Today we did it! We finally got all 5 of us in a canoe (seems like a camping MUST especially for Canucks) and took what the lady told us was a 2 hour float down the South Llano River. Well I can tell you it was a 3 hour canoe ride (not 2hr), but it was a gorgeous and monumental day for this FreeSpirited fam.
We saw a ton of Texas wildlife again, water snakes (non venomous...but nasty right), fish, crazy hawks and eagles (not a bird person, but the wing span on these birdies tell me they are big enough to catch a cat), TONS of turtles and a heard of deer!! Will fill you in on that in one sec..
So kids were pretty excited and Alex and I took the oars of course while munchkins sat in the middle and helped pick out wildlife and stuck there hands in the cool, clean and clear river. Every once in a while Madden (of course!) would try to jump out and rock the canoe, but the river is mostly very shallow with a few deep spots. It was a glorious day and I personally was having a ton of fun. We banked at a rocky beach for a quick snack, water fight and of course we all took turns peeing in the river (you-all-do-it too!)
All was bliss until we hit what seemed to be a harmless rapid and it pushed our canoe into a thorny ass shrubbery that took us out! We bailed into the river with all our shit flowing downstream and while Alex grabbed kiddos (Shyla was standing in the shallow water and the boys grasping the canoe freaked out and unsure), I gathered most of the missing stuff and held the now water filled canoe til Alex got all kids on shore. Big thank you to Shyla bear for being such a pro big sis and keeping them 'safe' on the banks. Poor Alex's shin that was just starting to heal and he had so delicately wrapped in gauze and plastic tape to make sure it would stay dry was ripped off and banged up against the canoe during our 'rescue'! Needless to say he may have dropped a lot more F bombs today again. After about 10 minutes of bailing and back breaking emptying the canoe water out we now had a nervous Lennon, soaked backpack including car keys, snacks, towels and diapers (gross) and one missing princess water cup now someone else's treasure to find when canoeing down river.
Our reward though for the craziness that just happened...a heard of beautiful deer galloping and jumping along the bank of the river only a few feet away. Bambi and his mother and entire family so close, quiet and magical. It was AWESOME!!! the kids were soooooooo stoked and I was too just seeing how happy they were to see deer in the wild.
After another long hour of paddling and sun burns and with no more water or snacks we were all grateful to hit the end of the not-two-hour-river tour and make it to our truck. Once we pulled back in to our 31 foot trailer home it was popsicle, hammock and chill out time for us all. I cannot tell you how great it feels to come back to a campsite and rest after a great outdoor adventure. Sadly, the kids were not as tired as Alex and I so it was short lived as dinner had to be made and bike rides to meet the new kids in the park was a must and then s'mores around the firepit. Now I can gladly say it was a great day, but I'm glad to be in my comfy bed under the stars with windows wide open and canoeing checked off our list! Hoping that's our last capsize for the trip.
I could easily spend 6 months exploring Texas and all it's amazing state parks. So far it's people, weather, roads and state parks have been above and beyond what I expected. At every park we've been to the people are warm and welcoming, and I love how they say "yes ma'am, no ma'am, how can I help you ma'am" when answering and addressing me! So polite that now Alex and I are like, " kids, you say yes or no ma'am or sir when talking to adults from now on!" lol Texans seem happy, proud and confident.
We did a geocache adventure hike with a bunch of friendly Texans who invited us along and thought it was neat talking with "real Canadians" lol as they put it. The kids had a great time and so did I until I somehow managed to get a cactus thorn wedged through my shoe and into my pinky toe! OUCH!
Like everything in life, Texas is not perfect as I've been told that come April-September it's "hotter then hell on fire" down here and the plant life is hostile though cool looking but thorny and full of sharp thistles. There is also the venomous snakes, gators (glad we are out of the alligator territory finally) and a bunch of other crazy wildlife lurking around all the campsites we've been at. Despite it's "roughness" we just love it's vast amount of parks, trails, rivers, and sunny weather.
Another crazy thing is the DRIVING!! Wowza, I mean I at times have a lead foot in my honda minivan and the kids tell me to slow down, but the speed limit on the interstates here is starting at 75mph and goes up to 80mph (112-130 kph)! Which just like home means the average car goes a few mph faster then that! Now try pulling a travel trailer and having all cars fly by and trying to merge in to that speed limit is like playing frogger at times. While hauling, our max speed is 70 mph, but we like to hover around the 64 mark to save our tummy's with less sway.
