Death becomes us

Into Yosemite

The drive in was beautiful scenery except the smell of fire, ash and soot coupled with the “Extreme Fire Danger” signs, the fear and reality of the drought and more importantly the fires ravaging through the region set in.

When we enter the park and learn more about the forest, much like Yellowstone these trees need the fire to live and reproduce.

Their hearty bark protect the live wood and the heat causes a reaction that burst its pine cones and send exploding seed onto the forest floor.

It got me thinking trees aren’t the only ones affected by the fire. Hundreds if not thousands of homes lay in the paths of forest fires year after year.

But homes don’t have protective bark. No. Many people are displaced by mandatory evacuations only to come home to a pile of rubble and ash.

Sadly there are casualties the majority being our brave heroes risking and sacrificing their lives to help and protect others.

Thanks to those firemen and women and all rescue workers for that matter many lives nationwide are spared in these and all tragedies.

If you see or know a fireman be sure and thank them.

That was the silver lining driving through towns in this region. among the signs warning of Extreme Fire Danger were banners and posters on lawns strewn across small town streets with the words “Thank You” and “We ♥ Firemen” “Thanks FD”

These small gestures are sure to brighten the day and soot covered faces of these heroes just as they did mine.

Anyway, We would have loved to enjoy Yosemite more than a few visitors centers and some cliff driving but unfortunately two of the world’s 10 largest waterfalls located in this very park are just about bone dry in this drought stricken place.

Darryl didn’t deem it worth the drive up to Glacier Point  so we got our Junior Ranger badges and passed on through.


Sunday Sept. 14….Day 34

It’s a long ride through the Sierra Nevada Mountains from Yosemite to Death Valley National parks.

A long hot ride even with our A/C blasting we couldn’t shrink the temperature below 85°. Our generator was cranking like Papa Bear all the way to a campground he found for us to stay at before our journey down to the literal depths of the earth.

Boulder Creek RV Resort is set in the desert with our RV forested by the shade of native trees we wandered the property and found tortoises corralled near a playground and enjoyed the birdcage in the clubhouse. Just off the rec room is a pool. Not the biggest but it was clean and just the ticket to cooling off in this heat. I take pride in finding good campgrounds. I’m no expert but this one was great for child and k-9 travelers complete with poop stations on every row and a fenced dog run with drinking water for our furry friends.

The camp store conveniently has anything we could need including a snake bite kit. Being from the NE I’ve never seen one before(not that I’ve looked) upon closer inspection I saw it contained a scalpel. EEK!

Swimming, playing, ice-pops and a shower later we were ready to hit the hay.

Monday Sept. 15 …. Day 35

After breakfast we played and visited the tortoises once more before cleaning house and heading out.

Death Valley National Park is anything but dead.

Known throughout the world as the hottest, driest and lowest we saw many desert plants and birds.

Even though we didn’t see any, we learned that fox, muskrat, lizards, snakes and even fish live in this seemingly desolate place. It even snows in some of the higher ground in winter.

Most of the plant and animal species are only found here, like the pupfish, a small tadpole like body teeming in the natural spring fed creeks.

As hot as it is (114º today) it is a beautiful place that we will return to in the future. Due to the inescapable heat in the RV despite the A/C blowing we resolved to bring Oliver into the visitors’ center with us. Oh, Oliver! What a good boy! We are a lucky family to have such a wonderful member included in our journey.

He rode in the stroller like a champion baby and didn’t even attempt to escape. He sat patiently as we strolled the exhibits, browsed the gift shop, took the Junior Ranger Oath, watched a 15 minute video on the park and got lost looking for roadrunners and made it back home, finally.


We are honored to have him!

1910418_142159300393_2373635_nJuniper unknowingly prepared him for this very important moment five years ago.

On our way out of Death Valley, Darryl made reservations for a campground in Las Vegas, NV. We made it into the city just after nightfall and half of our crew were already asleep. The thing about the desert is at night, the heat of the day fades from memory and sleep comes quick.

Faith in humanity

Friday, September 12, 2014…. Day 32

Check out time at the campground was 11 o’clock yesterday morning and after I bathed the dog and took a nice hot shower we shoved off, got our junior ranger badges, a geocache and went to The Shrine Tree in Myers Flats, CA, one of three drive-through trees (another dream crossed off my bucket list, even if we couldn’t drive our RV through it). We docked at the One Log House for the night and today was a terrible day of driving.


A long day on the road out of the Majestic Redwoods and into the heat but not before going through Clear Lake, CA the most unpleasant odorous place I’ve ever been (even worse than The Jersey Turnpike) As we passed a lake community ironically called Paradise Cove my headache and nausea began. The strong odors of mold mildew ammonia and chlorine combined burned my nose hair.

