Deep thoughts…

Was it Saturday night live that used to do a segment called deep thoughts? I think so, and vaguely remember loving it. This will be far less entertaining for sure, but nevertheless, if you want to hear mama funks deep thoughts then read on:)

Over the past couple months I have had lots of time to think, not always a good thing… haha, but, I have thought a lot about this journey we are on. I’ve thought about what it means to me and about the life lessons we are all learning. Because let’s face it; a four month vacation is a great mid life crisis but I was really going for some bigger meaning to it all. One of the biggest things I wanted was the opportunity to teach my kids things I wasnt teaching them in our middle class every day life. I have to think that this was one of the reasons this crazy scheme fell into place so easily; we have lessons to learn and to share.

Katie

My oldest child is a strong willed, confident and determined girl who is funny and charismatic. She has a serious case of big shiny syndrome and can blow through money like a pop star. I was hoping to teach her about money management as a priority but what has come up has been learning about emotions instead. (Bigger plans by the universe?)

She is a teenager and those moods have been even more pronounced inside a 40ft trailer with no where to go. The past month we have spent dozens of hours talking about emotional management and I am proud to say she is learning things that many adults have yet to grasp. We have talked about the emotional wake that each of us make as we impact those around us. She is doing a great job of this the past week in particular and seems to get it that when she mopes around or gets snippy the other three of us feel that. We have also talked about how she has control over her emotional reaction; just because something shitty happens doesnt mean you have to feel shitty. You can choose to be pissed breifly then let it go and move into problem solving mode or whatever is needed. I hope that she will carry this learning with her as she moves into her first years as an independent adult (which she is planning in detail lately).

Josh

My youngest child is an Energizer bunny, he is shy in public and doesnt stop talking at home. He does not entertain himself well and that was something we had talked about him learning on this trip… we have not succeeded so far. He is a typical child of the electronics era and struggles to use his imagination to occupy himself.

He has definately gotten a bit more mature so far though and it’s funny to see our previously shy guy run around the trailer in just his boxers. Josh is an ultra sensitive guy and I have struggled in the past with balancing not hurting his feelings while teaching him to toughen up a bit and become more confident. It’s really hard to explain in writing so I’ll trust that those who know me or who are parents understand what I mean by that! The close quarters has been good for this, we can be a bit harsher and push him to not be over sensitive because he is right there and if he is hurt we see it and can talk about it. We can challenge any negative or self deprecating statements he makes because we are intimately involved in exactly what has happened in his day. As I write this I am realizing that teaching him self confidence and how to be assertive is so much more important than how to occupy himself. If we can accomplish this or even plant seeds that will stay with him then this trip will be a success.

The Nitty Gritty

This trip has been amazing, there’s no doubt about it. The things we have gotten to do and see are awesome. I love that we will forever have family memories of so many places; from the Oregon plains to the red rocks of Utah to the sandy desert of Arizona and all that is yet to come. I am proud that we have successfully lived in 350sq ft and that we have pushed ourselves way out of our comfort zones. But, (you knew that was coming) it’s not all greener grass out here on the road and I think it’s good to share the rough stuff too. I think this lifestyle is romanticized lately with all the you tube channels and bloggers, and although seeing the huge movement of families who are “ditching suburbia” encouraged us to do it, I think it’s good to talk about both sides.

One of the hardest things for Rob and I has been the unhappiness of the kids. They both miss their friends and home lives so badly and they are not shy about letting us know they want to go home. It’s not all misery for sure; when we are out exploring they both get excited to see new stuff, but as soon as we have down time they definitely get home sick. We have spent hours talking about how to deal with this; do we push through, knowing that they are learning and experiencing, or do we head home because their attitudes are killing our fun? I know it doesnt hurt them to be unhappy and learn to appreciate the smaller things but it does certainly affect how Rob and I feel on a daily basis. I have met 2 other RVing families and both are also struggling with their older kids not enjoying the experience. One of them is even letting their oldest stay home with family for the rest of the winter cause he’s so difficult in the trailer! (Those of you who were shocked our 17 yr old was willing to do this can say “I told you so” now, lol).

