Why Wombat Cubes?

Wombat poop comes out in cubes, and no one knows why. It is one of the more interesting things we have learned on our adventures, and it’s funny. Both characteristics are important to us and keep us looking for new experiences.

We are a far from normal family of 4 that seeks opportunities to grow and inspire each other to be their best self. We’ve created a new path through adventures, schooling, careers, and family and decided to share it with you. We hope to instill in our two daughters character, respect, curiosity, adventure, resilience, responsibility, hard work, flexibility, and kindness.

First Stop…Otorohanga Kiwi House

We thought our only opportunity to see kiwis up close was to go to Otorohanga Kiwi House, so after we landed in Auckland, we got a car and drove to Otorohanga. This is a small sanctuary for New Zealand’s native birds and reptiles, some are rarely seen in the wild.

It was worth the visit. We saw kiwis, keas, kakas, kakariki, and tuatara. Keas and kakas are native parrots, and kakariki are native parakeets – who would have thought New Zealand had parrots and parakeets?! There was a New Zealand pigeon that liked to sit on Cameron’s head. My older daughter kept wanting to go back to have the pigeon sit on her arm. It was very friendly.

The friendly New Zealand pigeon at Otorohanga

If you have visited a kiwi house before, you know they are dark since kiwis are nocturnal. We attended a keeper talk, and she put out a bowl of food that the kiwi then approached. They are challenging to photograph in such low light, but you can see one in this photo. They are all behind glass, so you can’t hear them. We ended up seeing kiwis at another sanctuary just outside of Christchurch. A portion of their enclosure was open so that we could hear the kiwis moving around. It was so much easier to see them that way.

Kiwi feeding time

If you are near Waitomo to see the glowworm caves, you are not far from Otorohanga. We made it a quick visit, and it’s worth an hour or two of your time to see these amazing birds.

Planning a Trip to New Zealand

We love New Zealand! Cameron and I have been to New Zealand together twice and once each before we met. It’s an easy country to travel around by bus or car, the people are so friendly, and the scenery is beautiful. I’ve had the good fortune to have traveled around the North Island and all over the South Island. My favorite is the South Island, and we keep returning to it.

The last trip we took there was with our daughters so we attempted to cram as much as we possibly could into three weeks. We were just going to stick with the South Island, but there are some exciting experiences we could only have on the North Island, so we included some of those. Mainly, the glow worm caves at Waitomo and Hobbiton since we are big Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans. With an added stop at Otorohanga Kiwi House, we had a great start lined up.

Hobbiton

Now, where to go on the South Island? We love Milford Sound and Queenstown so we’ll fly into Queenstown. Then how do we get from there to Oamaru to see the blue penguins and more of the east coast? We aren’t attempting to see the entire South Island in one day, so we plan on driving from Milford Sound to Invercargill in the far south Then it’s on to Oamaru then Akaroa to swim with dolphins before heading back to Queenstown before flying home.

Mitre Peak, Milford Sound in the early morning

That is how we planned our trip. We realize we will miss out on many, many things but we also don’t want to come home from our trip needing a holiday to recover from moving around so much.

Now, what to pack for New Zealand in November? I think a bit of everything. After all, this is the place where there can be four seasons in one day if Crowded House is right!

Radium Hot Springs

When we were traveling through southeastern British Columbia, we stumbled on the little town of Radium Hot Springs. What a great find! It’s located just outside Kootenay National Park. And, as the name implies, there are hot springs nearby. There were also bighorn sheep roaming around the town, which is always fun and very intriguing to our dog. Needless to say, we all gave them plenty of space.

Found just off the main street

We stayed at The Canyon RV Resort on Sinclair Creek, and it was lovely. Our campsite was beside a creek, and we had the best sleep there. Too many previous nights we heard highway noise and so many trains! From the campground, we walked to town, but it seemed too far to walk to the hot springs which are inside the Park.

It was mid-August, and the weather was hot, so we decided to check out the hot springs in the morning. What a great idea! The warmest pool had very few people, and it was quite tranquil and shaded. The pool is large, shallow, and has a bench seat all around the inside of the pool so we could soak as long as we wanted. Our girls went into the cooler pool with the diving board, but Cameron and I were content to hang out in the warm pool. 

Shortly after opening at 9am

We purchased the day pass and went back in the evening. It seems like everyone else thought this was a good idea, too. It was too busy for my liking with most of the bench seating occupied inside the pool. It was still enjoyable but the morning was much better.

All in all, Radium Hot Springs was a worthwhile side trip. Where are you favorite hot springs?

My Disappointment in Lake Louise

Forty years ago, my parents took my brothers and me on a road trip from Bowmanville, Ontario to Vancouver Island and back. We tented across Canada and the United States for seven weeks. We stopped and saw everything. It was a great trip, and I have very fond memories from it. Even some not so fond memories of having to blow up my parents’ air mattress every night while my brothers and I slept on the ground. I still bug my parents about it at every opportunity. 🙂

Anyway, one of the stops we made was to see Lake Louise. It was lovely to drive up and park at the lake and get out to see the views. A lot has changed in forty years! We attempted to see Lake Louise this past August on a Wednesday, and it was a huge disappointment! We saw the signs that told us the parking lot was full at the lake and to take a shuttle instead. We didn’t have time to park, wait for a shuttle, drive in, get out, see the lake, and take the shuttle back so we decided to drive in to see if that would work. It didn’t. There were people directing traffic all the way into the lake, through the parking lots, and back out. There were no opportunities to turn off or even stop to let people out. We couldn’t even abort the trip and turn around. Plus you can’t turn on to the road to Moraine Lake until you are on the way out of Lake Louise. It was a massive waste of time.

