Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spring Break 2014: A Trip in Review

Final Stats | Spring Break 2014
  • Total of 10 states, 8 of them being new (for a total of 41!) plus D.C.
  • 12 National Park Sites
  • Drove 2,662 Miles, and flew 934 
  • Gas: $293.09 (22 miles/gal)
  • Lodging: $1,296.17
  • Souvenirs: $411.80
  • Tourist Traps: $217.70
  • Redbox: $12.59
  • Fights: 1
  • Injuries: 0
Despite my 'little bug' the last 24 hours, this was a great trip. We have nine states to see, and three years left to do it while Paradis is still at home (see Master Plan tab above).

I didn't start planning this trip until just a couple weeks before we left. At the time I was feeling overwhelmed with the 20+ hours I spent planning, researching, scheduling, and adjusting. I asked myself, "Why don't we just go to Florida and spend a week on the beach?" Oh how simple that would be ... but after traveling 11 days with these three I'm reminded why I love these trips so much.

First, I love this country. There is so much to see and do and I'm glad that my girls get a chance to explore it as well.

Second, I simply love spending time with my three traveling companions. Scott and I began our relationship traveling, and for some reason we do it so well together. I love to watch Paradis and Annelies navigate through the challenges we face on our trips, and explore all the sites we visit with such interest.

Third, although my kids are teenagers, and at times drive me completely nuts, I'm reminded during these trips that they are really good kids. You figure that out when you need them to push you in a wheelchair to the bathroom airport!

Thanks for following us on our adventures. Your emails and comments keep me motivated to continue posting. Happy Travels everyone!

Your Blogger, Rae Ann, in Walton's Kitchen!

Day Eleven: Bridesmaids, Lantern, National Archives and Home

For those of you that have seen the movie Bridesmaids, the next thing that happened on our trip was the scene where the girls went to pick out their dresses. If you haven't seen the movie, and want to know what I'm talking about, you can watch the scene here. Warning: Small amount of profanity. By-the-way I love, love, love that movie ... but I'm having second thoughts after living it!

The previous night was pretty mellow. I thought it was a little weird that I fell asleep at 8:00pm, but just six hours later I found out why ... I was sick. Sicker than a dog actually. Trust me, it was the scene from Bridesmaids all over again. I felt horrible.

Let me remind you, we were staying in a Hostel. We had a room to ourselves, but we shared a bathroom with four other people. What a nightmare. Our room had an electronic key entry, so every time I had to go to the bathroom I would leave the door ajar as it took too long to open the door and my brain wasn't functioning enough to remember the code. However, it turned out Scott was getting up throughout the night as well, would see the door ajar, and get up to lock it once again (along with closing the chain lock!).  He was thinking someone knew our code and was sneaking in our room. I was so sick I didn't have the energy to wake him up and ask him to stop touching the lock!!!! You couldn't make this stuff up people ...

Despite my lack of movement Sunday morning, Scott and the girls rallied. After finding me a bed to sleep in for the day they were off to check out the Washington sites one last day. They began at the 300 year-old Japanese stone lantern that was given to the City of Washington, to commemorate the Cherry Blossom Festival. After taking a couple pictures for me, Paradis said to Scott, "Look Dad, the darn thing isn't even lit!" Scott tells me the rain and hail was pelting down so hard it didn't have a chance!
Isn't he sweet?

Scott said the hail hurt his bald head so badly he had to put a Ziploc bag on it! No lie.

While telling me stories from the day, Scott says he got tears in his eyes when he told the girls, "I really want to see Lincoln's Monument. Do you mind if we stop there?" The girls were troopers, and agreed to walk through the rain and cold!

They hailed a taxi (for us frugal travelers only sleet and snow would allow such an expense), and went to the National Archives. Scott says the girls could have stayed another two hours, but they had to return to pick up the invalid.

All I had done for the day was sleep, run to the bathroom, and sleep. I attempted a shower, but laid in bed completely naked for an hour afterwards because it had wore me out so much I couldn't even get dressed. Whatever illness I had, took over my body, and I was having huge doubts I could get on the plane to fly home that evening. But my traveling partners carried all the bags, and I took a lot of short breaths to hold back the vomit, as we boarded the Metro one last time for the airport. Once there, we got a wheelchair, and I made it to the gate.

I slept most of the flight (thank goodness), except for several trips to the bathroom! My friend Lesley picked us up (I would have hugged her, but I'm sure she would have been scared to come near me), and I crawled into my favorite bed ... I made it!

Day Ten: White House, Smithsonian, and lots of Rain!

The girls asked to sleep in, so we gave them their wish. They woke up to pancakes being made in the kitchen of our Hostel, right next door. It brought back college memories; cooking a meal on a hot plate.

We rode the Metro, and made a stop at Barack's home (AKA The White House).

Our plan was to rent bikes, and explore the National Mall in 'Vandeputte Style' (AKA efficient). But it was raining, and no one was super motivated about getting soaked. So we decided to hit the Smithsonian Museums instead. On our walk, I saw Paradis running ahead and kneeling on the ground. It took me awhile to figure out what she was doing ...

I've always wanted to see the Cherry trees bloom in Washington D.C. A month ago, it looked like I would get my wish since the Cherry Blossom Festival started today! But the weather wasn't cooperating with my plans, and most of the trees were not blooming. Needless to say I was a little disappointed. However, while walking, Paradis spotted a couple trees and began collecting blossoms for our Collection Jars. It is illegal to pick the blossoms, or trust me I would have went home with a jar full (I'm sure that law was made for people like me).

We went to Smithsonian's Museum of American History. We saw Julia Child's Kitchen, Dorothy's Ruby Red Slippers, the actual flag that Mary Pickersgill sewed in 1813, and so much more. We were hoping once we left the museum the rain would have stopped, but no such luck. We walked to the National Park station at the Washington Monument (still closed), and the main Ranger Station on the mall to buy souvenirs. We were soaked, so we decided to give it up for the day and head back to the hostel. Check out my pants ...

We got back to the Hostel, and Annelies made us all Smack Ramen. Yes, on the hot plate. Such important skills these trips give my children!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Day Nine: Washington D.C.

Scott was up early, in order to get in line for Bureau of Engraving tickets. The girls and I didn't sleep in either, and we were on the train by 8:30am. The girls instantly took to the train system; I just love those two! For the rest of the day Paradis took over all map duties, while the two of them lead Scott and I around the city via the train all day.

We started out with a tour of the Bureau of Engraving. Cool. Super cool.

From there we took the train to the Library of Congress, walked through quickly, and then went on a tour of the Supreme Court. Cool, once again.

We walked across the street to the Capital. We didn't go on the tour, but enjoyed what we could, along with the gift shop! This was a day filled with pins for the collections!

We rode the train to the Pentagon, where we saw the 9/11 Memorial. It was very nicely done, and the audio tour via our cell phones rocked!

Back on the train to Arlington Cemetery, where we saw the changing of the guards, and JFK's tomb. 

At this point it was 5:15pm, and we were all getting a little famished, and simply tired. We were losing Annelies quickly ...

So we rode the train to the National Mall area and had dinner at Ollie's. Pretty good hamburgers and fries. As we were eating our meal, a bunch of the employees starting having a 'meeting' at the table next to us. It got a little heated at times (discussing how many hamburgers to have on the grill at one time during the lunch hour rush), and actually kept us entertained! The owner came over and offered us a couple free desserts for the inconvenience of our dinner conversation! We took him up on it, and enjoyed the yummy chocolate and carrot cake! Yum, yum. 

By the way, after we left the restaurant Annelies started giving solutions to each and every problem the staff discussed. Paradis chimed in with solutions of her own. Sometimes I think these two are beyond their years!

Annelies had been wearing her Uggs all day, insisting these were the most comfortable shoes she owned. Needless to say, we made a stop at Payless for a pair of tennis shoes that will hopefully work a little better tomorrow! I'm not sure if it was the great burgers, yummy (free) desserts, the new shoes, or simply the fact the two of them were beyond tired, but as we ran (literally at times) to the WWII Memorial, at 7:00pm, to catch a Ranger talk, we found the girls holding hands and chatting non-stop ... it was a lovely site.

We were able to catch the Ranger 30 minutes into his talk, but after 30 minutes we knew we needed to end the night. Our feet were sore, and we were tired. So the girls lead us back to our Hostel via the train. Annelies and Scott folded dollar bills into rings, which they learned from a YouTube video (and she got the idea from the Bureau's Gift Shop).

P.S. No stats again tonight. I'm simply wiped. Looking forward to seeing some Cherry Blossoms in our Nation's Capital tomorrow. 

Day Eight: Walton's Mountain, W. Virginia, and Washington D.C.

We started off in Lovingston, Virginia. The town doesn't have much, so we picked up 'waxy donuts' at the grocery store. Drove a little north to Schuyler (pronounced skyler), the home of Earl Hamner, author of The Walton's series. I grew up watching The Walton's, and both girls have watched the entire series.

The town had a population of over 7,000 at one point thanks to a soapstone quarry, but has diminished to next to nothing. Currently there is a Walton's Museum and 'Ikes Store' that keeps the town alive at this point. The museum had a lot in it, and was housed in an old school. It was fun to see the exhibits. Here we are in front of the home that Earl grew up in.

We drove into Shenandoah National Park. Most of the park is closed, due to snow and ice, but we were able to drive 30 miles of the Skyline Drive. The mountains are beautiful.

We drove West into West Virginia, our 40th state! That is just simply amazing to me.

We turned around to catch the Virginia sign we missed the day before.

We ended the night driving into Washington D.C. around 8:30pm. We were in awe when we saw the Washington Monument all lite up. Beautiful. We are staying at the International House Hostel just a few blocks from all the happenings. We have stayed at Hostels before, in Europe many, many times, and with the girls once in San Diego. We consider them part of the ‘traveling experience’ we love to share with the girls. Tonight the three of us girls have a room by ourselves, and Scott is in a mixed dorm with five other beds. Tomorrow night, the three of us girls will share a room with another man, not Scott … such is the hostel life!

Here are a couple of photos to help you see how we travel. The first is of Paradis making sandwiches while in the McDonald’s parking lot. We try to eat at least two meals ‘in’ each day. The girls are in charge of making all the meals in the back of the van; they usually do it while we are driving down the road but we had to stop to get my 'fix' (AKA McDonald's Unsweetened tea with light ice). 

We tell the girls this next photo is what you get when traveling with ‘older’ parents. The girls absolutely hate the chain Scott keeps on his glasses, and I’m sure you can imagine how they feel about my ‘dual glasses’ set-up. But it works for both of us, and so we roll with it!

I’ll leave you with a photo I took before going to bed. This is the luggage we ‘collected’ from the van before returning it to Union Station (we will take public transportation or walk the next three days). It was another good day on the road. 

P.S. No stats tonight. I’m behind on the blog, and I need some rest!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Day Seven: Snow, Ferry, Delaware, Flag House, and Virginia Mountains

We started the day early in order to board the ferry from Cape May, New Jersey to Lewes, Delaware. We woke up to a van full of snow that Scott had to brush off. I was hoping the ferry ride would give us a view of the coast. Didn't happen ... However, the ride was uneventful and the ferry ride was entertaining.

We entered our 38th state, Delaware. 

Quickly we traveled into our 39th state, Maryland. It was so windy, my tripod blew over while taking the photo. Not good. 

We drove into Baltimore, and stopped at the Flag House. This is the house that Mary Pickersgill lived in when she was commissioned to sew the enormous flag that flew over Ft. McHenry. The flag that gave Francis Scott Key the inspiration to write the poem 'Star-Spangled Banner'. The flag that Scott and I are standing in front of below is the exact size of the flag that Mary sewed. By hand. In 1813. Yikes ... my fingertips hurt just thinking about it. 

From Baltimore we drove south into our 40th state, Virginia. We missed the sign, but are hoping to hit it on the way out tomorrow. We ended up in Lovingston, Virginia at the base of Walton's Mountain. OK, I know Walton's Mountain is just fictional. Just go with it people ... we spent the evening watching old Walton's shows, and we visit the museum tomorrow. I"m getting in the mood.

Good night John-Boy!

Day Seven: 318 miles (2,374 total); $46.78 on gas ($253.09 total); 4 states (9 total); $66.16 Lodging  ($679.01 total); $6.38 Souvenirs ($188.28 total); $28 Tourist Traps ($170.70 total); $3 Redbox ($3 total); 1 fights (1 total); 0 injuries (0 total)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Day Six: Philadelphia, Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, and Cape May

Today was filled with history. We started out an hour from Philly, and parked at Independence Visitor Center. We secured tickets to an early tour of Independence Hall, and visited the Liberty Bell. I was surprised to see how close we got. I could have touched it if I wanted someone to yell at me. I didn't. 

While waiting for our tour, the girls worked on their Junior Ranger badge. I say 'their' because Paradis does a lot of the work, Annelies says the oath. 

The tour of Independence Hall was fabulous. Annelies is learning about this in school right now, so she was fascinated with the information. When Scott and I said, "I learned a lot today." She proudly said, "I didn't. I knew it all."

We walked a couple blocks to Carpenter's Hall, where 12 of the 13 colonies originally met to discuss breaking away from England. This building is still owned by the Carpenter's Guild, and therefore not as famous as 'Independence Hall'. 

We walked to the home that is believed to be where Betsy Ross sewed the first American Flag.  Sewing the flag had to be kept secret, because anyone found betraying England would be hung. We got to meet Betsy herself ...

We went on a tour of the Philadelphia Mint. Couldn't take pictures inside. Ugh. 

Annelies finished her umpteenth Junior Ranger Badge ...

And Scott said hi to Rocky ... (you're humming the theme song, aren't you?).

Paradis wanted to see Love Park, in downtown Philly. We missed a turn and had to pay a $5 toll to get back to the city again. We don't have tolls in Minnesota. I've always supported the "Use it-Pay It" philosophy, but after paying over $27 in tolls today I'm rethinking my opinion!

Per the suggestion of Sue Gann, we went to Geno's and bought a Philly Cheesesteak. Although we were freezing by this point, and there was no inside seating, it was a good sandwich! Our picky eater (Annelies) ate the fries.

We left Philly, and drove into our 37th state, New Jersey. The border is on top of a river, and Scott refused to pull over on the highway without a shoulder. 

We drove to Atlantic City to check out the sites. We were planning to stay in Atlantic City for the night, but decided to drive all the way to Cape May in preparation for the ferry to Delaware tomorrow morning. It worked out well, since we drove in a snow storm, and it was nice to get the weather behind us! We just can't escape the snow. 

We ended the night in Cape May, at Congress Hall. An absolutely beautiful hotel on the coast. I got a killer rate, since this place is dead in the winter. Paradis wants to come here on her honeymoon; I'll be joining her (hope her husband doesn't mind)!

Day Six: 163 miles (2,056 total); $50.00 on gas ($206.31 total); 2 state (6 total); $92.58 Lodging  ($612.85 total); $59.10 Souvenirs ($181.90 total); $20.00 Tourist Traps ($142.70 total); $0 Redbox ($0 total); 1 fights (1 total); 0 injuries (0 total)