Wicked Wanderers

Chronicling the full time RV lifestyle of a young family

Category: 2019

Chapter 49: Back in the Wild West

We loaded up on groceries, said our good byes to friends and family, and hitched up. Kevin wanted to get West ASAP and we agreed on Big Bend. 1,608 miles and about 30 hours later we had arrived March 16th. Florida was starting to get swampy hot and humid and the cooler temps and no humidity felt good. We were boondocking at a huge site right inside Big Bend (at Government Springs) and used our newly procured (used) Satellite Internet setup for the first time. Truth be told it really worked flawlessly and I was able to use it to work there. Eloise also used it for school which is perfect.

The biggest desert bloom in years!

Big Bend was amazing. Honestly I had not heard much about that National Park but it was beautiful and has since become one of our top 3 favorites. The desert wildflower bloom was in full swing and the bluebell fields were so surreal. Kevin had found online that another fulltime family was also visiting Big Bend and had arranged to go on a Jeep ride with them–the Kroekers. Honestly I was tired of meeting new people but Kevin was right–they turned out to become great friends of ours and we were so glad to have met up with them! Together our families enjoyed a soak in the hot springs, a cookout, several hiking trails, and dinner out at the lodge. This is also where Eloise earned her first Junior Ranger Badge–she was so excited. It was nice to really get to take our time in this park and not feel rushed. We stopped in at all of the visitor centers, hiked the Boquillas canyon trail, checked out the fossil bones exhibits. Kevin and fellow dad Josh hiked to the top of Emory Peak–the highest peak in the park and to the top of Guadalupe Peak the highest Mountain in Texas in nearby Guadalupe National Park. We also had the worlds best barbecue in Terlingua, TX at DB’s Rustic Iron BBQ. *Drool*

After Big Bend we traveled North to Carlsbad Caverns. The Kroekers joined us there a few days later and we all went on the Natural Entrance cave hike. Carlsbad cave is massive. Beautiful. We boondocked a short distance from the park and met up with a handful of other families in the area too and enjoyed several group campfires and talks.

Goosenecks State Park, UT

We were inching our way towards Moab, Utah for a meetup but still had a little time left so we stopped for a few hours at Roswell, New Mexico and ate at a space-ship shaped McDonalds with a playplace. The girls got a kick out of all the alien signs through town. We continued on up to Goosenecks State Park in Mexican Hat Utah which was beautiful. We camped right on the edge of the canyon and it was very picturesque. Due to the steep cliffs right outside our door we put up the babygate on our front door and did not let Eliza outside without her kiddie 'leash' on at all times. There was no horseplay here. Yikes. We took the scenic Moki Dugway up to Natural Bridge Monument with out Jeep before heading up to Moab.

Chapter 48: M-i-c-k-e-y…

We got to Orlando on Nov 30th and left on March 14th. We were there a total of 104 days. We bought a Disney pass. We visited a Disney park or property on 35 of those days. This was by far the only time we have ever spent this much time in one area since going on the road and Kevin was not a fan but we don’t want to use this blog to dwell on any negativity in the ‘happiest place on earth.’ 🙂

Disney stats: Eloise’s favorite ride: Avatar Flight of Passage/tied with Everest, Eliza’s favorite ride: Tea Cups (but really her favorite was any and all character meet and greets). Kevin’s favorite ride: Driving home–bahaha seriously. Emma’s favorite ride: Everest. Favorite snacks? None, we brought our own food with us 95% of the time. Favorite parks: Animal Kingdom and Epcot. [Magic Kingdom was ‘magical’ but as the iconic park it was packed most of the days we were there which is annoying and not magical at all.]

Since many of the other families we were with also had Disney passes we visited the parks with numerous friends too which made it fun. (Thanks again to our friends Bill and Porter for introducing Eloise to Disney Pin trading!) Having a Disney pass was nice: kids melting down–time to leave; kid misbehaving–lets go home, sick kid throwing up in the line of Pirates of the Caribbean (true story)–lets go home; too many freakin people today?–lets leave. Not having the pressure of making the ‘most’ of each visit was very nice. By the time we left the park each day we were all tired and usually only went for the afternoon. Let me tell you tho–we can pack a stroller with 2 kids and enough gear for 8 hours like pros now haha. Also for Christmas we enjoyed the day at Epcot and Christmas Chinese dinner at Nine Dragons inside the park and actually it wasn’t “that” busy. Rumor was that Magic Kingdom was close to capacity that day (so full they turned people away.) The line of cars at 9am on Christmas day making the turn to towards Magic Kingdom was impressive…no thanks.