The other big challenge for us has been the cost. I had done research before we left from some RV bloggers cost of living reports. Based on that we should have had enough money for 6 to 8 months… ha… not so much. We calculated our fuel bill based on what we used when Rob had a welding rig since the weight he carried is similar to the trailer, unfortunately we have gotten about half that mileage (guess we should have realised the extra drag the trailer causes). The other thing that has killed us is the exchange rate; at 72c on the dollar our money just doesnt go far down here! Double the vehicle repair bills and a few unexpected things and costs just add up. Needless to say this has forced us to reevaluate and alter our plans. Instead of pulling the trailer to all the different places we are using cheaper parks as a home base and doing more driving in just the vehicle, we are sticking to the west coast only and we are coupon clipping to keep our grocery bill down. Without a US RN liscence and appropriate visa I can’t work down here, something that I do wish I had gotten before we left so that would be an option. While we are disappointed at the expense of the trip we are also still so happy to be going home debt free that we don’t mind making changes to travel within our means. What does this mean for our trip? Well, we have decided to head back to Canada in February instead of April (kids are thrilled about that anyways). That means figuring out how to get the trailer back when the main routes are still in winter weather. We are looking at going back up the California and Oregon coast where the roads wont have snow and may end up in Chilliwack for a bit until the passes clear. I am super excited to drive up the coast anyways so it is still an exciting leg of our journey.

Despite the nitty gritty parts of this journey, I wouldn’t change it for anything. I know we were meant to do this and am glad we are. Many of you will have heard the story of what prompted me to commit to this idea, but it’s worth repeating: We knew we had to sell the house to get out of the debt we were drowning in and we had come up with this crazy idea to travel in an RV with our kids, but that would use up the remaining equity we had. We took a few weeks to decide and both talked to tons of people to get advice. One day I was working in the recovery room looking after an 87 year old lady who had broken her arm. She was the coolest person I had ever met and was one of those people you say “I want to be like that when I’m old”. At the end of my time with her I asked her for her advice and told her our options; do we reinvest, buy another house and carry on with typical Canadian family life or do we buy an RV and travel with our kids for 6 months. She looked at me and without hesitation said “pack up and go”. She advised me that by the time we get to her age we will have made and lost thousands several times over without anything to show for it, but the memories of that trip will bring us joy for the rest of our lives.

She was right.

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Lines, lines, everywhere a line…

Trooper could have changed up their song and written it about Disneyland! The lines were CRAZY! I had read a bunch of posts and forums about when to go so you avoid crowds, well apparently everyone else read those too. In actual fact lots of people I talked to did just that and we all stood in line saying “what the heck, this was supposed to be the quiet week!”

Despite the crowds, it was amazing:) I downloaded the disneyland app which was really cool, it gave up to the minute wait times at each ride so we were able to plan where to go. At my sisters advice we got fast passes for the rides we really wanted to do and then while we waited for our fast pass ride time we hit the ones with the shortest standby waits.

Some of the rides had up to 120 minute waits! No thank you!! We did lots of just wandering around checking out the architecture too. It is pretty amazing, Rob kept talking about how fun it would be to be the guys that build the sets. Mickey’s house for example with its curved walls and doorways would be a challenge and probably lots of fun for a seasoned carpenter. Everything was very well done too… he couldn’t find any crappy welds! The replicas were stunning in their acuracy.

We all had some pretty sore legs after 2 days of walking on concrete. 14km on day one and 12km on day two. The rides were amazing for sure and we couldn’t decide if our favorite was cars or guardians of the galaxy. It was awesome how each ride was also a story based on the movie. We all definitely preferred California adventure land to disneyland but that may be in part to it being our second day and being slightly less overwhelmed by it all! All in all it was a blast and I am so grateful to have gotten the chance to go fulfill a childhood dream.

Funny story about cars land; when we first moved to Lumby we were downtown one evening and found ourselves standing at the four way stop. The yellow light was blinking away and it was so dead quiet you could hear it blinking. Josh looked up and said “hey, it’s like we’re in radiator springs”… that was our joke for years about how small and quiet Lumby is. Well, we got to see the blinking light in cars land, but it was far busier than lumby ever is!

I actually didnt take many pictures. For me it seemed like one of those places that was just meant to be experienced and not spent behind a camera. I think sometimes it’s best that way; those who have been will have their own memories and those who are planning to go will have more to be surprised by. And if you can’t go; don’t dispair, it was very cool but like so many things we have found travelling the hype is almost more than the reality. Impressive yes, but the beauty of nature will always be the most awe inspiring in my books.

A palm oasis, a hot springs and going to Disneyland!!!

