Welcome to our adventures. I try as best as I can to document the happenings here in our family - everything from the shenanigans to the spiritual, from the kid to the kitchen, from the cat to the catastrophes. We believe that adventure can be found in everything we do...even in the mundane tasks of the day. When we set our minds on things above in gratitude to God, we find the strength to approach life with a sense of purpose & adventure. The adventure may not always be what we have planned...but isn't that what adventure is all about?

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Yee haw...I'm back with another adventure for ya! We hit the stockyards again tonight but this time we put out cowboy hats on and saddled up for our first rodeo - complete with bull riding, barrel racing, bucking broncos and calf ropin'. This ain't yer grandpa's fair rodeo...this was legitimate professional competition y'all.

Upon arrival to the yards, we hooked ourselves up with some good Tex-mex grub. Then we mosied on over to the ring and secured our front row seats. The seats were great, although I was half expectin' to eat a little dirt - especially after the buckin' broncos competition. Abby was sittin' purdy on Grandpapa's lap with her pink cowgirl hat...we were buckled in for a rootin' tootin' good time.

I think it's rodeo law that any event MUST begin with a playing of Lee Greenwood's, "I'm Proud to be an American". Someone is going to the slammer if they screw that one up. They played it even before the National Anthem! Call me a patriot - I always get choked up when I hear that Greenwood song...especially that part where it all builds up to the climactic chorus at the end...poignant, but I digress.

Some of the highlights of the rodeo...first off, the bull riding was incredible. Those bulls are just madder than a junkyard dog! It just ain't natural to be ridin' one. As Randy pointed out to us, all the competitions are legitimate ranchin' duties except for bull ridin'. None of the cowboys made it past eight seconds (which by the way seems like an eternity!)...but, it was impressive none-the-less.

Another cool highlight - one of those cowboys roped himself a calf in just under 11 seconds. It was very impressive...'specially since more than half those cowpokes couldn't even git their darn rope round the little guy. I was so conflicted watching the calf ropin'...on the one hand, I was cheerin' for the cowboy to do the thing, then, when he did the thing, I was madder than a wet hen to see it and I wanted to go rescue the little calfaroonie.

More on the hilarious side was the part of the show where they let all the older kids in the ring, release a calf with a ribbon tied on it's tail and let it fly. The kids run around the ring tryin' to get that ribbon...poor little calf - I feel so bad for 'em. Another time they let the kids 5 and under (sans Abigial Susan Amaro) chase a sheep with a ribbon on its tail. Kids from the city and barnyard animals are not a good combination. I think I'll write a letter to somebody.

If you get a chance, check out the cool video I got of the bucking bronco - it starts off slow...but keep watchin' - it gets buck wild. As well, there are some rodeo photos - they were pretty hard to get as the action was fast and my camera is old. But, if you look real hard you'll see a few cool things.

Well - things are great here in the Lone Star state...we are enjoying our time at the Bashford residence and looking forward to some time in Luzy-anna next week.

Hold on to yer hat and sharpen yer spurs kids...more adventures are on the way!

love and calf freedom,
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Yee haw and greetings from Fort Worth! We've been blessed with some incredible weather the last few days. Couple that with the fact that Gpapa has had 2 vacation days from the saltmines and you've got a recipe for fun.

Monday, Gmama & Gpapa gave Mike and I the old "see ya later" and took Abby out for lunch and a day at the zoo. They were gone so long that I was beginning to wonder if the zoo didn't capture them and put them in the monkey exhibit. Upon return back to base camp, Mike and I listened to countless stories of animals antics. It was nice to hear they had such a great time because Mike and I were carrying out far less interesting tasks like work, laundry, grocery shopping and the like. Later on that evening we all ate dinner in the living room (gasp!) and watched Charlotte's Web (the OLD one, not the new!). La dee dah.

Today was another beautiful day - that temperature gauge was reaching all day long to touch that 80 mark and finally did later in the afternoon. Mike was able to finish work a little early so we headed out to the Fort Worth Stockyards. There is alot of history behind the Stockyards - it was the last major stop for South Texas drovers herding cattle up to the railheads in Kansas. When the railroad finally arrived in 1876, Fort Worth became a major shipping point for livestock. These days, although there is still plenty of livestock around, it's filled with shopping and dining attractions, a rodeo, a human maze and other fun frivolities. Every day at 11:30 and 4pm they have a "cattle drive" right down the middle of the main street!

This wasn't the first time Mike and I had visited the stockyards, but it was Abby's first time. As soon as we got out of the car, she was already petting a horse! We mosied around for awhile checking out the attractions and then headed for dinner at Risky's Steakhouse. Although an order of "calf fries" was very tempting, we "steered" clear and "herded" ourselves over to the steak menu. Everyone enjoyed steak, except for Abby who went with the the chicken fingers...

By the way, Risky's has the 2nd best peach cobbler ever . The 1st best honor goes to my Aunt Bonnie whose peach cobbler won my heart so many years ago before I could comprehend how fattening it was to add 2 sticks of butter to one pan.

Oh yeah, an interesting tidbit - on our way to the stockyards, we witnessed (and were literally 2 feet from getting hit by) a high speed car chase on the I-35!! It was a VERY scary moment... The car being chased was the one that almost hit us, then not far behind was the cop chasing him. If Mike had started his lane change one second earlier, I would probably not be writing this post right now!!

Well, that's all for now...we enjoyed our day at the yards and are hoping to go back and catch a rodeo before we leave. Yee haw... One more thing - you can see more pictures of zoo day and stockyards at the Dropshots site - just click here.

love & calf fries,

Monday, March 24, 2008
"Hey Mom....I can spell DVD!! It's D...V....D"
Saturday, March 22, 2008
In our family, where 3 or more are gathered (and one of the 3 happens to be 5 years old), we say "toot" instead of "fart". Not sure why fart got such a bad wrap....I mean, why is toot so much better than fart? What did fart ever do to anyone? Nonetheless, I'm sure it was in the parents manual somewhere that we should say toot and not fart when in the presence of young impressionable yutes. So, we do - and Abby has never heard otherwise.

