Saturday, September 9, 2017


After spending time throughout the nation, we've found new favorites, as well as confirmed old ones.  Such a difficult list to narrow down, so forgive me if this isn't complete and I have to revisit.  Perhaps several times.

State Parks:

Hands down, Collier Memorial State Park (Oregon) is my favorite.  It's a beautiful location, first of all.  Nestled in the woods, a short walk through the woods and over a river into the logging museum, a wonderful laundromat and hot showers.  Yeah, this place rocked.  By no means is this the only great state park we stayed in, but state park quality varies, vibes vary, and subjective opinion all play a part here.  From this location we visited Crater Lake National Park (also in Oregon) and Lava Beds National Monument (California).  We could take a brief walk from our campsite to the river where the kids could take a dip and refresh and relax.          


This one is much harder.  Overall, our National Park system is the bomb.  Such amazing properties, such wonderful lands we have available to us, we all should take advantage.  Buy a year pass, take some time off, check them all out.  That said, there are parks that are more crowded and less enjoyable for me.  I love to be in smaller parks, where the population is smaller.  Our campground in Acadia was the least popular, and the coastline was really amazing.  Visiting the more popular side was filled with impressive sights, but there were miles of cars parked on the side of the road to get to the most popular areas.  Not my cup of tea.  If you're looking for a more leisurely experience, Joshua Tree and Death Valley in February were fabulous.  The weather was good, the crowds were minimal, and the locations are so incredible.  Shenandoah in May was great during the week, and even on the weekend, the property is so extensive that we were not in with crowds of people.  We were able to enjoy ourselves.  I just really loved getting out there and exploring the variety of parks within the system.  And don't forget the National Monuments.  Oh, and toss in some National Wildlife Refuges, National Forests, and you might as well visit Historical Sites and Battlefields.  Get the pass, and get out there!


Army Corps of Engineers (COE)-run campgrounds are the best.  Cheap, on the water, hot showers.  We lucked into our first one in Oregon, and we kept our eyes out for more along our route.  We got to stay at more in several other states, and we will always recommend finding a COE site.  As far as activities, you've got your water sports, and whatever the nearby towns hold, but they're usually only $20/night, including the hot shower.  And in Vermont, where everyone else wanted to charge us per person over 2 adults and 2 kids, COE didn't care how many kids we had with us.            


I am a huge fan of Herr's Salt and Vinegar chips, so we naturally had to tour.  And they did not let us down.  It's not a free tour, but it was one I was willing to pay.

Morse Farms had a very nice setup.  It was a self-guided tour, free of charge, that gave a glimpse of what it takes to make maple syrup.  The walk through their maples was really cool, as you could see their hoses up for the sugar season.  And of course, there were samples.  Yum!

Danforth Pewter let us check out the process of making pewter items.  After the tour bus left, we were the only ones there, so we got a lot of attention from them and got a personalized introduction to their business.  Way cool.

And let's not forget Marquam Hill Alpacas.  We arrived right at closing time, and we got an hour and a half tour and talk about their operations. Such a great   experience! And who doesn't love petting alpacas?


Wherever we went, we tried to get a taste of local.  Not everywhere we went did we find something that we had to take with us, but there are things we picked up that we want all the time now.

Mrs. Renfro's Jalapeno Slices.  Oh my.  These things are crisp, wonderful flavor, just the right amount of spice.  This is now what I go to when I make my salsa.  Love 'em!

Tillamook anything.  Except maybe their larger sized vanilla yogurt.  Butter?  Love it.  Ice cream?  Yes, please.  Cheese?  Well, I do like east coast stuff better, but it's good.  Everything we've tried, we like.  Places sell different things, so it's frustrating to find their ice cream but not their butter, or whatever.  But if we find it, we buy it.

Bulgarian style buttermilk.  Not a brand specific thing, but I love the Bulgarian style buttermilk.  Thicker, richer, tangier.  Can't find it here in Colorado.  At least, not yet I haven't.    I have read up on how to make it, though, so someday I'll spend the time and energy on experimenting.  If you haven't had it, you can get it in the south.  And it's freaking AWESOME.

Boulder Sausage.  Ok, we knew heading out of here we would miss this.  Their sausage really is just that much better.  We kept trying local sausage, hoping that someone else would make sausage as good, but it was a bust.  Their Hot Italian ground sausage is our go-to for homemade pizza, and we've been happy to have it again since being back.  Trust me, it's the one to look for at the store!

