Our Travels

The City I Did Not Want to Visit

Las Vegas or Sin City. What do you call it? Vegas was never high up on my bucket list of places to go, but somehow we ended up there for a week between Utah and California. It was a good stopping point and there were several other Fulltime Families in the area. But, were we really going to take our kids to Sin City? I was very apprehensive about going there, but some friends reassured me that there are plenty of kid-friendly things to do in the area. So we went.

I am happy to say that despite my misgivings, we had a great time and I’m so glad we went. I honestly did not see anything that weird or inappropriate. I’ll admit, this traveling lifestyle has taken me out of my comfort zone more than once, and this was one of those times.

One of the really fun things we did was hike at Red Rock Canyon. I know it seems strange to hike while in Vegas, but this was a really great place to get away from the busyness of the city. There are so many hikes at this park, but we only had time for one. We did the Calico Tanks hike which was amazing. It is an out and back hike with lots of rock scrambling which our kids love.

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At the end of the trail you can enjoy a beautiful view of the city of Las Vegas off in the distance.

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The next night we went to the Pinball Hall of Fame retro arcade. All arcade games are only a quarter and we had so much fun playing these games that I remember playing in the 80s. Donkey Kong was always my favorite, but I’m not very good at it anymore.

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The best part about our week in Vegas was getting to know the Arnold family better. We had met them before at FtF rallies but had not gotten the chance to spend much time with them. We had dinner with them several times that week, played lots of games together and explored Vegas. They already knew their way around the strip so I felt okay about going to see it during the day with our kids. I was pretty sure we should not stay after it got dark.

It was really a lot of fun exploring all the hotels. This one was one of my favorites.

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Excalibur Hotel

The New York New York hotel was pretty amazing with a roller coaster outside.

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So I said we would not stay past dark, but somehow we ended up staying until 10pm! And it was awesome! We had a great dinner at Nacho Daddy where they have so many unique options for nachos. I tried Thai Chicken nachos and Chris tried buffalo chicken nachos. Both were delicious!

Walking around the strip at night was so pretty with all the lights. And like I said earlier, we did not see anything that made me feel uncomfortable with kids. We did see people handing out flyers for prostitutes, but they do not hand them out to people with kids which I was glad about.

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We watched the fountain light show at the Bellagio Hotel which was so pretty!

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I was so happy that Bunny and Eric were there with us. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it nearly as much without them to show us around.

Another night we went back to watch the Nathan Burton Comedy Magic Show. We were able to get a good deal on tickets through Groupon and it was a kid-friendly show. We all loved it!

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The kids with Nathan Burton after the show.

We stayed at the Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort. This was the nicest and safest place we could find in Vegas, but it was very crowded. It’s definitely not our favorite type of place to stay. You probably have heard me say before that I love state parks where we have lots of space, like the super large space we had at our last campground at Sand Hollow. It was hard to go from that space to this!

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Very crowded and tight sites!

This RV park at least had a pool which was fun for the kids. And us adults enjoyed the hot tub one night while the kids stayed home and played games.

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I am so happy that we did not skip Vegas just because I had heard so many bad things about it. I’m sure there are lots of bad things that go on there, but there are also lots of good, family-friendly things to do. A friend of mine wrote a great blog post about all the fun things they like to do with kids in Vegas: A Kid-Friendly Guide to Vegas.

There were many things in her list that we did not have time for, so I guess that means that one day we’ll actually return to Las Vegas. I never thought I would hear myself say that! 🙂

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St. Andrew’s State Park – Take 2

Last year I wrote a post about the not-so-great experience we had at St. Andrew’s State Park in Panama City Beach, FL. The manager offered us 3 free nights if we would come back again sometime, so we took him up on that and I am so glad we did! This time we ended up with the best site in the park and it was amazing! Our site was on the end so we didn’t have a neighbor on one side which gave us so much space, and it was right on the water. I was up early our first morning there and was rewarded with the most beautiful sunrise. It was like God was painting the sky before my eyes that morning for about 30 minutes. The colors and reflections in the sky constantly changed while I watched the Master Artist at work.

