99 cent cookies

Okay, so Carlsbad was pretty cool! The lame part was Dacen speeding to get out and Brielle dragging her feet. At least we got to drop them in the bottomless pit thats really only 140 feet deep. Alright… We didn’t really get to drop them. That would’ve been against the rule no touching the formations. We saw a whole lot of formations! Here’s a list: stalagmites, stalactites, stalagpipes, and stalaclights. They were all really cool. I learned that it is very important that the national parks are protected, because God forbid, if they weren’t, there would be bathrooms and drinking fountains in the heart of the cave as well as a snack bar that sold sandwiches and 99 cent cookies. Man THAT would be horrible. People are weird sometimes.

People are crazy,
Caden: a.k.a lieutenant Ellsworth Bertholf<– inside joke.

There’s diamonds in them thar hills

Today we took a little drive up to Davis Mountains State Park just outside of town.  We really wanted to camp here but heard that Verizon data was hard to pull in without a booster and that campground wifi was spotty.  It would be an awesome place to camp though.  We drove out Skyline Dr which had some nice views and an itty bitty geocache.  After snagging a few pics we went back to the trailer for an early dinner.

There was a very nice couple at the same RV park as us that came over and introduced themselves to us.  Glenn and Melinda.  Steph had met Melinda earlier in the day at the laundry room.  Glenn and Melinda volunteer at McDonald observatory where we had reservations for a Star Party.  So after dinner we headed back up into the Davis Mountains to check out the millions of twinkling diamonds in the sky.   We were given a constellation tour by a very well informed dude with this awesome laser pointer he could use to point out stars and constellations.  Then they had 7 telescopes set up looking at different things: Orion nebula, Andromeda galaxy, M1, the Pliadese and some other star clusters.  The volunteers manning the telescopes were super nice, knew their stuff and they loved having kids interested in astronomy.  Melinda and Glenn each were stationed at one of the telescopes and it was cool to “know someone”, our “neighbor”, there at the star party.  It was a perfectly clear night and really not that cold for January.

I am always totally amazed by the vastness of space and how insignificant it makes me feel…but I find great comfort in knowing that the same One who placed every single star, planned every supernova and stirred up every nebula also created me uniquely and purposefully from scratch!

Ft Davis

Honestly I didn’t expect our first stop to be all that exciting. I figured I would like Austin and San Antonio and really enjoy it once we got to the coast.

It turned out I LOVED Ft. Davis! There is so much to do around this small town out in the “middle of nowhere.”

First experience: Unexpectedly in the laundry room at the RV park just on the edge of town. I was trying my best to rush around and multitask – get kids started on homework, run over and do some laundry. Repeat. First a permanent resident told me to use up the remaining time on her dryer money. Then Melinda came in and introduced herself. She and Glenn were volunteering up at the Star Party we were going to on Friday night! That was really nice to have some people to look forward to seeing up there. But I apologized as I needed to get back and make sure the kids hadn’t been lured onto their screens. The permanent resident told us about some local sites to see and told me she would get me the papers she created for the library.

Second experience: Ft. Davis Historical Site. I like museums, but I usually have a short attention span. The Fort was so great! It still had a lot of the original buildings and also a lot of remnants so you could see what time and the elements do to the structures. They did a great job presenting information in a fun way. The Jr Ranger booklets helped too and were well done. Overall our favorite was the Hospital (oddly no pics – too busy having fun!). But I was excited to learn about Buffalo Soldiers! Another song where I knew the words, but not the meaning. Then the Ranger was so kind and fun to talk to. She was an elementary science teacher in the mornings, so she was great with the kids. I loved her!



Third: All the people are so kind and friendly. It is a small town. At the RV Park and in town, the people all wanted to talk and share information about the area.

Fourth: The Library. Cool because it looks Old West but otherwise unassuming on the outside. Then we walked in. Thank goodness my kids LOVE books and libraries because I would hate to miss this one! Immediately we were all struck by the quaintness and quirkiness. It had a lot of old things mixed in with the books. Even a plinky old piano with a little sitting area. Everywhere we looked there was something interesting. Then one of the ladies said the kids could check out a book on her card if we returned it tomorrow. I was floored! She didn’t know us. She knew we were only passing through. But she wants kids to read and she was willing to take the chance that we were good people. Huck had a call and told us to go on, but the kids really wanted to sit and read, so they did.





Fifth: The Courthouse. One of the first stops on the tour was the courthouse. A lady had told us to ask to go to the top. They don’t let people up there because it is high up and doesn’t have proper safety guards. Ding dongs dangling legs over the edge, etc. have made it so people can’t go up there except during certain times. We asked but they said no. So instead we asked a couple ladies to tell us why Texans have so much pride in their courthouses. Turns out the 2nd set of ladies – one was the Justice of the Peace – and she was more than willing to give the kids a LOT of information. Did you know the Texas flag is the only one allowed to fly at the same height as the USA flag? It’s because Texas was it’s own country before joining the Union. Both the ladies told us about sites in the surrounding area we should visit. And they mentioned we should go to Sonora Caverns as a halfway point to our next destination.



On the walking tour I LOVED walking into the Presbyterian church. My Grandpa Robbins was a Presbyterian minister and the early part of my childhood was spent attending a Presbyterian church. The stain glass windows are so beautiful. This one had a reed organ, and the familiar dark red pew pads. It felt so comforting. Caden said he loved that church too.



Sixth: The Drug Store. The description on the tour said it had long been a hang out for the locals. Walk in and there is an old fashioned soda fountain and counter. The one thing that would have made it better would be homemade ice cream. Blue Bell was fine. This was the end of the tour, so between the 5 of us, we had some malts, ice cream and a vanilla coke. As weird as it sounds I even loved the bathroom! The toilets were all 2 steps up and for some reason it seemed so Old Saloon like. The dividers were old doors. The sink was even old looking, yet not gross old.
Upstairs are some hotel rooms, each a little different and the layout of the hallway and rooms reminded me of the hotel I stayed at with my MIL and sister in laws in Fairplay. Memories.



Seventh: The Star Party. We really enjoyed it! We learned so much. I wanted to take notes as I knew I wouldn’t remember half of it, but that would ruin everyone’s night vision. I do remember learning about the Zodiacal line (and corresponding glow). It was of course fun to see so many constellations and nebulae in the various telescopes. The volunteers usually had lots of information to teach while we were waiting in line. We learned about Messier and various others. And it was fun to see/talk to both Melinda and Glenn. The best part though was the magnificent shooting star that lasted a long time and followed the outline of a nearby hill. Brielle was soooo excited and the lady manning the telescope we were at said how excited she was to be a part of Brielle’s first shooting star!



We also enjoyed a short drive into the Davis Mountain State Park. We found a geocache and enjoyed the beautiful views.



I would highly recommend visiting this small town in Texas. There were so many other sites nearby that we didn’t have time to explore: The Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, Marfa and the unexplained Marfa lights. Alpine (a bigger town nearby that probably had a decent grocery store), Balmorhea (it has a hot springs pool that we stopped and looked at, but it was very cold that day, so no swimming for us!) I know there are more I’m forgetting, but put this on your list as a good resting stop if you are heading through Texas.

How to lift a 14.5k lb trailer by hand

After several days at Fort Davis we decided to head east.  So we got around in the morning (takes us forever) but were on schedule to hit the road at 10:00.  One of the last steps is raising the front end of the fifth wheel using the powered landing gear so we can hitch up.  All was going fine until I heard the motor start struggling and then the clutch started clicking and we weren’t going higher.  We were still a few inches from being high enough to hitch up.  So I started investigating and realized that I had sheered a pin off the shaft of the front left landing gear.  So the right leg was trying to do all the work and started getting the trailer cattywompus and bind up the landing gear.  I started thinking “well, at least this is a nice place to stay a few more days”…but at the same time I got into McGyver mode.

I started looking for something I could use as a pin.  Stubby screwdriver?  Nope, didn’t fit.  Some wire?  Doesn’t seem strong enough.  I had some wood screws so I stuck one in and it fid dit!!  I wrapped some electrical tape around it to hold in in place and hit the motor button.  Click click click click.  Crud!!  Then I remembered the guy we bought the trailer from said “don’t loose this bar/crank…its for manually operating the landing gear.  But I sure hope you never have to use it!”  Well, it was my day to use it.  I started cranking…it was HAAAAARD.  And its geared so low you can’t even tell its moving.  But after awhile it started getting easier…”maybe I’d gotten past the binding point!” I thought.  So I hit the button and the sweet sound of a happy motor hummed along as it lifted the trailer.  WHEW!!  By the time the gear was up my screw had been completely chewed up and spit out in 3 pieces. So much for leaving at 10:00…but, we don’t have any schedule or reservations so we just go with the flow!  Glenn came over to say goodbye and wish us well.

We swung by an Ace hardware on the way out of town and I got a couple bolts to use for a more permanent solution.  I installed the new bolt while we filled our guts with lunch at a rest stop on I-10. I think the landing gear is back in business.

Some-more-a caverns at Sonora Caverns

Say the title in your best Lawrence Welk voice.  We decided to only go as far as Sonora Caverns on our way east.  The caverns has camping for $25 a night which is a bargain compared to their ticket prices.  All the reviews said it was well worth the money.  But I looked at the reviews for my old stompin’ grounds of Cave of the Winds and it said the same thing.  I never understood why people would pay THAT much money to see the cave.  Mostly I’m sure it was due to the fact that I was making less than minimum wage and that I got to see all the much cooler non commercial parts of the cave whenever I wanted.  So, was Sonora Caverns worth it?  For a day and a half at minimum wage it might be a bit much…but, it was quite spectacular!  Besides the 5 of us there was an older couple on the tour who reminded Caden of Baba and Zedo.  They were super nice and really fun to have on the tour with us.  The cave has small passageways and rooms like Cave of the Winds but warmer and MUCH wetter.  And as we got away from the entrance the formations became more and more unbelievable.  It really felt like we were inside a giant geode.  And there was a room with some of the longest soda straw stalactites I’ve ever seen…and they looked so frail next to the regular stalactites.

I might be part troll…I love the dampness and darkness of caves…the stillness of the air…the silence…the drips…and then the blast of blinding light and dry, hot wind as you exit.  Almost feels like being born again (not that I remember the 1st time). All in all we give it 5 thumbs up.

It was a beautiful evening so the kids played outside till dinner time.  After dinner we finished our audio book “Because of Mr Terupt” and then went to bed.

LBJ on the way

Steph already posted on this but here is my take on it.

Between Sonora and Austin we noticed that we’d be passing the LBJ National Historic site (and its also a Texas State Park).  It looked like it would align well with our lunch stop so we put it in our sites and before long we were at the beautiful park.  We thought this was going to be a quick look through a museum or something and then we’d be on our way again.  But when the ranger showed me the map there was a LOT to see.

First stop was the historic homestead site that was loosely tied to LBJ (I think the midwife that delivered him maybe lived in that house….I can’t remember).  But there was a couple dressed in period clothing there that were so great with the kids.  They told all about how they cooked and cleaned, how they preserved food and they gave lots of Texas history.  The coolest part was they still actively operate the homestead.  Everyday they cook lunch for the volunteers in that kitchen.  They had chili and chocolate cookies….so the oven still had hot coals in it.  They had just butchered a pig and turned it into sausage which were hanging out in a shed.  Last year’s sausages were still being eaten and were stored in a vat of lard for preservative (which was also hand cream).  Past years lard was then converted to lye soap.  They spun wool, made candles….the whole enchilada!  I love that kind of stuff.

Next was a brief stop at the one room school house that LBJ attended as a youngin’ before we went on the scenic drive around his ranch which ended at the hangar and Texas white house.  The hangar had his airplane (he was the first VP to have his own plane and the first president to use a jet plane rather than prop plane).  There was a small but interesting museum part of which had a collection of his cars including the amphicar!  The kids got their Jr Ranger badges (no patches here….argh) and then we took a look around the outside of the Texas white house.  Tours of the house were actually free for the day (because they were doing some work inside)…but we needed to get back on the road or we’d be setting up in the dark….again!

Its definitely worth a stop if you have the chance.

LBJ Ranch & State Park

This was an unplanned stop along our route from Sonora to Austin.

We needed to eat lunch anyway, we have both a Texas State park pass and a National Park pass, so we figured it’s free, let’s check it out. I’m sooo glad we did! I really did not enjoy history growing up. I was not good at picturing it in my head and keeping the timelines straight. But I am enjoying history much more as an adult and these living museums make it so fun and fascinating.


We started on the Sauer-Beckmann Farmstead, a living history farm, presented as it was in 1918, where a gentleman whose family has farmed the area for generations and another lady were there to show and tell us about life back at the turn of the century. She actually cooks the lunch dinner for all the workers there everyday on the wood burning stove! And she made cookies that morning – in the wood burning oven! They had just slaughtered a 750lb pig days before and they showed us the sausages that were being cured. They showed us the lard that would preserved the sausages for the next year. She showed us how to prepare and spin the sheep’s wool. They talked about the history of the area – the gentleman had some relatives that were part of the child kidnappings! The Indians used to kidnap the kids in the area.


We loved seeing the LBJ Ranch and learning about his Presidency. It is still a working ranch with Hereford cattle descended from his/his families’ cattle. He loved attending the legislature with his dad.

He was a school teacher (explains his passion for education!) He believed “the only true passport our of poverty was education.” We saw the one room school house he attended as a child.


There were cars (he owned an Amphibious car and loved to scare people that didn’t know it was amphibious!) and his Air Force One airplane. He was the first VP to have a plane dedicated to him.



There was a sweet phone call recorded where he insisted former President Truman? use his plane at anytime – not a commercial airplane. And of course the house – The Texas Whitehouse. We chose not to tour it since we still had a ways to drive and set up camp! But we got to walk around and I can see why he loved the area. They are right on the Pedernales River and it’s gorgeous there!

It was quite a wonderful unplanned stop – and hey it counts as school!! 🙂

The D word and the A word

It should not be a surprise to those who know me that I’d rather be on a bicycle than in a car.  And if I must be in a car, it will be a super small fuel efficient vehicle.  Given our choice of a large 5th wheel this required a large truck which is neither a bike nor a small fuel efficient vehicle.  On a recent excursion to Austin we found ourselves in HEAVY rush hour traffic where we were sitting still and the smart cycling commuters were flying past us.  We had all 5 bikes in the back and I was so frustrated I almost suggested we ditch the truck and go the rest of the way on bikes.  Then one of the boys used the “D” word!!  They asked me “is this as bad a Denver?”.  My family knows how much I hate driving through Denver…traffic is always bad….ALWAYS.  So for me, Denver is a bad word.  After our experience in Austin we may have a new bad word, the “A” word!

There is a lot to like about Denver…and we did have a great time in Austin (especially when on our bikes).  But traveling through either city with the other “A” word (automobile) makes my skin crawl.

Austin Day 1

Hmmmm. This was an interesting day! The kids and I took too long getting up and around. I swear we are still on Mountain time! We loaded the bikes and were so excited to explore the much acclaimed Zilker Park! We went to the visitors center first to get armed with information/maps as I felt kind of lacking in those areas despite our research. I had our maps and thought we were ready. Here’s a pic of the Texas State Capital Building (the small brown dome in the background) coming up Congress Ave.


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My Pet Peeve

You know how some things are just really annoying to you and no one else? Well one of my pet peeves is when people say words wrong. Argh! It just really gets me, and I’m forced to correct the person knowing that they’ll say it wrong again and again. One of the main things people say now that I really notice is when they refer to our FIFTH wheel instead they say R.V., or even worse: fith wheel. Ahhh! It strikes terror into my soul the terrible word fith. It’s so horrible! My eye are burning! And here is an example of how fake and wrong this word is, whenever I type fith it changes it to with. Mmmmmmm key lime pie…. Anyway back to reality. I think I’ll sign off now.

TTFN, Tata for now,
Supreme Commander of Awesomeness less known as Caden

P.S. I never know how to end, but that seems good enough right? And it expresses my amazingness and love of key lime pie.

P.P.S I really don’t know why I was thinking of key lime pie, but it’s tasty, so, yeah, bye I guess.