The End

It's been 6 weeks since we returned and it's time to wrap-up this blog and this exciting page of our lives.  

We parked Big Country outside the condo and unpacked.  We are fortunate to have strong nephews and great neighbors who made the process of unloading the storage locker much easier.

On Friday, Daddy and Katie spent the day driving Big Country up to the Spartan facility (supplier of the chassis to Newmar the manufacture) in MI to have a few things checked and fixed.  You’d think after being on the road for a year it would have been the last thing we wanted to do, but it was a perfect trip.

We’ve naturally had many people ask “what was your favorite place” and “what did you like best about your trip” and “what didn’t you like?".  

We have no single answer to those questions, but here are a few thoughts:

— What was it like?  There was a constant feeling of freedom. It is not lost on us that not many get the least not with their children at school age.  We had our family and our home with us at all times, but had no agenda or expectations. The closest thing might be the feeling of your first night away at college or that first night after moving into your first home. Everything was new. We woke up each day asking “where should we go today?” “should we stay here another day?".  For us, in these modern times, it’s probably as close as we can get to what it was like to be an early explorer. Each day we saw, learned, and experienced something new.

— What didn't you like about the trip?  Nothing. We enjoyed ourselves and our time so much. We thank God for keeping us safe and healthy and can't come up with a single "bad" memory.  We even had visitors and were able to spend great time with family and friends.  Well...we did have some issues crossing the borders;)   
Our recommendation: if you get the chance, do it!

— Where would you go if you could do it again?  We covered a lot of country - 32 US states and 6 Canadian provinces.  There were many places we'd never been and knew we may never get to visit again.  We wanted to get a full tour of the US and Canada but never feel a self-imposed pressure to move on.  Mission accomplished. 
If we were to do a another RV trip later in life (no, not being discussed) we would probably visit these places again:

- US and Canadian Rockies 
- Canmore, AB (Banff area)
- Oregon coast
- San Diego/Southern CA
- Florida state parks
- Maine

Those are not necessarily the places that we made the best memories or enjoyed the most, they are however great to visit by RV and have exploring left to do.

Here is the list of places we did not go, but would like to visit by RV:

- Utah
- Northern NM
- NC - Asheville area and inland
- FL keys
- Newfoundland

— What are you going to do with the RV?   We loved our RV, BigCountry. We don’t believe there is a better rig made for a family that plans to cover this country. But we can't justify keeping it. This was our plan from the beginning.  In fact, as of last weekend, we sold BigCountry to a good family in MI. 

Here are some stats from our  trip:

RV miles: 15,033
Jeep miles: 15,182
Total Miles: 30,225

US States visited: 32
Canadian Providences: 6

Places we stopped  for 1+ nights:

