The Pony Express Adventure

By Hershey—

Well not exactly. We can’t go back in time, but we can go to Pasyon.  I, Hershey, along with Marshmallow, & Mama, were on our way out to Payson on a field trip. We were going to see the Hashknife pony express (who rides through AZ delivering mail) by ourselves.  We had previously mailed some letters  delivered by Hashknife, (for some of the way) to our friends.  We were going to go see them ride on the 8th and 9th of February, and then come back home on the 10th in time for on of my activities.

Anyway when we reached Payson, (finally) we drove to Walmart for a basketball.  Then we drove to the RV lot that dad wanted us to stay at. I was more than thrilled that we were staying at a lot in the middle of Payson, mom however wasn’t.  Marshmallow and I are (still) learning to like the big wide world outside, but we are starting to get the hang of it.  We decided we would go play in the basketball court.  So we started putting some air in the basketball, or not.  Our needle for our pump got stuck in the ball.  So after we got a basketball from the camp ground lobby we went down to play.  My basketball coach was Marshmallow, who coached me on how to shoot, (though he wouldn’t).  I eventually tricked him into shooting one.  I shot, some baskets, and sandkets, (balls i shot that landed in the sand) and some streamkets (same thing as above just with a stream).  Then we saw a potbelly pig on a leash then we went inside the RV after we returned the basketball.  That night we got some sleep (after our new noisy neighbors quieted down).

The next day the 9th (I think) we headed off to Heber as we drove up we saw some snow! Marshmallow and I were excited to see something we usually don’t see as it doesn’t snow in the valley.  When we reached Heber we stopped at a gas station.  We played snowball fight after we asked the shop owner 2 times if the pony express rode through this spot.  We headed up the hill near by.  Then we saw our first rider!

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Our 1st rider!

If you have never seen a pony express rider this is very exciting.  We watched him go down the road, and then followed him.  Somewhere along the way we stopped to see the riders while they stopped by the side of the road.

We got two autographs before they left, and then we explored the antique store right next door.  Marshmallow got a hand mixer, and a train alarm clock, and I got a horse ceiling fan pull (that’s not antique).  But that doesn’t matter.

Anyway, we drove down to Payson again and we took some pictures of some more riders.  I got mostly pictures of Marshmallows head, Mom’s hand, and blurs.  So we could get a picture of the mail getting passed we stopped off by an intersection with a Hashknife symbol in the snow. 

Marshmallow got his foot stuck in the snow a lot, Mom slipped, and I just got my feet to unfortunately sink in the snow.  Since the riders unfortunately went the way we didn’t we headed back to Payson.  After dinner at Pizza Hut we went to the post office.  We played bull fight, colored paper hats, and I got my face painted.

Then we saw what we had been waiting for, the riders and their horses came parading in.  Then Marshmallow and I ran to go see the riders up close. It turned out Mom realized that the idea of sending us out to see them before her, wasn’t the best idea ever,  but she found us anyway.

Anyway then we lined up to get autographs.  Just to let you know never leave a girl with face paint alone with cowboys.  One particular cowboy left a note, I just thought his name was that long but it said.  Hey (Hershey), you’re looking pretty.  It was strange, but I got one funny note for show without the tell.

We headed back to the RV lot then played some more on the playground. Then we went back to the camper.  Then we went to sleep, the next morning we saw how the alarm clock works during breakfast.  After we played on the playground one last time, and loaded up, then we went home.  On the way we saw the mail get passed, and I got quite a few decent pictures.

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The end

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Double Header Weekend

No, not baseball!!!   What are you thinking?  We are talking about the Graham Crackers here.  We are geeks, maybe even borderline nerdy…  We are talking about trains in this post.  Steam trains to be exact…

I don’t know if you are aware of this or not, just over a 100 years ago on August 26, 1916 the United States National Parks were established to help preserve our nation’s natural and cultural treasures.  As part of the centennial celebration of the National Park system the folks at the Grand Canyon Railway (GCR) decided to roll out one of their recently restored steam engines and for the week of the 26th, they hooked both their steam engines together and ran what they call a double header, where both engines are used to pull the train.   A pair of steam engines forming a double header is a pretty rare event these days and it was the first time it has ever happened on the Grand Canyon Railway.   It was a pretty awesome experience.

I can’t find a lot of history of these engines, just when the GCR pulled them from service and put them back in.   But here are a few facts that I could find.  After having spent several years on static display engine 4960 went through overhaul and was put back into service in 1996.  It cost $1.5 million to restore the engine and took 80,000 man hours to complete the overhaul.  In 2004, engine 29 was restored at a cost of $1 million and 26,000 man hours.  Both engines were then retired in 2008 and the GCR switched to all diesel engines.  However, the GCR soon learned that people ride that train for the nostalgia and in 2009 #4960 was put back into service to run on the weekends during the summer and for other special events.  #29 was just recently put back into service and as I said above, for the first time ever they made a run together up to the Canyon and we got to be a part of it.

Now on with the story…

Trip North

Mama and I woke up early Friday morning and got the last minute essentials packed into the camper.  It had rained during the night so it was cool and quiet outside and there were still clouds hanging out as the sun began to peek up over the horizon.  The children rose on their own and were excited to get going.  Which meant we were able to pull out around 6 am.

Traffic it wasn’t bad as we wound our way through the city to head north.  Light rain showers crossed our path here and there.  Mama and I both commented on how much the valley has grown.  We both remember when Greenway and Union Hills were pretty much the northern limits of Phoenix.  Now there are houses pretty much all the way to Black Canyon.  It is amazing how much things have changed.  Our drive north to Flagstaff was largely quite and uneventful.  We pulled over at the rest stop at Sunset point to make use of the facilities and let the children checkout the views, then it was back on the road.  It took us about 3 1/2 hours to make it to Flagstaff.

We headed west out of Flag on I-40 and pulled over at a Pilot truck stop to get some fuel and to feed the boy, he was hungry, road trips seem to make him hungry, he eats constantly the whole time he is in the car.  While fueling I happened to notice that this truck stop had weight scales and I really wanted to know just how close we are to the max. gross vehicle weight.  So, as Marshmallow was scarfing his Subway sandwich we made our way over to the scales.  Trying to reach the call button was rather entertaining, apparently not to many people other than semi-trucks ever use the scales. Turns out, we have about 500 lbs of margin when we are fully loaded with fuel, water, supplies, and people.

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Definitely not made for regular vehicles

Bearizona

From there is was a short 2o minute drive over to Williams and our first stop, Bearizona.  Can I just say now, Bearizona is pretty cool, definitely a must see if you are ever passing through the area.  To be honest I wasn’t too sure about this place going in.  Especially when I saw the Jumbo-Tron billboard on the side of the highway, it scream over priced, rip-off city.  But after having been there, they changed my mind it is definitely worth the time and money.

Mama had called ahead to make sure they would let us drive through with our camper.  As we pulled up to the entrance to pay a kind lady came out and checked our camper to make sure we didn’t have any bikes hanging off the back or anything else that might entice an overly inquisitive wolf or bear.  She gave us the thumbs up, we got the spiel on the rules, paid, and were on our way.   We took a mini pit-stop before hitting the drive through encounter so that we could grab the cameras from the back, double check that the child safety locks were engaged, the doors were locked, and the rear windows controls were locked out so the little ones couldn’t accidentally let any of them there friendly critters in to say, “Hi”.

One of the cool things about Bearizona is that they have a 3 mile encounter, where you drive through in your car and get to see the animals out in their habitat.  We started out with some Rocky Mountain Goats and some Dall Sheep.  I would have never thunk it, but white sheep in a pine forest can be amazingly hard to find.  We weren’t able to find any of the sheep on our first pass through the loop.  The sheep were followed by the elk and mule deer, thanks to the Bearizona tour bus handing out treats in front of us, the elk and deer were a little easier to find.  By this point Hershey and Marshmallow had their seat belts undone.  Hershey was in back snapping pictures, screaming hold on Dad and Marshmallow had moved up front and was bouncing between my lap and Mama’s like he had ants in his pants.  They were rather excited…  Some of the elk were came over to the truck and walked beside us as we drove through their exhibit.  The American Burros were eating their breakfast and paid us no never mind.

Then we were on to our first predator exhibit, some Alaskan Tundra Wolves, these guys and their cousins the Arctic wolves were mostly just relaxing watching the the food laden vehicles roll by.  Fortunately, these guys seemed well fed and just laid in the tall grass looking like big puppy dogs.  The bears on the other hand reminded me more of Yoggie Bear and seemed to have other plans.

We saw the junior  bears first.   These guys are about 1 to 3 years old.  They were pretty active and we lumbering about and watching the humans in their mobile enclosures.  They seemed to enjoy watching and studying us.  It was clear that they were a lot smarted than they let on.   I saw their noses twitching and trading knowing looks between each other as we rolled through their exhibit.  Fortunately a friendly ranger sat on top of the hill in her jeep watching to make sure that we silly humans did get into trouble.   Every few minutes she would zoom off in her little jeep, to encourage someone who was slowing down to much or had stop, to get their car moving again before a young cub could come over and alleviate them of a car door and some snacks that they had inside their car.   I am sure if the ranger wasn’t watching closely, they would easily grab some food from us humans and have themselves a nice picnic.

Bearizona features animals from all over the United States, not just the bears.   So we were very excited as we left the junior bears and made our way over to the Bison area.  Because the bison are not predators they are able to share their exhibit with another little critter.  Marshmallow was the first to spot this quick and elusive creature and he veritably jumped through the roof of the truck!   He quickly grabbed the camera and was able to capture a shot of before the animal darted back into hiding.   He of course had captured a picture of the the extremely rare and endangered American House Fly!  She had set down on our  mirror for a fleeting second before flying back off.

