Halloween in July

2018 ROAD TRIP TO MAINE & CANADA

Days 2 – 4
Thursday, 7/12 – Sunday, 7/15

After our action-packed first day and our first time boondocking at the Cabela’s in Maine, we drove up north to Medway, where we had booked three nights at Katahdin Shadows Campground.

The last ten minutes of the ride, Kai was not having it:( hence the crying toddler pictured above.

What made it worse was that Michael had to check into the campground and get all of our paperwork. So Kai wanted to see Daddy. Poor kid.

I did turn on an episode of Dino Dana on our Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet and that helped a lot! Kai loves watching Dino Dana. That and Curious George are two shows that definitely keep him entertained.

Initially, we had planned this route because Michael and his guy friends were planning on hiking Mt. Katahdin on Saturday. His friends were supposed to drive up on Friday, camp that night and get an early start on the hike on Saturday, camp that night and leave Sunday.

I had found a family-friendly campground. They were having a Halloween-themed weekend, so I could bond with Kai and Stanley while Michael was away.

The week before our trip, his friends all backed out from hiking.

Guess that meant more family time! As you can imagine, Michael was overjoyed to spend HALLOWEEN weekend with us in JULY!

Katahdin Shadows Campground

Staff was very friendly!

Prior to our stay, we were fortunate enough to get a call back from the campground a few days before we arrived. We were on a waitlist for a 50 amp, pull-thru site with a sewer hookup. We ended up getting it. That was such wonderful news.

I did read a review about the check in area being fairly steep for a big rig to pull into. We had no problems. But it was nice to have a idea beforehand.

The sites were all fairly close together at this campground. The playground is such a wonderful area and since it was Halloween weekend, the campground was fully booked. That meant a lot of kids!

I would definitely recommend this campground to families with young kids with an RV. It gets loud, but it adds to the community and excitement of it all.

It surely isn’t for the older couple look for a nice relaxing and quite environment or the young couple looking for nature hiking and biking; unless you are simply going to Baxter State Park for the day.

One thing to note about Baxter State Park is that it is not dog-friendly.

The staff and people here were super friendly! There are a lot of seasonal campers here and what’s great is there are also cabin rentals and just regular tent sites. Those are more private and tucked away. So, if you are someone who doesn’t have an RV and enjoy tent camping, this campground offers a very different environment, away from the noise.

Getting settled

That first evening, we decided to get some essentials: food. We asked the staff and they informed us of a local market at the gas station right down the road from the campground. It was called the Big Apple Store. They had the essentials. So, we were very happy.

We decided to take the bikes with us! Before we had Kai, we had Stanley, our cairn terrier. When we got bicycles for us, we also invested in one of these InStep bicycle trailers so that our little pup, Stanley could ride with us:)

Now that we have Kai, he can ride in it while my husband pulls him. It’s so perfect when we have sort of a long distance to go but would rather take our bikes to get there a bit faster.

In this case, we needed to purchase a gallon of milk, drinkable water and some other groceries! And we just didn’t feel like driving because that’s all we had been doing for two whole days.

The bike trailer is able to seat two kids, so it was just enough space to fit Kai and all the groceries we purchased:)

Local summer festival

On Friday, we found out there was a little festival in town, not far from the campground. It was the East Millinocket Summerfest 2018.

It was definitely a small town festival, but it was nice to participate in a local community event.  There was live music, and Kai had fun at the bounce houses!

Stanley gets to rest in the Airstream while we go out:)

That weekend was fun. On Friday evening, we did a hayride with Kai around the campground. He loved being pulled by a large tractor. He loved playing with the kids at the playground!

Then on Saturday morning we brought Kai to an exercise trail about a half an hour south of the campground. It was in Lincoln, ME. We chose that particular trail due to its close proximity to Walmart. We had pre-ordered these truck mirror attachments, because Michael informed me that each state has different laws about having towing mirrors while we towed our trailer. Kai had fun on the trail.

We then went to a park with a playground and a beach at Mattanawcook Lake. Kai wanted to play with the older girls who were swinging, so we brought our lunch there and had a picnic.

That afternoon, we took Kai trick-or-treating on the campground after his nap. Michael and I took turns taking Kai and giving out candy.

On Sunday morning, we just ate pop-tarts, packed up, and were off to our next stop.

Interested in reading more about our first RV experience? Here are our posts for our first ever family RVing experience with our very first travel trailer and our first day of travel.

