Category Archives: Jen

Four Foto Friday – Almost Home!

Well, this FFF represents our last full week on the road with the RV. Hard to believe! We have been moving at a fairly quick pace for these last few weeks. In part, because we have things to take care of before we set off on our new adventure in India but also because we are ready to stay put  in our home for a little while. This has been an amazing trip and we’ll have some interesting blog posts to write after we’ve had a chance to stop moving and reflect a bit, but for now, I think we’re each looking forward to certain aspects of being back in our (non-wheeled) home.

Michigan (Dearborn, Ann Arbor)

Edison's Menlo Park Lab

Edison’s Menlo Park Lab

Going beyond just the expected history and impact of the automobile in America (which was very interesting), Henry Ford established a  museum to house a history of innovation in America, from its revolutionary roots to a circular home of the future (which never did actually catch on). Right next door is Greenfield Village, also created by Henry Ford. In this expansive area, Ford relocated the homes or workplaces of many of America’s innovators that he had acquired over the years (including his own since Henry Ford himself was an innovator that had an impact on American history). It was just like stepping back in time to the streets of the late 1800s and being able to visit places such as Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park, New Jersey laboratory (where the electric light bulb was perfected), or the Ohio home and bicycle shop where the Wright Brothers earned a living and worked on their ideas for creating a “flying machine.”  Both the museum and the village are good places to visit for a fun dose of US history and innovation.

Besides these stops in Michigan, we were able to visit Ann Arbor, my birthplace, and get a quick look around the University of Michigan campus. An additional bonus: I was able to embarrass Miles yet again when we tried to find the street my parents lived on when I was just a baby and take a photo of the house we lived in. But since I didn’t know which house was the right house, I just hopped out and started taking pictures of all of them, regardless of who was watching the strange woman walking down the street, taking photos with her phone. (side note: according to Miles, I’ve been able to embarrass him many times on this trip, which I think is pretty impressive since I haven’t even been trying that hard).

Ohio (Cleveland and Akron area)

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Ohio brought rock and roll and reconnection. On our short visit in Cleveland we toured the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It has a good bit of rock and roll memorabilia to view (Michael Jackson’s outfits, Jerry Garcia’s guitars, etc) but, if you plan to visit, it is definitely a richer experience if you take the time to watch the many videos throughout the museum showing things such as the Hall of Fame inductees’ performances or American Bandstand clips from its many years on the air. On my favorites list for this museum was the audio and video clips of the Beatles commenting on their work and playing in the recording studios, and, album by album, demonstrating how they grew and changed over the years. Besides the videos, taking the time to stop at the various music stations to listen to inductee song libraries, one hit wonders, roots of rock and roll, etc. definitely made us want to add some tunes to our music library.

Besides our visit to Cleveland we were also able to get together with Eden, one of my roommates from my days in Atlanta. It was so great to catch up on life’s adventures and meet her lovely girls and the boys were quickly dashing around outside and having fun with them – happy to be around some kid energy again. (another side note: I think if there’s one thing the boys have really missed on this trip, it’s been the daily dose of kid energy that they are used to in school!)

New York (Niagara Falls)

Getting soaked at Niagara Falls

Getting soaked at Niagara Falls

We weren’t sure how full our experience here would be since we would not be able to go over to the Canadian side (our passports are in the process of getting our Indian visas) but it turned out to be better than we anticipated! To watch the  rapids pour over the edge of the American side of the falls was to watch the power of nature. Impressive. And loud. We were also able to ride the Maid of the Mist boat over to the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side and that was impressive. And wet. But a giggly sort of wet fun. Watching the crowds of people in ill-fitting blue rain ponchos try to get photos while simultaneously trying to keep their hoods from blowing off, while keeping their balance and their cameras dry was a good laugh. And to be that close to the falls was pretty cool. We went to Goat Island the next morning to stand on the point closest to Horseshoe Falls and were treated to a double rainbow over the falls. Now maybe that happens all the time, but it felt pretty darn special to me.

New York (Seneca Falls and Ithaca)

"All men and women are created equal."

“All men and women are created equal.”

Women’s Rights National Historical Park: The beginnings of the women’s rights movement in the US can be found here in Seneca Falls, NY. A smallish town for such a big undertaking but in a case of right time, right place, right people, a group of women came together, recognized that change was needed and that someone needed to do something about it, and so they drew up the Declaration of Sentiments which was presented here at the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848. This podium that I am standing at is believed to be the same one that Elizabeth Cady Stanton first read the Declaration of Sentiments (based largely on the Declaration of Independence) and used the words “….where all men and women are created equal.” And while I don’t have daughters who might internalize these women’s stories on a more personal level, I do have sons whom I hope we have raised to believe the above to be true and to value the stories of this country’s amazing women, as well as its men’s. I am gratified to have had them visit this historical site and gain a deeper understanding of the fight for women’s rights in this country.

Following our time in Seneca Falls, we drove to Ithaca to look around this college town and take in the pretty waterfalls and gorges, the college campuses, and the town center (which, I have to admit was not as quaint as usual as it is largely under construction). Overall, another nice day in New York!

So, now we have one more partial week on the road and then some time at home unpacking the RV, booking movers, and starting to tackle the boxes left in our basement from China and deciding what will be shipped to India. Following that, we’ll be off to NYC for a few last stops in our travels of this diverse country. And while Harvey might like one more hurrah, living it up in the Big Apple, he’ll be staying back at home, looking large in the driveway and trying to attract a buyer. Anyone interested?

Utah, the fun continues!