A few days ago we went out exploring to see if we could find hot springs. There are several hot spring resorts scattered throughout southern California and Arizona but they seem to be all very small pools that charge by the hour, not at all like the beauties we have in BC. So, armed with some google research we headed out and we were not disappointed.

The first place we went was a free hot springs on BLM land just past the sand dunes. The two pools were about 8 by 10ft and were packed, with more people pulling in to the parking lot every few minutes. Since none of us felt like snuggling with strangers we passed on the hot springs but we did spend some time wandering around the palm oasis that was right beside it.

When we were in Palm Springs we had heard of palm oasis’s but didnt go see any because they were all no dog areas. It was awesome to get to see one and see how beautiful they are. Pictures don’t do them justice at all. Snoopy had a blast checking out all the different smells and Josh spotted some fish too.

Next we headed off-road to find some natural springs. The “dirt road” was actually super soft sand, still a new driving experience for us, and we had to use 4wd once. Three miles in, we came to another palm oasis, smaller than the last… but this one was a hot springs!! Well, a warm springs to be accurate, but it was still warm water coming out of the ground in the middle of nowhere! We let Snoopy off leash, donned our suits and spent an hour soaking! 3 out of the 4 of us did at least; Rob saw a you tube video by someone who had a snake fall out of a tree at those springs and he went and told the kids about it on the way in… you couldn’t have paid Katie to go in after that!

And finally, the best for last… As I write this blog we are en route to Anaheim to go to Disneyland and Oh my gosh I am SO excited! I have wanted to go to Disneyland since I was “knee high to a grasshopper” and I can’t believe we are actually going:)

I don’t understand why, but the rest of my family is not at all as excited as I am… loosers eh? I’m pretty sure they will all love it though, how could they not, its Disneyland!

We finally got the jeep back a couple days ago and it’s running good again so we are taking it, much more comfortable and easier to drive than the truck. We are leaving the trailer in Yuma and just going to hotel it for a couple days, it would be too crazy to try and get the trailer into LA area for sure.

What an interesting drive so far; from the flat desert through some crazy mountains to the lush coast all in 4 hours. The mountains were so weird; they seemed to be just huge piles of rocks, like mother nature took a gigantic excavator and dumped piles of rocks all over the place. The coast is so lush and it’s so nice to see trees again!!

Skip forward to us at our hotel now… had to concentrate on navigating through San Diego and up into Anaheim. The traffic… oh my… 7 lanes each way and we were getting passed doing 130km/hr! Too much for us small town folk… the kids were laughing at all the noises I was making every time some crazy driver went flying by us or weaving in and out. Rob did great driving us through it all as usual, thanks babe.

Now it’s hot tub, some grub and bed. Hope I’m not too excited to sleep!

Yuma Territorial State Prison

For boxing day we went to tour the old prison in town. Built in the late 1800s this prison housed over 3000 inmates in it’s only 30 years of operation. It was recently restored as a museum and was pretty cool to check out.

It was amazing to see the 18 ft high, hand-built, adobe walls that surrounded it and to see the shockingly small and decrepit cells. Prisoners included both men and women with the youngest aged 16 and the oldest 81.

There were 6 prisoners in this little space, with only a chamber pot for restroom use. 6 days a week of manual labour and once a week bath…eww!

This prison was known for its “dark cells”; rooms dug into the hillside and reinforced with steel that had no light except a small tube coming through the center of the roof. I think this was an early version of solitary confinement.

Who knew you could be jailed for seduction in those days!

The boys pretending to be angry prisoners

There was also a museum with relics and info from the prisons days.

A family picture at the guard tower

The prison is at the edge of Yuma’s city park so we decided to check it out too, and since Snoopy had to wait in the truck while we were at the prison so he was thrilled to go for a walk. The park runs beside the Colorado river with sandy beaches along its shores, it reminded me of the east end of Okanagan lake in Penticton by the art gallery.

A train crossed the bridge as we went under it, that was pretty awesome and pretty loud. I’m not sure what the “ocean to ocean highway” sign is on the side of the vehicle bridge.

A good shot of josh:)

They are hard to see in the picture, but there are hundreds of pigeons sitting on the ledge of this bridge just waiting to crap on unsuspecting pedestrians underneath.

On the way home we drove past another lettuce harvest in progress and I got a shot of the assembly line!

An evening ride

Our neighbor at this park is an awesome guy and he has a motorcycle so he and Rob have been out riding a few times and they wanted me to join them for yesterday’s ride.

