02 June 2009

1st stop - Trenton, GA

We arrived at our campsite in Trenton, GA a little after 6pm Eastern time last night. We changed time zones when we crossed the GA state line. We got everything plugged in, I put the homemade mac-n-cheese into the microwave, and we enjoyed a peaceful dinner. After that, I took Remy up to the dog park. Some KOA campgrounds have these - they're fenced in areas with playground equipment for dogs. It's fun for the pooches because they get to be off-leash. It was so oppressively humid that by the time Remy & I got back, we were both completely beat - but it was fun.

This morning we had a bit of an adventure when we realized that Remy had chewed through the rope she was tied to. Rob forgot to pick up a chain last night, and the only usable item the campground store had was some very thin rope. One minute she was there, the next she was gone. After calling & whistling for several minutes, we got a phone call. She was at a campsite not far from us, and some good samaritan campers called Rob's cell phone. The number is on her tags - thank God for dog tags and nice people!

Today we are headed for the TN/VA line.

01 June 2009

Hittin' the road again

We have wonderful friends in our new community. We have a house-sitter lined up, as well as someone to mow the lawn. We will finish packing up the RV today and head out hopefully by 10am. On our way out, we will stop at the new Dunkin' Donuts in Columbus, MS!!! We will also be seeing some friends that we haven't seen in a VERY long time. Grace is VERY excited about the road trip in the "rug" (her version of "rig," what we generally call the RV), and about seeing Uncle Dave & Auntie Beth, her cousins and grandparents.

We hope you'll enjoy following us on our 2nd RV adventure! This one will be MUCH shorter than the last, but we expect to have just as much fun!

31 October 2008

Florida, Florida, Florida!

I used to live in this lovely state. I moved here in 1992 just before Hurricane Andrew devastated the southern peninsula. I left a few months later because summer was on the way and I just don't like heat and humidity. Now, sitting on the 14th floor of a condo overlooking Panama City Beach, I wonder if that was impetuous youth. I love it here. At least on vacation! Of course, it was a vacation to Florida in 1992 that led me to move here. So, no, I will not be moving here anytime soon.

It has been a beautiful few days here as the weather has been bright and warm during the daytime. We took a cruise to Shell Island yesterday and Grace dove headfirst into the Gulf of Mexico. Then she walked around and looked at shells on the beach before reboarding the boat for a trip to the mouth of Panama City Bay to watch the dolphins frolic. There were quite a few of them.

Today we went to Gulf World and saw a sea lion show, a parrot show, and a dolphin show. Grace is now napping after her morning of excitement and when she wakes she will go to the beach and jump in the cool waters of the Gulf once again. Oops, there she is. guess we're going swimming!

26 October 2008

Travelng to Florida

Hello all,

Yes, we are on the road again. One of the members of our family has a very itchy traveling foot. We found out a few weeks ago that Rob will most likely be teaching most of next summer. Prior to that, we had been planning to go to DisneyWorld in May. Instead, we decided to take a trip to the Gulf Shore of FL for about a week, to spend some time on the ocean, away from home, relaxing before his job starts.

We are renting a lovely condo on the 14th floor of a high-rise, with a nice balcony and an incredible ocean view. Even without the ocean view, the condo is nicer than our house! Sadly, we forgot the camera, so unless we buy another one we won't be posting pic's from this trip.

While we're here, we are hoping to make it to the Aquarium and possibly go on a dolphin-watch. We might even hire a babysitter so Rob & I can have a date night!

Hope you all are well...

20 October 2008

Faith, Loss, and Rock-n-Roll

Last night, Rob and I made the trek to Birmingham, AL - about 2 hours away - to see Michael W. Smith and Stephen Curtis Chapman in concert in their "United" tour. They began by doing a couple of worship songs together, then Michael left the stage for Stephen's solo portion of the concert.

He began by thanking his friends, meaning the entire audience, for our prayers and support during the difficult time his family is working through. For those of you who don't know the story, on May 21 of this year, the Chapmans tragically lost their daughter Maria Sue in a car accident. What makes the story even more horrendous and difficult is that their older son was backing out of the driveway. He did not know his sister was there. Mr. Chapman was not only open and honest about his loss, he was downright raw, saying that he wasn't sure how to perform for us when all of us knew of this loss. He didn't want to pretend it didn't happen. He expressed his brokenness, and also made a strong statement of faith. He said "I don't know much, but one thing I know with every fiber of my being is that God is faithful."

When he sang his new hit song "Cinderella," about not wanting to miss a single moment of his childrens' milestones, there was hardly a dry eye in the house. The song was written prior to the accident, but he said that many of his songs have taken on new meaning since then.

Without further ado, he finished out his set with a mixture of old and new songs - some of which I loved, and a couple of which were too loud for my more mellow tastes. Then Michael came back out and joined him for a walk down memory lane, with each performing segments of the other's earlier hits. Then Michael performed his solo set, again a mixture of old and new, loud and mellow, and finally the duo ended with a few worship songs that had all of us on our feet, hands raised to Heaven in worship of our glorious God.

Overall, we enjoyed the show. We got home quite late, almost 1am, paid and thanked the sitter, and hit the hay.

What I came away with was a deep sense of Mr. Chapman's faith, as well as having my own faith encouraged. I know that when something inexplicable happens in my life, my response to the grief is often an inability to pray. When I had a miscarriage before Grace was born, I could not even give thanks for my meals without bursting into tears. Watching this man who lost a daughter literally grieve in front of a large audience, yet express his unwavering faith in a merciful and gracious God, was incredibly moving. I pray that the Lord will continue to comfort and strengthen the Chapman family, and that He would continue to reveal Himself to all of us. May I be that faithful when trials come my way. Lord I'm not asking for trial, but when it comes, help me to be strong in You.

