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Archive | road trip

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! We’re in Magnolia Journal

The summer issue of The Magnolia Journal is hot off the press with our darling Joanna gracing the cover. Isn’t she just the prettiest? I think all of America wants to be her best friend (my hand is raised, too).

We are pretty excited over here to have a feature in this issue of the magazine.

Last year, we pulled our kids from school and set off on a nearly 4 month journey around the country. It was a long-time bucket list item and we still look at each other sometimes saying did we really do that?!

Throughout our whole trip, we posted to instagram (#jdcroadtrip) and I posted updates on the blog after every-ish stop (here’s the roadtrip page with all of the posts).

We didn’t do the trip for any other reason than to be together as just us six and experience the best this country has to offer.

What happened was life-changing and bonding with memories that will last a lifetime.

The trip ended on a Sunday at the end of August and the next day we bought our new house. The kids started school in our new school district the following week. So basically, we jumped from one pretty incredible experience to another and never took the time to truly process, collect our memories and put a big bow on the whole thing.

Now that we are a year out, we are getting nostalgic about the whole thing. Memories are coming up more often, stories from the trip make their way into more conversations, the kids are asking to visit friends they met or go back to cities again and quite often we think about the restaurants we dined at and remember an amazing meal or latte or cool atmosphere.

Just last night, while driving home from my sister’s house, we had a great conversation with Brady, our 11 year old. It was late and they were supposed to be trying to fall asleep, but instead Brady asked a question that turned into answers and more questions and a great conversation. Once the car grew quiet again, Ryan and I agreed that we miss those uninterrupted opportunities for conversation we had while on the trip – because when you are stuck in a car for 4 hours and you already watched two movies yesterday, you talk. It takes an intentional slowing down to build this into our regular life and that just gets harder and harder as the kids get older, life gets fuller, responsibility looks you in the face.

 When removed from all of life’s regular routine and distractions, you have time for meaningful conversation and simple forms of entertainment – books, drawing, pocket knives, playing dice. At home we have things like school, work, tv, unlimited wifi, friends, sports, meetings, errands. None of these are bad; all our welcomely invited into our lives. It just makes us sentimental about the time we had traveling all those miles, seeing all those incredible sites, just us six.

Ethan, our oldest, grew from boy to young man during those four months right before our eyes. The deep faith questions he wrestled with and the physical transformation he went through – none of it was missed by us. We were together all day, every day to witness and question and wrestle together.

Brady was curious and engaged everywhere we went. He was the first to ask a question to a tour guide or ranger. His natural inquisitiveness and thoughtfulness was so cool to see.

History came alive to Mason as we stood where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his I Have A Dream speech, or walked the battlefield at Gettysburg. He was all about the big cities and the most famous of sites. I can’t wait to see what this trip inspires in him as he grows – will he study history? Architecture? Politics?

Audrey walked miles each day. Miles! And hardly complained. She kept up with her big brothers, she was pushed in her food preferences, she listened to books in the car beyond her kindergarten interests, and yet she kept her sweet smile and adorable sense of humor the whole time.

What an enormous privilege as parents to have these moments.

And for me and Ryan to have had four months to connect, dream, work through hard things, laugh, make decisions, be a team … this is the best part of it all.

We said when we were planning the trip that we felt like life was going so fast we needed to just stop and reset. That’s what this trip was. It was a chance to pull back from regular life, take a deep breath, create unforgettable memories and then make adjustments as we reentered.

 I didn’t mean to write all of that. Mainly I just wanted to tell you about the article in the magazine :)

It is a great article with snippets of our story, photos and cute artwork, some itinerary highlights and tips for planning your summer adventures this year.

But I guess I also want you to know that while it was just a road trip, I’ll always see it as so much more. It took months of planning and years of saving and many sacrifices along the way and every bit of it was entirely worth it.

If you find yourself or your family in a spot where things are moving at such a fast pace and you’re not sure you love who you are or where you’re headed, may I gently encourage you to find a way to stop, take a breath, and make changes as you reenter.

It might be a road trip or a job change or an afternoon spent quietly thinking and my hope is that it will be life-changing for you as well.


You can find a copy of the summer issue of Magnolia Journal on news stands now, or order a subscription here.

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107 Days / The Road Trip Is Over / The New Farmhouse

Since my childhood, big family vacations have been part of my summers. We took a short break between college and our first babies, but since then my parents, sisters, husbands, kids and whatever cousins or aunts and uncles that can make it spend a week together in a big rented house the second week of August.

In previous years, we rented a darling Farmhouse in Eastern Washington (see more about that one here) but have outgrown the space and needed to find something new.

Last fall, we searched and searched for the next ‘Farmhouse’ and came across a new-to-the-market vacation rental about 4 hours from Seattle in a tiny town just on the other side of the Washington/Oregon border. We snatched it up for our designated week and marked that day as the final day of our 3 month long road trip.

To say our kids were excited for our week vacation with family is a crazy understatement. These kids have been talking about ‘The New Farmhouse‘ since Christmas and it was truly the perfect way to end our travels.

We hopped in the car for our final leg and snapped a picture to remember:

lastdrive We were the first to arrive at our vacation rental and couldn’t wait to spend the week at the most wonderful house on the top of a hill with all our family!

fronthouse You never really know what you’re getting when you book online and after just a few minutes of exploring, we were so happy with our choice. It is hard to find a big house that sleeps as many as we have, with a kitchen that can accommodate lots of meals and a big pool to keep us entertained all week. This place delivered on it all.

(Here is the VRBO listing if you are looking for something wonderful to rent).

This pool and that view. So wonderful.

pooltofield poolandpoolhouse porchswing wheat

Want to know what the very first thing I did was?

Bake cookies I have missed baking.

And so I made my delicious chocolate chip cookies (here is the recipe + cute recipe card) and then we turned them into ice cream sandwiches for a celebration later that night. 

icecreamcookies 107celebration We made it 107 days! What an amazing trip and I’m so grateful we finished it all up by celebrating with our family.

Sweet reunions with a few tears.

sisterreunion Remember that pretty, tranquil-looking pool? Shortly after arrival and for the next six days, it pretty much always looked like this:

aroundthepool lifeguards grantjumping redsolocup swan We had great intentions of going into town to visit a few local wineries, but when it came down to it, no one wanted to leave the pool.

In the mornings, we sat out on the deck for breakfast, reading, phone-looking and guitar practice.
guitar

In the afternoons, we sent the kids inside for ‘happy hour’. They play, snack and stay out of the sun for two hours while the grown ups had the pool to ourselves. It’s the most brilliant thing we’ve ever done and a tradition that we established long ago so the kids know nothing different.

In the evenings we shared dinner-duty, played cards, watched the Olympics.

On our last night, my cousin (a local event planner – hire her! she’s amazing!) set up the big farm tables on the lawn for dining al fresco. It was gorgeous!
houseatsunset My dad brought along his good camera and took a few family photos and my mom brought along matching outfits for them :)

kidscolor These kids are just the best. Our son, Ethan is the oldest (12) and my little sister’s son, Griffin is the littlest (4). This year was our first time as moms to chill by the pool without caring for babies. It was delightful. 

Also, if you want to be entertained for a second, check out this video of Griffin. He wanted to be like his big cousins diving through the pool-noodle-hoop into the pool and he surprised us all by just going for it. Love that kid.

sisters

I’m the middle of three girls who are my best friends. Their husbands and kids are awesome. I know how rare it is to want to hang out with your family for a week and we truly do.

This summer was unlike any other.

We took action on a crazy dream and it was everything and so much more than we could have ever wished or imagined.

It forced us to spend dedicated time together – just us six – and I will forever cherish this time.

lexfamily

Thank you, sweet readers, for following along, for your suggestions and encouragement, for your compliments and questions. I wasn’t sure how things would go with me taking time away from normal blog topics to share our long trip with you and it has been awesome. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Road Trip | Jackson, WY and Yellowstone

Our final leg of the trip back to the Pacific Northwest had us make our way through the western plains, into the mountains and then to the strange and beautiful expansive lands of Yellowstone.

From the Black Hills of South Dakota, we took the long route so we could see Devil’s Tower.

devilstower This crazy rock formation juts out of the earth and is a playground for rock climbers. We pulled out our binoculars and saw a few roped in halfway up the monument. So insane!

We drove and drove through pretty grasslands …

plains … until suddenly this gorgeous mountain range appeared.

jacksontetons The Grand Tetons and surrounding area are some of the prettiest scenery we’ve seen. We arrived on a stormy afternoon and the clouds gave everything a very moody, grand feel.

I’ll be honest, I had no idea how wonderful Jackson, Wyoming and the Teton area is. No idea. It is this fantastic combination of outdoor activities – hiking, biking, river rafting, fishing, yoga in the summer with renowned snow sports in the winter. The town of Jackson Hole is touristy without being obnoxious with wonderful shops and restaurants and a big center park.

We arrived at our campground and were instantly in love. As you pull into the rv campsites in the back, you drive through a tree-lined driveway with two rows of these tiny homes on either side.

jacksontinyhomes For years – YEARS! – Ryan has been trying to convince me to put a group of these on a piece of property to use as a vacation rental property. Of course the second I saw it done in real life I was totally convinced. The tiny homes are made by a Jackson, WY company called Wheelhaus and rented at Fireside Resort. We were so tempted to ditch the trailer and stay instead in a cabin, but they were all rented out. If you find yourself in the Jackson area, consider a stay in one of these. Or maybe someday we’ll actually do Ryan’s idea and have a vacation property of our own for you to rent in the Seattle area :)

Our time in Jackson didn’t cooperate in the weather department which limited our activities just a little. If we had more time and if there was no rain, we would have rented bikes for a day of riding around Jenny Lake. Or we would have found a hike to do in the Tetons. Or ride this fun alpine sled at the ski resort.

Instead, we spent our time in the town of Jackson Hole and enjoyed every second of it.

jacksonbakery We started with brunch at Persephone Bakery. The long wait was so worth it and the rain held off just long enough for us to dine outdoors on their fantastic patio.

jacksonbakerybrunch The lattes were excellent, my sweet potato brussel hash skillet was so good. My son had a cinnamon brioche that I was afraid would be really dry and it was anything but. Everything was amazing.

ryanemilycoffee (This is us trying to take a photo. None came out as I had imagined, but I adore the group anyway. I like Ryan.)

Plus, the decor is just so good. I snapped this photo of the wall quickly so I could forever remember this brilliant idea:

jacksonbakerywall Across from the bakery is the town square with massive antler arches.

jacksonantlerarch Jackson Hole feels like the west and celebrates all that makes it that way. Antlers, wildlife, Pendleton blankets, cowboy hats all mixed in with a slightly yuppy and outdoorsy population of visitors and residents. It’s such a fun combination.

kidsanimals We popped into a handful of shops. Ryan and the boys were thoroughly enthralled with everything in the Mountain Man Toy Shop (naturally).

jacksonknifeshop Down the block was our favorite store of all – maybe of all the shops we visited on the road trip! – called Mountain Dandy.

jacksonmountaindandy Again, it was more geared toward men, but I was totally into the atmosphere and styling of the space. And Ryan was in heaven.

yellowstonemountaindandy1 The rain started on strong, so we hung out in the bookstore to wait and then refueled with coffees at Cowboy Coffee Co.

jacksoncoffee By this point in the trip the kids were like, “Mom. We’ve had it with pictures.” And so this is what I got.

