Back into the Swing of Things

Almost a month has passed since we have moved back into our fifth wheel. Jeff and I have been busy unpacking, getting settled, going through boxes we haven’t seen in over a year and finding just the right place for all of our vintage treasures. (We still have a nicely sized storage unit full of our things that needs a good cleaning, but downsizing all of those things will happen in time.) Jeff’s new job seems to be going really well too, he comes home happy and is learning a lot about RV’s. This new job will definitely give him some great experience to take forward if we were to move out of state or go on the road again.

These last few weeks we have been slowly remembering how to live tiny and acclimating ourselves to a new routine. Everything is different when you live tiny, your water heater is smaller, the counter space is slim, and the walls are thinner. It takes less time to clean up the fifth wheel though, but just as fast as you can clean the place it can become cluttered with the minimal square footage. We love it though, living more simply has been one of the best decisions we’ve made.

So far we’ve had fairly good luck with trailer and everything running well after sitting for several months. We had fixed all the leaks and water damage, and haven’t really had much rain or anything since to ensure there aren’t anymore. (But the snow is coming!) Our heater is working perfectly, it’s so nice to have it this year and not have to use space heaters again. We bought a new shower head specifically for RV’s that helps save water and works with the water pressure so you can have a longer, warmer shower. It’s amazing!! Our plumbing has always been a little troublesome and we were so happy we weren’t having any trouble, until a few days ago. Our piping under the toilet clogs very easily and seems to clog now every other day. I’m sure we will eventually figure it out but at this point it’s really frustrating and kinda gross.

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Our little tree, we’re ready Christmas!!

 

Big Move Throwback

 Jeff has found a job, he’s on his second week of work. It’s the perfect job for him, Wilson’s RV , working as a RV Repair Technician. Now that he’s working, we can now move our fifth wheel somewhere. We were lucky enough to still be in contact with the property manager for the neighborhood we parked the trailer at before we left on the road. I called him and it just so happened that our exact same spot had became available around the same time Jeff was offered the job, we felt very blessed. We will be moving back to Boise this weekend and can finally start living in our fifth wheel.

With the move coming up so soon it got me thinking about the big move we did just a year ago. Just over a year ago we were selling our big beautiful country home and making some big changes in our lives. Jeff and I decided to live a more simple life, and downsizing was our first big decision towards this. A year ago we transitioned from 1700 sq. feet to just about 275 sq. feet. We lived in our fifth wheel for about 5 months until we left for our adventures in Vanna, were then on the road for 6 months and have since been staying with Jeff’s parents. So, although we may have learned to live closely together in the van, we haven’t lived in the fifth wheel for quite some time and will have to get reacquainted with tiny living. I am reminded of the feelings we had after closing on our house, pulling the beastly trailer over to our new neighborhood and then laying on the floor looking at Jeff saying, “We’re actually doing this”. So many emotions and butterflies running through, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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TBT: The day we brought home what we now call our ‘home’

Before & After

Our little place is all ready! It’s absolutely adorable and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Jeff did a fantastic job with the renovation and we’ve collaborated quite well with the designing aspect. Our next step is to of course move in, Jeff is currently job hunting since we’ve taken a break from our road adventures. Once we have cash flow, we will be able to find a spot to park the trailer and move in. We still have a lot more downsizing to do too. No photos or decor have been unpacked since we sold our big house and I know we have a ton of boxes to go through. We’re both very excited to get moved in and start living tiny. (*Crossing fingers Jeff finds a good job soon!)

The Demolition Begins

We moved into our fifth wheel last October after we sold our big country home. We had been looking at trailers for weeks but by the time we sold the house it seemed as if we had run out of time and needed to purchase one quickly. Jeff found ours on Craigslist for $2,000, which we thought was a pretty good deal. The fifth wheel is a 96′ model, faded teal carpet, padded window coverings, carpet in the bathroom and awful wallpaper galore. It pretty much looked like the nineties threw up everywhere.