23 September 2008

Finally Getting Settled

Hi everyone,

It has been a blitzkrieg these past few weeks as we have settled in to our home in Mississippi. Most of the boxes are unpacked or in storage until we decide to purchase a home, probably in about 2 1/2 years. While the home we are living in on campus is small, we have a large front and back yard, ample space between us and the neighbors, and a very modest rent for the area. We estimate it would cost at least $400 a month more to buy even an older, small home in town. Since most of the payment goes to interest for 10 years, we're better off banking the excess and using it for a down payment when the time comes.

We had a birthday party for Grace today with three families from our new church. It was a short party but gave Grace a chance to play with some other kids for a little while. Her actual 2nd birthday was on the 16th but we didn't have time to invite people over before that date so today worked out better.

I've been doing some writing on my dissertation, but not nearly enough. I'm hopeful now that things are settling down I'll be able to go to campus each day and spend the better part of the day writing. I've also got to prepare my PhD seminar for the spring semester, and, oh yeah, prepare a paper for presentation at a conference in New Orleans in January. Whew! Then there is the family stuff. Wow, I'm getting tired already.

Kate is thinking about getting a Master of Arts in teaching so she can teach high school in the area. The program requires her to take 6 units in the spring and next summer. Then she has to find a teaching job and take classes each of the next two summers to complete the degree. Once she's done we'll both have a fair amount of time off in the summer for travel.

Well, it is off to dinner now, hope everyone is doing well. Drop us a line if you'd like our new address so we can keep in touch.



10 September 2008

Settling in, and registering to vote

While we still have a few boxes to unpack here and there, we've settled in for the most part. Rob even somehow, miraculously, managed to get our RV into our very narrow driveway, between 2 drainage gullies. We've bought a new dresser for Grace, and a new microwave to replace the one that mysteriously stopped working the other day. We're making friends at our new church, and attending almost every Bible study, fellowship group, and event that they are offering. We are hungry for the Word, and this church (Grace Presbyterian Church) offers the Word in gluttonous amounts.

One thing remains - we need to register to vote. The deadline for registration to be eligible to vote in this year's Presidential election is October 3rd, a mere 23 days from now. I have lived my entire life in states that are solidly blue (1st Massachusetts, then Washington). During my tenure in Massachusetts, at least, I voted red whenever possible. Of course, that meant that "my" candidate never won my state. During my tenure in Washington, there were no Presidential elections. Now that I live in a red state, Mississippi, I plan to vote blue. Ironic, isn't it?

While I have not changed my position on abortion, I have changed the way I view it from a political standpoint. I still believe that it is wrong. It is the involuntary taking of a human life that God created. My fellow conservatives out there may be asking "How, then, can you vote for a Democrat, when you have the opportunity to have a staunch pro-life advocate a heartbeat away from the highest office in the land?" I'll tell you how. I am tired of rising gas prices, declining economy, ridiculously high military spending, a fruitless war with no timeline for withdrawal, a lack of affordable health insurance (something that has affected me personally for much of my adult life), and tax breaks for the richest of Americans, while Middle America carries the burden on its hard-working back.

What does any of this have to do with abortion? Well, not a whole lot, and that's kind of my point. This election is not about overturning Roe v. Wade. Even if the stars aligned, and we got just the right judges on the bench for just the right case, and it were to be overturned, governance of abortion laws would revert to the States. The practice would be banned in the Bible Belt, and remain legal in most other states - it would not end. Additionally, I no longer believe that legislating this issue is the proper approach. If we want abortion to end, we must take up the banner of Christ, and proclaim His Gospel, and win souls for Him. By doing so, more teenagers and unmarried adults will have the wherewithall to resist premarital sex. More people who are willing to have compassion on women in crisis pregnacy, instead of holding a sign over their heads that says "abortion kills babies," will come forward. More women in crisis will rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance, instead of the "wisdom" of this world.

So, this one-time registered Republican will be voting blue in this election, and praying that the Candidate for Change wins the upcoming election.

Yes, we can!


30 August 2008

Gustav's on the way!!

Hi everyone, hope you're all doing fine this Labor Day weekend. We finally moved into our temporary home here in Mississippi. We can stay here up to 3 1/2 years before we'll have to find a new home in town. We originally thought we might try to buy right away but now we think we'll wait a bit and save more for a better down payment. The faculty house we were assigned is a 3 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath with a decent front and back yard. We have a small carport or "poor man's patio" as Kate calls it. It is less than a mile from here to my office and the library so I can save on gas by walking or riding a bike. If it had a fenced yard that would make it just about perfect, other than the small square footage (1104).

So, now we're settling in to our new home and there's a hurricane on the way! Gustav has strengthened to a category 4 and may reach category 5 strength before slamming into the gulf coast somewhere between the Florida panhandle and Texas. Current projections are for landfall sometime this weekend around New Orleans. We stayed in a hotel the first two nights here and they were getting calls from residents in Louisiana seeking rooms this week. They advised people to go to Memphis (170 miles northwest). We are about 280 miles from either New Orleans or the Mississippi gulf coast and are expected to get some rain and wind by Tuesday but the storm should be much weaker by then.

We'll keep y'all updated...cheers!!!



25 August 2008

Mississippi Here We Come!

Wow...has it really been nearly two weeks since I last posted? It seems like just yesterday I was up in the middle of the night blogging! Well, I guess it has and so here is what has been going on these past 12 days.

We left Massachusetts and Cape Cod on the 15th for Washington DC. We made good time until about 15 miles from NYC. Then traffic came to a screeching halt. Three hours and after nearly overheating the RV we reached the George Washington Bridge and entered New Jersey. As far as I am concerned if I never have to drive anywhere near NYC again it will be too soon! We ended up getting only half as far as we had planned (D.C.) and pulled off the highway in central NJ and spent the night at a Residence Inn since we had no campground reservations in the area. Plus, there were strong thunderstorms in the area and those are just no fun to drive through.

