Sunday, 30 March 2008
Thursday, 27 March 2008
The journey to Alamogordo (the closest town to white sands) took us about 2 hours from
We drove through Alamogordo and straight to the White Sands National Monument. The whole white sands area of desert covers almost 300 square miles. A section of this has been preserved as a national park (called the monument) and is available for people to explore and enjoy. The kids picked up a junior ranger pack again here, and they are now junior rangers to about 5 different parks. The packs are very educational, and they really enjoy doing them. It's a great way for them to learn about the area they are living in, and they are usually free or just a nominal $1 fee.
As soon as we drove into the park the kids (and I) couldn't wait to get out of the RV and into the sand. The sand is made from gypsum, is completely white, and remains constantly cool, despite the soaring summer temperatures of up to 120 degrees. The dunes are constantly moving, so the scenery never looks the same. The dunes are just beautiful to look at. I had never even heard of this place before, yet it is one of the rarest places on the planet. Part of the white sands area (60 miles from where we were) was used as the testing site for the worlds first atomic bomb.
No doubt though, what Jimmi and Annabelle enjoyed the most, was sledging down the dunes. Every year hundreds of kids visit the park to slide down the dunes, and we hired a plastic snow sledging disc from the gift shop. We oiled the bottom of it to make it go faster and spent a full day just sliding down the dunes. Little Barney was happy enough sliding down on his bottom so
At the end of our first night at the dunes we headed off to find somewhere to sleep for the night and ended up dry camping (eg no hook ups) at a nearby state park. We drove up to it at about 8pm. It was so extremely dark that we had no idea what the park or our camp site looked like. When we woke in the morning we discovered we were sleeping in a beautiful wilderness, right beneath a big mountain. So we decided to stay there another night (this time with hook ups). The sky was awesome the nights we stayed here. There seem to be so many more stars in the wilderness. Maybe its because there are no street lights. But on a clear night you can't help but sit out looking at them. On our second night there the kids put on a rock concert for us! Five tunes from Tenacious D, Within Temptation, Nightwish, System of a Down and Evanescence! We watched it by flash light and it was quite a show!
We have headed further west now, (despite me wanting to build a tent and live in the sand dunes!) This morning when we left we had no idea where we were going. Only that we are heading towards Arizona. We drove through Las Cruces and avoided going into El Paso (as had been our original plan) as we heard it was just a big industrial city. We stopped at a missile museum on the way and learnt a bit about atomic warfare! We ended up at an RV park in Demming. It's a Passport America RV site and is only $12 a night for us, so we drove up a long lonely dirt track to get to it, expecting it to be not very nice. Only to discover an amazing little place in the wilderness, set next to another mountain. As soon as we pulled up in our space we noticed literally hundreds of huge desert hares playing around the area, and just dozens of road runners busily running about the place! The kids were completely impressed and so we might stay here tomorrow and just watch nature.
Please be sure to check out all the photos as I just wanted to put them all onto the blog but had to restrain myself!
Monday, 24 March 2008
Saturday, 22 March 2008
Our sat nav tried to drive us to New Mexico up the busy interstate roads, so we totally ignored her and made our own way up the country roads. That made our journey a lot longer, but the scenery was breath taking. I particularly enjoyed the drive between Fort Davis and and Kent up the 118. This drive took us through the Davis Mountain range, an area full of hundreds of picture perfect round small mountains, covered in thousands of tiny short trees, which Barney said looked like Broccoli fields. As we drove through it I just sat imagining how the Apache would have lived on the land here a few hundred years ago. The area was still so unspoilt, apart from the road. I talked to the kids about the Apache people while we drove along, and we imagined their villages, homes and way of life.
