Posts Tagged With: fulltime families

Acadia National Park

If you missed my last post about how our travels came to an end after Acadia, you can view that here: The Day our Heartland RV Left us Homeless. That happened 2 months ago and we’re still going back and forth between Heartland and insurance, trying to get some resolution. Anyway, I thought it was about time I get my blog caught up on the travels we did in Maine prior to our disaster.

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Acadia National Park was incredible! It was so nice to get back to hiking in a national park. Our east coast travels have been fun, but we sure are missing the abundance of national parks out west. Acadia was a little like being back out west, but with a New England vibe if that makes any sense.

The Mount Desert Island/Bar Harbor side of Acadia is the busiest so we tried to plan our sightseeing on weekdays and early mornings. One day we drove the main park loop road and stopped off at several viewpoints.

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This would have been impossible on a weekend since there is very limited parking. On the weekend you can ride a free shuttle around the park, but those are also very crowded.

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Thunder Hole

Thunder Hole is supposed to be really cool during high tide. Unfortunately it was low tide when we were there, but still pretty.

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We loved walking and climbing on all the rocks and checking out the little tide pools.

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On the weekend we drove to one of the quieter sides of Acadia to see the Bass Harbor Lighthouse and do a couple of hikes.

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Bass Harbor Lighthouse

After visiting the lighthouse we parked at the Ship Harbor Trail Head and began a short hike to the ocean where we walked on the rocky coast for most of the day. We hiked back on the Wonderland Trail that ends back at the road just about a quarter mile from where we parked making it a loop.

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Jake put together a pile of seaweed on a rock and then made a home for some snails. He carried that around for a good part of the afternoon and named it “Fly, Poop and Eat”. He came up with that because he flew the “snail home” around with his hands, watched them eat seaweed, and later noticed their poop on the seaweed. 🙂

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I loved these colorful rocks!

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The next day we rode the shuttle from the campground to Bar Harbor. From there we took the shuttle to Sand Beach and hiked one of our favorite hikes ever, the Beehive Trail. This trail is a challenging uphill hike, with lots of climbing up ladders and steps. It is not recommended for small children or anyone afraid of heights as it can be very steep and some narrow pathways with steep drop-offs. If you like that sort of thing though, you will love this hike!

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Climbing the side of a cliff

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I was a little nervous about crossing this thing!

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How about a family picture on the side of a cliff?

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More climbing

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The climb was worth this view!

After that hike we took the shuttle over to Jordan Pond for a hike around the pond.

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A long stretch of this hike had a wooden walkway that the kids thought was fun to walk on.

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Lots of people told us that we must have popovers at Jordan Pond House while we were there. I know it must be popular because you have to have a reservation to have tea and popovers. We didn’t have a reservation so we didn’t get to try the famous popovers — maybe next time!

In Maine there are lobster pounds everywhere and if you buy them live they are pretty cheap. Chris got a couple of lobsters for Jake and me (Chris and Jesse don’t like them). He brought home these 2 live lobsters and set them on the floor to see what Fat Cat would do. She walked in the room and walked right by them, not even noticing them at first. Suddenly she looked down and then jumped in the air as she realized they were alive. It was so funny to see her reaction, I wish I had a video.

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So, the hard part about buying live lobster is you have to cook them. I know, that seems pretty obvious, right? Well I’m not a fan of killing animals. I’m not a vegetarian or anything, but if I’m going to eat meat, I guess I prefer not having to see the animal alive first. I felt so bad having to put these things in the boiling pot of water. I did what my aunt said she does, I pet each one on the nose and thanked them for sacrificing their lives so Jake and I could eat. I know, I’m weird, but I think from now on I’ll let someone else do the cooking. That was a little traumatic for me, not to mention what it was like for the poor lobsters. At least they tasted good!

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After a couple of weeks in the Bar Harbor area, we moved to another quieter side of Acadia, Schoodic Peninsula and stayed at the Schoodic Woods Campground (the campground that will be forever etched in my memory as the last place we stayed in our beautiful home on wheels before it fell apart on us).

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Schoodic Peninsula is so beautiful and it definitely is quieter. I rode my bike along the bike trails and the park loop road. I don’t usually like riding on main roads, but this road was not busy at all. I think only about 5 cars passed me the whole time.

Hanging out at Schoodic Point in the evenings was lots of fun.

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I loved watching the waves crash against the rocks!