Did you know Texas was one of the last states to join the USA and they put in their constitution they could leave the USA whenever they like if they feel they don't like it anymore?! That's probably why they seem like they like things the way they do and ain't nobody gonna tell 'em no!
Anywho, today we plan to canoe on the South Llano river and star gaze tonight as there is a law preventing light pollution so we can all see the heavens above us each night! It's pretty amazing just how many stars you can see without any city lights interfering. We can also hear coyotes howl nightly and the kids freak out despite our reassurance...except of course for Madden who barks and howls back calling the coyotes to find him! lol
Yes sir we love this big beautfiul, rugged state and wish we had more time to explore all of it's cool state parks and what they offer. We are making our way west in a few days to the last Texas stop on our journey before entering New Mexico, but honestly, I thought about changing our plans to stay here a bit longer, however that would require a lot of plan changing and camp rebooking so not gonna happen.
Alrighty, happy Sunday y'all from Texas!
Yes, that's my shin which now has an inch and a half gash in it!! Hooking up and disconnecting this massive trailer is not for the faint hearted. While I was in the process of tightening the chains on my anti-sway bars on my trailer hitch, the steel bar that I use for leverage flew off and smashed into my shin like a hammer hitting an anvil. Not sure if you've ever had one of those moments where you're kinda left bewildered that this even happened for a few seconds? After the steel bar flew off and struck my leg what felt like a few seconds went by where I asked myself "did this steel bar really just smash into my shin?". You know its bad when you look down at the wound and you can see the inside of your leg and no blood has poured out yet? A few seconds go by and blood starts coming out like a slow moving faucet. I limped back inside the trailer and asked my lovely wife Wendy to bandage this up while I try not to pass out (yes I'm one of those guys who doesn't really enjoy seeing these types of injuries especially to myself). Thank God Wendy excels in these types of moments and she bandaged me up quite nicely with the first aid kit that I knew would come in super handy. After some antibiotic cream and some gauze I think I've managed to avoid a hospital trip for stitches and whatever else. I'm sure I will be blessed with a major scar to commemorate this trip which will look like a permanent tattoo on my body that'll never let me forget that exact moment.
In addition to my bad luck, a few days earlier our brand new RV encountered a few problems as well which we needed to get fixed so we opted to drive back into San Antonio to get it looked at before we headed further west on the I10 where you are literally in the middle of nowhere in Texas. Unfortunately both of the slide outs on the RV were not opening properly and I also needed to fix a scissor jack that I smashed when I bottomed out coming out of a gas station a few days earlier. As a result we decided to bring in the RV and stay at the Marriott (yeah we get double the travel points!) to enjoy the pool, fresh clean sheets, towels, showers and all the amenities we take for granted while traveling in the RV. Also managed to get an oil change on the Dodge Ram (woo hoo) before we head on the next leg of this journey into the desert. Lennon and I also had to do some much needed grooming as both our hair was getting way outta control and we thought it would be easier finding a decent hair place in San Antonio vs rural Texas.
So we've been on the road now for 23 days and while its nice to post all the amazing places we've seen I don't want to sugar-coat this for anyone as there definitely are some challenging days as well and I've chosen to post about it today. We never thought (or expected) every day to be easy while lugging three kids all under 7 around on a massive road trip. We anticipated some tough days and I can finally say that today was a VERY challenging day with the kids on this journey. For some reason, from the moment we woke in San Antonio and were preparing to head to our next destination the kids fought with each other like never before. Everyone has had those days when the kids just don't listen or they whine and argue all day...but when they decide to do this while you're packing up your things, driving a huge trailer, not knowing exactly where you are going, trying to back it into a small space in our campsite...it really takes its toll on you (in this case me)!! To top things off I bottomed out our trailer pulling out of the gas station today and smashed one of stabilizer jacks arghhh!! Not the end of the world but still a pisser! Also, am I allowed to strike my kids? Because today was one of 'those' days where a little smack could go a long way (please sense the sarcasm in that statement and don't call social services on us). The way things worked out today, we needed to close up our RV and depart our campground in San Antonio, squeeze in a Walmart trip, fill up the truck with gas and refill propane for the RV AND drive an hour to our next destination Guadalupe River State Park in the Texas Hill Country. Each day we learn a little more about what our kids can and cannot tolerate and hopefully we learned our lesson for the future because today was a rough one :). Many people that have done this sort of trip before with a young family have told us that the best advice they can give is to go slow...and don't try to rush in all the sites and destinations. Boy did the kids remind us of that advice today! We've been barreling along since Florida never really staying anywhere longer than 3 nights trying to make our way to Arizona and California as soon as we can. Louisiana, Houston, San Antonio all were quick stays and unfortunately I think the kids finally had enough today and they let us have it!