What a shame something once so beautiful enough to be named Clear Lake turned rancid green, congealed muck floating at its edges with rainbow swirls of oily film reflecting the day’s sun; algae blooms.

The smell, hours later, is still lingering in our fans.

We cleared almost 300 miles today. The most in a single day to date, and we’re worn out. So, after Costco and Target, our two favorite places, we holed up for night.

Saturday, September 13… Day 33

I have tears in my eyes and it’s not from clear lake. There’s a pit in my stomach and no, I’m not pregnant. There’s an ache in my heart but I’m healthy. I’m fine. But the man isn’t.

I’m angry in my helplessness of being a passenger.

We’re only a few miles outside of Yosemite National Park. The sun is baking the dry land.

We’re driving on a treacherous mountain road hugging cliffs some 2,000 feet above sea level.

Winding and weaving, navigating the blind curves I remind Darryl not to go so fast for fear of toppling over the edge and tumbling down to our deaths.

Curve after curve my palms sweaty and heart racing. Then we see them. Bicyclists racing down the hills. Three, then four zoom past us in the opposite direction. Around another curve and there’s a biker off his bike standing looking back up the mountain. And a little ways up I see him. Holding his helmet, legs entwined with his wheels, he’s sitting there with a confused look on his bloody face.

Just past him is a large gravel lot and I yell, “pull in there!”

Darryl responds as he keeps driving, “I’m not trying to hang out here.”

My own blood boils as that cyclist’s pours out of his face. My anger, a gift from my father is out for Darryl. My compassion, a gift from my mother is out to the fallen biker.

I yell at my husband, “WE HAVE FIRST AID, ICE, WATER!!! WE COULD HELP HIM!”

Under his breath he says, “Jesus Christ.”

In my bitchy way I say, “No! Jesus Christ would have stopped.”


For miles my head was spinning with how we could have and should have helped that man. He was visibly injured and needed medical attention.

I am now crying, miles down the road and disappointed in my husband.

Helpless is how I feel but what about the injured man, just a bike on the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere.

Shame on us. Shame on Darryl for making me an accomplice in the neglect of a man in need.

I wish so badly we helped him. but we didn’t.

All I can do now is pray that someone did.

Pray that some-awesome-one did what I would have, had I been driving.

That they pulled over and gave him a drink. Helped him up and made sure he was okay. Drove him to a hospital or gave him an icepack.

What must he have felt watching us drive right by him in his time of need?

No faith in humanity from fear.

Darryl doesn’t stop because he “doesn’t like to get involved in other people’s business.”

He’s afraid. He says it’s how he stays safe and keeps his family safe.

Safe from a helpless injured man on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

Even if the biker pulled a gun on me I would have been shot and died following my heart. A heart that hurts now, for that man.


Now, back to reality, the world we live in is an ugly place and strangers are not to be trusted for that fear that they could be the one to do us harm. They could be the one to rob us, hurt us, kill us. But these circumstances, it’s hot; we’re in the mountains of California, at least give the guy a bottle of water before you peel out leaving your dust in his open wounds. (a bit dramatic; I know)

What would you do???

Thursday September 11

September 11th, a day to remember and not because of anything on our trip.

Not today. A day in our life is insignificant. Not compared to anything, it’s just insignificant.

Where I was and what I was doing 13 years ago on this day is insignificant..

In my heart it is a day of darkness for our world. Nothing can be done to take this day back. It is a hole in my heart.

All that is lost. All that is gone.

I will never forget.








(there is an obvious delay in publishing but I felt it my obligation to submit my thoughts from this day, I otherwise would not have posted anything and day 31 would be missing from my chronicles. I feel strongly about being open and honest with this web blog and will only omit the utterly boring and daft accounts)

Laundry, trees, home.

Monday Sept. 8….Day 28

Monday-Laundry Day

Tiring day at the Laundromat in Klamath Falls, OR which, by the way, does not in fact have any falls( I checked).

8 loads


4 bored kids

a cranky baby


an exhausted mom

was the price to pay for clean sheets, underwear and pajamas.

After three straight hours of washing, drying, folding I had no energy to put any of it away in the cramped quarters of our RV. For this, I am ever more grateful for Papa Bear at the very least getting the beds made. Probably his way of thanking me for taking all five kids to the Laundromat for a few hours so he could have uninterrupted work time.

He found a school playground where the kids ran around and played. I threw together a snack-dinner of carrot sticks and chips with spinach dip, a leftover sausage green bean and pasta dish and a side of applesauce. Each girl cleared their plate downed a bottle of water and went back out to play. We continued our short journey through OR to a nice rest area where we had a dance party in the grass until bedtime.

Another day gone and I still love my husband, kids and this crazy life!

