Wednesday, June 25

How to save a life......without getting your hands dirty

Canyon lake
While I prefer to just gaze at the lake and get lost in it's beauty, the rest of the crew prefers to disturb it by yanking the life out of it.
Jewel's first fish
A couple weeks ago Jewel caught her first fish (Joey actually hooked it and then passed the pole to Jewel and let her think she hooked it), and after she reeled it in there was no one around to get the fish off the hook. I tried to get Jake to help us, but he also inherited my inability to touch slimy things, so he wasn't much help. Immediately I start to panic because I don't want this poor little fish to die, then Joey reappears with this weird looking red thing.
going in
Then jams it down the poor things throat!
getting hook out
And out comes the hook and it's baby grasshopper lunch.
Back out
Gross. And awesome.

Monday, June 23

Colorado - Home, Sweet Home - For now

We've been back in Colorado now for exactly three weeks. We chose not to go back to Battlement Mesa with it's full hook ups, on site laundry, and Pepsi machine, in favor of the rural campground with the private lake.

This time I have a car, and a working refrigerator, and working Internet. We left the satellite dish in Texas at our storage unit, I mean parent's house. I now have a small Verizon USB modem that works ten times better than HughesNet ever did. The only downfall is only one person can be online at a time, but so far it hasn't been a big deal at all.

The lake doesn't require a fishing license and is catch and release only, so Jonas finally got to try out his new Rocket Fishing Rod he got from Grama for Christmas. It took an eleven year old to figure out how to work it, though, since it came with no instructions.
fishing 003
I gotta say, It's so much fun! No one else even cared to fish, and they do their usual huddle around each other all watching one pole.
fishing 005
Until I ask them to smile for me.
why I shoot candid
Why can't they just BNrml??

When I'm not taking pictures of them, I can be found here:
Official Fishing Observer's Seat

I have an extra one for anyone that wants to join me.

Wednesday, June 18

Our Beach in the Midwest

When we can't get to the coast, we can at least get to the beach. The beaches of Lake McConaughy, that is.
Lake McConaughy (6)
We stumbled upon this oasis last summer and have been itching to get back ever since.

The water was pretty cold the first day, so the next day we dug out the wetsuits.
Suitin' Up
And actually enjoyed putting them on! At least Jonas did.

Joey built sand stairs in an attempt to make it easier to get up and down, and Jewel kept up with the constant maintenance.
Lake McConaughy (68)

Joey also carved out a tiki man, but once he added arms and legs it looked more like Spongebob on steroids.
Beach Art

By the time we broke out the boogie boards the waves were gone, which left the boys waiting for the wake of a speed boat or jet ski. It was tricky getting the timing down right, but they were having fun figuring it out.

Lake McConaughy (109)

Joey captured this cool shot of Jacob with the noodle.
Lake McConaughy (75)
We're not sure which one was bigger.

It wouldn't be a Nebraska lake post for me without the obligatory toad shot.
Lake McConaughy (114)

Meet Toad, and Toad, Jr.
Lake McConaughy (115)

It amazes me how my kids expressions always seem to mimic those of their toad buddies.
Lake McConaughy
I don't know, maybe it's just me.

We finished both nights around the campfire, with wood that I gathered....... by driving to another RV spot and taking the logs they left behind. Joey used to cringe when I did that, but if he really didn't want me to take it he wouldn't even tell me it was there. The last time I "gathered" he even helped! Let's keep that between us, though.

Lake McConaughy (124)
Get out of my way!
Lake McConaughy storm
A storm was rolling in, and knowing it'll most likely pass within half an hour, we had to protect our fire.
Protecting our campfire
It worked and we were able to finish off another bag of chocolate marshmallows.

Saturday, June 14

Never too old to cry to your Mama

We started off driving west on the I-80, but about sixty miles into South Dakota Joey made a last minute decision to head South and visit his friend in a small town in Nebraska. The same small town we were in last year when the boys met a pair of sisters, so we told them we'd try to get in touch with them and arrange to see them. What does Jonas say? "Why was I cursed with such good looks?"

