States visited: 49!

visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800

Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)

Monday, March 29, 2010

La Jolla Cove: Wednesday, March 17th

Having heard about La Jolla from a couple of different people, we headed towards the coast after Dave finished work, first making a stop at ‘Mr Fish and Chips’, a highly rated ‘proper fish and chip shop’ on the internet. The smell of the food was almost too much to bear as we made our way towards the cove; the car held the smell for days afterwards too!

After a false start that took us to the pier where we could watch the large number of surfers, we did finally make it to where we wanted to be. The seals hang out on a huge section of rock (a tad smelly as Caitlin and I were quick to comment!), sleeping and lolling over each other; there were quite a few babies as well. As the evening wore on, a few of the younger ones flopped over all the others and waited for a wave to wash them into the Ocean. The kids were far more interested in the seals than the sunset.

Of course, not so for cameraman Dave, now that he seems to have got the camera settings sussed, he loves to photograph the sunset. It was neat to get pictures of the tide coming in, the waves against the rocks were huge, made a great backdrop. As the sun began to set, more people arrived, it’s a very popular destination for admiring the colors; as always, Dave got some great shots with some different silhouettes of birds, trees, people and even a helicopter against the night sky. I cannot even begin to think how we’ll ever print up all these photographs that we’ve taken this year, the memories are truly priceless.

Santee Lakes Pool: Tuesday, March 16th

Santee Lakes Campground had a very nice sized pool – two in fact and a hot tub (for 16+ only). The pools looked very appealing as it was insanely warm. I pulled a bench into the shade, I’m certainly not a sun-worshiper but the four kiddums located themselves on sun loungers in a line – too cute. They did get in the water but not for too long, it was REALLY chilly, even by their standards, it wasn’t worth hanging around in there!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Legoland: Monday, March 15th

Our original intention had been to go to Legoland on Jake’s birthday but that plan quickly changed when Polly let us know that Monday was a homeschool day, which allowed everyone in the family to enter the park for only $21 each.

We arrived as soon as it opened and stayed until all the rides were closed – we do like to get our money’s worth!

Our first stop was the Lego Technic Coaster, where we spotted the Boger's once more. Dave and Nate went to the Aquazone Wave Racers as the coaster was somewhat unappealing for our little man.

After playing in Pharaoh’s Revenge and sliding down the Dune Raiders slide, we lazer shot the targets in Lost Kingdom Adventure. The younger kids rode horses around The Royal Joust and we all zoomed around in The Dragon coaster.

We met up with the Boger's and Godwin's for lunch at the Garden Restaurant: delicious food but quite pricey for a kiddie grilled cheese! It was so great to catch up with everyone again and hear their plans for the coming weeks; we’re always wondering how we can meet up with friends on this journey and share advice.

We headed towards Fun Town where the kids raced each other at the Fire Academy; the boys were convinced they’d win easily but somehow messed up on their strategy and were overtaken by the girls (picture Becca jumping up and down, screaming, “Go, go!” to a hard-working Kimmie and Becka), it was pretty funny to watch. We found all the keys in the Adventurers’ Club and then made our way towards Driving School. The older three got their driving licenses again (this was a similar ‘ride’ to the one in Windsor), while Nate received his for Junior Driving School.

The park was probably at its busiest by this point so lines were getting longer. We pulled ourselves up on the Kid Power Towers – more arm strength needed than I thought I possessed! We waited for almost an hour to peddle our way around the Sky Cruiser track, definitely not worth the wait in Jake’s (humble!!) opinion – yes, we heard about it!

We found a couple of other play areas on our way to Pirate Shores to meet up with the other families. Although the day was hot, the water was still freezing so no-one hung out for very long. Of course, our four little water-lovers can handle those temps way longer than anyone else, so we stayed for quite some time! I was much relieved that we’d had the foresight to bring bathing suits, there were some very wet-clothed kids around! Unfortunately the line for the Treasure Falls and Soak-N-Sail was too long for the kids to be bothered enough to wait, although the younger three braved Captain Cranky’s Challenge and survived without throwing up! Jake found a friend his age and they spent a lot of time blasting everyone else with water.

We finished the day back at the Aquazone Wave Racers where they managed 4 turns before closing, as the lines were none-existent. On the sidelines watching, I was able to blast water bombs as they passed: fun! Before meeting up with them there, I bought a couple of containers of Legoland's famous hot cinnamon apple fries with vanilla dipping sauce – they lived up to their yummy recommendation!

Cabrillo National Monument: Sunday, March 14th

When we left the campground, the weather was beautiful, it continued to be wonderfully sunny, however when we reached Cabrillo National Monument at Point Loma, we were right by the Pacific Ocean and a bit higher and it was BREEZY! Unfortunately we had not remembered jackets and the T-shirts were not really cutting it, it was chilly!

We started out in the Visitor Center by watching a movie about whale migration, the three older kids were fascinated and asked a lot of questions. We also learned about soldier’s armor and weapons, as well as the types of foods explorers ate on their long expeditions across the water: dried fish, hard biscuits and beans seemed to be their staple items.

The Junior Ranger program, among other things, required them to decipher clues to create a paragraph about Cabrillo and his expedition, which was very informative:

On June 27, 1542, an expedition of three small ships (the largest being ‘San Salvador’) left Navidad, New Spain. (New Spain is called Mexico today.) Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo led the expedition. They were to be gone for two years. The explorers hoped to find a route to Asia where they could trade for silks and spices. They also looked for gold or other wealth along the coast of California. After sailing at least 1,000 miles in the next three months, the expedition sailed into San Diego Bay. The crews of the ships visited with the Indians for six days and then the expedition continued north.
A few months later Cabrillo died as a result of an accident. But the expedition pushed on. Winter storms badly damaged the ships. Much of their food spoiled and the ships needed repairs. They decided to return to Navidad just ten months after the expedition started. They had not found any silks or spices. They had found no gold, but did return with a map of the coast of California.
Cabrillo National Monument now looks out over the location where the first European explorers visited the West Coast of the United States.

While Dave and Jake went to visit the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and Military History Exhibit, the younger children continued to work on the easier portions of the booklet from the warmth of the truck!

After the kids were sworn in as Junior Rangers and collected their certificates, we went to look at Cabrillo’s statue and admire the incredible views of San Diego down below. We saw a couple of planes land right below us and scores of sailboats on the water; it was very beautiful.

Cabrillo National Monument also preserves one of the last rocky intertidal areas open to the public in southern California. The kids were particularly looking forward to this part of the day as we’d been checking our friends’ blog and they’d visited the tide pools a number of times and shared great photos.

While I walked the rocks and sand, wrapped in a blanket, the kids were thrilled to run around, jumping from rock to rock, slipping over, checking out all of the amazing tide pools. They found little caves in the rocks, crabs secreted in crevices, watched a humming bird hover around the edge of the cliff, discovered all sorts of tiny critters in the tide pools; it was an exciting end to the day. As we were thinking of leaving, the triplets arrived so we spent some time with them until the Ranger came to kick us out!

From Slab City to San Diego: Saturday, March 13th

In the morning, we had our last look around Slab City and admired some more of the creative ways people live here!

We then went to check out the hot spring – this would not have been my first choice in bathing location – we did not partake! Other people had warned us that clothing was optional, sure enough, they were right. Although the hot spring is constantly bubbling and flowing out, the pool is extremely muddy-looking, it’s hard to imagine people having success bathing and getting clean here, apparently many people also do their laundry as well. I guess people make sacrifices for free accommodation!

There used to be a wonderful shower further along the road. The sign warned that if a vehicle was present, you should approach with care (the sign is full of bullet holes!). The shower is, in fact, a cement bunker/hole in the ground with fast-flowing water rushing into it through an opening at the top, which then flows out through another opening at the base. Until last year, this wonderful natural shower was fed by the hot spring, combined with a cooler stream, creating a perfect temperature. Unfortunately in the last few months, the farmer has diverted the hot spring so that it no longer flows into the ‘shower’; it is currently fed by extremely cold water, so, while it looks appealing, the reality is the opposite!

