They were predicting rain for us on our last day journey. We had three states to cross after waking up in Joplin, MO, then through the rest of Missouri, through Illinois, and home to Indiana! Turns out Missouri is pretty big state too, it's long, we spent most of our day journey in it, chasing rainstorms. They were predicting rain for most of our journey.
We were lucky though, we managed to stay on the back end of the storms.
No need for sunglasses on this leg of the journey.
You know how I mentioned we like to find Local Fare? Well, Finally Missouri got their stuff together, and started showing us billboards for a place called Dowd's Catfish and BBQ in Lebanon, MO. So that sounded perfect to us, when lunchtime came around. I thought being Sunday, we might not be avoiding the crowds, but as it turns out, 1 pm is a fine time in this small highway exit town.
Chris was in a snit for a lot of the visit, but better after he ate.
I took Sam and Jake around to show them the sights while we waited for food. The Catfish was Just right, the BBQ good, and oh mama, mmm, Fried Okra!
We managed to not catch the rain until St. Louis, and only stayed with it for an hour or so.
Then we got to have a peek of the sun out from under the clouds behind us.
We kept driving and driving, and caught the sunset.
This was our last view of the sun, as we got into Indiana.
We got home at about 10 oclock. And we were so happy to sleep in our own beds.
It was good to see Lisa, and have a grand adventure, but I'm glad we didn't have to be back at school the next day. I feel empowered by being able to drive to El Paso by myself. It gives me confidence. I could have made it home too, I think. But it was so much nicer to have Eric by my side. The kids did well, so I think there can be more big road trips in our future too.
On our second day of return, we basically crossed Oklahoma. We started the day in Wichita Falls, TX, just shy of the border, and ended the day on the other side of Oklahoma, in Joplin, MO, on the other side of the border. It's funny, on this day, our second day of traveling home, having Eric with me proved to make it more fun than when I did it alone with the boys. He makes the road trip easier on me. And I actually found myself enjoying the monotony with him by my side. Guess that says something about our relationship, and why it's worked for nigh on 20 years.
We have proven we can put up with a lot. Even when the going gets tough. We've gotten through a lot together. And we are ok. Though we did learn in Wichita Falls, that 2 big boys and a Daddy cannot share a bed. 2 fulls is not enough for the 5 of us. 2 wiggly boys and snoring Daddy cannot share a bed. It was rough for them. And Jacob didn't have a good night either, must have been sympathetic fussage.
Still, we found Joy at Breakfast. Everything is bigger in Texas, including the breakfast waffles at the Comfort Inn! How's this groovy Texas shaped waffle?!
Off we go, day 2. We had a bit of a meltdown, and they lost screens for a while shortly after we started, but eventually the kids have found their grooves, and were actually pretty good... for a while.
Then we got hungry again.
Something else that's groovy about having Eric on a road trip with me, his fancy phone. If I have a question, or random thought, he can look up the answer! So, as we were driving, thinking about lunch, Eric what sort of Local fare does one find in Oklahoma? We usually like to eat according to the zone we are traveling, for example, Whattaburger is a Texas thing. We ate a whole lot of Mexican while we were down there. As it should be. I didn't want McDonald's because we have that at home. But it's not like I had done tons of research, because we didn't know when we'd be hungry. I remembered when we drove through the West on our trip of 2007. One of the things we really liked was Indian Fry Bread, and if Oklahoma has one thing, it's Indians. So Eric looked up on his computer, at where we could find some Indian Fry Bread, along our path. And he found the Perfect Place!
Tim's Drive Inn, built in the 50s, and so crowded that we had to park down the street, the drive through line was so long we couldn't get in. They had cheeseburgers, that's what the boys wanted. Eric and I split and Indian Fry Bread and a Fried Onion Burger. We got some 'World Famous Dr. Pepper' and a Butterscotch Milkshake. Duuuuddde.
So much yumminess, so little time. We sat and shared all the goodies.
Daddy, Jacob, and I definitely ate the most. Jacob lost his mind when I tried to take a sip of the butterscotch milkshake after offering him some. That was his favorite. Maybe this one is my kid!
Oklahoma. The desert gives way to rolling hills, and sights of green. For a drab state, it can be kind of pretty, especially when you've been staring a desert for the last few days. There were even a few small flowering trees.
