Welcome to our Adventure...

We packed up the kids, dog and the trailer and headed out for adventure, learning and helping others. During our adventure we will try to update this site as often as possible to keep everyone interested involved in our travels and to keep a journal for ourselves. The plan is to be working, schooling, helping and sharing on the road for a year.
Please feel free to post comments and questions! Thanks for following!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Loooooong Drive

Well, I kind of messed up. I reserved our next campground after a couple of hours of research along what I perceived to be our route, taking all the different variables into consideration. We knew it was going to be a fairly long drive which isn't great given it's a Wednesday and Brock needs to work.

Since Brock had scheduled meetings this morning, the kids and I went outside and got as much of the outside stuff done as we could to give him a quiet atmosphere for his calls and to help us progress on our readiness checklist. We pulled out of our site around 11:30 feeling a little sad to be leaving this campground. The owner was so nice and the services were good, including wifi, and the price with the Passport America discount was fabulous.

The first thing we do when we get rolling is to plug in Tom and get him routing us to our destination. I plug in the campground we are heading to which I think is around 5 hours drive away and Tom computes 6 hours and 14 minutes. Everyone groans. Then I adjust the setting because our icon on Tom is the car (not the trailer). I make that change and Tom recalculates our drive to 7 hours and 10 minutes! Ugggh! (We have to avoid low bridges and high railroad crossings and we also have Tom set to avoid tolls.)

Well, at least the highway wasn't too bad. We stopped at two rest areas and one gas station. The highlight of the drive was when Tom announced "state line" and we saw the Wisconsin Welcomes You sign and Sky yells "Yay!" in the backseat. We ask him what is in Wisconsin and he says, "The Moseses!!" (Not sure how to spell that, but that is what he said. It was so cute!) We are all really looking forward to seeing you again, Moses Family!

Otherwise we just drove and drove and we arrived at our campground around 8 pm with 25 miles til empty on our gas gauge. Brock still had two hours worth of work that he had to get done because his HTG reports were due before midnight.

We got checked in and to our site and to say that we were disappointed is an understatement. This campground bills itself as a resort, but the majority of the sites are occupied by long term residents. Our particular site is pretty much dirt. There are nice trees, but their position made it so that we could really only be in one spot to allow for our slides to come out and that means we can't use our awning because it's blocked by another tree so hopefully it won't rain too much on all the dirt. The site is unlevel left to right so we had to use our leveling blocks under the tires on one side and then I didn't have enough to put under our jack stands so the back jacks are fully extended making our trailer pretty rocky. The site is unlevel enough front to back that when we put the nose of the trailer where it needs to be so that our water drains properly in the shower, we are so low to the ground that we can't fully extend our entry steps. Grr.

Brock immediately tried to get to work while I quickly started some Hamburger Helper for dinner. Turns out the advertised wifi access wasn't really there and oh yeah, there's little to no Verizon coverage either. Frustrating...I felt really bad for making this choice, but there's no real way I could have known ahead of time. The real pill of it is that this place is more towards the upper end of our price range and we left a comfortable place that was one of the cheapest we've ever stayed at.

Brock was able to connect to the wifi for long enough to get his reports done, but he couldn't submit them on time because the connection timed out and we couldn't get reconnected. Our Verizon mifi wouldn't work at all. We went to bed grumbling and frustrated and wondering if we would have to move in the morning. The campground's policy is that if you cancel within 14 days of your dates, you forfeit 50% of the camping fees. Grumble...grumble...grumble.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library

Today we got on the road by 8:30 to drive the 45 minutes from our campground to Springfield to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. It had rained pretty much all night and was still raining pretty hard when we got to the museum, but thankfully there was a covered parking garage and we brought our raincoats and umbrellas and only had to walk about a block to the museum entrance.

Once inside, we were warmly greeted and given a map and a gentleman even helped me slip my dripping umbrella into one of those little umbrella bags so we wouldn't drip all over the floor. Then he directed us to the coat room where we could hang up our raincoats and leave our umbrellas. We then made our way to the ticket counter. This time we actually had an accurate count - 2 adults and 4 children. So often when we attend attractions, the big kids end up being ticketed as adults so that was a nice surprise. I mentioned that I'd seen a coupon online for $2 off adult admission and even though I didn't have access to a printer, they gave me the discount anyway.

Once we had my purse and Brock's tablet bag checked by security, we made our way into hallway to be greeted by a gentleman offering the kids clipboards with a "History Detective" worksheet for them to watch for answers while viewing the different exhibits.

As we stepped into the central foyer, we first saw the Lincoln Family waiting to welcome us. We were greeted by another volunteer who told us a little about the exhibits and chatted with us about where we were from. Turns out she has a daughter in Portland and she had visited Bend several times.