So we are sitting in a diner in Holbrook, Az sometime last week and while we're waiting for our meal, we are checking out some fun little books that are on the table. You know, kitchy little books like, "The Disgruntled Drivers Handbook" and "If Life Were Fair Then..." Mike was reading one of the books, but laid it open on the table to talk with me about something. Meanwhile, Abby is looking at the page that Mike is reading - the title of the chapter is large and bolded there on the page.

Our little girl.....awwww....we are so proud of her reading accomplishments....she was able to read one of the words there on the chapter title...she read it nice and loud so all the diners around us could share in our pride.

Don't worry, the adventures are still happening! Here in Fort Worth, we've actually fallen into a routine that resembles something normal. Although for some reason, I keep forgetting to set an alarm at night and end up waking up at 9:30 or 10 in the morning. OH DARN! I know, I'll have to come back to reality one of these days.

So - I'm here to update you on some highlights of the last few days...actually, most of them are concentrated around events of today. Randy's Dad (Connie, aka Great Grandpa, aka GGpa), stepmom (Betty, aka Great Grandma, aka GGma) and nephew (Jake, no aka) drove down from Cameron, Missouri to visit with us this Easter weekend (that's a good 12 hour day driving!). They arrived late in the evening on Friday, so we didn't get to see them until this morning. Unfortunately, Randy had to work all day long today (makin' those jet airplanes is a big job)...but we set out to have a fun day despite his absence.

First on the list was an Egg hunt at Grandmama & Grandpapa's church. Gmama wasn't really sure what to expect, but we figured it would be worth the 3 minute drive to check it out. So Mike, Abby, Gmama, GGma, Jake and I set out to hunt eggs. The church did a real good job on the pre-hunt warm up (songs, story, prayer). However, upon arrival to the egg-hunting "field" we were all disappointed to find about 2000 eggs just laying on the grass. I mean, what's up with that? Doesn't 'hunt' sort of assume that there's work involved? Anyway - there was a "ready, set, go". Then chaos ensued as about 20 or so 5-12 year olds were unleashed into the field to indulge their every egg hunt desire. Regardless of the setup, we didn't want to miss out on our piece of the pie...so, Jake and Abby came up with their strategy and took off at the appointed moment. They decided to run as fast as possible to the END of the field and work their way back while the other kids got greedy right there at the beginning.

I am probably making this egg hunt to sound like a battle out of the movie Braveheart...in fact, it was quite civil. The kids who got more were even sharing with those who didn't get much - warm and fuzzy, you know. Abby and Jake made out pretty good with the candy-filled eggs (although much to my hormonally-induced chagrin, there was no stinkin' chocolate. whad up with that?) Abby shared alot of her candy with Jake since he was a good helper.

Once we got home though, Jake took matters into his own hands and took all the eggs out to the backyard and hid them for Abby to find. Now THAT was alot more fun! Of course Abby had to have a turn at hiding the eggs for Jake as well...

We had a great time visiting with the Greats (and Jake) today. We'll get to spend tomorrow with them as well...the whole family will be able to attend Resurrection Day service at Gmama & Gpapa's church. I just loaded about 4 days worth of pictures, so don't forget to check them out by clicking here.

Lastly, Mike and I had the opportunity to attend and incredible Good Friday service at a local church here in Fort Worth. Most Good Friday services are the same no matter where you go - dark lighting, candles, an old rugged cross propped up somewhere on stage, communion and the old hymns that talk about Jesus on the cross. This service wasn't any different, but somehow it was nice to just be "anonymous" somewhere while we took some time to remember the price that was paid for all of us.

I remember having gone to church for quite awhile before I truly understood what Resurrection Day meant. I couldn't understand why Jesus had to die at all...if God is God then why couldn't he just forgive us and be done with it (didn't seem like a good plan to me - and I know everything). It was Easter - probably 1999 or maybe 2000 when I had that "Damascus Road" sort of moment and the revelation of what transpired on the cross was revealed to me. We were having our "Come and See" group on the cozy couches of Fireside Court when a man named Lee answered my "why" question....very simply he said, "well, what else could God do to show you how much He loves you?" It's not rocket science, but for some reason when Lee said that, it all made sense. Of course there's alot of theology that goes along with the meaning of cross - but, hey - I can't argue with the "sky parting" moment that I had when Lee spoke his simple words to me. Jesus loves me - and the way he showed me is by enduring the cross to pay my sin bill, in full, forever. And, I'm not sure what more he could have done than that.

Enjoy your Resurrection Day!

He is risen,
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Just a quick update to let you know that we are in like Flynn. Our application was approved and as of April 15th (or so) we will be tenants at "Vintage at the Parke". We are very excited to know that there will be a place there waiting for us when we arrive. At this point we are not sure what the future holds for home purchasing, but this will be a good place to hang our hat while we are scouting out the land there in Murfreesboro.

Thanks again for the prayer support ~~

love & miss,
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
We are enjoying our stay at the Bashford Suites here in Fort Worth, Tx. Here's a little update for ya on what's going on.

March 17th is not only known as St. Paddy's day around this house - it also happens to be Randy's birthday (Randy - aka, Grandpapa). Although he had to work, he came home to birthday party festivities. Us girls cooked the birthday meal and got the present zone ready...then we all enjoyed a great home cooked meal (in the "fancy" dining room!), present opening and dessert! Abby had hand-picked some goodies from the gift shop at the air museum we visited just a few days before. A book about the F-14 Tomcat, a rubber band propelled P-51 Mustang and some sort of foam plane (a banshee) that gets SERIOUS air lift! If we would have known how much fun that foam plane was, we would have bought many more! Another year in the books for Grandpapa, and we pray many more ahead!

A living arrangement update - we had requested prayer a few posts back for our living situation once we arrived in Tennessee. Mike, Abby and I have been praying each night on our road trip that God would already be preparing our living arrangements for our arrival in TN sometime in late April. We found an apartment complex that seemed just right for us (we had our friend Bonni visit the complex and meet with the leasing person - she gave it thumbs up). However, the likelihood was low that the specific floor plan we needed would come up exactly at the right time.

