Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Visit the lower 48...CHECK!

Okay folks!  It's been a bit and we have been busy!  We have been through and camped in 23 states since 6 September 2017; we crossed nine of those in three days.  We have met people and met up with them a second time (only because we enjoyed their company so much), we have seen people that we would not have otherwise seen without this trip, and a few of those we haven't seen in nearly a decade.  We have finished our 94th park in the National Park system, camped all of the Great Lakes, had opportunities to serve people in amazing way, and also had some adventures that we will never forget.  I've tried to spare you with a billion pictures and got it down to less than a hundred; do you know how hard that was?  Let's get started...

We left the last blog entry in Michigan and we stayed there a bit longer and headed to Ohio.  We Visited Cuyahoga National Park and learned about how miles and miles of channels were dug by hand to float boats to/from the Great Lakes.  The kids ended up being photographed by the Rangers because of their badges and marked another National Park completed.   We also got free tickets to the Akron zoo and loved it.  It was great to go to another zoo and it was free!  We also went to the Cleveland Museum of Art and it proved to be a marvelous stop and we saw some amazing art.  We have really enjoying seeing so many local city museums and also local art in different places.  We have seen great collections from many famous artists. 

Many times we have Rangers who want pictures of the kids and their accomplishments.  

The kids saw some folks that needed a new flag so they took one of our and shared.  

We went to the museum in Clevland and happened to be there when they were doing a special event.  This was button making.  

This is my amazing family gazing at a Monet.  They have an amazing collection of art here.  Visiting different art museums has become a favorite thing to do on this trip.  

This was story telling night around the fire.

We also finished camping the 5 Great Lakes.  This was another checklist item for us and it is completed.  They are all unique and we learned great history about their importance in the Nation's history and trade and commerce.  We saw some beautiful sites and even more beautiful sunrises and sunsets. 

Looking out over one of the Lake Ontario.  We did them all!  

We did an experiment with a large praying mantis.

We also made a visit to Niagara Falls.  Now this was quite interesting because we all went to the Falls, and after a few minutes talked about how blessed we were to see this and places even more beautiful than this on this trip.  The Falls wasn't as glorious as we thought they would but we have many beautiful places to compare it to.  We really enjoyed some of the stories and the history from here. though.  We also crossed the border into Canada and spent a few hours there.  Nothing significant to report except that there was a portion of the city which has become extremely commercialized with haunted houses and mini-golf; it was kind of funny to see.  Anyway, we walked around and headed back...to find out that we had to pay to get back into our own country.  I though this was quite ridiculous but felt like going home and not being arrested so...$.50 per person went int  the turnstyle and we headed back to the US...quite disgruntled. 
The mighty mist of Niagara Falls.

Over the border of the United States and Canada. 

It was like a circus on the streets on the Niagara Falls Canada side. 

Yes, this is us getting change to enter our country....see the sign on the back wall?  $.50 per person...

...this is us paying to get back into our own country.  This is ridiculous.
We also went to the power plant near Niagara Falls.  This was the second hydro power plant that we have been to but it was quite different.  This one had an amazing interactive, FREE, points driven/competitive learning opportunity in it.  Did I say it was FREE?  We love that!  Anyway, we spent hours there and learned so much about the plant, power generation, and electricity as a whole and it's history.  We had a blast and met some great people there.  They took so much time to spend with the kids (and us) and taught us so much. 
Looking over the power plant at Niagara.  

These ladies loved the kids and taught tem so much about power.  

