Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pinnacles National Park

While in Monterey, we mostly stayed near the beach.  There were a few things that enticed us to go further inland, and one of them was the chance to explore and earn Jr. Ranger badges at our nation's newest National Park...Pinnacles National Park (so new they hadn't even changed the sign yet).

The park has two sides, east and west, and no roads connecting the two.  This meant we had to pick a side to visit.  I still to this day am not sure which side we visited :D!  How can that be?  Well....I had looked it up online and tried to decide which side we would enjoy more (they were very similar).  With a decision made and a picnic packed we loaded up in the car ready to go.  When I typed the destination into my phone, I noticed that it looked different from the directions that the computer had said. I didn't really give it much thought, figuring that it was just a little different way to get there.  Not thinking about the two separate sides.  So...we followed the directions my phone gave and in the end I'm just glad that it actually got us there :)!  Which ever side it was!  The road leading into the park was very narrow and winding.  A good bit of the way it was actually a one way road, which proved to be a bit "exciting" :)

We of course stopped at the visitor center first.  It looked to be brand new and it was really pretty, not sure why I took zero photos of it???  Oh well :).  Before we could even get out of the car, the kids had spotted a road runner just across from us!  Those birds are so fun to watch, and oh so fast!  I had been trying to get a picture of one of them for months, ever since we were in southern Arizona, and finally managed to snap one!  A blurry one, but still :)

The rangers were doing training and I'm glad they were :).  The trainees were super, super nice and so helpful.  They were actually out of Jr. Ranger booklets (I know!!!) and it was looking like we would just miss out on getting to do the program.  Well, one of the trainees (bless his heart) had disappeared into the back and when he came back out he had a booklet for the kids to share!  He used the computer to go on their website and print off a packet for us...how sweet (and smart!) is that?!  The kids had fun doing the activities as a team.  Something different :)

Next, we headed over to the picnic area to have our lunch.  Why do simple foods always taste so much better when eaten outside in a beautiful setting?  We had an assortment of TJ's cheeses, sliced meats, french bread, little tomatoes, crackers, and some spinach artichoke dip...and the kids kept saying how great it all was ;).  Musta been the sunshine...

After we ate, it was time for a hike.  We went on a trail that followed a little stream through an open area and then up into the rocks to a cave.  We had borrowed a headlamp from the vc in case we wanted to explore the cave, but ended up only going in a little ways.  The cave was very wild, natural wild...as in no lights, very VERY dark, and full of bats.  Eeek!!!  Um, no.  So not happening!  A few of the kids were bummed that we didn't go crawling around in there, but some of them wanted absolutely NOTHING to do with it.  Had Dan been with us we might have went further in...me by myself with five kids and only one light I just didn't feel comfortable with it.

The hike itself was beautiful and just about the perfect length.  We made it back to the picnic tables with just enough time to complete our Jr. Ranger booklet and go turn it in.  There was another trainee (she told us it was her very first day AND she was homeschooled, too - just like us! ) that went over everything with the kids and awarded them their badges.  So fun to see her excitement and enthusiasm! 

We had fun day...it was neat to be there as the park transitioned from National Monument to National Park and share in a little of the excitement :)

Thursday, April 11, 2013


I was asked some really good questions this past week about certain parts of our lifestyle.  I thought I'd answer them in a post for anyone else out there that may be wondering about the same things :)...

1.  My husband's travel to and from work...  For anyone that doesn't know, he is employed in the oil industry.  The company that he has been with for the past two years pays for the flights to and from their office here in the U.S. (the crews meet up at the office/shop and from there they drive company equipment out into the field to work).  All he has to do is call in to the office one week in advance of when he will need the ticket and tell them where he will be flying to/from.  As long as the flight is to/from somewhere in the lower 48, it can be a different place each time.  And has been :)!  From what I've been told, not many oil companies pay for flights and some of the other ones that do, want the airports to only change at most every few months because they buy the tickets way in advance.  The company my husband is with only buys the ticket when he calls and tells them where he needs it from/to.