7/31 - Tomah, WI (Walmart)
8/1 - Minneapolis/Annandale
8/12 - Mitchel, SD (Cabelas)
8/13 - Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, SD (Rafter J Bar Ranch campground) 
8/16 - Devils Tower - (Walmart)
Big Horn, Powder River Pass - 9666ft
8/17 - Cody, WY (Absaroka Bay Campground)
8/19 - Yellowstone, WY (Park)
8/22 - Bozeman, MT (Museum of the Rockies)
8/23 - Flathead Lake, (Walmart)
8/24 - Flathead Lake, (Campground)
8/26 - Glacier National Park (KOA)
8/28 - Pincher Creek, AB (Walmart) 
8/29 - Calgary, AB (Calgary West)
9/1 - Drumheller, AB (The Hoodoo RV)
9/3 - Canmore, AB (Spring Creek RV)
9/10 - Abasorka Ice Fields, AB
9/11 - Jasper National Park, Whistlers campground, AB
9/14 - Yoho National Park, Kicking Horse, AB
9/16 - Revelstoke, AB (Lamplighter, RV)
9/21 - Oliver/Okanagan Valley, BC (Oliver RV)
9/22 - Abbotsford, BC (Walmart) 
9/23 - Squamish, BC (Walmart)
9/24 - Squamish, BC (Eagle Vista RV)
9/28 - Vancouver, BC (Pacific Border RV)
9/30 - Anacortes, WA (Pioneeer Trails RV)
10/1 - Seattle, WA (Brian’s)
10/7 - Cannon Beach, OR
10/10- Cape Lookout State Park, OR
10/14 - Portland/Troutdale (Columbia River Valley)
10/17 - McMinnville, OR (Trapp rental house)
10/21 - Beverly Beach, Newport, OR
10/27 - Honeymoon State Park, Florence OR
11/1 - Harrison Beach State Park, OR
11/6 - Fortuna, CA (Riverwalk RV Park)
11/7 - Richardson Grove, CA (RV Park)
11/9 - Santa Rosa, CA (Country Fairgrounds)
11/12 - Watsonville/Monterey, CA (Pinto Lake County Park)
11/17 - Morro Bay, CA (Bay Pines)
11/25 - Bakersfield, CA (Orange Grove)
11/27 - LA hotel, Evansville
12/6 - Bakersfield, CA (Orange Grove)
12/9 - LA/Anaheim/Disney (Anaheim Resort RV)
12/13 - San Diego, CA (Mission Bay RV)
12/19 - Yuma, AZ (Desert Paradise RV)
12/21 - Casa Granda, AZ (Oma and Grandpa)
1/2 - Grand Canyon, AZ (hotel)
1/3 - Sedona, AZ (hotel)
1/5 - Casa Grande, AZ 
1/14 - Benson/Tombstone, AZ (Butterfield RV)
1/15 - Deming, NM (Little Vineyard RV)
1/16 - Rockhound State Park, NM
1/20 - Alamogordo, NN (Walmart)
1/21 - Carlsbad Caverns (Whites City RV)
1/22 - Kerrville, TX (Walmart)
1/23 - New Braunfels, TX (Hill Country RV)
1/28 - Port Aransas, TX (County Park)
2/4 - Port Lavaca, TX (Lighthouse Beach City Park)
2/11 - Austin, TX (Lone Star RV)
2/14 - Pedernales Falls State Park, TX
2/15 - Johnson City, TX (Cottonwood Creek RV)
2/17 - Breaux Bridge, LA (Walmart)
2/18 - Galliano, LA (Walmart)
2/19 - Grand Isle State Park, LA
2/24 - Bayou Segnette State Park/New Orleans, LA
2/27 - Mobile, AL (Paynes RV)
3/2 - Big Lagoon State Park/Pensacola, FL
3/3 - Florida Caverns State Park/Marianna, FL
3/4 - Eufaula, AL (Aunt Ruby)
3/7 - Florida Caverns State Park/Marianna, FL
3/8 - Fort Myers, FL (Cypress Trail RV)
3/19 - Sanibel, FL (Periwinkle Park)
4/23 - Orlando, FL (Bill Frederick at Turkey Lake county par)
4/27 - St. Augustine, FL (North Beach RV)
4/30 - Skidaway Island State Park/Savanna, GA
5/2 - Charleston, SC (KOA Mt. Pleasant)
5/4 - Newport, NC (Goose Creek RV)
5/6 - Ocracoke Island National Seashore, NC
5/8 - Cape Hatteras/Avon , NC (Sands of Time RV)
5/11 - Virginia Beach/First Landing State Park, VA 
5/13 - Pocomoke City, MD (Walmart)
5/14 - Ocean City, MD (Castaways RV)
5/16 - Philadelphia, PA (Walmart)
5/17 - Philadelphia, PA (Howards home)
5/20 - New Jersey City/Manhattan (Liberty Harbor RV)
5/23 - Atkinson, NH (Hadwen’s home)
5/27 - Franklin, MA (Nolan home)
5/28 - Atkinson, NH (Hadwen’s home)
5/30 - Bar Harbor, ME (Bar Harbor RV)
6/6 - Saint John, NB (CostCo)
6/7 - St. Martins, NB (Century Farm RV)
6/10 - Bay of Fundy National Park Headquarters, NB
6/16 - Hubbards, NS (Hubbards Beach RV)
6/18 - Halifax, NS (Cummins shop)
6/19 - Dartmouth, NS (Shubie Park)
6/21 - Inverness, NS (Mac Leods Beach RV)
6/23 - Cheticamp/Cape Breton Highlands National Park
6/25 - Baddeck, NS (Adventures East RV)
6/30 - Cavendish/Prince Edward Island National Park, PEI
7/4 - Kouchibouguac National Park, NB
7/7 - Petite Lameque, NB (Chalets & Camping RV)
7/9 - Campbelltown, NB (free city park)
7/11 - Riviera de Loup, QB (Municipal De La Pointe)
7/13 - Quebec City/Levi, QB (Camping La Relache)
7/16 - Montreal, QB (Camping Aloutte)
7/20 - Lake George, NY (King Phillips RV)
7/23 - Niagara Falls, NY (Cinderella RV)
7/25 - Geneva-on-the-lake, OH (Indian Creek Sun RV)
7/27 - Dayton, OH (Brickners home)
7/28 - Home!

