Tuesday, May 30, 2017

It's wonderful!!! - Living in Yellowstone Update #1

We haven't even been in Yellowstone a week yet and already this is my favorite summer ever.  I'm so glad that my husband and I could figure out a way to go on vacation all summer.

Yellowstone was the first place I wanted to write about when I started this blog.  The National Park had been the setting for the road trip that my husband and I went on for our first anniversary back in 2008, and so it seemed fitting that it should be the subject of my first post on my travel blog.

However, I quickly realized that Yellowstone is a BIG topic.  Even though I'd been to the park three times (and later one more time) I felt completely unqualified to write about the park. There was just so much to see and do in the park. How could I even begin to offer advise about how to have a great visit?

One of the many reasons I wanted to work/live in Yellowstone this summer is so I could learn more about this amazing place.  Maybe, just maybe, by the end of the summer I'll feel more qualified to write about the park.

Until then I plan to just do little updates on how the summer is going.  Six people living in a 25 foot RV is an interesting story in itself.  Add in the fact that we are in Yellowstone makes this summer pretty unforgettable.  So watch for updates throughout the summer.  I don't have access to reliable Wi-Fi so I can't promise any consistency in the frequency of my posts, but I do promise to update as often as I can.

So how are we doing?  Well I can honestly say that we are doing great. Everything has been just about perfect.  So far this has been my best visit to Yellowstone ever.  Since we'll be here for over 60 days we can really take our time and explore the park.  Instead of rushing around the park trying to see as many things as possible in 48 hours we just take our time.  We've also discovered that the park is amazing after about 6:00 pm.  The crowds disappear and we have the place to ourselves.

As far as living in an RV goes, it's been pretty great too.  Obviously it's been crampt, but that hasn't been that much of a problem yet.  I'm actually surprised at how normal it feels. Both my husband and I had only ever camped in tents before buying the RV.  So the fact that we have a working fridge, oven microwave, toilet, and electric lights feels palatial. Heck, just having cupboards is amazing.  The small space has been good for our family in some ways.  For example, We only brought a few dishes so we've become really good at washing, drying, and putting away dishes after every meal.  I even made a little chart so we can keep track of which kid is responsible for clearing the table, washing, rinsing, or drying.

I'm happy to say that my job is really great.  I'm still in a training phase, but everything is very similar to a position I had over the winter so I don't anticipate too many problems.  Quite frankly, this is pretty much my dream job.

So what have we seen in the park so far?  If I had the time I would load this post up with a hundred pictures.  But we don't have that kind of time or bandwidth.  So here are 8 highlights in no particular order.

We've been to the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River twice since we got here.  My son loves this waterfall and has been carrying a picture of it around for several days.  This view from Artist Point matched the picture on his brochure.  He was so excited to see it in person.

Right when we drove into the park we drove past about 3 buffalo.  My oldest daughter loves buffalo (for some unexplained reason) so she was very happy.  I like to think of them as the welcoming committee.

Here is our home for the next few months. We have water, sewer, and electric hookups so we are pretty set there.  Our stove and our heater run off propane. When we arrived our fire pit was still covered in snow.  The snow has been melting for the past few days and so hopefully we'll have a dry campsite soon. Most of our neighbors are retired and so far I think we have the only kids in the place.  If my kids play their cards right they might end up with 50 or so surrogate grandparents.
Our church has services at Old Faithful Lodge every Sunday at 7:00 pm so we went there for church and then walked around the geyser basin.  A quick rain storm had cleared out most of the tourists so we basically had the place to ourselves.  We did see Old Faithful erupt.  But the star of the evening was Castle Geyser which erupted for 20 minutes.  We watched it as we walked around the boardwalk and looked at other geysers.
We've done a pretty good job of weening the kids off their technology dependence.  But we still enjoy watching a movie on DVD every now and then.  We continued our movie night tradition on Friday night.  We watched Pacific Rim and the kids LOVED it.
We went to Norris Geyser Basin on Saturday when I was done with training for the day.  Norris is an interesting place, but it's also less hospitable than the area around Old Faithful.  We all liked it at first, but by the time we were done exploring we just wanted to get back in the car.
When we visited Artist Point we found a trail that led off to Point Sublime.  The trail had some scary parts and is not for the faint of heart, but we were rewarded with amazing views.   Side note: My son is the best hiking partner.  He is excited about everything and always wants to "keep going this way."

On my first day of work I had to check in at Gardener, Montana which is just north of the Mammoth Hot Springs area.  When I was done with check in we stopped off at Mammoth and explored the area a little bit.  This was the best visit I've ever had at Mammoth.  The weather has been a little chilly which is perfect for viewing hotsprings.  Everything was steamy and amazing looking.