Our plan for the next day was to ride the gondola up the mountain for what we heard was the most stunning view of the Grand Teton National Park (and world-famous waffles up at the top), but you know what we did instead? Overslept. And then moved very slowly, watched the Olympics and bagged all of our plans. We’ve learned that sometimes lazy days are just as valuable as sight-seeing ones.

We definitely did not have enough time in Jackson and will absolutely put it on our must-visit-again list.

jacksontetonpass From Jackson, we drove the short drive to West Yellowstone. We arrived in time to drop of the trailer and venture into our nation’s first National Park for the late afternoon/evening.

Up first was a drive through the park to the Old Faithful geyser.

yellowstoneoldfaithful The National Park System predicts the geyser eruptions within 10 minutes and it blows every 60-90 minutes which makes it pretty likely that you’ll see a real geyser! We arrived minutes after it erupted, so we spent about an hour in the visitors center where the kids started their Junior Ranger books, then joined the crowd outside to watch the eruption (is that what it’s called? I’m not sure).

I may have cried just a little. All my life I’ve heard of Old Faithful and here I stood with my kids and watched it blow! It was so cool.

After the geyser, we drove back the way we came and stopped at another popular Yellowstone attraction called Grand Prismatic Spring. 

yellowstoneriver Yellowstone is such an interesting place and one I’ve never really studied so it was all new to me. The land lies above a volcano which creates the craziest hot springs, bubbling pots of mud and geysers. When I picture hot springs, I think of ones you can soak in – this is not the case with the Yellowstone hotsprings. They are hot, hot springs that will burn you if you touch the water. 

There are tiny organisms that can survive in the high temperatures and these are what makes the pools appear to have color.

yellowstoneprism Blues, greens, browns, red, golden. With steam constantly rising and occasional boiling bubbles. It’s the most other-worldly scenery and utterly beautiful. 

yellowspringsprism1 On the drive home we caught a glimpse of our first bison herd. Yellowstone is home to the largest population of bison (or American Buffalo) where they roam free. Sightings are not rare but absolutely exciting nonetheless!

yellowstonebison Yellowstone is laid out with two main loops through the park that create a rough figure 8. Our second day in the park, we took the north loop, stopping along the way at roadside stops to see wildlife, mudpots and other geysers.

The main visitors center and original home of park-keepers is at the north entrance to the park and also home to Mammoth Hot Springs.

yellowstonemammothsprings This strange terraced formations are made out of limestone and formed in a way that is a bit over my head (read how they are formed here). There are boardwalk trails to walk along all around which preserve the land and allow for close viewing.

A small herd of Elk decided to walk right through the crowd and stop for a nap on the calcium deposits. That was fun.

yellowstoneelk After a picnic lunch, more elk sightings and a little bit of hiking, we continued our drive around the loop to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and a stop at Artist’s Point.

yellowstoneartistspoint The Yellowstone River carved a canyon and with the lower falls in the distance, it is just breathtaking.

(P.S. I’m running out of descriptive words. I mean, every single place we’ve been has been amazing and how do you put original words to any of it?! I’m in awe of our God for creating such beauty).

yellowstoneryanemily We made one last stop back near Old Faithful at the historic Old Faithful Inn.

yellowstoneinn1 The hotel was built in 1902 with local timber and is said to be the model for all National park architecture.

yellowstoneinn yellowstoneinntable We grabbed a snack, Audrey lost her first tooth and then we sat out on the upper deck to watch the geyser erupt for a second time. It was a great finish to our time in Yellowstone.

I received a message on instagram while we were in Yellowstone asking if I though it would be a good place to vacation with her 4 and 6 year old. My response was that it wouldn’t be my first choice with young kids and I don’t think that was a popular response :)

So let me clarify: every family vacations differently and has different expectations and things they find enjoyable. Yellowstone was awesome and we all enjoyed our time. What I didn’t realize was that there is a lot of driving involved in getting from cool site to cool site and once there, it is mainly walking and looking. These are not bad things to do with young kids and I absolutely think it is valuable to be out in nature as a family, I just wouldn’t have loved it quite as much if we were traveling with younger kids.

Our original itinerary called for a few days stop in Glacier National Park in Montana before finishing up the trip, but a couple weeks before, we decided to cut that portion. Instead, we drove through Idaho and spent two relaxing days at a gorgeous site in Le Grande, Oregon.

It wasn’t planned, but again, having the freedom at the end of the trip to adjust was so good. We absolutely adored all of our travels, each city and National Park, historical site, tour and restaurant, but at this point, all the kids were talking about was ‘The Farmhouse’.

oregon So instead of cramming in another few days of sight-seeing and long-distance traveling, we found a campground just an hour or so away from ‘The Farmhouse’, plunked ourselves down for a few days and grew more and more excited about a sweet reunion with our family.


It is so hard to believe that the travel portion of the trip is complete! What an amazing adventure it has been and one we will never, ever forget.

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Road Trip | Des Moines, Omaha + Mt. Rushmore

It was the strangest feeling to go from driving eastward (away from our Pacific Northwest home) for so long to suddenly switch and come back westward. It put us all in a chill/let’s make the most of this/we’re almost done/slower pace and it was a really great way to finish up the road trip.

We also felt pretty confident in our decision making, our restaurant selecting and our ability to adjust the itinerary on a whim.

Long ago, when we first starting brainstorming where we’d like to visit, we asked the photographer and stylist from Better Homes + Gardens magazine (who were at our house shooting it for the Christmas issue – see all about that right here) where they would suggest visiting in their hometown of Des Moines, Iowa. Without hesitation, they both answered Living History Farms. And so, from that moment, our plan was to visit Des Moines and see what farming was like long ago.

But then we got to Des Moines and didn’t really feel like going to a sight-seeing, history type of thing and instead quickly shifted our plans. Someone on instagram mentioned a salvage shop downtown and that sounded right up our alley and like just the right activity for our day.

desmoinessalvage My goodness, it was the best choice ever.

West End Architectural Salvage is this huge four story warehouse jam-packed with salvaged building materials, antique finds, custom furniture, typography … and a million other things.

desmoinessalvagekids We spent at least two hours walking from floor to floor looking at everything. The kids were totally entertained (they may take after their mom and dad!) and Ryan and I wanted to walk out with many, many things.

I was especially dying to tie this metal dresser to the roof of the Airstream:

desmoinessalvagedresser We love a good salvage shop and had so much fun looking at everything and getting inspired for new house projects.

desmoines After the salvage shop, we drove over to a cute part of town with a few more shops (Porch Light was a favorite!) and then stopped for a late lunch at Zombie Burger where they make the craziest cereal-inspired milkshakes.

desmoineszombieburger Our day in Des Moines was so enjoyable. We didn’t do what we planned, but it was even better that way. The kids met friends at the campground, we spent time lounging and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

desmoinesrelax corn The next day, we continued westward to Omaha. In our research, we discovered that Omaha boasts one of the very best zoos in the nation.

We arrived in the mid morning and spent the entire (very hot!) day playing at Henry Doorly Zoo + Aquarium.

omahazoo omahazooanimals It was, in fact, an excellent zoo with every animal you could wish for. Our very favorite was the baby orangutang who was the most adorable little acrobat showing off his clumsy skills.

orangutang Our cheeks hurt from smiling – that little baby was just so cute.

After Omaha, we continued on to South Dakota. We made another last minute adjustment, canceling our overnight in Badlands and adding an extra day to the Black Hills area (see below). We didn’t want to miss out on Badlands National Park, though, so we stopped on the way for a couple of hours.

This area of the country is beautiful.

badlands With never-ending grasslands on one side and strange canyon-ish mountains on the other, the views are spectacular.

As are the sunsets.

badlandsboys The Badlands also boast large populations of Prairie Dogs and so of course we had to check them out.

badlandsryanprairiedogs They are not shy. They make the funniest squeak noises. They pop up out of their underground holes and there are hundreds of them.

I was squatting down low to take the photo of Ryan with the little critters and then they turned toward me and came running.

badlandsprairiedogs Eeek! They kinda freaked me out.

We drove that night out of Badlands area on to Hill City, South Dakota during a massive lightning storm that put on the most amazing show for us. We arrived late that night at the second largest KOA in the country. It was quite the place! Restaurants, coffee shop, pancake breakfast, two pools, activities for the kids, horse back riding and so many campsites. There are families that spend a week there on vacation and I can totally see why.

Just a few minutes from the campground is Mount Rushmore which was so much better in real life than we ever could have imagined.

We visited in the mid-morning on a gorgeous day and were literally blown away from how special the carved granite mountain is.

In our research and from reviews I had read that you really only need a few minutes to walk to the entrance, snap a photo and be on your way. Instead, we found that the best views were all the way beyond the row of flags at the visitors center where you get an upfront view of the sculpture as well as a fantastic museum, information video and friendly rangers who once again proved to us how wonderful the National Parks system is.

mtrushmoreentrance Sturgis Motorcycle Rally (on of the largest gatherings of motorcyclists in the world) was happening nearby just a few days after our visit so we saw lots and lots of bikers!

mtrushmore Because our summer was filled with so much learning about the first presidents, about early America, about the Civil War; because we visited both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson’s homes; because our tour of the country made us appreciate how big and beautiful and strong and fragile it all is – this monument felt like the perfect tribute to wrap it all up.

We were in awe of the actual carving of the sculpture. It took 14 years and 400 workers to turn a craggy rock face into the faces of four of our most beloved leaders.

mtrushmoredrawing The kids wanted to do the Junior Ranger book.

(This surprised us every time – that they actually wanted to do the workbooks! My kids are smart little things, but the fact that they enjoyed the books says more about the content and quality of the books than anything else. They are fun and informative and made every visit to a national park more meaningful because the kids were able to engage with the history and details of each park.).

Our favorite activity in the workbook was a page where the kids had to draw a face from Mount Rushmore. For over 30 minutes we sat out in the amphitheater taking in the view while the kids did their art. The crowds were all behind us and so it was quiet and peaceful and such a cool experience to really take in the monument.

To top it all off, the little artists created the best pictures! Total keepsakes, for sure.
mtrushmoredrawings As we drove back to our campground, there is a quick pull-off where you can catch this unique view:

mtrushmoreprofile So cool.

On another day in the Black Hills, we all went on a trail ride. A horseback ride was something we were hoping to do and it worked out great that there were horses right at our campground.

horsebackridingfamily Ryan and I are riding novices and this was the first time for all four kids. Our horses were slow and it was just right for our first family trail ride.

horsebackriding1 horsebackriding When we returned, the kids all decided we should get a horse. Someday, children. Someday.

We didn’t know quite what to expect for this part of the road trip and I can honestly say it was some of the best days we had. Thanks Des Moines, Omaha and South Dakota for being wonderful.

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Road Trip | The Middle-ish Of America

We finished up our time in the Northeast and did something a bit inefficient and traveled south and then back up north in a big ‘U’ shape. The reason: there is much to see in the middle of America!

Admittedly, we missed much of it (nearly all of it, actually) but we tried to fit in what we could to hit a few places we were looking forward to seeing and friends and family we wanted to visit.

From Niagara Falls, we made the long drive through New York and Ohio down into Kentucky.

Lexington, Kentucky is gor-geous.

lexington It’s horse country, so there are expansive green grass pastures with simple fences (dark brown, not white as I expected! And it is so subtle and pretty that way), with old stone walls, tall old-growth trees and stately thoroughbreds. We loved driving through the countryside.

