Summer RV trip: week 6

Before heading out of Tok on Monday, we stopped to catch up on some laundry. The great thing about an empty laundromats is that we can bang out a family of five’s laundry in about an hour.

After that, we left Alaska and headed back down the treacherous Alaska Highway:

We stopped along the road in Kluane National Park to do some off-roading with the Jeep. Nat and I had to inspect a couple stream-crossings along the way, as we’re still learning what this vehicle can take.

It turns out stuff like stream crossings and roads like this are not a problem at all:

Amy got us back to some wonderful scenery only accessible by 4-wheel-drive vehicles. It was so much fun, and so empowering.

By Monday evening, the beautiful mountains of Kluane were in our rear-view mirror instead of in front of us. So, a little sad. (With its Alaskan neighbor park Wrangall-St. Elias, this area holds several of North America’s tallest peaks.)

We’d gotten used to these views:

Back in Whitehorse on Tuesday, we were overdue for an oil change. Our RV was too big for this particular shop, but Amy sweet-talked them into changing the oil on the street.

We’ve had a bit of trouble with our rig lately. The RV twice now has not started — and then it mysteriously starts right up. And the Jeep’s supplemental break system, shown here, some days won’t work — and then it mysteriously works fine.

We’re up to five chips in the RV windshield:

..and two chips and several little pits in the Jeep windshield:


By Wednesday, and after two days of hard driving, we made it back to Churchill Copper Mine Road in the Northern Rocky Mountain Provincial Park. This was the place of our failed off-roading attempt a couple weeks earlier. It was time to try this again.

This river was as far as we got last time. It’s hard to tell from this photo, but that water is about two feet deep and moving quickly over a bed of large rocks, so it felt a little risky to drive across it:

It was worth it. Once we crossed the river, it was smooth dirt roads; easy Jeep driving:

We took the road about 10 miles back and stopped at this field. Not sure what these white plants/weeds are, but they looked pretty in the early evening sun:

More animated GIF fun:

We let Carrie and Emily get in some driving practice on the way back (Natalie can’t quite reach the pedals yet):

Thursday would be another long day of driving. One of the challenges of these Canadian roads is the dust — they seem dustier than any desert I’ve been in:

By Friday we had reached the end (or beginning, rather) of the Alaska Highway; a.k.a “mile 0” in Dawson Creek, British Columbia:

While there, we stopped at a little museum and saw a fascinating documentary on the making of the Alaska Highway. Having just driven it, I could appreciate the back-breaking labor that it took to forge 1500 miles of road through uncharted wilderness. It truly was an engineering feat on par with the Panama Canal.

Not a great photo, but I’m including it here to document two unique things: 1) we have darkness at night again, and 2) we are driving after dark, something we strive to avoid. I was so glad to stop at the Walmart in Edmonton, capitol of Alberta, on Friday night.

Amy scored big at the farmers’ market in Edmonton on Saturday morning:

Hey look what’s in Edmonton! We did some shopping and let our girls experience the glory that is IKEA:

We drove a short way on Saturday until we came upon a Walmart in Vegreville, Alberta. Also, that is the biggest trailer I’ve ever seen.

The mountains are behind us unfortunately, but we now see fields upon fields of these yellow flowers. Not sure what they are, but I will find out. UPDATE: It’s canola. (source: a kid in a Saskatchewan Walmart McDonalds where I’m enjoying free WiFi.)

We crossed into new territory today: Saskatchewan!

We ended the week stopped at a dumpy little campground in Kenaston, Saskatchewan. But there was a dump station and potable water, so for $10 it was good enough for us! This was only the second time we paid for camping this week.

With 2084 miles logged, this week was the hardest we’ve driven so far. We’re trying to keep up the pace so we get home in time for school, but we’re also trying to savor as much as we can before this trip is over.


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Summer RV trip: week 5

For this week’s blog, I — Emily — will be telling our story. On Tuesday, we drove to Homer. This is the view from an overlook on the way to Homer, AK. (That small strip of sand called the Homer Spit was where we camped that night).

Halibut is a really delicious fish. I look forward to when mom will make it. :)

This is our scenic campsite on the Homer Spit. The view reminded me of the Oregon coastlines with the rocks and cliffs, the mountain ranges of Colorado, and the ocean of New Jersey (except the Alaskan Gulf is much colder) all mashed together.

Natalie spent most of the 24 hours here playing by the water.

We decided to take a walk on the beach later that evening. This picture was taken at about 10:00 pm.

