Thursday, April 4, 2013

Keeping it simple

Chores are part of the Life

Minion Two: "Dad, you said that this is our home away from home..."

Me: "You are right sweetie, this is our home away from home."

Minion Two: "No Dad, I think our other home is our home away from home"

Me: Smiles

That was one of the conversations I had tonight after a long frustrating day at work. But my little minion #2 is correct. We all feel that our camper (Arakkis) is really our home. We love being on the road. Sure, there are struggles, things are not as convenient, but it does feel like we gel as a family so much better.

Over coffee, my wife had a similar conversation. It feels so much more like home. I think simplicity has its advantages. We have a lot less distractions in our life when you have 300+ square feet to live out of. Things have to have a place, you have to be organized. You have to be happy with less.

The advantages and freedom to explore is tangible. We have great views, plenty to do and see, and a lot less headaches. Now, flushing tanks, LP gas refills, camper stabilizing  is not part of a 'normal' life for people, but for us, it is just part of the package. We have parks and playground equipment in our front yard. Our backyard is filled with scenic views of the Wabash. Battlegrounds, historical locations, and fun places await us.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Willie Says...."On the Road Again"

As promised... that crazy family from Indiana is back on the road...

This past winter has been a tough one. We felt the draw to come back home and spend the holidays with family. We didn't know that it would mean that it was the last holiday we got to spend with Jen's dad. However, we got to spend the holidays with family. Got to share great food and warm company.

However, it wasn't too long before the road began to call to us. We had to get some work done on the Arrakis which seemed to take forever. However, most of it was covered by warranty and I am so happy how Basden RV in Evansville has treated us and taken care of our camper! A few hiccups and we were ready to get the camper and head off to new adventure.

Family doing burpees together during a pit stop

What we didn't know was how much we actually packed in order to hit the road. Is it just me, or does it take forever to load everything you need? We did make some modifications to the camper. We added two new beds to the kids room. One is a fold out bed, the other is a toddler bed. It is about the perfect conversion to the kids room so that everyone has a nice comfortable place to sleep. We took out the kitchen table and chairs and added the couch from the kids room. This allows for more comfortable sitting areas for everyone.

So, my client has me in Lafayette, Indiana. Our first night was very cold. We weathered it well. While I was off to work the next morning, Jen and the kids started unpacking, organizing, having school, and getting to know the surroundings. We are located right on the Wabash River with tons of scenic views!

So, a new year of adventure begins. We are ready and excited to see what adventures our travels bring! See y'all on the road!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Twas the year of adventure for the Barnes family six,
RVing, new friends, even snakes in the mix,
Camping by Rivers, Cities and Lakes
Keeping family together, doing what it takes;

Children sleeping, on bunks, floor, and couch,
Happily together, even when dad is a grouch;
A tight little kitchen so we often grill,
Our time together helps us be real.

We homeschooled again for year number two.
Math, reading, and science were given their due.
But there’s more to learn than what’s in a book,
at museums and parks we took a closer look.

To be a junior ranger was our first quest:
We hiked over dunes with hardly a rest;
saw fur traders' cabins,and learned about glaciers,
historic farms, and lizards called racers.

Then came a chance for a family vacation.
South Dakota was our destination.
Red, blue, and green bonnets on girls heads,
came with fun at Laura Ingalls Wilders' homestead

Then westward we went to see Mount Rushmore.
Rattlesnakes and dinos were also in store.
A fatal game of Go Fish with Wild Bill Hickok,
A bus through the needles, Crazy Horse from a rock.

After great times in Hammond and Indy,
we are now at home since it is windy.
In the winter chill we try to get rest,
but this is the season we hurry the best:

Now music lessons, now church, now big family dinners.
Now homeschool groups, now 5k runs and big fitness goals.
On light company, on time with friends, on snowy commutes.
On spartan races, on home repairs and spring soccer fun.

Back to our rv we will return before June.
So dear family and friends, let's visit soon.
Don't forget our savior by whom we've been blessed
Merry Christmas to all, may you have peace and rest.

By Jennifer, Jeff, and Evie Barnes.  Adventures shared by Jayelle, J.J., and Tayla.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fun with Reality TV...

