RV trip: Epilogue

A collection of favorite photos.

A humorous anecdote or two.

An inspirational take on a random encounter.

A list of “lessons learned.”

Those are the things I imagined putting into a bookend for this blog — an eloquent final entry to encapsulate the wonderful experience of living on the road with my family.

But the words just wouldn’t come. Nurturing this blog gave me lots of experience capturing life’s events one week at a time, but summarizing two-plus years of traveling proved to be futile.

What I can do, given the season, is a little Christmas analogy:

I remember the excitement of planning our adventure was like that of a child’s anticipation of Christmas. Being on the trip was like Christmas morning, each new location another gift to unwrap. But being off the road is a bit like December 26th: we had a blast, made wonderful memories, but are quite bummed — at least I am — that it’s over.

I saw snowfall last night for the first time in a while, so I’m bracing for a long winter.

All the more time to plan our next adventure…

(to be continued…)

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RV trip: Done.

Talk about a week of mixed emotions.

We had a very enjoyable time at Amy’s parents’ house in Ohio last week. But by Sunday afternoon, despite our hesitation, it was time to make the last leg of this trip. It was time to finish this.

Three hours later, we were back in Indy:

I tried to soak up as much as I could and savor every remaining mile. It was great to see my mom, however, and we were eager to see the apartment that she is letting us use.

Some quick details on that: My mom owns a multi-tenant rental house in downtown Indy (right across the street from her house), and she is letting us live in one of her units. The plan is to stay here for the next 6 to 12 months and hopefully achieve some clairvoyance on where in the world we want to settle down. We’re very grateful for this little “halfway house” as we transition back into normal life, whatever that means.

Here are the girls celebrating their new room. It’s funny: this apartment is only 650 square feet, but to us it seems HUGE! As Carrie put it, we’ll be living “New York City style” for a while.

The excitement of our new place was a welcomed distraction from the heartache of moving out of the RV. That took way longer than I thought it would (almost a couple hours).

After being relieved of its cargo, the ol’ Southy was ready for storage. I noted how it drove differently without all of our stuff in it. It even sounded different inside.

Maybe it was because I’ve seen this thing against backdrops of mountains, deserts, beaches and forests, but it seemed wrong for it to now just be facing a brick wall in a storage lot. I didn’t like that something so central to our family can in an instant become so dormant. I’m sure this all sounds a bit corny, but it was hard to leave it.

The mixed emotions continued on Monday. We rented a U-Haul and drove over to our house to get a few things from the garage for the apartment. Our house and yard look terrible; we have some serious work to do to get it ready to sell.

Going through our stuff was fun, however…it was like opening up a time capsule. We had purged a bunch of our crap before starting our trip two years ago, but it appears we didn’t purge enough. We dropped off a few boxes at Goodwill at the end of the day, and there will be many more where those came from.

It was a long, full day of moving, but I think everyone was glad to sleep on their own mattresses and with their own bedding. It made it feel a little bit more like home.

I feel the need to do a post of “greatest hits”…just something to summarize the last two years before I bring this blog to a close, if only for my own therapy.

Stay tuned…

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RV trip: New Jersey to Ohio

We finished our lovely week in New Jersey, and then on Friday we broke camp for the last time. We made it to State College (home of Penn State) in Pennsylvania where we boondocked in a Lowe’s parking lot. Nothing like going out in style:

The next morning, Amy did her usual runners’ group meet-up and farmers’ market stop, and then we hit the road for a full afternoon of traveling. Here’s Amy driving the last leg, with Carrie in the co-pilot seat:

…Natalie chillin’ in the back:

…and Em watching the midwest scenery go by:

We were at Amy’s parents’ house by late afternoon; it was great to be with family again.

We’ll be staying here — sleeping in real beds, under a real roof — for the rest of the week before making the final three-hour trip back to Indy this weekend.

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RV trip: NYC to New Jersey

To continue from our cliffhanger previous post, the creek stopped rising, and the fridge situation turned out to be good-news/bad-news. The good news is that our fridge is operating as designed; the bad news is that its a sucky design. It just doesn’t do well when the temps get above 90 (I’m sure it would prefer, oh I dunno, a 32 to 40 degree climate.)

