Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Pictures of the trip back home

After Alabama we headed north on our way back home.  We stopped at two places, the first was Jimmy Davis State Park in Louisiana.  We had only one day here and it was a nice state park filled mostly with what appeared to be locals.  We swam of course everyone's favorite but out of the water it was too hot to do anything.  I was itching for a camp fire since we hadn't had one for a while.  Our campground's at Disney and Gulf State Park didn't have fire rings.  This one did but it was just too hot to sit outside by a fire so we skipped it at this stop as well.  It's funny when we pulled in the day before we saw campers with cattle fans setup outside. It seemed odd but now we got it, no way you could sit outside and just hang out without some air movement. We were pretty much confined to the camper when not swimming.  Well expect for Marcus who was scooting all around the campground and would pop in red faced every once in a while.  The other two scooted a bit and we did try it outside for a while but it was just crazy hot out.  So after supper without much else to do I announced I'd like to go to West Monroe that was 40 minutes away and see a movie.  Everyone liked that idea and we struck out to hit the 6:55 showtime of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. We made it in plenty of time and sat in the nice cool theater for about 40 minutes before the show started.  Marcus, Lucas, and I even finished a large popcorn and made it back for a second tub before the movie started, a first for us.  Not that we really wanted the second tub at that point but it was more the principle of the thing, or so I thought. Towards the end of the show Marcus said a pained "here dad take this away" and handed me the nearly empty tub.

The next and final stop on our SE adventure was Lake Ouachita State Park, Arkansas.  It was a short drive at four hours and we had heard about the Crater of Diamonds State Park from a guy at work which just happened to be on the way so we figured we'd stop off a couple hours to strike it rich mining for diamonds.  Mining for diamonds was fun but it was too hot out to stay very long.  We  rented a screen and washed rocks in the blazing sun for a while.  We found a lot of things we thought maybe could be diamonds but turned out to be just quartz.  Little tip be sure to go through and look at all the diamond exhibit stuff before you head to the field, probably would have helped us figure out what we were looking for.  Sounds like only 1 or 2 diamonds are found a day so pretty unlikely we would have happened across one but it was fun and if it wasn't so hot I could have stayed all day washing rocks.  After mining for diamonds it was a couple hours to Lake Ouachita.  We got setup and headed out to the beach.  It was a very clear water lake. We could see fish swimming around so spent a lot of time snorkeling around looking at them.  I even saw a really big bass which was cool.  We were there for two days the first just swimming and hanging around the campsite, it was still really hot but we had a couple of camp fires here anyway.  The second day we went to check out Hot Springs National Park. It was only 15 miles away and must be the strangest national park ever.  It's really in the town and is mostly a row of bath houses and a couple of trails.  I think I was expecting a big hot pool/lake of water or something but it's nothing like that.  We walked around and filled our water bottles up with some hot and cool spring water and drank some 4000 year old water.  There was a mountain tower overlook that we went to and then we drove around to the west mountain loop road.  Overall it was neat just not what any of us expected.  We went back and swam in the afternoon and the boys and I did a quick 1/2 mile hike on a trail by our campsite and got ready to head home the next day.

The ride home was brutal.  We figured on 14 hours from AK to SD but with stops and everything it took us 17 hours.  We left at 8am Friday morning and got home at 2am Saturday morning.  We didn't have any trouble with the ride and the kids did really well it was just a long day for everyone.  The kids decided to have a Disney movie marathon so could only pick Disney movies out of their collection for the entire trip.  Which caused some turmoil when Marcus tried to pick a none Disney Movie about 12 hours in.  His rebellion was quickly and mercilessly crushed, with full parent support (after all they had been talking about it all day and were this far in).  We got home blurry eyed and piled out and went to bed leaving the trailer hooked up and parked in the road instead of backing it into the drive way.

View from our Jimmie Davis site
A lot of camper movie time these last two stops
Lake Ouachita

Our site at the Lake Ouachita Campground. The campground was one of the nicer one's I've seen with everything up on retaining walls overlooking the lake and flat crushed rock or cement camping areas.  My preference if for something a little more natural but it was really nice.