Horseracing season was not happening while we were there but we popped by the Keeneland track just to see what its all about.

keenelandgate Keeneland opened in 1936 and one of the prettiest tracks in America. It has remained largely as it was originally built which gives it a sense of history and grandeur. 

keeneland The kids and I sat in the stadium and I played a horse race on my phone so we could get the visual of what it looks like on a race day.

Next we visited the Woodford Reserve for a famed bourbon tour.

Going into the tour, I was 100% clueless about the making of fine bourbon and the tour was both very informative and actually quite entertaining – even for the kids. It felt a little bit like when Mr. Rogers took us on factory tours where you see the machines and bottling and storing.

bourbontour barrels And while we were supposed to be super interested in the bourbon, I was a bit more taken with this darling house on the property :)

housewoodford One of my best college friends had just moved to Louisville and another best college friend flew out the night before from Colorado to visit and help her unpack. They were so sweet to drive over an hour to come hang out with us for the afternoon.

friends Great story: my friend Kelsey (on the left) did a mini tasting at the distillery and when she took her first sip she yelled out, “Whew!” without really meaning to. Everyone laughed and then realized that’s what they secretly wanted to respond with as well. Bourbon is not for the faint of heart.

The following morning on our way out of town, we stopped for breakfast sandwiches at Windy Corner Market. Best biscuit/egg/ham sandwich ever.

windycorner We drove from Lexington into Nashville to stay with our friends just outside of Franklin, Tennessee.

There is something so refreshing about staying with friends in a real house. There is space to move around, people to chat with and get to know, a full kitchen to cook and clean and just the slow pace of real life.

ethancouch It gave the kids a chance to spread out and meet new friends as well – something we’ve been so proud of how well they do. I know Raechel (we went to Rwanda together two summers ago and have continued our friendship) and have chatted with her husband Ryan on She Reads Truth matters (they run She Reads Truth along with Amanda who you’ll see below) but my Ryan and the kids had not met any of them. It was both strange and wonderful to just pull up to their house, walk in and become instant friends.

audreyandhazel The girls clearly had no problem connecting.

And the boys hit it off from the start when their son told them about the pond down the street that he loves to fish at.

boysfishing We had great intentions of going into Nashville and doing the Nashville things, but all the kids wanted to do was play like normal with their new friends. And so, we skipped the Grand Ole Opry and instead spent our time around the house and the nearby charming town of Franklin.

whitesmercantile icecream I have mentioned She Reads Truth a million times before and I truly love this ministry and the ladies behind it. It was great to visit their office in real life and see all the work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that women and men (did you know there is a He Reads Truth?!) have the resources and encouragement to open our bibles everyday.

srt girlsatsrt Those girls look like they are up to no good!

While we didn’t do a ton of sight-seeing, it was really nice to spend time with new friends and have a few days of semi-normal life doing things like swimming in the neighborhood pool, cooking a delicious summer asian salad (try it!), fishing, playing barbies, going for a run, sitting in a church service, going out to brunch, dropping the kids off at the gymnastics place so we could go on a grown-up date. All of it was just what we needed to recover from our whirlwind the few weeks before. And we’re so happy to have made great friends in the process!

It was hard to pull away – the kids were all so sad to leave and can’t wait to see each other again soon! – but we loaded up and made our way back up north through St. Louis.

stlouisarch Ryan’s aunt, uncle and cousins live in St. Louis and they hosted us for our overnight. Again, it was another wonderful night of connecting with people, eating homemade barbecue and watching a cardinals baseball game on tv.

From St. Louis, we drove north stopping in Springfield, Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln spent much of his political career.

oldcapitolbuilding The Old Capitol Building is a beautiful old stone structure with tall windows, gorgeous woodwork and history galore.

springfieldoldcapitolbuilding Our stay was cut short by the massive rainstorm that came through town. You guys, I did not know how hard it rains in the summer in so much of the country! We get drizzly rain all the time in Seattle … this stuff is different. Thick, warm drops that come pouring down out of nowhere and drench you in seconds. Fun times.

raininspringfield Now on to Chicago …

When planning, we had a hard time finding a campground to stay at near the city. All of the rv parks were about 1 1/2 hours away and that is not a fun commute to see the city. A reader reached out months ago and offered for us to stay at their home in Chicago. At first I dismissed the idea – that is crazy to just stay with someone you’ve never met! And then we decided to just go for it.

So that night, we pulled up to a darling house in a charming neighborhood just outside of the city, knocked on the door and overtook their peaceful evening with our big family. Kacie and Patrick were the most gracious of hosts. We enjoyed getting to know them, learning more about their jobs and family and life in Chicago. They fed us Chicago-style pizza, were so hospitable to us and even let us leave the airstream in their driveway for the next few days while we stayed in the city. Such kindness!

Again, the weather was a little dicey but that didn’t stop us from thoroughly enjoying Chicago.

drivingtochicago In fact, of all the cities we visited, I think Chicago was a favorite of all of ours. We were so surprised! It is like the perfect mix of big NYC-style city, with a smaller, cleaner feel.

river From our hotel room, we walked across the river to Millennium Park and came upon the best urban park ever – the Maggie Daley Park.

parkslide park We took a walk through Millennium park and enjoyed the skyline before the clouds came in and rain started. Lollapalooza was happening just down the way so the music was going and there were tons of people out and about. The atmosphere was super fun.

parkskyline milleniumparktheater bean Of course we had to capture ourselves in the reflection of ‘The Bean’.

beanreflection milleniumpark buildings Our hotel room looked out on the city – we loved the view.

outthewindow Later that night, while laying in bed watching tv, two magical things happened:

  1. Fireworks over Lake Michigan started and we had a perfect straight-shot to enjoy the whole show.  fireworks
  2. While clicking through the channels, we happened upon Nickelodeon’s Double Dare with Marc Summers. Please tell me you remember this show. It was awesome. I may or may not have watched three episodes and smiled the whole time through.

While in Chicago, we visited the Field Museum where we saw Sue, the most intact T-Rex fossil ever found.

suetrex We have been to a couple of really great natural history museums and this one was wonderful.

The kids wanted to go back to the park to play, so we did that for a bit and then ate one of our best meals of the trip at The Purple Pig. This was one of the only times of the trip that Ryan and I wished we could dine kid-less. The restaurant and food were worth really savoring and the kids sped us up more than we would have liked.

On our way out of town, we drove by historic Wrigley Field. It would have been so fun to go to a game! Next time …

cubs We all definitely want to visit Chicago again. There were a handful of activities that we didn’t get to do because of the weather, so we hope to make it back again soon!

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Road Trip | The Northeast

Two and one-half months into the road trip, we made it to the Northeast.

Our pace was quick, but doable, up the east coast and we stayed for longer periods in Washington, D.C. and New York City. By the time we finished that leg of the trip, we were all exhausted.

You don’t really know what to expect with something like this. We planned out each stop and really had no idea when to put in more buffer time or when to keep pushing the pace. You just don’t know these things until you’re in the moment and by that time, the itinerary was already set.

The week or so we had planned for traveling through Boston, Cape Cod, Cooperstown and Niagara Falls fell in a time period when what we really needed was another vacation from the vacation. Looking back, it is the one and only spot where if we could, we would have absolutely adjusted our itinerary to work in a few rest days to recuperate from the whirlwind of the previous month.

However, that was not the case and so we pushed on (sort of).

watch-hill Before heading north to Boston, we drove through what I’m going to say is the most charming, picturesque, must-go-again place I’ve ever been: Watch Hill, in Westerly, Rhode Island.

rhodeisland We drove (with our monstrous trailer) through the town circling again and again searching for a parking spot so we could get out and walk around, but there were none to be found. All the more reason to make another trip, I suppose …

The next day, we went into Boston, and sadly, we were just not into it. Not because Boston is not gorgeous (it is) or full of fascinating and important history (absolutely), but because we all had head colds, our feet were sore from the miles we walked in NYC and our souls were just a little bit weary.

boston Our plans for Boston included taking the Freedom Trail tour – either by bus or foot, we hadn’t decided – but when we arrived at the ticket counter, we looked at one another and at the kids and bagged the whole thing. Instead, we took a walk through the beautiful downtown park.

boston-park The park meets up with Newbury Street, which is full of fancy shops and a few restaurants.

Again, it was a perfect day for being outside and the shops were all great, but we had just done shops in NYC and noone was super interested. See what I mean? We totally messed up our Boston visit.

carrotcake We did, however, stop into one of the best coffee shops we’ve visited and ate literally the best carrot cake I’ve ever had. It is amazing what a little food will do to a blah attitude. We perked up a bit after that.

Instead of doing the official Freedom Trail tour, we just drove to a few notable spots.

church The Old North Church is the oldest standing building in Boston and famed for its “One if by Land, Two if by Sea” lantern lighting which announced to the city that the British were indeed coming and the war was beginning. It is history like this that we have been so into, so even though we didn’t do the full deal, I’m so glad we at least made the effort to drive by.

We then decided on a whim to drive over to Cambridge and check out Harvard University.

harvard Harvard Square is a cute stretch of shops bustling with activity. We walked through the campus, sat on the library steps and did a little more sight-seeing until heading back to the campground in Plymouth for some chill time.

The next day, we drove out to Cape Cod.

cape-cod There are many small towns to visit, and thanks to recommendations from readers, we made our way to Falmouth. The town was just as darling as I expected and it was nice to have a slow-paced look at shops, sit in a french bakery kind of day.

capecodbeach We brought along our swim suits hoping to spend the afternoon at the beach. The one everyone suggested (Old Silver Beach) was packed. As in there was not a open spot on the entire beach! It is probably one of those places where you need to get there early in the day to claim your spot and we missed that memo. Instead we found another beach (I’m pretty sure it was just for local residents … but oops!). The scenery was gorgeous with the boats and pretty water.

Boston and Cape Cod are wonderful, don’t get me wrong. We can’t wait to do-over this portion of the trip because we really just were not in the place to enjoy it.

After Boston, we drove through the middle of New York to Cooperstown.

cooperstownscenery The drive was so lovely. It was long, but the views of green and blue and puffy clouds and rolling farmland was some of the prettiest we’ve seen.

Our reason for visiting Cooperstown, NY was the Baseball Hall of Fame and what we found was the quintessential American small town. The main street is lined with baseball-themed shops, restaurants and filled with families and little leaguers. It was such a fun place to be!

baseballism (See that lefty shirt? I scooped that one up for our lefty. If you are a baseball-lover or have players in your family, do check out this great shop.)

The Baseball Hall of Fame is wonderfully done and – lucky for us! – we were there just a few days before Seattle Mariner Great Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

griffey We loved seeing all of the Griffey memorabilia.

The town of Cooperstown is darling. Old Inns and pretty homes line the streets.

cooperstown And it is all set against Otsego Lake.

cooperstownlake The Northeast was in bloom while we were there with my beloved hydrangeas.

hydrangeas It was a great quick little visit.

We drove the rest of the way across the state to Buffalo on the banks of Niagara Falls. We stayed at a great camp ground where we wished we had one extra day just to play.

The evening of our arrival before the sun went down we drove out to see Niagara Falls.

niagara-toronto I had no idea it was just on the other side of Ontario and the skyline was so pretty!

We viewed the Falls from the U.S. side. I’ve heard its super impressive from the Canadian side, but we didn’t have passports with us. Still, the falls (did you know there are actually three of them?!) were breathtaking. Ryan posted a video on instagram that shows just how beautiful the scenery is.

niagara We admittedly were not able to enjoy this region as much as we wanted. Our hope was to take a day trip up to Maine and we wish we had more time on the Cape as well. This was a good lesson to learn and really the only time when we felt like we were moving too quickly. I think it was more we were just tired after NYC and the excitement of my parents being with us and we needed a mental and physical break.

