Great food and great company in Alburquerque

We travelled from Grant in New Mexico to Alburqerque. Because we arrived right on Thanksgiving, we didn’t want to encroach on Donna’s family time, so spent time at a park where the kids played and Chayse practised his artistic skills.

Modelling for a portrait

Finishing touches!

The final product!










First he drew a portrait of Kaitlin and Akaisha, then tried a second piece with Trev, Flynn, Akaisha and himself. I had to take photos as he had done his drawings on a whiteboard.

Inspired by his first efforts, Chayse...

...draws another masterpiece!






The kids played in the park....

....overlooking Alburquerque.









We camped at the KOA and whilst our stay in Alburqerque was short, it was well worth the visit to meet up with Donna, a good friend of my brother Scott. They met originally when they were both travelling around South America. Donna came to Australia, but I only had 4 kids at the time… I wondered if she knew what she had gotten herself into by meeting us at a restaurant with our seven kids!

Akaisha getting to know Irene.

Irene and Donna...both gorgeous people.








But I needn’t have worried. The kids took to Donna and her family immediately and we enjoyed a wonderful brunch with Donna and her Mum Irene. Soon after we met Donna’s boyfriend Ramiro and they introduced us to a different type of Mexican dish to what we were used to. As Donna pointed out, food is very different in this region than in Mexico.

Ramiro talking to the children.

Ramiro, Donna and Irene.







Trev was more adventurous than myself or the kids and he shared the dishes of Carn Adobada (pork marinated in red chile sauce and Carnitas (shredded beef with green chile) with Donna, Ramiro and Irene.

Weck's infamous Mexican dishes.

You would think that by now we would be used to the fact that when you order anything in America, it is usually twice the size of what we expect! But no, the kids and I still ordered anough pancakes to keep us going for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next two days.

Flynn assured us that he would eat EVERYTHING. I wish I had bet him some money…because after one pancake, he could barely squeeze another mouthful in.

I'll eat everything, I promise!







Luckily, Weck’s provided take away containers, so none of this delicious food should go to waste.

Kaitlin about to dig in to her pancakes.

Look at the size if this!







Not long before we were due to leave (we had a big drive ahead of us), Ramiro’s son, Roberto and his wife, Sara arrived.  They had a one year old daughter called Sophia and she was absolutley gorgeous. Sara’s mother, Colette, was also there.

Getting to know Sara and Colette.

Playing with little Sophia








Sophia meeting Akaisha.

Roberto, Ramiro and Sophia on the right.







I so wished we didn’t have to get on the road but we were now on a bit of a tight schedule. Ramiro’s family were all so delightful and I think we could have quite happily talked into the evening had we stayed longer.

Cathy, Akaisha, Donna and Kit

Weck's Restaurant








So, this was the first time we had ever been to Wecks and it was well worth the visit.













We were so glad we had the chance to catch up with Donna, but there was still one more family member to meet………..her dog, a Husky called Maggie. What an extraordinary dog. Kaitlin couldn’t get over the colour of  her eyes.

Meeting Maggie...

...for the first time.







A gorgeous husky with...

....gorgeous eyes!







Donna, Irene, Ramiro and family, if you’re reading this blog, remember you are always welcome to come and visit/stay with us if you make it to Australia. We’d love to see you.

Saying Goodbye to Donna

Akaisha sleeping on the way to Roswell.









We had a long trip from Alburquerque to go to Roswell, so our next blog post will be all about Aliens!……


Categories: Family Travel Blog | 2 Comments

Meteor Crater, Eagles and New Mexico…..

Whilst everyone is recovering from their Xmas and New Year celebrations, I will go on from where I left off prior to my Christmas blog post.

Sedona was the blog post before the Christmas interlude………..and from there we went toward the state of New Mexico. We stopped on the way to have a look at one of America’s most well preserved Meteor crater.

Desert countey in Arizona.

Our RV in the Carpark.







The crater wasn’t far from Flagstaff in the direction we were headed, so we stopped in to educate ourselves a little more on the history of this amazing event. As with all American exhibits, this one was well set out and recorded the information and history really well.

Posing in front of....

....picture backdrops!

Amber jumping!