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Our campsite was on the lagoon side, but the state park is also on the Gulf of Mexico so in the evenings we went over to the ocean side to watch the sunset and play on the beach.

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We were surprised to find out that our friends Kym and Galen from Fernandina Beach were in Panama City at the same time as we were. We kept missing them in Fernandina so it was so nice to finally catch up with them somewhere else.

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My parents came to visit us there too which was lots of fun. The boys got Grampa out playing football on the beach with them. These pictures mean so much to me because my dad is 72 years old, and it’s so awesome to see him so energetic and playing on the beach with his grandkids. Just before Jake was born (over 12 years ago) my dad had quintuple bypass heart surgery. Every time I am reminded of that time, I am so thankful that he is still around to play with his grandkids. He is such a blessing to them!

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Jake and Grampa walked way out almost to the end of this jetty before they had to turn around because it was getting dark.

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I stayed behind on the rocks and watched the boats and birds.

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We went on a short hike at the campground on Gator Lake, but we didn’t see any gators.

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My sister always likes to pose my kids in front of signs like this to make it look like they’re breaking the rules, so we took this one for her. 🙂

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Chris got to do some fishing while we were there too, but it was all catch-and-release since every fish he caught was so small.

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We had a great time at St. Andrews and I’m so glad we came back to give it another try. Next up another Fulltime Families rally in Tallahassee!

 

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Second Nomadiversary

Two years ago today we moved out of our house to begin this amazing adventure on the road, and what an incredible ride it has been! We started out saying we would do this for 2 years, but we quickly realized that there is far too much to see in this beautiful country to stop after 2 years. So we are onto more adventures for year 3.  But first I would like to share this video of the highlights of our second year on the road, as well as give an update about what we’ve been up to lately.

If you missed our 1st year nomadiversary video you can watch it here: One Year Nomadiversary. This is why I blog. I am certainly not a professional blogger and I don’t do it for money, but I like to keep this as a sort of travel journal so we can look back and remember everything we did. It is really fun to look back at prior blog posts and nomadiversary videos and count our blessings. If it helps anyone with travel planning or inspires you to travel, that’s an added bonus.

In 2 years of travel we have visited 24 states and 24 national parks/monuments. It’s hard to say what has been my favorite experience so far, but in 2016 I would say it’s a tie between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.

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I never did get around to sharing last year that we were interviewed by Epic Education Radio. Here is a link to the podcast if you would like to listen. http://www.anepiceducation.com/eer069-family-rv-living-in-the-usa/  Honestly I probably didn’t share it because I am generally shy and not comfortable talking in an interview like this. But some people said they liked it and it was helpful, so here it is for your listening pleasure. 🙂

It has been a while since my last post. Since then we have been spending time with friends and family in NC and FL. We stayed at Ft. Clinch State Park twice to visit friends in Fernandina Beach where we used to live.

Ft. Clinch has 2 campgrounds: one on the beach, the other on the river. We stayed on the beach side last year, you can read about that here: Ft. Clinch State Park. This time we stayed on the beach side for 3 nights, and stayed on the river side the rest of the time. These pictures are from the beach side.

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Chris enjoying evening happy hour on the beach hammock.

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Both campgrounds are wonderful, but I think we like the river side a little better. The river side campsites are larger and surrounded by trees so you get more privacy at those sites. We also had a lot more room for friends to visit.

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The boys got a new slackline kit for Christmas which was fun to try out with friends.

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And I finally got to beat Doug at Mexican train dominoes which means I don’t have to eat a bison burger! 🙂

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The sunsets behind our site were glorious!

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After Ft. Clinch we moved on to the Gulf Coast of Florida to St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach. I will write about that next time. Cheers!

