States visited: 49!

visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800

Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Monday 24th & Tuesday 25th, 2009

Monday comes around too quickly! Unfortunately, Mondays do not go well around here, it's hard to readjust to school and it's journal day - I'm determined that eventually they will accept that it's not going to change, so I am persevering, but it is a little bit of challenge!

We did make cookies in the afternoon, a super easy peanut butter cookie recipe: 1c peanut butter, 1c sugar, 1tsp vanilla, 1 egg. Bake for 8-10 minutes on 350. Caitlin made them and was very happy at the results, they were well received by everyone, I didn't say they were healthy!

Despite the cooler temps and a breezy day, the younger two wanted to go in the pool, they said it was warm. Nathan continues to swim at great distance each day, it's not a pretty sight, in fact one lady almost jumped in to save him. I reassured her that although it appears as though he is about to drown, he really doesn't want to be assisted and, in fact, will not drown!

We had a great fire. We have been very lucky in the past few weeks, collecting wood from vacated sites, we've only had to buy one lot of wood the whole trip so far. The kids think it's great fun on a Monday to look around and see which sites have wood left. The employees here actually came over at lunchtime, after they'd seen the kids on their wood-collecting mission, to let them know where there was more! Unfortunately, we'll have to burn it all before Thursday as we can't take wood over the border into Canada.

Today went very well on the school front. We were able to 'do gym' today in a couple of different ways. We went out on a peddle boat around the small lake, saw a very cute turtle sitting on the rock, which we stopped to gaze at before it fell in the water and swam off. There were loads of fish, we think they're extremely 'people friendly' as they swarmed to wherever we were, no doubt expecting some kind of edible treat - we had nothing!

Later in the afternoon, we took the Woodland Trail onto the Deep Woods Trail, which circles the campground. We were very glad that we'd applied OFF mosquito spray before entering the trail, it was particularly buggy! It was a great trail though, lots of insects, tree discussions, uprooted trees: science at its best. It took us close to an hour to wander through, stopping to investigate things, and get back to our site.

The pool was closed for some reason today, as a consequence, the campground was offering a free pass to the indoor spa pool at the Casino Resort: too good an opportunity to pass up. The campground also has a bus that runs constantly, on request, between resort and campground. We called it and it gave us door to door service, picking us up directly from our site: impressive!

The pool was warm, we enjoyed it, although the kids were unimpressed at the rules of no diving or jumping - what, no jumping in the pool, the deep end was 5ft?! We wandered around the casino before waiting in line for the buffet. This was, without question, the highlight of the day for Jake, he loves a buffet, he checked out what was on offer before putting anything on his plate! When he finally came to the table, he gave us a full rundown on every dessert available, so funny!

We spent time afterwards, admiring the fountains and explaining 'gambling' to Jake. He was struggling to understand why people would waste their money, although the penny slots did look like fun. The shuttle arrived as soon as we called and we arrived back in the dark, shame we had to put the kids to bed after all that sugar!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sunday August 23rd: Fort Stanwix

Mid-morning we went to Rome, NY, only 15 minutes away, to visit another National Park: Fort Stanwix. We collected Junior Ranger booklets for the kids and went into the fort to attend the canon display. We listened to a brief summary of the importance of the location of Fort Stanwix, it was a major thoroughfare for the waterways, originally built by the British but then abandoned and taken over by the Americans. The British returned and attacked the fort in an attempt to reclaim it, a battle that lasted from August 3rd - August 23rd, 1777. So, coincidentally, we had come to the fort on the anniversary of the end of the battle. This also meant that the makeshift USA flag, that was created at the time, was flying during our visit. It was a red, white & blue, 13 striped, flag: the kids drew it as part of their program.

The canon going off was incredibly loud, we all jumped, despite having been prepped to cover our ears!

The Fort was completely rebuilt a few years ago, funded by the National Park Service and local communities. There are many old artifacts on display and within the rebuilt fort, an old fireplace that is part of the original building. It was very interesting.

Of course, Jake thought the afternoon was amazing, he's always enthralled by all the historical battles. We watched a short movie detailing the aftermath of the battle, the Americans were waiting for another onslaught from the British that never came and were kind of stuck in the fort as if it was their prison.

They all completed the requirements for their badge and were sworn in once again as Junior Rangers.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saturday August 22nd: Verona, NY

Left the campground just after 8:30am, it's really so much less stressful packing up the night before and then getting up early to finish off, while the kids are either still asleep or barely awake. We certainly could've done without the rain last night and this mrongin though, traveling with everything wet isn't too great and the musty smell on arrival in the camper is none too pleasant either!

We have been having breakfast in the truck and everything's been working well. Today, we made it to the campground: Turning Stone Resort in NY around 2:30, with only one stop and one movie! The journey started with a German lesson as well so I managed to throw some education in on a Saturday - not bad!