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Great American House Fly

We did eventually make it to the White Bison.  I am curious about these beasts.  There was no information on them, but when I researched White Bison it says they only occur in about 1 every 10 million births naturally.  Yet these guys have a whole heard, so either they bread them that way or they have been mixed with cattle, which is the other way you can end up with a White Bison.   Either way they were very pretty.   The bull was big and brown and very clearly in charge.  He stood on the road and kept a very close eye on us.  When we made our second pass through, the heard had moved from the field off into the woods to lie down and that bull was still standing out front keeping watch over things.

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Our camper seemed to have some stability issues at times 🙂

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Next up were some American Bison and some Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep.  Man those sheep!  I don’t think I could hang from some of rock faces they stand on with ease.

The last stop on our trail was the black bear exhibit.  These guys were bigger and lazier.  They were mostly just slumped over a stump or a rock watching us or snoozing.   We could see a few guys moving off in the distance.   Black bears aren’t always black, their fur can be brown as well and we got to see a good mix of colors.  We even saw one guy sitting on his bottom like a person would rubbing his belly.   I wonder what or who he just ate?  Maybe it was a ranger, we didn’t see any rangers in this habitat.   🙂

As we were driving through the loop some rain showers had moved in and it was drizzling on and off.  We decided to brave the rain walk through the walk through portion of Bearizona.  We just missed the start of the birds of prey show.  Because the birds fly through the crowd we were not allowed in after the show started, but we were able to see pretty good from out on the walkway.   We saw an owl named George who was running for president, as well as a really tiny kestrel falcon.  We got to see a cute pair of cubs rolling around and wrestling in the grass.   A whole bunch of adolescent bears, as one of the rangers said, these guys are just learning how to get along with other bears and make their beds, and take care of themselves.   We also saw some ring tails, some fox and badgers, bob cat, and porcupines.  Far and away the biggest hit with the children were the river otters.   We got to their enclosure at feeding time and the children got to help throw fish over the wall to the otters who were anxiously waiting.

About the time we were finishing up with the otters, the skies decided to open up and dump on us.  So we made a run for the gift shop and hung out there while it rained.   They have a very large gift ship with a cool model railroad layout based on northern Arizona.  Once the rain showers let up, we went and saw the black jaguar playing with his big blue yoga ball.  We then decided it was time to have lunch so we headed back out to the camper and made sandwiches for lunch.  Can I just say I really like that feature of our camper, we take our kitchen with us where ever we go.  When you have to hyper-picky little people, it really just takes the stress out of life to know that we don’t have to go searching for a place to eat.  We can eat what we want, when we want, where we want.

We made one pass through the drive through encounter before heading out.   Apparently the junior bears, remembered us and had a plan for us this time around.  We Graham Crackers aren’t the only ones in the world who appreciate have a their very own kitchen on wheels.  I am not sure that Mama, or the children noticed, but the bears tried to ambush us just as we were getting ready to leave their exhibit.  I must say, they were really very sly about the whole thing.   As we approached the end of their exhibit, 4 bears were walking along the left side of the road in a line.  As they were walking they slowly drifted into the road.  I knew something was up when I saw out of the corner of the mirror the last bear peel off and head to the back of the camper.  Right about that time, the lead bear also cut to the right, just in front of the truck.  If you remember, I said that they had been slowly drifting to the center of the road, so they had already pushed us up against the left side of the road.  Fortunately for us, we were at the gate and the road widen just a bit here it appeared that Bearizona had recently cleared some trees or shrubs near the gate.  So we went off road a little and squeezed around the lead bear.  I looked in the mirror once again, as we made it through the gate and were driving away and I could see the bears staring at us and wondering how their lunch got away.

I had insisted that there were no cameras out on our second pass through the loop.  I wanted to make sure everybody was enjoying things with their eyeballs and not fussing with cameras.  So unfortunately, we didn’t get any pictures of the event.  Perhaps, the bears had planned that as well?  No evidence…  Who knows?   We had fun…  It was getting to be mid-afternoon and it was time to go find our campground and get our tickets for our train ride up north.

Grand Canyon Motel and RV Park

Now some time ago, long before we got our camper, Mama and Marshmallow were dreaming about taking a train ride up in Williams.  While Mama was researching she found this little campground called the Grand Canyon Motel and RV Park.   The cool thing about this campground is that they have some train cars on their property that you can stay in.  Specifically, Mama was eyeballing an old Santa Fe caboose that had been remodeled as a hotel room.   So despite having our new camper, we decided that we would spend a night in the caboose, because we thought it would be really cool.

Williams is a pretty small town and it only took us about 10 minutes to make it over to the campground.  It was cool, breezy, and the rain was still threatening to let loose again, so we hurriedly checked-in and unloaded the things that we would need for the night.  I ended up having to park our truck out by the main guest parking lot because the grade was to steep by the caboose to level off our camper (the fridge has to be kept level).  While the weather was still clear the children and I played.  We pretended our caboose was a pirate ship and I was trying to sneak aboard and take over their ship.  The children eventually tired of that and took to pretending they were the Boxcar Children (a book series they had read).  Mama and I took that time to enjoy sitting out on the patio.   After a bit we decided it was time to go to town and get our train tickets and find a bite to eat.

Before we pulled out though we took a minute to grab a few pictures.  I have to say, between a picture I took of Hershey sitting on the coupler and another that I would take the next day up at the Grand Canyon, I noticed that my little girl isn’t so little any more.  She is turning into a young lady.  Where does the time go???

We made it over to the Williams Train Depot in just a hop skip and a jump.  Honestly we could have probably walked just as fast, except the children might have froze.  The children are Arizona desert natives and aren’t use to anything below 70°F; there is a good possibility that they could have froze on the walk.  The Depot was quiet, so Mama and I decided to take advantage of this and let the children do their gift shopping.   Since our train ride the next morning was a historical one we figured the store would be packed tomorrow.  They both got Grand Canyon railway pins to go on their engineer’s caps and they got some books.  I got Marshmallow his first pocket knife.  It is a swiss-army style knife with wood handles.   A picture of the railway and his name are etched into the side.  Hershey and Mama really wanted some fresh fudge, but we were not able to locate any (note: we were blind, more on that later).  But, I thought that I remembered a fudge shop located in the basement of the Bright Angel Lodge, so we decided we would wait until tomorrow and that it would be a nice snack for on our ride back to Williams.

We checked out the menus for both of the restaurants on site and decided that while they looked good, they were a little upscale for our little ones and it wasn’t likely they would eat anything on the menu.  So we hopped back in the camper and found ourselves a Jack-In-The-Box.   High end dining right there I tell-ya.  When we arrived the only other people there was a Russian family.  They left, and as we finished up and were getting ready to leave a French family came in.  I am not sure why I included that detail, but there it is…Cannot wait till we are in our camping spot tomorrow and can enjoy our little kitchen.

We made it back to our caboose just in time, as the skies once again opened up.  It rained throughout the night, with the occasional set of thunder boomers rolling through.  I wish they would have left the pot-belly stove in the caboose, then it would have been the most perfect evening.   But as it was, we had a great night.   In the back of the caboose where the cupola is, there is a queen-sized bunk bed.  We climbed up to the top bunk and looked through the book the owners had put together on the history of their train cars and just relaxed for a while.   Then it was time for bed.   Marshmallow and I took the bottom bunk and Mama and Hershey took the bed out in the main room.  The children fell asleep quickly.  The thunder and police lights kept Mama and I up.   Early in the night there was a traffic stop out on the main road and the lights shown in through our windows.   Later in the evening the police lights were back again, lots of lights this time and people moving around over by the office.   We kept an eye on things, but decided it was best to just stay inside.   We found out in the morning, that a driver under the influence missed the turn and hit the old antique fire-truck that was parked out in front of the campground.  It in turn rolled down the hill through the parking lot where our camper was parked.  Fortunately nobody’s vehicle got damaged.  It sound like the driver of the car that was in the accident walked away pretty much in one shape as well.

We got up early the next morning and moved our stuff back into the camper, then headed off to the train depot.  We arrived early, and surprisingly the parking lot was pretty empty.  I knew things were going to fill up though so I looked around for a spot where our rig would be out of the way and would be relatively easy for us to pull out from.  At 25 feet long, we take up a parking stop and a half, so finding a pull through spot is always ideal.  We ended up parking by the old west town where they do a western show before the train leaves.  The cowboys were on the scene about the same time we were and they peered out the windows like I was wondering if the rain was going to let up, as it was still raining lightly.  The children bounced around in the back seat with excitement while we waited.  Eventually the rain did take a break and we decided it was time to get out and explore things.  We walked along the depot and talked with some other train fans that were starting to show up.  As it got time we headed back towards the old west town to find ourselves a seat.

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Checking out the train depot as we wait for the wild west show

Wild West Show

We had to grab some paper towels to dry our seats.  While we were waiting for the show to start one of the cowboys came over and chatted with us.  He was a really nice guy for an outlaw.

Sidebar:  So this cowboy was sizing me up.  No, really he was…  So let me explain.  I am a geek, on a good day I have no fashion sense to speak of.   But at this moment, I am on vacation.  I am originally from a cold place, so unlike my family and most of the other people at the show, I think the weather, despite being wet, is rather nice.  I am wearing shorts; I have on one of my favorite Star-Wars Millennium Falcon t-shirts on; I have a rain jacket on with my wide brimmed floppy bush hat (I wear glasses and I hate water running down my back, and I hate hoods, so this hat handily solves all my water redirection problems); I have my camera bag on, AND I have a backpack to carry all of the families stuff…  So sitting there, I am straight up geek.  I know what he is up to.  And I don’t like it one bit…

Shortly there after the show got started.   Set in an old west town of course.   We open with some brothers and their father looking for Mama.  Turns out she was working the saloon last night and got locked up.   So they decide they need to raise some money for bail, but more urgently they were hungry and had no cook with mama in jail so they wanted to head to McDonald’s (who knew they had McDonald’s in the old days).  As they were discussing this plan to get their Mama out of jail, they end up shooting one of the brothers on the account that he was being a little annoying.

