Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mesa Verde

Today's adventure took us out to Mesa Verde National Park and to two of the amazing cliff dwellings it houses. The scenery was absolutely beautiful and the dwellings were impressive and thought-provoking. No one really knows the whole story of the people who inhabited these structures or why they eventually moved on, but there is plenty of speculation. It's an interesting mystery to ponder. I do know that the inhabitants must have been physically fit and limber to climb up and down those cliff faces and to crawl and squeeze through the tight spaces we visited today. I also know that mothers of toddlers (and boys of all ages) must have never taken an easy breath!

Mesa Verde

Ready to explore the dwellings

32 feet, almost straight up

They made it, with smiles in place!

Time to squeeze

Balcony House

The edge of Balcony House

Time to crawl

Cliff Palace

An inward view of Cliff Palace

A tight stairway to the top
(The native people would have used only
toe and finger holes to assist with the trip
in and out of the of the pueblos!)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

From Colorado to Texas and back again

Yesterday, we drove from Colorado to Texas so we could pay a visit to the DPS office this morning and pick up a very important piece of paper. The lady in the office was blown away by Ruth's organization and couldn't believe she had all the necessary paperwork. She said she thought it was the first time in the history of the county that someone actually got their permit on the first try. Today, we turned around and drove back to Colorado, because we're a little crazy like that. But, our new driver did get some time behind the wheel, so that was pretty exciting. We are now at one of the best KOAs ever, just outside of Durango.

Apparently, Texas was glad to see us!

This is how younger brothers wait on big sister

She's official!

Not everyone is lucky enough to do their
beginning driving in a beauty like this!

Lunch in New Mexico, Christmas style

The Caboose Cafe and Pavilion at our KOA

Pizza and a movie under the pavilion


Monday, May 29, 2017

Fifteen

Dear Ruth,

Today, you turned fifteen. Fifteen. Wow! This surprises me in two ways. On the one hand, it still seems like you should be a little girl, like I just met you and we are only starting to get to know each other. On the other hand, it seems like you have been in my life forever, and since you are mature beyond your years, I often forget that you are the age you are. I am surprised both by the fact that you are already 15 and that you are only 15.

These last 15 years have been challenging in so many ways, but they have also been some of the most fun and rewarding of my life. You and I have been teaching each other about life, and I think we have both learned a lot. We are still learning.

You are fiercely independent and amazingly responsible. You show a tremendous amount of initiative in a variety of circumstances, and you eagerly pursue knowledge and experiences which you believe will help you achieve your goals or, at the very least, make you a better, more interesting person. Dad and I are so proud of you and know you have a bright future ahead of you.

As is to be expected of someone your age and wide range of interests, you are not quite sure what that future holds. You have played with many ideas for colleges and careers, and I think you put a lot of pressure on yourself to figure all of this stuff out, and you get frustrated when you don't know for sure which path to pursue. It's truly ok that you don't know yet where your road leads. It'll all come together at just the right time. The important thing is that you are currently laying a foundation for your life that will help you be successful no matter which direction (or directions) you choose to go.

This has been a tough year in some ways. We ended our RTW trip and moved to Flower Mound. You started high school and jumped into several AP classes. One of those was outside of home, and it wasn't what any of us expected it to be. There were some hard but worthwhile lessons learned this year, and you are surely stronger because of the trials.

This year was also full of of some really spectacular experiences. You joined the local IEA team and have had so much fun and learned so much through the practices and shows. You performed very well, won a number of ribbons throughout the season, and even advanced to Regionals. You are a natural with the horses, and I think they love you almost as much as you love them.

In December and again in March, you had the opportunity to work with Aunt Bekki in her vet clinic. You loved every minute of it and hope to have similar opportunities in the future. You are still considering vet medicine as a possible future career but are wisely keeping your options open.

We took our new-to-us RV to Florida in January and visited Universal Studios, which you really enjoyed. We are currently on a three-month tour of the Western U.S. and Canada, which you seem to love, aside from missing the barn and horses back in Flower Mound. Tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, you will become the proud owner of a driver's permit and will then have an opportunity to try out the driver's seat during portions of the rest of our journey.

Ruth, you are one amazing young lady! You are smart and beautiful, and you make me proud and inspire me every single day. What a privilege it is to be your mom and to watch you grow and blossom. I love you more than I can say! Happy 15th!

Love,
Mom

Fifteen looks good on you!




Sunday, May 28, 2017

A sticky situation, a hike, a gathering, and hamburgers

The first thing that happened this morning was actually rather unpleasant but had a happy ending. As we attempted to leave our very steep camping spot, our hitch got in a bind on the pavement and our RV got stuck at a wonky angle where the tires couldn't get traction. Fortunately, some very kind fellow campers saw our situation and came to our rescue with some tire ramps that allowed us to gain enough traction to unstick, for which we were incredibly grateful. There are so many good people in the world, and we find many of them at RV parks.

When we were finally on our way, we headed over to Lovell Gulch Trail, just outside of Woodland Park, for a wonderful five-mile hike through Pike National Forest. There, we were able to stretch our legs and our lungs, and we were afforded breathtaking views of Pike's Peak and the Sawatch Range. It was a gorgeous day and a beautiful place and just what we needed after a day of rain and relative inactivity yesterday.

Crossing the stream

King of the hill

A Clay-sized passage

The reward of our 950 foot increase in elevation

We were all pretty hungry after our hike, so we drove into Woodland Park and found the first park with a playground and stopped for a picnic. A while later a throng of people in costumes and with musical instruments began flooding the park. And soon the whole park was filled with music and dancing. After some inquiries, we learned that it was a gathering of Morris dancers from all over the country. If this type of dancing is new to you, as it was new to us, Morris dancing is a type of English folk dancing. It was a treat for us to be caught up in the festivities!

The Morris dancers create some of their own music with
the bells attached to their legs. 

Many of the dancers use handkerchiefs in their dances

Some of the dancers use sticks to beat out rhythms

Not really a dancer but something of a mascot

"The Betty" saw me watching from the sidelines
and decided to come educate me about what I
was seeing. He explained some of the history
and symbols of the dance. Apparently, "The Betty"
is always a man dressed in woman's clothing
and represents fertility.

The Betty bestowed a fertility gift upon me,
which I wouldn't have eaten for anything,
since it came from an unknown origin, out of a basket that no telling how many people had rifled through,
in the very permissive state of Colorado.
But, I did appreciate the gesture.

Our last activity of the day was to celebrate National Hamburger Day at the oldest restaurant in Woodland Park, The Ute Inn. They had a variety of gourmet burgers, and our group ended up with a tasty selection, which included a Bleu cheese burger, a spicy apricot burger with brie cheese, a grilled cheese cheeseburger (a hamburger patty between two grilled cheese sandwiches), a kid's cheeseburger, and a couple of Ute Sloppers, which were served open faced and smothered in green chile. It was a delicious end to a lovely day.

Happy National Hamburger Day!

The Ute Slopper

The grilled cheese cheeseburger

Saturday, May 27, 2017

An Inspirational Day

Our first stop of the day was the Air Force Academy. We thoroughly enjoyed driving through the beautiful campus and were so inspired in the visitor center as we learned about what goes on at The Academy to train the young officers who come out of the program. At least two of my children are now seriously considering this path for their futures.

A peek at Pike's Peak on our way to The Air Force Academy

Welcome to the Air Force Academy

Strong moral character is a fundamental at The Academy

The Air Force Falcon

After our visit, we stopped for Mexican food, before heading to yet another truly inspirational place: The Olympic and Paralympic Training Center. It was so impressive to see all the state-of-the-art equipment and facilities and to hear about the devotion these athletes have to their chosen sports. Some of the athletes live and train there for years with the hopes of someday representing the US on a podium, with gold medals hanging around their necks.

Welcome to the Training Center

Watts Homeschool 4-man bobsled team

More bobsledders

One of the amazing weight rooms

Anti-gravity treadmills help athletes
recover from injuries quicker.

A little gym inspiration

These buckets are filled with weights and attached to a pulley system. The swimmers put on a belt, which is attached to the bucket, and then swim away, trying to raise the bucket as high as possible. It was so impressive to watch!

Our last bit of fun for the day, after an exciting trip to Wal-mart, was to cookout at our campground. This is the first time we've gotten out the grill on our trip, and somehow it made us seem more like real RVers!

Cooking out under the pine trees

It's a good life!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Half-birthday fun

Today, Weston had his half-birthday. Eleven and a half years sure go by quickly! To celebrate, we toured the Broncos stadium, which gave Weston a few more NFL career options to think about besides just player. He was especially interested to learn that all approved media personnel receive free entrance to all home games and free food throughout games. He thought that sounded like a pretty sweet gig.

Ready to tour the stadium

Trying to look the part

It was pretty exciting to be down on the field

Half-birthday Boy

After the tour, we headed over to Sloan Lake Park for a picnic lunch. It started to rain, so we spent a good portion of the afternoon holed up in the RV, while Jeff regaled the children with one of his awesome made-up-on-the-spot stories. Eventually, the rain subsided and gave way to a gorgeous afternoon, so the boys and I wandered around the lovely lakeside walking path.

Sloan Lake

Walking with the boys

The boys amassed quite a collection
of goose feathers during our walk

Weston picked the dinner spot for us, which was a nice Italian place in Denver called Venice Ristorante. We wined and dined and toasted the half-birthday boy. It was a fun way to end our time in Denver, a city we have thoroughly enjoyed and hope to visit again.

Dinner at Venice
 
A sweet treat to celebrate the occasion