All posts by WanderingAdams

F-18s, Marble Slides and a Castle. A National Park?


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Surprises await at Death Valley National Park.  We were amazed by the varied scenery and the huge amount of history found in this wonderful desert landscape.  Never expecting life in Death Valley, we were shocked by the many thriving towns that had sprung up in this area due to mining in the 1800’s.  The most successful mine was for Borax.

The Badwater Basin is a huge pool of primarily subterranean water but is terribly salty and in the drier seasons is covered by three feet of salt that we walked on.  Way above on the rocks is the sign for “sea level”.



The Ranger told us if we saw a puddle not to step in it because we might fall through.  Why is that not posted on a sign there?!  Interesting enough there is a huge aquifer with millions of gallons of pure clean water under acres of this park and of course Nevada and California want the water!  Never would have guessed there was so much drinkable water here but it explains the springs.


Another surprise greeted us very early in our visit …F-18s flying overhead.  Oops, I missed it!  It was like watching an air show!  Awesome!  That inspired us to launch our own rockets.


If this has not convinced you yet that this is a kid paradise then add in the fact that the kids can hike and climb anywhere.  It is an “open park”.  So many parks ask that you “stay on the trails”, which my children do not appreciate.  This park is also an international dark skies location which means it is so dark at night (no ambient city lights) you can see the stars in an amazing way.  The Milky Way was clearly visible along with millions of stars and we enjoyed just lying on the ground at the camp staring up at the night sky.  Death Valley has risen to my children’s top four favorite national parks list.




They loved hiking in Mosaic Canyon where the walls have sections of marble worn so smooth that they could slide on them.  We hiked, climbed and slid this trail twice they loved it so much!




We also hiked the Natural Bridge trail and the kids again pretended to be mountain goats.


Artists Palette was a beautiful drive and the pictures do not convey the dramatic colorful layers of rock.  The geology of the park was fascinating and so varied!


We expected a boring, dry, sandy park.  We did find sand and really  enjoyed the dunes but most of the park was dry and rocky and in every direction were beautiful mountains.  Are we slow?  That is the description of a valley but somehow our expectations were that this would be a boring flat piece of desert.  Boy, were we wrong!


To add to the adults’ interest we visited Scotty’s Castle which is more of a spanish mansion than a castle, but the story and history are again so very intriguing.  A whole story in itself but I’ll leave something for you to discover yourself when you come to visit!


While waiting to take the tour, we had our first up close and personal time with some local coyotes.  We saw more back at our campsite as several casually walked through camp just a few feet away.



We really enjoyed this unexpectedly beautiful park.  The camping is plentiful.   Our first night we camped at Panamint Springs, a private (not owned by the National Park) campground, motel, gas, gift shop and a restaurant.  They offer full hookups for camping and a nice restaurant and bar.  Furnace Creek Campground has 16 sites with water, sewer & electric sites (reservations required);  we dry camped there and at Stovepipe Wells.  Both campgrounds had water and a dump station available.    We preferred Stovepipe Wells campground due to the scenery and it was less busy.  For those not interested in camping, the Furnace Creek Inn is a beautiful facility and there are other lodging options as well as restaurants and bars in this area.  We highly recommend this national park and if you have any questions feel free to contact us for more information.

Finding Cars Inspiration on Route 66

IMG_8452We accepted an offer on the house in December so we put the RV in storage and headed cross country from LA to Atlanta in mid-December to move our household belongings into storage.  Since we had emptied the house, we decided to head to Chicago to spend Christmas with Lisa’s family.   Following a great time there, we needed to make the long trek back to our RV in Acton, California, northeast of LA near Palmdale, CA.  Hmmm…. Chicago to LA in a car …well, being the “Wandering Adams” and with no deadline to get to LA, we decided to make our way to LA taking some side trips along the famed Mother Road.

IMG_8297Our family all enjoys the movie “Cars” so what better way to explore Route 66 than to stop at some of the areas that inspired the movie.   Our first stop was in Galena, KS to see Tow Tater which was the vehicle that inspired Tow Mater.  At the 4 Women on the Route shop we met the original.   In the nearby photo, the truck on the right is the original and they now have a Tow Mater also.


The next stop was the Rock Cafe where the owner, Dawn Welch, inspired the writers for the character Sally.   Inside, she has some great original memorabilia on the wall with personal notes from Pixar employees.



And what Route 66 trip would be complete without a visit to the Cozy Cone Motel.  The real motel, called the Wigwam Motel, has been a Holbrook, AZ landmark since 1950.  IMG_8343


After side trips to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas we made it back to LA and returned to the RV to prepare for our next adventure to Death Valley.