Well that's all for now.  Basically we are happy, healthy, and having the best summer of our lives.  I'm so glad that my husband and I decided to take this risk.  It's already paying off immensely.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Adventure Begins

Within a few hours my family will be on our way to Yellowstone. All six of us are going to live in an RV for the whole summer. I know it sounds crazy, but it also seems so right.

I can't think of a better way to spend the summer.

Before we go I want to share some quotes and other things that have influenced our decision to do something this crazy.  The first quote is the "Life Motto" from the  movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

It reads,

To see the world, 
Things dangerous to come to,
To see behind walls,
Draw closer,
To find each other,
And to feel.
That is the purpose of

My husband and I loved the movie and the quote so much that we printed it out and hung it on our wall.  It summed up how we felt about military life.  Even though my husband is out of the military, we aren't quite ready to give up the nomadic lifestyle.  There are still many dangerous things to come to, many people to find, and many new things to feel.
 The second quote is the lyrics to the One Republic Song, Counting Stars.  This was our family theme song for most of the time my husband was in the Army.  Even though his dreams with the military didn't work out the way we wanted them to, we still love this song.

After my husband got out of the military we moved in with his parents in Utah while we figured out what to do next.  For a while it seemed like we should just take the first good job we found and settle down.  But deep down I knew I wasn't ready for that.  

One night we watched the movie Sing Street on Netflix.  I was enchanted by the whole movie.  But it was the song, "Drive it like you stole it" that stuck with me.  

The line "It's your life you can go anywhere."  Kept repeating in my head.  I knew we couldn't settle down yet. 

My husband decided to go back to school and we started making plans to move to Idaho in the fall.

Around that same time my husband and I went to see the movie La La Land for my birthday. At the end of La La Land I broke down in tears.  I realized that I felt homesick.  Not for Texas or Alabama, but for Adventure.

That's when I started thinking about the possibility of working for Xanterra in Yellowstone during the summer.  I applied for the job almost on a lark. I hadn't really thought through the idea yet.  It came as a surprise when I was offered the job. And even though there were a ton of obstacles, I knew that this was an opportunity of a lifetime.

The song "Fools who dream" from La La Land kept coming back to me. No matter what our lives would be richer if we took this opportunity.

And now we are just a few hours from starting our next adventure. I'm worried and excited.  But mostly I feel ready.

This is what I love.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

30 Things to see and do around Fort Hood, Texas

So you've received orders to Fort Hood, Texas.

Don't worry - it's going to be okay.

Fort Hood has a tough reputation in the Army.  Some of it is totally deserved. But there are many positive things about living on Fort Hood.  Some of my favorite memories happened during the two years my family lived in Texas.  I met amazing people, learned a ton about myself, and fell in love with the Texas Hill Country.  There are great experiences waiting for you too.

Fort Hood is located within a 90 minute drive to Austin. Other big cities like San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston are all within a few hours drive as well. Each city has it's own rich history, and a variety of things to do.  The country-side surrounding the big cities is full of outdoor recreation opportunities.  There are rivers, lakes, caves, hills, and plenty of places to camp.  There are also many small towns that have their own unique charm.

Today I want to share a list of 30 things to do and see around Fort Hood. I hope that reading this list will help get you excited about living in the Fort Hood/Killeen Area. I've written this primarily for people who are affiliated with the Department of Defense, but most of the activities on the list can be enjoyed by civilians as well. This is by no means an all encompassing list of things to do.  Consider this a list of ideas of where you can start your Texas adventures.

I've arranged the list by direction from Fort Hood.  The distance is measured from the Copeland Soldier Center on the corner of TJ Mills Boulivard and Hell on Wheels Avenue (Swearing when you give directions is one of the fun things about Fort Hood.)

Most of these attractions are very inexpensive.  The ones that cost a little bit more are definitely worth the money  My family visited most of these attractions, but there are a few that we weren't able to visit. I've written in depth posts about many of these places.  If you want to read more about a specific place, click the hyperlink in the name of the place.

Let's get started


1. The Last Drive in Picture Show 
34 miles from Fort Hood
2912 TX-36
Cost: $10 per car for two movies 
Phone Number: (254) 865-8445

This drive in movie theater is an amazing deal. You can see two new release movies for only $10 per car. Let me repeat that. Your whole family can see two movies for only $10. You can't beat a deal like that. Movies are shown every night and start around dusk.