We have since bought a little fridge fan to circulate the cool air inside, and that has thus far kept us out of the “Danger Zone” (insert Kenny Login’s Top Gun theme song).

On Tuesday we took a side trip to Woodstock:

Don’t be too impressed. While a “Woodstock Museum” sounded promising, it turned out to just be a guy who showed us some Woodstock paraphernalia and then talked about what it meant to be a hippie:

Nice guy, but I was wanting to see the actual site of the 1969 Woodstock music festival. Turns out the city of Woodstock is only where the event was planned. The event itself took place nearly two hours away in Bethel NY. Oh well.

We took in some more presidential history last week. On Wednesday the girls visited the house of president Martin Van Buren in Kinderhook, NY:

Then on Thursday I tagged along for a tour of president Franklin Roosevelt’s house in Hyde Park, NY:

Friday was our big trek into New York City. We started with a train ride…

…that took us to Grand Central station:

We then took a ferry to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty.

Looking back on Manhattan from atop the ferry:

After that, we visited the 9/11 memorial:

The 9/11 museum is still under construction, but looking through the windows I could see the original World Trade Tower “trident” beams that will be on display. I’d go back to NYC if only to see this museum when it opens.

On the New York City subway:

We met up with our friend Megan (and later her husband Eric) who gave us a walking tour of Central Park. I didn’t ever completely get away from the sounds of the city, but I was struck at how secluded Central Park felt at times. I couldn’t believe that such a natural setting could exist in the middle of such a large city.

On Saturday, Amy took Emily to do some plane-spotting at JFK International Airport. Some highlights of the day were seeing a Dreamliner, a Dreamlifter, several 747s and four A380s, among many others. She took some good photos, too:

Another of Emily’s photos, this one looking back at the NYC skyline:

Before taking this trip, we lived in a neighborhood called “Irvington” which was named after the author Washington Irving. So we HAD to visit the original Irvington while we were in New York:

…as well as the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, a major character in Irving’s classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:

Appropriately, Mr. Irving is interred in the Irving family plot in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. His is the taller, rounder head stone on the left:

Having lived in the Indianapolis Irvington most of our adult lives, Amy and I felt a strange connection to this area. It was cool to be there.

Before we left, we toured Washington Irving’s home. It was a cozy little place.

This week in New Jersey we’ve been spending time with some friends from Greensboro who are vacationing on Long Beach Island, which is about a half hour away from our campground. Our girls were pretty excited to see their girls and have some sleep-overs. It also afforded Amy and me some kid-free time for our 18th wedding anniversary on Monday (thankyouthankyouthankyou, Bob and Jo!)

This campground where we’re staying this week would otherwise blend in to the blur of previous campgrounds if it weren’t for one realization: this is our final campground.

After we leave here in a couple days, we’ll land in Ohio at Amy’s parents’ house for the week. Then it’s back to Indy, and with that, this trip — this amazing 2+ year epic adventure — will come to an end.

I thought I’d feel more ready for that, but I’m not.

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RV trip: Connecticut to New York

It wasn’t the most action-packed week in Mystic CT, but it was a good one. We drove into town on Tuesday hoping to see their cool drawbridge in action, but we missed it. We did, however, walk past the town crown jewel: the Mystic Pizza joint, made sorta-famous in 1988 by the Julia Robert’s movie of the same name. You’ve seen it, right? Me neither.

We didn’t have a sewer connection at our camping spot, and we did NOT do a very good job of conserving and managing our waste tanks. Fortunately, the campground provided a free poo-sucking service that emptied our tanks mid week. That was nice.

Also mid week, the girls did some fresh raspberry pickin’:

…and visited the Submarine Force Museum in Groton, CT. They were able to tour the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear powered submarine, christened in 1954.

The girls enjoyed comparing the tight quarters of a submarine to our RV.

Natalie had a fun day on Thursday. Amy drove her back to Newport, RI (about an hour away) so she could take some surf lessons, something she has wanted to do for a while now. (Her favorite movie is Soul Surfer.)

Nat catching a wave:

That day was also the 4th of July, and Emily made us an all-american dessert featuring the fresh picked raspberries:

We ended up at a Connecticut Tigers minor-league baseball game that night, just to see their post-game fireworks. The game was tied when we got there in the 7th inning, and it was still tied at the bottom of the 9th. But the Tigers scored a run and won their game, and I avoided extra innings. It was win-win.

…and we got to see our fireworks. It turned out to be a pretty fun evening.

The next day we made another trip into Mystic, and this time we DID see the cool drawbridge. Yes, those are humungous hunks of concrete that act as counterweights to lift the drawbridge:

We had a pretty light travel day on Saturday, so we were looking for something else to do (and to stay out of the heat). It was near our route, so we made a stop at the PEZ factory in Orange, CT:

Sextuple-parked in the PEZ parking lot:

Did you know that PEZ was originally a peppermint candy marketed as an alternative to smoking? And that the iconic dispenser originally looked like a cigarette lighter? We learned all kinds of fun facts like that.

All was quiet on the factory floor; no PEZ-making on the weekends:

We made it back into New York yesterday afternoon and we’re now camped in Elizaville, NY for the next few days.

We went to a farmers’ market in nearby Rhinebeck this morning. Amy has been to about a gazillion farmer’s markets over the course of this trip and she said this farmers’ market was one of her favorites (good selection, cool town, good vibes, etc.).

It was another hot day here, so we decided to postpone our Sunday morning hike for later in the day. However, it rained hard this afternoon, and there were some flash flood warnings.

We now have a few concerning issues that we’re closely monitoring. One is the refrigerator, which does not seem to be refrigerating. Our food is spoiling!

Another issue is that the creek is risin’:

…and lastly the power is out in the campground, which means we can’t run our air conditioning on this very hot evening. (Actually, we could run the air conditioning if we fired up the generator, but we’re not that hot. Yet.)

The water level is climbing, but it’s still a good 30 yards away from our RV…we’re watching it closely. That’s the nice thing about having a house on wheels: If things start getting bad, we’re outta here.

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RV trip: Massachusetts to Rhode Island

It turned out to be a busy work week for me while in Cape Cod. But on Tuesday evening, we went out for a double-feature at the drive-in over in Wellfleet:

Amy had been to a drive-in before, but it was a first for the girls and me:

It was really fun, and the picture quality was surprisingly good, especially for a 1950′s era facility. We didn’t get back to the RV until 1:30am.

At the recommendation of the campground office staff, Amy took the girls to the Chatham fishing pier. The seals there have a Pavlovian response to the returning fishing boats:

The weather continued to be as volatile as ever, toggling between rain and shine throughout the day. We hoped to catch an ocean sunset on Wednesday evening, but it was drizzling and mostly overcast when we got there:

We got lucky, however, and the sun poked through. It was rather surreal, with the muted pink lighting and the ocean water only a few inches deep as far as we could see:

As we waded through the water, we could feel throngs of these little critters hopping up on our ankles (I have no idea what these are):

On Thursday, Amy and the girls took a side trip to the Cape Cod National Seashore. The lighthouses are an important part of the history of this treacherous shoreline. That there were three lighthouses at this particular spot called the “three sisters” is sort of poetic.

Do you recognize this famous Cape Cod lighthouse?…

…if so, you’ve eaten too many of these:

We left Cape Cod on Friday afternoon, and were once again heading in the right direction. Arriving in Cape Cod at the end of a weekend and leaving before the next weekend begins is definitely the way to do it!

We arrived in Newport, Rhode Island on Friday night, and on Saturday morning met up with a client of mine. She and her boyfriend showed us around the Newport Shipyard where they work, so it was like a backstage pass to the world of yachting.

This was an impressive site, watching a ferry getting placed in the water:

A picnic lunch by the Newport Harbor:

My client also hooked us up with some free passes to a 1-hour narrated boat tour of the Newport Harbor and lower Narragansett Bay (thanks Shannon!).

It was a great way to see and experience Newport from the water. Of all of the places we’ve been to lately, Newport has felt the most “New England-y.”

For our Sunday morning walk, we did the “cliff walk” of Newport:

It’s not as perilous as it sounds; it’s actually a paved path that meanders between the ocean-facing cliffs and some of the historic mansions of Newport:

Speaking of mansions, we took the tour of this cozy little place once owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt II:

It was a fascinating and incomprehensible display of wealth, and this was just his summer home! (No photos were allowed inside unfortunately.)

We made it to Mystic, Connecticut this afternoon. Our campground seems nice, but there are no sewer hookups. But hey, they have a bounce house!

Tomorrow is July 1, and thus begins the countdown toward the end of this little RV trip.

Only four weeks left…

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RV trip: Boston

I had a pretty busy work schedule early in the week last week, but Amy and the girls were able to meet up with my cousin Kathee and her kids on Monday at her nearby pond in Concord. (I’d get to see her as well as my Aunt Grayce later in the week.)

On Tuesday we learned that my nephew Matthew from Greensboro was laid over at the Boston airport on his way to France. Amy and the girls were already heading there for some plane spotting, so it was great that they could stop in and say hi:

Emily also got to see her first Boeing 787 Dreamliner take off:

On Wednesday afternoon we drove into Salem and learned all about the witch trials of 1692. It was a sad, sad reminder of what happens when fear and superstition mix.

Strolling through Salem:

Amy picked up a few books at this Salem bookstore. It was a cool place, in a crazy mess sort of way:

We visited the Salem graveyard — known as the “Burying Point” — which dates back to 1637. We located the gravestones of a witch trial judge as well as a Mayflower pilgrim.

Total side note: I don’t care enough to research why, but there are Dunkin’ Donuts evvvverywhere out here. Everywhere.

On Thursday, I worked at the Concord library…

…while Amy and the girls visited Sleepy Hollow cemetery nearby. They tracked down the headstones of Thoreau, Hawthown, Alcotts and Emerson.

They also stopped at Walden pond:

These are the woods where Thoreau hung out for two years at Waldon pond. (I love that Thoreau quote.)

Amy and I enjoyed some beautiful scenery on our morning runs at the Lorraine Park Campground in Harold Parker State Forest:

As I mentioned in last week’s post, our challenge for the week was to live without the electric, sewer and water connections that we typically enjoy. Turned out to be a piece of cake, with our only real challenge being that our waste tanks fill up faster than I wish. Our water supply, however, was more than enough, and I still had almost 11.5 volts of juice in the batteries at the end of the week (that’s really good).

Saturday was our big day in Boston, starting with the Boston subway system. (Fun fact: Boston had the first subway system in the country in 1897.)

One of the first things we came upon was the make-shift memorial for the Boston Marathon bombings. It was pretty moving.

Amy left one of her race bibs and a note as part of the memorial:

The bombs blew up just a short distance from where I took this photo:

Inside the Boston Public Library:

Another old graveyard — Granary Burying Ground. We saw the headstones of Paul Revere, John Hancock, Samuel Adams and James Otis (the dude who coined the phrase “taxation without representation”) among others.

The Old South Meeting House. This is where Samuel Adams launched the Boston Tea Party:

This little place — what is now a Chipotle restaurant — used to be a book publisher and was where Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne and others brought there manuscripts to be published:

This is the Old State House built in 1713 to house the British colonial government of the time. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read to the Bostonians for the first time from this building:

The site of the Boston Massacre:

We had covered a lot of ground by mid-afternoon. We were whipped.

…nothing a little Italian ice and gelato can’t fix, though:

We summoned enough energy for one more trek, this time to the Charlestown Navy Yard to tour the USS Constitution:

This old ship, named by George Washington himself, formed part of the original US Navy. While fighting in defining battles of the War of 1812, it received its more recognizable nickname “Old Ironsides.” It’s amazing that it even still exists, let alone still floats (and even still sails!). It was very cool; the highlight of my visit.

Boston is an amazing town, one with a staggering amount of historical significance. It was a very full day, however…we were all ready to head home.

Before getting on the road Sunday morning, Em and Nat helped me finish my air-conditioner repair job. It worked!

We made an impromptu detour on our way to Cape Cod to see Plymouth Rock. I’m glad we stopped just to say we were there, but we didn’t stay long. Those Pilgrims sure picked a busy town to land in.

Here we are heading into Cape Cod. Note that this is the right direction to be going on a Sunday afternoon:

And now we are settled into our latest retirement community of the week:

We have been told by many Bostonians that we must stop at “the Cape.” We’re looking forward to discovering the draw of the this beloved place.

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RV trip: Maine to Massachusetts

Maine is a really pretty state when it’s not raining. On Monday, we drove into nearby Bar Harbor (pronounced locally as “Bah Hah-bah”). Fortunately, the rain held off and we were even able to glimpse a slight sunset:

We took a quick stroll through the touristy part of Bar Harbor before heading home:

It was a rainy Wednesday, but the weather let up enough by late afternoon for us to venture into Acadia National Park. Not even the gloomy clouds could mask the beauty of this place:

It felt a bit like Oregon, actually:

Acadia has highest point on the Eastern seaboard (Cadillac Mountain) which normally offers a spectacular view. Not this day, however:

It was cold, windy and drizzly. Not your typical day in June.

None of us had ever had lobster, so we figured we were in the right place to give it a shot. There are places like this on practically every corner:

I don’t think Nat was prepared to see her dinner staring longingly back at her:

…or to see it sent to a boiling, steamy death:

The verdict? Meh. I guess we’re just not a lobster family.

We skipped running on Wednesday due to the rain, so Thursday was a make-up day. Fortunately, it was beautiful: the sun was actually out! Amy and I drove into Acadia to run on the “carriage roads” created by John D. Rockefeller. These paths were designed to meander through the park and are not “destination oriented.” I love everything about that sentiment.

The sunshine was short lived, and by afternoon it was overcast. Good enough for some more hiking in Acadia, however.

We hiked up to a high point that overlooked the ocean for a lovely picnic dinner:

The shores around Acadia are piled high with slabs of granite. Amy and I were reminded of some RVing friends who told us how they’d rather have granite mountain tops than granite counter tops. Amen to that.

We took another trip up to Cadillac Mountain, as the visibility was slightly better than the day before:

Friday afternoon we headed South to Freeport, Maine where we camped at a local county park. Here we are celebrating 2 years on the road and the last day of school, two great reasons to get loaded on sparkling grape juice:

We were treated to a wonderful sunset that evening. In true Maine fashion, however, it was raining within an hour of taking this photo.

On Saturday we visited the VERY touristy town of Ogunquit, Maine. We relaxed as best we could on this crowded little beach for an hour or so. If the ladies chit-chatting behind me are to be believed, this isn’t crowded; it gets much worse.

Nearby Kennebunkport is also the location of the Bush Compound, summer home of George H. W. Bush. Supposedly, the flag flying means he’s in there somewhere.

This was Amy’s view from her yoga mat at 5:42 this morning. I thought it was a cool photo, but I’m glad that I was back at the RV fast asleep.

We did a good cleaning of the RV before leaving Maine. Here’s Emily helping out with some quarterly battery maintenance:

We’re now in North Andover, Massachusetts about to embark on a new challenge: Go an entire week without any connections whatsoever (this park simply doesn’t have the amenities we’re used to having.)

Batteries are charged. Fresh water tanks are topped off. Sewer tanks are empty. I think we can do this!

Tune in next week to find out how we fared…

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RV trip: Maine…MAINE!

It was a pretty low-key week of school and work, but we did make some time for a mid-week trek through the Adirondack mountains:

As Carrie repeatedly noted last week, the bugs were bad. But the view at the top made it worth it:

On Friday, we drove into Vermont in what we would be the start of a wonderful sugar-charged weekend (more on that in a sec).

Our campground Friday night was just an overflow lot of a local RV dealership. It had been raining all day, so it was quite a sloppy mess:

But just down the road was Bragg Farm Sugarhouse, which sounded promising. He we are sampling some pure Vermont maple syrup. We left with a jug of our own as well as several other maple-y treats.

Amy found a local 10k race on Saturday morning in Montpelier:

…as well as the Montpelier farmer’s market. (The girls and I were back at the RV sleeping in.)

The big event Saturday, however, was a fieldtrip to the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, VT:

The tour was good:

…but the taste test at the end was great. They gave us a free sample of a new flavor they’re working on called “Milk & Cookies.” If you ever see that in the grocery store, we tasted it first!

If you wonder why Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is so delicious, just look at which ingredient warrants the largest vat. Mystery solved:

We also visited the “Flavor Graveyard,” the final resting place of retired Ben & Jerry’s flavors that got killed off:

That afternoon, we moved onward, this time crossing into New Hampshire for the evening:

We camped in the quiet, peaceful little campground of Moose Brook State Park:

Even had a campfire (a rare occasion for us):

This morning we took a hike on one of the park’s “unmaintained” trails. It was beautiful.

It was not without some challenges, however. Amy had a misstep and stepped into some muck:

…and a bridge had been washed out by the river.

Undeterred, we found a large fallen tree a little ways up-river that we used to get across:

We traveled most of the afternoon and are now deep into Maine. I though this would be our northern-most point of the trip, but I see now when I look at a map that we were actually more north when we were in Washington.

We’re now nestled into our camp spot for the week in Trenton, Maine. Even though it’s a school night, we’re going to watch a movie tonight.

…and enjoy another sugar rush:

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RV Trip: Rainy Central NY

AMY: Carrie and I are filling in for Jon this week (truthfully the deal is: Carrie is helping me with the blog and I am watching a movie with her later). We started our week at Allegany State Park near Salamanca NY.

CARRIE: It was mostly rainy, muddy and buggy all week. Not my idea of a fun week…

AMY: Agreed. However, there was a great running trail around this beautiful lake:

AMY: I am grateful Jon has been joining me during my weekday runs. I enjoy sharing these early morning moments with him:

CARRIE: What did I tell you? Buggy! It wasn’t just mosquitos though, their little biting-gnat friends were in on it too:

AMY: We were also invaded by the gypsy moth caterpillars. They would dangle from tree limbs, door posts, awnings and many made their way into the RV. I wonder if we will find moths later this summer?

My sister Sherry recommended stopping at the Griffis Sculpture Park in nearby Ellicottville. It was a good hike around fleshy sculptures. Why didn’t you stick around to admire the artwork?

CARRIE: It was embarrassing! Also, the night before it had rained so hard the ground was swampy.

AMY: We also hiked an area called Little Rock City, a larger area similar to the Thunder Rocks we found in the state park.  At first, we assumed these large rocks were pushed here by the glaciers, but we discovered that they are very old sedimentary rocks that were once at the bottom of a body of water. The softer rock has eroded away leaving these marvels to hike through.

CARRIE: I wonder if there is this much mud and bugs in the jungle?

AMY: Even with all those challenges, it was an impressively beautiful place.

AMY: On Friday, we moved a little north and east to Letchworth State Park, the so-called “Grand Canyon of the East.”

CARRIE: I enjoyed it better than Niagara Falls because there were a lot less people. I. Don’t. Like. Crowds.

AMY: You are so right, Carrie. It was nice to just hang out and admire the falls as long as we wanted.

AMY: A runner I met in Williamsburg VA was able to connect me with this running group in Dansville NY (Thanks Bob!). After several weekends running solo, it was great to meet up with fellow distance runners. Running groups have been a great way for me to connect and get an inside scoop into the local scene. I am so grateful for these kind, welcoming folks!

CARRIE: On Saturday, we went to Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls NY. I was fascinated to see how hard women had to work to do more than what was just expected of them. I feel fortunate to be a girl in the 21st century.

AMY: We had an air conditioner go out on us this week (fortunately we have two). Jon very carefully examined the non-working unit and identified the broken parts. We’re expecting delivery of the new parts later this week. Total cost: $51! :)

AMY: Today, we drove to this campsite in the Adirondacks where we were warmly greeted by the fresh smell of pines.

CARRIE: Daddy took this picture approximately an hour after the photo above….this week has made me miss being out west where there was less rain, less humidity, and fewer bugs.

Maybe it’s because I love Adirondack chairs, but I have been looking forward to visiting this area and hope for some cool field trips this week.

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