to war? WAR. How does a brother console his sister whose only baby is going on the fight of his life?
Jordans deployment

How did this other Marine's wife stay so strong while holding her unconsolable daughter while she was screaming, "My Daddy! Not my daddy!"?
Unconsolable Marine's daughter

I suppose it's getting quite common now to be shipping our guys off, but this was my first experience with it. Joey's family had to go through this when he went to fight in Desert Storm. I hope it's all of ours, last.

Boarding the Ironman Shuttle
Stay strong, Lcpl. Jordan Alvarado. We're so proud of you, devil dog.

Thursday, March 6

California Deserts in Bloom

After leaving San Diego we headed back to Twenty Nine Palms, via Anza-Borrego Desert Park. I'd been there once before with my parents on a motorcycle club ride, only we were in a car because I was along. I didn't remember much else other than it was nice for a Sunday drive. A Sunday drive if yours involve getting car sick. Jake actually got sick. Now I remembered why the motorcycle club liked that drive....It was very curvy, with roller coaster like highs and lows. As long as we drove extra slow, we didn't have to pull over too often.

Anza Borego Desert
All that rain the last week really help contribute to the early blooms. We were so lucky, we even got to see the Ocotillos in bloom.
Ocotillo flower

I never knew how much I liked flowers before, but this trip is definitely making me more aware of them, and wanting more. I don't remember seeing flowers in Colorado, all I can think of at this point is how cold it's going to be when we get back, and how dirty the snow will most likely be, if it's not completely muddy by now. Let's not think about that and focus on Joshua Tree National Park.
Joshua Tree NP wildflowers
We're back, and it's brighter than ever.

The flowers were even good enough to drag the kids from the Nintendo's.
Jakes favorite flower
And allow a rare shot of me. I got my haircut while in San Diego, although this shot doesn't quite show it totally.
me, with new do

We walked through the Cholla Cactus garden, others call them jumping cactus but the kids like to call them teddy bears. Not very cuddly, but they are cute.
Joey & jewel in Cholla Cactus forest
Just be sure to watch where you step!
Jake - watch where you step
Or someone will be forced to do this:
picking cactus out of shoe
Someone other than me, of course.

Tuesday, March 4

from tents, to spas...with love

We've been home a few days now, and while it does feel great to be home, we were actually not looking forward to coming back to Colorado. In fact, if we'd had the bus with us on our "camping" trip, we wouldn't have come back. We want to be back at the beach, we need to hear crashing waves and smell salty air. We yearn for shorts and flip flop weather. We so enjoyed our trip(much of which I still need to blog). I was originally planning on it being a tent camping trip, with numerous hikes....lots of hikes. The first week in it was feeling more like a always driving, fast food eating, searching for our next place to sleep, trip. After leaving Carlsbad Beach, we stayed in a hotel down in Imperial Beach, and then the next day drove back up near Carlsbad to go out to dinner with our new beach bum friend, Mark, and then were on the hunt again for the next place to rest. First thing we found after another long search was an expensive looking place in Del Mar. I gave in and shelled out the most I'd ever paid for a room. I was feeling bad....until I saw our room. It was so nice, and so comfortable...I'm thinking, I better enjoy this and quit worrying about the money. I've always said my ideal vacation would be spa like hotel rooms and eating out for every meal, at a sit down restaurant with waitresses, not paper wrapped through a window, so I better start appreciating this. Once I got over the fact that we weren't tent campiing and we didn't have a campfire to cook over and turn everything black, I really starting relaxing and enjoying myself more. I also never checked my email again. Hmmmmm.....

My Aunt Maggie and Uncle Bill live in Lakeside, just outside SD, so we planned on staying there our last night before heading back to Twenty Nine Palms for the deployment. We ended up staying there three days. They were so chill, really made us feel comfortable, and I could tell my Aunt really loved having family around. We had great conversations, and even better meals...holy cow, have I gained some weight. I did go on one hike while we were there though, to the gas station for a Pepsi. What?

Since it was raining daily, we weren't inspired to hit the beach or Sea World. We were inspired, however, with all the great tattoo artists, and while the kids would respectably stalk the peacocks in my Aunt's yard,
Aunt Maggies 007
(Boys are such show offs).
Aunt Maggies 039
Joey and I got inked.
tattoos (7)

Another turning point for me. I got my first tattoo when I was eighteen, and I got it in a spot that I knew my mother would never see it. Now eighteen years later, I got it where I can't really hide it, and hope my mom likes it.
daisy tattooLake McConaughy Flower
I took the picture last year in Lake McConaughy of a daisy hugging itself, and it represents to me the need to quit being so hard on myself, and give myself a hug once in a while.
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