Thursday, July 23, 2009

Decorating, beach style

Yankee Candle "Dune Grass" candle, beach sand, shells we found on the beach, and a sand dollar that my cousin gave me. Makes for pretty, summer decorating and fun memories!

Monday, July 20, 2009

We're Home!

We drove the last 9 hours of our trip today, through Kansas and eastern Colorado. It's so good to be home! I have piles of laundry to do and lots of mail to go through. The roses need pruning and the fridge is empty. So, I'll be busy getting my act together the next few days. Then, I'll be around to catch up on blogs!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cincinnati to Kansas City

Today was a travel day for us. The first part was new territory when we drove from Cincinnati to Indianapolis, since we had taken a different route on our trip coming out. The second part from Indy to Kansas City we retraced our path, so it was familiar. We started out at 7 a.m. and Luke and I got into a comfortable routine of switching drivers every one and a half to two hours.

The best part of the day was when we got to Kansas City and met Dan at the airport. He was in California last week and decided to fly to KC instead of Denver on the way home, so he could finish the trip with us. It was a very happy reunion:) The kids were very tired from the day, so they stayed in their room and got room service for supper. Dan and I went out for dinner and had time to catch up . . . or at least get a start at it. I will have to do a post about HIS three weeks, as it was quite eventful.

Tomorrow, we're going to see the Kansas City Royals play the Tampa Rays. We'll probably cruise around a bit and see some of Dan's old stompin' grounds, since he grew up here in KC.

We'll head home on Monday. I can't tell you how good it is to be together again. I'm glad I had the opportunity to do this trip with the kids, for several reasons. One of them is that I've always wanted to do take the challenge and do a cross country trip on my own. I'm so glad for my two companions, as I know I would have been very lonely if I'd really been all on my own. But, I loved doing the planning and being responsible for everything. Now, having done it, I can't wait to take my next trip with Dan. It probably won't be a road trip, because that just isn't his thing, which is one of the reasons he was so agreeable to being left home! But, I missed sharing a lot of the things we saw, things that the kids didn't really appreciate the way he would have. I would see couples together, especially the retired couples, and wish longingly that he were with me.

I've proofread this several times and keep finding mistakes. I'm tired from the long day and tired with relief that if anything happens with the car at this point, I won't have to deal with it alone!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio

Wow, today was a full day, but a good one. Last night we ended up in Somerset, Pennsylvania. Little did we know until we arrived that it is about 10 miles from the National Park Service's Flight 93 Memorial. So, this morning, before getting back on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and continuing our trip, we drove to the memorial to pay our respects.

The road takes a path through the beautiful hills of Pennsylvania, weaving through small towns, woods, open meadows and farmland. Many of the houses along the road display American flags and the drive was so peaceful and beautiful. The last stretch of road, climbs a small rise and at the top is the most beautiful view of a large meadow. A display of flags, high on flag poles, fly prominently against the landscape. Today was a slightly overcast, breezy day. The American flag stood straight and strong against the wind. I was overcome by the sight of it.

The memorial is a small, fenced in area at the end of the road. A shack is occupied by two forest rangers, who work quietly and are available to answer questions. Other than that, the area is filled with memorials from far and wide. Granite stones, homemade crosses, a fence holding a myriad of items including notes, fire helmets, stuffed animals, religious medals. It all seems so intensely personal. The parks service will leave things for as long as they can, space and weather permitting, and then they are stored in an archive.

A dozen benches face the impact site, which is far across the field and fenced off. An American flag marks the fence, so that it can be seen from the memorial site. So many emotions ran through my mind, that I won't even attempt to describe. The drive back to the Turnpike was quiet and somber.

Today's driving was tiring with several traffic jams due to road construction and two torrential rainstorms. We made it to Cincinnati just in time for the Reds-Brewers game. Cincinnati is a very cool city with a beautiful skyline. The Great American Ball Park is right next to the Ohio River. From our seats in the outfield, we could see the river and one of the stone bridges, as well as the visiting team's bullpen. It was fun to see Prince Fielder, winner of this year's home run derby, up to bat. Unfortunately, he didn't get any this game. The home team won, 3-0. We left just before the fireworks show, but could see them light up the sky over the city as we drove to our hotel.

