Growing up I didn’t think much of crossing the Mississippi River. Living in Minneapolis that river was not much of a continental boundary line. For example, I crossed the Mississippi every school day in high school.
Today we crossed the Mississippi River for the last time on our trip. I noted the passing to everyone as Tiny drove over the I-35W bridge and we all said goodbye to the mighty river at St Anthony Falls in Minneapolis.** Although we’ve been heading East for a while now, crossing the Mississippi is definitely a boundary line for us. We are now clearly driving into the West again. Portland is about 2000 miles and 3 weeks away.
The last month has been mostly about visiting family and friends in the Midwest. One final “thank you” to everyone that hosted us over the last month – you know who you are. You made us feel at home, whether it was for an evening visiting or a week of sharing your house. It was a good time – documented in part with a number of pictures below.
We’re now back in Tiny and feeling very relaxed to be on the road. For all that we love our family and friends, it feels good to be moving again. The landscape changed some as we rolled out of the wooded areas of central Minnesota to the farm and prairie of southern Minnesota and eastern South Dakota. And we’ll see the wildly different landscape (moonscape?) of the South Dakota Badlands tomorrow.
We have just a few more big landmarks (and many small ones – like the Corn Palace today) – Mt. Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and more TBD – and then we’ll be home. As long as we continue to find good campground electrical hookups we will be fine, even with the hotter temps coming our way. Betsy gets cranky in the heat, so AC is a requirement for happy camping. But we’re done with the East – goodbye Mississippi River!
** As we learned at the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis, St Anthony Falls is the reason Minneapolis was founded here in the 1800’s. A waterfall meant power for the lumber and flour mills which thrived well into the mid-1900’s. We visited the Mill City Museum on this trip and found it surprisingly lively, enjoyable, and informative (for all 4 of us). It helped that Betsy and I got in free using our Visa card’s Museums on Us weekend.
After hiking down the South Kaibab Trail at Grand Canyon National Park for about 10 min – and watching the boys’ jaws drop a few times – Betsy and I agreed on the following: we are setting the bar way too high. (Or more accurately: Yosemite, Hoover Dam, and the Grand Canyon are setting the bar too high.) How are the kids going to continue to be amazed by stuff when they’re seeing such amazing things in the first few weeks?!? No offense to American history buffs, but I just don’t think East Coast historical sites like Williamsburg and Gettysburg are going to pop their eyes like the Grand Canyon. And getting 8/9-year-olds excited about history is much tougher than saying “hey, look at that mile-deep canyon”.
After completing the hike, as well as a long day exploring Grand Canyon National Park, we agreed on something else: it’s time for a day off.
This might sound wimpy, but bear with me. In the past 10 days we’ve done more exploring and adventuring than we’d usually do in 6 months: Joshua Tree exploring, fishing/hiking at Wilderness Preserve, The Living Desert (posts on all 3 of these activities below), then departing Mema’s and visiting Hoover Dam, and hiking in the Grand Canyon and Sedona. Geesh. For stay-at-homes like us, this has been pretty extreme.
This week we’ll be in Apache Junction, AZ (at a state park, with Tiny off the grid) and we expect to get back to a more regular schedule of home school in the morning (which we did pretty well at Mema’s) and a little touristing and visiting with Grandma Ruth in the afternoon. Or something resembling that type of schedule. We’ve promised ourselves one day of just hanging out at the RV / campground sometime soon, too. I assume we’ll naturally slow down and settle into a more normal routine soon enough, as the big visits (2 grandmas) and big parks are behind us. There’s lots and lots more places and people to see ahead, which we certainly are looking forward to, but we’re off to a rip-roaring start. Time to just lower that bar a notch or two.
First things first – we’re all great and just spent Christmas day with Betsy’s mother, Lucy Groh, in Indio, CA. The day was wonderful and relaxing. The boys had a wonderful time opening gifts this morning, we went for a bike ride this afternoon, and Bennett and David tested out the new basketball that was under the tree. 70+ degrees was pretty nice compared to our MN and AK family that are looking at negative numbers on the thermometer. We missed the family, but not the weather.
Driving down from Portland went smoothly. A late drive on Thursday got us to Redding, CA. The next day we had a pleasant morning in Redding at the Sundial Bridge. Saturday we spent all day at Yosemite National Park – which was thrilling to us all. The boys loved the snow and ice. We all loved the stunning, sunny views and lack of people.
We’ll be spending the next few weeks here in Indio with Lucy. We expect to get into a bit of home school routine during this time. It’s a very short winter break for these boys. They’ll get plenty of vacation days in the months ahead.
By the way, burglars, our home is still occupied. Plus we took all the good stuff. ( I hope they read this far.)
Lastly, I’ll try to attach some pictures to this post. Bear with us as we get used to this new website format. Feel free to provide comments below. You do NOT need to register to provide comments. If you have any questions, feel free to email, text, ask in the comments or (gasp) call us.
There are many tasks leading up to being away from your home for many months. Filling the RV is an obvious trip-prep task- how many socks, underwear, books (a very unique category), stuffed animals, and many, many other items to consider. Less obvious is prepping the RV and the car we’ll tow behind the RV (the “tow vehicle” or more commonly, our “toad”).
Being 10+ years old, Tiny (our RV) is less reliable than it was the last time we took it full-timing (2002-03). Many fixes later we are close to having Tiny ready, we hope:
New tires (not a cheap item – where to buy/install?)
4-bike carrier (way more complicated than you’d think – attach to RV? Car?)
Rain leak (mysteriously wet near driver and passenger sides – how to fix?)
And the list goes on and on… Now I know why it’s mostly retires driving around RVs. They are the only ones with the time to adequately maintain them. 🙂
Got the tires from Simple Tire online. They were by far the cheapest, but there was a lot of stress over trusting an online source with difficult recourse if there were any problems. End result was OK – but they did not get the order perfect. One of the 6 tires was for a different load rating, but still a rating that was OK for the RV. They did not notify me of this difference beforehand and caused some unnecessary stress. I had the tires installed by Bob Brown in Portland. They did a fine job. I was thankful for the good wifi in their lobby, as it took about 3-4 hours to get the job done. (Update/Dec 31: No problems with the tires after the first 1000 miles. That’s a relief.)
The bike carrier we got from Blue Ox, the same company who made our tow bar (connects the “toad” to the RV). It is very sturdy and I don’t think we’ll have any problems from it. We also added a “drop hitch” to lower the connection between the RV and the toad. This makes it easier for the RV to bottom out on steep grade changes, but I suspect the only place this will be an issue will be our driveway. Getting all 4 bikes on the carrier is still a bit of a pain, but it’s about 10-15 min on and about 5 min off. Not bad. Update/Dec 31: When the bikes aren’t on the carrier, I’ve found the carrier is a bit of a head hazard (one good hit to my forehead already). The forehead hit hasn’t had any effect. I’ve found my memry is finne and my seplling contanues to be prefect, howaver.
The rain leak may or may not be fixed. I spent a few days sealing up the roof seams, however (in between rain drops in Portland). Hopefully we’ll avoid the rain for the most part for the trip. 🙂
The RV steps are stable for the moment. The pixies fixed it. I’m thankful. Hopefully the pixies remain happy with us.
The sink fix was the easiest of all. I was pleased to find it was just a pipe fitting that was not connected cleanly (screws together).
There were many more RV prep items – converted the hanging clothes closet into a pantry with shelves, removed the TV and replaced it with a white board, and a battery case repair (to avoid dropping the house batteries on the freeway). The fixes will no doubt continue as we travel, but for now, the big items are covered. Yes!