Sunday, February 27, 2011

Show us the Hole in the Wall!




Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blake writes about our whale watching cruise

Campground Review - Oak Park

We have discovered that County Parks in the southern California area may be the best and cheapest route to go when RVing fulltime. State Parks around here are great but most of them have very little in the way of hook-ups. We stayed in Simi Valley to visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. We found a nice, quiet little Ventura County park called Oak Park.

Nearby attractions - 8 - Besides the Reagan site, there are tons of "day trips" nearby.

Staff - N/A - Never saw a soul - it was President's Day.

Natural surroundings - 8 - Trees, wooded areas and very close to a train track that runs from 7 am to 11 pm.

Value - 8 - We paid $26 a night for partial hook-ups, back-in site. You have to pay extra to use their dump site.

Bathrooms - 4 - The men's was flooded, but the women's was Ok. No showers and no soap at the sinks.

Roominess - 9 - The sites were decent sized and there was only to other RVs in the park. I am sure it much more crowded during the spring-fall months.

Facility fun - 6 - Two playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts.

Cleanliness - 7 - They have kept the park-up, but it does not wow you.

Facility usefulness - 4 - Dump station, pay station. Grill and picnic table at each site.

Overall - 7 - Our kids met some other kids staying there, and they had a nice time playing outside. These parks offer much more room to run than the RV parks that cram you in like a parking lot.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Goat Hill Junction

We went on this little train ride in Costa Mesa on Sunday afternoon. This model train club gives these rides the third weekend of every month, weather permitting. It was a ton of fun, especially for our three little guys and dad loved it too!

Monday, February 21, 2011

San Juan Capistrano

This post has been deleted because it is in our new book describing our adventures across America entitled Napkin Dreams!


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Photo War at the Santa Barbara Zoo

As big Psych fans we wanted to visit the city the TV show is set in, Santa Barbara. But where would we go once we got there. It seemed unrealistic to go to the police station and take photos, and since we have free passes to their zoo and one of the episodes was based there, it seemed like a natural fit. The episode in question has a polar bear framed for the killing of a zoo employee. Well we're sad to learn there are no polar bears at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

This did not hamper the Martin family in any way however. For some reason my lovely wife decided to challenge our oldest Blake to an artistic photo war featuring the zoos semi-wild inhabitants. In some sort of twisted way in known only to her, she was trying to encourage him to develop his natural talent in this area.

This of course made each stop along the zoo route all the more interesting as each competitor in this combat of cameras tried to outdo the other for the most amazing shot of Santa Barbara Zoo! It was like watching two finely-tuned athletes struggle for supremacy on the gymnasium floor. Not really, but it makes for good drama!

So no we need your help as readers of this blog. Readers who do not normally comment, we need your comments. The pictures in this post were all taken by either Blake or Patsy at the Santa Barbara Zoo. We are not going to reveal which ones were taken by whom, so we have completely blind test. If you would kindly tell us which of the pictures you like the best, this will help us in determining to champion of photography in our humble family.

BTW - each set of pictures in this post includes one photo by Blake and one by Patsy, so they have equal chances of winning. You can also comment on my facebook page if you would rather!

Fighting Macaws

Great Video from Santa Barbara Zoo!

Campground Review - Sequoia/Sunrise RV Parks

Reviewing our last two RV Parks here in California! First off is Sequoia Campground in Lemon Cove, CA.

Nearby attractions - 8 - Sequoia National Park is twenty minutes away and Visalia is 30 minutes.

Staff - 8 - Owner was very nice and helpful. Even gave us change back when dryer didn't work! also gave us tips on seeing Sequoia while they are working on the roads.

Natural surroundings - 8 - Lots of green, rock hills nearby. Plenty of shade trees and a meadow on site,

Value - 6 - We paid $37 a night for full hook-ups, pull-through site.

Bathrooms - 5 - They we're less than OK, but not entirely gross!.

Roominess - 6 - We were a bit crammed in, not much room for the van.

Facility fun - 5 - Pool which was closed and a small game room and clubhouse. Also a small playground frequented by biting red ants.

Cleanliness - 5 - Slightly less than normal for an older park.

Facility usefulness - 8 - Laundry facilities, dump station, swapping library, wifi at clubhouse, small store.

Overall - 6 - This was our Valentine's Day Destination!

Next we stayed a Sunrise RV Park in Santa Barbara. One word - expensive!

Nearby attractions - 7 - Super close to beach and zoo and downtown Santa Barbara.

Staff - 6 - Manager was nice to us, but talked bad about another camper who was having trouble pulling their RV in.
Natural surroundings - 5 - You are not in a commercial or residential area, but still not a feel of being in nature. Loved the rooster next door. Train and highway 101 close by.

Value - 2 - We paid $60 a night for full hook-ups, back-in site. Cheap for Santa Barbara though.

Bathrooms - 7 - They we're clean and had hot showers. Automatic light sensors are near ceiling so you have to wave your towel in front of them to turn them on.

Roominess - 5 - Very tight we thought, for what we paid.

Facility fun - 2 - Nothing to do on site.
Gus and Shawn were no where to be found!