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We loved our time in Acadia, and had planned to return after Canada. There were a few other things we wanted to do there including watching the sunrise at Cadillac Mountain (the first to see the sunrise in the U.S.), and hiking the Bar Island Trail at Bar Harbor at low tide. Unfortunately the rest of our northeast plans had to be canceled so we will just have to put all of those things on the itinerary for another time.

Next I will write about all the things we did in Canada after we left the RV in storage.

Categories: Maine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments
 
 

The Day our Heartland RV Left us Homeless

It has been a long time since my last post and a lot has happened since then, but quite frankly I haven’t had the heart to share this until now. Usually I’m sharing beautiful pictures of the amazing places we have been. It’s really hard to share a post like this instead. I’ll warn you — the pictures aren’t pretty.

Our living and traveling in our beloved home on wheels came to an abrupt halt last month on a lonely stretch of highway in rural Maine. We had just finished visiting Acadia National Park which I haven’t had a chance to blog about yet. I will eventually, but first…this:

We noticed another stress crack in the sidewall of the RV. If you remember we had one of these repaired back in 2016. I sent the pictures to our contact at Heartland to ask for help since he helped us find a place to have the first crack repaired a couple of years ago.

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My Heartland contact never answered me so we talked to some repair centers near us in Maine and although none of them could fix it for us, they said we should be fine to wait until we could find a repair center in Canada where we were headed next.

We left Acadia and headed towards Canada where we had planned to spend a few weeks exploring and visiting family up there. My parents were flying up to meet us in Nova Scotia.

The roads in Maine were pretty rough and bumpy and after several miles of that we stopped at a rest area. Someone pulled in after us and said that he had been behind us for several miles and he thinks something is wrong with our trailer. He said our trailer shifted to the side and the wheels didn’t look quite right. Chris looked around and noticed the wheels protruding out too far on the driver’s side and the frame looked bent.

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Frame shifted to side and wheels protruding.

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Frame shifted to side and wheels protruding.

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Bent frame.

We also noticed the crack in the sidewall had gotten worse and we had 3 new cracks on the opposite side!

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Passenger side crack.

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Passenger side crack.

Chris broke the bad news to me that we weren’t going to make it to Canada and we just needed to find the nearest campground so we could figure out what to do. We called Good Sam Roadside Assistance, but they were not able to send someone to help us. They actually told me that if we can’t tow it neither can they. Well, we couldn’t very well live at the rest area so we had no choice but to move on. So I searched on my phone and found the nearest campground in Calais, ME called Keene’s Lake Family Campground. It was about 30 miles away so we put on the hazard lights and drove slow. By the time we got to the campground the initial crack had gotten so much worse that the roof was starting to separate.

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Passenger side crack with roof separating.

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Passenger side crack gets worse each time we move it.

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I know the passenger side crack is pretty bad which is why I share the most pictures of that one, but I don’t want to ignore the other 3 cracks on the opposite side of the RV.

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Driver’s side crack #1.

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Driver’s side crack #1.

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Driver’s side crack #1 interior.

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Driver’s side crack #2.

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Driver’s side crack #3.

The campground owners were very accommodating and kind to us while we were there, letting us stay as long as we needed while we sorted things out. Once we were set up in a campsite and opened the slides we noticed further damage on the inside: the crack goes all the way through to the kid’s bedroom, paneling fell off the ceiling, a wall separating in the kid’s room as well as the floor separating in their bathroom.

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Passenger side crack interior.

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Bathroom floor and kid’s bedroom floor separating.

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Bathroom floor and kid’s bedroom floor separating.

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Bathroom floor separating exterior.

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Bathroom floor separating exterior.

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Kid’s bedroom wall separating.

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Kid’s bedroom wall separating (close-up).

Chris called our insurance provider to file a claim. They sent someone out a few days later to take pictures and inspect the unit. Unfortunately they did not cover the damage because they said the damage is due to “frame failure” which is a manufacturing defect. I guess rough and bumpy roads should not cause an RV to literally fall apart without there being a weakness somewhere in the build of the unit.

I started conversations with the manufacturer Heartland to see if they would help. Heartland only offers a 1 year warranty and our unit is 3.5 years old. Still, I had hoped that since there was such extensive damage to a relatively young RV that Heartland may step up and do the right thing. I had wrongly hoped they would agree that an RV they built should not fall apart after just 3.5 years.