Tomorrow we'll get an early start, as it will be one of the longest days on the road. Dan will be there to greet us when we arrive in Kansas City. We can't wait to see him! And we're all ready to be home, sleeping in our own beds.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Gettysburg


This morning we drove two hours west to Gettysburg National Park, the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War and one of its major turning points. It was also the site where President Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address. After seeing Lincoln's home in Springfield on our trip out, we enjoyed learning even more about him in another of his most famous settings.

I'm almost always impressed with the way the National Parks system cares for our country's historic landmarks, and this was no exception. In fact, from what I've seen, it is one of its best efforts. We started our visit at the brand new Visitor's Center where we watched a film narrated by Morgan Freeman, called "The New Birth of Freedom," that explained all about the battle and its significance. Then we got to see the Gettysburg Cyclorama. It's a panoramic painting of the battle, where the viewers stand in the middle and experience the battle as though they were in the midst of it. The audio and light display that goes with it makes it feel like a very modern performance. But, in fact, cycloramas were invented in the 1700s and became very popular a century later, when they were transported from town to town and provided entertainment much like the movies do today. It is said that when the Gettysburg Cyclorama was created, many of the battle's veterans came to view it and many wept, it was so realistic. The story of how this enormous piece of art was found and restored is an exhibit in itself at the museum.

I could have spent hours looking at the thousands of artifacts on display, from the Union and Confederate troops to the civilians in the town of Gettysburg. But that would have been a few hours too long for my kids. So, we took a self-guided driving tour around the battlefield, stopping at various monuments and trying to remember some of the military strategy as told in the movie. The battlefield is well marked and there are several ways to explore, either on your own or through guided tours.






Tonight, we're staying in a little town in south central Pennsylvania. I never thought I'd say it, but I'm really looking forward to getting back to my kitchen and preparing some home cooked meals. A couple of days of road food is more than enough. Most of the hotels we stay at have free breakfast buffets, so we'll have a light breakfast, grab some muffins and fruit for a snack later on. But it's harder to find a variety of choices for lunches and dinners (that don't cost an arm and a leg).

One of the many fun aspects of this trip has been the ability to communicate with Dan and Joe while we're gone and share the trip with them. We've been taking pictures and texting them from some of our stops. Sitting on the deck at the shore house, I could call them on the phone and chat while looking at the view! Ah, I could get used to that! But three weeks is a long time, and we're looking forward to meeting Dan in Kansas City on Saturday. He'll join us for the last baseball game of our trip and drive home with us. The Friday after we're home, Joe will come home for a few days. So much to look forward to!

We've had such a good time on this trip. There have been a few of "those moments" when the road started getting longer, the GPS was not cooperating, and someone - in major frustration - threw a hissy fit. But the kids soon calmed me down, we stopped for ice cream and all was well.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Simple living

Today and tomorrow we're traveling through Pennsylvania. We decided to take a couple of days driving through because we didn't want to rush through Lancaster County and we also want to stop in Gettysburg tomorrow.

I snapped this picture through the window of the car, so it isn't very clear. It was taken on one of the backroads of Lancaster, a boy who looked to be a teenager at the reins of the six mules, hauling a wagon loaded with bales of hay. It was so exciting to see! The farms in Lancaster are so beautiful, with huge barns and silos. The Amish drive their buggies along the side of the road. We loved seeing the little children, the girls in bonnets and the boys in straw hats, peeking out of the back of the buggy windows.

It was a good day. We stopped at some of the Amish shops and a farm where Emily got to feed some of the animals. We got to our hotel late in the afternoon and all took naps before going to dinner. We walked to a nearby restaurant and then took a short walk around some shops before coming back to our room. The weather for this trip has been so beautiful. Today, the temps are in the low 80s, the humidity is low and the skies are blue. Tomorrow -- onward to Gettysburg!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jersey Girl

Tonight is our last night in New Jersey. Tomorrow morning we'll start our trip home. We'll be on the road for five days, taking our time and visiting some more sights along the way.