Olympic National Park – Finding Sea Stars and Eating Spiders!

Ken met our neighbors in Port Angeles, WA at the beginning of our Olympic National Park adventure.  They invited the two of us over for drinks and we enjoyed their company immensely!  We compared future plans and figured we probably wouldn’t meet up again.  To our surprise they found us at Kalaloch Campground on the Pacific Coast.  We loved this campground (no hook-ups but some of the sites overlook the ocean).IMG_7020

Our site did not overlook the ocean because there are only a small amount of sites that would accommodate our larger RV and still overlook the water.  The kids didn’t care; our site had a “fort” or I should say that they made a fort which included a chandelier,IMG_7008 IMG_7013several rooms, a grinding station and a lounge chair.IMG_7012IMG_7018  How can you beat that?  And our site had a water view out of one window and only a very short walk to the ridge above the ocean.

During one of the evening low tides we drove over to Beach 4 of Olympic National Park and waded around the rocks.IMG_6921  We were so excited to see over one hundred sea stars, hundreds of anemones, some hermit crabs and a few trapped fish.  Brian touched many of these beautiful creations.  The were so cool to see in the wild!IMG_6907


The next day we discovered that we were surrounded by blackberry bushes. We picked at least a couple of cups of them.  Yum!IMG_7022

That evening we walked over to Kim and Rick’s to cook spiders over the fire.  What are spiders?  I wondered too.  Spiders are hotdogs that you have cut so when they are cooked the legs curl like a spider.  Basically take a hotdog, leave the middle two inches whole, on the ends cut them through lengthwise and then rotate the hotdog 90 degrees and cut it lengthwise again.  Do this to both sides and roast it over a fire by constantly turning it as if it is on a spit.  They taste really good and are super fun!IMG_6999

The sunset over the beach was gorgeous!  We were glad to see it.  Many of the days we were camped here we had cloudy and misty weather and did not see the sun or sunset much.  But this sunset was a beautiful end to our stay here.IMG_6975

Cape Flattery

IMG_6616A few days ago we went to the NW point of Washington, Cape Flattery.  We figured it was the farthest we could get from Atlanta in the 48 contiguous states so we needed to say we were there.  Can you blame us?

We are on the Olympic Peninsula and had gone up to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park and visited the Ranger Station but much of the outside edge of the peninsula has little towns or Indian reservations and Highway 101 is the only route around this whole area.

After moving the motorhome to Forks, WA we drove up to the Makah Indian Reservation and toured their wonderful little museum which was delightfully rich in history.  You can visit their site at  (One of the interesting facts was that the Indians did not have sheep or goats so they used the cedar trees to make clothes and bred a certain type of dog for its wool.)

After the museum we drove as close as we could to the point and then hiked our way down the trail.  The trail itself was beautiful with old grooved trees, thick green mosses and the most charming rough  cut boardwalks.IMG_6617 IMG_6618The smell of the ocean was calling us as we hiked and when we arrived at the point we were rewarded with gorgeous sunshine and a rough sculpted coastline.  It was amazing!

IMG_6657 IMG_6622IMG_6646

We enjoyed our lunch here and decided we needed to dip our toes in the Pacific Ocean so we left the Reservation and headed down the coast to a sandy beach.  The water is pretty consistently between 40 and 50 degrees so the kids were telling me to hurry up and take the picture because their feet were freezing.  Ah, torture!IMG_6679



Visiting Friends and Family in the Midwest

We have really enjoyed our last several weeks in the Midwest visiting with family and friends.  In Michigan we had dinner with my brother, Greg, and finally saw his house, of which we had heard so much.  He has been working on restoring his historic home.

We also saw my third-cousin, Bryan Van Baren, and his family.  Visiting with them was so much fun!  The kids had a blast playing on the big jumping pillow in the campground.  I wished we could have had more time with on jumping pillowall of ussilly kids

In Indiana we saw my cousin, Patti, and her family.  They live in a house on Lake Michigan so we enjoyed the sand and water and of course the kids had to have a sleepover at their house!  Luke, Brian and Chloe love their cousins!  We also went to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and saw some cool things when we hiked the Cowles Bog Trail.IMG_4740

