A family on the road living fulltime in an RV.

Category: National Parks

A Memorable Memorial Weekend

Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia We began our  four day Memorial Day memorial tour on a Friday at Manassas National Battlefield Park. This was where the first major land battle…

Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia

We began our  four day Memorial Day memorial tour on a Friday at Manassas National Battlefield Park. This was where the first major land battle of the American Civil War, most commonly referred to as the First Battle of Bull Run, took place. On July 21, 1861 the two armies converged on the rolling hills near Centreville, Virginia. Spectators came from Washington expecting an easy victory for the North to bring a swift end to the Southern rebellion. The battle seesawed throughout the day but in the end it was a Southern Victory. It was also the place where the legendary Southern general “Stonewall Jackson” received his famous nickname. It was the beginning of a war that would almost destroy a nation and eventually claim more than 600,000 lives.

Harpers Ferry, National Historical Park, West Virginia

Saturday, we visited Harpers Ferry in West Virginia. A visit to Harper’s Ferry is like stepping into the past. Historical reenactors and musuems bring the history of Harpers Ferry to life! It has a multi-faceted history being the place of the first interchanable manufacture, location of John Brown’s raid against slavery (a catalyst for the Civil War), a civil war battleground, and home to one of the first integrated schools, Storer College, dedicated to educating former slaves in higher education.

If history isn’t your thing Harper’s Ferry is beautiful. It sits nestled between hills at the convergence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying, “The passage of the Patowmac through the Blue Ridge is perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature.” There is even a rock named after him, Jerfferson Rock, where he took in the view above lower Harper’s Ferry and said, “this scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic”.

Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland

Sunday after a stopping in Shepherdstown West Virginia for a farmers market (Sheperherdstown is such a COOL little town), we headed over to Antietam National Battlefield. The Battle of Antietam is also know as the battle of Sharpsburg. The North tended to name battles after the closest creeks, rivers, or streams and the South often used names of towns or railroad junctions. Antietam was the bloodiest one day battle in American history with over 22,000 casualties.

This was our third battlefield in three days and, to be honest, Thing One was…Over. It. I kinda don’t blame him it was a sweltering hot weekend and after awhile all the battles start to run together with the same tragic theme. However, Thing Two couldn’t get enough if you can’t tell from the pictures! He loves history, war history in particular. This was his opportunity to wear his kepi in the correct time period. (God only knows how he feels about that!) After completing the Jr Ranger program, we took the self-guided tour through the battlefield and then ended our day at an old fashioned ice cream parlor, Nutter’s, for some crazy good ice cream. In fact, I’m still thinking about it!

Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania

It seemed fitting that we finished our Memorial Day memorial tour on Monday with a visit to Gettysburg National Military Park. While Anitiem was the bloodiest one day battle, Gettysburg was the bloodiest overall battle with over 51,000 casualties over a three day period. It was also a major turning point in the Civil War and the place where President Lincoln made his famous Gettysburg Address.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” – Abraham Lincoln

It was an unforgettable Memorial Weekend and to any who serve or who have served and their loved ones, thank you.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Ford’s Theatre and Where a Great Man Died

Inside of Ford’s Theatre where we watched,One Destiny, a play about Lincoln’s assasination. Across the street from the theatre is the Petersen House, the house where Lincoln died. The boys…

Inside of Ford’s Theatre where we watched,One Destiny, a play about Lincoln’s assasination.

Across the street from the theatre is the Petersen House, the house where Lincoln died.



The boys added another Jr. Ranger badge to their growing collection.

This tower is made of about 6,800 books, a fraction of the estimated total of 15,000 books written about Lincoln.

Then another quick stop by the National Museum of American History. Thing Two wanted one last walk through the war section and we both though this uniform worn by George Washington was pretty cool

We continued on to the White House. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get tickets for a tour despite applying 6 months in advance.

After a long day of learning we headed home…

Dinner with the Weeds Washingto DC

where we ended a great day with a great dinner with great friends!

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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First President and Fortune Teller? – George Washington Birthplace National Monument

Brent has been working a lot lately. This is good. Very good. Unfortunately, it means he misses out on a lot of places and I’m left to wrangle these guys…

Brent has been working a lot lately. This is good. Very good.