We looked around the exhibits, watched the movie, then saw the crater itself. Rather than go into details myself, Jai has written a brief comparison between this American crater and one in Australia.

The Holsinger Meteorite is the largest discovered fragment of the 45 metre meteor that created meteor Crater.

We went outside to see the crater firsthand. It was a pretty awesome sight!








We went to visit the Meteor Crater in Southern America and I decided to compare it to the Wolfe Creek Meteor Crater in Australia.

The Meteor crater in America that our family visited was made by an iron nickel meteorite 50,000 years ago.The meteorite that hit earth was travelling at approximately 26,000 m/h and the crater it formed is now 170 m deep and 1200 m across in diameter.

Kit taking in the vast expanse.

Looking from different vantage points.






Jai and Chayse taking it all in.

Chayse getting a closer look.








America’s Meteor Crater is recorded as the best preserved impact site on earth!

Trev and Kit imaging the impact.

A photo of an aerial view of the crater.







By comparison, the Australian Wolfe Creek Meteor Crater was created 300,000 years ago by a meteor the mass of 50,000 tonne. The crater it left behind is approximately 870 metres in diameter and 50 m deep. It is recorded as the “second” best preserved meteor site in the world!

By Jai

An amazingly long train.... the Arizona desert.







We left the crater and travelled through desert. Eventually we hit upon a small town called Winsow, where our friends, Bill and Joan, had said there was a special corner dedicated to the band, The Eagles.

The song on a signpost.

Route 66....







Apparently the Eagles wrote a song called Standin’ on the Corner. This Park area was dedicated on Sept 11, 1999 as a tribute to this memorable song of the 1970’s that made Winslow, Arizona, a town to sing about on the famous Route 66. Bill and Joan said that was the only part of the town worth looking at, and I’d have to say they were right….but it was an attraction worth seeing, especially if you love the band, the Eagles.

The now famous corner.

All part of the song.







A wonderfully painted facade.

The roadside attraction.







We drove on through passing the border of Arizona into the new state of new Mexico.

Welcome to New Mexico.

Can you see the Indian tee pees?







We stayed in a KOA not too far from the border in New Mexico. The people who ran it were really lovely and even cooked us some breakfast the next morning.

A complimentary breakfast.

A range of choices.

Even Akaisha joined us.














We drove onto Albuquerque where we had planned to meet up with an old friend of Scott’s who he met when travelling South America many years ago. As it was Thanksgiving, (and a very big event in America), we didn’t want to interrupt Donna’s family celebrations. So we just chilled at a park, then camped in Alburquerque KOA and caught up on household chores.

Akaisha trying peas for the first time.







Akaisha gagging on peas for the first time.

Akaisha not impressed with her Mummy one little bit!








The next blog post has us meeting up with Donna and her gorgeous family. Until then…..




Categories: Family Travel Blog | 4 Comments

A “nearly” white Christmas in Pennsylvania.

I am going to take a break from my normal blog posts to wish you all a wonderful Xmas and a very Happy New Year. As you know, my last blog post was about Sedona in Arizona. Normally I would keep my posts in order following the places we have visited, but felt I would interrupt the normal process by sharing our special Christmas with you all.

Obviously we travelled East from Arizona toward Florida, then North into Pennsylvania (where we first began our trip 5 months ago.) We were excited to be seeing Lynda, Alan and Scarlett again, as well as Alan’s sons and their families, who had flown from Australia to spend Xmas with their Dad and Lynda and Scarlett as well.

Justin, Patty, Mark, Trev and Mariella

Mariella with Akaisha.









Christmas eve was a very enjoyable evening with us meeting a lovely family, friends of Lynda and Alan’s. Mark, Patty, Justin and Mariella were fascinating to talk to and very accommodating when we took the kids outside to leave food for Santa’s reindeer.

Coats on to go outside.... leave food for Santa's reindeers.








Chayse with no coat, but lots of reindeer food.

Lynda, Alan and Scarlett sprinking reindeer food in preparation for Santa coming.










The children (under Kaitlin’s guidance) wrote letters to Santa, and left them in designated areas in the living rooms. Santa was going to have a big job leaving little surprises in twelve different areas (seven for our children, one for Scarlett and four for Alan’s Grandchildren).

