Wild Horses and Light Bulbs

We spent a weekend in April at Assateague Island National Seashore!

I couldn’t resist a free entry weekend to our National Parks. I also couldn’t resist a chance to get to the beach. Winter has been far too long and the first nice weekend was put to good use.

I knew little about Assateague Island other than it is an island, has a beach, is a National park, and is within reasonable driving distance for us.

We left on Friday evening after picking up and surprising Grandma with an RV trip. We arrived in Dover, DE and spent the night in an overflow Lot for Dover Downs International Speedway. (with permission of course)

Up bright and early, we had an hour drive down into Maryland and embarked on the Visitor Center in Assateague by 10am.

An educational movie enlightened us about the wild horses living on the island and how they came to be there. Fascinated, the girls sat and intently watched and learned before getting wet in the touch tank where they explored the horseshoe crab, welks and clams.

This park was perfect for us combining nature with history and playing at the beach.

We ventured on a nature walk with a ranger from bay to beach and saw wild horses as well as a frog and countless birds.

After our walk we spent some time playing in the sand and collecting shells. This was the first National Park we had been to where they encouraged taking home nature, no more than a gallon bucket of treasures from the beach.

We got crafty by making and learning about the endangered piper plover chick.

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We took some family portraits and finished our junior ranger booklets before getting our badges and heading off for dinner.

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A short ride to a state park in DE and we set up camp for the night; grilling steak, chicken, vegetables and sweet potato fries… mmm. We had s’mores and the girls were able to use their fishing rods for a few minutes as the sun set on a perfect day.

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Sunday was a day to get back because grandma had work on monday; we headed north.

The free entry fees were burning a hole in my passport. I couldn’t help but sneak another adventure into this weekend.

I’d been aching to bring the girls to Thomas Edison’s Laboratory for a long time. I begged Darryl to make the stop but he urged we needed to make it back for his mom’s sake.

A few miles up the road and he was rubbing his eyes, straining to keep them open. He asked if I could take over driving for a while so he could rest.

Ah ha! He rested. I drove. Before I knew it, we were parked in West Orange and staring at the Laboratory of one of the greatest inventors in history. (sneaky, I know)

Three o’clock and the Historic site closes at four. We had little time to waste thus ventured on a self-guided tour of the Laboratory including a musical talk from a ranger and with just moments to spare, we received more badges and were back on the road by four.

Darryl thanked me and said he really enjoyed it! Thomas Edison National Historic Site is right down the road from us and full of information, history and a plethora of learning opportunities. My only regret was that we didn’t have more time to see his house or spend more time exploring the exhibits. We will be back. (when it’s free)

We did leave donations with the parks we visited but Thomas Edison has a per person fee of $7. Reasonable for a small group but we are a group of seven. Most of our Nation’s parks have an entry fee per vehicle, the most expensive fee we ever encountered was $20 at Yellowstone, which did include Grand Teton.

For more information on our National Parks visit their website and be sure to check their free entry dates.
*** I am deeply sorry for the quality of the photos in this post. Not that my previous amateur pictures are anything to write home about but my usual trusty camera gives clear shots and has a nice zoom lens, however, it stayed home and I only had my point-and-shoot; one that has been battered and beaten by little fingers.***

 

 

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NPS FREE ENTRY WEEKEND

 

We are hitting the road again!

Just for the weekend and not too far from home but the sunshine is calling our names.

Urgency to get out there arises from our National Park System’s Free Admission Days; April 18 and 19 is opening weekend for our nation’s most treasured places, and entry fees, although regularly minimal, are waived!

“If it’s FREE, it’s for me!”

I urge you to get up and get out there to visit and support our parks because if we don’t, future generations are at risk of losing these historic and beautiful gems.

The park system relies heavily on visitor contributions and support so we’ll be donating in spite of our waived fees.

If not for the parks, our big trip last summer would not have been as enriching as it was. My patriotic duty is to spread the love I feel for those memories with my readers (if I have any).

When you hear National Park, you may think Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore but you’ll be surprised to find many right in your own back yard.