This campground has oodles of good reports, deservedly so. The sites are all paved pull-thru's with large grassy area in front. Everything is extremely clean and organized. The roads are all paved: very unusual for a campground, usually they're more like dirt tracks! We made it to the heated pool before 5pm, cycled over - what a lovely family group, we must've looked such a pleasant sight, hunched over handlebars in our swimsuits with towels draped around our necks!

Showers are huge and again, CLEAN! Usually I am a shower snob and don't venture into campground showers unless necessary, after all, I have a perfectly adequate and clean shower at my disposal in the camper but these are worth the trip, LOL! It was very nice to have a hot shower that I didn't have to turn off half way through to conserve heat, have space to move around without bumping my elbows - you know, this probably makes very mundane reading, apologies, but we have that huge beautiful shower at home and, well, we miss it!

Already have a second load of laundry in the dryer - what a wonderful addition to the camper that is! I'm sure this trip wouldn't be nearly as easy without the washer/dryer - we're going to be struggling when we don't have full hook-ups! Talk about spoiled...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday August 21st

Great day today, just the weather to put a dampener on things.

Becca had her 2nd 'Light Unit' test for reading - as we are still going over stuff she learnt in Kindergarten, she was able to work through this easily. It is by far her preference to work independently, so she actually likes to do tests, as she can do them by herself and I don't have to 'teach' her anything. She then whizzed through her math and read me a book with assistance, not necessarily willingly but she did it! She then worked online through a couple of websites recommended by her science book.

Jake and Caitlin both had math self-checks, they're finishing up their 1st 'light unit' and will have the end test next week. The light units take around 3.5 weeks to complete for their grade levels, there are 10 for the year. I am happy that we are nearing the end of the first one, kind of gives them (and me!) a sense of accomplishment that we're doing OK and have made it this far: 1/10th down, 9 to go!

They are a couple of lessons behind in the reading as we started the math in July to get a feel for it before we got on the road, however they'll probably get to that test at the end of next week. It is a huge struggle for Jake but he is doing it, I'm impressed, it is challenging, we often have to look up words in the glossary and dictionary as I'm unable to give him a good explanation. His story today was taken directly from the bible: King James Version: lots of haths and thous, tough reading for me and I knew the story!

We are working through an English English text book for Language Arts and one of the final assignments for the 1st chapter was to work with a partner to create a little 'play'. They are obviously working on different grades so I let them chose whether to do Caitlin's or Jake's. They chose Caitlin's because one of them needed to be an alien and they were both excited to see Jake be an alien! They did well, collaborated together, planned it, gave good info; Dave recorded it so if the sound came out well, I'll post it on here at some point (you know, along with the pictures that I keep promising, LOL!).

So a relatively calm morning of school, finally a day without tears!

Then, the thunderstorms rolled in, Jake's friend came in to play, we skype'd with the Kuo's - the kids were so excited to see Evan and Dana and the rains came down, it poured and poured!

Mid afternoon, we headed to the library in Randolph. It was my intention to get to a library each week but I am realizing this is an unrealistic goal as there is just too much going on. We stayed for well over 2 hours, I read a LOT of books to Becca and Nate, Becca also looked through many on her own while Nate was enthralled by a huge container of stickle bricks. Jake and Caitlin each read an entire chapter book in the comfy seating area - it was a good afternoon, everyone was happy!

Now we're packing up and getting ready to head to Verona, NY in the morning.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday August 20th: out and about in Vermont

After a morning of school and work, we drove north towards Waterbury to take the factory tour around Ben & Jerry's ice cream facility. It is well worth a visit, we were surprised at the number of people there on a Thursday afternoon but were able to get a ticket for the tour pretty quickly. We watched a short show on how the Ben & Jerry's brand came to be, followed by a look down into the factory from the mezzanine. The end of the tour finished in the 'sampling' room, we all received a scoop of their flavor of the day: delicious minty chocolate.

We ate a late lunch in their courtyard before heading over to the play area and 'flavor graveyard'. The graveyard is so funny, lots of headstones with memories of flavors no longer with us, quite amusing.

Dave and I were looking forward to seeing Smuggler's Notch in the summer. We have a timeshare there and go every year to ski in February. We really never thought that we'd get there in the summer and see it 'green', so this was a surprising opportunity as it was really not too far from Waterbury. We drove through Stowe and were able to go over the pass - this is closed for about 6 months over the extended winter period. It was a beautiful drive, we did make a stop near the top for photos.

As we came towards the resort, we stopped in at the Madonna/Sterling lift area. It was so quiet, compared to the winter activity we're used to, I guess it's not used too much in the summer, other than by some very keen mountain bikers, the lifts weren't running so that would be a serious trek up the mountain! We parked the truck directly in front of the cafe area where the ski racks usually are and wandered around, pointing out to the kids where they skiied last year, where Jake's race was etc. It was kind of eerie and quite bizarre seeing the slopes covered in wild flowers, so hard to imagine that when the entire area is white in February!