We lived in the trailer from October-March, up until we took off on the road. In those five months we were saving up money for our trip and making sure some of our bills were paid so we didn’t do too much to the trailer. We lived with the trashy carpets and I dealt with not unpacking decor and the rest of my kitchen. However, I did make sure we got rid of that yucky carpet in the bathroom. I just don’t understand why carpet is laid into bathrooms?! We also needed some more storage space, so Jeff built us a really nice bed with a storage compartment underneath and while he was at it he tore out the ugly carpet and put in pergo in our bedroom. We chose to use the cheapest pergo wood flooring that we liked for our bedroom as the bed takes up about 80-90% of the room so you can’t see much of the floor anyways. Then before we knew it, it was time to leave for our trip so the fifth wheel was parked over at my dads.

We pulled the trailer over to Jeff’s parents a few weeks ago and demolition started a week or so later. The gross carpet was the first thing we pulled up and the amount of dirt piled up underneath was unbelievable, yuk! I’m just so happy to see that ugly stained carpet gone! We also knew we had a bit of a water leak on the inside of one of the walls, so that was Jeff’s first big challenge to tackle. As he pulled the wall panel off we realized it was more than just a ‘little’ water leak and turned into a much bigger project. He found moldy insulation under one of the panels he had ripped off so he continued to investigate only to find more mold. He ended up replacing two walls and insulation before we started texturing. To ensure we wouldn’t have anymore issues with leaking, Jeff rubber coated our roof and thoroughly went around the outside re-sealing all of the seams.

Texturing the walls was the next big step for us to tackle. We had a lot of holes and areas where the vinyl wallpaper was peeling up. I’ve never done any hole patching before, Jeff usually does all that kind of stuff but I learned quickly and had a lot of fun helping. We decided to texture the walls instead of just painting over the wallpaper as the texture gives a more ‘real’ home like feel. It took a few practice tries with the texture before we felt confident enough with rolling it on all of our walls.  Jeff handled it just like a pro though! We painted all of our cabinets and walls, tore down the padded window coverings and even painted the couple of the doors we have inside the place.

But, my most favorite project we tackled in the trailer was our reclaimed wall. My dad does a lot of wood working and collects wood from all sorts of places, he gave us some old cedar fencing that was beautifully weathered. The wood came to us already torn apart (thanks Dad!!) so I sanded each of the planks and made a paint wash for a few boards as Jeff cut and nailed them up. The wall turned out so amazing, I’m quite proud of ourselves. I’m actually really proud of Jeff, he’s been working so hard on this renovation and doing such a great job too. There has only been so many things I have been able to help with. Either my back hurts, my hands are too swollen, having a weekly flare up or I’m just too tired. Jeff is an incredible husband, always making sure I don’t over do it and that I’m feeling well. He’s done a great job in our little home, I can’t wait to move back in.

More photos to come once we are completely finished with the place. We’re getting real close!!

 

 

 

 

 

Reflection

I’m back in action! Apparently tape and rubber bands aren’t a proper means for fixing broken computer chargers… We’ve been quite busy since we returned back to Idaho from our big adventures. Jeff and I left in March with Vanna, a little van we converted into our own camper, a van we would soon come to call home. We left with so many emotions in tow; fear, excitement, anxiety, etc… No one could have told us what we were about to experience, we were in for the ride of our lives. It’s hard to believe that a year ago we were selling our home, six months ago we were heading out on the road and just a couple of weeks ago we were starting the renovation on our ‘tiny home’.

We left our busy lives behind and headed into an unknown territory of exploration. Jeff and I started our adventures by traveling SE to Florida, onto California and up the west coast from there. We saw so much in the six months we were out there yet there is still so much more to be seen. Many National Parks, wild animals, birds, crashing waves of the ocean, the clearest blue waters, and some of the biggest trees in the world. However, some of the best parts of our trip though were all of the times spent with the family we don’t get to see often.

While on this first trip of ours, we learned so many things, we learned more about ourselves and each other, how to live frugally, and most importantly how to live harmoniously in a small space. So, what’s next for this crazy couple!? Well, our adventures are far from over, from how we see it they have just began. Now that we are back in Idaho, Jeff will soon be looking for work again. (Can’t travel far without a nice wad of cash in your pocket) And we are going to start the remodeling of our fifth wheel. We dream of turning it into a lovely tiny home that we will be able to take with us on any future explorations. So no more van life for us, it’s now time to take on the tiny living movement.

