Tuesday, September 1, 2009

~ the herd left the old and infirm and continued its migration.

Day 69: St. Louis, MO to Port Washington, NY

We managed to hit the road at the reasonable hour of 8:25 this morning. I think we were all oddly excited about this last long day in the car. After about 6 hours or so, Ron and I both voiced the same crazy idea: Let's skip the hotel room in PA and just drive the whole 1,ooo miles to my parents' house on Long Island. After conferring with the kids about sleeping in the car with their sleeping bags for a few hours that night, we were all in agreement that driving through was the best option.

Doing this marathon drive meant we had to break my cardinal rule about no fast-food, though. We inhaled dinner at a KFC somewhere in western PA and got back on the road. We settled the kids in their sleeping bags a few hours later and then Ron and I took one more shift each. We finally pulled into the driveway at 2:30 am. A very long day, but we will all be very happy about it when we get home tomorrow afternoon instead of late at night as originally planned.

Day 68: St. Louis, MO

I was a little behind in updating the blog, so this entry probably seems a little out of order since Ron's real-time posts of our drive from St. Louis appear after this entry. Oh well.

Jonah got two of his biggest wishes today. We visited the St. Louis Arch and went to a major league ball game. We'd been thwarted in three previous attempts to attend an MLB game this summer, so he was thrilled that it finally worked out. Busch Stadium is right next to the Arch, too, so we could combine both activities in one trip. The drive to the Arch took a little longer than anticipated, so we had to skip all the museum displays in order to be on time for meeting some more college friends at the Cardinals game. Our stay on top of the Arch was like Clark Griswold viewing the Grand Canyon, but the kids didn't seem to notice. I think they thought everyone sprinted to the front of the line for the descending tram after looking out the windows for 30 seconds.

Our speedy visit allowed us to get to the ball game on time where we met up with three more friends from our Virginia days. We couldn't all sit together through the whole game, but we played enough musical seats that we all got to visit. It would have been nice to hang out longer, but there's only so much you can cram into one trip. Jonah seemed to enjoy the game, as did Elli, but she was ready to leave early with Dave when his son, Owen, had had enough. Elli was definitely more interested in playing with Owen than hanging out at the Cardinals game.

Dinner was a decidedly relaxed affair which allowed the kids to play as much as possible. The adults enjoyed reminiscing about "the good old days". It's a bit to sad to think that I'm old enough to have "good old days", but there you have it.

Tomorrow is going to be a long drive as we try to get as close as possible to my parents' house before crashing at a hotel. It's hard to believe the trip is almost over. We've had so many wonderful experiences and really bonded as a family. I hope the kids will remember all the happy memories and not focus on how long we made them sit in the car.
Switching drivers. 91 to go.
870 down, 124 to go. Officially our longest day now.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Mile 782. Seems Elli just needed a good cry. All quiet on the Eastern front. 211 to go.
Mile 780. Taking two Advil for aching back. Anyone know a good masseuse in North Adams?
Mile 775. Elli begins losing her metaphorical shit.
Attempting to push through from St. Louis to New York today. 736 miles down, 257 to go.
In a stunning violation of the no fast food policy, Maria and Jonah have KFC Famous Bowls for dinner.
Ohio, So Much to Discover! Yeah, like how long will it take us to get across it.
Making the final push to the east coast. PA tonight and home tomorrow.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Longest 7/10 of a mile ever.
Beautiful sunset behind us as we approach St. Louis from the west.

Day 67: Denver, CO to St. Louis, MO

We actually both arose promptly at 5 am this morning, threw our remaining few belongings into bags, finished loading the car, ate a small breakfast, and snuggled the kids into the backseat with their pillows and sleeping bags all in 40 minutes. A very efficient start to the day considering the early hour.

A perk of getting on the road so early and driving east was the beautiful sunrise. I honestly don't remember the last time I'd been up for a sunrise (thanks, kids, for being late risers!), so it was actually quite a treat. The sky looked like it was about to burst into flame and then the glowing orange orb of the sun peeked over the horizon. A spectacular sight.

We packed a bunch of snacks for the ride and just let the kids eat whatever their little hearts desired. After about 7-8 hours in the car, we arrived in Manhattan, KS where we had a late lunch with a former student of mine, Maura. Maura is a doctoral candidate in I/O Psychology at Kansas State and was able to take a break from prepping her dissertation proposal orals to have a late lunch with us. It was a short, but fun, visit. Hopefully, it won't be another four years before our next one (but maybe not in Kansas).

It felt like Kansas was never going to end, but after 424 miles, we finally crossed the border into Missouri. Another few hours and we arrived at Dave and Catherine's house. We all went to college together and hadn't seen each other in a LONG time. We were a little bleary eyed and exhausted when we got there (860 mile drives tend to do that to you), but we rallied enough to visit for a couple of hours before collapsing into bed. Only one more marathon drive to go!

Day 66: Denver, CO

Ron really slept in today, so we finally got around to leaving the house around noontime. Cara drove us to Sam's No. 3 in downtown Denver for a fabulous brunch. After stuffing ourselves silly, we waddled back to the car for a shopping trip at REI. I had lost my sunglasses at the park the night before and definitely needed a replacement before the next leg of our journey. We discovered that REI was having a Labor Day sale, so we went a little nuts: camel backs for the kids, biking shorts and sunglasses for me, a new headlamp, a saddle bag for Ron's bike, and a schoolbag for Elli. Saved some money and it all fit easily in the car when we re-packed it!

We then attempted to go to the Denver Botanic Gardens, but were surprised to discover it had closed early for a private event that night. Boo! We were able to smooth things over with ice cream and a stop at a playground for the kids, though. The rest of the day was spent hanging out at Cara's, watching tv, eating pizza, and packing up for the second to last long day of driving on our trip. Four more days and we're home!

Day 65: Corrales, NM to Denver, CO

Our day started out well with another fantastic breakfast by Uncle Kent and Aunt Janet, but took a turn for the worse when we tried to track down Ron's wallet at a gas station on our way out of town. After 30 minutes of tearing apart our car and Janet and Kent searching their house back in Corrales, we had to accept that the wallet was gone. As we re-packed our car at the gas station, a considerate police officer approached to ask if everything was okay. He noticed us pulling everything out of the car and Ron abusing his sleeping bag and just wanted to be sure there wasn't a domestic squabble that needed to be handled. He was re-assured that Ron and I were not about to beat the crap out of each other and commiserated about the frustrations of a lost wallet. Not much more he could do.

There were no other significant mis-adventures on our drive and we still made pretty good time to my friend Cara's house in Denver. We took a short drive to a beautiful park in downtown Denver where we had a picnic dinner and met up with some of Cara's friends. It was fun relaxing and playing some bocce ball with Jonah, but I started to crash. I had driven all day and started to really feel it. I managed to rally, though, after getting the kids to bed and was able to enjoy visiting with Cara over our vacation photos. So glad we don't have to drive anywhere tomorrow!
Currently reaffirming my decision to never move to Kansas.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lost wallet in New Mexico. Pissed.

Day 64: Corrales, NM

We had an excellent blueberry pancake breakfast this morning followed by a trip on the Sandia Peak Tramway. The tram travels 4,000 vertical feet in 15 minutes providing an impressive view of the greater Albuquerque area. At the top of the mountain, we took a 3 mile roundtrip hike to a CCC era stone cabin, then a quick lunch at the restaurant at the top because Ron needed to get to a better cell signal for a work conference call. He was a little late, but it all worked out.

When we got back to my aunt and uncle's house, the kids had their first rides on a horse! My aunt, Janet, saddled up her horse, Sam, and led Jonah and then Elli around their property on him. I was impressed that neither one of them showed any fear about getting up on such a big horse. I freaked out on the back of a horse when I was seven, so I would've understood a little panic. Ron and I are wondering how soon Elli will be asking for a pony...

I had a great time visiting with family here in Corrales, but I'm sorry it was so short. I hadn't seen my cousin Evan since my wedding 12 years ago, so a little family time was definitely warranted. I hope that we'll all get to visit again sometime soon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day 63: Lake Las Vegas, NV to Corrales, NM

We arose at 7 am this morning for a small room service breakfast and then a relatively quick dip in one of the resort's huge pools. For most of our hour long swim we were the only people in the pool which was a little eerie. I guess mid-week in August is not exactly prime vacation time in Las Vegas. Thankfully, the kids seemed to have their fill of the pool and playground and didn't give us a hard time about hitting the road.

After about 10 minutes of driving, we stopped at Hoover Dam on the NV-AZ border which was one of the first sites Jonah said he wanted to visit when we first started planning this trip. I was amazed at how big of an attraction it had become since my first visit in 1993. There was a huge parking structure (and parking fee) and an exorbitant entrance fee to the visitor center. We passed on the visitor center and chose to just walk across the dam. That was impressive enough, so no one was disappointed with that decision. After much picture taking by all four of us, we got back in the car for our drive across Arizona and into New Mexico to visit my aunt, uncle and cousin in Corrales, NM.

Today's scenery was much prettier, although the drive was longer. I was very frustrated with all the construction in the last 60 miles of our drive. Just when I'd get into a rhythm with the 75 mph speed limit, we'd come to another stretch of single lane, 55 mph speed limit. So we were pretty exhausted by the time we reached Corrales. We went to bed pretty quickly after a delicious dinner, looking forward to a relaxing day out of the car tomorrow.

Day 62: Yosemite to Lake Mead, NV

As if we needed it, we got further evidence that Elli is ready for home. She was very difficult at bedtime and if the campground had been crowded, she probably would've earned us a visit from the park ranger. Thankfully, we all felt better after a pretty good night's sleep. I was pretty surprised that I was the first one up at 8:20. The rest of the family was still dead to the world, so I started breaking camp on my own. I finally roused them at 9 am and we hit the road before 10 am.

Our 39 mile drive through Yosemite to the western entrance was just as incredible as the previous day's tour through Yosemite Valley. We found another spectacular view of Half Dome and took a very short hike to snap some more photos. The drive took us over Tioga Pass which topped out at 9,955 feet, our car's highest elevation of the summer. We then started a gradual descent on Rt. 120 through eastern CA. That portion of the drive had us all pretty giddy as the road had lots of ups and downs and dips that made it feel like a roller coaster. The kids were raving about this being the best drive of the trip!