So now the Northeast is on our must-visit again soon list.

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Road Trip | NYC

emkidsnyc

New York City. There is just no other place like it.

Here’s a little piece of trivia:

On our first trip to NYC, Ryan took the FDNY firefighter test. One year before, the fire service in the city was devastated by the events of 9/11. He was at the early stages of testing for a firefighting position and we thought, why not?! So my sister and brother-in-law joined flew across the country with us for a couple of days in the big city.

Ryan did pass the test but we decided not to pursue it any further and he was hired in the Seattle area shortly after. Even still, we look back on that trip as one of our very best memories.

We could not wait to spend some more time in New York City and introduce our kids to this big, energetic place.

fdny As I mentioned in the Philadelphia post, my parents joined us and we took the train from Philly to NYC. We popped up from the underground Penn Station for the kids’ first look at the city.

arrival Also? What is with the shirtless dude with backpack?! Only in New York :)

Ryan booked us a room nearby at a hotel with a beautiful lobby.

affinia We ventured out right away and walked a few blocks for lunch at the famed Shake Shack,

shakeshack and then continued on to The Empire State Building.

The tour to the top of the building is totally worth it. You ride up 86 floors to an open-air balcony that circles the tower. The views from every angle are breathtaking!

fromempirestatebuildingsouth fromempirestatebuilding It was a great introduction to the city for the kids and for us to get our bearings on where everything is located (and just how HUGE Manhattan is!).

We finished day one with a stop into the biggest Macy’s store in the world for new shoes for the kids (growing like weeds + walking miles = the need for comfortable replacements!) and then had a delicious meal with the most delightful waitress at Friedman’s.

The next morning, we had a scheduled tour at the Statue of Liberty.

statueofliberty statueoflibertymanhattan manhattan lexstatueofliberty

A friend suggested that we book a Crown tour several months ahead of time and I didn’t reserve quite soon enough to get up to the crown, but we did get in for a Pedestal tour. I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant until we visited and it was totally worth it, too!

You can barely see us, but there we are up on the platform. It was so cool to climb up the inner stairs and stand just under Lady Liberty.

statuebalconytour balconytourclose The ferry boat that takes you to the Statue of Liberty also travels to nearby Ellis Island where from 1892 to 1954, over twelve million immigrants entered the United States.

ellisisland We could have spent hours learning, joining Ranger talks and wandering the building and grounds, but with our limited time and full itinerary, we chose to do it fairly quickly.

ellisislandceiling The main building is beautiful with its curved tiled ceiling, big windows and views out every window. It’s pretty powerful to stand in the place where so many of our relatives first came before entering their new country.

ellisislandstatueofliberty ellisislandwindow From the dock back at Battery Park we walked a few blocks to Wall Street.

wallst And then continued on a few more blocks to the World Trade Tower and 9/11 Memorial.

worldtradetower When we were in NYC in 2002, the site of the World Trade Towers was still just piles of rubble. There are now two pools (about an acre each) where the towers once stood with the names of every person who perished engraved around them. The memorial area is hushed and a little bit somber and a beautiful place to remember the events of that day and the lives that were lost as a result.

Ryan was particularly taken with a fire house that we remember seeing on our first visit. Five of the crew members were killed on 9/11 and the building was nearly destroyed from the falling debris. It was used as the command post on Ground Zero and vital to the rescue operations. To now see it rebuilt with a full crew was a redeeming moment.

Whew! That was a full day with lots of walking. We made our way back towards our hotel and ate at a surprisingly wonderful little italian restaurant with such a charming atmosphere.

A reader named Meagan reached out to me during the trip and invited is to visit her amazing workplace, the Museum of Modern Art. She was so kind to meet us and visit for a few minutes, bringing bags for the kids filled with art supplies so they could create art of their own as we walked through the art museum.

meganmoma We didn’t get to meet many blog readers on the trip, but the ones we did meet were so great. I love saying hi in real life and getting to know just a little bit about who is enjoying the blog from the other side of the screen. Meagan was a wealth of knowledge and gave us perfect instructions for which floor to start on and how to move through the museum with kids (and not use an entire day for it).

The exhibits are absolutely amazing and it was really fun to wander through the galleries taking in all of the art. This painting was my favorite:

starrynight The real Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh! It actually made me tear up standing there looking at it.

momakids We loved the art museum, but had just as much fun wandering through the MOMA store.

rockefeller After the shushed morning indoors, we ventured out into the city to see Rockefeller Center, The Plaza Hotel, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the fancy shops on 5th Avenue.

stpatricks One must-do for us was to see a Broadway show and so we made it to Times Square shortly after the TKTS booth opened.

timessquare Do you know about this TKTS thing? You stand in a crazy long line and all the broadway shows with available tickets for that evening are available at half price. This is not the best option if there is a specific show you have to see, or for ones that typically sell out every day, but if you are not picky it is a great way to get slightly more affordable tickets to a wide range of shows.

We had a few family-friendly choices and ultimately decided to see Matilda The Musical.

matilda You guys. It was the most magical, special, entertaining show ever. The kids were enthralled! The grownups had permanent smiles on our faces (except at the end when both my mom and I couldn’t help but cry!). The music, acting, sets, and children are just the best. It was the perfect show to see with the kids and I can’t wait to see it again.

The music is super cute. We downloaded the soundtrack right away (it’s free on Amazon for Prime members).

Our final full day in NYC started with a subway ride where we found our name on the wall (Lex).

lex And then a nice couple of hours walking through Central Park.

centralparkpond It was uncomfortably hot and sticky that day so while I say it was a ‘nice couple of hours’ what I really mean is that we were super sweaty and tired with sore feet from our miles upon miles of walking but we did our best to enjoy the park and take advantage of the shade trees and park benches and the man selling cold water bottles.

onthebridge 14 years ago, my sister took a picture of me and Ryan on this bridge. It’s one of our all-time favorites and now it is fun to have a new version. 

My parents had to fly out that afternoon, so after the park we took the subway to Chelsea Market for a last meal together.

flowerschelseamarket The market has several shops and restaurants to choose from all in one big warehouse building.

And then we had to say goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa. There were tears all around. What a special thing to have them travel with us!

goodbyegmagpa New York City was at the top of Ryan’s must-visit list and it did not disappoint. We walked at least 6 miles each day. We saw as much as we possibly could. We ate really, really good food. We took in the most delightful Broadway show. Ryan and I snuck in a date at a restaurant I would move in to and in the spirit of NYC, we introduced the kids to Jimmy Fallon one night in the hotel.

Our five whirlwind days went so quickly. We can’t wait to visit again!

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Road Trip | Philadelphia

Our travels up the East Coast continued into Philadelphia.

philadelphia The city was such a pleasant surprise to me. It feels small, full of history with a gorgeous mix of old and new architecture. 

But first …

I mentioned in the D.C. post that my parents flew in for a few days to explore the city with us. And then I casually threw in that we convinced them to stay with us through Pennsylvania and to NYC. We had hotel rooms for New York, but there was 6 days in between. Which meant we squished EIGHT PEOPLE in a 200 sq ft Airstream.

sleeping You might wonder how that worked out … and while it was cramped, we were just so happy to have them with us that we figured it out. My parents slept in the back bedroom, Ryan slept on the dinette, Audrey and I slept on the pull out couch, Mason was in his hammock and the two older boys graciously took to the floor. 

We spent a few nights in Harrisburg, PA where we did a little bit of shopping (my parents only packed for 5 days in DC, so they needed a few more things to stretch out the impromptu trip to 2 weeks!) swam in the pool and took the kids to a movie. Campground bathrooms and showers and outdoor dining were super helpful in making the 8 people thing work.

Once to Philadelphia, we were excited to go see the city.

Our first stop was Independence Hall.

independence-hall-george independencehall The National Park Service offers tours daily and we joined one first thing in the morning.

The tour took us through the first floor of main building first viewing the 1700’s courtroom of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

independencehallcourthouse Across the hall is The Assembly Room.

independencehallroom This one room holds major American importance. It was here that George Washington was made Commander in Chief of the newly created army prior to the Revolutionary War. It was here that the Declaration of Independence was approved and signed. And it was here in 1787 where the U.S. Constitution was written and approved, with George Washington overseeing the Constitutional Convention.

After having traveled through so much history, finishing up at this site was so impactful. To think of the men who worked together to bravely declare independence and who later came together to form a new government that endures today … we were so grateful to step foot in such a historically significant site.

independencehallfoyer The foyer of Independence Hall is filled with natural light and beautiful wood architectural details. I couldn’t help myself from waiting for the crowds to exit so I could snap a few photos. 

staircase Across the park from Independence Hall is the Liberty Bell

libertybell The real Liberty Bell! This bell used to hang atop the Old State House (now called Independence Hall) and was used to call lawmakers to their meetings and townspeople to the reading of the news. 

The inscription on the bell reads:

“Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof”

It has been an inspiration throughout history to abolitionists,women’s suffrage advocates and Civil Rights leaders.

familylibertybell After grabbing coffee and the most delicious almond croissants at La Colombe, we drove through the city.

downtown We had lunch at Reading Terminal Market – a huge market with produce, Amish merchants and amazing restaurants (why did I not take photos?!! Actually, I know why. It was packed and we had 8 people to navigate through the crowded rows to figure out what to eat and where to eat it. Slightly stressful, but fun nevertheless). 

My mom really wanted to see the Betsy Ross house and we just happened to drive right past it.

betsyross Tours are offered to learn more about the first stars and stripes flag.

Instead of taking the Betsy Ross tour, we moved on to the Benjamin Franklin Museum where we learned all about the life of this famous Philadelphian.

benfranklinstatue The museum is located on the site where Franklin’s home sat as well as a replica of his printing office. Benjamin Franklin was such an interesting and influential man. He was an inventor (remember the whole kite and key thing?), a newspaper editor and printer, the first U.S. Ambassador to France, served as U.S. postmaster general, and fought against slavery from as early as the 1750’s. He is considered on of the Founding Fathers of the United States and has been called “The First American” for his relentless campaigning for unity among the colonies. 

emilybenfranklin I’ll tell you, I could read and learn and listen to history for days. 

And look! Benjamin Franklin himself came for a visit.

benfranklin After our long and very enjoyable day, we dined at Farmicia. It sits in old town with that super cool juxtaposition of old and new architecture we enjoyed so much in Philadelphia.

outtodinner We’ve found that when searching for great restaurants, we’ll google ‘farm to table’ and choose from that list. We’ve had great success finding good places with that simple search. 

We planned to explore the city again the following day, but the rain and thunderstorms crept in and so we stayed away and hung out around the campground for the day.

Early the next morning, we packed our bags, locked up the Airstream and left our car at the train station where we took an Amtrak into New York City.

amtrak

This was the kids’ first time on a train and was a great option for getting into a major city without taking our monstrous trailer.

While we didn’t see all that Philadelphia has to offer, we were totally impressed. Great food, beautiful buildings and so rich in American History.

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Road Trip | Washington, D.C.

For months we were keeping a secret from the kids …

My parents were flying in to Washington, D.C. to surprise the kids and spend a few days with us!

familywhitehouse They met us at our campground and when we pulled up, the kids literally sprinted from the moving car to hug their grandparents. I cried. My mom cried. It was SO wonderful!

