Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Estes Park; very cool town

Well, we made it to Estes Park on Friday afternoon after three long days of driving. The minute we drove in we knew this was going to be a place we liked; it just feels good. Cute, quaint town with a LOT of charm, tucked away into the mountains. LOTS of hiking and outdoor activities and not too many people. Now we are having doubts about our decision to go back to Alaska.

Friday night we ordered pizza and went up to a lake and did a little easy hiking. On Saturday Becky, Calista and I drove "down below" (we are up in the moutains and that is what they call the towns at the bottom of the mountain) to get some things from Loveland. Martin and the boys hung out at the motorhome and chilled. We had dinner at Becky's (Martins sister) and played games.

On Sunday we went to a little church service here at the RV Park and then went over to a rock shop and oooed and ahhhed over all the rocks and minerals. Calista and I bought little trees that had been made out of little rocks, Kevin got some carvings, and Tristan got a axe head made out of obsidian. After that we took the kids to this little amusement area and let them ride bumper boats. They got soaking wet so it kind of took the fun out of doing anything else since it was a little cool. We went back to the motorhome to get dry clothes and then back to Becky's for creamed eggs on toast and a round of Pictionary.

Yesterday Martin and I woke up really early, before the kids were even stirring and went and hiked Twin Sisters Peak with Becky. It is a 7 1/2 mile hike round trip and SOOOO worth it!!! We gained 2500 ft of elevation, 11,200 feet at the top!!! It was so beautiful and one of the most fun hikes I have done. My knees were killing me on the way down, but I am not in that great of shape so it wasn't surprising. I made it all the way though!!! I spent the rest of the day resting and then back to Becky's for dinner and Clue.

Tristan and I were needing a down day today so Martin and Calista went with Becky to the other side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Becky had some business over there and they were going to get some ice cream and maybe do a litte hiking. Kevin slept most of the day because he wasn't feeling very well and Tristan and I went and played miniature golf. We also did a lot of lounging today.

We will be here until Thursday and then on to Lizz, Kirk, and Emilee's (Martin's other sister and her husband and daughter). After that we will be headed to Montana.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Quick goodbye in Jonesborough and headed west

We had three wonderful days in Jonesborough before we had to say our goodbyes and head west.

Friday was Ren's birthday. We went to the farmers market in the morning for some fresh strawberries and awesome amish cheese and then she had to go on to work. After the farmers market I rushed home and grabbed some kids to go get some birthday presents. Sierra and Jalen were so sweet picking things for their mother; they knew exactly what she would want and were so proud. Jalen picked a stuffed toy skunk and then decided that he wanted it instead. I had to explain to him that it was a day to buy things for mom and he says, "Okay, she can have it." I told Ren she might not be hanging on to it :). After shopping I met her at her work so we could go to dinner, along with Mary and Mary's sister, Ann. We went to Ruby Tuesdays, in the mall, and then did a little shopping afterwards. Then I rushed home to whip up some strawberry trifle with those fresh strawberries. We turned all the lights off and waited for her arrival and jumped out screaming an awful version of happy birthday.

After she opened her gifts and things had calmed down a little some of them went out to jump on the trampoline. I heard some commotion and went out to see what it was all about and got a BIG surprise!!! The yard was twinkling with green lights from the fireflies. We have never seen fireflies so we were in awe of the magic. The kids were out catching them in jars and Calista had accidentally smooshed one in the lid. She stood there with alligator tears streaming down her face crying, "I don't like hurting things." It made me sad for her but it also made my heart swell up to see how much my kids value life, of all living things.

We had to say goodbye on Monday morning and it wasn't easy, knowing that we won't be back for a while. We spent 5 1/2 weeks there before we went to DC and it felt weird leaving, like we lived there.

We made it to Nashville the first night and spent part of the next day at the Opryland hotel. I was there with my mother almost eight years ago so I was feeling a little sadness that day. I was remembering sitting by the fountain eating beignets from the beignet shop with her, Ren, and the kids and I was 7 months pregnant with Calista. I was looking forward to having those again but the beignet shop closed down, bummer!!!

