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Part-Time Paradise

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  1. Bummer, they are all slowing up on my phone. I'll tinker around when I get back to a computer. It was a fun weekend
  2. A small trip report from this weekend. I have traveled a lot this year for work. Also the kids' activities coupled with school means I barely see them anymore. So I decided to give Mom a quiet weekend alone and we loaded up the camper to head to Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and State Historic Site (that's a mouthful, huh?). We stopped at WWMSPSHS (gotta have a good acronym too right?) last year and toured the historic mill and the Watkins' home. They are incredibly preserved and the Missouri Dept of Natural Resources does a good job telling the history of the Watkins, the mill, and the land. Here are a few pics from our last visit: The home. Watkins built this house after living in a two room cabin with his wife, kids, sister, and mother for almost 15 years. While they lived in the cabin they birthed 4 or 5 more kids. No thanks. The inside is quite nice for the time and for being in such a rural area at the time it was lived in. The mill. All of the machinery is preserved extremely well. It's like they left for work one day and forgot to come back. I can't imagine having to work in this room between the wool flying everywhere, the belts moving up and down from the floor trying to grab your clothes, and the machines trying to rip your finger off. Not to mention the tour guide said the windows stayed closed year round because wool is easier to work in humid air. Nope. This is one of the last stops for yarn. It's taking the yarn from the large spools on the wall to the dowels on the front of the machine. One person manned this behemoth by cranking a wheel in the middle of it. The guide said this one one of the highest paid workers in the factory because the skill required to operate this. Back to this weekend. We left mid-afternoon on Friday and got to WWMSPSHS around 5pm. The kids were surprisingly helpful setting up the site (they usually help, but they helped with a lot of my wife's tasks that I thought were too much for them). We got set up and they blasted out into the CG to find other kids to ride bikes with while I finished setting up and started dinner. Our campsite, #27, with electric only. The only sites that have more than electric are the hosts' sites. After dinner, we had s'mores and found our way to the playground. They had a good time playing with the other kids and wore themselves out plenty before we headed back to the trailer. Don't ask me why they are still wearing their helmets. They leave them on all the time. I guess that's good for safety, right? Saturday morning we woke up and headed towards the 4-mile trail around the 100-acre lake. Trails connect from the CG to the lake and it's quite convenient. We spent the morning riding the trail and of course hitting the playground once we were done with the loop. Riding on the path. There was so much shade in the CG and on the path. It was quite comfortable all weekend. The creek that feeds the man-made lake The kids exploring the creek The creek and the steps to get down to it from the bike path We came back to the trailer for lunch and decided to hit the bike trail again, this time stopping off at the visitor center to go through the exhibits again (to review some stuff from a year ago) and stop at the church and school that served the community of mill employees and their families. My big girl stepping up in the kitchen making our favorite camping treat, the cookie pie! The finished product The one room schoolhouse that for the mill employees' kids. An exhibit at the visitor center said there were kids from ages 7-22 attending class at the height of mill. Snack break on the trail. Made it back to the loop. Look at all the shade. The kids were tired when we finished our 10th mile of bike riding for the day. As we pedaled back to the trailer, they spotted a scrum of kids they'd been playing with earlier. They asked to go play more while I cooked dinner. They played before dinner. They scarfed down their plates and ran back out to play until dark. Sunday brought an end to our beautiful weather. We woke up to a kaleidoscope on the weather radar. I quickly broke camp while the kids finished their breakfast inside the trailer. As I was lowering the trailer on the hitch ball, the heavens opened up. The kids helped grab our leveling blocks and threw them inside quick and we beat the made rush to the dump station. I jumped in behind two other rigs. They didn't take too terribly long thankfully (though I really question the glove/sanitary situation of some people. One dude had his gloves on, hooked up his hoses and realized the trailer was too far from the hole. He hopped right into his truck and backed up with his gloves on. Then the next rig driver only put one glove on and managed to spill about a gallon of gray...I hope it was gray...when he was winding his hose back up. I need to keep my eyes closed when I'm in line at the dump station from now on). It rained off and on while it was my turn and we headed for home. By the time I left, there were rigs lined up around the corner and I couldn't see the end of the line. Beat the rush! A nice quick weekend and it was a good memory that I hope they remember for awhile.
