Monday, April 30, 2012

Where do we go from here?

Well, good question and all I can say is

good thing we have 5 months to figure that out!

Our plans for this last winter were easy to decide ... our 2010/11 trip south to Arizona and California was a real dud. Everything that could go wrong did. With our parks job last summer we knew we would have some money behind us and were excited to really do some SERIOUS traveling.

Derek and I were even so bold as to be planning NEXT winters USA Tour over the winter. We had it all planned out and thus becoming option 1.

Option 1: A 2012/13 USA Tour
Having never been across the northern states this was where we would start out - first up - Yellowstone. If we left right after our parks closed for the season, on October 1st, we might still have time to enjoy some late fall weather. From there, through to the Dakotas, and on to Wisconsin to visit with a friend. Then down to south of Chicago and over to Indiana - another friend. Then over to Pennsylvania and Amish Country down to Asheville North Carolina via the Blue Ridge Parkway to visit with Curt and Debbie Crist. We will then make our way over to the Natchez Trace Parkway and follow it down getting off here and there. From Natchez it would be back over to - where else? - Texas. Spend a few months in Texas before heading back west and north to home come spring.

What a plan! And a whole bunch of new places - again!

BUT - all that driving - again!

Option 1 would sure colour in a lot more of our visited USA map.

By the time we got to our friends in Nampa in early March, Derek and I were done - and I mean DONE with RV traveling  F O R E V E R. Guess those 10,000 miles and staying in a different parking lot almost every night will do that to you.

'We are not going to do option 1, no way - no how!'

We quickly began thinking of our other options.

Option 2: New Zealand
Since our RV and driving were the problem we quickly said goodbye to them and started working on a plan to spend next winter in New Zealand. Yup - go for broke (ha ha - really it seems) and travel half way around the world. We started googling everything NZ and really started getting into the idea. We found places to rent for 6 months - maybe right by the beach we thought ? ok - well - maybe not RIGHT by the beach. We were hopeful - we don't need much! We found places for $500 a month.

We'll take public transit, since it's spring/summer we'll grow our own food. We are good at pacing ourselves on food so the expensive food prices shouldn't be a concern - righ?. We had totally convinced ourselves of New Zealand until we reached two MAJOR road blocks 1. cigarettes are $14 a pack - which would mean that a really huge portion of our monthly budget would go to them (which is nothing compared to the possibility of $100 pack by 2020 and 2. our animals - again we had convinced ourselves that we could find a temperary home for our cats and just bring Roofous with us. Hmmm - but look at the flight times - 13 hours to Hong Kong and 10 hours to New Zealand. That sure is a long time for him to be in a cage, let alone a long time for Derek to be without a smoke.

And so, our plans of New Zealand themselves quickly went up in smoke!

New Zealand - maybe one day! ha! how about to celebrate when Derek quits smoking!

Back on the road traveling back to Canada and BC gave us time to start working on option 3. We were still on the idea of no driving or RV but thought - well maybe we just won't fly SO FAR.

Option 3: Central America
South America! Let's go to South America! We'll rent a little place near the beach, a small town - large enough to have some amenities but not a BIG place with too many people. Hiking - yup - we need hiking near by. Yaaaaa! So, which country we asked each other? Dunno!

That was easy to fix - I sent off an email to Ayngelina over at Bacon Is Magic. Ayngelina is a Canadian who has spent much time - alone - traveling through South and Central America. I asked her where we should go based on our likes and dislikes. In no time at all Ayngelina responded with ideas and further questions. After a few emails back and forth, it became clear that South America probably wasn't right - we don't speak a lick of Spanish - but Central America had definite potential. Ayngelina adored Equador having spent three months there, and Nicaragua her most favourite which is close to Guatemala and Costa Rica.

Hmmmm. Ok we thought - some options there. But we still have Roofous to consider. However, Ayngelina did say she thought bringing a dog would be fine. But does she know we have a BIG dog - and a HUSKY????.

And Nicaragua? Really? I can't say it has EVER been on THE list but well better to listen to those who have been there. Just like Cambodia - who would have thought that it would be a top tourist destination?

Central America was really starting to grow on us as we were traveling through BC - it will be warm - way warmer then the USA in the winter. And cheap! We should be able to do it CHEAP!

Well, Nicaragua certainly looks like our kind of place!

But then as you know we traveled through our beloved town of Keremeos, BC. We lived in Keremeos for a year, a few years ago. It was our best year ever and hope to return to live there one day. Well, why one day - how about SOON!