I haven’t gone riding with Rob much because I don’t want to leave the kids on their own when we are in a strange city and country but the couple times I have gone have been a blast. It’s still surreal that we are on a motorcycle in december!

The kids had some wrapping to do and a christmas movie to watch so they were fine with us going for a bit. We headed northeast out of Yuma towards the Castle Dome area and then down through a farming area and back through the foothills.

The farm land down here is unreal, literally as far as you can see there are lettuce fields and lemon orchards, with a few palm trees sprinkled in for that tropical feel!

The roads are pretty straight so definitely not the best riding we have ever done but seeing the different landscapes was awesome.

The irrigation systems in the south are all open ditches, they have several large canals that separate into small channels going to each orchard. From there they seem to have a couple systems. Some fields have the big overhead sprinkler trolleys on wheels like we have at home, some have ground level sprinklers and others just get flooded intermittently.

Probably the most impressive part of the farming we have seen is the harvesting. They have hundreds of old school buses pulling outhouses that drive workers to the fields every day. From there a moving assembly line works it’s way down the feild. There is a huge tractor pulling a series of conveyors and the lettuce goes from being hand cut all the way to boxed right there.

On the way home we rode into a fabulous sunset. Pictures don’t do it justice but I’ll try

A day trip to Los Algodones

Yuma is only 20 miles from the Mexican town of Los Algodones so one of the things we wanted to do here was walk over and check it out. Los Algodones is known for it’s cheap dental work and pharmacies so thousands of Americans and Candaians cross the border every week to access these and other services. They also have cheap vision care and tons of markets.

We crated Snoopy and headed out about 10 this morning. We parked at one of the lots at the border for $6 and walked through into another world. Right away we could hear latino music playing and smell delicious cooking, we were pretty excited. The markets line the streets and envelope the sidewalks and their merchants swoop down on you instantly. “Cheap cheap, what are you looking for today ma’m?” Thousands of purses, ponchos, carvings, jewelry, hats and more. It was overwhelming to say the least! So overwhelming I forgot to take many pictures!

We wandered around for about an hour then stopped for lunch at a taco restaurant one of the merchants had recommended. It was awesome. We had 2 street tacos each, chips and salsas to share and a pop each for $20!

I had learned some basic spanish for my camino earlier this year but found the same thing here as in Spain; I can say a few things but I can’t understand a damn thing, nor can I read anything. Spanish is so beautiful but man is it fast! I do wish I could converse in Spanish though, especially when visiting a spanish speaking country, because I do feel strongly that it’s the tourists responsibility to learn to communicate not the locals. Got my work cut out for me for the next visit.

The border crossing and the town are reported to be very safe and we definately felt that way. We saw policia on most corners but they weren’t carrying big guns and were friendly and smiling. You can’t photograph the border on the way in but this is the corridor leaving.

It was amazing to see and I think both kids learned a ton about how privileged Canadians and Americans are by seeing a third world country in person.

A desolate place from last week

Before we left the palm springs area last week we took a drive down to the salton sea to find out if the stories of this now desolate place were true.

The salton sea is one of a few inland salt water bodies and was formed over two years starting in 1905 when a levy on the Colorado rivers irrigation channel gave way and flooded a salt basin. In the 50s the salton sea was discovered by the rich and famous and became the vacation place to go.

Because it has no regular inflow this sea has slowly been shrinking due to evaporation and causing increased salt levels in the water that’s left. It is now saltier than the ocean and fish are dying. Rob had read stories of desolation in its shoreline villages with fish skeletons littering the beaches so we headed down to see for ourselves.

We weren’t able to get to the actual beaches because they were all fenced off but boy did we see the desolation in the villages. It was eerie and sad at the same time. There were still people living there but I couldn’t have described poverty better if I had tried.

There were tons of burnt homes and trailers, drugs or vandalism?

Street signs and power lines still stood and gave the outline of what the former towns had been.

This must have been a marina with boat slips and remnants of piers. You could still see the old asphalt where a parking lot was probably full many years ago.

The remaining occupied houses were mostly very run down although a few still showed signs of care with christmas decorations and gardening.

We wondered why nothing had been done to preserve the lake and after some research it looks like many years of talks by Califonia government agencies have so far only netted proposals and focus groups but no solid plan.

It was pretty humbling to see an area in the process of becoming a ghost town and the skeletons of what life must have been there.