Cleanliness - 7 - Average.

Facility usefulness - 7 - Super cheap laundry facilities, wifi, cable included. Picnic table at each site.

Overall - 5 - Try finding a good place with full-hook-ups in Santa Barbara that doesn't cost a bunch!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sunset Reports on Sherman

This post has been deleted because it is in our new book describing our adventures across America entitled Napkin Dreams!



Monday, February 14, 2011

Sequoia NP on Kissgiving Day

We had a wonderful Valentine's Day, spending a good portion of the day at Sequoia National Park. David has re-cooined this holiday, Kissgiving, so in his honor he gets to explain in his way what a Sequoia Tree is always about! The Hi-def was turned off of video recorder!

Anyway we had plenty of snow to throw around and even had a pinecone fight (see me get pelted with pine cones by Patsy and Tanner in the video below!)

For Kissgiving this year we started a new tradition of exchanging names with each other and then hit the Dollar Tree to buy some small thing for the name we drew! As a big present this year our whole family got a little Chihuahua puppy. He is a cutie-pie whom we named Sherman (after the General Sherman Tree at Sequoia). Enjoy our pics and Happy Kissgiving day!!

Campground Review - River Run RV Park

We initially only planned on staying at River Run RV Park in Bakersfield, CA for a couple of nights, passing through on our way up to Sequoia National Park. Due to the accident we ended up staying an entire week. It's a good thing that it was nice park!!

Nearby attractions - 5 - Not much close, but you are in Bakersfield.

Staff - 8 - Staff was helpful and cordial.

Natural surroundings - 6 - Camp is next to a river bed with smaller trees on sites. You are next to a highway and lots if businesses, but it has a secluded feel to it.

Value - 7 - We paid $27 a night for full hook-ups, pull-through site. This includes cable, which we needed to watch the Super Bowl. Our satellite does not get local networks!

We initially only planned on staying at River Run RV Park in Bakersfield, CA for a couple of nights, passing through on our way up to Sequoia National Park. Due to the accident we ended up staying an entire week. It's a good thing that it was nice park!!

Bathrooms - 9 - Very clean, hot and roomy showers.

Roominess - 8 - The sites were long and each one had a nice cement pad next to it. No picnic tables

Facility fun - 7 - Pool was open, but very cold. We did use the hot tub several times. We also met another full-time family whom we had met before in Carlsbad. We had a nice time with them and asked to use their shelter and gas grill for a cookout one night. The campground let us use it all at no cost. Check out this family of eight and their travels on their website!

Cleanliness - 9 - Exceptionally clean!

Facility usefulness - 8 - Laundry facilities, dump station, very fast wifi, clubhouse, mini-store.

Overall - 8 - Very nice, clean park. Not a bunch of fun things to do close by, but a nice on your way park.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

50 McDonalds - California

For all you McDonalds haters it is my proud duty to tell you we have hit another of the golden arches in another state, the golden state of California! Since the accident we have been stuck in Bakersfield, CA for a week. After a morning of traipsing around signing documents, meeting adjusters and collecting our old van's possessions, it seemed like perfect timing to add another notch on our Ronald McDonald belt.

The inside was a total McCafe, which caused Blake to remark that it reminded him too much of Starbucks. "It is too laid back," he said. Of course there was no playland, which are always big hits with our kids, but do not blend into the coffee shop motif. Still, dad and mom like the calm colors and the smooth jazz one in awhile. After all the coffees are the best thing on Mickey's Menu!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Insect Lore

It's a bug-eat-bug world out there, princess. One of those "circle of life" kind of things.~ Hopper from A Bug's Life.



Thursday, February 10, 2011

Campground Review - Sierra Trails RV Park

In desperate need of laundry facilities and a cheap overnight stay, we found a Passport America campground along our route at Sierra Trails in Mojave, California.

Nearby attractions - 3 - Not much nearby - Bakersfield less than 90 minutes away.

Staff - 8 - Owner was very nice.

Natural surroundings - 5 - You are not in a commercial or residential area, but still not a feel of being in nature. Loved the rooster next door. Barking dogs close by as well.

Value - 8 - We paid $17.50 a night for partial hook-ups, pull-through site.

Bathrooms - 6 - They we're OK.

Roominess - 8 - We were parked in a section reserved for overnighters. While were tight on either side, there was a ton of room behind us and in front of us for the kids to play.

Facility fun - 5 - Pool which was closed and a game room and clubhouse.

Cleanliness - 7 - Average for an older park.

Facility usefulness - 8 - Laundry facilities, dump station, swapping library, wifi at clubhouse.

Overall - 7 - It served it's purpose!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Calico Ghost Town





Nearby attractions - 8 - Walking distance to ghost town. Less than a 15 minutes to Barstow.
Staff - 7 - Mostly helpful San Bernadino County employees.

Natural surroundings - 8 - Nested among hills and mountains with decent amount of smaller trees on sites/
Value - 8 - We paid $27 for a night for full hook-ups, pull-through site. This included entrance to Calico both days we were there.
Bathrooms - 5 - They were clean, but you had to pay coins for the showers.
Roominess - 8 - Sites were a little short but this time of the year there was plenty of room.
Facility fun - 8 - Ghost town within walking distance. Also hiking paths and off-road vehicle paths on site.
Cleanliness - 7 - Kept up and maintained.
Facility usefulness - 4 - No laundry or wifi or propane or library.
Overall - 7 -We really enjoyed our stay here!

Campground Review - Barstow KOA

We needed a place with wifi near Calico ghost town and we could not find a good deal on one, so we settled on the Barstow, Calico KOA in Daggett, California. I will blog about Calico later on.

Nearby attractions - 7 - Minutes from Calico Ghost Town. Less than an hour from Mojave National Preserve.

Staff - 7 - Nice lady waited on us.

Natural surroundings - 8 - Lots of trees, bushes and shrubs which separate the sites.

Value - 6 - We paid $45 a night for full hook-ups, pull-through site.

Bathrooms - 7 - They were clean and some were heated if you turn the heater on. Water was hot. They give you coins to operate the showers.

Roominess - 8 - Nice length of sites with picnic table and grill at each pull through. Sewer is like 15 feet behind the rest of the hook-ups. I never get that.

Facility fun - 5 - Pool, playground and game room. Nice western themed playground. Chasey got a splinter here, which was like the end of his world.

Cleanliness - 8 - Comfortable clean, meaning a family can feel fine playing here, yet not grossed out by anything.

Facility usefulness - 9 - Plenty of bathrooms, laundry, dump station, full hook-ups, pull-throughs and free wifi. Camp store and restaurant.

Overall - 7 - Nice park, which you can normally count on with KOAs.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Death Valley

Sorry, this mpost has been taken down because it is in our book detailing our trip across America!




Friday, February 4, 2011

Ethel's Chocolate Factory

When in Vegas one has to indulge a bit, so our family indulged in chocolate. We visited a chocolate factory we saw on the Duggars. I must say they had a better time and more personalized tour than we did!

The tour at Ethel's was a self-guided tour, with a free sample at the end. We got there just before five tour buses arrived, so we got there in the nick of time. The samples were good, but the best thing our family liked was the M & M store where we purchased a sample of every color known to man! There is also a cactus garden you can go through for free and take some pictures. This was a quick stop for us, and it did not take long to see the factory, but it was also educational to see the chocolates being made.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Campground review - Desert Sands in Henderson, Nevada

Looking for a cheap Rv park near Las Vegas, we got you covered here: Desert Sands RV park may not be the classiest place to stay when in Sin City, but it may be the least expensive!

Nearby attractions - 8 - Minutes from downtown Vegas. Less than a half hour from Hoover Dam.

Staff - 5 - Barely breathing, but serviceable.

Natural surroundings - 4 - Loved the view of the tattered flag in the sunset at nearby gas station.

Value - 9 - We paid $15 a night for two nights for full hook-ups, pull-through site.

Bathrooms - 3 - Pretty rough stuff kiddos.

Roominess - 8 - Sites were average length but pretty wide with a cement slab outside each one and then room enough for the car to pull alongside that.

Facility fun - 5 - Pool and sauna. Too cold for our blood.

Cleanliness - 5 - Lots of older RVs that do not run anymore. Bathroom cleaned once in awhile.

Facility usefulness - 6 - Expensive laundry facilities, no library, no wifi, propane delivered twice a week.

Overall - 4 -We are not picky Americans who need four or five star all the time. Being together and traveling means we sometimes go cheap so we can go nice later!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

50 McDonalds - Nevada

When you travel to Nevada, going to a local McDonalds is probably not high on your list of things to do, unless of course you are trying to visit one in every state of this glorious union of ours! We visited a McDonalds in Henderson, Nevada for some ice cream cones and sundaes and a little wifi!

They had a decent sized playland, but that is not what we will remember most about our stop here. It seems Blake had a run-in with a toilet paper dispenser and it fell off and cut him a bit. We thought we should tell management so they would know their bathroom was not currently operating at full tilt. This led to filling out of accident forms and the discussion of possible free fries for life. OK – I am just joking about the free fries part.

Blake has survived the incident with no visible scars, gangrene or childhood obesity, for which we are very thankful!

Yawn - Las Vegas

Only in Las Vegas can you see the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Pyramid and the Empire State Building in just a few short minutes. Forget long plane rides, pesky government agencies and getting those passports. Simply travel to the lights in the desert and viola, you can see the world.

You might see a few things you didn’t count on though. Like huge billboards of things you might feel you could have gone one living without seeing. All in all despite the faux world wonders and the explicit signage, for our family Las Vegas proved to be largely and brightly lit yawn. There was not much we found there that drew us to stay. We had a hard time even finding a cheap buffet, so we headed to Fazolis where kids eat free on weekends. Now that was something to cheer about!

We did have a nice time at the Church of South Las Vegas. We must have went to an extension campus because it was in Henderson, Nevada! Anyway they had a pretty good children's ministry and a great sermon. Our kids are getting used to just going into every church without a fuss, talking to the teachers like they were old friends!

Overall though, our time in Vegas was pretty forgettable.

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