Getting closer!

Getting closer!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Call me sentimental...

...but I have to say, that was one of the best vacations ever. We set the bar high, my friends. And despite the stress of having a two-year old and two whiny school-aged children, it was actually a lot of fun.

I also have to say that I could not have taken this vacation with ANYONE - and that anyone includes my husband - and enjoyed it as much as I did traveling with my sister. We are just similar enough that we get along smashingly, and managed to get along smashingly for the entire trip. We have the same odd sense of humor, and that helped. We were able to laugh at a lot of the same things, and laugh at each other, and laugh at eacher others' children, and it just worked out really, really well. I assure you, my husband would not have been nearly as amused by my mini temper tantrums as my sister was, and when I would have a bad moment it would make her laugh, which would make me laugh, which would make it all better.

So, shout out to my sister: thank you, Jen, for putting up with me, and with my kids, and for making me laugh so hard that I nearly wet myself (and for making me have a spit take, and for making me spew powdered sugar, and the myriad of other times I laughed until something somewhat unfortunate almost and/or did occur). I had an amazing time. We must do it again sometime.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rock City, GA

I don't remember the name of the waterfall, but straight ahead is Lover's Leap. On a clear day you're supposed to be able to see 7 states from that vantage point.
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Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This was taken from a walk-out along the edge of a road. It doesn't do justice to how VAST everything is. The weather was gorgeous, as you can see.

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Smoky Mountains, NC

We entered the Smokies on the tail end of a particularly nasty storm. Everything was grey and wet. These were by far the tallest mountains we encountered, and spent most of the drive through them on the way to Cherokee, NC gawking up like tourists in NYC. This pic was taken through the windshield. :)
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Boalsburg, PA: People's Choice Arts Festival

This arts festival was held on the grounds of the Pennsylvania Military Museum. This is where Val got the fresh brewed ice tea she blogged about. MMMmmm....
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Our home away from home

This is Mary's front porch, with all of our children (including Mary's 2-legged and 4-legged children) draped about. She has a beautiful, historic Victorian along the main drag of town - in fact, we arrived about 4 hours after their 4th of July parade went right past their house!
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State College, PA: Festival of the Arts

Banners hanging above the very considerable crowd. Lots of people, and LOTS of heat!
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Hershey Park, PA

Mac & I are in one of the Skyview cars, and J, K, and T are in the one ahead of us. The ride goes through 2 roller coaster tracks.
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Sitting just outside Penn State University's Beaver Stadium waiting for it to get dark enough to start the fireworks.
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Bellefonte, PA: park

The view across the river from where the grown-ups sat, waiting for the kids to wear themsevles out.
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Gettysburg, PA

As seen from the top of the observation tower we happend upon completely by accident, as we were trying to find something else and traffic was HORRID. We decided we didn't really want to go to that place after all, and hey, what's this over here?
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Gettysburg, PA: Civil War cavalry battle reenactment

It was awesome! The pics of Bella's participation in the children's reenactment are FABULOUS!
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The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center

Bubba wasn't sure about this whole "tunnel under the fish tank" thing. Val says this is her Greek pose. :)
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Mt. Trashmore

The view down from the top of Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach, VA. The stage was set up for a 4th of July festival. I'm really glad we went - it was a beautiful day, and we WEREN'T in the Swaggon!
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Sneak Peek

I'm going to post some of the camera pics to give you a sample of what you can see in the albums. Be on the lookout!


I'm posting pics today! I would post the link here, but I've tagged everything with everyone's real names...making privacy an issue. So...if you would like to see the pictures, please comment on this post with your email address. If you're not comfortable with that, send me an email ( and I'll get links to the albums to you as I get them uploaded.

I have separate albums for different events; some have a dozen pics, some have...well, a lot more. Heh. As usual, comments are always welcome on the pics. Thanks, guys!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Thank you

I've meant to post this since we left PA but kept getting sidetracked.
Thank you, Chel & Joe! They did so many amazing things for us, but the whole "let's take all the kids swimming so y'all can nap" stands out in my mind. Chel washed our clothes so we'd head to Gettysburg with all clean clothes. They also provided a place to spend the night, & a guided tour of the aquarium! I still think Mac's favorite part was the giant pizza.