Tuesday Sept. 9…. Day 29

We made it to the Redwood Forest today (the sole purpose for this leg of our trip) A dream come true for me and a realized dream come true for Darryl. He now compares every other tree to these towering giants of nature, some growing well past their 3,000th year.

We came to a beautiful campground amidst these goliath trees with stumps in our campsite more than 10′ in diameter.

Dwarfed by the sheer magnitude, we camped peacefully and played happily at the grounds’ play area.

Even Oliver was in his doggie glory playing ball, which he carried with him everywhere. The campground even had a pet washing station which was much-needed with the dry dusty air in Northern California.

Our first of two nights was spent getting really dirty and then washing all the dirt off with a shower.

Another advantage here is the free Wi-Fi affording me some much-needed time with the computer and my neglected blog.

I was able to upload pictures and setup four posts for future publishing.

I feel rejuvenated, fulfilled and accomplished.

The kids and Darryl all slept easy.

Wednesday September 10….Day 30

30 days. Thirty days have passed and I’m feeling bittersweet. The wonderment of where we are and how much we’ve experienced fills my heart with joy and I’m ever grateful for this trip and all my blessings. A big part of me is back in Pennsylvania, though. Our home. routine. family, friends and every other part of our life is waiting for us. I miss my cats, my freedom and my bed.

Adventures and vacations are great, working for them is hard work and as we start our journey back east, I’m excited to get home, sad to be through with the trip and dreading the heat that awaits us in the desert as well as the nothing that lies between here and our destination.

Our day today is fun. We do some more laundry (yay). Play. Play. Play. but the best part of today maybe even the whole trip was our journey through the forest on a trail exploring the redwoods and the beautiful ecosystem they sustain. We learned how they grow so tall and keep each other up. In fact, humans could learn a lot from these behemoths.

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Their roots only grow as deep as 12 inches but spread up to hundreds of feet underground intertwining with neighboring trees keeping each other grounded. When one tree dies or falls, it leaves behind its root system for its babies to utilize and flourish creating a cluster of trees called a family.

Appropriately reminding me how I envision our family. Everyone holding each other up and flourishing from the roots Darryl and I have laid for them. Makes me miss our home even more.

Just a short moment of homesickness, though, I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world!



I’ll cry if I want to

But I don’t need to. IT’S MY BIRTHDAY! YAY!!!

Sunday, September 7…. Day 27

Another birthday on the road and this time, it’s mine.

I took Oliver for a nice long lakeside walk while Darryl cooked breakfast; my favorite, french toast! This birthday breakfast is especially memorable because just as I was about to take a bite he says, “we’re all out of cinnamon.” “Impossible,” I think to myself because I know I brought a shaker and a half from home and haven’t used a spec of it for the entire trip. Upon examination of the empty canister it reads “PAPRIKA”

I laughed because Darryl immediately says to Juniper (age 6) “did you bring me paprika?” she says, “I don’t know.”

Neither of them read the label so I sprinkled real cinnamon poured the syrup and filled my tummy.

I felt bad because he was all ready to remake it when it was tasty and delicious, even with the secret ingredient. Besides, not many gals are as blessed as I to have a doting husband cook her breakfast on her birthday. (love my husband)

After we dressed(and I do mean DRESSed) we went for a walk to the visitor’s center and took some family photos waiting for it to open.

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We got out postcards, JR booklets and went on to the lodge to see the grand hall and the history exhibit of the building. I love old wood work and this place was full of it. Built from it.

Of course, Darryl drives out of the lodge and the section of Rim Drive from the lodge down to the other visitor’s center where we saw an educational documentary about Crater Lake and earned our badges was a regular road with shoulders and guard rails and space to not die. No, the road of death was just for my pure enjoyment.

We ate lunch at the visitor’s center and camped at a campground in the park.

The thing about park campgrounds is it is difficult to get a spot at all and they have limited spaces with electric and/or full hookups.

This campground had 14 electric hookups, all of which were taken or for smaller rigs. Ours is 36′

As we decided to tease ourselves and check on the only 4 full hookups we were shocked, surprised, dumbfounded to have found one open and available! Darryl turns to me and says with a smile, “It is YOUR birthday!”

As blessed as I am and as much as I attribute my good fortune to choices I’ve made and the good grace of God, most would just say I’m lucky.

Darryl has even coined a phrase “Lisa Luck” referring to parking because somehow there seems to be an empty space in the first or second spot from the door just waiting for me when the rest of the lot is full.

Well it’s my birthday and we got full hookup which means not having to run this noisy smelly generator or worrying about running out of water ,not that we’re wasting it; but one less thing to worry about when washing hands or using the restroom.

Darryl let the kids play in the woods while he baked, yes HE BAKED, brownies and grilled burgers for dinner. Then they had roasted marshmallows before we all showered and watched Annie while eating our delicious treats.