Well today I spoke with the leasing agent at the complex - it turns out, there is one apartment (the exact floor plan we are looking for) coming available on April 15th. Not only that, but it's a previous "model apartment" - so there is nobody living next door to this particular unit. It also is very close to the pool (not sure if you knew this or not, but it gets HOT there in the summer!) and has a nice grassy area behind the unit - perfect for kids. The best part is they are running a special this month - your first month of rent is free, and they waive the application fee! So today I worked on filling out the application and getting the supporting documentation over to the leasing office. They have no problem with us not physically being there, and are agreeable to handing the keys over to Bonni until we officially arrive. We will know for sure tomorrow after they process the application and check our details. It would be great to have this little detail secured this early in the game - I figured it might be a little more trouble than this.... I'll keep you posted. By the way, the floor plan that we are looking at is a 3 bedroom/2 bath and is 1216 sq. feet - just 31 sq. feet shy of the square footage that we had on Charlotte. The rent is $965. They also have 6 month leases (we thought it would be a year) so we are hoping that in the fall we will be ready to buy a house.

Well, we are soaked to the gills out here in Fort Worth! It has been raining cats and dogs...we've heard rumors of tornado warnings, flood watches and 2 inch hail - but right here in Mom & Randy's hood, we just have alot of wind and rain. They are blessed to live in this little nook of a county that just seems to stay out of the way of tornadoes. We are so thankful that our whole trip we've experienced such great weather - now that we have some place cozy to hunker down at, we are fine with the rain. It's quite impressive rain, too I might add - some of it goes horizontal!

It's been nice to cook and clean (good grief, I can't believe I actually said that) and not have to tip a waiter. There's a lot of fun that goes along with traveling and eating out....but I've been craving a home cooked meal and a messy kitchen to clean. Of course, check back next week when I might be singing a different tune like, "I want my baby back baby back baby back, I want my baby back baby back baby back....Chili's baby back ribs" or something along those lines :) Just kiddin around.

All for now...

Sunday, March 16, 2008
Abby going silly in Midland, Tx.Here's a phrase we don't have to hear for awhile, "check out time is 11am".

We left Midland, Texas this morning at 9am and arrived in Fort Worth sometime around 3pm (with 2 leisurely pit stops somewhere in between). We came in just in the nick of time because a storm is making its way through Texas as I write this... Once again, I can't say enough how blessed we've been through this entire trip - the weather has been fabulous (not one drop of rain the entire time). In addition - on the days where we've had to drive long distances, the time flew by so quickly! I don't know how that happens other than we know that people are praying for these things specifically. Your prayers are being answered - thanks!!

Randy and Mike unloaded the 1000 lbs that we've been carrying around in the car while I proceed to explode it all into our bedroom and other areas of the house. Settled in for 3 weeks. By the way, it is very strange driving our Camry round these parts - seeing our car parked in my Mom's garage!

At this point, we hope to settle into a somewhat normal routine....Mike will be working in his "office" for the next 3 weeks and I will be doing a bit of AFH work myself as well as helping with cooking and shopping. I will also be pursuing some living arrangements in TN and negotiating with the Van Lines on the shipping of our "stuff". We also look forward to visiting family in Louisiana the first week of April!!

Now don't go bailing on me - I will keep the blog updated (probably not on a daily basis, but as I feel led to) as well as our pictures. By the way - have you seen the option to sign up for these blog updates via email? Look over at the top right hand side of the blog where it says, "Subscribe"....put your email address there, then go through the verification process (which is a snap) and then you'll get these blogs delivered to your email the next day. That way, you won't have to remember to come back (and we don't want you to forget about us!).

Lastly - here's a little laughable tidbit....we just got some of our mail here in Texas (delivered from our mailbox in TN). And guess what? Mike has JURY DUTY!! I wonder if Contra Costa County will pay for his plane ticket? What's even more funny is the hoops he has to go through to get himself "disqualified".

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Well folks, I'm back - first off, I'd like to thank Mike for a fabulous post last night...and just so you know, I encourage him frequently to post, but he insists that I do it. Please feel free to encourage more of Mike on this blog by shooting him an email.

So I was chatting with my stepdad, Randy on the phone a few weeks ago about driving routes. I had mentioned that we really needed a stop between El Paso and Fort Worth because the driving distance was too long. Usually, I would try to find places to stop where there was some local sightseeing in order to increase our fun quotient. When I asked him about stopping in west TX somewhere, he said to me, "well...God didn't spend too much time on West Texas". The comment made me chuckle at the time, but I've come to realize that truer words have not been spoken! Mike was right on in his post - there is a whole lot of nothing going on around these parts.

We decided to by pass the city of El Paso (which we now refer to as By Paso) because we had more than a few occasions to hear what a stinky little town it is. So, we thought instead to make a really long travel day (Albuquerque to Midland), get to Midland late in the eve then have a "day off" the next day to ramp up for another travel day to Fort Worth. So we slept in and had a leisurely morning getting ready and hanging out. About noon, we decided to see if there was anything to do in this town - or if it was in fact just a "mid-way" point between By Paso and Ft. Worth.

So Mike was in charge of mapping out a little sightseeing. Our expectations were low to begin with - but, we did want to give the city a chance. We ended up at the American Airpower Heritage Museum. Entering through the doors we found ourselves in the museum gift shop. The price of admission made both Mike and I scoff. I wondered if for that price I would get to ride in a B-52 or something. I mean, really...scoff, scoff (or should I say, squeek, squeek).

We decided to go for it anyway - and we are so glad that we did.

Now I will be honest with you - I wasn't terribly excited about spending the afternoon in a airpower heritage museum...there are a few hundred other things that I could think of that would be more fun for me. But hey, that's what us gals do for our men, right? I sacrifice many a chick-flick to cuddle up and watch "Band of Brothers" with Mike (to be honest, though it's a favorite in our DVD collection). I go out of my way to put war movies in the Netflix queue because I know that Mike will enjoy them. (In Mike's defense, he will gladly suffer through a chick-flick if I really want to see it). So, I pulled up my boot straps and walked on in to the museum.