THANK YOU, MARY & KEVIN! Thank you for letting us invade your home & lives, & for tolerating the miserable heat we seem to have brought with us. Thank you for feeding us (especially for introducing us to "walking tacos" nom!), for keeping us entertained, & for introducing our southern children to the concept of a basement. Thanks especially for use of your washer & dryer - I have half a load of dirty clothes to wash here at home rather than 4 full ones!

Many thanks to Aunt Fay, as well, tho I'm not sure she's reading this. We'll send a letter once we're unpacked. She fed us beautifully, let us use her house as home base frequently, & watched ALL of the kids so we could get out for some grown-up time. We can't stay upset about the B-bot incident for long!

There's more - much more - but I need to finish unpacking. I've unpacked the food box, our duffel bag (containing the only dirty clothes - everything else is clean!), & our toiletry bags. Now for the suitcase....gulp....
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Returning the Swaggon

Doesn't he look so sad?!

We go in safely last night, but we were busy unloading & such...couldn't blog.

I have promised myself that I will not mess with pictures or install my new hiking stick pins (2 things I *really* want to NOW) until I've unpacked everything & put everything away. Val's coming over tonight & we're gonna pool our pictures & video, so I *have* to get everything done this afternoon.

On that note...I'll see y'all later.
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Sunday, July 11, 2010


Bella: I have to pee

Jen: REALLY? We're an hour away from home! You can't hold it?

Bella: No, I really need to stop (*this despite a stop an hour or so ago, and she hasn't had anything to drink since*)

Jen: Then we'll stop, but you had better pee, and you better pee like your LIFE depended on it, like you've never peed before

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Jen, to the kids in the back after they engaged in some shenanigans: "Mac, we do NOT need to have a 'hit until it hurts' contest, because I promise you *I* WILL win that one"
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Jen: Everything should be gently nestled in something.
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Say whaaaaaaat

Mac: "Mo-om, I can't find my phone" (for roughly the bajillionth time this trip)

Jen: "Gah-d*@¤, mother-@+o"*#, sh*@, *ss-truck, cu-+-co@+" (etc and so on - she wove a veritable tapestry of bad words, all without the kids hearing. It was masterful swearing, and it was hiLARious)

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Frederick the felt elephant is peeking at yooooooooooou

We've gone crazy. I'd ask someone to send help but I'm not entirely certain where we are. The children have driven us insane.
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Homeward bound!

In northern GA on I-59 about to cross into AL!
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The Swaggon Order of Insults

Since the dawn of this vacation, the children seem to have developed their own insult progression. One person says something, just anything you can think of, and then the other child says the same thing preceded by "your face", then the other child replies in kind only theirs is preceded by "your butt", and then it all culminates with the other child saying "your MOM", and then its over. (Usually, its over) An example:

Bella: Mac, your feet stink.

Mac: Your FACE stinks.

Bella: Well your BUTT stinks.

Mac: Well, your MOM stinks.

See? Its a simple formula. Simple, yet offensive.
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More words of wisdumb

We were trekking thru the "Enchanted Trail" in Rock City.

Bella: This is just like being lost in the jungle!
Me: Except for the line trails and soda machines?
Bella: Yes. Other than that, EXACTLY!
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Best $4.50 gift shop item

Bubba got a cork gun made of PVC & wood. It makes great popping noises. I'm sure we'll sick to death of it by the time we get home, but it pleases Bubba to no end. It's all good.
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See Rock City!

And 7 states from this crazy high cliff!
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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Almost done

I'm blogging from the bathtub of our final hotel of the trip. We're in Chattanooga, TN. We had the most amazing time in the Smoky Mountain park today - words can't adequately describe! I don't think pictures can, either, but we sure tried!

All 5 of us spent some time on the Appalachian Trail (posing for pics rather than actually hiking, but that's neither here nor there), straddled the TN/NC state line, and spent some time at 5,000+ feet above sea level.

