Sunday, July 26, 2015

O'Briens Going For Broke: Loosing Some & Winning Some!

So much to blog and always feeling behind which is so frustrating since I had real intentions of blogging this trip thoroughly!! I’m mainly just going to share some general road tripping woes and feelings stuff.

Hot Springs, Arkansas (going to blog about Arkansas more at some point!)
In the spirit of always “keeping it real” (social media’s current favorite term that’s starting to drive me real nuts)… After Shawn’s mom (aka Nana) left this past Thursday- joining us for 4 days of the trip, the kids started feeling REALLY homesick. It’s been somewhat of an ongoing theme throughout the trip, but it’s always been a quick and easy fix as kids are resilient and easily distractible. It’s also fluctuated between the two but after Nana’s departure it hit Cormac hard that we weren’t going home at the same speed as her (aka, a plane).

 At the Christ of the Ozarks in Arkansas, a place their Nana had visited as a kid!
He took pretty much a day of solace to cope with the thought of another week on the road. Lots of tears involved. I mean, at 6 weeks in… Who can blame him, really? Trying to explain that we’re at the tail end of our trip and there’s only a week left was a frail attempt that no longer worked. We were toying around with a few different routes home, possibly to see another set of friends and add a few days, but have decided against it in the spirit of keeping our timeline… And so our son doesn’t end up in the loony bin at 6 years old.

As of lately on the road… Let’s see, we did Branson, Missouri for 4 days. I felt like an idiot because I had never heard of Branson before. And now I cannot figure out how I’d missed out on this huge part of American tourism.  It’s an entire town completely dedicated to tourists who are looking for some good, clean fun. And I mean clean… like finding liquor in this place is a task. Branson is a weird place, I’m not gonna lie. The only way I can describe it is like a dry Las Vegas for old people and kids. Someone else called it Geriatric Vegas. That works too. Not that Shawn and I didn’t have fun- we totally had a blast. Mainly because it was so random and unusual to the type of fun we’d normally set out to have that we enjoyed every moment knowing we may never see the place again.

The essence of Branson.

Watching the Grand Country Jubilee (four men who had so many outfit changes their act could easily translate to West Hollywood given some song changes) perform lots of mainly patriotic songs (and a great YMCA- case in point) was nothing short of amazing. People were literally raising their hands worship style and waaaait for it… fist pumping (!) to God Bless America… Definitely an experience! It was MERICA! at it’s absolute finest… GOD AND COUNTRY baby!

We stayed at The Grand Country Resort and half of the fun with this place was the buffet... The all-inclusive-all-you-can-eat buffet. Biscuits and gravy and chicken fried steak any time you want (if you haven't read about my chicken fried steak mishap from our last road trip- DO IT). There wasn’t a fit person to be found within miles of this place. Shawn and I included- I mean we’ve been sitting in a car for 6 weeks we’ve obviously lost all muscle retention. We lost our minds on this buffet and don’t you dare judge because you would have too, just trust me. We began revolving our days and activities around meal times- everything coming in second to loading up a plate with mashed potatoes and gravy. I’ve never cared so much about food in my life, like I’m pretty sure I had a dream about the rolls… And in the dream I saw Shawn as a Southerner… It wasn’t pretty.

This is an actual stock Grand Country Dining photo. You're welcome.

After leaving Branson we headed for Kansas and stayed our first night at a State Park (El Dorado). For a state park we were super impressed: clean enough bathrooms and camping right on the lake. I guess we were feeling really safe and lax because for the first time on the entire trip we decided not to lock everything we owned up (who are we kidding, I never lock anything ever- hence having two cars stolen with the keys in them... FOOL ME ONCE Kenna! Anyway, Shawn usually bolts the place up). There were few campers around us and we’d met our neighbors who were very sweet. So we left things out that turns out we'd come to regret! Shawn woke up first to get breakfast started and he said, “Kenna I think we got our pan and spatula stolen!”. At first I was thinking what a strange thing to steal, they must have been hard up for eggs or something… But when Birdie and I came back from the bathroom Shawn’s list had grown… It became like a scavenger hunt to find items. All in all, our cooler full of food (and our Ozark mountain jelly we never got to try and yes I’m really pissed about that one), 3 fishing polls (one of which was Birdie’s recent birthday present from Shawn), a chair and some cookware were taken. I’m sure they’d have taken the stove if it weren’t so loud to pack up. These thieves were ballsy as they stole stuff while we were sleeping in a tent with no rain guard in the middle of the camp. I’m kind of shocked I didn’t wake up since I’m such a light sleeper but in a way I’m glad I didn’t because I’m nuts and already know my whole fight or flight response and let’s just say “flight” isn’t in my wheel house (takes off gold hoops and walks towards thieves carrying cooler yelling, “AHHH HELLS NAH…”).

