Friday, December 18, 2015

Memory Check

We’ve had a series of recent mental lapses. First there was the sudden fear that we didn't make any reservations to stay anywhere in St. Augustine, Florida so there was a last minute KOA reservation. It was only the next day, after a phone call, that we realized we were expected at an awesome camping spot at Anastasia State Park that we had made reservations for long ago, unfortunately we had already paid for our entire stay at the much more expensive KOA. Then there was the decision to put out a small fortune on the trolley tour of St. Augustine on our last of 3 days in St. Augustine, only to realize that our trolley tickets were good for 3 days.

So with this trend of mental lapses, We thought it would be a good time to quickly go over where we’ve been, just in case we forget (as was the case when talking with my friend John on the phone the other day when trying to tell him where all we had been).

So here goes, and this list is subject to change. We plan to continue updating it, and add more information to this list. Some highlights have been added, and more will be added...

This is the the list so far. I plan on this being something of an ongoing post which we will be updating with each new stop. We will also be adding in more highlights for our stops. For now I wanted to get this out before I have another mental lapse and forget that I wrote this blog post.

  • August 28, 2015 left Seattle and drove up to Riverside RV Resort near Whistler/Blackcomb ski resort in British Columbia.

  • Aug 31 -- Quatse River RV park, near Port Hardy, British Columbia

    • We had an amazing side trip to Telegraph Cove where we saw a juvenile bear wandering though town and went on an incredible whale watching trip.

  • Sept 3 -- Prince Rupert RV park in Prince Rupert, British Columbia

  • Sept 4 -- Rainy Creek RV Park in Stewart, British Columbia

    • On the drive up here we encountered numerous bears on the road including at least one mamma grizzly with cubs.

  • Sept 6 -- Camp Runamuck RV Park in Hyder, Alaska

  • Sept 7 -- Shady Rest RV park in Houston, British Columbia

    • I think we were mistaken on what this was after driving miles down a very rough dirt road barely wide enough for the camper that eventually ended at a trail head.

  • Sept 9 -- Whistler’s campground at Jasper National Park, Alberta

  • Sept 13 -- Wapiti campground at Jasper, Alberta

  • Sept 17 -- Tunnel Mountain campground at Banff, Alberta

  • Sept 22 -- Townsite campground at Waterton, Alberta

    • Here is where we got to meet up with Andrew's boss from the UW who was on vacation in the same area with his wife.

  • Sept 23 -- Stayed with Danny in Bozeman, Montana

  • Sept 27 -- Yellowstone River RV park in Billings, Montana

  • Sept 28 -- Comfort Suites, Rapid City, South Dakota

  • Sept 30 -- Elk Mountain Campground, Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

  • Oct 1 -- Blue Mounds State Park, Minnesota

  • Oct 2 -- Great River Bluffs State Park (on the Mississippi River), Minnesota

  • Oct 3 -- Wells State Park (on the west side of Lake Michigan), Michigan

    • On our drive here, we made an accidental stop that happened to be the turn off for Lambeau Field

  • Oct 5 -- Aloha State Park, Michigan

  • Oct 6 -- Platte River Campground, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, Michigan

  • Oct 9 -- Lakeport State Park (southwest end of Lake Huron), Michigan

    • Most every RV in this packed state park was completely decked out for Halloween

  • Oct 10 -- Great Wolf Lodge, Niagara Falls, Ontario

  • Oct 12 -- Swan Bay Resort and Marina, Alexandria Bay, New York

  • Oct 13 -- Montreal South KOA, Montreal, Quebec

  • Oct 16 -- Quebec City KOA, Quebec City, Quebec

    • Thank you Clem for your wonderful hospitality and incredible wines!

  • Oct 20 -- Courtyard Motel, Bangor, Maine

    • A motel chosen by the desire to be near the Ford dealership for the 8am servicing appointment

  • Oct 21 -- Bass Harbor Campground, Bass Harbor, Maine

  • Oct 24 -- Recompense Shore Campground at Wolfe’s Neck Farm, Freeport, Maine

  • Oct 26 -- Winter Island RV Park, Salem, Massachusetts 

  • Oct 30 -- Atlantic Oaks Campground, Cape Code, Massachusetts

  • Nov 2 -- Hilton Garden Inn, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

    • This is another mental lapse; we put the wrong campground into the GPS and ended up at a member only campground. It was late, and we were desperate.