We ended up calling it a night in Joplin, MO at the Comfort Inn and Suites. After the previous night's misery, with only 2 beds, we decided to make sure the Comfort Inn we stopped at said AND SUITES. Only when we got in, there was no Suite. I grumped a lot, and had them send up a rollaway bed. And Eric got that to himself for the night. It wasn't the best arrangement, but we knew we'd be home soon, and we didn't want to switch hotels. And the boys got to go for an evening swim before dinner, so that already beat the Wichita Falls Comfort Inn, who said they had a pool, but it was outdoor and not open yet for 'the season' in March. So the kids swam and didn't care. They had been pretty good for the day's travels. Mommy tried to get Jake to nap, but it was not happening, so we watched some trashy tv. The boys came back, and we were all hungry. After some debate, we decided to hit the Olive Garden across the street. I needed some salad. Too much fried food on the road was getting to me. Unfortunately, the request for salad was too much in the hunt for local fare, so we went with the known value. Surprisingly, the boys actually ate. Meatballs and Macaroni save all!
And since I finally wasn't driving, and didn't need to stay awake, I got a yummy drinkie.
It was sad that Eric really only got to spend one good day in Texas with us. But we did it up with him by our side, the Zoo, Swimming, Good Mexican Food. And then, the next morning, Friday, we had to hit the road. It was time to get back. Daddy had to be at work on Monday morning. So the time had to come.
I made us all pose out front of Lisa's place.
Gotta have those manditory pictures. Eric and I and all the kids.
And Lisa and I and all the kids. <3
Then I asked Eric to take a picture of Lisa and I and all the mountains.
I should have rethought the staring into the sun thing. I was blinded for like half an hour.
And I'm gonna miss these girls.
This just happened to be them saying goodbye to the boys as they piled in, and I grabbed the point and shoot and asked them to give each other a hug. This ended up being my favorite picture of them from the whole trip. Yeah, there's no 'gonna' about it, I miss them already. I missed them before I got on the highway. :(
Meanwhile, the boys were perfectly content with their screens. Two ipads, and a two DSs. Though Chris's died halfway through the day. Still, suddenly, traveling got lots easier with everyone happily engrossed in their own screen. For Jacob it was Yo Gabba Gabba and Octonauts. For Sam, his new DS and games, and Chris didn't care as long as he had a screen.
It was a good thing they were content for most of the day.
Texas is a long drive, lots of desert. We did see oil rigs. The boys thought those were cool. Midland is like the biggest oil refinery I've ever seen, and it's a see of pumps from there on. I find the scenery very interesting.
We planned on stopping for dinner in Abilene, but just like on my way down, I missed it. So we thought, we'll stop at the next promising place. Well, we approached Anson, and found a little Mom and Pop joint on the side of the road, called Fish - n- Chick. It reminded me of a Dairy Queen without the ice cream. And it looked like they deep fried everything. Well, there's nothing wrong with that. So I got some Chicken nuggets, and the kids got cheeseburgers. They had a special of the day, a fish taco, by zee each, or in threes. I got 1, and Eric got 3. I wish I'd gotten 3, they were the best darn fried fish tacos I'd ever had! Normally fried fish tacos are really heavy on the batter. I don't like that. These weren't, it was a nice crisp light fry, probably using some masa flour, it had a corny feel to it. Freaking Awesome. They had cabbage on top, and a bit of special sauce... which I love the grilled taco's at Scotty's and they use cole slaw dressing and bit of mo'fo mustard. I think by combining the two and a nice fry, I could make the Best Fish Tacos Ever! But should you find yourself on SR 83, cruising by Anson, TX, stop at ye old Fish-n-Chick. Good Stuff.
Our Last Sunset in Texas.
After dinner, we decided to push once again to Wichita Falls, but it was dark by the time we got there. We stayed in the same hotel as we did when we came down.
It seems appropriate, that our 6th day on this Adventure to Texas was Sam's 6th Birthday. :)
There are a lot of pics on this day, it was a Big Doin's kind of day. And everything is bigger in TX.
And this is the first thing he did. Slept In.
He looks so tiny still, I can't believe he's 6. He's such a sweetie.
He's definitely got my personality, such a kind heart, and sensitive.
Priorities yo. Once he realized what day it was, he popped up, and came running out to the living room. Daddy and I were having our coffee, but he found his present from the Birthday Pig. Yes! The Birthday Pig came to Texas! The Pig brought him a Nintendo DS. And he was so excited. It was the 1 thing he actually asked for.
Then we opened the rest of his presents. He had a great time opening a some new Imaginext superhero toys that he didn't have, and he got a couple new DS games, and a carrying case that looks like a Pokemon ball. He was thrilled. Once they both had DS's, we didn't see much of them for a while.
Still, Sam wanted to go swimming, and go to the zoo. So we got up and got moving, and went to the El Paso Zoo.
I didn't set this photo up. They all sat down and were reading their maps while Lisa and I were discussing where to go. As soon as I grabbed the camera Chris got up, but I put him back, and got this hysterical map reading pic.
The desert exhibits in the desert have shade. They had zebras and ostriches, just like our zoo does.