The next morning we completed the drive and arrived at Cherry Hill Park in College Park, MD around 2pm. After hooking up we headed to DC and took an evening bus tour of the city so we could plan our stops for the next day. We decided to hit a few Smithsonians and the White House/Capitol/Lincoln Memorial. It was a warm day and we spent most of the day sightseeing before going back to the campground for a swim and some dinner.

Monday we spent at the campground and swam in the pool until around 2pm. Then I went to Baltimore for the Red Sox-Orioles game. Camden Yards is a beautiful place to watch a ball game and to top it off the Sox won 6-3!

Tuesday we drove out to the eastern shore of Maryland and down to Virginia along Chesapeake Bay. We spent the next two nights at Cherrystone Family Camping Resort with a view of Chesapeake Bay from our living room and bedroom windows (in the RV, of course). We took a day trip to Virginia Beach on Wednesday and we enjoyed some beach time. The water was about 78 degrees but the waves were rough due to the effects of Hurricane Fay. Swimming was limited to waist deep water but it was still fun.

One of the highlights of the drive was the crossing of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. It is 20 miles long and cost $28 for the RV and car. The views of the bay are spectacular and the tunnels go under the bay at two points to allow large ship traffic in and out. We saw a Navy Destroyer leaving Norfolk and passing through one of the channels as we crossed.

From there we went to New Bern, NC for a night and then on to Myrtle Beach, SC for 3 nights. Our site at MB was about 30 yards from the beach and we could see the ocean from the RV if we cocked our heads just right. It is what they call a "partial ocean view" in Hawai'i. My sister's ex-husband brought her two boys up to the campground on Sunday so we could meet them (I met the youngest one in 2001 when he was 6 months old) and we had a good time and cooked burgers on the grill. Then the boys played on the beach for a while with Grace before heading home to Charleston.

We left this morning during a wicked thunderstorm and reached Augusta, GA around 3pm. We'll stay here tonight and then travel to Birmingham, AL tomorrow. We chose to book hotels for this leg of the journey because campgrounds are not as plentiful along Interstate 20 as they were up north. We plan to arrive in Starkville, MS on Wednesday afternoon. The movers will come on Friday to move our stuff to the house we are renting from the university until we decide whether to buy in Starkville.

I'll add some pictures after we get to Mississippi when I have a chance to download them and sort them out. We'll keep posting updates here as we prepare for our next trip. We're going to Florida and Walt Disney World in November to celebrate Kate's 38th birthday and Grace's 2nd (belated). Maybe we'll even celebrate mine a little early!

Hope all is well with you and yours.



Kate adds...

Today is the day that we arrive at our new home. I have such a mix of emotions - relief that this long journey is coming to an end, joy that God has provided us with every need, sadness (still) that we had to leave the good friends we made in Washington, excitement to meet our new friends in Mississippi, uncertainty as to what my future holds...

Overarching it all, though, is a profound sense of being in my Father's hand, and immense and ever-growing love for my husband, baby girl, and dog - my little family that God has blessed me with. Thanks for joining us on our journey - for reading, for praying, and most of all for being our friends. We look forward to keeping in touch with every one of you... if you wish to email us, Rob's is robmellenjr@gmail.com, and mine is kmwgrace@gmail.com - in case you didn't have them.

Many blessings on all of you...

In Christ,
~ Kate :)

13 August 2008

Last Days in New England

Wow, it hardly seems like two weeks have gone by since the last post but they have! Things have been a bit hectic with seeing all the people we wanted (and needed) to see but we did sneak in a little time in New Hampshire at Hampton Beach and now we're on Cape Cod for a couple days.

Let me see...we headed for Hampton Beach, NH, after church on Sunday August 3rd. We arrived around 4:30pm in a driving rainstorm...a harbinger of things to come. Trying to find our camp site in the rain was fun...narrow roads and trees and a BIG RV. I nearly took out a stop sign (it was two feet high and impossible to see from the driver's seat) trying to make a tight turn. Ended up backing up and doing a complete loop through the campground until I found the site. Got the rig backed in and parked, put the brake on and lowered the jacks/stabilizers to level the RV. They sunk about 3 inches deep in wet sand. Tried a few more times with no success so we spent the 5 days in NH slightly off level. Now I have some wood blocks in case we have that problem again.

The rain let up around 5:30pm so we headed off to the beach for a quick dinner and to browse some shops and play a few games in the arcades. We accumulated tickets playing skee-ball and other games and redeemed them later in the week for a Red Sox basketball for Grace to roll around.

Monday morning looked promising so we went back to the beach around 11am. It was partly cloudy with thunderheads passing by periodically but we didn't get rained on. It was warm (around 80) and the water was nice. Grace played in the sand but she refused to let me bury her as she shook off all the sand every time I tried. We headed back to the campground around 3pm and did some grocery shopping and prepared for some of Kate's relatives to arrive and join us for a cookout of brats and burgers.

Tuesday was a "date day" for me and Kate. Her mom came along to the campground with us to watch Grace while Kate and I went for an overnight at the beach. We drove from Hampton, NH to York, Maine before finding a vacancy at a small hotel with an oceanfront room. The room wasn't special but the view was great and we enjoyed sitting on the balcony, reading, and listening to the crashing waves. Wednesday morning we had a breakfast at the Lobster Cove (compliments of our hotel) before visiting York Beach and getting some coffee and browsing the shops. It started to rain about 10am and so we headed for the outlets in Kittery, ME to get some shorts for both of us. It poured and poured all the while and the parking lots were filled with angry Canadiens from Quebec who had come to Maine for a sunny week at the seashore and got dumped on. After that we went back to NH and our campsite, where we spent the rest of the day complaining about the rain.