The Light At the End of The Tunnel
For all the bad days, and all the moments where the kids have really worn you out, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Constant reminders of why we are doing this which tends to wash away the shittier moments when the kids were fighting or whatever. In this case, after a rough day today, the light at the end of my tunnel was reaching the state park and heading to the river to see what all the fuss was about. Wow what a beautiful sight it was! A gorgeous flowing river with a massive cliff as a backdrop and it was ours to enjoy with virtually nobody else here! The kids jumped in their inner-tube and we moseyed into the river to cool off after a long, hot and trying day. It was the best answer to a tough day and I absolutely loved relaxing with the kids in the water while everyone got along and just enjoyed the natural beauty of this park. We've decided to stay here 5 nights which still is a little short, but certainly longer than our previous stays so fingers crossed that the kids behave a bit better tomorrow...the river and natural beauty of this park should help!
Until we chat again...please take a look at the pics and video below,
For most of us, life is so busy, full of obligations, schedules, chores, work etc the day just flies by and its hard to remember what we did or truly enjoy the moment so to speak because it's just moving from one moment to the next at light speed. Or is this just how I feel? I can honestly say that yes my wedding and the birth of all 3 of my beautiful babies was the last time I could say I had the best day of my life feelings. those giant milestones you know? But what if I told you today, just an ordinary day hanging out with the fam was one amazing hell-ya feeling of "best -day-ever"!!
You know that feeling when you smile and laugh so hard at the end of the day your cheeks hurt? Well i'm super duper pooper excited to announce TODAY was that day for me!!
I climbed 150 year old willow trees, had an amazing bike ride trough alligator ridden swamps (no alligators were seen as us chickens went midday when they are not usually out), I played chase with the kids, walked across logs, marvelled over giant ant hills and oohed and awed when my kids destroyed them (we were amazed at the amount of ants crawling like national geographic style for realz! Need to get vids on these ant hills in Louisiana). I taught my kids about predators, ant colonies and the history of sugar mills as well as the child labour force used in them (you can bet this will come up when they argue they can't pick up their toys or something)!
I was amazed watching Madden learn to climb trees following his big bro, I beamed when Shyla told me on our alligator bike ride that I was the bravest person she knew (remember we went midday b/c we prob wouldn't see one? lol) and my heart just exploded with love, gratitude and joy witnessing Lennon get a Shyla's special manicure with rainbow nails! Seeing my family just being together in the moment and having simple fun was what made me finally see this was what I wanted, this is what we worked for, our dream, our happiness, our best day ever moment!
A friend once told me, you are responsible for your own happiness.
I do not think I am much different, better off, or luckier then anyone else (perhaps a bit more FreeSpirited though ;)), but today I did feel all the aforementioned because today is a result from choosing to have my best day ever feeling. All the sacrifices, year or more of planning and this is what i got.... The best feeling ever of pure happiness and knowing I am making my own happiness. I'm doing what I want, how I want and with whom I want :). I didn't fully see it until today in simple play with my family. I wish everyone to follow your dreams and pursue your own happiness whatever your dream is. Mine is living in an RV while travelling, others may be to own their own successful company or become an undercover agent I dunno, just do what makes your smile grow and most importantly gives you that best day of my life feeling because at the end of the day, don't you want to feel this way all the time?
Wishing you all the happiness you desire and thanks for reading!
Wendy posting her first Vlog...