The drive here was quite the adventure. I'm pretty sure that if today's 2.5 hour ride had occurred in the 1st 2 hours of our 10 hour trip yesterday, we'd have driven off a cliff somewhere. Val has her "hate & rage" song...well, I have "whine & pout." We sing quite a duet. You should hear it.

My GPS has apparently become tired of telling us where we should go, and *especially* tired of us not following orders...whether deliberately or because we can't follow directions. It has asked me to take 2 roads that just DID NOT exist, & a few fictional on-ramps, to boot. It was, however, the only electronic item in the Swaggon today that maintained a signal through our trek across the park. Even the satellite radio gave up.

I told Val I didn't want anyone to know we'd driven through Pigeon Forge, but I feel the need to express my extreme dislike of the place. I'm sorry if any of y'all enjoy it...I did not. We came out of the park into Pigeon Forge..the main drag. It was hellish. It's like Orlando's International Blvd. without the redemption of having dozens of extremely amazing theme parks nearby. PF has Dollywood...which I'm sure is more than enough for some. Val & I both were very glad to see that place in the rear-view mirror. :(

I'm sure there was more, but I'm tired & the water is getting cold. Time to get in bed. Night!
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Bella: I felt that, Mac!

Mac: I didn't do that!

Bella: You DID do it!

Jen: Alright, that's enough. Bella, stop feeling things, and Mac, you stop doing things.

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SMNP again

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Smoky Mountain National Park

We're at the top of the mountain & I have a signal again! I'm gonna post a bunch of pictures while I can! This is the kids & Val at the 1st pull-off playing alongside the river & selecting their pet rocks.
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Cherokee Museum

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Breakfast on the deck!

We ate & then posed for pics by the river. Heading to the Museum of the Cherokee Indians next!
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Friday, July 9, 2010

Early (for us) bedtime

It's 9:15 Eastern time, and we're pretty much ready for bed. We spent so much time in the car today that we couldn't bear the thought of getting back in it after we got settled in the hotel, so we ordered pizza. We've cranked the AC and are settling down for bed. We don't have anywhere to be until 10 tomorrow, so we're pretty stoked about that. This is the first time I've gotten online with my laptop since we left and had planned to upload some pics...all I managed was some pics from the car. I haven't made those available to view yet - I'm waiting till I get something of interest OUTSIDE the Swaggon before I send out links. :) We're going to the Cherokee Indian museum tomorrow, then going driving through the Smoky Mountains National Park. There will be a GLUT of pics then, I'm sure. More tomorrow!

The view from our hotel balcony

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Smoky Mountains!!

We are just *agog* at this place, and we haven't even gotten out of the CAR yet! Squee!!
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Our swath of destruction today

We started in Bellefont, PA at 5AM. Then came Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and we're currently driving thru some god-awful weather in Tennessee. We're 10 miles from crossing into North Carolina. 6 states in 10 hours! Not a world record, but not too shabby considering we're traveling with an 11 year-old boy, an 8 year-old girl, & a 2 year-old Bubba...and we're all functioning on about 4 hours of sleep from last night. We're almost there!!
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Thanks a lot, Aunt Fay

Please meet B-bot. He lived at Aunt Fay' least until we visited. Bubba fell in LOVE with B-bot & ran the critter all over Aunt Fay's house. It makes this god-awful "beep-boop" sound over & over & over again. Constantly.

Aunt Fay joked (we *thought* she was joking) that she was going to sneak B-bot into Bubba's diaper bag so he could play with him at home.

Guess what Val found in a bag a few hours into the trip this morning? Touche', Aunt Fay!
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The enormous rolling hills of West Virginia have given way to large (to US, anyway) mountains in Virginia. (I-77) We're headed south through a different part of VA than we traveled heading north, so it's been quite an experience. GPS says we'll be at the hotel around's 2 now, so we're...well, not CLOSE, but closer than we were at 5AM.
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The children might be plotting a mutiny...we've been in the swaggon and traveling almost nonstop since 5AM, and its just after 11AM now. The GPS tells us we will reach our destination around 5PM, and that's not factoring in stops for gas and lunch. This is going to be a loooong day. But worth it!
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West Virginia: Hilly and Gorgeous

Beautiful country! I've never been to West Virginia before...every curve around the interstate beholds some new breathtaking view. Its amazing.
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West Virginny

We made it out of PA & thru MD. We're pretty sure MD is the highest above sea level that we've been thus pass was over 2900 feet above sea level.