The Final Stretch: Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia

So we were back from our cruise and it was a straight shot up the coast to Savannah, GA. We had a 7 hour drive from Miami and we were only staying one night in Georgia. As we got into Georgia we had stopped to fuel up and noticed a gas station that had some magnets. As soon as we crossed the state border, we immediately noticed the drastic change in weather. It was several degrees cooler in GA compared to Florida, so we had to change our clothing to adjust to the quick change when we stopped. We picked up the Georgia magnet that we needed and low and behold there was a Tennessee magnet, Tennessee was the only state where we wee unable to find a magnet while we were there. After getting our magnet we were back on the road and not stopping until Savannah.

We arrived in Savannah around 4pm. We checked into the Mulberry Inn. It was a decent little hotel with clean rooms but a breakfast, which we found out later, that was lacking a bit. We dropped off our luggage into the room and knew that we had a few things to do tonight so we could head to the Carolinas the next day. Next on our list was to to find a cache. Luckily right near the hotel was a cache that ended up being fairly easy to find. We placed our frisbee and were on our way to dinner.

The hotel that we were staying in was on the north side of Savannah. Christina wanted to head into the downtown area to get some dinner. She actually found a Paula Dean restaurant that we thought would be somewhere good to try. We got into the downtown area and there was something big going on. There must have been a festival or something that day. Many of the streets were blocked off, there were police all over the place, and all of the parking lots were already full. After looking for somewhere to park for 45 minutes I decided to call it quits. There was a restaurant right next to the hotel that we were staying at that I had originally wanted to go to so we ended up heading back there. After another half hour drive back towards the hotel we arrived at the Sweet Tea Grille restaurant. The food there was pretty good and I think our favorite was the loaded chip appetizer. After dinner we decided to call it a night as we had to get up early and head north.

We woke up and packed up our luggage and car and headed to breakfast. We like to try and find hotels where they offer free breakfast but this one was just a bit of a disappointment. Everything seemed a little old and like it had been out for a while. We quickly ate a little bit of breakfast and decided to head out of there as our final destination for today was all the way up in Richmond, VA.

We started to head to Virginia and knew we needed to make a few stops along the way. We needed to visit North and South Carolina. North Carolina was pretty easy. We stopped at South of the Border. We were easily able to find a cache right there and or course they had a magnet. Luckily since this is on the border of North and South Carolina they also had a North Carolina magnet so we were able to pick up both of them. We also to decided to grab some lunch while we were there and make our way to North Carolina.

North Carolina was a little more difficult because we needed to find a cache and we didn’t have a specific location to go to. We pulled off the highway¬†and I found a cache that seemed to be pretty close by. It was actually at a dentist office and it was about 2:30pm(two thirty) I thought it was pretty fitting.(Lets see who gets the joke). We searched of the cache for a while and finally just before we were about to leave I prevailed and found it attached to a tree in the woods. Victory! Only one state left.

We continued our drive to Virginia, our last state in the continental U.S. We arrived fairly late in Fredricksburg, VA and decided to get dinner and call it an early night. We headed to an Italian restaurant right next to the hotel, Vita Felice. The food was pretty good and we were really happy with our meals. The restaurant was showing some signs of age but we were able to over look that when our entrees came. We headed back to the hotel after dinner and rested up for our final drive.

We woke up early had breakfast at our hotel and had a couple of errands to run. First and most importantly was to find a Virginia country ham for Christina’s dad. We headed to the Made in Virginia Store that was near by. We knew they carried Edward’s hams and that is exactly what we were looking for. Edward’s are know for their salty country hams and are always raked amongst the top tasting in the country. We found a ham that fit what we were looking for and also grabbed our VA magnet. We only had one more thing to do. We searched nearby for a cache and found one just around the corner. It was a pretty easy find so we placed our frisbee and headed to New York.

After 7 more hours of driving we arrived in New York, completing our trip around the continental U.S.(plus Alaska). All that we have left is Hawaii and boy are we excited to go there.

T-minus 5 days until our wedding. Now we must switch from fun mode back to get things done mode.

Iowa

Cheer us on: we have hit 35 states, and have only 15 more states to go!

Des Moines was the main city we visited in Iowa. From Omaha, we made the 2 hour drive through the western part of Iowa, which was covered with corn fields, some cow farms, and many windmills throughout open fields alongside main highways.

On Monday, October 20th. We checked into our hotel, Holiday Inn Express Des Moines at Drake University at 2:30pm on Monday, October 20th, which is west of the city center. Tennis courts across the street caught our eye, as we planned a time for us to get a much-needed fun workout before leaving.

Our first stop was to visit the Capitol Building, which houses the Iowa Senate, Iowa House of Representatives, the Office of the Governor, Attorney General, Auditor, Treasurer, and Secretary of State. We were really intrigued to visit this building mainly due to it being the number one attraction on TripAdvisor in Des Moines. It was around 3:30pm when we arrived there. We parked in Visitor Parking right in front of the building. It was a beautiful fall afternoon, and the sun was shining brightly on the gorgeous 23-carat Golden Dome roof. We also noticed a small scenic park with a few lone joggers. Our first goal was to find a nearby cache, and we walked down the paved pathway into the park. After searching for about a half hour, we unfortunately we came up empty-handed.

