Friday, March 29, 2019

#LeapFrogs: Running from the Weather

[LeapFrog Note: For safety reasons, we blog about our journey after we've passed through locations. Today's post reflects weather reports while we were there, so if you're wondering why they don't match current reports, now you know.]

On our last night in Artesia, we learned that the weather was rapidly changing and was likely to get bad in southern New Mexico very quickly. I checked weather reports for every direction, and found a small cone of an area that was going to be relatively unscathed by the coming storms, so we made the unexpected decision to head back into Texas to ride out the storms.

Once we made the decision to change directions, we were both too antsy to sleep, so we decided to just start moving to get ahead of the storms. I don't enjoy driving at night, but we felt we almost didn't have a choice if we were going to get away from the snow and ice in time. (I'm a Bama girl - I don't do ice and snow, remember?)

The cone I mentioned earlier included several towns in Texas we'd not yet visited, so we just set out, not sure where we'd stop as we went. I planned to drive as long as I could before parking somewhere overnight, then we'd figure out a better plan the next day. 

Along the way, we checked a few of our camping apps, and found a Walmart that had overnight parking in Lamesa, TX, but when we arrived at that address, the Walmart had closed down and a police sat in the lot monitoring it, so we decided to drive down to Big Spring. There, we found a Walmart and crashed for a few hours.

Unfortunately, when I woke the next morning, I was sick to my stomach and felt miserable, but we moved on. We stopped for breakfast so I could try to put something in me that would settle my stomach, and then we headed for Abilene.

One of my dearest friends has ties to Abilene, but that's really the only connection I had to the town. And I honestly knew nothing about it, so I pulled up RoadsideAmerica to see what I could find.

Oh what a find! First the cheesy:


(No, he wasn't thrilled about being up there. Yes, I got up there too and was laughing so hard, I almost fell off. No, I'm not sharing the photo.)

Then, of course, the "everything's bigger in Texas" shot:


And then more fun:


But then I discovered the best part of Abilene. They love children's books and have created a Dr. Seuss park with low-to-the-ground statues so children can interact with characters from the books.




The town has a "Storybook Sculpture Hunt" app that parents can download then take their children around town on a scavenger hunt for all the different statues. (They provide directions on how to do an audio tour, too!)


As we drove around town, we discovered several other delightful sculptures that made me wish my kids were little again so I could share the town with them.



Must be related to Tim:




And my favorite: 

(Yes, it's on top of a building downtown - near the library!)

Somewhere along the way, I discovered that one of the sculpture gardens features sculptures based on the artwork of Garth Williams. I instantly recognized the name, because he is the artist who illustrated all the Little House books I cherished in childhood. But I never followed his career, and had no idea he also illustrated so many other favorites, including one I read to my boys again and again:


Our delight with Abilene didn't end with the storybook sculptures, though. Look at this beauty:


The Jacob's Dream sculpture garden shares the story from Genesis 28 and it is quite breathtaking. I would have enjoyed spending more time there, but because of the wind and cold, Tim stayed in the car so I snapped a few photos and retreated. 




On Monday, we'll catch up to ourselves for a little while!

Recent Posts:
#LeapFrogs: A New Town and a New Ministry Idea
#LeapFrogs: A Desert Experience
#LeapFrogs: Exploring Carlsbad's Treasures
#LeapFrogs: Settling into New Mexico
#LeapFrogs: Change of Terrain and a Midnight Visitor
#LeapFrogs: Covering a Lot of Miles
#LeapFrogs: Holy Ground in Kerrville
#LeapFrogs: History Comes Alive
#LeapFrogs: Johnson City and the LBJ Ranch
#LeapFrogs: From One Pioneer Town to the Next
Finally Heading West and a Glimpse of the Old West
San Marcos and Lonesome Dove
#LeapFrogs on the Move: Austin, Texas
#LeapFrogs on the Move: San Antonio!
#LeapFrogs on the Move: On the Way to San Antonio
#LeapFrogs on the Move: Rockport and Mathis
#LeapFrogs on the Move: Kemah, Houston, Wharton
#LeapFrogs on the Road: Fort Anahuac Texas
Technology on the Road
Crossing Louisiana
From Alabama through Mississippi
First Leg of our #LeapFrog Journey
Preparing for Camping on a Long Road Trip
The Beginning of a Dream Realized

Recent Posts from TMP Books:








Get your #LeapFrogs Merchandise here:










Monday, March 25, 2019

#LeapFrogs: A New Town and a New Ministry Idea

While we were in Carlsbad, we explored our next route and destination. We'd originally planned to continue west, but after the Living Desert experience, I found a fun listing on RoadsideAmerica.com about some statues in the town of Artesia and wanted to check them out.