After lots of hugs and a few hours of catching up, off we went to the city.

Our first activity for the night was an evening monument tour on a big tour bus. Our driver narrated our way around town pointing out important buildings, streets, monuments as the sun went down and the lights came on. We were in D.C. to celebrate the Fourth of July and apparently everyone else was as well. It was packed! And many sites were blocked off in preparation for the big show on the Mall for the fourth.

Even still, Washington, D.C. did not disappoint. After having learned so much of our country’s early history, it was so special and meaningful to all of us.

The evening tour took us to the Jefferson Monument which was so much bigger and impressive than I expected.

jeffersonmemorialsteps thomasjefferson masonjeffersonmemorial After the sun went down, we made our way to the Lincoln Memorial.

jeffersonmemorial Again, it is so big and gave me chills seeing Lincoln up on his chair. We read his Gettysburg address that is carved up on the wall and answered hard questions the kids had about slavery. It brought tears and a gratitude for their innocence.

We also saw the Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorials on the tour and spied the Washington Monument standing tall and proud across the water.

washingtonmonumentnight The last stop of the bus tour was the Iwo Jima Memorial which was so chill-inducing to see in person.

iwojimamemorial The tour was a great way to get a quick overview of some of the most popular sites around the city.

The next day we ventured out on our own, stopping first at the National Archives to view the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.

archives You can not take photos inside, but I wish we could. It was awesome to see the most important documents to our country in person! Did you know: the Declaration of Independence was written on animal skin?! I had no idea.

Washington is a walkable city and so we moved on to the Washington Monument across the Mall.

washingtonmonument Because we loved seeing the Lincoln Memorial so much the night before, we wanted to see it again in daylight.

lincolnmemorial Goodness, I loved being there.

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial is where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech. There is a engraved stone in the place where he delivered the speech and of course we had to take a photo of us there.

ihaveadream My youngest son studied MLK, Jr. in 2nd grade this past year and so this was really special to him. He looked out from that spot and we all just imagined what this scene must have looked like in 1963.

washingtonmonumentreflectingpool There are such beautiful, meaningful memorials to all of the wars. Very sobering.

koreanmemorial The Korean War Veterans Memorial is so powerful. What a gorgeous art installation and special tribute to all of the Americans who served so bravely for our country.

After a day full of walking and sight-seeing, we took a taxi over to Founding Farmers – a restaurant that came highly recommended from my ig friends.

Getting into any popular restaurant is hard on a busy weekend in July, but parties of 8? Not the easiest. We had to wait for about an hour and a half and kept ourselves busy with a riveting game of charades. It was Audrey’s first time and she was the cutest.

charades I was amused by these old row houses that are built in to the Mexican Embassy. How crazy/cute are they?

littlehouses Dinner was fantastic, by the way. Totally worth the long wait.

The next day was a big museum day. There are 13 Smithsonians around the area – each one absolutely worth visiting, but of course we had to choose just a few. The admission is free (!) which is so great for big families.

We began at the National Museum of American History. Loved it.

smithsoniangrandpaaudrey Next we moved on to the National Air and Space Museum.

spiritofstlouis I’ll be honest: I wasn’t super excited to see the Air and Space museum. We did the Houston Space center and have a great Museum of Flight in Seattle we’ve been to a few times so I felt like it was all going to be redundant.

I was so wrong.

The Air and Space museum was so impressive. We saw the original Wright Flyer from the first flights in 1903 (super cool for the kids as we had just visited the Wright Brothers Museum). The Spirit of St. Louis was the plane Charles Lindberg flew on the first solo trans-atlantic flight from New York to Paris in 1927. It did not have a front windshield! It is said he turned the plane so he could look out the side windows to see where he was going. So crazy.

We also hit the Museum of Natural History. My kids are big Night At The Museum fans, so this one was fun to see.

smithsonianelephant We camped in Maryland at a big campground and took the Metro to and from. Lots of charades happened on that train, too.

onmetro On July Fourth, we could think of no better place to celebrate America’s birthday than at George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon.

mtvernonsoldiers mtvernonarbor The lovely historic home is set on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River.

George Washington was quite interested in gardening and had the most impressive grounds and greenhouse.

mtvernongardenpath mtvernongreenhouse mtvernoninsidegreenhouse

P.S. It looks like the grounds were empty. Don’t be fooled. I just worked my magic to avoid getting people in the photos :)

There was a whole program for the day. The most special was the swearing in of 100 new US citizens. What an honor to witness and celebrate.

newcitizens Following the ceremony, there were daytime fireworks on the lawn.

dayfireworks And then we ate cake.

eatcake We left Mount Vernon just as the rain really started coming down. Later that night, we staked out a spot on the grounds near the Iwo Jima Memorial. We had heard that the fireworks display in Washington, D.C. was like no other. As cool as it would be to sit down at the Capitol to watch the whole show, we were not super excited about the crowds and standing out in the rain all day to save a spot. So the next best option was across the way up on the hill that overlooks the city.

selfiefourthofjuly Ugh. The fireworks display was such a disappointment. I mean, I’m sure the fireworks would have been amazing, but the clouds rolled in heavy and low and blocked them all. It was so anti-climactic and a little bit of a bummer.

fireworks

We stayed in a hotel in the city so we could avoid public transportation and later that night Ryan and I turned on the tv and fireworks displays from across the country were showing on every channel. Oh, the irony.

Of course, the next morning was bright and sunny and beautiful. We took advantage of the weather and visited Arlington National Cemetery.

arlingtonstones tombofunknown The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier changing of the guard was such a beautiful, honorable ceremony.

My parents were supposed to leave that night, but we convinced them to stick with us a little longer. Yep, that’s right. We all decided EIGHT people in a trailer was a good idea for a few nights on our way up to New York City. More about how that went down later …

We left Washington, D.C. and drove about an hour to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to walk around the Civil War battlefield.

I mentioned before that Ryan and I listened to this amazing book that centered on the battle of Gettysburg and it was mind-blowing to walk on those same lands. The well-done Visitors Center hosts a museum with films to watch, tours to take and battlefield relics on display. We so wished we had planned more time. We could have spent the whole day, but only had a few hours.

kidslincolngettysburg

We did listen in on a ranger talk and walked out on the battlefield. There are 1,320 monuments, 410 cannons, 148 historic buildings and 41 miles of roads to visit. It is a huge part of American history and a turning point in the Civil War.

gettysburg

The Ranger told us that the battlefield looks nearly identical as it did in 1863. We were there on July 6th – just three days after the third and final day of battle and it was hot and so humid. I can only imagine what those weary wool-wearing soldiers went through on those terrible, bloody days.

Our tour of our nation’s capitol was everything we hoped for. Mason, our 8 year old, said over and over that it was his favorite stop and as a parent, it was so wonderful to watch our son soak it all in. And to have my parents with us was extra special, too.

Next up, Philadelphia. Stay tuned …

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All your family road trip questions answered

Oh boy, you guys. You are in for a TREAT. Well, that is if you are curious about many things regarding a big family road trip. We’ve compiled a bunch of questions we’ve received as we’ve traveled and answered them all there … in this very long post. Enjoy. 

xo, Emily


Three and one half months of traveling around America is coming to a close and it’s met with bittersweet feelings from all of us. On the one hand it feels like our family has been gone for a long time and on the other it seems as if we’ve just begun.

This experience of trading our regular life for one of travel, tight spaces, long drives, extensive family time, seeing America, experiencing history, trying new foods, meeting new people – every single part of it has been the best thing we’ve ever done for our family.

We still have so many places still to highlight and share on the blog (you can see the whole list of road trip blog posts here), but before that I wanted to answer the questions we’ve been receiving through comments and instagram.

What we’re doing – a big family road trip – is not an original idea, but its not totally common, either. We’ve figured it out along the way and are more than happy to share our experiences, logistics, lessons learned and thoughts about the whole thing with you.

I have broken up the most common questions into sections but will start with this one:

Would you do it again?

Yes, for sure, without question. If we could go back knowing what we now know about what it takes to pull off a trip like this, we would absolutely do it agin.

Will we actually ever do it again? Probably not on this scale. We have said from the beginning that this is a once in a lifetime trip and we are okay with that. It has been so good – even the hard stuff has made us into better people – and I’m sure we will look back on this road trip as some of the best memories of our lives.


 leaving home behind


What do you miss most about home?

Of course we’ve missed our family and friends, so we’ll just say those are a given. Apart from that, we’ve been surprised at how little we’ve missed. Our airstream has been a great home-on-the-road with all the conveniences we have needed.

I asked the family what they missed most and here are the answers:

Ryan: not much. Maybe just the ease and routine of day to day and high speed internet.

Emily: Barre class. And puttering around the house moving things around and re-styling. And I miss my peony and hydrangea plants.

Ethan (12): Living in a house with more space. My friends. Building forts. Riding bikes. Going to school.

Brady (10): Friends. Being in open areas (like a big room for alone time).

Mason (8): Atlas (our dog). Playing with friends.

Audrey (6): Atlas, playing with baby dolls and stuffed animals. And Ellie (our sweet niece who turned one this summer).

The first few weeks were tough for our oldest, Ethan, who is just on the verge of becoming a teenager. He really missed his friends and worried about missing out on what was going on at home. We’ve said it a handful of times and truly believe that if we had planned this even one year later, it would have been much harder on him, especially.


 relationships


Have the kids been getting along? Has bickering increased or decreased?

We pushed hard to make this trip happen for the sake of our family. We wanted to do something just as us, without extended family, friends, school and work to distract us from truly connecting as a family. The kids have missed their friends, without a doubt, but I have loved watching them depend on each other as their sole companions.

Do they still fight? Of course. I’m not sure if it is noticeably more or less. I do think their friendships with one another are deeper and that matters more to us than the inevitable bickering of siblings. Although I could do without the pestering.

How do you get alone time?

Alone time has been lacking for everyone but no one is particularly frustrated about it. Ryan and I both have introverted recharging needs and much of that happens while in the car or after the kids go to bed. Our 8 year old is probably the one who needs the most alone time and so we’ve tried to accommodate by giving him a hammock to sleep in and legos to play with.

If you’re curious about how Ryan and I get ‘alone time’, I will say these three things: we have a loud a/c unit, tired children, and sturdy stabilizer jacks :)

What did you do with Atlas? Have the kids missed him?

Atlas is our 3 year old labradoodle and yes, the kids do miss him. Ryan’s parents have generously taken him in while we’re gone. Ryan’s brother and sister-in-law live nearby on a lake and they have sent us lots of photos and videos of Atlas learning to dive off their dock. He’s had a pretty great summer!

What have you done for church/worship during the trip?

We miss going to church! When staying with friends we’ve joined them at their churches, but this has only been a few times. We look forward to returning to regular church-going.

While not going to church every Sunday, we are experiencing God’s beauty and creation in many of the places we’ve been. Whether in iconic places like the Grand Canyon or just driving across open grasslands, God’s creation can be found everywhere.


 planning + logistics


How far in advance did you plan the trip?

We started dreaming 2 1/2 years ago. We made plans and adjustments to our lives to make the trip happen over the course of that time and started actually booking stops about three months before we left.

Did you buy or rent your trailer? Will you keep it after you are done?