On the Road with Bessie

We embarked out on our last leg of our adventures a couple of weeks ago. A journey full of excitement yet also bitter sweet, the van we had come to love and call home the past few months had died and we knew the road would be ending soon. With Vanna now out of commission, tent camping was our only option if we wanted to continue exploring, so we packed up all of our things into my tiny car Bessie and left the van behind.

Tent camping had me worried, sleeping on the hard ground with my back and chronic pain but I couldn’t let that stop me from having a good time, it already stops me from a lot of other things. We ensured I had plenty of padding for my side of the bed though so I was feeling a little more encouraged. Our first stop was my families annual camp out up at Silver Creek Plunge here in Idaho. We’ve been going up there for years, some years we have everyone up there and others it’s just a small group. This year we had a smaller group and celebrated my cousin’s 40th birthday as well. In the late summers as the forests get drier here, we generally get a few big forest fires which end up to campers not being able to have campfires in dispersed sites. So, this year we ended up not being able to have fires while we were up at Silver Creek since we don’t camp at the actual campground. It’s not a huge deal for us but I know some of the kiddos were a little bummed. My cousin is pretty resourceful though and figured out ways every night to make our nightly desserts! We also ended up having a camp visitor every night, a sly little skunk. The first night he was noticed, our Grandma saw him first as she saw the garbage sack being dragged away ever so slowly. Then we started looking for him every time the sun started to go down and sure enough, that sly skunk was there trying steal garbage or someones dropped hot dog.

We left camp after four fun days spent with my family and headed north. We knew we couldn’t make all the way to Northern Idaho all in one day, nor did we want to, so we stopped in the McCall area. Jeff and I have camped in the area many times, he and his dad also come up to the area often for hiking. We ended up camping near Hazard Lake and stayed for a couple of nights. Our spot was secluded enough for showering yet we still saw a car or two pass every few hours. We set out on a hike one afternoon thinking we were heading to one set of lakes only to realize we were on the wrong trail and the lake we were headed to was twice as far. That day my back and hips were in no condition to continue on so we turned around disappointed we never made it to the lake. Our day however was ended quite well with an elk and her companion coming into the near-by meadow as we were headed to bed. She called to her friend several times before they were completely out of sight. And in the middle of the night as we slept, deer came sniffing our tent and running around our camp. That’s one neat thing about tent camping is being so close to nature.

Jeff and I had every intention of being on the road for a handful of weeks, getting up to Glacier National Park and then down to Yellowstone as well. But, after a good conversation about our finances and the mileage we’d be putting on the car (it’s on lease), we decided it would be smarter for us to hold off on going to the parks. This traveling thing isn’t going to end after this summer, this is only the beginning of a new way of life for us, so Glacier and Yellowstone will just have to be visited on another time. However, we did decide that going all the way to Northern Idaho was a must. Living in Idaho all of our lives, we’ve never traveled north, we had to see what all the hubbub was about.

We drove clear into the panhandle of Idaho and spent the next few days exploring through Couer d’Alene, Sandpoint and then into Bonners Ferry. We camped near the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge, which was really nice. Lots of birds have found sanctuary in the area, especially wild turkeys. We also came across two cow moose, one of them was with her calf too! Our camping spot was next to a creek, Trout Creek I believe, we didn’t hike around much but we did walk up and down the dirt road several times trying to work off our dinner. We enjoyed Northern Idaho, the farther north we got we definitely saw why everyone raves about how beautiful it is.

We drove into Missoula, MT after our Northern Idaho exploration. After about 40 minutes of driving down a dirt road, we finally found a camping spot along a beautiful river. They had a few particular rules for dispersed camp sites given the amount of bears seen in the area. One of the rules that I found a little different from something we’re use to was that they require you to set up your tent / sleep 50 feet or less from the fire ring. Montana was very pretty, ‘rugged’ would be a great way how to describe it. The river we camped next to was so pretty, Jeff was desperate to fish it but didn’t have a Montana license, so he settled for chasing minnows instead. The day we left we ran into a herd of big horned sheep crossing the highway. A young one, just barely old enough to trot, wobbled across the road with his family and up onto the hillside. Jeff and I still have yet to see a ram but hope to someday.

