Travel

Road Trip 2019 – Part 2

July 6th, 2019

Gettysburg, PA

The history is amazing. We walked miles of battlefields and historic sites and took the self-guided auto tour. It was HOT; there were hills; there were steps; and amazingly – there were NO complaints.

MRTB4M and J1 were in search of the “ghosts of Gettysburg”. J1 even had an “app” that would help them search. Yet, no ghosts found. We met up with a park ranger intern along the path and he reported he had visited Gettysburg for years, camped on the battlefield, and currently lived within the park boundaries – and had seen NO ghosts. “App” deleted as “bogus” (haha) and we continue on our way {we did all take a few looks back to make sure the intern really kept walking and didn’t just vanish!}

gettysburg

We had lunch in the camper and finished our tour then headed out. We pulled in Cracker Barrel for a later dinner – it was sunny and hot when we walked in. As we ordered and waited for our food – we watched the sky change and wind pick up. Then the rain came.

A night at Blue Rock Campground and lots of rain. It was dark and rainy when we rolled in. MrTB4M got the RV backed in between several other rigs and trees. The only glitch was a “dead” electric box; but, that was quickly fixed by an extension cord run from a new box just to the side of our camp. It rained ALL night…..everything outdoors was soaked by morning and we were not able to get any laundry done in the rain; but the rain was a good sound to sleep to.

July 7th , 2019

We are headed to New Jersey. Everyone is up and loaded and we are “unhooked”. Off we go!

First problem of the day, the RV drags getting down the campground hill – the noise was far worse than anything. But, a good reminder of the low trailer hitch off the back.

Another day of history – we spent the day touring sites related to the Revolutionary War and saw George Washington’s headquarters. All in Morristown, New Jersey.

Our goal is to make it to Connecticut. We were moving right along, not much traffic at all – and then our path is blocked by a New York police car. In a not so friendly tone he informs us we are not able to drive the RV on a “parkway” in the state of New York due to low overpasses. Great!! Now we have to re-route through a small suburb, the entire time watching for bridges/overpasses and defying Apple Maps – which was insistent on putting us back on the parkway. Finally – in what seemed like hours (but, was really only probably a few extra minutes) we were on an interstate and heading out of New York.

Now, by the time we make it to Connecticut it is 7:30 and we still haven’t eaten – we were so determined to get out of New York that we just DROVE. We try to stop for dinner, drag the bottom of the RV again, and decide that maybe pasta isn’t what we were to have for dinner. In the meantime, J2 messaged that he was home if we wanted to call – I promise a call as soon as everyone is fed and less grumpy……which was nearly 10pm by the time we were fed and parked.

Another night at Pilot. This time we are “prime”. Which really only means we have a spot that they can’t move us out of. MrTB4M backs in between two semi-truck/trailers and we get beds ready.

A quick call to J2 ( who is doing ok) right before bed. J7 delighted in telling his own version of “getting pulled over for driving wrong”; which MrTB4M had to clarify. Finally, the kids were so tired that we didn’t even have any arguments about bedtime.

July 8th, 2019

We are headed to PEZ – and we are sticking to interstate highways.

The factory was not in production the day we were there. But, there was plenty to see. You remember PEZ, right? The little rectangles of sugar that get dispensed through the head of a character of some sort. The factory masterminds have created interactive displays into their “store” and your museum admission includes a “credit” to shop. Then they give you a “game to play”. A scavenger hunt card which basically insures you see all the displays. Once that is completed – you get to “spin the wheel” for a free PEZ dispenser. So basically, you get $4 of PEZ for a $5 admission – not a bad return.

Continuing our journey we head into Rhode Island and find a spot in Ashaway, Rhode Island. We checked in early in the afternoon and set out for the kids to explore. Our site was directly across from the pool and rec room; and just up from the playground. This was PERFECT for the littles. There was shuffleboard; a playground; corn hole; mini golf; a pool and splash pad; and a “hayride” {or a tractor pulling a trailer around the park grounds with a bale of hay thrown on for good measure}.

Today we break out the grill and enjoy a nice meal and some s’mores made inside ice cream cones (waffle cones alternately filled with mini chocolate chips and marshmallows, then wrapped in foil and heated – delicious and less mess).

Some playtime in the pool; a few loads of laundry; a round of showers and everyone is ready to sit and relax. MrTB4M and I then head over to the hot tub – it was so nice to sit outside and enjoy decent weather, a beautiful sky, and a hot tub. After that we ran into some of the park workers (a couple that live at the campground from May – October in exchange for helping lock up and shut things off each night) – they were full of helpful information and recommended a campground for the following day. Normandy Farms Resort – they assured us the kids would have plenty to do.