Cedar's hummus.  Their carmelized onions and balsamic vinegar hummus is so so very tasty.  Truth be told, though, that was my absolute fave and I didn't really try any other except the roasted garlic the kids wanted.  That wasn't as tasty as the onion one, so I didn't eat it.  But try the carmelized onions and balsamic one if you ever find it.  You won't regret it.  Or at least don't tell me if you do.  Cuz I won't believe you.  Best part?  I can find it here in Colorado.  Yeah!

Joseph's pita.  So soft, so tasty, so darn good.  I was hooked.

Grocery Stores:

Kroger's family
Wal Mart
lots of different farmer's market type places--Snow Goose Produce in Washington, Robert is Here in Florida.  Those are just the ones I remember.  Ask locals, they recommend the best places!

Other Stores:

Vermont Country Store.  LOVE IT!
Jax Sporting Goods
L.L. Bean

So many things to see and do in this wonderful country!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Money Revisited

During the trip, I made several changes to the way I track money.  I've been meaning to go through and re-examine my data, try and get things to align since I didn't initially capture data the way I did at the end.  But the fact is that school is upon me and my days are full.  But here is what I DO have:

Total money spent:  $55,623.07

That way overshoots my initial goals.  I'm bummed.  But I'm gonna spend some time and justify my overspending ways.  I included in there a lot of items that were bought for the trailer.  LEDs, shower rods, curtains, organization items, cookware, and the like.  Yes, that's money spent.  If I took the same trip today, it wouldn't cost as much, because I would already have those items.  There are also medical expenses that are not solely trip related (though Lyme was, so stink on you, Vermont!  Whom I really love, so most is forgiven).  I have allergies that have to be tended to, asthma that simply can't be ignored any longer, a slow thyroid that needs some revving, and the miscellaneous headaches and other aches and pains.  We had two major services on the Sprinter, and that stuff costs a pretty penny. Let's break down that wad o' cash:

Fuel:  $7062.89  That comes to just over the $500/month that we budgeted.  We spent about 13.5 months on the road, so that's not so bad.  We had some very spendy months with fuel, and some very non-spendy months.  I'm overall pleased with our fuel purchases.

Laundry:  $562.25  I have to be honest, I didn't even track this expense initially.  What I'm saying is that I know this number isn't totally honest.  The money has most likely been captured in another area, but sometimes not.  Cash was our number one way of paying for laundry, and since I didn't write it down while we were in the laundromats, it sometimes wasn't the most accurate accounting.  Also, looking back at earlier blogs, I didn't even budget for this expense.  And oh my, this was a wildly varying expense.  Some weeks we could get away with $10, other weeks it cost us over $40.  And we generally washed the same amount from week to week.  Some weeks were bigger than others because of sheets and towels or what not, but the number one factor for how much it cost us was the laundromat itself.  The laundering experience was not my favorite on this trip.

Groceries:  $18743.50  My oh my is that a large number.  For those paying attention, we also overran on this category.  I had wanted to stick to $1000/month, so we overran by about $5000.  Which in truth was predictable.  Could I have done better?  Absolutely.  If it were you, could you have done better?  Surely.  But food deprivation is not my style.  Perhaps it ought be.

Restaurants:  $6772.19  Another category I denied in the beginning.  I just tracked food, so my numbers for groceries and restaurants are combined for the first two months and reflected above.  And I never budgeted for this.  So with the two categories combined, we spent just under $2000/month, just about double what I budgeted.

Lodging:  $7940.02  Um, I wanted to stay at $500/month or under.  Didn't happen.  Even with all the Wal Mart parking lots and relatives' houses we stayed in, that number is high.  We had quite a few places (especially on the East Coast) that were $30/night.  There was hardly a place we stayed on the East Coast for under $20/night.  Guadalupe Mountain National Park in Texas was $8/night.  We stayed in Hickiwan Trails in Why, AZ for just under $14/night, with full hookups.  We paid $25/night at Bradbury Mountain State Park with no hookups.  And it would have been $30/night had we used their reservation system (good thing we were there on weekdays and didn't NEED a reservation!).  We definitely spent more on a nightly basis on the East Coast.