Now, since they are short on cash and don’t want to heist the bank (I don’t remember why), they decide to play some cards.   They survey the crowd looking for somebody they can swindle. Guess who they pick?  Yep, Me…  That fella who was sizing me up earlier, he comes over and asks if I would be willing to play some cards.  Tells me to take my man purse with me.  Mama is laughing her bottom off about this point, not sure how she stayed on the bench seat.  They make sure to pose with me and left Mama take one last picture before I get pulled into the game.

Since it doesn’t look like I have played cards much, they assign one of the brothers to teach me.  We are playing poker.   They deal out some cards and I take a look, the brother that is with me isn’t happy so he pulls out another hand from his hat.

So I am looking at this hand and thinking my partner might not be the best cheater in the world.  I have a pair and five aces!  Now I don’t play poker often, but I am thinking I have a problem here and my “good buddy” is about to get me plugged.

We of course beat the other cowboy holding 3 aces!   Things start to get a little heated at this point but fortunately the sheriff shows up about that time to investigate the shootin.

One of the cowboys who is friendly with the sheriff, starts splain’ the whole thing.  Suddenly, I was the one who shot the one cowboy dead and I was cheatin’ at cards!  I tried to say something, but the sheriff told me to be quiet and he would get the whole thing cleared up.   I am feeling like this whole thing is a setup and the sheriff is on the wrong side of the law…   The cowboy who is friendly with the sheriff is still pacing back and forth.  SPLAIN’ the whole situation.   He asked me to help him with the math to help figure out who is cheatin’….”we had 5 aces, and he had 2 aces and he looks to me and says…how many was that…”  8 aces I reply.   That draws a laugh because 5+2 should be 7 aces and he goes “no wonder why we lost you ain’t so good on math”.   BUT I was like wait a minute, there were 8 aces– Last time I checked 5 + 3 = 8.   It’s not my fault that he can’t count cards.

Once the splain’ was over with, the sheriff said that he could hardly believe a word of that cowboy, on account of the fact of the way I was dressed.   Where exactly was I hiding that sawed off shotgun that the cowboy had mentioned?  In my man purse?  Besides, according to the sheriff, it was obvious I didn’t even know how to use a gun.  “His pants are too short and his shoes don’t go with his purse”  and with that the sheriff ended up releasing me back to my seat.  From there on things only got more contentious between the cowboys in the sheriff.  One of the cowboys tried to make a move on the sheriff and the sheriff shot him right there on the spot.  Some lady in the back row missed the “shot” with her camera.   But the dead cowboy was mighty kind.  He stood back up and got shot again just for her.  But this time he went down face first into some fresh road apples (horse poop).  …Shudder…  Things broke out in to a full on shootout at that point.   The sheriff was a crack shot and he took down the remaining cowboys with ease.  About this time we heard a train sneaking into the station behind us.   We had just enough time to grab a few pictures with the cowboys before we had to go find our car and get boarded.

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Double Header to the Grand Canyon

We got boarded quickly.  Mama and I elected for the cheap seats, not because they were cheap, but because they were more authentic.  We elected to sit in the old Pullman car.  We were able to flip one of our seats around so that we could face each other.  It was a little cramped, but we all fit in and before you knew it we were pulling out of the station.

Now did mention, or rather, after 4700 words, do you remember?   This train is a special train.  It is the first time the Grand Canyon Railway has featured a double header, two steam engines, no diesel engines!   This train ride also marks the centennial of the US National Park system.  That being said, our train is pretty much packed with train enthusiasts and as we will see later in our journey, the railway itself is lined with enthusiasts all the way to the Grand Canyon and back.  There was a mother and son that sat behind us, that much like our son, simply loves trains and was very excited to be going on this trip.  Just about the time we start pulling out, the skies opened up one last time with a light shower.  Before we knew it we heard the whistle blowing and the bell ringing and with a gentle tug we started pulling out of the station.

I must say, I have been on all kinds of trains, all over the place.  Passenger, commuter, and subway; diesel, electric, and steam; a 1/4 mile track to across a country; 200 mph to 0.  Of all those trains, steam is my favorite.  Steam engines are nice, steady, and quiet.  Never in a hurry they allow you to take in the country side as it goes by and all you hear is the steady chuff, chuff of the engine and the clickety-clack of the wheels rolling down the rails.

Mama and I had brought some activities with us, because we figured the littles would get bored on a two hour train ride.   We were wrong, time passed quickly and before we knew it we were rolling into the Grand Canyon Depot.  Our conductor was great, she told us about the history of the railroad, had jokes to for the children.  We had an amateur history buff on board, who the conductor invited to share some of the lore about the area that he knew.  We had a singing cowboy come through. He sang a silly song or two.  You should have seen the look on Hershey and Marshmallows’ faces when he started sings the story of Rindercella (kind of a Pig Latin-ish version of Cinderella).   Their faces kind of alternated between, not sure if he was singing in English, cracking a slight smile, and then back to wondering if their ears were failing them.  After about an hour or so we headed over to the galley car.  Surprisingly it was pretty much empty, so we grabbed some snacks and a table and played a round or two of cards.    About this time we hit the switch-backs that mark the start of the climb up to the canyon, so we decided it was time to head back to our seat as this was prime train watching time because we would get really good views of the rest of the train as we made our way around the tight switch-backs.

Hershey, Marshmallow, Mama, and I took turns sticking our head out the window and looking at the train.  At one point though I had to pull them in, there was a rock face on our side of the train, and it started getting a bit to close for comfort.  As I said, before you knew we were at the Grand Canyon.  Our train is a bit longer than what they normally take, so they had to split the train in half a do a y-turn to get us all turned around for the trip home.  Once they got us turned around it was time to get off the train.  We had three hours.   That may seem like a long time to some, but if you have ever been to the Grand Canyon, so will know that is not nearly enough time to even see the main village.  We got off the train and went and checked out those cool steam engines.  We kind of broke up at this point.  Hershey was with me, and Marshmallow was with Mama.  As I looked at our pictures after the trip I found it amazing how much my boy and I are interested in the same things sometimes.  He took almost exactly the same pictures I did.  Same points of interest, same framing… In fact I had to go and look at the meta-data on several of them to see if it was his camera or mine.

It was lunch time so Mama and I decided we would haul our bottoms over to Maswik Lodge and get food in every-bodies’ belly straight off, then we could be free to just explore at our leisure until was time to get back on the train.  Because Marshmallow is our boy, we all had pizza for lunch.  He didn’t eat the pizza, just the breadsticks!  I don’t know about him sometimes…

 

After lunch we headed over to the rim.  We just took in the views for a while.  Hershey had been to the Canyon once when she was smaller but this was Marshmallows first time.  He thought it was pretty amazing.  We started as the west end of the village and worked our way east back towards the train depot.   Marshmallow and I went down the about the first four switch-backs along the Bright Angle Trail.   He was funny he kept pulling me in towards the wall, because he was so nervous about the drop-off.  We stopped and took a short break then headed back-up.  Mama and Hershey explored near by, up at the trail head.   We then headed over to the Kolb Studio where we purchased some books and looked around the museum.   I had already had this happen a couple of times, but as we came out of Kolb Studio several people told me that I did a great job at the Western Show back in Williams.  Yeah!  Not!   I am surrounded by rocks and I can’t seem to find one big enough to hide under.

Now we got to Bright Angle Lodge and I discovered that my memory failed me.   There is no fudge shop.  Epic disappointment.   Hershey and Mama are not happy with me, they wanted their fudge.  But we continue along.  Once again we split up for a little bit.  Hershey really wants to find a Hopi doll to take home with her and Marshmallow is enjoying the views.   So Mama and Hershey speed along to the Hopi House, while Marshmallow and I meander along the rim.  It was a little cool and breezy, but overall it turned out to be a really nice day up at the Canyon.  Marshmallow and I eventually caught up with the girls.

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Much like the train ride up, before we knew it our time was up and we need to head back to the train.  We made one last pit-stop and then found our Pullman and climbed back aboard for our ride home.  At 3:30 we pulled out of the station and started our journey back to Williams.  Much as the trip up time passed quickly.   We mostly just sat back and enjoyed the scenery.  Our conductor asked us to pick on word to describe the Grand Canyon, we chose supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.  We picked that word because it is indescribably wonderful, which is exactly what the Grand Canyon is.  As we got closer to Williams the skies cleared and turned a bright blue.  About a half hour outside of town, the train came to a stop.  I was beginning to wonder what was going on, if maybe we were having engine troubles, but all of a sudden my questions were answered.   A bunch of masked gunmen came riding up along side of the train, firing their pistols into the air!  They made a couple of passes then board up by the engine!  We were quickly moving again!  I guess it is easier to rob people if they can’t get away.

Before very long we got a report that the gunmen were working their way back along the train.  Soon enough those scoundrels showed up in our car and started demanding money.  I think Marshmallow was going to try and set Mama up but it backfired on him and he ended up loosing a dollar to one of the gunmen.   Marshmallow says next ride he is bringing his handcuffs and cuff them to a seat for the sheriff.  Hershey was a little nervous about all these guns being brandished about, even the gunman noticed and commented, “She’s a jumpy lil’ thing, ain’t she”.  Hershey was packing little Trouble (her lalaloopsy toddler sheriff and sister to Prairie) and she was certain she was destined for kidnappin’.     She certainly can be a jumpy lil’thing, but much to her relief the sheriff showed up and the gunmen kept a runnin’ to the rear.