WOW....this museum was so well done. Although there were some Vietnam era planes, the entire museum (all 40,000 square feet of it) was dedicated to the history of WWII airpower. There were incredible exhibits, mini-movies, artifacts, memorabilia, hands-on equipment as well as a research library and conservation lab. There were actual airplanes to see as well - including a B-29 Superfortress affectionately named "Fifi" (whose wheels were taller than Abby).

We spent quite awhile checking out this museum and we recommend it to anyone who finds themselves in Midland, Tx. Please check out more photos of the museum by clicking here.

Later on in the eve, we decided we wanted to find another reason to like Midland. Mike was on the case again - this time, his goal was to find a local eatery that would serve up some BBQ.
"Sam's BBQ" on Scharbauer Dr. was selected for our dining pleasure. Once again, Mike hit a homerun. Although, there a moment of trepidation as well pulled up to the joint. It just seemed shabby and run down. Mike turned off the car and we sort of sat there a minute - the unspoken words flying back and forth. I saw a sign in the door that said, "smoking allowed" - that's my out, I thought to myself! I mentioned it to Mike (who is almost allergic to cigarette smoke)...."OHHH Noooo..." he said. "We should go somewhere else"...."Well, no...let's just go here"...."Well, if you really want to"...."Should we?". You know the drill...

Finally Mike just opened the door - I could almost hear Abby say, "Finally" under her breath. We stepped inside Sam's and the smell of mesquite filled our nostrils. OH YEAH. The place was just about as toe up on the inside as it was on the outside...but at this point our eyes were blinded by the lovely smells that were making their way into our noses. We sat down in a booth whose vinyl was duct taped together. We were handed a laminated piece of paper with a handful of choices (no kid menu and crayons here, baby). Nothing seemed to matter - we were in a mesquite-induced trance. We ordered - and in no time plates of food appeared before us. Let me just say this....there was no family chatter going on at this table. Just eating. It was good bbq.

We came to the register to pay and the waitress asked us if we enjoyed our meal. I couldn't help myself - I said to the waitress, "Well, as my Aunt Jan would say, 'it was so good it made me want to slap my mama's hand'". Not only did I say that, but I said it in my best southern accent. So it came out more like this, "it wuh so good it made me wana slap my mamas hayen"
Praise the Lord that the waitress thought that was funny because that could have been an awkward moment. It already was for Mike...

So - there you have it. Saturday in Midland, Tx. - in the books. Tomorrow we are off to Fort Worth for a much needed travel respite. We will be there for 3 weeks, then we have some more traveling planned. Don't stop checking the blog though - you can count on me for more meaningless commentary.


1. Praise: We can't believe how quickly the travel time goes - we feel this is an answer to prayer - thank you for those that are praying - it does make a difference!

2. Please pray for - yet again - safe travel...this time to Ft. Worth.

3. We have been praying for housing arrangements for our arrival in Tn. There are not alot of apartment complexes in TN...at least in the area where we are targeting. There is one complex that fits our criteria - but not sure if the one we are looking at would be available at the right time. Please pray that God would be preparing our place even now and that it would be clear to us which place is right (and that we would be open to whatever it is).

Lastly - I just want to say how much we love hearing from "home"....your emails and comments from the blog are bringing us joy on the road. We miss you guys and look forward to our next visit to CA.

Love you so much it makes me wanna slap my mama's hand.
(Hey Mom - it's just a figure of speech, ok?)

Friday, March 14, 2008
OK, I figured it was about time for me to chime in on this here blog thing. Now don't expect me to live up to that superstar wife of mine in the blogging department. She is in a class all by herself so I am not even going to try to match up with her. But even superstars need an occasional day off....so, lucky readers, you get stuck with me for this post...yeah, yeah, life is unfair, deal with it. The good news is that as soon as Kristin reads this, my blogging rights will be immediately rescinded...

Anyhow, I digress. Today was travel day which is probably why I am sitting here blogging this experience instead of Kristin. But there are silver linings in every cloud and today was no exception. Our digital camera got a much needed day off after being severely taxed to the limit the last 5 days or so. That's not to say there wasn't any scenery on today's drive...if small green shrubs, a whole lot of dust, and tumbleweeds are your idea of scenery. Compared to what we've seen and experienced earlier this week, today's 460 mile drive from Albuquerque, NM to Midland, TX (mostly along US Route 285) was about as appealing as watching paint dry. Well, maybe it wasn't all boring. After all, we did drive thru Roswell, NM...yes, the Roswell of UFOs, little green men, and government conspiracies. And it was sadly apparent that alien artifacts were about the only thing keeping this town going. Amazing what 60 years of myths will do for a city...

Another "highlight" from today was the incredibly fierce winds and dust that was flying everywhere as a result. We pretty much got buffeted the entire trip into TX and it never really let up. Pretty bizarre to see 50 mph winds with 86 degree temperatures. To make matters worse, I've had that old Kansas song "Dust In the Wind" on my mind all day. Oh, the horror!

But in the end, I can't complain. We had another safe day of travelling and we had a great time all along the way just being goofy as we Amaros tend to be from time to time. And, you really can't ask for more than that, can you?
Today was our last full day in New Mexico...and we decided we would make it count!

We woke up bright and early and headed out to find a beautiful day in Albuquerque. Our first stop was Target to get rid of a gift card that was burning a hole in our pocket. After that stop, we drove to our next destination - an aquarium called, "Albuquerque Aquarium" (wow, someone really used some brain cells to come up with that name). Coming from the Bay Area (and originally being from San Diego), zoos and aquariums are usually a big let down for me. But this one was nicely done - not so big that you can't see everything and not so small that you feel cheated. Just right, really...

We got to see a very large variety of fish, sting rays, sharks, jelly fish and even 3 birds that were part of the ray exhibit (which I initially thought were fake until one of them took a jump into the water!) Speaking of stingrays, we got to watch one of the workers there feed the small sharks that were in the ray exhibit...

