A likable city!  Hurray!  We had originally reserved 3 nights at the KOA here, but ended up extending to 5 days as there was much more we wanted to explore in the city.

Day 1: Setting up Camp and getting Wobbles clean!

Upon arrival to Flagstaff KOA we were excited to explore this bike-able city but also really ready for a day of getting clean!  Not just us but Dimes and Wobbles as well.  Wash cloth baths only cut it for so long!  The girls were also desperate for a playground.  Therefore, on our first day at the KOA we gave Wobbles a deep clean and we did laundry.

Our campsite at Flagstaff KOA

The plan was to wash all bedding and miscellaneous things the first day, leaving the clothing we were wearing and the rest of our things for the day after.  This, however, is not the way it worked out.  I popped the laundry into the top loader machines no problem but when I came back to switch the laundry into the dryer I found that the one washing machine had done the complete opposite of what it was supposed to do.  Our laundry was dirtier then when I put it in!!  There were brown smears all over our bedding and what looked like burn spots from the dotted laundry drum.  I had the cold setting on but who knows.

Mattress protector AFTER being washed

So, sadly, I had to re-wash part of that load after quickly scrambling to fill the load with other dirty clothing.  The drying for the first load went swimmingly but by the time I put the next 3 loads of laundry in someone else was using all the other driers around the ones I had things in.  Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal but there was apparently a drier vent issue which made it so our laundry took an hour and a half to dry! Oy!  It was an all day endeavor but our things got cleaned (except for the stains the machine left on the light items).

Day 2: Getting US clean and exploring downtown by bike

This was the day I’d been waiting for since my last shower!  The day we all were to get clean!  The night before I had prepped a shower bag for our 5 year old and me and one to leave in Wobbles for our 3 year old.  Our oldest and I planned to take a shower in the KOA bathhouse and then possibly have our youngest join us for her bath in the bathhouse.

So, our oldest and I loaded our 3 bags (shower supplies, clean clothes and one for dirty clothes/wet towels) and plastic bathtub to the shower house.  As soon as we walked in I noticed it was freezing in there!  I didn’t say anything since I knew it would become a bigger issue with my daughter if I did.  The next thing I noticed was how incredibly small the shower stalls were!  If I was a larger lady, I would not have been able to take off my socks without hitting my head and rear on a wall.  On top of that, the showers were not something you wanted your bare feet to be touching.  Also, when we moved the shower door it sounded like we were being attacked by a pterodactyl!  It was startling at first, then just annoying.  Again, I didn’t complain about any of this out loud since I knew it would just bring on whining from my oldest.  We were giggling about the condition of the bathroom while I was setting up our shower supplies.  I stripped down and was about to get into the horrid shower when we found out another shocking surprise about the bathhouse.  KOA decided to put fire hose sprayers as shower heads!!  Nobody can complain about water pressure here!  It’s so strong it might do your shaving for you.  One twist of the faucet and the water blasted my arm and foot, ricocheting off the floor and soaking all our things!  That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  There was no way that I was putting myself or either one of my kids in that shower!  Good heavens!  Needless to say, we packed up our things and headed back to Wobbles.

It is in Wobbles that we had a chilly but okay shower and our youngest had her bath.  We were avoiding showering in here in the first place due to our gray tank water capacity (we forgot dump our tanks upon entering this campsite and we probably should have) but we took a short shower and then dumped the bathwater from my youngest into the toilet so it would count as black water.

While we’re talking about toilets, there is a new feature we learned our toilet has that we didn’t previously know about.  It has a built in poo geyser!  Who knew!  When the black tank (poop tank) reaches a certain capacity, when you flush, you sometimes get the joy of witnessing poo sludge being rocketed to the ceiling before your very eyes.  Ha, lovely!  But seriously, it’s an issue.  Tomorrow we are enforcing a rule to close the lid before you flush.  At least then it only gets the inside cover yucky.

Anyway…that was our morning so we got a mid-day start to our adventuring. We were so lucky to be able to bike downtown to look around.  There is a great bike path and the downtown is really lovely!

Biking into downtown along the old Route 66

Downtown is split by the railroad track but condensed enough that you can walk to everything.  We find cities with lots of great shops close together much more enjoyable than ones that are more spread out.  It was very cute and we definitely left more to explore on a later visit.

We ended up eating lunch at Beaver Street Brewery.  It doesn’t look like much on the outside, but on the inside it was cute.  They had coloring activities for the girls and had 2 tasty raspberry beers on tap.  I love raspberry anything!  We got some of their wood fired pizza which was good.  Though, they don’t make their own crust in house which was disappointing since they have an open kitchen so customers can watch.  I would be so embarrassed to be serving store bought dough.  Plus, we were hoping to see them throw the dough in the air! 🙂  

While exploring we found a great thrift store called The Garden Thrift.  I have been on the lookout for a sweatshirt for our 5 year old.  We packed 2 but one she has outgrown!  We didn’t end up finding one that we wanted to take home but our 5 year old found a water ring toss game for $1 that she bought with her earned dimes.

