We hope that our mini updates have been helpful to keep everyone up to date with our big adventure and continued journey. This stop has definitely been a “once in a lifetime” experience feel for us. Not to say that we would not stop by and visit again (and again!!) this beautiful area (though we may think about a warmer month!!).
Our kids were amazed how much they’ve enjoyed the experience of the National Park, (though if I am honest when you do three weeks of nature – even the best of kids start to roll their eyes when they see another bison blocking the road.)
The animals have been so thrilling and not just for our kids. When we first entered the park, we were handed the “kids checklist” of Yellowstone animals. We made it a fun family competition and challenge (you want to get fed for the day – find mama an “exotic” animal – seems that getting fed “ups the score” and lots of animal sightings happened). Seeing bison and their babies (called “red dogs”) to otters, coyote, a far (thank goodness) grizzly bear, lots of Elk (including a few bucks), birds of prey, one lonely moose and darting so fast across the road that we almost miss it – an American Marten (I got fed for that one!!!).
Grand Prismatic Spring (from Bird-Eye Overlook)
Grand Prismatic Spring – Ground Level
Grand Prismatic Spring – Ground Level
Grand Prismatic Spring – Ground Level
Fire Hole Lake & Geysers
Fire Hole Valley
We are blessed that our prolonged time in the area gave us the time and leisure to go through the park at our own pace and did our best to avoid the beginning of the tourist crowds. We have been able to see a majority of the entirety of the monumental National Park which (which on average of the summer months can see 850K+ visitors). Some areas we have not been able to see due to colder temps that are still lingering about (even in June- when some snow can be seen in our pictures). Some passes and areas are still not open (or open and close again due to the weather).
Upper Falls – Artist Point Grand Canyon
Drive to Grand Canyon
Continental Divide – Crisscrosses the Park
Overall, this still feels like a monumental experience, a park that spans three states (Wyoming, Montana, and parts of Idaho), since we were so close, we also made a day trip to the Grand Teton National Park which is just south of the Park (and beautiful all on its own right).
Made it to Grand Teton
View of the range from Jackson Lake
Love the information plaques (less writing I have to do!!)
Hike by Lake Jenny
Selfie time with Hubby
We will now head into civilization for a bit to get reacquainted with humans and then continue in our National Park bonanza for the summer as we explore the beauties that await in Utah!!!
“Remember is not just the Destination, but the Joy of the Journey”
As we continue our journey west, we venture into the beautiful Black Hills area of South Dakota…there is so much to see here that one stop could not encompass all its richness and beauty. So we stuck with the top highlights…
Back side – Dignity: Native American Statue
Lewis and Clark
Dignity: Native American Statue (South Dakota – Chamberlain Rest Area- on I90)
Of course, the month of May brings a few birthdays that I would be remiss not to mention. Ella and Xavier both celebrated birthdays, and this year while on the road we decided to focused on life experiences vs. “things” to have during these milestones… Each, of course, picked widely different ways to celebrate, Ella’s 15th birthday was celebrated both with a visit to the local hair salon for a bit of “color highlights” and a sophisticated breakfast treat at a local hip coffee house. While Xavier’s 11th birthday, had an all “banana” day and a visit to a local favorite Reptile Museum to delight in all things that slither (sigh…mom REALLY, REALLY!!! doesn’t like these, but pushed through with lots of prayers to make him happy)…
Banana Cinnamon Roll!!
Loves her “highlights”
Now, as a child in P.R., and then coming to Miami at a young age I spent many hours reading, and watching so many historical documentaries (i.e., National Geographic, PBS Specials, etc.)…so as we approached this leg of our journey anticipation had begun to build up… So many of these National Parks and Monuments have been more of a “theoretical dream,” than a reality… I have to completely admit as we drove up to the road that led up to Mt. Rushmore, I was excited and trying to explain this to my kids. It was hard to put into words but then I look and the Monument popped into my peripheral view, I was speechless for a few minutes. Something that I had seen in pictures so many times was there right in front of me (I know that’s silly to some). It truly humbles me all that God’s has allowed me to see and experience through this life-changing Journey.
Mt. Rushmore is a National Monument (Sculpted by Gutzon Borglum), which was created to commemorate the “founding, growth, preservation, and development of the United States.” This effort came at a time when the country was at the brink of a recession (the project design began in 1925). The project gave hope to the local community as it employed over 400 men and women for more than 14 years that would have otherwise gone in need.
Selfie time at Mt. Rushmore
Family at the foot of the mountain
Yes!!! there was still snow on the ground
Mt. Rushmore National Monument
Another great local achievement and a must see is the “ongoing building” of the monument to Native Americans and hero, Crazy Horse. This significant undertaking began in the 1940s when Chief Henry Standing Bear contacted Korczak Ziolkowski (who was the assistant to Gutzon Borglum during the Mt. Rushmore project). The project was taken up by Korczak and his family (which to this day continue his work). Unlike the other monument in the area, this is a privately funded monument so that the integrity and vision of the project would be followed through to the end. On-site, they house a Native American History Museum, Studio, and are also funding a University and a Medical Center for the local tribes. This vision and homage to the local community remind me that even when we have not always treated all as we should in our history, we can, however, look into the future and recognize the beauty of others.
Lastly, whether we were on mountain tops or delving 34-floor stories into the earth (Jewels Cave National Monument) to see how intricate God’s creation can be, once again, though I do not like to be in enclosed spaces, I “sucked it up” and went deep down in the earth to see the “jewel” of a wonder. Jewel Cave, currently is the third longest cave in the world at 200(+) miles of mapped passages ways (which get updated every few weeks as survey teams head out to explore every 4-6 weeks). They are called “Jewel Cave” for their “calcite” crystals which lined the cave and glitter.
Jewel Cave National Monument
Yes.. it was sunny and snowing at Jewel Cave
Third Longest Cave in the World!!
Inside the Cave (Scenic Tour)
Duncan, Xavier and Merari – Jewel Cave
Keith and Merari – quick selfie down in the Cave
Calcite Formation – “Jewels”
“Bacon Like” Formation
Custer Town and its local Buffalo Art
Duncan and Xavier with the “sheep” Buffalo
Keith and Merari with local art
Big Horn Sheep – roam free at Black Hill National Forest
“Remember is just not the Destination, but the Joy of the Journey!!!”
My family laughs at my “epiphany” that though on the road for almost a year, my mind finally feels like the “real adventure” is about to commence!!! We are finally heading to areas that have been “unknown to me.” Above all, years of planning are finally coming to fruition, and it is both thrilling and daunting…
Our first stop was St. Loius.. we were pleasantly surprise not only by the diversity of both history and modern commodities. A perfect example of such which we loved is Forest Park (https://forestparkmap.org):
* Opened in 1876
* Host of 1904 World’s Fair
* 1,300 acres
* 6th most visited U.S. urban park
* Has several Museums on its expansive Grounds
Ella’s being inspired by the beautiful surrounding
1904 World’s Fair Pavilion
St. Lois Zoo
Gardens at the 1904 World’s Pavilion
(Photo Courtesy of EM Creations)
Another life-changing stop was the Gateway Arch. For many of you, that know our family. Y’all know that we are a combination of height challenged and enclosed space issues. Though I have struggled with enclosed spaces (better known as claustrophobia all my life). I truly didn’t want to miss the view from the top of this majestic monument…so with God who is bigger than my fear and a willing son to tag along. I rode the 4-minute ride to the top of the Arch in what is best described as a seat in an “escape pod” in your best SciFi movie flick. And was graced with beautiful views and added a life experience to our journey…
If you have never had a chance to stop in this beautiful monument, you may want to add it to your “bucket list,” here are some great facts about it:
Gateway Arch celebrates the diverse people who shaped the region and the country. The dreamer, Thomas Jefferson, negotiated the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, doubling the size of the United States. The explorers, Lewis & Clark and their Shoshone guide Sacagawea, scouted the new territory and mapped a route to the Pacific Ocean. The challengers, Dred, and Harriet Scott filed suit at the Old Courthouse for their freedom from slavery, and St. Louis suffragette Virginia Minor sued for women’s right to vote. The artist, architect Eero Saarinen, designed the monument that honors them all.
The Gateway Arch is 630 feet high, making it the tallest man-made monument in the United States. It is as wide as it is tall. We don’t know if it is also the widest monument. Today, up to 6,700 visitors per day take the 4-minute Tram Ride to the Top. There is also a comprehensive historical museum at the bottom of the Arch about the history of the area.
A fun little stop if you have a family was City Museum (https://www.citymuseum.org)… best way to describe this unique museum: the biggest, most “eclectic architectural” playground for both the young and young at heart…
Remember is just not the destination, but the joy of the Journey!!!