Bedtime was easy-peasy as we were all worn out from exploring the lake, playing and getting good and dirty.

Aah! Happy Birthday to me. We ended the night just the two of us by the fire talking, stargazing, listening to the stillness and admiring the almost full moon.

Lakes and badges

Monday September 1st Part Two


From the moment we entered the park the scenery changed, the road changed, the world changed.

A sense of uneasiness overcame me and anxiety filled my veins. The trees were eerily baron and the air stale.


The spectacle was not as spectacular as I was expecting.

You hear stories of greatness and mystery. The mystery abounded and the greatness was in size.

The size of the park and trees. The river. The lake. The waterfalls. The amount of steam heaving up and out of the earth. All great but not in a good way.

I thought it was my own fear and reservations about being in a seismic and active volcanic place but Darryl felt it too. (I found out later as we were leaving)


We got our education with a ranger led program about the wildlife in the park. Lemon learned “how to not get eaten by a bear.”


We camped in a dry slot in the woods outside the boundary of the caldera and were quick to leave in the morning without visiting the world-famous geyser, Old Faithful.

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We did visit the mud volcano and had sulfuric steam blasted at our faces and that was enough of Yellowstone for us.

Tuesday, September 2 …. Day 22

Getting up in the morning was a task because we wanted to leave as quickly as possible.

I had difficulty sleeping; tossing and turning in the night battling Papa Bear for the blankets as the cold air crept into our house.

We got moving before breakfast and as we exited the park our sense of road trip bliss returned almost instantly.


We snagged our Junior Ranger badges on the way out of Yellowstone and arrived at Grand Teton National Park within a few hours.

The overall feeling in Grand Teton is how I had imagined it would be in Yellowstone but I was sadly mistaken and disappointed.

After another ranger-led program and junior ranger badge pinned to the sash we walked in the woods and down along Jackson Lake to get some ice cream and to take a moment to soak in these mountains that are appropriately named “grand.” They are magnanimous and peaceful to just sit and look at.

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We had another dry campsite which means we need to find water and service our tanks as soon as possible.

Wednesday Sept. 3rd…. Day 23

A busy morning of cleaning and packing up for the next leg of the trip through Idaho. Darryl was tired so he napped for a while. I drove and just 45 min. down the road I found a cute little town, Jackson, WY. I stopped so the girls could play at park and playground. They haven’t had much play time since we left Cody; we’ve been busy with national parks. They had a lot of fun just playing, making friends and running around.

Afterward, we continued west into the mountains on the steepest road I’ve ever driven. 10% grades up and down on the side of a gigantic rock.


I followed the road into Idaho Falls where Darryl found a FREE RV park. We setup camp and picnicked dinner at sunset before we slept well.

Thursday September 4…. Day 24

After breakfast and cleaning house we headed into Pocatello, ID for Costco and to restock our supplies. Almost an hour and a half and $400.00 later we were back on the road and after a stop in Twin Falls, ID for liquor and to print some pictures for our scrapbook, we made it to Hagerman where we had dinner, canvassed the fossil beds and found another free spot to spend the night.

Friday Sept. 5 ….Day 25

Every morning is the same. One by one we wake up and rub our eyes. Juice. Cereal. Eggs. Coffee! And then I get the kids dressed while Darryl washes the dishes. We make beds, sweep the floor, walk the dog and the day is in full swing.

We drove a couple of miles down the streets of Hagerman, ID a small town consisting of a handful of shops and businesses. If you blink, you’ll miss it. We walked into the Fossil Beds Visitor Center where we learned about fossils(obviously) but also rocks, minerals, and the Oregon Trail. I especially enjoyed the exhibit on the World War II concentration camp nearby where Japanese Americans and their families were detained after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

More badges, a stamp in our Passport then lunch and rest time and we were off without a hitch.

We stopped in Boise for dinner where we took care of our tanks and showered. We pressed on some more before we parked for the night in Vale, Oregon, another new state under our wheels.

Saturday Sept. 6… Day 26

Sensing the morning, I awoke and nudged Darryl who was able to get us into OR further before the girls woke and we really started our day. I’ve been pressuring him to make it to Crater Lake for my birthday since Astoria was out of the question. The day was mainly spent driving with few exceptions to a playground, stop for lunch and fill-up the gas tank.

We ate dinner at a free campground outside the national park and made it to the Crater Lake Lodge just after sunset.

But not without experiencing THE. MOST. FEAR. I’ve ever had while driving. Rim Drive is a narrow two lane road with no shoulder or guard rails and barely hugs the side of the mountain that holds Crater Lake.

Rim Drive
Rim Drive

Some of the black top at the edge of the road has crumbled and tumbled down the side of the cliffs as I imagine we would have if there was oncoming traffic.