Kit found a place under a table...

...whilst Amber's place was the chair.








Terri-Anne wondering how Santa will leave pressies for 12 kids!

Xmas is never complete without a beautiful tree.










The kids were very excited going to bed that night and I thought they may not sleep, but I think the excitement of the days leading up to Christmas and the goings on with many people enabled them to fall to sleep without too much trouble.

Trevor and I spend a few more hours finishing off the wrapping of presents (glad I wasn’t trying to wrap for 7 kids in the RV….that would have been a nightmare). As it was, we were staying in Lynda’s huge art room, which she had transformed by hiring bunk beds for the kids and a queen size bed for us. It was spacious and warm and perfect for our size family.

Christmas Day…………….was it a white Christmas?

Alas, no…….but special nonetheless. The kids found that Santa had left them all a pile of pressies, and they spent the next half an hour “oohing” and “aaahhhing” at what Santa had bought for them all.

Santa's been to visit with pressies everywhere.

Kaitlin with Akaisha (her first Christmas!)

Chayse being pleasantly surprised.









Flynn excited about hs spy gear!

Is that a watch I spy, Jai?









Santa found Amber's note.

Kit was spoilt with gifts.

Santa left Scarlett a new car!










Santa spoilt everyone and nobody was disappointed.

Kayla and Aiden with their cool toys.

Thomas and Jack in Scarlett's car.








A few calls to Australia to wish our families a great Xmas (although by then it was nearly over for people in Oz).

A skype call to Gran and Grandad....

....and a phone call to Nana and Pop.








Akaisha with Aunty Lynda

Then with Mum....

...and then Dad!









This was followed by a lovely breakfast cooked by Alan, Steven and Keith. We filled our bellies before we all settled down to open presents we had given each other.

Alan helping Scarlett....

...unwrap her presents.








Amber unwrapping her presents...

...with Kait and Akaisha sitting.....

...and Steven and Chantelle watching.


Lo and behold, there were more surprises in store! Guess who was in the neighbourhood and decided to stop by and surprise all of the kids!!

Look! It's Santa!

What a great surprise!








A Santa who can make....

...balloon candy canes!








Santa with the Howitt Clan.

Jack, Kayla, Aiden and Scarlett.










The children spent the next few hours playing with presents they had received from Santa, their parents and relatives.

Flynn giving Scarlett a lesson in her motorised car.

Amber and Chayse playing wth their assortment of toys.








Kayla with Rapunzel Barbie.


Thomas with Mum Terri-Anne.









We received a skype call from Daphne and Nick (cousin to Trev’s Dad and a gorgeous couple we stayed with in Texas). Meanwhile Lynda had done a splendid job of organising caterers to take care of Xmas lunch/dinner. She had everything organised to the finest detail and made for a very yummy and festive day.

Alan and Lynda

Trev and Cathy

Steven and Chantelle

Amber, Jack and Terri-Anne

Keith choosing from the buffet.














Jai, Kit, Aiden and Kayla

Flynn and Chayse







Kait and Scarlett












Our children were able to experience a real gourmet Christmas followed by traditional sweets (desserts).

Pudding and cake...

...with Christmas carols

Akaisha loving it.










The official photographer..

..has an eye on Kait!

...who has an eye on the delicious desserts!







Just when we thought gift giving was over, we found some more pressies (left there because we had been surprised by the visit from Santa!)

Lynda with her gift.

Steven with his cool tie.








Trev getting spoilt... was Cathy, Terri-Anne and Chantelle with their diamond bracelets!









Most of us were ready for an early night, and I must say that having a late breakfast, then an afternoon dinner was perfect, and we actually went to bed without feeling bloated.

Scarlett trying on her art smock.

Akaisha playing with the ribbon.

Finally the day takes its toll on Alan and Akasiha










Thankyou Lynda and Alan for a wonderful Christmas…not a white one, but a fun one filled with lots of festive cheer. Maybe we’ll get a white New Year!


Categories: Family Travel Blog | 6 Comments

Sedona…the Spiritual centre of Arizona.