But they have to build in shadey covers so the animals can get a break.
They even build a shade for the giraffe's food, instead of a tree.
In Indy, the giraffe's have trees.
We got some crazy little meerkats!
The first half of the Zoo, was very much like the Indy zoo, with a lot of the same animals.
Turns out Chris is terrified of snacks, even behind a glass case, I gotta work on that.
But we took a banana snack break, and realized that the kids were gonna need and naps, and possibly lunch, so we stopped at the playground, and let the birthday boy play a bit.
Aunt Lisa got him.
Don't you love his Lego Batman shirt he picked out at the PX? And the smile is pretty good too.
So we decided to see a few animals that we don't have in Indy.
Beginning with the Mexican Wolf. They really have lost their habitat, and can only be found now in New Mexico and Mexico. The girls kept calling them Wuffs. Like Mexican Wuffs, and Great Wuff Lodge. I think I should start talking like that too.
Can you see the Wuffs running here? There were two of them. And they were circling around, having a fine old time. It was a beautiful day, downright cool for El Paso.
The Wuffs were really cool. I hope someday there are more, and yet I think with all the development of the area, we're going to lose these animals. It hurts my heart.
I'd never seen or heard of one of these - a Mexican Black Bear.
Apparently, it was a good day for a bear to take a nap. Me too.
All the kids liked to see the Tortoises.
Elvis and Mr. Potato Head were there names, because they were born in the 50s. Wow.
They even had a predatory bird exhibit. It was hard to get any decent pics of any of them, some neat hawks and things, but these I loved, Barn Owls. Amazing. I've heard them, but not seen them, except in books. One is standing on one foot, and the other playing shy.
After our trip to the zoo, we decided to head back to Lisa's. Chris had had an accident and I didn't have spare clothing. But as soon as we got in the car, the kids started grumbling about being hungry. I got turned around looking for food, and trying to get on the highway, but miraculously, out of the ghetto appeared a Whattaburger. Unbelievably, my sister hadn't been since the last time I'd come to town. I don't understand why. It's Awesome. And we were able to order something for every child, and they ate. So they ate on the way home. At one point in our adventures to get back on the highway, I came to an intersection, where if I turned right, I would have ended up at the border, I could see the giant US signs. Juarez. No Thanks. So we turned left. We eventually found the highway, and we got back to Lisa's. It's not that big a city, you can't get lost really. Keep Mexico on the right, and go towards the giant mountain with an A on it, for America. Annie thinks it's Annie's mountain, though, and we let her think that. So we made it home, and all took naps. We got up at a reasonable hour, and dinner reservations weren't for a few more hours.
So we decided to honor Sam's other birthday request.
We took the kids swimming.
Our kids in one car, and James and Annie in the other.
It was pretty serious. There was a great pool for 2$ on Base. And they had a zero entry portion, and if we were feeling crazy a rock wall to climb over the deep end. I wasn't feeling that brave. And it had clearly been a while since my boys swam in a big pool that wasn't at a hotel. They wanted to hang on me, or the edge. Not very much venturing out. We'll have to change that this summer. ;)
But we had a great time at the pool. We were able to stay for an hour and a half. Worth it!
I don't know why Lisa isn't over there every day. I will say that even though the big boys weren't the strongest of swimmers, they felt confident enough to not need vests. They had them, and I'd packed them, but turns out we didn't need them. We started to get tired, and dried out Just in enough time to get home and change before heading out to dinner.
Lisa had made reservations at a place for us Los Banditos by Carlos and Mickey. It sounded odd, but it was a Fine Mexican Restaurant. The kids loved their "beans and mice", eating the snot out of chips and refritos before food even came. I got some yummy "Texas style" fajitas, of course, since everything And they came around with this hat for Sam to try on.
And they all came in, doused the lights, and serenaded him for his birthday.
They were Great!
They had some enthusiastic staff, and Sam didn't know what to do. He just kept glancing at us, but I think inside, he was happy to get so sufficiently spoiled.
They brought him some ice cream over fried crunchy tortilla thing, everybody got to sample.
Sam was totally thrilled.
And we all took turns trying on the hat.
But when we got back to Lisa's, the last fairy still had her gift to give.
Sam opened it, and didn't get it.
They were glowsticks. Not just everyday glowsticks, Uncle James acquired special glowsticks.
These badboys are Serious.
They were Green for one. Sam got a whole box of Green ones.
For another, they stayed lit for almost 3 days after this, giving a nice glow to our hotel rooms.
But all the kids got to partake of this special type of glowstick.
And we had a different kind of dance party.
Partylites. Awesomesauce. The kids (and Mommy) loved them!