Option 4: Stay Home
Of course, staying in Canada for the winter is an option - but in the last few years it hasn't been the option of choice. And with only the ownership of an RV- a cold option to be sure. If we stay home, we need to rent. Don't get me wrong - if our life was as it should be, Derek, Cassia and I would be in our own sweet little house with a flourishing garden center and landscape business in Keremeos BC or the same on - oh - 5 acres somewhere close by. But at the moment that is only a mere - distant - way off - one can only hope or win the lottery - type of dream.

But is it possible? Is it possible to find an affordable place to rent in the town we love that will accept our pets. It has happened before but can we be that lucky twice?

There are A LOT of things we love about Keremeos, visiting all the fruit and veggie stands is just one. Parsons is one of our favourites.

It everything would aline by the fall, job and housing prospects in Keremeos, there would be a good chance that we would NOT travel south next year.


So - there you have it! We'll keep you updated as the summer progresses. As for me, I'm going to try not to think about it for the next few months - who needs the added STRESS. There are other options I suppose - another is to find a resort that is closed in winter that requires security. We have heard of these types of places and were just a few days too late back in 2010 when we heard about one.

Unfortunately, option 1 may be difficult since our truck is toast. It needs a new engine - work we are not prepared to do or have the money for. To get the money for that we would have to sell the trailer - but then why have the truck if we don't have a trailer to pull. Plus - we purchased our truck prior to Cassia entering our world. It was ok when she was small but she is quickly outgrowing her little area behind our seats. (Update: actually our truck may not be toast - not sure. We took it today and the engine light went off - it idles rough but runs ok - so perhaps it was misdiagnosed in Kingman. Now we are wondering if a computer chip is the problem! sheeesh - vehicles!)

Therefore, we have decided to sell our trailer this spring. It has been a good little trailer for us but after three winters south we realize that a trailer as an RV isn't for us. So - if you know of anyone looking for a 21' Ultra lite let us know - we will post pictures and info in an upcoming post.

If we do decide to go south next fall we will purchase a small motorhome, such a chinook or a class C.

Any other suggestions?


Today's Interesting Link: Have you been to Tiny House Blog yet? It's familiarly well know - I think! I have them on my facebook and sometimes share neat little houses or similar ideas on a life made simple's fb page. The website is worth a look if you are into living small! 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cookie Sunday

Sundays here at the park are my - not work as hard as the rest of the week - days. 

Not that I don't work, but because I work a 7 day week, I find I need at least one day to take it a little more easy. It is a good choice because most campers feel that way also. 

Our check out time here at the park is 11:00 am. During the week this rule is pretty much followed by all. But come Sunday we notice that a few more campers seem to dawdle. I can't say I blame them though - most only have to drive a few hours to get home. They want to stay and enjoy the park for a few more hours and we say - go right ahead! We just ask them to please ensure that their site is clean and their tags are pulled when they leave - most are happy to comply.

Since there were no campers here at Skihist last night I decided to take the day off. (Day - not night - I still have to do my rounds tonight.)

I try to get baking done on Sundays for us to enjoy for the rest of the week. Some times this is just a dream of mine and sometimes it ACTUALLY happens.

Today was the day for COOKIES! 

Now there are cookies and there are cookies. I'm not going to say that there are not better more tastier cookies then the ones I made today and will share with you, but this one is a compromise between health and taste. In fact, this recipe is the only cookie recipe I have been making for a while now since we all enjoy them. I hope you do too!

Grainy, Seedy Cookies
(adapted from Parents Canada magazine)

Packed with the same ingredients as granola, these chewy cookies contain fibre, protein and vitamins and healthy fats from the nuts, seeds and canola oil. 

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

1/4 cup           butter, softened
1//4 cup          canola oil
1/2 cup           packed dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp.           cinnamon
1                    egg
1 tsp.             vanilla
3/4 cup          all purpose or whole wheat flour (*I use 1/4 c ww and 1/2 c all purp)
1 1/2 cups     old fashioned oats
1/2 tsp.          baking soda
1/2 tsp.          salt
1/2 - 1 cup    sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax, wheat germ, nuts (I add about 1/4         cup of each)
1/2 cup         raisins or other dried fruit (we skip these in favour of dark chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

I am sure you all know how the cookie making process goes but since I was doing it anyway I thought I would show you step by step pictures, it gives you something to look at anyway.

In a large bowl beat the butter, oil, brown sugar and cinnamon until creamy.

Beat in the egg and vanilla.

I cut up my pumpkin seeds a little. 
By the way - I buy my seeds in bulk. I used to be a bit leery of bulk bins but I have come to terms since I like to save money. Andrea from Frugally Sustainable (one of my most favourite blogs) has a great article on buying in bulk. If you sign up to her newsletter you can download it for free.