More Lake Ouachita



Lucas and Marcus made a bowling alley out of some starter firewood and the bocci ball set

The lanes were open late
Hot Springs NP, hot water coming out of a fountain

Bathhouses
Trail behind the bath houses where you could see some hot water from the springs coming down the hill in a natural setting

Marcus photo bomb



Marcus' future career??
Just lovely, and there's a nice flower in the picture as well.
The Mountain Tower
Top of the tower

View from the top


Marcus and I took the stairs down
The top of the west mountain driving loop


I finally got some hiking in. Lucas, Marcus, and I on the dogwood trail by our campsite.  It's a short 1/2 mile hike.



We are done, another trip in the books.  Our SE Adventure had some ups and downs but overall was another epic trip.  I'm writing this over a week after being home, it's funny how after just a few days the struggles and hardships that were there in the moment and even took center stage on this one a little more than our other two trips are fading away and leaving fond memories.  There's places I'd go back to in a second and some I'd skip but there's wonder and adventure everywhere in this great country, I can't wait to hit the road again and explore some more.

And Finally the Family Truckster update
Miles Driven: 4956

Gallons of Gas: 487

Time in car: 127 hours

We had the longest drive ever this year with the last drive back home, 802 miles which took over 17 hours. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

DAY NINETEEN - DAY TWENTY-TWO The Gulf of Mexico in Alabama.

DAY NINETEEN - DAY TWENTY-TWO The Gulf of Mexico in Alabama.

I feel like I could sum this up really quite quickly by just saying "this was where we were meant to be."

To be sure the drive to get to Alabama took a full day, and setting up in the dark, five feet from an alligator-infested canal was scary (I was told), but man was it worth it.

It still rained quite a bit, but when it wasn't, we were in the water snorkeling and swimming. It sort of made the beach umbrellas we thought we needed obsolete, but they did come in handy for snack breaks.

The sand at this beach was unreal. It was like light caramel colored powdered sugar. It actually squeaked when we walked through it; it was so fine. While it did bring me a slight flashback to April Fools Day when the kids literally covered my floors in powdered sugar, I was quick to recover. It was too perfect not to.  

The first day there we made friends with a little girl who had strawberry blonde hair, freckles, and a thick southern accent. She was totally adorable and loved a good chat. Near the end of the day, I happened to look down in the surf and plucked out a perfect black shark tooth. I showed all the boys and Jason was quite jazzed. When our southern friend came to look at it she turned her enormous blue eyes up at me and said, "Can I have that shark tooth?" I explained that I really wanted to keep for the boys and then she said, "But I never had a real shark tooth." Well, I couldn't argue with that, especially when we had a whole jar of shark teeth at home from a previous trip. I looked in the surf and sand the following two days for another tooth and never did find one.

On our last day at the beach, I told Jason I was going to see how far I could walk out before I couldn't touch and told him he was coming with. This was not his idea of a good time as earlier we had seen fins in the water that we half-heartedly identified as dolphins, but he came with anyway. Just as I was up to my shoulders in water, a school of Mullets dove out of the water right behind Jason and scared him half to death. We quickly laughed our way back to more shallow water, and I reminded him that they jump not only when they're being chased (by sharks), but sometimes just for fun. It was probably just for fun, right?

Later that evening, we walked the endless pier from which we spotted a shark. We ended the evening by going to a delicious seafood restaurant, where we all sampled gator and ate way too much.

This was everybody's favorite stop.