There was a model boat exhibit as well - also, an outdoor exhibit that included a real shrimpin' boat (I of course was not impressed with this since I saw tons of these almost every summer visiting in Louisiana). They had a nice theater that continuously ran documentaries. We happened to catch the one about Rio Grande - it was quite fascinating!

After exhausting ourselves at the aquarium, we headed over to the Rio Grande Botanic Garden. This was a really, really cool place - made especially cool because the weather was incredible! As you walk in the park, you are immediately drawn to a pathway that led to "Children's Fantasy Garden". This is a well put together exhibit where you, the visitor are made to feel the size of an ant! There is a fun maze, little nooks to explore, beautiful landscaping and even a fun slide. Lots of photo opportunities in this little mini wonderland (by the way, that's a shameless plug to encourage you to click here to see the pictures! ) Here's one of Abby hiding in the carrot patch (notice the ant off in the background):

The exit of the Children's Fantasy Garden dumps you right off at the Rio Grande Garden Railway. This is a really cool model train railroad (actually, several) nestled in the lovely landscaping of the garden grounds. We sat and watched the trains awhile and chatted with a docent - a sweet old man who had a huge wealth of knowledge. I should have asked him what happens to the setup when it rains and snows...

After the railroad, a nice little trail takes you over to the botanical building - a glasshouse filled with botanical goodies. The building was divided into two parts: the Mediterranean and the Desert. We started off in the Mediterranean. My nose was immediately bombarded with scents of honeysuckle - it was intoxicating! The flowers were beautiful - a large assortment and all different colors. It was awesome.

The desert side was equally impressive, although it didn't smell near as nice. In fact, it smelled kind of nasty! There were dried chili peppers hanging everywhere...lots of cactus and blooming cactus flowers. There were cactus growing out of the rock wall too! I really just decided that I love taking pictures of flowers! I almost started crying when I realized that my digital camera card had reached its limit before we hit the building! I sat for a few minutes and deleted some pictures from the aquarium so I could have some room...otherwise, there probably would have been WAY more flower pics.

After the botanical garden - our tanks needed a fill up. We hit a diner on Route 66 called, "Route 66 Malt Shop and Grill". This is one of those places where you first drive up and ask yourself, "do I really want to eat here?" It's a tad shabby on the outside - and small! We decided to take a chance on it and we are SO glad that we did. We sat at the soda fountain counter and chatted up the owner, Eric, most of the time. Mike and I each had a hamburger - and my opinion is that it's probably the best burger ever. Everything in the cafe is old school - they even sell phosphates, which are the original sodas (you mix a little syrup w/ plain soda water). They also make their own root beer which has won awards on a national level. We had quite a lengthy discussion with Eric about politics, cheeseburgers and music. The place was a definite gem - I would highly recommend it.

After lunch, we headed to base camp for some much needed resting and indoor activities.

For dinner - we opted for another local eatery called, "Rudy's 'Country Store' & BBQ". The food was incredible - only this time, we didn't quite have the warm, friendly atmosphere that we did at Route 66. Actually, I would compare it more to Seinfeld's soup nazi. You ever go to a place where you've never been before and have this weird feeling like you're supposed to do some odd ritual to get your grub? Well, that's kind of how we felt. I had to go to the counter and ask the gal what we were supposed to do to order. She seemed all spun out about my query - clearly they were not in need of my business because the place was packed with lots of people who knew what they were supposed to do! Anyway - it wasn't that big of a production after all, but the fact that I had to ask meant that now everyone behind the counter knew we were "not local". So - we wait in line and, as luck would have it, the register we wind up at is the same gal from before. NOW I had to ask her how I should order for my peeps because the menu is basically just a list of meat and prices. Again with the spinning out. Well, ok - she wasn't that bad...but she broke it down kind of fast, which made me all flustered. I just picked a few things and she rang it up. Can you believe that this family of 3 walked out of the place fairly full for $16?

Anyway - the whole serving process is kind of different. First, she put down this crate looking thing (they are the plastic holders that soda delivery guys bring cases of soda in). Then, she lines it with butcher paper. Then, she turns and gets the meat from the meat cutting guy and throws it on some more butcher paper. They give you more butcher paper to use as plates. And, the gal throws a bunch of wonder bread on top of everything and sends you on your way. The tables are set up family style and they are covered in red checked table clothes. Once we got settled on the table, started putting all the pieces together and actually ate the food, we decided it was WELL worth the cost of humiliation.

So - that's our day in a nutshell...

A few prayer items:

PRAISE: I can't believe the weather we've experienced....it's been truly beautiful everywhere we've gone, this has been a huge answer to prayer for us!

Please pray for our upcoming travels - tomorrow (Friday) is a long travel day (500 miles) and the routes that are available to take all have high wind (50mph) advisories. Traveling mercies are requested as well as some kind of time warping to make the trip go by fast :) We are headed off to Midland for a few days, then on to Fort Worth for an extended stay.

kisses, hugs, trout and pancakes,

Today while at the Aquarium, Abby and I took a trip to the ladies room. As in most bathrooms, there was a line. As Abby and I waited, we watched a Mom with her daughter (I'm guessing the girl was about 3). Clearly the child had a cold and her Mom was using the paper towels in the bathroom to wash her face. At one point, the Mom wadded up the paper by her nose and said, "blow, honey" - and the little girl proceeded to give a good, hearty blow (complete with leg lift). Her Mom took a look at the results and said, "great job".

I know I was quite impressed because it was hard trying to teach Abby to blow OUT her nose (and she only just recently mastered it). I looked down at Abby to see if she saw the impressively executed blow. At the same time I looked down at Abby she looked up at me and raised her brows and with a delivery tone that I can't possibly articulate said, "wow...she can sure blow". You probably had to be there.
Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tonight in the car, Abby informed us that before they were born, her babies (Suzy, JoJo, Agnes and Aubrey) knew they would be living in Tennessee. In fact, they have already started talking with an accent.