If only that elation had continued. As we drove through western Nevada, we felt increasingly deflated. The scenery was rocky, gray and desolate with very little vegetation. The most depressing towns I've ever seen cropped up every 30 miles or so dotting the landscape with dilapidated double wides and yards littered with junk and broken down cars. I didn't see a sign of life in any of the towns, so they may have been deserted for all I know. I almost hope they were deserted because it was hard to envision what kind of existence the residents eked out in such a bleak place.

So, maybe we were pre-disposed given our first impressions of Nevada, but we were distinctly underwhelmed by Lake Mead National Recreation Area where we planned to camp for the night. Maybe it was the 100 heat, the dusky lighting, or the poor comparison to Yosemite, but none of us were interested in camping (except for Elli who just really likes her sleeping bag). A web search and a phone call later, we had booked a room at the Loews' Hotel in the Lake Las Vegas resort. It cost about 10 times what camping would have, but the comfy beds and outdoor patio made it worthwhile. Elli gave us trouble again at bedtime, but a couple of beers on the patio helped wipe away that memory.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Angel's Ladies Brothel. All Night Truck Parking! Welcome to Nevada.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day 61: Sacramento to Yosemite National Park

Our hotel room was so comfortable, we had a bit of trouble motivating this morning. We weren't too terribly lazy, though, as we made it to Yosemite National Park around lunchtime. After eating lunch and setting up our campsite in Crane Flat, we hit the road to check out the park.

Our first stop was the Tuolomne Giant Sequoia Grove. I think we all agreed that the sequoia grove wasn't as impressive as the redwood groves we visited in Northern CA. We also agreed that the 1+ mile hike back up to the car wasn't terribly fun. My legs were still a bit sore and the 6,500 feet of elevation was more than my lungs could easily handle. Ron definitely worked the most as he was a softy and carried Elli on his shoulders for at least half the climb.

We then headed for a driving tour of Yosemite Valley which did not disappoint in the least. To the contrary, we wished we had spent more time in the Valley and skipped the sequoia grove. The views of El Capitan and Half Dome and all the other granite monoliths were incredibly majestic and breathtaking. As Ron said, it was like seeing one Devil's Tower after another. Simply astounding.

After we finally picked up our jaws from the floor, we drove back to our campground and prepared dinner. We made up for Jonah's backpacking culinary disappointment and roasted hot dogs on the fire and cooked macaroni cheese. Elli abstained from the hot dogs as she was having a vegetarian day (except for the turkey lunch meat she ate earlier in the day). I think the kids favorite part of the evening was lying on their backs looking at all the stars. We have a pretty spectacular night sky in the Berkshires, but it pales in comparison to Yosemite's. Jonah kept pointing out different constellations to Elli which was pretty cute. If I'd paid any attention in my college astronomy course, I could've even told him if he was right.

Day 60: Springfield, OR to Sacramento, CA

As usual, packing the car took longer than anticipated this morning, so we quickly bagged the idea of driving all the way to Yosemite today. Instead, Ron spent about an hour searching for a nice hotel in Stockton, CA. As that proved impossible, he set his sights on Sacramento instead and scored big time. We stayed at Le Rivage right on the Sacramento River. All four of us enjoyed soaking in the outdoor hot tub after a long day in the car (and a very long mountain bike ride the previous day for me and Ron). When we got back to the room, we enjoyed more extravagance by having a room service dinner. The height of decadence, though, was the antique-style claw foot soaking tub in the room's enormous bathroom. All four of us took baths that night. The two soaks, plus a hot shower in the morning did wonders on my sore legs. Thanks, Ron, for ignoring my practical, cheap-motel tendencies. The splurge was 100% worthwhile.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sampled Mucho Gusto in Medford. Every bit as good as Eugene.

Day 59: Springfield

Today was our last day before starting the journey back east. We were lucky that Fred was willing to watch the kids all day so that Ron and I could do a ride on the McKenzie River Trail with our friend, Chris. We got a little more than we bargained for as it turned into a marathon mountain bike ride (literally!). We dropped off Chris' car at the bottom of the trail and drove our car up the road about 20 miles to start the trail. The first three miles of it was smooth and twisty single track. Lots of fun, until the trail started to get really twisty and then really rocky. Not smooth, rounded rocky, either. These were sharp lava rocks piled in all kinds of unpredictable directions. Not very rideable. At all. It took us two hours to complete the first 10 miles of the trail. The next 17 miles was a lot faster--I felt like I was a Jedi on the Forest Moon of Endor--but it still took us 3 more hours. I started getting my post-ride aches and pains about 5 miles before the end of the ride. In spite of the pain I'm going to feel tomorrow, I'm so glad we did this ride. It re-awakened my adventurous side. I think I had assumed that my mountain biking days were behind me, but that ride (and the other few I did this summer) reminded me that I still can and want to ride my mountain bike. I'm looking forward to lots more riding during my sabbatical year.

We got back to Springfield a lot later than expected, but I was relieved that the whole family was there waiting for us. We visited for a couple of hours before stumbling into bed. Packing up the car will have to wait until tomorrow.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 58: Portland to Springfield

We arrived in Springfield at lunchtime today and then I started puttering around the house to gather all our belongings to pack. I actually made a lot of progress on that front. Just have laundry and the suitcases to go.

We took a bike ride with Fred and Mimi to Mucho Gusto for another spectacular dinner. Bit of a bonk for Jonah on the way, but he recovered well once he got some food. Elli saved her meltdown for while we were waiting on line in the restaurant which told us we probably should have given both kids a snack before we went on the ride. You'd think we would have learned by now...

Day 57: Portland

Ron needed to do a lot of work today, so the kids and I played in the pool, played with Legos and read a lot of Harry Potter. We actually finished Chamber of Secrets so the kids could watch the movie with Grandma Peg. She hasn't seen any of the movies or read any of the books and the kids were excited to introduce her to Harry Potter.

While Peg babysat, we went to dinner with our friends Dani, Chris, and Mike. We ate a place in SE Portland called Pok Pok. They served authentic Thai food which was excellent, although very meaty, so I had to stifle my re-emerging vegetarian tendencies. It was a good way to spend our last night in Portland!

Day 56: Portland

We did some more swimming today and had a family barbeque at Ron's Aunt Joanne's. It was pretty hot outside, but we all enjoyed getting together with the Crooker side of the family. That's really been the highlight of our trip, I think, visiting with family.

We took the Max into downtown Portland that evening for a Beavers game where we met up with our friends, Chris and Dani. It was a pretty fun game (the Beavers won), although not as cheap as an Ems game in Eugene. Peg had never been to a Beavers game, so she got a kick out of it! Both kids fell asleep on the long train ride back to Gresham and we had a time carrying the two of them to the car!
The bad thing is road work. I5 South backed up from Wilsonville to beyond 205.
Headed south to Springfield. Avoid I5, something bad happened, backed up for miles.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 55: Portland

We had a relaxed morning at the Curry's followed by a tantrum by Elli. Again, she didn't want to leave, so I'm feeling pretty confident that the trip is starting to get to her. It is probably good that we'll have a few days at Grandma Peg's before leaving again. I think we do need to stay put for a little while before we begin the big drive back East. Hope she's not too difficult on the drive home.

Grandma Peg was still working when we arrived at her condo, so we relaxed inside and then took a swim. I made us all dinner and we chilled at the condo with Peg for the rest of the evening. It was nice to just stay put!

Day 54: Bend to Portland

We had another beautiful drive today from Bend to Portland. There were incredible views of the Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, and eventually Mt. Hood. We took a detour to see Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood where we had our first solid evidence that Elli is getting a little tired of traveling around. On our drive to Timberline, she kept insisting that she didn't want to go to Mt. Hood. She couldn't give any explanation why, she just wanted to stay in Bend. I don't think it was anything particular about Bend, though. We could have been in the nastiest hotel in the rattiest city slum and she would have wanted to stay.

We made it to the Curry's around 5 pm so the kids had a couple of hours to play before the babysitter arrived. All the grown-ups went out to dinner at John Barleycorn's in Tigard and met up with a couple of Ron's friends from high school. A fun and not very late evening. Since I keep emphasizing having relatively early nights, I think I must be getting tired, too.

Day 53: The mountain house to Bend

We took a wonderful drive on the Cascade Lakes Highway to Bend today. For about five miles, we were bombarded by millions of black and orange butterflies. When we stopped at a lava flow, we saw a Ford pickup with about a hundred butterfly carcasses on the front grill. There were thousands and thousands of butterflies at the lava flow, too, and it was beautiful standing in the middle of a swarm of butterflies. It's funny how a swarm of butterflies isn't irritating at all like a swarm of mosquitoes or a swarm of bumblebees.

When got to Bend, we had a late lunch at the Deschutes Brewery (good food and beer!) and then checked into a hotel before Ben and Jessica's housewarming/birthday party. We had a very nice time at the party and then headed back to our hotel at a reasonable hour.

Day 52: The mountain house

Today was a very lazy day for me and Elli, although that was not entirely our doing. Ron took the car back to Springfield to get some work done and pick up a few things we'd forgotten. He also planned to do a long mountain bike ride, so we were left without a vehicle for the whole day. Elli and I read a couple of more chapters of Harry Potter in the house, on the porch, and in the yard, played some make-believe games, watched the Parent Trap AGAIN and went for a long walk. Ron had been gone for 10 hours at that point and Elli was getting impatient for him to come home (it was kind of sweet, actually). She decided that if we went for a walk, Daddy would be home by the time we got back. When no one was home when we returned to the house (the backpackers were coming home a day early), we kept on going. Luckily, we only walked about 150 feet before Mimi, Fred, and Jonah returned. Ron arrived five minutes later, so everyone was home in time for a big spaghetti supper.

