Saturday, August 9, 2014

GRAND.

The Grand Canyon is Grand. I mean, grander than grand. There isn't even a word to describe it's grandeur. The first glimpse I got of it, I was brought to tears. 

Then, as I sat and pondered it's vastness, I started to doubt it was real. Like it was some kind of projection, it was just too big and beautiful to be real. 

It reminds me of my faith. Sometimes I doubt. I don't know how God can be so merciful and forgiving of such an imperfect person. 



But He is and He does. 



Jason and I hiked down into the canyon (not all the way...we still had a ways to go), but it is real, very real, and beautiful and magnificent. 


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hotter than, well you know...



Call me a trend follower, but about 3 months ago I stopped eating gluten, dairy, and sugar in hopes of fixing some health issues I’ve had. I know, I know, this and that are fads, so I should just give it up, but I think it might FINALLY be working. The hardest part by far has been sugar. I have allowed myself to eat fruit (and in the beginning things sweetened with fruit juice, but I quit even that when I saw how many grams of sugar my one serving of “only sweetened with fruit juice” jam had). So, I’ve had no honey, agave, or any other natural sweeteners. I’m just taking the advice of what I’ve read online and I have enjoyed my new diet. Though it hasn’t accomplished what I had hoped as quickly as I hoped. Now I’ve got you wondering what could possibly be wrong with me, will I die? One day, yes, I will. Who knows when…and it won’t be from my pimples…er…. "health issues" that currently bother me. I tell you about this because I wanted to give a recommendation that traveling while on a super strict diet can be so frustrating, so don’t even try. There aren’t Whole Foods strategically placed along Route 66…there aren’t even regular grocery stores, just giant convenience stores and gas stations. I’m mad at you, America, for creating the most conveniently packaged and tastily addictive food.

I am used to cooking every meal. Everyday I cook two to three times, so we aren’t tempted to waste money eating out, but it’s impossible to cook while you’re driving 6-10 hours a day. Trust me, I tried and the bumps, wind, and switching lanes are not conducive to cooking on a gas stove…I thought I might die. So, we decided to stop at a cute little roadside diner and see if they might have anything to offer.
This is the only green lawn in south New Mexico
It was adorable inside and out. Their menu was what you’d expect from a diner and the food was sub-par, but it’s about the experience! Guy Fieri certainly won’t be stopping here anytime soon. I had a black coffee and a hamburger patty with mustard. Not really what I’d call healthy, but it did fit the bill as to what I could eat (I even made them give me individual mustard packets, so I could check the ingredients…I never thought I’d be one of THOSE people…it’s only temporary…please don’t judge me).


I LOVE the name
The diner was located at the intersection of HWY 60, which happens to be the road Jason’s parents (practically) live on in Kentucky, so we sent them this picture to tell them we were just down the road.

Once we rolled out of there we drove through Roswell, NM. Or was it before the diner? Who knows…everything is a haze when you’re in the desert. I was hoping for more alien inspired roadside attractions, but this guy at the gas station will have to do.
Looks like the alien scared Winnie, not sure how else to explain that wet spot
And there is one to tribute all our family back in KY.

I now understand why people start seeing things when they live in the desert. It’s hot and there is nothing around for miles and miles.
 
Feels like this photo is straight out of a story book
Past Albuquerque we stopped at a hotel that has RV hook-ups because it was our anniversary and we thought it might be nice to go for a swim and hang out in a hot tub. We headed for the pool immediately only to realize there were about 35 children in a pool that should probably only hold 20. That was fine, there was still the hot tub. We dipped in, hit the button to crank on the jets, and started to relax. I guess the bubbles attracted the attention of the kids because within a matter of seconds we were swarmed.  We stayed the entire 10 minute jet-cycle laughing hysterically and asking the children questions about anything ranging from their favorite color to the best way to eat spaghetti.
The hotel was on route 66, where we got our kicks 

The following morning we made our way to the biggest thing we’ve seen so far on our trip. I’m sure you can guess what it is, but you’ll have to wait until the next blog post to see photos. For now, here are some of the beautiful sights we saw on exploration of the western frontier:




Friday, July 18, 2014

Carl Is Bad


Carl is bad. Say that five times fast. It’s not particularly challenging, but you’re probably slurring the words together so it sounds like you’re saying Carlsbad over and over again. Carlsbad was one of our recent destinations and that introduction was the catchiest I could come up with.


On our way there was the first time I drove the RV! WOOT, WOOT! Jason wouldn't let me drive on any curvy roads (and I didn't want to), so we did a switch-a-roo on a road that was very straight, flat, and had no other cars for miles. You needn't know the details of our not stopping to make the switch...this baby has cruise control and lots of room to move. 