On on our way home, we traveled through the Eastern Idaho on our way back to Marsing. The drive back could have been again made in one long day, but when you’re squeezed in a tiny car and not comfortable in the van, we made it into a couple of days. Our first stop was overnight at Birch Creek Campground, a free dispersed site a few miles long just right off the freeway. It’s more of a sagebrush and deciduous tree kind of campground and definitely not the kind we’re use to, but it really wasn’t too bad at all. We planned on staying two nights there, however as the sun set we noticed smoke rolling in from a nearby fire and when we awoke the smoke had come in even more we could barely see the sky or breathe, so we packed up and left. Jeff and I stopped at the Camas National Wildlife Refuge to do a little more birding and hopefully find another moose. I think we came a little too late in the year for this refuge as most of the ponds besides one main one were all dried up and so were most of the fields. We did see a ton of water fowl though. We ended up staying our last night on the road at 1000 Springs Resort in Hagerman. Jeff and I have seen the place before and I have wanted to stay but we usually don’t pay for camping, however we decided to splurge this once since it was our last night on the road. Besides us, there was only one other couple tent camping, it was really peaceful. The resort is right on the Snake River and Thousand Springs is across the river and visible from the several docks. We had a great time, sunset was beautiful, their pool was nice and it was just a great way to spend our last night.

Life on the road with Bessie definitely wasn’t as easy as living in Vanna, not that van life was easy either but car life is quite different. No easy stops at Walmart for the night because we drove too long to look for camping. In a car, you have to drive to find camping or you’re stuck sleeping upright in the front seats of your car. The cooler isn’t as easily accessible as before, so more stops for snacks. Even Manko was cramped in the car, she had to lay on the floor board at my feet on passenger side since the car was so packed, before she had the whole back of the van to herself. We made it though and we enjoyed our last couple weeks out on the road.

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Snow Creek Falls, Northern Idaho

 

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Kootnei Wildlife Refuge
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Bessie getting her camp on

 

 

Meet Bessie

Well, we’re off this morning! We have downsized all of our things again and packed my Toyota Corolla completely to the brim. Crossing our fingers we haven’t forgotten anything. We will be spending a few days camping with my family on our annual camp out then off to finish this years adventures. And all in the car….wish us luck!!

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Bessie
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Packed to the brim
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Manko is ready too

Monterey Bay

We drove north up the coast on California 1 most of the next day. This highway hugs the ocean with a narrow winding road and signs warning vehicles of certain length to not go on. We stopped at one point to look onto the beach and stretch our legs only to find a baby Loon scooting himself to get into the water. He must have been hiding in the rocks and our presence startled him so he went after mom and dad in the water. The cutest little bird!

It was a pretty grey day, the sun tried poking through the clouds over the ocean’s waves. I was feeling really tired and my back needed a rest, so I crawled into the back of the van telling Jeff I didn’t want to lay down for long. I am now waking up to the rumbling feeling of Vanna pulling off the road. Jeff found a beach of Elephant Seals, so I quickly jumped from my napping state and followed him outside. As we watched seals sway back and forth in the waves and jump onto rocks, we realized the beaches were covered with hundreds of seals. The sun had finally poked through the clouds making a warm spot for these big creatures to bask in. We watched them for several minutes, some digging in the wet sand, some males fighting for territory and others just napping in the wet salty air.

Monterey Bay was our true destination for the day and we rolled in towards the evening. We had seen a documentary (definitely worth watching) on the Monterey Bay Aquarium a few years ago and had  decided we would definitely need to go. At that time we even discussed making a trip there for our honeymoon. So since we made it to town in the evening, we just walked around the beach a bit before going to bed. Jeff and I were both pretty amped the next morning as we drove towards the aquarium, we even got there a bit too early and anxiously awaited for the doors to open like two little kids.

From the outside the aquarium doesn’t look very impressive, no flashy paint colors or decorative murals. We were almost worried as we walked up, thinking the fee to get in was pretty steep and were on a budget but as soon as we walked through those doors, we knew it was all going to be worth it. We first found ourselves standing in front of their Kelp Forest, a two story tall glass wall encasing giant strips of leathery kelp with an array of fish like Rock Fish and Leopard Shark. Jeff and I must have just stood there at this first tank for at least 40 minutes before we realized there was still an entire building left to explore. The aquarium was filled with so much, tanks of glowing jellyfish, splashing penguins, eels hiding about in the dark, and children joyously screaming as they touch and learn. One of our favorite tanks was another two story tank named the ‘Open Sea’. This tank was the length of the wall and held sea creatures such as Hammerhead Sharks, Sea Turtles and the largest Tuna we’ve ever seen. The aquarium also has great educational and conservation programs too. We spent close to 6 hours in the Monterey Bay Aquarium and only saw one tank twice. We had a hard time peeling ourselves away but eventually made it back through the front door and onto our next destination.