After the 118 we headed towards the Guadalupe Mountains, still in Texas but on the border to New Mexico. We drove through the Apache Mountains, the Baylor Mountains, the Sierra Diablo Mountains and the Delaware Mountains, along a road that was covered in hills and dips. I've never seen so many mountains in my life as I have driving through Texas. Eventually we arrived at the Guadalupe Mountains, the highest peek in Texas, so we stopped at the visitors centre for an hour or so. Here we took a scenic one mile walk, and spent quite some time inside the visitors centre while the kids answered Junior Ranger questions. Jimmie spent ages filling in his book with info about the animals that lived in the region. Back when we were in Big Bend, the kids became official junior rangers. They completed some activities that taught them about the area, and did some things like picking up rubbish to help the area. They were then sworn in as junior park rangers and presented with certificates and badges. They made a solemn promise to protect America's National Parks. Now, little Barney is really into the 'Power Rangers' at the moment, so becoming a 'Junior Ranger' was a huge deal to him! When we got to the Guadalupe Mountains national park he ran round like a wild thing collecting and disposing of litter, as his job as a junior power ranger. Bless.
Anyway, now we are at Carslbad RV Park in Carlsbad, New Mexico. We had booked three nights here but have extended it to five as the kids are loving the place so much, and it will give Dan and I some time to relax. Being spring break, there are lots of kids vacationing here, which means Annabelle and Jimmie have made a lot of new friends. There is an indoor pool, a kids park, petting zoo, games room, and various organised activities for the Easter Weekend. Annabelle and Barney have already competed in an easter picture competition, and Annabelle has been on a disco hay ride with a heap of other kids.
Yesterday we took a trip to the Carlsbad Caverns, which are 11 miles away. I was horrified to learn that the walk into the caverns would take an hour and a half, or else we could take an elevator down to the bottom of the caves, 800 ft below ground. Well, being rather claustrophobic, (as anyone who read my MRI scan blog knows!) I wasn't took chuffed about the elevator. But I couldn't expect my kids to make that walk. So I held my breath, shook like a leaf and walked into the elevator where the ranger proceeded to tell me horrifying facts, such as that I was going 75 storey's down under the earth. To make it worse, the elevator had windows to show the terrifying fact that we were being lowered 800 ft down through a solid rock tube. Oh my.
But the walk around the caves was lovely, despite the fact that spring break made it one of the busiest weekends of the year to visit. The caves weren't all that different from the Marble Arch caves in Northern Ireland, only that they were deeper under ground. The drive to the top of the mountain where the cave entrance is was breath taking. We were so high up above New Mexico and could see for hundreds of miles. New Mexico has been so much warmer than I expected, and not very windy. This sort of weather is just perfect for us. Photography was allowed in the caves, much to my amazement, but Dan doesn't have his tripod with him, so we were limited in our photographic abilities as the caves were just too dark for really good pictures.
Today we are celebrating Easter. We were surprised to find out that they dont have the big boxed Cadburys type easter eggs in America that we have at home. The kids were a little disappointed when I told them. So I bought lots of packets of mini eggs and little chocolate rabbits and stuff , made up easter baskets and hid them around the RV.
There is now a New Mexico album, and I put a few extra photos in Texas Album 2 as well.
Wednesday, 19 March 2008
We have been here three days, and apart from a walk through the town (it is really tiny, a small village really), the visit to the fort, and a trip to the play park, we have spent a lot of time in the RV. The weather here has been a shock since our stint in the desert. It's windy here , feels more like home. Although we haven't had all the rain and floods that other places in Texas have suffered from. With the weather here being cold we decided to look into the temperatures for the places we are heading to, and had a bit of a shock. Tomorrow we head north into New Mexico, which will be a bit colder than here. But after that we had intended to visit Colorado, even further north. It has been a dream of mine all my life to see The Rockies. But we were disappointed to find out that it is still covered in snow and we could be subjected to bellow freezing temperatures. So a sudden change of route was in order.
