Grand Canyon, New Mexico, and Texas

Please forgive us for getting so far behind. It is amazing how many days can pass in what seems like such a short while. This is a long one, so please don’t feel pressured to read it all. Perhaps just peruse the photos (which are coming soon…).

Day 74, Sunday, July 7 – We had planned a trip to Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona for some hiking, but Justice work up feeling ill, which we attributed to some too-old leftover chicken (if only she would eat fish, which is what the rest of us had for dinner last night). Since it was my last day with my dad, Jacin volunteered to stay behind with Justice so we could continue with our plans. Just before we were ready to leave, Sandy volunteered to watch over Justice, because she isn’t up for hiking quite yet, anyway. So, We headed out with Jacin, dad, Nation, and Aaron, and embarked on a 6.6 mile round trip hike on West Fork Trail. It was plenty hot, but the trail had several creek crossings in which to cool down. Our goal, of course, was to hike it to the end, but the blazing heat wore the young boys out, so Grandpa agreed to start heading back with the youngins, and Jacin and I picked up the pace and headed toward the end. It was worth the additional effort. At the end, the trail simply ends at the creek’s edge, and to continue you have to wade. We took off our shoes and headed in, following the water around a couple of bends before deciding we’d shot enough pictures and should head back to meet up with the rest of the group. To my surprise, my anti-exercise husband took off running down the trail. I laughed to myself a bit, wondering how long it would be before he had to stop and heave, but after several minutes of not catching up to him, I took off down the trail to catch him. We ended up running at least 1.5 miles before we caught up with the rest of the family, and we took a break at an area in the creek that had natural slides in the red rocks. The boys played for quite a while before we coaxed them out of the water and made the rest of the trek back to the truck. We made the two-hour trip back to Prescott, whipped up a quick white chili dinner, and headed to bed.

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Day 75 – Jacin and Nation took the RV in to be checked out, and Justice and I stayed behind for chores and QEST appointments. The boys picked up breakfast at Starbucks while waiting for the RV, but after a while decided to head back to the house to check in and formulate a plan. Justice and I headed back into town with them and we caught a late lunch at Taj Mahal (Indian buffet – YUM!). We dinked around a bit before going to pick up the RV. Not so good news – the AC needs charging and the rear hydraulic leveling jacks are essentially shot (though continue to use them, knowing we’ll have to jack them back up). Bummer, especially when you have to pay a bill to have had nothing fixed! (I understand there is time that goes into diagnosing – it is just difficult to avoid feeling like you are getting the short end of the stick.) We headed back to the house and had dinner with Sandy, and the family went to bed as I prepared for a long night of work. The fun never ends!

Day 76 – Jacin and Nation took the RV back into town to have the AC charged, and we girls stayed behind yet again. There is a lot of bookkeeping to be done this month due to the end of the quarter, and I also had to prepare for my QEST finals this weekend. When the boys got home, it was more bad news – the AC was still not getting cold, and Affinity RV decided it needed an additional $400 repair (after we’d already dropped the same amount diagnosing and charging it). It is times like these when we are forever grateful for good friends. Jacin made a call to Danny in Rapid City, a wonderful man who owns a refrigeration/truck repair shop, and he talked Jacin through a few things to check out. Within the course of an hour, he had the A/C working like new – it was only a vacuum leak. Praise God! While he was on a roll, he tried cycling the jacks to see if he could coax them into working properly, but to no avail. At some point we will have to replace them, but thankfully we can work around the problem for a while. After dinner, I packed up to head to Denver the next day while watching a movie with the family. (Code – “Ooh, I’m shaking in my baby seal leather boots!” Code – “Oh, my big blue head!”) 🙂

Day 77 – I packed up and the family dropped me off at the shuttle to Phoenix. It will be a long weekend of internship, MANY tests, and lots of “sit on your butt” time, but as always, I do look forward to class. {Interjection – the next few days of activities will be short and to the point, as I wasn’t there, but rather am reading Jacin’s journal to fill in the details.} Jacin and the kids headed to Montezuma’s Castle, which is a hike leading to ruins built in the side of cliffs, then Montezuma’s well, a continuous fed watering hole.

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Day 78, Thursday, July 11 – Jacin and the kids headed to the Grand Canyon. They ate a big breakfast in Williams, then snapped some pictures of the motel and bar from the movie, “The Canyon”.

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They stopped in Tusayan and bought an annual National Parks Pass (makes sense since we assume we will have lots of opportunities to visit several more National Parks in the next several months), then rode the shuttle into the park. The walked along quite a bit of the rim and snapped lots of great pictures in the ideal lighting and great temperatures. Nation left his water bottle at one of the vista points, but then got lucky and found a replacement, as well as an umbrella. They left the Canyon around 5:30 and made their way home, to a very good night of sleep.

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Day 79 – Lazy day. The monsoons finally arrived, bringing in cooler temps and moisture – much needed and appreciated. Jacin and the kids cleaned the RV and went shopping for groceries. Justice then had an afternoon painting with Grandma Sandy, while the boys veged in front of the TV. After a steak and potato dinner, they all (including Dad and Sandy) retired to movie night, watching “The Canyon”.

Day 80 – Another lazy start. Everyone headed to Watson Lake with dad’s fishing boat and spent several hours trolling around. They spent a lazy evening watching a movie.

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Day 81 – Jacin and the kids attended church with Sandy, then tended to some chores around the house. They spent the afternoon playing cards and enjoying each other’s company. My flight into Phoenix was delayed, so I missed the shuttle up to Prescott, forcing Jacin to make the drive to pick me up. It was a super late night, but always good to be “home”.

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Day 82 – Jacin, Nation, and I were able to jump out of the RV and say good-bye to dad before he headed to work (Justice still had her head buried in her pillow). We all got showered and packed up, then after writing Sandy a good-bye note, we headed up to the Grand Canyon. We grabbed a great spot in Ten-X campground just outside of the park. After setting up camp, we headed into the park to try to get a couple hours of touristing in. However, a monsoon storm settled in and the buses were no longer taking people out to the farthest points. So, after getting suitably wet, we headed back to camp and enjoyed a few hours of card games and a movie. It was great to spend some quiet family time together after having been apart all weekend.

Day 83 – We made it into the park around 10:00 and hiked along the rim to several of the western points. Then the clouds started rolling in, so we grabbed the buses to hit the last 4 points before the rain came. Justice found what we believe to have been a baby horny toad at one of the stops, so she brought him along for several of the stops and enjoyed having a pet for a little while. Unfortunately, Jacin’s camera battery ran out before we were done exploring, but we were able to see some tremendous views of several different sections of the canyon. Afterwards, we drove some back roads outside the park boundary in an attempt to get to a few of the points that are not accessible to most tourists. Jacin let Justice drive since we were on gravel and dirt and there was no one around. She got her first lesson in dealing with muddy, rutted roads, and we ended up completely sideways at one point after she attempted to stay out of the mud. We never did find a back way in accessible by vehicle, but it was a fun adventure all the same!

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Day 84 – Time to pack up camp and head east. We drove all day through New Mexico, avoided Albuquerque by taking a smaller highway that bypassed the city, and ended up dry camping in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Socorro, NM.

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Day 85 – Didn’t get much sleep due to heat and noise. At some point you just have to decide whether to keep trying or just hit the road. We left Socorro before the kids were awake. We drove through mountains and clouds, past the Trinity Site (test site of the first atomic bomb), then through Lincoln (last escape of Billy the Kid). We dropped into Carizzozo, which reminded us of Iceland with the clouds and the lava fields. We headed to Roswell, NM, to see some aliens. Justice informed us that it would be a silly stop since “they don’t exist”, but she had fun posing with them anyway. We didn’t take the tour of the museum, but came away with some great evidence. We contemplated dry camping again somewhere in TX, but needed to dump and fill as our camping in the Grand Canyon was without hookups. So, we stopped east of Abilene, TX, to find a place to dump, but just decided to stay the night and take advantage of full hookups. We had no complaints from the kiddos who were able to swim a bit in the pool.

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Day 86 – We hung around Abilene RV Park after sleeping in so that we could catch up on laundry as well as so I could catch up on work. While I had this glorious idea that I could work while Jacin drives, attempting to use dual screens on bouncy roads and making phone calls without having them dropped has been challenging. So, shortly after 12 we headed out towards Cedar Lake State Park campground, our stopping point just outside of Dallas for a few days while Jacin attended an estimating software class in the city. We were surprised to find the campground mostly empty, especially so close to the city and on a weekend. Our site overlooked the lake, and even if there had been others nearby, the layout of the campground keeps most site fairly private. There were so many trees, and the playgrounds were “hidden” in the middle of forested areas. Jacin took the kids to a surprisingly cheap dinner at Pizza Hut while I worked. They filled up with gas, but the nozzle was rigged in such a way that it literally flew out of the gas tank twice, causing Jacin to be drenched in gasoline. He washed the truck afterward then headed back to camp so he could wash himself. He claims he was then going to work on the blog, but he ended up having issues with his mouse that he had to deal with so that his computer would be ready for class the next day. So, we’ll blame it on him that nothing has been updated in a timely fashion. 🙂

Day 87, Saturday July 20 – Jacin was up early to head to Dallas for his Symbility training. I had intended to take the kids to a reptiles program in the state park, but they slept in too late to make it. Once they were up and fed, we jumped on our bikes and headed to a mammals program at 11:00. We weren’t really sure how far it was to the meeting area, and looking on a 2-D map didn’t really prepare us for what we might encounter. Needless to say, after several large hills and 800% humidity in 97 degree heat, we were 15 minutes late and completely drenched in sweat. (Poor Nation’s face didn’t change from the color red until we were back in the RV for at least an hour.) But it was still interesting, as we were able to learn fun facts about local wildlife as well as hold a stuffed armadillo. Nation was even sprayed by a stuffed skunk. Now that’s Texas fun if you ever had it! After the program we took a very quick tour of a farm on the park grounds, then hopped back on our bikes to tour around a bit more. We hit the marina and cooled off a bit inside, then headed down to check out the beach. There were way too many people to try it out just then, so we took an extremely fun (sarcasm) short cut up the side of a wooded hill to our camper, and then spent the next 15 minutes pulling burrs off of our clothing. The rest of the day was spent in the RV taking advantage of the air conditioning. I cannot imagine trying to camp in Texas this time of year without hookups. I helped the kids with a bit of schoolwork, then spent the rest of the afternoon working while the kids veged. Jacin made it home around 6:30 and had homework to do, so it was a pretty quiet night.

Day 88 – Jacin was gone early again to class. The kids and I decided to try out the beach before it was packed with people. We spent a couple of hours playing in the mud/clay bottomed lake. We headed back to the RV and cleaned up for lunch. Jacin sent us a text at nearly 2:00 saying they still hadn’t stopped for lunch, which, if you know Jacin, is NOT a good thing. His brain was shutting down, and I would imagine he was on the verge of being HANGRY (hungry-angry). While Jacin was buried in a test that afternoon, I worked and the kids were happily engaged (chuckle) in more school work. Jacin thinks he fared well, although we won’t have the test results for a while.

Day 89 – I worked on bookkeeping and Jacin updated and submitted applications in the morning for as long as we could before we ventured out of the state park and headed towards San Marcos, where my Uncle Mike and Aunt Mary Alice live. They were able to provide us with power, which allowed us to stay on their property rather than several miles away, which allowed us much more time for visiting. We had a nice dinner together and visited late into the night as we discussed what me might do and see during our visit.

Day 90 – We had planned to head to San Antonio, but we had been up late the night before and had a tough time getting going. So, Mary Alice took us to the head waters of the San Marcos River, where she treated us to a glass-bottomed boat tour. It was incredible! The San Marcos river is spring fed, and the water is crystal clear. We could see several springs, many turtles swimming about, and flowers blooming underwater due to the sunlight’s ability to penetrate so deeply. After lunch, I stayed at the RV to work and the rest of the gang headed to a nearby cave. The tour ended up being too expensive, so Mary Alice took them on a driving tour of San Marcos. Then came back to the house to load up tubes and headed to the river. Mike brought chicken home for dinner, and the men helped a neighbor set up a piano, and then headed to my cousin Faith’s house to install a door. The rest of us headed to Faith’s a bit later and enjoyed a tour of her adorable home. Faith was not in town, but was visiting her siblings in Indiana, so unfortunately we didn’t have the opportunity to see her. It was another late night.

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Day 91 – We left (as early as is possible for this traveling bunch) to head to San Antonio. Our first stop was the San Juan Mission, which has been restored over the years and the grounds kept intact. We were lead through the grounds by a park ranger, so gained some very interesting knowledge about many of the early missions of what was Spain’s earliest attempts to colonize the area now known as Texas. It was great to do this first, before we hit the Alamo, which is in middle of San Antonio, so that we could get a true feel for what these missions were like before the population explosion. The Alamo was also very educational, but our hungry tummies were preventing our brains from taking in more information, so we headed down to the river walk and had a nice Mexican lunch at Casa Rio. We finished off our trip with a boat tour of the river walk area, then headed back to San Marcos before rush hour traffic. After dinner with Mike and Mary Alice, we headed off to bed after a tiring day of touristing.

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Day 92, Thursday, July 25 – We left San Marcos around 10:00 and headed up to Austin to the University of Texas, where my Uncle Mike works as a project supervisor. He showed us several of the larger, more impressive projects he has been a part of over the last several years, and then we were treated to a tour of the main clock tower, where Charles Whitman lead his shooting rampage in 1966. The tower is basically closed to the public, so it was a true treat to see it from the inside. The building used to be the student library, and we saw several rooms that are being restored to their original beauty, which will eventually be used as meeting places. We also were able to go up inside the clock and watch the gear mechanism change the time, as well as walk around the outside of the clock and see where several bullets from local residents had hit the tower in their attempt to stop Charles Whitman. The last treat on the tour was our up close and personal viewing of the Carillon, which is essentially an organ, but with bells instead of pipes. We watched as a student played a music piece for us, using his fists rather than fingers due to the size and weight of the “keys”. Nation also got to take his turn at playing, and he chose the age old, beloved tune, “Heart and Soul”. Afterward, while waiting for Mike to finish his work day, we spent several hours in the Lyndon B Johnson Presidential Library on campus, mostly enjoying the photojournalism of presidents since FDR. Even the kids enjoyed their time looking at all the photos and the memorabilia from President Johnson’s ranch. Afterward, we headed to the famous Black’s Barbeque in Lockhart, TX, where Mike and Mary Alice treated us to the best barbeque we’ve had in years. We spent the evening looking through old family photos while the kids watched Voyage of the Dawntreader in 3D. It was yet another late night.

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Day 93 – So here it is, Friday, July 26th. We left Mike and Mary Alice’s house around 9:30 to start our trek toward Louisiana, where Jacin has classes starting next week. We thought it best to give ourselves a few days, just in case. Well, just in case happened. Right outside of Schulenburg, TX, we had our first tire blowout. We were directed to a great traveling tire savior who helped us get our spare on so we could continue down the road. It wasn’t even an hour after saying to each other, “OK, we can check that off the “travel to-do list” and noting how many tires we were seeing next to the road, that our second tire on the same side blew, just outside of Brookshire, TX. So here we are, having two tires replaced in a truck repair parking lot (as you can imagine, nothing on an RV is cheap), then headed down the road to an RV shop to replace the propane regulator that was blown off our tank from the second tire. I have a telephone appointment scheduled for this afternoon that I am not sure I will make, or may have to try to take while we are still driving, although it will inevitably fall during my peak navigation duties. And such is life on the road, I guess. Tonight we will stay in Village Creek State Park in Lumberton, TX. (Please, dear God, grant us traveling mercies.) Until next time…

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