In Illinois we saw many more cousins, grandparents and aunts.  Staying at the Cedar Lake Conference Grounds Campground was awesome!  It was so peaceful and the kids had lots of private roads to ride bikes.  My cousin, Don and his wife, Wendy invited us over to go tubing on Luke’s birthday.  The kids had so much fun and Luke had the special treat of getting to drive the boat.Chloe tubing the boys tubingIMG_0221

The kids and I also visited Cantigny Park and Museum in Wheaton, IL.  They really enjoyed climbing all over the old tanks but I thought the museum was wonderful.  The museum follows the first division through WWI, WWII, the cold war, Vietnam and Desert Storm and gives you a taste of each one.  Loved the price too…$5 per car for entrance to the gardens and museum.  Great price!climbing on the tanks

We also learned that because of the high demand for rubber in WWII people were trying to find a formula for synthetic rubber and  thus silly putty was born.  No replacement for rubber but the formula was purchased and put into plastic eggs and sold as a toy.  The kids got to make their own silly putty.making silly putty

Our last night in Cedar Lake we had more cousins over for S’mores and the kids played Hide-n-Seek in the dark.  At one point Luke was lying in a dry ditch and was laughing because the other kids were jumping over him and didn’t even see him.  Great fun!

On a smoggy Saturday we biked around the beautiful Chicago lakeshore with my sister, Kelly and my cousin, Mary, who Chloe thought was the best tour guide ever!biking with Marybiking on the lakeshore

I had to share with the kids Rosetta’s sculpture that I sold to the Lincoln Park Zoo decades ago; larger than life-size mountain lions called Siblings.IMG_0278Chloe with the sculpture

We moved on to Union, IL, closer to Ken’s family and relished our time with Deb and Vance and Mark and Donna, two of the kids Aunts and Uncles.  Union also has the largest train museum in the world.  Our ride on the Nebraska Zephyr was a cool – air conditioned and quiet.  Zephyr

In addition to trains of all kinds it was also antique car day when we were visiting so the boys were in “Boy Heaven”.  Trains AND Cars?  What could be better?  And a car that rides on rails?  Awesome!
rail inspection car

Here is the truck Luke wanted to take home.IMG_4855

As we head out I now am experiencing what others have talked about – the sadness of loving a place but deciding to move on – saying goodbye to friends anad family and knowing you won’t see them for a long while.  We are moving west to visit the Winnebago factory, the Badlands and the Black Hills.  It will be a continuation of our grand adventure but still hard to say goodbye.  We will miss all of you!


Review on the Creation Museum

Wow!  The Creation Museum ( was fabulous!  We found it to be top-quality, gorgeous, well-laid-out, informative, and logical.  If ever you wondered how the creation story fit with the science of earth I believe your questions would be answered here.Creation Museum outside

We were truly impressed with the whole museum, even the cafeteria (LOL) which had gluten-free  and vegetarian options, reasonable prices and a deck with a beautiful view.  I would totally go back and highly recommend it!

Some people have said they spent two days at the museum.  We did not do the zip lines or all of the outdoor activities, we skipped one movie and the Imax movies but we did go to the petting zoo and Chloe rode the camel.  Brian feeding the Zony

Chloe riding a camel

Also with children ages 7, 10 and almost 12 we spent a lot of time reading signs and pointing out important facts and felt that they understood and followed but had enough after one day.  I can see where you might want to spend two days here but our main focus was the museum’s galleries and we covered those pretty fully with the kids, even on a crowded day.

Overall, it was time and money well-spent and was a wonderful day! We would definitely go back!

The museum is located in Petersburg, KY, southwest of Cincinnati, OH.  More information can be found at




Where We Are

Sunday and Monday we were south of Nashville at the Old Stone Fort Archeological Park. We got to the park after dark because we were trying to fit the last of our stuff in to the motorhome before we left town.  When you look at the pictures of the bridge I think you can appreciate how difficult it was to maneuver through this bridge in the dark.  Headlights don’t illuminate the side mirrors which barely fit through the supports on the bridge.  If that isn’t nerve-racking enough add the fact that the bridge says for a single axle RV (like ours) the bridge weight limit is 10 tons and we weigh 11 tons.

Ken left me parked by the bridge until he talked to the ranger in the station on the other side of the bridge who said that the bridge had seen rigs way bigger than ours go over it so he was sure it would be fine but then added that the park service doesn’t train them on bridge strength.  Nice! Bridge at Old Stone Fort Archeological Park

Luke, Chloe and I biked to the museum the next day and then hiked around the wall, stopped at the waterfalls and practiced sketching the falls.  I don’t think I could have picked a much harder subject.  My sketch looked terrible!  in between the waterfallslower fallsupper falls

We have  left Cave City, KY having visited the Mammoth Cave National Park.  We took a  historical tour late in the day Tuesday and Wednesday morning we took the Domes and Dripstones Tour.  The kids much preferred the last one because of the narrow curving passages we went through and the deep drops we walked over.  Mammoth Cave Sign

kids in the caveWe were delighted to see wild turkeys several times as we drove through the National Park and we were amazed that there are over 400 miles of explored cave included as part of the Mammoth Cave system – huge!

