Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Kid stuff

Stuck in an RV with four children for days at a time can lead to some pretty comical eavesdropping. The kids said such funny things while we were on vacation and I wish I could remember them all. Darn, memory. Fortunately, I did write down one particularly funny conversation. Or, at least, I thought it was funny. While we are sitting in yet another auto parts store parking lot, I hear:

Tann: Travis and Tatum are a monkey butt.
Tate: I'm not a monkey butt.
Tann: You are a monkey butt cheek and Travis is a monkey butt cheek. So Travis plus Tatum equals Monket butt.

Logical, albeit, a little twisted.

The kids had a blast while we were in Wyoming. It's funny. No matter how many places we go to visit family, they always want to move there. When we visited Bobby's family in Texas, Tanner and Travis wanted to move there. Staying at Dad's house, the kids wanted to move there. I suppose if we visit SIL and family in Alabama, they'll want to move there. Of course, Dad's house is kid friendly, what with the big screen TV for video games, the trampoline in the back yard, the loads of balls and squirt guns in the garage, and the annoying kids across the street to play with. They LOVED the frog pond in town which was only a few blocks from Dad's house. They even enjoyed Yellowstone, wading in the river, seeing all the animals, seeing the Geysers and waterfalls. Although, I have to tell you, they did revert to their usual whiny selves when hunger or boredom kicked in. While we were waiting for Old Faithful to erupt, (is that what geysers do?), Tatum about went crazy with "I'm hungry, I'm hungry, I'm hungry...." Then the boys joined in, then the thirst took over. Old Faithful was not near as exciting for them as it could have been since their focus was on lunch. You'd think I'd learn my lesson by the 4th kid and always carry drinks and snacks with me. Then Friday night, Dad and I took Tatum and Travis to see some RC airplanes and a preview of the airshow..... right before dinner. It wasn't too long after the planes were in the air that Travis piped up with "I'm bored and hungry".

Ah, is honesty really the best policy? All the time?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fun on the way

Okay, so some of these were before we left, and it wasn't all fun.... I don't think the cats really missed us.

A mushroom cloud Tanner pointed out to us. He said, Mom it looks like a bomb! I only caught half of it out the car window. But the other side looked like a mushroom too.
Teagan trying out Tanner's football equipment.
Teagan enjoying his watermelon. That kid can suck down some melon. We have to watch him though, he'll chew up the rind too.