We have other categories, but the one we spent the most in was just a miscellaneous column.  There we put all the car expenses, trailer stuff, medical stuff, and souvenirs we bought.  That was an outlandish $14077.91.  I know we spent on the order of $2400 just in car maintenance/repair.  We bought things like chocks and LEDs and solar for the trailer.  We spent more than $1000 on medical and dental.  But once again, not budgeted and I certainly didn't keep them categorized.

So, am I disappointed that I can't keep myself to as strict a budget as I could when I was 25?  Absolutely.  Did I want to live like I did when I was 25?  Truly did not.  It wasn't fun enough the first time around.  BUT, we had the money in the bank for this trip, we came back with some money, so it was a choice we could afford to make.  Bill did not have a paycheck for eight of our nearly 14 months out, so it was tougher than I would have liked.  I would have liked to have come back with more money in our accounts, but we spent the money the way we wanted, and that's what the money was in the bank for.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Back in CO

We've been back in Colorado for a little over a week now, and we're still working on settling back in and gearing up at the same time.  Bill's out right now getting our trailer into a storage area.  Not only did it take us a while to clean out almost nine months of living from the trailer, it took us a while to get up the nerve to face the task.  But we have, and it's done, and soon we'll start planning our next adventure.  Alaska.  Before that, though, we'll have some weekend trips thrown in for good measure.

Just to give you an idea of the absolute enormity of our trip, I'll give you the quick and dirty numbers I have at my finger tips.  We travelled just about 50,000 miles on this journey of 406 days.  I accumulated over 8,000 photos (of varying quality), K earned somewhere near 70 Jr. Ranger badges and patches from a variety of national parks/monuments/recreation areas as well as state parks and US Forest sites.  NB and J also did a ton of Jr. Ranger programs, but K did all that she could.  We crossed international borders 20 or so times (we did quite a bit of back and forth when we stayed in Canada our last time) and managed to check out the only park run jointly by Canada and the US.  We drove through 47 states, camping overnight in 39.  For those interested, we managed to miss out on Delaware, in addition to Hawai'i and Alaska.

Favorites?  Oh, that's a tough one.  We enjoyed so much about our trip.  When we've had a chance to sift through all the pictures, we might end up with a favorite, but I'm doubting we will.

I'll come back and give more numbers for our trip later.  Right now I need to continue setting up our space in my parents' basement, get ready for a new homeschooling year, and come up with our new permanent home.  Keep checking back, I'll keep you updated.  Thanks for following our journey--I hope you've enjoyed it as well!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Looking Back, Part II

We've listed the things we're looking forward to and the things we WON'T miss, now it's time to talk about what we WILL miss....


  • Local foods
  • Seeing new places
  • Friends and family
  • Different birds and flowers


  • The views
  • All the different homemade ice creams
  • All the new places
  • Seeing family and friends


  • Getting to see new places
  • Seeing relatives and friends


  • Seeing things I've never seen before
  • Seeing relatives and friends


  • Travelling
  • Getting to see relatives
  • The small space
  • Seeing something new every week or so


  • Seeing a lot of places
  • Having a lot of different rocks to climb around
  • Outside space
  • All the different types of things you get to do in all the different places


  • Camping
  • The outside cool of the air
  • Making new friends

And that's our list.  See you back in Colorado!

