Jasper National Park

Just north of Banff National Park is Jasper and our next stop on the road to Alaska. The campground we stayed in did not have hook ups so we were on limited electricity with scheduled generator time from 8:00 to 9:30 am and 5:00 to 7:00 pm plus our limited water, so time to be very skimpy with cleaning. The site was beautiful surrounded by birch trees with a little path to our traveling companion’s site too.
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The town of Jasper is just a short drive from the campground with a bit slower pace and less crowds which made it very enjoyable for relaxing at the library with free internet and easy parking places for shopping and restaurants. We enjoyed several more hikes here. I think the hiking could be a full time job here and you would still miss some of these beautiful trails.
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Beautiful, Bustling Banff

Our first real stop on this journey to Alaska we stayed at Tunnel Mountain II in Canada’s first National park, Banff. The campground was gorgeous with views and full hookups. Loads of activities around the campground too. Our sight was lovely and we enjoyed a 5K hike that circles the campground.20140803-170018.jpg

In the town there was so much activity that it was difficult to find a parking place. The streets and buildings resembled a Swiss ski village with adorable little shops. We enjoyed the local brewery and a wonderful ice cream shop called Cows with possibly the beat ice cream in the world. Or so the sign said.

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The visitor center was extremely helpful and the girl who sold me my can of bear spray was entertainment in her own right.

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We hiked Lake Louise, which was unexplainably beautiful even in the rain and mud. And on our way back to the campground we took the old 1A Parkway and spotted bear just past the huge traffic jam. The cars piled up being a sure sign there is a bear within view.

20140803-171222.jpgBanff was a beautiful stay. We enjoyed finally being in one place for more than just a day and I think we all fell in love with hiking especially on the trails next to waterfalls like Johnston Canyon.

Watson Lake’s Signpost Forest

Along the Alaska Highway are many beautiful stops. One town called Watson Lake (the lake there is actually Wye Lake) has a very funky tradition of allowing travelers to post a sign there. It is larger than I imagined and with enough time you could probably find a sign from just about every place. The Mosquitos were out in forces so we didn’t linger as long, but well worth the stop over even for a quick sighting.

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Where to stay, Chicago

We spent the Fourth of July holiday in Chicago. A super fun and very busy place to be for the summer in general and the Fourth of July is no exception. Next time you are heading to Chicago and looking for a great place to park your house, and you don’t mind boon-docking, look up McCormick Place Truck Marshaling Yard. We had a blast staying there. It is really close to everything. We felt very safe inside the gated and guarded parking lot and even enjoyed a fun Zombie Run around the place for exercise. My mother, sister and the four of us all stayed here and even set up chairs in the parking lot to watch the trains go by. This place is right across from the lake and easy access to all things Chicago. On the day my sister left we watched her train whiz by and waved at her for a funny family memory. While we were in Chicago, some very good friends we met in Bahrain happened to be in the area during the same weekend and stopped in for a visit and to see our new home. It was just an all around thumbs up kinda stay. My Mom and sister even gave me the much sought after approval to my lifestyle by saying they can see now why we love this way of life. Our stay here included shows, museums and a local neighborhood Rib Fest. The McCormick Place Truck Marshaling Yard is a parking lot, so no frills, but for location and price it more than makes up the difference.


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Green People

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Out shopping in our abayas in Saudi Arabia.