And now for our, "We finally made it to Iowa" story. We left the house at 9 am. Everything went smoothly, until about 12:30 around Covington, Indiana. The Rv started chugging like it was running out of gas. So, we stopped for gas. Shortly, after entering Illinois, it chugged and stalled several times on the side of the highway. Just a bit past Champaign, it finally died. This was 2:30 in the afternoon. Thank goodness for Motor Clubs. After waiting about 4 hours for a tow truck, the kids and I jumped into a taxi and headed to Peoria. Luckily, we found a hotel with an indoor swimming pool, which saved a little of my sanity. Meanwhile, Bobby is still waiting for the tow truck. Apparently, the only place in Illinois that could possibly fix the RV was in Peoria, an hour from where we broke down. The worse part of that was, there was an RV sales and service center IN THAT TOWN! But this was Friday afternoon...... Anyway, Bobby finally made it Peoria about 9:30 pm. So, Saturday morning, while munching on our continental breakfast, the mechanic calls to say, "the oil filter's clogged but, in my experience, that screws up the fuel pump, so I recommend replacing that too. It will be $725." What?!?!?! Being the frugal person that I am, I say, no way. Just replace the filter. Bobby also had them throw in the fuel pump part. Apparently, the tow truck driver removed the drive axle or something (and threw it in the RV, so now there are grease stains to go with the ground in Play Doh), so the labor for puting that back, replacing the fuel filter, and the cost of the fuel pump was $460. Add the taxi, the tow, and the hotel, and we spent over $700! So much for souvenirs and fun money.
Okay, so Saturday around noon, we're finally heading out of Peoria. Hmm, funny, the RV is acting up again. So we pull off into an abandoned parking lot in the sweltering heat, and Bobby replaces the rear fuel pump that the mechanic recommended we replace for $725. Remember? So it runs a little better now, and we finally make it to Iowa. Yayyyy!!! Oh, wait, no, it's chugging again. After chatting with his cousin, Bobby learned that the rear pump going out wouldn't make it chug. The front pump would. Great. According to 411, there's an O'Reilly's on Hwy 101 in Iowa City. Oh, here's the exit, should we stop? Well, the kids are asleep, it's running okay......
Ten minutes later, we're dead on the side of the highway. Again. And, on a hill, in a construction zone, so there's really no shoulder. We limped into Iowa City, rolled into a gas station parking lot as the RV died, just a couple blocks from the O' Reilly's. Fate? Or just dumb luck? (Oh wait, I forgot, there was another stop somewhere in Illinois at an Autozone. There they recommended disconnecting the O2 sensor, calling it quits and heading home.) Anyway, while we roast in the parking lot, Bobby crawls under the RV, again, to replace the front fuel pump, for another $100. How convenient. There's a Dominoes Pizza next door. Guess what's for dinner? We make it out of Iowa City, 9pm Saturday night, when we should have been in South Dakota at a campground, heading for Mt Rushmore in the am.
When we got stuck in Peoria, and knew we wouldn't make it to the Mt Rushmore KOA in time for our reservation, Dad suggested a different route. (Side note: After hearing of our plight, the KOA graciously refunded our deposit despite canceling a Saturday reservation on Friday afternoon) So, on to our new route...... we headed into Nebraska. Somewhere between Iowa City and Ogallala, NE, Bobby ascertained that we needed to stop for gas when we got down to half a tank or the RV would start chugging and staul again. That worked for awhile, but eventually got annoying. After filling up in Ogallala, we were driving down the bleakest, loneliest looking stretch of country road in NE when...... the chugging....... like 15 minutes after we filled up. I'm really surprised that my poor husband didn't run into oncoming traffic at this point. He was so frustrated. Oh wait, the oncoming traffic was one car or truck that only drove by every 10 minutes or so. That's right. So, they probably would have had time to swerve, if not stop, before hitting him. Anyway, he crawls under the RV. Again. And what, to his surprise, does he discover? A broken wire! To the FLIPPING FUEL PUMP!!! Hmm, how long has that been like that? Since Peoria perhaps? Ugh!!! So he fixes the wire...... and smooth sailing after that. Even the stretch from Casper, WY to Dad's house that I drove while everyone else slept. Except for a deer, a fox, and half a dozen rabbits, it was a pretty boring stretch of road. Well, except for the curves, hills and tunnels through the Wind River Canyon. Thankfully, it was dark at that time, and I couldn't see how far down the "scenic overlooks" went. We arrived at Dad's at 4 am. How cool is Mapquest? Door to door directions. I called Dad to say, Hey, we're out front.
As if that was the end of the story...... after about 4 hours of sleep, we seemed to be doing just fine, until we were several hours into our Yellowstone expedition on Monday evening. For those that haven't been, yeah, there's mountains there. So lots and lots of up and down. Oh, the forest fires. Forgot that part. That added who knows how many hours to the trip to the park. Normally, my Dad is 75 miles from Yellowstone's east entrance. Unfortunately, it was closed due to the fires, so we had to drive up to Cooke City, to go in the Northeast entrance. Uh, if you have a fear of heights, especially when combined with curvy roads, and shear drop offs, I don't recommend a window seat when driving Chief Joseph's Highway.
Anyway, we were almost through the park to get to our campground, when the annoying chug returned. We stopped and let the RV chill for 10-15 minutes a couple times before we came out of the park, and somehow made it to the campground in West Yellowstone, MT. For future reference, unless you have some unrequited need for an indoor swimming pool or nearness to a tourist town, camp in the park. Save the driving for the sightseeing.
Tuesday, we toured, hiked and picnicked in Yellowstone with my Dad, stepmom and little sister (in their car). That gave the RV a day to rest. That evening, after we were sightseed out, to quote Bobby, we came back to the campground. The kids, Dianna, Lauren and I took the kids swimming, while Bobby and Dad worked on the RV. Again. Apparently, in Peoria, when the dumbass mechanic sold Bobby the fuel pump, uh, it wasn't the right one. So, my creative mechanic husband did some rigging. See if you can follow: the new pump on the rear tank was the wrong one. The new pump on the front tank worked fine. The old pump on the front pump worked fine and was still connected, so he spliced it somehow to run on the rear tank. I'm sure there are technical terms involved here, but, this story is long enough. Suffice it to say, that seemed to cure all our ills. We had no more problems either in Montana, driving back though the park and mountains, or on the way home. Until we were almost in the dreaded state of Illinois. No offense to any Illinoisians (it really is a pretty state, if you like cows and corn), but I don't think I have ever had such contempt for one state. Remember, that is where our problems first started, plus the dumbass mechanic, and I didn't mention the one hour taxi ride with four cranky kids and no AC!. Anyway, we made it home, with a few chugs (but no stauls) through Illinois and a couple in Indiana. Bobby thinks the wire rigging he did to the rear fuel pump was just loosened on the rough roads in ILLINOIS! We even managed a quick visit with an online friend in Iowa, and a stop at Sonic. Mmm, coconut cream pie shakes.
We made it home just after midnight. And went back to ordinary life when the alarm went off at 7:30am. On to the first day of school and back to football practice.