 

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The North Shore of Minnesota

After driveway surfing in Wisconsin we headed back into Minnesota up to the North Shore.  We stayed at Burlington Bay Campground in Two Harbors right on Lake Superior.  Do you see a Fat Cat on the fence?

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She’s easier to see close up.

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Lake Superior is amazing!  I swear this seems so much more like the ocean to me than a lake.  It’s enormous and on windy days the waves were just as big as ocean waves.

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One evening we went to visit beautiful Gooseberry Falls State Park, and enjoyed riding the bike trails.

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We heard that when you’re in Two Harbors you must stop and try Betty’s Pies.  So after walking and biking around Gooseberry Falls we stopped there for dinner and dessert.  Delicious!

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Another evening we checked out Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.  Wow, this was absolutely gorgeous!

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We also enjoyed walking the trail across the street from our campground.  I loved watching the waves crash against the rocks!

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That’s our home back there, parked in between several other homes with a view.

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We found a nice playground down the street for my little monkey.

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On Saturday my boss and his wife and daughter came up to visit us for the day.  We went back to Gooseberry Falls with them.  It was a lot colder that day than when we went earlier in the week, but lots of fun to enjoy this with Mike and his family.  They have been here many times before and were able to show us around to other areas of the park that we missed when we went the first time.  It’s always nice to have locals to show us around!

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We got to see an eagle on the trail!

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I’m so glad we took this trip up to the North Shore.  It was a little out of our way since we were on a tight timeline to get to North Carolina by mid-October, but it was worth it.  Such a beautiful area and definitely a place I would like to go back to again when we have more time.

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Driveway Surfing in Wisconsin

One of my co-workers lives on a beautiful farm in Amery, Wisconsin.  She invited us to park on her property so we went there after Minneapolis.  I recently learned that parking at someone’s house is called “Driveway Surfing” or as another friend put it “Mooch-docking”. 🙂

Whatever it’s called I like it!  I need to find more friends that have room on their property for us to park.  This was really fun, and just look at this beautiful spot!

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Jenna and Scott were such gracious hosts and we really enjoyed spending a few days with them.  We especially enjoyed evenings by the campfire!  We surprised Jesse with a birthday cake after dinner one night even though it was now past his birthday.

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Jenna took us kayaking one evening.  That was so much fun and the lake was so peaceful and beautiful.

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This was the first time Jake kayaked on his own and he did great!

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The Amery Fall Festival was that weekend so we got to attend a small town parade and carnival.

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As if the kids really needed more rides after Mall of America!

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They tried to help Jenna win a goldfish with no success.

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Jenna had a temporary roommate from Mexico living with her, a very sweet lady named Rebecca.  She made us a real authentic Mexican dinner one night that was so delicious!  What a treat that was!

We are so grateful to Jenna for inviting us to stay with her for a few days.  We all really enjoyed our time there!

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Ashton, Idaho and Mesa Falls

After about 2 months in Colorado it was time to move on and explore some other states.  We loved Colorado, but I honestly had no idea it would be so hot there.  That was quite a surprise, so I’m glad to be moving on to some cooler temperatures.

Our next stop was Ashton, Idaho.  We enjoyed a very relaxing week there and had some much needed downtime as we prepared for some busy upcoming weeks in Wyoming and Montana.  The only sightseeing we did in Ashton was visiting Upper and Lower Mesa Falls.  It was so beautiful and Jake said it was the coolest waterfall he has ever seen.  It was pretty awesome!

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Idaho is so pretty!  There are miles and miles of farmland and potato fields, as far as the eye can see.  And it was so colorful, but that’s hard to see in pictures.  We could also see the Teton mountain range off in the distance.

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Of course we had to buy some potatoes while we were in Idaho!

We stayed at Aspen Acres Golf Club and RV Park.  It was really nice and shaded which we loved, especially after our last site in Colorado that was so hot.  It was a little challenging getting into this site with all the trees, but it was worth it.  The weather here was beautiful and the shade was a real blessing!