Bye Bye Burlington
So most of you know by now that as of Jan 28 2017 we started our journey. It still feels quite surreal, but we've now managed to turn our house over to the new owners, stored our belongings in a container for when we get back, bought a 31 foot travel trailer, bought a Dodge Ram 1500 to haul it and are making our way south as fast as possible to get to some better (warmer) weather. We've now landed and settled in Santa Rosa, Florida (near Destin) after four days driving as we had to break up the 18+ hour drive into four days so the kids didn't go completely nuts!
1st Stop Bluffton Ohio! (ummm where?)
The first day on the road was the shortest one mainly because it took us longer to pick up our trailer, cross the border and just get used to driving it safely and securely. Our Grand Design Imagine trailer has plenty of amenities but it sure is a beast to haul! We planned our departure accordingly as we didn't want to have any snow during our travels as hauling a 9000 lb trailer is bound to give you some trouble if you try to pull it through the snow! Lucky for us it was only cold and no snow so we made our way safely and slowly from Burlington, Ontario to our first stop in Bluffton/Findlay, Ohio KOA. We decided to go through Windsor along the I75 as opposed to Buffalo since we felt the bigger highways were better maintained during inclement weather. Boy was I not expecting the absolutely brutal road conditions of Michigan! Likely the worst stretch of highway roads I've ever been on. As a result, it made our ride very bumpy and I had to slow down to around 80km/hr otherwise the back end would fish tail. There were so many potholes i literally could not believe it. Almost like turning a switch, as soon as we passed the "Welcome to Ohio" road conditions returned to normal. Regardless, we arrived late at night to our campsite in Ohio and it wasn't too much fun trying to find our pull through campsite in the dark. When we booked the site online they never mentioned that the campsite is basically "un-manned" in winter so there was virtually nobody there apart from a few big class A motor homes that some snow birds used to stop over on their way south as well. Nonetheless, we managed fine and the furnace and fireplace in the trailer worked over time as it dropped to around -7C overnight. Surprisingly, the trailer was quite warm although I think I went through half a propane tank trying to maintain a cozy warm temperature inside. We didn't want to use the water tanks for fear of freezing so we were all a bit stinky and smelly that day.
Next Stop Sweetwater, Tennessee: "Backing Up is Hard to Do"
The drive from Bluffton, Ohio to Sweetwater, Tennessee took us another 8 hrs to complete as we needed to stop numerous times for gas, pee breaks, snacks etc. The drive was largely uneventful with the exception of when we finally arrived at our KOA site. Sweetwater KOA is off the highway in a rural area near a meandering farm road that isn't really marked well with the GPS. Again, we arrived late at night so visibility made it tough to see which driveway was the right one to enter into the campsite and the GPS was no help at this point. Unfortunately for us, I drove past the driveway and realized that my only choice to rectify this was to back up the RV in the dark, on a single lane farm road around a blind corner slightly downhill. Not the smartest of ideas but we really had no choice and I only needed to back it up 30 feet or so. Well, let me tell you this took us the better part of 30min just to back it up to where we needed to be. Trying to maneuver the trailer around a blind corner at night going BACKWARDS was quite the ordeal. Did I mention this was my first time backing up the trailer? Nice. Eventually we managed to get the trailer in the right spot and we pulled into the KOA and into our site. It was later that night that we decided to break the drives even further so we didn't end up getting to camp sites at night and we didn't feel as stressed. As a result we added another quick stopover just south of Birmingham, Alabama (South Birmingham Campground) the next day as opposed to traveling straight to Florida as originally planned.
Welcome to Destin, Florida!
We arrived in Florida at the best state park ever Topsail Hill Preserve State Park! A quaint little campground surrounding a preservation area that's right on Santa Rosa Beach. The people here are fantastic and the kids and us all met some fun friends to hang out with and get to know over the next week or so. We loved it so much, we extended our stay a few days to enjoy the gorgeous weather before we headed to our next stop in Louisiana. Surprisingly, we met a few other families that are currently on their own little adventure around the US and Canada and we made plans to meet up again when our paths cross later in the year. Everyone in the park was so friendly and it made our first stop on this journey a great one as we all felt right at home. Even our friendly RV neighbours Jan and Bob from Tennessee baked the kids some home made cookies the night before we left. Can't ask for more than that! Check out more pics of our Destin adventure. Love this place, but tomorrow we are moving on down the road...next stop Louisiana!