From what I can tell, the backpacking trip was a success. Jonah thought the 4 mile walk was kind of long and tiring and he was disappointed that Mimi and Fred didn't bring hot dogs for dinner OR marshmallows to roast on the fire (I mean, why else do you make a fire when you're camping?), but he declared that he couldn't pick his favorite moment of the trip because it was all fun. I guess all the Monty Python-esque videos he, Liam, and Mimi made at their campsite more than balanced out the little disappointments. I'm sure he'll want to go again!

Day 51: Springfield to the mountain house

Ron and I got an early start this morning to go for a mountain bike ride on the Goodman Trail, although that didn't turn out quite as expected. The trail was a bit slick, so we cut the ride short. My legs were still feeling pretty blown from yesterday's ride, so I wasn't too disappointed by the shorter ride. I could see how the trail would have been a lot of fun if the conditions had been better. Another plus of the shorter ride was we got to the mountain house in plenty of time for the backpackers to head out. Once Ben and Liam arrived, we snapped a few before photos and the five of them piled into their respective cars to drive to the trailhead. Jonah was beside himself with excitement for this trip. Hope it meets his expectations!

Elli, Ron, and I settled in for a relaxing day at the mountain house. Ron attempted to get some work done with spotty internet access while Elli and I watched the new version of The Parent Trap, read a few chapters in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and then watched the original version of The Parent Trap while we ate dinner. After Elli went to bed, Ron and I settled down with our books to cap off a nice relaxing day.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 50: Springfield

Today was a day of preparation then fun and relaxation. We're all heading up to the mountain house near Willamette Pass for Jonah to go on his first backpacking trip with Mimi, Fred, Ben and Liam. Ron, Elli, and I will just hang out at the house while they camp. So, there was a lot to pack and get ready, especially since we'll be heading to Portland for 4 days afterwards. It's our last short trip before we start the 11 day journey home.

By mid-afternoon, Fred and Mimi had their car loaded with all the backpacking gear and the kids and left to give us a kid-free evening. We decided to go for a mountain bike ride at Spencer Butte in southern Eugene. The ride was tougher than expected, but some good single track made it worth our while. After quick showers, we had burritos at Mucho Gusto in Eugene. If you ever find yourself in Eugene, OR, you have to try this place. Tons of fresh, local ingredients that you get to pick while they assemble the meal right in front of you. We haven't had burritos that good since Frijoleros in Athens, GA circa 1995. To cap off our little trip down memory lane, we got a couple of beers at the Jackalope Lounge in Eugene. The first Total Domination pint went down nice and smooth, but the second was a bit much on top of the burritos. I felt so bloated, I thought Ron would have to roll me out to the car like an Oompa Loompa.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Just got hit in the side of the head by 1994. Good mountain bike ride followed by a huge burrito and beer.

Day 49: Springfield

Not much to report about today. We tried to have a lazy day and recuperate a bit from our California trip. The kids spent a lot of time with their great grandparents next door. Even though the kids play with all the toys and don't really spend too much time talking, I think they enjoy the kids visits. There won't be many more opportunities like this before we drive back East.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day 48: Crescent City, CA to Springfield, OR

This morning was very rough. None of us had a good night's sleep in our cheap-ass hotel. The beds were too bouncy, the pillows too lumpy, the room too warm, the plumbing too loud, and the foghorn WAY too loud. We were all able to fall asleep around 10 pm in spite of the foghorn probably because there were enough other night noises to drown it out. No such luck at 2 am when Elli woke us all up because her blanket wasn't lying on her correctly. At that time of night, it sounded like the foghorn was right outside our window. Ron's desperation actually drove him to get fully dressed and start calling other hotels to find a quieter room. No such luck, so he had the brainstorm to play his ipod to help us all sleep. He and Elli fell asleep during the first playing of Death Cab for Cutie, but I had to re-start the album for Jonah and I to get back to sleep. When I woke up, I was feeling very done with our summer travels, but that could just be the exhaustion talking.

We did another hike in the Redwoods before continuing up the coast and that did a nice job of improving my mood. This grove was more expansive than yesterday's so you could really appreciate the sheer magnitude of all the trees. Elli was just as giddy as yesterday which never failed to bring a smile to my face.

My mood continued to lift with a picnic lunch at the beach in OR and walking around Prehistoric Gardens with the kids. Ron wanted to stop at Prehistoric Gardens to see all the lifesize models of dinosaurs at the roadside attraction. It wasn't as cool as Ron remembered, but the kids got a kick out of it.

Our final stop at the Hammonds in Coos Bay, OR brought me back to normal. Relaxing with Shelley and Joe for a few hours while the cousins all played one last time this summer was just what I needed to re-charge my batteries. Leaving their house was definitely sad, though. We've all had so much fun with the Hammonds--we're going to miss them a lot!

Day 47: San Francisco, CA to Crescent City, CA

We were moving a little slowly this morning. The price you pay for too much fun the night before. The kids weren't complaining, though, because it gave them more time to play with each other. Charlie stopped by right before we left, so we squeezed in another short visit. We all really enjoyed getting to spend time with him.

Ron and I were pretty excited about our drive north to the Redwoods, but the kids weren't sharing that excitement. They were pretty nonchalant when we told them we were going to see enormous trees later in the day. I think they just didn't know what to expect because when we got out of the car to hike in the Lady Bird Johnson Grove in the Redwoods National Park, they were sprinting on the path shouting about each of the trees. Elli was particularly giddy and could barely contain her enthusiasm with each tree she could climb inside. Seeing the trees through my kids' eyes made the experience even better than my first visit to the Redwoods in 1993.

The downside of our day was the crappy hotel room we had in Crescent City, CA. At least our dinner was pretty good! More about the hotel room in the next entry...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Day 46: San Francisco, CA

We voyaged down to the Waterfront today on San Francisco's mass transit. We were going to take the cable car, but there must have been a 2 hour wait. We opted for another form of transportation to the Ferry Building for lunch.

After our excellent burgers, the Shepards headed back to their house while the four of us and Charlie ventured on to the Jeremiah O'Brien Liberty Ship at Pier 45. It is one of two WWII Liberty Ships still in existence and since Ron's grandfather served on one during WWII, we were particularly interested in touring it. We all enjoyed it very much, even Elli. The ship still sails, so it has an active crew. A couple of the cabins were even equipped with PC's, giving them an authentic WWII-era feel.

We were all pretty tired from our day out, but all the grown ups managed to rally for dinner and drinks once the babysitter arrived. I'm amazed that we actually had the stamina to stay up until almost 2 am. That's what happens when you're having too much fun!

Day 45: San Francisco, CA

Our day began with some high-spirited play between Charlotte and Elli, but we parted ways for Charlotte to go to pre-school while we drove to the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park for a tour with Bart. As Bart is the curator of the Steinhart Aquarium in the Academy of Sciences, our tour was spectacular. We saw all the live animal exhibits, the living roof, the Rain Forest exhibit, and even saw some behind-the-scenes tanks in the Aquarium.

As expected, our meals were excellent. A great lunch at Park Chow (near the museum) and then a fun sushi dinner at Sumi near Bart and Kathy's house. Charlie, Ron's step-brother (aka Ste-puncle C), also joined us for sushi. He is truly a kid-magnet. All the kids were climbing all over him within 5 minutes of his arrival. Jonah enjoyed Charlie's undivided attention during dinner as he regaled Charlie with descriptions of his favorite Monty Python skits. Jonah was feeling adventurous with his appetite and tried a few different types of sushi. He wasn't a fan of the salmon, but he really liked the soft shell crab. I'm sure Grandpa and Aunt Shelley would not agree with his choice.

Day 44: Springfield, OR to San Francisco, CA

As expected, today was quite a long drive, although it was not as dull as I’d been led to believe. On I-5 in very northern California, I was driving while Ron snoozed and the kids watched movies. All of sudden, I look out one of the side windows and I see a huge snow-capped mountain looming ahead of us. When Ron eventually woke up, we figured out that it was Mt. Shasta and we enjoyed glorious mountain views for the next couple of hours. An unexpected and breathtaking treat.

We finally made it to San Francisco and Bart and Kathy’s (friends from college) house around 8 am. Their 4 year old daughter, Charlotte, was waiting up to meet Elli and the two of them were best friends after only a 5 minute warm up period. I’m sure tomorrow is going to be a very fun day!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Day 43: Springfield, OR

After several days without internet access, Ron needed a day to get some work done, so Fred and I took the kids out for the day. Our first stop was the Springfield Public Library to check out the first Harry Potter movie. I just finished reading the first book to Elli, so we had to follow that up with the movie. Then, we had lunch at Cornucopia in downtown Eugene where we had very tasty burgers (locally raised beef) and Fred and I enjoyed a beer courtesy of the all day Happy Hour. I think my beer was a little better than Fred’s, though, because Jonah didn’t drop his pickle in it. Elli was thrilled with lunch, too, because her grilled cheese sandwich was served WITHOUT THE CRUST! Thanks, Cornucopia. I’m going to be forced to cut the crusts off from now on.

We then spent a few hours at the U of O Natural History Museum. We moved pretty quickly through the displays of Oregon’s natural history, but the kids were captivated by the hands-on activity area. Jonah practiced being a geologist and an archaeologist and Elli practiced her drawing skills by copying different bone specimens. Our day ended with a shopping trip to Trader Joe’s. Jonah had seen Food, Incorporated with Fred and Mimi the night before and is now convinced that high fructose corn syrup is as bad as crack (not his words, but I’m allowed a little poetic license, right?). He scoured the ingredient list of almost every item in Trader Joe’s and couldn’t find anything with high fructose corn syrup. Too bad there’s no Trader Joe’s in Northern Berkshire.

Our day ended with another Em’s game with Fred and Mimi. It was just as much fun as the first game, although the beer was more expensive. We have a long drive ahead of us tomorrow with our visit to San Francisco, so we all went to bed as soon as we got home from the game.

Days 38-42: Rogue River Camping Trip

To avoid giving everyone a laundry list of our daily activities during the camping trip, I thought I’d condense it in one blog post. Our first day was marked by river play without the tikis, although Ron and Joe took a short 45 minute run. That first night was a bit uncomfortable since most of Oregon was in the throes of a dreadful heat wave. The weather cooled a bit as our trip progressed and we were all sleeping like logs by the last night.

