Saturday, December 31, 2011

Saturday! And thinking ahead...

I made our budget through the middle of 2013, when everything we owe should be paid off.  Other than Ben's braces, if he needs them.  It could go either way, we might get away with retainers for a few months.  He has the space for his teeth, if they would just move into position...

I feel very pleased with the path the new year is taking off on!  I have our trip planned to the route and dates we leave and return, and the day Matt flies home.

Here is the route with planned stops:

Day One: Head out to Oklahoma and pick up Route 66. 
Day Two: Albuquerque and a visit to the Lowell Observatory.
Day Three: Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, staying at Holbrook in the tipis!
Day Four: Grand Canyon, South Rim.
Day Five: Grand Canyon, South Rim.
Day Six: Las Vegas (Hoover Dam)
Day Seven: Death Valley
Day Eight: Zion National Park
Day Nine: Bryce Canyon National Park
Day Ten: Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
Day Eleven: Capital Reef National Park or Canyonlands NP
Day Twelve: Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Day Thirteen: Drive to Denver
Day Fourteen: Rocky Mountain National Park
Day Fifteen: Denver
Day Sixteen: Denver and Matt flies home
Day Seventeen: Thermopolis, WY
Day Eighteen: Yellowstone
Day Nineteen: Yellowstone
Day Twenty: Yellowstone/Tetons
Day Twenty-One: Tetons
Day Twenty-Two: Tetons
Day Twenty-Three: Devil's Tower National Monument
Day Twenty-Four: Mt Rushmore National Memorial
Day Twenty-Five: Badlands
Day Twenty-Six: Drive to Lawrence, Kansas
Day Twenty-Seven: Drive until we get home.

That's: Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri 

15 of those will be new states for the kids, 6 for Matt and 4 for me!  And we STILL will have not been to Louisiana. hahaha!

I have budgeted $200 a day for food, gas and lodging.  I will buy a national parks pass before we leave and we have AAA plus with extended towing and all of that.  I will head out with new tires and a full tune-up and lube and fresh fluids.  The only other things we will need money for will be souvenirs (I have a moderate cash budget and an empty credit card in case of auto repairs/medical emergencies), which will work out since we won't go through $200 a day every day.  Most days will be less, especially when we camp or use groceries or don't drive a whole tank of gas.  I don't want to assume we will hit EVERY stop, we will have to have some down time, and time to do laundry and recharge batteries and upload pictures.  But that's all that is possible along our route, plus ghost towns and swimming in the hot springs and science centers and nights with so many stars it makes it hard to sleep, your eyes just want to keep looking.  And wildflowers and wild animals and things like sheep and moose-things the kids have never seen.  And snow.  And geysers and paint pots and waterfalls and canyons and desert vistas.  And Pike's Peak and...

I am so excited I am about to fall over.  We had to change a few things, Matt was flying out from San Diego, but Teresa ships out at the end of April and without her to visit, going into Southern California lost the appeal.  People there drive so scary.  The Pacific Ocean, yeah, but the water is cold and truth be told, we are all terrified of the ocean.  It did not make sense to endanger the van to say we had seen the ocean that no one is keen to get into.  We will save that for when we are in Oregon to see Crater Lake for Ben's high school trip. 

Okay, well, rambled on and on.  I will try not to run it into the ground, but I can not deny that I am VERY excited about being able to finally get back out west and to take my family.

 Last time I was in the Rockies!
I turned 17 out there, working with the SCA.

Friday! and thinking back...

On Friday, we worked on the house.  I cleaned inside and Matt and Jake put up more fascia boards.  It's starting to look much better out there!  We are out of wood, so a run to the store is in order.  We got a Lowe's card, but the wood is JUST too long to fit in the van, so we will have to get it locally.  Driving a mile with the hatch open is not like driving 22 miles with the hatch open.  So that will have to wait a little longer.

Matt's gig was last night, we had hoped for a substantial payoff, but the crowds were waiting for New Year's Eve and so he made enough to cover his gas for the practices and his lunches for next week.  Not quite enough to head out camping for the weekend or to get more supplies for working on the house or any one of a dozen small things we'd talked about this week. 

2011 seems to have been the year where we were lucky to break even.  And we did break even, we did not go into debt, even got some things paid off.  Jake's braces for one.  That patience to wait until it's saved for, to get something paid off before getting something else-it's hard to do.  It's hard to take care of something you mentally have decided to upgrade or replace, but it has to work until the money is there.  Or you have to do without.  It's how the country used to work, back when it was still headed toward being the most prosperous nation in the world. 