Unfortunately, it means he misses out on a lot of places and I’m left to wrangle these guys myself.

On our way to our new campsite at Colonial Beach, we passed George Washington Birthplace National Monument. This isn’t the first time we have stumbled upon a National Park.

George Washington Birthplace National Monument was only a few miles from our campsite and a perfect place to spend an afternoon learning about the first president’s early years. George Washington spent the first three years of his life here at the plantation at Popes Creek before his family moved to Ferry Farm near Fredericksburg, Virginia. During his lifetime Washington made many trips back to Popes Creek to visit family and friends. The farm stayed in the Washington family until it passed to the government for preservation.

Thing One was disappointed to find out that this wasn’t the real house where George Washington was born.

However, he was thrilled that the ranger let him play the harpsichord and the ranger was quite impressed with his playing.

The foundation of the actual house where George Washington was born sits a few feet away from the restored brick house.

As a teenager George Washington studied the trade of land surveying. One of the activities in the Jr. Ranger book was to “survey” the foundation of his birth home.

Most of the afternoon we just walked the grounds and took in the beauty.

The Washington family burial ground is also on the property. Although, Washington isn’t buried there. He is buried at Mount Vernon.

At the end of the day the boys took their Jr. Ranger pledge.

Lastly with all the mudslinging going back and forth between parties, which only promises to get worse as we close in on election, I found this quote from George Washington’s Farewell Address quite timely.

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” – George Washington, Farewell Address September 17th, 1796.

Perhaps he should have gone into fortune telling instead of politics.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Historic Jamestown

Historic Jamestown, located a few miles from Jamestown Settlement, is the location of the original Jamestown colony. There isn’t as much to do at the Historic Jamestown as there is…

Historic Jamestown, located a few miles from Jamestown Settlement, is the location of the original Jamestown colony.

There isn’t as much to do at the Historic Jamestown as there is at Jamestown Settlement. There aren’t any boats to climb on. There aren’t any Indian huts to explore. The fort is a little more than an outline on the ground.

But…

You can look out at river, the former lifeline to England, and imagine what it would have been like to be John Smith waiting for supplies to arrive.

You can see the spot where Pocahontas and John Rolfe where most likely married.

You can see graves of the early settlers who braved the New World for better or for worse.

You can imagine the defeat felt by the Powhatan indians as they were pushed out of their lands.

You can walk where the first Africans arrived as slaves in 1619 and think of the devastation that would follow.

You can sit and take in the significance of the spot where the United States, the great melting pot, began.

Historic Jamestown is a beautiful and moving place.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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The Wild Horses of Assateague Island

You didn’t think I’d give up on seeing the wild horses of Assateague Island that easy did you? After squinting to see the “fenced” wild horses on the Virginia side…

You didn’t think I’d give up on seeing the wild horses of Assateague Island that easy did you?

After squinting to see the “fenced” wild horses on the Virginia side of Assateague Island, we hoped in our truck and decided to make the hour and a half drive to the Maryland entrance.

Really, what’s an hour and a half after driving from California? We didn’t drive all the way across the country to have my childhood dream of seeing “Misty” (the horse in one of my favorite childhood books, Misty of Chincoteague) roam free on the beach be contained by a stupid fence.

This drive was filled with more anxiety than before. I know it was silly and certainly childish but I really really REALLY wanted to see the wild horses. It was as if I’d have a life of regret if I didn’t get to see these legendary creatures roaming free on the beach.

I’m not obsessive or dramatic or idealistic, not at all.

It was late afternoon when we arrived at the Maryland side of Assateague.

I held my breath as we drove through the entrance gate. I secretly prayed we would see some horses. (Yeah, sometimes I pray for trite things like that.)

Then I squealed and I’m pretty sure there were some tears.

A wild horse!

He was grazing freely on the side of the road completely indifferent to the crazy girl telling him how beautiful he was and taking pictures as if she had never seen a horse in her life.

Satisfied that there were indeed wild horses on Assateague Island, we went to the visitor center just minutes before it closed so the boys could turn in their Jr. Ranger stuff we had picked up on the Virginia side and we could learn a little more about the horses.