Here is the list of participating parks who waive their entrance fees.

Be sure to browse around the nps.gov website for information, trip ideas and web-based ranger programs.

Also, follow along for posts from the road and don’t miss anything by subscribing!

Our Last Leg

It has taken me months to finish posting about our trip from last summer. I’ve been inundated with life. My apologies. Without further adieu, here it is, Our Last Leg!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014 Day 51

After first learning about Mt. Rushmore and the four most influential presidents of our country, Juniper took a strong interest in Abraham Lincoln. It was crucial to learn more.

We were ecstatic to find out Abe’s boyhood home and birthplace was on our way and part of our National Park System. Most americans don’t know he was born in Kentucky, with Illinois being nicknamed “The Land of Lincoln.” We spent today learning about his family, their struggles on the frontier, and how he acquired some of his many nicknames. We visited the farm he was born at with his actual cabin on display. We learned about his life and death and with all our new knowledge and another badge, we continued through Kentucky.

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We made it to the place where Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia meet and tried to acquire some geocaches. While Darryl fed the girls dinner, I went on a mighty hunt but did not succeed until my fourth attempt.

Feeling some time was waisted, we moved on as far as we could with the PA air so close Darryl kept it moving and stopped just before our home state line.

Thursday, October 2 Day 52

This trip has been more amazing than I dreamed it would be. I would do it again in a heartbeat but home is calling our names.

The last leg is bittersweet as Darryl and I are anxious to get home, Ash expresses her want to “see more places.”

“I don’t want to go home,” she pleads.

Ironically she was the first to mention going home way back on day 20, now after this grand adventure she didn’t want it to end. Who could blame her?

That one statement from my three-year-old made these 8,000 miles, 52 days, 22 states, all the trouble, hassle, heartache, pleasure, fun, sweat, tears, laughter, learning, vomit, diarrhea, vet bills, junior ranger badges, pictures, souvenirs, and MEMORIES all worth it, in those sweet three-year-old words.

“I don’t want to go home; I want to see more places.”

Well, the beautiful thing is we will see more places. After we recharge our batteries, fix all the kinks with our rig, and get through the holidays; we will get that eminent itch and we will go on the road again.

Rest area round of duck-duck-goose:

We made it home in record time with little stops and breaking our travel guidelines; Darryl drove over 500 miles today!

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We were home in our beds by 8:00pm and it never felt so good to stand in my shower ( I think I was in there for over 45 minutes) and flop into my bed and stretch out; it was heaven!

Life Lessons from the Road

Simple living means more memories.

Family bonds grow stronger when you can’t escape each other.

More space means more clutter.

Experiencing life first hand is nourishing to the soul, more so than reading about it in a book or watching it on TV. Without the space, clutter and TV, our lives were spent exploring, singing, talking, DOing.

Time saved from cleaning a smaller space was spent on more enjoyable adventures.

Go with the flow.

Think positive. If you encounter stormy weather, keep moving. Tomorrow is a new day.

Lakes and badges

Monday September 1st Part Two

YELLOWSTONE!

From the moment we entered the park the scenery changed, the road changed, the world changed.

A sense of uneasiness overcame me and anxiety filled my veins. The trees were eerily baron and the air stale.

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The spectacle was not as spectacular as I was expecting.

You hear stories of greatness and mystery. The mystery abounded and the greatness was in size.

The size of the park and trees. The river. The lake. The waterfalls. The amount of steam heaving up and out of the earth. All great but not in a good way.
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I thought it was my own fear and reservations about being in a seismic and active volcanic place but Darryl felt it too. (I found out later as we were leaving)

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We got our education with a ranger led program about the wildlife in the park. Lemon learned “how to not get eaten by a bear.”

 

We camped in a dry slot in the woods outside the boundary of the caldera and were quick to leave in the morning without visiting the world-famous geyser, Old Faithful.

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We did visit the mud volcano and had sulfuric steam blasted at our faces and that was enough of Yellowstone for us.

Tuesday, September 2 …. Day 22

Getting up in the morning was a task because we wanted to leave as quickly as possible.

