We're so glad you joined us!

Here we are – kids, dogs and all! Thanks for visiting our page! We're hoping that you will enjoy hearing about our travels and experiences as a family. We intend for this blog to share more than just travel journals, but also insights and lessons learned during our daily adventures. Please share your comments and come back often! * update * as of August 2010, we finished our journey, so new entries to this site will be rare. Linda's starting a new personal blog here. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Carolinas, Family and the Wright Bros

One terrific benefit of our travels is the opportunity to visit extended family at their home base. This time it was one of Linda's nieces in beautiful South Carolina. Even more beautiful is her family with three little kiddo's. Craig was unable to make the visit due to an unexpected plumbing issue. Just like in our 'normal' house, when it gets to plumbing, our approach is to back away - call a pro! Just like in our 'normal' house, that means you stay put and wait until the professional arrives to deal with your issue...thus, Craig had to miss out on the drive to visit Heather and her family.

The rest of us drove over to their hometown and enjoyed wonderful spring-like weather with a visit to a nearby park.

The photos really don't capture the lovely park with daffodils just ready to pop open among other buds on the trees. We had a really nice visit and Heather and David prepared a delicious dinner - Thanks so much guys! Give those little ones another hug for us!

Here's a couple of shots with the boys fishing while we stayed near Charlotte. While cramped in season, the park was relatively unoccupied and they gusy enjoyed trying to catch something in the ponds. We saw plenty of ducks, but no fish - still a nice way to while away a bit of an afternoon.

This down the road shot shows a lot of the view through the Carolinas - trees...lots and lots of trees.

On to North Carolina, we looked forward to our visit to Kitty Hawk. Unfamiliar with many of the eastern states, we did know about the Wright Brothers infamous first successful flight and our oldest had made a model of their flyer several years ago.

We had a break in the daily showers and made our way to the National Park.
A large boulder behind the boys commemorates the approximate location of the take off spot with several smaller markers showing the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th flights taken on December 17, 1903.
A short walk away is the memorial erected on the Kill Devil Hill where prior efforts of the famous brothers were attempted with gliders. Reading the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright is inspirational in their diligence to pursue a dream through study and determination.

Inside the visitor's center is a scale replica of the successful flyer. No, Cory didn't break rules to touch it!

He was selected as a volunteer from the audience to assist the park ranger in a demonstration of the plane's features.

Here he is receiving the gloves (not kid - but necessary!) that anyone must wear to touch the replica. The park ranger and Cory did a great job explaining how the plane was designed and what transpired on the takeoff day.

Beyond the memorial is a replica overlaid with bronze that the public is allowed to touch. The guys had a great time posing with the life sized model and figures.

Here they're pretending that they helped Wilbur keep the wing steady during the initial take-off.

The RV park that was our home base for exploring was a very roomy one with a large pond. We did see signs of some fish, but again the boys came up empty handed with their angling efforts.

We don't always find parks like this with plenty of space between sites. As I type this, for example, we could reach out our window and touch the camper next to us. We have to balance our priorities in campground selection: adequate size sites for our camper, desired hookups, proximity to the things we want to see, cost of site rental. Some are terrific, some are not terrific and some are downright distasteful. We remember the terrific ones fondly and are grateful for short stays at the downright distasteful!

Out on the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Another highlight of North Carolina is the Outer Banks. While cold, we were glad to visit during off-season to enjoy seeing the sights with no crowds..actually, more accurately, we were usually the only tourists!

We had received information on Roanoke Island, Fort Raleigh and the Lost Colony at the Wright Bro's. Memorial.

This is the only photo of the visit to Fort Raleigh. The visitors center is under reconstruction, the dramatic interpretation for the Lost Colony is seasonal and the 'fort' is reconstructed dirt mounds that we didn't even take a picture of. The story of the first English settlement is intriguing, if sad but we suggest skipping touring this site until things are restored and in season.

Nearby is an Elizabethan Garden built by the Women's Garden Club of North Carolina to commemorate the unfortunate colonists. Fortunately for the boys' sake, Linda decided it wasn't worth the admission or time to see the garden this early in the growing season.

Although the planned activities didn't work out so well, we did enjoy driving through the island and village. The architecture and beauty demonstrate that while the first colonists didn't fare so well, the current residents are doing quite well in this very lovely spot.

Next was to drive down the outer banks and see the light houses. Bodie Island was under a pretty intense remodel.
Pressing on down the islands, we took the ferry over to Ocracoake Island and saw this one.

We also saw a collection of Ocracoake ponies being kept at one of several national parks.

Last on our journey, but not least was Cape Hattaras.

We also ventured out to the beach at Cape Hattaras, but didn't stay long - very cold!

Now we've moved on to Virginia and have a rental site with water access - too bad we don't have a boat! We still like taking walks to the water...and the boys are still looking forward to catching a fish at some point along our travels...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Have you contacted your Congressman to express your view?

We've been very busy with sights lately and somewhat limited on internet access, so our blog is due a catch-up. But today, I (Linda), am going to deviate from news of our travels to encourage those reading this blog to contact your Congressman today.

We'll not back away from our devout belief that government involvement in health care is not a good idea on any level. The track record with Medicare/Medicaid is not a good one. The program is going broke. We've known that for years but the government has faithfully extracted money from our incomes to feed these programs for years. We've felt for years that we would never benefit from the dollars that we contribute, but took a little comfort that our aging parents would at least gain something from those programs. Well...they have...a little, but not as much as they nor we have contributed into these monstrous bureaucracies. So, our tax dollars have gone into a giant hole in the US coffers and those dollars have been doled out to goodness knows what. Year after year, politicians gather in Washington and make mention of how broke this program is and 'something must be done'. They don't get anything done except increase the financial requirements from the population and authorize more and more wasteful uses of the money. We, typically, say nothing, grumble at times and go about our daily lives without much more thought about it, but remaining very disgusted.

Now, and for at least the last 20 years, politicians have been talking about increasing government involvement in health care. Their concern is touching. They have horror story after horror story of individuals in serious health circumstances and wave an accusing finger toward wealthy doctors and greedy insurance companies as being hard hearted, money grubbing monsters. However, for at least 20 years, their concern does not extend toward an effective program that provides any genuine relief for those in need. Now, in their deep compassion, they propose a very extensive role for government into all of our lives in our health care programs. Their deep compassion is only exceeded by the depth of their probe into our pockets to fund this valiant cause. Oh, they say that it's actually going to save money over time, but then again, none of them will likely remain in office when the benefits are made available in 2014. But, the increased taxation will begin immediately. What is this...lay-a-way health care? We continue to pay for our own insurance programs AND contribute more toward the government for their involvement in future health care now and possibly at some point after 2014, this tremendous savings will kick in, we'll never have a worry again with respect to availability of health care at a decreased cost. Hmm...have these folks told us big fat lies before? Really....what credibility do any of these folks have with you? Has your tax burden ever been lightened? Ever?

What in the world is written on these 2700 pages of legislation? How much of it produces anything of help to anyone? How much of it produces harm to at least someone? Does it resolve any problems of greediness on anyone's part? In the meantime, the legislators lead lives paid for on our dime, fly around the country making speeches professing their deep concerns for the American people and expounding on their tremendous wisdom and abilities to solve these problems.

I obviously could drone on about this and provide no further enlightenment for anyone. It's just cathartic to voice some of my complete and total disgust over the waste of time and money that has already been spent on this issue - not just this year, but the years past.

We have deep concerns that THIS proposal and all of the deep secrets within the 2700 pages that no one has read hold damaging impacts for us, our kids and our grandkids.

We may not sway your thinking or inspire any action on your part. If you are not concerned about the current (this week) actions in Congress, no action is necessary. If you are concerned, a phone call or email may not really make any difference. The deal making amongst the real deep pockets is surely going fast and furious. But, what if your phone call or email along with many, many others can make a difference and stop this mess? Are you willing to take 5 minutes to make one phone call (even if you only get a busy signal)? Are you willing to take 15 minutes to make a handful of calls? Are you willing to take an hour to make a dozen calls?

For the past two days, we've taken an hour and used our phones and email to express our views. We intend to do the same today, tomorrow and the next day if this thing has not gone to vote yet. The determination to ram this thing through indicates to us an urgency that belies a genuine concern for the American people. We do listen to Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin with some regularity. They are all singing a chorus this week that what is at work is damaging to our country. Thirty-seven states are considering or pursuing action to block the federal government's venture into this area. All of this together causes us deep concern and spurs us into more than our normal grumbling response to the news.

Are you grumbling? Consider taking your grumble to your legislator or go to the sources mentioned above for contacts of those legislators that are supposedly 'on the fence' and do not know which way to vote on the bill. Why not help them make up their mind?

OK - thanks for reading. We'll return tomorrow to the more cheery posts of our travels and life on the road...and likely more grumbling to ourselves about disgusting goings on in Washington.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The First Shot

With all these tours of Civil War battlefields and monuments, we certainly couldn't pass up visiting Ft. Sumter. Charleston, SC is certainly worth visiting as well with it's own charm and beauty. There are hundreds of majestic old homes bundled close together for block after block from the harbor. The streets were dandy for horses and carriages (..and we saw quite a few), but they were a challenge for the 1 ton truck to slalom along between the parked cars.

The only way to visit Fort Sumter is to book a boat trip for access. We took the concessionaire affiliated with the national park service, but apparently there are other water taxis or you could take your own boat.

The small visitor's center was definitely a good stop before and we easily spent an hour with the various exhibits that framed the beginning of the war and the story of events transpiring in Charleston during the Civil War.

The boat ride took about a 1/2 hour each way and we enjoyed viewing Charleston from the water - it's really a beautiful port city!

It's hard to imagine how the fort appeared prior to it's being reduced to rubble for the last 20 months of the Civil War. With 50 foot high walls 4 foot thick on the exterior, there were at least two floors of solid brick structures all around - this photo shows the remains of the officer's quarters and gun powder magazine.

Several massive cannons are on display, as well as much more recently constructed battery that was built during WWI and in use throughout WWII as part of the early 20th century shore defense system.

Cory and Will pose next to a huge gun that the northern troops brought into Charleston to use to re-take the fort. These were some of the first "rifled" barrel cannon and fired a 100 pound projectile.

Taking a last look from inside the fort, we could see the tour boat as it prepared to take us back across the bay to the city. We all enjoyed the rich history of this monument and better understand this internal struggle that has shaped our national character.

Georgia on My Mind

While parked on the outskirts of Savannah, our neighbors included these very well-fed and content chickens. Our dogs didn't care too much for them and really wanted to give chase, but we restrained them and the chickens were entirely unbothered by the ruckus. The city of Savannah is so very beautiful and encaptures very well the image of the 'Old South'. In several locations, it's noted that General Sherman wouldn't destroy Savannah because of it's beauty and we're glad that he did not. The setting of the beautiful homes and buildings is most definitely enhanced by the vast amount and size of the trees - everywhere. There are no less that 20 squares in the city, similar to this one. Originally built as sources of water wells for neighborhoods, they are retained a individual gems throughout the city.

We ventured down to the street known as River's Edge and it was an extremely bumpy ride. The cobblestone street has it's charm and we didn't mind for the few blocks, but were very appreciative of the more advanced streets elsewhere!

On foot, it was much easier to enjoy the shops! This was one of Linda's favorites and we took the photo in honor of our friends, the Marrs family and their sweet schnauzer with Savannah as her name!
Alongside the river, this substantial park preserves several memorials and tributes.

Even the 'back' ways have their charm.

We indulged ourselves with a trip to Forsyth park with several acres of beautiful landscape and open spaces.

These homes have this park as their focal point out their front door!

And LOOOK! We found spring is on it's way!

What a restful afternoon with tons of 'eye candy' with parks, giant trees and graceful buildings - thank you, General Sherman, for leaving it alone!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Oldest City in the Country

We flew across Georgia not unlike General Sherman to get to the southeast corner. We had unfinished business from last year's travel in Florida - St. Augustine. Our haste is driven by our experience with spring weather with tornado warnings keeping us awake every night for a week as we exitted Florida and we were on a mission to see the sights in this area before the tornado season descended upon us and our frail house on wheels!

We drove right past St. Augustine to the site of a Spanish fort, Fort Matanzas. While not very spectacular, another story unfolds of the fighting between French and Spanish for territorial rights along the southern coast. Before exploring the fort however, we were treated to a nice surprise - a great horned owl nesting with a young owlet - right outside the entrance to the park office.

See the baby to the right of the mama? We should have taken a picture of all the spectators observing this little family in great detail. Apparently, several snowbirds have taken interest in these creatures to make a daily jaunt to monitor the owlet's growth and development. Our camera wouldn't capture the dad in the nearby treetop - he was heavily camoflauged and perched very high. On to the fort - across the channel from the visitor's center and not very spectacular, but very well placed to protect the 'back door' to St. Augustine. The story of an occurence of a Spanish victory over French challengers demonstrates the wisdom of the fort's placement. French challengers sailed toward St. Augustine from a slightly northern position to challenge the Spanish defenders, were caught in an untimely storm, shipwrecked south of this fort and were attempting return on land. The 250 French men were killed and thus the fort earned it's gruesome name meaning 'slaughter'. The fort structure was constructed much later to protect against a new Spanish enemy, the British.

We enjoyed the natural setting more than the history at this location - and easy trees to climb!

On to St. Augustine, we were reminded of another annual event this time of year in Florida - Bike Week in Daytona. Harleys and other impressive motorcycles were everywhere with a wide variety of enthusiasts, some more well-preserved than others. Lots of 'Wild Hogs' with greying hair, pot bellies and wide expanses of black leather with fringe. But...to each his own (and not all fit our stereotype...we just couldn't help but chuckle a bit).

A new drawbridge was under construction with special attention to architecture reflecting the Spanish heritage.
And just across the river, Castillo de San Marco, a well preserved monument to demonstrate the military presence of Spain.

Good thing we had set aside a few hours to tour here - just look at the boys' faces in anticipation! Thanks guys, for patiently posing for your mom's photo first!

The presentation is enhanced by park staff and volunteers performing a detailed canon firing demonstration.

The ranger told us that the schooner photographed below 'fires' their 3-lb. cannons at the fort as they provide tours from the water side of the port. They didn't do so during our visit, but we had fun imagining firing the cannon at them from this vantage point.
Fort touring appetites being satisfied, we took a brief walking tour of Old St. Augustine with the cobblestone streets and very old residences and storefronts.
We found the country's oldest school house, among many 'firsts' tucked in the old streets.

And, of course, we couldn't leave without our own search for the Fountain of Youth. We didn't actually go in the very tourist-y presentation, but the drive down the old streets with the moss-draped canopies was well worth the drive!

Finally, we could close the chapter of Florida in our journeys and move on to explore a bit more of Georgia - and BEFORE the tornadoes! Mini-mission accomplished!