Archive for December, 2009

Merry Christmas!
December 26, 2009

DSC02906We had a wonderful Christmas in Charlevoix, and felt so grateful to be home… I cannot imagine Christmas anywhere else.

A number of people have asked if I even bothered to put up a tree…of course, I did!






My kids LOVED going back to school for a couple of days…and Amber made it to the Christmas dance.

We have had many Christmas gatherings, family and friends to hug, babies to kiss, and WAY too much food!

Mom, Dad and a lot of nachos... Mom and her grand-daughters

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We have enjoyed sleeping in our own beds…

We have taken care of doctor’s and orthodontist appointments, haircuts…

We have enjoyed some fun in the snow…

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And now it’s time to re-pack…

What We Know For Sure…
December 15, 2009


Photo courtesy of Always Photographic / Kim Way


Things are not always what they seem. Like the Montezuma Castle, it didn’t look like a castle to me. I also didn’t know we had a rainforest in the U.S.A. but we went to one in Washington.  Before we went I was thinking it would look like a rainforest, rainforest (like green eyed tree frogs, and trees with huge leaves…). But it was really wet. We got drenched!   

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Tyler’s favorite place: Legoland   


Arizona was cool. The desert was full of a lot of kinds of cacti and was really flat with some mountains (and lots of coyotes that wake you up very early in the morning). When we left there and drove to the Grand Canyon, it got to be just plain grass with some mountains, and then rocks and mountains, and then trees with mountains, and then snow and mountains, and then the Grand Canyon. It was all in Arizona!   

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Amber’s favorite place: E. Roen Ranches in California   


Even though I wasn’t with my family yet when they were in the “Wild West,” the west is very spacious. There are a lot of empty fields, rolling hills, mountains, and more fields. They seem to go on forever. Then in southern California it was very populated…then New Mexico and Texas, more fields. There is a lot of “cowboy country” out there!   


Hilary’s favorite place: Oceanside California   

Mom and Dad:   

The technology we had was top notch. Thank you Phil at Hometown Wireless (Alltel/Verizon) in Charlevoix for getting us hooked up. There were very few places that we had no internet service. He drove, I blogged, or cooked, or blogged, or schooled, or blogged… With Skype and e-mail always available, we were able to stay close to home, and stay connected to schools…we would have been very homesick without it.    

The National Parks and Monuments are either free or very cheap ($20-25 per car that’s less than one child’s admission to a Theme Park or the San Diego Zoo), and are well worth seeing…we are still awestruck!   


“Eating in” saves a lot of money.   

“Sleeping on the fly,” as in truck-stops (when we are driving for a couple of days) does too. We payed $17.00 per night at Cabela’s (low), $75.00 per night in San Francisco (high), and $20.00 per night at Chadrin State Park in Pheonix (favorite). We averaged close to $40 per night…but we only stayed in parks about 60% of the time. Although Wal-Mart welcomes RV travelers, we never did “anchor out” at a Wal-Mart.   

This country seems so vast, but it is still such a small world. Checking out at T-shirt shop in a tiny little mountain town in Arizona, and we learn the girl spent her summers on Walloon…this happened over and over.   

Driving across the United States in an RV is, “the ultimate way to see the country!” … and that is a direct quote from my boat loving, Sperry (boatshoe) wearing  husband!!!!   


Our kids have watched very little television for the last two months, but they are totally hooked on computers… Tyler can now help us with our technological needs.   


4 of the 5 laptops on board

The first part of our Way Big Adventure is over…but we have enough memories to last a lifetime.   

And finally, laughter is still good medicine…   


The Lone Star State
December 14, 2009

I am sad to announce that our blogger was sick through Texas. She heard about the Lone Star State, but slept through most of it. Someday we will have to go back and experience Texas again.


Our last official “for fun” stop on this part of our WAY Big Adventure was Dallas, Texas. We found an RV park for showers, laundry, and re-stocking provisions after driving for 2 1/2 days. We then met up with our nephew Dave, his wife Jenna and their 4 month old, Gabe for a “good ol’ Texas barbecue.” Dinner was absolutely delicious, but the company was even better!


We left saying, “Remember the days of having one child?’”

…and much too soon we will be saying “Remember when we took that trip?” and “Remember having three kids at home?”

Life is short –life is a gift – children are a gift- live every day!

Montezuma Castle…a little southwestern history lesson
December 12, 2009


The Sinagua people of the Arizonian Verde Valley were cliff dwellers. While many of them lived in caves and carved out alcoves in the mountains, a group of them built this castle using the sandstone and water from the nearby Beaver Creek. While land in the watershed area of the creek was plentiful for building dwellings, it was reserved for for growing crops. The castle itself housed about 50 people, while the nearby cliffs housed between 100-200.


The alcoves of these cliffs kept them cool during the summer months and warm during the winter months. In the Beaver Creek area there were at least five different Pueblo communities that traded with each other.


The Montezuma castle was home for the Sinagua natives during the 1100’s to 1400’s, but it was never home to the Aztec’s, as the name “Montezuma” suggests.

It Really is a “Grand” Canyon…
December 11, 2009


By Amber:

DSC02717The Grand Canyon was amazingly beautiful with it’s snowy plateau’s and canyons. At first I was a little scared that I would fall off the edge because there was only a stone ledge or little railing to stop you from falling and it was a long way down! I still saw a lot from about four or five feet away from the edge.