I've enjoyed every minute of our stay in my native state. Our week at the shore was the highlight, no doubt about it. But the best part was spending time with my aunt Madeline and cousin Jackie and her family. It's been a year and a half since we'd last seen each other, so we had lots of catching up to do. It was the first time in many years that Jackie's kids and my kids were together, so that was fun, too!

I got to do just about everything in Jersey that I wanted to while I was here. I saw the Statue of Liberty. I swam in the ocean, sat for long hours on the beach. I had a juicy Jersey tomato and some of the best, sweetest Jersey corn. I heard strains of my mother's voice as I listened to my aunts and uncle and cousins. I drove the Turnpike and survived, sat in my car while someone else pumped the gas (something I've not experienced in any other state), and remembered "my exit" off the turnpike. I breathed in the lovely aroma of the pine trees after a soft rain. There's good reason New Jersey is called the Garden State, as evidenced by the abundance of foliage and flowers and trees. It truly is a beautiful state.  I only lived here for a short time in my life while I was growing up. But some places don't require a lot of time to become a part of who you are. My roots are here, and they are very strong and run deep.

However, I admit that I'm looking forward to getting back to Colorado. I imagine how we'll search for the first glimpse of the mountains after we cross the Kansas border and drive across the big open prairie. I know that as much as I'll always look forward to my trips "back" east, the wide open spaces of the prairie, big blue sky and majestic Rocky Mountains are truly home for me. I can't imagine living anywhere else, but neither can I forget the place that was my first home.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lady Liberty


We're spending our last couple of days visiting some of the sights here in Jersey. Yesterday, I took the kids and we drove up to see the first house I lived in as a child. It was fun seeing the neighborhood, remembering landmarks that were so important to me. Where I caught the school bus, the places my brothers and I used to play, the empty field at the end of the block where one of our neighbors planted his garden. It was such a treat to be able to ride in the back of his pick up truck all the way around the block, all the kids among the watering cans, rakes and shovels.

I even got to visit with our neighbor who still lives next door to our old house. She filled me in on all the news of the past 40 plus years. A few of the families we knew still live there.

Today, we braved the Jersey Turnpike and went to see the Statue of Liberty. We caught the ferry on the Jersey side and toured Ellis Island.

Tomorrow, we'll spend the day getting ready for the return trip to Colorado. Still lots of things to see on the way, and Dan will be meeting us part way! We're all getting a bit homesick, but are determined to enjoy the final week of our vacation.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Saying goodbye to LBI



Our week at the shore ended the day before yesterday, but already it seems so long ago. We made lots and lots of good memories. I already miss the sun and the sand, the smell of the suntan lotion, and the sight of all the kids, huddled together around the kitchen table at the end of the day, all tan and sun kissed, heads bowed over a game of some sort.

I also miss the morning breakfasts of fresh bagels, jelly donuts and crumb cake. Coffee on the deck, watching the sun come up. Listening for the bells of the ice cream man. Carrying beach chairs, umbrella, towels and beach bags across the hot sand. Collecting shells. Riding waves. Watching the kids on their boogie boards. Staying up way too late and still rising at the crack of dawn. Marveling at the ocean view every morning and every evening.

We'll bring home lots of memories, baskets of shells, a baggie full of beach sand and pictures galore, and two hermit crabs. I hope they travel well, as we have a long drive home.




Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Oceanfront



The location of our house is like having a front row seat to one of the greatest shows on earth. It would seem that the view would be pretty much the same from day to day. But depending on the day or the time of day, the ocean seems to put on a different face. In the mornings, it is deep blue and the sun glistens and sparkles on the surface. Sometimes it is gray, somber and brooding. By the afternoon the waves are rolling in, dancing on the shore. Our evening walks are noisy as the waves, by this time, are rushing in, one row barely breaking before the next comes in, crashing upon the first.

One morning, we sat at the table having breakfast and a school of dolphins swam along the shore, cavorting and playing, chasing a kayaker out for a morning workout. This evening, a group of surfers were parasailing down the shoreline, putting on a show for us while we ate dinner. And we are not spared the commercials because during the day, small aircraft pull signs that advertise everything from insurance to happy hour to gamblers' anonymous meetings.

No matter how much time the kids spend swimming during the day, they end up in the water in the evenings when we go for walks on the beach and look for shells.





Monday, July 6, 2009

The Jersey Shore

The past two days have been great. Lots of sun and lots of beach time. Here is a picture of the house we're staying in -- the blue one. It has a deck on the top where we watched fireworks on Saturday. A small area of sand dunes is the only thing that separates it from the beach.










Friday, July 3, 2009

We're Here!

We arrived in NJ last night after a long, long day of driving. A coffee stop gone awry and a disagreement with the GPS led us way off the trail at one point. Traffic in Philly slowed us down a bit, too. But we made it!

I'm not sure if I'll have computer hookup at the beach house or not. I may just take a blogging break and update at the end of the week. We'll see.


But, 1,900 miles later, we made it! We're not thinking about the drive back yet. Just enjoying being here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Day Four - flying high


We didn't set an alarm for this morning and woke up at 8:30. It was heavenly to sleep in. Last night, we ended up in Forsythe, Illinois, about 45 minutes east of Springfield.

An observation about our travels this far: I had no idea there was so much corn in the United States. Oh my gosh, the fields just go on and on and on. At first, it was so refreshing to see all those deep, lush green fields. And I do love corn! But first it covered Kansas, then Missouri, then we got to Illinois, and I got to thinking, okay, if there's a national crop, it must be corn. So I googled it. Sure enough, The U.S. grows more corn than any other country in the world. The latest figures I found said 10 billions bushels of the world's 23 billion bushels each year. Eighty percent of our country's crop is consumed by domestic and overseas livestock. No wonder beef is such an expensive commodity for our environment. And 12% of the corn crop ends up in foods that are consumed directly as corn (such as corn chips, love 'em!) or indirectly (corn syrup.)

We also saw acres upon acres of soy bean crop in Illinois. Sure enough, the U.S. produces 50% of the world's soy beans. I never tired of seeing all the beautiful fields and rolling hills. Having lived in the suburbs my entire life, I find if fascinating. Yes, fascinating. I'm easily entertained.

We drove about five hours today and ended up in the Dayton, Ohio, area. The weather cooled considerably since yesterday and we drove through some light showers along the way. Our targeted destination was the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The museum has over 400 planes from all periods of our country's military aviation history. It was a lot to take in as the exhibits are housed in three gigantic hangars, as well as outside.

We found the model of plane that my dad was a crew member on during the Korean War, the C124 Globemaster. The aircraft was the backbone for strategic air transport for the Air Force in the 1950's. It was surreal for me to walk into the plane and think about what it must have been like for him as a young man, flying in this plane around the world, delivering troops and heavy equipment to ground forces. The museum has exhibits that include artifacts and films from all the various periods of history, bringing alive times from the Wright Brothers to the Iraqi war.

An aside: I take more than my share of ribbing from my family about my propensity to shop and my love of gift shops. The Air Force museum has an awesome gift shop. When we were leaving the base at about 5:00, there was a loud speaker that played bugle music that was very similar in tone to "Taps." The kids wondered what could that be? I was sure it was the signal for the closing of the gift shop.

We stopped at Subway for sandwiches to take back to the room for our supper tonight. After a swim for the kids, and some reading time for me, we went to the hotel restaurant for ice cream. It's going to be an early day tomorrow, the final day of travel. I'm so looking forward to tomorrow evening, when we'll have arrived at my cousin's house. I know she'll have a pot of tea waiting and we'll have so much to talk about and catch up on. It's been almost two years since I last saw her and my aunt, both of whom I adore. On Saturday, we'll head to the shore!