Just as this excitement was calming down, we received a text we were expecting and had just enough time to poke our heads out the window and wave.   One of very own train enthusiast friends was setup with his camera along the side of the road.   We gave him a big wave and a hoot and a holler.  Then we started gathering our things because we were pulling into the train station in Williams.

We got off and tried to hurry along as that we wanted to meet up with our friend who was waiting by the train yard for the engines to get put away for the night.   But first we need to make a pit stop.  So into the depot we went.  While I waited for the family,  but what should my wondering eyes spy?   A fudge counter.   Fresh fudge, all kinds.  It was directly behinds us when we were looking at the little packaged fudge display the day before.   We must have been blind.  So we got some fudge, plain chocolate, vanilla, oreo cookie, m&m…  A pound and a quarter later, we thought we might be set for the evening.

Fudge in hand, we scurried off to our camper and headed over to the train yard to meet up with our friend.  Conveniently, he was parked right at a train crossing on just a little bit from our RV park.  We waited with him for the train and before we knew it the two engines were puffing their way towards us.   We got a few more shots as they went by and they brought out the diesels for the dinner train that night.  We shared our experience with our friend and his friend for a little bit and then invited them over for dinner.  They wanted to get back to the valley and they were going to drive home that evening, so we let them get going and headed back to our RV park ourselves.  We stayed in the same RV park, but this evening we got an RV spot stayed in our camper.  We quickly set things up and settled in for the night.  Fired up the water heater and the furnace for the first time and that went without issue.   It was a little chilly that evening so we needed the heat.  I learned that we need to seek an alternate means of heating the camper.  I only kept the water heater on long enough to do dishes, but left the heater on through the night.  It blew through an entire bottle of gas in a night.   That seems like a huge amount, especially since I only remember the heater coming on a few times.   This was only a four day trip.  We have since been on a ten day trip, where we did not turn on the heater and we barely sipped about 1/3 of a tank.  I have been reading about catalytic LP heaters.  I think I might need to look into that a little more.

Anyway, we enjoyed our evening.  We ate some fudge and played some cards, then watch a movie as we settled into for the night.   The next morning Mama and Hershey were of course up first.   It was a little chilly, but wonderful morning.   We could hear the freight trains and see them out our back window.   We just had a lazy morning and slowly got things packed up and ready to go.

Deer Farm and Home

We pulled out around 9 o’clock I think.  We wanted to make one more stop before heading home.  Mama wanted to stop at the Deer Farm.  It is a place that she had been to as a child and has lots of memories of, so we swung through there.  The Deer Farm is a petting farm where you can walk through and get up close with the deer.

We pulled into the parking lot and since it was starting to be off season they were not very busy.  We went into the shop and paid for admission, each person receives a cup of deer feed.  Then out the door and into deer country we went.  It was a little funny to watch our children.  They are use to feeding horses and such so having the deer nibble out of their hands was not a big deal.   The funny part was the deer know people come with food!  We hardly stepped out into the yard and we were surrounded by a mob of deer.  We were able to slowly work our way along the path and eventually make it to see Gracie the dromedary.   It was feeding time for  Gracie, and one of the farm hands let the children give her some carrots.  We then saw some senior deer who have been retired from the petting area and now hang out in back of the farm in their own area where they enjoy a slightly quieter life.

At this point we left the main deer enclosure to walk along the path and see some other animals.  We saw some llamas, wallabies and reindeer.  We got back around to the deer enclosure, where Hershey met a cute little 6 week old fawn who had just given up milk that morning.   One of the farm hands was impressed that little one was willing to take some feed from Marshmallow’s hand.  The deer and the owners of the farm know you run out of feed at about this point.  So there are a series of coin operated gumball machines filled with feed spread every so often from about this point to the exit.  The deer mob you at each station.   When the children ran out of food, they would hold their hands high up in the air and open so that the deer would leave them alone.   Marshmallow made the mistake of trying to get some feed from a machine and had to battle a deer to get the feed into his cup rather than directly into the deer’s mouth.

On our way out we met a parrot named Mozart.   He is a funny little guy who likes to bounce and squawk.   He likes to say hello, and of course will ask if “Polly wants a cracker”.  Seems he was not paying attention in animal sounds class however, because if you ask him to bark like a dog, he meows at you.  The deer farm was the last official stop on our trip and it was a great way to close things out.

We hopped in the camper and started the trek home.  We decided to get off of I-17 at Schnebly Hill Road a little south of Flagstaff.   Schnebly Hill road is a dirt road that will take you down into Sedona.  It is supposed to be a great jeep (and truck camper) trail.   However we were not going to Sedona this day.   We just pulled over for lunch.  There are plenty of spots to pull off into the pines, just a little bit off the interstate and that is just what we did.   We made ourselves lunch and took in the pines a little bit.   Then packed back up and headed south again.  I suspect we will be back in this area again in the future, it was a really nice spot.

The ride home was uneventful.  We got blasted by the heat as we came back down into the valley so we decided we need to make one last stop before getting home.  We stopped off at a Cold Stone Creamery and had ourselves some nice cool ice cream.   From there it was a few short minutes home.

It was a great trip and we can’t wait for the next adventure.

 

Writer’s Block, Falling Behind…

I am behind.  I have two adventures to finish processing photos from and write about.  With the pile of work both at home at the office I don’t feel like I am ever going to get caught up.  In the mean time…  Here is a brief summary of our most recent trip written by our young journalist, Hershey:

BALLOON FESTIVAL

It was Thursday night, Marshmallow, dad, mom, and I, Hershey, were finally at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival with our friends from Texas. We had arrived in N.M. the day before and we were now there!  We were walking from the RV lot to the balloon park, to see the night glow.   Marshmallow, Lizzy, Noah, Joshua, & I went walking the park asking for [collector] cards. Then we headed to the spot for the glow, I enjoyed but I got dizzy so we had to leave. The next morning we saw the mass ascension it was beautiful. Watching them was amazing we saw some adorable ones my favorite was Bimbo bear. I refused to go to glow[that night] but mom convinced me to. That night before the glow, we went shopping & I saw a cool purse I wanted.  But I was getting a weird [dizzy] feeling. So mom and I left. Marshmallow said it was short as the balloons came down because of the wind. Next morning, Marshmallow and I waited to see unki-Bobby-pin, Aunt Mary, and Cousin Zach along with grandma who we had seen a few days ago. After they had arrived. Aunt Mary got me the hot air balloon purse as a late Birthday present. Mass ascension was another beauty. But the flag saying if the balloons can go up was on yellow, and then an hour later, green then our friends left back for the RV Park they had been with us all these days.  Cause the flag halfway through turned red. But during the mass exodus I got to help tear down “puddles” the penguin balloon. Then we left, enjoyed a nice lunch with our family. Then we flied kites and then the balloon flag that night was red. Next morning saw a whole lot of balloons by our camping spot. We and the our friends got to teared down 3 balloons and hold down 1. Then Marshmallow and I left for home.  -Hershey

2016 Albuquerque Balloon Festival

It October and we are loading up for another adventure.   This month was are going to New Mexico to meet up with family and friends and see the Albuquerque Balloon Festival.  A couple of years ago we had the great pleasure to take Hershey to the balloon festival as a surprise and we were able to bring a family who we are friends with along with us.   That trip was absolutely great.  All of agreed that if we were ever to do the balloon festival again we really need campers so that we could park right there next to the balloon field rather than get up at 3:00 in the morning to battle traffic.   Well a few months later, our dear friends moved out of state. 😦   But they bought a camper :-).   We just needed to get one :-(.  Well this past summer we finally did get our camper :-).   The emotional swings of the last few sentences have been just to much.  I think I need to take a break for a bit, Phew….

Ok, I am back.   Well the Mamas got together and remembered that discussion that we had, the last time we were in Albuquerque and they started to plan and it was soon decided that we would meet-up at the balloon festival this year.  The parents were excited, but we tried to hold off on telling the children, lest something come up.

The schedule was set, we decided that we would drive out on the 5th, spend a day with some of Mama’s family, then go meet our friends at the balloon festival on the Friday the 7th and we would stay there with them until Sunday and then we would part ways and drive back home.

Despite our efforts, we had our normal chaotic last minute packing of the camper, though I think we did do a little better than we have in the past.  We decided to bring our Beagle with us.  Turns out that idea was a mistake.   Camping, no problem, she can go with us everywhere, going to an event like the balloon festival isn’t happening again.  She had to stay in the camper whenever we went anywhere and she just howled and whined the whole time.   There were to many noises and to many people…  She wouldn’t eat, she wouldn’t pee, she wouldn’t poop, it was awesome fun.

Anyway, we finally told the children where we were going and they were super excited.  We got pretty much everything loaded the night before and were actually able to get out the door and on the road by 7:00 in the morning.   It was a pretty pleasant drive up through Payson and Hollbrook.  There was a little construction on the way up to Payson and at one point we were reduced to one lane and having to follow a pilot vehicle.   Despite my best efforts to give the traffic cones a wide berth I managed to clip one with one of the jack legs.  It left a black smudge mark but otherwise didn’t do any damage.  We made a pitstop and refueled in Payson.  That climb out of the valley does a number on the gas millage

Between Heber and Hollbrook I decided to try and take advantage of the cruise control.  Bad idea!  That is reserved for interstate driving only.  If you have ever been on AZ-377, you know it is a two-lane highway with no extra room.  The pavement ends at the white line.  There is a farm of some sort about halfway between Heber and Hollbrook.  It is on the east side of the road and has a row of trees setback a ways.   We were a few miles south of there and the road rises and turns to the left right at the peak of the rise.  Well we hit that turn on cruise control and it caught everybody’s attention.  We weren’t in danger of rolling over or anything but it was a very uncomfortable turn.  So, no more cruise control on one two lane highways.