Thank you for all the prayers and support… The last few months have gone by in a blur… we blinked, and now it’s Spring… So we had a lovely time in our winter spot of sunny FL…while there we finished our stay with a Full-Time Family Rally (70 families the Rv full time gather to share fellowship and information about this lifestyle)…it was a fast-paced week with lots of information, fun activities and lots and lots of kids…
Then we bee-line to Nashville, TN where we met up with JMI for a great face to face meeting about our work with their ministry, and possible things to come soon… We also got to explore the contemporary city, eat lots of great food and saw some beautiful sunrises while staying by the water…
We zigzag through the mountains, may I say through some might tight roads for our mighty big “bus” to get to see family in our Georgia stop…
We made it back to Maryland for our medical must… and will be heading west next.. so stay tuned. We are so excited for what is to come…
Remember is just not the destination but the enjoy the journey!!!
If you didn’t guess it by the title…we took the plunge and while in our whirl wind stay in FL this winter we stopped in that magical place…and yes as many of you my friends know… I had promised never to set foot in Disney ever again… my kiddos when young had screamed their way through almost every ride (not one, twice, but three times…) I was quite happy never to experience that again…
My loving and patient hubby said, just wait when they get older this too shall pass… (insert eye roll from me)… but yet again I get to notify the press that he came up right…(oh I will never live it down…insert another eye roll)… so after much wearing me down, we contacted family friend and Disney expert Michaela Nuckels at Simply Magical Vacations.
She smoothly and expertly handled all the reservations for us, from our stay at Fort Wilderness Camping Lodge RV Campground and to our Park passes (set up fast passes to ride) and all that entails… she could have done so much more but I was overwhelmed enough… (but seriously) if Disney is in your sites contact Michaela (she truly will make it so easy… its like “magic”)…
So we settled into the Fort Wilderness with some minor mechanical issues which the Disney Courtesy welcome patrol immediately took care off. Still “Magical” people…then we got ourselves all ready for the adventure…
Our first day at the parks was Epcot:(and everyone was rearing to go!!)
We took a mid afternoon break… (and long nap…yeah not going to lie we slept like babies) then headed back for the evening lights and fun…(Frozen by far was my favorite ride, though the consensus for the rest of the family was “Test Track”… lammo “petrol-heads”…
We rested up well… drank a quadruple espressos in the morning and off we went to Magical Kingdom the next day… while we waited for the boat ride to arrive, Duncan entertained us with his amazing “sock puppet” expertise and by this I mean (he found a lost and forgotten sock in his coat pocket and proceeded to preform)…never a dull moment in our house…
But really we did have a lovely day and the best highlights from this entire trips are as follow… Keith’s aunt and uncle graciously came along and kept us company at the parks, listened to our kids, regaled them with Keith’s childhood stories and Keith’s uncle “fun” cop stories … other highlights…Keith and I were able to reminisce about our beginnings … a long, long time ago we went to something called “GradNite” where Senior High Graduates got to spend a late night in Disney…in what was that faithful night our relationship began to flourish from friendship to courtship…(let’s just say the “Haunted House” especially holds dear memories…)
yes… it was a great few days… I am glad we did it… we probably had our fill and are set until grand babies come around… but are grateful for the great family memories we did make…as Mr. Walt Disney said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible”… and for me that was to go and enjoy Disney again!!!
Remember enjoy not just your destination but the Journey there…
our time with family and friends has kept us going and I have neglected to keep our humble journal of our journey up to date…
we zoomed back and forth between Vero and Miami for the holidays… and “mooch” docking at a family front yard…(gave Keith’s old neighborhood something to talk about for weeks)
our kids (and us) have been blessed to have made sweet memories… here a but a few samples of those…
after moving a little further up the coast… we made a short stop in St. Augustine (the Oldest continuous lived in city in the US)… though there were lots to see and definitely lots of “historical sites”…though I am not going to lie we were a bit surprised at how “tourist and commercial” the city was…(maybe we have been spoiled by those historical areas that have been so pristinely preserved…) but I will let each person make up their own mind….