We started our museum tour at the replica of the Illinois cabin that Abe Lincoln and his family moved into when Abe was still a boy. It was set up as if you were peeking in on them late at night when everyone was in bed, but a teenage Abraham sat reading by the light of the fire. After the cabin, we moved through the store where Abe worked. We learned next about the Herndon Law Offices. There were some displays about slavery in general and it moved into Lincoln running for senate and beginning to speak out about eradicating slavery. There was an interesting exhibit showing the campaigns of the four candidates for President in Lincoln's time period had been covered by present day news coverage with Tim Russert at the anchor desk. This part of the museum closed with Lincoln's heartfelt goodbye to Springfield as he was on his way to the White House.

The next phase of exhibits was in the White House. You walked into a replica of the Blue Room where Mary Todd Lincoln was being fitted by a dress designer and around the round room there were replica dresses for several of her contemporaries. There was a striking contrast as you move from that room into a wall-size painting depicting the firing on Fort Sumter and start seeing the ugly debate about the Emancipating Proclamation. They had a hallway like exhibit with several projected faces in each window and there were speakers so that if you stood close to the window you could hear what that particular person's view was, but the overall effect was a cacophony of voices that was quite disturbing. Evidently, the voices were expressing actual sentiments written in letters to the President during that time.

There was a 4-minute movie depicting battles and battle lines over the whole course of the Civil War with the daily casualty numbers updating in the corner of the screen to a final total. There was a huge wall of pictures of individual soldiers with a database that you could explore to find out each one's individual stories.

We watched a short 4D film called "Lincoln's Eyes" narrated by an artist who painted Lincoln's portrait. It contained a couple of loud booms with chair shakings so Skylar didn't want to go to the next film which was called "Ghosts in the Library" so he and Brock went to Mrs. Lincoln's Attic where there were period toys and clothes for Sky to play with and Brock had a call that he needed to make anyway. The other kids and I went to the Ghosts in the Library holographic theater and it was really cool. It featured a live historian telling us about the Lincoln Library and why we should "keep all this old stuff anyway". There were some neat effects during his monologue and he interacted with different props on the stage and nothing was scary. At the very end, he started putting on the coat of a Union soldier and talked about a flag that was displayed and talked about how it was his flag and then he faded away leaving us really stumped as to whether there was ever a real actor there or not. Pretty cool stuff.

The big kids and I joined Brock and Sky in the play room area and we had a little fun.
Spencer is taller than Abe was at age 9 and taller than Abe's sister, Sarah, age 11!
Sky enjoyed building a Lincoln Log cabin.
Brynna is taller than Mary Todd Lincoln. Mrs. Lincoln was 5'2" while Abe was 6'4".
This is not the first time Spence has rolled the hoop.
Bryn is sympathetic...

A goal driven man does not give up...

Ahhhh, success! Mission accomplished with persistence.
Brighton got the ball in the cup on his second attempt.
Sky figured out the Jacob's Ladder.
A young Abe Lincoln.

We left the museum and drove a few blocks to tour the Lincoln Home which is the actual home that Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln and their four children lived in in Springfield and where their son, Eddie, died. It is now run by the National Park Service. When we got there, we wrestled with the parking meter machine and finally let another gentleman go ahead. I waited behind him while he struggled and Brock went in to get the tickets for a tour. Brighton came back out of the Visitor Center waving me not to pay for parking so I walked up to him and he said we didn't have time to wait for the next tour that could fit 6 people. We decided to leave and go see Lincoln's tomb.

It was pretty awe-inspiring to be standing there at the monument and then you can go inside the monument where there are several sculptures depicting Lincoln at different stages of his adult life along the path to the marble slab marking the vault where Lincoln's body lies. Many of the sculptures were created by Borglum, the Mount Rushmore artist. Some of them were done by French, the Lincoln Monument artist. One in front of the tomb monument begged to be touched.

After visiting the tomb, we had to get back to the campground so that Brock could get to work.

We ate a quick lunch and Brighton, Skylar and I headed in to the town of Litchfield to get Skylar a new pair of tennis shoes since he blew the sole out of his and he's been wearing his flip flops the last two days. ;O) I tried to let Brighton find a pair as well, but he was picky which I'm thankful for because I hate it when we get a pair and then he realizes the next day that there is something about them that bugs him. So we determined to wait on his pair. Sky found a pair he loved that is gray with neon orange trim. Very cool. I had to buy him a size 13 1/2. When we left Bend, he was an 11. (sigh)

Next door to the shoe store there was a Walmart, so we got supplies for the next few days' meals. Finally, we headed back to the trailer to get the groceries put away and make dinner.