Some debt makes sense-living in a house and making payments instead of renting and trying to save for a whole house.  Driving a car that does not need repairs every month or two and that does not leak things into the environment while making payments on it.  While auto debt is a horrible one, the depreciation alone should be a crime, it's still better for the most part to have something reliable.  Medical and dental bills for things that just can't wait until you can save up for them.  But other things-new electronics, new furniture, vacations, things for the house or yard...those can wait and be saved for.

Anyway, even if it is my blog and I get to say how I feel and what I think, I am not meaning to be preachy.  It's just what I want for myself, for my children.  To think of the overall cost of an item and decide how important it truly is.  I am very pleased to say that before they spend a dime on anything, they talk it over with me or each other and decide how much use they will really get from it, if anyone is willing to split the cost, they look up prices online and read reviews and they decide exactly where it will go once it's bought.  That's great stuff to practice.  And they have been really resistant to sales, knowing if someone offers it at this price today, it will be offered again at the same price in the future.  That's a hard one to keep in mind at times, Matt and I both have been guilty of 'grab it now' syndrome.

Friday, December 30, 2011


On Thursday, we headed out to have an adventure.  Matt wanted to geocache, I wanted to check out a new campground and we all wanted to go to the museum and see the sun set at Cheaha.

We started out leaving later than I planned, which set everything back an hour.  Then the place Matt wanted to cache was not where I had understood it to be, so we ended up driving a long way to get there.  We cached about an hour and then went to get lunch and to check out the campground.   There is a bridge out about 5 miles back on the roads you take to get there, so I did not get to see it.  : (  By the time we got back out to a paved road, it was after 3, so we decided to skip the museum this time in order to get to the state park and play a while before the sun went down.

We were taking some family shots and Matt nailed his head on a rock, which pretty much ended the whole 'fun' part of the evening, so we drove around to watch the sun set and headed home.  Not the great adventure I had hoped for, but I do know the roads to the campground are maintained and hard-packed, I would take Poppy out there for a few days.  If I knew what the campground looked like.

We went caching at the old Coosa River Annex in Talladega.

It's that part of Alabama that is a combination of pine trees, bramble and red mud

There are these 'igloos' all over the 300 some odd acres. They used to house explosives.

Now they hold graffiti and tire marks.  The echo inside is amazing, I have never heard anything like it.

There was a cemetery in the annex, so I had to go check it out. It was run-down and depressing, the graves were in the side of a rocky red hill and none had been tended in years, most of the stones were falling apart.

It looks like the city might be doing something with some of the old bunkers.  We passed this crew right near the front cutting a bigger opening into the front of one of the bunkers.  There is a man in a white hard hat sitting down beside that truck.  He's operating a water-cooled cutter via remote!

I really did not take many pictures, this is at Cheaha out on Bald Rock.

The sunset was not spectacular.  There were no clouds to bounce color off of and the sun was simply directly ahead and blinding.  I got what I could, it was FREEZING on the brow.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


So, we went to get the boy and decided to go hiking at Bankhead.  This was at great personal expense, as we missed a chocolate-based party this evening, making 2 kids and one mom pretty sad.  *sigh*  But we do have an early day tomorrow, it was the responsible decision.  *sigh*

We opted to find Kinlock Shelter, which Suzette has been to and SAID she would show me how to find it, but that was a few years ago now and I can't wait forever.  Luckily, there is a geocache there, so we were able to hike back using the GPS. 

There just are not loads of ways to take a picture of a big opening in the earth and have any perspective...

After hanging out there a while, we went down to the falls and walked around.  I thought to myself, "I should jump off this small cliff.  That way if I hurt myself, I will have time to heal before the trip."  So, I sat down and scooted to the edge and then lost my nerve, but I was sliding s l o w l y toward falling off anyway, all the while my yoga pants were scrunching up my crack.  I contemplated the drop.  About 4 feet.  I clenched in an attempt to slow myself. With nothing to hang on to, I could not push myself back up the sloped rock. Then Matt showed up and climbed down to the base caught me as I slipped over the edge and I did a little dance while trying to evict my pants.  I am SURE my brain kicked up some reasonable explanation as to why I should try to jump off a small cliff-other than having a few months to heal, but I am damned if I can recall what it was. 

 Still working on using the macro on the new camera.  It's tricky...
I still prefer the big camera for macro, but don't prefer to tote it around!

This is a sock!  It's a garden, too.  Ben was very amused when he saw it.

I was going for...dramatic, with the roots and the sun beams and the...headless husband. 

I looked out my window as I pulled back onto the road and saw THIS.