Thankfully we were able to see Moraine Lake, and it was beautiful. There is an easy path around the side of the lake where there weren’t so many people. The scenery is spectacular, and it’s worth a visit. Sadly, that means you have to drive to Lake Louise and out when it’s in the middle of high season.

If you want to see Lake Louise, make plans ahead of time.

Birds of Prey on Vancouver Island

Did you know there is a bird of prey conservation center in Duncan, British Columbia? We were driving from Nanaimo to Victoria on our last trip to Vancouver Island when my daughter and I spotted The Raptors sign. We both looked at each other and made a snap decision to visit the center a couple of kilometers off the TransCanada highway. She looked up their website and found out there was a live show with the raptors in 15 minutes. We had a plan.

We arrived, paid for the “Closest” experience, and raced to get a seat for the flying demonstration. I’m glad we rushed, it was worth it. The presentation showcased one bird of prey at a time with a total of 5 birds presented throughout the show. The handler told us all about each bird and answered questions while having the bird fly over the audience multiple times. We were definitely up close and personal with the birds. 

After the show, we met with one of the handlers for the Closest experience. Our family of four (just us) spent an hour with her and the various birds she brought out for us to hold. The birds were beautiful! We each got to hold 3 or 4 birds and take all the photos we wanted.

The last part of the experience was the Hawk Walk when we walked on a path through the woods, and a Harris’ Hawk would fly to the person holding the food. This hawk was so fast. Almost before I put up my arm, the hawk was there! We tried to trick him, and it didn’t work. We all loved that part.

Both of my daughters now want to be falconers!

The Raptors is a worthwhile stop on the way from Nanaimo to Victoria. When we visit my parents in Victoria next year, we will most likely go back for more close encounters with these raptors.

What are your favorite places for close encounters with animals?

The Essentials for Your Motorhome – Kitchen Edition

What are the dealbreakers in deciding on your motorhome purchase? For us purchasing our first motorhome, we needed a generator, air conditioning, kitchen, and three places to sleep. What we didn’t know is that there are other, equal, if not more important aspects to consider. Kitchen storage was the first to be highlighted in our motorhome .

Don’t get me wrong; we have kitchen storage: two upper cabinets, an under the sink cabinet and a large drawer under the oven. Sounds good…until we started to put items into these places. We have the usual – plates, bowls, cups, silverware, cooking utensils, a pot, a frying pan, a kettle, and food.

The plates, bowls, and cups go in the upper cabinet that has a shelf. The pot, frying pan and kettle can go in the large drawer. Now, where are silverware and utensils going? There was no good place for those items. We purchased a small plastic bin for silverware and had a bigger plastic container for cooking tools. They went into the upper cabinet. They are stacked, so it’s a pain to get the utensils out.

The under sink cabinet was just one big open space. We used a couple of plastic bins to store more frequently used items like snacks and paper towels. It was tedious getting things out of the bottom container, so we just moved the items we needed to the bin on top.

Other, non-refrigerated food went into plastic bins over the table. This is not a great arrangement, but it’s what’s available. I have to remember; it’s a motorhome, not a permanent residence.

Also, I thought I needed an oven since I use mine at home all the time. After traveling for two weeks, I don’t think we will use it. I didn’t have time or want to take the time to cook that way.

Next time, a cutlery drawer and drawers for food storage. Oh, and an oven is not essential.

What are your must-haves for your motorhome kitchen? How do you organize your kitchen?

Class A, Class B, or Class C?

If you have looked at motorhomes recently, you’ve noticed there are many different types from standard van-size Class Bs to bus-size class As. The Class Bs look like a taller, longer van from the outside and inside they can range from an empty shell to a fully customized interior run by gas or diesel. Class Cs, gas or diesel, have the family-friendly loft over cab. Class As are the biggest of the bunch and are generally diesel vehicles.

I am really attracted to the Class Bs because they don’t seem like too big of a jump in size from a mini-van. When it comes to the interior, Class Bs seem luxurious. A little too luxurious, especially for my 70lb dog. I’d far prefer functionality and efficient storage over luxury for a camping vehicle. Another consideration is the interior size. Yes, they are compact and seem well designed for two people max, maybe even just one. There are four people in my family, big people, plus a dog. Perhaps we will consider a Class B again when the kids have left home but for my husband who is 6’3”, maybe not.

So we settled on a 24ft Class C for our first foray into motorhome ownership. This was mainly because of me since I didn’t want to get a large vehicle that I thought might be a challenge to maneuver. It was the vehicle we took to St. Helena for one week and to Montana and Western Canada for two weeks. I like the size of the motorhome for driving and parking. What I found to be more critical is the storage available, how storage is accessed, and the vehicle’s power.

Having to make the table into a bed each night for one of these two is not our favorite thing

Our small motorhome is an excellent choice for two people or a family with little children. We are ready to move to a bigger motorhome with a more powerful engine. Class A here we come!

Will We Use a Motorhome?

One question Cameron and I kept asking ourselves was, “Will we use a motorhome enough to justify the purchase?” We made lists of trips we could take and compared the price of traveling by motorhome vs. traveling by minivan. We listed the family we can spend time with in other states and countries. Would we travel and visit more if we had a motorhome?

After several conversations, Cameron and I concluded that, for us, a motorhome is a place to sleep that is cheaper than a hotel while also providing a more comfortable way to travel for everyone. The bonus is we can bring our dog, we don’t have to unpack, we can stop when we want, and we can be self-sufficient as we go.

In the end, we knew we liked traveling by motorhome from previous experiences, and we have a dog, Lexi. Having a motorhome allows us to travel with our dog. And take trips that we wouldn’t consider if we had to find a dog sitter or take her with us.

This is Lexi
She sleeps between the front seats while we are driving. She doesn’t really fit there…

We made the purchase two months ago and already went on two trips – one to St. Helena, CA and the other to Montana. The St. Helena trip was basically camping in my in-law’s driveway for a week. We extended the Montana trip to include a quick tour through Alberta and British Columbia before going to Victoria on Vancouver Island to visit my parents.

We may have taken those trips without the motorhome but wouldn’t have stayed as long. The Montana trip was a last-minute trip. It had the potential to be a three day trip to Montana and back for a wedding, and it turned into a two-week adventure in Canada. We wouldn’t have had that flexibility without the motorhome.

So, to answer our question, we will use a motorhome, and we’re ready for our next adventure!

We Bought a Motorhome!

In Australia 3 years ago, we rented a motorhome for ten days and traveled throughout the Northern Territory. We had a wonderful time, and the girls loved it! We have been talking about getting a motorhome ever since and finally purchased one!

Our new home on wheels

Cameron grew up taking vacations in a motorhome around the United States. He always speaks fondly of these adventures. Cameron was concerned that I wouldn’t like traveling around in a motorhome. Little did he know that I grew up tent camping then tent trailer camping around North America. I always envied the people pulling up to their campsite in a motorhome and parking then camp was basically set up. Now we have a home away from home that we can travel where we want with our dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, named Lexi.

If you have ever considered purchasing a motorhome, you know there are lots of options. We initially looked at a class B vehicle. I like the class B size because it feels like a big van and I can see over the dashboard. At 5’2”, I need a booster cushion to drive safely in a more traditional class C cab. Unfortunately, the ones we considered don’t fit four adult-size people to sleep. We tried to squeeze in then realized it wouldn’t work for us for any multiple day-journeys. Also, have you seen the prices of those vehicles?! They are way out of our price range for our first motorhome purchase. Maybe when the kids are gone…. 🙂

So, back to looking for the right Class C for our dog and us. RVTrader.com was our starting place. We wanted the shortest vehicle with a cab over bed and no slide-outs. If it was nearby, even better. We weighed model year and mileage against cost. Many Class Cs are rentals until they reach a particular mileage then sold. While these vehicles may be serviced frequently, I wasn’t wholly comfortable purchasing a rental. No one takes care of anything rented as an owner would. We ended up finding a 24’ Gulf Stream in Reno. We went through it last Sunday and made an offer on Thursday which they accepted. There is a queen bed in the back, a double bed over the cab and a u-shaped dining area. It’s compact and perfect for our first motorhome. Bonus, it fits in our parking pad!

The kids quickly claimed the over cab bunk

I’m off now to gather up all the things we need to outfit it for our first trip to Montana for a wedding. And purchase a booster cushion…..

Our Cave House in Oia, Santorini

I’ve mentioned in a past post that we usually stay away from or limit our visits to the most touristy places. We made an exception for Santorini based on a Greek friend’s insistence that we not miss it. We usually don’t listen to those suggestions either, that’s the way we roll.

Anyway, we include Santorini in our itinerary and, after doing some online research, decided to stay in a cave house in Oia.

Me in front of our cave house

As an aside, Home Away doesn’t specify what age a person is considered a child while Airbnb does, and it’s 12 years old. Since my daughters were 12 and 13 years old, they were considered adults on Airbnb. We saved about $100 per night by booking through Home Away. It’s worth looking on multiple platforms before finalizing your booking.

So, Oia. It’s a pedestrian-only cliff town that is very walkable if you are on the main path. There are LOTS of stairs if you venture off it. Most of the accommodations are below the main walkway so it didn’t feel busy near us even when the town was teeming with visitors. Mornings were tranquil, and the walkways cleared out after sunset.

The houses are built into the rock in tiers one on top of the other. Ours had three bedrooms and a powder room inside and the patios out front. Under the top terrace was another bathroom with a shower. It’s unconventional, and it was the best part of our stay in Oia.

To me, Santorini feels utterly different from every other place we went in Greece. Go or not based on what you are looking for.