2. Magnolia Market at the Silos
64 miles from Fort Hood
601 Webster Ave
Cost: Free to visit
Phone Number: 254-235-0603 

One of my biggest regrets about out time in Texas is that I didn't learn about the HGTV show Fixer Upper until after we moved away. The show is based in Waco, Texas.  The stars of the show, Chip and Joanna Gains have turned two silos in an old industrial area into a must-see Waco attraction. Of course you can shop in the Magnolia Market, but there are also plenty of free family oriented activities.  You can play games on the lawn, explore the garden, or even ride the free trolley to and from downtown Waco.

3. Cameron Park Zoo 
66 miles from Fort Hood
1701 N 4th St
Cost: $10 for adults and $7 for children 4-12 
Phone Number: (254) 750-8400 

Even though I didn't know about Fixer Upper, I was visiting Waco before it was "cool." That's because Waco is the home of my favorite zoo in the entire country. The slogan for the Cameron Park Zoo is that it's the Happiest Surprise in Texas. And that is certainly true. This zoo is the perfect size. It's big enough that it has all the animals you expect to see in a zoo, but it's small enough that you can walk around it in just a few hours. It's also shady which means that even on hot summer days this is an enjoyable place to visit. Go see it for yourself - you won't be sorry.

4. Forest Park Miniature Train 
155 miles from Fort Hood 
1700 Colonial Pkwy 
Fort Worth 
Cost: $5 for adults and $4 for children 
Phone Number: 817-336-3328 
Website: www.fpmt.us

Somehow my family never traveled up to the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas. If we had ever made it up there I wanted to make sure we rode on this small train.  A ride on the train last 45 minutes and only costs $5 for adults.  That's a great deal.


5. Mounted Weapons Demonstration

On Fort Hood (but you don't need gate access to see the demo)
Fort Hood Riding Stables Building 69007 
Cost: Free 
Phone Number: (254) 287-2229 

Modern Calvary is made up of tanks and other machines, but Fort Hood has a way to remind people of what the cavalry used to be like. Every Thursday they put on a free demonstration of how horses were used in warfare. This is a fun show for any horse lover. And for people who love explosions there are gun shots and cannon blasts throughout the show. The show starts at 10:00 every Thursday it lasts about half an hour.

6. Summer Movies at the Killeen Amphitheater 
6 miles from Fort Hood
2201 E. Veterans Memorial Blvd. 
Cost: Free 
Phone Number: (254) 501-6390 

One of our favorite things to do in the Fort Hood area was to attend free movies at the Killeen Amphitheater.  These are held every Friday night throughout the summer.  Movies begin at approximately 8:30.  The 2017 lineup includes Moana, Secret Life of Pets, and the Lego Batman Movie. Check the events calendar on the city's website for the full schedule.

7. Junior Service League Spray Pad 
7 miles from Fort Hood
1101 Branch Drive (off Rancier Ave)
Cost: Free 
Phone Number: (254) 501-6537 

There are several city pools in the Fort Hood area.  All of them are affordable.  However, if you are looking for a free place to play in the water, then check out the Splash Pad at Long Branch Park located on Rancier Ave. I went here several times during the summer when my children were too small to do well in swimming pools. 

8. BLORA (Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area)
14 miles from the main part of Fort Hood
Nolan Road and Cottage Road 
Fort Hood 
Cost: $3 per car for DoD $10 for civilians, sometimes $6 for special events 
Phone Number: (254) 287-4907 

BLORA is your one-stop-shop for all your outdoor recreation needs.  Want to go camping? You can do that at BLORA.  Want to go boating? You can do that at BLORA.  Want to go fishing, hiking, paintballing, swimming, or even play at a waterpark?  You can do that all at BLORA.  They even have small, rustic cabins that you can stay in.  And there is a variety of recreation equipment available to rent.

Throughout the year there are various events held at BLORA.  Summerfest is held the first weekend in June. This is the official kickoff for the summer season.  At Christmas time you can go to BLORA for a drive through light-show called Holiday Lights.  You'll see moving displays of many Christmas scenes such as the nativity, the 12 days of Christmas, and Santa, Santa, Santa.

9. Turtle Fest at Yettie Polk Park
21 miles from Fort Hood
101 S Davis St
Cost: Lots of free actives, you can "adopt" a plastic turtle for $5 

If we ever move back to the Fort Hood area I want to live in Belton. There were always fun activities going on in Belton.  We made the drive out there for many fun events including the 4th of July Parade, events in downtown Belton, and a safety day at the fire station. These events were fun, but my favorite thing was Turtle Fest.

Turtle Fest is held every year on the last Saturday of April. It is put on by the Kiwanis Club of Belton.  It's full of free activities that are fun for the whole family.  There's usually a bucket train, a small petting zoo, face painting, and free books from the Bell County Library. They have even have live turtle races.  The big event of the day is The Ultimate Turtle Race when they release 1000 plastic turtles into the river. You can "adopt" a plastic turtle for $5. You can win $1000 if your turtle wins the race.

