Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fulltime Families Rally

Most of the rally participants, not sure who took this since I stole it from facebook.
After a year on the road, we finally made it to our first rally with other families who live just like we do.  We all stayed at another Thousand Trails park, Circle M in Lancaster, PA.  Since the weather was blazing hot, we spent time every day at the outdoor pool and/or the indoor water park.  Genna and Jake had a blast at the little kid area inside, in spite of the excessive chlorine.  Genna even rose to the occasion when they blew the whistle on her wearing her little floatie; she decided to wear her swimsuit with the buckle-on lifejacket and started swimming around the pool!  Totally awesome!  She has made huuuuge strides in the water this summer!  She used to be terrified of letting go of me, and now, she is starting to relax in the water and enjoy it.  I think she may even learn to swim! :)

The parade of homes--this is the Lundy's rig, of course.
Touring our rig
As for the rally itself, major accolades go to the Travaglinos and McCloskeys for all the hard work and planning that went into making it fun for all!  Games, movies, dancing, karaoke, late nights, and all around fun times!  If you can swing it, a rally would be a great start to a fulltime adventure.  It provides the community feel that we have missed since moving out of our house.  If we were to continue to full-time, we would definitely have to address that deficit.  Genna was delighted to reconnect with the little girls she'd met at our last couple stops that just happened to coincide with other fulltimers, and the big girls enjoyed meeting new girls their ages, as well!

Getting setup at the talent show
Josh Lundy as Taylor Swift
I don't think he understands that dressing like a girl does not grant you access to the ladies room :)
Rosalee thinking "What have I signed up for??"
Justin showing off his amazing juggling skills
It seemed a bit odd at times to be together with so many fulltimers at a time when we are already discussing our endgame.  Of course, many that I spoke to asked for my thoughts on the current state of things, with Steve having already begun his job search.  The truth is that I just do not know!  The approach that I've decided to take is to simply pray and trust God for the next step.  Just as there are things that I miss about "regular" life, I know that settling down will be an adjustment, too, and there are things that I'll miss about life on the road.  Soooo...God is the one who truly knows what is best for our family, so I'm choosing to trust that he will open the doors that need to be opened, and he will close those that need to be closed.  It was a huge leap of faith for us to embark on this adventure, and we continue to exercise our faith in trusting that he will provide the right job at the right place at the right time.  I'm not saying I have perfect peace about it all, but I'm working on it. :)

Baby food eating contest
Pretty girls all dressed up for the Thrift Shop Prom
The Graf family was lots of fun
Kyle and Lisa Henson
Alyssa and Rosalee
The 4 year-old girl gang
Jake intruding while Emma tells a gripping story
The Seeley's 
Allen Lundy showing off his dance moves
Shanan and Kalyn Marrs
Mom and daughter dance
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Jake felt compelled to stand on stage while other people were performing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Steve had such fond memories of visiting Gettysburg with his school when he was a kid that he was super pumped about taking the kids here.  Alas, it just wasn't the right place at the right time. ;)  He had downloaded maps and podcasts for touring the battlefield, so he could avoid paying the extra money to visit the main part of the Visitor Center (crazy that your annual pass doesn't cover it).  It was a good idea, but he somhow missed the most important battle. ;)  Oops.  It was also blazing hot, and there were people everywhere.  The podcasts Steve did have couldn't be heard over the sound of all the other visitors and the idling tour buses.  So instead of furthering my knowledge of history, I was able to help Genna stop whining by helping her pretend she was Rapunzel in a tower overlooking the battlefield. ;)  Oh can't win them all, right?

This was where Picket's Charge happened, otherwise known as where the South lost the war.
Notice the two kiddos sharing the stroller
One thing we did do right was stay at a Thousand Trails park, Gettysburg Farm.  We had a nice shady spot with a great "yard" for the kids to play in.  Alyssa did a zillion cartwheels, and they all caught a bunch of lightning bugs in the evenings!  We arrived just in time to go to the petting zoo, so the kids got to feed goats and hold baby rabbits.  And...we happened upon a kids' pizza party at the rec center, which included a birthday party for one of the boys staying there, complete with cake and haagen-dazs ice cream!  Translation...I didn't have to make dinner!  Wahoo!!  This is definitely a great Thousand Trails park!

Spot where a major battle was fought
Hanging with Abe at the Visitor Center
The kids loved the petting zoo at the Gettysburg Farm campground
The Jakeman had a lot of fun playing this game, no quarters necessary.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Appalachian Trail

(By Steve)  The Appalachian Trail has always intrigued long two thousand mile trail that is just begging to be hiked.   I don't think that I would like to ever be a through hiker, but I do think I would like to attempt it spread out over a lifetime.  Linda doesn't share the same enthusiasm for completing it as I do, but maybe when Jake is older, the two of us will tackle sections in 3 and 4 day chunks.  I took my first extended hike on the AT on our fourth day at Shenandoah.   We loaded all the kids in the truck and Linda drove me up to the Pinnacles picnic area from our campsite at Big Meadows.   It was about 13 miles by car.

Beautiful day for a hike!
From the Pinnacles Picnic area, I was able to get right on the trail.  The trail is a bit more direct than the road.  I think it was about 11.5 miles via the trail back to the campground.   The weather was perfect and I quickly settled in and enjoyed the hike.   The trail passes through the Stony Man Overlook where I sat for a long while and admired the view.   It then took me to the section that we walked earlier when we went on the nature trail and saw the young bear.   This section was pretty packed since it was a Saturday with perfect weather. It was nice when I got away from the Skyland area.   Shortly after, I ran into several hikers who pointed out a bear that had climbed a tree.  You could barely see it through the trees.

Stony Man overlook
Rock climbers were scaling this cliff 
I went on for several miles when I came to two through hikers who recommended I take the side trail to Hawksbill peak.   They gave me a map that they didn't need anymore of the side trail to Hawksbill.   They also warned me that a bear was very near the trail and that I should watch for it.   After leaving them, I put my earphones on and went back and forth mentally whether I should take the side trail or not.    It wasn't long after that I nearly ran into a 250 pound male (I think) black bear.   I quickly froze while he looked up at me, sized me up and went back to foraging.   I took quick steps back and picked up some large rocks.   When I was a fairly safe distance I took lots of pictures and waited, and waited until he was good and ready to get off the trail so I could get by.    It took about 10 minutes I think.  

I walked up to the bend when I saw the bear.   He was in the same spot.   I froze and slowly walked back to a safer distance.
Ok, I have enough photos of you, you can move on now.   
When I got by him, I went back to my fretting whether to take the side trail and add miles to my day.   I ultimately decided to keep to my original plan figuring that I saw plenty of amazing views all day, and I felt my feet start to get tender.  At this point I had gone about 8 miles.

I hung out here awhile and snacked and enjoyed the view.
I was glad that the section I hiked passed an AT shelter for through hikers. I got to check it all out and get a good idea what accommodations would be on the trail.    Up until .2 miles from the end, I was able to honestly say that I saw more bear than deer, but right before our campground I happened on a stag party of about six bucks sitting together in a meadow.

I would only stay here if it was really cold or wet. I would rather camp in a tent.   I hear they have very bad mouse problems, plus there is no screen to keep out bugs.
The facilities.
All in all it was a great experience.  It took me about 7 hours, but I did stop frequently, mostly by choice except when the bear held me up..

Mountain Laurels in bloom
'The trail crosses a giant rock slide.
Fishers Gap overlook

Friday, June 15, 2012

Shenandoah National Park

In case you're wondering, Jake is on my back.
We chose a lovely time to visit Shenandoah National Park.  None of the sites have electric or water, so I'm delighted to say that Steve filled our tanks well before our arrival. :)  Although there were sites plenty long for us in Big Meadows, they were incredibly unlevel!  It was our hardest leveling job by far, but we persisted and finally got it!  The weather was perfect for hiking, cool to downright cold in the evenings and mornings, but pleasantly warm and sunny during the day.  I have to say that I don't love generator hours....4-7 in the evenings, which is really before you even need your generator in the summer time.  In fact, the last evening, we didn't have enough time to run the generator, and the battery went so dead overnight that I woke to the sound of the fridge clicking around 1 a.m., so we had to just turn it off.  Fortunately, it was cold anyway, and without being opened, it didn't affect the contents.
I think I should have gotten an award for getting the rig level in this spot.
It took all the boards and legos I had, but I finally got the low end up enough to be level.

The hiking was great here, and so were the bears!  In fact, prior to here, we hadn't seen any bears on our year-long trek.  We saw one crossing the road on our way into the park, but we also saw a bear just off the hiking trail near the summit of Stony Man.  Of course, we also saw a lot of deer, too.  All in all, it was just a peaceful, pleasant time to be here.  The kids did well hiking, the weather was great, and we weren't rushed.  Good times!

Shhh...don't tell anyone, but we left the kids in the rig and took a super short walk on the AT which ran right behind the campground.
Perfect day for a hike!
Did I mention that it was a beautiful day!
Dark Hollow Falls
When we arrived, we scavenged enough firewood to have a fire and wiener roast.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Campground Review: Small Country Campground, Louisa, VA

Steve chose Small Country Campground as a place for us to catch up on things a bit after another crazy busy spell of sightseeing.  Great find, I have to say.  This is definitely a family friendly sort of place, with lots of residents in addition to those just passing through.  We used Passport America, so the rate was $20/night.  We had full hookups with a spacious, shaded site, a jumping pillow (not sure how we missed getting a picture of it), a pool, playground equipment and sandbox, laundry facilities, a bathhouse, and super fast wifi.   Not only that, but the owners are super nice.  When we extended our stay twice, we ended up getting our last night gratis---what a treat!!  Our site was next to the jumping pillow, so the kids could actually go without us.  It was almost like having a fenced in backyard again!  They jumped and jumped and jumped and jumped.  Even Genna & Jake loved it.

We missed getting a photo of the jumping pillow, but here are our friends we met at the Civil War re-enactment.
Other than jumping & swimming, we did double-time for school, trying to get to the Civil War before we make it to Gettysburg.  Steve took advantage of the lightning fast wifi and began his quest for work in earnest.  And...we ate, slept, and did some laundry (& I got the chance to be the laundry fairy for once & pay it forward!).  It was almost like normal life!  Ha, ha!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Civil War Reenactments and Unexpected Blessings

While staying in Louisa, we had the chance to attend a Civil War Reenactment of the Battle of Trevilion Station.  I have to say it was pretty cool!  Not the was pretty hot, but the costumes and the camp were impressively authentic!  The kids were gripped by the stories told by the lady at the hospital tent; she said they used to perform mock surgeries, but so many people passed out that they no longer do that!  The kids also got to sample some hardtack, though I can't say that anyone actually ate any.  In fact, it's a wonder anyone has ever managed to consume and survive off of such fare!  We stuck around for the battle itself, which was especially cool if you're into that sort of thing.  As we were approaching the battle site, the first cannon was fired, and I nearly jumped out of my skin!  Jake had just fallen asleep, but the cannon took care of that. :)  He wasn't bothered by it though, surprisingly.  In fact, he was wide-eyed and watched the whole event without any grumbling at all!  One guy's rifle shot perfect smoke incredibly cool!

We were all gripped by the discussion of the field hospitals.
The Union side--everyone there called them the "Federalists"
The Confederate Cavalry
The battle at its peak
The coolest thing about the reenactment was not the battle itself, however, but the family we met there!  There were a mom and five kids watching at the same spot as we were, but their littlest guy was frightened by the cannons and gunfire, so his mom took him further away from the action.  Being a fellow mom, I stuck around and kept an eye on her other four just because that's what I would hope another mom would do for me in the same situation.  Their kids struck up a conversation with us, and we discovered that they were also believers, homeschoolers, and their mom was originally from Pennsylvania just like Steve, and their dad was originally from South Carolina, just like me!

Phillip had already proclaimed his love for Genna before we got to our cars.
Meeting up with the Hubachers was totally a God-thing.  Their girls were the same ages as our two oldest girls, and their five year-old little guy was the ultimate gentleman with Genna.  They walked back to the parking area hand-in-hand, and on the way back home, Genna said, "He loves me, and I love him!"  Adorable!!  In fact, we all hit it off so well that although it seemed a bit unconvventional at first, when Shannon invited us over to their place, we all knew it was the right thing.  And it was!  The kids had an absolute blast together, and Steve & I easily connected with Shannon & Dwight.  In fact, Shannon brought the kids over to our RV park the next day for swimming and jumping.

The girls all made corn cob dolls
Jake had a blast with all the toys
All the kids together, but we didn't get any of the parents.
Their entire family was such a blessing to us!  The kids all shared toys with our crew and exchanged addresses with promises of letters!!  It was absolutely the right thing at the right time.  We all had the sense that God was letting us know that whatever the future holds, he will absolutely take care of us.  If he can orchestrate such a friendship in such a short amount of time, we can all rest secure in the knowledge that he will provide us with Godly friends wherever he leads us.  We miss you already, Hubachers!  Your generosity and hospitality were a-m-a-z-i-n-g!

All the kids at the campground, including their friend Summer.
Phillip and Genna.
  (I always thought the older ones would be the first to have boyfriends)