Monday, November 23, 2015

The Road To Ohio

The past couple of weeks have been rather difficult and we haven't really wanted to post about any of it, but in order to get to the next chapter (spending the Holiday's in Ohio), we need to first get through the journey we went on to get to Ohio.

Tuesday morning, November 3rd, our little family said goodby to Iowa and set out for Bentonville, Arkansas to visit my friend Jennifer and her family. I've really been looking forward to this visit to see one of the few people on this earth that really gets me.

We were making great time and all was well...

Until the last turn, on the last street, before her house. It was a busy and narrow road with a telephone pole that was practically standing in the street of the busy intersection. Dan drove out into the busy street and then a car came towards us at an alarming speed. Dan had to correct his turn as not to be hit by this oncoming car and BAM! Followed by ERRRRRR! The entire right side of the 5th wheel had been scraped, leaving major body damage and a smashed awning.

It swiped the rims above the tires right off!

The smashed awning

That set a major negative tone for that visit. We did our best to keep spirits high but inside Dan and I were feeling the stress. My friend Jennifer tried to lift our spirits making a wreath out of leaves from her yard with Daniel and Caiden's help. Look at those brilliant fall colors.

The other thing Jennifer did for us was let us go on a dinner and movie date for the first time in a couple of years. We went to Texas Land & Cattle Restaurant for some much needed drinks and eventually dinner. We arrived at 4:30pm and the place was deserted. We were literally the only customers for at least an hour. 

Here we are drinking in the empty restaurant.

After we drank and ate our worries away, we went to the Pinnacle Plaza Movie Theater to see The Martian, which was AMAZING! We highly recommend seeing that film. Great plot, great pacing, great actors.

All was not lost, as Arkansas redeemed itself as the week unfolded. On Saturday, we packed up again traveling to St. Louis, Missouri for a two night stay while we slowly make our way to Ohio. I picked an RV site in the center of Downtown St. Louis because it was central to the freeways we needed and it was relatively reasonably priced. Of course I didn't know that Downtown St. Louis is a scary ghetto that you wouldn't want to be caught outside come nightfall kind of place. Whoopsie! So yeah, we went out once to get some word famous BBQ and that was it. By the way, the BBQ was good.

Here is Caiden looking for more BBQ but it's all gone. We should have taken a picture of the BBQ before we ate it but we couldn't help ourselves.
Next, we headed to Indianapolis where Dan planned on visiting two old Navy buddies. So many parks are closing this time of year and it's getting more difficult to find a place to stay for a reasonable price. We ended up choosing the Indiana State Fairgrounds but the only drawback is that it's pretty much just a parking lot. It was rainy and cold the entire two nights we stayed but the boys and I just relaxed indoors while Dan went to visit his buddies. 

Caiden has a new Mickey Mouse hat and he loves it!
Everyone is bundled up because it's cold outside
Here is our site right next to the parking lot
The boys are playing cards with no apparent set of rules
Caiden playing with his beloved cars 
And Daniel is creating some kind of superhero "weapon"
Dan with his friend Tim
Dan with his friend Mike
After Indiana, we traveled just across the Ohio border to rest for one night at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Campground in Fairborn. But after hearing the weather reports predict over 50 miles per hour gusts of wind, we stayed an extra night.

On the positive side, staying an extra day allowed Dan to relax on his birthday instead of drive. We treated the birthday boy to breakfast at Bob Evans.

Caiden is trying to make Daddy a birthday cake out of creamers.

So, here is where the story go awry. We leave the Air Force Base on Friday the 13th (cue ominous music please) but we look for a trucker size gas station to fill up. We stop at a TA Travel Station and find the Diesel pump. Dan pulls it in and fills up. Then we go to pull out (only going 5 mph mind you) and again, CLUNK! Oh no, now what? The turning radius was just too small for our huge trailer. Somehow, the tall yellow cement pillar that is there to protect the gas pump has been caught under the back left slide-out and tried to come out the back of our trailer. 

There is structural damage and the back slide-out won't move. Agh, we are in for some major repair. Even though Dan and I are weary of traveling and stressed out beyond what we think we can handle, we still need to get to his sister's house. So, we take a deep breath and get back in the truck station without anymore incidents but maybe the rule of thumb might be-Do not travel on Friday the 13th.
Here is Dan's sister's house (which is really in Colliers, West Virginia just 10 minutes over the Ohio/WV border) where we get to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas. And for that we are truly thankful.

With a team of three TA employees, we were somehow able to get out of the gas pump area and pull off to the side to assess full damage.

Back left slide-out
Rear left side

The missing panel from back slide-out. We had to tear it off in order to get out of the gas station.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Hot Chocolate 5k

My sister-in-law Kate and I did this 5k last Sunday! We were both a little worried about it because there wasn't a lot of time to train for it but we did pretty well.