Thursday was yet another rainy day! We spent most of the day at the campground while Kate's mom and dad took off for Lobster and seafood (he drove up Thursday morning). We decided to give them the RV for the night and we took Grace and went to the Ashworth By the Sea in Hampton Beach. The weather wasn't good enough for any beach time but the rain broke for about three hours and we walked around all the shops, won Grace a new bear, and spent an hour listening to a band called Diggity Dawg play at the Hampton Beach Bandstand.

We awoke Friday morning to more rain, with a few sun breaks. By 11am it had not cleared much so we went back to the campsite and packed up to go back to Western Mass. It rained most of the way back and we arrived around 5pm.

We finally had a sunny day on August 9th as we celebrated birthdays for my niece April (6th) and Grace (2nd...on 9/16). We decided that day to leave a few days early and go to Cape Cod in hopes of getting some sunshine and beach time. Sunday and Monday were filled with yet more rain. It seems global climate change has hit New England as this has been the wettest summer in anyone's memory. There have been either totally rainy days or violent thunderstorms for about 21 of the last 26 days.

We left Chesterfield for the Cape on Tuesday around 11:45am and arrived at our campsite just after 3pm. The weather was beautiful. After getting set up we called my uncle and headed for his summer home in the mid-Cape area. We got there about 5pm and enjoyed a wonderful evening drinking wine, eating cheese, and catching up on what has been happening with everyone. Today was yet another beautiful day on the Cape. We went to Falmouth to take care of some business (I was offered faculty housing at MSU beginning September 1...YAY!) and look for a good beach for Grace. We failed in the latter but got back to the campsite about 1:15pm and waited for a friend of Kate's to arrive from the Boston area. She got there about 3pm and we headed to the beach a bit later. We went to Sandy Neck beach in Sandwich (really rocky but calm) and let Grace play in the water for a bit before relaxing in our chairs and chatting for an hour or so. We came back to camp around 6pm and cooked supper and hung out a while longer. Her friend left just before 8pm and Kate has been watching the Olympics since then (yeah, the campground has cable tv hookups).

The weather is supposed to be a bit iffy tomorrow...cloudy with a 30% chance of rain, temps in the 70's. The tentative plan is to go to Provincetown and get some wonderful baked Portuguese bread and goodies, spend some time at the beach, and take a whale watching cruise. If the weather doesn't cooperate we'll likely skip the cruise and end up just wandering around P'Town or checking out lighthouses on the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Friday we head for our nation's capital with plans to visit a couple Smithsonians and the National Archives, catch the Red Sox at Camden Yards in Baltimore, and then head for Virginia Beach next week. Our arrival date in Starkville is now August 29th since we have a house waiting for us.

Hope all is well with everyone...




28 July 2008

New England

A couple of you posted asking where we are and what's going on since there hasn't been a new post since we arrived in Massachusetts about 10 days ago. Everything is well with all of us and we're busy enjoying the company of family and friends.

The weather since we arrived has been mostly uncooperative...thunderstorms almost every day and a few days of constant rain. Today it is beautiful and sunny with very low humidity and a temperature around 80 degrees. We'll be here at Kate's brother and sister-in-law's until Sunday when we head up to Hampton Beach, NH for a 5 day rest at the seashore.

The rig has been mostly fine since we arrived...but Kate's brother noticed a leak in the hydraulic leveling system when we parked on the driveway last week. We picked up some new hoses and refilled the system and it now works better than new. We slept in the house last night and will again tonight because the RV is at the shop having the new awning installed. I was supposed to get it back today but the hardware (arms) that shipped with the awning are about 4 inches too long so the dealer had to order new arms that will be delivered tomorrow. I'm supposed to be able to pick up the rig around 2pm on Tuesday. Hey, at least the insurance company is picking up nearly all the cost.

Other than that we've seen lots of family, a few friends, and hung around the homestead. We took a trip to Lenox, MA on Saturday and the three of us went for a ride on the Berkshire Scenic Railway to Stockbridge, MA. Apparently, former MA Governor Michael Dukakis was there and had ridden the train earlier in the day. Too bad we didn't meet...I could have given him a few tips on what NOT to do if he ever decided to run for president again (LOL!).

Today we went swimming at the D.A.R. State Forest lake for a few hours. It was Grace's first lake experience and after watching mommy run out into the water and dive in Grace thought it would be fun. She took off on a dead run for the water made about three huge leaps in the water and then fell face first into the lake. Daddy was right behind to pull the startled toddler back to the surface. After that she rode around on one of us for a half hour or so and then made mud pies in the shallow water for another half hour. Afterward we stopped at the world famous Goshen Snack Bar in Goshen, MA (actually a travel trailer on a dirt road near the middle of nowhere serving chinese food and burgers, which were quite good). The rest of the time I have been reading a biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt by David McCullogh.

On Wednesday we plan to go to the Connecticut shore at Mystic Seaport for a few hours and maybe a quick stop at Foxwoods/MGM Grand casino and resort. We have dinner with another of Kate's former pastors on Thursday at a great italian restaurant in Northampton and then some other friends will be up on Saturday for my world famous lasagna! Then we're off to the beach.

Grace's 2nd birthday party is scheduled for August 9th back here at the homestead and we're scheduled to leave for Washington, DC sometime during the week of August 11th. I'll update again from the beach if we have internet access.




18 July 2008

Chicago to Massachusetts

Chicago is rightly nicknamed the "windy city" and we felt the effects even though we never ventured closer than 30 miles to downtown. Our first evening in Chicago there was a sudden onslaught of thunder storms directly over our campground. Lightning was flashing around and it began to hail and dump huge quantities of water. By the time we realized what was happening it was too late to take our awning down. There was no way I was going to play with 8 foot metal rods in 50 mph winds with lightning striking the ground. Wouldn't have been prudent, not gonna do it. Well, the dawn came and the area was a mess. What was a nice campsite the previous evening was now a 2 foot deep lake! Remdawg stepped off the bus and waded into the water to retrieve her ball and nearly disappeared. The winds had sheared off the metal poles for the awning, bent the roller tube, and torn the canvas. Oh, what a mess. The campground staff came by around 8:30am and gave us the number to a mobile RV repair service. We called and he scheduled us for Sunday morning at 7:30.