Tonight, Brock and Brighton were joined by Brynna in an online gaming session of Neverwinter Nights. The wifi here at this campground is just that good. :O)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sweet corn

Not alot to report today. Just a normal work day and some schooling. The campground host is a very friendly and nice lady. Mid afternoon we heard a knock on the door. The host had a bag with a dozen ears of sweet corn and asked us if we would like them! Of course we said yes. We had left overs for dinner but corn in addition and it tasted great. In fact I chose to have just corn. The kids played outside on the playground while I took the dog for a little walk. We really like the campground. It is well taken care of and the host makes a huge difference. Stacey finished off some laundry today to keep us all wearing clean clothes. All in all a normal day but tomorrow we get to check out the Lincoln museum.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Happy Birthday, Brighton!

It was a gorgeous sunny day when we opened our eyes this morning. Brock decided to do a quick wash of the car and trailer before we left this campground since we had an empty space next to us and we could use that water spigot. While he started on the Yukon, I started cleaning up the grill from yesterday's use so that I could put the griddle on it and make Brighton's requested birthday breakfast, pancakes and sausage. (Well, his first choice was waffles, but we didn't bring a waffle iron along so he got his second choice.) I love being able cook this type of breakfast outside where we don't heat up the trailer and capture all the cooking odors for the rest of the day. Plus, it was just beautiful outside.

Bri's pancakes were specially made with "15" outlined in chocolate chips in one of them. We then put raspberries and peaches on top along with maple syrup and a Jimmy Dean sausage patty on the side.

As part of his family birthday gift, Bri got a reprieve from his dog chores today so Brock, Brynna and I picked up the slack there.

After breakfast, we cycled through the shower and did the trailer clean up and prep for moving jobs while Brock continued his quick scrub around the trailer.

Just when we were ready to hook up the car, we all gathered at the picnic table and Bri opened his presents and cards from us.

So grateful for our beautiful kids! It was fun seeing everyone make an effort to get along today in honor of Brighton.

Then, we hooked up and commenced our five hour drive. Not too exciting a birthday plan, but Brighton was a great sport about it and we have had some pretty fun activity days recently. It was great weather for the drive and the road Tom took us wasn't too bad. We chose to avoid tolls. ;O) It is amazing the difference in road surface between different states. Illinois must not put too high a priority on smooth roads, but oh well. We put on one of our downloaded sermons and had family church along the way. We discussed what we learned afterwards and then all the kids pretty much got really quiet with their electronic devices.

We stopped once for gas and once at a rest area for a stretch our legs and use the restroom break and I grabbed some crackers and cheese for snacks and off we went again.

We arrived at our new campground which is not fancy, but it really nice and with the Passport America discount is only $16.50 a night. Big score! We got all setup in the site and took Heidi out for some romping and then tried to figure out where to go for birthday dinner.

It turns out that the campground is a little further from Springfield than I thought it was going to be, so we focused our restaurant search on the nearer small town of Litchfield. Brighton chose Ruby Tuesday since we've never eaten at one and there weren't too many other choices. Turned out Brock's dinner wasn't that great, but everyone else was happy with theirs. Our server was excellent and very attentive. She even brought Bri out a free red velvet cupcake after dinner.
We saw this awesome trike in front of the restaurant.
I wonder if we could all fit in that bug end while Brock drove us around.

After dinner, we came back to the trailer and relaxed for about 20 minutes and then we got out the cake and ice cream.

Seemed to take forever to light all those candles!!
My kids candles shine brightly with 15 flickering flames!!

It's hard to believe that our boy could be 15 already, but it is a powerful blessing to see glimpses of the man he is becoming.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Marengo Cave

Today was a good day. We got to spend time with our friends, Joe and Michelle Smith, and their three children. They drove an hour and a half from their home in Owensboro, Kentucky to see us. It was so nice to see familiar faces and catch up with them.

We BBQ'd hamburgers and hot dogs and ate lunch together. We loved getting to enjoy homemade chocolate chip cookies for dessert that Michelle had made. Yum! The kids were instant friends even though some of them had never met and it had been long enough that those that had met, didn't remember. :) Their daughter, Hannah, is just a little over a week older than Spencer. I can remember being pregnant at the same time as Michelle when they lived in Bend too and being jealous when I heard that Hannah had been born. (You know when you're at that ready to be done being pregnant part?) Their oldest, Josiah, is 11 and their littlest, Moriah, is 2. All the kids played well together and Michelle and I got to talk while Joe and Brock (and Brighton) visited outside. It was a pretty relaxing time.
So relaxing in fact, that it was a little hard to get up the motivation to head to Marengo Cave in the afternoon, but I'm glad we did.

We arrived at the visitor center around 4 and I was surprised how busy the parking lot and visitor center was and how nicely landscaped the grounds were. We went right up to the ticket counter and surprisingly were able to get tour tickets for a tour in only 25 minutes for all 11 of us.