....pause here as I head to bed, more tomorrow....
....well, just jumping back on while I have a few minutes this morning - finding time to do anything is tough at the moment, yesterday was busy anyway, plus we had to grocery shopping on the way home, put that away, get kids to bed, then I had to mark all their work from the morning and plan their lessons for today, hence too tired to finish this last night!...

We stopped by our apartment and we totally surprised to see that there's a road going across the mountain from our complex to one on the other side of the ski run, absolutely never would've realized! Also coming down the mountain is a wonderfully winding path from the top, what a great hiking trail.

Down in the main complex, camp activities were coming to a close for the day. It was fun to see the Smugg's entertainers in their summer wear. Dave took a photo of us in our usual spot at the bottom of the mountain so we can have a comparison. Nate was excited to find a playground at the base, that we'd failed to ever notice before. I'm so happy that we managed to fit this visit into our schedule, we'd seriously consider coming back again one year in the summer.

From Smuggs, we drove back over the pass to Stowe. As I mentioned earlier in the week, we watched The Sound of Music to acquaint the kids with the story of the Von Trappe Family. After they escaped Austria for Switzerland, they toured around the world, singing. The movie is loosely based on their real life, although there were actually 9 children. They ended up settling in Vermont and built a property in the mountains as they felt it reminded them of their native Austria. There is a beautiful lodge, still owned and operated by the family and it really is reminiscent of Austria. Dave and I could've sat and gazed at the view for far longer than the kids allowed. Becca: "but what are we going to DO?!" LOL, she is a girl who likes to be occupied and know what's coming next!

We wandered around the grounds of the lodge, so well-kept. There is a little garden where some of the family members are buried, including Georg (the Captain) and Maria. Despite the kids moving at great speeds, it was peaceful!

The lodge is huge and quite posh (dictionary definition: smart, stylish; high class - because Rebecca asked!), certainly not your Holiday Inn type of establishment! It was a toss-up between staying to eat there or grabbing a pizza. I checked the menu, the food was way too appealing, so staying won the toss! The food was very good. Dave had Austrian sausages, he probably hadn't had proper Austrian sausages since the last time we were actually in Austria (I lived and worked in Wolfsberg, Austria for a year and LOVED it, we went back often before the kids were born, hopefully we'll return again soon). Before we left, I did check to see how much a family suite would be to accommodate 6 of us: $450/night, I think I managed to keep my 'how much?' face in check - we are way too conditioned to the camping way of life at the moment - that's at least 10 nights stay at a campground, LOL!

Stopped at a grocery store on the way home, hard to believe how much milk, bread, cereal and fruit we actually go through on a daily basis! Nate crashed as soon as he got in the car, arriving back at the campsite and transferring him was not a pleasant experience, poor child, it was a long day for him.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wednesday August 19th: Saint Gaudens National Historical Site

After lunch today, I took the children to the only National Park in New Hampshire, just over the state border. Saint Gaudens was a famous American sculptor, it was an interesting afternoon. We really learnt quite a lot as the Junior Ranger program was reasonably challenging and took us all around the property. Nathan's favorite parts were the tadpoles in the pond, the frog, which jumped over his foot and the water falling over the rocks: "waterfalls, waterfalls!" along the ravine trail. Unfortunately, there weren't too many questions on those things.

We learnt about cameos, reliefs, circle sculptures and the coin Saint Gaudens designed at the beginning of the 1900's. We spoke with the artist-in-residence and saw the progression of a sculpture from sketch to finished piece. He gave us a large lump of clay to bring home and create with - needless to say, there was great excitement at that, I'm sure there will be 4 amazing masterpieces in the camper by the end of the week.

It took almost 3 hours but we finished! Once again, they raised their right hand and were pledged in as Junior Rangers. Some programs have cloth patches, others just have a pinaable badge - this one had a patch with one of SG's most famous sculptures, it's really nice. We've told the kids that we'll purchase National Park patches if their JR programs don't have one. I'd love to see their blankets covered with National Park pictures.

Tomorrow we plan to sample Ben & Jerry's at their factory tour, as you mentioned Steve & Sharon, we can't be up here and not go for a visit, that'd just be rude, LOL!

Tonight's meal was pie-irons/mountain pies. Whenever we use these, someone always asks what they are. We got hooked when camping with some Outbacker friends and use them often. Our favorite fillings: cheese, mushrooms, ham, eggs, tomatoes and for dessert: nutella and banana - imagine a grilled cheese cooked in the fire, SO good!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tuesday August 18th: The Sound of Music

Well, I’m about caught up on the journal side of the blog, pictures will take a while to add. I typed a lot of this yesterday morning, sitting outside watching the sun come up through the mist rolling over the lake, before anyone else was up. It was a great way to start the day (I am discounting the fact that some critter had feasted on our trash during the night so the contents were strewn all over the mats, not a wonderful sight at 7am!). Now, I’ll just transfer to the blog, had to do it in word as the satellite internet wasn’t happy about the trees on Sunday and wouldn’t play the game, Dave sorted it out though, of course!

We may go to the Van Trappe’s house later in the week so I wanted the kids to watch The Sound of Music before we went. I had totally forgotten how long the movie is, there was an intermission – on the DVD! Nate fell asleep 2 hours in but the other 3 were hooked, when I suggested pausing it to finish later, my suggestion was met with a chorus of NO’s! They really enjoyed it and it prompted more discussion about the war and the location of Austria and Switzerland – out came my trusty blow-up globe and world map placemat, courtesy of the Dollar Store! Small and light but useful is what it’s all about this year!

Monday August 17th: floating bridge

One of the local sights is the floating bridge near Brookstone. We are trying to incorporate some different things to see as we go along, not always sticking with the ‘tourist’ traps. The floating bridge was interesting, more slightly submerged, than floating, to the point where we could actually see fish swimming on top of the bridge! It was possible to walk on either side but the middle section was definitely underwater. It is no longer passable by car, only on foot. There were quite a few kids jumping off it into the river but we decided to return to the campground for our water immersion today.

The weather has been extremely hot the last couple of days and doing anything, other than swimming, takes major effort. We’ve been keeping up with our local Philly news and they’re in the midst of a heatwave so we shouldn’t complain, it’s been high 80’s here and that’s more than enough!

Sunday August 16th: RELAX!

We had a relaxing day today, swimming out to the platform in the lake (getting sunburnt in my case, my pale skin does not do well in the midday sun!). Nathan’s swimming ability has really come along and he was able to make it one way without any help, took a lot of effort but he was insistent that we not hold him. I’m so impressed at how quickly he’s gone from ‘floaty’ to swimming – good job it broke otherwise he’d still be using it!

It actually felt as though we were on vacation: swimming, playing, relaxing. Dave’s taking a day off here and there to join us when we do things he really shouldn’t miss but for the most part, he’s working during the week. I try to make sure we do school as early as possible each morning for about 3 hours – mostly we’re finished more quickly and can do fun (educational) games or reading, leaving us time in the afternoon for trips, art and music. I finally feel as though we’re getting to grips with school and the complaints are lessening, although journal writing is still a huge stumbling block for them. I am finding this frustrating as the journaling part of the trip is SO important. I am eager to find time to document our travels, apparently my enthusiasm is not shared!

Caitlin is excited to be learning the recorder and has just about mastered ‘hot cross buns’, Becca and Nate really just use theirs as screeching devices, I’m certainly hoping that will improve – as I’m sure do any unfortunate families who happen to be camping by us and enjoying some peace and quiet during our music lesson! Jake continues to play his clarinet, thankfully that is a far more pleasant sound. It is fun for me to be playing the recorder again though.

Saturday August 15th: from ME to VT

The week in Maine went by far too quickly. It would have been easy to spend at least another week there and still have plenty left to do, there really was so much more to see and do in Acadia. This will probably be the first of many places we’ll see this year that we’d like to return to.

Thankfully the journey to Vermont was uneventful and reasonably traffic-free. We left at 8:30 and arrived at Lake Champagne’s campground around 5pm. On arriving, Jake said: “Wow, we’re here already, that was quick!” Amazing how your perspective changes when you’re on the road every week for a day’s driving. Arriving ‘early’ meant being able to go swimming in the lake before bed, so smiles abounded.

Friday August 14th: Lobsters!

Mount Desert Island and the extended Acadia NP system has a free shuttle bus, sponsored by L.L.Bean, which covers the majority of routes. It significantly cuts down on traffic congestion and pollution and is an easy way to get around, eliminating the need for parking space searches. We took the ‘Island Explorer’ into Bar Harbor after lunch, the bus left directly from our campground. We spent some time wandering around the town: very touristy, but pretty, before going down to the harbor.

We had tickets for the Lulu Lobster boat at 3:30. Captain John narrated a tour across to Egg Rock where we were able to see the lighthouse, bald eagles, lots of different types of seagulls, harbor seals and their pups and grey seals gliding in and out of the water: awesome. On the ride back, we stopped to pull up one of his lobster pots. He’d caught 3 and held one up and explained its claws, anatomy, life cycle etc. It was very interesting, he was impressed that Jake knew a couple of answers. He brought the lobster around to show where it was vulnerable to attack by other lobsters, he asked Caitlin if she wanted to feel it: clearly and absolutely NOT! Of course, the others all did.

We brainstormed the next day about everything they could remember from the 2 hour trip and it was a lot! We were impressed at their recall of things we’d already forgotten, amazing what they can learn from a ‘hands on’ trip.