10. Stillhouse Hollow Lake 
26 miles from Fort Hood
5600 FM 1670
Cost: $5 day use and camping starts at $18 
Phone Number: (254) 939-2461 

Stillhouse Hollow Lake is another great place for recreation.  There are places for picnicking, camping, hiking, boating, and swimming.  There's even an area for flying model airplanes.

11. Salado Village 
30 miles from Fort Hood
423 So. Main St. 
Cost: Free to visit 
Phone Number: (254) 947-5040 
Website: www.salado.com/

Salado is an eclectic art town full of boutiques, studios, wineries, and breweries.  Wandering main street is always fun, but the town also hosts several themed events throughout the year.

12. Railroad & Heritage Museum 
32 miles from Fort Hood
315 W Avenue B, 
Cost: $4 for adults free for military 
Phone Number: 254-298-5172 

The Old Santa Fe Depot in Temple was built in 1911. Part of the depot has been converted into a museum. The grounds around the museum have a beautiful plaza with well maintained walkways and gardens. There are historic train cars and an engine on display in front of the building. The rail lines next to the building are very busy. A smaller building near the depot has model trains on display. The Whistle Stop Park is also near the depot. Several free activities are held at the depot throughout the year. 


13. Lake Georgetown
39 miles from Fort Hood
2101 CR 262 
Cost: $5 per car for day use, camping ranges from $6 to $40 
Phone Number: 

If you want to go camping away from Fort Hood there are tons of options.  There are many campgrounds in the state and all of them are very inexpensive.  For example, we stayed at the Russel Park Campground at Lake Georgetown and only had to pay $12.  There was no reservation fee and no entrance fee.  We had a covered picnic table, fire grill, fire pit, and tent area.

14. Inner Space Caverns
45 miles from Fort Hood
4200 I-35 
Cost: $20.95 per adult and 12.95 for child 
Phone Number: 512-931-2283 

There are many caves located throughout the Hill Country, but Inner Space Caverns is the closest one to Fort Hood. Inner Space Cavern lay undiscovered by the modern world until 1963 when unsuspecting engineers drilled through 40 feet of rock and into one of the large chambers of the cave. The cave was open to the public in 1966 and since that time thousands of people have been able to see the fascinating world created from limestone. A tour of the cave is like a trip into another world.

(Other caves include Natural Bridge Caverns, Sonora Caverns, Cave Without a Name, Longhorn Cavern State Park, and Fault Line Cave.)

15. Texas State Capitol Building
70 miles from Fort Hood
112 East 11th Street
Cost: Free 
Phone Number: 512.463.4630 

The Texas Capitol Building in Austin is the largest capitol building in the country.  It's actually even larger than the US capitol in Washington DC.  You can visit the capitol and walk up to the overlook inside the capitol rotunda.  The grounds of the capitol are a well maintained park.  There are statues scattered throughout the grounds.  And don't miss the Visitor Center on the southeast corner of the complex.  

70 miles from Fort Hood
3800 Mt. Bonnell Rd. 
Cost: Free
Mount Bonnell rises 770 feet above sea level. That make it the highest point within the Austin City limits. Most of the height is already achieved as you dive up to the trail head. The most climbing you will have to do is to walk up 202 steps built into the side of the mountain. Once you reach the top you'll have an impressive view of Austin and the surrounding area.

17. Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve
91 miles from Fort Hood
24300 Hamilton Pool Rd. 
Dripping Springs 
Cost: $15 per car 
Phone Number: 512-264-2740 

This is one of the most picturesque locations in all of Texas.  A waterfall cascades over a ledge and into a natural pool.  Swimming is allowed at the preserve.  This is such a popular place that you have to make reservations to visit the pool during the summer months.  This place takes a little bit of advanced planning, but it is worth it.

18. Tubing on the San Marcos River
100 miles from Fort Hood
Rec Hall at San Marcos City Park
170 Charles Austin Dr
San Marcos 
Cost: $12 for a tube and all day taxi service
Phone Number: 512-396-5466 
Website: www.tubesanmarcos.com

There are many places to go tubing in Texas, but it doesn't get any better than the San Marcos River. The river is spring fed and has some of the clearest water you'll ever see. You can tube the river with your own equipment, but the Lions Club operates a tube rental and taxi service. The route is about a mile long.

100 miles from Fort Hood
201 San Marcos Springs Dr 
San Marcos 
Cost: $9.75 for adults and $6 for children 3-12 
Phone Number: 512.245.7570 
The water from the Edwards Aquifer is perfectly clear as it flows out of over 1000 springs into Spring Lake. Since 1945 people have been able to see into the depths of the water by taking tours on glass bottomed boats. You can see all sorts of fish, turtles, and even flowering plants under the water.