We spent the morning in Flagstaff shopping before deciding to take a look at Sedona. It is a haven for artists and craftsmen and is filled with art galleries and antique shops. All I knew abut it was that it was supposed to be a very spiritual place and many retreats are held there every year where people want to “find themselves”.

It was a slow drive through the ....

.....Oak Creek Canyon.







But when we drove through Oak Creek Canyon and arrived in this very pretty town,  I wished we had planned to stay longer. As it was we had booked to stay in Flagstaff another night, so this was just going to be a brief visit.

Magnificent views

Gorgeous red rock.







The canyon with it’s beautiful red rock was quite magnificent and we were in awe of the beautiful structures and formations. We drove past places where the native indians sold their jewellery and other craft, so I couldn’t resist some lovely jewellery from Garland’s Indian Jewellery.

The scenery....


...was beautiful.










From there we travelled into town where they have the only “blue” McDonald’s sign, so as not to interfere with the red rock and backdrops. There were many tourist sights along the way and I could quite easily have spent a few days seeing all the different formations and vortexes in the area.

Arriving at Sedona.

The town was very quaint.







Gorgeous houses with gorgeous....








A Vortex (which Sedona is famous for) is the funnel shape created by the motion of spiraling energy. The vortexes in Sedona are swirling centers of subtle energy coming out from the surface of the earth. They characterize Sedona as a spiritual power center. The energy is not exactly electricity or magnetism, although it does leave a slight measurable residual magnetism in the places where it is strongest.

Cathy in front of... amazing rock formation.






The light creates atmosphere.

Rising from the earth.







Apparently the energy of the vortexes interacts with whom or what a person is in their inner self. It resonates with and strengthens the Inner Being of each person who comes within about a quarter to a half mile of it. This resonance occurs because the vortex energy is very similar to the subtle energy operating in the energy centers inside each person.

An awesome sight....

...everywhere we turned.







There were many places you could go to to feel these energies, but due to time constraints, we only went to Bell Rock. Kaitlin, Trev, Akaisha, Amber and I walked towards to rock, interested in feeling these great energies. My “Spiritual” experience, however, was marred a little by me being acutely aware of the 4 boys (who chose to stay behind in the RV) playing out aloud as we walked. Plus I had Trevor expressing himself with bodily functions as we were walking! Not exactly a recipe for a calming and peaceful spiritual experience. So I figured I would just have to experience this another time without 7 kids and a husband in tow!

We made it to Bell Rock vortex.

Enjoying the moment.







I will have to bring Akaisha back someday.

The boys having a "loud" Spiritual experience!!

The cactus reminds us we're in.....






...the Arizona desert!








As the sun dipped, we drove back into town, and insisted Trev stop fro 5 minutes at the Spiritual Centre where crystals, jewellery and other beautiful crafts were sold.

The sun dropped and we found....

......the Spiritual Centre.







Insdie the shop....

...full of crystals and other beautiful craft







Two hours later (after the lovely shop assistants Jody and Karen) showed the kids everything there was to see, AND Trev had cooked dinner in the RV, we headed back to Flagstaff.

Jodie and Karen delighted our children.

Trev cooked whilst we shopped!

Categories: Family Travel Blog | 6 Comments

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular natural attractions that visitors to America come to see. We were going to be part of that number, so after leaving Las Vegas in Nevada, we drove all the way to Williams in Arizona. We arrived late, so didn’t get to the Grand Canyon until the next day. After reading Trev’s blog, I think you will see why this tourist attraction is so popular. Enjoy!

Heading into Arizona.

Chayse doin "homework" on the way.







It may not be the longest, or the deepest, but it most certainly is the Grandest! The Grand Canyon, in the Arizona desert, did not disappoint!

Our run out of Vegas took us through some baron rocky countryside, where tuffs of low scrub and cacti grew. We passed the famous Hoover Dam and headed towards the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon. Gradually we climbed to 7000 feet above sea level. The air became much cooler and we began seeing trees again. Our expectation was to drive all the way, but the day became night very quickly and we had to find a camp before it got too late. We located a KOA RV park on the road only 50 miles from the Grand Canyon. After missing the turn off by some 20 miles we finally pulled up for the night.

Driving in desert country towards grand canyon.

Waking up to the rim at Mather Point Lookout.