Believe it or not there are other things to do in Florida besides visiting Mickey and Minnie. We also enjoyed plenty of pool time in the nice Florida weather. Kevin and I took a long weekend to go to an Xscapers (RV travel club) convergence in Savannah Georgia and had a nice time. Unfortunately the kids and grandparents were all sick with some stomach bug that weekend which was no fun.

In January we took a family trip over to the huge Tampa RV show where we met up with Kevin’s grandparents and my parents and toured more RVs than we cared to. The weather that weekend was a little rainy and as we went to leave our big truck got stuck in the muck (again!). Fortunately though we weren’t the only ones and the event arena had hired a giant wrecker to pull RVs out of the muck all day. Fun times. In February we went up to Jacksonville, FL to attend another Xscapers Convergence at a Hanna Park. It was a very lush state park with mountain biking trails and a huge playground. Oh and don’t forget its right on the Atlantic Ocean/beach which was nice too. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t the greatest but we still had a nice time visiting with friends and making sand castles.

In between Mickey, other events, and friends we also visited family (my grandmother, Aunt, parents, Kevin’s grandparents) around Florida and it was nice to see everyone! It was a busy time for sure and when we left we were glad for the break.

Chapter 47: 1,553 Miles but Who’s Counting?

Winter was just around the corner for Maine and we were ready to go. We left Maine on Oct 12 and were headed to Myrtle Beach for a fulltime family Halloween themed rally. We stopped in Pennsylvania for a few nights at Gettysburg Farm campground to take a break from travel. This campground was part of a working farm which was neat for the girls to see and pet the animals. Weather in Pennsylvania was becoming cooler too and we were ready to find greener pastures but first we happened to find the perfect used 2-door Jeep for us. (We will tow this behind our camper some times and sometimes I will drive it behind Kevin but having a second vehicle was the goal) We left Pennsylvania at night and I drove the Jeep with Eliza snoozing in the back and Kevin drove the big truck with Eloise napping in the top bunk in the sleeper cab. We drove all the way to Myrtle beach.

The rally was held at Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach and we had never really paid to stay at a massive resort-style campground before. It was interesting. While we enjoyed the amenities of a large pool, arcade, beach access, store, etc. and had fun playing with all the other families attending however neighbors were close and navigating the campground with our huge truck/camper was also a challenge. We had a fun time and the week went by fast. There was a Halloween costume contest and our family all dressed up as ‘truckers’ as the big truck was new to us. (No, we did not win but got plenty of laughs.) We left there with several new friends we knew we would meet up with again later down the road.

Our next stop was a pit-stop near Daytona Beach for a few nights on our journey down to the keys. We pulled in and it appeared it had just stopped raining. Sweet! We had no idea we had just missed a monsoon so when we pulled onto the lawn for our pull-through site we sunk in up to the hubcaps and had to call a giant tow truck. Bummer. A fun way to top off our travel day.

Our reservation at Sunshine Key RV Resort was from Nov 1 to Nov 30 and while we enjoyed our time there a month was a little much for us. (We typically only stay a couple weeks in any given area but got a super discount to stay here longer as it was directly hit by the last hurricane and they were still rebuilding.)

While on Sunshine Key we visited Key West several times (once to meet my parents who were stopping there on a cruise), swam in the pool daily, watched one day of the Superboat International Speed Boat Races, visited the turtle hospital, enjoyed the splash-pad and playground in Key West three times, went out to Sunset Grille a few times with friends, kayaked around the RV park, explored tide pools, and tried to relax and enjoy the slower pace of island life.

During our time in the Keys we celebrated Halloween and our little bumble-bee (Eloise) and fairy (Eliza) had a blast walking around the neighborhoods on Big Pine Key. They take Halloween seriously down there in the Keys and had full snacks/cookies/hotdogs?! for the kids and drinks (wine/cans of beer up to full kegs for adults haha). It was interesting to say the least! We packed up just before the really hot Keys weather came and we headed north up for a visit with the mouse!