20. The Alamo
149 miles from Fort Hood
300 Alamo Plaza 
San Antonio 
Cost: Free 
Phone Number: (210) 225-1391 
Website: www.thealamo.org

Personally, I find the Alamo to be overrated, but clearly I'm in the minority since this is Texas's most visited historic landmark. The Alamo Mission was built in 1744.  It still stands today in the heart of downtown San Antonio.  The infamous battle of the Alamo was fought in February of 1836 between an army from Mexico and about 180 Texans who were fighting for the independence of Texas.  The Texans were slaughtered.  But two months later, "remember the Alamo" was the battle cry at the decisive battle of San Jacinto near present day Houston.

21. San Antonio River Walk and Boat Rides
150 miles from Fort Hood
Various Access Points in the downtown area
San Antonio 
Cost: The River Walk are is free to visit.  Boat rides are $10 for most guests and $4 for children from 1-5 years old 
Phone Number: 210-244-5700

The San Antonio River walk area is the most beautiful downtown area in the United States. Shops, restaurants and historical landmarks line the river.  Well maintained gardens, paths, and bridges connect everything.  Walking along the river is an enjoyable experience itself, but if you really want to enjoy the riverwalk area you should take a tour on one of the many tour boats.  These boat tours last approximately 35 minutes and include many details about the 300 year history of this amazing city.

22. SeaWorld
160 miles from Fort Hood
10500 Sea World Dr
San Antonio, TX 
Cost: Free for military once a year. Otherwise $78 per person over age 3. Parking is $20 a day 
Phone Number: 2105204732 

Seaworld is part amusement park, part massive aquarium. The San Antonio location has shows featuring orcas, dolphins, beluga whales, and seals.  They have a large aquaruim with salt water and fresh water fish. There is even a penguin habitat.  In addition to all that there are roller coasters and a water park.  The park has a program granting free admission to military members and 3 of their family members once a year.  If you are stationed at Fort Hood make sure you take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

23. Rocket Park at the Johnson Space Center
233 miles from Fort Hood
1601 NASA Road 1
Cost: Rocket Park - including the Saturn V rocket is free.  There is a cost to go on a full tour of the space center.
Phone Number: 281-244-2100
Website: www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/rocketpark/index.htm

Rocket Park is a stop on the Johnson Space Center Tour in Houston, Texas, but it is also available to the public for free. The park contains a Mercury-Redstone rocket, the Little Joe II rocket, as well as some other large equipment from the 1960's space program. The most amazing thing on display is an actual Saturn V Rocket which is housed inside a giant, climate controlled building. 
258 miles from Fort Hood
Cost: Varies

If you are looking for a good get away then I suggest planning a trip to the beach. Fort Hood isn't exactly "close" to any beaches, but there are beaches within a few hours drive.  We often went to Houston to visit my sister, and from there it wasn't far to go to the beach in Galveston.  If you want to travel the 286 miles down to Corpus Christi there are also great beaches down there.  Corpus Christi is also near several places where you can camp right on the beach.  If you are really up for a road trip, then consider driving 400+  miles down to the white sands of South Padre Island.   One year we went on a Texas Coastline Road Trip and visited most of the beaches from South Padre Island to Galveston in 6 days.


25. Topsey Exotic Ranch and Drive through Safari
22 miles from Fort Hood
945 Co Rd 118, 
Copperas Cove
Cost: $11 per adult and $9 for children (3-12) Discounts are available through Fort Hood's Leisure and Travel Service
Phone Number: 254-547-3700

There are several exotic ranches throughout Texas.  This is the closest one to Fort Hood. You can drive your own car along a loop road and feed the hundreds of animals living on the ranch. You will see many zebras, goats, emus, ostriches, buffalo, deer, elk, llamas, and many more animals including a camel. When you are done with the drive through part of the ranch you can walk through a small zoo which includes some animals that you can pet.

26. Bethlehem Village
51 miles from Fort Hood
108 S. Vanderveer Street 
Cost: Free 
Phone Number: (512)756-4481 

During a few days in December you have a chance to travel back in time to see Bethlehem at the time of Jesus Christ's birth. Several congregations in Burnet, Texas work together to depict biblical life.  Visitors can walk through a small village inhabited by people dressed in period clothing.  There are many things to see such as live animals and crafts.  When you are done exploring the busy village you have a chance to see Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus in a quiet stable.  This is an amazing Christmas Activity.