Great idea, Emily. Smile for the camera while you drive an enormous vehicle. IT was quick...I promise!
We saw so many beautiful new landscapes on our way there. Neither of us had been to this part of the country.



We were there on a week day before schools let out for the summer, so there were only a few other people in the cave with us which made it nice to hike at a quick pace without having to wait in lines. We had to take our scooter up to the entrance of the caverns. It was a pretty steep drive and our scooter doesn't do so well going up hill. At one point we passed one of those signs that showed our speed and I glanced up at 13 MPH flashed across the screen below the warning to only drive 25 MPH. I just have to laugh when I think about the cars passing us...we didn't even get THAT many weird looks when we drove around in Korea.  
The road going up.
The road from up top.
Located in southern New Mexico, Carlsbad has the largest one room cavern in the western hemisphere. It also has the largest natural entrance. At the natural entrance we were greeted by hundreds of cave swallows swooping around us. It was about 90 degrees up top, but got as cool as 56 degrees as we went down, down, down into the cavern.


The paths were paved and there was a lot of railing which is nice because it makes it so accessible to everyone. There were also a lot of opportunities to exit if you felt like you were getting too tired to continue hiking. The sites inside were absolutely beautiful. We didn’t pay for a guided tour, but I felt satisfied in what we saw and read on informational signs place throughout the cavern. 



There is nothing around Carlsbad, but a few roadside attractions and a gift shop. We stopped here because it was convenient for us to see on the way to the Grand Canyon, but I don’t think I would plan a whole vacation to see this destination. I’m glad we went and if you’re in the area it’s worthwhile to go see. It's evident we had a ton of fun. 





Next up? Somewhere in the middle of the desert outside of Albuquerque where we got our kicks on Route 66!


Saturday, June 14, 2014

CATSUP

Emily Simpson Morrow


I was going to title this blog post “Catch up”, but I thought that while it is completely explanatory of what this post is about, it is also completely boring (unlike the post). So, of course my natural progression of thought was “Well maybe I’ll name it Ketchup, you know, like a clever play on words”. Turns out, I don’t have much to say about ketchup which kind of takes away from the cleverness of the blog title post. Catsup, however, I can talk about catsup all. day. long. I will spare you and only say a few words on the matter: Who actually spells it “catsup”? Also, is it then pronounced as it is spelled? Am I the only one who read this paragraph with an inner narrative voice of Hugh Grant?

Back to catsing-up….er…catching up, rather, the last you read we were park hosts at Stephen F. Austin State Park. Here are a bunch of numbers that can pretty much sum up our experience there:

1- The number of times per week I left the park (pretty much just to go grocery shopping). There was one point that Jason and I decided to make the trek into Katy, TX, which took us an hour on the scooter. We wanted to look around at some used bookstores and since it’s quite a long trip we decided to stay a while and to go to the mall. We have been so surrounded by nature that going into a mall with all the flashing lights and sounds of technology over-stimulated our brains and I actually got a headache from all the distractions. As if I wasn’t already a weirdo.
This is Jason's favorite photo of me because it looks like I have no limbs. I'm not sure why that makes it his favorite...
4- Approximately how many pounds of dew berries (essentially blackberries) I sneakily picked and ate in about a month’s span. Thanks to my friend Victoria and her adorable children, I starting picking berries and didn’t stop till they were gone. Victoria is an amazing inspiration to me. She became one of my closest friends while I was at Stephen F. Austin. Because of her I started eating healthier, becoming more earth conscious, and getting more in touch with my artistic side. She is originally from Russia, but lives here now with her husband and three children. Everyone thinks it’s so interesting that her husband is an attorney, but they live in an RV traveling around parks in Texas. She is really cool and she always gave me free rides to get groceries, so we wouldn’t have to take our RV (sometimes the scooter is insufficient). I could dedicate an entire blog post to Victoria…maybe I will…but not this one… On the subject of berries: why haven’t I become a farmer yet!?! It is so cool to pick your food from a plant then eat it!
Oh, yum!
Check out the size of that berry!
8- The number of months we have been living in our RV. Also the largest number of deer I saw outside our RV at once.
Just imagine this little lady times 8. 
16- The number of weeks we were in Texas. In this time we toured Houston, Galveston, Stephen F. Austin, Austin (LOVE this city), and San Antonio. Oh, and we stayed the night in Kerrville, but the only thing we did there was go to H.E.B. (a Texas chain grocery store). What is your favorite city in Texas?
That's me and the little brothers in San Antonio at The Alamo.
36- The approximate number of hours I was working every week at Stephen F. Austin. Somehow I ended up working almost every day. Hence the lack of attention I gave to the blog.    
Leaf blowing like a boss, never mind that I'm holding it wrong.
55- The number of ticks we found on or near Jason, Winnie, or myself in the entire 16 weeks we were in TX.  You know those stories you hear of the sweetest, most gentle people who will set a trail of crumbs to lead a bug outside? Yeah, those people exist, Jason is one of them, but when it comes to ticks, he’ll pop off their head and flush them down the toilet. At first we felt a little bad about all the little creatures we were killing, but we decided that if one of us were a tick, we wouldn’t attach ourselves to humans or dogs, just deer. Therefore, we would be more likely to survive. That’s just Jason and I, we can’t speak for Winnie; she may very well attach herself to a person or dog if she were a tick.