 

July 9th, 2019

Off we go – a stop at the Roger Williams Zoo and then we are bound for Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts. J3 cannot wait!

The zoo was nice, but boy are we spoiled with the St. Louis Zoo and the fact that our zoo is free. Even with a discount for being a zoo member, we were in for over $110, just to go to a zoo. EVERYTHING adds up with a group of 9. We spent a solid two hours walking the zoo and looking at the animals.

Back to the camper for lunch and then back on the road. I call Normandy Farms and they have a spot for us. The day is looking better.

We roll into Normandy Farms somewhere around 3 pm, sign in, get escorted to our site, and we are off to Gillette Stadium. A quick detour to Target for some groceries and supplies and then we arrive. Gillette Stadium is massive – the parking areas are massive – I cannot imagine what this place is like on game day.

A few pictures and a trip to the Pro Store and we are good to go.

We get back to the campground and take a walk to get the lay of the land – the place is huge. We venture over to the soccer field and have a pick-up game with a couple of other kids. Once it was too dark to play soccer we hit the gaga ball pit {you should try it} I think we were there nearly an hour, and the kids would have stayed longer – but, MrTB4M and I were growing tired of the unsupervised kids that were a bit rude and obnoxious (and making their own rules to suit themselves).

July 10th, 2019

Acadia Bound – hoping for good roads, a decent campsite, and some time at Cadillac Mountain.

I find a campground and make reservations for the sunset trolley ride to the summit. Now we HAVE to make it on time.

The travel day is fairly uneventful and we pull into camp around 5:30, now we have to be at the trolley at 7 and the drive is at least 30 minutes. No one recommends driving an RV to downtown Bar Harbor, but we have no choice.

I make a call to Oli’s Trolley to ask where someone with an RV can park and we gather our nerves and head out. Now, we are 14 miles away, and an estimated 30 minutes – traffic is crazy. The last two blocks down main street were a bit crowded and stressful for MrTB4M (and the rest of us too). But, we made it to the RV parking without incident. A short half mile walk and we are on the harbor docks, we sign in for our ride and head down the block to board.

As the ride starts, we are REALLY glad that we didn’t try this on our own – the roads are TIGHT and crowded, the RV would have been difficult at best. Our driver narrated the whole trip giving a bit of history of the town, the park development, the lobster industry, and local “favorite foods” (lobster and blueberry pie). At the summit, we snap a few pictures, take a short trail to see other views and enjoy the scenery. We spend about 40 minutes at the top of Cadillac Mountain and then the trolley takes us back to downtown Bar Harbor.

oli

cadillac

The tales of the low tide sandbar out to an island are enticing…..but we aren’t waiting until 1am to participate. Oh, how we wish tide would have been a little earlier; just for the experience.

 

On the walk back to the RV we check out the menus of many restaurants in search of the illustrious lobster roll and blueberry pie. Downtown Bar Harbor is very upscale – and out of our league/comfort zone. Our tourist shorts and t-shirts were no match for the elegant establishments. Plan B – back to the campground. MrTB4M re-routes our trip to avoid some of the busy roads, of course turn one and we have a sign for low clearance – that puts us on edge the entire rest of the trip; and the route ends up taking much longer than anticipated.

 

We roll into timberland Acres to hook up just before 11pm. No one is tired and everyone is hungry as we have not had dinner (the granola bars and Cheez Its at the top of Cadillac Mountain apparently were not sufficient).

Dinner at 11:30 pm is definitely a throwback to life BK (before kids) when time wasn’t an issue and odd shifts were the norm.

 

July 11th, 2019

We make our own way to Acadia National Park and find a parking spot at the Hull’s Cove Visitor Center. Up to the visitor center we go (52 wooden steps ad platforms) to pay for our parking and get a map. Then back down the steps to hang our tag and wait for the Island Explorer (free park shuttle bus).

We take the shuttle to Thunder Hole – this is an area were the ocean rushes into a small rocky area and the natural design causes noise like thunder with each in-rush of water. The littles were amazed. We did a little more rock climbing and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the ocean; then indulged the kids in a trip to the gift store. Everyone found something and of course J2 gets some things too.

thunder hole

Its lunch time and we decide to make our way back to the RV and head out. Strategically we park at a bakery with a large parking lot (and the promise of dessert) and walk around the corner to Gateway Lunts Lobster Pound. We make the “executive” decision to get several different things to share so that everyone can try something new: lobster stew, clam chowder, scallops, shrimp, and lobster rolls. The lobster stew was amazing (and simple – just a creamy stock and chunks of lobster…..but, J8 could not get enough). The difference in quality of FRESH seafood is amazing.