27. Colorado Bend State Park  
56 miles from Fort Hood
2236 Park Hill Dr 
Cost: $5 for adults over 12 
Phone Number: (325) 628-3240 
Website: http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/colorado-bend

Want to see a 65 foot waterfall, or go on a cave tour? You can do both at Colorado Bend State Park. Gorman Falls is accessible via a three mile hike.  You can also take a tour/hike to the falls.  This option only requires a 1.5 mile hike. Cave tours are available for a variety of skill levels and prices.  The easiest/least expensive tour is $12 and lasts 45 minutes.

29. Longhorn Caverns State Park
62 miles from Fort Hood
6211 Park Rd 4 S
Cost: Admission to the park is free.  Cave tours start at $16 for an adult and $12 for children
Phone Number: 512-715-9000
Website: https://visitlonghorncavern.com

Longhorn Cavern State Park has wonders above and below ground. The cave contains many fascinating features that were carved by an underground river. The surface of the park has medieval looking buildings built from stone by Civilian Conservation Corps workers. Everything makes you feel like you stumbled into a fantasy realm.

28. Sweet Berry Farm 
65 miles from Fort Hood
1801 FM 1980
Marble Falls
Cost: Free parking and admission, pay activities and for the fruit you pick 
Phone Number: (830)-798-1462 

In the spring you can pick your own strawberries and blackberries at Sweet Berry Farm.  And in the fall you can pick out you own pumpkin. In addition to the produce there are also many fun activities available at the farm. These include a train ride, bounce area, crafts, and a goat petting area.  Visiting the farm is free, but you have to pay extra for many activities, and for the produce of course.

30. Enchanted Rock 
104 miles from Fort Hood
16710 Ranch Rd. 965 
Cost: $7 per adult over 12 
Phone Number: (830) 685-3636 

Enchanted Rock is a large hill made of solid granite rock. The rock rises 425 feet above the surrounding landscape of the Texas Hill Country. It is a total of 1,825 feet above sea level. A hike to the top of the rock is only seven tenths of a mile one way, and provides excellent views. There are many other trails around the rock that allow you to really get a feel for this 640 acre natural wonder.

* * *

Hopefully these 30 things will help get you excited about being stationed on Fort Hood.  Like I said, this is hardly an all encompassing list.  There are many other things to do in the area. For more ideas you can check out my other list - Hill Country Day Trip Ideas.

Another great resource is the Fort Hood Area Events Facebook Page.  This is the number one place to go for information about things to do in the Fort Hood Area.  I would often plan out my weekends based on the events listed on this page. Seriously, you must follow this page.  

I also recommend you check out the Texas State Park Website.  And I highly recommend you buy an annual pass. The  annual pass is only $70, and is good for everyone in your car. Most Texas State Parks have an entrance fee of $6 for anyone over 12.  So if you are travelling with at least one other adult this pass will pay for itself after you visit 6 parks. And with over 90 parks in the state of Texas you have tons of opportunities to use the pass.

So go out and start exploring the great state of Texas.  You are going to love it. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Big Well - Greensburg, Kansas

The Big Well is a 109 foot well that was hand dug in the late 1800's. It is the largest hand dug well in the world. The well was the water supply for the town of Greensburg until 1932.  In 1937 the town decided to use the well as a tourist attraction.  In 2012 a new visitor center was opened.  This features a beautiful spiral staircase that descends into the well.

Location: 315 S. Sycamore Greensburg, Kansas.  Greensburg is 110 miles directly west of Wichita.

Cost: $8 per adult.  $6 for children over 4.  There is a family rate of $25 for two parents and their children under 18.

Operating Seasons and Hours: Monday through Saturday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm and on Sundays from 1:00 to 6:00.

Official Website: www.bigwell.org

Date of Visit: Friday, November 18, 2016

This was the second stop of the third day of my family's road trip when we moved from Alabama to Utah in November of 2016. That morning we had visited the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, and then driven two hours southwest to Greensburg where the Big Well was located.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Cosmosphere - Hutchinson, Kansas

The Cosmosphere is a world class space museum and a Smithsonian Affiliate.  The Hall of Space Museum contains extensive exhibits displaying hundreds of space exploration artifacts dating back to World War II. Signature displays include the Mercury era capsule the Liberty Bell, and the Apollo 13 Command Module Odyssey. The museum also has a small moon rock on display.  In addition to the Space Race era displays the Cosmosphere also has a movie theater and a planetarium. As if all that wasn't enough there is an actual SR-71A Blackbird on display in the lobby.

Location: 1100 N Plum St Hutchinson, Kansas

Cost: Tickets for the Hall of Space Museum part of the Cosmosphere cost $13.50 for adults and $10 for children over three.  Children under three are free.  There is also a movie theater in the Cosmosphere.  Tickets range from $6 to $15 depending on what you want to see.  There are various combo ticket options.

