We had our first US Thanksgiving last week, though it wasn’t supposed to work out that way. With Juju Jr. experiencing some issues, as any 23 year old VW Westfalia does at times, we stayed a lot longer in Washington DC than planned. It turned out to be perfect.
November 23: Thanksgiving at the Museum
We had an open invitation from Charles and Dena to have Thanksgiving dinner with them and decided to take them up on their offer. And why not? It was better to spend the day with friends, instead of driving for several hours on our own. But first, we went back to the Museum of Natural History, since the first trip was cut short on Monday.
This is an amazing place and we could have easily spent an entire week in here. But we only had the one day and made the most of it. An important part was realizing why we should take moose warnings on the highway seriously. These suckers are huge!!
The other parts were cool, too.
Ethan’s favourite part was Q?rius, a section made for kids to explore and discover all kinds of cool things. As a home learner, this part of the museum, and really, the entire museum, were awesome. I can easily see us spending nearly every day here and I’m sure there are homeschoolers that do just that.
Dinner was an early 4:30pm start, which worked out great and is something we’d like to try if we ever have a big dinner event like this at our place. We were so thankful to have been invited and were so happy to meet Charles and Dena’s relatives and close friends. What a great group of people… and a fantastic dinner cooked up by Charles.
Also cool was that all the name cards were written by Charles and Dena’s daughter, Avalon.
The highlight of the night, however, was the show the kids organized and performed. There was also a haunted house and payment for all the entertainment was $1 or some Monopoly money. It was pretty amazing that the three kids planned and got everything ready in a couple hours.
After food and a show, it was time for us to move on and say goodbye. It was an amazing and unforgettable time for all of us. And it was even better because Dong Eun and Dena really hit it off, and so did Ethan and Avalon. It was magical.
November 24: National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
On the way out of Washington DC, we stopped at the National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, which was an amazing place. And it was also free just like so many of the other museums in the DC area. Parking was $15 but was well worth it.
One cool thing is the scavenger hunt they had for kids. A souvenir and other gifts were the reward and Ethan happily accepted the challenge of finding planes with animal names.
So many cool planes, like the SR-71 Blackbird.
We took the free tour and got a great education about the various planes, but were very excited to see the Space Shuttle Discovery and the Canada Arm!
Lucky we brought our own lunch because all they had was McDonald’s (sorry Uncle Willy).
Ethan was excited about one plane, in particular: The Concorde! He’s been talking about the Concorde for a while because it traveled at twice the speed of sound. So cool to see it in person.
Afterwards, Ethan wanted to try out a ponytail before heading back to claim his scavenger hunt prizes. Overall, a very cool day here.
Charles mentioned that there were Korean restaurants and shops nearby, so we found the H-Mart and got our fill of Korean food. Much needed!
November 25: Nashville to Albuquerque to Arizona… and Route 66, too
We now had to get to Arizona and the Grand Canyon as quickly as possible because we really want to get home by early December. That meant staying on the highway and sleeping at the rest areas and not straying too far off to do any sightseeing. That meant blowing through Memphis and not stopping by Graceland, but oh well. The rest areas in Tennessee were quite nice, complete with picnic tables and grassy areas to walk around in.
Ethan found time amongst all the driving to work on origami and keep himself busy.
On the way, you’d think that going to Nashville would mean checking out some country music, but for us, it meant stopping at a Vietnamese Pho place for dinner and driving further.
The rest areas had cool names, too.
Oh! No propane stove!
I almost forgot to mention that we haven’t had our stove since Thanksgiving. That night, we smelled propane and later, we noticed that all the propane had leaked out. We’re not sure what happened, but that’s why we’re having sandwiches and cereal. We also have to find other food options that require no cooking until we figure out what’s going on, or until we buy a portable butane stove.
So that’s why we had Costco food and picked up a roast chicken to have with the Thanksgiving leftovers we got from Charles and Dena.
And of course, Ethan had time to make a rocket.
