Tag Archives: travel

Lake Tahoe Trip – October 2017

I cannot believe I forgot to share all of the pictures from my trip to Lake Tahoe.  Kim, Cristina, and I all met while we were stationed at Fort Meade in Maryland.  Kim’s family is civilian and Cristina’s family is army.  That doesn’t matter except that it means Kim is still in MD, while we’ve since moved to Spain and now South Dakota and Cristina has moved to Georgia and now Hawaii, so it’s been a while since we’ve all been together.  Two years ago we were talking about meeting when we moved back stateside.  So, we tried to pick a place kind of in the middle between MD and HI… and we settled on Las Vegas.  We decided not to go there because we couldn’t find a cheap place to stay.  We have points in a condo system, and we were able to find a place on Lake Tahoe for a few points, so that’s what we decided to do.

It turned out to be the best time because the weather was warm, especially for October.  Cristina has lived in HI too long because she was freezing in the 60-70 degree weather.  But we had a great time hiking, eating, and just hanging out.  I miss them so much.

I know I’ve said it before, and I guess I’m going to continue to talk about it until I find someone with a solution to the problem, but people in the military don’t have true community.  We might find it for months at a time, but that lifelong connection with people, raising your children together, and going through life together just doesn’t happen in the military and it does a huge disservice to the men and women and especially children who have to live this way.  I don’t have an answer, but I’m constantly thinking about this and I’m hoping there can be some kind of solution or at least a better way.

Anyway, we had a great time for 3 days and here are some of the pictures… Lake Tahoe is beautiful!  It was the first time I had ever been there, and my first time in California!!

Weekend Adventure

I love to do things as a family.  Everyone who lives here can tell you that I love for us to all be together.  Even if we are all just sitting around watching Psych (the best TV show ever!)

Anyway, I love togetherness!  I also like to get outside and do things!  If I can mix the two things, it’s usually a perfect day.  However, since Chyna is now working, her schedule doesn’t always work with event schedules, and this time it resulted in her missing out on an awesome day of adventures!

  • First stop – We went to the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site and participated in their celebration of the Sputnik satellite anniversary.  Since the “space race” began with that launch, and the minuteman missile program is a direct result of that, they held some events this past weekend to commemorate the event.  At the visitor’s center, they have a pretty cool little museum of what life was like for the workers on the missile programs.

  • Second Stop –  one of the missile silos.  The tour guide was a man who worked on the minuteman missile program.  He gave us lots of interesting information and explained how all of it worked (except the secret stuff he said he couldn’t tell us about! 🙂  He said that everything inside was exactly as it was when the program was removed.  The missile is a fake, but the rest is all the same.  It was really interesting to us, but the boys were a little disappointed that we couldn’t go inside the silo.  There is another one near the base that we can go in for a tour, so I’m sure we will be doing that soon since we are all now interested in how it all works.

  

  • Third Stop – Badlands National Park.  This was actually between the Missile visitor’s center and Wall, so we decided to drive through.  It is beautiful here, and if you’ve ever been to the badlands in NM and AZ, it looks similar.  I couldn’t stop taking pictures of it.  We found lots of hiking area too, so we will definitely be coming back here to hike.

     

  • Fourth stop – Wall, South Dakota.  If you’ve ever driven anywhere in this area of the country, then I’m sure you’ve seen a sign on the side of the road for Wall Drug.  We had a great time walking around this place.  It is huge and much more than a drug store.  It started as a drug store, but it has expanded to include just about anything and everything you’re looking for in the way of a tourist trap.  We stopped here for lunch and to walk around before we headed back home.  It was so cool, and we all said “we have to bring Chyna back here” multiple times.  We had a great time here!

  

Sevilla/Seville

We  love living near Sevilla, and I couldn’t wait to take my parents to see the city we love!  It was our first time taking a carriage ride there too!

The architecture in the city is amazing!

We went to the Cathedral and saw where Christopher Columbus is buried… well, at least part of him is buried here!

We took a nice carriage ride around the Plaza de Espana.  It was so beautiful!