It was Mom and Dad’s 19th Anniversary on Tuesday. They went to a little restaurant and ditched Carrie, Natalie and me. Mom had fresh halibut.

While they were gone, we made a sign and cleaned the RV. They said it was a great gift! :)

Before we left Homer, Dad took this picture through the windshield of the RV. It makes me think of a scene someone would paint.

On Wednesday, we met Tracy, the woman who gifted me the flight lesson in Fairbanks. She was in Moose Pass, AK, getting her license to fly float planes. Here she is showing us around the docks. I wished I could try one out.

We ended up camping at another harbor town on Wednesday named Seward. Almost everything here has to do with fish.

There were boats of all kinds, from a single-person kayak to major cruise ships.

Here is the end of the Alaskan pipeline system. It stretches about 800 miles taking oil from its source to this port.

We noticed this special feature on many Alaskan cars. It warms the engine in the winter when it gets down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit.

On Thursday, Carrie, Natalie and Mom went horseback riding while dad taught me how to drive the Jeep. Here’s what Natalie had to say about their ride:

From Natalie: “I had been wanting to go on a horseback ride ever since we had left on the trip. Finally, my mom found a cool two hour ride that we could do. We got to see some bald eagles up-close and that a was pretty cool. I thought this was an awesome riding experience because the first thing our guide did was told us some safety tips (only put the balls of your feet in the stirrups, etc.) and then she asked us our riding experience, so she knew what horse to put you on. I got a really gentle horse named Frisco. I had a ton of fun, but oh man, I am so sore now.”

From Natalie: “This is me and Frisco, he was so sweet and gentle. I love horses.”

It started clearing up in Seward on Friday morning, enough to take a nice picture. :)

We took a hike up to Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park on Friday. I think it’s amazing how glaciers are melting yet shaping the land at the same time.

These are scratch marks made from Exit Glacier when it was moving across the rocks.

I prefer these ranger-led hikes because we learn more than when we take hikes on our own.

It’s funny how we see beautiful scenery during the day and end up camping in a dull parking lot.

The next morning, we left dad to work at the RV and took off to go watch planes (at my request). There was a wide variety of airplanes, mostly cargo though.
One very special highlight-of-the-day was seeing this 747-8F (these are newest 747s that have serrated engine cowlings like the 787 Dreamliners.)

This old 737 was used as a prop in the movie Big Miracle and has been used for many other things such as transporting a herd of live caribou.

The fireweed plant is very common across Alaska, and some people here say the first snowfall will come when these are in full bloom. The park rangers say that should be in two to four weeks.

We are now heading out of Alaska and are gradually making our way to our final destination: Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for Airventure 2014! :)


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Summer RV trip: week 4

We continued our push through the Yukon on Monday and, that evening, camped in a Walmart parking lot in Whitehorse, YT. (It was actually a dirt side-lot of some sort, as the main parking lot was stuffed full of other RVs. I’ve never seen so many people camping at a Walmart at once.)

The scenery was beginning to change again as we moved farther north on Tuesday:

The Alaska Highway is like any other road in some parts. But in many parts, it’s just a dirty, bumpy, gravel road. Amy steered us through the worst of it on Tuesday, a minefield of potholes stretching over 115 kilometers. Masterful job, Amy!

I gotta hand it to the Canadian road crews. They seem to be out in regular doses doing what they can to keep this lonely road usable:

When we made a short stop in Beaver Creek — the last little town in the Yukon — we saw just how dirty that last stretch of the Alaska Highway had been:

Early Tuesday evening, we had finally reached Alaska! It felt great to be back in the U-S-of-A and speaking in gallons and miles again (and with hope of good internet).

Our first Alaskan camping stop was in the town of Tok (rhymes with “joke”, appropriately). The towns around here are…different. Things have a noticeably raw, undeveloped feel to them.

On Wednesday, I did a little work in the RV while the girls visited a nearby shop that featured sled dog puppies. Apparently, traveling in extreme winter weather requires extreme cuteness. (More on sled dogs in a minute.)

By Wednesday evening we had reached the end of the Alaska Highway:

We continue to enjoy all of the wildlife that we see as we drive, like this moose feeding near the side of the road on our way to Fairbanks, AK, Wednesday evening:

Like many previous places on this trip, the mosquitos were pretty bad in Fairbanks:

We stayed in Fairbanks for two full days, allowing me to suckle the sweet nectar of Verizon 4G internet and catch up on some work. The girls took a side trip to the Large Animal Research Facility at the University of Alaska. These are muskox, an arctic bovine with a fine undercoat that is warmer and softer than wool. It’s known colloquially as “Alaskan cashmere.”