Oh.my.word.

I fell in love with this town. Everywhere we turned, there was something new that seemed to connect with some aspect of our lives.

Art, architecture, books, history, westerns - everything just seemed to fit.

One of my favorites was this sculpture by artist Vic Payne that shares the story of the oil company these two friends formed over the hood of a Ford truck. So lifelike - I felt I could hear their conversation as I studied them.




Then we found the Vaquero:



On our drive to the library, we discovered this massive sculpture in the middle of the street. I was awed by sculpture as a whole, but when I got out and looked at it up close, I burst into tears - literally.


The fact that the town honors books and encourages reading this way touched me deeply, but then to find that each of the books was actually a book I've read - well, that's when the waterworks started.




When I saw the young girl above, I wondered whether the book she was reading was a real book, too, so I got closer. When I saw the title of the book, I sobbed with joy and amazement.


Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

If you haven't read it, you must.

Thank you, Artesia, for honoring writers and encouraging readers in such a beautiful way!

We continued roaming around town, and discovered another statue on a corner that created more waterworks for me.

If you've been following our LeapFrogs journey, you know that we're both huge Lonesome Dove fans and we visited the Lonesome Dove collection in San Marcos (you can read about our visit here). This statue in Artesia continued our Lonesome Dove experiences!




We car camped while we were in Artesia and while we were there, a ministry idea developed.

While we've been on the road, one of the most challenging aspects has been finding clean, safe, affordable showers to bathe. We've found several - thankfully - but not nearly as often as I had hoped to find since we're mostly using free camping sites or car camping. Some towns, but not many, have awesome options like YMCA, Kroc Centers, Salvation Army Community Centers, or even regular community centers, where we've found clean and safe showers at affordable rates. Truck stops also offer showers, but paying $12 per person is just not in our budget.

One night as I was going to sleep, my mind flashed back to all the homeless people we've encountered on our journey, and the homeless I've known back home. As I thought about them, I realized that they all had one specific need in common - all needed access to a shower, and very few had it. So then I started thinking of ways to meet that need, and I thought of Jesus washing the disciples' feet (John 13) and realized that the Church could do the same thing - provide clean, safe showers for anyone who needed them.

I'm still formulating the idea and working on a budget for making this an affordable ministry for churches, but soon, I hope to offer more substantial plans for what we are currently calling the LeapFrogs Safe Showers.


(What? You don't create a logo for every idea? Ha!)

I'm not sure yet how feasible my original idea is, so we're exploring other options, but my first thoughts are:

Churches could build a small shower house in a corner of their property that would be monitored and attended by volunteers from the church. The shower house would have two to four rooms in it (depending on budget and size of space). Each room would be a safe bathroom space with a locked door, full walls floor to ceiling, a sink with wide counter space, a large shower (perhaps one or two that are handicap accessible for wheelchairs), and a toilet. Churches could ask for soap, shampoo, towels, washcloths, paper goods, and toiletry donations from members and businesses in the town. The showers would be available on set days and hours, and an attendant would provide access and security.