Yesterday we drove to St.Louis and had dinner with Ken and Cherry and her two girls. After dinner they came to the motorhome and shared a glass of wine with us while the kids rollerbladed and rode their bikes around the park.

So today we drove ALL day!!!! We made it to Wakeeney, Kansas. We are out in the middle of nowhere! The last 50-100 miles there were no curves in the road and flat, flat, flat! We will be in Denver tomorow.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Something I forgot to blog about....

I have told this story dozens of times and never blogged about it so I thought I would. Something that we have gotten a kick out of, during the course of this trip, is people's reaction to us being from Alaska. This took the cake though!!!!..........................

We were at Walmart getting our passport pictures done and just visiting with the ladies that work there. One of the gals pipes up and says (in her strong southern accent), "This may sound really stupid but down here they'all call us Americans, what do they call y'all up there?" Shocked, I replied, "Well, we are one of the fifty states you know, so we are Americans." Slightly puzzled looking she says, "Well, I guess I knew that, do they call you eskimos?" Totally unbelievable!! I said, "Well, if you are an eskimo they call you an eskimo!" I am amazed at the ignorance but I guess that Alaska is totally irrelevant to most Tennesseeans!! Martin said that it was all he could do not to say, "HERE IS YOUR SIGN!!"

We have laughed and laughed about it and told the story dozens of times!!!

getting ready to leave the east coast

Kevin and Martin had a great time in DC, they got to see most everything they wanted and it was good for Kevin to have some alone time with Dad. Tristan, Calista and I had the nice quiet day that we were really needing. We left DC Friday morning and drove into Williamsburg. We parked at a nice KOA that has a swimming pool that is opened! The kids spent the evening swimming, they had a blast since the KOA was full of kids!! Apparently the weekends are busy around here because pretty much every space was full until Sunday when things CLEARED out!!

On Saturday we went to Jamestown Settlement, which is a replica of the original Jamestown Settlement, and got to explore what it was like in colonial times. They had replicas of the three ships that originally sailed into Jamestown and lots of historical interpreters to tell us facts and tidbits about that time period. Kevin even got to sword fight (with a stick) and we got to learn about blacksmithing, woodworking, cooking, etc. It made history real which was fun for me.

We then went over the historical Jamestown, which is the actual site of the settlement. There are still some foundations there and they are constantly doing archeological digs at the site.

On Sunday we went to Busch Gardens to get a dose of adrenaline. Martin and the boys live for it but Calista and I have our limits; since Calista and I weren't really up for an adrenaline rushed day we opted out of the roller coasters and did the easy ride while the boys went off and did the crazy ones! We got rained on a bit but it was actually kind of nice because the park was not busy at all.

We were going to leave on Monday but we decided to stay for a down day and hung out at the pool. We cleaned the motorhome and finished laundry (always exciting!!). On Tuesday we decided to go to Virginia Beach; Martin felt like we had to dip our feet in the Atlantic Ocean since we had come this far. While we were on the beach a photographer came over and took a bunch of pictures of the kids and we were able to buy a package of them. She had all the kids laughing ,which we are never able to do in pictures, so we were excited about that. That night we headed towards Asheville and since we didn't leave Virginia Beach until 7:00 or later we ended up driving until 3:00 am, until Martin was so tired he couldn't see straight. We pulled over at a rest stop that didn't allow overnight parking but by that point Martin didn't care because he was going to have an accident at the rate we were going. When we woke up in the morning we realized he had parked in the area where people drive through!!! No one seemed to care that we were there all night so that was good!