While in New York we met some great folks from all over the world and  even met another full-time family that had just started.  That is one of the greatest blessing of this trip; the people that the Lord puts before us to meet, share with , sometimes help, or just get to know.   We spent a few hours with them but they were headed out the next morning.  We made it a point to see them again and camped with them again in Maine.  Also while in New York, we went to the home where Theodore Roosevelt was inaugurated.  The only President not to be Inaugurated in the White House, he had a quaint Inauguration at a friend's home as to not interfere with President McKinley's wife's grieving process and a few other reasons.  Theodore Roosevelt proved to be quite an interesting and influential individual and we were right in the middle of his history.  We learned so much about him at the National Park and had another bonus.  On the way out, we met the world renowned impersonator of Roosevelt.  He travels all over the world and has been tot he White House a number of times and he was a great individual.  We had a blast talking to him as he was "in character" but also enjoyed his remarks and genuine interest in what our family is doing and has been doing serving and travelling.  We took a picture of him for our blog.  He took a picture of us for his blog, and we parted ways.  It was a great experience. 
This is the cool family we met who also full-times.  You will see more of them later in Maine.  

This was iconic.  Theodore Roosevelt stood right where that table is on the red carpet and was inaugurated. 
I walked out to find Theodore Roosevelt chatting with family!

This guy was great.  He is a world-renowned Roosevelt impersonator and a regular at the White House.  We chatted for some time and he was so interested in what we are doing.  It was a great blessing to had met him.  

Home of the original Buffalo Wing.   

Took a trip to a trampoline park.  They slept well that night.  Problem was that Zachary ended us with a concussion after hitting the basketball pole.

We loved New York.  Our campground was great, we met some really great people there and got to know them.  We hung out with them for the night and let some lanterns off and hung out around the fire.  They loved Zachary...actually, we ended up meeting the adults because they had conversation with him and wanted to tell us how polite he was.  That is where it all began. We also got to see the young ladies we met in South Dakota who are Deaf.  This was the main reason for coming up to Rochester was to see them.  It was Caleb's birthday and he wanted to invite them to breakfast so we got a hold of them and they met us.  Since our last meeting, we had learned much more sign language and also go tot go and see their college.  We had to say "bye" to one of them because she had to go to work but the other asked if we wanted to see her campus and we were ecstatic that she wanted to show us.  It was great to see the campus and we learned even more about the Deaf community.  We are very blessed to have met them and even more so to be able to see them again. 

So, Caleb has a blast for his birthday and we overdid his decorations but he loved it.  It has become "a thing" to decorate the camper for birthdays (it's quite easy in a small space) and this was his third in the camper.  He has a great day as we had breakfast with the girls, ate cake batter (instead of making a cake...at his request!) and watched a movie. 
Decorations for Caleb's 9th birthday.  Yes, it was gaudy...and he was happy!

Look who we went to see!  These are the two wonderful, young ladies that we met a few months ago.  We came to see them and invited them to breakfast.  Then we go to go and see their college.  

Lighting a few lanterns...and then the cops showed up!  It wasn't our idea...really!

Zachary got a gift from a new friend. 

Looks like trouble from this bunch!

Kamryn lost her first tooth!  Still as beautiful as can be. 
We left New York and headed south again.  We have now crossed Pennsylvania five times, more than any other state.  Anyway, we went back to see some friend that we made in the VERY beginning of this trip.  They actually gave a special date night over two years ago.  We wanted to come and see them and we had them over for dinner.  We chatted and caught up and hugged necks and will see them again when we are through that part of the country.  After we left them, we headed east and did a Wal Mart night.  This was quite an experience and I must digress to share a bit as to why.  When we started this trip, we only drove highways...the larger the better.  Since then, we stay away from those.  We get as far away from the highway as we can.  We are so much happier on two-lane roads, country roads, and back roads.  We see so much more!  So, back to the story...we headed down a County Road and it was just that.  Windy, somewhat maintained, and hilly.  We headed through places that hadn't seen an RV in forever.  Well, this led us into a few traffic jams; of horse and buggies.  We were the talk of the town and we were turning heads as we saw a clearing and passed those buggies.  Well, after one traffic jam, we met a bridge that almost got us.  We constantly check bridge clearances and have an app but this one was close.  This was right before we ended up in a parade!  We ended up right ahead of it and I think people might have thought we were part of it!  We were getting hoots and hollers and waves galore.  It was great!  We made it fine and got to Wal Mart.  One of the neatest things was that they had there own horse and buggy parking station in the corner, complete with hitching post and roof.
The kids have gotten a bit bigger since they last saw them. 

This was only one.  We ended up behind or passing many at a time at some points. 

"People!  We are not part of the parade!"  See the people sitting on the side of the road?

Finally made it home fore the night. 
I have to tell you about the amazing things we found in Pennsylvania.  Actually, my previous (not old) boss told me about Lebanon bologna and Scrapple.  He knew my likes, so I had to try some.  I bought and was instantly hooked.  I won't go into what is in Scrapple, you can look it up if you would like, but I will say that there aren't any parts of the animal left over after the Scrapple is made.  This whole family loves it!
I'm glad you can only find this in Pennsylvania or I'd have a serious issue.  We love it!
We headed for the tip of New York and stopped at West Point.  We were in awe of this place.  There is an amazing amount of history here.  I can't even begin to tell you how much has happened here or how many/what people have attended here.  This is where George Washing hung a chain across the river with 200 lb each links.  Many of our Nation's great leaders have attended here to include Patton, Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis...the list goes on and on.  Interestingly enough, we were at the chapel and just happened to stumble upon a tour bus.  Well, we got to join them and learned much more than we ever would have on our own.  This place was a favorite stop. 
The chapel at West Point.  The pipe organ here is the largest in the world.  23,000+ pipes that range from a pencil to large enough for men to stand in. 

This is where the chain was hung to stop ships from coming up the river. 

This is a part of the chain.  Each link weighs 200+ lbs. 

This was an amazing place and we walked every in that we could. 
While at West Point, we also went to the cemetery.  We saw many grave sites of many heroes.  One of them is a wife, who during the civil war and when her husband was fatally wounded, took over his canon and kept firing.  She was actually paid wages for her duties and received great honors.  Like I said, the history here is overwhelming. 
Entrance to the cemetery and the original gates to West Point. 
We left West Point and headed for Vermont.  This was a nice relaxing place...after we turned off of a single land road onto an even smaller bridge.  This was the only time that I even thought about being concerned but I figured things would be fine...but it was still nerve racking!
No, we aren't getting arrested.  This officer met the kids and wanted to give them some goodies. 

I don't thin you can really tell but this is us leaving.  The wooden wall on the other side and the bridge on the other side is all pitted with part of people's campers because the turn is so tight and the road is so skinny.  We were fine. 

We left Vermont and headed to New Hampshire.  I am sure you can see the miles we are covering but we had a checklist to complete!   Anyway, we entered NH and again had an uneventful stay.  Zachary started a new hobby/business.  He invested some of his money and bought supplies to start making rugs/wall art.  The one below is on he made for his grandma and grandpa that is now displayed on their wall.  Zachary has such great ideas and chose to put this one in motion. 
Cool art that Zachary created.  He is awaiting orders!  :)

This is how we get water into our "house" sometimes.  All of my kids know how to syphon!
We left NH and headed to Maine.  We saw so much here and this is a beautiful state.  Also, we loved the seafood.  WE cook most meals at home but not a whole lot of seafood.  So, we padded the budget this month to treat ourselves with seafood.  It was amazing!  One thing of interest.  We are doing all of this driving and for a few days, we thought we were smelling egg smell (egg farts is what it actually smelled like but I am not going to tell you that) coming from our vents and around the truck.  We couldn't figure out what it was and thought it was the kids.  The second day, after driving another 300 miles, we pulled into a campground and it was bad!  And the smell had changed a bit for the worse.  I popped the hood and heard one of my batteries sizzling.  This was not good.  We were in the middle of nowhere, with a truck that shouldn't be driven, with 11,000 lbs sitting in my bed in the only lane of the campground check-in station.  So, we made it to the spot and let things cool and made a few phone calls.  Side note...on of the things I dislike on this trip is not having a mechanic to know and trust.  If and when things happens, we are at the mercy of whoever is closest. Sometimes that is a Chevy dealer but sometimes, as in this case, there is one shop in town.  Anyway, we took it in and it was fixed in an instant.  The owner was a marvelous fellow and his crew was just as good.  This was a true blessing and could have gone much worse. 
We visited the original LL Bean store.  Cool things to see in there. 

Having our first lobster roll. 

Had some issues but the Lord took care of this one.  We were able to get to where we needed (in a tiny town) and get it fixed FAST.  Very thankful. 
One place we ended up in was Bar Harbor, Maine; we loved this town.  We love small maritime towns.  It was odd to see mega cruise ships in this small place but it allowed us to meet someone and share our story off of one of the ships.  We also met up with our friends we met back in New York. 
In  Bah-Hahbah

This was a part of the National Park.  You can walk across it a few hours a day to the island you see off to the right.  Otherwise, when the tide comes in, it is underwater. 

Our friends that we met in New York.  Back together again. 

Out on a hike. 

This is how we spend much of our time sometimes.  No worries though, it leaves us room for conversation when other people are emptying their tanks. 

Just two guys talking about poop. 
So, we had to have a lobster dinner while in Maine but they were about $25 in the restaurant.  We found a local place and got them for less than $8 a lb.  We picked our own that just came out of the water and had them cooked up and took them back to campground.  We also cooked corn over the fire and had rolls.  It was a great evening and cost a fraction for the 10 of us to eat in.  Great times come from opportunities like this!
The kids are picking the 10 lobsters.  Kamryn found that if you turn them backwards, they would flap their tails constantly.  It was quite amusing and they had a blast. 

Getting them ready for the pot. 

Now that's a family dinner!  What made it even better.  Kamryn didn't like hers so much so I got it also!  Justin beat me though.  He had 3 because his bride and kiddo didn't want theirs...show off.  Great times!
While we were in Bar Harbor, we found a church like we normally do on Sundays.  There was a stated need for a family and my beautiful wife let me know, after we had disappeared for a few minutes after church was over, that we would be taking a meal to a family.  We were excited.  We made one of our favorites and took it over and met am ad that had a great story and a love of Christ.  We also met his wife and their caregiver and shared more than a meal before we left.  These are the opportunities that I pray we will keep having. 
Meals for an amazing family. 

We got up one morning to see a sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean.  An amazing sight...

...was before us and worth every minute of lost sleep for all of us. 

#92 done.  This was the only Acadia sign that we saw...ah...whatever.  It works. 
While in Maine, we also had a chance to see some friends that we used to live next to.  Zachary and their daughter used to play together and were on the same soccer team when I used to coach.   (We won't go into how they used to just stand around and hold hands in the middle of the soccer field.  That might embarrass them.)  We backed into their driveway and visited the night away.  We had a great dinner and shared a ton of stories while reminiscing the "ol' days".  It was so great to see them and now they want us to move there!
Outside playing ball again...

It was so great to see these folks.  Can you see Kamryn trying to get the ferret to look at the camera.  After the fact, we thought she almost killed it!  It was fine. 

Does anyone else's kids grow up too fast? 
We left our friends and headed back towards Pennsylvania.  On the way we found a hidden National historic Site and stopped.  It was where the Continental Army wintered for two years under General Washington.  This was a neat place to see but we had missed the tour so it was only so-so.   
Checking out the artifacts and doing the Jr Ranger books.  #93 done.

We also went to the Flt 93 Memorial.  This was a very neat, yet somber, National Memorial.  They did great things with setting it up and showing the flight path, times of the impacts of all the planes, the artifacts, and even messages from passengers to family members.  There was a lot to see here.  We pulled into a Wal Mart parking lot after we left here and met a guy who didn't appreciate the Memorial at all.  Actually, he had some pretty cross things to say about the Memorial itself and the money that built it.  This caused a good discussion in our house about how people look at situations differently and how people have different viewpoints. 
Park #94 and we met a great Ranger here.  He took a long time with the kids and taught them many different things. 

This is at the end of the flight path of the plane.  Off in the distance there is a rock to show the actual impact site. 

Taking it all in. 

There are many Rangers who love the kids.  They state all the time about how they are the Park's future and appreciate what we are able to do and show them the Nation's history.
Here it comes...drum roll please!  We made it to West Virginia!  Okay, so I understand at this point you have no idea why there is a drumroll going off in your head but I will tell you why.  This was our last state to complete the lower 48 states of the US.  We did it and we were happy!  We celebrated with a Pizza Hut buffet (ya, we're a classy bunch) and put our last sticker for the lower 48 on.  It is quite an accomplishment considering that this was only going to be a 12 month trip.  So, we kind of have a new "to-do" list but we won't share that just yet. 
This is my strong girl pulling a wagon full of wood. 

All lower 48 stickers are on!
We left West Virgina and headed back to ST. Louis, again.  This was a quicker stop than last time but we needed to do a few things with/for my mom again. We also got to see Kelly's mom and dad and also went home a bit earlier to attend a going away party for our cousin who is going into the Army.  On the way, we stopped to see a young lady who used to babysit for us.  It was very nice to see her again and let her see how big the kids have gotten.  We had a great night in the Cabelas parking lot and headed to ST. Louis. 
Kind of like old times, they're just bigger.
We made it back to ST. Louis and took care of some business and then we took my mom camping for a few days.  The kids loved all over her and she had a great time.  This was something that my family always did but never thought that my mom would go with us.  She doesn't remember any of my childhood camping days but hopefully my kids will remember this trip.  We walked, fished, played/tickled/giggled, and Grandma Margie helped us shop and fill our shoe boxes to send overseas for Christmas and also shop for a battered women's shelter.  She did great and we enjoyed having her. 
Waking Grandma Margie up.  Tickle time!

Kamryn loved brushing her hair and the kids were showing her some iPad games. 

Shopping for the shoe boxes and helping bag. 

Grandma Margie and her grand kids. 

A boy and his momma'

Have you ever seen this?  Who needs cheery picker to work on the power lines when you have a helicopter.  This guys is tethered to the copter and hanging over to work on the line.  They are about 30 feet in the air and worked for about 5 minutes, pulled away to let traffic go, and came back to work again.  I have never seen that!

We also got to catch up with one of my old friends.  I met him in 2000 in a school I was in and he was in my wedding.  It was great to catch up and see how big his kids are getting. 
We left ST. Louis and headed back to Tennessee to see David.  We parked and he headed over.  We had a great time seeing him again and had a game night.  We were only there for a few days and we headed out.  We miss our boy.  While we were here, we met a few folks.  Oddly enough, we met someone who has a child married to someone that we used to go to church with in Biloxi.  It is such a small world.
Game night!

Together again!

A random picture but I love it.  Kamryn found something in an antique store and wanted to ask herself if she could get something for cheaper.  She's such a big girl. 

Alright folks!  That's it for this go around.  We have checked off the lower 48, we are still hovering below 100 Parks but we are at 94.  We are in Alabama right now to see a friend that is here from Japan and then heading a bit north to middle Alabama to see some other friends that we met in Tucson.  We are praying about what to do next.  Right now we are thinking that we will be heading to Europe in the next week or two on a military hop (free flight) and doing a multi-country tour.  Maybe we can see our German friends we sang "Happy Birthday" to in Durango, Colorado.  Who knows?  No major planning involved; we will figure it out when we get there.  We are doing our research though.  At this point we are planning to store the RV at a military base and drive to a certain place to fly into Germany and see what happens after that.  We could sure use some tips or tricks if anyone wants to share about anything at all; eating, saving money, things to see (FREE especially), anything at all.  We want to do some of the touristy stuff but would love to just see some of the lesser known places.  WE aren't going into it blind but not with hard plans.  We have learned that our plans really don't matter sometimes; they just cause stress.  We will pray about what to do, where to go, and for safety and wisdom and plan on being there about a month or so.  So, that's it.  Maybe it will happen or maybe it won't but I know one thing...we bought a suitcase today.

Until next time...