The Final Stretch

After Cuyahoga Valley National Park, we set forth on a whirlwind tour of the midwest and Rocky Mountains area. We hit Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  The hike we took to the lakeshore goes up over the dunes.  It was a challenging walk--sand is loose, stairs are high, etc...  But the return part of the hike is a sidewalk through the dunes instead of up and over them.  The water is very choppy, and there was no swimming that day.  The lifeguards got to swim, though.  Not to rescue anyone, and I'm not sure what they were doing, but they went out past the markers in the water.  I didn't wait to see if they made it back to shore, but I'm sure they're fine.            
We busted through Indiana, and spent the night in Wisconsin.  We were only down the road from the Mars Cheese Castle, which the internet told me I had to check it out.  Turns out, they were wrong.  It's cool to say I've check it out, but it's not nearly as exciting and fun as the Vermont Country Store.  The kids described it as a grocery store.  A very limited grocery store.  So stop if you must, but it's not a big deal.                
I love gas stations that put a little something fun to make your visit noteworthy.  We had this guy, a couple of orange moose, and a leaping deer.  Why?  I have no idea. But they made me smile.                                      
We overnighted in Minnesota on our way to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.  On our drive to the park, we saw metal sculptures on the side of the road.  Well, we saw the Flying Geese.  We would have had to take the Enchanted Highway to see the rest, and I was not up for a detour.                  
We got to see a lot of bison on our visit to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  We stayed in the North Unit, which I think is probably less visited than the South Unit, but is definitely worth the visit.  The first night we were there we spoke with a family who missed the ranger talk because they were stuck in bison traffic, so we hopped in a car to check it out.  Later in our visit we got stuck in a herd crossing the road at their own leisurely pace, but that first night we got to see a herd on the topside.              
They also have a herd of nine steer, which we were fortunate enough to see before heading out.  We stayed a couple nights, which allowed us to see the animals and check out a hike or two.  We really liked this park that we had truly not heard anything about before coming to visit.                  
Next on our list was Badlands.  The campground was filled up, so we camped at the Cabela's in Rapid City, but we got to spend a few hours checking out the badlands and the animals in the park.      
From the Badlands, we headed to South Dakota, Black Hills country.  We hit Wind Cave, Jewel Cave, and Mount Rushmore.  We drove by Crazy Horse because we've done it before and didn't feel the need to go again.  We did drive by it again and saw Crazy Horse carved in the mountain.                                    
We began this trip visiting a national monument that we love, and we're ending the same way.  Devil's Tower is a place we really enjoy, so I'm glad this was the last stop on this amazing journey.  And now, we head home.


Somehow I completely forgot to blog about going to Punxsutawney, PA.  What?  Ok, so this dude is Phil.  You can tell he's taxed from his one moment in the spotlight every year.  In fact, he rests so much, that one of the most common inquiries is whether he's actually alive or not.  Fear not, he is truly alive.                  
Phil holds a special place in our hearts, though we've never met him until now.  We invited him to our wedding, but that's the only day he has work obligations, so he had to decline.  It was worth the small detour to make it to Punxsutawney.  There are these groundhog statues all over the city, and it's fun to go looking for them.  We've really enjoyed the cities that have fun statues all over the place to find.  Just a fun little way to explore.  I'm happy to have visited Punxsutawney, but I'm equally glad we weren't there on the 2nd of February--just a ton of folks come out to check out Phil's prediction.  If you get the chance, check out the town, and say hi to Phil at the library.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Quick Stops

As we make our way back across the country, we have to balance wanting to get home as quickly as possible and wanting to see as many things and people as possible.  Originally we were going to try to see friends in NY on our way back, but it was not really on our way, by many hours, so that hope was dashed.  But by not hugging the great lakes in NY/PA, we went a faster route AND got to see my aunt Rita again.  Truly, who doesn't enjoy a phone call asking for a meet up in three hours' time?  But she was flexible and came out to dinner with us--hooray!  
We planned on stopping in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, cuz it's a national park, duh.  But Ohio is so close to West Virginia that Bill's parents were able to come out and meet us, bringing along Bill's nephew.  Before they showed up, we checked out the Brandwine Falls.  The park is along the Ohio & Erie Canal.  The path to the overlooks is easy, though it has a bunch of very steep steps.  K, NB, and J all did the Jr. Ranger program, so they had a few things they had to do and see.                                  
Their first stop for their senses scavenger hunt was to go over by the foot bridge and write down what they smelled.  There were flowers aplenty there, some very beautiful ones.  On the path to the falls overlook, NB shoved a flower up my nose, which one of our fellow travelers thought was a hoot.  But it smelled wonderful, so how bad could it have been?                                  
This is the Boston Store Visitors' Center.  I can't remember what they were supposed to do here other than sit in the rocking chairs.  The Boston Store is a beautiful building, and I do so love their rocking chairs.                    
A joined us on part of the senses scavenger hunt.  This one had us over at a lock.  There were some ducks here that we found, too.                      
After all the fun and adventure earning Jr. Ranger badges, NB decided to spend more time on his one handed handstands.  Perhaps it doesn't come across so well here. But it's actually impressive.                                      
We finished up the short visit with an early dinner.  A & J got the kids' menu breakfasts.  That's enough for a small army.  Holy cow.  After dinner we pushed on a couple hours to a Wal Mart on the other side of Ohio to make our travel day the next day just a bit shorter.  Onward to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore!