Today was our first day really exploring Springfield, other than figuring out where the closest Wal-Mart Supercenter is located. We visited the local farmer’s market as well as here, the “World’s Largest Fork”. It stands 35 feet tall and is made of polished stainless steel. It can be found in front of The Food Channel headquarters, which is apparently different than the Food Network.
We had already been on the road for a day, and had made good progress along our trek to Missouri, having covered 500 miles and traversing the mountains that run through NV and AZ. I was originally looking at the map along our route to see what we had in store for us the following day when I discovered Petrified Forest National Park along the way. I figured we could pull off the freeway, spend an hour or two in the park, and be back on the road fairly quickly. Yeah…that was a nice thought. The park was very interesting and we all loved examining the many pieces of petrified wood that covered the expanses. We also thought the layers, lines, and color differences of the hills and rocks were quite exquisite. We left the truck and RV in the visitor center parking lot and took the more maneuverable van through the park. We stopped at Newspaper Rock, a site of many petroglyphs, as well as taking a short 1-mile walk along a paved trail. Dixie, who had been cooped up most of our visit in California, was happy to be able to walk along the trail with us. The hour or so that I had planned on turned into over 4 hours, but we all really enjoyed the park and the kids completed their Junior Ranger booklets and collected their Ranger badges before we loaded back into the vehicles and returned to the freeway. At this point I was a little grumpy and worried that we would be behind schedule by making the originally-unscheduled stop, but by the time we pulled off the road for the night around midnight we had made it another 500 miles, and I was at ease again.
As we progressed east along I-40 we came upon the exit for Winslow, AZ. Being the geek that I am I convinced Heather to make the quick detour and snap some pictures before finding a place to sleep for the night. The kids were asleep in the vehicles, so we left them sleep and enjoyed a late night stroll around Standin’ on the Corner Park by ourselves. I especially liked the giant route 66 logo painted on the pavement in the middle of the intersection as well as the “reflection” of the flatbed Ford in the window. For those of you who have not been there, there truly is a flatbed Ford parked along the street; however the “reflection” in the window is actually on the inside of the glass and not a true reflection at all.
I knew route 66 was a big deal across the western US, but I had not originally tailored our travel plans to include any stops along route 66. I simply mapped the best route between origin and destination for each leg of our journey. I was pleasantly surprised that I-40 criss-crosses route 66 many times and even shares the road with it part of its distance. We first came across route 66 in San Bernardino county, California and came back across the route in Arizona, then a few more times as we progressed east on our travels.
While in Arizona we decided to travel along route 66 and stopped in the small town of Williams, AZ along the Kaibab National Forest. This neat little town was full of the Route 66 vibe. There were shops and restaurants, as well as museums and classic cars. They even had a reenacted gunfight in the evening between westerners. Of course there was no shortage of Native American items and influence in the town as well.
We strolled the sidewalks and perused through the shops before eating dinner at a great little Mexican restaurant. It was a nice change of pace to simply stroll instead of moving along at freeway speeds. Heather and all three of the kids got Route 66 shirts while we were there to commemorate our visit. I also picked up a Route 66 sticker for the back of the RV, which is getting a nice collection of stickers from across the United States.
One of the days while we were in California we took the opportunity to visit Joshua Tree National Park. We didn’t arrive at the park visitor center until mid-afternoon, and by the time all 6 kids had made a bathroom stop and Miss Kicky Feet was changed, it was approaching evening as we headed into the actual park. We found a trail that interested us and off we went. We were not on the trail very long when the kids were again off the trail and scaling the rocks and boulders that are common in the park. This sort of thing is not frowned upon, if not encouraged, so we too took to climbing after them and enjoying acting like mountaineers. We eventually returned to the trail for a bit before climbing more rocks. This did, however, significantly slow our progress along the trail so a 1.1 mile loop trail took us over 2 hours to complete. By this time we were quickly approaching sunset. We had originally planned to watch the sunset from another trail-head in the park, but with 10 minutes left before official sunset, we knew we would never make it in time. We instead drove through the park enjoying the sights along the way. When we reached the next trail-head the sun had set, but we had a decent glow still on the horizon. We took the time to eat dinner from our cooler at a randomly chosen campsite picnic table before loading up under the bright moon (now well after dark) and driving back to the campground (outside Joshua Tree) at which the RV was parked. Bug did not even make it out of the park before I heard his long even breaths and found him completely asleep in the back seat. While we did enjoy ourselves in the park, I was glad we had our National Parks Pass and did not need to pay the admission fee of $25 for our vehicle. If we had not had our pass I would have wanted to start earlier in the day and hike more of the trails to make it worth the money.
For those of you not familiar with Joshua Trees, they are actually not trees in the traditional sense of the word, but rather large Yucca plants that resemble a small tree is shape and size. They were named Joshua Trees by Mormon settlers who thought the upward reaching branches resembled Joshua, a Biblical man, reaching for the sky in prayer. Heather found it neat that the park visitor center sold Joshua tree seeds.
A side note from Heather: Climbing lots and lots of boulders with a baby strapped to your chest is a great (or terrible depending on your perspective) thigh workout. Yep, I was sore for days and days. Need to do this again.
Our kiddos have played and/or gone swimming along the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean as well as the Gulf of Mexico. This trip to the beach would add the Pacific Ocean to the list. And what is better than a day at the beach? A day at the beach with your cousins! Pie and Bug had a wonderful time digging, playing, and exploring with their cousins, who live in California.
There was not too much playing in the water since it was quite cool and overcast, even a little bit of drizzle, but that did not stop them from enjoying the sand. Four of them spent much of their beach time digging a huge hole that all four of them could comfortably fit into. Later in the afternoon we went to explore some nearby tide pools. Everyone loved searching the pools for interesting creatures. There were a lot of crabs of all sizes and a really cool thing that looked like a giant slug but is called a hare. We also found anemones. We did not have too long to look since the tide was headed back in with quite a bit of force! After we got everyone back across a gap that was quickly filling with rushing water (and retrieved Pie’s lost flip flop) we decided to continue on down the beach. Everyone highly enjoyed walking and climbing and jumping along beach and rocks as we made our way down the beach. We saw interesting and colorful tiny little rocks and shells washed up onto the beach among the driftwood and seaweed and broken flip flops. We found small caves and several mystical staircases leading up the cliffs to palatial (to us) houses. I finally had the kids do an about face and head back to walk and jump and climb our way back to the rest of the family, where we picked up jackets and played in the sand for a bit more before heading home to dinner.
Today was an interesting day. We are currently outside of Los Angeles, CA to visit my sister. She offered to watch all three of our children for the day while Heather and I enjoyed some children-free time. We had such lofty goals for the day on our own, but alas, reality set in part way through the day and our fun was cut short. We started the day off by dropping the fifth wheel, our home, at a repair shop for them to determine why the trailer brakes are not actuating when the brakes are applied. Then we dropped off the kids, and we were on our own!
We started our day alone on a high note as the truck climbed 4,000 feet of elevation into the San Bernardino National Forest. We strolled down the Sequoia Nature Trail at Heaps Peak Arboretum. It was a peaceful stroll through the forest listening to the birds and admiring the trees and bushes along the trail. We then stopped by the Hotshots Wildland Firefighter Helipad at Heaps Peak. One of the crew members showed us around the aircraft and let us climb up into the helicopter as he explained the functions and features of the aircraft.
After pulling out of the Helipad, we drove along the Rim of the World Scenic Byway, which offered some fantastic views out across the San Bernardino valley below. As we descended out of the forest we got a call from the RV repair shop informing us that we would need all 4 of the brakes completely replaced on the RV (to the tune of $1,100), and that it would not be done until tomorrow, which posed a problem for our full-time RV family, as it is our home. The shop said we were not allowed to stay in the RV on their property, so we would need to get a hotel room for the night. We spent most of the remaining drive getting a pet-friendly hotel booked, handling miscellaneous logistics, and thinking of what all we would need out of the RV for the next 24 hours. We stopped by the repair center to retrieve items from the RV and load them into the truck. It was now going on 2:30pm, so we stopped for some very good Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and onion rings before returning to my sister’s house to reclaim our children and heading to the hotel for the night. We heard that the kids thoroughly enjoyed the day spent with cousins, which was not a surprise.
The night ended on another high note as I got to sit in the hotel room watching baseball and eating buffalo wing flavored pretzel pieces as the kids played on the floor and beds of the hotel room. Tomorrow we should have the RV back and will be off on our next adventure.