  • Nov 3 -- Gettysburg Campground, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania 

  • Nov 10 -- Delaware Seashore State Park, Delaware

  • Nov 12 -- The Thompson's, Chesapeake, Virginia

  • Nov 29 -- Cades Cove Campground, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee

  • Nov 30 -- Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg KOA, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

  • Dec 2 -- Asheville West KOA, Candler, North Carolina

  • Dec 3 -- Sophia & Yuki's, Nashville, Tennessee 

  • Dec 6 -- Bowling Green KOA, Bowling Green, Kentucky

  • Dec 7 -- Cartersville/Cassville-White KOA, Cartersville, Georgia

  • Dec 8 -- Mockingbird Hill Farm, Sparta, Georgia (Harvest Host)
    • Thank you for your wonderful hospitatlity Martha, we really enjoyed our stay!

  • Dec 9 -- Savannah South KOA, Richmond Hill, Georgia

  • Dec 13 -- St. Augustine Beach KOA, St. Augustine, Florida

  • Dec 16 -- Titusville/Kennedy Space Center KOA, Titusville, Florida

  • Dec 19 -- Camp Wilderness, Disneyworld, Orlando, Florida (stop number 50!)

  • Jan 2 -- Hayden & Stephanie's, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Jan 6 -- Boyd's Campground, Key West, Florida (technically it was Stock Island, but I'm calling it Key West)
  • Jan 13 -- Pine Island KOA, Pine Island, Florida
  • Jan 15 -- Perry KOA, Perry, Florida

  • Jan 22 -- Shreveport KOA/ Bossier City KOA, Shreveport, Louisiana

  • Jan 23 -- Jon & Monica Waters, Richardson, Texas
  • Jan 27 -- Chaz & Lori Rutledge, Locust Grove, Texas
  • Feb 2 -- Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
  • Feb 3 -- Taos Valley RV Park, Ranchos de Taos New Mexico
  • Feb 8 -- Cabin, Idlewild, New Mexico
  • Feb 17 -- Last Resort RV Park, Pagosa Springs, Colorado
    • Friendly people, but one very muddy campground. We almost got the camper permently stuck in the mud upon arrival. The next morning the mud was frozen enough for us to leave.
  • Feb 18 -- Holiday Inn, Durango, Colorado

  • Feb 21 -- Peaks Resort and Spa, Mountain Village, Colorado
    • We wanted to ski Telluride, and the town and area isn't exactly RV friendly so we had to up our game.
  • Feb 25 -- Grand Junction KOA, Grand Junction, Colorado
  • Mar 1 -- Steamboat Springs KOA, Steamboat Springs, Colorado
    • We lost our step stool here. The entire campground was buried in snow which would melt during the day and freeze solid the next night. To get our folding table unfrozen on the day we were leaving I had to run and extension cord out to the table with two space heaters going. The step stool was too far frozen in the ice for us to ever hope to remove it, so there it remains.
  • Mar 4 -- Rock Springs / Green River KOA, Rock Springs, Colorado

  • Mar 5 -- Salt Lake City KOA, Salt Lake City, Utah

  • Mar 10 -- The Lodge at Snowbird, Snowbird, Utah
    • This is where my brother Alex came down to join us. We couldn't fit him in the camper with us, so we had to step up our game a bit.
  • Mar 13 -- Winnemucca KOA, Winnemucca, Nevada
  • Mar 14 -- Rye Patch State Recreation Area, Lovelock, Nevada
    • A great state park that we happened upon in the middle of Nevada. There was only one other person at the state park when we got there and a bunch of agressive turkeys in the middle of mating season.

  • Mar 15 -- Squaw Valley Ski Resort, California
    • This was a highlight in that it was one of the few ski resorts that allows you to stay overnight in your RV.
  • Mar 18 -- Mount Shasta City KOA, Mount Shasta, California
  • Mar 20 -- La Pine State Park, La Pine, Oregon
    • This was actually quite a gem of a state park. Tons of hiking, great camp sites along the Deschutes River, and for those who don't care for a tent and don't have an RV they have numerous cabins for rent.

  • Mar 30 -- Redmond/Central Oregon KOA, Culver, Oregon
  • Mar 31 -- Tom & Lisa Quinlivan, Bend Oregon
    • Thank you so much Tom & Lisa for letting us stay, yet again, in your driveway!
  • April 3 -- Cloverdale / Healdsburg KOA, Cloverdale, California
    • I think this was one of Kathy's favorite KOA, it was situated near the Russian River in the Alexander Valley where every other bit of space was used for vineyards. It was beautiful, far from the highway, and at night we were serinaded to sleep by the frogs.
  • April 7 -- Big Sur Campground and Cabins, Big Sur, California
    • Great location, but we were only able to stay one night, and it was REALLY expensive, but they had hot water.