Add the flour, oats, baking soda and salt and stir until almost combined; add the seeds, nuts, fruit and chocolate and stir until just blended.

The only chocolate allowed in our house is DARK chocolate. I used to hate it but the health benefits brought me around. Now that it is the only one I eat I LOVE it. In the USA we buy Lindt or Ghirardelli which we can buy for at most $2.48 at Walmart. Here at home they are well into the $3 range so we buy the LARGE extra dark President's Choice bar from Superstore or Extra foods. On the last shopping trip they were on sale - 2 for $3.99 each!

Cut the chocolate up - who needs baking chocolate chips? not I.

Looking good!

Drop large blobs on an ungreased baking sheet (I use parchment paper) and bake for 12 - 14 minutes; until set around the edges but still soft in the middle.

Ok - so watch your cookies. I have never cooked them for more then 9 to 10 minutes - not sure if our oven is hotter or what but if I gave them the suggested time we'd be eating burnt cookies!

Ahhh the result.

Of course Cassia was waiting in the wings for the cookies to be done! The great thing about them is I don't have to worry about Cassia eating them - an easy way to get great stuff into kidlets. If that's all she'll eat for breakfast - a few of these and a smoothy - I'm ok with that.

We have a NEW little guy who found our feeder! Another great shot by Derek.

Cassia and I even had time after the cookie making for a picnic outside!

So, to know me is to know that I love cooking and baking. What I love even MORE then cooking and baking is READING about cooking and baking. One of my favourite hobbies is reading recipes - books and on the internet - it doesn't matter a bit to me that I may never make the recipe. 

However, I do try.

I guess that's why I believe that pinterest was created just for me - I have a ton of recipes already pinned! So many recipes so little time.

With that in mind, and with great optimism that I'll be cooking and baking the summer away, I have decided to make Sunday's here at the a life made simple blog - recipe day. Each Sunday I will share with you one of my favourite recipes, or perhaps even one I am trying for the first time, we can see how it turns out together!

Happy cookie baking - and eating!


Today's Interesting Link: Hmmmm, I'm not sure if I have ever linked the village of Lytton. Well if I have or I haven't - here it is. Lytton is just south of us and our go to place for emergency groceries and most importantly - the library. Boy am I glad to be back to going to the library regularly - usually once a week!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Welcome to our office!

As far as work environments go ours isn't half bad.

A ponderosa pine forest within a river canyon surrounded by fresh air and the almost constant sound of birds. The almost constant sound of a highway too but let's not dwell on that right now.

With the parks being closed for the last seven months there is A LOT of clean up to be done. We started Monday morning with a HUGE job ahead of us for the week - to make the parks as presentable as we could for opening day - TODAY!

No small task! 

There were pine cones to pick, pine needles to rake and blow or pick up, weed wacking, lawn mowing, sweeping and washrooms to clean. We carefully organized each day to do what HAD to be done this week knowing that this weekend and into next week we would finish up the fine tuning.

Derek has his jobs and I have mine and Cassia - well, she comes along for the ride and the entertainment. She generally bounces between the two of us and spends her time walking around the forest, watching us, sitting in the truck playing with her toys or watching a dvd - the Berenstain Bears is her current fav.

(Mom moment) I found the dvd at the library and was happy about that since right now the Berenstain Bears book she received as a gift, from two of our most favourite campers last summer, is the book of choice. Sometimes I sit down with her and the book and wonder to myself - how many MORE times can I actually read this without completely loosing my mind. But alas, like all other parents, I continue on because tell me, HOW can you refuse the smile it puts on your daughters face as you begin!

Due to the pine beetle, many many trees are dying in our forest. Last years count was that 2000 have been lost so far and the number is ever increasing. For the last two weeks the local forestry gang have been out chain sawing and burning the dead trees. They do this every spring and at first it looks quite bad in areas but once the Saskatoon bushes and grasses grow in it turns out ok. Some trees are downed and left while others are bucked for firewood. Unfortunately, the bucked wood is our responsibility to load into the truck and take down and across the highway.

One of the many many piles of bucked wood to be removed from the park. I can't really complain because Derek ends up doing most of this work. 

Some of the sites are left pretty messy from all this wood chopping going on. I should have taken an after picture because I did a mighty fine job of this site. 

Can't say that we are in love with our work truck - the colour being much of the problem. Oh to have a mighty fine looking truck like the Rangers or the Fish & Wildlife guys! It's looking a bit low at the back because Derek already has it half loaded with logs.

Monday we spent up the hill at Skihist - the pictures above. Tuesday we headed over to our day use area across the highway. 

Can't say we were looking forward to that! 

PINE CONES - thousands of them I am sure!

Just so you know - picking up pine cones is MUCH more difficult than you could even imagine. Spending hours bending and straightening does a major job on your hips, knees, back and neck, not to mention that sick feeling you get in your stomach. Picking that many at once can bring grown adults to their knees crying and begging for mercy. I figure it could be a very effective form of torture to acquire information - you know - they could use it in a movie! 

Only shear will to get it done and behind us gets Derek and I through it. By the afternoon we were done and Derek spent until dinner time mowing. Ahhhhh nothing like a nice mown lawn. The day use is Derek's jewel during the summer - if I am looking for him I usually know where I can find him - shining up his area.

Obviously a before picture with all those pine cones.

Hmmmm - I didn't realize I was being filmed doing what - yup - picking pine cones.

Start 'em young right!? Well, it only lasted a few minutes before Cassia moved on to something else. She hasn't quite gotten the idea that helping us helps her (get back to the cabin faster), however we did celebrate her helpfulness later with a special popsicle. We all work better with rewards!

Derek picking pine cones - you're getting the idea I'm sure.

If you are ever this way - stop in at the day use! It is very underused, it seems that many people don't realize it exists. During the heat of summer (and I mean heat - it can reach into the 40's C here at times) the picnic tables are nicely shaded by the pines. Also, there is a great view of the Thompson River and the train. Notice the amount of snow still on the very high mountains to our south.

Wednesday we spent at the entry to Skihist Park - more pine cones, raking, mowing, sweeping, painting, cleaning. Thursday was the day to head to Gold Pan, our other park 20 kms (15 miles) up the highway.

I drove so road pictures are courtesy of Derek - there and back. 

A view north of the rapidly rising Thompson River. Won't be long before all the rocks on the right are totally submerged. I'll take some pics in a few weeks to prove it.

Nice - and stinky. Left over salmon skeleton from last years salmon run.

At Gold Pan, I went around and cleaned the 14 sites and fire pits while Derek weed wacked and blew the entire campground. Needless to say I was done way before him and so Cassia and I spent the rest of the time enjoying ourselves by the river. 

Why, Derek of course, in all his armour.

Not sure what she had found - a piece of some plant I think. We did find a lot of used fishing line. Please please please - take your fishing line with you when you go!

You have to love trains and the sound of them to camp at Gold Pan. I don't think I could do it actually - a lot of trains go by here on either side of the park - day and night!

Playing in the sand again - not quite as white as the Florida sand - or as warm - but Cassia didn't seem to mind.

We moved down the beach and so did Derek - so another picture of him working while we weren't.

You can see the train tunnels in the background. 

By five o'clock Derek was done and pretty spent. With grey clouds looming and the threat of rain we headed home. It wasn't raining yet at Gold Pan, and it wasn't raining at home, but it was from one to the other. 

The road from Skihist to Gold Pan is very winding and posted speeds are constantly changing. This is an area that drops to 40 km/hour for good reason - three hairpin turns in a row. 

Another view of the mountains to the south with still quite a bit of snow on them.

By this afternoon we were pretty happy with all that we had accomplished this week. It was a lot of hard work and we are certainly feeling it physically. I don't think our muscles could feel any sorer. 

With a little fan fair and thoughts to the summer ahead, we locked  the gates open at Skihist late this afternoon. Our boss had been here and then stopped at Gold Pan this afternoon, so he opened the gates there. Although for the rest of the summer I drive to Gold Pan and back ever evening we decided to make it a family trip tonight. We were not surprised that there were no campers at GP tonight but with a warm weekend forecasted perhaps tomorrow night.

We do however have one couple camping with us here at Skihist, I feel for them because it promises to be a pretty cool night.

Our first hummingbird of the season. We get lots of hummingbirds here at the park. The feeder hangs right in front of our kitchen window so we can sit and watch them feed. I am amazed that Derek got such a great picture with our camera.

And so, that was our week and the official beginning of our five months of work here as Park Facility Operators. Although paid for 5 days on and 2 off, Derek and I actually work all 155 days or so - straight. It is a bit crazy and by the end we have just about had it with everyone and everything but it doesn't really seem right for one of us to work all the jobs for two days while the other one is here doing not much of anything. This is our third year as PFO's and we do it this way each year. 

A real commitment for sure!

As the weeks and months go forward I will continue to post pics of our 'office' and perhaps I can even post some pictures and information about some of our visitors willing to be interviewed - we get all kinds here and some with very interesting travel stories of their own.

Happy Camping!