It was already almost 4:15pm so we decided to head up to the building before it closed. We went through one of the public entrances on the side of the building. Upon entering, we walked through a metal detector and a security guard greeted us. They stopped their tours for the day, but we we were able to explore the building on our own, so we got a map from the info desk towards the front and made our way up to the second floor.

Our first stop was the library, which was really neat to see. There were some nice spiral staircases along the walls leading up the room with high ceilings. There were all really cool historical pieces in glass cases. We were able to then head to one of the open rooms, which is where the House of Representatives gather. Everything in the building was beautifully decorated with paintings, beautiful architecture and wonderful lighting throughout.

We saw a couple of exhibits that screamed Iowa, such as one of their ships, bell,¬†donated gifts from countries, the governor’s memorabilia, and more! The structure itself was quite European in style, as dramatic artwork¬†hung from the walls and painted ceilings brightened up the structure.

After exploring the interior of the building, we made our way towards the back of the building where there was a cache. We were in luck as I spotted the cache immediately!

Michael suggested we check out the Pappajohn Sculpture Park. We parked our car along the road which surrounded the park, and it was a coin-operated machine, which was very reasonably priced. It was $0.25 for 34 minutes, not too shabby! We just took a nice stroll and took some pictures of the sculptures while the sun was shining very brightly. There was a couple sitting on top of a hill who was having a photo shoot with two photographers working hard to capture some special moments, while we casually saw kids, parents, and loners sitting and relaxing in the natural beauty of this park.

Dinner was next on the agenda. As we drove back to our hotel we noticed the Drake Diner, which was right next to our hotel. Being it was a Monday, we were happy to see many cars parked at this particular restaurant. This really means that it is a hot spot. Indeed, the decor and ambiance did create that 50’s style diner. Tootsie Roll Pops were also right at the front, so I selected a few different flavors for after-dinner. The food was very good so we knew the dessert would be great too!

The next morning we had planned to wake up at 6am to get some tennis time in before our drive through Missouri. However we were still adjusting to the two-hour time difference from Pacific Time to Central Time so we ended up sleeping in until about 8am. We did manage to make it to breakfastūüėĄ before our drive that day.

Our next states are Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas by the weekend! It’s a busy week for us, but we are really looking forward to visiting Michael’s sister Kayleigh and her boyfriend Anthony in Texas.

Also a quick side note: Game 2 of the World Series is on (Giants vs. Royals)….everyone is going crazy about the Royals around where we are now and it’s really had an impact on us actually watching some baseball at night. Woo!!!

Nebraska

Next up was Nebraska. We decided to stay in Omaha and dedicate a day to visiting Henry Doorly Zoo. When we arrived in Omaha it was a bit late and we had barely eaten all day. We checked in to our hotel, Hawthorn Suites, and decided to find some dinner. We stopped at a nearby Red Lobster. I actually don’t remember the last time I had been to a Red Lobster. There food was actually pretty good. It reminded me of Olive Garden, which makes sense since they are both owned by Darden Group. We headed back to our hotel which was a pretty nice room. There was a living area with a couch, kitchenette, and table, and there was a separate bedroom and bathroom. They also offer free breakfast which is always a plus in our book.

The next day Christina and I decided to head to the zoo. This is definitely the largest zoo that we have ever been to. There was so may different sections to the zoo we barely got to see half of it. We started off visiting the big cat exhibit. We got to see some really neat animals there and we got a few good photos. We were able to see a few bengal tigers, snow leopards, and lions.

After the cat exhibit we headed to see the apes. They had a multitude of monkeys and gorillas. We took some really good photos of the gorillas, and we took two of my favorite photos of the whole trip. We headed out of the ape exhibit and went to the barn. At the barn there were all different farm animals running around it pens. if you wanted you could go into the pens and pet the animals. We opted to stay outside the gate and just get some photos of the animals. While Christina was taking photos I noticed one goat that was sticking his tongue under the fence right near my shoe. He was trying to get the maple leaves that had fallen to the ground. I figured I would help him out and push some leaves towards him so he could eat them.

We found a small aviary that had parakeets, ducks, and some other birds flying around. We were able to go in and take some bird food on a stick so we could feed the birds and have them land on us. Christina kept chasing around the white and blue birds and trying to get them on her food stick, with no avail. There was also a larger aviary that we were able to go into. Here they had flamingos, and some other large pink birds, as well as some big heron.