Pine Torch Church, the oldest standing structure in Bankhead.

I love these old stones.  There was a Riddle family in the same cemetery and someone named Granny Spain and a man whose middle name was Uranus, but he went by the nickname Rainbow.

Today is National Chocolate Day.  I had to be happy with a Luna bar.
Tomorrow is Pepper Pot Day.  Apparently you use tripe to make a soup with peppercorn and meat.  Another skip-able celebration in my book!  Anything that starts with stomach tissue as a ingredient lacks the appeal necessary to make me want to take part in it.


Well, I planned to have an adventure on Tuesday, but the weather planned to be chilly, wet and gusty.  So, we stayed home all day other than running to Suzette's to deliver Jake for an overnight stay and dropping off recycling.  Our planned adventure will be Thursday.  Today, we are going to get dressed and leave home and see what happens.  Oh, and get Jake back. Yeah, that.

Is it too early to be dreaming of Spring yet?  The Solstice was a whole week ago, the days are 7 minutes longer already!  I feel full of energy and I am antsy to be DOING...something.  Okay, what I want to be doing is taking a road trip, heading out to see something new.  My brain thrums for new images, my shutter finger is twitchy, my shoulders feel tense with the effort of not slipping on a day pack and walking off into the woods.  My camera is practically sighing, I feel it...judging me.  hahaha!  Okay, no, I don't.  I have no kinship with the camera, it's the photo I hear calling me, if I could draw, I would.

I will leave off to go get me dressed, I have added some reminders of Spring, Mountain Laurel, bloodroot, daffodil, dogwood and fiddlehead ferns.  You can use bloodroot and dogwood medicinally, fiddlehead taste like asparagus.  Mountain Laurel and daffodils are poisonous.

I am currently trying to drink grass jelly drink, I have nearly used up all the liquidy parts and am down to the clumps of jelly.  Made from grass.  Matt loves a drink that embodies colloidal suspension, but I don't like to chew my drinks.  It's green, though.  Surely that has some level of...nutritionish...

Monday, December 26, 2011


For the first day of Matt's week off, we lounged until noon and then headed to the Space and Rocket Center for a couple of hours.  We have passes good through the end of January, so it was nice to get to use them!  The kids and Matt did the rock climbing wall, we all rode the simulator, we wandered around the new building before heading off to eat a late lunch.

The pic they take as you walk in, I did not take this one!

The Space and Rocket Center has become depressing since now there are no space programs running.  It's been outdated for a while, we go mainly for the 'ride' aspect than to learn anything, I guess if you had a die-hard space nut or enrolled in one of the programs, it still has merit, but as a museum, it's over-priced and there's not much turnover in exhibits.  The kids played today in the same mock-up my brother and I used to flip switches on when I was 6.

After eating, we headed to the library and then made a stop at the Far East Market where I found steamed buns!  Spinach and green onion, I am thrilled.  : )  We all picked out a new unknown flavored drink.  Mine is green grass jelly, who could be yummy! 

The library was a HUGE score.  First of all, I have been reading travel books like I am trying to find a cure for a disease I have been diagnosed with.  It's not casual flipping, I have been sucking up info and sitting up in bed until my legs go numb from lack of circulation from everything I have piled on my lap.  I have hauled out my atlas so many times, it's starting to feel like denim, the pages have gotten so soft from me running my finger along one route or another over and over, comparing the drive with the things I am reading about.  I have about 7 different routes, I guess we will have to go out and back at least four times over the next several years in order to quiet my mind.  This is likely the only time Jake will go with us, so I am trying to make it more about what will spark his brain.

Beyond MORE travel books (Great Plains, Arizona and the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain States and the 2012 guide to Disney World, which is currently being shared 3 ways with the kids running in and out to show me photos.  We all have the travel bug, they just have a single destination in mind...) I picked up a book about re-using old books to make new things, called Re-Bound and one on upcycling which can only help my sad collection of things and one called YOU CAN DO IT!  Which promises to inspire me to follow my dreams.  And show me how.

We are back home now, there was a $50 Lowe's gift card on the van windshield when we left today.  THAT came in handy, we are going to work on the trim this coming weekend, that's almost enough to cover the rest of the wood we need!  We already bought a big box of nails and borrowed another long ladder, so this shiny new fascia board dream of mine really COULD come true!  : )  No book needed!

Tomorrow is National Fruitcake Day.  I am thinking we will skip that this year...instead, we are going on a scouting mission!   I hope to report later about our awesome discovery, I CAN DO IT!  (lol)  That book is amazing, I have only read the front cover!