I can't believe it's been only a week! It feels longer, but that's prob because in the last 7 days we drove 19 hrs from beautiful, but freezing Burlington to sunny Florida with three kids in a one row back seat while pulling a travel trailer! This brings me to my first topic:
Topic #1: Pulling a trailer feels like you're pulling a travel trailer!
Now we read all kinds of articles and opinions on what truck to get which tow bars and anti sway bars etc and we got ourselves covered bc being newbies to hauling our house behind us we wanted to get the best. But they all LIED! Only 15 minutes into our adventure Shyla starts moaning her tummy hurts and when I look back I see a poor pale seasick face of my 7 year old and whipped out the children's gravol (thank god it worked) . Another 20 minutes our non complainer Lennon is going green so another gravol to the rescue. Madden on the other hand is happy and in serious busy mode (hooray for quiet) on the iPad with games we downloaded just for him. Not going to lie the ride was bumpy and swayed and every time a truck passed by there was a vortex that seem to suck us in and spit us back out LOL. It definitely was an adjustment phase to get used to rather quickly and Alex and I were quite nervous but he was a trooper and we got the hang of it and made a few adjustments (modified brake controller, tighten chains on sway bars). Just finally got the hang of it and thought the coast was clear when we arrived in the not so beautiful state of Michigan! OMG if I ever win the Powerball I promise to donate money to fix the roads in that state! I'm not even joking there were potholes everywhere on the highway!! We had to dodge parts of cars just left in the middle of the lane while trying not to hit other cars dodging them AND pulling a 31 foot house! I don't know how that was deemed a safe highway it seemed more fitting for Gravedigger, not us hauling our new home with three kids in the back seat! I think Alex and I white knuckled it until we reached Ohio and it was an instant improvement on road conditions. So I must thank you Ohio thank you so much. I honestly thought I was ready to turn around until you're beautiful smooth asphalt highway roads. And the rest of the trip was smooth sailing no more seasickness but there were still the giant trucks that pulled by and swayed the whole travel trailer, but by the 100th time we're so used to it we don't even bat an eye.
Topic #2: I brought too much stuff!!!
Well kids toys really. I mean trying to decide which toys will:
A. occupy your kids the most so they stop fighting each other and/or bug you whinning with the I'm bored noise!
B. Have an educational/creative component (since they spend the long drives in zombie faced iPad world)
C. Be the ones they really want and are their favourites (because asking them to pick is useless as all of sudden that doll we haven't
seen since I was still pregnant with Lennon is all of a sudden Shyla's favourite! Riiiight)
D. Be enough or too little
So much pressure and at the end of our packing phase (thank the lord that's over with and let's note it that was not my most favourite part or preparing for the journey) I think I just started throwing toys into the buckets that made it to the trailer. So now I need to decide what to do with the toys taking up a quarter of the kids room here? I want to donate them asap as I'm having this crazy urge to redecorate and organize as well as clean (wtf? When did I turn into my mother-in-law?).
As for which toys I was bang on with......
1. Sticker books! All 3 kids love them and the reusable Melissa and Doug ones are gold.
2. Water guns
4. Barbies for Shyla, but she did not need the 20 we brought (sneaky girl stuffed a few in from the it-can-wait-for-us-to-return pile)
5. Hotwheels of course
6. Lego (although to be fair he hasn't played with it much, but I'm certain it'll be played with on those rainy or I'm in need of an inside time day)
7. Bikes of course! (honestly that's what they've played with most if you can call bikes a toy?)
Topic #3: The Sleep!
Ummm I'm almost afraid to jinx it, but it's either the fresh air or the VOC levels of this new bad boy on wheels, but damn I have been sleeping like the dead! And dreaming too like cool dreams. Remember those ones when you were a kid and you had super powers or you could fly? Yes! Those cool dreams and every night! So here here my new home on the road and thank you for my precious new sleep this past week. I feel like a new woman and not because I'm technically homeless or a fulltime vagabond or a mother travelling with her family around the USA and Canada but because I have had a full week of restful dream filled sleep! And to that. I say night night friends and stay posted for my next blog please:) wishing you all happiness, travels and sweet dreams! Xo