At 3pm we were scheduled to watch an IMAX movie, Born to be Wild. It was about orphaned elephants and orangutans and the people who helped raise them. The animals were cared for until they were able to take care of themselves and then they were to be retuned to the wild. It was a really good film that got to show us some very caring people to have dedicated their whole lives to rescuing these animals.

We left the movie and headed straight to the indoor desert dome. This was the first desert exhibit we had ever gone to ever! There were some really interesting horticulture as well as wildlife to observe there. It was also very hot in there. After that, we headed to the “Creatures of the Night” exhibit, which was attached to the desert dome. It was a bit dark and scary for Christina, so we walked briskly through there past¬†the bats, termites, crocs, snakes, frogs, and other amphibians. There was just so much to see!

The¬†aquarium in the zoo was next on the agenda. It was a decent size. There was a shark reef, some jellyfish tanks, and a few other salt water tanks scattered around. The aquarium definitely was the size of most stand alone aquariums but it was pretty good considering it was part of a zoo. When leaving the aquarium we noticed that the pathways were blocked off. We asked one of the employees what was going on. They let us know it was their “Spooktacular” event. It was basically an event where kids could come and trick-or-treat as well as go into a couple of the exhibits. The only exhibits that were open were the ones that we had already been to so we decided to call it a day. We actually on viewed about half the zoo and wished we had another day there but what we did get to see was very good.

On our way out of the zoo we stopped in the parking lot where there was a cache hidden. The cache was a quick find and we were on our way back to the hotel.

The next morning we slept in and missed the hotels free breakfast, oh man! Since it was a little late we decided to hit the road. On our way out of town we needed to get a state magnet. I stopped to get gas and Christina ran into the gas station. She came out with magnet in hand and we were off to our next state.

Colorful Colorado

On Tuesday, October 14th, Michael and I decided on a whim to head to Grand Junction, CO because we got a good deal on a nice hotel for him to rest for a couple of days. The drive over to the city was so lovely, as we passed through the state of Utah. We hit some captivating yellow and sandy terrain when we crossed over the Colorado border. Glimpses of snow-covered peaks in the state lured us in as we drove to the city.

We checked into the hotel, and I ordered food for dinner, and the next day I went to the fitness center and did the cache and purchased the state magnet on my own.

I was debating whether or not to check out the Colorado National Monument, but it was a 23-mile loop drive. The next day, we were going to have a long drive down to the state of New Mexico, so I decided against the long drive and just rest before we headed down there.

After New Mexico, we would have to drive through the state of Colorado to get to Nebraska, so we would have another opportunity to explore more of the state together.

On Friday, October 17th, Castle Rock, CO was the second place we stayed on our way to Nebraska. By the afternoon Michael was feeling a lot better than before. He had the chance to rest and recover from his cold, so we were really happy that we could continue along in our journey and experience it to the fullest. As we were driving along the highway, we noticed a more populated area right before we hit the large city of Denver. Because we wanted to avoid all of the traffic of the city, we selected to stay in Castle Rock. This was a great decision because there are so many shops nearby. We had planned to have a¬†date-night that morning. I took Michael to get a nice juicy burger at Crave, and he took me for froyo at Smart Cow. I have to say that I really appreciated the fact that they had Italian ice-style flavors, which I really enjoyed along with my tart original froyo with fresh fruit, mochi and mango boba:) Then he took me to see¬†The Best of Me, which by the way was such a tear-jerker!!! Sparks really does pull something out of me: I even cry while READING¬†his novels! Ten minutes into the movie, I knew I should have been more prepared with some extra Kleenex. Before watching Guardians of the Galaxy at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, I really can’t remember the last time I watched a movie, but now we are really on a roll with these movies. I rekindles a part of my past, because I used to watch movies at least once a month…crazy how times have changed.

Random realization: By far, the best things in life are: time, health, loved ones, and the means to live life to the fullest! Having the chance to experience bits and pieces of each state and what tiny factors that distinguish one from another really opens up my eyes to the different perspectives Americans have about one another. Throughout our long drives, Michael and I have been able to have the time to really digest all of this travel education we have right in front of us. I have been striving to share all of these small lessons I have learned with him, as we have been able to grow closer over these past few months.  Subtle differences within each state make us realize the sheer diversity coupled with the harmonious unity of the States, appropriately constituting the United States.

Off to the next state: Nebraska!!!

Wyoming

Michael drove a few hours the evening of Wednesday, September 10th before it started snowing, yes, snowing!!! Essentially we were in three different states on 9/10 = North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. We drove on highway 450, which was so desolate and scary. I had awoken from my nap to the snow coming down pretty hard. We finally came across a Rest Area in the town of Wright, WY, which was on the intersection of Highway 59 and 387. What a relief! We freshened up in the bathroom and used the projector to fall asleep to Captain America in the truck.