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There was a nice playground at this campground too that the kids enjoyed.

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The people that own this campground also own the Five 11 Main Old Fashioned Soda Fountain & Pizzeria.  We had dinner there one night and it was so good!  The Darth Tater pizza was delicious.  It had a white sauce with Idaho baked potatoes, bacon, cheddar cheese and red onions. It was a like a baked potato pizza!  The kids loved the mac & cheese in a bread bowl.

Fat Cat found a new game there — chasing mice.  If this campground had a mice problem before we got there, they don’t anymore!

Since this RV park is also a golf course, Chris took the kids to play one day.

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We really enjoyed our time there and definitely want to go back to Idaho again someday and explore more of the state.  It was a great place to rest up before heading to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.

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Fulltime Families Rally in Colorado

We attended our 4th Fulltime Families (FtF) rally in Montrose, CO.  It was a total blast!  We met up with some families that we met at previous rallies and also some new families.  Some of our favorite memories on the road have been spent with other traveling families.

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The rally was held at the Jellystone Park in Montrose, CO.  We went a few days earlier than the rally started which gave us some time to catch up with some other friends that got there a little early.  We went back to Ouray to visit Box Canyon Falls with the Lundy family.  The falls were really cool!  The water coming through the canyon is so powerful and loud!

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Soon enough more families started pulling into the campground and the rally officially began.

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I can’t even explain just how much fun it is to be parked next to several other traveling families.  We hung out every evening for campfires and happy hours and talked until late into the night.  Meanwhile the kids were off and running from sunup until sundown (and beyond) having a blast playing with all the other kids.

One afternoon when it was raining outside, several kids ended up at our RV to play with play-doh. Or I should say “to make a mess” because you know that’s how it goes with play-doh! 😉

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One of the planned activities was an obstacle course for the kids where they went to each “booth” for an activity to complete.  At this table the activity was to paint a mask because the theme of this rally was “Super Heroes”.

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Jesse’s friend Dylan was showing him how to use the bow & arrow to shoot the colored soda bottles.

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I love Olivia’s face in this one.  She is determined to hit that soda bottle!

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After everyone completed the obstacle course, they all gathered around the Yogi Bear statue for a picture.

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One of our favorite activities was the Super Hero Pet Parade.  We made a cape for Super Fat Cat to wear.  She was not happy about being paraded around the campground, but she really tolerated it well.  And she became famous!  After that everyone knew who Fat Cat was, and whenever people passed by our site they would say “hey, there’s Fat Cat!”

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There were all kinds of pets in this parade including frogs and rats.

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And dogs of course!

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And even stuffed animals!

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Once the parade started, Fat Cat tried to fly away.  Too bad her cape didn’t have real super powers!

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Strangely, the pool at this campground was closed for most of the time we were there (even though it was well past Memorial Day and the weather was in the 90s).  I say “strangely” because this is supposed to be a Jellystone Park, but it wasn’t like any other Jellystone we have been to.  They did not have nearly as many fun activities and amenities as most Jellystone Parks have, but we made up for that with our own FtF activities.  The pool finally opened a couple of days before we left so the kids wanted to make the most of it while they had the chance.

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On Saturday night we had the Super Hero pizza dinner and dance party.  Clementine had a really cool costume!

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Jennifer made us feel tall by making herself look short next to us. 🙂

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Our last night around the campfire was really fun.  I think we stayed out so late because we knew we were leaving the next day and wanted to make the fun last as long as possible.

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I miss these girls!

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If you are a traveling family, I would highly recommend you find a Fulltime Families rally near you and go.  We have made the most amazing friendships and memories at these rallies!

One last silly picture of the super heroes. 🙂

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Amarillo Texas

Our last stop in Texas was in Amarillo, and we really enjoyed our time there.  There are several free things to do close to the RV park we stayed at.