Chapter 46: The New Truck

Kevin had been searching for the ‘perfect’ used big rig truck for months. He wasn’t liking how our GMC dually was pulling the 5th wheel and we had recently learned that our heavy trailer was borderline too heavy for our GMC. Since we knew we weren’t likely to majorly downsize any of our items in our trailer to save any significant amount of weight we knew the only solution was a different truck: a bigger truck.

The truck that checked off all the boxes for Kevin was, of course, about 3,000 miles from Maine down near Phoenix, AZ. The truck is a single axle Volvo VNL 670 Semi (HDT) truck with a D13 engine. It started life as a commercial truck, then about a year ago had been purchased by a cowboy for towing his rodeo trailer. The cowboy had retrofitted it to have a gooseneck flatbed and removed the factory hitch. Kevin and his dad (Kevin) flew out, had the truck professionally inspected and shared driving it back up to Maine over a long weekend, in true “trucker” style.

First Rest Stop!

The truck was parked at Kevin’s moms house in Lisbon where his step-dad Greg owns an auto shop. It was there that together for the next 4 weeks they transformed the truck into exactly what we needed. They built a large cargo box, transformed the hitch from goose neck to 5th wheel. The truck was washed, cab interior was thoroughly cleaned, a dinette table was added (that still turns into a bed), paint touched up, 6 new tires, new driver and passenger side seats. A lot of preventative maintenance work was also performed.

The Final Product

While Kevin was working 24/7 on the truck Emma and the girls cleaned the interior of the truck, visited family and friends and focused on getting ahead on school work. They did pumpkin carving with Grammie E and Grampy Kevin, visited a fair with Grammie Carol, and enjoyed fall in Maine. Before we left Maine we sold the old truck and enjoyed one last meal with family.

Chapter 45: Maine!

They were long days but we finally made it back up to Maine. One final road in Massachusetts  just before we got back onto I-95 was bumpy. Really bumpy. We had been on rough roads before but this was bad. Our newly upgraded trailer suspension had been giving us amazingly smooth rides so we shocked how bouncy both the truck and trailer felt all of a sudden.  We shrugged it off.  We kept going. Finally, we made it. We were happy and unpacking so of course it was time for something to go wrong. I was opening our final slide and it just wouldn’t go out. I summoned Kevin. He wasn’t happy.  After much deliberation it was decided that something had fallen and was preventing the slide from opening. It was the kids room. We could barely get the door to their room open (it opens about 8 inches with that slide in) so we couldn’t see what it was that was stopping it from opening. Kevin took the door and frame off and noticed it just wide enough to maybe get a kid in there. Eloise was volunteered. She was boosted up on top of the slide and with a cell phone and took a photo of what was in the way. She was able to push the junk that had fallen out of the way enough so we could get the slide open. Turns out that on a big bump one of our cabinet doors had opened spilling toys down. The half-open door got caught as the slide was opening and broke in two. Fun. At least it was open and we didn’t have to break a window to get in!

We settled in our moochdocking spot and were glad to be visiting with family in Maine. Kevin and his Dad started working on home improvement projects (including fixing all the broken pieces from the broken cabinet door).  Then he had several work commitments that required him to go into the office. Needless to say he was crazy busy and we didn’t see much of him. The girls and I focused on school homework and visiting family. Also somewhere along our trip North we had picked up a nasty respiratory virus which I had for over a month! (I’m sure working nights didn’t help my recovery tho)

We stayed in Maine from June to October. We moved around the state every 2 weeks visiting all of our family from both sides. Some highlights: the girls’ joint birthday party at a state park, my brother’s wedding in New York to Auntie Caitlin, music concert and activities at the KOA with Grammie Carol and Grampie Greg, playing with Memere and Bompah at Moms camp, mini golf with Uncle Bub and Auntie Caitlin, playing toys with Grampie Kevin and Grammie Verla, canoeing down the Saco river like Pirates, sleep over with Nanny Sherry and friends, visiting our  stationary friends Chase, Cayleigh, Connor, Grant, Lydia, Lucas, and our fulltime family friend Caellum. Our time always goes fast when we’re in Maine!

Birthday Time!

We were scheduled to leave Maine in September, before the cool weather hit. Just then Kevin found just what he was looking for: our new tow vehicle!

 

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