The repairman arrived about an hour late on Sunday morning and spent nearly an hour trying to remove the awning from the unit. It was a total loss and cost $90 for his time and fee to haul away and dispose of the awning. Then he was off to work on several other unfortunate campers around the park.

We headed for church about 10:10. We attended the services at the church where Kate's former pastor in Northampton now preaches, Community Fellowship of West Chicago. The church is state of the art and the service was glorifying to God. We had visited with the pastor and his wife on Saturday evening and had some wonderful ribs. After church there was a whole church lunch in the basement of brats and chips and soft drinks so we hung around and met some church members as well as fellowshipped with the pastor.

We drove the rig to church because we decided to flee Chicago on Sunday just in case Mrs. O'Leary's cow had a descendant that felt the need to kick over a lantern! Actually, it was to avoid the commuter traffic on Monday morning. Traffic on a Sunday afternoon in Chicago is bad enough!!!

We arrived in Elkhart, Indiana around 6pm and settled in for the next two days. Elkhart is the RV capital of the world as most major manufacturers have their factories there. It is also the heart of Indiana's Amish Country. We decided to take the Heritage Trail on Monday and drive through many of the Amish towns. Horses and buggies were everywhere and they came out of side streets without warning. We stopped at several places, including Yoder's meat & cheese barn and picked up several pounds of delicious cheddar, some burger patties, and much more. Then we went to Amish Acres for lunch and bought a 4 pack of cinnamon rolls to prepare in the rig for breakfast. They were absolutely delightful. We wrapped up our stay in Amish Country with a visit to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend. A spectacular campus filled with wonderful buildings and traditions. The next morning it was off to Niagara Falls via Port Huron, MI.

The drive to Port Huron was uneventful and the campground was pleasant, although much like a huge resort. We went for a much needed swim and had some dinner and ice cream and watched as much of the all-star game as we could handle (I shut it off at 12:30am after the 11th inning!). In the morning we headed for Niagara Falls via Canada.

The drive to Niagara Falls took about 4 hours and was relatively smooth. We arrived around 2pm and after enduring another thunderstorm headed down to the falls for dinner and a ride on the Maid of the Mist. The boat ride was nothing short of spectacular. For 30 very long minutes you head straight into Niagara Falls, getting to within a few hundred feet. The thundering cascade of the falls is deafening and the amount of water that ended up on us was incredible. Good thing the boat staff provided the plastic garbage bags (rain ponchos) for everyone, even Grace. Everyone visiting Niagara should take that ride.

Afterward we hung around at the Casino Niagara and then watched as the falls were lit up in beautiful color. Then we headed back to the campground for a good night's sleep before driving to Massachusetts the next morning.

We left around 9:00am for Massachusetts and a little over 10 hours and $40 in tolls on the NY State Thruway later we arrived at Kate's brother's house. We'll be here for a couple of weeks before going to Cape Cod or New Hampshire and spending a week at the beach. Then we'll head for Mississippi via Washington DC and Myrtle Beach, SC.

Pics to be posted later.



11 July 2008

Mt. Rushmore to Chicago...Mechanical Problems

We pulled out of the campsite at Mt. Rushmore just before 10AM on Tuesday, destination the famous Wall Drug in Wall, SD. As soon as we hit the “Mass Pike” (I-90 east) the billboards for Wall Drug appeared. The store became famous in the late 1930’s after the owner and his wife decided to offer tired travelers free ice water on their way to Yellowstone National Park. People stopped in and usually bought something in addition to the free water. Today, the store has several cafeterias, an outdoor playland for the kids, and sells almost everything, including prescription and non-prescription medications. We spent about 1 ½ hours browsing and had a very good meal there for lunch. I also picked up a biography of Teddy Roosevelt by David McCullogh, a very talented historian.

The drive from Wall to Kennebec was uneventful and boring for the most part. We stopped for the evening around 4pm in a nice little campground just off the interstate. We set out the next morning for Albert Lea, MN around 9:30AM. Our first stop was for gas in Mitchell, SD. We also visited Cabela’s and drove through town to take a picture of the world famous Corn Palace. Every year the town comes up with a theme and decorates the outside of the building with corn kernels and husks. It takes about three months to take down the old murals and put up the new ones at a cost of about $100,000.

After Mitchell, we continued on to Jackson, MN where we (almost) decided to stop for the evening. We pulled in to the KOA there and hooked up, cooked dinner, took Grace to the play ground, then decided to keep going to Albert Lea, about 85 miles down the road. We arrived for the evening about 8:30pm.
The next morning, Thursday, is when things started to go south. First off, the car we have been towing, a 2008 Ford Edge, had a dead battery and we didn’t have any jumper cables. Kate went over to the office to see if they had any when a fellow camper offered to jump start the vehicle for us. It started up and we ran it for 15 minutes or so to try and charge the battery. Then we hooked up and headed for Clarksville, IA, to connect with some of Kate’s friends from Amherst who now live in Iowa.

After a wonderful lunch and some good fellowship we hit the road for Dyersville, IA, home of the Field of Dreams Movie Site. The field has been preserved pretty much as it was in the film and is open to the public from April to November. We arrived at about 4:30pm and headed out to run the bases with Grace. After some looking around and a visit to the souvenir stand we went back to the RV to head for Illinois. Uh-Oh…we managed to park in such a way as to make it impossible to make the turn out of the parking lot. We thought we could make it but the roof of the souvenir store was just too wide and we couldn’t back up with the car hooked up. It took nearly an hour in a pouring thunderstorm to get the car unhooked because of the angle. Finally, I rolled the car to the edge of the parking lot and backed the RV up to reconnect. Soaking wet, we headed for Galena at 6:10pm.

