Home Sweet Home

It’s kind of hard to go unnoticed when you pull this thing into the drive :-)

We went off the radar for a little bit before arriving back in Cincinnati.  We drove from Chicago to the P.C. and stayed with my parents for a few days.

I think arriving and Mamaw and Papaw’s was the most exciting part for Mac and Te.

Check out their faces as we pulled into their driveway…

Notice also that they were already in their swimming trunks. When we pulled onto their street they went and changed. Then these pictures were taken as we pulled into the drive. About 1/4 way down the driveway Mac got in my lap to “help” drive, and they were both honking the horn and screaming “We’re here! we’re here!”

All the beauty and experiences and amazing places pale in comparison to being with the people you love.

The minute we got there Te chilled out about a thousand percent.  So we took a nap, took a walk, and chilled out about 1000 percent too.  It was definitely the most restful couple of days of the entire trip.

We left the boys with Mamaw and Papaw. The world famous Preble County Fair is happening this week and the boys excited to go to that.

Brooke and I have begun the task of unpacking and cleaning the RV before we return it to her dad.  Good thing it’s only a thousand and six degrees here in Cincinnati with I-feel-like-I’m-swimming-in-my-own-sweat humidity.  California, take me away!

Tomorrow is our 15th wedding anniversary.  I think we’ll open a bottle of wine.

Re-entry has been a little overwhelming.  7 1/2 weeks on the road is a long time.  The mail was insane.  The weeds have taken over.  There’s a lot of business to take care of, bills to be paid, things to be dealt with.  And it almost feels like we’re moving – I had forgotten how long it took to load all that stuff into the RV for the trip.  But it’s great to be home.

We’ve reflected a little on the trip.  It certainly turned out differently than we expected.  I’ll probably post some more detailed thoughts as they come.

Hands down the MVP of the trip goes to…

Etta had the lowest drama quotient of all on the trip.  I was a little concerned about taking her, but she was amazing.  And she loved it!  She sat next to me or Brooke the whole time we drove and kept watch everytime we left the RV.  Usually from her favorite perch…

Here’s a quick “by the numbers” for fun…

7 1/2 = Weeks on the road. (original plan: 8 but we left late and came home early)

17 = States visited (original plan: 20 plus Canada)

6,447 = miles driven (original plan: 8000)

6,442 = miles driven by Aaron

5 = miles driven by Brooke

1 = Speeding tickets (thank you Nowhere, Idaho!)

7 = average mpg (YOUCH! we need to plant some trees and ride the scooter to work a LOT)

$2,780.59 = fuel cost (original budget: $3000 – the only thing we stayed “under budget” on)

7 1/2 = cases of wine purchased (correlation to weeks on the road = fate!)

1,117,985 = times we told Te, “Get off the dog!”

0 = number of times Etta snapped or growled at the kids when they stepped on her, hit her with a sword, or pulled her tail.  (again, MVP)

463 = times Mac asked if he could play “Bideo games”

200 = number of cartoons watched by our children

77 = number of green smoothies consumed.

4872 = number of Diet Cokes consumed.  (All by Aaron.  Way to go Brooke!)

Breakdowns = we lost count :-)  But hey, we successfully drove all the way from California to Cincinnati with NO breakdowns!  Maybe Georgette is cured!

It’s good to be home!  Now back to real life and whatever that has in store for us next. Stay tuned.

Keep Calm, and Carry On!

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Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota… are we there yet?

We have covered a lot of ground since Utah.

I think the family has a new goal.  Brooke and the boys spent a lot of time hanging out with these guys at our campground in Wyoming…

Papaw, how’s the fence coming? :-)

From the Tetons through East Wyoming is pretty deserted.  So… we had to find some ways to entertain ourselves which resulted in this…

Top speed 65 mph.  Total miles driven = 5.

Another lovely attraction in East Wyoming…

Sadly our family claim to fame seems to be a giant trailer park in the middle of nowhere.

Mac has been reading about Mt. Rushmore, so he was insistent that he would be our tour guide.  I think the hat lends credibility…

Yesterday was a LONG day.  We made it all the way to Wall, SD where we stayed in a campground across the street from Wall Drug.  This place is seriously crazy and worth seeing.

This was Te’s favorite part.  He played on this mangy thing for a good 10 minutes.

They also got to mine for “precious” gems and fossils.There are so many things to pose with at Wall Drug.  Te chose this.  He was not put up to it.  Yes, we have serious concerns…

We’re in Jackson, Minnesota for the night.  It’s hard to believe we’re only a couple days away from 7 weeks on the road!

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The Salt of the Earth

Utah is fascinating.  Parts of it are like being on another planet.

Yesterday we went to the Salt Flats; the remains of an ancient lake that dried up long ago. We could’ve been on the moon.

Miles and miles of nothing but this…
I love this picture of Brooke.  What do you think the better caption is? “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful”  or “Stand back. I’m about to kick some ass.”  Either way, it’s one of the many reasons I love my wife. 

From there we went to Salt Lake City.  We have been in Salt Lake twice.  Both this year. Both on a Sunday.  It’s CRAZY.  The Mormons take their sabbath seriously.  Imagine a major metropolis becoming a ghost town for 1 day out of the week.  Almost everything is closed, so good luck finding a bite to eat.  We did find Chipotle – everyone in the Wright family was happy.  There’s an added bonus for us heathens – no traffic! :-)

We wanted to see the lake so we went out to Antelope Island.  The lake is beautiful.  So clear and so calm.  It looks like glass

Our visitor’s guide said that the Lake was most easily accessed from this point…Uhmmm…. I certainly never want to access it from the difficult point.  We hiked so long through hot rocky sand in 100 degrees that the boys began to cry but their tears were immediately sucked into the desert’s atmosphere and Brooke and I began to think the lake was just a mirage.  Once you get to the shore, you’re SO excited but then you set your stuff down and are greeted with the dung flies. I thought Te was literally going to lose it.  We convinced them to get in the water, and it was definitely worth it.  The Great Salt Lake has a salt content 5 times higher than the ocean, so you are buoyant.  You just float.  You can float on your side, sitting up… it’s crazy cool.

The other interesting thing is that because of the high salt content nothing lives in the lake beside some brine shrimp, a little algae, and those pesky flies.

By the time you hike back to the parking lot you are dry and completely crusty from the salt.

It’s a really cool experience.  Definitely go for a float if you’re ever there.

Antelope Island is also home to about 500 Buffalo.  We got to see some up close. Mac was pretty impressed.

They reminded me of Henry (our old chocolate lab that died last summer)

Today we went to Jackson, Wyoming.  We saw the Tetons and are spending the night in Dubois.  Tomorrow is a long travel day, and then the plan is to see Mount Rushmore on Wednesday.  But we all know how our plans go…

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My name is mud

We decided that since Napa was going to be the biggest part of our trip that we should really go for it.  So we did a ton of wine tasting (and buying… 1 or 2 bottles here turned into 1 or 2 cases there… turned into “holy crap, did we really buy that much wine?!”)  But part of this trip is celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary (August 5) so we’re giving ourselves the gift that will keep on giving – one bottle at a time.

In the spirit of trying new things and embracing the moment, Brooke and I went to Calistoga to sit in mud.

Yes, on purpose.

Yes, it was weird.

Calistoga is famous for their hot springs.  For centuries people have touted the healing properties of mineral water and heat.

But mud?

Okay so we made a reservation for the couples mud bath, dropped the kids at day camp and drove to Calistoga.   When we pulled into the place I kind of freaked out.  It’s a full spa and “resort” but it’s a little older so at first it felt a little bit like pulling into a seedy motel.  I really was thinking we had pulled into some sort of swingers ranch.  I verbalized this – probably shouldn’t have.

But once you got back to the office it felt much more legit.

Here’s a really blurry picture to give you an idea of what I’m talking about when I say mud bath.

The best way I can describe it is that you feel like a marshmallow in your grandma’s Jello salad – squishy, suspended and surrounded by questionable ingredients.

I’ll concede that it was super relaxing.

But it was also super HOT.  After celebrating California in a recent post for providing the first time in my life I have not sweated for a period of 2 weeks (including winter in Ohio)  I sat in the mud and thought, “I’m paying how much? to sweat? in mud? Fantastic!”

It was interesting.  Do it if you ever have a chance.

We have moved on from Napa.  We made the tough decision to head east rather than north.

Yesterday we drove to “Lake Taco” (Mac’s version of Lake Tahoe).  Maybe his disappointment at the complete lack of sour cream and cheese upon our arrival is what led to this 4th meal at Taco Bell.or maybe my children are just bottomless pits.

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San Francisco Take 2

On Sunday we decided to go back to San Francisco with the boys.

They loved it.  It was one of the top days of the trip.

This clown was CREEPY

But they were mesmerized by her act

And she did make some cool balloons.

I mean, Spiderman and a sword… it doesn’t get much better when you’re 5 and 6.

We took a boat ride around the Bay.  The boys were a little excited…

We got to ride under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz.  It really does have this unexplainable beauty and allure…

We sat in the front with 2 other people.  The guide warned us that the people in the front get wet and handed us a waterproof blanket.  He was right.  Mateo stayed under the blanket most of the time and managed to stay completely dry

but the rest of us got soaked.

Good thing Mac really does love water.  He laughed every time we got splashed.

We ate lunch at the Wharf.  The boys were so fascinated by the process that they actually ate crab… (well Mac tasted it and said it was disgusting, but at least he tasted it)  Te actually liked it.

The boys were sufficiently impressed with the whole day. Brooke loves this picture of Mac and I walking and talking.  I’ll let you in on the conversation.

Mac, “Can we do this again sometime?”

Me, “Sure.  Papaw would love it here.”  :-)

The last week and a half have definitely taught me something. We need contrast. Just like art, life requires contrast to appreciate the beauty. Mac was SO excited when we drove across the Bay Bridge and he could see the city. He said, “It’s beautiful!  It looks like Cincinnati.” Part of that is because he’s a little homesick. But part of that is because he’s spent a week in summer camp in a Martial Arts gymnasium. In contrast, the city looked amazingly beautiful to him.

We’ve been attempting to drink from the fire hose of beauty on this trip. When you’re 5 years old and you do too much of that, you can get to the point where you stand at the edge of the Grand Canyon and say, “BORING!” (I know, right? spoiled little shits :-) Can you believe it?)

Without the contrast of a little “less than amazing” the “amazing” can lose it’s luster.

I think that’s what this woman was trying to prevent.  We drove beside her on I-80 on the way back to Napa for a good 15 minutes and finally had to snap a picture. 

It’s the only feasible reason we could come up with for the cardboard box she wore on her head.  Maybe when she takes it off the contrast of her shag carpet and cats blows her away.  Maybe not.

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Deja Vu

Yesterday morning we got ready to leave Napa and head north.  It still amazes me how much time it takes to pack up and get everything secure to move the RV. We spent most of the morning preparing to leave, and then I took Te out for a little break.

I thought we had to check out by noon.  At 11:20 Te and I were down the street at McDonald’s when Brooke called, “Do you realize we are supposed to check out by 11:30?” Me, “Uhmm, I thought it was noon.  I’ll be right there.”

So… I drove back, and we quickly loaded the scooter, bikes, and battened the hatches. We left the RV park at 11:45 – a miracle.

We fueled up, drove about a mile and a half, and returned the rental car – around 12:15 (it wasn’t due until 5:00)

We put a movie in for the boys – with headphones in the back bedroom with the blinds down and the curtains drawn which makes it pretty much like an isolation/sensory deprivation chamber – and prepared for our 6 hour drive north.

We drove approximately one mile and the brakes started to lock up.  We turned a corner to get off the main road and they completely locked up right in front of Dominos Pizza.  I spent about 20 minutes underneath the RV trying to trouble shoot it.  No success. We called Brooke’s dad to ask some questions about where different parts of the brake system were located so we could check more stuff. And then about 45 minutes after the breakdown, I went to the back bedroom.  The boys asked, “where are we?” I think they assumed we’d been traveling for hours and arrived somewhere new.

“The RV broke down,” I explained.

Te: “Can we get Pizza?”

Perfect timing, Te.  “Yes, Buddy.  Actually, pizza is one thing we can do right now.”

We’ll call that providence.  So Brooke walked into Dominos and ordered 2 pizzas.  This cracks me up because there’s no way from the isolation chamber they could see we were next to pizza.  Did they smell it?  Sixth sense? I don’t know.

I’ll spare you all the “Roadside Assistance” drama.  I have tried not to name names on the blog or complain when things go wrong.  But under NO circumstance should you ever use Allstate as your RV roadside assistance. Next time I’m going Triple A all the way. Allstate absolutely blows!  They did locate someone a mile away from us that could look at it if we could get it there before 6:00 (it was 2:30 at the time and they couldn’t guarantee they could tow us by then).  Really?  3 1/2 hours to travel one mile?

We called the rental car company back, but no luck – they closed at 2:00.

After several hours of being on and off hold with Allstate they basically told us there was nothing they could do for us.  So I started the RV again and the brakes released.  We nursed it toward the shop and as we pulled into the lot the brakes completely locked again – we didn’t even make it into the bay before it completely locked up, but at least we were off the road and in their lot.

The guy at the repair shop spent about an hour on it and basically said he’d have to work on it on Monday.

We realized we’d be here a few more days, so our first phone call = day camp. Yes they have room.  Yes they’d love to have Mac and Te back next week.

The repair shop is less than a mile from the RV park we’ve been at all week. The guy got us mobile and we drove back to the RV park where we’ll park until Monday morning when it goes into the shop for the repairs. There’s a whole additional layer of logistics when your ride is also your house and you have a dog with you as well.

So five and a half hours later we were right back where we started that morning: #27 in the RV park.  I laughed pretty hard.  I thought, “If I wake up tomorrow with “I got you babe” on my alarm clock, I’ll start to be alarmed.”

There are worse places to be stuck than Napa for sure.  The only danger is we might go broke buying wine and eating fantastic food, gain back all the weight we’ve lost on the trip, and become certified wine snobs. It’s going to be really difficult to go back to drinking $5 wine from the Riddle Market :-)

The big news of the day was this:

The loose tooth finally came out. What a face! Last night the tooth fairy and Miguelito the Colombian mouse visited for the first time.

This morning we got our sweet little rental car back.   Planned for kid day camp AND arranged for doggie day camp tomorrow (I never thought we’d be “those people,” but…)  And started looking for dog-friendly hotels we can check into tomorrow night.

Who knows how long we’ll be here, but the grand adventure continues.  This will most definitely alter our plans for the rest of the trip and change timelines and destinations, though we’re not certain exactly how.  We’ll keep you posted.

Stay calm and carry on.  I am also going to buy a sign I saw that said, “Poor Me… more wine!”

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A few quick photos from our day in San Francisco

Apparently I hadn’t had enough coffee to smile yet.  Waiting on the Trolley.We rode the trolley toward Chinatown where we walked, shopped, ate, and lost our ticket for the parking garage… good times

From there we walked to Pier 39 to see the Sea Lions.

Brooke with the Golden Gate Bridge behind her… So pretty :-)

Aaron with Alcatraz behind him… hey wait!

At the Wharf.  A lunch of Crab, Ceviche, and Cerveza… perfect!

I had to get this picture of Brooke and the frog for our friend Larry.

The big news of yesterday is that when we got back, the boys learned to ride their bikes without training wheels!   Mac actually did it on the first try (he’s been one wheel short ever since the unfortunate reloading incident on Day 1 of our trip).

Te had a little more trouble and several pretty bad falls.  We had to work on the art of falling which he picked up right away.  My favorite line of the day was when Te said, “I got my crashin’ skills.  Now I need to work on my riding skills.” Perfect.

Today is our last day of summer camp and our last full day in Napa.  We are heading toward St. Helena to do some tasting and house hunting for our friends Rob and Lilly – lucky them – they are moving here next month.

We’re not sure where the road leads next.  Hoping to figure that out before noon tomorrow.

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