Friday was a big day for Emily. Some very kind pilots from Fairbanks that Amy recently met via Facebook had gifted a flight lesson to Emily at the nearby airport. Here she is getting some gear:

…taking part in the pre-flight inspection:

..readying for take-off:

..and then up and away:

She had a great time and learned a lot from her instructor. In fact, this was the first time she was able to taxi on her own. We celebrated with ice-cream:

We made it to Denali National Park on Saturday evening, early enough to take in a short hike:

We could only see the peak of Denali (known by some as Mt. McKinley) from afar that evening, so we were quite eager to see her full glory on our bus tour the next day.

We camped for free at an airstrip a few miles from Denali National Park. It was fun to see the little planes come and go all night, but here’s what’s notable about this photo: it’s after midnight. (It doesn’t get any darker than dusk this time of year; my internal sleep-clock is so messed up!)

Denali National Park is 6 million acres of raw wilderness and one unpaved road. As such, the only motorized way of seeing the park is by a bus system operated by the park. Here we are about to board:

As expected, we saw lots of wildlife. Plenty of caribou:

A few Dall sheep sightings from afar:

Many moose:

…and several Grizzlies:

..and out there, behind those low clouds stands Denali, the tallest point on the North American continent. We hear it’s beautiful.

It was hard not to be disappointed. The clouds parted a few times to reveal some great vistas later in the day, but Denali remained completely shrouded in cloud cover.

It was long day of bus traveling; most of us dozed off during the return trip:

Covering so much area via the convenience of a bus was great, but it also felt good to use our legs for a short hike at the end of the day.

We stopped at a local brewery on our way back to the RV. They had the bus used in the movie Into The Wild, the story of Chris McCandless. (If you’ve not heard of him, he basically tried to live alone, inexperienced and unprepared in the Alaskan wilderness. SPOILER: It ends badly.)

Double rainbow back at the air strip!

Before leaving Denali on Monday morning, Amy, Natalie, and I attended a sled dog demonstration (Carrie and Em opted to sleep in).

Sled dogs are used by the Denali park rangers in the winter months to patrol this huge park. This isn’t just to be kitschy; sled dogs are simply a better alternative to snowmobiles (think noise, pollution, companionship, protection, lack of mechanical difficulties, etc.)

These aren’t froo-froo purebred huskies, either; these are mutts bred to work. I’ve never seen anything like it — these dogs wanted to GO!

As is the case with every National Park ranger presentation, it was excellent.

I found this thing parked next to us in the Denali parking lot. Big family? No problemo; this sleeps 26!

We’re stopped in Wasilla for the night in what might be the best view I’ve had from a Walmart parking lot:

Tomorrow morning, it’s on to Anchorage…

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Summer break RV trip: week 3

On Monday we stopped in the town of Canmore, Alberta, looking for a library so I could get a few hours of internet-dependent work done. This is their library, and THAT is their view!

We saw several of these along the road in Banff National Park: wildlife bridges over the freeway so animals can cross the road unscathed. Well done, Canada.

Here are Natalie and Emily all decked out for Canada Day on Tuesday:

I’m not going to lie: the idea of a bear encounter while hiking terrifies me. While I’d prefer bear grenades, this spray stuff looks promising (it even came with a holster.) I am now actively looking for a bear to spray.

We unfortunately weren’t the only ones who showed up in Banff to do a hike:

There were just too many people on this particular trail. We aborted our “hike” after about five minutes of fighting the crowds.

We found an alternate, far-less-traveled path that lead to these so-called “ink pots” — springs of cold water that form blue and green pools in the mud:

It was a beautiful view, and it felt great to soak our tired feet in the ice-cold water flowing down from the mountains (it was a long hike).

We camped that night at a nice wooded campground in Banff National Park:

On Wednesday we stopped at Lake Louise, which is very beautiful, but also has a Disneyland feel with all of the crowds and parking congestion. We did a short walk and then we were ready to leave.

We continued traveling on Wednesday from Banff toward Jasper on the Icefields Parkway, stopping at a couple scenic lookouts along the way. The money shot that day was Amy’s iPhone panorama taken of Peyto Lake (click the photo for a larger view):

Here is another stop, this one at Mistaya Canyon. (I’m trying my hand here at an animated GIF.)

Another quiet, wooded campground on Wednesday night along the Icefields Parkway.

We are regularly seeing wildlife from the road as we drive. On Thursday, this elk was practically posing for us:

Hot springs are the reason this area is now a national park. There are numerous hot springs in the Canadian Rockies and our Jasper National Park campground was just down the road from Miette Hot Springs. Amy and Natalie couldn’t resist trying it out:

These typical-looking pools are filled with the water from the hot springs, the hottest in the area. In fact, it leaves the mountain at 129 degrees and cools to 104 degrees by the time it gets to the pool. It felt great on tired, hiking muscles! Note: this sunset view was after 10 pm. We have very long days.

On Friday we stopped at a truck wash to give the RV and Jeep a desperately needed wash. (In hindsight, this was a complete waste of time because it was filthy again within 24 hours.)

By Friday afternoon we had reached the start — “Mile 0” — of the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek, British Columbia:

We almost camped that night at a Walmart in Fort St. Johns, BC, but the Safeway across the street provided a luxurious amenity: free Wifi usable from our RV in the parking lot!

We saw lot of wildlife as we traveled on Saturday. The most exciting one was this black bear strolling down the road (viewed from the safety of the RV, of course).

Saturday night we got to experience what the Canadian parks system calls “informal camping.” They’re just clearings in the woods a kilometer or so off the main road. It was charming, in a Deliverance sort of way.

We had big plans for some off-roading in the Jeep on Sunday morning. But our woeful inexperience with driving through rivers and such — and the pleading from our daughters — made us reconsider and turn back. We vowed to get educated on what the Jeep (and we) can handle and try it again when we pass through here on the way home. We’ll be back, Churchill Mine Road. We’ll be back…

Even our Sunday morning hike was a bust. We tried to take a short hike, but the mosquitos were unbearable. We turned back and decided to just get on the road.

We traveled some serious distance through a mostly uninhabited stretch of British Columbia. This required careful planning of fuel stops, so this threw a bit of a wrench in that plan:

We fortunately came upon another hole-in-the-wall gas station later that morning, but at $1.97/liter, it hurt. (That’s about $7.46/gallon!!)

We saw lots more wildlife as we drove all day Sunday. Here, a group of mountain goats:

…and later a herd of bison:

…and lots more bears. This will probably be the last bear photo, as they’re a dime a dozen out here. (Unless it’s one I get to spray.)

By Sunday afternoon, we had reached the Yukon Territory:

We stopped at Watson Lake, YT, to fill the tanks at a slightly better price and found a very curious attraction at the visitors’ center: The Sign Post Forrest, a collection of an estimated 80,000+ road signs and license plates that years of travelers have nailed to the trees and posts:

We retrieved our old California license plate from the RV and left our mark:

I had to pull over Sunday evening and take another representative shot of what driving through British Columbia and Yukon is like. It’s this, mile after mile, day after day:

We stopped for the night on Sunday at a Yukon “government campground” having traveled 1391 miles this week. (Note the daylight; this is 10:30 pm!)

First order of business in the morning: wash that windshield!

Then, it’s on to Whitehorse, Yukon’s only city and the last real town before we reach Alaska.

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Summer break RV trip: week 2

On Monday we made it to an old favorite from our previous travels: the Sunrise Campground in Bozeman Montana.

As luck would have it, our friends Herb and Jeanie — whom we met here three years ago — happened to arrive that same day. It was great to catch up with them and made our visit to this campground even better.

On Tuesday, we made use of a free RV site at the city park in Cascade, MT. It rained like crazy shortly after we got there.

…but within a couple hours, it cleared completely.

…and we enjoyed a lovely sunset. (This is a weather pattern we’ve experience for several days now.)

We made it to Glacier National Park on Wednesday and immediately took to the roof to take in the view:

While driving around in the Jeep that afternoon, we saw our first bear (didn’t get to pet him though).

That evening we enjoyed a wonderful hike, serenaded by some Swainson’s Thrushes happily singing away:

Thursday was pretty rainy, so I decided to stay in and make a work day out of it.

The girls took a side trip to the Canadian counterpart to Glacier: Waterton Lakes National Park.

The Prince of Wales Historic Lodge sits majestically on a hilltop in this park. The views from here were reportedly stunning, but this day’s low, rainy clouds impeded their view.

Despite the weather, they enjoyed their stop at the quaint town of Waterton. A highlight of the day occurred as they were leaving the park and spotted more bears:

Friday was beautiful:

We did a morning hike to St Mary and Virginia Falls:

Virginia Falls was in a full roar with the spring melt:

The spray overpowered all who tried to stand in the fall’s presence.

On the way back to the RV, a break in the trees and a break in the clouds revealed some pretty cool scenery (click the photo for a larger view):

By Friday afternoon, we had left the country:

We camped that night is a provincial park outside of Fort Macleod where the camping was super cheap:

This is just a catch-all photo to represent all of the wide open spaces we’ve enjoyed over the last week. The sun shines brighter, the sky seems taller and the grassy hills just seem to roll on forever. It temporarily assuages my anxiety about global overpopulation:

Sometimes the name of a place is all one needs to want to stop (I’m sure the original Blackfoot term had a more poetic ring to it):

This was a very well-done museum at a “buffalo jump” site used by the native peoples for some 6,000 years. I had heard of the hunting technique of chasing a buffalo heard over a cliff, but I was unaware of the intense strategy and teamwork needed to pull it off successfully, and how that determined whether there would be enough food to last the winter.

This is one of two cliffs in the area that were used for the buffalo jumps. (It was a much higher drop-off thousands of years ago.)

I don’t know what this “litres” nonsense is, but they are noticeably more expensive than gallons.

On Saturday night we camped in a casino parking lot in Calgary, Alberta. It was nice leaching off of their wifi, since good internet has been darn near impossible to find in Canada so far.

On Sunday morning we visited Calgary’s Winsport Olympic Park, which was the site of the 1988 Winter Olympics:

There were a handful of activities to do there, but we opted for the “luge” ride:

It started with a ski lift to the top of the hill, followed by us riding our little plastic luges down a 1.8 kilometer winding track.

Here are Nat and Amy doing a final brake check at the top of the hill. It was a lot of fun. We did it twice.

We stopped Sunday night at a provincial park near Canmore, Alberta. Like many of our other campsites, this one has no plugin for power — and we don’t need it. With traveling nearly every day, our batteries get fully recharged and we therefore have all the electricity we need.

We will head west toward Banff in the morning, then the big push north to Alaska!

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Summer Break RV trip: Back on the road

After THAT winter, we decided we don’t like being in cold places. So, we’re heading to Alaska. (While we are making deeper roots in Indianapolis, we will continue traveling every summer break.)

The RV rode out the vicious winter in a nice barn in Northwest Ohio and suffered only a dead battery and a bad case of dry-rotted tires. The exciting upgrade to our rig is a Jeep Wrangler. After our Jeep experience out west in 2012, we vowed to never return without one.

We jumped right back with one of our old favorites: the National Park sites. Our first stop was at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, IL on Sunday afternoon. This was Abraham Lincoln’s house prior to becoming president, and even contained some furniture that the Lincoln family used.

Our first camping spot was at a lovely Walmart in Hannibal, Missouri:

The next day we made a visit to the Pony Express Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri. The museum itself was fine, and the history of the Pony Express is pretty interesting: it was a start-up — the brainchild of three private entrepreneurs — that ran for only a year and half before being rendered obsolete by the telegraph.

On Tuesday we visited the Brown v. Board of Education National History Site, located in one of the formerly-segregated schools in Topeka, Kansas. It was a well-restored school but lacked specific information about the pivotal case.

Later that afternoon, we did some off-roading in the Jeep:

…and the Jeep was duly christened. It was a lot of fun.

Our campsite on Tuesday night was at a local park in St. Marys, Kansas. Here we took in a big ol’ slice of Americana: watching the St. Marys 10-12 year old girls softball team defeat their dastardly archrivals from Silver Lake.

That park was a pretty cheap stay ($10/night), and I needed to catch up on some work, so we ended up camping there until Thursday morning.

Thursday night was another camping community in a Walmart parking lot (Colby, KS.)

On Friday, through bug-coated windshield, we saw the Rockies off in the distance and finally felt far away from Indiana:

We made it to Boulder on Friday. I stayed home and worked that afternoon, but the girls took a tour of the nearby Celestial Seasonings Tea factory.

While traveling through Wyoming on Saturday, we made a quick stop in the town of Guernsey to see the wagon ruts of the Oregon trail still visible in the sandstone:

Some Wyoming towns offer their parks as free RV campsites, one of which we made use of Saturday night in Douglas, Wyoming. They don’t provide hookups, but there is a dump station. And free is hard to beat.

We intended to do another free Wyoming camping park Sunday night in Sheridan, WY. But I got a little creeped out by the random idling cars that would come and go for no discernible purpose.

We relocated to the local Walmart and settled in among another comfortable compound of campers (how’s that for alliteration?).

We got back on the road bright and early Monday morning and headed to Montana…

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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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