Horseback riding in Bryce Canyon National Park

Riding in Bryce Canyon NP

Riding in Bryce Canyon NP

Saturday was our last day in Bryce Canyon and Miles, Owen and I went on a horseback trail ride from the top of the canyon (which, you might remember is not a true canyon since is was not carved from a river) down about 1,000 feet into the valley. After recovering from the scare of our horses walking at the edge of the dizzying drop-offs and steep switch-backs, we settled into soaking up the beauty of area – the colors of the rocks, the hoodoos, the trees twisted by lightning, and the long-lived bristlecone pines. While we were on the horseback ride, Rob was also enjoying himself hiking on the Queen’s Garden trail. He hiked in solitude among the unique rock spires that rose up to 100ft high and loved every minute of it.

Provo/Salt Lake City

Family History Library, Salt Lake City

Family History Library, Salt Lake City

After Bryce Canyon, we headed to Provo where we had a couple of days to do some schoolwork, run errands, get our tax returns in, and even see a movie (couldn’t beat the $1 tickets!). After having just left an area with newly budding trees, it was nice to see some green grass and trees that already had the beautiful bright green leaves of spring. But, that was short lived as a huge windstorm came through town bringing dust and cold air and SNOW.

The snow held us up a bit from our trip into Salt Lake City but once we got there, we made our way to the Family Search Center. We were able to start setting up our family trees online (with some info gathered from our parents) and the volunteers from the Mormon Church were very willing to help us out in the process. Both the Search Center and the Family History Library, which we visited the next day, are hooked up to many genealogy databases and it was fun to see the census data and other such documents that held the history of our grandparents, great-grandparents and other relatives.

The Leonardo in SLC

Owen working circuits at The Leonardo

Owen working circuits at The Leonardo

This museum of creativity is said to be based on Leonardo da Vinci’s love of both art and science. We spent a few hours there moving from one creative station to another. We painted, made stop motion movies, played loud music, tried science experiments, learned about water issues, and just generally got a creative groove on. The museum
also houses a space for outstanding and inspiring pieces of creative work from the local youth community (ES, MS, HS). Visual art, short films, dance pieces (videoed), and written work were all on display in the museum – what a great idea for sparking creativity!

Temple Square

The Salt Lake Temple

The Salt Lake Temple

Temple Square is the area that surrounds the Mormon Temple and other church buildings. There were spring flowers everywhere and, on Thursday, we made our way to the nearby Tabernacle building where we were able to listen to an amazing organ recital in the afternoon (this organ has 11,623 pipes!). Later in the evening, there was an open rehearsal of the orchestra and Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Hearing the two together in this building with its amazing acoustics, made you feel that the music was washing over and surrounding you with its beautiful sounds. What a lovely way to end our time in Utah.

Today, we are making our way to Idaho (where we will be lucky enough to meet up with friends again) and then on towards Yellowstone NP.

Four Foto Friday – Cali Capers Continue

It’s Friday again! We’ve just arrived at a KOA south of San Francisco and we’re still finding lots to enjoy about California. Here’s a little glimpse of the past week…

Auto Tour and Santa Monica Pier
As we left the San Diego area, we decided to do a bit of a driving tour of some well-known spots on our way back to pick up Harvey (the RV) near LA. We saw the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theater (which is now renamed TCL Theater and oddly enough, had a Jack Sparrow look-a-like and a Micky and Minnie walking around out front), got a glimpse of the iconic Hollywood sign, and drove down the palm tree-lined streets of Beverly Hills and Rodeo drive. Our driving tour ended at the Santa Monica Pier, which also happens to be the end of the old Route 66 and was crowded with people enjoying a warm evening at the beach.

This photo was taken at Pacific Park, a mini-amusement park that sits right on the pier. The boys used a bit of their “fun money” (saved last spring from selling some of their things at the ISB car boot sale as we were getting ready to pack out of Beijing) to enjoy the rides and games.

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Monterey Bay area
After a brief stop in Oceano (near Pismo Beach) that included time at a pool with water slides and a hot spring mineral bath, we got on the road to the Monterey area. A big highlight for us here was the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The Aquarium sits near the old Cannery Row (for you Steinbeck fans), which has now been converted into a touristy, but pleasant, walking area. The aquarium did a great job of combining the animal exhibits (puffins, tentacles, jellies, touch pools were some favorites) with raising awareness about conservation and research being done to support these aquatic animal populations. Of particular interest to me was the sea otter exhibit (I just love those little creatures!).

If you happen to like sea otters, too, you might be want to watch an older movie called Ring of Bright Water – it is a good film, but I’m giving you a warning now so that if you watch it, you aren’t taken by surprise like I was (yes, MKS, I’m lookin’ at you!)…the otter star of the movie meets his demise during the film.

In other sea otter news, there was a wild otter that visited the boat basin behind our RV park each day, and I enjoyed just watching him floating around, grooming himself, and just being otterish. Ahhh, the simple pleasures.

Sea otter cuteness at Monterey Aquarium

Sea otter cuteness at Monterey Aquarium

Big Sur
This week, we’ve frequently said that we understand why so many people love California. It has beautiful shoreline, green mountains, lots to do, nice weather, and friendly people. As we drove along Highway 1 through the Big Sur area, we were constantly oohing and ahhing. We stopped in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and had a picnic lunch in view of a waterfall that falls into the ocean and then made our way to Pfeiffer Beach where a gorgeous, beachy cove appears at the end of a long, bumpy road, and a short walk through a tree-lined path. While here, he boys enjoyed skim boarding in the freezing water. We ended the day in the quaint town of Carmel-by-the-Sea where we had dinner and were able to catch the sunset on a beach that is backed by some of the most unique beach homes we’ve seen. We even got a view of an interesting Frank Lloyd Wright house that is shaped like the prow of a boat and sits on an outcropping of rocks on the beach.

Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach

Driving
This week saw us in the car a lot but luckily, many of these drives were beautiful and so the miles seemed to pass by quickly. Take a look here at a gorgeous section of Highway 1.

Highway 1, California

Bixby Bridge, Highway 1, California

And from here, we continue North and look forward to some time in San Francisco!

Four Foto Friday – Continuing Westward

IMG_8505

Live music was a highlight this week in Austin (Sat/Sun) and San Antonio. Austin is said to be the Live Music Capital of the country (though I think we heard something similar about both Nashville and New Orleans – but who cares – we’ve enjoyed the live music in all of these cities!) and we were able to take in some of that great music vibe at Stubb’s BBQs Gospel Brunch. The buffet brunch was full of tasty local dishes like fried catfish, cheese grits, green chili enchiladas and smoked brisket, but what really made it special was the uplifting gospel music that played the whole time we were there. In San Antonio, we ventured to a place called The Cove, which is part laundromat, part car wash, and part live music venue with picnic tables, a huge variety of local beers on tap, organic burgers, and even two playgrounds – one for your kids and one for your dogs. The band, Mitch Webb and the Swindles, was great, the weather was warm, and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

DSC_0431

Of course we saw The Alamo while in San Antonio (Sun/Mon), but we also enjoyed the Market Square area and the River Walk. While in the Market Square area we stopped into an art exhibit run by Texas A&M Univ, San Antonio. The exhibit housed the works of two female artists (Santa Barazza and Carmen Lomas Garza) and what was really cool about the exhibit is that we could watch and listen to videos of the women describing how they developed their style, the imagery they used, and how they go about creating their pieces. While in that area, we also got a taste of Mexico when we tried fruit sprinkled with a chili powder topping (chili powder mixed with sugar and salt). Very tasty, especially on mango. The River Walk area was especially enchanting – restaurants and shops line the winding river channel that sits below street level and on this warm and sunny day, there were many people strolling around soaking it all in and enjoying themselves.

DSC_0449

After a looooong drive on Route 10 heading from Texas to New Mexico (Wed), we reached our stop for the night – an RV park near Fort Stockton, TX. This town popped up in what seemed like the middle of nowhere and we were surrounded by desert and highway. However, they did have a little nature walk along the backside of the park and this photo was taken there at sunset. As we made the drive this day, we saw the terrain change dramatically from cityscape to suburbs to less populated areas to out-and-out desert, dotted here and there with oil wells and wind turbines. Interestingly, we found out that the land we were passing through used to be the bottom of an ocean 300 million years ago. Who knew?!

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Now in Carlsbad, New Mexico, we spent yesterday and today (Thu/Fri) exploring the amazing Carlsbad Caverns. We hiked down switchbacks til we were about 800 feet under the earth and were greeted with a dazzling array of cave “decorations.” Soda straws, cave pearls, columns, draperies, stalactites, and stalagmites could be seen all around us (and for those of you, like me, who always had trouble remembering which was which, here are two handy ways to remember: stalactites cling “tight” to the ceiling and stalagmites stand up tall and “mighty.” Or you can remember the ‘c’ in stalactite is for ‘ceiling’ and the ‘g’ in stalagmite is for ‘ground’). If you are in this area, this would be a great place to visit – it’s unlike anyplace we’ve ever been before – an underground world that is hard to imagine without seeing it. I would also highly recommend going on one of the Ranger-led hikes and if you are there between March and November, you will be lucky enough to see hundreds of thousands of bats fly out of the cave at night. (unfortunately for us, the bats in Austin and in Carlsbad are all still vacationing in Mexico so we missed them in both places).

Looking in the rear-view mirror…

For this blog post, since we are a little more than half-way through our trip, I thought it would be interesting to ask my fellow road-trippers (and myself) to reflect on the trip thus far. Our responses to the questions below are based on the time we’ve spent in the following states:

Maine (Acadia NP and Bar Harbor), New Hampshire, Massachusetts (Boston area and Cape Cod), Connecticut, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia area and Gettysburg), Washington DC (Maryland), Virginia, North Carolina (Outer Banks), South Carolina (Charleston area),
Georgia (Atlanta and Okefenokee), Florida (Titusville, Orlando, Tampa area), Tennessee (Nashville), Louisiana (New Orleans), Texas (Dallas, Austin)

The states we've spent time in so far

The states we’ve spent time in so far


What is one place we’ve visited that you’d like to go back to?

Miles: Washington DC - one of my favorite cities and so much to see there.

Miles: Washington DC – one of my favorite cities and there is so much to see there.

Owen: Disneyworld - cause we didn’t do all the rides.

Owen: Disneyworld – cause we didn’t do all the rides.

Rob: Tennessee - I would like to see more live music in Nashville and go to Memphis too.

Rob: Tennessee – I would like to see more live music in Nashville and go to Memphis next time.

Jen: Florida - I really wanted to get to the St. Augustine, the Keys, the Everglades, and Miami but we just didn’t have time to fit it all in before heading back up north for our ‘winter break’.

Jen: Florida – I really wanted to get to the St. Augustine, the Keys, the Everglades, and Miami but we just didn’t have time to fit it all in before heading back up north for our ‘winter break’.

 

Something that made us laugh along the way…

Miles: I got locked in a bathroom in an RV park in Maine and some lady finally heard me banging on the door and had to get her husband (who worked there) to let me out.