Thursday August 13th: a full day in Acadia National Park

We made it into Acadia before 10am to ensure we could meet Max (and his rider, Arthur). Max is the only ‘Ranger horse’ in Acadia National Park and was actually trained in Chestnut Hill, PA. It was an informative ½ hour ranger program, which really kept the kids’ interest, they asked a lot of questions and were able to stroke him afterwards. Nathan was just as excited to sit in the ranger car belonging to Arthur’s partner.

The previous day all the children had finished their Junior Ranger booklets, they just needed the 2nd ranger program, so we headed up the 52 (a sign informed you of this!) steps to the Visitor Center to receive their badges. A ranger asked them a number of questions prior to completing their certificates. She got some good answers and some blank looks (I’m not quite sure that Nathan totally understands the idea of the JR program!). They passed! This was the first time they were given ranger hats to wear for the ‘ceremony’, they held up their right hands and pledged to keep Acadia and all NPs clean and safe for the future, then received their patches – better get sewing those blankets!

Jake was eager to see the pelegrins, unfortunately the babies had apparently fledged earlier than in previous years and left the nest a couple of weeks prior, so the program was no longer running.

Instead we made our way on the one-way loop to Thunder Hole for a couple of hours of rock climbing. This area was so much fun, the rocks were a good challenge for Jake but mostly do-able for the others, we had a great time. The Dzwonczyk’s met us and the kids were thrilled to climb together. They, as a collective, decided they would climb all the way over to Sand Beach – perfect, apart from the fact that the cars were at Thunder Hole car park with all the beach stuff and lunch! Realizing logic (ie: perhaps better to get cars and drive to beach ie: turn around and return on rocks to car…..) was not going to prevail – parents were outnumbered 4 to 7 – Cindy and I returned to get the cars while the rest of the crew headed to the beach.

Sand Beach is a lot bigger than Echo Lake Beach but, true to all that we’d read, the water was chilly! Of course, undeterred by this, most of the children still ventured in, crazy souls! We spent an enjoyable afternoon, chatting and playing. We quickly learnt that eating under a towel was the best option, after Caitlin’s sandwich was rudely swiped from her hand by a passing seagull! Apparently seagulls have sharp beaks, her finger paid testament to this, poor Caitlin!

At dinnertime, we drove over to the Jordon Pond House on the off chance that they had an available table. This is a very popular location to eat as you overlook the North and South Bubbles – two mountains, the South one with a rock on top that appears to be balanced precariously, ready to fall off at any moment. However, it’s always been there and though many have tried to push it off (the entire local football team went up a couple of years ago apparently!), it remains in its postition, through all attempts and weathers.

We were interested to try ‘popovers’, the thing to eat at Jordon Pond. No-one had described them to us exactly but evidently, that’s what they’re famous for. When they were served, Dave and I immediately said: ‘yorkshire puddings’! Yes, essentially, they’re oversized Yorkshires, hot from the oven, served with butter and jam: delicious! We ate outside, surrounded by the beauty of Acadia, it was perfect.

Dave realized the time was getting close to sunset, so rather than head back to the campground, he headed up Cadillac Mountain, where we got out to watch the sun set over the water from our high vantage point. It really was a wonderful sight, a perfect end to a long, but fun, day.

Wednesday August 12th: Acadia National Park

We had hoped to go out on the Lobster boat today, alas they had no openings for the times we were looking for so we postponed that idea until the end of the week. Instead, we opted for a drive into the Park to complete one of the Junior Ranger requirements by attending a ranger program entitled: French Connection. The majority of National Parks offer a Junior Ranger program for the children. This is a great, educational booklet they must complete, usually requiring them to also attend a couple of ranger-led programs during their visit to the Park. They have already completed two others: one at Valley Forge and the other at Assateague. As we go, I am sewing their patches onto blankets, we’re hoping they’ll be quite full by the end of the year.

Before leaving the Park, we took a tour around the loop road to get a better feel for Acadia. It truly is beautiful. I can honestly say that by the end of the week, we felt as though we’d barely touched the surface of the many things to do here and opportunities to explore, hike and bike. We finished our loop by driving to the top of Cadillac Mountain and walking the small trail at the top. Most days in the year, this is the first place you can see the sun come up on the Eastern side of the US – not something we experienced during our stay you’ll be surprised to hear!

Dinner at the Log Cabin meant Dave and Jake got their seafood fix of lobster, shrimp and mussels.

Tuesday August 11th: Echo Lake, Acadia

The Dzwonczyk’s are on vacation this week, coincidentally in Maine. We arranged to meet them for the afternoon at Echo Lake Beach in Acadia National Park. Of the two swimming beaches, this one is smaller and less crowded, but warmer. Before heading in, we purchased our Annual Pass for the National Park Service for $80 – this will be a great deal for us. This week would have cost $20 to head in and out each day, when you consider how many parks we plan to visit in the coming year, we will certainly get our money’s worth.