They made great nightlights when we went to bed that night too!
Our second day in El Paso, I had high expectations. I was up at 4:30, feeling oddly well rested, and ready to drink my coffee, watch the sunrise, and be ready for the day. We had discussed going to the pool, we discussed going to the Zoo. We had gone to the grocery Tuesday, but I wanted to find some cowboy boots, and Lisa needed to check some things out at the Commissary.
Unfortunately, Annie had school the entire time we visited. But on Wednesday, all the kids were up early enough to have breakfast with her, all get dressed, and we all escorted her to school. :)
My boys wanted desperately to go into her school, and meet her teacher, everything.
But Chris and I escorted her to the gate. We weren't allowed beyond that. They were lining up all the kids on the playground. Lisa calls it the ghetto. Maybe so, but I can still spot a teacher with a kind heart. Annie has been lucky, that even though she's the whitest girl at this whole school (like literally, she's the only one that requires sunscreen at recess), it's not so ghetto that these kids aren't loved.
After dropping off Annie, we took the boys to Fort Bliss.
Lisa lives literally off base, literally on the other side of the highway. Well, this branch of the Cavalry now has a lot of tanks. (It wasn't until This Trip, that I learned James is part of the Cavalry, and that's really extra cool, because so was my Grandfather, also named James, and also with the Cavalry, but when Grandpa Jim signed up the Cavalry still had horses.) So we posed by one of the tanks. The house on the far left was Lisa's old place, before James' last deployment. I have pictures of me and the girls from this very tank, last time I visited!
My boys did not appreciate being stuck on top of a tank, especially Jacob.
And it was sunny out. When I say this was the best picture of all three of them, I do not exaggerate.
Charlie was griping in the car, so it was a record fast photo shoot.
Lisa did get 1 last decent one before we left the tank and went shopping.
But there were no boots to buy. Plenty of other stuff. In fact, Sam picked out a birthday outfit for tomorrow, and Chris picked out Easter clothes for all of them to wear, and I found some jeggings in my size. A bit scary. But no boots.
As we left Fort Bliss, we found another Tank at the exit gate. Welcome to Fort Bliss!
It's a Tank-a-palooza.
Then we went home, watched Box Trolls with Charlie, and took a nap. Cute movie.
Afterwards, I was still on the prowl for Texas boots.
And frankly, I wanted to get the purchase made before Eric got to town. Lots of logic for that - a. He probably would've vetoed me for being crazy. b. he's only down in TX for one day before we hit the road, pretty sure he didn't want to spend it shopping. So, Lisa helped me find a boot store, actually, the same brand store I went to when I came down last time, James took me to Justin's Boot Outlet. Same store. The front door was a little fancier, but the smell and boots were the same. And Li found it for me, so I took the three boys. Unfortunately, the smallest size boot they make is an 8 1/2, which Jake is like a 6. But it was buy them big, or none at all. Jake chose big.
The big boys picked out some matching shirts too.
And cowboy hats. You gotta get Boots and Hats when you come to TX, especially if it looks like it may be the only chance we get to come down this way.
So we got the girls some hats too. I spent way too much money.
But their faces when we got back, and all those cuties in boots and hats, well, it was worth it.
Then we took the crazy kids down to the park again.
And this time, we brought the girls and let all the kids just Play.
They were adorable playing together.
Unfortunately, there were some other kids, with colds, who's guardian wasn't paying any attention, so we cut the trip to the park short, because I didn't want snotty kids anywhere near mine.
Yeah, I was judging. It's not cool to purposefully ignore when your kid has something contagious, and contaminate others. I hosed them down in Thievesitizer, and we went back to Li's place.
As the sun sets....
I actually find the mountains rejuvinating, and beautiful. I'm not used to mountains, being from Indiana, but boy can I respect and treasure them when I'm traveling. I was glad to actually see the sun set this night, because I'd missed it. We saw it actually because James had to work late, and Lisa made us dinner. Lisa made us a rockin' dinner. It was scallops and veggie couscous. I learned that the boys like scallops, especially Chris and Jake. But not so much that they cleaned their plates. No problem, I took care of the scallop and couscous problems. Whew.
We can't have that.
Then we had a Dance Party.
An Epic Dance Party.
Lisa and I were the last ones to stop dancing. And we stopped only because James walked in on us doing Oak Ridge Boys' Beautiful You in the kids' cowboy hats, and he asked how much we'd had to drink. Nothing... yet.
Then the kids turned in. Eric had made all the legs of his flight, and arrived at 11:30. Thankfully, James went and grabbed him, so I could let the boys keep sleeping. And he got in just before midnight. There's a perk of being right around the corner from the aiport. Even though we were exhausted, it was nice to have our family back together.