We pulled in really late to the campground to find it was one big mud pit. We ended up staying in a road side picnic area just outside of town and in the morning a different friend of Joey's recognized the bus and came over to say hello, so while the kids and I hung in the bus at the local laundromat, doing laundry and trying to reach the girls, Joey got to spend the afternoon with the guys, playing drums, cussing, talking story and talking welding. Eventually we moved over to the local park, and spent the rest of the day perched in our lawn chairs watching the kids play.
Albion city park
One of Joey's friends (and brand new dad) also hung in the park with us and picked our brains on unschooling and living on the road. It's great to see somebody else so excited for their kid's future.

Before long we gave up on connecting with the girls (they were on a beach vacation) and just as we were about to leave, a nice lady from across the street knocked on our door to let us know there had been spotters in the area and if needed we can join them in their basement.

"What are spotters?"


"Holy Crap! We're outta' here, thanks for the offer, though!"

We stop for gas outside of town and when I told the clerks we were heading south they said they wouldn't, they'd wait it out first. I told Joey that massive tornadoes hit Kearney and it's headed this way. He decides that's far away and we're not in danger, so we're going. By now I turn off the satellite radio to hear local news and I'm hearing nothing but scary weather reports. The skies look fine, though, and I guess since Joey didn't get the info himself off the weather channel, it wasn't true. Then it started raining, and I called my Mom.
"Mom, I just want to let you know we're heading straight into a tornado. If you don't hear from me, at least you'll know where to find me."

Then the rain started falling harder and horizontally and I made the fastest U-turn in history...right through someone's yard. Joey, couldn't turn around there and had to keep on going until he found a safe enough spot. I called my Mom back...bawling like a baby now. I repeated to her all the damage the tornadoes had already done and how we were headed straight into it's path. Just what she wanted to hear, I'm sure. We ended up waiting it out back in that town we had gotten gas in, the one that I tried to wait it out to begin with. After about thirty minutes we headed back out, now having to avoid huge downed trees on the highway. We wanted to get to a rest area along the Interstate because they have shelters, but the Interstate is shut down, so we have to continue on this small highway that is now also full of Interstate traffic. I gave Jacob my camera and asked him to get a shot of the skies over Kearney.
Kearney after the storm
I noticed that he was zooming in, and I wanted him to zoom out to get the whole thing, but what he got was ten times better! I'll never try directing him again, I think the boy's got a good eye.

We did finally make it to the Interstate, and spent the rest of the night watching the lightning storms. Other than one storm hitting us during the night, it ended up being a nice, safe, quiet night.
Storm Watching

The next morning we saw some of the damage that was done outside of Kearney and saw first hand how close we'd come to ending up just like that barn.
Kearney tornado damage

Lesson learned: Trust my instincts and run like hell!

Friday, June 13

Travel to Work, Work to Travel

We finally pull into Janesville where Joey's going to be wrapping up construction on a new Ethanol plant. We pull into the RV park near Lake Elysian to find one of those RV parks that have trailers semi-permanently parked for the owners to come back to every weekend and a week or two in the summers. Those are good for the kids, because it means they may see the same kids over and over and eventually become friends. When I went into the office and told them we were here for a few weeks working at the plant, she told me they have a construction special, and have a special spot set up just for the construction workers. AND AGAIN WE'VE BEEN OUT CASTED! Everybody else is near the pool and playgrounds, and eachother....and we're led up away from the RV park into a little clearing in the woods all by ourselves. They say it's so we're not bugged by the party weekenders, but I know it's because they think construction workers are an eyesore to have in their parks. Lucky us!
Lake Elysian RV park (9)
No one else had near the amount of space and privacy that we did. Nor did they get to feel like Huck Finn while walking to the pool.
Lake Elysian RV park (6)

A rare shot of Joey without at least two kids climbing on his head.
Lake Elysian RV park (2)

And while I'm not really allowed to be talking about him and his's a good thing he doesn't read this for the articles.....we only ended up staying here a couple nights. He walked on to the job site, saw all the inspectors with their clipboards and safety vests, had a glimpse into what it would be like working there with all their rules and regulations, and remembered how nice it was working back in Colorado, on his own, doing oil drilling rig maintenance, for..ohhh....almost three times the pay......turned around, accepted his old boss's offer, came back home, loaded up the lawn chairs.....and off we were again.