I had difficulty sleeping; tossing and turning in the night battling Papa Bear for the blankets as the cold air crept into our house.

We got moving before breakfast and as we exited the park our sense of road trip bliss returned almost instantly.

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We snagged our Junior Ranger badges on the way out of Yellowstone and arrived at Grand Teton National Park within a few hours.

The overall feeling in Grand Teton is how I had imagined it would be in Yellowstone but I was sadly mistaken and disappointed.

After another ranger-led program and junior ranger badge pinned to the sash we walked in the woods and down along Jackson Lake to get some ice cream and to take a moment to soak in these mountains that are appropriately named “grand.” They are magnanimous and peaceful to just sit and look at.

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We had another dry campsite which means we need to find water and service our tanks as soon as possible.

Wednesday Sept. 3rd…. Day 23

A busy morning of cleaning and packing up for the next leg of the trip through Idaho. Darryl was tired so he napped for a while. I drove and just 45 min. down the road I found a cute little town, Jackson, WY. I stopped so the girls could play at park and playground. They haven’t had much play time since we left Cody; we’ve been busy with national parks. They had a lot of fun just playing, making friends and running around.

Afterward, we continued west into the mountains on the steepest road I’ve ever driven. 10% grades up and down on the side of a gigantic rock.

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I followed the road into Idaho Falls where Darryl found a FREE RV park. We setup camp and picnicked dinner at sunset before we slept well.

Thursday September 4…. Day 24

After breakfast and cleaning house we headed into Pocatello, ID for Costco and to restock our supplies. Almost an hour and a half and $400.00 later we were back on the road and after a stop in Twin Falls, ID for liquor and to print some pictures for our scrapbook, we made it to Hagerman where we had dinner, canvassed the fossil beds and found another free spot to spend the night.

Friday Sept. 5 ….Day 25

Every morning is the same. One by one we wake up and rub our eyes. Juice. Cereal. Eggs. Coffee! And then I get the kids dressed while Darryl washes the dishes. We make beds, sweep the floor, walk the dog and the day is in full swing.

We drove a couple of miles down the streets of Hagerman, ID a small town consisting of a handful of shops and businesses. If you blink, you’ll miss it. We walked into the Fossil Beds Visitor Center where we learned about fossils(obviously) but also rocks, minerals, and the Oregon Trail. I especially enjoyed the exhibit on the World War II concentration camp nearby where Japanese Americans and their families were detained after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

More badges, a stamp in our Passport then lunch and rest time and we were off without a hitch.

We stopped in Boise for dinner where we took care of our tanks and showered. We pressed on some more before we parked for the night in Vale, Oregon, another new state under our wheels.

Saturday Sept. 6… Day 26

Sensing the morning, I awoke and nudged Darryl who was able to get us into OR further before the girls woke and we really started our day. I’ve been pressuring him to make it to Crater Lake for my birthday since Astoria was out of the question. The day was mainly spent driving with few exceptions to a playground, stop for lunch and fill-up the gas tank.

We ate dinner at a free campground outside the national park and made it to the Crater Lake Lodge just after sunset.

But not without experiencing THE. MOST. FEAR. I’ve ever had while driving. Rim Drive is a narrow two lane road with no shoulder or guard rails and barely hugs the side of the mountain that holds Crater Lake.

Rim Drive

Rim Drive

Some of the black top at the edge of the road has crumbled and tumbled down the side of the cliffs as I imagine we would have if there was oncoming traffic.

 

I was so scared my knuckles were white from clinging to the steering wheel.

Beyond scared!

Beyond scared!

I drove down the middle of the road and luckily there were only 3 cars that passed us the opposite direction and they did so when the road was wider with more room to maneuver around them. Like I said we made it to the Lodge at sunset and were not brave enough to challenge Rim Drive in the dark so we illegally camped in the Lodge’s RV parking lot. Rebels, I know.

A ranger kindly informed us of our infraction the next morning but the deed was done and we were unscathed.

 

Oregon Sunset

Oregon Sunset