We browsed around the gift store for a few minutes and used the restroom facilities until our tour time was called. We chose to do the Dripstone Trail tour. Turned out to be a private tour with just our party and a guide so it was even more fun.

The guide, Caitlyn, went on ahead into the man-made entrance to unlock a door.
We were reminded about some of the names of the cave formations. (stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, columns)

Loved this portion with still water that looked 30 feet deep, but was really only about 6 inches!
It was so clear and reflective.
Helictite formation - grows in a seemingly haphazard way.
I guess Spencer is excited that they held square dances in the cave in the past.
Cave stays at a constant 52 degrees...the average of the hottest and coldest temps of the land above.
The penny ceiling. We got to attempt to toss our pennies up to see if we could get them to stick. Some of our party should be expecting some good luck because their pennies stuck.
Hard to believe this kid turns 15 years old tomorrow!
The original cave tours would be much longer since the guides and "tourists" would have only lanterns to guide them and they didn't have the nice paths that we get to use today so they would need to get water along the journey and this is the Crystal Springs, where they would stop for a drink. These are the original cups they would use and they are now fused to the floor and very brittle.
"Cave bacon"
Flowstone column

"Great Wall of China"

The tour was over before I wanted it to be which I guess is a good thing. I think the designers of this tour did one of the best jobs of all the caves we've seen. The lighting was really well done and the formations were showcased well without drawing attention to the light source. We exited the cave through the *surprise* gift shop! The kids made very small souvenir purchases and we headed out.
The Marengo Cave logo depicts the two children, a sister and brother, who discovered the cave in 1883.
The Smith Family followed us back to the trailer and were about to just pack up and leave, but since our stomachs were growling, we figured theirs were too and we convinced them with a little arm twisting to stay and eat some frozen pizza and salad with us before they headed out. The kids enjoyed some more time together and the adults sat outside and talked and laughed until the lightning bugs came out. Shortly after that our friends headed home.

I'm so glad we got the chance to get together. It was a very fun and memorable day.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Frisbee Kind of Day

Heidi and I started the day with a walk in the beautiful morning sunshine. I wore a sweatshirt which felt really nice, but probably wasn't necessary...I think it was about 65 degrees. We walked down by the campground boat launch. It was lovely. Everything was so quiet and peaceful.

I think the water was warm and the air cool to create this fog bank.
The time down by the river made me think that maybe the kids and I would take a swim later on today.

I came back to the trailer and made some oatmeal bars. While they were cooking, I looked up swimming in the Ohio River and read a couple of articles and decided against it. I read that it is the second most polluted river in America, second only to the Mississippi. Sounds like there's a lot of chemical pollution as well as bacterial. I just didn't bring it up to anyone.

The kids all got their math page done for the day and the temptation was to get on their devices to play. With a little coaxing, they went out to play and enjoyed some Frisbee time out in the grass.

There were some oh-so-close misses...

 ...and then we started getting in the groove. :O)

Until Bryn made it look easy!

Bryn throwing to me...be impressed...I managed to snap this pic and then catch the frisbee.
Brighton joined in and showed off some moves.
There are these little gnats in the area that are really a nuisance. They buzzed around our faces and seemed to be attracted to our eyes. We took a break from frisbee and put some bug spray on.

Meanwhile, Brock was putting in a hard day's work "at the office".

Heidi was tied outside with Brock, but was very unhappy to not be included in the running around in the grass with the kids, so when the frisbee game broke up, I decided to get creative and I hooked Heidi's long coated cable (20-30 feet) to the end of her retractable leash (which gives her another 19 feet, I think). In this way she could run a little without running off and we threw her racquetball about twice and her frisbee a couple of times. She seemed excited at first and then kept gazing and pulling towards the river. Next, Brynna had the idea of bringing out the squeaky toy. I can't remember if I wrote about it or not, but Heidi dove into the bushes one night when Brighton was walking her while we were at the New York KOA. Brighton was freaked out thinking she would come out with something scary, but what she drug out was a big squeaky football toy that was covered with tennis ball felt. She was sooo proud and immediately became obsessed with this toy. She squeaked it incessantly and started tearing the felt off immediately. We took it away for awhile and have only given it to her a couple of other times since then. Today was one. She has nearly gotten all the felt off the ball so now when she gets it all slobbery, it is all I can do to pick it up and toss it for her, but she did have fun fetching the squeaker several more times until we brought her up to the shade and her water dish.

Brock and I decided to try to get ahold of friends who used to live in Bend that now live in Owensboro, Kentucky, just about an hour and a half away. I Facebook messaged Michelle, since we have no cell coverage and was pleased to get a response. We chatted back and forth and made a plan to get together tomorrow. Joe and Michelle and their three kids are driving over and will eat lunch with us and then we will all go and explore Marengo Cave (on a guided walk). ;o)

We are all really looking forward to it.