Throughout the night, we kept turning on the car for heat and I guess I had at some point opened the door because I was literally sweating. The next morning a gentleman pulled up to our truck and I was awake so he said there was a stuffed animal underneath the truck. I had just woken up and saw that my pillow pet was being handed it to me. At that point, I thanked him so much for his kind gesture. He said that he didn’t want us to leave it behind. That was definitely a nice impression of folks from WY.

That morning we made our journey through the mountainous region of the States, taking pictures of the beautiful scenery of the snow through Bighorn National Forest, and stopping at Cody, WY for the evening. We booked our night in Cody at the Best Western, which had coin-operated washers and dryers which we made use of. The small town of Cody was packed with resources and amenities we were hoping for on our way to Yellowstone National Park.

It took us about an hour to reach the East Entrance of the park we paid the $25 entrance fee which is good for that park and Grand Teton National Park for seven days.  We were given a park map with information about the wildlife we could spot as well as a park newsletter. All of the information warned us not to get too close to bison or other animals.

We spotted our first lone bison hanging out by the water on our drive in the park. He was huge! Throughout our time there, we must have seen more than 50 bison (buffalo). Most of the ones we had seen were on their own, and there were a handful of times they were all grazing as a herd.

Yellowstone National Park seemed so big, as we drove though it passing many tall pine trees covering the mountains. It was just a beautiful place to be in to take our time in absorbing the natural beauty of the lands. We drove past some geothermal vents with the scent of sulfur that lingered in the air. That was our first of many sightings of steam coming up from the ground. We past numerous hot spring areas and once we reached the Canyon Village, we decided to check their room vacancies for the evening because it seemed to be completely sold out online. To our surprise there was a cabin available that evening which was below our budget of $120 that evening. We were excited and checked into our room before heading out to check out Mammoth Hot Springs which was about 40 miles away. On our way there we saw a bison walking along the road (we must have been about 5 to 10 feet away from it). The hot springs were pretty cool to see too!

The next morning we made our trek to Old Faithful, and which was only supposed to take an hour (about 50 miles away). It ended up taking us about 3-4 hours to get there because we stopped at various sites, including the Midway Geyser Basin, where we saw an awesome mini geyser called Vixen, erupt right in front of us! It was so awesome. Along the way, we saw many recreational fly-fishermen who were fishing with their waders and in the middle of the water. Michael got really excited and wanted to test out his skills, but we needed to get to Old Faithful so he fished for about 20 minutes then we were on our way.

We got to the Visitors Center area, and it was about 3pm. We were starving so we got something to eat first, and then headed to the site. The next predicted eruption was scheduled to be at 4:52pm + or ‚Äď 10 minutes. It appeared we had just missed it. We meandered through the visitors‚Äô center, and got a few souvenirs. Then we sat on the wooden bench for just under an hour before the geyser gave us a few teasers before the water shot up in the air. It was an interesting sight to see but not nearly as powerful as we had thought. There must have been over 500 people sitting around Old Faithful to watch it, and we had waited an hour, just to say we had seen it.

As we were driving back we finally spotted some elk! It was a mother and its calf!  I had been hoping to see either elk or moose or both before leaving the park, and we were fortunate enough to see them. Because there were so many cars pulled over to the side, I hopped out and got a closer look because they were across the stream. Michael parked at the pullout, and he spotted a few fly-fishermen there. He could not resist fishing, as he pulled out his tackle gear and started to cast and attempt to catch some trout. I had been there for about 10-15 minutes taking pictures of the two animals interacting with each other, and moving downstream. I glanced over at Michael setting up his rod. They ended up going right past Michael and the other fishermen in the area (across the stream). Unfortunately, Michael and several of the fishermen were out of luck. They did not catch one fish, as they were all jumping out and everything. It was so frustrating. So we decided to take off before the sun fully set, leaving the park through the west entrance.

Our next stop: Missoula, Montana!

South Dakota

After staying for two nights in the small town of Medora, North Dakota, we made the 5-hour drive to Keystone, SD for a few hours. We focused our attention on getting to Mount Rushmore before the light ceremony which starts at 8pm, almost every day.  To our dismay, the weather was not really cooperating with us, as it was rainy and foggy. Nonetheless we made the trek through the Black Hills and made it to the Mount Rushmore National Monument, not knowing at all what to expect other than the $11 parking charge. We were very pleased to see a few small grey deer with antlers as we were driving up to the site. As we continued to drive up further, we noticed the large gate at the entrance to the area that reminded us somewhat of a border crossing. After speaking to the lady at the booth, we decided to get the pass, which was good until the end of the year.