  • April 8 -- Lake Isabella / Kern River KOA, Weldon, California
  • April 13 -- Sams Town KOA, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • April 17 -- Louie & Diane's winter residence, Palm Desert, California
  • April 22 -- Phil & Sanya's house, Gilbert, Arizona
  • April 30 -- Kingman KOA, Kingman, Arizona

  • May 2 -- San Diego KOA, Chula Vista, California
  • May 6 -- Don and Doris Krock's, Camarillo, California
  • May 10 -- Maggie and John Zimmerman's, Los Angeles, California
  • May 15 -- Yosemite West / Mariposa KOA, Midpines, California
  • May 20 -- San Francisco North / Petaluma KOA, Petaluma, California
  • May 23 -- MacKerricher State Park, California
  • May 25 -- Crecent City / Redwoods KOA, Crescent City, CA
  • May 26 -- Oregon Dunes KOA, North Bend, OR
  • May 26 -- Walport / Newport KOA, Waldport, OR
  • May 31 -- McMenamins Edgefeild Inn, Troutdale, OR
  • June 1 -- Home, Seattle, WA

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Balance On The Road

Since we left Virginia we had a wonderful visit through the Great Smokey Mountains and Nashville and then made our way through Atlanta, visiting the Georgia Aquarium and then on to Savannah, Georgia where we enjoyed lots of sun and started to feel some warm weather. Today we arrived in St. Augustine, Florida and although it is warm, it is currently raining. Our journey that started about three and half months ago has taken us as far North as Alaska and now we travel South through Florida. Before we took off for this trip my life was consumed with getting ready for the trip. Now here we are on the trip and I am filling my time with exploring, seeing new towns, being present with my family and finding balance in my life, while on the road and also trying to figure out how I will bring it back to real life as well. 


I have touched on this in other posts, but it is also something that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. The question of How To Stay Balanced On the Road?  – I’m not just talking about holding a yoga pose in our tiny camper space, although that is tricky. What I am referring to is balancing your real life with your traveler life. Some of the struggles that I face on the road come in various forms, one that I deal with 3+ times a day is what to eat. I try hard to eat healthy and cook healthy meals for my family, but we also want to explore and see new places and try new things. When we are in a new town, like Savannah – where we just left, of course I wanted to try Shrimp and Grits, Fried Green Tomatoes and Georgia Pecan Pie. On the flip side, I don’t want to eat so much that I can’t fit into the one pair of jeans I brought. This is a challenge because for most people on vacation, you are able to splurge a little because it is just a week or 2 week vacation, and you can get right back on track when you get home. For us, this is a nine month vacation, but if we splurged for nine months – I might look pregnant by the time I get home. So, we have to learn some balance. Some of my tricks have been to only have one big meal a day – that way we can splurge a little, but not every meal. The other day, I knew I needed to get my pecan pie craving out of my head, so I ordered a salad for lunch and pecan pie for desert. And then a light simple dinner back at the campground. This isn’t always the case but we try to keep it simple most the time. Another trick is to try and buy locally, we stayed at a Harvest Host farm in Georgia, where our host grows organic vegetables ( and focuses on sustainable living and art. It was a beautiful farm, we were able to get up early and walk around the farm and surrounding woods and the girls helped feed the chickens and the goats. From the farm we purchased some sweet potatoes – which made a lovely addition to our dinner a few nights ago, I used a new camper tool the girls convinced me to buy back in Delaware - a mini spiralizer – I wasn’t sure I would use it but I spiralized the sweet potatoes and have made some other yummy dinners with it – the most favorite was pad thai with zucchini noodles. 


The other struggle is getting enough movement in on our daily routine, especially on our driving days. I have recently joined a virtual challenge with some friends from my boot camp class back home, where we are “Streaking” until New Year’s Day – the challenge is to do at least 15 minutes of exercise each day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. So far I have only missed one day when we were driving towards Tennessee and I chose to do my work out after the drive instead of before and then it was pouring rain when we got in and a glass of wine was a lot more enticing than my 15 minute workout. But now I have learned to get it done early, I have also found a few workouts– mostly strength training that I can actually do in the camper – so rain and weather are no excuse. We also try and walk each day, maybe for 20 minutes, maybe for a few hours, depending on where we are. I have found that running in the areas we are camping can be difficult. Around our last rural area, on the farm, our host mentioned that there may be a pack of wild dogs to be careful of, which deterred me from venturing out in to the woods too far – considering our only means of protection is bear spray. Also, a lot of the KOA’s we have been staying near are close to highways and I have found that running on the side of a road with no shoulder is scary and not the way I want to enjoy my run. Running around the campground is also a bit strange (but I have done it), for the most part I prefer to hang by my site and do my cardio workout from my iPhone, I still get strange looks, but at least the other patrons don’t  think I’m being chased by something. I will continue to seek out places to get my run in, I was able to run while in Nashville through Sophia & Yuki’s safe neighborhood and now that we are in St. Augustine, our camp ground is close to the beach where we can run and I found a yoga class which is also a short walk away. I also am planning on signing up for a half marathon (with my friend Amber) when I get back in June, so I will do my best to train or plan to run very slowly. 