  

Gulf Shores Alabama Pictures

After Disney we drove across Florida to Gulf State Park by Gulf Shores Alabama, it's just west of Orange Beach.  The drive was long as usual, we got a late start as I fiddled with the underbelly of the camper which had pulled free and was dragging on the ground.  That took a couple hours to fix up and we headed out about noon.  It was a10 hour drive day and with the late start meant we got in after dark.  Our site was along a canal and it was right there, all I could think of was alligators as I hurried to get the camper setup.  No one would dare to get out to help so I was all alone out there with just the light from my headlamp. I didn't blame them it was freaky and I don't think I ever setup the camper as fast as I did that night. But of course all was fine and once setup we headed right to bed.  The next day we got up and hit the beach mid-morning the sun was shinning and we were excited to get to the water.  The state park beach access was just across the road so only a couple of minutes drive and we were there.  Everyone was having fun then the clouds behind us over land started getting dark and thunder started rolling, no one seemed alarmed but from where we're from (and I thought everywhere else) when you see lightning you get out of the water.  We stuck it out for a few more minutes talking about it but then Becky and I saw a couple of bolts so we yelled at the kids and packed it up.  We figured we needed to get some sun umbrella's anyway if we were going to survive at the beach for any amount of time so went to the campground store and then back to the camper to have lunch.  Later that afternoon the sun came out again and we stayed at the beach until dusk.  Next days were more of the same we spent most of our time at the beach or back at the camper resting from the beach. Our second day there I took the truckster into town to get the oil changed while everyone had an afternoon nap.  The last day we said good bye to the beach late that afternoon and got ready to explore the pier and head into town to have some seafood.  The pier is reportedly the longest into the Gulf and it was pretty impressive.  I saw the shadows of a few sharks swimming around but in the evening light it was hard to see into the water.  All and all this was a great stop the beach and water were amazing, they had powder fine sand that squeaked when you walked on it.  The Munsch's love Gulf Shores Alabama.


Shot of the campsite, in the light of day wasn't as menacing as I imagined, but still it is really close to the water.

Another view of our campsite, pull through spot was nice arriving after dark.

The Beach





Luke was finding shells with holes in them so we could make necklaces.  Becky found a shark tooth but gave it to a little girl that was playing with the boys, "never had a shark tooth before" said in a southern tone. How could anyone resist. 


Our beach base, umbrellas are life savers.

The pier

This is only about a third of the way out, didn't get a good shot of the whole thing

A nice lady fishing offered to take our picture

Look at this fun guy

Checking out some souvenir shops while waiting for a table on our night out.  Tomorrow we're heading north

DAY EIGHTEEN-The Magic Kingdom.

DAY EIGHTEEN-The Magic Kingdom.

Out of all the parks, the Magic Kingdom was the least favorite amongst 100 percent of Munschs who were surveyed.

We had just been to Disneyland two years previously, and this was just more of the same. Except for this time, there were a zillion more people. We mostly relied on our fast-passes to get through the park and skipped all of the little kid rides. And It's A Small World.

However, when we went to redeem our fast pass for Splash Mountain, they turned us away as there was a ride malfunction. In my three other Disney visits combined there had been a total of zero ride malfunctions. This visit to the parks it was more the rule than the exception. They did say we could come back at any time in the day to redeem our passes, so we just wove that into the rest of our visit and it wound up working a lot better. But I did feel especially bad for the people who had been waiting in the regular line for over an hour and were evacuated. Hopefully, they got a voucher for a free donut the size of their heads.   

There were only two lines that we waited in. First up, The Peter Pan ride, which was disappointing. I mean, I would wait 45 minutes tops for that ride. Not an hour and a half. One kid, who was clearly overindulged, had a folding beach chair that he would kick along the line and then sit in. He was maybe 10, but could not be bothered with standing in a line for that long. He used his time shuffling along in his chair playing videos games. Apparently, the Disney magic that surrounded him was not captivating enough, and it was pretty impressive as the waiting area of that ride was at least as good as the ride itself. Also, what did he do with that chair when he got on the ride? Did it ride with him? Did he hand it off to a cast member? Did he play his game while he rode? So many questions.
 
We also waited for an hour and forty-five minutes at the Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster, where exactly one hour and forty-two minutes in, Lucas exclaimed that he had to go to the bathroom and wanted to get out of line. Um. No. It turns out he was nervous that the coaster was going to be scary. We reassured him that it was not even close to scary and he managed to hold it through the ride which lasted about 45 seconds. Whew. To be fair, I also needed to use the bathroom in a serious way in that same line. There really should be little way stops with bathrooms in those super long lines. Our kids were old enough to hold it, but I can't imagine being there with younger kiddos who aren't as capable. Or you know, just other people who didn't have 1-gallon bladders made of steel.

We hit all the rides we set out to ride and finally decided to call it a night. Waiting in the line for the ferry was by far the worst part of our day. Samus was pretty sure that his feet hurt more than anybody's feet in the history of humanity. Thankfully we would be riding in the car most of the next day.

When we finally got back to the camper, we piled inside and slept like dead horses.

Friday, June 23, 2017

DAY SEVENTEEN-Hollywood Studios

Hollywood studios was delightfully laid back and we didn't wait in many long lines here either.

First up was the Tower of Terror. Lucas and grandpa stayed firmly on the ground for this ride. I think Luke would have made it, but I'm not sure we would ever have gotten him on another elevator, so it was probably a good idea for him to watch. Until we got on the ride I had Marcus convinced that the hotel used to be real. Not my finest parenting moment. Consequently, he kept his eyes closed the whole time.

When we came down from the Tower of Terror, Jason bought all the boys donuts the size of their heads. We later found out that grandpa had already bought Lucas a donut the size of his head. Still, he managed to cram the second donut down his yell whole with little effort.

We also enjoyed the Star Wars simulated flight where, during one ride, Jason was the fugitive on board. They put up a picture of him right in the middle of a yawn. It was hilarious. My dad stage whispered, "it looks like he escaped from an insane asylum." He was pretty pleased with himself.

Did I mention it rained almost the whole day? It did. But Hollywood Studios is compact enough that we ran into very few issues with the rain. We just dashed from one thing to the other. The only thing the ran really put a damper on was the live Indiana Jones stunt spectacular. They were unable to perform the airplane scences, but the kids didn't know that, so they had a great time. They all agreed that the stunts looked more polished than the fighting at Mideval Times. Yep.

The Aerosmith Rocking Rollercoaster was probably one of our favorites. Well, at least for my mom, Marcus, and me. We went on it three times. My mom and I live a good coaster. We generally just laugh hysterically for the entire ride. When you go as a single rider and have to go with a stranger, this can be awkward, but whatever, I warned my strangers.

One under the radar ride is Buzzlightyear's Shooting Gallery. That ride was awesome!! We did have to wait a bit for this one and my dad nearly lost it several times, but somehow we kept him from going full honey badger and the ride was totally worth it.

At one point in the day, we were walking down the street and a white, old timey, open top car with three women dressed to the nines in fifties gear were mocking guests and singing. We stopped briefly as the ladies were arguing about whether or not they should sing a song and my father shouts, "I think you should sing it!" So then one of the ladies says she'll sing it just for my dad. After a few minutes she gets out of the car and snuggles up to my furry father. He truly looks like a mountain man. The other ladies try to get her back into the car but she refuses. That is until one of them yells in a snotty southern accent, "He's wearing socks with sandals! You really know how to pick them!" The snuggler's eyes slowly and dramatically shift to my dad's feet and then she gasps. Up to this point I hadn't noticed my dad's white ankle socks and sandals, although I wasn't surprised as this dreamy combo had been a part of his summer ensemble since at least the nineties. The crowd was roaring and my dad was not the least bit phased. Magical!

That evening we hugged my parents goodbye as we hit a few more rides. My father made a wise choice by sitting out the Magic kingdom the following day, instead flying home (Almost. They slept in the Minneapolis airport then drove home with some fellow Aberdonians.)

We caught a few glimpses of the Star Wars fireworks and then went back to the camper to sleep like dead horses.

DAY SIXTEEN-Epcot

DAY SIXTEEN-EPCOT

This was my fourth trip to DisneyWorld. However, all were twenty or more years ago. In fact, twenty years ago exactly, Jason and I were at Disney with my grandma. We even recreated a picture, which I noticed Jason didn't post. Hmph.

