Storing Davista with a Side of Distraction

I can’t believe it – we waited until almost the last night of our first stretch in Davista to experience the coldest night. A balmy 26oF was made far more tolerable by donning a nightcap before crawling into bed.  Not one of the adult beverage variety, but an actual cap. I didn’t realize that my birthday project would have served me so well, but was very thankful to have it.

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So there she is, our home, abandoned and forlornly parked soi-même.

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Well, not really all by herself, as she is accompanied by the Subaru.  They should be fine company for each other while we’re away.  I made it a point to write down all everything in our larder (and take a picture of it), to help us easily get settled in again once we return.  It seems so strange that we’ll be back sleeping in our Maryland house in a few nights. And when I say strange, I mean that it feels oddly like we’re moving backwards, as if the return to our empty house that’s not on wheels will undo all the experiences we’ve lived on the road and we’ll resume the lives we carved out in Maryland none the wiser.

No wonder my inner 5-year old is on edge…

We loaded the bikes inside and left Davista for our hotel, which was walking distance from the massive Disney complex and wound down in the pool – or rather the girls did.

Flight and I chatted and tried to strategize our reintegration into life in Maryland, starting with travel options should all of us not get on the flight.

We meandered to the Downtown Disney and scored some dinner, taking in the holiday lights on display before we headed back to the hotel to get rested for our last big day.

Which came early.

To give you an idea, this picture was time-stamped at 0726:


The girls gave the ginormous teddy bear at the hotel a, well, a bear hug and we skipped off (literally – okay maybe that was just the girls…) to Disneyland.  We wasted no time and WoodSprite scored this ride at 0823 while Flight took her brother and sister to ride California Screamin’.

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So many distractions to experience!

I am fairly certain I know it wasn’t me or Keeper who suggested the Ferris Wheel down by the pier, but I’m not sure whom to credit.  Although it looks rather innocuous all beautifully lit up at night, this beast of a contraption has cages that not only rock as expected on most Ferris Wheels, but also pivot and slide along rails.  Ultimately, the collective motion is very unkind to anyone who may have motion-sickness issues (guilty).

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Flight and his wee girls managed just fine, but Keeper and I had a tough go…

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Incredibly, despite ten minutes of pure terror haunting her memories of her 6th birthday, we were able to convince WoodSprite to ride Splash Mountain again.  The previous evolution is captured on the left and the new memories on the right.  Significant improvement, at least for WoodSprite…

Our kids each earned their driver’s licenses (again), and I paused only momentarily to contemplate how far away that’s really not – at least for Keeper…

We also managed to score seats in the newly overhauled Tower of Terror ride that has a Guardians of the Galaxy theme, which turned out to be my favorite of the day but not for the film reference.  I can’t say I ever tried the Tower of Terror back in the day, mostly because I think I plummeted to my death in a previous life and couldn’t want to experience that “again”.  Regardless of a deep-seated fear of heights that may predate this life, I enjoyed that we tackled this as a family and, despite any preflight jitters, it ended up being a blast.

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In addition to thoroughly enjoying being so terrified, I must give props to Disney for their festive holiday flair.  Our last trip to the California mecca was at the height of Halloween and the all was decked out to the nines.  The winter holiday season is at least as festive, thankfully without Space Mountain’s odd décor mashup pairing demonic eyeballs with The Bodies exhibit.  Still trying to understand who might have thought that was a good idea.  Just weird and gross really…

The winter holiday scene is far more appropriate.  It’s a Small World was even more tolerable…

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But only just…

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In truth, today’s side of distraction was a huge success.  As we departed the Magic Kingdom to execute Operation Return to Maryland, I felt my exhausted five-year old passed out on my shoulders, her hands clasped loosely beneath my chin and gently swaying with my every step.  In my own quiet mental space, I gave thanks that she was soundly asleep and enjoyed the reprieve from her incessant questions,  Yet I couldn’t help but wonder if I was navigating the acceptance part of the grieving process.

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I guess we’ll see when she wakes up…

Phase One Complete — Map

Although we’ve yet to catch up with respect to writing, we’ve reached the end of phase one of our journey, and I wanted to provide an up to date map of where we’ve been since we started at the end of July.  We return to Maryland this week, and intend to base out of there for the Winter while we re-group with respect to the sale of our house and prepare to resume our journey in March.