Like I said earlier, I don't have all the plans spelled out, but that's the general idea.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. I've examined, heard - and understand - all the negative aspects. I'd like to hear your positive thoughts - can-do attitudes! :-)

Recent Posts:
#LeapFrogs: A Desert Experience
#LeapFrogs: Exploring Carlsbad's Treasures
#LeapFrogs: Settling into New Mexico
#LeapFrogs: Change of Terrain and a Midnight Visitor
#LeapFrogs: Covering a Lot of Miles
#LeapFrogs: Holy Ground in Kerrville
#LeapFrogs: History Comes Alive
#LeapFrogs: Johnson City and the LBJ Ranch
#LeapFrogs: From One Pioneer Town to the Next
Finally Heading West and a Glimpse of the Old West
San Marcos and Lonesome Dove
#LeapFrogs on the Move: Austin, Texas
#LeapFrogs on the Move: San Antonio!
#LeapFrogs on the Move: On the Way to San Antonio
#LeapFrogs on the Move: Rockport and Mathis
#LeapFrogs on the Move: Kemah, Houston, Wharton
#LeapFrogs on the Road: Fort Anahuac Texas
Technology on the Road
Crossing Louisiana
From Alabama through Mississippi
First Leg of our #LeapFrog Journey
Preparing for Camping on a Long Road Trip
The Beginning of a Dream Realized

Recent Posts from TMP Books:








Get your #LeapFrogs Merchandise here:




Friday, March 22, 2019

#LeapFrogs: A Desert Experience

With both of us being born and raised in Alabama, and living most of our lives in Alabama and Georgia, the desert is a totally new experience for us, and our knowledge of the desert is limited.

One thing I most wanted to see as we approached the desert states was a saguaro cactus. I didn't even know what they were called, I just knew I wanted to see one.

While we were in Carlsbad, I learned about The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park, and on our last day, we paid a visit.

Temperatures had warmed up a little, and the sun shone for a couple of hours, but the wind was brutal and Tim was having a bad day, so I wasn't convinced we could explore everything, but the more we looked the more we wanted to explore. One of the volunteers answered questions for us, and I learned that saguaro cactus do not grow in the Chihuahuan Desert, which we were in, so I'd have to wait to see them until later.

The docent also told us we could rent Tim a motorized scooter for only $5 so we could explore outside, too, and I'm so glad we did.


The paved loop lead us around the living desert, where educational plaques taught us about the different types of plants and cacti.

I'm not much of a zoo fan in general - I feel sorry for the wild animals held in captivity, even though I love having the opportunity to see them up close.


The layout and design of this zoo added interest as we made our way through.

We're still laughing over one exhibit, with the wild cats.

We first saw a cage for bobcats, but didn't see any. Then we passed a rock, and what looked like the same cage, but a sign for mountain lions. There were two up high in the rocks. 




I was sharing our journey with Zach, my son, by text. I sent a photo of the Bobcat board above, and a picture of the mountain lions, and he pointed out that those weren't bobcats. I told him they were all in the same cage, and he insisted I was wrong. Then he pointed out the diet of the mountain lions. 


That day, the bobcats were either in hiding or the mountain lions were napping after a feast. (No, I didn't go back to see if they were actually in separate cages, but I'm sure they were.)

The Javalinas were a delight. I'd never seen any before, and they ended up being so playful, I tried to capture a short video. I wanted to take one with us!



The Mexican wolves were enormous, and seemed to keep watch over the park.


I saw my first roadrunner, too. (Seeing it in captivity helped me recognize it a few days later when one ran across the road in front of us!)


This wall summed up our visit as we went back inside the visitor's center:


The Living Desert was a great introduction.

On Monday, a new town and a ministry idea!


Recent Posts:
#LeapFrogs: Exploring Carlsbad's Treasures
#LeapFrogs: Settling into New Mexico
#LeapFrogs: Change of Terrain and a Midnight Visitor
#LeapFrogs: Covering a Lot of Miles
#LeapFrogs: Holy Ground in Kerrville
#LeapFrogs: History Comes Alive
#LeapFrogs: Johnson City and the LBJ Ranch
#LeapFrogs: From One Pioneer Town to the Next
Finally Heading West and a Glimpse of the Old West
San Marcos and Lonesome Dove
#LeapFrogs on the Move: Austin, Texas
#LeapFrogs on the Move: San Antonio!
#LeapFrogs on the Move: On the Way to San Antonio
#LeapFrogs on the Move: Rockport and Mathis
#LeapFrogs on the Move: Kemah, Houston, Wharton
#LeapFrogs on the Road: Fort Anahuac Texas
Technology on the Road
Crossing Louisiana
From Alabama through Mississippi
First Leg of our #LeapFrog Journey
Preparing for Camping on a Long Road Trip
The Beginning of a Dream Realized

Recent Posts from TMP Books:








Get your #LeapFrogs Merchandise here:





Tuesday, March 19, 2019

#LeapFrogs: Exploring Carlsbad's Treasures

Our first impression of Carlsbad wasn't very positive, but the more we explored, the more we found to love.