Owen: watching Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – “May I go to the bathroom please?”

buceesRob: Road/store signs seen along the way like “Stop at Buc-ee’s – clean bathrooms – we gauranpee it!” “Go to church or the devil will get you!” “King Tut’s Wiener Hut”

Jen: …the thought of all of us being filmed while living together in a submarine for an extended period of time. Believe it or not, we were contacted by a tv production company to see if we’d be interested in being part of a new submarine reality show that they are considering making.

 

What do you like to do on long car rides?

Miles: Read, think, listen to music (although not always the music that my parents choose to put on the radio).

IMG_7764Owen: Read and sleep.

Rob: Drive! and listen to NPR and country music.

Jen: I used to love to read and sleep but now I usually try to get photos posted on FB, respond to emails, check out the upcoming destinations in Lonely Planet to get an idea of what might be good to see/do, and read to the boys from A History of US (a great series that we are using to teach US history).

 

Best new food you’ve tried…

Muffaletta Sandwich

Muffaletta Sandwich

Miles: fajitas (Dallas, TX)

Owen: alligator sausage (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Rob: muffaletta sandwich (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Jen: Shrimp and Grits (Charleston, South Carolina)

 

Person in US history that has interested you and how did s/he influence/impact our country…

Franklin

Franklin

 

Miles: Ben Franklin because he did an incredible amount of things without very much education.  He helped create the Declaration of Independence, he invented many things, and he created the library system.

 

Lincoln

Lincoln

 

Owen: Abraham Lincoln because he was a farmboy who became the President. He was kind and a strong leader and he tried to end slavery.

 

 

Kennedy

Kennedy

 

Rob: I have a new appreciation for John F. Kennedy. I was impressed by his big thinking and the articulation of his vision to regular citizens. His goals and values for the country transcended ordinary politics.

 

Franklin

Franklin

Jen: I know he’s already been “taken” but I have to go with Ben Franklin also. I was truly amazed at all that he accomplished in his 84 years. He is described as a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. His impact on our new nation was immeasurable. And to top it all off, he’s given us some great quotes like “Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.” and “Fish and visitors smell in three days.” (true? I hope not for the family that have housed us for more than three days!)

 

An experience that inspired you in some way…

Miles: Kennedy Space Center – I liked listening to the astronauts who talked there. Their experiences were very interesting and they were very courageous to go into space. And I think it would be very cool to see earth from outer space.

Owen: Plimoth Plantation – It was inspiring that they could get through the dangers and sicknesses and stuff that they weren’t familiar with and still survive.

Rob: Spending a day in Washington DC touring the Capitol Building, Supreme Court, and White House – because of their historical significance and influence.

Jen: National Center for Civil and Human Rights – I was struck by the courage of the many, many people all over the world who have taken action in the past, who do so today, and who will likely still be needed in the future in order to ensure that all people on this planet are treated with dignity and basic human rights.

 

Educational place(s) that you would recommend to a friend:

Miles: The Franklin Institute (science museum) in PA, Perot Museum of Nature and Science in TX, Kennedy Space Center in FL

Owen: Plimouth Plantation in MA, Kennedy Space Center in FL, The Franklin Institute in PA

Rob: National Center for Civil and Human Rights in GA, Kennedy Space Center in FL, a revolutionary war re-enactment (various locations)

Jen: Pequot Museum in CT, Plimouth Plantation in MA, Freedom Trail guided by a National Park Ranger in MA, National Center for Civil and Human Rights in GA, Kennedy Space Center in FL, The National World War II Museum in LA

 

Recreational place(s) that you would recommend to a friend:

Miles: Disney World in FL, Flight (indoor trampoline place) in CT, Cape Cod National Seashore in MA

Owen: Disney World in FL, Skyzone (indoor tramp place) in DC, Sandy Beach in Acadia National Park in Maine

Rob: Cape Cod National Seashore in MA, visit a honkytonk in Nashville, TN, biking in Acadia National Park

Jen: Acadia National Park in ME, Ziplining The Gorge in NC, listening to the Brass Bands at Jackson Square in New Orleans, Disney World

 

For the boys only…favorite books you were assigned to read:

Miles:to kill a mockingbirdjohnny tremain

Owen:keeping roombud not buddymighty miss malone

 

What topic/time period so far has been most interesting to you and why?

us history 2

Miles: Revolutionary War – I think it’s very interesting to see how America rebelled against Britain, even though Britain was incredibly powerful, and won their independence.

Owen: Fight for civil rights – starting from the time before the Civil War, people were willing to die for freedom and to be treated equally.

Rob: Texas history – because this is something that I didn’t know much about.

Jen: I’m having trouble picking one but I will say that having never been all that “into” history before, I’m surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed the whole historical side of this trip. I’ve learned a lot!

 

What words would you use to capture your impressions of America and its people (from the past into today)? Note: the image below captures our combined choices.

taxedo 6

 

Choose 3-5 Highs and Lows of the trip so far…

Highs Lows
Miles Seeing people along the wayRevolutionary War re-enactment

Hiking in Acadia National Park

Dave and Busters

Orion Space Launch

Doing schoolwork in the RVLong, long drives

Doing so many ranger booklets

Owen DisneyworldSouth Carolina Aquarium

Plimouth Plantation

Kennedy Space Center

Ziplining in NC (the Gorge)

Our teeny, tiny shower and toiletToo much cold weather

I can hear Mom/Dad talking in the morning before we wake up

Rob Fall in New EnglandTime with family and friends

Awesome local foods

Incredible museums

Exploring new places

Low gas prices

RV/car troublesToo much to see and do in the time we have

Constant planning

Jen Spending time with family and friendsExperiencing so many new and different places

Live music experiences

First day at Disney

Those warm afternoons that we got to spend at the beaches

Really low water pressure in the showerThose moments when the boys push each others’ buttons, which pushes my buttons

Can’t really have routines – always deciding on a new plan for each day

And that just about sums up the past six months of road trippin’ for the Gold family! Hope we gave you some ideas for future trips you might take yourself, though we’ve only just scratched the surface so far of what this vast and varied country has to offer. And let us know any questions you’d add to the list and we’ll try to answer them!