Anyway, once again my parents joined us. Once again, it rained. Thankfully Jason had his enormous pack filled with all the things, including rain gear. While the bag did present some trouble when entering the park during the bag inspection, it was well worth it to have anything we needed on Jason's back.

The park wasn't very busy and since we weren't interested in Frozen Ever After, we didn't wait in any long lines. I think we unanimously decided that Soarin' was our favorite ride. I would have just circled around and around if I could have. Everybody else also really liked Test Track. Me, not so much. At one point, Lucas, Marcus, my mom, and I got our faces painted. Lucas was particularly careful with his Mike Tyson-esque dragon face paint and went to great lengths to protect its awesomeness. Marcus, not so much. He smudged it immediately.

The face painting was a major highlight for my mom and me, since we could never afford that type of thing when I was little. But then, for the rest of the day, Jason had to look away from me to talk, otherwise he just laughed. I told him that I had had a lot of compliments from strangers. I left out the part that they were mostly moms asking where I got painted so their early elementary daughters could also look like fairy princesses. There was one elderly grounds keeper who told me, "your face is so beautiful! You should get a picture of it and hang it in your house." I have no idea if he was mocking me, but I took it as a genuine compliment.

A few months back, I had reservations to eat in France, even though Jason objected several times on the grounds that he did not want to eat snails. I was very excited because I could eat the bread. However, I couldn't eat much else. I ended up with half a chicken, unseasoned, and some other unmemorable sides that were also unseasoned. DAMN YOU SOY!

( I must say, that while my food choices were incredibly limited in all the parks, the staff was amazing to work with when it came to all my allergies. They were understanding, patient, and meticulous while helping me to pick my meal choices.)

My parents left early and the Munschs rode Soarin' one last time before rushing to the lake for fireworks.

We were exhausted, and by the time we got back to the camper Marcus' cute little bear face paint had transformed into a brown and orange smeared nightmare. I begrudgingly removed my face paint and we all slept like dead horses.

Monday, June 19, 2017

DAYS FOURTEEN AND FIFTEEN-I need my space.

Day fourteen.
We drove one million miles for 10,000 hours from rainy Myrtle Beach to rainy Orlando.

Day fifteen.
My mom and dad flew in for site seeing!! We picked them up from their hotel and headed to Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Unsurprisingly, it rained most of the day.

Anyway, shortly after arriving, we listened to a guided tour of some rockets. Our tour guide asked where we were from and we responded South Dakota. He then asked a couple of other groups and another couple said South Dakota. What? The tour guide said, "oh, I didn't realize you were all part of the same group." Yeah, we werent. Turns out they were from Yankton. Ocassionally we'd bump into them and my dad would make some amazing dad joke about being from South Dakota. He claims he hates people, but talking to strangers seems to be one of his favorite past times.

By this time we were about an hour in and it was HOT! We stopped at a concession stand and everyone ordered soda or water. Except my mother, who ordered the ever refreshing milk. Never in my life have I been sumprely overheated and thought, "gee. I think I'd like some milk to cool down." What a weirdo.

Next, on the recommendation of the tour guide, we took the bus tour. There was a lot of talking, but it was never very clear what exactly was being discussed as the guide kept using acronyms and NASA jargon. Unfortunately we didn't study for the tour and were left looking around to speculate about to what NRSPT referred.

After the bus tour, we were dropped off at a large building which held several exhibits. Right away my dad found a man giving a tour and we followed him as he explained each exhibit we would see. The guide happened to be in a motorized wheelchair and asked that we watch out for people walking behind him as he wheeled backward through the caverness  building. Marcus took this job very seriously and walked approximately eight inches from the guide. At times I wondered if he was going to crawl into the mans lap.

The quality of the content put out by NASA was amazing. We all learned a lot and we didn't leave until closing. My mom commented, "I really didn't think we would be here all day." We headed back to Orlando and ate at The Olive Garden. The next day we were going to EPCOT Center so we needed to get to bed early. We slept like dead horses.