We head back to the bakery (Sugar Bakery, Trenton, ME) to indulge and try some blueberry pie. First we notice a wire hanging under the camper – no idea what it is for but, obviously it snapped from something. Ugh! What else could possibly go wrong this trip? J1 and J3 take turns underneath trying to sort out the wire issue and finally we discover it originated under the entry stairs from an extra battery – we really have no idea what it is for and since everything is still working, we secure the wire to the plastic compartment and decide to continue until it becomes an issue or obvious what it was for.

Into the Sugar Bakery we go – beautifully decorated cupcakes and cakes abound (including an amazing replica of cookie monster). We again decide variety is best: blueberry pie; blueberry cheesecake; red velvet whoopee pie; and mint chocolate cupcake. 4 desserts, 9 people – and we can’t finish it all. The locals were right – the blueberry pie was delicious.

Next planned stop is Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream in Waterbury, Vermont. We now we will make a stop in New Hampshire, but we are planning to find something along our route. Little did we know, our route was all small country backroads (narrow, twists and turns) and the rain was starting. A couple hours in and we had lost cell service, which meant we lost maps:( Luckily, we happened across a sign for Littlefield Beaches Campground. We pulled in and hoped they had a spot. It is after 7pm, raining pretty steady, and already dark. We were able to get a spot and quickly made camp in the rain. Tonight would be nothing other than games and sleep – too wet/messy to do anything else.

MrTB4M and I were a bit unnerved for a couple of reasons – without cell service there was no way for J2 to get a hold of us if needed (we did manage to get a text out with the number for the campground just in case he needed to reach us) and our site was right next to a lake with the entire campground surrounded by numerous lakes – the constant rain made us worry slightly about flash flooding (Midwest spring flooding was so bad this year we were hyper aware).

July 12th, 2019

After a good night’s sleep we awake to find the lakes were actually farther away than they sounded and while it is still a very muddy mess, the weather is temporarily dry.

Rainy day through New Hampshire – the sky is overcast and the rain alternates between a heavy drizzle and an outright down pour. Finding something to do in New Hampshire is getting more difficult. First of all we are on all backroads; second, we still do not have cell service; third, the weather is preventing outdoor activities.

Finally, we stumble across Bethlehem, New Hampshire. Claim to fame is the highest elevation east of the Rockies. Who would have thought?

bethlehem2

We enjoy a nice lunch at Rek’lis Brewery after a stroll down Main Street.

reklis Food was good; staff was great.

Then we drive.

Adirondack Getaway Gansevoort, NY

Beautiful campground – and it was packed! We had a spot way in the back, but easily we were able to get around. The littles spent some time on the jump pad inflatable; the olders played a little basketball; and I got some laundry done.

Finally, we reach Waterbury, VT – home of Ben and Jerry’s.  A quick tour of the graveyard of flavors (flavors no longer made). AND then – decision time.  What to get?  Well, after much debate, we decide it is vacation – and we will only be here once…..so we indulge and get the Vermonster – a whopping 20 scoops + toppings+ cookies+brownies.

ben and jerry

What were we thinking?  There is no way to eat all this!  Everyone has their fill and we still have over half of it left.  We decide to put it in the freezer and see if we can bring it home for J2 (fast forward 3 days – it worked;)).

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Road Trip 2019

July 3rd, 2019

One RV, 7 kids, and rain showers as we head out for this year’s vacation. It is difficult to call it a “family” vacation this time – though that is what is was planned to be.

For the past week we had anxiously been waiting for J2 to get his schedule. {If you follow regularly you know, he got an internship through school for the summer. Well that meant he couldn’t request the time off.} We knew he would be off Thursday for the holiday and his normal days off are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. So, we had created a “work around” to missing vacation completely. We would leave at 3 am when he got home Wednesday night/Thursday morning and he would travel with us as far as Gettysburg, PA. Then Sunday afternoon, we would fly him back home from wherever we were at that point. But, about two weeks ago the “mandatory” overtime started and J2 had been warned the holiday weekend didn’t look good for him. So we waited. AND we decided if he was mandatory for Sunday, we could always figure out a flight home Saturday night. The whole time we knew our odds were against us, but we were really hopeful that we would get a few days.

Well, here it is, July 3rd. We are busily loading and organizing the RV. Trying not to be overly anxious. 3:59 pm on the dot; text from J2 “Mandatory Friday and Saturday. Have a good trip. I will make sure I can go next year”. Talk about a gut punch! Not only can he not go, he is apologizing for not going. I admit – it broke my heart. Vacation took on a whole new tone with the finality of J2 not going.