On the way to Ohio we stopped to see the cabin where President Lincoln was born.  This is for all of our past First Grade Teachers…Lincoln's cabin

We just arrived in the Cincinnati, OH area and we will spend a couple of days at the Creation Museum.  At our campground the kids had fun on the quadricycle.  I hope I got that right!Quadricycle

Move Over and Let Me Drive

Many of you may think driving the RV is a man’s job.  I say, “No way!  Move over and let me drive.”  First of all, I know my spouse’s routine.  He is going to start out with us and then fly off on business for several days and be back on the weekend.  This can happen for several weeks in a row (we’re used to this and he likes his job so this is OK); therefore I have to be very confident driving this large rig.  If I need to move us and have him fly to a different airport or if I just want to move campsites, I need to be able to move.  I hate being stuck and having to wait on someone.

I grew up driving a window van and then graduated to a van with a trailer behind it.  I was doing this in high school so I am not completely clueless about having a backend.  However, this one is over 36 feet long and is as tall as a semi.

On the test drive before we bought it I let Ken drive first so I could watch before I tried it.    I did pretty well on my first try but the first corner I took too fast.  The RV is very top-heavy so you get the sensation of almost tipping over if you go too fast on a corner.  But that was a first try.  No big deal.

Our first trip out after we owned the RV, we decided to go about an hour away to a campground to spend the night and test all of the systems. I drove first.  Eighty percent of the drive was on the interstate so really a pretty straight shot.  The actual driving part was fine, but it is very scary when the semis pass.  The RV has such a large side profile it gets easily pushed around by wind.  Even when the trucks pass slowly,  you feel like they are only two inches from your window and then their backend can drift toward your lane, and well, I would let out a small scream every time that happened.  The trucks were WAY to close for me. There is definitely a freak-out factor.  I learned that if there is a shoulder it is best to drive on the line near the shoulder.  If the trucks go by fast then you get the shock of them being on top of you for less time, but the blast of air that pushes you off of the road is quite alarming.

On our next trip for Spring break we were on some small country lanes with no shoulder.  Hah!  That was not fun either.  The rig is 8 1/2 feet wide with the slides in and I think the lanes are the same width.  As Ken was driving you might think I was more at ease.  Nooooo!  He would move to the edge of the road to make space for the oncoming traffic, even if it was a small car and they had room to move over.  There were times it seemed like he was off the road  I don’t like sitting in the passenger seat of such a large vehicle and feeling like we are going to go off of the road.  Like I said before, “Move over and let me drive.”

The truth is, it is best to have two drivers.  Non-busy interstate driving is really no big deal.  The things that make driving unnerving are:  lots of traffic, bad weather including wind, city driving and now I am adding small country road driving.  With two drivers we try to drive between two and four hours each session so we each get a break.  We have also discovered that RV driving is much slower than it is in a car so we need to plan more time for the miles driven.  I don’t mind driving and, in a way, I find it fun.  We’re both still newbies and we’ll see what happens as we add more hours to our logbook.


How we selected our new home on wheels

So Ken has convinced me that the adventure is a great idea but I’m not just jumping ship.  There is a lot to consider:  Ken can work from the road and we can road school the kids but in what type of RV?  What can accommodate 5 people long-term and function for us?  Can we afford this?

We started to look for the vehicle.   We had previously looked at travel trailers thinking that would be our next step up from our tent camping.  We quickly decided this would not work for us on this adventure.  So, last fall we went up to  the Hershey RV show and did some serious exploration focused on fifth wheel trailers (the kind where part of it fits over the bed of a pickup truck).  We looked through virtually every model and spent time considering having one custom built to our specifications.  Fifth wheel trailers provide the most living space and since I’m a closet architect wanna be, it was fun to see what would be possible.  However, in the end, we couldn’t find a production one fit to our requirements and the custom rig was going to require too large of a tow vehicle (and thus was too pricey).   Somewhere we had read that trailers are best for camping, motorhomes are best for traveling and since we put our selves in the  traveling category, it was time to change gears.