The kids are still in their PJs; Mac is drowsing, Bella's zonked out, & Bubba is enjoying his 3rd viewing of Toy Story since we left Mary's.

Val is a little cranky...she didn't sleep well last night & can't sleep in the van. Ask her about her "hate & rage" song sometime. Good stuff.
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Goodbye, Happy Valley

We are making a dawn farewell to our temporary home-away-from-home in Bellefonte, PA.

Jen is sniffling like a sniffling machine (allergies). We *think* we have everything...we think.

We are on our way for more road adventures! Today is Friday, and we won't be home until Sunday, so stay tuned for more shenanigans.

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

We are awesome

In case you didn't know, or perhaps had forgotten.

We have our suitcases packed & loaded into the car. Same with the cooler & all the craft stuff. All that's left is our duffel bags with clothes & such for the next 2 days and pillows, blankets, & stuffed animals.

We're leaving early. We're gonna stop at a gas station for coffee, gas, ice, gum (my ears are sensitive to altitude changes), other stuff I can't remember but are definitely on a list.

I'm gonna shower & then head to bed for a few hours. Wish us luck!
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Words of wisdumb, part whatever

Val: Bella, did you find my other shoe?
Bella: Yes.
Val: Where is it?
Bella: I don't know.
Val: (exasperation growing) Bella, I need my other shoe!
Bella: Did you have 2?

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It's 94 degrees. In PA. At 6PM.

Suck much.
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Jabebo earrings

A sampling of Kevin's earrings...which look very small next to my nomming niece. I'm getting 2 more pair!
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Catchin some Z's

We adventurers are having some down time this afternoon. Some, like Bubba, are catching up on some much-needed sleep. Others have been kept awake or forced awake by giggling little girls, so we are doing more productive things, like lying around and blogging.

We went to another art show this morning, and it was hot as blazes, of course. The horrible heat is supposed to let up tomorrow, when we are on our way south. Sigh.

After returning home and frying up some loompia, we have lounged and packed and hung out. This evening we will be dropping all the kids off at my Aunt's house and perusing the downtown art show some more, followed by a grown-ups only dinner. Squee!

Then once we get home, we're going to load the van and get some shut-eye before waking up early the next day to head off down the highway for North Carolina and the Smoky Mountains National Park. Whew.

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Last day

The pic above was taken in Mary's backyard. I thought it was very lovely & figured I'd post it here as I don't have a "last day" pic to share.

Today is our last full day in PA. We leave at "oh my god" early tomorrow the planning stages we settled on 4AM as a good time. I don't remember smoking crack while planning, so I'm sure there's a perfectly legit reason we chose that time. I just can't remember it right now.

We're washing the last of our dirty clothes & packing up so we won't have anything to do this evening or in the morning. We hope. I have souvenir cups from every place we've been...and a "Bucket O' Fries" bucket. Goodbye, precious suitcase space!

I also wanted to plug my cousin-in-law's earring company. Visit online at Val's getting a few pair while we're here, & I'm thinking about a couple myself. Everything's recycled & reused, and gorgeous to boot!
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Fun with science!

The festival we went to today had a science exploration tent for the kids that was really, REALLY cool! Mac & Bella were doing this really cool electrical wiring...thing. It was like electrical Legos! I dunno how to describe it except that they had diagrams of different items which were built out of the same pieces...the cool thing was that the same parts configured in different ways produced different sounds. Bella did a doorbell & Mac did a space shuttle. It was really cool! I took pics with my camera & will post them on Picasa later.
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We found fresh-brewed TEA!

Oh, man, I was ecstatic to see frresh brewed tea. Good tea has been hard to find up here (although there is a lot of questionable lemonade floating around, for some reason), and when I saw this huge jug at one of the stands this morning (we're at the People's Choice Arts Festival) I couldn't help but shell out the $2.50 for a icy cup of sweet tea. Mmmm...
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How many different feet you meet

It's crazy up in this van, y'all.
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