The other challenge that comes up a lot is finding enough personal (and couple) time alone. When living in such a small space with your family of four, you realize how much you value your alone time. Showering, walking to the campground bathroom and even doing laundry – alone – is now a treat! Limited personal time or space can also lead to rattled nerves and lost tempers (me more than Andrew) but this is also something I am working on. Each morning I do my best to carve out some personal time for myself – starting with 15 minutes of meditation. Headphones on, world out. Then I move on to my 15 minutes of workout and then sit down with my tea.  I have to schedule these pockets of time in the morning before the rest of the family gets up, so even if Andrew says, as he often does, “We need to get an early start tomorrow” I know, I have to give myself an extra 30 minutes for my “me” time before we are loading up and moving on. Couple time on the other hand is few and far between, luckily our kids are older so we can leave them on their own and take a walk or let them go play on their own, but our last date night just the two of us was over a month ago when we sat in a hotel bar and had a drink while the girls watched a movie in the hotel room we were staying in Bangor, ME. As we head towards DisneyWorld and a DisneyCruise – both adventures with our extended families, we will likely find more alone time while the kids enjoy cousin and grandparent time. 

I know this isn't the usual fun trip recap, but it is something that has been on my mind lately and getting it out is helpful for me.  I would also love to hear suggestions and feedback from others on the road (or not) – feel free to comment with any tricks on healthy eating, creative ways to get your exercise or ideas on how to fit in date night in the camper – all are welcome! 

Overall, we are making it work. It has been three and half months and we have a pretty good routine down. We still have kinks to work out along the way and new challenges pop up each day but in the end we figure out how to deal with whatever comes our way. We will do our best to stay balanced and try to remember these skills when we return home so we can bring back some of the simplicity and presence from the road into our real life. In the end the main goal of the trip is to connect as a family and see as much of this country as we can, right now I think we are meeting our goals and having a great time while we do. 


Monday, December 7, 2015

Thank you Sophia and Yuki!

I had to post a big thank you to Sophia and Yuki for hosting us during our visit to Nashville. We all had an incredible time, and we’ve found another city we will need to visit again.

First a little bit about the city. Prior to this trip Nashville is a city that I really didn’t think anything of other than the place where they make all the country music, and it is that, but a lot more. With our two days we spent our first day touring a bit of the city with our guide/pro-photographer Sophia. Sophia took us around the city for some family photos starting at the Ellington Agricultural Center then on to the Parthenon

A little bit of Greece in Tennessee

Our tour with Sophia finished up with Lunch at Jack’s Barbecue.

Lunch at Jack's BBQ

From Jack’s we ventured on without our guide on a tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame. This place was amazing, the coolest part was the car from Smokey and the Bandit

My dream car
but aside from that it was the ability to record your own track to a song of your choice (not all country), mix the track, come up with an album cover, and then you can listen to it online (here is Nadia’s renditions of Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"). From the Country Music Hall of Fame we wandered over to Tootsies Orchid Lounge, The #1 Honky Tonk Bar in the World, and it’s all ages until 7pm. The place was packed at 4pm on a Friday and the first floor had a bit of a feel of a college town bar late on a Friday night. We went up one floor and there were 3 guys with their guitars taking turns playing whatever the crowd requested. The only spot to sit was right up in front next to the musicians. Siena had her Taylor Swift shirt on which attracted the attention of one of the musicians, Donny Lee. He challenged the others to cover a Taylor Swift song, and one of the guys took up the challenge, but with the condition that Siena and Nadia come help him sing. To the cheers of the bar, and two pushy parents Siena and Nadia went up on the stage and joined in singing “Mean”. 

After Siena and Nadia’s world premier on the stage at Tootsies, Sophia picked us up and took us to dinner at Monell’s at the Manor. This place was a flashback to Sunday supper at my grandparents house when I was little. All the tables are 10+ people so our group of 6 was joined by 4 others. Then they serve you a giant southern feast of coleslaw, greens, cornbread casserole, beans, mashed potatoes, cucumbers vinegar salad, fried chicken, fried catfish, ribs, etc..

The next day we set off to experience the Grand Ole Opry, something we found out you don’t want to do on a Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I figured the place would be a nice old performing hall, what I didn’t expect was the giant mall and resort that blows away most anything I’ve seen in Las Vegas. 

Nadia and me in Opry Land
After our tour of the Grand Ole Opry resort we enjoyed our last dinner/supper in Nashville, an amazing pot roast prepared for us by Sophia. Thank you Sophia and Yuki for hosting us, and showing us your wonderful city. We hope we get to come back again soon!