Cadillac Ranch is free and you can’t go to Amarillo and not go see that iconic roadside attraction.  We bought a couple of cans of spray paint and went to leave our mark.

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The RV Museum is free and super cool!  Well, that is if you like RVs which of course we do.  But my biggest reason for wanting to go there was to see the Gornicke bus from the RV movie, which just so happens to be my favorite movie.  It was so neat to see this bus in person and get to go inside it.

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Another free thing we did was visit the Don Harrington Discover Center.  It was free because it is included in our zoo/science center reciprocal membership.

They currently have the Grossology exhibit on display which was a big hit with the boys. 🙂

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We also visited Palo Duro Canyon which was awesome.  Not free, but only $5 per person over 12.  That needs its own blog post so please click the link if you are interested in reading about that visit.

We stayed at the Fort Amarillo RV Resort which was really nice.  We usually prefer state parks and national recreation areas better than RV parks because typically you have a lot more room at your site and more privacy, not to mention they’re cheaper.  RV parks usually pack RVs in so close to each other that you barely have room to breathe.  But there were no state parks in the Amarillo area other than Palo Duro Canyon and there was no cell phone coverage there so an RV park was the only option.

I’m glad we chose this park because it was very nice and had a reasonable weekly rate.  The people that work there are also super nice!  They have an indoor pool, a nice playground and a fun game room which happens to be underground and serves as a storm shelter.  I guess if you have to spend the night in a storm shelter the game room is not a bad place to be.  I thought we were going to need to go there the first night we were there.  It was so windy that night, the RV was rocking like crazy!  I kept getting lightning and tornado alerts on my phone, yet Chris was sleeping through the whole thing!  How he does that, I don’t know.  I finally woke him up to ask if he thinks we should head to the storm shelter.  He didn’t so we didn’t, and shortly after that the storm quieted down and we were all able to get some sleep.

Anyway, the RV park is really cute.  There was a really cute duck pond where Jesse liked feeding the ducks.

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And at the front of the park is this set of cute, old fashioned shops.

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Did I mention that Amarillo is windy?  This town reminded me of Kansas.  It was very flat and windy.  No wonder we saw so many wind turbines as we got close to this area.

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Fat Cat liked climbing on the fence next to our site.  There wasn’t much of a yard for her so I think she’s ready to get back to another state park where she has more room.  I can’t say I blame her.

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We really enjoyed our time in Amarillo in spite of the wind.  Bye bye for now Texas, we have places to go and things to see!

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North Texas Jellystone Park

We had reservations to stay at Bear Creek Campground in Ft. Worth, but at the last minute our reservation was cancelled due to flooding at that location so we ended up spending the week at North Texas Jellystone Park instead.  The kids were super excited about that!

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We have stayed at several Jellystone Parks and I have to say this is probably my least favorite one we have visited.  Jellystone Parks are not cheap so we don’t splurge on them very often, but when we do we expect it to be an awesome park, and this one just wasn’t.  I don’t think it was worth the cost.  The kids would disagree with me however because they loved it.  They are so easy to please, I should try to become more like them. 🙂

They especially loved the Air Zone which had several bouncy houses. This was only open on the weekend so the boys were counting down the days all week waiting for it to open.

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We also rode the hay ride, fire truck ride and the boys loved this train ride.

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Most campsites at this park are super close together, but thankfully they put us on the other side of the park in between 2 cabins that were unoccupied for most of the week.  This site was really nice and at least had a bit of a yard unlike the sites on the other side of the park.

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Some places we stay have awesome views, but this one — not so much.  We had a nice view of the parking lot and the water park that wasn’t open.

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We enjoyed a visit with another Fulltime Family.  We met the Thomas family in February at the rally in Tampa.  It was fun to meet up with them again in Texas.  We really enjoyed getting to know their family a little better, and we hope to meet up with them again later this summer.