Echo Lake was beautiful. The kids had a wonderful time with their friends, we’re so lucky to be seeing people on the journey, especially at the beginning, as we adjust to changing locations every few days. It was a very pleasant afternoon for Dave and I as well, with the children happily occupied, we were able to relax a bit. This trip is definitely not a relaxing vacation, without question, a working, ‘we are on’ type of journey!

We went back to the campsite for dinner and the Dz’s came over in the evening to relax by the fire and enjoy some s’mores. Unfortunately the kids thought hide and seek in the dark was a great idea, so it was actually a little less relaxing than we’d pictured. Having speedy little ones running around in the dark wasn’t really what we’d had in mind!

Hadley's Point Campground

The campground was certainly designed around the concept of ‘let’s pack them in’, demand for campsites is high in this area during the summer months and maximizing use of space equals $$! We were very lucky to be there an entire week so had one of their premium sites with W,E&S (water, electric, sewer) towards the bottom end of the campground. We had enough space for playing room between the neighboring site, beyond our awning – apparently we have yet to experience the ‘car park’ campgrounds where your awning meets the next camper – something we’d like to continue to avoid!

After a morning of school, we headed to the pool. We are managing to get into somewhat of a routine with school now. Getting going reasonably quickly after breakfast seems to be the key. Jake definitely works best being given his day’s requirements up front. He’ll sit for a large chunk of time and ‘get it done’, Caitlin needs breaks, as does Becca. We’re still on a learning curve but it’s improving.

The pool has a diving board and isn’t too busy. Although toys aren’t really allowed, they played with the dive rings and had fun positioning BB, the gnome, on the diving board. They are all such water-babies that the problem always lies with getting them out, rather than encouraging them in!

It was so wonderful just gazing up at the moon and stars each evening. Dave went down to the local beach to take some photos of the moon, playing with the different modes on the camera, some of the shots came out pretty well. It’s tough to really describe what an amazing view we have of the sky, it’s certainly not a hardship sitting outside each evening, glass in hand!

Sunday August 10th: George's Pond

The Beyer’s own a vacation property by George’s Pond in Franklin, Maine. We learnt that a lake is fed by streams and rivers but a pond is spring-fed. I’m just inserting this because when we think of a pond, it is not the 1 mile across body of water that greeted us! Jim and his family have been coming up to this pond since they were little. We actually spent the day at his sister’s property, as their property is on the other side of the pond and was rented this week (they had stayed there last week).

It was a wonderfully, relaxing afternoon/evening. Jake was thrilled to be seeing Jeff. They spent a lot of time in the water, the highlights being: being pulled together in a tube behind the boat and heading out to the small island at speed and jumping off the diving board on the rocks. Caitlin and Dave also got to ride in the tube, this was a little more successful for Dave than Caitlin – having a 230lb Daddy laying on top of her wasn’t terribly comfortable apparently, hard to believe…

Before the sun set, Dave was able to take out the jet ski. You could tell he’d been itching to do that all afternoon, so he was full of smiles when he came back. Sitting by the edge of the pond and watching the sun go down over the water was beautiful. It’s really not hard to imagine why they come back here each summer.

Saturday August 9th: from RI to ME

The drive up to Maine was as equally frustrating as the drive to Rhode Island: lots of traffic and few alternative routes. We did try to get off the freeway and admired some beautiful little towns but I’m really not sure it got us anywhere faster, good change of scenery though!

We left RI at 9:45am and finally arrived at our campground: Hadley’s Point near Bar Harbor, on Mount Desert Island in Maine at 7pm. It was another long day of traveling but the kids did wonderfully. Driving towards the campground as we slowly got closer to Acadia National Park was a real treat, coming across the bridge onto the island gave us some beautiful views of the setting sun over the water. This was just a little taster of what was to come.

Friday August 7th: Rhode Island

On our last day at the campground, we took a bike ride over to the main entrance to see the bunnies and horses. This involved a few steep hills over stony ground and was a little daunting for our less confident riders. Dave took Jake up some steeper paths to teach him correct mountain biking stance, this was one of Jake’s favorite gym lessons of the week! Caitlin’s favorite ‘gym’ this week was jump rope; we need to keep practicing for the younger ones but each day they’re getting better.

We finished off our first week away with enormous ice creams from the local farm shop….and then wondered why we had four kids bouncing off the walls for the next couple of hours, unable to sleep, while we tried to pack!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mystic Seaport, CT (Wednesday, August 5th)

Mystic Seaport was just over an hour away from our campground, in Connecticut. We left Dave working at the campground and headed out. Once again, I was thanking the wonder of the GPS, it has totally opened up my world! I'm not sure we would've arrived in the same amount of time and stress-free if we'd had to rely on my map reading skills whilst driving!