We will close this blog, which is really more of a family journal of our trip, by thanking God for keeping us safe and giving us the blessing of being born here, in the great USA where we have the freedom and opportunity to explore, travel freely, and to choose the life we want to live.

This is the prayer that JAK would lead us in each day before we departed to a new location:

Dear Lord,
Be with us on this great day,
Guide our family and keep us safe,
Send us your spirit to strengthen our faith,
Thank you for the opportunities and fun you have laid before us.

Ohio and Home - July 20 - 28

After receiving input that driving the 401 in southern Ontario wasn’t scenic (and eager to pay US fuel prices), we decided to cross back into the US in northeastern NY rather than Niagara falls on the west side. This allowed us to visit the Adirondack Mountains.  

We found King Phillips Campground just a couple miles from downtown Lake George.  The kids thought it was one of our best campgrounds because we had a big “yard" and they were to build mini forts and carve wooden swords.  

Adirondack park is massive.  It covers more than 6 million acres (about the size of neighboring Vermont). There are many outdoor activities to do in Adirondacks. One of them is whitewater rafting. We found good reviews for a company (SOC) located on the Sacandaga river.  It was class 2 and 3 - just the right amount of adventure for our first trip.  It also included a mile+ where we jumped out and floated briskly down the river together.

Katie had been patiently waiting to go on her first horseback ride since the day we departed.  It was time.  We arrived ready to saddle up at Bennett's stables as soon as they opened the next day.  Katie said the hour ride was "better than I had imagined….except that I didn’t get to “steer” my horse because it had to be led."

Katie on Copper
Anna on Sinbad
JAK on Willie
Mommy on Dillenger
Daddy on Dillon

Because we were only 20 miles from Vermont and the weather was good, we decided to check it off our list of states visited and see the birthplace of the Navy (Whitehall, VT).

Back in Lake George we road our bikes down the 2 mile hill to Lake George beach. The water was clear, cool and clean with the various ferries coming and going from town.  On a number of occasions, when people would find out we were from Indiana, they would ask “are you lost?”.  Inquiring why, they said that they almost never see anyone from the midwest at Lake George. It’s a huge vacation destination, but it appears only for the east coast.

Lake George is buffered by Prospect Mountain and the lake.  Prospect mountain is 2021 ft and provides panoramic views of Lake George.  We attempted to hike up it before dark one evening, but the climb was more than we could handle.  Determined to see the view, we arose at 4:45am and tackled the steep 3 mile roundtrip hike before we packed up camp.  The sunrise was partially obscured by the humidity induced fog, but it was rewarding to be the first people of the day to make it to the top.

We hit the road and headed west to Niagara Falls. We did not have reservations and were lucky to find a Passport America park with an opening on Grand Isle.  We are not sure Cinderella would approve, but the Cinderella Motel and Campsite was friendly and perfect for a couple days of touring the Falls.

Since we are giving “vacation mode” our best effort for this last week, it was time for Mommy and Daddy to indulge in one of our favorite, albeit very unhealthy, dining out foods -  Buffalo Chicken Wings.  We headed into Buffalo, NY to The Anchor Bar, originator of the recipe.  Mmmmm

After researching online we found out that there had been a recent TV show that did a nationwide search for the best wings in America.  The Anchor Bar had taken 7th.  #1 was also located in Buffalo.  The next day we stopped at Duffs for lunch. We were split on which was better.  Duffs had more sauce and kick and the Anchor Bar’s were slightly more crispy.  Both very tasty, but not significantly different than good wing places back at home.

Ok, enough gorging ourselves on US food, time to head back to Canada. We crossed the border (jeep only) without issue.  We brought our bikes and enjoyed the trail that follows the Niagara River to the falls.  We decided to do the “Behind the Falls” tour in which you descend in an elevator and have a portal view in two locations behind the falls and on an external platform.

We stayed until sunset to see the lights from the Canadian side.

The next day we packed up and received permission for a late checkout from Cinderella.  We parked the jeep on Goat Island and explored the US side by bike.  We would agree with the general sentiment that the view of the falls and the state of the city is better on the Canadian side, but if you have bikes or want to walk the trails, the US side is less crowded and very enjoyable.  You are able to get much closer to the edge of the falls on the US side.

We headed southwest, unsure again of where we would stop and a bit nervous about the fact it was a summer Friday night.  We wanted to stay near lake Erie and find a park that had activities for the kids.  We found a place, but they were full except for what they called “Open Camping”.  We had never heard of “Open Camping”.  They couldn’t even tell us if there were openings available - “you just have to drive back to the big open fields and see if there is a spot”.  Well, we found a spot, but it required us to back in and wedge ourselves between a tent and a pop-up camper - neither of which seemed to be very excited about us arriving:)

The next day we played Pickle Ball for the first time.  It was very fun.

Then we decided to head to the pool and relax…..mistake!! We returned to check the pool 3 times that day only to find the same level of craziness.  This is summer weekend camping at a private park.  Not exactly our thing.

The next day we headed to central Ohio to visit our good friends the Brickners and make the final stop of our trip.  They had a perfect driveway for us to park and enjoy our last evening on the road with loving friends.

We had a bonus treat because they returned from Indy that day and surprised us by bringing two of our four nephews. Isaac and Luke were able to drive back to Indy with us the next AM.  It was both exciting and somber as we completed our final drive and crossed the state line after 12 months of adventure.

We will do one final summary post before we wrap up this journal of our trip.  We are thankful for God’s watchful eye over us, our safe travels, and now our return home. May He bless you and your family in this coming week.

Montreal - July 16 - 19

The drive from Quebec City to Montreal is less than 3 hours. We stopped about 30 minutes from downtown at Camping Aloutte. 

That day we biked along a canal to Old Town Montreal (Vieux Port). It was very active and similar to Old Quebec.

After school the next day we attempted to bike into a small town on our side of the river.  It turned out to be too busy for the kids so we headed back up hwy 20 to a park we'd seen while coming from Quebec City.  It was Parc Les Salines and had a great set of bike specific paths.  That evening we took advantage of the pool at our park and experimented making sweet potato dumplings.  They are different - much lighter and sweeter than Grandma Larson's potato dumplings (and are not photogenic).

2 cups grated sweet potato
3 cups flour
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

Mix until consistency of mud.  Boil water with ham bone, carrots, and if needed chicken stock.  Spoon out dumplings and cook until they float + 5 minutes. Serve with butter (and maybe brown sugar)

Parc Les Salines had other assets that brought us back the next day - Internet that worked and an amazing archery range with 15 stations of 3D targets for Daddy and JAK!

That evening Katie decided it was time to try and pull a front tooth.  

One gone!

Surprise - two gone!  

For the 3rd time on our adventure (Oregon & Arizona), we were treated to a meet-up with our friends Mat and Patricia.  They live outside of Montreal and drove out to have dinner and a bonfire with us Friday evening.  They drove their motorcycle so Mat could not bring his guitar, but we did play his song "JAK" a couple times nostalgically. 

If you want to hear or buy a copy of our favorite song of all time, click here!!

On Saturday we went to visit Mat and Patricia's home where we found their vintage Winnie looking great. We played badminton and the kids tried using their old style "reel" push lawnmower.  

All summer Montreal hosts week+ long festivals in the downtown area. While we were there it was the Just for Laughs festival.  It draws over 2 million festival-goers.  Saturday afternoon was a perfect parade for us...Twins parade. The girls qualified!  There were 900+ twins in the parade.

They thought the best part of being in the parade was the free cotton candy at the end.

We had fun walking around the festival. There were comedians mixed in with the crowds performing random acts to make visitors laugh.  This bride was apparently left waiting at the alter.  Seeing her tears, a passing by rabbi counseled her while onlookers eaves dropped.  She was then caught off-guard when the counseling rabbi decided to get fresh with her.

We were also lucky to be able to meet Mat's parents while there (sadly we didn't get a picture with both his Mom and Dad:(  

Each Saturday night during the summer there are fireworks sponsored by a different country.  Coincidently, Saturday night was USA night. We all wanted to stay, but they didn't start until 10pm so we decided it was best we say goodbye to our friends as we planned to leave Canada early the next day. On the way home, street after street on our route was closed for the fireworks. We ended up heading the long way home, and it was 10pm when we crossed over the bridge.  The police were lined out on the highway like pace cars in the Indy 500. We decided their purpose was to slow traffic to a crawl so that there would not be gawker accidents when the show started. The streets were lined with people ready to watch the show. We finally made it to an exit ramp that wasn't blocked off and we pulled over to watch. It was a partial view and the pic is bad, but the show was good and seemed to be welcoming us back to our USA.

As planned, we headed to our homeland the next AM.  As a special treat, we were able to cross the border without the full a RV search that we've recent on previous crossings.

We spent six weeks in Canada and enjoyed every moment. It's a beautiful country with wonderful people.  We are however equally pleased to be back in the USA and are looking forward to the final leg of our journey.