One highlight of the trip was floating on the Rogue in inflatable tikis. I was feeling a bit gimpy with a sore shoulder and a little nervous about handling even minor rapids, so I did the first couple of runs solo. Elli didn’t seem to mind as she wanted to float with her grandparents and Lindsay much more than me! She screamed in fear for the beginning of the first rapid with Mimi, but those shrieks quickly turned joyous. The rapids raised my heart rate to a comfortable flutter and I built my confidence enough to take Jonah for the last two floats we did. Thankfully, I kept Jonah afloat after he and Ron had a somewhat traumatic dumping at the Galice Chute Riffle, the most difficult rapid on that section of the Rogue. Jonah was a trooper, though, and got right back in the boat (as Ron told me since I wasn’t with them). Ron said they were both pretty tense for the next rapid, but they had no further mishaps. The closest I came to a wipeout was watching Connor take a header out of Shelley’s tiki. Before I even had time to get ready to scoop Connor (and possibly Shelley) out of the water, Shelley had managed to pull him back in and steady the tiki. Connor was a bit wide-eyed for the rest of the float, but he bounced back well enough to float again the next day. The freeze frame image of a spread-eagle Connor in mid-air is permanently seared on my brain. Given the outcome of his spill, it’s an image that brings a smile to my face.

Another highlight was watching all the kids play together. Jonah, Connor, Gage, and Liam rode their bikes through the campground for hours on end and had a grand time roasting marshmallows and just horsing around. Elli got in on the fun a lot, too, but she also spent a lot of time drawing and playing with Lindsay (aka, Ste-paunt). I think all the grown-ups also enjoyed our time hanging out and relaxing together at the campground and at the swimming hole at Grave Creek.

I’m sure there are more stories I should share, but I feel like I’ve already written a short novel. I’ll end this post with the anecdote that is destined to become a staple of Miles’ family folklore. No camping trip is complete without s’mores, so Fred’s parents contributed a couple of graham cracker packages. The second night we were making s’mores, Fred pulls out the package and decides to sample one of the crackers, just in case. He didn’t know how old they were, so testing edibility seemed the prudent course of action. At least until he took that first bite. He immediately groaned and said “Oh, that’s awful! Mimi, try this.” Mimi, being a dutiful wife, takes a bite and starts to gag, declaring the cracker to be the worst thing she’s ever tasted and that it must be a cross between play-do and motor oil. She’s also a bit amazed that Fred actually suggested she sample the cracker. Of course, Gage and Connor pipe up, “Let me try it! Let me try it!” And, just as predictably, they spit the crackers out almost as soon as they’ve passed their lips. The rest of us took their word for it that the crackers were awful and abstained. I don’t need a memory of how play-do and motor oil taste together.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Day 37: Springfield

We were even more lazy today. Fred and Mimi left yesterday to go to the Rogue, so we’ve had the house to ourselves--quite a novelty. We’re enjoying our visit tremendously, but a little down time to relax is in order. I took the opportunity to get all our grocery shopping done and putter around the house packing. This is going to be our longest camping trip ever, so I want to be prepared like a good Girl Scout. Okay, “be prepared” is the Boy Scout motto, but I’m sure I completed the requirements for a “Preparedness” badge or something like that back in the day.

I don't think internet access is going to be very good while we're camping, so I won't be updating my blog until we return on Tuesday (or a couple of weeks later as it’s turned out).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Day 36: Springfield

Today was a record-breaking hot day with an official high temperature of 106. The kids played for an hour or so at Skinner Butte Park with their second cousin, Matthew, who was visiting from Tennessee also. Our car thermometer registered 109 after a pre-camping visit to REI, so I decided that we would be staying indoors for the rest of the day. I let the kids run wild inside and then settle down with a movie while I did some more pre-camping planning. Looking forward to our trip to the Rogue River!

Day 35: Springfield to the Coast and back again

Today marks the halfway point of our trip! Five weeks have just flown by and I expect the next five will move just as quickly. Good thing I've been documenting with the blog and photos (I do need to update flickr, though).

We wanted to get out of the house today to give Fred some peace and quiet before working again tonight, so we took a road trip to the coast. Heading to the coast also gave us a break from the oppressive heat that's gripping the valley right now. Our first stop was the Heceta Head lighthouse where we met up with Ron's aunt, Christy, his cousin Sarah and her husband, Brian, and son, Matthew, and the kids' second cousin, Dayna. Today the weather on the coast cooperated. It was clear, sunny, breezy, and a very pleasant 70 degrees. Beautiful views from the cliff, but we couldn't go into the lighthouse because of repair work. Maybe next time!

After checking out the beach briefly, we got back in the car to go to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. This portion of 101 is definitely my favorite. Every bend gives you a mind-blowing view of the Pacific from atop a spectacular bluff. I think the kids even managed to tear themselves away from their video games to enjoy the view. The Aquarium also did not disappoint, although the seals, sea lions, and sea otters were pretty lackadaisical in the heat. Our favorite area was the Passages of the Deep which are three very large tanks that are hollowed out in the middle so you can walk through them to see a vast array of fish. Elli was initially freaked out about sharks swimming next to her, above her, and below her, but she recovered quickly. She and Jonah even named the biggest shark "Bruce".

Our last stop was Depoe Bay to walk along the sea wall and eat at a seafood restaurant. We didn't have a recommendation, but just picked Gracie's Sea Hag because it was open and near our car. Luck was on our side because the food was fantastic! Elli even tried some Dungeness crab for the first time. She didn't like it, but at least she gave it a shot. We were treated to a beautiful sunset on the return drive, although the tranquility was interrupted by bugs pelting the windshield so hard it sounded like hail. Disgusting. I think I'm going to need a chisel to get all the carcasses off.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 34: Coos Bay to Springfield

Today was probably a day Jonah will never forget because it's the day he received the birds and the bees talk. We drove to Smith River Falls to swim and while we're eating lunch on the rocks, Jonah asks "What does someone actually do when they want to become pregnant?". Pretty direct question that I couldn't easily weasel out of. So, Ron and Elli went for a walk and I explained exactly how women become pregnant (technical terms and all). Jonah's reaction was "That was surprising. That wasn't what I expected you to say at all." He couldn't elaborate on what he was expecting, just that it wasn't that. Of course, no sex talk is complete without a description of menstruation. He was, after all, curious about how fertilization happens. As I imagine almost all males react upon learning about periods, Jonah said "I'm glad I'm a boy." I responded that getting a monthly period meant that I could feel another life growing inside me like when I was pregnant with him. He said "Hmm" and gave me a little shrug as if to say "If that helps you sleep at night, Mom, but I'm not buying it." I'm sure that's not the last time I will be the recipient of that shrug.

Once we were done with "the talk", we all got to enjoy swimming at the Smith River Falls. There were a couple of pools, a rope swing, and potholes like the ones at Shelburne Falls in MA. The water felt refreshing in the 90 plus temperatures and the sun was so intense you didn't even need a towel to dry off. Elli's big accomplishment for the day was finally trusting her swimming vest to keep her afloat. She shrieked and shrieked when Ron let go of her and it took her about a minute to realize that she was treading water all by herself. Then we could hardly get her out of the water as she was having too much fun swimming everywhere. Glad she figured this out before, and not after, our 4 day camping trip to the Rogue River!

We eventually made it back to Springfield in spite of our GPS's numerous attempts to get us lost on closed, gravel roads. One of the roads we were sent on was so scarcely traveled there was moss growing in the middle of it. We made much better progress once we turned off the damn device and Ron navigated by instinct. Fortunately, Ron got us back in time to have dinner at Hop Valley Brewery for all day Happy Hour again. Unfortunately, he had another disappointing meal (everyone else's was great, though, as was the beer). We'll have to decide if another attempt is warranted the next Monday we're in town.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day 33: Coos Bay

Ron and I got our exercise in this morning: a mountain bike ride for him and a run for me. I think his ride was less painful than my run, but at least we're both making progress.

We drove out to Shore Acres for a hike and stroll through the gardens after a quick lunch. Once again, the weather did not cooperate. It was clear and sunny at the Hammonds, but as soon as we started driving, the fog rolled in to stay. The chill in the air was brisker today than yesterday, but we were prepared for it and could still enjoy the beautiful gardens and hike along the bluffs. The views were still breathtaking in spite of the fog.

Ron and I picked up some Chinook salmon steaks and filets on our way back from Shore Acres and Joe and Shelley cooked up a feast. The salmon was spectacular although Elli wouldn't admit to it. I think the rest of the kids enjoyed it, though. Seriously some of the best salmon I've ever had and I eat a lot of salmon.

I'm a little sad that tonight is our last in Coos Bay. We've had a great visit and I love seeing all the cousins together. Wish we could do it more often.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day 32: Coos Bay

Ron wanted me to clarify that dinner at Unger's Bay was most definitely not the cause of his and Jonah's illnesses. Ron's illness pre-dated our trip to Coos Bay and Jonah's vomiting began less than two hours after dinner. We didn't want to falsely malign a restaurant that served us an excellent meal.

With that disclaimer aside, Jonah made it through the night with no vomiting and kept down his food for the rest of the day. Ian was also feeling a bit better, so we felt brave enough to venture out of the house in the afternoon. We drove out to Cape Arago and walked down to the beach. The tide was high so we had to walk on rocks and driftwood so bleached and smooth, it felt like walking on a field of bones. The kids enjoyed exploring the rocks and the shoreline and came away with a few treasures. My allusion to a field of bones became a reality on the return walk as we discovered a slew of rib bones, vertebrae, a pelvis and a skull (all from an animal, I'm sure). A little eerie.

We then drove to Sunset Bay for more play on the beach and a fire for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. The weather was chilly and foggy, but it was still very pleasant and relaxing. The kids built quite a few castles and the adults got to enjoy a few beverages. A lovely evening for all.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 31: Springfield to Coos Bay

We slept in until 10 am today which set back our whole schedule. I had to finish our laundry and then Ron, Jonah, and I drove over to a Little League field for some baseball practice. It was fun and productive (Jonah looked really good at shortstop), but we stayed way too long. By the time we showered, ate lunch, packed, and hit the road to Coos Bay, it was 3 pm, about 2 hours later than we planned on leaving.