We bought our Airstream a few weeks before we left for the trip. It was used but in great shape and has been the perfect home away from home (see the tour here). We weighed the cost of renting vs. buying (renting is fairly expensive even compared to staying in hotels) and ultimately decided buying was the right choice for us. We haven’t decided yet if we will keep it or sell it … if we do continue to take road trips in the future, we will probably want a different trailer as our kids will outgrow the sleeping situation very quickly. My guess is that we’ll sell it.

Any recommendations about towing a big trailer?

Our family SUV (a Ford Expedition XL) has worked great as both our towing vehicle and place of many hours of riding in the car. Ryan has done all of the driving on the trip and thankfully, he’s very comfortable towing, backing up, parking, navigating (could be his firefighting background driving around fire engines?!).

As far as advice for towing a big trailer, Ryan has a few recommendations:

  1. Make sure your tires are good and check the tire pressure regularly.
  2. Do not max out the towing capacity. Our car has a max capacity of 8,600 lbs and we’re pulling about 7,500 lbs with our trailer fully loaded. Towing a heavy trailer 14,000 miles in 3 months puts some wear on the car, but it has worked well for us.
  3. Drive during the day. We have avoided a lot of traffic, the roads are visible and safer and we get to enjoy the views out our window. Only once did we drive at night (through the Malibu canyon) and it was a little scary. Daylight makes a big difference.
  4. Add 5 to 10 minutes extra per every hour of drive time. Towing a big trailer means we can not drive as fast as the speed limit on many highways and our drive times are always more than what our gps navigation tells us. Just allow for that extra time.

How did you decide your route and places to stay?

Our family talked about this trip for over two years so there was plenty of time to dream, research and come up with our wish lists of places to visit. We knew we wanted to see all the major things (The White House, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon). A few southern cities were high on my list; Ryan was particularly excited about Washington DC and New York City.

With that list in hand, we used a combination of a google map to drop pins and the Roadtrippers app to help figure out the best routes. Ultimately, we decided on a counter-clockwise trip around the country that started in Seattle, down through California, through the National Parks in Arizona and Utah, down through Texas, east along the Florida Gulf Coast, up the East Coast, down to Nashville, over to St. Louis and up to Chicago and then westward to hit Iowa, Mt Rushmore, The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. Our trip ends with a big family vacation in Eastern Washington/Northern Oregon.

We tried to limit our drive times to 4 hours on any travel day so we just picked places along the way that fit with the timing and destination. There have been a few longer drive days that were unavoidable and while very long, they were fine.

Do you pre-plan each destination/city/state (museums, restaurants, etc)?

We booked each of our overnights a few months in advance. Some of the stops had obvious must-visit places and so we marked those in our spreadsheet (think Statue of Liberty in NYC, Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown), but many of our stops were cities or National Parks we wanted to visit with no real knowledge of what exactly to do or see.

On the drive day leading up to the next destination I spent a bunch of time on my phone researching what sights we wanted to see, restaurants worth eating at, places to visit. We put up a survey before we left asking for suggestions along our route and you all came through big time! I referred back to the spreadsheet with suggestions many times to find local restaurant recommendations and make sure we weren’t missing anything big.

Instagram has also been the best way to discover what to do in each place. Every time I post a new photo showing where we are, comments come pouring in with such helpful suggestions. Our trip has been much richer because of the recommendations from readers around the country.

If we were to do the whole thing agin, we could have avoided some frustration and arguments (ahem) if we had a clearer plan or at least a few options for each stop ahead of time. It takes a lot of time to research and had we started the whole process earlier, perhaps we could have had a more set-in-stone plan for each stop. If we had more time, it would have been good to put together a short list of restaurants and sights to see at each stop to save time and make decision-making easier on the road.

On the other hand, I do enjoy the flexibility to figure it out as we go depending on what sounds good/fun at the time.

Do you have any tips on finding good campgrounds?

We booked all of our campgrounds ahead of time based on internet photos and reviews. We could have done a better job of looking at the 3-D google map to see what was surrounding the campground to make sure we were in a decent area (only a problem a few times and we dealt with it just fine).

When booking campsites, we preferred pull-thru with full hookups. These sites are generally a little more expensive, but made parking easier and the full hookups were a luxury we didn’t want to give up (full hookups means having electricity, water and sewer at your site). We have stayed in many KOA campgrounds which are great. There are a million of them, they are pretty consistent around the country, usually have pools and are family-friendly. We have noticed that KOAs are not always close to the city/site you are visiting, so if you stay in a KOA know that you’ll probably be driving a bit to get to your sight-seeing destination. For example, the Grand Canyon KOA is about an hour away from the Grand Canyon, the Charleston KOA is 35 minutes from Charleston. Most state parks do not offer full hook-ups, so they were not options for us on this trip.

Was having an agenda and lodging booked ahead of time a good thing or did it prevent you from ‘winging it’?

Having our stops booked ahead of time has worked great for us. It gives us a timeline to stick to and ensures that we make it to all of the stops we want to see. We knew we had 107 days to travel, had a list of places we wanted to visit and so we fit each one in accordingly.

Within the agenda of where each night was spent, we had a lot of freedom for what to do and see each day so that felt flexible enough. Having a preplanned route also made it easy to coordinate stops and visits with friends and family.

Did you skip/change much from original plan?

Not much. We have only strayed from our itinerary four times:

  1. We were not crazy about our campground in Fort Worth, TX and it was raining so hard, so we drove one night early to stay in Waco.
  2. After the tragedies in Orlando and because some plans fell through with family in the area, we skipped driving to Naples, FL and instead added a few extra days in Savannah, GA.
  3. We hoped to make it in Maine, but we decided to eliminate the stop to avoid a super long drive day. (We regret this one).
  4. Glacier National Park has been nixed from the end of the trip. We live close enough that we figure we can make another trip out there someday. We regret this one too, but after reading more about it, we realized it deserves a longer stay than just a couple days.

What is a typical day like?

We could split up our trip into a few different typical days, so I’ll run through all four.

OUTDOORSY

For our more outdoorsy stops (like many of the National Parks through California, Arizona, Utah and Colorado) our typical day includes breakfast in the trailer, loading up snacks and lunch and lots of water in backpacks and then heading out for the day to explore. Most of the time we figure out a rough schedule of the day the night before for hikes to take or sights to see.  We like to stop in to the Visitors Center of National Parks to learn more about the park and pick up a Junior Ranger booklet for the kids. After a full day out and about, we return to the trailer for dinner around 7 and then off to bed by about 10. Once the kids are in bed in the front of the trailer, Ryan and I are relegated to our bedroom where – if we have internet – we’ll work for an hour or two.

DRIVE DAY

On drive days, we wake around 8, fix an easy breakfast and start packing up. Ryan does all of the outside tasks (unhooking utilities, hooking up the trailer to the car); I organize in the airstream to making sure all of the clothes are put away, I sweep and vacuum the floor, put away all dishes and loose items and close all windows and vents. It is really nice to reset each travel day and has helped keep things tidy in the trailer. This whole process takes about an hour.

Most of our drive days are about 4 hours, but it always takes at least an hour longer than our gps says plus time to stop for gas, bathroom breaks and lunch. We can usually make it with just two stops.

When we arrive at our next campground, we check in, find our site, unhook the car, hook up the electric/water/sewer and let the kids run and play. It has been super nice to stay at campground with pools, playgrounds and bouncy blob things.

IN THE CITY

Our time in bigger cities (like basically the entire East Coast) are full, full days. We wake, eat breakfast and head out in our car for our destination of the day. We pack in as much as we can as we have limited time in each place. Many times we skip lunch, eat a snack or two and then stop for dinner around 7. By the time we get back to our trailer it is 9 or 10 and we’ll chill for a bit then get to bed. And then wake up the next day and do it all again :)

STAYING WITH FRIENDS

Some of our best times have been staying with friends in different parts of the country. On these days, all bets are off to a typical schedule. There has been a little bit of sight-seeing, a whole lot of staying around the house and talking and playing and late nights of card games/movie watching/visiting. Except for our stop in San Antonio where we visited our close family friends, the other stops have been to friends of mine whom I met through blogging. Every time the kids have hit it off instantly and Ryan and I so enjoy connecting with other couples.

Do you wish you built in more downtime?

There have been a few times when we all have needed some downtime and we’ve been able to change our plans to accommodate but mostly, we know our trip is quick and we’re trying to take advantage of seeing as much as we can in a short time.

Our drive days do feel like downtime. The kids watch movies, draw or stare out the windows; Ryan and I talk or listen to a podcast or book. And the overnights with friends feel recharging, too.

The one place where we wish we added a few extra days of downtime was after New York City before heading up to Boston. We pushed hard for those 5 days in NYC walking 6-9 miles each day and we were wiped by the end of it! By the time we made it to Boston we were all fighting head colds and we just needed a break. Boston got the brunt of it and we did very little to explore the city. It is one of those places where we look forward to returning and giving it a fair shot!

When do you stop for groceries/necessities?

Without a lot of storage space and six mouths to feed, we have to stop fairly regularly to stock up on groceries. Unless we’re in a big city and eating out more, we probably grocery shop once per week. We’ve done a few stops at Costco along the way for bulk snacks, cereal, eggs, pre-marinated meats (a huge time saver!) and produce we know we’ll make it through. Some campgrounds have little stores that sell necessities like rv toilet paper and I always buy a bag of ice (have I ever shared with you my crazy love of ice? Oh, yes I have.).

What percentage of meals do you eat out vs. in the airstream?

This depends a bit on where we are.

If we are in a major city, we eat out quite a bit. We’ll do breakfast in the trailer, then grab lunch or a quick snack and dinner while out sight seeing. We LOVE good farm-to-table food and if there is a restaurant that comes recommended we’ll gladly eat out and enjoy a great meal. We’ve also tried to enjoy local food as much as possible to get a taste of each part of the country.

If we’re more remote (like a National Park), we eat in the trailer for most meals.

How difficult is it to cook in small space?

Surprisingly, cooking in the Airstream kitchen has worked just fine. I was really picky about wanting a trailer with at least enough counter space for a cutting board and I stand by that decision. I am not cooking elaborate meals with lots of dishes and we use the grill for nearly every meal so some of the work happens outside. I’m not sure I’d like my real life kitchen to be as small, but it has given us everything we need for this trip.

What are your go-to meals?

Breakfast: cereal, oatmeal, yogurt + granola, eggs + toast. If I’m feeling fancy I’ll make our favorite avocado toast (sourdough bread, avocado, arugula, spicy plum jam, goat cheese, poached egg and red pepper flakes).

Lunch: cheese, meat + crackers, pb+j, fruit + veggies, hummus, individual guacamole with crackers.

Dinner: burgers, grilled meat + salad, spaghetti with meat sauce + salad, burrito bowls. These four meals just go on rotation which makes shopping and cooking a lot easier because you don’t have to decide what to eat.

What did you do with kids’ school?

Thankfully our public school district was very accommodating to our plans and supported us pulling the kids out of school 7 weeks early. We un-enrolled them and are technically independently homeschooling. Our state does not have any requirements we needed to be concerned with (especially since the kids met end-of-year standards when we left). If we were going to miss more of the school year, we would have built schooling into our travel. I will say, though, that these kids have had the best education on American History, geography, government and nature we could ever wish for.


financial


Let’s just start by saying a three-plus month trip anywhere is expensive. This trip is no exception. We skimped in some places, splurged in others. Each family has their own priorities and we truly viewed this as a once in a lifetime thing which influenced many of our spending choices.

How do you afford being gone so long/off work so long?