I was so scared my knuckles were white from clinging to the steering wheel.

Beyond scared!
Beyond scared!

I drove down the middle of the road and luckily there were only 3 cars that passed us the opposite direction and they did so when the road was wider with more room to maneuver around them. Like I said we made it to the Lodge at sunset and were not brave enough to challenge Rim Drive in the dark so we illegally camped in the Lodge’s RV parking lot. Rebels, I know.

A ranger kindly informed us of our infraction the next morning but the deed was done and we were unscathed.


Oregon Sunset
Oregon Sunset

Cody, the new member of our family.

August 27….Day 16

We rode into Wyoming a few miles and ate breakfast at a rest area with a playground(those are the best) While the girls burned up some energy, I cleaned and Darryl was able to make calls and get work done before we packed on some miles. It’s a long way to Yellowstone.

Gilette, WY is 89 miles from the SD border where we stopped to get Oliver a bath, picked up some scrap-booking supplies and found a cute frozen yogurt shop called Sweet Frog. 20140827_160005 (2)

As storm clouds loomed over us once again we pressed on to keep out of the bad weather and ended up in Buffalo, WY at a helpful visitor’s center which afforded us useful information where we talked to a local volunteer working the joint and she told us where to camp for the night. Bless her because without the guidance we wouldn’t have found this:

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Big Horn National Forest was another hours ride but it was worth it. A desolate campground that uses the honor/envelope system whereas a lockbox with envelopes to deposit the camping fee and use the grounds. We got the first empty spot on the river.

After eating dinner and washing up we were put to sleep by the shushing sounds of the water and woke up well rested with the midwestern sun.

Travelling with the time zones is easy heading west, we’re not looking forward to working against the sun on the way home. Mom and dad have to find a lot of patience to stow away for these busy bodies at 11pm on the east coast.

August 28th     Day 17

We ate breakfast, then went for a peaceful walk in the forest.

Butterflies and birds flitted by as squirrels played in the trees. Chipmunks scurried across rocks and we saw deer eating at the river’s edge before they climbed the nearby mountainside. The beauty of nature was abundant and the girls soaked every ounce of it in while Darryl and Dogwood had their naps.

We packed up and continued through the mountains on some questionable roads for a few hours when we arrived in Cody, WY. Aah, Cody!

Named for famous Wild West Showman “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the town is teeming with history of cowboys, indians and the “Hole in the wall gang” of infamous Sundance Kid.


Steak dinner at a local restaurant left us disappointed but Darryl was able to have parts shipped to a HVAC company in Cody and finally got our A/C fixed. When we don’t really need it anymore, it’s possible.

A geocache left us at a recreational complex atop a hill with a grand view of the town. Bonus: a water supply too! Now that he knows what to look for Darryl is finding water everywhere.


We stayed the night talking planning and sharing a drink. It’s nights like this that we get to connect, have some adult conversation and just enjoy being in each other’s company…we still got it!

August 29…. Day 18

The morning was filled with history and one of my favorite reasons for homeschooling. We visited Old Trail Town where we toured original 1800’s cabins filled with artifacts from the era. We learned about early western life and what it was like to be an outlaw, a posse member and an indian.

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The kids asked questions and looked on in awe and wonderment. Lemon was particularly curious about how they would wash themselves. (that’s my girl!)

Another fantastic learning experience for us all. We ate lunch and found a Laundromat to rewash everything from Keystone.

This place was clean, reasonably priced and the real bonus was the machines did their intended job.

Mama bought a pair of cowboy boots and instead of heading over to Yellowstone as we had originally planned we decided to wait until morning so as not to miss “the most beautiful 50 miles” according to President Theodore Roosevelt.

After thinking about it further we decided to call Cody home for the weekend it being Labor Day and the anticipated traffic and people bombarding Yellowstone for the holiday did not appeal to us.

Our first experience boon docking at the Wal-Mart which is a “thing” for campers. We didn’t know. Other than the few RV’s we see at our local Wal-Mart back in PA I never really thought about it. For us it was a matter of convenience and that it was where we were when we decided not to venture into Yellowstone just yet.

August 30 & 31 Days 19 & 20

We found several playgrounds to explore as well as washed every ounce of removeable fabric from the RV. Went grocery shopping and enjoyed our standstill. I didn’t realize how much being on the road was taking it’s toll on me until we stopped for a bit. Cody is great!

I’ll take the blessing of waiting to move on because it’s been storming for these past few days. Luckily we got to spend them here at an indoor pool and rec center.

One last night in Cody and we’re sad to leave. It’s the type of place where strangers are friends and it just feels like home.