Keith and I even managed to sneaked out for a date night…
our South Florida travels gave us great weather for the holidays… and great memories with family… not often you get to spend Christmas Day basking in the sun and sand…our pups so far are getting used to the road and at times think they “own the bus”…
so family and friends stay tuned… we did take a little detour to a “magical place”… but for those details, stay tune for our next blog…
thank you for coming along the journey with us thus far…I know I have neglected to keep y’all updated these past few weeks… since we landed in our “winter spot” it has been a whirlwind” of action…
We first got to “South Florida” and began mad preparations for our much awaited Anniversary celebration with Family and Friends, which we have shared already about… after a beautiful weekend
we went headlong in a flurry of preparations to make another significant transition to move into our new motorhome.. for those of y’all that had seen our home on wheels or were aware of what we had, its known as a fifth wheel (we had one for close to 5.5 years)… but after much prayer and hours..hours of research and YouTube watching and dragging the kids to see many floor plans – we felt compelled that for our family and our new FullTime life that a motorhome (the one you drive and tow a small vehicle) made more sense… we took the plunge and went to Tampa… and in a crazy two-day transition moved all our belongings (which still amaze us how much stuff you can still have in 420 sq. ft. and settled in…
of course, it would not be the beginning of fall/winter without the lovely cold season which hit us pretty severely…so we empathize with all y’all out there that are not feeling so well this season…. then, of course, all prep for all the holidays hit the fan… Thanksgiving went by (I think I ate turkey…) and now we are solar ready (in my hubby’s dream that we can be independent for more extended road travel as we head west next year)…
but amidst all this… we have had amazing times to spent with family… not just get-togethers but just hangout day-in and day-out time with family… or doing little traditions like our yearly gingerbread house decorating… even getting in some local sites…
though it feels like time has flown by we feel blessed by the quality time we have spent with our loved ones…so we will keep you posted as we start to travel again after the New Year and more crazy adventures begin…
please remember if you want to love on those that most need it this holiday season check out Justice and Mercy International Gift page (JMI Christmas Store)they have wonderful ideas on how to bless others!!!
If you would indulge us… for this story we’ll be taking a little detour on our adventures… as we feel honored and blessed to have reached the milestone of our 25th wedding anniversary this past month (October 2018)…
We took the opportunity to set time aside and celebrate with as many family and friends as we could… though we wished we could have gather with all of our loved ones to celebrate the blessing that Lord has given us in our lives…
The setting was beautiful…the food was amazing and the company were a wonderful blessing…
Debbie & Scott Heath
Keith & Ella (his princess!!)
Merari & Familia!! 🙂
Merari and Siblingsss!!!!!
Madelyn, Jonathan & Carolyn
Jonathan, Renee and Keith (Siblings)
Eliel & Mercy and Kids
Titi Mary and Kids
Getting a little love!!
Jonathan & Carolyn
Silly time at the Photo Booth
Janice, Joyce, David and Madelyn
Eliel, Mercy, Merari and Keith
Grandma & Kids
Merari, Anhthu, Jacob, Naam and Keith
Egberto, Carmen (Mami & Papi) Keith and I
Carmen, Yoly, Egberto, Merari
Escudero Clan (and Beniquez too!!!)
Rafael, Yoly and Didy
Madelyn (mom) Joyce (Aunt) Merari & Keith
Eliel and Keith (probably discussing cars!!
yes.. we were silly too!!
Couples were too cute!!
Girl time with cousins!!
Handsome couple (Mary and Armando)
David and Janice & Carolyn and Dick
So here is wonderful collection of pictures… and if you can stand it a little sappiness… a few words that I share with our family and friends…
“Thank you all for coming to celebrate with us on this special day…As I look back to what has led to us here… I think back as a little girl to the many hours I poured over books of fairy princesses and their wonderful loves… I dreamed and made castles in the sky about what I would wish for one day… I was also blessed with a wonderful example of what a loving, kind and generous “husband figure” in my father and what a great marriage looks like in both of my parents…with all of this I had made a great “recipe” to what I thought I would have in a husband and marriage, but God always knows best and He has a way in putting His touch in what is best for us… and that first came when my life took a sudden and what I thought of at the time– a life changing event that I wasn’t sure I could ever get over…my parents in their infinite wisdom and sacrifice wanted to better both my and my brother’s life (since my sister’s were already gone from home) and choose to “move us” to Florida. And through that life-changing event my life and Keith’s came to a crossroads…
many of you know this long story… So I won’t bore you with ALL the details… But way before we ever thought it was possible that we could ever “like” each other, we met in the halls of Junior High (yes kids …my kids,cringe, I said Junior High)… I certainly had no intention of liking a “lanky ,freckle boy”, but as my wise mother always told me, “never say never, cause you will inadvertently get more of it than you would like (this is of course a loose translation from Spanish – I will spare you)… of course she was right…cause I have gotten plenty of that boy…
As we progress through school so did our “friendship” by the time we had reached the 11th grade we had become close friends and well by the 12th-grade our “feelings” hadblossom into something more… Though we were both hesitant to share with each other… I do however love to share how (since we did have classes together) specifically History, I found unique that our chairs were always aligned by the time I made it to class in order that we could sit right next to each other… I was honored and thrilled when Keith asked me to the Senior Prom… I truly did feel like Cinderella going to the ball…
I wish I could say we have lived a “fairytale-like” life just like they write in books, but in reality, our story has had bumps and bend all along the road… some would even say even quite “an adventure”…yet, I like our story much, much better.Because we started our lives together so young, we have seen the best of each other and maybe the not so best..