For the last six years I have thought of myself as a green person. Shortly after leaving the states for our first move overseas a friend of mine told me a story about life as an “expat” and how the experience changes people. The way she explained this change was unique and visual. It went like this, when a person leaves their home country that place is a yellow country. The new resident country is a blue country. Over a period of time the culture and traditions of the new country become a part of this person changing their once yellow color to a mixture of yellow and blue. This expatriate is now a green person. There are many green people in the world and my friend assured me that they are an interesting and supportive group. Green has been my favorite color since that day. I spent six years in my blue country. I loved it. It is an experience I highly recommend. Then came the day when this green person moved back home. I thought for sure that it would take me a while to acclimate to the yellow color of my home. Surely I was forever changed. It’s amazing how quickly being yellow came back to me. I am surprised how fast I have adjusted to life back here. The only part that hangs on for me is the constant comparisons. I try not to talk about them all the time. There are many times I can’t help it and I have to share how this country is different from the one I spent the last six years of my life in. Mostly I just miss the green people. The ones who were a part of my daily life and the ones that I knew only briefly but that touched my heart and life in special ways changing me forever and directing my path to who I am today. The girl who told me the Green People story was my neighbor in Houston before I ever knew I would move to Saudi Arabia. She lived just a few houses down from me. After I moved away we grew closer. Greenness does that to people. The reason I bring all this up here on my blog about a very different journey of becoming a full-time RV family is because I am noticing so many similarities between expats and full-time RV families. The first one is how quickly friendships form. It’s like we know we have limited time here and there is this clearing away of the small stuff because there just isn’t time for it. This happens in a foreign country as well, expats are moved away from family, friends and all things familiar in addition to the fact that they are strangers in a strange land. When one expat meets another expat, they may be from completely different countries, but there are so many experiences that are the same. This makes for quick and easy relationship. It is a need for community amongst the outsiders. Foreigners equals comrades. The people I met overseas proved to be the most satisfying deep relationships I have ever known. I miss that the most. Strangely when we started on this journey I knew there were other people out there that had chosen this path. A less traveled path. What I didn’t count on was just how much this commonality brings people closer together faster and stronger too. I have met some people on this journey so far and I can honestly say I count them as close friends. We don’t have history, but we do have something special, we are kindred spirits. I think that fulltime RV families have a color all their own. A beautiful rainbow of colors, all different, yet linked together.

Pick your own citrus grove and more.

We spent one afternoon IMG_2123at Showcase of Citrus just up the street from Thousand Trails Orlando Campground. It is a you pick ’em citrus grove and more. They have a cute little shop where they prepare freshly squeezed orange slushies that are perfectly delicious and wonderfully cool on a hot day. They also sell fresh produce and a wide variety of other items varying from honey sticks to salsa to baby chicks. Toward the back of the shop before heading out to the groves there is a sample stand where you can try the different varieties of citrus that are currently ripe for picking. This allows for picking favorite flavors to scout out on your gathering time.

There is much to see and experience here including a monster truck ride out in the pastures to see more wildlife and pastures too far away for the walk. We ventured out on foot collecting a variety of oranges, tangerines and a few lemons. There are handy signs at the beginning of each row of trees informing you what is in season and safe for gathering. They also have plenty of animals roaming around to give the picker a true farm feel. Chickens, and pigs and goats, oh my! We even saw our first live alligator in the water on the property near the entrance complete with a sailboat anchored out in the middle of the water which made my boys wonder if the gators live out on that old abandoned sailboat.

Out in the grove our group gathered oranges with long sticks that have little orange baskets on the end of them to help you pick your fruit from heights not easily reachable without very tall ladders. Although at first we thought we may not be able to fill our large mesh bags, we managed to gather enough after a little practice with the the picker contraptions and our bags were over-flowing with our finds.

All in all this was a fun and interesting experience. Word of warning… our oranges were not peel-able and had so many seeds that I ended up just juicing them for our personal use. Not sure if this is normal as this was our first experience, but it makes me wonder if super market oranges are also bred to peel easily and have less seeds too. If this is true, does it make them less healthy? I would love to hear from any one out there what your experiences with citrus has been.

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Feeling Free

20140218-154102.jpgToday I feel three weeks old. We have been on the road as a full-time RV family for three weeks now and life feels so different. It isn’t the big stuff, like living in 200 square feet, or moving around all the time, or even the “no day looks the same” syndrome. It is all the teeny tiniest details that make me feel like my life is so very, very different than it was just three short weeks ago. When we moved to the middle east we made huge changes, we left the USA, we lived in a culture very different from the only one we’d known. Our neighbors did not have English as their first language. We made huge changes, everything felt different in big ways. But me, us, our family, our routines, how we acted toward each other, when we went to sleep, how we ate and what we said, that all stayed the same. We had routines of work, and school and life and social time. So we felt like us still. It was good. An experience I wouldn’t change for anything. We learned so much. Now we are back in the USA, we are living in familiar surroundings, we know the language, the shopping, the street signs. Life is easy. But in all the small ways life has shifted. We live simply, we have no schedule and no plan. We can do anything today, or tomorrow, or next month. We are flying free and floating with the weather and our whims. Life is so very, very different now. I feel like a new person. The boys are different. Scott is different. We act and talk and respond differently. It feels like we are all tuned in at a higher frequency. Like walking out of the theatre after a matinee movie and realizing that it is still daylight when I expected night. Everything is so bright and the whole world seems to open up. The possibilities seem endless. I’m not sure how long this feeling lasts but I hope I always remember it. Life is beautiful especially in the smallest tiniest details of feeling truly free.