The only redeeming factor to getting our campsite robbed was that we got to experience the generosity of our neighbors (who also had a lantern and beer taken from their cooler) who came over and insisted we take a pan, spatula and a chair to replace ours. These people had next to nothing as they were actually living at the campground with their 3 kids for the summer to get back on their two feet. They were so bummed that on our first night in Kansas we’d had that experience. It was heartwarming to see strangers lend a helping hand and reminded us that there’s bad and good people everywhere.

We arrived at the KOA campground in Salina, Kansas for the KKOA car show (KOA for the KKOA- confusing, I know) on Friday the 24th of July. This campground was perfect, probably my favorite of the entire trip. If you’ve never camped a KOA- it’s a very different experience from a State or National Park. It’s a well-monitored campground, clean beyond clean (sometimes you feel like you’re not ‘truly camping’), and there are amenities like showers, laundry, parks, pool, rec room and more. This KOA was really fun because it was only 4 miles from the car show, hence it was a campground full of old cars- a mini car show in a way. We made friends right away as we were camping next to another family with kids. Birdie made a little camp bestie named Danielle who she longed to play with while stuck at the car show. One of the things I love most about camping is meeting people from all over who you’d never otherwise met. Getting to be social with total strangers is so freeing- that “blank slate” feeling is the best. They don’t know your baggage! No really, they have no clue. And you can kind of act normal for a couple days and fool the entire campground in to thinking you’ve got things together!

Birdie & Danielle
The KKOA car show was a huge turn out and a great show overall. It was fun to see 2,000+ cars that we hadn’t seen before. After going to West Coast Kustoms and Ventura Nationals for years, we’ve gotten used to seeing the same old cars (literally) and faces. The pro of that is that we have a little “crowd” we hang out with and so things like parking or packing lunch isn’t something we think about. It’s always just family style food, parking near friends, etc. Getting to the KKOA, we couldn’t have gotten in to an in-crowd if we tried. Not that people weren’t friendly, everyone seemed very sweet and welcoming- we just didn’t know many people… We did have a few “fans” from Shawn’s thread on the HAMB so that was fun to have people come up and chat us up who’ve followed our journey online... We love our fans!!! (I’ve always wanted to say that so just give it to me.)

This is my pick of the show- 58' Chevy Convertible called the Rag Doll. I love the clean look and super sweet interior!

One great thing about the car show was that it was next to a waterpark. Praise God for that water park because in 100+ degree heat, we were desperate for something to cool us down. As warned, the heat was insane. This whole “heat index” thing is terribly annoying! You’re looking at your weather app like, “HOW IS IT ONLY 97 FLIPPING DEGREES AND I’M THIS ANGRY?!” Well, add the humidity factor in to that 97 degrees and I’m not quite sure it could have actually gotten any hotter, like it appeared to me that we were physically melting... However that could have just been me.

I’ve had a few “rough days” on the trip where I’ve felt like if there was a bridge nearby I might decide to use it. Car Show, pre-water park I was having a bridge moment. The heat paired with the kids paired with the heat and kids… I was borderline crazy mommy. You know her right? Please tell me if you're a mom, you’ve been her at least once. If not, try a 7 week road trip with two kids in ungodly heat… You WILL discover your inner crazy mommy I promise you.

We had a great time at the water park and couldn’t believe it was only $4.00 each to get in… We mentioned this price to Kansas locals and they said when it first opened residents were furious at the prices! We got a good laugh out of that since a water park like that would be about $20.00 a head in California… The perks of the mid-west!

Another huge perk of the trip was that the wagon was entered in to a contest put on by a Kansas local hot rod & kustom photographer, RoyBoy Productions for a "People’s Choice" Young Blood Award that he gives out every year. The guidelines are you must be below age 35 and have a bitchin' old car. Shawn got news of it and entered us and we immediately hit up social media for votes. We had a good feeling about winning but were still beyond happy to hear our names announced at the Young Blood party on Saturday night at the Paramount Bar in Salina, KS. Travis, the owner or RoyBoy Productions, shared our entire story before calling Shawn up on stage to give him our $500 cash prize. People clapped. Shawn gave an acceptance speech giving yours truly a huge shout out. Women went wild. The people clapped some more. It was pretty awesome. For the first time in a long time I felt really proud of us, like we’d set out to do this crazy-ass trip and here we were 6 weeks later, almost done with it- winning $500 and pumping people up with our story about putting 11,000 miles on a 1959 Chevy wagon during the summer of 2015. It was kind of a surreal moment. Until the kids started pushing each other off of bar stools and then I realized our kids were sitting at a bar at 9pm at night and that's weird.

Shawn on the right, Travis from RoyBoy Productions in the middle and Gus on the left, winner of Travis's Favorite Car Pick.

There it is. You’re caught up. We spent today (Sunday, July 26th) at the car show and water park again and tonight we’re at a Best Western somewhere in Kansas living the high life. Our plan is just to “head west” and hope to see the ocean again in the next week.

xo road trip or die xo



  1. You two are leaving us hangin', here. We need some closure on this fabulous adventure. Please!!!

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