We have spent hours over the last few days, with maps out, researching, plotting and planning. Thank goodness for the Internet and google! Our route has completely changed and we will cover even more miles now, in order to remain warm. We had booked and paid for the RV for four months with the idea that we may stay for six months. We decided yesterday that we can't afford to hire it for six months, as it really isn't cheap, so we came to a compromise of 5 months. At that point we had been here 7 weeks and had 10 weeks left. Dan realised that we needed to book the flights home before they got any more expensive, so it was time to really sit down and plan. Dan phoned Cruise America (the RV hire company) and said that we'd like to keep the RV for one extra month, only to be told by the lady on the phone that our RV is going out on hire the day we are due to return it (31st May), and that they have no other RV's left for hire. It was really disappointing, and we decided to book our flights home after 4 months as there was nothing to be done.
But this morning Dan decided to go onto the Cruise America website and try to book the RV online. We were shocked to discover that we could hire an RV online, for the dates we requested, and that the lady on the phone had not told us the truth! Could she just not be bothered to sort it out for us? Dan immediately phoned the San Francisco branch of Cruise America where we are due to return the RV and asked to add another month onto it. They said that we could, but we'd have to go to San Francisco on 31st May to sign the new contract, and then return the RV to San Francisco on 28th June to return the RV. That was no use at all. We are due in California in about 3 weeks time, so theres no way we could be there on 31st May and then again on 28th June. But they said there was no way around it. So Dan, being the man he is, phoned the manager of Cruise America and told her the situation. She said not to worry, she would just extend our hire without all that silly fuss, and we only have to return it on the 28th without doing extra trips. So now we are staying an extra month! (14 more weeks from now!)
We have booked our flights home for the 3rd July, San Francisco to Dublin, a 13 hour flight. Our new route will take us from New Mexico, westard into Arizona, up to the Grand Canyon and into Nevada, through LA into the southern part of California, much much sooner than expected. From there we have two options... option A drive right up California into Oregon then East toward Yellowstone Park, down into Colorado and then west into Utah, coming back into California to hand the RV back and fly home, option B drive half way up California, head east into Utah, miss out Colorado due to weather, head north and drive west back to Oregon, then down into the north of California, ending in San Francisco. Which route we take will be dependant on the weather at the time. That was probably really hard to understand if you haven't been sitting with a map all day like I have, so here are two maps. Option A and Option B. The red lines are where we have already traveled, black dots are where we have stayed. The green lines are an extremely rough plan of where we will be going from here. But it's all subject to change. Click on the little maps to see the full size image.
By the way, if you are looking for the newest photos, they are in Texas Album 2.
Monday, 17 March 2008
Tuesday, 11 March 2008
Saturday, 8 March 2008
After having breakfast in the car park we headed straight for the battle ship which cost us the equivalent of about £15 for the whole family which was great value. The ship was amazing, there were three self guided tours which you could go on and we did them all, and that was just the battleship. You could walk through lots of rooms and touch almost everything, it was fascinating to see all the different rooms and get a taste of what it must have been like to be at sea. With the exception of the officers, life aboard a warship would have been, lets say “compact” and it was very interesting to see how they lived their lives.
Anyone that knows me would guess that I spent the entire day talking about how much organizing would be involved taking a warship to sea over long periods of time with a crew of 2500 men aboard, and how much supplies and equipment you would need. The ship had aboard a doctors, dentist, barbers, hospital, bakery, massive kitchens, stores for weapons and uniforms, as well as temporary prison cells, darkroom for the photography, printers and pretty much everything you could think of. Even the hospitals had a mix of doctors specializing in almost every field of medicine.
I could go on about it all day because we learnt so much about the day to day running of the ship and the manpower to work there.
The kids really enjoyed the day and even barney who had his little legs walked off him loved it. There is so much to see and explore there its impossible to be bored. It was cold today though, felt like home when the wind blew.
Tomorrow we head for Mississippi for four days before heading on to New Orleans in Louisiana. No camp site booked this time we will just see what happens when we get there. Bye for now.