Abby: "I was noticing that Aubrey was saying 'ahhhsss' instead of 'ice'"

She proceed to share a number of words that her babies are saying with an accent. Some of them sounded like they potentially could be from somewhere in the south, where others sounded more like they were from another galaxy.
Many times on this road trip we've had people ask us for one reason or another where we live. In fact, a few times we've had to give an address. Talk about weird...Mike and I look at each other as if to say, "what should we say?". The people asking look at us like we just got off the short bus with helmets on or something. C'mon - how hard is it to say your city name or address. So we have to make the decision - do we explain the situation? Do we just give them the Charlotte address, or tell them "Bay Area" or what? It doesn't seem right to say we are "from" Murfreesboro, Tn. because we aren't - yet.

Really, though - we are homeless at the moment. Now please don't take offense to the levity with which I use this term - I know there are people out there who sleep on the streets with no food or shelter while we fight over who gets the fluffier pillow at the Best Western. I'm in no way comparing our situation to true homelessness. I'm just saying that right now we have no place that is ours. We're having a great time - and I'm not complaining about the places that we have stayed. But not having a place to hang your hat for awhile is strange...we may as well change our name to "Club Nomad". We still potentially have a month or more before we get to TN.

I'm trying to remember what it was like to pack up a U-Haul at age 21 and move up to Northern California (away from everything I've ever known - family and friends). I remember being really excited about it....but then came the moment when I had to drop Dad off at the Oakland airport (he drove me up in the U-Haul)....my last tie to life as I knew it walked down the jetway (obviously this was WAY before 9/11). I went back to the parking lot and sat in my '81 Dodge Colt and sobbed my head off. I think I wasn't right for the next few weeks. At least this time around, I have my peeps with me - and we can commiserate together about what we miss.

With all this traveling, I never realized how much I took things for granted....like, how to get around. From the moment we crossed into Albuquerque we've had one "gettin' lost" adventure after another. Man, the freeway exits here are WHACK. They don't make any sense... Also - we never know where to eat. You know there's some little gems around that the tourists don't know about....like Juan's in Berkeley or La Tapatia across from Park-n-Shop. If you don't hear a good recommendation from someone, you'll just be driving around town saying, "that looks kinda good" but before anyone can make a decision you're already two blocks away looking at some other place saying, "we could do that place". Before you know it you're at the edge of town where there's some toe up Taco Bell you end up eating at because it's already 8:57pm.

Anyway - sorry about the insane rambling...truth is - we had a very ordinary day! We slept in, I actually did some work, we had a late lunch and went to "Explora!" here in town (a hands on science discovery musem). We hung out and just relaxed - it felt good!

We have a few more days here in Albuquerque then we're off to El Paso, then Midland, Texas, then a very long breather in Fort Worth w/ Mom and Randy. That's when our status changes from homeless to freeloader (ha ha, just kidding Mom - remember, I'm cooking and grocery shopping!!). It will be nice to actually hang our clothes up in a closet and hide our suitcase for awhile!

A fun little tidbit - today at Explora we saw the largest elevator ever! It was a little lounge with chairs and everything...

For a few pictures from the day, click here and enjoy.

Lastly - you may want to check out the Little Moon blog and see something funny that Abby was doing today.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Aren't you glad you came back for more?

Now I didn't completely make good on my promise - as you can see Mike is nowhere in sight. We had to do covert ops to get the photos as the maid and a few customers were milling about. Yes, people really do stay in these things apparently. So there you go...the Wigwam Motel - you too, can sleep in a wigwam.

On to more important matters...such as - what did we do today on the heels of our grand, grand canyon experience. Here's the Reader's Digest version:

1. Had breakfast (well, brunch) at a cool greasy spoon cafe called Joe & Aggies Cafe on Route 66.
2. Drove through and stopped at various areas in the Petrified Forest
3. Drove through and stopped at various areas in the Painted Desert
4. Drove down I-40 going East for a long, long time looking at dried brush and the occasional cluster of stores selling Indian Curios, Blankets, Kachina Dolls and Buffalo Jerky.
5. Arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico and proceeded to get lost finding dinner and hotel.
6. Checked in to our base camp and breathed a sigh of relief that we can actually spend more than one night somewhere!

First of all - I've been getting quite a few emails asking how Abby is doing with the whole traveling experience. She is loving every minute of it. She is really getting into observing the sights. To pass the time, she colors, practices writing on her dry erase book, listens to songs and stories on her MP3 player or watches an occasional DVD on a portable player. There have been a few times where she was a bit tired or hungry and she got kind of spun out - but otherwise, she's a fun kid to have in the car.

A few items from the Reader's Digest version above that I want to write about in further detail.

Petrified Forest - no, the forest is not scared.

After packing up at the hotel and eating our late breakfast at Joe & Aggies Cafe, we headed down the 27 mile road that travels through the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert. We started off on the southern end of the road and worked our way north and ended up on the I-40 going east towards New Mexico. We weren't really sure what to expect...I mean, come on, we are a couple of computer nerds - and even though Abby can use symbiotic relationship properly in a sentence, NONE of us knows what causes wood to petrify. And, more importantly - do we really care? Good grief, every time I tried to ask Mike what petrified wood was he would say, "it's wood that's scared". Sometimes I think he knows and he just messes with me. Regardless - we were hoping to get educated.

Our first stop was the Visitor's Center on the south end where we saw a short film that describes what conditions must exist for wood to petrify, as well as how the "Petrified Forest" came to be. According to the film, 225 million of year ago (during what was called the "triasic" period), that very site was lush, green, tropical land where dinosaurs roamed. Here's a quote from John Crossley on the website americansouthwest.net that gives a quick overview of what happens:
The preservation process began during occasional flooding, when some of the trees were buried by a great depth of water and sediment quickly enough to prevent aerobic decay. Over a long period, water containing dissolved minerals seeped into the wood and replaced the organic cells with stone. Much later, the whole area was uplifted and eroded to give the landscape seen today.
The whole process is fascinating...for a little more in-depth (but still understandable) knowledge, I would highly recommend reading this 2 page PDF article from the National Park Service entitled, "Trees to Stone".

We really, really, enjoyed looking at the Petrified Forest...it makes me want to be a geologist. Time, pressure and the right ingredients are sure to make beautiful things (hmmmm...I feel another spiritual tangent coming on...hold that thought). Abby really enjoyed climbing on some of the bigger stumps and boulders around. Here's a picture of her on one of the biggest stumps we saw - this particular stump was not as colorful as some of the others, but it was still petrified!