  3. I am thoroughly impressed the amount of data-mining this community can aggregate from online and in person about FW. Now you need to find the hints about the Backyard BBQ coming back. It was one of my favorite memories with the kids the last time we were at WDW.
  4. That park looks amazing. The FHU isn't a necessity, especially since we'd be on FHU at FW for a week. The beach access looks great. Thanks! Looks like a great stopover. Based on what I plan for the day, I don't think ATL traffic later in the day are going to mesh with my vacation disposition. You had me at Sausage Store. That might be a bit further to drive, reference above ATL traffic comment, but I might be capable of the drive for a store dedicated to pork delicacies.
  5. Alright, my reservations are booked. Decided to check in on Sunday and check out on Saturday. Have some time to smell the flowers. I have plenty of time, but I can't help planning the trip down there. KS to FL is a big trip. Planning to stop near the KY/TN border off of I-24 on Day 1. Northern GA off I-75 on Day 2. Then cruise into Disney mid-day SUN. I have a few spots we'd like to stop along the way (Fort Donalson Natl Monument, Ocmulgee Natl Monument...kids love the NPS Jr Ranger Program). We're not opposed to staying in a Wal-Mart, Cabela's, etc on the way down, but does anyone have any gem of campgrounds or attractions to break up the 19 hour drive for the kids? Second question, after WDW we plan to head over to Cape Canaveral Seashore. Any good tips for that area? Thanks
  6. Thanks for both responses. I know every where else I want to go, Sunday is usually a good time to arrive. Disney seems to be the exception on everything. Also, thanks for the suggestion for a travel counselor. I have a friend that's already locked me up in perpetuity for any Disney trips.
  7. I don't think I'd fit inside a 911 let alone would the roof support my 250 lbs.
  8. For once in a long time, I have some predictability in my summer schedules at work. We already had 2019 locked up, but I'm looking at 2020 for a Florida trip and a few days at Disney in there as well. We aren't Disney newbs, but we are Fort rookies. The plan right now is towards the end of June 2020. I'm shooting to check-in on a Sunday and check out on a Thursday. What day of the week is the best to check-in so you can get the dates/spot/etc you want?
  9. OK, let's finish this out. On Day 3 we left Tucson East back towards El Paso. We planned to stop at Fort Bowie NHS (boo-eee). The fort is interesting. It's near a spring. Several trails ran through here, Overland-Butterfield, want to say Pony Express, maybe one more. Either way, frontier folks transited through the area and stopped near there for water. A small settlement started to build with a store and some other shops. Eventually the native tribes weren't too hip on the settlers using the water and the settlement and travelers were attacked regularly. The conflict came to a head and the Army began building a garrison to defend the water and the trail. Not exactly the most glamorous parts of our history, but it's our history that we should learn from and teach our kids. To get to the fort, you have to walk a 1.5 mi trail. The trail isn't wildly difficult, but there isn't a lot of shade or any water for you along the way. Come prepared. This is what most of the hike looked like Once we got to the fort, it's just ruins. The garrison was quite significant and a testament to the pioneer spirit that they could haul in all those materials to make such an large garrison in the middle of nowhere. The family reading about what used to stand on this foundation. While in the visitor center, again 1.5 mi away from parking, we saw a pamphlet for Chiricahua NM. I saw this NM when I was planning the trip, but it didn't peak my interest because it looked similar terrain to Bryce and since we saw that earlier in the summer I thought it was a pass for this quick trip. Well the volunteer at the visitor center said it was worth the trip and my family surprised me that they wanted to go. I said that we'd have to really boogie on the hike out and all agreed. So we finished up at Bowie. It was interesting. I wouldn't surround an entire trip around coming here, but worth a stop if you're in the area. I'm 6'5" so I have long legs. I set a pretty quick pace that the family had to alternate between jogging and walking to keep up. They kept up their spirits and kept up the whole way. We piled into the car and headed south about 45 min to Chiricahua. We pulled into the property. Boy, was I a dummy. The place was really impressive. It really reminded me of Colorado on the lower end of the park. Ash trees everywhere, a rushing stream, cool crisp air. Just beautiful. At the higher elevations it does resemble Bryce some with the numerous hoodoos. We just got a taste of the park. We can't wait to make it back someday. The CG looked quite nice. That's were we would have stayed if we did it again. If it was full, there is BLM land outside the NPS perimeter, so I assume you could disperse camp as well. Like most NPS employees, the Ranger working the desk when the kids came in to get their badges was unreal. She started talking to them and while she was talking 4 or 5 other groups came in to get a campsite or ask a question. She politely told each group that she'd be with them as soon as she was done with the kids. One lady said her question would just take a second and the Ranger replied something to the effect that "the kids are the future of our country and our park system, so I'll give them all the attention I can. Please wait your turn." Everyone in the building seemed content with that answer except the woman that attempted to but in. I probably wouldn't have been so patient to wait as everyone else, but I certainly appreciate her passion for the NPS and the kids. Don't mess with this Ranger when kids are in the Visitor Center!!! After the kids got their badges, we packed up the car and headed back North to get back on the interstate to get home. We actually drove right by Fort Bowie again. So if you want to do both and are coming from the West, do Chiricahua first. Anyway, a short trip that we could've expanded to a week or more. Thanks for following.