Places we went through
We bombed it through Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. We decided to drive 65mph to make up some time and it worked, as we got to New Mexico by Sunday after leaving Washington DC and Virginia on Friday afternoon. The time on the phone was after 5 hours of driving and putting in the Grand Canyon Visitors Center as the destination. And we were on Route 66 from Oklahoma City onwards. Route 66 is basically I-40, but veers off at certain points.
We started making cold brew coffee and tea because we can’t boil water. Ethan made a special funnel to help get the coffee into the plastic bottle we’re using for the coffee.
Very cool scenery along the way, as well as tumbleweeds that kids can catch.
At the rest stop in Texas, we met two different Canadian travellers: One was from Winnipeg on his way to California; another was a retired couple heading to their winter home in Phoenix. Quite cool to meet them here.
We made a couple stops to check out the views and Ethan got to make a new video about the origami projects he was working on.
New Mexico, at last!
Juju Jr. is Tired
Once we got the New Mexico, I started noticing that Juju Jr. was driving a bit sluggishly and seemed to be losing power, especially up the hills. I didn’t think it was too serious, but then we started hearing a rattling/clacking sound from the engine bay and we really started to lose power. It got so bad that we could barely do 60kph and the engine was hesitating a lot.
Along the way, we noticed that Juju Jr. was low on engine oil. This was odd because we had the front crank seal replaced in Winnipeg and at the oil change in Charlottetown, NB, there was no oil leaking. So we’ve been adding a quart of oil to top up when we see the oil getting too low.
Anyway, we basically limped into a 24 hour truck stop and decided to spend the night there and see what the issue was in the morning. Juju Jr. started up fine so it wasn’t the coil we just got replaced. I was thinking it was the spark plug wires also being corroded but had to wait until morning to check.
What to do in New Mexico?
If you’re Ethan, you make a new comic book series based on your life, that’s what!
And you create a new way to hold your allowance.
We managed to get Juju Jr. going on the highway and he was running well enough that we made it to the only auto supply store with the spark plug wires in stock. We got to Pep Boys and were getting out of the van when Ethan accidentally got his right middle finger slammed in the front door. I’m sure it hurt, but he was a tough little trooper and got himself patched up. It definitely hurt and he was out of commission for some time. He’s ok now, luckily.
Pep Boys is Good
I called Felipe at Alexandria VW to see if he had any idea about what was going on with Juju Jr. He said that it could be corroded spark plug wires, so with that confirmation of what I was thinking, I checked the wires and sure enough, they were all corroded.
I don’t know why they would be corroded after only 6 months, but maybe it was from driving through the Maritimes and getting battered with rain and sea water spray in St. John’s, NL.
Lucky I brought tools. Next time, I’ll bring a torque wrench and a few other things, just in case.
With the spark plug wires in place, I fired up Juju Jr. and thankfully, he ran smoothly and had regained all the power he lost…Plus, no more clacking noise. Yay!
Lunch at Trader Joe’s
We got some food before the next leg of our trip, which was to get to Arizona. Yes, we do love Trader Joe’s, by the way.
Cool scenery and Arizona!
It was like watching all those cowboy movies and shows about the desert. So cool to see in person. And very cool that Juju Jr. drove smoothly and without any noise. Totally awesome job, Juju Jr.
And finally, we got to Arizona! We’re so close to the Grand Canyon now!
We wanted to try out the stove one last time before buying a camping stove. We pulled into a Flying J and quickly found out the leak is real. Willie, the attendant, didn’t charge us for the gallon of propane once he saw that there was a leak. Very cool of him.
But we had to wait for the propane to leak out, so we hung out in the Flying J’s lounge area. These truck stops are amazing places.
With the one gallon of propane slowly leaking out, Dong Eun realized that she could cook and make use of the gas we had, instead of just waiting for it to all leak out. So she made an awesome brown rice with seafood and kale dinner for us.
Tomorrow, we will try to get to the Grand Canyon and spend a day or two there. It’s supposed to be about -5C at night but we can’t wait to see the sunrise and sunset.