We made it to Hollbrook and had another pit stop and top the tank off again (I am pretty sure we could have made it on what we had left, but we are still learning and I figure it is just best to keep the tank full whenever we stop).  Mama took over and made the run from Hollbrook to Gallup while I took a nap, I usually don’t get much sleep the night before a trip.  We were originally planning on having lunch at the rest-stop on the Arizona side of the boarder but we missed the exit on the account of a line of tracker trailer trucks.  So we pressed on and stop just on the west side of Gallup. We found a spot to pullover right at the bottom of the exit ramp.  It was an old abandon gas-station.   It was windy as the high country always seems to be and rocked the camper around as we ate lunch.   I took our Lucy out for a walk and was looking at the inside of the gas station.  It looked like a scene straight out of a movie after a tornado goes through.   There was insulation and duct work hanging from the ceiling, shelves turned over and food strewn all about.  It was rather a little weird to think that somebody would just close up shop and leave just about everything there.  Back in the camper we were on our way again.  We made one more stop in Sky City.  While I was pumping gas, the gentleman across the island noticed the t-shirt I was wearing that had the name of my work on it.   His nephew works there and so we talked while I waited for the family to come back from the restrooms.  Then we made the final push into Albuquerque and to Mama’s parent’s house.  Things definitely take longer with the camper, but Mama and I were pretty happy with the time we made.  We pulled into Grandma and Grandpa’s about 3:00 in the afternoon.

The children were excited to show Grandma and Grandpa our new camper.   We had barely made it to their door when we were turning around and headed back out to the camper.  I unlocked the door and Hershey and Marshmallow pretty much handled the tour from there.  After the grand tour we went in and visited.  Grandpa let me put the camper in the drive way for the night so that everything was level and we could plug the refrigerator in for the night.  The next day Hershey and Marshmallow took turns challenging Grandpa at checkers.  Mama and I escaped for a few minutes to load up the camper with groceries to get us through our trip.  About mid-afternoon we loaded up and said goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa.  Our friends were getting in range so we decided that it was time to go by the campground, figure things out and then wait at the staging area.   It was a good thing we went early.  Apparently there are two parking lots for the park where we planned to meet our friends.  The road signs lead you to the smaller of the two parking lots.  We barely had enough room to turn around, not sure what our friends would have done with their Excursion and 30 foot trailer.  It turns out the other parking lot would have required a u-turn to get into, again not an option for our friends.   So we just headed over to the campground and waited for them just inside the entrance.  The campground has rally style parking and they park you as you arrive, so if we wanted to be next to our friends we had to wait.   Unfortunately they got a flat tire and had to make another stop.  So we ended up waiting a little while.  While we waited, RV after RV pulled up without reservations.  We heard the attendant say that they were extremely busy this year and that they had already filled the overflow lot by the cemetery.  So they were turning away all walk ups.   Glad we all made reservations and didn’t get turned away or end up by the cemetery.

The Balloon Festival

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Our friends finally arrived.  I had been watching the mirror and I pulled out and lined up behind them as we made our way to the check-in booth.   Check-in was a breeze then the other dad and I went found the pilot who was going to show us to our spot so that he knew there was two of us and we wanted spots next to each other.   Back in the trucks and off we went following the pilot in his little golf cart.    They ended up parking us across the road from each other near an exit.  Which really wasn’t that cool, because both families have little people who wanted to play with each other.   While our friends got a standard lot because they had a travel trailer, we did not.  They were running out of room, and since we have a truck camper they stuck us in a miniature spot with the most awesome view in the world.

Yep, right up against the fence of the cemetery.   Now I wasn’t creeped out by this at all, Mamma, I think might have been a little bit…  I just found it very disrespectful.  On the other sides of the cemetery they had put up a tarp like barrier around the fence and put a road between the fence and the nearest line of campers.   Us, no, they put me about 3 feet from an open fence.  Where was I supposed to hook up and cook?  The dog…   Kept wanting to go through the fence and chase critters.   While we had a great time, I did not appreciate where they chose to park us.

While looking over the cemetery Marshmallow and I thought that this was a reasonable explanation on how many people dehydrate here  (I think it was). — Hershey

Anyway, back to the important stuff.   We both setup camp fast so that we could make it over to see the special shapes glow that evening.   We got over to the Balloon Fiesta a little before sunset.  The children banned together and started going to each of the balloon crews that were on the field collecting trading cards (like baseball cards).  We parents followed behind.

Before long the sun was setting and balloons were starting to go up.   For all except Hershey it was a cool start to our time together.   Unfortunately, Hershey was caught off guard I think.  She loves hot air balloons, but it was very busy this year and the field was packed with people.  There was also a pretty good breeze starting to pickup as the sun went down and the balloons were moving around.   Throw in that it was dark, she had no good reference point for the horizon, and they were popping off the burns all around us and she got a little overwhelmed.  Hershey has a hard time with lots of stimuli and that pushed her over the edge.  I tried getting her out of the crowd, but she was just beyond overwhelmed at that point.  So she and Mamma headed back to the camper to start dinner and see if they could watch from a distance.    Fear not though, this Daddy can be very determined.  I spent the rest of our days at the balloon festival working with my little girl trying to find a way for her to enjoy her balloons and I do believe we succeeded.  I will let her weigh in on that in a little bit.

Marshmallow and I and our friends retreated to an elevated part of the field and watch the balloons from there for a while.  As I said, it was a bit breezy that evening so most of the balloons came down early.  We stayed to watch the laser and fireworks shows both of which were really great.  It had been a long day on the road for our friends, so we all headed back to our campers to get some dinner and get tucked in for the night.

Special Shapes

We woke up excited the next morning!  This morning is one of our most favorite events of the balloon festival, it is the special shapes launch.  These balloons aren’t your average tear drop shaped balloons, these guys come in all shapes and sizes, and some of them are absolutely huge!  This morning also marks the first morning that I appreciate having our camper.   We didn’t have to get up at 3:00 in the morning and get our the door at 3:30 to go sit in traffic for two and half hours waiting to get to the balloon field.   Nope, we woke up about 5:00 and took our time getting dressed and having breakfast.  Once everybody was ready, we walked across the street to the balloon festival.

The weather was really nice, actually, I think we had a slight delay because it was to nice, there was no wind…   As we hit the balloon grounds the children took off and started running from balloon crew to balloon crew collecting trading cards.   Another one of their favorite activities.

As day break came, the fans started up, followed by the roar of hot burners and slowly, one by one the field became populated with chickens, pigs, penguins, bears, bumble bees, alligators, and almost every other kind of animal that you can think of.

Some of our favorites are:

  • The Cop and Robber
  • The Penguins
  • Yoda and Darth Vader
  • The Butterfly
  • Lovebirds
  • Flying Pig
  • Fire Hydrant
  • Bimbo the Bear

After the balloons all launched and the children had seen just about everything we retired back to our campers and the children got to play together and get caught up.   The mom’s setup some chairs out side so that they could do their own catching up and us dads went on a field trip to get some groceries, some parts for our friends camper, and some more balloon festival tickets for the next day.   All in all it was a nice afternoon.

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Calm Before The Storm

The next morning was scheduled to be the mass ascension where several hundred balloon all lift off together.   We were once again up early, Mama was checking the weather and texting our friends.   Rain was scheduled for later in the morning, but we had a green flag so we got the little ones up, had some breakfast, piled out of the camper, round the heard of children and we were off for another morning of balloons.

As we got to the field and the children started with the card collecting.  I waited for the dawn patrol to launch.  The dawn patrol are a set of more experienced balloon pilots who launch just before first light to check out the winds and give a situation report to all the other pilots on the ground.   It was then that I noticed that we had a yellow flag.  But the skies were clear and there was no fog.   So I started listening to the radios and the pilots.  Apparently, there wasn’t enough wind!   Anybody who has ever been to Albuquerque know that is a rare thing indeed.   So the sun came up and everybody milled about waiting for the winds to pickup.

After a while we decided to break and go get something to eat.  We got all the kids donuts and our adults had some wonderful breakfast burritos with fresh Hatch chilies.   Then we returned to the sea of people out on the field.  And what should we stumble upon?  Some folks from a galaxy far, far away.   Fortunately, despite the fearsome reputation of some, they seemed eager to be friendly.  Perhaps, because that with all the blaster bolts in the world, they were still out numbered and stood no chance?   I  don’t know…   Marshmallow however recognized some of these guys and was sure to get pictures with everyone.

While all this was going on Hershey and Mama had wandered off to go meet Grandma, Uncle, Aunt, and Cousin to do a little birthday shopping in the gift stores.  Finally the winds picked up a little and a bunch of balloons got up to everyone’s delight.   Unfortunately, that late morning rain was also beginning to make its way over to us.   A lot of pilots decided to risk it and launch, while some others stayed on the ground.   Our friends and their boys went off to watch the balloons launch as well as Marshmallow and our family.   Hershey and our friends girls stayed with me.   Hershey was trusting me to help her from getting overwhelmed by all the sensory input and still get to enjoy her beloved balloons and the other girls were happy to stay with us.

So they sat checked out their cards they collected and watch the balloons from the side.  Before long our the rest of our friends were back and they decided they were going to head back to the camper as the rain was closing in and the balloons that remained were starting to come down quickly.