Operating Seasons and Hours: The museum is open every day except Thanksgiving Christmas, and Easter.  Hours are from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Thursday, from 9:00 to 7:00 on Friday and Saturday, and from noon to 5:00 on Sunday.

Official Website: http://cosmo.org

Date of Visit: Friday, November 18, 2016

This was the first stop of the third day of my family's road trip when we moved from Alabama to Utah in November of 2016. We'd visited the Little House on the Prairie Museum near Independence, Kansas and then drove an additional 3 hours to our hotel in Hutchinson.  In the morning we ate breakfast at the hotel, re-packed the car, and drove a few blocks to the Cosmosphere.  We didn't think there would be a parking spot for our moving van so we left that parked behind the hotel.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

RV Update Reveal

We bought our 1984 Coachman Motor Home almost two months ago on March 14th.  After nine weeks of hard work we are done updating it.  It is ready to be our home this summer while I work in Yellowstone.

I'm so excited to take you on a little tour of our new home and show you all the changes. I'm also going to share some of our tricks for updating an RV on a budget.  

First up we have the outside.  There aren't many obvious changes here.  If we had more time and funding we might have tried re-painting the outside to get rid of the Breaking Bad color scheme, but for now it stays.  You can tell that we updated all the curtains in the windows.  My husband replaced the fenders on the back wheels.  He also discovered that the bottom back panel had rotten wood under it so he replaced the wood there.  
Now let's take a look inside. Here's what the kitchen and dinette area look like now. At first I wanted to paint all the walls white to give everything a fresh, clean, modern look.  But after spending a few days in the RV with my kids I realized that the wood paneling does a great job of hiding all their little dirty hand prints. So the brown wood is staying for now.
Here's a comparison to what the area looked like before. The obvious changes are the updated fabric on the cushions and the new curtains. My husband also installed cork-boards and white boards on the cupboards.
I covered the cushions on the dinette with material from two top sheets I bought at a thrift store.  I sewed the covers similar to a pillow sham with a large flap on the bottom.  That will make it easy to take the covers off when they need to be washed.  The old covers were still in good shape - aside from being ugly.  So I just washed them in the washer and then put them back over the foam. The old covers will help protect the foam since the new covers are made of thin material.  
The arm rests of the dinette also needed their fabric updated.  My husband took them off for me and then I stapled new fabric over the existing fabric.  I just happened to have an ripped top sheet in an exact shade of blue that matched other details in the RV.  It's like I planned it all along. 
Here's the before and after comparison of the dinette.  It's much fresher looking in there now. 
The dinette converts to a bed.  We thought that this is where our son would sleep.  But we changed our minds after everyone slept in the RV one night.  Our son was still sleeping when the other kids wanted breakfast. So now he gets the couch and my husband and I will share this bed.  It's more comfortable anyway.
The little kitchen area got a few updates as well as you can see here. 
One of my favorite changes was the fridge.  It had wood paneling on it, and I wanted to get rid of at least some of the brown color in the RV.  I saw on Pinterest that you can recover appliances with contact paper that looks like stainless steel.  So I bought a roll of that and recovered the fridge.  I'm in love with how it turned out.
The kitchen is ridiculously tiny.  There is absolutely no counter space.  Pinterest came to the rescue again though.  I got an idea to make a removable counter to go over the stove top.  My husband put it together and I covered it with contact paper.  This cover has already been such a nice update.  We don't have to worry about things falling down around the stove top burners.
There is a large cupboard behind the dinette.  Originally it was just one large empty space.  We need all the storage we can get so, my husband built shelves in the cupboard. I covered them with contact paper. I had a lot of trouble locating this paper. I wanted something colorful and fun. The designs at Walmart and Lowes were not what I was looking for.  I finally found this design at Smith's MarketPlace.  I picked it because the blue dots matched the rest of the blue in the RV. 
The bathroom is located in the very back of the RV.  It's pretty tricky to get a good picture of that area because it's pretty cramped. The biggest update to the bathroom was new curtains.  These match the curtains in the loft at the front of the RV.  My daughter suggested we put some contact paper in the bathroom so you can see that on the sloped ceiling in the shelves. 
We also took out the old, brown shower curtain and put in a new white one.  And my husband re-caulked all the edges in the shower area.
Okay, let's flip around and look at the front half of the RV.  Here's the living room.  At first we thought about replacing the carpet with linoleum or something else that would be easy to sweep.  But that's too big of a project for now.  The carpet is still in pretty good shape so it seems pointless to take it up anyway.  Instead we decided to cover it with a rug.  I checked a bunch of thrift stores to try to find a good rug.  But I couldn't find any good sized rugs for a low price. I realized I already had a rug that would work perfect.  This was our dining room rug in our home in Alabama. I found this for $30 at Goodwill. My husband got it out of the garage and it looks great.  It's a little too large, but we just folded it up the wall. 