Here we are in our tutus ready to run!
It was a beautiful course beginning at Principle Park (where the Iowa Cubs play) then winding around the Des Moines River.

Kate jogged the entire course while I finally had to walk it at mile two. While I hung back, Kate and an 80 year old man dressed in purple chatted happily while still maintaining a decent pace. Maybe one day I will actually jog an entire 5k, but for now i will settle for progress. Even though it didn't seem like it, I actually did my best time so far at 42 min. 

Here we are with out chocolate metals! 
Here is the older gentleman dressed in purple. He got an award for being the oldest participant.

This was our families last official day in Iowa. The next stop in Bentonville, Arkansas to see my friend Jennifer and her family.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween & Beggar's Night

It's been raining and cold this past week, therefore some of the places we wanted to visit for Halloween in Des Moines just didn't happen because they were outdoors. No big deal, we were warm and toasty in our 5th wheel trailer while the temperatures averaged below the 50's. It's times like these that I'm especially thankful to have a two bedroom trailer so everyone can have their own space.

Our warm fireplace.

Thursday we planned to trick or treat at the Jordan Creek Mall because it was indoors, but before we went my brother Troy wanted to try some local BBQ and it did not disappoint. Smokey D's BBQ, you were worth the stop!

Troy & Kate in front of Smokey D's
Look at this silly family
Troy & Kate ❤️
I attempted to catch this gorgeous sunset with my camera phone because it was mind blowing with deep purple and reds.

We arrived at the Jordan Creek Mall with the boys in costume. Daniel was Iron Man and Caiden was Spider-Man.

Daniel, I mean Iron Man striking an action pose...
Caiden/Spider-Man climbed up to daddy's shoulders.

We followed the crowd of dressed up children and their parents in a single-file type line that moved around the mall. There were so many people there but it was very well executed. We were able to trick or treat all of the stores around the top level in about an hour without any melt-downs or insidents, Win!

So much sugar, so little time...
Daniel was enamered with this beautiful princess. 
Here is a view of the trick or treating lines.
Ahhh, now for the allotted two pieces of candy.
The kids aren't quite ready for bed after two pieces of candy.

Eventually they fell asleep (9:30pm) and the next day was Beggar's Night here in Iowa, which is on October 30th. This is when the children of Iowa dress up and go door to door trick or treating. I researched why it doesn't take place on Halloween like most of the country and found out that sometime in the 1920's, the state of Iowa decided to discourage the law-breaking and vandalism that always seemed to take place on Halloween night by introducing a new tradition of trick or treating the night before. That totally makes sense so we decided to go for it. At about 5pm we dressed the kids up in their superhero outfits and headed over to Troy & Kate's to trick or treat in their quaint little neighborhood. Also, it is customary to tell a joke in exchange for some candy so the whole way there, Dan was going over a "why didn't the skeleton cross the road" joke with Daniel. It's because "he had no guts" by the way but Daniel wasn't having any part of that joke, lol.

The anticipating car ride
The boys were interested in the skeleton yelling "let me out!" right outside Troy & Kate's house.
First official trick or treating 
Daniel attempted the joke...
Pulling Daddy to the next house.
The people were so nice and the boys loved it.
We're starting to run out of steam and it's not even dark yet.
Enjoying the spoils of the evening (3 pieces)
Happiness is Beggar's Night!

It was truely a fun Halloween experience here in Iowa for Our family. For Kate and I, it's not over yet. We are running in the Halloween Hot Chocolate 5k on Sunday, wish us luck! 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Iowa Part 2

It's been two weeks since the last post but I never meant to wait so long, I guess time flies when you're having fun and we've been enjoying the great state of Iowa. 

First off, we visited Ledges State Park with my brother Troy and my sister-in-law Kate that's just about an hour outside of Des Moines. We drove through flat, treeless farmland for miles until this place popped up seemingly out of nowhere. Suddenly, there were lush trees surrounded by ledge like rock formations. We drove down a narrow winding road that lead to a rushing stream that you can drive through.

In the spirit of Iowa tradition, we looked for heart shaped rocks called "Indian Love Rocks" on the bank of the stream. Even though we didn't find any, there was a sense of adventure building in our spirits. We spotted stairs leading we decided to see where they would lead.

Caiden kept reaching for Kate and saying "Kate, hold my hand"
Auntie Kate and the boys about half way up the stairs that seemed to go up forever!

Once we reached the top, we snapped a few pictures and made our way back down. The climb down was more tricky because there were no handrails and gravity was working against us, lol. Nevertheless, we made it down without incident or injury.

Here's a picture of the boys from the top.