Monday, September 1st….Day 21

Well, we woke up and left a piece of our hearts there in Cody to be sure we return. Just before entering Yellowstone and after travelling that 50 beautiful miles we stopped for lunch and shopped the giftshop, I getting a cozy mug that says “Cody”, Darryl a utility knife that says “Cody” (can you tell we liked Cody?) Juniper our future geologist a bag of rocks, Lemon chose a deck of playing cards, Ash and Oak a horse and frog cuddly friends.

We were able to splurge here because a lovely couple admiring our family during their meal decided to pay for ours on the condition (the waitress relayed to us) the kids pick something special.

Karma is in deed real and will come back to you.

I have been struggling to find a way to pay this one forward. We never did get to thank that lovely couple but it was the perfect way to end our stay in Cody and that kind of act of generousity is the very definition of what Cody is. Also a reminder of the way this country used to be and hopefully what it can become again.

A windy rush

Monday August 25……Day 14

For the two nights Oliver was in the hospital we went a few miles down the road. On the first morning we woke up in the Black Hills wilderness to a field of prairie dogs. That’s one of the good (and bad) things about travelling at night, you have no idea where you are or what’s around. While eating breakfast a Bison (buffalo) wandered just feet from our window. Olivia shouts, “cow!” as we all turn to see and this majestic beast is just walking right past our house.


It is the 75th anniversary of the park service and tickets to Wind Cave National Park are free, today only!

We enjoyed the two-hour tour through the largest cave system in the world despite descending 300 steps into the dark slippery caves with a baby strapped to my chest and a toddling two-year-old, a ball-of-energy three-year-old, our clumsy five-year-old and scared-of-the-dark six year-year old without any injuries, potty accidents or emergencies.

I never cease to amaze Darryl with MY multitasking skills because I somehow managed to nurse the baby with one arm and guide Oak down the steepest and longest section of stairs without slipping on the puddles myself.

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We learned about the most sacred part of the Black Hills to the native american tribe, the Lakota and the first cave explorer along with the cave’s history which was all very fascinating and exciting.

From Wind Cave, we made a preliminary visit to Mount Rushmore, ate dinner and made the trip back to Rapid City to visit Oliver in the hospital, where we stayed the night.


Tuesday August 26…. Day 15

In the morning, we ate breakfast and cleaned house. Oliver was happy to be back with us and we were happy to have him.

On to Mount Rushmore! We were able to use our pass from yesterday and really take our time. Juniper and Lemon got into the Junior Ranger program and learned all about the presidents, the sculptor, how the mountain was shaped, and the history of the Black Hills natives. In fact, we were very happy we came back today because there was a Lakota drum and dance demonstration right on the viewing terrace.

Papa Bear particularly enjoyed the ingenuity that went into the fabrication especially the precision of the blasting the faces with such detail.

Lemon and all the girls had fun pressing a mock plunger and watching an explosion on a monitor. She was busy blowing things up for a while.

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We earned our first Junior Ranger badges and the girls were ecstatic. I only wish I’d learned about this program earlier. Badlands and Wind Cave, also national parks, offered the program as well.

As we walked through the Avenue of Flags we sang a fifty states song I learned in fourth grade and found our state flag of Pennsylvania.

Darryl found a gem of a resource on the internet that tells us where we can fill up on water and purge our tanks.

So, we dumped and filled in nearby Keystone, did some laundry (boring job but someone has to do it…me) the machines were $2.50 to wash and $2.50 to dry, the most expensive I’ve seen and I left there after spending over $30.00 on 4 loads with wet clothes. (sad face)

We rode down the highway en route to Wyoming, stopping in a roadside pull off to sleep.

The heat is on.

Saturday August 23…Day 12

Everyone woke up happy!

Well rested and excited about the trip again we ate breakfast in our hotel room beds before we suited up and went down to the pool.

Dogwood loved dipping her toes in the water and watching daddy drag her sisters around the pool taking turns dancing with him in the warm water.

After a quick shower, we visited a local library then had lunch before hitting the road to get to a Jayco service center.

Hours later, we entered South Dakota, ate a lite dinner and kept moving to get out of the heat.

Darryl; eyes tired from the road; stopped off for a break to pajama the kids and with the heat, we blocked off the back of the RV to keep the cabin cool when a spectacular light show began in the diner parking lot where we were stopped. We all looked out the window in awe of the night sky brighter than a Fourth of July fireworks finale; only this wasn’t fireworks. It was lightning, and a lot of it. Silent and beautiful heat lightning in the distance. We checked the weather forecast and sure enough a band of severe thunderstorms were headed right for us with a flash flood advisory in our immediate area.