We drove the rest of the way into Asheville that morning and parked at a quiet little park there. We were so tired from the night before that we ended up lazing in the motorhome all day recharging. Thursday morning we went to Biltmore Estate, the largest home in America at 127,000 sq. ft.!!!!!!!! It was absolutely amazing, you could spend a week there! We got to go do a wine tasting at the winery and ended up buying some fabulous wine!!! When we were through there we drove up to Jonesborough for a quick visit before heading west again.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Visiting friends

The last week or so has been a bit of a whirlwind! We left DC and headed for West Virginia to see Martins friend, Patrick Sauer. It just happened to be our 15th anniversary that night and Patrick and his wife, Michelle, treated us to dinner at a local restaurant that is in an old historical house downtown. Calista made friends with their 15 year old daughter, Emily who was kind enough to keep Calista entertained for the evening. They also have a 12 year old son with a killer bedroom!! The boys hung out with him and played video games, their favorite thing!

We had a good nights sleep, parked at the end of their driveway, and the next morning went to Harpers Ferry where the Civil War started. All the buildings in downtown Harpers Ferry have information and historical artifacts to look at. We have certainly learned a lot of history on this trip for sure! We said our goodbyes around 5:00 pm and headed toward Towson, Maryland, to visit a highschool friend of mine, Ezra Gollogly. Ezra and I worked on the Alaska Railroad together after our senior year in highschool and hadn't seen each other since our wedding day, fifteen years ago. Funny that our reunion would land a day after our anniversary!

We got into Towson around 7:00 and were able to park at the Masonic Temple right next door to Ezra's house. We ordered pizza for dinner and sat around chit chatting until 10:30 or so. It was a short visit but so nice to see him again. He has an adorable daughter, Mina, that Calista was quite happy to keep entertained. His wife was out of town on business so we didn't get to meet her, which was a bummer, but I am sure we will meet again some day.

The next day we took our time getting going, went and did some grocery shopping, and then drove a little north to Bel Air to visit Curt and Tina Wade, some other friends from Fairbanks. Curt dated one of my good friends in highschool so we spent quite a bit of time together back in those days. Tina and I worked at the Fairbanks Clinic together, before I had Kevin, and her and Curt ended up getting married several years ago and now have two boys who are 7 (Cooper) and 17 months (Hayden). Curt and Tina actually attended highschool together at North Pole High. They got some Maryland crab and we spent the evening cracking crab and visiting. Curt recently bought a Mustang convertible so he let Martin and the boys ride along when he picked up the crab, with the top down. Now I have Martin dreaming about a Mustang again! It was one of the most enjoybable evenings and so good to see them again too. It has been such a privilege to see people that we thought we might never see again.

We left Curt and Tina's around 11:00 and headed to Pennsylvania. Some more Fairbanks friends of ours (Kevin and Claudine Jones and their kids Kyla and Brent) live in Carlisle. We parked at a local campground there as we were needing ammenities by this point. Calista woke up the next morning rather sick with a nice case of pharyngitis. Her throat was pretty nasty and she was running a fever. We stopped by the Jones to say a quick hello and then back to the motorhome to nurse Calista. She spent the next night puking so we couldn't do much the next day either. Tristan hit it off with Brent quite well so I took just him over to their house with me to visit for a couple of hours. That night we took Calista to the hospital because it was looking like strep. Four hours and $225.00 later we were told that she just had pharyngitis. The next morning she woke up all perky and ready to go! We had dinner with the Jones' that night and stayed and visited for a while. Brent and Tristan had a great time playing basketball in the driveway and games on the computer while Kyla played with Calista and showed her a little how to bead. Kyla makes beautiful earrings and, of course, I had to get some!!

The next day (Tuesday, May 9) we went to Hersheys and stalked up on chocolate. It was fun to see how chocolate is made and to get a tour around Hershey; the whole town smells like chocolate! We went back to Carlisle that evening and said our goodbyes. We woke up yesterday morning and drove to Gettysburg. We went to a museum there; the National Cemetery, where Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address; and the battlefield, where that battle was fought. Then last night we drove back down to DC. Martin and Kevin had a few more things that they wanted to see before we head to Jamestown so they are in DC today while Tristan, Calista, and myself are taking a down day in the motorhome. It is raining today so it seems fitting anyway!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

leaving Washington DC

Well, after three days of this place I think we have had enough! The only one that does well with the big cities is Kevin and the rest of us survive it. It just seems like a production to get anywhere and I just prefer to hop in my car, go where I need to go, and come home!