It was a hot day and many of the things to do and see were outside so it was a little exhausting. The Seaport is full of great information, Jake was especially interested in everything. There are a number of child-oriented activities as well as plenty to hold an adult's interest.

We started off learning knots and playing some early 19th century games. We watched an entertaining play about whaling at the end of the 1800's, Jake was chosen to go on stage as a 'green hand', Caitlin was up briefly as 'rain' during the storm. The rest of us had to be content with being 'wind', mmmm!

As we went around, we saw enormous anchors, figureheads, tall ships, whaling boats. The map spot was fun, they created their own maps, Jake also played a US states game. I am now able to really help with that, having spent the last few months planning this trip, I feel as though I know where all 50 states are (shame I can't say the same for counties in England!) - we did get a perfect score together.

This was Caitlin and Becca's favorite figurehead:
Jake then had the great idea of being a figurehead in the boating play area:

During the afternoon, all 4 became artists and painted boats on a proper canvas. Unfortunately the art shop did not take credit cards, didn't realize that before we started the process, I managed to put together $15 with change and tipping my purse upsdie down, still $5 short. The ATM was at the entrance, less than ideal.... Thankfully a wonderfully kind man gave us $5 to enable everyone to have a canvas, proof indeed that 'random acts of kindness' are alive and well.

The tall ship: Charles W. Morgan:

At the end of the day, they all had a great time with 19th century games: stilts, hoop catch, hoop/stick, prior to the games, they had wilted and were fully lacking in energy. Truly amazing what a little water and snack can do!

(Unfortunately blurry photos again due to camera setting incorrectly):


Managed a couple of fires our first week, S'mores are just an integral part of camping and serve as an easy dessert, loved by all! (Ours are usually with European chocolate, from Aldi or IKEA, as opposed to Hersheys - sorry, we just can't get on board with the US's love of Hersheys!).

Caitlin has brought a gnome along on our journey, given to her by her friend, Lara. Lara and the rest of her girl scout troop are following his, and Caitlin's, travels. Caitlin and I are posting his adventures on his blog: - we have affectionately named him: BB, he is going to have a fun year!

Set up

First time setting up with the satellite dishes, we had quite a bit of space so everything was rather spread out. Notice the large dish on the right, that's the one that connects us to the internet. Dave had to take an online course and exam to become certified in putting that up each time we move, it's quite a feat. The smaller one on the left is for Direct TV and keeps us connected to the TV world, I could manage without it but the boys need their football and Grand Prix.


Nate and Becca play together a LOT! He is her little shadow and she loves it - whatever she does, he does - sometimes good, sometimes not....

Nate is also hugely independent, comes with the 4th child territory I suppose. He wanders off, finds friends, chats away to himself and others, wears unusual outfits (his crocs AND Jake's!), loves wildlife and is afraid of very little.

I really need to upload all our pics for this trip onto a website, in the past we've always used winkflash, however I really don't like the way their picture books are put together, Shutterfly seems to have an easier process and I'd prefer to only upload them all to one site (and need to make picture books as we go along), so need to get organized with that and figure out how to share a link on here - I will, time is a factor!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday August 3rd: first day of school

Well, we got off to a bit of a rough start with the homeschooling. There were quite a lot of tears, none of them mine, although it was a close-run thing! It will take a few days/weeks to get into I'm sure. The organization is also a challenge, we are obviously quite limited on space and there's only one of me so I can't be helping them all at the same time. The older two hate to get anything wrong so won't attempt an answer if they're not sure, I'm really hoping this will get better, it has to! Becca just keeps saying: "I don't get homework in Kindergarten!" I'm not totally sure she's grasped that this is 1st grade and NOT homework, it's actually school - we've told her a number of times, that doesn't seem to matter though!

Anyway, we made it through, there is no choice so all of us will have to buckle down and make it work.

We headed over to visit some Outbacker friends, Steve & Lisa, in MA, but not before Dave drove over a buried firepit, totally bent up the driver's side running board and had to jack the truck up to get it out - Becca gazed at me with wide eyes and covered her ears when words, rarely heard, were emitted from Dave's mouth! I have never known them all so quiet, no-one said a word! (Dave later said: "Did I swear?" "Er, yes, just a little bit!"). We had a fun afternoon with them, always great when someone else cooks dinner. The kids loved their guinea pics and playing rock star with them on the wii.

Sunday August 2nd: Holiday Acres

We have a big site, plenty of room in front of us and the campground is not that busy. It's fairly quiet: exactly what we needed for our first week.