Here' the before and after picture of the living room.  This room has changed the most. Taking out the two extra chairs was definitely a good idea. We plan to put a dresser up against the wall, but it's still being used inside the house so we wont move it out to the RV until we are just about ready to leave for Yellowstone.
The curtains are some of my favorite additions to the RV.  In another life they were a top sheet that someone donated to Savers.  Buying old sheets at thrift stores is one of my favorite tricks for finding unique fabric patterns.  When I saw this cheerful floral print I knew it would look great in the RV.  I cut the sheet into thirds and then down the middle.  The nice thing about using a sheet was that two of the sides were already hemmed.  I jut had to hem the middle and the top and the bottoms.  We really lucked out with the color of the fabric on the top of the window.  Blue is one of my favorite colors so I decided to leave it and use the color throughout the RV. 
I also love the cork boards and white boards that my husband installed on the cupboards.  This was another Pinterest inspired change.  My daughters love drawing on the white boards, and my son is already insisting that we hang some of his school art projects up in the RV.
I can't forget to mention the TV that we installed under one of the cupboards.  My husband bought an old computer monitor at the Weber State University surplus store for $15.  He mounted it upside down.  The monitor hooks up to a computer console that we previously bought from a friend for $40. It didn't have an operating system so my husband installed Ubuntu which is an open source operating system. When the computer turns on my husband has programmed it to flip the image on the screen so it appears right side up to us.  We use a wireless keyboard and a wireless mouse to control the TV.  And the sound comes out of a little portable speaker.  We've started having our weekly movie night in the RV, and everyone loves it. Oh and the monitor has a release button so we can remove it from the base and store it securely when we travel.
The RV came with this little wire shelf in the bathroom closet.  We brought it out and immediately started putting stuff on it.  I decided it would be a good place to store our shoes and the kids jackets.  Right now my husband keeps his tools on the bottom shelf, but that's where the shoes will go when we live in the RV.  I found the hooks at a yard sale for $1.  My husband secured them to the shelf.  He also put a back on it to make it more stable.
At first I thought that I would carefully recover the cushions on the couch.  But then I realized that a fitted sheet looks just as nice for a 100th of the effort. Plus it's much easier to remove when it needs to be washed.
The loft area of the RV is where my three girls will sleep.  I changed the curtains up there to be more fun. The rest of the loft doesn't look like it changed that much, but that's because you can't see what's under the cushion. 
When I pulled the cushion off to clean under it I discovered mildew!  Lots and lots of mildew.  The  bottom side of the cushion was covered with little black spots.  And the wood under it was wet and rotting. My husband inspected the wood and discovered that the seal on the bottom sides of the loft was cracked.  Water had been seeping in.  On further inspection he found that all the wooden supports for the loft were rotting.
This was very disheartening, but we went to work.  My biggest worry was that the foam in the cushion would be ruined.  Luckily there were two cushion covers.  The first one went into the wash with lots of vinegar and dawn dish soap.  It came out as good as new.  The second cover had a plastic bottom that had prevented the mildew from reaching the cushion.  Whew.  I cleaned that cushion cover off with more vinegar and Dawn dish soap.  Then the whole thing hung out in the RV kitchen while my husband replaced the wooden supports and wooden planking in the loft.
Within a few days he had everything replaced, waterproofed, and back together.  This man is amazing.
In addition to all the little cosmetic updates that I did, my husband had to do a lot of work to get all the systems working. Luckily my husband is a jack of all trades and an amazing handyman.  He fixed problems with the engine, the generator, and the electric system. The water, sewer, and propane systems didn't need any fixing, but still my husband had to test them to make sure they worked.  He was helped out by his dad and brother-in-law, but my husband did most of the work himself.

On Monday my husband took the RV to have it's State Safety and Emissions testing done. It passed both on the first try!  He'd already taken care of registering the RV, and received temporary license plates. After he passed the state tests he went to the DMV to pick up our permanent plates. I can't tell you how good those plates look on the RV.  Every time I look at them it's like they are saying, "your crazy idea is actually going to work!"

We are all really excited for this summer. We have two more weeks before we start driving to Yellowstone.  The big challenge now is how to pack all the clothes and food that we will need. Hopefully I'll have a chance to do a post showing some of our storage ideas.

Until then, thanks for reading.  And be sure to check out some of the other posts on this site. You might find the inspiration for your next adventure.


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