Yesterday we mostly walked and looked at all the memorials and monuments so it was a little hard on Calista but she made it through the day. The kids really wanted to use the metro, since none of us have ever been on a subway, so we parked at the Largo Center and rode the metro in. All was well until we headed back to the car at 11:00 pm, dead tired and totally drained. We were on the right side of the track but we failed to read the sign on the front of the metro; we were supposed to be on the blue line but accidentally got on the orange line. We didn't even realize our mistake but Tristan had the map in his hands and was reading the signs at all the stops and comparing them to the map. He said "Dad, we are on the wrong train, that last stop was on the orange line!!" Martin said "No way, there is no way!" The guy behind us asked what line we were supposed to be on and confirmed that we were indeed on the orange line. So we had to get off, get on the orange line going the opposite direction, get off again where it crossed with the blue line going the other way and get on that one back to the Largo Center. They got their fill of subways for sure!!!!

We are going to spend the next three days visiting some friends that now live in this area, two being friends from highschool. We are almost done with the touring portion of our trip and then will be slowly making our way back to Alaska, visiting family and friends on the way over and up.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Washington D.C.

Well, we made it through our first day in DC!! LeaAnn and her kids met us at the Air and Space Museum and we spent the rest of the day exploring with them. The kids were so happy to have the company and it made the day a lot more fun for all of us. We were also able to visit the archives, where the documents are, the Natural History Museum, and a brief glance at the Holocaust Museum. Kevin and I were most interested in the documents and I would have stayed there for hours reading every word but we didn't have much time and wanted to see as much as we could. We ended up buying copies of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. Tristan and Calista, of course, were completely in awe of the rock, mineral, gem collection!!! Tristan expressed that he was pretty overwhelmed at the enormity of the collection. They would have bought everything at the gift shop had they had enough money!!

Our plan is to go back today and visit all the memorials and monuments. None of us do very well with the more "touristy" sort of thing and being in a large city where it is a production to get where you want to go is not our idea of fun so I think we are doing pretty good. The hardest part is when we get back to the motorhome and all Martin and I can think of doing is reading a book, catching up on our e-mails, or relaxing in front of the TV and the kids are still needing us for things. They also get energized, where it zaps my energy, so we have had some challenges the last couple of days but all-in-all have been able to get through it without any major meltdowns.

It has been so fun to see some of the kids interests taking shape, I have learned so much about them on this trip and that has been really exciting for me. They have been exposed to so many new things on this trip and it is fun to see what puts a sparkle in their eyes or gets them excited! One thing that has really sparked Kevins interest is photography. We have taken hundreds of pictures on this trip, many of them taken by Kevin. He wants to learn all the tricks of the trade so I think it is time to start saving to get him his own camera and get him some books so he can start playing. He has also developed a pretty strong interest in anything old, from his Aunt Ruth's antiques to the Declaration of Independence. Tristan has been really intrigued with how people lived long ago but it is when he can see it, touch it, smell it that he gets excited about it. We were able to get another computer on this trip so Tristan inherited our Dell, which is only a few months old, so now he can start learning all things computer. When we approached Washington DC he said, "Hey look, there is the Washington Monument!" I didn't even know that he had heard of it so I asked him how he knew that. He replied, "Oh, I learned that on Simm City 3000." Computer games are great! Calista has spent hours collecting rocks and shells EVERYWHERE we go!! Yesterday she was collecting pretty white, see-throughish kind of rocks off the path in front of the Capitol Building. She has quite a collection to bring home. Tristan joins right in on that one, of course.