Hershey got a little brave as the crowd and the balloons started to thin a little, so we started to walk toward some of our favorites.   Darth Vader, Yoda, and the Penguins.  They also started to come down just as we were getting near.   Yoda came down first.   Then the Penguins.   There weren’t many people around and the crew needed help getting their balloon put away before it got wet.   Plus the crew was super nice, a lot the balloon crews don’t let you touch the balloons because people aren’t careful.  But Marshmallow got to help gather the balloon, squeeze all the air out, tie it up and put it back in the bag.   I took some pictures and barked at people who decided that it would be quicker to try and step over the balloon as they made for the exit.  (I am in the aviation industry, and nothing irritates me more than people who don’t respect how delicate aircraft are).  Just as they started tying the balloon the rest of our family returned and Marshmallow was able to get in on a little of the action.

Then it was time to say goodbye Grandma and everybody and make a break for it as the rain was now here.   There were massive lines some twenty people wide and jammed together like they were on a Korean subway.  We had to cut perpendicular through about 4 of those lines.   So I took point and told my family to stay close and just waded in.  My physical size, and grouchy face can usually make a hole through a crowd petty easy, but with people packed as tight as they were even I had hard time, but I wasn’t doing to bad.  A mama had heard me give my warning to my family to stay close and she and her daughter were thankful to be following in my wake as well.

We eventually plowed our way through the crowds and were headed towards our exit, which was thankfully, hardly busy at all, so we walked as fast as we could as the skies started to open up on us.  At first a drizzle, then turning into a pretty good down pour.   That walk never seemed so long.   As we finally made it out on to the main street, and with about 1/8 of a mile left to go, thunder and lightning started to smash down to the ground and it was close!  So me hurried as fast we could and finally made it back to the camper.  We were all drenched, so we changed and hung everything in the shower.   Then we turned on the heater for a little bit and played legos.

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Hershey relaxing and reading a book.

The storm rolled through quickly which was a good thing.   We were supposed to meet our family for lunch and I was not intending to pull up stakes to do so (not sure what RV rally people would have said about a truck camper, but you aren’t supposed to move your RV once they have you parked).   So I once the storm cleared I went out and got us unhooked and off we went for lunch.

We met at a little Italian dinner and had lunch with Grandma, Grandpa, and the childrens’ Uncle, Aunt, and Cousin.   I dropped the family off and drove around for a while looking for a parking spot.   It isn’t always easy to park our beast of a truck.  I tried backing into a space, but our tail and trailer hook extension hung out past the end of the spot and completely blocked the sidewalk.  So much so that the hitch was almost in the street.  I ended up having to park down at the far end of the little plaza, cross ways, across a bunch of spots.  Normally, i don’t have a problem with that when I can park out in Timbuktu, but there was no Timbuktu to be had.  Lunch was great and it was nice to get caught up with everybody.  Eventually it was time for everybody to go home.

So we piled back into the truck and returned to thankfully find out camper where we left it.   I was a little nervous about backing under it because we were on uneven ground.   But I was able to get it on the first try, best backing under attempt yet (it helps so much when the you don’t have to deal with the sun, or harsh shadows).

The children went out with our friend’s children and they attempted to fly their kites as evening drew near.   As blustery as it was you would not have thought it would have been that difficult to get a kite up.   The children were stubborn and tried hard for a long time, even us dads gave it a go, but it was really hard to get above the canyon of RVs and all the turbulence they were causing.  We would just get them up and think we were safe and some eddy would come along and take the kite right to the ground.

Stormy Night, Bimbo the Bear Greets Us In The Morning

Eventually it was time to retire for the night and it was quiet in our camper.  Tired and sad that our time in Albuquerque was done and that we would have to leave our friends and family and head for home in the morning.  Sleep came quickly for the little one, which was good as a pretty intense storm swept through during the night.  Everybody slept except me.  I discovered we had a leak!  Sigh…

If you don’t have an RV, but are thinking about getting one.  I love it, we love it, it is our home away from home.  But be fore warned, there is always something that needs to be fixed, always…   In this case it appears the manufacturer forgot to put in two screws on the the roof of the slide out.  And it had rained so hard and been so windy that the rain got under our slide out topper and up to those screw holes, and down along the inside wall and into the storage compartment…  Ugh…  But it is a simple fix that I can take care of when we get home.

It was cold in the morning.   We all got up and the children went out to play and maybe see one or two more balloons while we got things packed and ready to go.  I also assessed the damage.  It was pretty minor and it looks like it may have leaked a little in the past.  The wallpaper(?) was bubbled a little but other than that I just had to dry things.

The children returned in short order to announce that the balloons had launched and were coming our way.  So we and our friends all went out to look.   It was crazy there were several balloons that we veritably skimming over the tops of the campers.   I am pretty sure that I or the other dad could have climbed up on the roof of a camper and jumped aboard one if we had wanted to.   Next think we know there are some balloons setting down in a field right in the middle of our camp ground.

We all raced out to try to help hold the balloons down and keep them from dragging across the field as they pilots radioed their chase crews and waited for them to arrive.  We ended up catching three balloons and put away one balloon.  Catching the balloons got all the children and us adults pretty excited and helped break the glum mood.   It made for a great end of trip.   We ended up leaving a couple of hours later than expected, but it was well worth it.  Our ride home was pretty uneventful.

Okay, final note, as I was looking at pictures I realized I skipped a whole day of our trip.  This is what happens when you write the blog article 6 months after the fact.   So here are bunch of random pictures to close out this post with.

 

4th of July Weekend

This adventure has chapters!

Pre-Trip

Even before we signed the papers for the camper Mama and I decided that the 4th of July weekend would be a great weekend for us to get away and enjoy some time in our new camper (provided things fell into place and we actually got it).  Mama wanted a place in the woods, where it was cool, by a stream and away from people.   Suspecting that we would encounter some of the challenges that we did.  I was prepared to settle for anyplace other than our yard.  But we embarked on a search for campgrounds anywhere within a day’s driving distance.  As we would soon discover we had several forces working against us:

  • Eastern Arizona is on fire.
  • It is summer and everybody and their dog (and ours) wants out of the scorching heat of the valley.
  • It is a three day weekend (this only exasperated the previous bullet point).
  • We have a family commitment Saturday morning, July 2nd.

We searched high and low and we eventually found one open, reservable, camping spot.  Bonita Canyon Campground.  It sounds like it might be an interesting place to explore in the cooler months, as the recreation.gov describes it:

Bonita Canyon Campground is located in Chiricahua National Monument, known as the “Wonderland of Rocks.” Visitors love Chiricahua for its stunning rock columns (hoodoos), hiking trails, and birding opportunities…

But the creek is dry most of the year, its hot, there are no facilities, and the closest town is Wilcox, so really not a great place to venture on our second ever use of our camper (remember we are complete newbies at this).

The other thing that we noticed is that a lot of the campgrounds in the Payson area have a lot of walk-up camping spots.   Mama was insistent on being in a cool climate so we were just going to hope that a least one of the places we had found had an opening.  Did you ever hear the phrase, “Hope is not a plan”?

On Friday afternoon, July 1st as most every person in the valley started the mass exodus, Marshmallow and I went and bought some essential equipment that we needed to outfit the camper with, while Hershey and Mama did some errands to support our Saturday morning commitment.  By about 1 am I had most everything loaded except for medicines, essential toiletries, pillows, and stuffed animals; took a shower and finally made it to bed.   At 5 am I was back awake and off to start our Saturday commitment, with Mama and the children following about an hour or so behind.  The morning went smoothly and we were even able to finish up a bit early.  Back home we made a mad dash to finish packing the camper and get going.

I ran into my first major complication with the camper.  I could not get the fresh water tank to fill.  It just kept blowing water back out of the fill port and on to the ground.   The control panel said that my black water tank was almost full (which the previous owner said was probably a dirty sensor), the gray was empty and so was the fresh water tank.  The water pump was sucking air when I tried turning it on.   There was definitely no water in the tank!  I read and re-read the manual.  It just says stick your hose in the fill cap and fill.  There are NO valves or anything else to select between the city water hook up and the tank.   Maybe it was because the camper was at a bit of angle and the fill port was on the low side?  So I moved the camper around, no luck there…  I see one of my neighbors out who has an RV, so I go grab him, and his dad tags along.  They are both experienced campers and his dad even use to own a truck camper.   We play around with things, switch over to the city water and purge some air from the hot water heater, fiddle with the drain valves and eventually get some more water into the tank, though I have no idea how much, but judging by the amount of time that had past, I knew I had at least 10 – 15 gallons of water.  The control panel said I was about a ½ full but I wasn’t I the mood to trust that control panel.  I fill up some water cans that I had and take along an extra 15 gallons of fresh water with us just in case.

The Hunt

It’s about 1:00 pm, Saturday July 2nd.

Finally, we load up the family, and the dog, and we head off.   Mama is busy trying to call the campgrounds to see if there are any open spaces.  All the campgrounds ring back to the main ranger station and nobody is answering the phone.  But we press on.  It was a nice drive up to Payson, the truck (and I) did well.  We head east out of Payson and start looking for a place to camp.  We tried Christopher Creek, Kohls Ranch, and the Ponderosa camp grounds.   All had signs out front that say “full”.  We headed back to Payson, Mama had one more place to check out, Houston Mesa Campground which is on the north side of Payson.  It was full as well.  At this point I am ready to bail and revert to my plan E.  But Mama finds one more campground, Flowing Springs.  Flowing Springs is according to the map about 10 miles away, out in the forest somewhere.  So I decide to make my plan E, plan F, and give this one more shot.  Hershey and Marshmallow convince me that plan F stands for for failure.

Hershey and Marshmallow passed the time by creating their own whacky A to Z story telling game.  In this  story/game they took a crazy trip to (A)lbuquerque in a (B)us with their pet (C)aterpillar to (D)rive….you get the idea!!   It is one fun thing to do on the road for sure.   But by time you get to Z you are struggling to remember how the entire story goes and once game is over and the laughter dies down no one can get it back to their memory in completion. – Hershey and Marshmallow

Okay, I need to back the story up a bit here.  There is one more thing that I need to mention before we move along.  About three quarters of the way up the hill to Payson it dawns on me that we forgot the bag of chocolate chips.  Marshmallow likes to have a few chocolate chips as a bed time snack.   So before we head out of town we stop at Walmart for a potty break and to get a bag of chocolate chips.   I stayed in the truck with our dog Lucy.  She surprised me a bit, she was trying to peek out the window and was whimpering the whole time wondering where her people went.  Lucy did amazingly good on this trip, in fact I found it hard to believe it was Lucy.  I think somebody swapped her for a different dog at the groomers.

Shoofly Village Ruins

So we headed out along Houston Mesa Rd.  We kept driving and driving and driving…   I see lots of great spots with wonderful views where I would love to just pull over and setup shop for the night but I am not yet sure of the rules of where I can put down and where I can’t.  So we continue along…   I am tired and truthfully a little mentally drained from driving.  I have driven vehicles way bigger and heavier than this, but never for so long and never with my family in it.

So it was good that we stumbled upon the Shoofly Village Ruins.  Mama and the kids were wanting to explore, I was hoping this was a place we could camp.  I was a little disappointed when I saw the no camping sign.   But none the less this was a good spot to get out and stretch our legs.

Shoofly village is a Native American village that was occupied between 1000 and 1200 AD.  The site sits on about 4 acres and they believe that approximately 250 people use to live in the 80+ room community here.

As we got out of the truck the sun was starting to get low in the sky, it was clear, cool, a light breeze, and just us.  We went for a walk along the paths and had fun reading and learning about the people who use to live here long ago.   I enjoyed watching Hershey and Marshmallow explore the area.  For as young as he still is, I really didn’t expect Marshmallow to be too impressed, all that is really left are low rock walls where buildings use to be.  But Marshmallow was able to look  at the signs and maps and pick-out from the rocks where the rooms and courtyards use to be.  Hershey had fun trying to pick out the different types of vegetation that the people use to live on.  I think her favorite find was the young pinions.  By the time we were done Marshmallow had yet another business venture that wanted to start, an online business selling kits so people could make their own rock homes, he is sure it would be a big hit.

We stayed and explored for about a half hour and then decided it was time to move along.  My nerves fray almost immediately.  Just around the corner from Schoofly the power lines cross the road and drop dangerously low to the road on the right side.  Not that this was a terrible thing at all, again it is actually something I have had to deal with many times in the past, but here it was.  The terrain dropped steeply off the side of the road and the power lines dropped with the terrain.  I had to go all the way over to the left shoulder of the road to safely cross underneath them (they were that low).  What had me nervous was the fact that this was on a blind corner on a mildly busy road.

We continued along the road for another mile or so with what looked to be ever degrading road conditions.  I decide I had had enough fun for the day and started to look for the first spot to turn around.  I was now executing plan F, though I am no longer sure what plan F is.  Plan F was originally to go back down the hill and into the Roosevelt lake and Apache Lake areas and look for a spot there, but I am thinking it is getting to late for that.  As luck would have it, not to long after we passed back by Shoofly, I see an Arizona Game and Fish truck tucked up off the road.  So I decided to pullover and go ask if she knew what the rules for camping in the area were. She did know! And to my delight she told me that I could pretty much pull over and camp where ever I felt like it, no permits required as long as it wasn’t posted otherwise.   I asked her if I could stop where she was parked.  She said yes, but she would recommend moving a little farther off the road.

 I think the people building a home near by were all pointing at us and thought we were lost or something. – Hershey

6:00 pm, I now have a camping spot.

Inadvertent Boondocking

Is inadvertent boondocking anything like inadvertent IFR?  It sure felt like it to me.

What is inadvertent IFR you ask?  It’s an aviation term, the IFR part stands for Instrument Flight Rules.  I am really going to simplify the explanation here and bend it a little bit to my situation.  Inadvertent IFR is basically when a pilot who is only licensed and trained to fly only in clear weather accidentally finds him/herself in the middle of a cloud and is solely reliant on their instruments to keep the aircraft upright and under control.  How does one usually end up going inadvertent IFR you ask?  It is usually a result of bad planning and poor judgement.  Please refer back to my previous comment about hope is not a plan.

So here I am in the middle of nowhere, almost on the edge of night, not really prepared to undertake a boondocking experience.  Boondocking is something I look forward to doing in the future when I have a little bit more experience under my belt.  But doing so this night was definitely not part of the plan.

It been raining in the high country and even though the ground was reasonably solid under foot and the ranger’s truck, it is giving way under out 14,000 pound behemoth.  We aren’t sinking, but I fear hitting a soft spot.  I get the camper tucked in behind some trees about a 150 ft off the road.  At which point Mama declares this is one step above camping in a Walmart parking lot and the children agree.  Hershey declares this the “camping spot”.

While the site has some beautiful views of the Mogollon Rim to the north, the immediate surroundings aren’t much to look at.  It is mostly dried, cracked, mud and rocks.  Internally I agree with Mama’s assessment, this isn’t much better than ending up at Walmart.  But I am determined to make lemonade out of these particular lemons .

We setup the camper and decided to go for a short walk along a fire road that goes off to the east along the tree line.  I had considered taking the ranger’s advice and going back along this road but as we walked I was glad we didn’t.  Even though there was a spot at the end that has some to die for views, the road was heavily rutted and had several fresh standing mud puddles.   The last thing I needed to do was flip the truck and camper over in one of the puddles.

After our walk we went back, setup the table, chairs, and grill and made dinner.  Mama and I had cheeseburgers and the little ones had cheese quesadillas.  Soon after we retired inside and worked on a Lego set together.  Once it was dark the children stuck their heads up through the skylight to checkout the stars.  Mama sat on the back porch and I climbed up on the roof to keep an eye on the little ones.  It was nice to enjoy the relative quite and watch the stars.  Somebody was shooting some fireworks off in Payson and we could see those as well.

Finally it was time for bed.  Now if you remember we picked up some chocolate chips pack in Payson, those never made it to the fridge.  Well Arizona is Arizona even in the mountains and as we explored Shoofly those sweet chips of chocolate deliciousness were busy turning to mush and fusing themselves into nice big lumps.  According to Mama they now resembled cow patties, according to Marshmallow they were wholly unacceptable for human consumption.  He was a sad little man going to bed that night.  Once the traffic died down it was nice to just listen to the critters outside as we slept.

It was still pretty quiet when the sun came up the next morning.  As always Mama was up first and then I joined her.  She read her bible on the back porch while I took Lucy for a half mile walk along another fire road that I found.  Lucy’s nose lead the way as she excitedly sniffed everything in sight with her little beagle nose.  But she is also an old dog and she is the one who eventually decided to turn around and head back to the camper.

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What you don’t see here is that just a little to the right of this shot is a paved road.

Hershey was starting to stir as Lucy and I made it back to camp.  I grabbed my bible and read for a bit as Mama got the littles up and going.  Mama and I had a plan this morning.  According to the map, there were several day use areas along the road ahead of us.  Each of day use areas are located where the East Verde River crosses the road.  So we decided if we accomplished nothing else these would be great places to explore.  If by the end of the day we were burnt out, we could head home, otherwise we could spend the night here again or somewhere else if we found a better spot.  So we broke camp.  Mama and I worked on stowing stuff while Hershey and Marshmallow took care of the awning, slide-out and jacks.

Water Wheel

The drive was much better now that I had some rest and we enjoyed moving along the winding roads through the forest.  We decided to pass up the first crossing and moved along to a spot called the Water Wheel.  Even though our rig is about one and half times the length of a regular full size car we were able to find a parking spot and not block traffic.   So we disembarked, grabbed our water shoes and went off exploring along the trail that paralleled the river.  We found a couple of spots where the children could put their feet in and enjoy the cold water. The river is dotted with small rapids and some small waterfalls.  We had a great time and Lucy did great keeping up with us climbing over rocks and such.  Lucy has always been a house dog, so this was new territory for her.  Eventually we made it to a point where I was pretty sure that neither Mama nor Lucy dog were going to be able to go much farther, so we stopped had a break and enjoyed the fresh air, views, and sounds of the river.  Marshmallow and I, then Hershey and I went up the path a little farther so that they could climb up on a large rock out cropping and look down on a waterfall below us and get a good view up and down the canyon.  Upon Hershey and my return Mama asked if she could make it, I said “umm” and the littles said “you have a 50/50 shot”.  That sounded like a challenge to Mama so off she went with the littles determined to make it a success.  I stayed and watched Lucy.  A short while later the trio returned.   They almost made it, but Mama wisely decided that taking both of them to the edge of the cliff together was not a good idea so Mama appreciated the view set back a little bit father from the edge.   We then just sat and enjoyed the sound of the falls and the cool water at our feet for a while.  Our drinking water was starting to run low so we decided it was time to turn around and head back to the camper where we topped off everybody’s water bottles and decided to head up the road some more.   Mama and I decided we wanted to head out to the end of the road and see if we could find the camping area just to see where it is and how full it is, then we would head back to one of the other day uses areas where the Verde crosses the road.

Verde Glen Campground

As we left Water Wheel the road started to climb with some mild switchbacks, after about 3 miles the paved road eventually gave way to dirt and there were lots of power lines criss-crossing back and forth across the road, those made me a little nervous but we cleared them all.  Mama was biting nails and trying her best to bite her tongue.