Dave took the kids down to explore the beach by the lake in the morning, I returned with them in the afternoon when it was somewhat overcast. During the afternoon, it began to rain, didn't deter the kids at all, they still swam and played. I watched from under the umbrella! Caitlin was drawing a picture for each letter of the alphabet, when she got to L, she drew a lily pad with a flower in the middle. She asked me, to ask her, what she'd drawn and then insisted I come and look at the lily pads with their beautiful flowers. We wandered over to the other side of the swim area and looked at all the lily pads, with closed flowers. I explained that some flowers only open in the morning or in the sunshine, she was so excited and called the other three over to look, exclaiming that this was a science lesson and homeschool had begun - love my Caitlin for her wonderful excitement.

Jake and Caitlin are also thrilled by the library of books that I've brought. They have read and read and read some more! In fact, I found myself saying on a number of occasions: "Put the book down, stop reading!" It seems a little strange, but honestly, the books need to make it through 8 weeks and they need to get outside and enjoy the fresh air!

We're OFF: Saturday August 1st

Well, only 25 hours later than planned.... we finally hit the road!

Lots of little things kind of hindered the process. Dave wanted to switch the hitch out on the truck as he'd heard of a few going wrong on other's Suburbans. While the truck was in the garage, he asked for it to be serviced as the A/C wasn't running well - of course, it was neither a quick, nor cheap, fix: $1,500 later, the A/C was working perfectly!

The new awning had a tear and didn't roll particularly well. Finally, after weeks of being promised a replacement, which never came through, Dave drove out to the dealer to collect one, so the awning didn't actually go on until Thursday night (thank you Jeff, tall friend that you are!).

So, what else... ah yes, our house is being rented! This was as much a surprise to us as it was to everyone else, LOL! Our lovely friends, Sam & JD and their three girls are making a sudden move back to PA. We had planned to meet up with them in MI over Labor Day w/e, instead, we'll probably arrive in MI around the same time that they leave, as they head down to PA. They asked what we were doing with the house, given that we'll be coming and going a couple of times, we had planned just to leave it empty, they needed somewhere to live in a good school district and our house fit the bill - it's hopefully going to be a win-win for both of us. The only downside was the need to tidy up the house a little more than we had intended. I think we did pretty well, created some space for them to move their stuff in, while still having to live around our stuff - there's going to be a lot of STUFF in the house! I'm sure they'll make it work, hope so!

Anyway, given that the final decision to rent our place wasn't made until Wednesday afternoon, leaving on Friday morning really was out of the question. Also, Dave had so much left to do in organizing the internet/computer/satellite/TV etc etc system that rushing to leave on Friday seemed silly. I called the campsite to let them know we'd be arriving a day later than planned.

The early Saturday morning leave didn't happen either.....

I called Krissy at 9:15am and requested she bring us breakfast! There aren't many friends who'll rush to do that, with a smile, but she and Mark arrived a few minutes later and fed a very hungry, grateful family - we'd told them we'd be leaving before breakfast, so the fact that breakfast didn't happen until almost 10 meant that we kept our word!

So, we left at 10am, suffered through three accidents, one which had us sitting in a motorway car park (people out of cars and wandering around the lanes - yes, it really was that 'stopped'!), and finally arrived at our campground in Rhode Island at 7pm - not a great start. It was such a relief to be able to RELAX and know that our journey had begun, I am SO happy!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The rest of July!

In an effort to get caught up and actually blog the trip, here's a quick synopsis of interesting happenings for the last month:

Well, we packed and cleaned, packed and sorted, packed and chucked stuff, you get the idea! It was a whirlwind of organization that really took a good few weeks. Dave spent many evenings in his 'man cave' (aka: the garage!) building and fixing for the camper.

The kids finished up their swim team meets, along with Relay Champs and Junior Champs. They had a great season. Caitlin's medley relay team came 5th out of all the U8's and Jake's relay team medalled either 2nd or 3rd in the medley, free and mixed - he was thrilled! Both also came first in one of their heats at Juniors, lots of ribbons. Becca continued to smile her way through every race, she made us all smile, her happiness was contagious.

In amongst the packing and planning, we really missed our friends, Jen organized a Bon Voyage party at the pool, lots of friends came out to say Goodbye, despite the weather, which really was appalling! Kids did all jump happily in the pool when the rain came down, poor Jamie sat on the lifeguard stand, wrapped in a towel, desperately listening for thunder, which did come. Amazing how many people can squash together under a pavillion and an umbrella.....

My scrapbooking group, bible study group and wonderful friend also made us cakes - what a treat! So we probably all gained a few pounds, oh well, more than worth it"!

Becca and Caitlin went 'Sweet n Sassy' at Maddie's 6th birthday party, they could not have been more excited by their groovy fake hair extensions in shades of pink. They wore them all week at S'more camp at Fairview Village Church - it made them very easy to spot, in amongst the 350 other kids! They looked great up on stage on Sunday morning singing some of the songs they learnt during the week.

I have lots of pics to add, maybe tomorrow, today was a busy day and I need to get caught up, so that's the synopsis!