Mom’s interjection: Amber is our resident safety patrol! She did not get very close to the edge. In fact, at first she stayed about 20’ away!



    • 50 people have died from falling off the edge from 1925-2008
    • The Grand Canyon was carved by the Colorado River. The sediments and rushing waters sliced down through it.
    • You can hike or ride mules down into the canyon.
    • There are Native Americans that still live in parts of the canyon. They have lived there for 100’s of years.


Doesn’t it look like my parents are standing in front of one of those fake screens?

It’s real!


The Grand Canyon
December 10, 2009

Northern Arizona
December 10, 2009

First and foremost, to our dear friends and family in Michigan who are right now bracing themselves for a second day of the storm that has impacted 2/3 of our nation,we are perfectly fine, no storm here. We postponed our trip into Northern Arizona for a day because the storm was blasting Flagstaff and the higher elevations of Arizona. We got groceries, did laundry and enjoyed our beautiful campground in the desert just outside of Phoenix.  Tuesday morning when we did head out, our drive north into the snow was breathtaking!

mountainsWe had to  take a detour into Jerome, Arizona. An old mining town that is a self-proclaimed “drinking town with an artist problem.” It is a tourist and biker stop on the steep cliffs, with a former Charlevoix resident as the chief of police. Scott went to school with Alan Muma, and Alan is a brother to Scott’s right hand man and long time employee, Rob. We checked out the little town, bought gifts at the local T-shirt shop, and discovered the girl that checked us out grew up in Michigan and spent her summers on Walloon…small world!

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The town’s wishing well was quite interesting too!

 After our brief stop we headed towards Sedona…Wow! What a beautiful place. There were red rock formations everywhere. I wish my photos did it justice.

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As we left the desert and the elevation rose we saw more and more snow…but our roads were clear. On the mountaintop (elev. 6500) and in Flagstaff (elev. 6900) there was at least three feet of snow…a winter wonderland. Amber and Tyler were wishing we would have put the snowpants and boots in the trunk before we left the RV back in Pheonix.

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Mountiantop Elk

To break up the drive to the Canyon, we planned on spending one night in Flagstaff. We had a reservation with a a motel that had a covered pool…and when we arrived we learned that it really was covered…in three feet of snow. We kindly declined that one, and found refuge at a Holiday Inn Express, and spent the afternoon at the Flagstaff Aquatic center, swimming and climbing the rock wall. The kids had fun and our driver got a well deserved break. For dinner we went to Black Barts Steakhouse, where the waiters and waitresses entertained us with song and dance.


They sang while seating us, and serving us too!

Sonoran Desert & Phoenix
December 8, 2009

We said goodbye to California and headed east. We drove through the Sonoran Desert and all eyes were glued to the scenery.

I had no idea that cacti could grow so big! And YES, they are very prickly…just ask Scott!

We also saw a number of these…We were never suspected of being illegal aliens, and we decided against driving across the U.S./Mexican border. This big bus, our blue-eyed blondes…we might look like tourists, or targets.


After crossing into Arizona, we were looking forward to meeting up with Scott’s  cousin Bob and his family. We were so happy to arrive at their home in Chandler, just outside of Phoenix. We enjoyed a great southwestern dinner at “Abuelos” and the teen girls jumped up on his (Abuelos) lap… my girls loved spending time with another girl cousin! I guess you can never have too many!

After church on Sunday, lunch and many laughs, it was time to say goodbye, but we left Hilary there for the night to get in a little more “teenager time.” One of the things that we enjoy most about this trip is spending time with family and friends who live far away…

The Hittenbergers, Chad, Bob, Julie, and Heather

…and we always seem to leave wishing we lived closer!

December 7, 2009

The day that we announced that the boat trip of our dreams was not going to happen, but that we were taking an RV trip around the U.S. instead, was a day that broke Hilary’s heart. She absolutely loves boating…and she cried her eyes out. After recovering, and a little time to things through she asked, “Can we go to California?”


“Can I learn how to surf?”


This is a glimpse into the day she had been dreaming about for quite some time…


Amber and Tyler caught a little wave action too! Of course they had a blast, and got completely drenched!

December 6, 2009

I think this one speaks for itself!WARNING TO PARENTS: If you have any little boys between the age of 3 and 13, there could be long term effects of sharing these photos with them. Proceed at your own risk.

My Day at Legoland: By Tyler

When I went to Legoland I was amazed!!  There were things made out of Legos everywhere and they had lots ofDSC02377 rides. I went on my first big roller-coaster. My family had to talk me into it but it was really fun!  We went on another roller coaster called the Dragon. It was even bigger and it started out inside a castle. The “Dragon” that we were riding on was actually made out of giant legos. It was so much fun that we got off the ride and got right back in line to go again!

DSC02400Amber went on this ride that was like a giant robot arm. You could pick the level, and if you  watch this video, you will see that Amber was freaking out on this ride. That was only Level 3!

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That was it pretty much…But look at this!


Huge cities, like San Francisco, New York, Washington DC, all Legos and they weren’t even building sets (that come in one box.) That was it, but man, it was worth it!!!

Here’s a gallery from my mom. She takes A LOT of pictures!!!!!!