Thankfully, we had a relatively short drive to our next destination: San Diego, just a couple of hours.

We camped at Santee Lakes, a beautiful area with 7 lakes, a little way outside of the city. It proved to be a great location for the week and although it was consistently busy throughout the week we were there, it was so quiet and peaceful. Again, the star gazing was surprisingly good, this, despite our proximity to the city. There was a great little playground, with a rock climbing wall, close to our site, which the younger ones utilized a lot during our stay.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Slab City and Salvation Mountain: Friday, March 12th

Dave took off work today and Monday: wonderful, a 4 day weekend, we were all excited! We left Cactus Country and continued our drive west, in the direction of San Diego. It would’ve been too much to try and get all the way to San Diego in one day, so we scheduled a stop at Salvation Mountain near Niland, CA.

This is an incredible home-made mountain, created by Leonard Knight, who is now aged 78 and still living next to his mountain. He began the project in 1984 and after a couple of false starts, figured out what would work and uses hay, adobe, tires, dead tree branches, ladders, anything he can find really to add to his masterpiece. People bring him paint, among other things, to assist him in his quest. Leonard’s creation pays tribute to his faith in God and his desire to share God’s love with the world.

It is incredibly bright and beautiful, extremely hard to miss! Driving to it, through Niland, is rather depressing. It is certainly not a well-to-do town and clearly suffering in today’s economy (and most likely, previous economy dips!). As you cross the train tracks and drive through desert-land towards the mountain, the feel of the area changes. We passed the old concrete guard post, welcoming us to Slab City: “The Last Free Place” and stopped at Salvation Mountain.

We were lucky enough to receive a guided tour from Leonard, whose health is beginning to fail a little and has a bit of trouble hearing. He was keen to stress that his message is simple: God is Love – show love, give love, receive love and the world would be a better place. He lives very simply and just wants to share God’s love with people. He told us that after his mountain was on Google Earth, he started getting 300-400 visitors per day and spends a lot of his time giving tours. He clearly loves people, enjoys showing what he’s done and why he’s continuing to build. The kids were particularly fascinated by his 'truck and tractor tire trees’ – the whole area is so cool, Leonard’s enthusiasm for his project is contagious. He’s an amazing man, I loved chatting with him. The kiddums were thrilled when he gave them a little sample of his art: ‘an original Leonard’.

Dave chatted with one of Leonard’s friends and discovered the best places to camp in neighboring Slab City. This used to be an army-operated location, full of concrete buildings housing who knows what! The buildings are long gone, all that remains of them are numerous concrete slabs, mostly unusable and weedy. However lots of people call this ‘city’ home. There’s an entire community here, about 100-200 people actually live here year-round, even though temperatures in the summer exceed 110 degrees! They are well set-up though, many have solar panels on their roofs, have water delivered in enormous box-like containers and even enlist the services of a honey wagon (a truck that comes to dump tanks). The community area is fairly closed off so visitors cannot accidentally camp in their neighborhood.

We drove further around to more open areas and located a good spot. We spent quite some time chatting with the couple closest to us. They were from Canada and have been coming to stay in Slab City, every winter, for the last 14 years. They buy their water from the shop in town and are very conservative with its use; hook up their trailer and take it to the dump station 10 miles away when they need to dump; wash in the naturally occurring hot springs a little way past Salvation Mountain and meet up with the community of friends they've made here. It’s fascinating to imagine living here for months on end, certainly would not be the life for me but a good 'deal' indeed!

We enjoyed wandering around, seeing people’s rigs, the adaptations they’ve made, it was so interesting. After dinner, we sat outside for a couple of hours listening to the music from their Friday night jam-session and gazing at the stars – the privilege of being in an area, in the middle of nowhere, with no ambient light. It was lovely and warm as well, so one of the first evenings in a long time that we’ve been able to feel comfortable sitting outside – if there had been a couple more amenities (you know, like toilets and showers!), we might well have stayed longer!