Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day Seven | Waffle House, the Travel Center, a junk yard, and a lot of miles

Day seven (Wednesday, March 30) started from a Walmart parking lot. Dad wanted to eat a hot breakfast, so we went to The Waffle House, just next door. What an experience!The floor was so slippery with grease, Paradis nearly fell over! But yummy food ... Annelies ate more in that one meal than she has ate on the entire trip!

We started on the road and stopped at a Welcome Center at XX to 'dump our load'. This may be hard to believe, but it was beautiful. There was a four-minute movie, and Annelies watched it four times! The girls had a blast. It is the simple things that entertain our girls ... crazy! We continued driving and stopped at a junk yard near Alexandria, Louisiana. Success! We got six more plates including Florida, which we needed!

From there we drove straight back to Hope. A good ride. I drove nearly the whole way (OK, only three hours - but it was enough!). We arrived at mom and dad's house and their dog Sassy could barely contain her excitement. This was only the second time they had left her and the dog sitter said she didn't eat the whole time. Can we say, "spoiled dog?"

Day seven:  365 miles (2,098 total). $0 on gas ($832.42 total). $0 on souvenirs ($52.60 total). $0 on tourist traps ($434.55 total). One state (Six total). No fights (0 total). No injuries (1 total).

Day Six | Alligators, a tour of New Orleans, yummy Beignets and a little rain

Day six (Tuesday, March 29) started in Slidell, Louisiana. We finished filling up with gas (filled the night before, but the pumps max you out on two fills at $100 each per day and we needed another $58 - total of 76 gallons!). We drove to Pearl River Eco Tours where we went on a swamp tour. We had lots of fun. Saw lots of alligators, wildlife and learned a lot about the eco-system in New Orleans. Annelies was the favorite on the boat, asking endless questions to our tour guide (go figure!).

We drove into the French Quarter of New Orleans (yes, with a 36 foot RV - mom had to close her eyes the whole way) and parked at an RV park (right in the middle of the French Quarters - very cool). We walked to Chartres House Cafe and enjoyed a lunch of traditional New Orleans food. We boarded a van where we spent three hours on a city tour. The girls enjoyed the cemetery stop the best, seeing all the grave sites above ground (we stayed so long our guide almost left without us).

Our guide dropped us off at Cafe Du Monde, Rae Ann's favorite place in New Orleans, for yummy, yummy Beignets. Oh so good. A balloon guy came by and made a hat for Paradis and Annelies. It started to rain and my dad was ready to head back, so we jumped a cab and went back to the RV. A good day in New Orleans, albeit a bit busy.

We departed New Orleans to get a couple miles under our belt and arrived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Mom and dad stayed overnight at another Motel 6 ($45 a night) and we went and parked at Walmart. We opened the RV up and enjoyed a couple hours of re-organizing/cleaning (OK, that was all me) while Scott caught up on emails and the girls watched a movie. It was a great day in the Big Easy ....

Day six: 121 miles (1,733 total). $0 on gas ($832.42 total). $24.59 on souvenirs ($52.60 total). $335.00 (!!) on tourist traps ($434.55 total). One state (Six total). No fights (0 total). No injuries (1 total).

Day Five | HOT Tabasco, and a drive to New Orleans ... the Big Easy

Day five (Monday, March 29) started out at 9:23am when we boarded the RV with mom and dad for a trip to New Orleans. We crossed into Louisiana (our sixth state).

We drove 347 miles and arrived at Avery Island where we toured the Tabasco factory, a favorite of Scott's. It was fun to see the Tabasco being bottled and we bought some souvenirs. Mom and Annelies are holding up 'Flat Stanley' for my nephew Jack.

We didn't do much else Monday, other than drive. We made it just north of New Orleans (511 miles total for the day) to Slidell, where mom and dad stayed at a Motel 6 (only $45 for the night) while we slept in the parking lot!

Day five: 511 miles (1,612 total). $369.04 on gas ($832.42 total). $0 on souvenirs ($28.01 total). $0 on tourist traps ($99.55 total). Two states (Seven total). No fights (0 total). No injuries (1 total).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day Four | Diamond mine (twice), and a movie

Day Four started off in Hope Arkansas at my mom and dad's house. We drove an hour north to a diamond mine called Crater of the Diamond Mine - a State Park. It is the only diamond mine in the world where you can take whatever you find. The four of us girls went and we were bound and determined to find a diamond.

After spending $60 on rental equipment (we got $50 back on deposit) we found ... nothing. We tried, and it was fun, but we didn't find anything. The most fun we had was talking to a man who did it for a living. Really. He went there every day. Paid the $7 entrance fee every day and dug for diamonds. He has found 100 diamonds, his largest being a 1.5 carat. He was so interesting to talk with, mom and I enjoyed the conversation. 

We learned a lot from him, including a tip to dig in the mud where most diamonds settle. Well, Annelies loved that suggestion and got her shoe stuck! We had to ask our new friend (the prospector) to pull her out! Well, 5 minutes later Paradis did the same thing!

On the way out we stopped at the gift shop where grandma bought Paradis a ring she wanted, for her birthday. We drove nearly the whole way home before the ring fell off of Paradis' finger when she fell asleep. I asked her what size she got, and it was obviously too big. So we ended up driving all the way back and got her a new size. Two visits to the Diamond Mine in one day. 

We drove home, had steak for dinner (yummy on the grill) and watched The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. It was good - although so sad. 

Day Three | A bike tire, Grandma and Grandpa, Bill Clinton and Texas

We started the morning (from Walmart parking lot in Clinton Arkansas) heading to Little Rock to pick up a tire for Scott's bike. He is hoping for a ride while at the in-laws. Next stop was Rae Ann's daily shower at a gas station - talk about disgusting! We (finally) arrived at my mom and dad's house at 1:00. They were so excited to see us.

We (nearly immediately) drove to the house Bill Clinton grew up in. It was just made a National Park. The tour was interesting. We did a geocache at the local train depot and walked through the museum. Got a slushie at Sonic and went home to pick up dad and Scott.

We drove to Texas, just 30 minutes from Hope, to a city called Texarkana. The city has the state line going down the middle of it. The kids loved stepping in two states at once.

We went back home, had some Cajun potatoes and enjoyed the evening. Good day ...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day Two | Krispy Kremes, a warm shower, Laura Ingalls, a junk yard success and the Titanic - what a day!

Day two was another success. We started our morning (from the Walmart parking lot) with some Krispy Kreme donuts (who doesn't love those?). We drove to a local campground, which appeared to be closed. I slipped into the bathroom and enjoyed a nice warm shower while Scott 'dumped the goods' from our RV! On the road to Mansfield, MO and the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder where she wrote all her books - very interesting. This was our third Little House tour (Walnut Grove, MN and DeSmet, SD).

We made another junk yard stop at Elliot's Towing and Salvage Yard and had major success! We got license for Missouri, South Dakota, California, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi. The girls had a blast and could have stayed for another five hours! But off to Branson, MO.

We arrived at the "Tourist Trap Capital of the World" ... I mean, Branson Missouri. Branson is filled with every tourist trap you can imagine. We enjoyed one of them - the Titanic Museum. It was VERY cool. Tons of items to see and interesting facts.

Off to Walmart to look for a Missouri pin for our collection. All out. We cooked a dinner of pasta in the parking lot and drove to Walgreens for a $0.99 pin. Score! At 10:55pm we arrived at our 'hotel' for the night - Walmart, Clinton Arkansas! Tomorrow we will get to Hope Arkansas, home of Roz and Roger Prasnicki. Annelies will be excited as she has been asking every hour, "Are we going to see Grandma and Grandpa today?"

Day two: No fights (0 total). No injuries (1 total). 329 miles (930 miles total). $215 on gas ($415 total). $16.46 on souvenirs ($24.66 total). $99.55 on Tourist Traps ($99.55 total). Two states (Four total).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Day One | A glass bridge, junk yard, Jim the Wonder Dog and Walmart parking lot - Lovin' Life!

Day two of being on the road. We are having a blast! We are DEFINITELY going to do this again.

We stopped in Des Moines with the hopes of walking across a glass bridge. It was closed. So we drove to a junk yard to get our Iowa license plate (collecting for our license plate map). The junk yard was the highlight of tour day. Crazy, but we had a blast (some parents spend $100 on an amusement park - we spend $0 on junk yard searches). We not only found three Iowa plates, but one for South Dakota as well.

After that we stopped at the Des Moines State Capital. Beautiful building. We picked up our state pin and a couple postcards. We crossed the Iowa/Missouri state line and continued driving south to Marshall, Missouri where we visited Jim the Wonder Dog. The park was closed, but the girls enjoyed the story and it was fun to get a photo late at night. We drove another couple hours and ended up sleeping in a Walmart parking lot. I slept SO good. It felt great.

Day one: No fights. One injury. 563.8 miles. $190 for gas. $7.36 souvenirs. Three states.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

On the road | An injury, a sandwich, Dove chocolates and the Internet- Heaven!

We are on the road! We (finally) departed at 10:26am and are 66.8 miles into the trip. We've had our first injury, a regular occurrence with Vandeputte travels. After getting Annelies her inhaler from the drawer, I left it open and bashed my shin into it on the way back to my seat. Lovely. Lesson learned.

Since I was up at 6:30am, I'm ready for lunch. I fixed myself a sandwich and some chips. My lovely husband surprised me with a LARGE Dove chocolate bar for desert (another regular occurrence of Vandeputte travels). I love him. And I'm up and running on the internet. I'm in heaven! The only thing I need is some knitting ... I'm moving on to that next. 

Temperature on leaving: 19 degrees

Wake up! Let's go!

I'm sitting in a 35 foot Gulfstream Conquest  (C6341) Class C RV waiting for my family to wake up ... right outside our house! It is 8:32am and I'm anxiously awaiting our departure on our first RV trip, which includes an eleven day tour of the middle states; Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. Nine states in all!

We were up until 2:00am, cleaning the RV we are renting and packing up for the trip. We are bringing everything but the kitchen sink, and that is only because it already has one! The girls and I slept in the RV last night, right outside our house. Scott opted to get a good nights sleep in preparation for the day long drive. He made the right decision; I felt as if I didn't sleep a minute with the furnace running all night! I forgot about that loud camper fan! I'll have to catch some winks on the drive today.

The Dream is On!

It has been 18 months since I last wrote, and much has changed in our lives. In October of 2009 Scott and I went through a 'mid-life' crisis (as we like to call it) and moved to Victoria, a small town west of the Twin Cities. Shortly after the move, Scott was offered a job to manage the North and South America Help Desks with Cargill. Although the promotion was exciting, we knew getting a twelve-week leave of absence from work was nearly impossible. Drivin' the Dream during the summer of 2010 was cancelled.

We still had our summer place but felt it was important to spend our first summer in Victoria meeting our new neighbors. So after much deliberation, we put our camper on Craig's list and it sold within two weeks! We were without a camper, without Drivin' the Dream.

I continued to dream about the trip, wondering how we could see the United States by RV. In the fall of 2010 I came up with an idea ... how about setting a goal of visiting all fifty states before the girls leave home?  And so Drivin' the Dream was back on!