Mother and daughter

Flynn doing what Flynn does best!








The next morning we set off again in eager anticipation. Firstly arriving at the Imax movie visitor centre. The movie was very good and showed how the Indians, and then the first adventurers, explored the dangerous Colorado River that flows the stretch of the Canyon. I take my hat off to Scott (Cath’s brother), who only last year, spent three weeks rafting through the rapids of the Colorado River. These rapids are dangerous and have taken the lives of many people over the years.

This is a trip similar to what Cathy's brother Scott...

...went on last year.








Finally we pulled up at the rim of the canyon and jumped out of the RV, only to jump back in again! It was absolutely freezing outside! We donned all our warm clothes, our jackets, beanies and gloves. We rugged up Akaisha, and finally we headed off to see this dirty great big hole in the ground!

Akaisha snug as a bug in a rug!

A little chilly up here.

There we all are!










The Canyon from above.....

....and below!







As the kids raced ahead, Flynn saw his first sprinkling of snow (about 3 flakes) and raced back to Mum with the news. There were clumps of ice lying about the place as well, which also fascinated the kids. Every time we walked by these clumps, Chayse would announce in a huge voice that he can see snow. This had the many other tourists turning their heads to see what all the excitement was about.

Look! Snow!

Feels more like ice than snow!







We raced up to the Canyon and peered over to see the most awesome sight that there is to see! From where we were looking, the Grand Canyon was 1.2 miles wide and about 2000 feet deep. It was massive and hard to fathom its depth (our photos certainly don’t show it).

An awesome view.

Jai thinks so too.







We were all in awe for quite some time and tried to capture it all with our cameras. We took a 1.5 miles walk trail along the rim and paid a visit to the Yavapai Geology Museum and then caught a tram back to the visitor centre.

These views....

..says Amber,.....

...look spectacular!










As evening moved in the air temperature dropped and we decided to settle in at the Trailer Camp Village National Park camp ground. The forecast was for minus three degrees Celsius, followed by minus nine the following night, with 50% chance of snow. Now that is cold! We fired up our RV heater and snuggled in for the night. Flynn kept peeking out the door to see if the snow had arrived.

When we all awoke the next morning, to our disappointment, there was no snow to be found! Oh well. We headed back to see more sights along the Canyon’s rim when suddenly a coyote, only metres away, crossed the road! We managed to snap a picture before he disappeared.

A coyote appeared out of nowhere.

Appreciating the experience.








We needed to put Flynn through a few physical challenges to satisfy the requirements for his application for the Sports Leadership Program (for his school for next year). He needed to do 80 sit ups and a 1.6km timed run. So we set Flynn to do his sit ups on the rim of the canyon, followed by the run along the canyon’s rim. We thought he did particularly well because he was running at a very high altitude where the air was very thin and cold. We cheered him on as he raced by the scores of tourists photographing the canyon. They had no idea what was going on!

Flynn warming up....

...doing 80 sit ups....

....and running 1.6km.










From there we drove another thirty miles or so along the Canyon rim, stopping at all the vistas.

Not as light as the kids as you can tell from Trev's face!!!

The Colorado River running through the Canyon.

Kaitlin had to get a photo with her "Free Spirit" one dollar bill.











Yay! More snow!

Not as soft as she thought it would be!







Then we paid a visit to ancient Indian Ruins. These weren’t tepees, but stone dwellings with the doorways leading down from the roofs. The Indians had permanent settlements along the canyon where they grew maize and other crops.

Ancient Indian Ruins

Stone dwellings.







Our day ended at a camp in a city called Flagstaff. It is apparently the highest altitude city in Arizona… also cold! The kids quickly made buddies with a bunch of kids living in the RV Park, whilst we set up camp and caught up on the washing and other chores.

Driving past Indian towns situated near the Grand Canyon.

Sun setting as we leave the Grand Canyon.







Camping at the "lit up" KOA in Flagstaff.

We had a surprise visitor in our van.







I hope you enjoyed Trev’s account of our experience seeing the Grand Canyon. Next you’ll have to put up with my “spiritual” account of Sedona, a place where energy vortexes are a popular tourist attraction……

Categories: Family Travel Blog | 10 Comments