2.  The weeks when it's just me and the kids...  I wasn't sure how I'd feel about being alone with the kids in a camper for weeks at a time, but I was excited to find out :)! (Dan and I have been married for nearly seventeen years, until we set out on this adventure I had never spent a single night in a camper without my husband there with me.) We have moved quite a bit in the past several years for work reasons and up until last summer each move was into a traditional house.  Sometimes to a city in a neighborhood setting, sometimes far from any town and surrounded by forest and mountains.  I will be honest and tell you that there were nights that I did not sleep...I got "spooked" by some noise or other and in a big house (unfamiliar house in an unfamiliar place) it's hard to know what it was exactly, ya know?  So, anyway...I wasn't sure how it would be at night in a camper.  I'm happy to tell you that it's way less scary!  The small space is a blessing when it comes to "bumps in the night".  No spot in the camper is very far from where ever I am at any moment and it is super easy to figure out what made what noise.  I think being so much closer to the kids while they sleep puts my mind at ease, too.  I'm right there, literally feet from them, should anything happen.

3.  Feeling secure in endless new environments...  This one has been (and continues to be) a learning process for me.  One neat thing about living in campgrounds is the general atmosphere.  I don't know exactly how to describe it, but the people seem to sorta look out for each other.  I have never felt threatened by a fellow camper.  The only problem I have had, has been with an actual employee of the campground (crazy, right?).  In that instance, since the problem was with the campground laundry, the solution was simple...I never went back in there.  Instead, I used a laundromat nearby that ended up being way better all around :)!  I have also learned to switch up my routine.  The need to do this became evident when I had a man start chatting with me and the kids in town one day.  He seemed nice enough until he made the comment "I saw you here last Thursday, too"...and yes, that day was also a Thursday!!!  Fuh-reaked me out!  A reminder that people are watching and paying attention, so I really needed to do the same!  After that, I don't go to the same places on the same days each week...I mix it up.  My best advice to you would be to just keep your eyes and ears open at all times.  I'm not saying to be afraid, just be aware.  If something doesn't feel right or safe, then simply leave.

4.  How do we keep busy when Dad is at work...  School, school, and more school :).  The weeks that Dan is home we keep the actual book work to a minimum.  This is for two reasons...so the kids can spend as much time as possible with Dad and also because that is the time when we are moving every couple of days and our days are really full.  So, the weeks he is gone we really buckle down and work on the books.  School takes up a large part of each day, but we find plenty of time for adventuring, too.  Not every single day, but I'd say five out of seven, the kids and I do something fun and unique to our location.  Sea glass hunting walks on the coast, local Jr. Ranger programs, swimming, things like that :)

5.  Struggles...  Like anyone, it's hard to be apart from my spouse for such long stretches of time.  The first week when he has to go back to work seems to be the hardest, the missing him and counting days until the hitch is over begins all over again.  That really is the main struggle.  We have had some issues with our 5th wheel, but God has been so good to me!  There has not been a single issue that I (with my limited fix-it abilities) couldn't handle on my own.  The bigger issues have all seemed to happen the day Dan gets home...no way that's a coincidence!

6.  Money...  Maybe I should have listed this under struggles ;).  If you are trying to figure out a budget for a trip like ours, I would suggest adding a few zeros here and there.  *sigh*  We had hoped to be able to save up a good chunk of money by living this lifestyle and so far it really hasn't happened.  Everything just costs SO much!  Even the price of groceries varies so much from region to region...

7.  Use the internet!...  Not really a question, just something I want to share with you :).  We look up reviews and pictures of places where we are considering staying.  Especially the places where the kids and I stay by ourselves.  RV Park Reviews is a really good place to start when looking for a campground in an unfamiliar area.  Dan will even look at a potential campground on google maps to get an idea of the surrounding area.  Something that I use a lot when getting acclimated in a new place is Yelp.  The reviews on there (I have found) are generally very accurate and to the point.  I have also found some really great places by doing a search on Yelp that I otherwise wouldn't have known about.

Well, I'm about talked out for this evening :).  It's getting really late and I told the kids we would go the the beach first thing tomorrow morning.  This has been fun, though!  I like to hear from ya'll and I hope the things I've shared help some of you.  Let me know (in the comments) if you have any more questions, I'll do my best to answer them :)


Saturday, April 6, 2013

17 Mile Drive

Our next adventure while staying in the Monterey Bay area sorta just "happened" one afternoon.

The kids and I decided we had done enough school work for the day and what we really needed to do was go out for ice cream.  Good ice cream.  I gave them a choice of any ice cream shop within a thirty minute drive (and there were MANY choices)...and they chose Cold Stone.  Which just happens to be my favorite :).  We go to Cold Stone on average once a year, usually on someone's birthday...so it really was a special treat.

We each made our choice and got it to go.  The kids wanted to go eat our ice cream at the tide pools and watch the sunset.

When we left the shopping center and started to drive to Point Pinos, we passed a sign that said Pebble Beach Golf Links.  The boys had heard of the famous golf course and wanted to go check it out.  Ok, change of plans :).  

The sign pointed to the left, so we turned off of the road that would take us to the point.  The road was blocked by a guard shack type deal and the man came out to talk to us.  I didn't realize that the road that goes by the course is the --17 Mile Drive-- road.  The man was very nice and explained to me that there would be a fee of $9.75 just to drive on the road.  Annnd, the fee was only going to be good for that day.  I decided that we would come back another day when we would have more time to drive the 17 miles and see it all at a leisurely pace...not an hour or so before sunset like it was that day.  I thanked the man and was getting ready to turn around and leave when he told me that I could only make a right turn back onto the highway.  And there would be nowhere to turn around and get headed back towards the point until we drove all the way back into town.  Whuuuut???  Doh!  He had me...we would pretty much miss the sunset if we had to do that, so guess what?  We paid the $9.75 and went on a speedy tour of the 17 mile drive :). (and p.s...they only take cash, no debit card.  before you drive all the way out there, make sure you have at least ten bucks cash on you)

With our entrance fee came a little booklet with a map and descriptions of all the points of interest along the drive.  Trevor was our tour guide, he read to us about what we were seeing as I drove :).

The shoreline was gorgeous.  The sand in that area was white, so different from the brownish sand just up the coast a little ways!  We all started to pile out at the first stop with the intention of exploring the beach a little.  Not!!!  The wind was freezing cold, the fact that we were riding around eating ice cream didn't exactly do anything to warm us up either ;).  Oh well, we really didn't have much time to spend at each stop, so I guess it all worked out for the best :).

There were places, one called the Restless Sea, where the water off shore just churned and churned like it was trying to go in every direction at once.  It was mesmerizing to watch...

We pulled up to the viewing place for the sea lions.  There was a huge rock out in the water and from the shore we could hear them making their usual noises and carrying on, but they were just a bit too far out to see well.  There was a whole row of those viewing things that you put a quarter in and it's like looking through binoculars.  We were just about to start feeding them quarters when a nice lady advised us to save our money.  The sun and salt air had done a number on all of the lenses and they were so fogged up (and unable to be cleaned) that they were useless.  Bummer.  At least she saved us from wasting our money :)!

The wind was seriously freezing, so we hurried back to the car (again!) to try and see it all before dark.  Just down the road a bit we saw the strangest little house.  I don't know what it was, it was really different from the other homes we saw that day (most were huge, sprawling mansions)...

Just before the road entered the forest, it took us out onto a point with some great views.

It was funny, there were houses (estates is a better word) all along the road and some of the people built their fences around the trees...

We then drove through the forest.  I later found out that we were in one of only two remaining groves of native Monterey Cypress left in the world.  Pretty cool :)

After enjoying the contrast of Crocker Grove, the road began to show us glimpses of the Pacific once again.  We just had to stop and get out one more time to see the Lone Cypress.  The Pebble Beach icon...

Then it was on to the PB Lodge and Links.  The place was busy, tents and things were being set up for a tournament that was a few days away.  The AT&T Pro-Am, with a purse of $6,500,000.  Gulp.  I think me needs to learn a new sport! Ha!

I did look at the price to play a round of golf...$495 + cart rental.  Gulp.  But it would be awesome to play there if golf is your thing :)

Our afternoon turned out way better than we anticipated :)!  With the wind being so cold, it was the perfect day for a scenic drive.  So glad we stumbled upon it...

Friday, April 5, 2013


Wow....where has the time gone???  Real soon turned into not so soon...sorry about that!  I now have internet again that seems to be pretty good.  We shall see :). 

So much has happened with us that the only place I know to start is where I left off...back in California.  Yes, I said "back".  You will have to stay tuned to find out where we are now and where all we were in between :).  I will be back tomorrow to tell you more!