Thrills and Chills

roller-coaster

What an emotional roller coaster ride it’s been as we’ve been taking a closer look at our country, especially through the eyes of children who have lived much of their lives outside of the US and so have not spent much time in school learning about US history.

As we spent time immersed in the beginnings of our country through visits, books, movies, and talks with historians, I could almost feel the hope, the excitement, the boldness and courage that characterized the birth of our nation. It was a group of people trying to do something better than had been done before and carefully working through the details of making that happen. I felt a certain sense of pride and wonder at all they were able to accomplish. There are places in the world that do not have the rights and freedoms that we have here and my children were able to see that people fought for these important rights and they could understand that they are citizens protected by these rights.

However, we also needed to talk with our boys about the shameful parts of our country’s past – how terribly the Native people of this land were treated, not only when European settlers first arrived but as our country expanded. We had to talk with them about the many, many people that were brought to this country to be slaves, given no rights and treated in horrific ways. We needed to talk about how it could be that those important rights discussed above did not apply to so many in this country for a very long time. And we spent time learning about the Civil War — a war that just about tore this country in two, and resulted in wounds that I’m not so sure were ever fully healed, even as it forced us to come to terms with the past and make changes in the hopes of a better future.

Sticking with the roller coaster metaphor, there are some amazing things to see from the broad view at the apex of the US roller coaster ride – Inspiring people who have dared to dream big and worked hard to make their dreams reality, people who have risked all to defend the rights of others, an abundance of creativity, courage, and dedication, not to mention the amazing National Parks system that educates us about and preserves this diverse and magnificent land. Oh, that view is breathtaking. But, all the while that we’re on this ride, we hear the news about school shootings, holiday shopping, racial tensions, holiday shopping, politicians who aren’t working together, holiday shopping, the widening gap between the haves and have nots, and more holiday shopping. That part of the view…not so pretty. But, it’s important to see it all because as Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Once you know better, do better.”

maya angelou quote

And so sometimes I’m left with that feeling many people get after a roller coaster ride – excited and happy they went on the ride but also a little bit sick in the stomach. Am I glad that I am on this ride with our children? Absolutely, yes! This is their heritage, their home country and, like every country on this planet, it has its good sides and its bad sides and both are important to be aware of and informed about. I feel very lucky to be able to have this chance to explore this country with our boys. Not everything we see and hear will be pleasant to know. Some things may anger us, perplex us, frustrate us, and even make us feel a bit hopeless. On the other hand, I believe we will also be inspired and awed, proud and grateful, and the boys will have a better understanding of what being an American means.

How’s it goin’ so far?

Ok – I know, I know…it’s been a long time since I posted. But, in my defense, I have been trying to get photos on Facebook and Instagram more regularly and I hope that people have enjoyed seeing them.

I figure that by now, some of you might be wondering about how this whole crazy adventure is going. You’ve seen the photos with everyone’s smiling faces and you’ve seen all the places we’ve visited, but maybe you’re wondering about what’s actually going well and what’s driving us crazy.

Well, we’ve done a little bit of thinking about that…after we got back from our first trip through the Northeast, we had a family meeting during which we took some time to reflect and we came up with some things we hoped to improve on for our next big trip through the South. We are now partway through that southern trip and I’ve done some more thinking on this topic and I’ve made a list of my list HIGHS and LOWS from our trip so far (in no particular order)…

10 LOWS. These are the things we are working on…some will improve naturally, some we’ll figure out better ways to handle, and some maybe we’ll just have to learn to live with.