I found a stuffed animal for $0.50 that I gutted for stuffing.  I am making a stuffed swan ballerina for our 5 year old for Christmas and needed a little more fluff for the leg.  However, buying a whole bag of stuffing is not only silly cost-wise since I only need a handful, but also, where would I store all that extra fluff?!  One fall-out from my “gut the stuffy” plan was that our 3 year old got attached to the thing before I could gut it.  So, after I gutted it, I stayed up late and sewed a miniature version of it.  Ha, kids!

While bike riding, we spotted an apple tree between the bike path and the railroad tracks.  Many had passed but I was able to pick a whole bag full of the sweet, crunchy red apples!  The girls say they were the best they ever had.  They were delicious! 

Picking apples on the side of the bike path by the train tracks

Day 3: Lowell Observatory and Flagstaff Aquaplex 

We had heard great things about the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff; you can look through their telescope and look at the sun or the stars and planets!  What a great experience, right?  That’s what we thought and that is why we went. However, upon arrival we soon found out that it was not what we had hoped for.  In most museums there are some talks or special events that if you get to them, great, but if not, you can still give yourself a guided tour and learn a lot!  This was not so at the observatory.  We soon realized that the tours were the ONLY things to do (with a very small exception to a walk through solar system that gave a blip of info on each planet).  Sitting in lecture hall after lecture hall learning about Pluto and the history of their observatory are anything but fun for children and quite frankly I wasn’t thrilled about it either.  I appreciated the information but these were straight facts I could look up on a quick Google search on my own time.  What I was hoping for and expecting was some hands on learning and the ability to get a glimpse of our solar system through their telescope.  The other very frustrating thing about this place was that all 5 staff members that I spoke to (with the exception of the very knowledgable gentleman doing the lectures) were very confused as to what the observatory had to offer.  They weren’t sure what the lectures were about, didn’t know what was in each building on campus and weren’t sure where their telescope was at the present time or if people could view it.  Oy!  That was enough for us.  Not a family friendly place unless you want to stay in the gift shop the whole time, which my girls wanted to do and I didn’t blame them a bit.  

Reading books at the Lowell Observatory gift shop

We were eager to move on to our next place, hoping to find better luck on the enjoyment scale.  On to the Aquaplex!  We were happy to find that this place was awesome!  The girls swam while Justin and I took turns working out in their gym.  The pool was very kid friendly with an entire kiddy area complete with slides, fountains and sprayers all in 1′ of water making it super easy for our 3 year old to have some independence and water fun.  There is also a lazy river of about 3.5′ deep, a whirl pool, deep end area that older kids were playing ball in, 2 giant tube water slides (have to be 48″ tall which our 5 year old hasn’t hit yet) and a hot tub for the adults.  It was really fun!

The gym was great too!  Clean equipment with lots of space to do your own thing.  Justin and I gave each other 45 minutes of workout time and it was really nice!  Back in Portland there are many days where I scoop up the girls and go at my own pace for various outings.  But since we have been away, I feel like the majority of the time we go at the girls’ pace, which is obviously a bit slower.  It felt good to move faster. 🙂

Also, they had outstanding showers!!!  No, seriously amazing showers!  They were clean, plenty big and the water pressure was great!  It was me and my two littles in the shower so it wasn’t necessarily relaxing but it was still pretty great.

To top it all off, the Aquaplex had a rock climbing wall (also included in the cost of your day pass).  Our cautious 5 year old climbed for her first time, which shocked the pants off Justin and I.  Usually she shys away from risk taking activities.  We were so proud of her!  She made it almost all the way to the top!  Such a great place for fun!

Flagstaff Aquaplex Climbing Wall

Day 4: Winter Faire and Elf Jr. The Musical

While at the Aquaplex we saw a flier for a Winter Fair at one of the local Waldorf schools so we decided to check it out the next day.  The girls got all dressed up in their Christmas dresses for the occasion.

Getting fancy for Winter Faire

Usually craft fairs are really more for adults, with a couple kids activities here and there and some live music.  However, this fair was totally different.  They still had great live music, food and a couple craft venders, but, for the most part, it was the KIDS that were making the crafts!  It was brilliant and SO, so much fun!!  I teared up a couple times because the girls were having such a magical time.  How it works is this: you buy a punch card for 10 or 20 snowflakes ($1 per snowflake) which is worn like a necklace on your kiddo’s neck.  Then, in each room of the school there were different craft stations each costing a different number of snowflakes (usually 1-2).  Some of the rooms that the girls took part in where: pocket fairies, enchanted cookie forest, candle making and their favorite of them all, a shopping room where only kids were allowed into where they picked out gifts for parents and other family members.  Once the kids had chosen their gifts, they were secretly escorted to the room next door where the gift wrapping happens.  The girls were overjoyed to be able to do this on their own!  I mean, overflowing with joy and beaming with excitement!!  It was so sweet to see. They loved it so much they went back and spent all their snowflakes on gifts for friends.  We could barely fit all the gifts on our bikes!