It worked out fine, though, because we were able to meet the Hammonds at Unger's Bay, a seafood restaurant on a boat in Winchester Bay. I was afraid the swaying of the boat was going to wreak havoc on my digestive tract, but I felt fine once I started eating. Turns out I shouldn't have been worrying about my digestive system. Jonah was playing Wii baseball with Gage back at the Hammonds when he suddenly ran to the bathroom to throw up, which he continued to do for the next couple of hours. Ron's intestinal issues had re-surfaced after dinner, too, so I had two sickies on my hands. To top things off, Ian started running a fever of 102. Not sure what this weekend is going to have in store for all of us...

Day 30: Portland to Springfield

A red-letter day today! I took Jonah on his first mountain bike ride (Ron's brakes are out of commission, so he hiked with Elli and Peg instead). At one point, we were going down a pretty long descent. I was hanging back, giving Jonah some space, when I noticed him running, not riding, on the trail. Turns out he felt out of control so he jumped off the bike and ran down the trail. He managed not to get a scratch on him and he learned an important lesson about using both brakes, not just the back brake. He had taken our cautions about using the front brake a bit too literally and never used them. All in all, a successful first ride. Jonah was excited about getting his bike dirty, like a real mountain bike!

We ate a quick lunch while Ron did some work and then drove back to Springfield. We got back in time to do some laundry and then go to the Eugene Emeralds minor league baseball game. The game was lots of fun: cheap beer and food (much more reasonable than a major league game). It would have been better if the Ems had managed to win, but you can't have everything!

Day 29: Portland

After a lazy morning at the Currys and a trip to the Apple store for a new computer battery, we drove over to Grandma Peg's. Ron was feeling a little under the weather, so he took a nap while the rest of us played Legos for hours. Not very exciting, but it was relaxing to just sit still and spend time with the kids. Our mellow day was capped off with a swim at the condo pool and a short walk to dinner at a McMenamin's. I hope Ron will be feeling better tomorrow. I don't think there's anything worse than being sick when you're away from home. Since we're traveling for another six weeks, I hope that no one else gets sick.
Attention 5-year-olds everywhere: Hungry does not mean "I want dessert."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Watching the Ems at Eugene's historic Civic Stadium.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day 28: Springfield to Portland

Kids watched the rest of Inkheart this morning (a movie we rented after our dinner at Hop Valley), then got dressed to go berry picking with Fred and Mimi. They returned with six quart containers of raspberries and a spattering of berry stains on their shirts. I stayed behind to do some packing for our two day trip to Portland.

Our first stop was the Currys. It was fun visiting with the grown ups and the kids eventually warmed up to play together. Ron and Kevin drove to Best Buy and bought Coraline for the kids to watch. The movie was a little creepy, but didn't seem to upset Elli at all. I think she was too tired to even register what she was watching!

Day 27: Springfield

Today Jonah and I played tennis just the two of us. He'd been itching to try and hit hard with me since we arrived in Oregon. He did really well and it's a shame he couldn't play in the North Adams tournaments this summer. He'll get a chance next year.

After Ron's mountain bike ride about 20 miles outside of Eugene, we all went back to Amazon Pool. It was just as crowded on this Monday afternoon as it was on Friday, but it was still fun. The highlight of the visit was Jonah's jump off the 6 meter platform. He looked terrified but he did it! Certainly braver than I am.

Our next stop was dinner at Hop Valley Brewery to enjoy their all day Happy Hour, $2.50 pints of their brews all day long. All the grown-ups enjoyed 3 pints since we were walking (we found out later that Fred and Mimi had already stopped for one on their way home from the pool!). Elli had her fill of drawing throughout the meal and Jonah got caught up on MLB coverage. A very pleasant evening for all.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Day 26: Springfield

It's hard to believe we've been away from home for almost a month. I'm usually itching to get back home at the end of a 2 week trip, but I feel no anxiety. Maybe I'd mentally prepared myself for the long absence and the restlessness won't set in until late August. We've planned fun visits with friends and family for a return trip, so I hope I'll be able to fully enjoy them.

We eventually took a long bike ride to the river today once Elli, the sleeping diva, got out of bed mid-morning. We wound up riding 15 miles which was the longest ride Jonah's ever done (broken up into segments since we stopped a few times). He said he thought his legs were going to fall off in the last mile or so but he recovered just fine. He's turning into quite the cyclist on this trip!

Day 25: Springfield

Yesterday we gave our nephews, Connor and Gage, tennis rackets as belated birthday presents. So, we took them to some courts this morning so they could try them out. They both picked it up really well and we all had a lot of fun. After tennis, Ron and I got much needed massages from an effective, although somewhat loopy, massage therapist. We'll definitely visit her again, but I hope she'll refrain from unsolicited advice, like I should eat according to my blood type.

Shelley and the boys headed home to Coos Bay today after a great two week visit. I think all the cousins had a great time playing together. We even survived with very little fighting at least between cousin. The siblings met their usual quota of fighting, I think. In any event, a little down time is probably a good idea.

Day 24: Springfield

We've been having a lot of fun visiting with everyone here in Springfield, but I've noticed that we seem to be slowing down our routine in the morning. We still want to get out and about, but we're taking longer to get there. After Fred and Shelley did a little shopping at Costco, Fred took Elli and I to the Springfield Public Library to pick up a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Elli loves libraries, so it was hard to convince her to leave. We enticed her with a new book from the summer reading program cart and a promise to return soon. A quick stop at the farmer's market for a couple of pints of raspberries and we headed back to the house.

We ate a very quick lunch and packed up all the kids for a fun afternoon at Amazon Pool in Eugene. The place was huge and packed with people on this hot day. There were two large kiddie pools with a maximum depth of 3 feet, a tall water slide into one of the kiddie pools, an Olympic size pool with lap lanes, free swim area, and an over the water obstacle course, and a diving pool with two low springboards, a high springboard and a 6 meter platform tower with a short tube slide coming off it. Add some sprinklers, a huge sandbox, and a hot tub and there you have Amazon Pool. It was impressive and a lot of fun. The boys did the high springboard and the high tube slide, but we headed back to the platform dive too late for Jonah to have a go at that. He was pretty disappointed, but I assured him that we'd be back soon. It's hard to believe that the kid who was terrified of jumping off my parents' dinky diving board a year ago actually wants to throw himself off a 15-18 ft. platform into a deep pool of water. More power to him!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Day 23: Springfield

Today was the day that I officially began my get back in shape campaign. I was actually able to jog for 15-20 minutes without stopping. I went incredibly slow and I'm sure I looked horrible but at least I'm finally getting started. I even got some more exercise when we rode our bikes a couple of miles to a park for a picnic lunch. I guess the three hours we spent at an indoor pool also counts as exercise. So, a day of rest tomorrow will be well deserved!

I don't think we needed to go anywhere, though, for the kids to have fun. The highlight of their day seemed to be their after-dinner play. It was over 90 degrees, so the three older boys asked if they could spray each other with the front yard hose. Elli got into the action, too, once she finally finished her dinner and there was much squealing, shrieking, and giggling as they took turns spraying each other. No one was safe from the hose. My kids had enormous fun chasing me when I came outside to check on them. Quite a price to pay for being concerned about them. The real fun began after Elli came inside, though. Jonah and Gage discovered a mound of wet yellow chalk and they started smacking each other on the back with handfuls of it. It was all downhill from there. When I came outside about 15 minutes later, Jonah's entire face was purple, Gage's was green, and Connor had artfully painted his face several different colors. All three of their shirts and shorts were covered with multi-colored handprints. They even got little Ian involved in the fun by putting big handprints of chalk on the back of his diaper. All this pandemonium under the watchful eyes of their grandparents. Jonah said it was the best night of his life, so I guess I shouldn't complain. Or maybe I should if nothing we've done with him compares to smearing wet chalk all over his face and clothes.

Day 22: Springfield

As I write this post, my kids and their cousin, Gage, are sitting next to each other on the couch playing their DS Lites. Seemed like an opportune moment to capitalize on the silence and write a couple of blog entries. The last couple of days have been pretty hectic and I've been too tired to write in the evenings.

Today we decided to get out of the house early to give Fred, my father-in-law, a chance to sleep in a quiet house. He works nights in a sleep lab and he arrived home at 7:30 am after his fourth night of work in five days. We packed all 5 cousins into my sister-in-law Shelley's car and Ron and I followed in ours. After switching the seating arrangements so that no siblings were next to each other, we were on our way to Belknap Springs and hopefully to the lava fields on McKenzie Pass. The rumor that the road to the lava fields was closed due to construction proved true, so we couldn't complete that leg of our journey. The Belknap Springs Resort was worth the drive, though. The gardens at the resort were beautiful and it was an idyllic location for a picnic lunch. The kids even got to burn some energy hiking around. We made another stop at one of the waterfalls on the McKenzie River before heading back to Springfield. The water at the falls was an unbelievable shade of pale aqua blue. It was practically fluorescent. The force of the falls was so great that you could feel the mist hundreds of feet away--Elli actually complained about getting wet in the 90 degree heat.

The highlight of the day, though, had to be taking the three older boys to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince late in the day. The kids have been playing Harry Potter almost non-stop since we arrived in Springfield. Fred and Mimi have a great collection of chopsticks that have been doing double duty as wands all week. We all enjoyed the movie and I recommend it to all Harry Potter fans. Definitely worth the money. Elli has definitely been bitten by the Harry Potter bug, too, so I'm going to start reading the series to her while we're here. Maybe we'll be finished with all 7 by the time the next movie opens in Nov. 2010 so she can see that one in the theatre...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Jonah, put the dress back on the doll." Really? Already?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Day 21: Springfield

With this post, I am officially caught up with my travel blog. If I wasn't so hell bent on documenting our trip, I would've given up on this thing two weeks ago. Making myself write every day is hard. Not sure how I'm going to do on my sabbatical since writing is pretty much my sabbatical project. I suppose this blog will help me get into writing shape, right? Maybe?

Anyway, we ventured to another park today in pursuit of Ron's quest for a decent Little League field. He remains unfulfilled, but there was a serviceable field for hitting grounders to Jonah and Gage. They both did well and I think Jonah's skills had time to consolidate without daily practice on our trip. He looks smooth fielding the ball and seems to have lost his fear of being hit. Not sure how that happened with riding in the car and playing video games for 9 days straight. Go figure.

We also played some tennis at the park and my nephews, Connor and Gage, discovered that they enjoy the sport. We'll have to try and play again before they all leave on Saturday.

Mimi treated the kids to a movie night by renting Madagascar 2, so we had a relatively quiet evening. With 5 kids age 2-10 in the house, the emphasis is clearly on the "relatively" in that sentence, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Now we have to come up with something fun to do out of the house tomorrow morning so that Fred can sleep after his fourth night of work at the sleep lab. We'll see how that goes...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Day 20: Springfield

Today was mine and Ron's first full day in Springfield. The kids have been enjoying themselves since Thursday, though, and seem to be fully settled at their grandparents' house. Elli is even being less picky about food than she has been over the past few weeks.

After sleeping in a bit and eating a leisurely breakfast, we decided to embark on a 13 mile round trip bike ride with all the kids to Skinner Butte, the site of Elli's ill-fated birthday party. Being back on my bike was simultaneously exhilarating and painful. I think Shelley, my sister-in-law, was equally sore after the ride, since neither one of us has done any significant riding lately. The kids had a grand time on the unique play structure at Skinner Butte and playing in the sand and water feature. Water trickled down from an artificial rock formation into a large sand/dirt area that covered replica fossils from different geologic eras in Eugene. Many dams were erected and destroyed and river meanderings manipulated in a short span of time. I was hardly the only adult shoveling sand to ford the river.

We finally returned home around 3 pm to make a late lunch. I was amazed that neither of my kids had a low blood sugar meltdown on the ride home. Jonah was a little extra weepy when he slammed too hard on his top tube, but he managed to recover and ride the rest of the way home. At dinner, Elli discovered a couple of new foods that she enjoys when she ate enchiladas filled with zucchini, green onions, and ricotta. Jonah would have enjoyed them, too, if he had closed his eyes and not seen the zucchini. He is convinced that he can taste zucchini (which is definitely not a plus in his book) no matter how small the pieces or how many other foods are present. He eventually ate the enchiladas once I removed all the "big" pieces of zucchini. He better figure out a way to eat them quick because they are going to make regular appearances at dinner now that he's officially outnumbered 3-1 in the enjoyment of zucchini department. My mom didn't stop cooking those frozen veggie medleys just because I wanted to vomit whenever a lima bean even passed under my nose, so he's going to have to endure zucchini. I guess you could call it the hazing of parenthood. I'm sure he'll exact his revenge on my grandkids someday and the cycle will continue.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Day 19: Portland to Springfield

Ron and I miraculously woke up hangover free this morning. Not sure how we managed that after a 10 hour day of drinking, but I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth (ok, I probably am, but I didn't today). Our drive back to Springfield for Elli's birthday party was a lot easier than I anticipated. Turns out that was about the only thing that was easier than expected today.

Our plan was to have the party outside at a cool Eugene park called Skinner Butte. Fabulous play ground with a sprinkler, lots of grass, and picnic tables. But no covered shelter. The weather was threatening, but the future weather map on weather.com looked promising. So, Ron and I drove over to the park to set up after the sprinkles passed by. Or so we thought. As we scoped out the park in the rain, we decided to buy a 10 x 10 shelter from a nearby REI. That's when everything went from bad to worse. The kids were riding their bikes to the park with their grandparents and got caught in a thunderstorm about a mile into their ride and sought shelter under an overpass. They eventually turned back to warm up and change into dry clothers. At our location, the thunder rumbled, the rain intensified and the power flickered in the REI. My sense of foreboding seriously deepened at this point. Ron's phone was ringing off the hook with different family members and friends asking what our rain plan was. I am a compulsive planner who inexplicably did not have a rain plan for her daughter's outdoor birthday party and I felt physically ill about it.

With our new rain shelter in hand, we drove back to the park to make a final decision. Ron's cousin, Lynnea, and her family were sitting in the parking lot during the torrential downpour waiting for us. That's when Ron had the great idea of asking Lynnea, who lives locally, if she knew of any indoor play areas. She and her husband quickly suggested Papa's Pizza which didn't require reservations days in advance or a room rental fee. A couple of phone calls later, the party was moved to Papa's Pizza and I didn't continue feeling like an inept mother. The kids wound up having just as much fun at the indoor play space and they got pizza to boot. Elli seemed to barely notice the change of venue and it was just as easy to catch up with friends and family at the pizza place as it would have been at the park.

After the party we headed back to Fred and Mimi's to visit with Adam and Hannah a bit more. Adam is leaving for a 2 month trip to China in a couple of days, so today was our last day to see him. I'm glad we got to spend a lot of time together before his trip. It was probably the most time we've had than any of our previous visits to Oregon. Yet another reason I'm so glad we threw caution to the wind and drove cross-country for the summer.

Day 18: Portland

Today was Mike (a friend from college) and Danielle's wedding on Sauvie Island in Portland. The weather was a little overcast and cool for the ceremony, but it certainly didn't distract from the simple beauty and poignancy of the short service. Although the wine bottles were uncorked and the kegs tapped before the service began, serious celebration began after the "I do's" as the sun worked its way out from behind the clouds. I resisted temptation to begin drinking before noon and slowly sipped a lemonade or two until my hangover officially disappeared. Then I set to work on acquiring a new one.

It was one of the most relaxed weddings I've been to with folks playing bocce ball and corn hole in the sun while kids ran around chasing bubbles and model airplanes. Ron and I even enjoyed a hammock in the middle of an apple and pear orchard for almost too long. At about 4 o'clock the reception wound down and we waited our turn for the shuttle to the after party at the bride and groom's house. This second wedding party lasted as long as the reception and was just as laid back and fun.

After a couple of hours at the after party, we realized our designated driver plan wasn't working out, so Adam, Hannah, Ron, and I took a cab back to Adam's place via his favorite donut joint. The cabbie didn't mind the detour since the meter was ticking and Adam bought him a donut, too. I guess I shouldn't complain because all the sugar, grease, and lard probably helped soak up all the alcohol in my system and prevented a hangover the next day. It's fun to act 22 every now and then.

Day 17: Springfield to Portland

Ron and I got back in the car headed for Portland and our friend Mike's wedding, but before we left, I did some shopping for Elli's birthday party with my father-in-law. The drive up to Portland was traffic filled and rather frustrating. By the time we picked up Adam, too, we were half an hour late to the pre-wedding party at Mike's house. Our timing was actually pretty perfect, though, as they had just started serving dinner when we arrived. Dinner was a southern feast called Frogmore Stew. A whole mess of shrimp, sausage, corn cobs, and red potatoes strewn on a huge sheet of brown paper on a table. A new and very tasty dining experience. We got to catch up with a few friends from college whom we hadn't seen in years and then met up with our friend Dani again. It was lots of fun that my head wound up regretting a bit in the morning. At least it's a morning wedding, so I could recover with some hair of the dog. But, I'll cover the wedding in the next entry...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Brian, James, Mike and Adam tonight. Good times.
Saw Luke, Phil,

Friday, July 10, 2009

Day 16: Portland, OR to Springfield, OR

Today was Elli's 5th birthday! She has been counting the days until her birthday for weeks, so she was beside herself with excitement that the day FINALLY arrived. While Elli watched tv with her cousins, I re-packed all our bags and then started making a big brunch feast, as per Elli's birthday request. I made her favorite: pancakes and sausage links. I also made home fries and scrambled eggs, but Elli didn't eat any of that. Adam and Hannah came over for the meal, too, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Elli opened some presents, including a digital camera from me, Ron, and Jonah, and then was sad that she didn't have more to open. Luckily, I was able to distract her with a demonstration of how her new camera worked. Look, shiny! She quickly started to snap everyone's picture and then admire the shot on the LCD screen. Crisis averted for the time being.

Once we all recovered from our post-brunch food coma, we re-loaded the car and headed down to Springfield. I thought the drive was pretty uneventful, but Ron was quite frustrated with drivers camping out in the left lane. It seems that Oregon drivers aren't aware that the left lane is for passing slower cars on the right. If my nephew, Gage, had been in the car, he would have been treated to several examples of Uncle Ron shaking his fist and yelling at other drivers, just like he did in New York City a few years ago when the Hammonds visited.

It felt fantastic to completely unload the car and unpack our belongings when we arrived at my father in law's house. Mimi and Fred have generously opened their home to us for the rest of our stay in Oregon. We won't actually be here for the whole 6+ weeks, but it will be our home base for all the short trips we have planned. In fact, our first short trip starts tomorrow. Ron and I will be heading back to Portland for a wedding, but the kids will be staying here with Mimi and Fred.

I think the kids were also happy to arrive in Springfield. We picked up Jonah's bike from the local bike shop where we shipped it to and he rode it up and down the street for about an hour. He even met one of the kids on the street, so he has a new friend already. We set up Elli's ride along on Mimi's bike and she already can't enough of riding, too. I hope they'll be just as enthusiastic about bike riding after all the riding they're likely to do this weekend with their grandparents!

Day 15: Portland, OR

We had a slow start to the day as I uploaded pictures to Flickr and tried to catch up on this blog (something I'm still trying to do, in fact). We eventually got everyone dressed and out the door to Clackamas Town Center to get studio portraits of all 5 cousins together.

We were a little late to the Picture People because our GPS let us down with crappy directions to Adam's apartment. We drove at least 10 blocks out of the way to get on the interstate when we could have just driven straight through on a city street. Sure, you can drive faster on the interstate but it's not much of a time savings if you have to drive in circles to get on it.

The photo session was a little trying for the photographer, at least at first. Ian eventually decided to cooperate for a few shots, but he ran out of patience pretty quickly. Can't say I blame him. It's not all that fun to be placed in unnatural and sometimes uncomfortable positions and then told to smile naturally. My two kids didn't seem to have any trouble, though, when we got a bunch of shots of them using the rest of our poses for the session. After they sat for about 10 different poses, Elli said "That was fun!"

We did get some really nice shots and I was sorely tempted to buy one of those already framed large prints they bring out when you review the poses. This one was a black and white 15 x 18 in a beautiful honey maple frame. They try to rope you in with a line like "this framed photo is regularly $145, but if you buy 3 photo sheets, it's only $45!". I seriously doubt anyone just buys that framed photo and nothing else, so they probably just make up that number for the "regular" price. After all, lots of people probably think "I'm getting a $100 discount! That's a steal, so I have to get it! And my kids look so cute! If I don't buy it, they're just going to be put in the shredder!" And, I'm ashamed to admit, those thoughts were going through my head, but cooler heads (my husband's, in this unusual case) prevailed. In hindsight, I think they over-reached with the $100 discount. I might have been convinced with a $30 or $40 discount, but I just don't see how they profit with a $100 discount. They strained credibility just enough for me to pass on their incredible deal. Maybe that's just me, though.

Day 14: Portland, OR

Our first non-traveling day started out pretty leisurely. We relaxed in our jammies for a couple of hours and then took the kids to the pool for a quick pre-lunch swim. I wasn't the least bit tempted since the outdoor temperature wasn't even 70, but I think kids have different pool weather criteria. After lunch, we drove over to Mt. Tabor Park in Portland to meet up with some family friends and my brother, Adam. Mt. Tabor is a dormant volcano right in the middle of Portland. The views would have been spectacular if it had been less hazy, but it was still very pleasant to walk around and watch the kids play on the playground. The best moment of the day came when Adam brought out a carton of raspberries for the kids. He placed it on the picnic table and the 5 kids descended like a swarm of locusts. When they parted 1 minute later, the raspberries were gone. Nice to see that kind of enthusiasm for fresh fruit.

We wrapped up the day with a spaghetti dinner at my mother in law's condo and then Ron, Adam, and I headed out to a bar to meet up with our friends Dani and Chris and Adam's girlfriend, Hannah. Good beer and good company made for a fun night!

Day 13: Missoula, MT to Portland, OR

We tried to get a relatively early start today to have a reasonable arrival time in Portland. We contemplated taking the scenic route through Montana and into Idaho, but decided that speed was going to win out over beauty. I thought the interstate had its fair share of scenic vistas, but what do I know. Where we live, 3500 feet is tall for a mountain. Anything higher just looks spectacular to me!

We made pretty good time to Pullman, WA where we stopped for lunch with a friend of Ron's from high school, Jodi. Our kids and Jodi's kids, Ruby (age 7) and Arlo (age 4) took a little while to warm up, but once they did, they had a grand time playing together. When we were leaving, Ruby asked when she was going to see us again. Too cute!

We continued to make good time and stopped for dinner at a Burgerville, USA in The Dalles, OR. Ron thought the rest of the drive took forever even though it was only about another hour and a half. I guess when you've been traveling for so long and your destination is so close, time slows down.

It was sweet relief to unload at my mother in law's condo and the kids quickly fell into play mode with their cousins, Connor, Gage, and Ian. We let the kids run around for a while and finally got them to sleep at about 10:30 pm. Sleep followed quickly for us as we looked forward to no long drives for several weeks!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Attention Oregon drivers: Slow moving vehicles move to the right.
Successfully reloaded car for trip to Eugene. Bye for now to Portland.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Just had a nice mtn bike ride on Powell Butte.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Arrived safely in PDX. Woohoo!
Crossing OR border...now.
Had a great visit with Jodi, Ruby & Arlo. Next stop Oregon.
In Moscow, ID about to cross into Washington.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Day 12: Missoula, MT

The weather was so beautiful last night, and we were so tired, that we opted not to put on the tent's rain fly. At about 7:20 am, we deeply regretted that decision when the automatic sprinkler system turned at Rob's friend's house. We managed to place our tent in the confluence of 3 sprinkler heads, so there were puddles of water inside our tent in mere seconds. Quite an alarm clock. Ron, Jonah, and I started laughing pretty quickly at the situation but a crying Elli couldn't understand why water was going through the tent. After a few minutes of drying off on the back porch she started to giggle about Mommy and Daddy foolishly trying to throw on the rain fly after the sprinklers started. We laid everything out to dry in the sun and grabbed some breakfast with Rob at a coffee shop in Missoula. Elli had about 3 bites of an outrageously delicious blackberry and blueberry fruit tart, so I got to enjoy her breakfast as well as mine.

We then ventured to a Barnes and Noble and had the kids pick out a pile of their favorite books for Addie while Ron and I followed the Wimbledon men's final on our phones. We couldn't figure out a place to watch the rest of the match, so we drove to a cool park near Rob and Chelle's house to let the kids play while we watched score updates. The park had a huge wooden play structure and several play water fountains so we stayed put for about 4 hours. We had a picnic lunch and the kids played and played and played. It was a very relaxing day and Ron and I relished sitting still and just watching our kids.

We eventually headed back to Rob and Chelle's house for dinner. I was very proud of Jonah for trying elk meat for the first time (a first for me, too). It was really good and I traveled even further down the non-vegetarian path. I'll have ample opportunity to repent when we stay with Fred and Mimi, though.

We opted for a hotel room tonight and headed there late in the evening to rest before our final push to Portand tomorrow. One more long day of driving!

Day 11: Ennis, MT to Missoula, MT

We had plans to watch the 4th of July parade in Ennis this morning, but we couldn't manage to get ready in time for the 10 am parade. I think the previous day's driving was too much for all of us and we needed to rest a bit. The kids had fun visiting with Pat, their great-grandmother, who they were meeting face to face for the first time. After a late breakfast, we walked into downtown Ennis and caught the tail end of the parade. There were still many people milling around and the atmosphere was truly festive. Lots of red, white, and blue everywhere and many adult beverages were being consumed before noon time. Ron enjoyed reminiscing about the changes in the downtown area since he was a kid and briefly lived in Ennis. We eventually made our way to the town park where the kids played for a little while and then we headed back to Pat and Bev's (Ron's aunt).

We visited with Pat and Bev as we ate lunch and then decided to visit the cemetery to pay our respects at a few family graves. Ron's grandparents and stepfather, Roger (Pat's son), are buried there so we took some pictures for his mom. Then, we got back in the car for the 3 hour drive to Missoula to visit our friends Rob and Chelle and their newborn daughter, Addie.

We opted for the direct route to Missoula, so our drive was pretty uneventful. It didn't even rain that much! We arrived around dinner time and ordered some pizzas. The kids were pretty happy with a short drive and they loved seeing baby Addie. After visiting for a few hours, Rob escorted us to his friend's backyard where we planned to camp for the night. We were all so exhausted that we all feel asleep easily in spite of the fireworks people were still setting off.

Day 10: Devil's Tower, WY to Ennis, MT

After a hearty breakfast at the KOA campground restaurant, we drove up to the park visitor center to hike around the base of Devil's Tower. The weather was clear and cool and there were not many tourists there yet. The Tower has spiritual significance for so many tribes, it seems appropriate to view it in the silence of nature without the tour bus throngs who arrived at the end of our hike. The monolithic structure deserves some awed reverence. I can't recommend visiting Devil's Tower enough. It was truly awe-inspiring.

I called Ron and Jonah down from their climb on the boulder field at the base of Devil's Tower to begin our long drive. We took the more scenic, but slower, route through Wyoming so that we could drive through Yellowstone National Park. The landscape was unbelievable. We climbed to almost 10, 000 feet through yet another driving rain storm and saw piles of snow still dotting the roadside. The descent gave us breathtaking views of a vast canyon and valley. We also came a split second within a close encounter with a moose. We were minding our own business at 65 miles per hour when a moose stepped right in front of us. Luckily, he decided to run and got out of our way just in the nick of time. Of course, Jonah was watching a movie and Elli was drawing, so they both missed it. We immediately ordered them to put everything away and look out the window. They both took many pictures as we drove from that point onward and didn't seem to miss their entertainment devices at all.

After hours of driving, we finally arrived at Yellowstone's East Entrance in the late afternoon/early evening. True to form, it rained for most of the drive through the park. We still had incredible views of the lakes, mountains, and forests, though. We stopped for dinner at one of the general stores in the park and ate quickly to make it to Old Faithful before sunset. The weather gods did not disappoint. As we drove up to Old Faithful, the rain stopped and the geyser started shooting water a hundred feet in the air. We caught almost the whole eruption as we ran from the parking lot. Our timing really couldn't have been more perfect.

We enjoyed some ice cream in the Old Faithful lodge before driving on to the Fountain Paint Pots. The bubbling orange, pink and blue mud makes you feel like you're on another planet. The rain had moved through, so we were treated to another amazing sunset which I managed to capture reasonably well on film.

After our speedy tour of the paint pots, we got back in the car for the almost 3 hour drive to Ennis, MT. We rolled in at about 11 pm and transferred the sleeping kids into beds. Another exhausting, but beautiful, drive was behind us.

Day 9: Badlands, SD to Mt. Rushmore, SD to Devil's Tower, WY

The weather gods seem to be with us on this trip. It rained during the night, but early enough that our rain fly was mostly dry when we were breaking camp. The weather held while the kids and I did a little hiking and Ron rode his bike on the dirt roads of the Badlands Park. The weather was hot enough that ice cream at Wall Drug was the perfect remedy. As we were driving the Mt. Rushmore, though, the skies opened up. The rain was so intense, I didn't even notice the rock tunnel I drove us through. We found a local burger joint and ate excellent food while the storm blew through. The rain slowed to a spit when we finished and we were able to have clear views of Mt. Rushmore. The sun was even shining as we hiked around the monument. The sculpture was impressive (the heads are scaled for 150 foot people), although it wasn't as big as I was expecting. Ron particularly enjoyed the museum displays, but the kids reached their limit faster than he could read, so we moved on.

Our next stop was Devil's Tower and I was again concerned about weather on our drive. The rain cleared up as we approached the park and we were treated to clear skies and a glorious sunset in view of the tower. We camped in full view of the Tower and did an evening hike partway up to the Tower base. It was a little longer than anticipated and Elli got a little scared high up on the hill in the dusky light. She slowed to a virtual crawl and Ron had to carry her down on his shoulders so we weren't stuck up there in total darkness. The angles of the leaf-less tree limbs did look a bit ominous, so I couldn't blame her.

We were treated to an engaging program by one of the park rangers before bed and all four of us slept soundly all night. In fact, it was the best night's sleep I've had on the trip so far!

Day 8: Worthington, MN to Badlands, SD

We tried to get an early start today to make up for the relative lack of progress the day before and we were generally successful. We made it to the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD around lunchtime. Ron wasn't too thrilled about stopping there, but he was outnumbered. The corn murals on the outside and inside the building were quite impressive. Amazing what a creative mind can do with different colors of corn. The folks at the Corn Palace couldn't pass up the opportunities for "corn-y" humor, so puns were plentiful throughout the Palace and the town. In fact, South Dakota struck us as a state seriously lacking in subtlety. Cheesy billboards plastered the highway in an awkward juxtaposition with the natural beauty all around.

Our plan was to camp at the Badlands National Park that night, but I was worried that our plan would be thwarted by severe thunderstorms. The park ranger assured us that the threat of rain was minimal, so we started setting up camp around 5 pm.

I'm not a gifted enough wordsmith to be able to describe the absolutely stunning landscape of the Badlands, so I posted a couple of pictures instead. The campground was pretty nice and the kids were excited to do a little hiking around and to sleep in the tent. The rainstorm in the middle of the night didn't wake either of them up, but it kept me up since I had just been comforting Elli through a mild night terror. Once the rain stopped, I ventured out of the tent to find the bathroom. Without a flashlight or my glasses. I don't recommend this, given the high likelihood of stepping in a big mud puddle and/or walking straight into someone else's tent. Fortunately, I only did the former and not the latter. The experience got my adrenaline pumping enough that I couldn't sleep for another 30 minutes. The birds chirping EARLY in the a.m. guaranteed that I was not going to be well-rested for the next day. And to think I had been concerned about the caged parrot in the adjacent campsite keeping me up before I went to bed...

Day 7: Chicago, IL to Worthington, MN

We had a relaxing morning in Chicago today to recover from the long drive a couple of days ago. Ron did a little shopping on the Miracle Mile to get some binoculars and pick up a new inverter for charging the computers in the car. Re-packing the car took a while, too, so we didn't get on the road until about noon.

The drive through Illinois and into Wisconsin was pretty uneventful. As we approached Madison, we decided to alter our route and take the scenic byway along the Mississippi (yes, I just sang the song in my head to spell that correctly) River from Prairie du Chien to La Crosse, WI. The route took us the long way through the state on non-interstate roads. It was a beautiful drive with dramatic bluffs along the side of the road, so the detour was worth it.

One of my goals for the trip was to follow a road sign to an obscure tourist attraction and it was fulfilled today. We stopped at "Little Norway" to see a collection of authentic Norse buildings. We didn't splurge for the guided tour, but we browsed in the gift shop and bought some authentic Norwegian chocolate to snack on in the car.

Our second spontaneous stop was not as successful. We thought the bluffs overlooking the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers would be breathtaking, but it was actually pretty ho-hum and took us about half an hour out of the way. We finally made it to La Crosse, WI for a late dinner at a family restaurant (can't remember the name right now) and then settled the kids in for several more hours of driving. We didn't reach our goal of Sioux Falls, SD, but we made it a couple of hours shy to Worthington, MN. A tiring, but scenic, day of driving.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Made it safely to Ennis, MT last night after seeing Badlands, Rushmore, Devil's Tower & Yellowstone in 2 days.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Farts are funny

Thursday, July 2, 2009

At Wall Drug. First Wi-Fi in awhile. Headed to Mt. Rushmore then Devil's Tower to camp.
At Wall Drug. First Wi-Fi in awhile. Headed to Mt. Rushmore then Devil's Tower to camp.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Just crossed the Missouri: http://maps.google.com/?q=43.8117%2C-99.4214
Out voted 3-1, going to the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD
Just passed the world's largest sculpture of a bull's head. Didn't stop because then we might have to pass on seeing the beautiful "ear-chitecture" of the Corn Palace in Mitchell SD.
Just entered South Dakota, the first red state of our trip.
Attempting to link Twitter, Blogger and Facebook to my phone for simultaneous updates

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day 6: LaPorte, IN to Chicago, IL

So, I asked the kids what they liked about visiting Chicago and they pretty much listed everything we did.

Here's Jonah's list:
1. Visiting the Field Museum (the special Pirates exhibit was his favorite--I agree that it was cool).
2. Eating deep dish pizza at the original Pizzeria Uno.
3. Visiting our friend Harris and his family.

Here's Elli's list:
1. Visiting the Field Museum (she says she liked everything she saw--I think she especially enjoyed all the wildlife dioramas).
2. Going to a playground near Grant Park and checking out Millenium Park.
3. She just liked everything (her words).

Other highlights include our view of the Chicago buildings and River from our 30th floor room in the Hyatt Regency and the kids taking their first ever taxi ride (Elli mostly slept through that, though). I think we're all disappointed that we're leaving so soon!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Waiting for dinner at the original Uno.

Day 5: PW to LaPorte, IN

Ron and I got up nice and early today since we had about 800 miles to drive. I was feeling a little rough since I only had about 4 hours of sleep, but adrenaline was keeping me going, I think.

We were lucky to have no traffic leaving NY and made good time into PA. On a whim, we decided to stop at the Little League Headquarters in Williamsport, PA around lunchtime. It took us a little out of the way, but it was totally worth it! The size of the Little League World Series stadium was impressive and all the fields were impeccable. Jonah is now dying to go to baseball camp there and of course, would love to play in the Little League World Series there. We'll see...

We picked up sandwich supplies at a grocery store in Williamsport and got back on the road. The kids entertained themselves incredibly well and we continued to make good time. My plan to avoid all fast food and chain restaurants hit a speed bump, though, at dinner time. We had some trouble finding an open restaurant on Sunday night, so we had to settle for Olive Garden. At least it's a chain restaurant that we don't have in the Berkshires.

After driving a few more hours, we stopped for the night about 60 miles from Chicago. The only complaining we had from the kids was at about 10 pm when they were trying to fall asleep. Since we'd been traveling about 14 hours by that point, I think they were entitled to a little whining. A successful first day!

Days 3 and 4: PW

Friday and Saturday were a whirlwind of activity with my 20th high school reunion. My niece and I went on a shopping expedition for a dress on Friday afternoon. I'm usually an efficient shopper, so spending 3 hours looking for one dress was uncharacteristic. I found one in time, though, to have dinner with some close friends from high school to kick off the reunion activities. Saturday was dedicated to laundry, re-packing, and two reunion events. We went to a family picnic in the afternoon, had a break for a few hours, and then had a cocktail party in the evening. It was fantastic getting together with old friends and re-connecting. I hope that we'll all keep in better touch and see each other at least a few times before the next reunion in 2014!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Day 2: PW

Today turned out a little differently than I planned. My plan was to take the kids to a Mets game at the new Citifield, but I hesitated in buying tickets Wednesday night. Once I'd committed this morning, the tickets were gone and I had at least one disappointed kid on my hands (I don't think Elli really cared one way or the other). To make up for it, my mom suggested going to Adventureland, "Long Island's Amusement Park". The recent movie, Adventureland, is based on this amusement park, in case you were interested. It's not a very big park-- couple of small roller coasters, a flume ride, and assorted spin-until-you-puke rides--but it's a fun way to spend the afternoon and the kids had a great time. You know what they say about best laid plans...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day 1: Clarksburg, MA to Port Washington, NY

We didn't get as early a start as I hoped today because loading the car was more challenging than we anticipated. When I was packing our suitcases, I thought I was completely underestimating how much we'd need for 10 weeks. Once we piled everything in the driveway, I changed my tune. After a couple of different configurations, but only unpacking the beach towels, we finally fit the puzzle pieces of our belongings into the back of the car and on top of the roof (we took pictures of it so we'll remember how to re-pack the car on Sunday!). Ron drove his car down separately to be "babysat" by my parents, so just the kids and I loaded into the car to officially begin our journey.

Pulling out of the driveway was more emotional than I was expecting as was the early part of the drive leaving the Berkshires. I'd seen this scenery countless times before, but the beauty of the green hills struck a deeper chord than usual. I know that I will be seeing far more impressive landscapes in the coming weeks, but I'm going to miss these hills that we so generously call mountains.

The blissful calm I felt at the beginning of the drive was not meant to last, though. The 5 hour trip reminded me why I'm thankful to be traveling with 2 adults in the car this summer. Driving down the curvy and narrow Taconic Parkway in a rainstorm while loudly explaining how to view a movie in full screen mode on a Mac to one kid and performing muscle straining contortions to grab the DVD case from the other kid constitutes neither safe driving nor good parenting. Let's hope I can avoid that kind of multi-tasking for the rest of the summer (or ever again).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Packing Kicks into High Gear

Busy, busy day today. Finished folding what seemed like our 100th load of laundry this morning while the housekeeper cleaned around me. Then we ran a bunch of errands: banks, library, and toy store to buy a new sketchpad for Elli and a journal for Jonah. The kids want to get in the trip documentation action, too.

Now I'm taking a little break after lunch to plan my next move. Clean the fridge, pay bills, or pack clothes. All such enticing options. At least Ron is going to take care of mowing the lawn when he gets home in a little while. I better stop writing and tackle at least one of those tasks or we'll never be ready to leave tomorrow morning!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Packing Begins

So, our ten week odyssey is rapidly approaching. In just a couple of days we'll be leaving our house until September to travel around the country. Our first stop is my parents' house on Long Island for a short visit before my high school reunion. In exactly one week, we'll be pulling out of their driveway and heading west.

Our job for today is a packing trial run. We bought a Thule box for the roof of our Passat wagon and need to decide what goes on the roof and what goes in the car. I've started piling all our gear in the living room and it's a frighteningly large pile. Maybe I should be re-thinking my firmly anti-minivan stance...