My initial conversations with an employee at Heartland ended with this email:

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He said this has nothing to do with manufacturing but he thinks something was “drug down the top of the sidewall”. Well, if that was the case then our insurance provider might have covered it. Then there would have been an actual incident that caused this. However, this explanation makes no sense because it does not take into consideration all the cracks on the opposite side of the RV and the interior walls and floors separating. So we did not just go away with this explanation as I’m sure they hoped we would. After pushing them further, 2 employees at Heartland said they would send someone to inspect the unit.

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Email asking me for the unit location so a frame vendor can come to inspect it.

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Email from our selling dealer letting me know someone is coming to inspect it.

Well it turns out they lied about sending someone to inspect it because about a week later I spoke with Anthony Roberts (from 2nd email) on the phone and he told me he does not believe anything is wrong with the frame and he will not be sending anyone to inspect it.

Chris decided to contact him after that to which he replied that they would inspect the unit if we bring it to them in Indiana. Seriously?

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Email telling us to bring it to Indiana if we want it inspected.

We had previously told them the unit is unsafe to tow. We had to move the RV from a campsite to a storage area within the same campground and in doing so some of the cracks got worse and the hole in the side opened up even larger. Also one of the slides doesn’t even go in correctly anymore. Do they really want us driving this down the road??

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Slide goes in at an angle.

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Slide goes in at an angle.

Does Heartland really think it is reasonable to ask us to tow this all the way from Maine to Indiana? Do they really want that liability on their hands if we were to have a serious accident on the way?

Anyway, after informing Heartland that I would be publishing this story on social media, they finally decided to send someone to inspect it. But guess what? The inspector was a paid employee of Heartland and so I’m sure you can guess how that turned out.

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Notice that this inspection is for the “Benefit of Heartland”

Here is a picture from the inspection report basically claiming that we hit a tree.

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This totally disregards the fact that the crack was there in June long before our incident in July on the road when the unit just basically started falling apart. We did not hit a tree or anything other than maybe pot holes in the road. This sidewall crack was already there before we moved from Acadia. On that drive the crack got so much worse and the roof began to separate. The inspection report also totally disregarded the 3 cracks on the opposite side of the RV. He didn’t even mention those! Obviously that’s what happens when a manufacturer sends their own guy out to inspect a unit. Whatever it takes to swing it in their favor!

I used to give positive feedback about Heartland because we experienced great customer service through them in our first year. You may remember I blogged a couple of years ago about a previous crack we had in the sidewall and how Heartland took care of us and helped us find a place to have it repaired: RV Repairs in Louisiana. Back then I was so impressed with how Heartland took care of us when our selling dealer in Jacksonville did not.

I didn’t realize when I used to praise them for their great customer service that it only lasted while we were under the 1 year limited warranty. I guess they don’t care about keeping customers for life. We had been looking into upgrading our RV to a toy hauler at some point, and had considered another Heartland. Not anymore — now we will never buy another Heartland because we know from experience that they do not stand behind their product. We will also discourage anyone we know from purchasing a Heartland.

I realize that not every Heartland will fall apart the way ours has, but wouldn’t you like to know when you buy an RV that the manufacturer stands behind their product when something this extraordinary happens? Even though we are well past the 1 year warranty, if they were a company that cared at all about maintaining customers for life they would have done something to make this right. The frame should really have a longer warranty than 1 year anyway — I mean who buys an RV and doesn’t expect it to last longer than 3-4 years?

Unfortunately many RV manufacturers have a reputation of making poor quality units, but I have been researching and asking other RV friends for feedback to find out if there is any manufacturer who truly stands behind their product. I have been consistently hearing great things about Grand Design. All of my RV friends that have a Grand Design rave about their excellent customer service. Perhaps our next RV will be a Grand Design and if so, hopefully we will experience much better customer service with them than we did with Heartland.

So, that’s the story of our life for the past month or so. The good news is we were able to make it to Canada. We moved all of our stuff out of the RV and into a storage unit and then stored the RV at the campground.

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Our last night we spent in the RV. Still smiling and looking forward to seeing the grandparents in Canada.

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Fat Cat hid in a moving box to make sure we didn’t forget her. 🙂

We met up with my parents in Nova Scotia and visited several places with them while staying in VRBO rentals and with friends and relatives. It wasn’t quite the same as having our home on wheels, but we made the best of it.

After a vacation in Canada with my parents we headed back to Maine, loaded everything we own into a Uhaul trailer and headed south to regroup and start over.

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We came to Maine with our home on wheels and left with a Uhaul trailer. 😦

I will write later about our travels in Canada and also about our time in Acadia before this disaster happened.