  10. All the engines are pulled. They'd need some serious refurb, but yes they are able to be used again.
  11. OK, Day 2. We woke up early in Sierra Vista and headed north towards Tucson and Saguaro NP. For the uninitiated, Saguaro (sah-whar-o) is the cactus type that you think of when someone says cactus. The one in the background of Wile E Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons. They look like huge hat racks. You'll see. I might have a picture or two. We arrived mid morning to the Eastern side of Saguaro. Saguaro is split into 2 districts...one on each side of Tucson. Reading around and talking to a few folks that had visited prior suggested that if you have only a day do the Eastern side. I have no way to know if that's good info since we never made it to the Western side, but we were pretty happy with the East. Of course we stopped in to grab our Jr Ranger books and set out on the activities. The first of which was a Ranger program right outside the visitor center where the Ranger discussion all of the flora in the park in the garden out front. It made our exploring much more informed as we went. Learning all about Saguaro cactus, palo verdes, creosote plants and more. I love the NPS and their employees, like this guy, that talk to the kids with so much passion and care...might notice a theme in my TR destinations because of that. We set out on the 8 mile Cactus Forest Loop Drive. The drive has numerous pullouts, picnic areas, and trails along the way. You also share the loop with many other motorists (it wasn't terribly crowded, but we weren't alone) and walkers/bikers that are Tucson locals out doing their exercise. The Eastern District is much bigger than the loop, but there isn't anything paved other than the loop, so we didn't explore more than a mile by foot off the road. It would require substantial prep and more time that we didn't have. As we drove on the loop, we saw numerous Saguaros thinking, "wow there are a ton of these here." We were wrong. Towards mile 5 or 6 we understood why it's called the Cactus Forest Loop. There was plenty to do and explore along those 8 miles. Including a pit stop for lunch, it took us easily 4 hours to mosey along the loop. At mid-afternoon, we found our way back to the Visitor Center got the kids' badges and headed to our hotel on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. That's an old cactus. Here's where we thought we'd seen tons of them "Oh. This is why it's called the Cactus Forest." The picture doesn't do it justice. The Saguaros engulf the whole mountainside and all over. They are huge. Quite a sight. Being Active Duty military, we like to stay in military lodging whenever we can (especially Air Force and Navy bases. They understand the finer points of not making everything miserable). Davis-Monthan is on the SE corner of Tucson. The main reason the base is there is to house DoD's aircraft boneyard. This is where all types of aircraft are permanently stored when not needed, but not ready for retirement yet. The facility is impressively large. There are tours from an air museum just out the South gate of the base that will take you into the yard and drive you around in much more detail that what we did. Since I have access to the base, we just drove around the perimeter fence of the yard. The only person on the trip that would be interested beyond that was me. So we drove the fence and found some dinner grub. Need a UH-60 Blackhawk or 70? No? How bout some B-52s? Driving the perimeter is nuts, but the amount of aircraft in there is staggering. You can get a better understanding here: https://www.google.com/maps/@32.1682938,-110.8604625,1296m/data=!3m1!1e3. Just planes for days! After grabbing some great Mexican food near the base (we got about 10 suggestions on Mexican restaurants... not too hard to find in Tucson) we hit the sack to move out on our last day of the trip. A frontier outpost and an unscheduled trip to Colorado in Arizona.
  12. They look like mom and act like dad. Thanks for following
  13. Evening Fiends, As promised, catching up on trips I've meant to document. But I'm behind again because we just got back from a trip with the new camper. I guess it's not a bad problem to have. Anyway, Thanksgiving 2017 we were still stationed in El Paso which is 15+ hours from either side of the family by car. Flying isn't much of our style, so we chose to enjoy our 4-days off by seeing more of the Southwest and having turkey as a family of 4. We set sail westward from El Paso the day after Thanksgiving towards Coronado National Memorial. We arrived just at lunch time. We hit the Visitor Center to get our Jr Ranger Books and ask for any recommendations from the staff. We found our way to a picnic area and dished out some quick sammies and laid out our strategy based on what we wanted to do and what the kids needed to do for their books. Dad, why do you keep me crammed in the backseat for so long? Obligatory sign pic. The landscape was completely surprising. Lots of grass and trees along with the mountains. Get after that sammich, boy! Coronado NM preserves the story of Coronado's expedition through the area. There is also a cave and some nice trails and scenery to accompany that history. We hiked up to the cave. It was about 3/4 mile with numerous switchbacks to get to the mouth of the cave. You need to be ready to go down...pants, boots, lights, youth (or the illusion of youth), etc to go down. It is about a 30 foot scramble down some surprisingly slick boulders (slick because they're worn smooth from everyone climbing on them) and loose dirt to get to the cave floor. Once inside, there are some interesting formations and it goes back maybe 1/4 mile. Kids were a little spooked and there were two rather large and noisy families that ruined the excitement of being in the dark and quiet (there are signs posted at the entrance to be quiet to be courteous to other hikers, but I guess werds r 2 tuff 2 reed). So we chose to climb out of the cave instead of waiting for them to beat us back to the scramble. Switchback 10 of 500...the trail wasn't bad, just had an antsy boy that wasn't fired up to hike that day. From the depths below! After the cave hike, we finished up the final activities for the kids' books at the VC before it closed and then set out on a hike. We walked up a ridge line that overlooked a large valley and the US-Mexican Border. The presence of USBP is staggering in the area, both on our drive in and in the park (which adjoins to Coronado National Forest, where the USBP was patrolling and surveiling pretty hard). Some deer showed up to the VC windows for a drink while we were looking at exhibits From the top of the mountain. If you look close in the upper left background, you can see a straight line, that is the border fence Walking downhill is hard for little boys. He needed a rest. I love em, but he pushes the buttons sometimes. We came off the hill and headed for our hotel for the night in Sierra Vista, AZ. Coronado NM was interesting. The terrain interested me more than the history (as seems to be the case in most of the NPS properties we visit). If you are nearby (which not sure how in the world you'd ever be in this part of the state by chance) I'd recommend swinging by for a few hours. Coming up on Day 2 - We drive to Saguaro NP and see the DoD's "Boneyard".