We weren’t going anywhere. After this afternoon’s long drive we didn’t want to go anywhere anyway. We enjoyed mother nature’s display and fixed the table and dinette into one really huge bed where we all cuddled in what little cool air we could muster from the cab’s A/C and our oscillating fan and watched Peter Rabbit with popcorn while we waited for the storm to pass. Darryl’s phone even buzzed and wrang out with an emergency service weather broadcast warning us of flash floods. (big brother knows where we are and with modern technology, always watching)


The night turned out to be a blessing because we caught up on some cozy family bed zzz’s and after a few hours we woke up to clearer skies and cooler temperatures.

Sunday August 24……Day 13

Wow! What a roller coaster of a trip so far.?! The days and events are starting to blur and blend together, if it weren’t for this journal I wouldn’t know what day it is, what state we’re in or my own phone number. (does anyone really ever call themselves?)

We moved from the diner early and stopped in a South Dakota rest area for breakfast, to get some information, and to stretch our legs. We got dressed and decided on Badlands National Park. We were NOT sorry.

I was captain for the day and while I enjoyed the perfect weather clear comfortable and sunny and the scenery of prairies and farms. I did not, however, enjoy to roadside signs. Every 20′ was a billboard… it was like how I would imagine a celebrity feels about the paparazzi flashing cameras in their face all the time. Sign after sign after sign. All saying the same three things. Ugh! Get out of my face!

I get the point of the repetitive advertising but the redundancy made me want to NOT go there. The exact opposite of the sign’s intentions.

We pulled in to the National Park unsuspecting of the majesty about to be bestowed upon us. Breathtaking, unsurpassable fascinating beauty. Spectacular magnificent and miraculous sandcastles-nature’s sandcastles erupting from the earth big enough to house Manhatten Island 10 times. Winding paved roads weaving in and around these structures with scenic overlooks of the vast lands.


Desolate at first glance; upon a closer look we saw birds of all kinds, sweet smelling roadside wildflowers, and grasslands with adorable prairie dog fleets. We learned about the ancient sea that once resided here and the now extinct aquatic life that inhabited it. As waters receded a lush forest took over, bringing even more diverse wildlife now extinct, probably due to the drastic climate change that transformed this wondrous place into a prairie ecosystem.

As the winds and dry air moved in, the Badlands that we know today was shaped from water and wind scouring the clay hills eroding these geologic beauties.

I’m dreading recounting this next part. (as I’ll bet you’ll regret reading it.

Oliver, our pup, is very sick. After the day of the poop, his diarrhea continued and he wasn’t eating so we brought him to a local vet clinic in Rapid City, SD.

Emergency Vet Services on a Sunday are pricey, but we HAD to help him.

After an x-ray and some blood-work we discovered a suspicious object in his abdomen and a mild case of pancreatitus. He spent the night in the ER getting IV fluids and anti-vomiting medication. Did I mention he was vomiting? It was the vomiting that concerned me the most; that and he wasn’t eating. If he just had diarrhea it would have been another story.

We finished our visit at badlands and I took Ollie for a walk as I always do before we hit the road. He took his few minutes and then strained trying to relieve himself. And this time it wasn’t just diarrhea, it was red. Blood. After we cleaned him up we setup his kennel and packed up our stuff. By the time we were ready to actually roll, he had vomited in the kennel.

We had to stop for gas but then it was straight to Rapid City and get Oliver to the Emergency Room.

The vet examined him and blood immediately started dripping from his rear. We agreed to admit him to the hospital for testing and treatment. A few x-rays and two nights in the hospital on IV fluids and medicine we got our pup back. He stopped bleeding and vomiting, his x-rays were now clear so whatever it was is gone now and we’re relieved that surgery wasn’t necessary. A recovering dog with a cone in a crate in our already cramped RV is not on my to-do list for this trip…maybe next time. Just to be sure he was okay, we stayed in Rapid City for another day and waited for him to be eating drinking and going to the bathroom regularly. He also needed to rest.

I am blessed (or am I)

DISCLAIMER: this may be the longest day of our entire trip… and most disgusting.

Friday, August 22……Day 11

I am blessed! In fact I was blessed with a heavy mess of poop. Not just any poop. Smelly poop. Sticky, runny poop. Piles and puddles of poop. DOG POOP!


Oliver is sick! He pooped in the driver’s seat. On the floor next to the driver’s seat. He pooped under the couch that had been turned bed. He pooped in the bathroom. He pooped in the hallway and with his runniest movement he pooped on the carpeted step in front of the bunks.


Even with all this poop, I think, “at least the slides were in.” If the slides were out exposing a lot more carpet in the bedroom he definitely would have pooped there too.

As I sat up in bed and saw the mess, it became apparent just how different Darryl is than me. He starts yelling, “bad dog!” and I say, “awe he’s sick, don’t yell at him.” I guess it’s the mom in me.