Today's Interesting Link: Today I am going to link back to our own blog. Back in September I wrote about our jobs as PFOs in BCP and provided a list of requests on behalf of all the campground workers out there. Even Derek and I as campers, before we became PFOs, didn't realize how aggravating some of the things we did were to those who had to work the parks and clean up after us. We are always extra careful now when we are in a campground or when we leave our site.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Trip Expenses for our 2011/2012 USA Tour

The numbers are in!

Well, not JUST in, I wish they were JUST in - but no I've been sitting here for an hour or so pouring over our records, compiling all the numbers, doing the math.

Good thing too because now we know! If it wasn't for this blog I probably wouldn't have taken the time to add up all of the figures, I would have thought - well, we left with this much, and came back with this much, and so we spent about this much.

So, exactly how much did we spend?

This much.....

(Note: Expenses are for the entire 6 months, however keep in mind that for March and part of April we stayed with friends and family which amounted to a relatively small cost to us (due of course to their generosity). Since we were gone for a total of 6 months I figure the amounts should reflect that.

Food: $2,110.00  (÷ 6 months = $ 351.74 per month)  really really good because in Canada we average between $500 - $600 a month.

Restaurants: $370.27 (about 18 times out with an average of $20 per outing) really good for 2 people who LOVE to eat out but try really hard not to

Gas: $3,241.00 ($2,933.10 in the USA) I had estimated $3,000 so I was real close

Truck Repairs: $1,078.13 ($650 of this was done at our friends in Nampa before we headed further south. Much cheaper then if we had taken it to a shop) Yup, that's our truck a money guzzler!

Truck Insurance: $378.00 ($63 per month) Pretty good premium but we have mainly just liability coverage

Propane: $143.76 Cheap cheap cheap - super happy with this figure!

Camping Fees: $413.56 (28 nights in County, State or National Parks) hmmm, a little higher then I would have hoped but still not too bad - it is an average of 4.6 nights out of each month.

Personal Items: $476.78 (This includes all sorts of things for the three of us - probably made up mostly of Cassia's diapers and wipes and other items for her. Also movies we bought or toiletries.) Not bad because I know we try to keep this amount low AND know that diapers are much cheaper in the USA then Canada. Before we hit the road Cassia had cloth diapers but that just didn't work once we started to travel - unfortunately.

Pets: $271.23 ($73.00 for Roofous's shots before we left Canada - so $197.77 for food and litter for 1 large dog and 3 cats) pretty good - again pet food is wayyyy cheaper in the USA 

Medical Insurance: $784.06 ($10 million coverage for 6 months for the 3 of us) not bad - particularly if something HAD happened - right?!

Passports: $286.00 (We didn't need our passports for the USA because we have enhanced driver's licenses BUT we thought we would go to Mexico BUT didn't). well, at least we have them

Liquor: $483.05 (For micro brewery beer! Works out to about 88 cents a beer - it is about double that here in Canada for the cheap beer.) no comment :)

Cigarettes: $298.10 (Derek smokes filtered cigars (cheaper in the US than cigarettes) that is why the figure is so low because he DOES smoke a pack a day. In Canada that figure would be for 1 month instead of 6!) I know, I know - he should quit - right? - right! At least he always smokes outdoors and away from us!  ( Derek here :-) In my defense, I have tried to quit  at least 30 times over the years. I have tried every cure from cold turkey to Wellbutrin to the nicotine gum/patch to natural herbal remedies with no success (Some people take Prozac to cope with stress, I smoke, self-medication). I did make it 3 months once but it became harder instead of easier as more time passed, I am hardcore addicted and only a lobotomy would be the answer or a 6 month coma. I do enjoy smoking, it calms my over active mind, I know it is bad for my health and it costs a lot of money - SIN TAX - (especially in Canada) but I wish I had known that at 15 years of age when I first started. C'est la vie.

Electronics: $674.68 (Two big splurges back in December - a DVD player and the iPad2) we agonized over these purchases for months but glad we went ahead, we are getting a lot of use out of both.

Miscellaneous: $500.00 (Amount not accounted for - day to day things without receipts - laundry, coffee and snacks out, etc.) oh well - no sense worrying about it

Grand Total: $11,508.62 ÷ 6 months = $1,918.10

High? Low? Not sure, everyone is different. As I said it was a good trip and we didn't go without.

It seems a bit high to me but I KNOW that it would be higher if we stayed in Canada over the winter. However, it does show that living costs no matter where you are or what you do. I think we did pretty well - we are frugal - not cheap - we don't spend money frivolously (smokes and beer not withstanding - not my issue) so that we can spend our money on the things we need and really want.

Also - if I pull out just the cost of items we consumed each month - food, restaurants, truck insurance, propane, camping fees, personal items, pets, liquor, cigs, and miscellaneous the total is $5,372.29. A really good average of $895.22 per month.

Because we live on about $22,000 a year we need to keep our travel costs as low as possible The minimum wage in BC is $9.50 per hour. Our wage here is $11 per hour to be Provincial Park Managers of two parks with a lot of responsibilities and duties. Again - not a complaint - just a fact - the additional benefits of the job - like being with Cassia 24/7 and living rent free for 6 months, are the real reason why we have chosen this life.

By the way, here are a few mileage and gas facts for you:

• We (well not ME but Derek) drove a total of 17,475 kms thats 10,859 miles!

• We stopped for gas 80 times - 73 of those in the USA.

• We paid an average of $3.399 per gallon - 90¢ per liter on gas - in the USA.

• We paid an average of $1.31 per liter of gas - $4.96 per gallon of gas - in Canada.

• The lowest we paid in the USA for gas was $2.929 per gallon - 77¢ per liter in Roswell New Mexico.

• The highest we paid in the USA for gas was $3.969 per gallon - $1.05 per liter in Northport Washington (just before we entered Canada on our return).

Thanks! We DO have to thank many people for their generosity and hospitality - those that housed and fed us! Our friends - Karen and Jerry, Pastor Jerry and Barbara, Pastor Steve and Kim, Pastor Edward and Lisa, Maude, Barbara and Terry, Pastor Scott, and Pastor Curt and Debbie (and their daughter for the great 4 night stay at the Marriott!)! Plus our family once we returned to Canada.

Our trip was a great as it was because of all of you!

Thanks also to Walmart, Home Depot, Sam's Club and assorted rest areas (especially Texas - LOVE Texas rest areas) and other boondocking areas where we spent our nights.

One last trip picture that was left out of the last post - one of my favourites taken at San Augustine.

Well, I think that about wraps up all of the posts of and about our winter travels. Let me know if you have any questions about the above information or any other questions regarding our trip or the states we visited. Having traveled to the States for 3 winters now I feel like we have A TON of info to share - where to go - where not to go - you know - that kind of stuff.

And thanks to all of you for sharing this trip with us - particularly to our loyal and faithful commentors - Trent and Teresa, BlackSheep, Kevin and Ruth, George and Suzie, The Good Luck Duck and more recently Rob, Richard and Clara.



Today's Interesting Link: I have a new favourite parenting blog - Janet Lansbury Elevating Child Care. As with all the other links I post I haven't had a whole lot of time to read through the site and so I can't say that I agree with all of it. However, I have read many posts that have helped me and ring so true. It is worth a look for all of you with small children in your lives.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Thoughts on our 2011/2012 USA Tour

Cassia and I arriving at the cabin last week - with Derek arriving ahead of us by a few days - marked the end of our traveling and the official end of our 2011/2012 USA (and parts of BC) Tour.

We were in the USA for a total of 5 months and 5 days and 'on the road' exactly 6 months - we pulled out of Skihist October 13th, 2011 and arrived back here on April 13, 2012.

It was quite the trip indeed!

So, if you are up for it - I sure am! lets spend this post looking back and reminiscing a bit - we saw some great places and met some great people. It's crazy I know, but even now it seems so long ago that we were

... riding the train at Landa Park, 

... running on the beach at Siesta Key, 

... looking at the alligators at the Everglades or 

... eating some really great seafood in Louisiana.

I'm also going to let you in on our favourite places and days and even our OOPS! moments.

Let's get started!

First off - for all of you who have stumbled onto our blog recently and haven't gone back to the beginning I'll list off our route by State accompanied by some of our favourite pictures.


Our first stop was near the Chief Joseph Dam.

Our first day on the road in the USA - little does Cassia know how much time she will be spending in her car seat. She is and was a GREAT traveler throughout the whole trip.


We spent the night at the Baker City Visitor's Center just off the Interstate. Not an official boondocking spot but no one ran us out and we had wifi for the evening. The next morning we strolled around the historic area of Baker City. Worth a stop if you are going by.


Our first destination was a visit to our friends in Nampa. We stop each spring and fall as we go by. On a beautiful warm fall day we followed them to the Birds of Prey area.

Our great friends K and J on their Vulcan. Nice....


We only stayed in the Moab area for a few days (as opposed to the planned two weeks) as the cold winter winds were already biting at our heals in late October. Thankfully we had a warm day while touring Arches National Park.

Arches National Park is a bucket list kind of place.