Link to Monterey Bay Aquarium

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Lazy Elephant Seals
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Cooling down in the wet sand
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Just one of the Jellyfish displays, one of my favorites
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The ‘Kelp Forest’
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‘The Open Sea’

 

Our House

When do you consider yourself a true van dweller? Brushing your teeth while you drive as strangers gawk awkwardly, sweeping the van out in the middle of a park like it’s no big deal, mastering peeing in a bottle in the dark or is it when you start calling the van ‘the house’? Jeff and I have just started calling Vanna our house, which is true in a way I guess but are we crazy? I don’t think we’re crazy, we’ve just acclimated ourselves to this life style very well. It’s been just over 11 weeks since we left Idaho, 12k miles with Vanna and 78 days spent together on the open road. We’re seeing a lot and exploring new places all over.

We most recently spent a couple of days at the Grand Canyon. Theodore Roosevelt called the Grand Canyon, “the one great sight…every American should see”. It truly is a place everyone should visit in their lifetime. We spent time at both the South and North Rims which are about a days drive from each other. The South Rim was full of tourist and for good reason too, the canyon below was just breath-taking. We spent several hours walking along the South Rim, back and forth, seeing things we hadn’t seen before, mesmerized by the array of colors within the canyon and of course looking for Condors. Jeff was dead set on finding a Condor while we were there, so finally we asked a Ranger about sightings and he lead us to the right spot. He mentioned there hadn’t been any sightings for about two weeks due to a cold front that came through but wished us luck. The area he lead us to happened to be on our way to the North Rim, so started our long drive that direction.

We finally found the bridge the Ranger had led us to, with the afternoon behind us and the sun slowly slinking behind the hills, we walked onto the bridge with our fingers crossed. Jeff and I walked up and down the bridge for several minutes peering through binoculars and the camera eagerly looking for big birds. As Jeff was just about to give up, I spotted at first what I thought was a Vulture only realizing we found our bird! She was sitting on the edge of a cliff and we couldn’t believe we didn’t spot her before. We stood there taking photos for a while and before we knew it another came flying in just about 6 feet above our  heads! She landed on the bridge structures right in front of us so Jeff was able to get nice shots of her. The other eventually flew in and they snuggled their heads up for sleep so we continued our journey.

We found camping in the Kaibab Forest right before the North Rim for the night still excited about the Condors but tired from walking all day. As we drove our way to the North Rim, we drove through the forest, amazed by the beauty. We both kept thinking there was no way among all of this gorgeous forest was the other side of the Grand Canyon. We were definitely wrong. As we pull up, we notice there were not as many tourist but once we got onto the rim we were puzzled as to why. The North Rim is just as amazing as the South Rim if not more so. I’m guessing more people visit the South Rim due to its size and accessibility. If you take that trip to visit the Grand Canyon, do yourself a favor and have enough time to explore both rims.

We camped again another night outside the North Rim in the Kaibab Forest. This time Jeff was on the hunt to photograph a squirrel. We read at the visitors center and in our National Parks book about the Kaibab squirrel. This squirrel only lives in this forest, it does not live anywhere else, making it a rare squirrel. We could not find any information on how many there are or if they are endangered, etc. But Jeff wanted a picture of one, so we set off on a walk and within 50 yards so from our camp we found one. We ended up finding three total by the time we left the Kaibab Forest. They were pretty cute little critters!

After we left Arizona, we headed for Vegas. Now, I know you’re thinking, ‘didn’t you recently talk about budget’? Yes I did just talk about our budget on a recent blog but there were a few places we’ve set aside money for as we’ve planned for them. (Vegas, Monterey Bay Aquarium, National Park Pass) I had never been to Las Vegas, so Jeff wanted to make sure  I got to go. We got into town around dinner, got ourselves prettied up and headed to the strip. We played penny and quarter slots and only spent $10 on the machines. (got to stay in budget!) It was a nice time and I sure enjoyed myself, staying way up past our bedtime and goofing off.