Another mile or two and we were out in the forest.  The area we were looking for is referred to as dispersed camping.   Which means the campsites are separated from each other and there is no facilities of any sort all of which was okay with us.  As we drove I saw an open campsite that was just a perfect fit for our camper. Best of all, it was empty!   We pulled in and I heard some tears from the backseat.  Hershey was upset, she has some sensory processing issues and this weekend as much fun as it had been so far, had majorly overloaded her little input circuits.   So Hershey and I hopped out and went for a little walk down to the river that ran right behind the campsite.   She was worried this campsite was a little to much like a previous campsite the children and I had been to and that she might have a bad experience.  We talked and decided it would be okay if we just had lunch and played by the river for a while and if things weren’t working then we could pack up and head back to last night’s camp spot if need be.  As we worked things out we continued our walk and soon spied Mama and Marshmallow a little down stream from us doing their own re-conning.

Did I mention this campsite met all of Mama’s criteria.   Out of the heat – Check.  In the woods – Check, By a river – Check.  Though there were some other campers near by, civilization was miles away – Check. – Dada

It also met Hershey’s bad things checklist in mountains – check. has everything from worst camping trip ever – Check. so far not a wanted stay from her.  – Hershey

Marshmallow put down the jacks, and Hershey put out the slide out and awning.  Hershey then helped me setup the table and chairs while Mama and Marshmallow got the supplies for lunch ready.   We enjoyed a nice quiet lunch.  After lunch I setup the hammock that I bought for the children and they immediately climbed in and enjoyed it while Mama and I cleaned up from lunch.

After a bit we went down to the river and explored it for a while.  The water was cool (or according to our two Arizona natives, Marshmallow and Hershey, it was freezing.  So much so that they were worried about frostbite)  After about an hour the children decided they were done since they could no longer feel their feet, so we headed back up to camp to dry off.

We then decided to play Uno, have snacks, and build a really cool 3D puzzle of a lighthouse.  During this time we got several visits from the local fire department and forest rangers telling us about the heightened fire alert status and the pack-it in, pack-it out program.

Speaking of which, can I just say people are slobs!   There was trash all over our site when we pulled in.  Before we left I had filled almost an entire trash bag of other people’s trash.  I was very disappointed. – Dada

After we finished the lighthouse.  The children headed for the hammock, where Hershey read a story to Marshmallow; Mama and I just sat back and enjoyed being.

We finished off the afternoon with a second trip down to the river and a game of ring toss.   Ring toss is a great game from old.   Each player has two jumbo sized knitting needles and a 6″ plastic hoop (in the old days it would have been a wood embroidery hoop).  You hold one needle in each hand then cross the needles in a X shape with the hoop sitting at the center of the X.  You then rapidly uncross the needles to fling the hoop to your partner, who then tries to catch it with their own set of needles.  We usually end up inventing some rules and patterns of tossing as we play and things can get a little crazy and silly, but it is a lot of fun.

Hershey finally announces that this site will be okay to spend the night and she didn’t want to move back to last night’s camping spot. It was also about time to start dinner.  I discovered I didn’t have a clue on how to light the pilot light on the camper’s stove, so I had to figure out a way to cook a pizza in a frying pan on a Coleman stove.  Marshmallow was gracious and ate most of the “pizza” that I made him.

Everybody was pretty tired from our day of adventure (and Marshmallow may have been experiencing TV withdrawal) so we quickly settled in for the night. After watching a short movie on the DVD we settled in for our evening slumber and enjoyed the sound of the water running over the rocks throughout the night.  Monday morning Lucy and I went for a walk farther up the road and found some places that we might try out in the future.   We enjoyed a leisurely morning.  Mama and I packed things up as the children enjoyed the last bit of time in the hammock.

Mama and I both missed it, but as they children describe it, Marshmallow had a hammock experience straight out of a cartoon.   Apparently he went to go get in it and it swung him around and flipped him upside down, but he clung on to the sides and tried to swing it back upright much to no avail.  He finally lost is grip and dropped to the ground.  At which point they called me over to help them get in without spinning.

We decided it was time to leave before the sun got too high and hot and the roads got to busy.

Home Again

We had a nice drive back into Payson where we topped up on gas.   We then headed down the hill back home.   With the exception of one crazy person with a 30 foot trailer barreling down the hill and racing up on people and weaving through traffic it was a nice drive home.  Fortunately, Mr. Attitude (that was the name stenciled on the rear of his camper) departed us about as quickly as he arrived and I believe managed to not jackknife of loose his trailer as I didn’t see him again for the rest of the drive home.

All in all it was a great weekend that we enjoyed very much.

Next adventure, learning how to empty the black and gray water tanks.  If it is okay with you, I am going to pass on sharing that adventure.  It is promising to be a pretty stinky situation.

 

Inaugural Night In The Camper

We have had our camper for almost a week and we have been dying to try it out.   Kind of like when little kids have money in their pocket and they itching to spend it on something.   We were going to camp in the driveway last night, I started cooling down the camper and getting it setup Friday night after work.  On Saturday we gave it a good bath in the morning and then went out and bought sheets.

While we were out I had the thought, “Why camp in the driveway?”, we may not be able to make it out of the heat, but we can at least make it out of the driveway.  I thought of a few places that were near by and we settled on Lost Dutchman State Park (they were the only one open).  Mama was excited but a little frustrated with me because you know, I had this thought at 3:30 in the afternoon.  We had to wash the new sheets, pack the camper, and find somebody to take care of the dog, all in about the span of 2 hours.  But we got’er done!

Lost Dutchman is within 45 minutes of our house.  It is on the east side of the valley at the base of the Superstition Springs Mountains.  The place was pretty empty, nobody except us and what appeared to be 4 other people are crazy enough to go camping in the summer, in the valley, in the heat.  It was no boondocking trip that is for sure, but it was a good trip for us to get this rig out on the road and figure things out.  As I told the children, “if we have problems during the night.  Can’t get the fridge to work, the potty to work, we explode the air conditioner or anything else we would just pack up and come home”.  This was our first time camping with an RV and I was expecting some bumps along the way.

We ate dinner at home as we waited for the bedding to dry in the drier.   We all hustled to get the camper loaded and ready for the road and then we were off.   We pulled into the campsite at about 6:30.  The sun was getting low and there was a light breeze.  It made the 100 or so degrees pleasant enough to be in.  Mama and the children figured out how to pay for our campsite and setup the chairs while I worked on getting the camper setup.  Things actually went pretty smoothly and the children started learning how the camper works and finding jobs for themselves.

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We sat down for a few minutes to enjoy the awesome view.  Then decided that we needed to go and explorer a couple of the trails before it go to dark.

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We headed up Siphon Draw Trail up to the boundary between the state park and the national forest.   Marshmallow was starting to feel the heat and was tired from his sports practice the night before so we decided to turn around and head back to the camper.  We got to see a coyote, some bunnies, and some quail.  As we were sitting on a the bench at our campsite for a few minutes watching the last of the sun disappear we heard a pack of coyotes off in the distance, probably the same ones that Mama and Hershey saw the next morning.  The coyotes rattled Marshmallow pretty good so we decided to head in and cool off.  We played Uno and had snacks.

Mama tried to get the little ones to go out and look at the stars, but they would not have anything to do with it.   The back bumper was as far as they would get, those coyotes were out there somewhere you know…

So we put on a short movie and got everybody settled in for bed.  It was a good night and everybody slept well.  I opened the skylight over our Mama and my’s bed and once the light were out we were able to see stars and the lights of the city to the west.

Hershey and Mama were up first of course, they almost always are.  They went out for a little walk, I heard them leave and got up a few minutes after.  I got dressed and tidied up while Marshmallow slept on (he is not a morning person).

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Mama decided to watch the sunrise so she woke me up and asked if i wanted to go, I did so we went out to the Siphon Draw Trail this time we took a different route. after we walked up the big hill we saw the colors of the sunrise but not the actual sun as it was behind the clouds we also saw Goldfield mine from our perch. after staying there for about 30 seconds we started back. when we got back to the bench we sat down and read my devotional  then we  saw a pack of seven coyotes or so 104 feet away and also saw two quails out on their morning walk. then we headed inside so we could get ready to go on another walk with Marshmallow and Dada or watch the rest of our movie.
— (Mama and Hershey’s walk as told by Hershey)

We opened up the camper to take advantage of the cool morning air once Mama and Hershey returned from their adventure.  Marshmallow discovered the skylight and stuck his head up through the top and had a look around.  I think that might be his preferred method of exploring the great outdoors (from inside).

Hershey, got a chance to check it out as well.  After breakfast it was time for our first adventure to come to an end.  Our dog was at home alone and Hershey really wanted to go to church today.  So Mama and the children learned how to pack the camper up while I supervised.  Then Mama drove us home, she was a little intimidated at first, but by the time we made home she was confident that with a little more practice she could handle this rig on her own.  We had a really good time on our first (mini) camping adventure.  Think we got to try just about everything out except for the water heater and figuring out how to drain the black and gray water tanks.  We will tackle those in the next couple of trips.

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Welcome

Hello,

Welcome to S’more Crumb Trails.

If you have ever called our house while we are out, you have surely heard the announcement on our voicemail.  “Thank you for calling the Graham Crackers, we are outside the box with Hershey and Marshmallow, please lease a message”.  Well that is us, the Graham Crackers.   A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away…  We got married and had our first little one, Hershey, she was extra little when she was born.   We had great intentions of chronicling all the special moments in life on a blog  so that we could share them with our loved ones, who are spread all across the country.  But soon life happened and those intentions got left behind by the business of life.   A few years after Hershey, Marshmallow came along and he never even got the brief moment of fame that is sister did.   Just an occasional picture emailed out to family.

Mama and I have been meaning to fix that for a while now and recently got some new inspiration to do so.   We made a family acquisition, a new truck and camper.  Something we are hoping to take on the road and make lots of good memories with.

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So there you have it, the reason for this blog and our first post.   We look forward to sharing our adventures with you.