The Painted Desert (not to be confused with Dessert)
Remember what I said in my post yesterday about my rookie pics? Well, I've already dislocated my shoulder patting myself on the back - my pictures from today were pretty darn good. (See more of them here.) Of course, the subject matter is basically a mound of dirt, so maybe I shouldn't get too excited. But - these mounds of dirt are very beautiful to look at! Once again, I defer to people who know what they are talking about. Here is a small excerpt from the National Park Service brochure entitled, "Geology and the Painted Desert" that describes how these formations get their color:
The colorful bands of the Chinle Formation, which give the Painted Desert its name, represent ancient soil horizons. While the red and green layers generally contain the same amount of iron and manganese, differences in color depend on the position of the groundwater table when the ancient soils were formed. In soils where the water table was high, a reducing environment existed due to a lack of oxygen in the sediments, giving the iron minerals in the soil a greenish or bluish hue. The reddish soils were formed where the water table fluctuated, allowing the iron minerals to oxidize (rust).

I have to say...this was some spectacular eye candy. The colors were indescribable sometimes - I mean, yeah - they are rust, blue, pink, red, etc., but they are more than that. Do you remember those things we did as kids with the colored sand in the glass bottle? The formations sometimes reminded me of those. Absolutely stunning.

Other than these awesome sights - this National Park is pretty much featureless.

Another fun item of note - Abby is now officially a Junior Park Ranger! She has taken an oath (the lady made her raise her right hand and everything!) to help preserve and protect the parks of America. I'm sure Abby didn't really understand what the heck the gal was talking about, but she had to sign her name in a log and got a really cool ranger badge that she proudly displayed all day long (and will probably insist on wearing forever). The process of becoming a Junior Park Ranger is arduous...ok, well not really - she had to complete a few tasks while traveling through the park. She did a great job.

The Continental Divide and WHAT TIME IS IT??
Shortly after we crossed the Arizona/New Mexico border, we saw the exit for Continental Divide. Once again, I remind you that we are computer geeks, not knowledgeable in the ways of continental divides. I had to find a restroom badly, so we figured that surely the Continental Divide had restrooms - and then I could tell everyone on the blog that "I peed on the Continental Divide". Sorry - that was not really appropriate to say, forgive me if I offended you... Anyway - at the very top of the freeway exit we saw this sign. It's actually a historic marker that explains what the continental divide really is. Wow. I'm so much smarter than when I first left Concord, Ca. So - in case you can't read the details of the sign it reads, "Rainfall divides at this point. To the west it drains into the Pacific Ocean, to the east, into the Atlantic." Well, that's the Continental Divide in a nutshell. Further research revealed to me that all continents have a divide (man, I am really not painting a bright picture of my intelligence). I should really stop writing about this.

Lastly - we have been thrown into a time zone tailspin...the day that we left San Diego was the day that everyone is supposed to turn their clocks forward, losing an hour. However, that same day we arrived in Arizona, which is the only state of the United that doesn't participate in daylight savings. On Saturday, they were an hour ahead of California - but on Sunday they were now sharing the same time. Now, 2 days later - we cross into New Mexico who aligns in the Central time zone (2 hours ahead, but also a participator of daylight savings). So we are trying to decide if we've lost time, gained time or just stayed the same. If you figure it out, drop a line.

So as I write, we are cozy in our New Mexico base camp - ready for a few days of exploring the Alba-crackie area. There are some fun things to do here...which we are looking forward to. However, over the last week or so our eyes have feasted on some amazing sights....I think I need a day where I just look at normal, everyday things. I guess you'll have to tune in tomorrow to find out what that ends up being.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Let me break it down for you. I took 2 semesters of photography class in high school; I have a digital camera that stays on the "auto" setting 95% of the time; I have a hard time operating my knees when I'm within a 50 foot radius of a canyon that drops almost 5000 feet. These are contributing factors to why my pictures of our day at the Grand Canyon are SO completely rookie!

During those long stretches of driving where there's really nothing to look at (and believe me, between Cameron and Holbrook, Az. that's pretty much everything) I spent time thinking about my post for the day. How could I possibly put into words all that I saw today? How could I possibly explain how I literally could not breathe when I first laid eyes on that canyon at Mather Point? And, for some of you reading this - maybe you've seen the canyon and you know what I'm talking about. So - I'm going to save you alot of reading and just say this. I was totally awe-struck at the beauty and expansiveness of this place...so much so that I'm not even going to write anymore about it because it would diminish it somehow.

If you are interested in looking at my rookie pics (there are a few funnies in there too) - click here to see them on the Dropshots.

Some other items of note for today - and I mean, this is REALLY exciting stuff. We rolled into Holbrook, Az this evening about 5:30 and checked into our hotel. And then...we went to the laundromat. And then...we went to the grocery store and got some food to eat for dinner. And then...we came back to the hotel, ate and gave Abby a bath/hairwash. Man - with details like that, I'll be sure to see my subscribership plummet...bear with me people, it will pick up again. Tomorrow we are checking out the Petrified Forrest and the Painted Desert. And, I'm sure these two lovely tourist attractions will hardly compare to my beloved canyon - it's a hard act to follow.

Lastly - a fun little trivia bit for those of you that love the movie "Cars". Our hotel is actually on historic route 66. And - just across the street from us is the "Wigwam Motel", where you can "sleep in a wigwam". People, I'm serious... Anyway - this motel is one of two that was the inspiration for the Cozy Cone. Cool, huh? Yeah, again with the unsubscribing. I promise if you stick with me, I'll post a picture of it tomorrow...maybe with Mike doing something silly - yeah, that should bring you back.

Well - that's all the cheese I can squeeze my friends. Stay tuned for another exciting episode of Club Amaro adventures...