California was our next destination and as we drove from Nevada we dipped back down into Arizona to stop at Lake Havasu City. We had heard about the London Bridge and had to see it for ourselves. As we drove into town the lake and beating sun tempted us, so we stopped for an afternoon dip. Lake Havasu has to be one of the prettiest lakes we have ever seen. The water was so clear you could see for days! After we dried off, we finally fell back to reality and remembered we had more driving to do and started toward California.

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California Condor, one of the rarest birds in the world
North Rim Grand Canyon
North Rim of Grand Canyon
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Kaibab Squirrel
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South Rim of Grand Canyon
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Goofing off in Vegas
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Lake Havasu

Florida: part 2

After our exploration of the Everglades, we headed North up the East coast of Florida, or so I thought. My back was really hurting so I decided to crawl in the back and lay on our bed, I had no intentions of napping but quickly fell asleep as I snuggling with the dog. Well, I’m normally in charge of helping Jeff navigate so he doesn’t wreck while looking at the atlas or the phone, I had thought he knew where we were going when I crawled in the back, but awoke to the sound of a ladies voice. Some how Jeff got onto a toll road that was taking us back to Naples, the complete opposite way we were heading! As I laid in bed I could hear him trying to explain where we going and she insisted we had to pay the toll and to continue. Frustrated Jeff paid the $3 and we went on the parkway. Luckily about 20 miles into the drive there was a rest stop and we where able to turn around and go on the right way, just $3 less in our pockets.

We continued our way up the coast, going onto Jupiter for a jaw dropping drive. The houses there were huge and it’s amazing what people can do when they have too much money to spend. We were also able to find a couple parks we could take Manko to, I have felt so bad she has been cooped up in the van while we enjoy the beach. It was also Jeff’s birthday, so we decided to splurge and we got a hotel in Fort Pierce. It was nice to sleep on a big bed and lounge in jammies without worrying someone may peer through the van windows. We caught up on ‘The Walking Dead’ and just relaxed for the evening, it was great!

Jeff and I were both really wanting to go camping, so we decided to head to the Ocala National Forest. On our map it shows the forest has a giant brackish lake, Lake George, so we were determined to find the lake. In Idaho we’re used to easily getting to just about every lake, creek, river and stream. And camping is also very easy to access in our home state, free camping at that too. Well, as we were driving into the forest we were noticing, camping may not be as easy as we thought. We found a state park in the forest, however it did not allow dogs at all, so that was out. There was one or two pay campsites, however we’re really trying to save our cash and they looked pretty full too. A lot of the prime lake areas were private land with homes, so we kept driving. I finally found some roads on my phone that looked like they would take us to the lake and we started going. At first it seemed easy but then the roads got sandier and coming from Idaho we’re not too familiar with driving in sand and especially with 2-wheel drive. Realizing we weren’t going to make it to the lake and we may get lost, we decided to find a pull out spot for the night. Like I’ve said before, Florida forests are very dense and much different than what we’re use to. The areas are often so thick, there are hardly any walking paths for exploring. We tried to walk around but ended up just sitting in the van discussing how much we loved and missed the mountains.

We headed to the Daytona area in the morning to visit with my younger siblings. I saw my siblings a couple years ago when they came to Idaho, however Jeff has never met them, so I was really excited for our visit. We arrived at my brother’s place and we were greeted with open arms. They had just moved into a new apartment just days before, but my brother and his girlfriend were the most gracious and wonderful hosts. We were able to park our van at their place and stayed for a couple days, we felt so comfortable there. My sister came over one night as well and we all had a big dinner and shared great conversations. Jeff and I really enjoyed our time there.

We spent about 12 days or so in Florida soaking up the sun and found a lot of birds. We never found a manatee but did see a lot of gators. We also learned about ‘no see ums’ and we’re so glad to not have those in Idaho! Florida was beautiful but we’re now onto to explore a new area.

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Jeff and I with my younger brother Chris and his girlfriend Brittany (forgot to get a photo w/ my sister)