Our options now are letting the RV sit unused in our driveway or hitting the road.

7:30 pm we are on the road. I must say the light drizzle of rain and overcast sky really was fitting as we “left” J2 behind. About an hour in, MRTB4M looks at me and says “It just doesn’t seem right, does it?” NO!!!! This is another one of those parenting moments that rides the fine line between joy/pride and absolute heart wrenching sadness. Much like the day we dropped each of the older two at college. Awe and pride that they accomplished the admission process and were “growing up” and sadness that parts of our family life would be dramatically different. We both knew the time would come – but now that it is here…….we don’t like it at all!

We are incredibly proud of J2 securing an internship and willingly giving up any chance for fun this summer to “work” someplace that may be beneficial in job searching later. BUT, man oh man, as a parent it is hard to “leave” someone home and take everyone else on something designed to be “fun”!

Midnight – Brazil, Indiana

We slide into a spot at the Pilot to catch a little sleep before we continue on. Things are a little tight without the slides extended. But, for one short night it will work. Funny thing was, it was still a little empty without J2.

Thursday, July 4th

Happy Independence Day! What an amazing country we have and it is fitting that people are reminded to pause and be thankful for all those that sacrificed to make this the land of opportunity.

A quick breakfast and we are on the road. Still headed towards Gettysburg. No plans to arrive today. This trip we plan to stop driving by 3 pm every day. This will force us to have some down time and not be rushing to get camp set in the dark. Depending on traffic and travels issues, we should be somewhere near Wheeling, West Virginia by 3 pm; a few miles west or east of there is where we will stop today.

11:30am – Ohio welcome center

Bathroom break and picnic lunch. We even had plates and napkins designed with stars and stripes – the littles liked those (it is the littlest of things sometimes). Back on the road!

3:00 pm – Zanesville, Ohio

Wolfies Campground

wolfies

We secure a spot for the night. In no time flat, we have everything hooked up – only one small hiccup of a blown fuse and “camp” was set. Now was time to explore the campground – a short nature trail {path cut through the wooded area with trees and bushes forming an archway leading to a meadow}; a few friendly games of cornhole; a short time in the game room and an hour at the pool. We made our way back to our campsite and were having a nice dinner – with plans for a campfire and smore’s when a downpour started. J4 rushed out to move the chairs undercover. Luckily, by the time we were done eating, the rain had stopped. Of course, starting a fire in a firepit that is soaked is a bit tough…but J1 and J3 managed and before long we had a nice fire going.

We could hear fireworks all around, and the camp manager assured us we would not be able to see the show from the campground. But, J3 happened to catch a glimpse of sparkle in the sky – took a short recon walk and reported that if we walked up by the office we would be able to see fireworks. Sure enough – we could watch through the last row of tent sites, across the valley and see fireworks; then when we turned to head back, we could see another display over the trees behind us. We were lucky and went from the prospect of zero fireworks to actually two decent displays.

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July 5th, 2019

EVERYONE sleeps in. The first night I have gotten more than 5 hours sleep in a LOOONNGG time – boy did it feel good. A quick breakfast and we start unhooking. This is where things get “entertaining”. J3 goes to get something from the underneath storage compartments and comes back with one key in two pieces…..it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is NOT good!!!

broken key.jpg

I am confident these are universal keys and we should be able to replace it at an RV center (of course, there is not one convenient to our route today….but, I am sure this will work). MrTB4M is not so confident – maybe slightly overly anxious about the whole thing and mandates I call the rental company. To find out that we can buy a replacement at any RV dealer (J) or we can hire a locksmith. We stay on the road – surely we will avoid a locksmith fee.

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Gettysburg bound!

1700 – Harrisburg East Campground

east harrisburg.PNG

I check in, change our reservation from two nights to one; locate a pizza place within walking distance and off we go to site 401. This is perhaps the most LEVEL site we have had.

Hook up is a breeze. MrTB4M heads up to the office to ask about an RV dealer – comes back with 2 keyrings of “extras” – it is like a minute to win it game “which key works”. He WON – found a key that worked in the storage locks. Who would have thought!

Now this campground has a basket of apples set out by the rocking chairs and a basket of fresh veggies at the check in table – whatever they have extra in their garden – they share with the campers. Such a nice touch.

A short walk to the pizza place and our order is placed. A few beverages from the store next door and we head back to camp – J1 and J3 stay to bring the pizza when it is ready. Boulevard Pizza was wonderful (and I didn’t have to cook)!

