Thursday, August 28, 2008

Back to our version of civilization

After 2 days of flying, 2 days of driving, 4 days of seeing ranches in various parts of the Southwest, and 7 days of visiting various parts of John's family, we made it home. We really were only gone for 10 days since we multitasked quite a bit of these events, but it was still quite the adventure. We had a blast and even though Nathan now thinks he gets his way all the time (can you really spank a kid when you're on vacation?) I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat. A quick rundown of the highlights....

We flew into San Antonio on Friday night and after waiting at the curbside arrival for an hour and half, John showed up with the rental car. Actually, it was van and not just any van - a Chrysler Town and Country Van, which is now high on our list of wants/needs. I'm pretty sure our family needs Sirius Radio, Stow N Go seats, extreme legroom and a built in DVD player. We'll probably change our minds once we get around to looking at the price tag but for this trip we were extremely grateful for all the fancy amenities since we spent so much time in it during the 10 days. But back to the first day..

We headed to Beth and Brian's house, along with all the other younger siblings in John's immediate family. It was a very loud and yummy reunion of the "little kids" or Beth, John, Ann and Dan (and respective families). With 9 kids all under the age of 4.25, we were glad to sit at home and drink Diet Dr. Peppers, watch the Olympics, be crafty and break up the occasional fight. We had grand ambitions of heading to Sea World or somewhere cool like that but all we made it to was Hobby Lobby (what an amazing store) for fabric runs and HEB (what an interesting store) for beef runs. We ate great food, played games until late in the night, and Ava and Nathan got to know their Texas cousins finally. But we didn't get any pictures of it so you'll just have to take my word that we had a great time.

(Actually, I was able to steal these pictures off Beth's website to give you an idea of what fun we had).

Next, we headed south 2 1/2 hours to Kingsville, TX for John to actually do some work (the whole reason we were supposedly coming to Texas and New Mexico in the first place). He spent some of the days at The King Ranch working on cattle genetics and making us a little spending money. We hung out on the porch at the little house they let us stay at on the ranch, catching rolly-pollies and rocking on the cool rocking chairs.

(The foal crop at King Ranch)

Me and the kids also spent the days at Ann and Mando's house with her 3 little ones. Ava and Paul played together wonderfully while Nathan and Joseph ignored each other and Isabelle and Lias took turns taking naps in her crib. Ann and I were crafty and whipped out some bows for our little girls heads.

I think they turned out quite cute, even if they did take almost a day to make.

We left Kingsville on Tuesday evening and headed East towards Corpus Christi, past the mountainous piles of cotton the ranch grows, to eat dinner with our good friends Scott and Tracy Moore. After feasting on a dinner of ribeye steaks (what else would you expect from one of the top guys at King Ranch?), we tucked 3 sleepy kids into our "fancy" van (as Nathan calls it) and headed West. Forever. And ever.

The plan was to drive a few hours and stop at a hotel, then meander our way over to New Mexico all the next day but then we realized how nice it was to drive without having to listen to kids crying and whining.

(Lias rode the whole way to New Mexico like this - Nathan's legs lost all circulation)

So we didn't stop, except to put gas into the car and milk into Elias. 14 hours later, we arrived at The Bell Ranch outside of Tucumcari, NM. About an hour outside of Tucumcari actually, which is the closest town with a grocery store. But don't let that fool you, The Bell Ranch is an oasis in the middle of the desert of northern New Mexico. While John again played with numbers and cows, we made ourselves at home riding horses, swimming in the pool and hiking on the rocks. We met up with John's coworker from Chicago, Tony Stinsa and his 2 girls (10 and 5) who helped us pass the time while the guys worked. Occasionally we got the guys to join us for lunch at the bar or to move a pesky snake off the road.

The ranch is huge and has its origins in an old Spanish landgrant. It has a massive old homestead on it, called the Hacienda, which at one time hosted its own casino and had visitors such as Howard Hughes and Clark Gable. The Hacienda was full of amazing artifacts and tons of cool furniture and trinkets from the old west. It has quite a few camps (spots where the cattle herdsmen live and work) so we spent quite a bit of time driving around the almost 300,000 acres.

Since we ate lunch on Thursday at Pat's City Bar, the only restarant within 30 miles, the ranch manager Bert and Debbie Ancell had us to dinner that night. And what was on the menu? Beef, of course. We were spoiled once again with steak, potatoes, salad and the yummiest brownies I've ever had. I think I've gained back all the baby weight on this trip. Bert and Debbie live on one of the camps and have the coolest adobe house they call the White House (I guess they used to whitewash all the buildings, hence the name). I has no less than 10 bedrooms, all connected in a big U shape and all with doors to the veranda out front. The kids had fun exploring the house, both in and out.

The ranch is currently owned by the same company that we work for here in Virginia (although it is for sale so if anyone has an extra $115 million lying around) so John has visited it a few times. I'm glad we got to go along this time and maybe it won't sell anytime soon so we can go back.

After a week into the trip we just weren't quite ready to head home, so we drove another 4 hours south to Roswell, NM to spice up Paul and Gen's (John's oldest brother and his girly friend) life a little. We spent all day Saturday doing laundry (me), solving the worlds problems (Paul and John) and washing the dog (Ava and Gen). We also made it to the coolest little zoo I've ever been to. Tucked away in the middle of suburbia Roswell, NM is a free city zoo that has a bear, mountain lion, eagles, antelope, buffalo, wolves, tons of pairie dogs, a train ride and a carousel. After Paul treated us to 2 or 3 go arounds on the carousel (tickets were $.25 each? why don't I live in Roswell?) we headed out to a spicy little Mexican restaurant, then went home and fell asleep putting the kids to bed.

The next day we took a trip up the mountains (how many of you would have though New Mexico has mountains?) to the area Billy the Kid was big in. I really didn't catch all the significance of the town we stopped at (Lincoln, NM) but it was beautiful and relaxing to wander around the shops and buildings.

We saw an old fort were the original settlers used to hide out from the Apaches and we though about locking Ava and Nathan in for a few hours. It was totally made our of adobe so Uncle Paul took note for the adobe house he plans to make in a few years.

We parted from Paul and Gen in the mountains and made it up to Albuquerque without much fanfare. We got about 5 hours of sleep that night, then headed to the airport for our 6am flight. The day was long but we made it home by about 9 that night. We're still trying to catch up on sleep we missed but all in all we're glad for the memories.


  1. I love reading these! My favorite has to be the picture where Lias looks bigger than Nathan. Incredible.

  2. Its great reading about your adventures. I'm anxious to talk to John about his work, it sounds interesting and like a lot of fun. Congratulations on the baby, we're expecting our first in November and very excited. Do you still have the same e-mail?

  3. great pictures- I love the bows you made- you are so crafty.

    Glad you made it back safe

  4. Wow. Just reading all you did makes me tired! I'm glad to hear about the history and culture in your ranch culture- now when my kids come from Europe to visit on the farm, I'll know they'll be getting more than just a nice farmer's tan!

  5. What a fun, FULL trip. It sounds amazing. I love all the pictures, especially the one of Ava with the mountains behind her.

  6. Thank you for taking pictures of my family!! They are great. It looks like Gianna has a new friend. We can't wait to see you in VA.

    Take Care,

    Leah Stinsa

  7. please tell me John isnt flinging a snake???!!!!! he is fearless! cool pics girlio. I miss you so much.

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