We were happy to drive through Monument Valley for the first time.

Canyon de Chelly. A National Park worth visiting. We enjoyed free camping at the Cottonwood campground, our first (and last) Navajo Taco on our trip and a fairly strenuous hike down to these ruins.

New Mexico

A highlight for Cassia - and Derek - a visit to Smokey Bear's grave site. Cassia still talks about Smokey Bear - I don't think she will ever forget this memory.

The Roswell UFO Museum and Research Center. We won't talk about how well Derek blends in....LOL.


We spent a wonderful few hours in Fredricksburg and lunch here at Hondo's. Great food and a great gospel band on this Sunday afternoon.

A train ride at the wonderful Landa Park. We visited it several times while in New Braunfels.

Great teaching and hospitality from Pastor Jerry Lockhart, here with his wife Barbara from the Berean Bible Church. Rightly Dividing the Word.

A super campground at San Augustine called Mission Delores Visitor Center and RV Park. We ended up staying for a week because it was so lovely. The free wifi didn't hurt either.


Our first trip to Louisiana began with a stop in Natchitoches just before their annual Christmas Festival. We enjoyed the music and lights and of course the famous meat pies from Lasyones.

Just east of Nachidoches we stopped for a few days of camping at the Gum Springs campground in the Kisatchies National Forest. The price was right for $3 per night. We had the entire campground to ourselves for the two nights we were there.

A lot of firsts on this trip. Our first time at the Mississippi River. This picture was taken by the friendly visitor center lady in Vidalia.


Just across the Mississippi River we spent a few days touring the beautiful city of Natchez. We highly recommend touring the historic area of  Natchez - and not just visiting the Walmart! We boondocked for two nights at the Natchez Welcome Center. We wrote and asked for permission ahead of time with no trouble at all so you could probably consider it an official boondocking spot.

After all that walking we were happy to sample a fine cup of coffee.


How could we not stop at the boyhood home of Hank Williams Sr. in Georgiana. Not only is the house there but the most friendly people anywhere live in this town also. We met several residents on our tour of the downtown as we waited for the museum to open. We met a few more up the highway at Priester's Pecans that recognized us as the 'people with the big husky' walking around their town.

We met up with Pastor Jerry in Montgomery at the book of Acts seminar at Pastor Steve Gotberg's Grace Bible Church.  We spent a week parked behind the church and truly enjoyed fellowshipping with Steve, his wife Kim (both above) and the congregation.


We found THE BEST PIZZA in the whole world at Moonspin Pizza in Thomasville. Strolling the downtown and historic area of Thomasville was a highlight of our trip for sure!

We spent a few wonderful days in Valdosta visiting with Pastor Edward Louis - his wife Lisa and daughter Imani and the congregation of the Grace Fellowship Bible Church.


Ahhh Micanopy. We TOTALLY fell in love with the town of Micanopy. 

What is one of the first things you do in Florida? Stop by a fruit stand for oranges. This was one of the best family owned stands - Sparkman's -  that we found and a true example of 'old Florida'. 

And the second thing you do? Head to the beach! We found some great beaches around Sarasota. The weather around Christmas time was just perfect for beach bumming.

We all know that Florida has oranges - but strawberries? Yup - the area around Plant City is where they are grown. We visited the Strawberry Palace shown above just south of Plant City a total of 3 times!

Our timing was perfect to meet up with Pastor Curt Crist and his wife Debbie from Ashville North Carolina. We sat in on a wonderful bible study in Plant City.

An early morning walk in Apalachicola - another town we loved.


We didn't stop during our second time through Alabama. The weather wasn't great and in fact pouring very hard as we drove through Mobile.


We spent the day driving from one side of Mississippi to the other along the coast. We stopped briefly across the street from the Biloxi Visitor's Center. We were shocked to see all of the damage done to this area by the past hurricanes.

Going back over the Mississippi River as we drove through Baton Rouge.


Lake Fausse Pointe State Park. Our favourite state park visit of the whole trip. In fact, our 24 hour stay here was my favourite 24 hours of the whole trip. The day and evening were warm, we could hear nothing but the frogs and free laundry and wifi to boot.

Our seafoond dinner at Shucks in Abbeville will long be remembered as one of the best meals of our lives. Renee - our server and the manager of Shucks - could not have treated us any better. 

Shrimp etoufee - THE best thing that I have EVER eaten! EVER!

My favourite moment in time during the entire trip - also my most favourite photo. There were a string of photos of Cassia and Derek dancing which I love - this picture I like the best. This was at the Spoetzi Brewery in Shiner - home of Shiner beer.

Cassia meeting her first long horn steer, VERY close and personal.

Cassia and I playing in the backyard of Pastor Jerry's - our return trip to New Braunfels at the end of January.

As we are leaving Texas on the west side near El Paso. So long fine state of Texas - see you again sometime.

New Mexico

The Pink Store in Palamos Mexico - our only trip into Mexico this year.

Pancho Villa State Park where we have camped twice now. A great park and easy access to Mexico.


Fellow Canadians, travelers and bloggers - we were thrilled to meet and dine with Trent and Teresa for the afternoon just west of Tucson - after following their blog since October 2011.

Spending some time in the Arizona desert. We were thrilled to find the Buckeye Hills Rec Area just west of Phoenix - a free campsite.


Traveling home through Nevada's east side.


Our return visit to our friends in Nampa. Two little girls playing with many many stuffed animals.


Descending into the Pendleton, Oregon area.


So nice to see so much green grass on our way home through the Walla Walla area.

We didn't spend much time there but we loved the town of Dayton and Woody's Pub and Grill. 

We had a really great breakfast at the Cowboy Cafe in Davenport - our last meal in the USA this trip.

British Columbia - HOME!

Our greeting as we entered Canada and our home province of BC.


It sure was hard to pick just a few pictures from the 4,000. 

We would be the first to admit that we probably took on a little too much for this trip. Derek and I are fairly restless and always happy to move on and see new things - but even we were starting to get tired of seeing new. 

Ok so - what did we think of it all?

Our first oops! moment:

Well, I can't say that there was much we didn't like although if you have been following along with us you will know that the single most disappointment of the whole trip and our largest - oops! moment was our 12 hour ordeal of getting down to Key West and back again. 

Our fault really for heading down between Christmas and New Years without a reservation for camping. To top that off we got to Key West in the dark and tried to maneuver through it's narrow streets with the truck and trailer.

That was pretty dumb!

Our second oops! moment: 

Not really OUR oops! moment - I take no responsibility for our trip down Kingman Wash in Arizona. Solely Derek's oops! moment. Thankfully he also got us back out again no worse for wear. I have to say I seriously began to doubt his ability to think clearly on this one!

Nough' said - right? right!

Ok - now that I think about it that comment was a bit harsh - for the record I was questioning MY ability to think clearly when I had us take route 191 in Utah which you can read about here.

What we think of Florida - now that we've been there:

We like it just fine thanks. Of course everyone has an opinion about visiting Florida during the winter season and it all seems to be true. It is busy and it is expensive. However, we found some really wonderful spots (like the Everglades) that would encourage us to visit again. It is always nice to visit a place and then go back knowing where you want to go and where you don't. 

Too bad it is just so darn far away from here!

Our favourite beach in Florida.

We were huge fans of the Sarasota area for the beaches. The public beach on Anna Maria Island and just south of there were the best - we also liked Siesta Key beaches. 

Coquina Beach was hands down our most favourite!

Our favourite State in the USA:

LOL as if that isn't obvious!  After all the travels we still love Texas the best. Now, don't get me wrong - I could come up with quite a list of great things about each of the states that we visited - it isn't that we don't like the OTHER states. But for us, Texas is comfortable - we like the climate, the landscape (particularly around Hill Country), we like the food and we like the people. 

We just like Texas best.

Well, that's it for me and this post! I am all but tapped out between loading all the pictures and scouring my brain for our favourite moments. The 5 months and 5 days were just so crammed full of great things I may as well just say

We had a great trip!

Next post:
You may want to check in to the next post where I will let you in on how much this trip actually cost us! I think I will be ok with it - I think we did well and the fact that we still had a few dollars left in our pockets when we got home made it even better.

On another note - I hope to get all of this trip stuff posted soon. I feel like I am living in the past and you are not up to speed on our life now - I feel like I've left you behind.

Well - to get you up to date quickly - Derek and I are VERY busy getting our two parks cleaned up for opening day this Friday. We are VERY VERY sore from all of the physical activity - picking pine cones (thousands I bet), raking, sweeping, weed wacking, mowing and the list goes on. I have been taking pictures and will post about them soon. 

AND! Before I forget - we have found our Camp Hosts for the summer and they are arriving at Skihist on Monday.

Let the camping season begin!

Soon I'll also be posting on what our plans are for next winter! and the plans I have for this blog ( I know, I know I keep hinting at that - sheesh).

Thanks for visiting!


Today's Interesting Link: I thought I would add to the publicity that Boondockers Welcome seems to be getting these days on fb. I haven't really had a chance to take a look around but it seems to be a good idea and good resource - coachsurfing RV style.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...