The horses have been living on Assateague Island since the 1600’s. No one knows exactly how the the wild horses of Assateague came to be. Legend is they swam to shore after a Spanish shipwreck. However, the more probable story is they were put on the island by their owners who wanted to avoid paying livestock taxes on the mainland.

Spanish galleon or tax evasion? Hmmmm…..

We drove further into the island and it wasn’t long before I was screetching again.

A mama and a baby or “Phantom and Misty” for us once (still?) horse obsessed little girls!!!

Someone has an itch.

I think I took 200 pictures of these guys and Thing Two loves animals as much as I do.

The horses were every bit as beautiful as I had imagined and so were the beaches.

As we drove around the island, we soon saw there were horses everywhere.

In the campsites.

Hanging around the bathrooms.

This guy just stood by the water spicket for the longest time.

People were petting the horses but I had seen pictures of the horse bites in the Visitor’s Center and having been bite by a horse before I know horse bites are no joke.

But more than that they were almost too wild and too beautiful to touch as if petting them like they were dogs would a sign of disrespect.

As the sun set we found a quiet spot near the beach.

Brent grilled.

And I read Misty of Chincoteague to my two favorite little boys.

Yes I actually brought the book all the way from California. Over the top, I know.

Then we watched the sunset from our little spot of horse heaven on Assateague Island.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Chincoteague Island and Assateague National Seashore (the Virginia Side)

My heart was bouncing with anticipation as I packed our stuff for a day at Chincoteague Island and Assateague National Seashore. Assateague National Seashore is most well known for wild…

My heart was bouncing with anticipation as I packed our stuff for a day at Chincoteague Island and Assateague National Seashore.

Assateague National Seashore is most well known for wild horses.  Very few things make me as excited as horses!

Especially wild horses!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have wanted to visit Assateague National Seashore, since I read Misty of Chincoteague as a child about 25 years ago. Since we hit the road full time in our RV last October, seeing the wild ponies of Assateague Island had been at the top of my list of things to see.

Assateague Island is divided into two sides, the Virginia side and the Maryland side.  We decided to go to the Virginia side because the entrance was closest to our campground and you pass over Chincoteague Island, where they have the yearly pony round up, to get there.

I was antsy with anticipation the entire drive babbling on and on about finally getting to see the wild horses. Like a kid on Christmas Eve….

I. Could. Not. Wait.

We drove onto the island, our eyes peeled for wild horses. Finally we spotted them faaaar across a marsh in a fence.

In. A. Fence.

Not only were they behind a fence, they where were so far you could hardly tell them from a deer even with my zoom lens.

This was not what I had imagined nor seen on the internet.  I had seen pictures spotted horses roaming freely in campgrounds and on white sand beaches. Thanks Google for getting my hopes up.

We went to the visitor’s center and I asked about the wild horses. I was told they keep them in corrals, albeit very large corrals, on the Virginia side. They only roam free on the Maryland side.

I stood there staring at the park ranger my eyes full of tears.

It wasn’t awkward in the least.

I stammered out a thank you and left, my childhood dreams crushed.

We may not have gotten up close to the horses but we did get up close and personal with some horseshoe crabs.

We also came across some pony tracks ice cream at Island Creamery on Chincoteague.

But no free roaming wild horses.

The highlight of the morning was the Assateague Lighthouse.

For a small fee you can go up to the top of the Assateague Lighthouse.

If you squint hard enough you may be able to see the wild horses roaming in a fence. Or not.

Or you can beg your husband to drive an extra hour and a half to the Maryland side of Assateague National Seashore and hope you see some wild horses there.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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North Carolina through Instagram

Our time in North Carolina through the eye of Instagram. (I want to go back to the Outer Banks.) Love and Laughter, Jenn If you enjoyed this post you can…

Our time in North Carolina through the eye of Instagram.

(I want to go back to the Outer Banks.)

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Exploring Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the Outer Banks

The Outer Banks in North Carolina is not only a place where you can watch sunrise and sunset from the beach but a place rich in beauty, history, and recreation….

The Outer Banks in North Carolina is not only a place where you can watch sunrise and sunset from the beach but a place rich in beauty, history, and recreation.

The drive to the Outer Banks was long. As we drove through the seemingly endless wetlands, we counted basking turtles on the logs to pass time.

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

See the Jr. Rangers in the background?

We started at the Outer Banks Visitor Center and found out Fort Raleigh National Historic Site was just a few miles away. Fort Raleigh was the first English settlement in North America. (St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied city.) It is better known as The Lost Colony because the fate of the 116 settlers has never been determined.

In 1587, Sir Walter Raleigh appointed John White to lead a group of settlers to sail for Chesapeake Bay in hopes of starting a colony.  However, they stopped on Roanoke Island and, for unknown reasons, they were forced to stay by the ship’s captain.

The colonists’ attempt to build relationships with the Indians failed due to conflicts with English explorers the previous year. After one of the colonist was killed by an Indian they persuaded John White to go back to England to ask for help. White departed leaving his family behind including his newborn granddaughter, Virginia Dare, the first English child born in North America. Due to circumstances beyond his control, he was unable to return to Roanoke for three years. When he made it back to Roanoke in 1590, he found the island deserted, hence, the name The Lost Colony.

Ocracoke Island and Ferry

Ocracoke Island lies at the end of the Outer Banks.

We took a free car ferry from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke.

The best way to see Ocracoke Island is by bike.

We biked past the harbor…

…to the Ocracoke Lighthouse.

We also went on a short hike to and had ice cream before returning home.

Riding the Ocracoke Ferry back to Hatteras. 

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore stretches over 70 miles and whispers tales of shipwrecks, pirates, and treasure.

It is also the home to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. With 248 stairs, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in North America.

Unfortunately, we missed its opening by two days. Two days. We considered staying but knew we had to press on.

 

We built sandcastles along the Atlantic’s edge.

And found seashells.

And filmed another kettlebell workout.

And watched sunsets.

I hope the boys always remember how much we love each other.

And our silliness.

You can watch the sunrise over the Atlantic and the sunset over the sound.

Wright Brothers National Memorial

A little over 300 years after The Lost Colony, the Outer Banks claimed another first.

The first flight was made by Wilbur and Orville Wright at Kitty Hawk. We spent the afternoon at the Wright Brothers National Memorial marveling how much world change hinged on that cold December morning in 1903.

It was inspiring.

See the white markers to the right of Thing Two? That’s how far the first three flights went – 120 feet, 175 feet, and 200 feet. The fourth marker is further out at 852 feet.

I found myself praying that our boys would share the same sort of camaraderie and friendship that the Wright brothers shared. I’m still waiting for that miracle.

We weren’t the only ones contemplating flight…so was Nigel.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Escaping to Charleston While Waiting in Yemassee

While we were in Key West Thing Two tripped on a curb while carrying our camera and broke the lens. Uh-oh. Normally, I would have to try hard to hide…

While we were in Key West Thing Two tripped on a curb while carrying our camera and broke the lens.

Uh-oh.

Normally, I would have to try hard to hide my annoyance at such an accident. However, this time I had to try to hide my delight. I finally had an excuse to get rid of that terrible kit lens.

After much research (I research the heck out of anything that costs over $20) we decided on a new lens to purchase and where to have it shipped. Unfortunately, we had it shipped the most mosquito infested campground in all of South Carolina.

What would have been a quick stop over en route to Charleston, SC turned into seven long days of waiting in Yemassee. Our 32o square feet of space started to feel like 320 square inches.

One day, we explored nearby Beaufort visiting Kazoobie Kazoos, farmers markets, and having a picnic along the water. However kazoos can only entertain for so long and they don’t offer any defense against mosquitoes.

After three days of waiting in Yemassee, we decided we would skip camping near Charleston and just make the hour and a half drive over for the day.

Fort Moultrie is on nearby Sullivan’s Island, so we started there. I would go to the moon if it meant I could get my National Park Passport stamp. The boys completed their Junior Ranger booklets and thus fullfilling the requirements to earn the Junior Ranger Civil War Historian sesquicentennial patch. The Junior Ranger Civil War Historian is a special program for kids commemorating the Civil War’s 150th anniversary.

After Fort Moultrie, we headed back over the bridge to spend the rest of the day wandering the streets of Charleston. We walked through the city market, to Vendue Wharf Pier, and down small streets taking in the architecture. We bought a walking tour guide but the boys were history-ed out and I had PMS. Bad combo. Let’s just say the guide didn’t get much use unless you think of it as a flat 2 ounce shot put.

I hope southerners don’t hate me for saying this but Charleston is Savannah’s more sophisticated twin. Savannah is charming and quaint.  Charleston, while charming, feels more urban and upscale. We spent nearly 30 minutes sitting on the steps of a building, faces buried in our phones, searching for shrimp and grits that weren’t going to cost us $30+ a person.

Finally, we decided to try Jestine’s Kitchen. Jestine’s was just a few blocks away, had good reviews, and was within our budget.

Apparently, we weren’t the only ones wanting southern cookin’. The line wrapped around the building and down the street.

Surprisingly the line moved fast. The service was friendly and the food fantastic.

After dinner we headed to Battery Park to look at the old mansions. Right away we realized we had made a mistake by waiting until after dark. I would have loved to see the beautiful mansions during the day but apparently blinds aren’t a priority so we got  glimpse of the gorgeous interiors instead.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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Savannah, GA

Savannah is a beautiful name. It’s a perfect name for one of the prettiest towns we’ve stepped foot in and stepped foot we did. Self-guided tours seem to be the best…

Savannah is a beautiful name. It’s a perfect name for one of the prettiest towns we’ve stepped foot in and stepped foot we did.

Self-guided tours seem to be the best option for our family. It gives us the freedom to set our own pace and allows time for pitstops like watching the taffy machine at the Savannah’s Candy Kitchen in the City Market. It also allows more room in the budget for eating out. Our Savannah splurge of the day was at Paula Deen’s restaurant, The Lady and Sons.

The bookstore in the Visitor Center sold a lovely walking tour guide that included four different easy to follow tours with historical descriptions and color photos. We did the “Along the Riverfront” and “The Booming West Side” walking tours. The boys held up really well but by the end of the day they were spent. We decided to ride “The Dot” for one last look at the town before calling it quits for the day

While in Savannah, we stayed in nearby Skidaway State Park. We enjoyed biking along the trails (I only got us a little lost this time.) and walking under the trees. While on a walk one evening, we met another family who was en route to Bahai Honda on a three month adventure with their two boys. A few hours later, we were sharing a meal in our camper over stories and laughter.

Unexpected things like this are, by far, the best part of living fulltime on the road.

Before we left the Savannah area, we visited Fort Pulaski on Cockspur Island. Fort Pulaski was built to protect Savannah from a river approach. We took a Ranger Guided tour and explored. The boys completed their Jr. Ranger booklets and earned new badges to add to their growing collection.

Our Savannah GA Experience at a Glance

Where we stayed:

  • Skidaway Island State Park – Skidaway Island State park is beautiful, reasonably priced, and not far from historic Savannah. We had a strong internet connection and cell service.

What we did:

  • Toured Savannah by foot using a walking tour guide we bought at Savannah Vistor Center. Savannah is the perfect kind of town to explore by foot.
  • Rode the Dot, a free bus. We rode the entire line to get a good view of the town and got off once to see The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and I was excited to see Flannery O’Connor’s Childhood on the same square.
  • Rode the free Savannah Belles Ferry (Part of the dot system) – It was a short ride but offered a different perspective of Savannah. It was fun to imagine what it might of been like coming into the town by boat.
  • Visited Fort Pulaski National Monument  (I wish we would have had time to visit nearby Tybee Island.)

Where we ate:

  • The Lady and Sons – Unfortunately, Brent and I didn’t think it was worth the price or the wait. At the suggestion of our waiter, I ordered the chicken pot pie. I disliked it so much that Brent, always the sweetheart, offered to trade me for his crab cakes. The crab cakes were just okay. The boys ordered the buffet and after stealing a few bites from their plates, Brent and I wished we would have ordered the same. The chocolate butter cake, however, was divine.

Love and Laughter,
Jenn

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