Love and wigwams,

ps - don't forget to check out the canyon pics here.
Monday, March 10, 2008
This post title is a direct quote spoken at some point today by our 5 year old road trip companion. We drove about 150 miles today from Cottonwood up to our hotel for the night near the Grand Canyon. I don't think there was one moment where there wasn't something beautiful to look at (with the exception of a handfull of times I was checking out the inside of my eyelids). At a certain point, I just stopped taking pictures because I knew they would not do the scene justice...instead, I found myself just taking it all in. We all were saying "WOW" alot....amazed, and in awe of the creation before us. The apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Romans "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (1:20). The creation before us testifies to the glory of God - it makes me want to fall on my face in worship...but that's kind of hard to do in the car. :)

Backing up....this morning we woke up from a great night sleep at the ol' Best Western in Cottonwood, Az. We got up and trekked over to the lobby for a little free breakfast and the latest news on Hilary and Obama. I guess hotels are very concerned about people being bored whilst they eat because every stinkin' place I've ever been to has a TV set to CNN or some other such channel. So you eat your danish and hear the latest on how the world is going to hell in a handbag.

Anyway....we packed up base camp and took off in the Camry and hopped on AZ State Route 89A which is a bee-U-tee-full scenic highway that took us right up to Sedona and later to Flagstaff. About 5 miles south of Sedona, we stopped at Red Rock State park (thanks Paul for the recommendation!). Even before we got there, we were beside ourselves at the formations of the rocks we were seeing....more than that, the way that the rocks had sort of a rainbow effect. We learned about that later on at the visitors center that the different layers accumulated over (what they say is) millions and millions of years. Limestone, lava, sand deposits, etc. all pack up on top of each other and that is what gives what I call the "rainbow" look. Seeing it live is much better than the pictures show.

Once we hit Red Rock Loop Road, we noticed that even the paved road took on a red tint! We started seeing more birds (LOTS of varieties - great for bird watchers....JAN, JAN, where are you??). We arrived at the visitors center where we saw a great movie about Red Rock and Sedona.

We decided to take a trail that went right along Oak Creek - everything was red! The sound of the creek was a real treat - the air was fresh and the weather was perfect...I would say it was probably 60 degrees and there were a few clouds in the sky. I think the only thing that would have made the scenery more enjoyable is having the trees be full - right now most of them are bare.

We enjoyed the trail - although I was wearing Crocs - not good w/ the whole sand and black ant thing...but I survived. Abby really enjoyed the trail - she forged out ahead of Mike and I - pretending to be the tour guide, holding the trail map and saying, "now be careful not to get too close over here". She would extend her hand to me and say, "Mom, can you make it? Here...let me hold your hand". Upon stopping for a rest, our tour guide informed us it was time to "move on". Maybe there's a career path option for her if all those other things don't work out.

After the trail - we made our way back up to the car and took off. We got back to 89A and started our trek through Sedona through the main downtown area - very cute, with shops and eateries. We decided that we would not stop in Sedona for anything but rather press on towards the Grand Canyon to set up base camp. Of course, along the way we were treated to more fabulous, incredible scenery....more WOWs.

By the way - did I mention the snow? It's the kind of snow that's good for people who are driving...all piled up away from the road and covers things "over there" and is pretty to look at. There is actually some piled up right outside our hotel window!

We arrived at our hotel for the night and got settled in. We decided that we had time to take in the IMAX film, which happens to be right across the street at the National Geographic Grand Canyon Visitor's Center (say that 3 times fast). They showed the film, "Grand Canyon - the Hidden Secrets". I wish I had taken a motion sickness pill before seeing this film! Good grief... It was really good and gave us amazing views of things that we will definitely not be seeing tomorrow during our Grand Canyon viewing.

So - that about brings you up to speed...tomorrow we've got Grand Canyon day and another 200 miles or so to Holbrook, Az. We covet your prayers for travel and health.

loving you all from 7,500 feet up...


ps - see more pictures from our day by clicking here...enjoy!
Saturday, March 8, 2008
This morning we woke up around 6ish and readied ourselves for the last California goodbyes.

Steve & Dad wanted to drive with us out to Jacumba (which is a little over an hour east of San Diego) and spend a little time at a place called Desert View Tower. It was there that we said our goodbyes. As we drove down the road towards the hiway they peeled off one way and we peeled off the other. It was a sad, sad moment for me - I made sure my tear ducts were working for a few minutes until I was distracted by Abby's urgent need to understand how her Dora stencil worked....then, it was back to business. We started the long drive to our final destination: Cottonwood, Az. (about 90 miles or so north of Phoenix). When all was said and done, we spent about 12 hours on the road - that included our Dessert Tower trip as well as lunch, dinner and gas pit stops. By the way - gas is $3.11 around these parts.

We are all cozied into our hotel for the night - looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow and taking in some of the local sights here. I did want to mention a little more about the Desert View Tower. This place is a tucked away little gem - my brother turned us on to it and had the idea to drive out w/ Dad to check it out. Here is an excerpt from roadsideamerica, which I thought was a good summary:
"[Bert] Vaughn, who owned the town of Jacumba, built the stone lookout between 1922-28. Its 70-foot tower was dedicated in memory of the area's rough pre-highway days, when the journey between Yuma and the Pacific Ocean took a month across blasted moonlike terrain."
In addition to the tower, there is a very cool boulder park...roadsideamerica writes about that as well:
"The real attraction at the Desert View Tower is Boulder Park, a jumble of rocks weathered by wind into caves and craggy walkways. Kids adore this area, and scramble with sugared-beverage abandon up the switchback path over friendly-looking precipices and outcroppings.

The Depression Era carvings strung along the path are a bonus, hand-carved animals, faces, and folk creatures inspired by the natural shapes in the boulders. Folk artist and out-of-work engineer W.T. Ratcliffe sculpted the quartz granite boulders without any particular theme in mind; but he likely knew kids would love the rocky maze. The carvings and tower are registered as an official California Historical Landmark (#939)."

The place was very, very cool...the views were amazing, the man that was working there (and his 4 friendly dogs) were just part of the scene. The boulders were amazing.

For more pictures of our time at Desert Tower - please click here and enjoy! Stay tuned as Club Amaro experiences Arizona.