My favorite find was the Pecos River Village Recreation Center, which we discovered rather by "accident" (if you believe such a thing.)

We were in search of - and in desperate need of - showers. When I saw a sign for a rec center, we drove there to see what they had to offer.

In the parking lot, I was greeted by one of the employees and I asked if they had showers available. She said not at this particular facility, but there were showers in the bathhouses across the river from where we were standing - and still part of the city facilities. She then told me more about the Rec Center and invited us to come hang out any time we wanted. Later that afternoon, we did exactly that, and found the place to be an example of what other cities could/should offer. All generations use this rec center - young mother groups, exercise groups, elderly coffee clubs, teens, homeschool groups, homework clubs.





We did locate the bathhouses, and Tim found the showers for both of us. He'd found the men's shower, but I didn't turn enough corners in the women's restroom to find the single shower. When the restrooms were empty, he went in the women's shower as I stood guard outside and he found the women's shower for me. Ha!

Tim took a shower in the men's restroom - cold water - but I didn't feel comfortable doing so - there were no doors or curtains - just a shower tucked into the corner away from everything else. It probably would have been private, but I'm extremely self-conscious, and did not want to risk anyone walking in on me. (I don't want to traumatize anyone!)

Next to the bathhouses, the city offers a water park that looks like great fun for warmer weather. The whole area on both sides of the river were maintained well and quite beautiful, even in the middle of winter.



On one of our final days in Carlsbad, we finally drove out to the Caverns - a very long drive, with hard, high winds fighting us the whole way, which made me start watching the weather again.

Carlsbad Caverns was immense, which was expected. I hadn't thought about how deep in the ground they actually are, but learned moments before we got on the elevator to take us down.

Tim had been having more and more difficulty getting around, so I wasn't sure we could do the caverns at all, but I researched before we went, and learned that we could take the elevator down into the Big Cave, and could walk as much or as little as we wanted at that point.

We went as far as the shortcut, which took us about an hour to make the loop. Tim had to rest at several points along the way, but there was only one area that was challenging (a slight incline), but the rest was fairly easy to maneuver.

We both grew up in Alabama, going to Cathedral Caverns on field trips, and both of us had been (separately) to different caverns in Virginia, so the caverns themselves weren't as fascinating for us as they probably were for anyone who'd never seen caverns before. But the size amazed us both, and my imagination created all sorts of stories about past, present, and future generations getting trapped in there, and wondering how they'd work their way out.







Tomorrow, I'll share my favorite discovery in Carlsbad - one we almost missed!



Recent Posts:
#LeapFrogs: Settling into New Mexico
#LeapFrogs: Change of Terrain and a Midnight Visitor
#LeapFrogs: Covering a Lot of Miles
#LeapFrogs: Holy Ground in Kerrville
#LeapFrogs: History Comes Alive
#LeapFrogs: Johnson City and the LBJ Ranch
#LeapFrogs: From One Pioneer Town to the Next
Finally Heading West and a Glimpse of the Old West
San Marcos and Lonesome Dove
#LeapFrogs on the Move: Austin, Texas
#LeapFrogs on the Move: San Antonio!
#LeapFrogs on the Move: On the Way to San Antonio
#LeapFrogs on the Move: Rockport and Mathis
#LeapFrogs on the Move: Kemah, Houston, Wharton
#LeapFrogs on the Road: Fort Anahuac Texas
Technology on the Road
Crossing Louisiana
From Alabama through Mississippi
First Leg of our #LeapFrog Journey
Preparing for Camping on a Long Road Trip
The Beginning of a Dream Realized

Recent Posts from TMP Books:








Get your #LeapFrogs Merchandise here:






Monday, March 18, 2019

#LeapFrogs: Settling into New Mexico

Feels like forever that it took us to get out of Texas. Now I have a confession. The night before we crossed the state line, I realized I was afraid of New Mexico. I have no idea where that fear comes from - I've longed to go to Santa Fe forever, and I've never really been afraid to go anywhere else, so being afraid of New Mexico sure seems ridiculous. One of my friends teased that it was like entering a foreign country, and I recognized some of the same feelings I had the first time I went to Europe. I was experiencing fear of the unknown for the first time since we left home.