Look how many kids they travel with!  And all 6 of them are super sweet and polite.  I have had people tell me they could never live in an RV fulltime like we do because they have 3 or 4 kids and it’s easier for us because we only have 2 kids.  Well here you go.  A living example of a large family making it work.  We’ve actually met many large families living on the road. I think we’re in the minority with our small family of 4.

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I’m currently blogging at 60 mph on our way across North Texas on to our next adventure.  Sometimes a place we go doesn’t quite live up to our my expectations, but I guess that’s all part of this unpredictable lifestyle.  So it’s onward and westward!

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RV Repairs in Louisiana

When you live in an RV having to have repairs done is never fun.  Especially because you have to figure out where you’re going to live while your home is in the shop, and you hope and pray it won’t take too long while you run up a hotel bill.

Last October I noticed this stress crack on the side of our RV.

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Since we were going home for the holidays and planned to stay with family we decided to drop it off in Jacksonville and have it taken care of while we were not living in it during December.  Unfortunately the place we left it for 3 weeks did not do anything to fix it.  Once we moved back into it in January we knew we now had to deal with the hassle of finding some place else to have it repaired while we are also living in it again.

We tried to have it repaired in Tampa, but that service center didn’t get around to it either.  After talking with some other RV’ing friends about similar experiences we were starting to think that all RV dealers have terrible customer service when it comes to repairs.

Finally we found Dixie RV in Hammond, LA.  If any of my RV’ing friends ever need something repaired, I would highly recommend Dixie RV.  They were awesome!  They have restored our faith in RV service centers. 🙂   From the moment we checked in, everything was handled smoothly and efficiently.  I heard from my service contact regularly throughout the week to inform me of the progress.  We also had some other items taken care of while we were there and they completed everything perfectly.

I also would like to say that our RV manufacturer, Heartland RV was amazing!  The rep that I worked with was so helpful with finding a place to get this taken care of.  By this time the RV was out of warranty, but he covered all the repairs anyway because we did try to get it fixed in December while it was still under warranty.  He even took care of some other things that should have been fixed in December.  I am thankful that Heartland stands behind their product and takes care of their customers.

In the meantime we had a different kind of adventure staying at Drury Inn & Suites in Baton Rouge, LA.  We had to find a pet-friendly hotel of course for Fat Cat, and Drury allows pets.  Here is Fat Cat wandering the halls.  She was so confused by all the doors!  She had no idea which room was hers.

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Besides being pet-friendly, they also happen to be the best hotel we could have chosen to stay at.  This place was awesome!  The rooms were spacious and comfortable.  They had a heated indoor/outdoor pool and a hot tub.  You could swim under the glass wall of the pool to go in or outside.

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They serve free breakfast and dinner every day, and dinner includes free beer, wine & mixed drinks too.  And the dinner wasn’t just a bunch of junk food either.  They had really good food each night like soups, salads, pasta & chicken.  In fact, we happened to be there on my birthday and we were supposed to go out to dinner but I thought the dinner looked so good at the hotel we ended up eating there instead.  We did however go out to dinner the next night and had a wonderful dinner at the Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse.

The hotel staff was the friendliest staff we have ever encountered.  Every single employee that we came in contact with was so friendly to us.  They knew us by the end of the week and would ask us how the RV repairs were coming along.  They knew we were anxious to get back on the road.

I would highly recommend Drury Inn & Suites if you ever need a hotel and one of these is in the vicinity.

By Friday our home was finally ready for us to pick up, and I could not have been happier to get back in it.  Since it was late in the day Friday by the time it was ready Dixie let us camp for the night in one of their electric hookup sites.  They have several of these sites which I think is another perk of Dixie’s.  If you buy an RV there, you can camp there for the night to try it out and learn how everything works.  This can also be convenient if anything doesn’t work (which is normal when you buy an RV).  You’re already at the right place to have it fixed!

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Anyway, sometimes things need to be taken care of and even though it can be inconvenient, I am happy that things went so well for us that week.  Now we are happily back to our travels, enjoying Texas.

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