HQ for Antique Archeology... aka History Channel's American Pickers

On our adventure back to our home base where I work, we decided to visit Le Clare, IA. It is the home of one of our favorite TV shows, American Pickers. It is just one of the many adventures you can have on the cheap with your family on the road. 

One of the things I remember after starting my career was a comment made by an old friend named Max. Max was the guy who was just an older version of me. He was a geek, but with entrepreneurial spirit. He is the guy who got me into Amway (an old long story) and taught me how to chase dreams and my own unlimited potential if I just tried hard enough.

He had a dream of living in one of those Prevost Coaches and traveling the country. He could then teach his boys about history up in person. When he needed to teach about the Civil War, he would just point the coach in the direction of some of the great battlefields and away he would go. That was a dream. I shared that dream a little on my own terms.

I love to travel and the freedom of the open roads. I think that is why I like being a consultant. You get to visit new places and see many new things instead of being stuck in one place all your life. While, at the time I would never imagine having four kids, I wanted to fly to Europe and travel the country on my own terms without worry about my next paycheck.

Now, we get to do these things. While yes, I do have a job and must work those hours during the week, I definitely have much more mobility to hitch up and see the country. On our way back from South Dakota, we got the opportunity to experience something that we like to watch on TV. For the kids, it was like putting flesh on the bones in their imagination. TV and the people in it could be real. They could see and touch the things that people only talk about.

That is the real dream. To bring experiences and enriching our lives. I would rather have experiences than all the riches. That is something anybody can do.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hello, Mr. President....

Mt. Rushmore

One of the major attractions and the purpose of our trip to South Dakota was to visit Mt. Rushmore. I have always seen pictures of it in books. I have read about it in reference to the history and its purpose as well as seen it in several movies.

White Mountain Goats at Mt. Rushmore

We wanted to head West. We wanted to go, do and see all there was. We definitely did not want to have a conventional vacation. It always seemed that traditional vacations were more labor than love. You find yourself overly busy, swamped in the details, and while you have memories and pictures, in the end, the holiday becomes so tiresome that you need a vacation from your vacation.

Mt. Rushmore up close

What we wanted was to travel West and see as much as possible but driven by our own ambitions and limitations. Some days we tried to pack it in full of sites and adventures. Others were more low key. I think you need a healthy dose of both to make it fun, keep the kids engaged, and to leave without feeling you have missed anything major.

We visited Mount Rushmore. As you pull up, you are mesmerized by its beauty. It truly is as majestic as you see in the pictures. It amazes me the amount of detail and work that went into building such a monument. It was also interesting to learn about those who built it and it's purpose.

The kids got to soak it in for sure. They got to see it up close, learn, discover, and reflect. It was truly amazing. The parks service was on hand to give guided tours and to teach you about the history. They had a small museum that gave you more background into the history and the building of the monument. Like the Indiana Dunes, they had a Jr. Ranger Program that the kids could be participate in.

In the end, we were blown away.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A visit to Reptile Gardens

Snakes, Gators, Turtles... Oh My!

One of the stops that the kids just had to visit was the Reptile Gardens in Rapid City, SD. It houses the largest collection of venomous snakes in the country, maybe the world. The kids are quite fond of their four pet snakes and thought it would be cool to visit a place that specializes in reptiles.

For me, that close, face to face with things that can kill you.... Ugh!

King Cobra

Needless to say, it made for a fun afternoon. We visited the Reptile Gardens and there was so much to see even in the after season. While crocks and alligators where not on display outside, they did provide great up close views of these wonderful beasts.

Their snake display is quite awesome. I truly have never seen so many different, and yet deadly snakes all in one place. Being only feet away and face to face from the King Cobra was a little unnerving. I truly expected that the snakes would try to strike the class and get me. However, I think that the snakes are rather tame at this point and are used to seeing so many humans in close proximity to them.

Getting Imprisoned at Reptile Gardens

After roaming about, we attended a snake show where one of the handlers brought out a display of snakes for the kids. It was fun to watch the kids get so excited. The handler asked questions about snakes and I was so proud that my kids had the right answer. Do you know the difference between poisonous and venomous? My kids do!

Face to face with a Cotton Mouth...