 

Upon entrance to the park, we were surprised to find numerous cars already parked in the area. Immediately after getting out of the truck, we were struck by the brisk windy air that hit us from all different angles. We walked a bit further to find a pathway which was decorated with all the state flags and fun facts about them. Because we were so cold, we spotted a gift shop that was open and went inside to search for our South Dakota magnet.

Success! We found one that we liked, and I got myself a Mount Rushmore mug that was on clearance, score! I had brought one travel mug with us for coffee and needed one for tea because the taste and smell of coffee lingers a bit more than tea, so having another mug strictly for tea drinking was essential in my book.

Visibility was poor as the fog hindered our view of the monument. However, we realized there were patches of fog that were less in abundance and were grateful we could catch a few glimpses of the structure. Michael took some pictures of me and then I took some of him. Then we took the elevator down to the Lincoln Borglum Museum, which was the enclosed area leading to the exterior amphitheater area. Here we had a chance to read through the history behind the structure with a strong focus on the artist who had a vision to ‚Äúcarve‚ÄĚ a significant piece of history. We watched a video and saw relics used for the construction of the structure. It really made us realize how much work went behind building this meaningfully everlasting monument.

Michael and I decided to check out the bookstore and then got ready to weather the cold in the outdoors amphitheater for the lighting ceremony. The female park ranger gave us some background information about the program about ten minutes before 8pm, and informed us the program was to be about 30 to 45 minutes in length. It kicked off with her giving us a formal introduction and extensive historical and patriotic information about the significance of the monument. The four presidents represented on the structure are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. They all represent different presidents with various backgrounds, coming from different regions in the U.S. and also from different points in history. She emphasized liberty and how each and every one of us should carry out this sense of spirit and understanding to all Americans as our forefathers did in the past in time of tumult. I found her speech to be one of such passion and filled with such knowledge. I was quite impressed with her ability to memorize a 10-15 minute speech that included her reciting various quotes from all four presidents as well as definitions from dictionaries and also from a movie, ‚ÄúMr. Smith Goes to Washington‚ÄĚ (1939).

Shortly after, we were presented with a movie that went through each of the four individual presidents in detail. Because it was so cold outside, the video (to us) seemed to really drag on. It was very interesting, but it was just so funny because as they started to introduce George Washington, we thought ‚Äúuh‚Ķthey‚Äôre only on Washington‚ÄĚ. We were shivering, and we thought, Man! We should have been more prepared‚Ķas we saw many people who brought blankets, wore hats, gloves, scarves, and more.¬† I at least thought to wear my winter boots, and Michael did have on his waterproof hiking shoes, but it was rough out. During this entire time Michael kept looking over at me saying: ‚ÄúI am going to be so mad if we can‚Äôt even see it when they light it up‚ÄĚ. I totally agreed. It felt like an eternity before they lit the structure, and before that the ranger called past and present military personnel to come on stage to help with the retiring of the American flag. We also sang the National Anthem with everyone. This program was packed with patriotism.

It was really touching to see all the heroes introduce themselves on stage, and throughout this process, we began to see the monument amidst the fog! It was a miracle and it was so powerful…definitely a special moment. At that point, we were all so proud to be given this opportunity in the States, founded on the belief of freedom for all.

 

We stayed to take some selfies, and really were considering staying at a hotel for the night because it was so cold. After searching around the area we decided to complete our cache for South Dakota. It took us two tries to find one in the middle of the night. But we did it! We were so happy to have completed it, and now we were off to Wyoming. In the next post, I will be going into detail about our frigid journey to and through the state of WY.

 

Wisconsin

On Wednesday, September 3rd, we left the New England area for Milwaukee, WI. We decided to gain some miles by driving and sleeping for a few hours at a rest stop before hitting our intended city. So we just put in Milkwaukee, WI as our destination in our GPS and let it take us there. We ended up spending a few hours at night in the Poconos area in Pennsylvania before continuing our drive around 7am.  During our trip we booked a hotel at the Hilton City Center in the downtown area.

Let me tell you it was not easy, but we did it. We thought, the end was so near! But,¬†after driving for about 17 hours or so…we realized that our cell phones were behind one hour compared to the time we had been looking at on our watches. So the GPS listed an anticipated arrival time of 4:13pm to the city, and it was 3:55pm by the time we just passed through Chicago. Michael looks over to me as he is driving and says to me: “I really hope the GPS means that we should be getting to Milwaukee in fifteen minutes and not an hour from now”. Unfortunately, I did have to break the news to him that it was completely unrealistic for us to be so close to another city in a completely different state so close to Chicago, IL.

We pulled over to an “Oasis” (service center) and just got some gas and I took over driving the last hour to our hotel. Boy were we excited to check in and sleep on a comfy bed for two nights.

We got to the hotel around 6pm after gathering our belongings and checking in. Michael really just wanted to stay in that evening and order room service. So we decided to take advantage of the fitness center at our hotel for about an hour or so and ordered room service while we watched the Federer & Monfils evening match on ESPN. It was such an intense match. We were really happy to had stayed in because the food was so delicious! It was by far the best room service food I had eaten in a long time! I really vouch for the food and service at the Hilton in terms of room service. We received our food in less than 30 minutes. The House Soup (tomato with a basil cream) was so fresh and tasty! And, my cobb salad had so many items on it. I was so happy they gave us ice waters with lemon and an assortment of condiments. They even called us about a half hour after delivering the food to ask us how everything was going with the food and if we needed anything else. I had a hard time sleeping that evening because I think I had taken various naps throughout the day and didn’t get much sleep the night before. My sleep cycle was all messed up. To add to that, my brain was still adjusting to the one-hour time difference.

The next morning we slept in and left our hotel room by 11am to explore the city. We knew there were a few different events going on in the city which include Oktoberfest and Indian Summer Festival. In the AM we were still undecided on which event to attend, so we made our way to the Public Market which was located by Lake Michigan. It took us about 10-15 minutes of walking to get to the market. Michael and I ate lunch there at one of the local fresh food places called the Green Kitchen, which had freshly squeezed fruit/vegetable juices and sandwiches/salads. It was very delicious.

 

After lunch, Michael insisted we taste the Bienenstich which has custard and almonds. So we bought a quarter of a slice of it and decided to head to the park to eat it. It took us a little while to find the entrance after exiting the market, and along the way we discovered the site for the Indian Summer Festival. We had about a 15 minute conversation with a Crowd Controller named Richard who had been working all the events at the Summerfest location for over 35 years! It was so interesting to talk to someone who had been a Milwaukee native and loves what he does in operations with managing the crowds who attend these events. He spoke highly of the Indian Summer Festival, and we were impressed with what others had to say about the event.

We ended up walking along the pathway next to Lake Michigan, essentially on the opposite side of where we were a few months ago in Michigan. This gave us an opportunity to experience the lake that we loved on the dunes side a bit more on this side. It was a lot more calm and there were beautiful rocks that lined along the coast at Lakeshore State Park. For an urban area we felt as though the air was quite fresh and the architecture is quite low for a city. There were many restricted areas within the state park that had prairies and marshland where nature could run its course, which was neat to see in a city. It was getting a bit warm as we hung out on the benches at the Discovery Park, and we decided to head back to the hotel and relax for an hour or so before heading back to the Indian Summer Festival.

Before we headed back, I asked Michael to search for a cache nearby so we could place our mini Frisbee in the city. To our wonderful surprise we came across one right in the Discovery World¬†park we were in! In no time we placed our Frisbee, played some unique outdoor “instruments” and were on our merry way to the hotel. Another reason we wanted to head back was because we wanted to purchase some school supplies. Why you ask? On Friday, September 5th from 4pm to 6pm there was free admission to the Indian Summer Festival with a “suggested” donation of school supplies. We initially did not notice the part at the end so we were just going to hang out around the park and walk around the city before it hit 4pm, but we decided it would be a nice gesture to get some stuff for the kids.

After relaxing a bit at the hotel, and also planning a bit for the next city we are to hit, we were in search of an office supply store. We found and OfficeMax about two blocks away from our hotel and on the way to Henry Maier Festival Park, where Indian Summer was held.

We had a great time walking along the path next to the lake, and we were bewildered to spot a gaggle¬†of geese who felt the same way, as they were enjoying the walk too! At first we only spotted about five geese walking in a straight line, But, then…we saw so many more closer to the lake’s edge.¬†This park displayed a unique sense of joining together of two different worlds: one of a primitive natural one filled with wildlife and the other with a modern look and feel of a city populated with humans.

The festival was neat because we had a chance to experience some of the food and also see some cultural performances. I found a hands-on arts and crafts tent where I spent the majority of my time. Michael was very patient with me because he is the knot expert! There were a variety of projects you can select but I chose to make a dream catcher. I thought it would be nice to experience making one, but I did not realize how much time it would take. I was actually pretty proud of my semi-finished product. I completed the inner weave (which was the most time-consuming portion of the project). I just need to add a few strings with beads and feathers to spruce it up a bit before I hang it up somewhere permanent. We walked around and checked out different vendors in the festival park afterwards. The theme this year at the festival was Horse Nation. So we saw various kinds of native horses there. One in particular caught our eye as it resembled a cow with its black and white spots.