Frog Pond

The kids took a day off while we were at Grandpa's house. There is a frog pond at Homesteader Park in Powell. The kids loved it.

Teagan, flirting with some older chicks.

Fun pics

The second day of our camping trip at Yellowstone, we took the kids to the Grizzly Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana. Tanner and Travis
The older boys participated in their Keeper Kids program. They got to go in the bear enclosure (sans bears), and hide food for the bears. These next pics are the bears looking for the food when they were let back in.

This is Sam. It's hard to tell from a pic, but he's 1000 POUNDS!!!
The "Grizzly" couch
There are several painted Bison like this in W. Yellowstone. It seemed very Gatlinburgesque. Yeah, I made that word up.

See, pictures just aren't accurate. These are of Nakina (or Kobuk, her twin brother). They are half the size of Sam.
The wolves just slept the whole time we were there.

Teagan, thinking he's going to go jump in the river.
Yeah, I know it's the hind end, but he's still a moose.
The North Entrance to Yellowstone.

Scenic pics

There is a set of stairs waaay over there. My Dad had talked about walking that trail, but after huffing and puffing up a sloped trail, I couldn't fathom walking up that set of stairs. I believe that is part of Uncle Tom's Trail.
The river leading up to the waterfall.
Another Old Faithful shot.

This is actually Chief Joseph's Highway outside the park. It was really hazy due to the forest fires in the area. We're at the top of the mountain at this point. You can't really make out the road down at the bottom from this angle.

Lots more pics

The next several pics are of the same waterfall. We took the trail down to the overlook. It was pretty cool, although it was a heck of a hike.

See the rainbow?

Mammoth Hot Springs
Tatum and Grandma
Right outside our car window
Teagan and Daddy at the top of the trail. Mommy, Grandpa and Tatum were still huffing down at the bottom. Make a note, if you're ever at Yellowstone and you see a sign for Upper Brink of the Falls, ignore it and look for the one that says Lower Brink of the Falls. It was only 3/8 of a mile but straight up and down!

Vacation pics

Playing in the Yellowstone River Tanner
Teagan and Aunt Lauren
Paint pots
Lobby of the Old Faithful Inn
Fireplace in lobby
Teagan and Daddy at Beryl Springs

Tower Falls
Firehole Falls
Kids and Grandpa
Tanner and Trav at Spasm Geyser
Old Faithful