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!