I will end this with a reminder, please think twice before purchasing a Heartland RV. Remember, when we had trouble, they left us homeless and refuse to accept any responsibility.

Categories: Our Rig | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 125 Comments

More Family Time in Massachusetts

After leaving Cape Cod we went to Billerica, the town I grew up in when I lived in MA. Some long-time family friends graciously invited us to park at their house where they conveniently have an RV spot. We were only parked in Billerica for 5 days, but it was a very busy 5 days of time spent with close friends and family.

Our first night we were able to have dinner with the Picariellos. My parents met them when I was just a little girl so I feel like I have known them forever.

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Dinner with the Picariellos

The next day we left the RV parked in Billerica while we went and stayed in Waltham for a couple of days at the Richard Hilton (also known as Fred & Rita’s house). 😉 We had such a wonderful time staying with them and enjoying our evening “happy hours”. Fred even played chauffeur to us for the weekend, knowing we were not comfortable driving the big truck around all these towns so close to Boston.

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Happy Hour with the Richards

Fred took us for a ride in the “stang” which was so much fun!

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Jackie and the boys met us in Boston for a day of sightseeing.

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Boston Public Garden

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Boston Public Garden

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Beacon Hill

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New England Holocaust Memorial

This is a very sobering memorial dedicated to the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust. Smoke continuously rises up as a reminder of the gas chambers.

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The numbers represent the numbers tattooed on concentration camp prisoners

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The next day we had a lovely brunch with Jim and Deborah at their home in Cambridge. Jim made a delicious quiche!

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My Uncle Jim with the boys

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Jackie, me and Jim

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The boys with my cousin Devin

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Chris and I with my cousin Sam

After that it was time to head back to Billerica and check on Fat Cat who was feeling pretty lonely by now. We also enjoyed a cookout with the Dunton family, our gracious hosts who allowed us to park at their house for a few days.

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The Dunton Family

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Roasting marshmallows at the Dunton’s house

On our last evening in Billerica we had a delicious Italian feast with the entire Picariello family. Our kids had so much fun with all of their kids and seriously did not want to leave!

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I think I gained 5 pounds while in Billerica, with all the socializing and delicious meals we shared with everyone. This was such a fun visit! We even drove by the old house where I used to live and the elementary and middle schools I attended. My kids thought it was pretty neat to see all of these places where I grew up.

As usual, our time with family and friends went by way too quickly, and now we are looking forward to the next time we can all get together again.

 

Categories: Massachusetts | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

I was born in Massachusetts and lived there until I was almost 14. Coming back to my birth state was really fun. Our first stop was Cape Cod where my family used to go for vacations in the summertime.

While visiting Cape Cod we got to visit with some friends and family. My aunt Jackie came to see us a few times. The first time she brought her 2 boys (who are not so little anymore!), and Jake & I joined them for a deep sea fishing trip.

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I would say I enjoyed it, and I did until the seasickness kicked in. Oh boy, I was so glad when we finally made it back to land! Anyway, it was fun for awhile and we caught lots of fish!

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Plymouth is not far from Cape Cod so we went to see the famous Plymouth Rock. I remember going there on a field trip when I was a kid and I seem to remember the rock being bigger than it is now. I also seem to remember being able to stand on it. I think that it was eroding too much so they had to enclose it so people can’t stand on it anymore, and now it looks so small!

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Plymouth Rock – you can just barely make out the year 1620 engraved on it.

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The rock is enclosed under those columns.

Jackie met us there for dinner. I had some wicked good lobstah and started working on trying to get my Boston accent back. 😉

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While at the cape we also got to visit with Robert & Trudy a couple of times. They used to come to see us in Fernandina Beach, but since we moved away we haven’t seen them in a long time. It was wonderful to catch up with them when they visited us at our campsite.

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We met up with them again another evening in the town of Dennis where Trudy lives. She and Robert treated us to a fabulous dinner where I had some more wicked good lobstah.

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And then Trudy gave us a tour of the town of Dennis which was so beautiful!

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Scargo Tower in Dennis

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View from Scargo Tower

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View from Scargo Tower

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We also had the chance to visit a childhood friend who lived across the street from us in MA. Jessica suggested we meet at Gillette Stadium to see Patriot Place. If you know Chris, you know that this would be the LAST place he would want to go. 😉 He is a die-hard NY Jets fan and according to Chris Jets fans absolutely do not like the Patriots. In fact, when we got married he made it a house rule that I cannot be a Patriots fan, lol! Anyway, he shocked us and went along with the idea to meet Jessica and her daughter Olivia at Patriot Place.

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Notice the photo bomber in the background with the thumbs-down gesture.

We stayed at Scusset Beach State Park right near the town of Sandwich. This park was lots of fun since it had the beach on one side and the canal on the other.

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I especially loved the 7 miles of paved bike trail along the canal! I rode one day down to the end and back, and another day I broke out my rollerblades that I haven’t used in quite awhile. I didn’t go quite as far with the rollerblades. There are some beautiful bridges to see along the bike trail.

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The canal was also pretty at night during a full moon and seeing the lights across the water.

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Fat Cat loved this site since she found lots of chipmunks.

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Fat Cat thinks she’s the queen of the RV!

We had a great time visiting friends and family while we were in Cape Cod. Next we moved to my childhood hometown of Billerica where we had lots more fun times with friends and family. Stay tuned for that next.

Categories: Massachusetts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Quick Visits to 4 States

My purpose for keeping this blog is so that we have a journal of all of the places that we have visited in our travels. Visiting the northeast means we’re passing through several states quickly, unlike when we travel out west and it takes so long just to get from one state to the next. I feel like I just don’t have enough to say about some of these places to justify an entire post, but I don’t want to forget about this part of our trip either. So this post is just a place to record what we did in 4 states where we did not spend much time.

Delaware

After a very busy week in Washington D.C. we spent a weekend relaxing at Lums Pond State Park in Delaware. We didn’t do anything else in DE except just rest and enjoy the state park. Our site backed up to Lums Pond which looked more like a lake to me. We had a fishing dock behind us and Jake & I took the kayak out on the lake pond.

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This was the perfect spot to rest after such a busy few days in DC.

New Jersey

We actually spent a week in New Jersey, but did not get out much during the week. Besides the fact that the weather wasn’t that great, we needed some downtime for work and school. I know it may look like we’re always on vacation, but in reality we have real-life stuff to do during the week. This was the week after we took time off work to visit D.C. so it was nice to just get back into a “normal” routine, whatever that means. 😉

Once the weekend rolled around we had a nice sunny day and decided to go check out one of the boardwalks along the Jersey Shore. We walked along the boardwalk in Ocean City, the kids got to ride one ride (because the rides are not cheap), they played for a bit in an arcade and then had some ice cream.

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This store reminds me of a certain Fat Cat, also known as Bad Kitty.

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After NJ, we spent some time in Pennsylvania and New York which I already blogged about previously.

Connecticut

After NY, we had a quick stop in Mystic, CT. Are you old enough to remember the Julia Roberts movie Mystic Pizza? I thought it was fun to eat at that pizza place even though the movie was not really filmed there.

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The town of Mystic is super cute!

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Rhode Island

I saved the best for last. After CT, we had another quick stop in Narragansett, RI where we stayed at a beautiful state park called Fishermen’s Memorial State Park. I loved Rhode Island, especially the Cliff Walk! We went to Newport to hike along the Cliff Walk that I had heard about from some other Fulltime Families. This was gorgeous and made me excited to eventually get to Maine where I think we’ll see lots more beautiful ocean views over rocky cliffs.

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This is called Forty Steps and is where we started our hike.

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Newport, RI is known for some really extravagant mansions. You can see some of them along this Cliff Walk. I was thankful to have such a beautiful day to see this.

That wraps up my recap of our quick visits to these 4 states. On to Massachusetts next.

Categories: Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

NYC – Times Square and Central Park

We started our second day in New York City at Times Square. Let’s just say this was over-the-top on crowds and noise. It was quite overwhelming with all the noise, lights and signs, crowds and countless people trying to sell us tickets to whatever (bus tours, shows, bike rentals, you name it!)

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I loved seeing the Times Square Ball with 2018 on top. We will definitely be remembering this sight when we watch the ball drop again this New Year’s Eve.

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We stopped in the M&Ms store which was enormous!

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Once we had our fill of the over-stimulation of lights and noise, we started to head toward Central Park for a taste of nature in the midst of the city chaos. On the way we stopped to pick up some lunch at the Original Soup Man. We are huge Seinfeld fans and this was the restaurant that inspired the famed “Soup Nazi” episode.

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“No Soup for You!”

We brought our soup lunches over to Central Park (the soup was delicious by the way), and enjoyed several hours meandering around the park. Who knew that it could literally take days to explore Central Park? That place is huge! And such an oasis in the middle of a noisy, crowded city.

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There are 21 playgrounds within Central Park. We managed to hit several of them, but definitely not all 21.

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The Strawberry Fields section was a memorial to John Lennon. I love oldies music like The Beatles so I enjoyed visiting this area.

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There were lots of areas to just sit and relax.

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When the boys were little we read a book about a sled dog hero in Alaska named Balto. At the end of the story it mentioned that there is a statue to honor Balto in Central Park. I forgot all about that until we came upon the statue as we walked around.

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Balto, the sled dog hero

After we roamed around Central Park for several hours we headed back into Times Square to find some dinner, but first we wanted to see a couple more iconic buildings.

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Empire State Building

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Macy’s on 34th Street

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One more glimpse of the New Year’s Times Square Ball

While visiting New York we stayed at a county park called Croton Point in Croton-on-Hudson. This park was really nice and didn’t feel like we were so close to a city.

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Spacious campsite with lots of room to sit outside when Chris’s family visited

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Beautiful sunsets over the Hudson River

The best part about the campground was that the train into NYC was just outside the entrance to the park making it very easy to travel into the city. The train took us right into Grand Central Station which was an experience in itself.

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Grand Central Station

From Grand Central you can catch a subway to pretty much anywhere you need to go in NYC. Like I mentioned in my first post about NYC, New Yorkers were surprisingly helpful to us in figuring out where we needed to go and which subways to take. One person even got on a subway with us, then let us know when we got to the right stop and kept reminding us which one to catch next. I suppose not all New Yorkers are nearly as nice and patient, but in our experience everyone was super nice to us.

I love to leave an area on such a high note, having made such incredible memories. That’s how it was when we left New York. It beat all of my expectations and now I look forward to visiting again someday.

One last surprise from our time in NY actually happened after we left. Chris’s cousin Bob who lives close to where we stayed in New York never had a chance to get together with us while we were there. He was Facebook messaging with me on the morning we left NY and asking me where we were headed. I didn’t really think it mattered since we were leaving NY and not going to be so close to him anymore, but I answered his questions anyway. Once we got set up at our next campground in Connecticut he showed up to surprise us and we had a wonderful rest of the day catching up with him. We haven’t seen him since our wedding day almost 18 years ago!

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Chris with his cousin Bob

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NYC – Statue of Liberty and 9/11 Memorial

One of the nice things about traveling is not only visiting some amazing places, but also seeing family and friends that we don’t get to see very often. Chris is originally from New York and still has several family members there, but he hadn’t been back there since before I knew him. We had a wonderful visit with his sister Laurie and her husband Steve and also our nephew Ryan who has really grown up!

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It was so nice to catch up with all of them. The boys enjoyed playing some games one afternoon with Laurie and Ryan.

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We also got to visit with Johnnie, a man that was like a father to Chris when he was growing up. We surprised him one afternoon showing up unannounced. It took him a few minutes to realize who we were, but once he recognized Chris his whole face lit up and he had tears in his eyes. What a sweet man and I’m so glad we were able to see him while we were in New York.

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Anyway, if you know me you know I’m not a fan of cities. Visiting New York City has never been high on my bucket list. I was pleasantly surprised to find out just how much fun it is to visit NYC. I had a common misconception that New Yorkers were rude and unfriendly. I could not have been more wrong! We found them to be so helpful and friendly, even going out of their way to help us navigate the subway system or find our way around town.

We spent 2 days exploring the city. This post will cover our first day when we visited the Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial. Several months ago I learned that Crown Access tours to the Statue of Liberty sell out way in advance so I reserved these tickets back in January. Do you know how hard it is to decide in January which day and time in May we would like to visit Lady Liberty? I prayed about it, asking God to help me pick just the right day when the weather would be nice the week were planning to go. And you know what? The date/time I picked just so happened to be the most beautiful weather we had during a week that rained most days. Needless to say I was very thankful for answered prayers.

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The tour included a boat ride over to Liberty Island where we could visit the statue museum, walk around the grounds listening to an audio tour and climb up inside the statue not only to the pedestal, but all the way up to the crown. This was so cool!

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View of NYC skyline from the statue pedestal

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Inside the statue getting ready to climb up to the crown

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Inside the crown

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View from inside the crown

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Another view from inside the crown

The Statue of Liberty is part of the National Park Service so there were a couple of park rangers at the crown to answer questions. As we started back down they made sure we noticed that we could see the eyes, nose and mouth inside the statue.

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Can you see the face of Lady Liberty?

A little bit of information if you plan to do this: it is 354 steps in a tight, enclosed area to climb up to the crown. Children must be at least 48 inches tall and cannot be carried. We booked our tickets at this website: Statue of Liberty Tickets.

After we came back down we toured the museum that had many displays explaining the process of building the statue.

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Then we walked around the grounds a bit before catching the boat that would take us to the next stop on the tour: Ellis Island.

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Here we learned about the process that immigrants went through after landing in NYC.

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The immigrants had to declare their destination and we were surprised to see our hometown of Fernandina, Florida made one of the lists.

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View of NYC from Ellis Island

I am so glad we took this tour, it ended up being one of the highlights of our visit to NYC.

Later we walked over to see the 9/11 Memorial. This was a beautiful tribute to so many lives lost, and brought back a lot of memories of that day back in 2001. Our kids were not born yet, but we told them all about what we were doing that morning when we first heard the news. How sobering to come to the spot where this occurred.

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There are 2 of these memorials, one for each of the Twin Towers. The names of all the victims are engraved along the sides and the interior is a continuous fountain, like a fountain of tears falling into the hole in the ground.

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I don’t really know what to say about this or how to describe it. It was such a sad time in our nation’s history and it was very emotional.

We had a very busy week in New York, between visiting with family and sightseeing. I have one more post about our 2nd day in the city when we visited Times Square and Central Park. Stay tuned for more on that later.

Categories: New York | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Amish Country and Chocolate World

We enjoyed 3 great weeks in Pennsylvania! The first week we spent in Lancaster, also known as Amish Country. As soon as we pulled into town we started to see horses and buggies on the roads. I was completely fascinated by this and the Amish way of life. It was like stepping back in time but with a strange 21st century feel since there were also many cars on the road. I found myself actually being afraid that the horse and buggy carts would get hit by a car. It’s hard to describe but it literally was like being in a town where the 19th and 21st centuries exist side-by-side.

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An Amish cart even rode through our campground one day selling homemade goodies. We purchased some chocolate chip cookies and fresh-squeezed lemonade that were delicious!

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I know the picture above is a little fuzzy. I took it as they rode by our site. When we purchased some goodies from the man he told me he doesn’t mind that I took a picture of them riding by, but they don’t believe in having their picture taken where you can recognize their face. I really wish I could have talked with him and his family and learned more about their lifestyle, but they really seemed to value their privacy and do not want to be exploited by tourists.

It was fun to spend time with another Fulltime Family while we were in PA. We met the Bauman family over 2 years ago and have been able to meet up with them a few times since then. We met them for a field trip to Lapp Valley Farm one day.

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Gorgeous peacock roaming around the farm

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I had no idea that Pennsylvania was so beautiful!

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The boys enjoyed playing with their friend Austin a few times and were excited for him to join us when we visited Dutch Wonderland. This amusement park was connected to our campground. We happened to be there for opening weekend and spent a Saturday enjoying that park.

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From Lancaster we moved on to Hershey and stayed at the Thousand Trails park there. Thousand Trails parks do not reserve specific sites in advance, but all sites are first-come-first-served. I was very happy to snag this awesome site right next to the pond the day we got there, and we were visited by a family of geese several times during our stay.

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Aren’t they so cute??

Of course our main purpose for visiting Hershey was to visit Chocolate World and Hershey Park. Chocolate World has a free ride tour that was interesting, although it went too fast to really be able to fully absorb what they were teaching. On the ride you learn the process that goes into making a Hershey candy bar. At the end of the ride you get a free candy bar and then enter a store with an overwhelming amount of Hershey candy, including my favorite Reese’s.

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Milton Hershey

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We got a good deal on 2-day tickets to Hersheypark which included a 2.5 hour preview the night before our first visit. We had a blast riding all the thrill rides at this park!

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Jesse just reached the Twizzler line which meant he was tall enough to ride everything!

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Chris and Jake at the end of Fahrenheit

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Jake and I were on this ride near the back row — it was scary!

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All of us agree that the ride behind us was our favorite — it’s called Great Bear

We got to meet up with the Bauman family one more time to visit Troegs Brewery. They had delicious food including a cheese fondue that was so yummy! And we tried a few different beers that were really good.

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The adult’s table

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The kid’s table

We had such a wonderful time visiting Pennsylvania! Next up, we headed to New York City. Stay tuned…

 

Categories: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Washington D.C. Cherry Blossoms and More

On our last evening in DC we walked around the Tidal Basin where there is the highest concentration of Cherry Blossoms that were in full bloom. Cherry Blossoms are a big thing in DC, they even have a Cherry Blossom festival every spring.

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There are several memorials to check out as you make your way around the Tidal Basin. The first one we came to was the Jefferson Memorial.

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Jefferson Memorial

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Thomas Jefferson

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As we continued walking around the loop we noticed that in some areas there were so many cherry blossoms it looked like snow!

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Next we arrived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial.

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Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Eleanor Roosevelt

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More cherry blossoms

Continuing on we arrived at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

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Martin Luther King, Jr

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And more cherry blossoms

After making our way completely around the Tidal Basin and visiting all of those memorials we were back out at the Reflecting Pool where we had been a couple of days earlier. This time we were there in the evening when everything was lit up really pretty.

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Lincoln Memorial across the Reflecting Pool

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World War II Memorial at night

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Representing Florida!

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Washington Monument lit up at night

We ended our time in Washington D.C. on such a high note by spending this time viewing the cherry blossoms and seeing DC lit up at night. After 3 full days of exploring the city we were completely exhausted, but so grateful for all that we got to see and experience.

If you missed my first two posts on DC you can see them here: Washington D.C. Memorials and Arlington and Washington D.C. Capitol and Museums.

Also, another Fulltime Family blogged about their time in DC that I found extremely helpful in planning our time there. If you would like some tips on visiting, I would recommend reading her posts starting here: Barry Good Times.

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Washington D.C. Capitol and Museums

One of the highlights of our time in DC was visiting the Capitol building.

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A few months before our trip I contacted our congressman’s office to schedule some tours. They set up our own personalized tour of the Capitol building by an intern working for their office. While talking with the intern during our tour we realized that his parents live in the same area of Florida where we used to live and he was also homeschooled! Not only that but I recognized his mom’s name when he mentioned it. We have over 20 mutual friends on Facebook so I knew her name sounded familiar. It turns out she’s friends with lots of my other homeschool mom friends back in Fernandina. Small world!

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Anyway, we really enjoyed our tour! The rotunda which is the large room under the big dome you see on the outside of the building was really beautiful on the inside. There were famous paintings surrounding the room featuring our nation’s early history.

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Ceiling of the rotunda.

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Old Supreme Court Chamber used from 1810-1860.

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Memorial honoring the heroes of Flight 93 on 9/11/2001.

The absolute best part of our Capitol tour was getting the chance to sit in the House Gallery which is the room you see on TV where the state representatives argue about political stuff. Unfortunately we could not take any phones or cameras in the there, in fact the security to get in there was very extensive (including those full-body scanners they use at airports). It was worth it though to get to sit in and watch and listen to some representatives argue about a budget amendment. I can’t say the subject matter was all that interesting, and I honestly did not recognize any of the people in the room, but it was still really cool to sit in and watch that nonetheless.

In addition to the Capitol, we also visited Ford’s Theater where President Lincoln was assassinated. The museum was very well done and had many exhibits about Abraham Lincoln’s presidency and the Civil War.

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After touring the museum, we were able to sit in the theater to listen to a ranger talk about the events of the night of the assassination.

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Theater box where President Lincoln was sitting the night he was shot.

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Peterson House where he was taken after being shot where he later died the next morning.

We also visited the National Archives museum but unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures there either. We saw the original documents of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It was very cool to see those original documents, even though the writing was quite faded and difficult to read.

Lastly we visited the new Museum of the Bible. The children’s area was really fun!

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Jesse pretending he is Samson knocking over the pillars.

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Jake doing the same thing.

There were a lot of arcade style games with Biblical themes that the kids loved playing.

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While they played in there I wandered around some more of the museum. We didn’t have a lot of time to spend there and I didn’t get to see much of the museum, but I did like the Amazing Grace exhibit featuring the history of the writer of the famous hymn, John Newton.

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The museum had 6 floors and I only had time to explore one. I guess that means we’ll have to go back again someday.

Also, we never had a chance to make it to any of the Smithsonian museums. I didn’t realize there was so much to see and do in DC and I clearly did not plan on enough time there. What my friends at Ditching Suburbia taught me is that we should not leave an area with regrets of what we did not see. It’s impossible to see it all, and it’s always nice to have a reason to return. We definitely left many reasons to return to see more of DC!

I will have one more post about our time in DC to share pictures of the cherry blossoms. We coincidentally timed our visit perfectly so that we were able to see the beautiful cherry blossoms in full bloom! Stay tuned for that post next.

Categories: Washington DC | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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