We then rode our bikes over to another school that was hosting a community theater group performing the musical Elf Jr.  It was a great show with lots of funny characters for us to laugh with.  Our youngest kept whispering to me, “They are being so silly. Hehehe.” and to Justin, “where’s Buddy?” (the elf character).  The girls were also excited to be dressed up for the occasion.  The theater had classic fold up padded seats which gave our 3 year old a nice little nest to sit in for the show.  I forgot how much weight you have to have on those seats to make them act as seats rather than as a squisher.  Our little one reminded me of a piece of toast stuck in the toaster in those seats! 

As we should have known, a fun packed day often is too much for the littles.  On our bike ride home our 3 year old was a puddle of mush.  She was so worn out that she would go from screaming and crying over something to falling asleep to screaming and crying again.  After a pit stop on the bike trail for a snuggle break she calmed down a bit.  How I wish I could have just walked back with her in my arms.  We all need a good snuggle every once and a while. 

Day 5: The North Pole Experience

Okay, this is going to sound a little crazy but, hear me out.  We stayed an extra day in Flagstaff so we could take part in an event where we all get to go to Santa’s workshop and experience the magic of Christmas.  Why are we going crazy with Christmas events when it’s not even Thanksgiving yet?  A couple reasons: we knew a lot of things would be different around the holidays since we won’t be at our home in Portland (the girls and I usually do something Christmasy every day of December; craft, baking…); also we checked the Christmas events in the cities we will be visiting in December and there aren’t many we can attend.  Most start in the late evening which is past our little one’s bedtime.  We have tried pushing our limits on bedtime but we 100% always regret it!  The following 3 days are always absolutely miserable!  Other parents would think different I’m sure but it’s a price that we aren’t willing to pay.  So, we are getting some Christmas events in while we can!

We contemplated going to the Aquaplex again for the morning then the North Pole Experience in the evening but since the previous day didn’t go so well with two big events, we decided to take the morning easy.  The girls soaked up playground time while I sewed and Justin did some computer things/errands.  It was nice to have the down time!  The KOA had a really great wooden playground that both the girls and Justin and I enjoyed.  It was really nice to let the girls play while we could still see them from our camper.  

The girls also created their own restaurant in the camper complete with cookies, tea, fresh bread and much more. I was told the restaurant was nocturnal because it stayed open all night long.  It was very sweet and oh so detailed!  Family meal prep was a cinch with them entertained!  

The chef of the restaurant wearing her hair net and displaying the menu

Then, off to the North Pole we went in our nighties and Christmas cheer!

I wrote about the North Pole Experience here: The North Pole Experience.

Day 6:  Frozen poop tank

Ah, the joys of cold weather camping.  We learn something new all the time!  We wanted to get an early start since it was our travel day to the Grand Canyon.  We successfully got the girls breakfast, did a quick wash-up, prepped Wobbles for the drive and hitched up to pull over to the dump station.  Mind you, it is absolutely frigid out!  Sadly, we hadn’t thought ahead enough to warm up Dimes before we loaded up the girls so the poor little popsicles were so cold!  I popped Justin and my down jackets around them and snuggled them into our down throw to warm them up in a jiffy.  I figured they could thaw while Justin was dumping the tanks (I’m lucky that I have never had to do this!  Thank you Sweetie!!).  Little did we know that not only would the girls need thawing, but also the tanks!  Frozen solid.  

Frozen girls

This might be a good time to mention that we were 100% full on both grey AND black tanks, people!  If you don’t know what that means, let me explain.  The gray tank is the dirty water you put down the drain from washing hands and doing dishes.  I think you can guess what the black tank is…excrement!  Oh dear!  We had gone 10 days without dumping!  If we drove with these tanks this full we would most likely find, at the very best, a camper floor full of gray water.  But, if you think of worst case scenario, it is even less pretty.  We had no choice but to pull back into our site, plug in the space heaters on the tanks and let it melt so we could dump.

Thawing the dump valve / pipe with a space heater

In the hustle bustle, our littlest needed to go potty.  Since our tanks were almost overflowing we walked to the entrance bathroom.  Come to find out, that silly bathroom not only had heat, but it also had a handicap shower which was big enough for a person to bend down without getting a concussion on the wall!  Both of these luxuries were lacking in the bathroom closest to our campsite.  How did I not know this was there!!  

Well, lucky for me and the girls, while the tanks were thawing I got a warm shower (and shaved my legs, woo!) in 10 minutes flat while the girls played on the playground.  

Lesson learned: Don’t let tanks get so full; make sure tanks are thawed before attempting to dump and explore all possible bathrooms for decent showers!