Wednesday, May 30, 2012


The French line

We chose a rainy day to explore Yorktown.  Although Steve said something about "on and off rain, " I'd have to say it was mostly "on" and mostly miserable  We arrived at the visitor center just in time to go on the ranger led tour of the battlefield.  I can't say that it was a tour...mostly it was just a ranger talk under a tree since it was raining.  Nonetheless, the ranger was knowledgeable, passionate and animated about the subject, so we learned a lot more than you learn in school about the Battle at Yorktown that won our independence from Britain in 1781.  I didn't realize that not a single American fought in one of the most pivotal battles in securing our independence, the Battle of the Capes.  The British and the French fought, and the British retreated and went back to New York to Henry Clinton to regroup and deal with damage, leaving British General Cornwallis high and dry in Yorktown.  Fascinating...  No doubt the fact that communication took 5 days at best to get from New York to Yorktown had a major impact on the outcome, as well.  In the day of nearly instantaneous communication, it's difficult to imagine such limitations!

The British barracks with original earthworks from 1781
In addition, we also paid the money for the CD audio guide for the driving tour. The rain was incessant, and the little people were napping, so I stayed with them in the truck while Steve & the girls braved the rain at each stop.

I love learning about what we have recently covered in history. I'm sure the kids will remember it so much better because of it, and I'm learning and remembering so much more than I did when I was in school!

The American barracks were here. They and the French shot cannons across this field for 8 days straight.
The Yorktown Victory Monument
Lafayette slept here at the Nelson house during the siege.
British Cannon was turned into a war trophy celebrating Oct 19, 1981.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Oregon Inlet, Outer Banks. NC

Bodie Lighthouse

We had to take off from Ocracoke for a non-reservable campground to make it through Memorial Day.  Steve planned to take the Hatteras Ferry in the morning to get to the Frisco campground, which  he was oh-so-sure would be easy-peasy to get into.  Alas, I hassled him that we should get an early start just to be sure, but he was so convinced that we didn't arrive at the Frisco campground until around 12:30---and the sign said "Campground Full."  Hmmmm...plan A out the window.

Plan B involved some irritability and lots more driving to Oregon Inlet, also a nonreservable campground.  Fortunately, Plan B worked! It was kind of crazy, but we made it and there were still sites available.  The campground is nothing special--all sites are sans hook-ups (someone didn't top off our water tank and that made our four nights here a bit more stressful than we would have liked....not naming any names, of course) and although there are showers, they are freezing cold showers.  Fortunately, the wind was brisk, so the rig was comfortable and for at least two nights, the mosquitoes weren't so bad.  Unfortunately, the wind wasn't always brisk enough to keep the mosquitoes at bay, so the littles got munched on pretty good.  The beach was a pretty challenging 10 minute walk through the dunes and the beach was so-so at best, with lots of people driving on the beach.  The surf was pretty rough, too.  We drove to Pea Beach later which was deserted and super peaceful and also checked out Coquina Beach, which was a great, clean public beach, so we still managed to get our beach fix. :)

Although we'd planned to go to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, by camping at Oregon Inlet, it was a long drive back to it and we discovered that neither Genna nor Jake would be allowed to climb it, even if we carried them.  We ended up not going...guess we'll have to save that for next time. We did visit the Bodie Lighthouse, which is under construction.  We especially enjoyed taking the boardwalk over the coastal wetlands and watching the crabs digging around in the shallow water.

There is really so much to do here in this area.  We spent a day at the Wright Brothers National Memorial.  Although it was pretty crowded because it was Memorial Day weekend, it worked out just fine.  The movie, although it said it was only 20 minutes, was actually a three-episode-set that lasted over an hour altogether but was great for telling the story behind the Wright Brothers' first powered flight.  The girls earned another Junior Ranger badge, of course.

Exact replica of the first successful powered airplane

This is the very sport where the first flight took off from.

We also went to Roanoke Island to the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.  I had to convince Steve to go here as we had studied the "Lost Colony" in history and I thought it would be great to reinforce what we'd learned.  I'm glad we did!  They also had a great little movie, and the Ranger working during our visit was great.  Jake charmed him and ended up with a badge, too!

We also visited North Carolina's most visited state park, Jockey's Ridge, known for its sand dunes.  They had a great visitor center with super nice staff working.  We spent a bit of time on the dunes, but it was a super sunny and warm day and Jake was not impressed with all the sand he got on his face and rubbed into his eyes.  The wind was perfect for kite-flying, of course, so we watched quite a few kite-flyers.  The girls completed a Dune Ranger program and earned stickers and patches.  Even Jake got a patch, just for his good looks and charm, of course.  :)  Part of the Dune Ranger program involved picking up trash, and the collection of trash that Genna and I found included an unopened mini-kite, a ladybug.  She was oh-so-delighted with her find!  We were able to fly it at Coquina Beach later, and even she was able to fly it!  Great find, Genna!

The dunes at Jockey Ridge state park
We couldn't believe that he allowed his sisters to bury him
Genna would never have let them bury her unless Jake did it first.
Flying the kite that Genna fount in the sand

Friday, May 25, 2012

Ocracoke Island

We left Myrtle Beach a little sad because we would have enjoyed more beach time, but we consoled ourselves by heading to the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  It was a long driving day with our first ferry-with-the-RV experience to top it off.  We thought we would make the 4:00 ferry with plenty of time to kill, but we hadn't counted on the driving being so slow, so we were really just on time!  It was nice to finish up the long drive by hanging out on the ferry!

The ferry was fun and made for an altogether different experience.
The wind was really strong!
Jake didn't care for the wind too much, or maybe he just didn't care for Mom's hair slapping him in the face!
Upon arrival on Ocracoke Island , we drove to the National Seashore campground and camped for the night. The mosquitoes were absolutely vicious, Minnesota-style!  Seriously, they were awful!  Nonetheless, the campground was less than a 5 minute walk from the beach which was covered in shells!  It would have been awesome to go shell-hunting with the big girls because they love that so much, but someone didn't think that was a good idea.  Turns out that someone was wrong because our next stop in the Outer Banks would prove to be deficient by comparison. ;) Fortunately, I woke up early the next morning and snuck out for a super rare and peaceful quiet time on the beach all by myself!!  The beach was beautiful and covered with slipper shells and broken scotch bonnets and moon snail shells!

As a family, we explored Ocracoke's small visitor center and its lighthouse before catching the Hatteras ferry.

The Ocracoke Lighthouse
The beach was deserted and beautiful

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Myrtle Beach State Park

As a kid, I went to Myrtle Beach every summer with my family for a Water Well Drillers Convention since my dad is a well driller.  It is one of the highlights of my childhood memories, so it was a treat to be able to go back for the first time in over 15 years!  We stayed at Myrtle Beach State Park for three nights.  Great state park, in my opinion, though not as spacious as many state park sites often are.  The sites are well shaded, the bathhouses are great, and there's laundry onsite for reasonable!  I even met another laundry fairy that loaded my wet laundry into dryers for me and wouldn't let me pay him back!  How awesome is that???

The beach was a short walk, less than 10 minutes, from our site.  We had a great time here.  The ocean was just perfect for playing in, not too rough, and the beach itself was clean with great sand for sand castles though there really wasn't much in the way of shells.  Unfortunately, we did have to work around some storms and rain.  Although we would have loved to stay longer, with Memorial Day weekend coming up, they were booked up and we needed to find a place to go!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Congaree National Park

I'm pretty sure we chose quite possibly the absolute best day to visit Congaree National Park. Though commonly known as a swamp, it is actually a lowland forest with an amazing canopy of trees.  In fact, it is said to be the tallest of any other deciduous forest on earth!  This area has great potential for sweltering humidity combined with monster mosquitoes.  However, the day we came was cool, actually downright chilly in the heart of the swampy area with its high canopy of trees.  

We hiked the boardwalk trail and then took the Weston Lake Loop off the main boardwalk trail.  The kids really loved the Weston Lake Loop for the "chocolate river" with its many cypress trees and knobby "knees" sprinkled throughout; it really made it look enchanted!  Unfortunately, our pictures of it don't capture that at all.  Guess you'll just have to go and visit for yourself! :)  

The temperature drops as soon as you enter the forest.
The pathway continues like this through the lowland forest.
It is not technically a swamp; it's a lowland forest.
There is a river that runs through the forest where you can canoe, maybe when the kids are older.
Thankfully the meter was on the left!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Spending time with Linda's brother Glen

While in town for my parents' 50th anniversary celebration, we parked the rig at my brother Glen and his wife Cindy's place.  Our kids always love visiting them because they have a little farm, complete with horses, goats, chickens, and even puppies this year!  We got to do a little tree trimming on the way in because we're kind of tall--over 13 feet!  We also helped shovel poop out of the barn and spread it over the garden to be tilled under---definitely a new experience for my girls!  Jake was delighted with the abundance of sticks; he always had at least one in his hand. :)  Shanan really enjoyed the chance to help take care of a dog again as Cindy was fostering a dog that had just given birth to six puppies!  All the kids loved them, and I purposefully didn't spend too much time with them because I was afraid I'd cave and think we could have one!  My oh my they were adorable!  It was so great to be able to stay for long enough to see each and every one of our kids really warm up to and enjoy their Uncle Glen & Aunt Cindy and their Grandparents! That was really priceless!  Genna worked her usual charm getting snuggles as often as she could from all the extra available laps, and Jake hung out with all the men, of course!  Such a little man!

Genna loves her grandpa!
Haircut time for Uncle Glen
Half way done

Joyriding in Glen's 1954 Buick

Hugs for Grandma
Linda went to visit her Aunt Annie and Uncle Lewis
The puppies were visibly bigger and more playful by the time we left.

Monday, May 14, 2012

50th Anniversary Celebration!

Happy 50th Anniversary to my mom & dad!  To celebrate and honor them, all six of my siblings and their families got together, the first time in ten years!  Wow...we have multiplied! :)  It was no small undertaking, but we all made it to South Carolina, safe & sound.  Most of us stayed in a magnificent house on Lake Murray.  There was much eating, playing, swimming in the lake, hanging out in the hot tub, and did I mention eating???  It was great (and a bit crazy--39 people in all) to be all together again!

Linda and her mom and dad and all her siblings.
All the grandchildren.
Cousins hanging out at the anniversary celebration.
The hot tub was extremely popular
Us enjoying a quiet moment in the hammock away from the chaos.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Clarkesville, Georgia

We spent nearly a week here in Clarkesville, just about 10 miles from Tallulah Gorge.  Again, we were able to stay at another condo and take advantage of a swimming pool, mini-golf, tennis courts, and a chance to catch up on laundry.  It was good timing, too, because I was wanting/needing a little downtime.  No doubt, there are some awesome things about this lifestyle, but I've come to realize there are some down sides, as well.  Some days I just need a chance to "stay home" and play catch up on chores and/or do something for myself, of my own choosing.  Because we know we're doing this for a limited amount of time, there is the tendency to feel like we must see and do all we possibly can, but I confess that for me that can lead to burnout.  Even though there is another beautiful site to see, sometimes what I really need to do most is stay back and have some alone time.  Without that, it becomes more difficult to really enjoy what we're seeing/doing, and the blog takes a backseat because I just need a chance to recharge.  Steve did a great job while we were here in Clarkesville taking the kids here & there to give me a chance to do just that, recharge. Good thing, too, since we're headed to SC to celebrate my parents' 50th wedding anniversary with my six siblings and their families.  Lots of fun and chaos on the horizon!!

We had fun playing tennis while here!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tallualah Gorge

(By Steve)  One of the places that was high on my list for this adventure was Tallualah Gorge in far Northeast Georgia.   It worked out by chance that it was very close to the condo where we can stay for free (at least no additional cost).   I knew that the hiking would be hard at the gorge so I planned to go alone since the rest of the family needed some downtime.   On the day I was leaving, I let Alyssa know she was welcome to come with me as she is probably the most adventurous of my kids.   She accepted, so we headed off mid morning.

We paid our $5 and went to the visitor center.  There is alot of good info about the area there, but we headed straight to the permit station.  You have to get a free permit to hike to the canyon floor, and the ranger does his best to scare you about the dangers you will be facing.   Undeterred, we headed for the trail to the bottom.   Alyssa was full of energy and was nearly flying down the steps.   The steps go way down to a suspension bridge that crosses the river.   From there we crossed the bridge and headed down another set of steps to the point where a permit is required to go further.

It gets interesting crossing the river at that point.  The rocks are really slippery from so many people walking over them.   It was here that we had to toss Alyssa's shoes to the other side so they wouldn't get wet.   On the second throw, I hit a sloped rock and the shoe slid down into the water.  I was barely able to retrieve it, and the funny thing was that it floated, so the inside stayed dry!

She was off like a rocket down the steps.
The rocks were slippery from many hands touching them.
The path continues along the rivers edge over and around huge rocks.   There are several waterfalls that you pass along the way.   After a little while you come to the what is called Bridal Veil Falls (like the third falls we have seen with that name), but this place is better know as Sliding Rock.

This is the trail along the side of the river.
This falls was a little too steep and rocky for sliding.
There was a group of people there when we arrived, so we were able to see that it was perfectly safe to slide down.  Alyssa quickly took off and went a few times while I ate some lunch.   One of the guys ahead of us was amazed because he said it took him a half hour to work up the nerve to slide down and Alyssa went right away.  Our little dilemma though was that neither of us had thought to bring swimsuits.  I had Alyssa go in her shorts which were old anyway.   I was wearing my good shorts so I asked the one girl in the group if she would be offended if I went down in my boxer briefs.

The sliding rock!
It gets really fast at the end!
I went down at least 10 times or more.   Alyssa probably went down closer to 15.   It was lots of fun.  It starts slow at first then gets really fast right before you plunge into the deeper water.   The water was pretty cold, and there were lots and lots of tiny leeches but it was still worth it.   When we were ready to go, it was quite a challenge to get all of our dry clothes across the river dry.  We managed to do it except for my boots which got soaked.
Alyssa went down over and over.
The hike back up was nearly straight up among large boulders.   Once at the top, we still had to hike all the way around the top of the gorge to the visitors center.

This is the trail back up.

A couple days later, we all went back as a family so that Linda could see the gorge.  She took the big girls and hiked down to the suspension bridge while I watched the littles.  For some reason the gorge floor trail was closed the second time we went, so I was really glad that we went when we did.