  14. I'm going to be busy for a couple of days, so the next TR will have to wait awhile. But from what I've taken from other fiends, particularly TCD, a teaser gets you Dole Whipped up into a Fiend Frenzy 😄. Stay tuned for next time where the Slapwacky family avoids spending Thanksgiving with relatives to trace the path of Spanish explorers, see a valley of cactus, walk were the Frontier Army took a stand, and this:
  15. Alright, let's finish this bad dude out. Day 7 - Torrey, UT to Ancient Cedars Mesa Verde CG, Mancos, CO. We broke camp very early to get on the road with this big drive in front of us. As all of the drives, this leg was pretty as well. It was interesting to start out in the unique UT landscape and finish the day in a John Denver song. The drive was relatively easy with plenty of places to fuel and the roads weren't corkscrews (though I like it when they're like that...keeps me engaged). To really see Mesa Verde NP, you need to buy tickets for a guided tour. We had planned to buy them on this day get to the CG and have a lazy afternoon to wake up early and thrash through the park and drive all day home. We thought there was no way there would be tickets left. Well, we lucked out. They had tickets for the late afternoon. So we scratched the lazy day in the CG and decided to go on the tour and get home early to be lazy at home! (we really enjoyed this trip and I would've spent a year out here, but I had to get back to work and coming back to work tired from vacation wasn't sounding good). Of course we grabbed our JR books and set out into the park. We had a few hours to explore the park before our tour. The drive up to the top of the mesa is quite scenic and takes some time. You need to give yourself probably an hour to get to the top. We got up to the top and hit the checks on the JR requirements just in time to get down to the tour start point. The tours, especially the Cliff Palace require some agility. They are not handicap accessible and require being not too afraid of heights. I feared DS, who is the scaredy cat of the family, would have the biggest issues. But as usual, kids proved dad wrong. He loved every minute of it and scared his mom to death because he wasn't paying attention to the edge of the cliff. The tour itself takes you down into a village where Pueblo People of the area moved to. One of the going theories is that a neighboring tribe's violence forced the people off the top of the mesa onto the cliffs for protection. They still farmed the top of the mesa, but lived in the cliffs for protection. The whole history of the culture and seeing how the people adapted to change was fascinating (a huge reason I recommend the Jr Ranger program to those with smaller kids. It gets them interested to mosey through the museum with you to figure out parts of their books and I get to actually read and look instead of "dad, this is boring." Clever clever NPS). The Cliff Palace. An amazing feat of man. It was mostly a natural cave that already existed, but they did carve it out in places and somehow made all those bricks. Just incredible. Up close with the Palace. We didn't get to go inside unfortunately. Like most things, tourists from the past vandalized and damaged the ruins so the NPS had to rope it off to protect it for a few jerks' lack of respect. Nice picture of my bum, but this was the best shot I have of us scrambling out of the Cliff Palace. We're currently waiting in a line to get to a ladder (a ladder made from lashed timber by the way) to get back up to the top of the Mesa. There were a few folks that freaked out and had to climb out with the Ranger on the tour with us. I think he went up and down the ladder 3 or 4 trips before we were all out. Again, DW and I had no issues. The kids had a few struggles with some of the ladder rungs being a little far apart, but there weren't ever scared fortunately. We got back to the CG for dinner. The CG seemed ok. It was a bit on the old side, but the sites were fairly level and it was clean. It had a pool, hot tub, and mini golf (none of which we used). It's greatest attribute is that it is literally across the street from Mesa Verde NP. I'd stay here again if I was going to the NP or stopping through. At the end of each day, the kids hung their badges here. This is all of the badges lined up after Mesa Verde. Quite a lot of loot! We packed up and got on the road early to return to El Paso. It was a 7 hour drive that was fine, but no time to enjoy it. We were hammer down to get home so we could get the trailer prepped to return the next day and to take it easy. 9 days, 8 NPS properties, and about 2000 miles. It was a wonderful trip. The only thing that would've made it better is more time. You're thinking, "Slap, why didn't you hit Arches and Canyonlands!?" We considered it. But two things took us all the way out of S Utah to SW Colorado. 1) NPS scared us away some that those two parks (and Bryce) were really crowded during these weeks...and Bryce really was. I much rather enjoyed the parks that weren't too busy. Capitol Reef and Cedar Breaks were my favorite spots and fewer crowds made them even better. S Rim of the Grand Canyon and Bryce felt way too paved and prepared than a NP. They are sights to see, but if we go back, we'll do the N Rim of the Grand Canyon and get off the road and away from the crowds more at Bryce. 2) DW traveled to Mesa Verde when she was a kid and wanted to relive that memory with our kids. We'll get out to Arches and Moab one day. All this trip has done is gotten us hooked on the desert and the SW. In a second, I would retrace this path, see all these parks again with more time and add more time to see the parks we missed. You can honestly spend days or weeks in these places and still not feel you've seen it all. I'll retire from the Army in a few years and I'm seriously considering a job with the Interior so I can get paid to work in a spot like this. Thanks for following along if you got this far. Like I mentioned, we did a trip to AZ over Thanksgiving last year as well that looks like it needs to be documented based on the "West TRs are sweet" comments. Regards, Sir Slap of the Wack.
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