You didn't see that one coming, huh?

Thursday, June 12

And So Began The Rest Area Tour (Part Deuce)

We drove into Minnesota only two miles after nearly escaping Iowa without a Highway Patrol seeing the Bus's expired plates. When we left Colorado two months ago I completely forgot the Unskool plates were expired. When I tried to register them by mail last year my check was sent back saying they couldn't register them anymore since they knew we moved! (Curse small town living.) Not wanting to give up the Unskool plates I figured it was best to ignore the problem, and maybe someday it would miraculously work itself out. It hasn't, and I have an $89.00 ticket to prove it.

We spent the next couple nights in two different rest areas within the first thirty miles of Minnesota. We'd have gone to our location, but that whole Memorial Weekend thing and my inability to look at a calendar thing, has made us outcasts.
Hello..Is anybody out there?
We're alone and forced to run hidden trails behind all the Minnesota rest areas we happened along. Most of the trails looked like this:
MN rest area 1
And like this:
MN rest area 2
But every once in a while they'd spice it up a bit:
MN rest area 1
I wasn't having a hard time keeping up with walking everyday, that's for sure! I did these stairs quite a few times.

MN rest area 1 (1)
Jewel did this slide even more.

During breaks of playing in the water faucet, Jewel was posing and loving being an only child....
MN rest area 1 (16)
at least for the moment.


Wednesday, June 11

And So Began The Rest Area Tour....

Iowa was the next state to go through before getting to Minnesota, and it was for me the most difficult state to pass through. It was cold and raining when we pulled into a Wal-Mart parking lot in Des Moines late that night and since we weren't paying for camping that meant we got to eat out. We had Fuddruckers for the first time in TEN years, and it was even better then we remembered it, and I could hardly believe we spent no more than we'd normally spend at McDonald's. Anyway, what was so difficult was that I wasn't going to get to see any of my unschooling friends. I stressed enough all the way from Albuquerque to Lubbock that we didn't stop and see Sandra and now Des Moines is making me feel like the worst friend ever. To my defense I did try emailing Heather from my cell phone but I don't think she ever got it. We always have the best intentions on seeing folks as we travel through, but we're on a mission this trip and just can't spare the time, or the extra gas mileage to go a little out of our way.

We're both using diesel which is averaging $4.70 a gallon, and we figured it's costing us almost a dollar a mile to even just eighty miles out of our way isn't cheap. Plus, we're heading to a job, and we need to allow as much time as possible for any unexpected delays or breakdowns. Joey wanted desperately to see his brother which would have added 300 miles and we wanted to see our old friends back in Fonda, which would have added an extra hundred miles, but instead we started the Rest Area Tour 2008.

Oh yeah, even when we tried to get a campsite we were denied because all the weekenders were out taking up all our camping spots anyway, so we really didn't even have a choice.....and it ended up being a blessing in disguise. It was easy to keep my commitment to no TV and already not being on the Net for weeks has made me not even interested in it, aside from checking my email from my cell phone, so we got to spend a lot of time just hanging out together and talking.

The rest areas weren't bad either. Besides's Iowa's rest areas being wi-fi hotspots, they have great playgrounds.
Iowa rest area (2)
Most of the time it felt like Joey and I only had one kid, but the tire swings inevitably draw the boys out to play with us.
Three's Company
The best part though about the Iowa rest areas this weekend: The Boy Scouts were handing out free refreshments! Jewel got an apple, the boys got popcorn, I got homemade carrot cake for myself and coffee for Joey, then donated all the change I had in my pockets.
Iowa rest area
Jewel liked the boy Scouts.

Saturday, June 7

Kansas to Missouri

I couldn't decide whether to drive to town so I could get internet and blog, or watch TV. I've already gotten up early today to make Joey breakfast before work, walkdanced around the lake twice, washed the outside windows, vacuumed, taken the kids fishing, and gotten a little tanner, so zoning out to some reality TV sounded really good, but I decided to leave it up to the kids. I asked if they wanted to go to a huge playground in town where I could put up a free signal and get online. They're climbing like monkeys.


After leaving Texas we had only TWO days to go 982 miles up to Minnesota. We knew it'd be tough, especially when we only made it as far as to the Kansas turnpike the first day. The next morning we knew we'd never make it, and since we were no longer rushing to get there we got off the turnpike earlier and learned a lesson into why the turnpike is worth every penny. I was following Joey thru Kansas City and he made a last minute turn onto another busy Interstate, and I got my first glimpse of the traffic stopped directly in front of me. I'm towing a 6500 lb. deadly object behind me and I almost didn't get it stopped in time! I was so scared, and thankful the kids were in the bus. I will never curse the tollway again!

We stopped in Missouri for the night, at Wallace State Park. When we pulled in the sign said campground full but I seriously doubted it was so went on in, and it wasn't. It was full for the upcoming memorial weekend but we could stay the one night before the crowds came.

It was a nice, quiet, beautiful park, with numerous small hiking trails. Joey, Jonas, Jewel and I walked down to Skunk Hollow Lake( while Jake probably played Wii).
Which Way Do We Go?
I know I get confused easily, but they're sure not helping with this sign.

The trails were full of snails, making it at times hard to not step on them. Jonas proudly showed off his new friend...
Wallace State Park pooping snails
....and wasn't even fazed by the poop dragging across his hand.

Our quick walk to the lake slowed down to a snail's pace when Jonas and Jewel brought their friends along, and carried them like they were glasses of water.
Wallace State Park hiking trail to lake

When you can't beat 'em..... give up and wait.
Wallace State Park taking a break

Even the girl doesn't mind the poop! I want to gag.
Wallace State Park snails

Someone left behind a bag of bread along the trail, so the kids have now focused on feeding the fish.
Wallace State Park Lale

How could he not climb it?
Wallace State Park

Fun walkway thru the forest and over the muck.
Walking bridge in Wallace State Park

He's talking Joey language to me, and I'm loving it.
Wallace State Park shooting me the sign
Wait for me!

We finished the night roasting chocolate marshmallows (to die for when roasted), and watching Jewel twirl around her bubbles my mom gave all the kids before we left.
Blowing bubbles in Wallace State Park

The next morning all the kids and I went on another hike, and just after I was thinking there could be snakes out here....Jacob almost stepped on one. We watched him a while until he finally slithered away, but we never did find out what he was.

This morning I also made the decision to walk every morning. I also decided to leave all electronics off at night. I'm really appreciating the calmness without the TV's and video games, and actually getting to sleep the same day I wake up. The kids are even going to sleep sooner and we're all interacting together more.

Have I mentioned before how much I love my life?

Friday, June 6

Quick Visit Home

I'm so far behind, we've done over three thousand miles since my lost post, and you'll never guess where we ended up. I have about thirty minutes to catch up while I'm waiting for our clothes to dry......

After leaving Utah, we headed straight to my parents' house in Texas. We were able to unload a bunch of stuff that we no longer wanted to haul around, like the satellite dish, extra tools, black trash bags of clothes, two large coolers and entire rock band of instruments. We also got to party hardy with my niece for her sixth birthday! We even talked my brother into letting her stay with us the WHOLE weekend.....I don't know if Jewel could have been any happier!

We thought we'd go down to the coast for work, but after hearing horror stories of the guys getting their welding rigs stolen, and the fact that we've been north for so long, we had forgotten what 90 degrees felt like. It felt hot, really hot.

Before we headed north again, the boys practiced their archery skillz on soda cans.
Archer Jake

The real trick was doing it while hula hooping, though.
archey/hula hooping
Jonas almost had it mastered.

It was a short visit, but one of my favorites. (I wish I hadn't taken so long to post, because I know I had so much more to say about my visit. When I'm driving for ten hours I come up with the BEST posts, but when I'm sitting in a school parking lot waiting for my laundry to dry, trying to rush through a post.....this is about as good as it gets.)
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