More trouble…we made a wrong turn just short of the campground in Galena and ended up on a dead end street not wide enough to turn the rig around. Once again we unhooked in the rain, moved the car manually (battery still dead) and maneuvered the RV around to reconnect. Just as I went to plug in the car tow lights, sparks flew and some fuses were fried on the RV. We had no turn signals and no dashboard lights. We towed the car to the campground and figured we’d call Good Sam and AAA in the morning.

Friday morning we called AAA…the mechanic arrived about 8:45am and jump started the car. He told me to drive it for a good hour or so at highway speed so I buckled Grace in the back and headed for Wisconsin. Kate remained with the RV to wait for the Good Sam tech. He arrived around 10am and checked all the fuses he could find…everything was fine. Still no turn signals and no dashboard lights. He left about 10:45am and didn’t charge us since he didn’t do anything. I returned around 11am and hooked up the car and we decided to go towards Chicago and maybe find an RV dealer there who could solve our problem. As we started out I realized that not only were the turn signals not blinking, I didn’t have a speedometer or odometer. Thankfully, our GPS has those functions and so we used it to monitor our speed as we looked for dealers. We found one in Rockford, IL who sent us to a repair shop a few miles away. After about an hour of checking fuses and searching the owner came out and said sometimes there is a fuse box INSIDE the instrument panel. Sure enough, there was a single button snap holding the instrument console down and when the snap was undone the entire panel lifted up and there was the fuse box we had been searching for. There was one blown fuse and the turn signal flasher was shot. The tech replaced those in about five minutes and everything was working fine. The bill came to $11 for parts, $111 for labor. Nevertheless, we were very thankful they could fix the problem quickly. We left about 4:30 and arrived at our campsite for the weekend around 5:30, relieved to finally be in the greater Chicago area. We’ll be here for three nights.

08 July 2008

Mt. Rushmore

Last time I said we were going to drive from Cody, WY to Buffalo, WY, about 180 miles. When we woke up on the 5th we decided to try and make it all the way to Mt. Rushmore so we would have 3 solid days in one spot. The drive was a bit harrowing through a few steep mountain passes with lots of curves but we made it and pulled in to our campsite at about 6:15pm. Our site was nice with a small lawn area and a picnic table. We were a bit hungry after the long drive so we headed for the restaurant at the campground and had dinner. Prices were reasonable and the food was excellent.

The next morning we attended worship services at the campground. They are conducted by a group of college students who minister at camps around the country during the summer. The service was well done and all in attendance heard a good message from Matthew 5:9. Afterward we went for the pancake breakfast with bison sausage links (surprisingly good) and then went back to the RV for a bit of rest. It was pretty hot so we took Grace to the splash park at the campground and she played in the water for a while. After she tired we went back to the rig and changed so we could head for the famous western town of Deadwood (yeah, the Deadwood of the HBO series). We stopped at the site where Wild Bill Hickock was gunned dow while playing cards and where his assassin was captured.

We arrived in Deadwood about 1:00 and decided to have lunch at Mustang Sally's. The food was good and afterward we walked about the town and spent a little time in some of the 80 casinos. South Dakota has strange rules about kids and casinos. We walked into one casiono so I could spend $10 on one of my favorite games (The Twilight Zone) and nobody questioned us about Grace being there. We later found out that kids are allowed in the casinos as long as they stay 2 feet from the machines and don't handle the money. Oh yeah, I made $5 on my $10 investment...LOL.

We wandered about the town for another half hour or so as the rain started to fall. As we were making our way back to the car a gunfight broke out right on main street. By the time it was over three outlaws lay dead in the street and the marshall was strutting away. Sure was fun to watch!

That evening (Sunday the 6th) we decided to check out Mt. Rushmore. We had seen the monument from the road as we drove back from Deadwood but we had yet to go to the visitor center and see the evening program and lighting ceremony, scheduled for 9:00 pm. We arrived about 8:30 along with a throng of others and made our way to the amphitheatre. At precisely 9:00 a ranger announced that the program was cancelled due to dangerous thunderstorms in the area. We snapped a few quick pictures of the monument as the rain began to fall. Then the thunder boomed, lightning struck, and a downpour began. We ran for the car and drove back to the campground (5 miles away). The rain was still coming down as we scurried into the RV only to find we had left a roof vent open and rain was coming in. Fortunately it just wet the carpet area in the bathroom and I was able to dry it out overnight. The storms continued for most of the night but we awoke to a bright blue sky on Monday.

After a relaxing morning doing laundry, we headed out to have lunch in Keystone, the town featured in the film National Treasure 2 with Nicholas Cage. In the film Cage discovers the Lost City of Gold under Mt. Rushmore. In reality, there is gold there…several billion dollars worth. However, it is all down deep in many flooded mineshafts and the cost to unearth the gold is more than its present value. So it remains there for now.

We ended up having lunch at a small pizzeria on the boardwalk in Keystone. I ordered a calzone and while I was inside ordering Kate began talking to another family on vacation from Lincoln, NE. They were touring historic sites and had just finished lunch but had nearly half a pizza left untouched. When I came back out Kate had the pizza and was busy dishing it out for her and Grace. We still ended up taking two slices back to our RV with us and having it for dinner the next day! After lunch we explored the many gift shops and trinket stores, purchasing very little except for a few postcards and a leather money clip for me and a checkbook/travel wallet for us. We took Grace back to the RV about 2pm for her afternoon nap and chilled out until after dinner.

Around 8pm we decided to give the evening program at Rushmore another try. This time everything went without a hitch. The film was excellent and told about the contributions each of the four presidents featured on Rushmore had made to earn their spot. At the end of the film the mountain was illuminated and the weather was great for picture taking. We were very glad to have gone back.