  1. IMG_6933Can you say ‘tiny bathroom?’ There are four of us using one bathroom the size of a postage stamp. Not to mention that the walls are super thin. In an effort to be chivalrous (or maybe just to get some quiet time), Rob often uses the bathrooms at the RV parks. Showers need to be quick so we don’t run out of hot water but that’s not a big deal since water pressure is low and the shower is about a 1/4 of a postage stamp in size. But, I say to myself on a good day, I should just be grateful that we have a full bathroom in our RV.
  2. Missing friends. This is a tough one for all of us and, of course, the boys do really miss seeing their friends every day in school. Traveling to a new place every week makes it less likely that they will make new friends on the road but, on the upside, I think they are getting even closer as brothers and I love that! (though this is not to say that they don’t push each others’ buttons)
  3. Which brings me to…Pushing buttons. Though I have to admit this has been better than I imagined it would be, listening to the frequent exclaims from two boys who do love each other deeply but have trouble walking by the other without an annoying touch or comment (which of course seems outrageous to the victim, who will of course become the perpetrator in the next ten minutes) can get a bit tiresome. I think my next tactic for dealing with this will be to just feign deafness. We’ll see how that goes.
  4. Every day is different and we’re in a new place all the time. While this in itself is not a negative, and in fact, is actually a very cool thing, the constant planning and decision making can be a bit daunting and tiring at times.
  5. Where’s all that free time? I think we envisioned more “free” time — more time for family games, for unscheduled exploring, etc. We’ve done some but there has been so much we want to see at all of our stops (and we also have to fit in reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic when we’re not sightseeing) that suddenly the time seems to just disappear.
  6. How’s everybody feeling today? No one is happy all the time — it’s a given. Sometimes we are frustrated or tired or angry or just a bit grouchy and since we spend pretty much all of our time together, there isn’t much escape from people’s moods. We’re learning to try to give people some space when they need it.
  7. Limited space and privacy. We’re a family of four (including one teen and one pre-teen) living in 35 feet (10 meters) every day — as you can imagine, that doesn’t leave us with personal space.
  8. We’ve tightened the purse strings. We need to be very careful with our money this year. That’s not to say that we weren’t before but with no income for a year and expenses every day, it’s hard not to have that thought in the front of your mind all the time.
  9. Where’s our comfy L-shaped couch? Yes, it’s a good-sized RV, and yes, the bedroom layouts are great, but the space in which we gather to watch a movie together? Not so much. One person gets to be comfortable, the other three try to make do on the floor, in the booth where we eat, or try to convince the comfortable person to move and let them in (and you can imagine how well that works :))
  10. Yes, there will be “schoolwork” to do this year, and yes, we do have to go to that Visitor’s Center. Sometimes I feel like a broken record saying the same thing over and over again when faced with the boys’ complaints. But I get it. What 13 and 10 year old boys would not be a little disappointed to realize that their parents have taken them out of traditional school for a year and have not planned the trip around the locations of all the great theme parks in the country? However, the boys are coming around to the fact that there will be work to do this year and some places to visit that Rob and I deem important enough to see even though they are not on their ‘got-to-see-it’ list.

Top 10 Good Things about our trip so far – these are the things that bring a smile to my day and put a spring in my step and make me happy that we’ve taken on this adventure (despite 1-10 above)…

Autumn at its best

Autumn at its best

  1. Never-ending Autumn. I didn’t really foresee that we would get to have such a long fall season and this has been a nice bonus. To see the beautiful reds and yellows and oranges dotting the scenery and to be outside on a crisp day and hear the sound of the leaves crunching beneath our feet is so enjoyable. One other thing we have appreciated is the brilliant blue sky of an autumn day. Blue skies are something we do not take for granted anymore and we have not been disappointed.
  2. Family and Friends. One of our reasons for taking this gap year was to see more of the people we care about in the US and we all agreed that this is one of our favorite things so far. We’ve been able to spend more time with family and see friends along the way and we have more of that to look forward in future stops.
  3. We love to laugh. As you saw above, there are some tough aspects to being together all day, every day…but one of the big upsides: we’ve shared a lot of laughs together these last few months and who doesn’t love to laugh?! Seriously, these three guys can crack me up!
  4. Sleep, beautiful, sleep. I love getting my sleep and so being able to wake up most mornings without an alarm going off at 5:30 still feels like pure luxury and I am lovin’ it!
  5. Ah, the simple life. I joked to a colleague last year that I could go for a long time wearing the same sweatpants and sweatshirt and not be bothered at all. While I admit I did pack more than one outfit for this trip, we are all living with less and there is some freedom in that. I do miss some the decor of our house — beautiful pieces that remind me of the amazing places we’ve traveled to — and I miss having more books around, but other than that, it’s really not so bad.
  6. Cleaning is a snap! Cleaning up 35 feet of living space is quick and easy, leaving more time for other stuff, so that’s a bonus. We’ve found that we absolutely have to have a place for everything and the boys are getting better at putting things in their place so that’s good, too.
  7. Less stress. During this ‘gap’ year, we are getting a break from the typical stresses of our jobs and school. That’s not to say that there aren’t any stressful moments but they are different ones than the usual and by taking a break from the usual, we are thinking and living outside our typical box and that’s a nice change.
  8. No homework. Our evenings do not involve homework, which leaves us with more relaxed family time in the evenings. I think we all like this change and wish we could keep it for a long while.
  9. 10-4, good buddy. Rob is doing a great job with the driving. We were both nervous about what actually driving a big rig like this would be like and, although it is more tiring for him than regular driving, he is getting us from place to place safely and he is shouldering all the driving, which I really appreciate. (now if he and our GPS just agreed on things, it would be perfection! :))
  10. Becoming history buffs. I’m amazed at all that we’ve already been able to see and do and there’s so much more to come. History has not typically been a big love of mine but I find that I am really enjoying this aspect of our trip and, from what I’ve observed, the boys are enjoying and getting a lot out of it too. Between visiting the actual sights we’ve read about, talking with people who are passionate about history, watching movies (some docos and some not), and reading historical fiction, we are immersed in it and it’s been fun.

And that’s it folks…the ups and downs of the Gold Family Roadtrip so far. Anything else you’re interested in knowing? I’m looking for new ideas for blog posts!

Acadia National Park – it has it all!

September 11, 2014

Wow – what a gorgeous place to be! Acadia National Park was the first National Park formed on the East Coast and I can easily see why this pristine land was set aside for future generations to enjoy. It is the perfect place to enjoy the ocean, the mountains, and the forest all at once.

Beautiful Acadia National Park

Beautiful Acadia National Park

We spent several days exploring different aspects of the park and the Bar Harbor area…

Day 1: Rented bikes and rode along the carriage roads in the park. (Note: our RV bike rack arrived with a part missing so we weren’t able to attach it before leaving – this is another item on the things-to-get-sorted-with-the-RV when we return to CT).