Gibraltar

We took a day trip and drove down to Gibraltar.  So much fun and history!!

The first stop we made was to one of the Pillars of Hercules.  Apparently, there were two pillars that Hercules held on to and pushed apart or pulled together the two continents of Europe and Africa.   I can’t remember which one, but this is from the European side, looking across at Africa.   It was really windy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next stop was a cave with beautiful lighting.  I really loved how cool it was in there.  The cave was set up to be used as a hospital during war, but it didn’t have to be used.

 

We drove on up to the “Top of the Rock” and got to hang with the monkeys for a bit.  One of the babies tried to see if Momma had any food in her purse!   They were adorable!

After we left the monkeys… we went to a cave that was used to defend the rock.  Cannons holes are still there.

           

 

 

Morocco

While my parents were visiting, we took a day trip to Tangiers in Morocco.  It was a great day with great people!!

We took a ferry ride to get from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco… There were a LOT of people on the ferry because it was Holy Week in Spain (read about our Semana Santa experience if you missed it).   The beginning of a great day!!

The day in Morocco started with a walk through the old part of town.  It was market day, so there were lots of people selling fresh produce, spices, and plenty of trinkets.

Our guide led us to some of his friends who were charming some snakes!  My mother volunteered to have them put one of the snakes on her.

After a huge, wonderful lunch, we went for a drive around the city and out of the city for the funniest camel ride I’ve ever seen in my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then went to the Caves of Hercules before making our way back to the ferry for our return trip.

Goodbye Morocco!!!

The real adventure started after we got back to Tarifa and found out our cars had been towed because we parked next to a sign that said we had to move our cars before 6:00pm.  We didn’t make it back in time, so the cars were gone, and Amy and I had to walk to the police station, ride in the back of a police car to get the cars, and drive through horrible traffic to come back and find everyone else to head home.

All in all, a very long and wonderful day!!

 

 

 

PCS: Checklists Galore

This post was originally published on 1 April on the Daily Blog.

This week I was reminded that even though I’m far from my extended family, I’m still surrounded by people who show love to us.  A retired military contractor who works here (he’s leaving Spain this week to move back to the states) found out we were moving to South Dakota and contacted Ron to see if we wanted to meet him for lunch one day to answer any questions we might have.  I’ve never met this man, and all he knows is that we have kids and we’ll be moving to his home town.  He met with us the day before he was scheduled to fly out to move back to the states.  Y’all, he wrote three hand-written pages of things that we should see and do in Rapid City and the surrounding area.  He talked to us for over an hour and went over each one of the 29 points.  It was an incredibly thoughtful thing for him to do for us and I appreciate it so much.  Speaking of checklists…

 

It’s been a couple of weeks since we found out where our next duty station will be.  We are in the middle of my checklist for the move.

  1. Search Facebook for groups.
    1. This turned up more groups than I can keep up with, so now I’m in the process of figuring out which ones I want to be in.
  2. Find out about fostering.
    1. I’ve not been able to contact the county offices because Rapid City is on the edge of two counties. Until we know where we will live, it’s going to be hard to narrow down our county office.  I have written an email to the state-wide foster parenting website, but I’ve not gotten a reply in over a week, so I need to do more follow-up work on this one.
  3. Homeschool Rules.
    1. I quickly found a wonderful Facebook group for homeschoolers and they informed me of the South Dakota homeschooling rules. More lenient that Maryland in some areas, except for mandatory testing for certain grades.  We are all satisfied with the laws except for the one who will have to take standardized tests for the first time in his 13 years of life.  Just another learning experience, right?
  4. Houses to live in.
    1. I’ve just stopped looking. I have found multiple houses that I would love to live in, but I then go down some weird HGTV inspired rabbit hole and realize those houses might not be there in five months when we move in.  So, then I turn it off and sulk.
  5. Jobs and extracurricular activity for children.
    1. Our 18-year-old wants a job, but something with animals, or coffee, or books. It seems she’s open to a lot of jobs, and she has bookmarked nearly every place that has a job opening.  Let’s hope some of them are still hiring in August.
    2. The 13-yr. old wants to take Judo with Ron. He also wants to find a scout troop and find a way to “work with birds” (but only birds of prey… they are the coolest!)
    3. The 10-yr. old wants to “do parkour or gymnastics” and find a cub scout pack for his last year before boy scouts.
  6. History of the area.
    1. Our new friend with all the information also provided some of this. Then a quick google search for a timeline of South Dakota brought up a couple of books that look interesting.  I put in an order for a couple from amazon, so we’ll start reading those as soon as they get here.
  7. Search the house for things to sell.
    1. This is the least fun for everyone except Ron. He loves to throw things away.  We’ve done most of the main parts of the house, but the kids’ rooms haven’t been done at all.  I’m saving that for when my parents visit us in a little over a week!  We have the garage sale date set, so now we’ve got to finish looking through everything so we can be ready.