We have plenty left for a snack tonight and lunch tomorrow and I still have plenty of resources to whip up breakfast and dinner without going to the store – we are in pretty good shape. Tomorrow the plan is all things Gettysburg, starting early!

A trip to the playground, a round of showers, littles dressed for tomorrow (saves me the battle of fully awakening in the morning) and we connect the cable and let them watch a little TV.

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20170629_21120150 States

We all know our great country is made of 50 states and we have all heard of people that have seen them all.  We WANT to be those people!  Years ago, we decided that our goal was to take the kids to all 50 states before they graduated (luckily we didn’t specify what they were graduating from😊).

So, began our travels.  Of course, at first there were only 2 Js when the idea began and traveling with 2 was fairly simple and could be really affordable.  Fast forward several years and with 8 Js, planning is more intense and costs are dramatically increased.  Our return on investment is high and I do embrace the challenge of planning an amazing trip on a budget.

At this point we have been to 38 states with plans in the works for 7 more the summer of 2019.  We are running down to the wire with the “graduation” deadline for J1.  But, he doesn’t hold this against us and promises he will come “back” for the trips (Ha).

Visiting 50 States to us meant more than “driving through”.  We committed that we would do some type of activity in each state.  There have been museums, amusement parks, scenic overlooks, hikes, and roadside attractions.  We have searched out common places, unique places, places recommended by locals, and even places we just accidently came across.

Three years ago, we embarked on a new type of travel and rented an RV.  A simple 29-foot Class C with no slides and headed to the Southwest.  We were novices.  Sure, we had camped in tents and even had a pop-up trailer for a while; but, this was something totally new.  There were a few glitches along the way – like not being able to disconnect the water hose at the first campground and discovering what wind feels like in the middle of nowhere when the speed limit is 80 (not for the motion sick at all).  However, there were some really great things along the way.

This first trip led us to Cadillac Ranch; White Sands National Park; Roswell New Mexico; Tombstone, Arizona; a stop in Phoenix for MrTB4M to actually work; a visit to the Grand Canyon; The Hoover Dam; and Las Vegas.  Now let me tell you this – to all those who complain about driving in traffic…..MrTB4M drove the RV straight down the Las Vegas strip without missing a beat.  Not only did he drive down the strip, he did it more than once!

RV life was good -we could cook when we wanted; kids could use the bathroom when they needed to; there was more room than the van.  Now the first time we stopped to “hook up” (the RV) it probably took an hour and I am pretty sure MrTB4M might have had a few choice words for us all, until finally we had it done.  Now the next morning when we were ready to leave was a whole new story – another 40 minutes to disconnect a few hoses and cords and be on our way.  By the end of the trip these set ups and break downs were 10 minutes tops and everyone old enough to help – did.  The ride home we thought we be smooth sailing – until the 2-year-old came down with a stomach bug.  MrTB4M drove and we all cleaned up puke for 14 hours☹ and crossed our fingers that no one else would get it.

We arrived back in STL and immediately we were ready to go again.  That is except for J3.  It was not something he enjoyed at all.  He swore he would never make another RV trip and we promised that he would.  Well in 2017 we won – and off we went again.  This time it was a 31-foot Class C with 2 slides.

This time we went to Wall Drug; Mount Rushmore; Devil’s Tower; Jewel Cave; The Battle of Little Bighorn; Glacier National Park; Craters of the Moon National Park; and Yellowstone.

The thing about this trip was we knew where we were going, and that was it!  We had no reservations and no real time line other than when we would be back.  The planner in me did not enjoy this aspect; and trying to make reservations in the middle of nowhere when you lose cell services is absolutely no fun.  But, somehow it all worked out and even J3 might have enjoyed himself.

If we had the chance to do this trip again, we would have added longer time at Glacier and Yellowstone.  We just couldn’t cover the areas we wanted to and missed large parts of each place.  Perhaps our biggest disappointment was that we never saw a bear.  We did see some amazing sites and the outdoor Mass at Glacier Park was magnificent.  Experiencing Mass in the outdoor amphitheater with the lake and mountains in the background was something we will never forget.

Of course, we also won’t forget that on July 1st we were hiking in shorts and t-shirts through snow that covered our shoes and near some paths the snow was packed several FEET deep; that there was ice in the caves at Craters of the Moon when the temperature outside was nearing 100 degrees; that the bison blocked our road through Yellowstone; or the history that spoke at the Battle of Little Bighorn Battlefield.

It is trips like these that really make us focus on being on FIRE so that they can happen more often.  We want the TIME to spend with the family doing things that make memories and bring us closer together.

While we work towards that, plans for our next big trip are in the works.  We have 7 states to visit in the northeast  and can’t wait to begin the adventure.

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