83- The ideal temperature for me. Jason says his is about 70. I think Winnie’s is 45. What’s yours?

102- Number of cigarette butts I picked up from one campsite. Seriously, that’s a lot of smoking for one weekend camping trip.

192- The number of times I scrubbed a toilet. The most interesting story I can tell about bathroom cleaning is one time I walked into the men’s bathroom and a man was standing there shirtless. He rigged a system of balancing a coffee pot on top of the trashcan, so that while he was camping he could still get his precious coffee. He offered me a cup and I kindly declined. He decided to keep me company while I cleaned and he told me how just the night before he was walking on someone’s farm and an emu came up and kicked him.

400- Number of times I shoveled ashes out of a fire pit. I usually felt super empowered when I was shoveling pits. In case you are ever assigned to shovel fire pits I highly recommend listening to Cake.

160,000- The number of words Jason wrote and published while we were park hosts. You can check out his newest books here and here.

This book rocks!
Now that you're caught up on that, more adventure tales to come soon!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

State Park Super Hero


I’m that person on the side of the road with a cardboard sign that says, “Will work for food” except my sign says, “Will work for a place to stay” and I use the Internet instead of standing on the sidewalk. My cardboard sign is my resume and I’m able to provide references upon request. So, I guess I don’t have that much in common with them except we both don’t really know what the future holds.


After looking for only few days before our time was up in Alabama, Jason and I got an offer to be Park Hosts at Stephen F. Austin State Park, just outside of Houston, TX. If you’re looking to meet the friendliest people in the world and work at a place that feels like you’re at Boy Scout Camp, come to Stephen F. Austin State Park.



So far, Jason and I are smitten because this is an awesome place to work. We get fancy walkie-talkies, rad uniforms, and an awesome trash picker upper stick. The best perk (aside from working with super nice people) is getting to drive around in a gator…it’s like a golf cart on steroids. I’ve never felt more awesome than when I write a “ticket” to tell someone they aren’t supposed to park in the grass. I’m practically a state park super hero and, no, this type of job totally doesn’t go to my head.





All volunteer jobs have different requirements. At our last job, Jason and I painted and that’s pretty much all we did. We worked two 8 hour days every week. At this job we only work a couple of hours every day. Some of our duties are: cleaning bathrooms, shoveling fire pits, splitting wood, picking up trash, selling wood and ice, and whatever else the park wants us to do. The worst part is cleaning bathrooms, but the park provides all the necessary materials (including gloves and face masks), so it’s not all that bad. 

I have a new respect for people who clean public restrooms as a full-time job. It’s a tough job and I will never take for granted a clean restroom ever again. I’m ashamed to say that I used to be the person who would drop a paper towel on the floor if there was not a garbage can near the door (because really there should be a garbage can beside the door so people don’t have to touch the door handle…germs, people…let’s think about germs, but some of the cleaning people don’t have the power to put a trash can there… cough, cough me…so they/we are left to clean up after germaphobes/me). NEVER AGAIN, I say to you, I vow to respect public restroom cleanliness at all cost. I’m now stepping off my newly discovered soapbox.


We’re anxious to get to travel to the hot spots near us. We plan to visit all things spacy in Houston and we’ve heard great things about museums there, too. Oh, and someone told us to travel through the tunnels of Houston. Does anyone know more about this? We don’t currently have wifi in our home on wheels, so we have to leave our RV to get Internet and everything we search is very intentional, so hopefully by putting this in the blog I’ll remember to do some research. We’re also very excited to see the Alamo in San Antonio, which is totally a possibility for a day trip. Let’s not forget Galveston. Texas is HUGE, so we’ll check out the other side of the state before we head to New Mexico.


Have you been to Texas? Any insider tips on what we should see/do? This is the farthest West we’ve been!  






 
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