Lovely spot for lunch

Lovely spot for lunch

High: Having lunch in a small, hidden inlet that Miles found along Eagle Lake. We sat on logs near the water’s edge, saw lots of frogs hopping around in the marsh, and had a view of the darkening clouds flying across the tops of the mountains.

 

 

Riding on the carriage roads

Riding on the carriage roads

Low: Even in low gear, some of these gentle hills had me huffing and puffing more than I care to admit. I don’t think mountain biking is destined to become a beloved sport for me but who knows?

 

 

Day 2: Hiked along the beautiful Ocean Road, took the “short” way back to our starting point at Sand Beach by hiking up Gorham Mt., finally got to Sand Beach (where I refused to set foot into the freezing water, opting instead to lie back and watch the boys frolic in the surf), then set out for afternoon tea at the Jordan Pond House.

The view and the food at the Jordan Pond House

The view and the food at the Jordan Pond House

IMG_5534High: Definitely has to be the popovers and tea at Jordan Pond House. Sooo civilized. Sitting outside in an idyllic setting with a pot of tea and warm popovers with salty butter and strawberry preserves is definitely a must-do while at the Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Low: We are up for trying letterboxing and geocaching  this year (essentially finding ‘treasure boxes’ that have been hidden all over the US) and we searched and searched for a letterbox that was supposed to be hidden near Thunder Hole but couldn’t find it.

Day 3: Drove to Schoodic Point, spent a bit of time wandering in a very old graveyard, drove up Cadillac Mt, and had a great BBQ Dinner.

Owen and Rob soaking up the warmth of the sun and rocks

Owen and Rob soaking up the warmth of the sun and rocks

Exploring at Schoodic Point

Exploring at Schoodic Point

High: Seeing porpoises jumping in the water at Schoodic Pt. We ate our lunch on large, warm, flat rocks while gazing out at the sparkling water. A chilly breeze blew and the kids hopped around on the rocks looking for more tidepools to investigate. I felt peaceful and filled up with the beauty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Low: We are eating a lot of sandwiches for our lunches. The boys are already wondering how many more sandwiches they have to eat this year. Not a good sign because the answer is: a LOT more! Frequent lunches out just don’t fit into this year’s budget.

Day 4: Poked around in the shops in Bar Harbor, took the Lobster Boat tour where we learned about lobstering and saw seals basking in the sun, at low tide we walked across the Bar that gives Bar Harbor, enjoyed a lobster dinner on the wharf (ok – I was actually the only one of us that had lobster but someone had to, right?), Ranger Talk in the evening.

Relaxed lobsters (maybe b/c they knew they were going to get thrown back in?)

Relaxed lobsters (maybe b/c they knew they were going to get thrown back in?)

High: Learning about lobsters. I can tell the difference between male and female lobsters now, know how to measure the length of the lobster and what qualifies as a “keeper” and know more about their ability to regenerate limbs and how/why scientists are studying this. Plus, who knew that they have a spot that you can rub that will relax them as they balance on their head/front claws?

 

 

 

Low: Miles getting locked in one of the campground bathrooms and having to be rescued by a stranger who heard his attempts to kick down the door. All this while we were snuggy in the RV and didn’t notice how long he’d been gone. (I think he’ll laugh about this later though :))

And then it was time to move on to our next destination in Massachusetts….

I know there are other wonderful places to visit in Maine and I wish we could have seen more of them but I loved our time in Acadia/Bar Harbor and it was an excellent choice. It’s funny, we’ve taken this year away from our jobs/school and already that doesn’t feel like enough time to see everything we want to…how can that be??

What is life like in the RV?

September 10, 2014

So I bet your wondering what life in an RV is like for us. Well, I’m not sure we’re experts yet, having only a week under our belt, but I’ll tell you what it’s been like so far.

First, it feels big and small at the same time. It feels big because we are not traveling in a tiny pop-up – we are hauling around 35+ feet of home everywhere we go and this makes it feel BIG. Turns must be wide, narrow roads must be carefully navigated, and we have to scope out gas stations and lunch options that can accommodate our height when traveling with this bad boy hooked to the truck. Side note: so far, Rob has done all the driving (thank you, Rob!) though I did do some practicing in the mall parking just to be ready for anything. It seems to be more tiring than driving a car – having to stay extra alert and focused – but I’ll let Rob comment more on that.

That's us on the right (next to the big rig) trying to figure out the gas choices

That’s us on the right (next to the big rig) trying to figure out the gas choices

Living spaces: Now to how our RV feels small. When four people walk in the door, kick off their shoes, throw their stuff on the counter (though given its size I’m not sure if it even qualifies as a counter), or need to use the bathroom at the same time, it feels just a bit on the small side. I’ve quickly realized that everything must have a place and that we all need to be in the habit of putting things in their place right away. There just isn’t enough free space to leave things laying around. I can see that adding extra hooks (for now we are using the Command brand hooks that are held up with adhesive and are removable since we’ll be reselling the RV next summer) in strategic places will be helpful. Now if I can just get everyone else on board with keeping everything where it belongs so that I don’t have to nag about it, that will be a bonus.

Kitchen view

Kitchen view

I’m also trying to find the places where I can make it feel a bit homey. The window treatments (yes, the RV actually has many window treatments) and couch patterns aren’t exactly my taste but they are survivable for the year. There’s not a lot of space for knickknacks or wall decorations (the things I usually use to make things seem homey) so for now, throw blankets, a couple of candles, our framed visions (see previous blog post), and a digital photo frame with photos of family and friends are what we are making do with.

Connectivity: In theory our campground had internet service but it didn’t turn out to be as reliable as we had hoped for which was a bit frustrating. I suspect that this will be more common than not and so we will likely go ahead with purchasing a mobile hot spot through Verizon when we get back to CT in a couple of weeks. We were going to go ahead with this earlier but decided to wait and see if we could get by without it.  As a result of our lacking internet connection, we are a bit behind in our blogging and posting of photos and we’re now catching up. To make it even worse, we didn’t have internet access through our phones either since we ended up being connected through a different carrier than the carrier that our data plan is with.

Outside: Believe it or not, the hardest thing to do has been putting out the awning on the side of the RV. The awning covers your picnic area and front door so you have a nice homey space. Luckily, we video taped this when we picked up the RV and were able to review the video. Unfortunately, after being put out a couple of times, it seems to be coming apart from the side of the RV so we’re not using it right now. I swear this is not user-error! We’ll check it out with the service dept when we get back to CT for a few days.

IMG_5602

Utilities: As for all of our hookups – one of things we were a bit nervous about – things have gone fairly well. The black water hookup (it empties the waste from the black water tank, aka the toilet tank) was drained with no problems. Phew – no replay of the scene from the movie RV! However, we have seen other RVers with a bridge-like thing that their hose rests on to use gravity to keep things flowing smoothly into the sewer hookup and we’ll be looking to buy one of those b/c it seems better than doing it by hand which is what we’ve been doing. This involves me moving the hose in a snakelike motion to move everything along while Rob holds it firmly in the sewer hole so we are not sprayed with all the sewer-y yuck. Electricity has worked fine but we haven’t been able to get our hot water working yet, despite rereading the manual. Luckily, the campground we stayed at had lovely bathrooms to shower in. We’ll be working to figure this one out b/c things are getting chillier and I had enough cold showers in Capital Paradise to last me awhile.

This is the thing we need to get - no clue what it's called

This is the thing we need to get – no clue what it’s called

Stability: One last thing we’re getting used to is the bounciness. It’s not so noticeable when you are up and walking around the RV but if I am lying down in bed at one end of the RV and Miles or Owen rolls over in bed on the other end of the RV, I can feel it. If someone gets up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom – everyone knows it b/c it feels a bit like you’re rockin’ and rollin’ on a ship. At first this was a bit disconcerting but I’m getting used to it. However, I still can’t believe this whole thing is being held up by a couple of little legs at the front, 4 tires, and a couple of stabilizers in the rear.

The Boy Cave: The boys seem to be enjoying what they named the “boy cave” and seem to have settled into Miles taking the fold out bed (which has a firm inflatable bed that goes over the top of it) on the main floor and Owen taking the loft bed. Both of them have double size beds so they are enjoying the roominess. They did have one very cold night before we got comfortable with leaving the heater on overnight (just trying to be sure we wouldn’t succumb to some sort of carbon monoxide or propane poisoning during the night).

Owen in the living room/dining room area

Owen in the living room/dining room area

Overall, we are getting used to this traveling home on wheels and all its little quirks!

Good Eats!

September 9, 2014
Here’s a quick little post about some tasty viddles in the Bar Harbor, ME area…

On our drive to Schoodic Point in Maine (a gorgeous spot on the ocean where we were able to have a picnic lunch on the rocks and see porpoises swimming by) we passed a smoked fish shop on the road that loops to the point called Grindstone Neck of Maine  that looked worth checking into. We walked in and the man behind the counter (turns out he is the owner’s son) apologized for the low inventory explaining that they were in the process of smoking more and restocking. No worries though – there were still some great choices to be had. He talked to us about the history of this family owned business and of his belief in ‘slow food’. We purchased some thinly sliced smoked salmon, a creamy salmon spread and something especially tasty…Salmon Candy.

Sorry, we ate them all before I remembered to take a photo

Sorry, we ate them all before I remembered to take a photo

This salmon candy is great and I have never had anything like it. He said, however, that it is common in Alaska. It comes in long strips and they are much firmer than a cheesestick but more tender and easy to bite into than beef jerkey. He said that it is smoked once and then covered with a sweet “sauce” and smoked again which gives it a great sweet/salty taste. In their ziplock pouch, they made great, portable snacks on our next day out. If you want to try them, they do ship and if you’re in the Northeast Sept 12-28th, they will be selling their wares at the Big E in the Maine pavilion (though I don’t know for sure if they’ll have the Salmon Candy there).

Then, that night for dinner, we stopped at Mainely Meat BBQ  – also the home of the Atlantic Brewing Company. Unfortunately we arrived too late for the brewery tour where they show the process of making their beers, blueberry soda and root beer but we had plenty of time for a good BBQ dinner. I had a pulled pork sandwich (one of my favorite sandwich choices – a taste I acquired while living in Atlanta), a really tasty blueberry ale (one of their classic brews) and the MOST delicious side of baked beans I have ever had.

This is Rob's dinner but you can see the beans there over on the side

This is Rob’s dinner but you can see the beans there over on the side

Now I am not one to usually rave about baked beans – I mean, I like them, but I wouldn’t usually go out of my way to comment on them. But these beans…they were scrumptious. They were complex in their flavoring, smoky with a bit of a kick (you could see jalapeño peppers sprinkled in there) but there was something else I couldn’t really identify and our waitress would only say that they were made with a secret blend of spices. I could have eaten a big ‘ole bowl of them. I said as much to our waitress and she laughed and said she didn’t think that was such a great idea. Can’t imagine why. 🙂

Let me just say that if you are going to Acadia, a stop at Grindstone Neck of Maine and Mainely Meat BBQ will definitely be worth it!