 

That is only MY checklist for our move.  Things that I’ve been wondering about and wanting to make sure I know all about.

There are quite a few websites that provide comprehensive checklists for PCSing.  I’m not nearly disciplined enough to go through them, but it is nice to have those lists to look at.  One of my favorites is here.  Military.com has tons of information about the military in general, but this is one of my favorites things on their site.  It has different checklists depending on how long you have left before your PCS.  Since we will be moving sometime in August, we are too early for any of their checklists.  However, we are going to be having all of our stuff packed up at the end of May or the beginning of June.  We want to make sure there are NO issues with getting our stuff to South Dakota before we get there.

Overseas bases have furniture that you can borrow until your household goods (HHGs) arrive, and you can borrow them again after your stuff is packed out, but that doesn’t happen in the continental US (CONUS).  We don’t want to find a house and have no furniture.  I’m sure I’ll be missing my bed by then.

The earliest checklist they have is for 3 months before you move.  Since we are packing our stuff in June, I still looked through this checklist to see what I can work on.

It’s safe to say that I’m getting overwhelmed at the number of things on this list.  So, I’ll stick with my small checklist about the things I’m most excited about, and I’ll report back as we get closer to leaving.

Side Note:  We are going to work our way through every item on his list while we are in South Dakota.  I’ll be documenting our “Checklist Journey” on our family blog if you are interested.

Semana Santa

This was originally published on 22 April 2017 on Daily Blog.

When we moved to Spain, we knew we would get to see things we’d never seen before.  I had no idea one of them would revolve around Easter.  Here in Spain they have a unique way of celebrating the last week of Lent, leading up to Easter.  Called Holy Week or Semana Santa.  I found a link on wikipedia that will explain more about the processions and what everything means, but we have a friend who is a priest at these two churches that I have pictures of below, and I’ll tell you what he said it means.  Wikipedia article is here.

As we walked down the street to the first church San Miguel, we saw many of these red banners.

Each of these processions or pasos are sponsored by a fraternity or brotherhood.  They work all year, but especially in the last months leading up to the pasos getting everything ready.  The pasos start in a church and walk around the entire city.  The ones I attended this year were in the city of Moron de la Frontera.  Each of the pasos tell a story of the Passion of Christ.  They follow the events of Holy Week in the New Testament of the Bible.

There are always at least 2 “floats” in the procession.  One is Jesus in whatever event that paso is showing, and the other is Mary.  Jesus goes out first and is followed by Mary.

Let’s talk about the people around them.  The people who lead the processional are all paying penance of some kind.  It is very personal and only between them and God.  Because of this, they cover their faces.  The hoods they wear (called Capirotes) look familiar to those of us from the United States, but for a very different reason.  Let me just say that the Spanish tradition came first and their manner of dress was stolen by the people who used it to do horrible things.  So, the hoods are worn to hide their identity so they can pay their penance in silence and in a more personal way.

Here are people inside the church putting on their capirotes and getting ready to walk.

The doors are open and the processional is about to start.  People are lining the streets to see the floats.

Jesus is bound and his float is wooden with purple flower petals on the bottom.  It is beautiful.

Closer look at Jesus and the intricate carving of the wood.

Mary’s float is predominantly silver and all of those candles will continually be re-lit all evening as they process.

How do the floats move?  They are man-powered.  Meaning there are rows and rows of men under there and they are literally carrying the floats and walking around the city.  They are very coveted spots and it is a great honor to be able to carry these icons around their city.  They spend every weekend of lent practicing carrying the floats, and we happen to be lucky enough to see one.

There are extra men walking behind them to switch out when it is needed.  These floats weigh over 2,500 pounds.

The way they all stand up with the float is wonderful and if you get the chance to see if on video, you should watch it.

They have left the church and are starting the procession.  It will last for at least five hours, maybe longer.  Everyone outside claps as soon as he is out the door.

On Wednesday, we went to a different church to watch the procession.  This time Jesus was depicted in the Garden, praying and asking God to remove the cup from him.

More intricate wood carving.

We went to the balcony to watch everyone getting ready

They walk along with the incense and a band plays outside as the floats come by.

Walking out with Mary

Re-lighting the candles before going outside.

The most unique thing about this church is that the doors are too small for the floats to get out with the men walking.

They have to carry it to here, then get down on their knees and go out the door on their knees. It is a truly powerful thing to see someone worship in a non-traditional way. In our world, there aren’t many ways we can use our bodies to worship, and they truly are using them here. We watch as they precariously balance all that weight while bending on their knees and then scooting out the door. They then have to all stand back up and begin the long, five-hour process of allowing their fellow citizens to worship this way as well. It was something I’ll never forget and has made my Easter celebrations much more profound.

On the Road to Nowhere

Sometimes you have a great plan and you think everything will work out.  It can be a huge plan or something really small, but if it doesn’t work the way you planned, it can be frustrating.  I am usually not so easily frustrated by these little bumps in my plans, but if I’m tired or not having a good day, I lose it easily.

A few days ago, Ron said we were all going on a surprise trip.  We were told that we would be going to Marbella (about a 2 hour drive) to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe (we are obsessed with finding these restaurants).   After lunch, he said we would be having a surprise.

All 5 of us driving in our car is not ever fun for anyone in the backseat.  If we have to spend any amount of time in that car, the “you are on my nerves” starts.  We were all prepared for an uncomfortable car ride, but the promise of a surprise made it doable.

We love this abandoned train station not far from our house.

We drove through some beautiful hills and valleys along the way to Marbella.

We made it to Hard Rock and had a great lunch… now on to the surprise!!

We were close to a Starbucks (with a very cool bed in the store next door), so we had to stop by for coffee and to plot our next stop.  Ron and I wanted to take the kids to a birds of prey sanctuary about 45 minutes away.  So we put it in the GPS and headed out.

He really wants this bed to be his… “but black, not white”

We found the bird sanctuary, but it wasn’t open.  The sanctuary is located on top of a mountain and the wind was blowing too much for the birds to fly.  Back to the GPS… and home.

We were able to spend the day together, but didn’t get to do what we had planned.  We drove nearly 5 hours round trip for Hard Rock Cafe.  While we do like their food, I’m not sure being crammed in the car for that long was worth it.

The good parts of the trip… These beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea, the views of the hills around us, and the greatest little podcast.  We all listened to Mike Rowe’s podcast called The Way I Heard It.  They are less than 10 minutes and remind me of The Rest of the Story with Paul Harvey.

To-Do List – South Dakota

I am sometimes amazed by the generosity of people.  Someone here at the base found out we were moving to South Dakota, and he asked if we wanted to have lunch with him and ask any questions we might have about the area.  He grew up there and has family who still live in the area.  He’s still trying to find a job there so he can go home.  His description of everything and the hand-written pages he gave us made me want to go ahead and go there now instead of waiting.  I am so excited to explore our new state, and can’t wait to do every activity he has listed for us.  I took pictures of his list here so I could keep up with them, and use this list for our first adventures in South Dakota.  I can’t wait for our new adventure!  You’re more than welcome to join our family as we explore!