The next morning it was time to head for the Windy City of Chicago, with overnight stops in Kennebec, SD, Albert Lea, MN, and Galena, IL. More on that next time.

04 July 2008

Cody, Wyoming

Yesterday we left Yellowstone National Park for Cody, Wyoming. The route took us through the center of Yellowstone and across Sylvan Pass at about 9000 feet. We then began a long, slow (25 mph) descent to the east entrance of YNP. It was a great relief to finally be through the Rockies and we are thankful to have made it safely down the mountain. It is not easy to control a vehicle weighing around 10 tons down a grade of 8% for many miles. Probably burned up the brakes pretty well but we made it. The drive from there to Cody was relatively peaceful and scenic as the road paralleled a river (the Shoshone, I think) much of the way.

Cody is a small western town named after the wild west showman Buffalo Bill Cody. The permanent population is around 8850 but the tourist population is sure to double that during the summer months. The highlight of the summer is the Cody Stampede from July 1-4. We thought about going tonight but it is HOT and Grace would not do well in the grandstands for three or more hours. So we are just going to hang out at our campsite.

This morning we attended the Cody 4th of July Parade. We arrived at 8:30am to stake out a spot for our chairs downtown. The parade began about an hour later and was well worth the time. There were marching bands from across the state, rodeo outriders, politicans, and performers. Even the shriners made their customary appearance driving little turtle cars! Mom, dad, and Grace enjoyed a giant grape and red raspberry snow cone to cool off near the end of the parade.

Afterward, we headed back to camp and to pick up some much needed supplies at the local Wal-Mart. I think all 8850 residents were also there! Tonight we'll chill out and watch a movie before driving to Buffalo, Wyoming in the morning.



03 July 2008

Yellowstone National Park!

We just wrapped up 3 days and 2 nights at Yellowstone National Park. What a sight to see! We pulled into our camp just before 5pm and decided to check out the town of West Yellowstone. Lots of shops and restaurants and plenty of other activity going on. We purchased the required amount of souvenirs before heading back for the evening amidst a few raindrops.

Wednesday we awoke to a glorious day in God's creation. We had decided last night to go to the 3 Bears Restaurant for breakfast and it was well worth the $25 we paid for the three of us. The food was delicious and the service prompt. We were in and out in less than an hour and on our way into Yellowstone Park.

Shortly after we crossed the park boundary we came to a screeching halt behind a long line of vehicles, some on the road and some off to the side. As we inched along wondering what was going on we finally found out when we came to a sign that said "No stopping, standing, or parking next 1/4 mile. Bald Eagle preservation in progress." Sure enough, right off to the side of the road in a tall lodgepole pine was a bald eagle nest and the eagle was home!

Our next destination was the painted pots geyser basin...some beautiful steam vents, boiling water pools, and a boiling mud pit! We walked for about a half-mile on the boardwalks that are elevated above the ground, which has a temperature in some spots of 160 degrees.

We continued on down the road from the boiling mud...our next destination was Old Faithful Geyser. We arrived at the Old Faithful Visitor Center about 11:40AM and were informed that the geyser would erupt between 12:24 and 12:48PM. Pretty good timing so we went to the General Store and picked up some lunch and water and headed over with the throng of visitors who, like us, had driven hundreds or thousands of miles to watch water boil. Old Faithful was sure not to disappoint. Around 12:30 the geyser started teasing the thousands of spectators gathered to watch the latest eruption. A few splashes of boiling water came over the lip of the geyser then subsided. At 12:40 the real show began. Initially, the geyser spouted about 20-30 feet in the air and then suddenly exploded with water and steam shooting 120 feet into the sky. The show lasted about 5 minutes and everyone seemed very pleased. It was a truly awesome spectacle to behold.

More to follow....

Kate here... Happy 4th of July! For those of you asking and praying, yes, Rob's back is doing much better. Now on to the travel blogging...

As Rob stated, Old Faithful was an amazing sight. No picture, HD movie, or description can do it justice - it is something that must be experienced in order to fully appreciate its wonder. If you haven't yet made that trek to Yellowstone, it is worth the trip from anywhere in the world, just to see this one incredible geyser.

In addition to the mudpots, geysers, and eagles, we also saw many bison and, on our way out, a herd of elk! We were not in the park at the right time of day to see wolves or bears - we were told that they like the cool mornings and evenings, and our tourism occurred during the heat of day.

That about sums up our Yellowstone experience. Next stop, Cody, WY!

01 July 2008

Glacier National Park to Yellowstone National Park

After an exhilarating day at Glacier and a restful evening in Kalispell we began preparations for our two day journey to West Yellowstone for two fun filled days of geyser watching and being consumed by mosquitoes.

As we were preparing to leave Kalispell I managed to wrench my back and ended up on the ground in agony. Great timing...I still had to take down the awning, unhook all the connections, pack the rig, and drive about 185 miles. Fortunately, after about 10 minutes the pain was manageable, though I was unable to bend over or lift anything. Kate had to do much of the work.

The drive from Kalispell to Deer Lodge took just over 3 hours. The scenery was beautiful and reminded us of the film "A River Runs Through It" nearly all the way. We arrived in Deer Lodge, Montana, at about 1:30pm. Deer Lodge is a quaint old western town with the Old Prison Museum and an historic western town as the centrepiece. There is also a museum featuring over 150 classic automobiles.

We had reserved a campsite in town and had been offered an "upgrade" by the manager the previous weekend. When we got there I suspected the upgrade wasn't going to work as we needed a "pull-thru" site to accomodate our 35 ft Bounder plus the extra 15 feet for the toad. All of the upgraded sites are back-in sites, which we can only do if we unhook the toad. We (I) prefer to simply pull thru the site and park. After a bit of confusion we were assigned site #3 and managed to make a tight turn into it and get hooked up. Kate made pasta w/ meatsauce for our first official meal cooked in the RV and then we played Yahtzee outside for a bit before trying to get Grace down to bed and settling in ourselves.

