Ethan keeps a close eye on this bird, crispy brown and juicy inside- just minutes from heading to our table.

There was a lot discussed about Thanksgiving before it arrived- where we’d be, who we’d be with etc etc. Turns out Thanksgiving happened to us in Alamogordo, and offered us the chance to share the day with our friend from home, Jay. That was a treat because Jay is usually travelling around the globe on assignments for his employer, and he happened to be driving from CO to KY at the same time. Our rendezvous was made sweeter by Kelly’s adept skill at cooking Thanksgiving dinner in a skillet, and the NuWave oven. (Search our posts for more info about this awesome oven for RV families)

Yeah, we all look happy, but we can't get out once the table was set in place. Talk about a good deal though- Thanksgiving dinner on a sofa? Eat, recline/digest, eat, recline/digest, repeat as needed... We'll remember this simple dinner for a long time!

We managed to shoe-horn the folding table in between the couches and were able to seat all of us at the tables to eat at the same time (a first). We caught the first hour or so of the Thanksgiving Day parade and then everyone lost interest and wandered off (as I always remember it happening as kids). As we contemplated the near future we realized that this was the last chance we’d have to visit home by driving (if all goes according to plan).

Ah, cool crisp Colorado morning. We're excited to be snowbirds for one year.

From here in Alamogordo, we will be moving South and East for the remainder of the trip. Facing several birthdays over the next 2-3 weeks and the opportunity to attend to some business in person at home, we found a safe spot for Bussie to take a short break from pushing across America and made the 10 hour trip to Denver. One of the things we planned to avoid on this trip has been… snow. No such luck for us as the temperature had dipped into the low teens, and the drive went from balmy speeding through flatland to a gentle 10MPH pace North of Castle Rock on I-25 for miles, and miles. The payoff? Hot shower with the best water pressure I have ever felt at Dad and Missy’s house in Littleton.

They each lost a pound of dirt as they became reacquainted with the bathtub at Papa's.

Some of our 'business' included girl haircuts.

Stopping at Papa and Grandma's includes getting out the big costume tubs with cousins Hazel and Ruby.

Before she would take the permit photo, Trevor had to clear his eyes of his hair. 

oh yeah! This means we'll have a relief driver in ... 12 months. We will have some great opportunities to get Trevor behind the wheel and perhaps learn about handling a wide, long, heavy bus. We'll be careful, don't worry.

We’ll stay here the next 3 days before heading home to the mountains. We tackled a lot: Trevor celebrated his 15th birthday, then took his Drivers Permit test (& passed), Meila grew another year older (to 8), we met with the insurance folks, we inspected our home and found it to be better than we expected- Jess is taking care of it like her own. That was one of our fears leaving for a year- ‘What will happen to our ‘normal’ life while we’re gone?’ Turns out, when we walk back into it, it’s as if we never left- except we have some great stories to tell, and everyone wants to know our favorite stop…

Heading West into the mountains we were treated to tourists moving slowly. Can you believe that?! Tourists, sheesh.

Henry and Simon have been Skyping their 1st grade class about every other Friday, which keeps them connected, and is exciting for them to share with their class, hear what’s new at home- and SEE their friends. Friday the 3rd we had a surprise in store for that class! We were in town, and set up to Skype in front of the school- seated in the parking lot. Our plan was to chat normally and see if anyone noticed where they were at, without the boys giving any clues. We had practiced the answers to Q: ‘Where are you now?’ – A: In the mountains…

Simon & Henry chatting with the class before heading to the swimming pool.

No need to talk in code- those 1st graders are sure smart! Within seconds of connecting, their classmates had noticed, and excitedly determined that the boys were right outside, and proceeded to run to the lobby and meet them amid hugs and miles of smiles. Simon and Henry spent the day with the class doing fun stuff including a swim party the class had earned. (Good timing the teacher said).

Uncle Pete with Tyson, looking BIG! It's only been 4 months, but feels like we've been gone a lot longer.

The other kids also filled up with friendships while we were there, and at one point I didn’t know who was coming or going as I stood at the doorway of our home and greeted 3 separate parents, my friend, and took a call from Kelly directing me to run someone else across town. Whew. It was at this moment I realized one of the main reasons we are taking ourBigtrip: when we go somewhere, it’s as a family. When we come back, the whole family comes in the door- when we eat, we’re all sitting down together, and on and on and on. At home, I felt like a tilt-a-whirl spinning at full speed with the cars flying off in different directions at the same time… With 9 it’s tough to have everyone together at any given time, so I’ll admit that in the last 4 months we have become spoiled. The kids have all been within reach, and were now out of sight. I was, at that point, ready to leave and head back for the bus- but would have to wait for a couple more days. It felt like we had been working on the foundation of our new home, and the bricks were being removed while the mortar was still wet.

The whole trip actually felt weird. Great to see familiar faces, to laugh with friends, to take long hot showers, but it was tough though to take an outside look at our life at home. First, we have a lot of stuff there, despite a big clean out before we left. Living in a 300 sq ft bus is not desirable long term, but we’re seeing that living with less space than we’re accustomed to is doable. We have all secretly grown more comfortable with one another (no one will admit that). During the course of a normal day on the bus, there will be no less than a handful of arguments, but they all resolve themselves, and are persistently teaching us something. Being so close together may seem tough at the time, but when we were spread out, it’s absence was palpable. I suppose that after a few more months, we’ll have reached a level of relationships that will survive the test of time after we separate upon our return home. Better yet, we intentionally maintain those feelings by designating a day of the week for family, and plan around the bond we’re predicting will harden, like the mortar in our foundation. This is (like the whole trip) speculation that it will bring us positive results, and not scar our family for life.

Once back in the van headed for Bussie, a sense of relief came across my mind, knowing that we were all safely back together- I say safe- from outside influences that would interrupt this social experiment that we are almost in the middle of.

This may not be the invention to make us rich, but the 2 sided tape on this bowl of snacks seemed helpful. I was however afraid to make any sharp turns, for fear of wearing the snack. We'll shelve that one for something better down the road.

Speaking of social experiments, have I mentioned that everyone uses a handtowel to dry off after showers? More on this, and other resource saving measures in a future post. Now, we’re in Roswell, and preparing to do a little of our own investigation on this alien thing… I’ve lined my cap with a double layer of foil just in case they can read minds, and I’ll be extra careful to buckle up in the van so there will be less chance of being sucked up by the mothership while driving.