After roaming all over Odessa, we continued pressing west, stopping to car camp overnight at a rest stop in Pyote, TX. The rest area was pretty and quiet, but after the previous rest stop skunk, I was cautious about what we might discover here. But this time, we had a different kind of visitor: bunny rabbits! My photos are too grainy to share, but we watched two bunnies play and hop and chase each other for about an hour in pure delight.

This particular rest area was a great one. They offered educational information in a fun way for families.



The next morning, we intended to explore Pecos a bit, but instead, we grabbed a quick breakfast, and headed onto Carlsbad.

Friends had told us we should enter the state from the northwest side, instead of the south, but since we were already south, we, unfortunately, didn't take their advice.

Oil fields surround Carlsbad. The land is scruffy, and the air reeks of oil and gas. The roads leading into Carlsbad from the south are under construction, so the first "face" of New Mexico was not a positive one for us. But we stayed in town for three days and discovered quite a few treasures.

But first we had a couple of maintenance issues we needed to address.

My phone - and camera - began giving me a lot of problems, and since it was an older phone, I was also running out of space. As soon as we got to Carlsbad, I found a Metro store, and upgraded my phone (for only the $15 activation fee, thanks to one of their great promotions!)

And tires. We sorely needed new tires. We'd left home just shy of needing them, and after all the miles, it was time. We'd been told as long as we were at 5/32, we could hold off, but we knew the tread was less than that, so we shopped around and ended up at Walmart, where they changed them out within an hour. We had them check the old tires, and after measuring, they said the best tread we had anywhere on the tires was a 3/32, but that much was rare. They said most of the tires were at 2/32 or less - and that means BALD. So timing was perfect.

I also had work waiting for me, so we found the Carlsbad library and spent a couple of days there trying to get caught up. I also spent some time hunting for some free camping sites in the area, primarily through freecampsites.net.

We still hadn't purchased a new tent, so while we were waiting on our tires, we checked out their tent selection, and found one on sale that was much like the one we lost in Texas. We decided to give it another try, because we needed to be horizontal again.

After the car was ready, we drove out to one of the free campsites I'd found. It had a toilet and picnic tables, so I thought we were good to go. But once there, we discovered there were no wind barriers, and the camp sat on a small hill. With a wind storm coming in - and blowing sand - we decided not to stay. But I sure loved the way it looked.




Grateful for the new tires when I looked back to see the tracks we made!

Definitely not the Georgia red clay we're used to. This was pure sand!


We then went out to check out a nearby state park, but they were full, so we car camped during our stay in Carlsbad.

Tomorrow, I'll share some of my favorite discoveries in Carlsbad.



Recent Posts:
#LeapFrogs: Change of Terrain and a Midnight Visitor
#LeapFrogs: Covering a Lot of Miles
#LeapFrogs: Holy Ground in Kerrville
#LeapFrogs: History Comes Alive
#LeapFrogs: Johnson City and the LBJ Ranch
#LeapFrogs: From One Pioneer Town to the Next
Finally Heading West and a Glimpse of the Old West
San Marcos and Lonesome Dove
#LeapFrogs on the Move: Austin, Texas
#LeapFrogs on the Move: San Antonio!
#LeapFrogs on the Move: On the Way to San Antonio
#LeapFrogs on the Move: Rockport and Mathis
#LeapFrogs on the Move: Kemah, Houston, Wharton
#LeapFrogs on the Road: Fort Anahuac Texas
Technology on the Road
Crossing Louisiana
From Alabama through Mississippi
First Leg of our #LeapFrog Journey
Preparing for Camping on a Long Road Trip
The Beginning of a Dream Realized

Recent Posts from TMP Books:








Get your #LeapFrogs Merchandise here: