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)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Day Five: Hershey, Utz, and Wilbur

Today was not a day to count calories! We began at Hershey's Chocolate World. I love chocolate; rarely does a day go by that I don't include it in my diet. We all went on a 'factory tour', which was more like Disney World's 'It's a Small World' ride. Scott and Annelies went to a 4D movie experience, while Paradis and I attended a Chocolate Tasting Experience. I could have taught the course.

The girls were most excited to make their own chocolate bar. 

While the girls were creating, I chatted with a local and learned about the Utz Potato Chip factory. So we took a little detour south of Hershey to Hanover, Pennsylvania where we watched potato chips being made. Very cool, and free (my favorite kind of tour). At the outlet the girls were excited to walk out with 19 bags of snack-size chips. I told you this wasn't a day to count calories! 

From Hanover we drove northeast to Lititz Pennsylvania to visit Wilbur Chocolate. I just love their chocolate buds, and they are owned by Cargill. 

We put a few more miles behind us and ended up in Quakertown Pennsylvania in preparation to see the Liberty Bell tomorrow. I'm excited. The girls wanted Chinese for dinner; guess where we ended up ... an all-you-can-eat buffet! Oh man, I'm going to need to go on a diet tomorrow!

The girls had a lot of fun - it was a good day.

Day Five: 187 miles (1,893 total); $50.00 on gas ($206.31 total); 1 state (5 total); $118.81 Lodging  ($520.27 total); $59.10 Souvenirs ($125.55 total); $61.70 Tourist Traps ($122.70 total); $0 Redbox ($0 total); 1 fights (1 total); 0 injuries (0 total)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Day Four: Cuyahoga Park, Flight 93, and some Laundry

I spoke too soon in yesterday's blog post when I said "Note the 0 fights" in the stats. Last night Scott and I stayed up to watch a documentary including interviews of spouses that died on Flight 93. It probably got a little late for everyone, but there was a little tension in the hotel room before we went to sleep. Needless to say, the day started off with a moratorium on electronics. The girls were pumped, as you can tell. Not!

After our free breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express (love them!) we went to Cuyahoga National Park near Akron, Ohio. It was interesting to hear about the 300+ miles of canals that were hand dug and flooded to move goods up and down Ohio. Our family will travel over 2,300 miles in just 11 days with such ease; it makes me think how easy we have everything now. The movies are one of our favorite things at National Park sites.

We continued east, and crossed our 36th state, Pennsylvania. I couldn't get the sign into focus because of the angle. They really need to create a pull-off section for crazy people like me!

Scott and the girls get a little silly waiting for me to set up the tripod and get the settings right.

Further east, we stopped at the Memorial site for United Flight 93. We let the girls take a 59 minute break from their electronic moratorium on the drive, to watch the same documentary we had the night before. The Memorial is not yet done, but it was interesting to see the sight. So sad.

I stopped to pick some leaves from the memorial trees that were planted, for our collection jars. They were all dead - no destroying National Park property my friends. 

After driving through the Allegheny Mountains, we made our way to Hershey Pennsylvania in preparation for ... you guessed it! Our visit to the Hershey Chocolate Factory tomorrow. 

We did some laundry, ordered some pizza, and had a couple hours to relax. It was another good day on the road. And yes, on the last lag we allowed the girls to watch a movie. Oh how we enjoy that sisterly-love!

Note: No Redbox rentals yet this trip. They were added to the statistical summary a few trips ago, because we would rent so many. However, our friend Rachel gave the girls a huge stack of DVDs before we left, and they haven't finished them yet.  

Day Four: 394 miles (1,706 total); $56.01 on gas ($156.31 total); 2 states (5 total); $109.99 Lodging  ($401.46 total); $12.67 Souvenirs ($66.45 total); $56 Tourist Traps ($61.00 total); $0 Redbox ($0 total); 1 fights (1 total); 0 injuries (0 total)