Thank you Sophia, Yuki, Jojo and Ollie!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Wet Tennessee

I am sitting in the "upstairs" of our camper (our bed) writing this blog post on a very rainy Tuesday from our campground at the KOA in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Outside it's pouring down rain, it's our third day of rain since we left Chesapeake, Virginia. It's times like this when Kathy and I agree that a larger RV would really be nice. With only 2-1/2 feet by 8 feet of floor space things get tight for 4 people when you have no where else to go.

A wet welcoming to Tennessee
 Yet despite the wet weather, we've enjoyed the past few days. Our first stay was at the Cades Cove campground in the middle of Great Smokey Mountains National Park. We arrived at the campground late on Sunday night with the rain coming down hard outside. The drive up to Cades Cove is a long windy road narrow mountain road. The sort of road that is used in BMW and Audi commercials that looks like so much fun to drive (if it's not dark, rainy, and you are actually in a new sporty BMW or Audi and not in a Ford F350 with a camper in your truck bed). Although the campground was mostly open, the ranger station was closed and the camp store was closing the day after we arrived. That night we debated heading what ever direction necessary to get to dry weather. One of the advantages of having your home completely mobile and having no immediate plans; one of the advantages we hadn't yet used.
Our rig was a tight fit on the road up to Cades Cove
The next morning the weather was nicer, so we decided to explore the 11 mile loop road of Cades Cove. The loop took us the better part of the afternoon and gave us the opportunity to explore over 300 years of Tennessee mountain settlements, along with getting to see numerous Thanksgiving survivor turkeys (hunting isn't permitted in National Parks) and white tale deer that were fearless (even of our truck and camper). We had planned to complete the loop and head to the Southern end of the park in North Carolina, but our tour had taken too long so instead we opted to move to a less privative campground in Pigeon Forge.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park family pic!
John Oliver's cabin in Cades Cove

Fearless wildlife in Cades Cove
The town of Pigeon Forge is home to Dollywood, along with countless other tourist attractions. Luckily Dollywood was closed today, our one day we had to explore the amusement park, otherwise we would have spent a large sum of money to spend a day at this park in the pouring rain (and even with the rain we still would have love(d) every moment). Instead we opted to visit Wonder Works and have lunch next door at the Hard Rock Cafe. We had no idea what to expect at Wonder Works (we actually originally thought it was a hotel), but we were blown away, we all had a lot of fun. It was kind of like a very interactive science museum combined with an arcade (which is covered with your admission price).
Siena takes a nap at Wonder Works
Not sure about this place we are about to visit
Astronaut Nadia at Wonder Works

Siena on the 4 level high ropes course at Wonder Works
As for lunch, it had been years since Kathy or I had been in a Hard Rock Cafe, and as we came to the door there was a sign saying that they would be closing at 2pm (we arrived at 1:10 pm). Lunch was good, but as we were eating a band was setting up and getting ready for the upcoming private party. The band turned out to be The Temptations (yes, those Temptations)! Although there is only one of the original members left, we could see they still had all the moves as they warmed up with this tune.

The Temptations warming up
So yes it's a wet rainy miserable night, but so far we've had a pretty incredible time in Tennessee, and honestly the weather kind of reminds us of home. And to all my doubter Seattle friends, I have to tell you Pigeon Forge and Dollywood are a family fun wonderland on a scale I have never seen anywhere in the western USA. If your are adventurous and open minded, it's totally worth a family vacation!

Monday, November 23, 2015

So Many Things To Be Thankful For

This year I have so many things to be thankful for. First of all I am so very thankful that my sister Debbie and her husband Mike have opened their home, garage, side yard and more to us for a little over 2 weeks. After our stay in Gettysburg, we headed to the Delaware shore. The beaches were beautiful but the towns were pretty much closed for the season and after two nights at the beach, the weather was starting to turn so we decided to head to Debbie & Mike’s a little early. 

We are so very thankful to be in the comfort of a real home. We have been on the road now for almost 3 months and this was perfect timing for us to regroup and reorganize the camper.  We have been able to spread out, box up uneeded items to send home, clean all our clothes, sheets and the camper inside and out. Not to mention sleeping in our own rooms and having a bathroom to use that is literally bigger than our entire camper.  We are also happy to be in a spot where we can get trusted recommendations to get the truck fixed, get our hair cut, fill prescriptions and get flu shots. The girls are also loving the stay here more than ever, not only do they get 24/7 time with their cousins, but they also get the feelings of home as well, running around all day outside with the kids in the neighborhood, visiting school to pick up the kids and even seeing Cousin Zach in his 1st grade performance. We have been treated to fresh baked cookies and crockpot meals, which are things we don't have in the camper. I have also been able to join Debbie to get my exercise in at the super fun Jazzersize in Chesapeake. Siena and I got to celebrate our birthdays here as well, which was wonderful to be able to share our special day with family and friends. My birthday treat was having an adults only, fancy dinner out in Norfolk at the delicious Todd Jurich's Bistro.

Birthday Dinner at Todd Jurich's Bistro

There is a lot to see and do in Virginia, but because we have been here a few times before, we haven’t felt the need to be out sightseeing everyday.  We have been able to visit with our Texas cousins Jennie Ruth and Sam who also live in Norfolk.  On the few days we have ventured out we have explored the Virginia Aquarium and the Virginia Zoo, we ran a 5k to help raise money for Prostate Cancer Research, we got to drive on the Virginia Beach Board Walk and see the Holiday Lights and we are planning to take a trip to visit Nauticus. But for the most part we have been enjoying the comforts of home, relaxing and catching up.

Girls at the Aquarium

Crazy animals at the zoo
Face paint for the kids after the Zero Prostate Cancer 5k Race 
Needless to say, we are so thankful for the hospitality of our family. And as I have mentioned in previous posts, we are super thankful for the opportunity to have this trip, it is a true blessing to be able to travel around the country and visit family and friends we don’t get to see often enough. As the holiday season approaches, this year will be very different for our family. We have prepared our kids that there will not be many presents to open and likely no real Christmas tree to decorate, but we are so very thankful that our both our families are planning to travel across country so that we can all celebrate together in sunny Florida. 

We are concerned we might be getting a little too comfortable here at Aunt Deb's house, so we will head back out next weekend, after Thanksgiving and watching the Cougs in the Apple Cup. I know we will likely have some tears and some struggles getting back into our tiny camper because we have been pretty spoiled over this visit. But we are also looking forward to more adventures, seeing new places, not knowing what the next day will bring us and heading South to some sunshine and warm weather. Life on the road can be challenging, but when we are able to mix in family, fun and comforts of home here and there, we are able to strike a nice balance that will keep us going on this crazy adventure for the months to come.

Holiday Lights on the Virginia Beach boardwalk 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Thank You

I apologize, I've been a bit slow in getting this blog post out. After 2 months in a camper, life here at my sister-in-laws house has been a little too comfortable making it easy to forget about responsibilities like thanking everyone who supported us in the Zero Prostate Cancer Run in Norfolk this last Saturday. Not only was this Kathy's birthday and chosen way to celebrate her birthday, this was also a race for an important cause. According to the web site (linked above) it appears they beat their goal of raising $50,000 toward the goal of ending prostate cancer. Please consider this a huge thank you to all of you who donated to the cause!!! And special thanks to the Thompsons who provided us a reason to come to Virginia!!!
The full running team!

Siena finishes the race

Cousin Micheli finishes the race

Nadia finishes the race

The race was fun and well organized with a great turn out. There was a short little kids dash, followed by the 5K run/walk. After the race they had quite a bit of food and (surprising for a 5K) beer. However, the beer was served out of plastic containers marked Urology of Virginia and looked very much like sample cups.
Enjoying my post race beer beer
As I was enjoying a beer from my sample cup, I walked over and briefly chatted with Tracy who was the Zero Prostate Cancer's Senior Director of Events. I told her my story about being diagnosed with prostate cancer a year ago, having surgery last March and the road trip I was on with my family that brought me to Virginia. Tracy told me about the Zero Prostate Cancer organization and told me that next summer there would be a Zero Prostate Cancer run in Portland, Oregon and that they were working on having a race in Seattle, Washington for 2017. Tracy encouraged me to stick around saying there would be a concert and gifts for survivors. A short while later, Nashville recording artist Jimmy Charles and his band played for the runners. The band completed its performance by playing the song Superman for all the prostate cancer survivors.
Up front with other survivors as Jimmy Charles sings
A little bit about the Zero Prostate Cancer organization: Their mission is to end prostate cancer. From their website:
ZERO is committed to advancing research through advocacy and direct contributions to research while offering financial assistance to patients, early detection, and education programs.
I was particularly interested in "...offering financial assistance to patients" part. I can tell you that without my medical insurance the cost of my surgery alone would have been over $60,000 (this doesn't include all the testing and treatment before and after the surgery). So again I say, I was lucky.
I would encourage anyone who is interested in helping or getting involved to check out the Zero Prostate Cancer organization and consider raising money or running in one of their future races.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

My Experience At Gettysburg

This is the closest I will come to posting a family pic at Gettysburg
We arrived in Gettysburg two days ago. Yesterday we explored the Gettysburg National Military Park. We took the driving audio tour. Today we visited the excellent park museum. Normally, while on this trip, when we visit some historical location, I have posted fun family photos. After two days, it’s clear that Gettysburg is not the appropriate place for this. How can you feel right about posting a family selfie in a place where nearly as many Americans lost their lives in a single battle (51,112) as in the entire Vietnam War (58,209). The whole place is a giant cemetery.
Some faces of men who lost their lives at the battle of Gettysburg from the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum
After spending a day travelling the battlefield and hearing the historical retelling of the battle and a day exploring the museum, I can only think of one other place that I have felt was darker: Birkenau. Mind you, Birkenau was a Nazi death camp where along with Auschwitz over 1.1 million people were put to death. However the feeling is the similar, this is a place where too many people died. Not a place for family selfies.

The town of Gettysburg is surrounded on three sides by the battlefields. As you travel the battlefields or even the town it is hard to go more than an 100 yards without viewing a memorial for fallen American soldiers. It is a hard place to introduce your children to history, especailly as the audio tour introduces you stories like the Wheatfield, an area the size of a couple football fields where thousands of men died. There were so many deaths that they said you could walk portions of the field without touching the ground. However, both the Union and Confederate armies retreated from this field for days leaving the wounded to fend for themselves. Even as a nearby farm’s pigs were unintentionally set loose from their pen, with the injured having to fend off the pigs as they fed on the dead and dying.

Despite the horrors of the battle that was fought here, I am glad I came. I learned more about the Civil War in the past two days than I could have possibly imagined. There was so much to take in, and my daughters really don't have any mental frame of reference to be able to begin to appreciate what happened here (actually I don't have any mental frame of refernce for this), so I'm not sure how much of this is sinking in now. I can just hope that later on, perhaps when my daughters are in highschool, they study the American Civil War and they will have the memories of this place to draw upon.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Help Us Become Calendar Models...

We only have one day left for voting, we are hoping to become Truck Camper Magazine Calendar Models, please click this link and vote for our Camper photos. 

Our photos are: #189, #400 & #401  

Here's one of them #401.... 

Thanks for your support! 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Siena's Pre-Birthday Post

Dear people reading this blog I'm sorry I have not written a post for a while but that just means I'll have more to tell you, like yesterday we stayed at a farm and they had llamas, alpacas, goats, and chickens.

Also my birthday is in two weeks :-)

I'm turning 12 :-D !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Any way Halloween was two days ago  and nadia and I got lots of candy so that was fun and today we are going to Gettysburg in and we'll be there for a while. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Learning about History and Exploring New England

We keep saying that we don't spend enough time in each location, but in reality we are spending a good bit of time in most states we visit and the regions in general. The most recent area we have been exploring is the beautiful New England area. After we left Canada we headed south into Maine, a state that neither Andrew or I have ever visited. We have been trying to keep our drives to at least 5 hours or less so our first stop was at a winery we found through our Harvest Host membership in Unity, ME. Younity Winery is a small, unique winery in the outskirts of Unity. Our host, Clem, was the friendliest host we have had so far. He gave us a tour of the vineyards, where they make the wine and we enjoyed tasting all the wines they had to offer. The 2 hour tour was a great way to finish our day of driving. The girls loved seeing how the wines were made and we loved hearing all about the process and how they came up with their creative labels and varieties. The girls ran around the fields, played with Clem's dog, picked apples and we camped under a tree in front of the winery. Harvest Host spots are a great option especially when so many campgrounds are closing for the season, and with such friendly hosts, it almost feels like we are staying with friends or family.
Low Tide in Bar Harbor

After Unity, we ended up staying one night in Bangor because we needed some work done on the truck. The "Oil Needs Changing" light came on and after a number of calls to Ford dealers in the area we got an early appointment in Bangor. We decided we weren't going to drive from Bass Harbor (over an hour and a half) to get the oil changed at 8am, so we stayed at hotel, ran some city errands: Halloween costumes, groceries, etc. And enjoyed a hotel with laundry and a nice bar in the lobby. When we got to the dealer, we were grateful they could change the oil with the camper on. The girls did their school work in the waiting room of the Ford dealer and after an hour or so, we were on our way. Next stop we headed down to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. This is a park that has been on my bucket list for awhile. Years ago, Andrew and I toyed with the idea of attending a photography trip in the park, we decided not to go, but ever since that I have had the idea of visiting this park in the fall to see the Fall Foliage. It did not disappoint. We explored Bar Harbor, walked out to Bar Island at low tide and had an amazing lobster lunch after. The town was pretty crowded because there was a cruise ship in town, so we made our way in around the town for a bit and then eventually retreated to our camp site in Bass Harbor, via the loop road of Acadia and Cadillac Mountain. The drive was breathtaking and the views from the mountain were spectacular. We lucked out with a sunny day and enjoyed driving through the park. The Bass Harbor Campground was small, quiet and charming. A little older than the recent KOA's we had been staying at, but our site was nestled in the woods and there were not many people near us, so it was perfect. The campground was also walking distance from the Bass Harbor Head Light house, so the next day we got to have a down day with a hike to the light house and just hanging out at the campground. The girls were able to paint pumpkins and we all just relaxed.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse
View from Cadillac Mountain 
The next day we did some more exploring in Acadia. After a visit to the Visitor's Center the girls and Andrew decided they were going to conquer the Precipice Trail. I was not quite sure about this trail. We hiked a little way up to the first ladder and while I knew I was physically able to hike the trail, I was fearful of the huge drop offs and cliff walls. If I had gone on the hike with them I would have been scared, anxious and freaking out the whole time - which inevitably would have worn off on Nadia and I likely would have ruined the hike for everyone with my anxiety. So, I let them go on with out me to enjoy the hike. Which they did. Instead, I hiked around the lower levels, found a nice, flat rock to sit out on and enjoy the views and then headed to my camper. Caught up with my mom on the phone and had some nice "me" time to read my book and relax. Not too bad. The nice thing about traveling in a truck camper is you always have your home with you, so I was perfectly comfortable. Besides being nervous about their return, especially when Andrew called me and I saw them from the side of a cliff. But they all returned safely and then we were on our way to see the rest of the park and enjoy the sunset.

After we left Acadia we headed to the coast and the small town of Freeport. We stayed in another adorable campground near Wolf's Neck Farm called Recompence Shore Campground. This was one of the only campgrounds open in the area. The staff at the campsite were super friendly and we loved visiting the farm and seeing all the animals. While staying at Wolf's Neck Campground we visited the town of Freeport and the epic, flagship LL Bean store. Even with our complaining of too much stuff, we still don't learn and we all picked up a few essentials at LL Bean. We also enjoyed one of our new Maine favorite treats, the Maple Latte. Don't knock it until you try it - it was AMAZING!

The girls in front of the Witch Dungeon Museum
We spent a few days in the Freeport area and then made our way into Massachusetts. At first when we were planning this trip, my thought would be that we would stay in Salem for Halloween. As reported earlier, we didn't necessarily plan perfectly and I had no real idea how busy Salem would be for Halloween, so a few weeks ago when we figured we should make a reservation, there was no space for us the weekend of Halloween. So we needed a new plan. I still wanted to see Salem and there was space up until Friday of Halloween week, we just couldn't camp the weekend of Halloween. Instead we decided to come for the week and made reservations for Halloween close by in Cape Cod. We have spent the past week here in Salem and took a day trip to Boston. After visiting Salem and reading online events for the area, I have decided its a good thing we are not going to be here on Halloween. Most of the festivities are targeted to adults and those interested in witchcraft. While in Salem we dove into the Witch Trials history, which is not surprising pretty depressing. The stories at the various museums we visited - the Salem Witch Museum and the Salem Witch Dungeon, both stressed how most people were wrongly accused and in the end it seemed to me that the girls that first accused the witches were young girls, probably pre-pubesent, that were looking for attention and got in over their heads with their stories. Both Andrew and I felt these museums were really dark and pretty depressing. But I was happy we were able to see it. Part of our time in Salem we also did a Hop-on-Hop off Trolley tour. The main reason we did the tour was because one of the stops was our camp ground at Winter Island which highlights Historic Fort Pickering Lighthouse and Salem Harbor. Not only did we get a ride to and from our campground we also got to hear all about the history of where we were staying and a tour of the city. I really enjoyed Chestnut Street which was basically the first planned housing development, where most of the wealthy people in Salem lived, including Nathaniel Hawthorne. The homes are beautiful.

One of the homes on Chestnut Street 
After a day in Salem, we decided we needed a day in Boston as well. Last year, Siena studied the Boston Tea Party in school so we were all excited to see where that happened and learn more about it in person. We took the train in and the first half of the day we toured the city on foot. We all really enjoyed the interactive Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum. It was fun for the girls to get to throw tea in the harbor and we loved the talking paintings. We all learned a lot about our American history. After the museum the rain set in and we decided to see the city by tour bus, again a Hop-on-Hop off bus, but at our time of day and due to the rain we stayed on the whole tour with our awesome guide Hollywood. We started the tour at 3pm so we were going right into Boston rush-hour traffic. We saw lots of great sites including: the outside of the Cheers bar, Make Way for Ducklings in Boston Commons, Paul Revere's house and learned lots about the history of the start of the American Revolution. Many of my photos are through a rain covered window, but we still enjoyed the tour, and it was pretty amazing to watch our driver navigate the traffic in a giant trolley.

Girls throwing tea into the harbor.

Entrance of the Cheers bar. 
We have one more day in Salem, and then tomorrow we will stop off in Plymouth, MA to learn about the pilgrims then we are on to Cape Cod for Halloween. We're planning on some safe and quiet trick-or-treating in Hyaniss and then after that it is on the Pennsylvania for some more history at Valley Forge and Gettysburg. More on that in another blog.