We decided to climb another, somewhat less steep trail before leaving the park and the sun was just right for capturing the beauty of trees and their multiple colors.

A couple of days later, we met up with Troy, Kate and Kate's mom Sue at the Farmers Market located right in the middle of Downtown Des Moines. I wish we would have taken pictures of the Farmers Market but I guess we were just living in the moment.

Here is a picture of Downtown Des Moines

After the Farmers Market, we all hopped on our bikes and road around the city. Apparently everyone in Des Moines bike rides when the weather is good and there are dozens of bike trailed leading all around the city. Again, I have a problem taking pictures when I'm really enjoying myself so here are a couple random pictures from the ride.

Here is Daniel with his shark hat, so funny!
...and Caiden with Buzz Lightyear.
We stopped at a park on the outskirts of Downtown so the boys could play. 

The following week was fairly quiet as we enjoyed our serene campsite. The leaves began to fall heavily that week and then the wind picked up. I have never seen so many leaves blowing on the ground as well as from the trees themselves, it was as if it was raining leaves! I tried to catch a picture of it but I just couldn't quite get the magic in action.

Look at all those leaves.
This is what Fall looks like outside our front door!

That weekend we found out from a fellow camper that State Parks have a 14 day maximum...I swear when I heard that my heart sank, we were on day number 12. After speaking to a park ranger, our fears were confirmed but my persuasive husband somehow bought us a couple of extra days to figure out out next move. We researched our options and decided on an RV park about 20 minutes outside of Downtown Des Moines, not too far away but further than we wanted. Most state and county parks were already closed this time of year so we had to take what we could get.

I had fallen in love with Walnuts Woods Campground and I just wasn't ready to leave but it's important to stay flexible and optimistic when traveling so I took extra care to really enjoy our final days there. As luck would have it, a nice family showed up the last few day we were camping with a five year old little boy and a one year old little girl. Our kids were inseparable until the moment we drove away, it was pretty cute. 

Caiden bonded with this sweet little girl and they road bikes together...
She was fast for a one year old!
Daniel is getting his new friend to help him put his bike helmet on.
This was taken right before Caiden leaned over and kissed her! 

It was last Wednesday that we left Walnut Woods State Park and drove a short distance to Griffs Valley View RV Park. The new park was pretty, well maintained and filled with trees, green grass and a decorative pond. We went from living within 22 campsites to 144 campsites and we could feel the lack of privacy...however this new park has two laundry facilities and a gym so it's kind of a trade off. 

Nice man made lake in the middle of the park.
Here is our new site.
Daniel is biking around our little cul de sac.

Finally, we decided to venture out of Des Moines yeasterday and visit a small town about an hour away called Oskaloosa. It was featured on the news as one of the top small towns to live in the US. 

All the trash cans have old photos from the towns history on them, neat!

We parked in the town center and walked to a coffee shop called Smokey Row Coffee for lunch. There was a cozy warm feeling about this place where everyone was greeted by name and niegbors seemed to really know each other. That's the beauty of a small town, and it definitely appealed to us. We ordered our lunch ate amongst the easygoing vibe of the coffee shop.

The view from our seat.
The view from the upstairs loft.
Our lunch soup, salad, spaghettos and hot dog.
Cheeseburger Chowder...Delicious!

Next stop was the town library, but first we checked out a bookstore that used to be a bank. It was a long narrow space adorned in marble and brass features. The old vaults were turned into specially book sections which added to the overall charm of the store and give it its name The Book Vault. We picked out a couple of books for the boys and headed to the register. The owner checked us out and chatted with us about where we were from and what we are doing. There was an inclusive atmosphere about everyone in this town that was making us feel as if we already belonged here. Another customer came up and easily joined in our conversation and we left in high spirits.

The beautiful old storefront for The Book Vault
The store's entryway, look at those ceilings!

After we got our books we went to look for more books at library. It's such a beautiful building, everything here is old and charming.

The entrance to the library 

Before we left Oscaloosa, we were drawn into the town center to a gazebo playing the song "Earth Angel" by Marvin Berry and The Starlighters. Apparently they play old music all day which is a little bit surreal and the song they were currently playing reminded me of Back To The Future. I took pictures of the buildings from every angle to show how remarkable all the old buildings are.

Dan ans Caiden walking up to the gazebo.
North view...
West view...
South view...
East view...
This was just a pretty tree :)
Here is a picture of an empty building in town that Dan fell in love with. If we move here, he will set up a woodworking shop and sell his creations.

The next couple of weeks are going to be filled with Holloween activities and adventures, there's plenty to do here in Iowa at this time of year. We are all looking forward to the fun! Hopefully I can get another blog in before the big day (I mean Holloween of course).