Also, we kept thinking about what we liked about our trip to Yellowstone when we had rented a class C motorhome (the kind with the bed over the cab).  We really liked that we could travel in more comfort rather than having to fit into a pickup truck to go anywhere.   I kept thinking if we had to move on to the next place with Ken and the kids working they could at least do that in comfort in a motorhome while I drove.

Now we had to find one that was in our price range, had lots of storage, bunk beds and preferably another designated bed for the third child that I would not have to make and unmake every day.  I am a morning person and I need to be able to function well in my environment and not be waiting for a child to get out of bed before I can clean or work on a blog or whatever.  Plus the thought of packing up a bed every day was not appealing at all.  We were surprised to discover there are not many choices in Class A RVs (large, traditional motorhomes) with permanent beds for 5 people.  Most are designed to accommodate people using the couch bed or dinette conversion.

I urge you, if you are looking for an RV, check every cabinet, nook and cranny.  One model we considered looked like it had the same kitchen storage as other models until you opened the major cabinet under the sink and realized that the plumbing was designed poorly and most of the cabinet was unusable.  The same model had a front cabin design that made it very difficult to get into the drivers seat and in the bedroom it was impossible to walk around the queen bed.

Another factor in our decision was the restrictions on length of RVs allowed in the campgrounds.  Some state and national parks have size restrictions so we looked for one that fit into the 35 ft class most typically allowed.

Ken started researching last summer, we started seriously looking last fall and we ultimately settled on the Itasca Sunstar 35B in February.  The Sunstar provides a  queen bed for us, 2 bunks, another bunk over the cab, a bath and a half, and a decent kitchen.  We’re thrilled with our new home and have learned that everyone has different requirements and that is why there are so many choices!  I guess we’ll find out what features we really like and don’t like as the journey unfolds.


Master bedroom (aka: Ken’s office) and bath
Hallway bunks across from the half bath

What happens when I leave my husband home alone for three weeks

I have to back up a little bit.  We have lived in Atlanta, GA for the last 15 years and have traveled to the Midwest and in the Smoky Mountains as a family.  Last June Ken and I took the kids out west for a two week summer vacation.  They had never seen “real” snow-capped mountains and we couldn’t wait to show them.  We flew to Salt Lake City and rented a Class C RV and drove up through Jackson Hole, WY, The Grand Tetons and then on to Yellowstone.  We had an absolute blast!

We returned home, unpacked our ten bags of clothes and camping gear and then I drove to Chicago with our three children to see my Mom and Dad.  Great!  My Mom had said she was ready to clean out 30 years of stuff from her house so we got busy.

Needless to say, Ken is bored while we are gone.  I’m thinking he might make a big dent in the honey-do list but unbeknownst to me he was researching.

My Mom has a conversation with me before we leave.  Every couple of years she brings up the fact that she thinks we should sell our house because it requires so much work.  We should move in to something brick or already remodeled.  I was thinking, “Ken won’t move”.  He has told me over and over that he never wants to move again.  It is too much work!

So we head back to Georgia, unload all of our stuff from the car including some things from my Mom’s cleaning-out and my dear spouse says to me, “We need to have a serious talk.”  Well immediately my mind is spinning, “What is this about?”  “OK”, I say, “Let’s talk.”  “No,” he says, “We need to have uninterrupted time and I need to get everything out.”  Well, you can imagine the places my mind is going.  Alarm bells are going off but I have no idea about what.  Our marriage is great!  I’m not worried about infidelity but this is really throwing me and he won’t give me a topic. ( SIDENOTE HERE:  He keeps telling me to read a book called Crucial Conversations so I know what to say in a “Crucial Conversation.” ) Clearly he forgot what he read!!!  No hints like…Our marriage is fine!  I’m not going to die!  He could have done this better.

So we gave the kids food and TV and went to the basement to talk because at this point I couldn’t wait any more to find out what this is all about.  Well, Ken had been researching RVs for weeks when he came across a site called Full-time Families, about families who sell their homes and move into RVs for a year or much longer and Roadschool their children.

Now, I ‘m not allowed to interrupt or ask questions until he has explained his reasoning.  Many families have written that they are so happy being together and getting to spend quality time with their kids doing fun things instead of spending weekdays and weekends doing yard work, running children to different activities,  school responsibilities, housecleaning…you know what I mean.  Life is so busy that it is hard to stop and smell the roses.

It makes sense to me but when he says he thinks we should sell the house and pretty much everything in it my jaw drops.  I am officially in shock!