We watched the Opening Ceremony and caught a bit of the drumming performance. It was so nice to see that all nations were represented at this festival through the drum performance, as it kicked off with a traditional African dance. Then we saw Brazilians performance a drum and dance, the Irish perform a step dance, the Arabs perform, the Koreans perform the drums in a seated positions, and a gentleman who was of German decent play the accordion, the Aztecs perform a standing drum ensemble and another Native American children school perform a chant. There was also a mix of American bands too! Everyone in the audience really embraced the performers’ unique cultures, and it seemed to really bring out the best in people.

Overall we thought the festival was a great opportunity for us to attend as it really showcased the cultures of the people here in the United States which is essentially a melting pot. The only event we were hoping to catch was the amateur boxing tournament, but they were running on an hour delay. So we decided to skip out and walk back to our hotel. It did start to drizzle a bit so we were glad we brought our own umbrella this time around. We knew there was a cold front coming in through the area so we were prepared.

The next morning we took the five hour drive to Minneapolis, MN for a Saturday night out in the city!

 

Sss…spiders & snake

Yesterday seemed like one of the longest days ever. Why you might ask?

Well…it started off with us taking down our tent at the Campton Campground in New Hampshire. We were very much looking forward to our two nights in Stowe, VT that evening since we would be at a hotel. So we woke up at 7:30am and started packing up our stuff in the car. During that time, we must have killed between 50-100 daddy long leg spiders that had been taking shelter in our tent for the 3 nights we had been there. I had two buggers crawling on me! And I must have screamed so loudly, so Michael ended up doing most of the heavy lifting=putting the tent away while I supervised and kept a lookout for more critters.

After a long battle with these spiders, a bee was attacking Michael before we got into our car. We decided to make a pit-stop at Dunkin’ Donuts to get some breakfast and coffee before our 2 hour drive to Stowe. After we got our meals, I hopped into the drivers seat and was ready to drive. I went to put a straw in my Thermos cup and lifted the cup up. I SCREAMED and bolted out of the car because I was really scared to find a snake coiled up in my cup-holder. It took a while before Michael realized it was a snake. He didn’t know why I was freaking out, and I really truly thought he had planted a rubber snake in my¬†holder because he was not flinching at all!

Michael stayed calm and decided we needed to get this guy out of our car before continuing on in our journey. He poked the spider with a straw and tried to lure him into my blender bottle, but I ended up stopping him before he could because I wanted to get a picture of it. That snake was so quick to sliver away into the dashboard before Michael could get a hold of it. We both looked at each other, and he was very mad at me for a short period of time. There we were, standing in the parking lot of the Dunkin’ Donuts. I was so scared to go into my car, and bystanders were confused as to why our doors were wide open and we were standing there. We explained that a snake got into the car and it got lost in the dashboard.

We tried numerous things: turning up the A/C and opening up the vents in the car, banging on the dashboard, opening up the hatch of the car to see if it got into the engine portion, and checking the floor constantly. We stayed there for about a half hour before we decided to just start driving to VT with the snake in the car. Michael took the initiative to drive because he knew that if I was behind the wheel and the snake came crawling out, I would surely get us into a major accident. I agreed with him.

Throughout this time, we were researching ways to get a snake out of a car dashboard online. We ended up leaving all the vents open, and just turning the heat and A/C off and opening our windows. The drive felt like an eternity, as I was extremely uneasy with there being a snake in the car.

Randomly after about a half hour or forty minutes into the drive, the snake pokes his head out of the top air vent in the car. It was looking straight at us! So, Michael pulls over on the side of the highway, and I get out. He proceeds to get his knife from the car and opens up the plastic vent cover because the snake pulled its head back underneath before we could get to it.

We ended up driving to a Walgreens and then Michael took the vent cover off, and we found him inside. I wanted to overcome my fear by attempting to get the snake out using my chopstick skills. Unfortunately, the snake was way to fast for me, and we lost it underneath the dashboard again! Michael was very mad again because he just wanted to slice it in half with his knife, but now we needed to wait for it to come out again.

After Michael drove for about 15 minutes, the snake poked its head out once again! This time, we were ready. Michael pulls over to the side of the highway, and I bolt of the car. He sits in the passenger side seat and takes his knife out. He ends up chopping off the snake’s head, and then used the chopsticks to grab the body, since it was wedged in the vent system, and throws it out onto the grassy area. It was still moving a lot after its head got cut off. I was just so happy and relieved the snake was out of the car. At the same time, we did feel guilty that we had to kill it. We did some further research as to what kind of snake it was. And, here is the link to the Northern Red-Bellied Snake, which is found throughout the state of New Hampshire. Thank goodness they are not endangered or anything!

At that time, I was so mentally exhausted…and we for sure decided to invest in a bottle of wine for the evening and just relax. Wednesday, August 20th was a day to be remembered and seemed like that really didn’t happen, but it did! The events of this day are worthy for its own blog post.