We headed out early Tuesday w/ a brief stop for supplies at Wal-Mart in Butte, MT. Our destination today was West Yellowstone, MT. We traversed some very scenic highways and even crossed the Continental Divide on I-90 East just past Butte and before Bozeman. When we crossed I pointed it out to Kate and she said "where is it, I want to see it!" I told her there isn't really anything to see, per se, it is just the point where rivers on the west side flow to the Pacific and rivers on the east side flow to the Mississippi or Atlantic.

We continued on across the divide and found ourselves heading into a powerful thunderstorm. The wind and rain kicked up so hard I couldn't believe it could blow my 10 ton RV around like that. Side to side and up and down as I fought the storm, feeling at times like a rodeo rider on an untamed bronc, until finally we passed the storm and settled in for an enjoyable drive to West Yellowstone. We arrived at our campsite just before 5pm and Kate began to make a crock of Mac-n-cheese for dinner.

While dinner was cooking we decided to take Grace for a stroll and walked downtown to browse the gift shops. We picked up magnets for each of the states we have driven through so far and aligned them atop the stove. We plan to collect one for each state as we pass through. Tomorrow we're off to see the geysers of Yellowstone National Park!



And here are some Glacier pic's...

Lake McDonald
The Weeping Wall

Grace enjoying some glacial runoff

29 June 2008

Glacier National Park

We left St. Regis around noon on June 28th for the Rocky Mountain "Hi" RV Park in Kalispell, Montana. We arrived around 3pm and settled into our site with no trouble. The rest of the day was uneventful but we did get a lesson from a fellow RV'er on how to put our awning into place. Not so tough a task as I had feared and it provides a nice shaded patio for us to hang out on hot afternoons.

We headed out for Glacier National Park just after 11am this morning. Our campsite is about 30 minutes drive from the park entrance through some beautiful scenery. Grace enjoyed the drive and once we entered the park it was magnificent! We stopped at the Apgar Visitor Center first to browse the shops, pick up a national park passport, and find Kate some tea. We accomplished 2 out of 3 but were out of lck on the tea because the only thing available was Lipton tea bags at $1.49 each. Uh-uh, no way said Kate.

Next we drove to the Lake McDonald Lodge and booked a boat tour on...you guessed it...Lake McDonald! While we waited for the departure time I managed to find Kate a cup of black tea w/ orange spice. We boarded the boat at 1:30 and cruised the lake for about an hour before resuming our drive through GNP. We drove as far as the "weeping wall", a waterfall cascading down onto the road. We stopped for pics and then turned around and headed back down the mountain (the road is closed beyond the weeping wall for a few more days due to snow removal) and headed back to our campsite for the evening. We took lots of pics and we'll post some here tomorrow.

We leave for Yellowstone National Park around 11am on Monday morning. We'll spend the night at the KOA in Deer Lodge, Montana and then arrive in West Yellowstone on Tuesday afternoon.


Kate's perspective of moving day

Friday June 27, 2008 was THE LONGEST day of hurry-up-and-wait that I have EVER experienced. From about 7am until the movers finally left at nearly 8pm, our (former) home was a madhouse! So my job was to keep Grace occupied.

Mostly, we hung out in the side yard, playing on the grass. My friend Jen came over in the early afternoon, and we took a walk downtown to a gift shop for a housewarming gift for the new owners. After Jen left, I took Grace out to the RV, which was parked around the corner to make room for the moving van, for a nap. I managed to doze off & on for about an hour... then I just hung out while she finished her nap.

At one point I got pretty excited, because I saw the truck driver get into the rig, start the engine, and move... but he was only backing up to get the next door of the truck closer to the door of our house.

Lunch was re-heated pizza. I borrowed a neighbor's microwave, because ours was unplugged. Dinner was Arby's sandwiches. By around 8pm, when the moving van left, we had all had it... we were just ready to get on the road, but we had to finish loading the RV, and do at least some basic cleaning. At about 9pm, the new owners showed up to take pictures of the house empty. They had called Rob ahead of time to make sure it was okay. They are SO nice, they kept asking if there was anything they could do to help, but there really wasn't. By this time we were just trying to get the electrical connection working between the RV and the car so that we could go. Thanks to the wonderful generosity of a church friend and a couple of neighbors, we were finally able to head out.

We pulled into our 1st campsite at around 3am Mountain Time. We were never so happy to climb into bed... and our RV queen bed is surprisingly comfortable! We were grateful for the end of a VERY long day.

Moving Day!

June 27th, 2008

Moving day is here and it is time for us to begin a new chapter in our lives. We signed the papers to sell the house yesterday and the moving van is loading all our stuff today. We'll head out for St. Regis, Montana, once the moving truck leaves, expected to be around 3pm.

Well, here we are at 7pm and the truck is almost loaded. Looks like we'll be heading out around 8:30 pm with an expected arrival in St. Regis just after midnight because of the 1 hour time change.

Uh oh...the moving van left and we loaded the motorhome, hooked up the "toad" and had no electric power to the brakes and tail signals. After much frustration and playing around with the plugs our wonderful neighbors (ex-neighbors now) Brian and Brendan spliced the pigtail connector and wired some magnetic tow lights that were donated by a friend from church so we could get under way. We pulled out of Colfax about 10 pm.

The drive from Colfax to St. Regis was uneventful and mostly boring since it was well after dark. The road construction made things a bit harrowing as we descended Lookout Pass in narrow lanes with concrete barriers on both sides but we made it safely and hooked up at the RV site around 3 AM.

Tomorrow we head for a few days at Glacier National Park near Whitefish, Montana. Hope you'll join us on this great adventure as we post pictures and stories of what we hope will be an exciting journey.