I do believe in some sort of fate, destiny, powers of the universe, will of God or whichever you prefer to call it. Here’s why:

The other day in Rockford when we were coming out of the postal store I found a black comb. Looked exactly like our comb I had just used to fix the girls’ hair, so, I picked it up not knowing if one of them brought it with us and dropped it (getting anyone to fess up to anything is a lost cause). I put it in the bottom of the stroller and forgot about it. The next day when we showered, I used OUR comb, so the one I found was a lost comb.

Instead of getting angry about the poop, I go into survival mode. “How am I going to clean up this mess?”

In the nature of being greener and environmentally more responsible, we use cloth napkins and dish towels for cleaning and such, but I didn’t want to use any of that. So, being that it was 7:00 a.m. and no stores were open save a Kwik-Mart across the street where Darryl went to for paper towels.

I count my blessings carefully. As skin-crawling as finding somebody else’s used comb on the ground and keeping it is; finding the comb now became a blessing.

New RV’s are luxurious with leatherette, laminate fake tile back-splash, decals, wood veneer and poor-pile shag carpet. Soft carpet that holds moisture, odor and anything that comes in contact with it. Like, oh, say…runny, gooey diarrhea dog poop?

And you guessed it, after getting as much off the carpet with a paper towel without smearing it in, I combed the shag.

Yep. I started my morning combing dog shit out of a shag carpet.

Before breakfast. Bathroom. Coffee. All of it. I combed poop!

How was your morning?


Okay, we cleaned up the poop.

Then, I took Oliver out for a walk and sure enough, more poop, but this time he rubbed up on some tall grass while “going” and it ran down his leg and tail and smeared into his coat. Oy vey!

Another blessing? Sure.

We planned on boon-docking for the night at Costco and stocking up in the morning, however, a gracious Costco employee politely informed us of “no overnight parking” and we were left with the Home Depot-Target-Pet Smart Shopping Center.

Had we not been booted from Costco, we wouldn’t have been able to go to Target for water or fans (Costco had just closed when we pulled in) I wouldn’t have been outside Pet Smart with my diarrhea laden dog at 7:30 a.m. when a man walked out who I could tell didn’t work there and when I asked if they were somehow open he replied, “only for grooming services.”


There it is, my blessing! Just as I was wondering how I was going to clean the dog without compromising my own cleanliness (which is a commodity when RV’ing) this angel of mercy appeared in the Target parking lot like a big bold neon sign on the Vegas strip flashing above his head: GROOMING SERVICES

Now, if only they had availability. The day was already getting hot as the sun climbed in the sky and without A/C and already antsy kids and a cranky husband, I had to act FAST!


Blessings. Blessings. Everywhere. Rachel, sweet and accommodating took Oliver’s rabies information over the phone (most places require it in writing and are sticklers with this rule) and helped us immediately.


An hour later with a clean and happy pup we headed out to find a service station for our RV A/C unit.

Hopeful it was an easy fix we watched and waited for the technician to take apart the unit. After a few minutes, our entire home smelled like electrical fire.


“There it is!” he shouted, proudly. The circuit board is fried and the wires leading to it are melted and glowing. (can’t be good)

While we waited, I took all the girls for a walk around the lot. It was a maze of RV’s. Big, small, fifth wheels and tow-behind. All classes of motorhomes, some new some ancient but all fun to look at and think of all the trips these road homes have been on and all the miles they’ve travelled.

Darryl spoke to the manager about our options and it wasn’t looking good. Our rig is a 2015 with a brand new model A/C = no parts. No replacement. Not for at least a week. He asked about overnight shipping but they could not oblige at this time because they could not locate the part. In light of this little problem and this sweltering heat, down the road we went.


I drove while Darryl spent HOURS, yes, hours making calls to:

1.  dealer service center we bought the RV from just 5 short months ago…dead-end.

2. the salesman we bought it from…dead end.

3. the A/C manufacturer…dead end.

4. a nearby certified Jayco service center (60 miles back east)…dead end.

5. Jayco-the manufacturer…dead end. (or was it?)

While he was back on the phone with the salesman(#2 above) telling him about his sweating balls, Darryl received a voicemail from Roger Johnson, customer service specialist from Jayco- FINALLY- we had help. Roger offered to put us up in a hotel until we could get diagnostic testing, repair/replacement at no matter the cost.

There we were in the Hilton Garden Inn Mankato and after negotiating Oliver into the room, I managed a two room king suite with a balcony that had the best view in town!


The kids enjoyed a bubble bath like no other in a Jacuzzi tub and Mama Duck spent a good while in a HOT shower (another commodity while RV’ing) and then watched a movie in a big comfy bed.

I was cool, comfortable and all my little babies slept like a daddy.

The day was rough but the night balanced things out and all was right in my world.

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