Bozeman Montana


Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 25-06-2009

 We were so excited to return to Montana.  We visited this awesome state last year and fell in love with it!  We remember driving through the town of Bozeman and saying to ourselves, “We have GOT to return to this cool town!”   We could totally see ourselves living in Montana in the future.  We would just have to go somewhere WARM during the cold Montana winters.  We camped at a neat private campground which had a great pool, a huge BBQ area (which we used one afternoon for a hamburger cookout) and a beautiful view of the rolling hills.  We found a cool coffee place and visited it 2  mornings in a row.  One evening, we dropped the four kids off at “Transformers 2” (or whatever it’s called!) and Ken and I took off for a wonderful dinner sans kids.  We sat outside at the Montana Ale Works and had such a nice time.  This is definitely a town worth visiting and we hope to visit again soon. 

On Tuesday, we received a call that Ken’s mother’s health was very poor.  After reviewing our options, we decided it was vitally important that we ALL go visit “Tun”  (the kid’s nickname for her).  So on Thursday morning, we took Austen to the airport for his scheduled 6:30AM flight (we sure LOVED having him with us!) and we all took off for Los Angeles, 1200 miles south.   We knew this was the best decision and I have to applaud Ken for his ability to drive over 1200 in just TWO DAYS!  We were in Los Angeles by Friday night and were so glad we make the trek. 



Devil’s Tower WY


Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 23-06-2009

We left South Dakota en route for the famous Devil’s Tower. This national monument was made even more famous by the movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (which we watched in its (LONG) entirety the night before our visit). On our way to Wyoming, we made a stop in Deadwood. This town is pretty cool on the exterior and it has a lot of history. We saw the bar where “Wild Bill Hicock” was shot dead. I am sure other bar brawls took place in this town but that was the most famous. Most of the buildings house casinos now which was a bit of a bummer. We hoped to experience a bit more of the authentic wild west as opposed to something more like Vegas! We then drove by Sturgis which is home to the biggest motorcycle rally in the world. One week out of the year (this year the rally is at the beginning of August), the town of Sturgis welcomes over 500,000 people on motorcycles. It must be quite the party! The town is completey DEAD for the other 51 weeks out of the year. We figured the businesses in town probably make enough in one week to last them all year!

When we arrived at Devil’s Tower, we were really blown away. We drove by rolling hills, prairies and small rock formations. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, this amazing huge formation appears known as Devil’s Tower.  We camped at the national campground near the Tower and when we awoke, it was as if the Tower was in our backyard. We took the 2 mile hike around the Tower and got to view it from all different angles. It really reminded us of a HUGE tree truck! Indian folklore tells the story of 7 young sisters who had wandered towards the area where the tower now “towers!” They were chased by a large bear and ran to a rock which was only 3 feet tall and stood on top of it. They asked the rock to help them. The rock heard them and started growing towards the sky. The bear clawed at the rock, making big long claw marks on the tower’s walls.   The bear’s claws fell off and it died at the base. There are seven stars above the Tower and these stars are said to be the seven sisters. The kids just loved hearing this story and enjoyed retelling it to each other.

Andrew’s friend Austen was with us which added to our fun. Andrew and Austen went tubing down the nearby river and caught a snapping turtle along the way! Glad the turtle didn’t snap off their swimshorts (or one of their toes!) We left Devil’s Tower with great memories. Montana here we come!

South Dakota – What a state!


Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 21-06-2009

South Dakota wasn’t on our list of “must-see” states and having now spent some time here, I have to say it is an AMAZING state and totally worth a visit. We spent our first night at a campground on the Missouri River. The rolling hills and beauty were reminiscent of Northern California without all the people! On the way to our next destination, we were caught in a huge hail storm. Many cars literally parked IN the traffic lanes under the overpasses to protect their cars which made the traffic back up for miles. I was SO afraid one of those little hail pellets would crack our windshield but we made it through the storm unscathed!

We arrived in Hill City and set up camp along a beautiful creek. The main attractions of this area are Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, Black Hills National Park and Custer State Park. We visited Mt. Rushmore today and it was spectacular. We took a walking tour and learned about the sculptor, Gutzon Borblum who, with the help of 400 workers, carved out this monument back in the late 1920s. He was the person who chose the four presidents, (Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt) and we learned the reasons behind his choices. Very educational day!

Behind our campground was a 100 mile bike path (part of the “rails to trails” program). It was so amazing and took us on a slight incline up through flowering meadows, alongside creeks and into dense forest. It was my favorite bike path, so far! Because we were going slightly uphill, the ride home was a BLAST as we coasted all the way (16 miles round trip). Really made us feel a part of nature and physically fit at the same time!

Andrew and Austen are having such a great time together, sleeping outside and putting fish traps out in the creek. There is a great playground and a basketball court here so they were busy all day long. Austen is a great boy and we are really enjoying having him with us on our adventure!

Now onto “Devil’s Tower” and the site of the movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind!” We plan to watch this movie tonight as part of our preparation!

Wisconsin Dells and our 1 year anniversary on the road


Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 16-06-2009

When we lived in Illinois, we took a two week camping trip around Lake Michigan and Wisconsin during the fall season when most other children were in school. Those days were so simple as Andrew and Nikki were very young and were happy doing anything from playing with rocks to looking out at the water of Lake Michigan. This time, we arrived in Wisconsin with the plan of letting them run wild at “Wisconsin Dells” and one of their famous water parks. It seemed a perfect way to celebrate our ONE YEAR anniversary of being on the road!

We dropped the kids off at “Noah’s Ark”, touted as being the BIGGEST water park in the WORLD!! I have to say, it was pretty darn HUGE with 42 water attractions. WOW!! The kids played at the park from 9AM to 4:30PM and were BEAMING when we picked them up. Lauren said, “This was the GREATEST day of my LIFE!” So cute! We are happy they all enjoyed a fun day together as kids. Now, off to South Dakota!

Naperville Illinois – Nikki’s birthplace


Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 14-06-2009

When we left California (where Ken and I grew up) and headed east, we started what was to become our “Gypsy Lifestyle” with our move to Naperville. Naperville Illinois was our first move of many (six in total now!) and we grew to LOVE this town. I was pregnant when we moved to Naperville in March 1997 and Nikki arrived a few short months later. Andrew, Nikki and I would spend many days strollering down the river walk to the beautiful downtown (and Starbucks). Very special memories indeed.

While I met many people during our 2 ½ years in Naperville, two people remain my special friends today and both even visited us in South America. My first visit was with Ann Elliott. We walked the tree lined streets of downtown Naperville, had a yummy dinner and then ended a wonderful day with a raspberry mocha at a special chocolate café. The next morning we walked to the downtown via the river walk and just talked and talked.

After my special time with Ann, I visited Leslie. Here I was reunited with Lauren who had spent the night with Leslie’s daughter Audrey (who is also her pen pal!) the night before. We sat out on her beautiful new deck and chatted away, catching up on the happenings of the last couple years! We continued our tradition of dining at Potter’s Place and enjoyed a margarita and a “Christmas Tree” burrito. Leslie’s family drove me back to our campground in Elgin and both families got to hang out and enjoy some delicious desserts picked up by Ken at a local bakery.

On Saturday, we took the metrorail into the great city of Chicago. The day was gray and rainy but it didn’t dampen our desire to see this wonderful city again. We started our adventure at the famous Billy Goat Tavern on Michigan Ave. If you have ever seen any old SNLs, then you are familiar with the“Cheezeburger, Cheezeburger” skit. The tavern is where this originated as that’s about all you can get to eat there. Don’t even try to order a single cheezeburger as they TELL you what you want. Even the four year old in back of us got a double cheezeburger. It was a lot of fun!

When we left the Billy Goat, we headed towards Navy Pier and the Children’s Museum. It was still a bit damp outside so we thought we would let the kids run around inside until it cleared up outside. We have a national museum pass and it allowed us to get into the museum for a fraction of the regular price. The kids had a great time – Nikki and Lauren made skyscrapers while the boys ran around and played with the water exhibits. Time well spent. When we left the museum, the skies had cleared and it was beautiful. We walked the length of the pier and then headed towards Pizzeria Due (the less busy of the famous pizza duo). We had a VERY deep dish pizza and then headed back to the train station for home. Tomorrow, we head towards Wisconsin!

Warren Dunes State Park, Michigan


Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 11-06-2009

On our way to our next destination, we stopped at Elkhart Indiana (the heart of the RV industry) and the famous “RV Museum.” We are so glad we make the effort to visit this museum as we got to see and go inside RVs from as far back as 1930. They were really cool and had so much character. The visit made us want to go back in time and own an old classic RV.   We even got to see Mae West’s own RV!
After Elkhart, we made our way to Warren Dunes State Park. We were planning on camping in Elkhart but the weather was beautiful and we wanted to show the kids the Dunes and Lake Michigan. It was completely worth the trip and the kids got to climb to the top of the Dunes and roll down. Lake Michigan was so beautiful and it felt more like the ocean complete with waves and seagulls.  Nikki was just two years old when we last visited Lake Michigan.  We have wonderful pictures of her looking out at the big expanse of Lake Michigan, arms folded behind her back. 

That evening, we ventured into historical Three Oaks and had amazing pizza at Grazianos. It’s a pizza joint which has been around since the 60s and it was fantastic. Now onto Naperville Illinois where Nikki was born!

Carmel Indiana and the Keys hospitality


Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 10-06-2009

We arrived in Carmel last Thursday and were warmly greeted by the wonderful Keys family.  Our first order of business – parking our rig in their nice long driveway. We had to take apart their elaborate basketball hoop (no easy task) and then back in so the garage was assessable to all vehicles. Within a couple hours, we were set up and ready for fun!

Marcilynn is one of my very favorite people and it was so easy to “camp” in front of her house for 19 days! Her daughter, Rebecca, has known Nikki since they were both 4 years old and it’s been great to watch them grow up together. They seem to be growing closer as the years go by which is wonderful. Jessica is 14 years old and she and Andrew got along SO well, just hanging out and talking about life for hours. Jessica is quite the pianist and Andrew would ask her to play Pachel Bel’s Canon over and over. Seems he enjoys classical music!  (Or simply the blond playing the music!)   Benjamin is 7 years old and OH SO CUTE and he and Lauren had fun together too.  Completing the mix-, David (Marcilynn’s husband) and Ken got along great too so we all had someone to play with!!

On our last full day in Carmel, one of Andrew’s best buddies, Austen Browne, arrived from Arizona. We picked him up at the airport and we have seen little of Andrew ever since. Austen fits right in with our bunch and we look forward to having him with us for the next 2 ½ weeks until we reach Montana.

Some of the highlights of our trip to Carmel include:

-Long bike rides down the Monon Trail to Broad Ripple and along the beautiful bike paths in Carmel

-Daily morning walks with Marcilynn followed by a latte outside (weather permitting)

-Dinner with Dave and Jeanette Tonne and enjoying Ken’s yummy smoked brisket! Great conversations with them as well as some other good  friends including Brian and Paula Maier and Rick and Sharon Balak.  What wonderful neighbors we had in Avian Glen! 

-Visiting Connor Prairie and seeing Jessica and Rebecca at work in their costumes from the mid 1800s

-Dinner with the adults in Broad Ripple at Mama Carollas followed by a walk across the street to an amazing farm market

-Dinner date with Ken at our favorite sushi place followed by a stroll down Main Street and a drink at the “Library”.

-Drinking lemon drop martinis, drinknig  margaritas made from the agave liquor we brought from Mexico, drinking period!

-Seeing Amy Fryberger again and enjoying her company and yummy cookies!  She is one of the nicest people ever! 

-Meeting friends of the Keys (Christine and Brian) who also dream of taking a long term RV trip one day

-Andrew’s friend, Austen, arrival from Arizona

-Watching Nikki and Rebecca emerge from their tents in the backyard in the morning

-Watching the kids play silly games down in the basement

While we spent a great deal of time in this one location, we never grew tired of the Keys company. It was a treat for all of us. We found the secret for a successful long visit is to bring your own HOUSE!! We had our own place and they had theirs and none of us ever felt like we were intruding upon one another’s “space” . Great set up and we highly recommended it! We look forward to seeing their whole family again next summer along the east coast. And Marcilynn will be coming to Melaque Mexico next January so that’s something to look forward to as well!!

Thank you Keys family for everything!