We have gotten the privilege of growing up and maturing along the way, of not only falling in love with each over and over again but discovering and falling in love with our Lord and Savior together… which has made us into a better reflection of the people we ever hoped to be…
We have been given the privilege to parent three wonderfully unique children. Whom each has a special path and purpose in life and ours, each one has brought us joy and purpose beyond what we could have ever imaged.
We live each day to bring glory to our Lord and to serve and love each other and our family and those He sets in our path… I never imagined as a little girl who dreamed of fairy tale princes that in the end, I would also get my very best friend and love of my life in the deal too… I am so proud of the man I get to call my husband.I love you more than words can say… Here to the rest of what our adventure will bring”
So often when we share about our adventures, people love to hear about the places and things we see…yet they also find it amazing at how we live our daily lives in less than 420 square feet…
Women in particular wonder at the daily activities, such as cooking and laundry… I know probably not the most interesting to many but I thought I would take stab at least at one of those today… FOOD… since in my house it is almost as important as God…
Food is a form of LOVE in our family… so eating well and “maybe” fancy it’s part of our regular routine… with a family of five… we try not to eat out too much cause well (with two teenagers and one upcoming preteen) well our bank account would be bankrupt … so we attempt to eat at home most days…
You would be surprised in a “small” kitchen we make almost everything that a “gourmet” kitchen would do, with a little creativity maybe you too would think how to do some fun stuff in your kitchen…
Here is the breakdown of equipment that I utilize: currently I have a gas oven (27 in.) 3 burner stove (that would be more realistic 2 useable burners at a time), 1 convection microwave (that truth be told – have used once as an oven – but I am getting more comfortable using as we speak!!) and a countertop convection toaster oven (Breville – yes total product placement- Love it!!- it’s my second one!!)
So a little trick that I do all the time for baking in the oven – its layers- yes I have “cookie cooling rack” that I add on top of my baking sheet in order to have a dual rack in the oven and get two things to bake at the same time ( I also added a baking stone in the oven in order to make sure I have even baking)…Having tools that serve multi-purpose also come very handy…I am not an outdoor grilling person… But my family still enjoys the burger and other grilled food… So I invested in a 5-in-1 griddle… I can grill, and use it to also make our favorite breakfast food like pancake and waffle with a quick switch of the insert plates… and if we want to grill a sandwich or panini’s we can have does too ( have you ever had a grilled guava and cheese sandwich if you haven’t let me tell you don’t know what you are missing yet…in our family that is a favorite.. 🙂
So as you can see with a little bit of thought and (some help from Pinterest) to keep your recipes interesting you are able to eat healthy, fun and exciting meals even in a “small” kitchen space… so the sky is the limit for your palate and your bellies… Von Appetite from the McFarland 5…
So we made it to the six-month mark of officially living in the RV…though we didn’t start our full-time travel until the summer…we began our “tiny full-time living” life back in March… and well we made it to the six-month mark… I am happy to announce … still have a husband, 3 kids, and 2 dogs… everyone still has all body parts… and on most days everyone still “mostly” happily enjoys each others company…
For us that is a big accomplishment … when we lived in the brick and mortar home… I don’t think we laugh as much as we have in the past 6 months (or maybe cry too)… we definitely get into each others business A LOT MORE… and we definitely do get annoyed at each other… we experience every day highs and lows with each other…we are also learning slowly but surely, to make ways to give each other more GRACE… and to step outside of our own comfort zones in order to find what is “normal” for others in our family…
Routines still get work and reworked in order to bring comfort and growth to each of us…I look at each of the kids and see new areas in which strengths and also weakness have been brought out by this new life experience… and continue to pray how the Lord will mold and stretch them into the adults that He foreseen… cause I definitely don’t have a clue… I am just going along for the ride… but I am glad I get to see it up close and personal … (well at least most days…Coffee and a whole lot of Jesus help too!!!)
Here is to see what the next six months will bring…