The home sale has been largely hands-off since we departed, but it’s been a source of well-documented frustration for us, culminating in our final showing a few days ago.  After waves of positive feedback dotted by some neutral comments (but no offers, save for the shady one from the felon), our last showing netted overwhelmingly negative comments from the realtor, informing us that her buyers have zero interest, our house is confusing, too flawed for the price point, and should be completely repainted on the interior, despite the fact that we did that just prior to putting it up for sale.  So… thanks for playing I guess.  Where’s that ‘reset’ button?

At any rate, here’s our map as of the beginning of December.  As you can see, we put the hurt on California this Fall, and two of our three kids have expressed desire to live there, which was unexpected (and probably won’t happen).  The criss-crossing of California wasn’t in the original plan, but turned out to be a stellar way to spend the season.  We’ve stored Davista and Toad in Seal Beach, CA and intend to pick them up, along with the rest of our journey, when we return in March.  In the meantime we’ll post sporadically from Maryland.

4 months mapbox


Tentacles National Park

Tentacles National Park

If you are unfamiliar with this particular National Park, that may be because Firebolt renamed it.  And once that child has something in her head a particular way, that’s just the way it is.  Try as we might, we can’t get our daughter to let go of calling it Tentacles…

After getting on the road at the gentlemanly hour of 10 am, we departed Alamo and drove just over two and half hours to arrive at PINNACLES National Park, arriving in the early afternoon.

Pinnacles National Monument became our country’s 59th National Park in 2013, and number 9 for our flight to visit.  This particular piece of prime real estate was formed 23 million years ago, give or take, when a whole mess of volcanoes erupted and the Earth’s crust shifted around (and bunched up on itself) to create a wholly unique landscape.  Because my pictures didn’t even remotely capture its splendor, I share the following image borrowed from the National Park Service website:

Balconies Cliffs
Image from

Our intention with this particular stop was to overnight on the way to Seal Beach where we had reserved a spot to park Davista (and the Subaru) through the winter and see what we could see during out short stay.  Upon checking in we made a beeline for the Ranger Station/Visitor’s Center.  With a stop to evaluate what the Subaru was up to…

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Stinkin’ clutch (literally, I’m afraid).

The girls collected their Junior Ranger books just in time to head out for a talk given by a Ranger on the condors in the park.

Firebolt and WoodSprite were captivated, but my least favorite part was handling the feathers – so I didn’t – I don’t know why, but feathers just kinda gross me out.  I think it probably has something to do with my hyperactive imagination that I can’t manage to disengage when I see parts of but not the whole animal   It’s way worse in murky water. But I digress…

Through the Ranger’s informative talk where we learned that, slowly but surely, the condor population has grown from a dismal 22 in the 1980’s to now more than 400.  All of these majestic birds have been bred in captivity and Pinnacles National Park is one of the five sites in North America where these enormous creatures have been released. We didn’t see any condors, but, again, another picture from the National Park Service site:

Condor Telemetry
Image from

Still, the feathers?  Creepy.

When the talk concluded we headed back to the Ranger Station/Visitors Center so the girls could finish my favorite Junior Ranger activity to date.  How often do you get to match replica skat to the right species? What an awesome opportunity!

Who doesn’t like to inspect and handle replica feces?!

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Well, our 9 x Junior Rangers were all over it and there may or may not have been some giggling involved.

In writing this, I’m reminded of a Muppet sketch where a sports commentator was covering the illustrious sport of wig racing and asked one of the trainers how he cared for the wigs, “Do you use shampoo?” “Nope, nothing but the real thing…”  But I digress, yet again…

Before the sun set (and we’re nearing the winter solstice with daylight rapidly dwindling), we grabbed a snack and went for a shortish hike.


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Although we saw some beautiful colors in the lichen and Keeper was rather blown away by the enormous pinecones, it became apparent that none of our hearts were really in experiencing the Park’s beauty.  Perhaps I was projecting that on everyone as I could feel my overtired inner 5-year old threatening a tantrum.  However, while I think WoodSprite may have picked up on my impending meltdown, she managed this one just fine on her own.

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On our way back we distracted WoodSprite by asking her to flex her Junior Ranger savvy:

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Any guesses?

How about this one…

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Yeah, me neither.  Normally I’d offer up Bengal Tiger, Komodo Dragon, or something equally outlandish, but I simply couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to so “guess.”  I think we’re all processing the upcoming departure from Davista in different ways and I’m trying not to wallow in my brewing emotions.  Here’s hoping a day at Disneyland will similarly serve to distract and soften the abrupt departure from our newly cultivated lifestyle into what exactly (I still don’t know) as we make our way back to Maryland.

It should work, right?