When the handler brought out the venomous snakes, it was interesting to watch how he tried to interact with the crowd, keep an eye on the snake, and keep it all entertaining. At the end, I did see him start to sweat and it was pretty cool outside. I think the snakes where a little testy, and the crowd filled with kids were asking him a million questions. In the end, no snake handlers were injured in the production of the snake show.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A day of over vacationing...

Wanna' go for a ride?

I never thought it was possible, but maybe....
just maybe....
we did too much in one day.

After visiting Wall Drug in the morning, we had good drive to reach our RV park in Black Hills, SD. This is a small town right outside Rapid City. We had several recommendations for RV parks from our friends on Facebook Groups but we had a hard time getting into some of them. We found a Roadside America campground where our $40 membership allowed us to have a steep daily discount.

The campground boasted a playground, free wireless, and fifty amp service. All these are pluses. The campground wasn't pretty per say, but it did have a laundry and clean shower facilities. Having shower facilities is nice. It keeps humidity down in your camper (a must during the cold months), and with a family of six, keeping a bath schedule can be tough.

our campground

On the downside, the campground didn't have a playground. Not much for the kids to do except roam around and take in the sunshine. The owners said that they did have a playground once, but since it wasn't being used, they just took it down. To me, if you boast a big wooden play set for kids on your website to attract families and then take it down, wouldn't you want to update the website?

It really didn't become a big deal. We were out adventuring and enjoying our vacation. We were only coming back to Arrakis to crash. However, we found in our adventure this week some really cool camp grounds I wish we had chosen over the one we chose. So, our first full day in Rapid City was filled with a visit to Dinosaur Park, The Rapid City Museum, A game of disc golf, seeing the presidents in downtown Rapid City, and a little bit of shopping.

Jen reliving a memory

The dinosaur park, a park that has statues that look almost cartoons is way up in the hills of Rapid City. You can see them from miles away if you know where to look. Jen had visited Rapid City when she was a girl. She had fond memories of getting to climb the dinosaurs with her siblings and it was something she wanted the kids to experience as well. We got there bright and early, and were the first people to climb and explore the park. The kids had a blast, and I got some wonderful pictures to capture the moment.

After the park, we headed to the museum. Museums are great places to visit on vacation. Normally they are inexpensive. Often times if you buy a membership to a museum, they often partner with other museums that allow free access or reduced prices. You also get to learn about the history of the area, attractions that you might want to visit, and the kids get to discover, learn, and experience new things.

Mammoth on display

This museum was a little odd. The front desk person was a little abrupt and the directions and layout of the museum was so convoluted that it took a few minutes for us to figure out just how to get 'in' the museum from the reception area. Once we made a few miss turns, we were 'corrected' and directed to the closed doors which represented the 'entrance' into the museum. Once we were oriented, we got to wonder around and take in the different displays. They had a 'planetarium' which amounted to a video projector and a movie. It was an interesting video, but Tayla taking on the persona of T-Rex decided that it was not for her.

After the museum, we had lunch at some picnic tables near the museum. I was getting a little frustrated with the minions as infighting began. After a quick lunch, I decided on a detour to a disc golf course. This allowed us to expel some pent up energy, and for me to get a quick round to help relax. The park near us was old. Which is hard to find. I believe it was one of the first courses in the country dating back to 1975. It reminded me of playing real golf at the refinery where my dad worked. There were all kinds of man made obstacles such as construction equipment and patios in the way. It did provide some difficulty especially trying to steer clear of Rapid Creek and other tributaries. In the end, we only played five holes because they didn't have public facilities easily located and wouldn't you know it? All of the kids, at the same time, had to use the restroom. I think they got bored and were tired from all the walking.

President Reagan

After moderately good behavior, we decided to head downtown. We took in the 'Art Alley' which is an alley where you can find awesome graffiti and colorful artwork combined. We saw a few of the president statues they have on every corner followed by ice cream. After a little shopping and picking up a t-shirt from a bike shop eloquently named 'Cranky Jeff's', we headed to Stavkirke Church. Afterwards, we were ready to head home and prepare our self for another day of adventure to Sturgis and Deadwood.

Stavkirke Church