All 5-year olds can’t not get distracted at “The Happiest Place on Earth,” right?


I sure hope I’m one of them…

Mom’s Getting Better…

After an incredible Thanksgiving visit in Grass Valley we headed back down to Grammy and Papa’s house in Alamo with zero leftovers.  Although we had only planned to be there for a few days, we had a very large task list to tackle to effectively redeploy our lives to Maryland.  Flight’s folks were kind enough to offer us a corner of their garage to store anything we’d prefer not to keep in Davista for the months we’d be parking her (and the Subaru) while we overwintered in Maryland.

My heart grew heavier as we methodically progressed through our storage compartments and packed numerous boxes to send back to Davidsonville or store in Alamo.  That process was wholly deflating as it felt as though we were deconstructing everything we spent the last few months joyfully building.  My rather dramatic inner 5-year old was back now and keening a full Scottish lament.  As we were out of pie, I was glad to tee up some fun distractions for her in the interim.  And those also kept the kids entertained.

We helped Grammy and Papa decorate their house for Christmas, which made me eager to prepare our own house for the holidays.  Firebolt gladly assisted Grammy in making some candy cane brownies.


And WoodSprite may or may not have enjoyed some hot chocolate…


There was a local skating rink that had just opened and we planned to meet our niece and nephew there to take a few turns on the ice.  My inner 5-year old paused in her woeful lament and gave thanks for Flight’s being on a trip.  One of my most (and least) favorite things about Flight is that he is a gifted athlete, which means he picks up new skills at ludicrous speed.  Far faster really than anyone has the right to and, while waltzing may elude him, skating appears to be one of his innate capabilities.  So not fair.

Nearly two decades before, I had visited Flight in The Netherlands where he was on duty as an exchange pilot with the Dutch Navy.  He mentioned that one of the nearby towns had created a skating area on one of the canals and suggested we check it out.  He admitted, “I’ve never been ice skating before – this should be fun.”  My less-than-gracious inner 5-year old gleefully delighted in the opportunity to see him fall on his caboose.  Really, can he please just suck at something?!

Growing up I spent ample time braving the bitter Chicago winter weather to learn to make my gangly way across the uneven neighborhood outdoor skating rink the Evanston Park District flooded every year and was sure I had the upper hand in our outing.  Did Flight favor me with a fall?  Nope.  Not once.  Not only did he easily make his way around the rink, after observing what skills others were performing, he started doing cross-over skating too.  Seriously?  Yep.

Fast forward to Alamo.  Lacing up my skates brought to mind plenty of childhood bruises to knees, elbows, and ego as I sorted out how to stay upright on ice skates.  I was hoping some of that long-buried and hard-earned knowhow would surface once I stepped out on the ice.


As I did, I couldn’t help but hear one of our family’s common observations echoing in my head…

We got a Wii when Keeper was two years old.  Clearly his father’s son in the coordination department, Keeper was able to easily (and most intuitively) play any of the games we collected and started racking up high scores.  His favorite (and perhaps my most challenging) was Super MarioKart, which involves racing through the most seemingly drug-induced lands.  The subtle control of one’s racing car is an elusive skill for someone like me who tends to manage the temperature in the car by alternating between 84oF and 62oF, constantly overshooting and never arriving at the ideal.

Calling it like he saw it, Keeper would observe, “Mom, you’re not very good at this…”  I let him know that, as accurate as his assessment might be, I would appreciate it if he would be a little more encouraging.  From then on out he offered this supportive commentary: “Dad, you’re really great at MarioKart.  Mom’s… Mom’s getting better…”


A far cry from Nancy Kerrigan, but at least I didn’t eat it…

The kids had a blast with their cousins…

Not only did my ice-skating skills leave plenty to be desired, but I was really struggling with hitting pause on our journey this soon into our travels.  My inner 5-year old was approaching a tantrum, and, in gaining steam, offered up plenty of rhetorical questions  in rapid fire succession, all in the same vein.  Why didn’t our house stinkin’ sell?!  Why were we told it would go like hotcakes?! Why was our only reasonable offer from an alleged felon?! Why couldn’t we just continue to travel?! Why do I have to be a grown up and go back to Maryland to tend to the very adult needs associated with selling our house?  How many house projects do I need to tackle for the next owners?  No matter how I tried (and truthfully it wasn’t a particularly earnest effort), I couldn’t want to go back to Maryland.  I couldn’t even muster much enthusiasm for going to our next National Park on the way to park Davista in Seal Beach.

This being an adult business stinks, but at least I’m getting better