We realize taking months off of work is not normal for most American families. It has worked for us for a few reasons. First, we are self-employeed and nearly all of our work for JDC is done online and therefore not tied to any physical location.

Second, earlier this year, we made the hard and exciting decision to have Ryan leave his career as a firefighter to work full time on our businesses. He has always been behind the scenes on my business and we’re looking forward to what this new phase will look like with him more involved when we return home.

Third, we have a small team who work with us to keep things running while we’re gone. We never would be able to keep the businesses running without them!

It has taken us two years to prepare, save and plan for these three months. It’s been a sacrifice, but totally worth it.

We would love to encourage you that if an extended road trip is a dream of yours, pursue it. It may take some creativity with your job, you may need to make changes to your current life and be willing to take steps toward. We’re here to cheer you on.

How much are you spending on gas?

We were extremely fortunate to pick a summer when gas prices are historically low across the country. We’ve paid as high as $2.50 and as low as $1.79 for a gallon of gas, averaging somewhere around $2 per gallon. Multiply this by 14000 miles, 10 mile per gallon at $2 per gallon = $2800. If gas prices had been what they were two or three summers ago this number would easily be double.

How much have you spent on hotels and RV parks?

After the whole thing is over we’ll figure out exact numbers and will most likely put those into a cute infographic with lots of other facts and figures. Generally speaking, we pay about $60 per night on an rv site and $300 per night at a hotel. When we stay in hotels, we also pay to store the trailer at a local campground as most cities are just not set up for 28′ Airstream parking. When we stay with friends, parking is free.

Out of the 107 nights, we have spent 15 nights in a hotel, 13 nights with friends and the rest at campgrounds.

What is the total cost for a family of 6 for 3 months on the road?

It’s a lot :)

In addition to gas and lodging, we are also paying for meals and activities. If we were not on the trip we would also be buying groceries and doing activities so part of the costs are just normal doing life costs. Admittedly, we are eating out much more than we would be at home and choose good restaurants where we typically spend between $60 – $100 each meal.

We bought a year pass to all National Parks which gets us in free at each park. Our membership to the Seattle Science Center is part of a group of science museums around the country that offer free entrances with the pass. We are AAA members and ask for discounts at all campgrounds and hotels (they don’t always offer them, but it doesn’t hurt to try!) and we use our KOA membership number for 10% off our stays there.

Activities like horseback riding, touring Monticello, seeing a Broadway show, visiting museums, going up to the top of the Empire State Building – these are all additional costs that we knew we would not want to skimp on. It is expensive to travel and sight see as a family of six but the memories we’ve made are priceless (so cheesy, but true).


Sight Seeing


What places would you stay longer?

If we had more time, we would stay longer at every stop! There is so much to see in each town, city, National Park and we only just brushed the surface on each of our stops.

We have a list of places we’d like to return to. On that list are: Sonoma/California Wine Country, Charleston, Zion National Park, Washington D.C., Boston, Cape Cod, Watch Hill, RI, Chicago.

Do you think the trip was too long to absorb/appreciate the places? Would more shorter trips be better?

When all is said and done, we will have been on the road for 107 days and traveled over 14,000 miles. While we had to skip many great places around the country, we love the route we have taken. The whole thing has felt like a hands-on American history tour, making stories of people groups, war, government truly come alive for all of us. Moving from the south up the east coast was particularly incredible as it felt like each city’s history built upon the next.

We saw the first city in America, the first English settlement, we visited the home of Thomas Jefferson who wrote the Declaration of Independence, stepped foot in the room where it was signed in Philadelphia and later saw the real thing in D.C.. We stood where much of America’s slave trade happened, walked the hills at Gettysburg, saw Civil War cannonballs, stood teary-eyed reading Abraham Lincoln’s words at the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. and then visited the capitol building where President Lincoln’s body was on view for mourners following his assassination.

Beyond the American History piece, we also had the opportunity to watch sea lions in the Pacific Ocean, pelicans in the Atlantic, the breathtaking depth of the Grand Canyon, the crazy rock structures in Bryce Canyon, feel the mist off Niagara Falls, drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains, prairies, cornfields, across rivers and bridges and bays.

We are forever grateful for the opportunity to see it all in one, long, connected road trip. It gives a perspective on America that we never would have had if we had done the trip in pieces.

How did you determine what souvenirs or mementos to buy knowing you had limited space?

Using limited space as a scapegoat has been the greatest for avoiding spending unnecessarily on souvenirs! If our daughter could, she would buy a stuffed animal at every single gift shop. We have hit many darling shops and have to walk out empty handed because we just don’t have room.

What we have collected are stickers from each stop that we’ve added to our car top box. Having at least one thing we’re collecting and something we say yes to in the gift shops has helped keep everyone happy.

Any stops that you could have done without? That didn’t meet expectations?

Thankfully, we can’t really think of any that have totally disappointed. We stayed for a few days in what we thought was Amish country in Pennsylvania but we probably didn’t choose the right city to stay in. We ended up using that stop to shop for necessities, swim at the pool and see a movie which was probably a good thing for all of us. We did visit a great Amish market on our drive out of town and viewed the gorgeous farms and buggies so we did get a little bit of what we were hoping for.

The funny thing that happens when you are seeing every amazing thing America has to offer is that it becomes easy to compare.

We have visited a bunch of museums and while of course each one is valuable in its own way, when you’ve just been to the Smithsonian Air + Space or the Chicago Field Museum, it’s hard to compete. We felt the same way after having just gone through Yosemite and the Grand Canyon when we came to Zion. It is beautiful there, but different than the previous two iconic National Parks and it took effort on my part to not compare the beauty and just appreciate it for what it is.

How do you balance kid-friendly activities with the types of things adults want to do?

Admittedly, we have pretty amazing kids. They have complained very little about all the sight-seeing, history lessons, hiking for miles, walking for miles, eating at nice restaurants, driving hour after hour, sleeping in too-tight spaces. It makes me teary just thinking about what flexible, fun troopers they are.

A majority of our activities have been perfect for both kids and adults. The Junior Ranger program at each National Park keeps the kids engaged and allows the adults to visit places of importance, too. A few spots offered family-friendly tours which we took them up on. Turns out, they are just as great for the parents as they are for kids. We hit the zoo, play at parks, stop for ice cream and do lots of swimming.

There have been times when Ryan and I look at each other and wished we were kidless. Times like at a nice restaurant or when we were the only one dragging our kids on a bourbon tour in Lexington. But for the most part, we’ve found a good balance of kid/adult activities to keep us all happy.


 Looking Forward


What is your plan for transitioning back to ‘real’ life?

At the end of our road trip is our annual one week family vacation with my Jones side. We will pull up to the big rented farmhouse in our airstream and celebrate with our family who we’ve all missed so much. That week of family, sharing stories, hanging out poolside and playing games is one that we look forward to every year and have high hopes that it acts as a great transition from road trip to real life.

We will have about two weeks before the kids start school, so we’ll get together with friends, unpack, reaquaint ourselves with normal life and prepare for the school year ahead.

Quite honestly, I don’t want this thing to end and I know the transition will be hard.

Has this adventure in ‘tiny living’ made you re-think all the stuff you left at home and haven’t needed? Do you think you’ll purge when you get home? Does it make you think about living smaller at home?

This experiment in living with much, much less has been so good. We do find that we don’t miss much and really don’t need anything more than we have in our little trailer.

Before we left, I went through a major purging phase to prepare our home for the summer. I packed up boxes of stuff – clothes, toys, pillows, dishes, decorative accessories I haven’t touched in years and donated it all. I’m sure I’ll return home and find more to clear out.

If anything, this tiny living experiment has made us more particular about what stuff we do have. Does it have meaning? Is it made well? Will it last? Do we really need it? This is more the direction we find ourselves going.

We have a big family and love entertaining so living small doesn’t necessarily hold the same appeal as living smarter and more intentionally.

How might you live differently back at home?

We will prioritize our family in a new and better way. Life gets awfully busy and we were starting to feel like we were missing opportunities to connect with each other and our kids. Taking three months off of everything has bonded us in ways I hope we will never lose and keep us looking for ways we can be together just as a family.

What will you miss most about being on the road?

I cry easily when I think about this whole thing being over! It truly has been a once in a lifetime trip and a sweet, sweet time for me and Ryan and for our kids. There are distractions at home that keep us from focusing on one another, on learning, on exploring and we don’t have those while on the road. Sure, it comes with its own set of issues: tight spaces, one million little decisions to be made, lack of internet, but none have been so hard that it makes us want to stop. This road life is not a permanent thing for us, so it has to come to an end and we’ll always have great memories.

What new inspiration and ideas have you found after being away from normal work space/flow? Any new dreams you have for JDC and new projects you are excited to explore when you come home?

It has been so nice to step away from regular work, give myself a break and take time to dream with Ryan about what’s next for Jones Design Company. What we’ve discovered is that I love houses. I love decorating. I’m excited to take a bit more of a house + home bent on the blog and post much more frequently. I especially love when I hear from readers that what I share on the blog makes their lives happier and prettier. So I want to do more of all of that. More coffee chats. More video. More interactive formats. As much as I don’t want the road trip to end, I am looking forward to getting back to work!

What adventure will be next?

Well our oldest is practically a teenager, so that’s going to be interesting :)

Actually, we’re not sure what’s next. The fact that we turned this road trip dream into such an incredible reality is very inspiring to us and makes us want to take more risks and steps toward new dreams and goals.


 

Whew! I told you it was long :)  I hope this is helpful and encouraging as you pursue your dreams! 

Want to save all this info for later? Pin the image below and you’ll know right where to find it.

How One Family Took To The Road for 3 Months To Travel Around The Country / jones design company

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Road Trip | Virginia

We continued our journey up the East Coast from North Carolina into Virginia.

The first stop was America’s Historic Triangle with three towns that are important to colonial America – Jamestown (the first English Settlement), Williamsburg (the capitol of Britians’s largest and richest colony) and Yorktown (the site of the final battle in the Revolutionary War).

After settling into our campground, we began our tour of the area with a stroll through the lovely merchant’s square in Williamsburg.

williamsburg The brick streets are lined with shops, restaurants and at the far end lies the gorgeous historic College of William & Mary (the second oldest college in America!). We ate at a great pub, walked around the shops, then strolled the campus.

williammary This photo is one of my favorites of the trip :) I ask them to smile and this is what I get.

williamsburgshop There is a great bookstore in the same area where we spent over an hour on both days. Ryan browsed downstairs while the kids and I went up to the Children’s section to read and play. I adore a good illustrated children’s book and read a handful. This one was our favorite of the day – such a witty, clever story surrounding the leaders of the Revolution and totally appropriate for this leg of the trip.

book The following day, we ventured to Jamestown where the first settlement in America began in 1607.

Side note: there actually was an earlier settlement on Roanoke Island, NC where we visited on our previous stop. There is mystery as to what happened to the 117 colonists which is super fascinating. Read more about it here.

There are two ways to explore Jamestown: the Historic Jamestowne national park and the Jamestown Settlement. We visited the Settlement which has a full gallery with the history, artifacts and videos inside the visitors center and a replica settlement that you can walk through which is very hands-on.

We learned about the houses that were built, the struggles that the early colonists faced, what types of plants they grew and their relationship with the Native Americans who were already living in the area.

jamestownhouse jamestown The Powhatan people and the English Colonists built an interesting relationship that was beneficial to both (and harmful as well). We loved walking through the Powhatan village and learning more about their culture and trying out a few of their everyday activities (like removing the fur from a deer hide using a deer hoof!)

fur The colonists came to America aboard ships and just a few steps away were three replicas on the James River. Again, they have it set up for visitors to climb aboard and have a look around.

ships I ended up chatting with one of the men in costume who was so knowledgeable about early American history. I am sure I learned much of this in school, but it all left my brain long ago so it was like all of these lightbulbs kept clicking in my head.

So that’s why the British came! (The Virginia Company was funded by weathly Englishmen with the goal of claiming land in America in hopes of discovering gold and silver and producing profitable crops).

Pocahontas ties in here! (She was from the Powhatan tribe, married Englishman John Rolfe – not John Smith as the Disney movie portrays – and was a quick celebrity in England as an example of a ‘civilized savage’.)

The few hours that we spent at Jamestown was very informative and it was helpful that much of it was hands-on for the kids.

The next day, we visited Yorktown. Again, there are two ways to discover the history: Yorktown Battlefield run by the National Parks and Yorktown Victory Center.

We started with the National Park where we joined a Ranger talk that walked us through the battlefield and explained its significance.

Again, I’m sure I learned all of this in school (and I promise I was a good student!), but I was so fuzzy on this part of history before visiting.

Over 150 years after the first settlements were established in America and after years of being unfairly ruled by the British government, revolutionists joined together to declare independence from England. Many things led up to the Revolutionary War (i.e. the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere, The Declaration of Independence) which ultimately ended with the battle at Yorktown.

George Washington, along with Count Rochambeau and their combined Franco-American army defeated the British at Yorktown which would ultimately lead to the British Parliament turning against the war. While Yorktown was not the last battle, it was the most significant and a huge turning point that resulted in America’s independence.

After walking the battlefield, seeing original cannons (!), driving the path where the soldiers encamped and fought, we visited the Victory Center. This was set up much the same as the Jamestown settlement with a gallery (currently under construction to be opened this fall as the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown) and a re-created Continental Army encampment and Revolution-era farm.

yorktownsoldier This costumed soldier taught us about life in the army, he shared with us the war strategy, how to fire a musket and how to march in formation. We all were quite entertained.

We also sat in to listen to the army surgeon and hear about the medical practices of the time. The boys asked a million questions and our oldest volunteered to learn how the surgeons of that time removed iron musket balls from wounded soldiers (I’ll just say it was ridiculously unsanitary and excruciatingly painful). Again, the hands-on nature made history come alive for all of us.

oldhouseyorktown From the Victory Center, we walked along the river back to our car that was parked about a mile away at the battlefield. Our walk took us through the little town of Yorktown and past old, historic buildings that have stood for nearly 300 years.

yorktownhouse To get to our car, we walked through a pathway that was once a major thoroughfare to bring the tobacco from the plantations down to the river for shipping. There is also thought that British General Charles Cornwallis set up a temporary headquarters in the bank of the hillside along the path before the final battle. If those tress could talk!

kidspath Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown were added late to our itinerary and I’m so glad we moved things around to fit them in. We all learned so much, the timeline of early American history clicked and we had some great relax time at the bookstore and at our campground.

We moved onward from Williamsburg to a little town of Crozet, Virginia which is just outside Charlottesville.

kingfamilyvineyard We planned on visiting the area to see Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, and when I was booking our campsite I recognized the name of the town. It just so happens that one of my besties from college lives in Crozet, just a few miles from where we camped. We were able to squeeze in a visit with Jen and her twins (who are exactly Audrey’s age) and hear all about the local favorites.

Dinner one night was spent on the lawn of King Family Vineyards. You really couldn’t find a dreamier place to sit out, let the kids run, sip their delicious Crose (get it? Crozet/Rose?) and take in the most breathtaking views of the green landscape against the Blue Ridge Mountains.

ryanemily I am not sure what I am doing here with my arm … but seriously, isn’t this the most beautiful scenery?!

We stayed at the best campground yet where Audrey had the whole bouncy thing to herself and took full advantage of it. There was a pool, a playground, a stage for events, a little stream. It was delightful.

mistymountain One night Jen and her girls came for s’mores. This was only the second time we’ve pulled out the fire, our camp chairs and the s’mores sticks!

campfire Our main purpose for visiting this part of Virginia was to see Thomas Jefferson’s historic plantation, Monticello.

monticello We began our time with the family-friendly tour which was a great choice for our family. Our tour guide walked us through the rooms on the main floor of the house, giving details on the life of Thomas Jefferson as well as information about the architecture, purpose of each room and notable furniture and decor pieces.

monticelloporch We all felt so inspired by Thomas Jefferson and his love of reading, architecture, innovation. He was an important figure in government – author of The Declaration of Independence, George Washington’s Secretary of State, the second Vice-President, third President, supporter of the Lewis + Clark expedition, and founder of the first state university, University of Virginia – as well as an avid gardner and self-taught architect.

monticellogreenhouse The home and gardens are as lovely as I imagined.

monticelloflowers monticellogarden We sat in on a talk on slavery at the plantation. There is a fascinating family tree that connects Jefferson to Sally Hemmings – the half sister to his first wife, Martha, who was a slave on the plantation and mother to six of Jefferson’s children. Read more about it here. Seriously, so interesting.

ethanjefferson He wasn’t a perfect man, by any means, but his leadership in our young country was paramount in gaining independence from Britian, the formation of our government and the development of state universities.

This part of the country is just beautiful. Have I mentioned that? It really is.

viewblueridge The rolling hills, lush greenery, farms dotting the landscape, the Blue Ridge Mountains.

farmhouse We were smitten with it all.

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Road Trip | The Wright Brothers + OBX

When we think about what our kids will remember about this road trip, there have been a few stops that have made a particularly memorable impression.

Kitty Hawk, North Carolina is one of those.

wrightflyer Kitty Hawk, if you remember from long ago and brief mention in school, is where Orville and Wilbur Wright made history by being the first people to fly on an engine powered flying machine. The year was 1903.

Ryan has long been interested in flying and so Kitty Hawk was one of the must-visit stops on our itinerary. The funny thing is, neither of us – and certainly none of the kids – knew more than that the Wright Brothers were the first to fly. We didn’t know their background, who they were, what the world thought of men in flight or the inexhaustible work required to make it a possibility.

We walked away from our time at the Wright Brothers National Memorial learning all of these things and so much more and feeling utterly inspired and proud.

I’ve turned into a total take-the-tour/listen-to-the-talk girl as we’ve traveled. There are incredible resources to learn – many of them free! – and every time we’ve sat in on a Ranger talk, in particular, we are blown away by this amazing resource and knowledgable speakers we’ve encountered.

At Kitty Hawk, we were particularly enamored with our big-personality Ranger who gave a one-hour presentation on the Wright Brothers. I wish I remembered his name because he was awesome :)

speaker Before the talk, the kids spent about 30 minutes working on the Junior Ranger book in the main museum where there are artifacts, letters, written timelines and photos.

Have I mentioned how great the Junior Ranger program is? I was a skeptic at first because I wasn’t sure the kids would be all that interested in doing ‘homework’ while on vacation, but they all love looking for answers and engaging with the information in a very kid-friendly way. Ryan and I enjoy helping them as it teaches us as well!

After a little bit of self-guided learning, we settled in to front row spots for the Ranger talk which was to be about an hour. The kids have surprised us with their interest in hearing these talks and almost always have questions to ask the Rangers at the end. I have adored watching them soak up new information and express their curiosity through comments and questions. And again, the Rangers have all been amazingly helpful and kind to them.

audience This talk was the best one we’ve heard. It helped that our Ranger was so animated and a great story teller, but like I mentioned earlier, we all left feeling so inspired by what the Wright Brothers had accomplished.

Just to give you a quick history (because I am now crazy-interested in their story and we are currently listening to an amazing book about them, so I have much to share):

Wilbur and Orville Wright were raised in a household where learning, reading, tinkering with toys and mechanics was highly encouraged by their parents. Their interest in flight was piqued at an early age when their father brought back a small wooden toy that propelled into air by twisting a rubber band. This simple toy led to massive amounts of reading about aeronautics – which at that time, was limited to gliders, balloons and scientific research on birds.

As young adults, the brothers opened a bicycle shop and on their off-time began to build their first flying machine.

The common thought in America and world-wide in the late 1800’s was that powered flight was not possible for man. There was a small population of men around the world who were exploring the use of gliders, but without a lot of success. What Wilbur and Orville believed was that flight was not only possible, but that it was less about the machine and more about the understanding of how to fly – that is being able to control the machine (turning, lifting, landing) and this is what they spent countless hours, days, months on learning. They studied birds, primarily, and built their flying machines to reflect the physics they observed in nature.

The brothers worked, studied, innovated and built until finally on December 17, 1903, they made their first successful powered flights on the desolate sand dunes in Kitty Hawk, NC. On that day, there were four historic flights and while only 59 seconds in length, they proved to the world that controlled human flight was indeed possible.

wrightbrothers The sand dunes have now been planted with grass (to keep them in place!) and monuments have been erected to mark the place of the flights.

flightrock We walked the path to the four markers: 

flightpath

4flight After hearing the story, it was great to actually walk in the place where it all happened and really visualize what it must have been like for those brothers.

wilburorville The thing that struck us so much was their curiosity, determination, innovation and true entrepreneurial spirit. They were self-made, funded by their bicycle shop, persistent in their belief and they worked hard. They represent to all of us what it looks like to dream big and never give up.

masonmonument We were so inspired by their story – it is much bigger than just two men who were the first to fly an airplane.

Up on the hill sits a massive monument honoring the Wright Brothers.

monumentfar We walked to the top to take in the view.

monumentaudrey monument monumentclose

It was quite beautiful. Inscribed around the monument is this:

“In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright conceived by genius achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.”

I just love it! Isn’t that how you want our kids to live? With ideas conceived by genius, dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith? This is why we left so inspired. These men are true heros in our book.

We left the memorial and spent the rest of our time exploring the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

First stop: Duck Donuts.

donuts

These tasty treats were fresh out of the oven and topped with our choices made to order. So, so yummy.

Next up was a trip to the sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park.

deck The rain came on quickly, but not before we had a chance to leap over bushes and climb to the tippy top of the dunes.

sanddunesjumping sanddunes

The Outer Banks also boasts a few of the oldest lighthouses in America and so we made a special trip out along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to view one.

bodelighthouse

The Bodie Island Lighthouse was just about as perfect as they come.

lighthouse Those black and white stripes had me at first sight. I can’t wait to frame this photo when we get home.

Although the weather was not quite cooperating, we did pop over to a beach just to see what it was like.

beachfence I can imagine this place is packed on a hot summer day.

atlantic We waded in the warm water and drew in the sand for over an hour before heading off to dinner. Isn’t it funny how a stick and sand can become the most entertaining activity for kiddos?

sand

This stop was unexpectedly a favorite and one we’ll never forget.

If you’d like to learn more about the Wright Brothers, we cannot recommend enough this book by David McCullough. We are currently listening to the audio version on Audible and completely enjoying it.

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the best dishes for picnics, camping + outdoor entertaining

This post is sponsored by Crate and Barrel

Crate and Barrel has long been our go-to for all things kitchen, dining and entertaining related. We registered for our wedding 14 years ago and still use our original dishes, flatware, kitchen gadgets and more. The quality is great and the designs are classic – two big reasons we keep coming back again and again.

When I was outfitting our teensy Airstream kitchen (here’s a full tour if you’d like to see it) for our road trip, there were a few items on my list and I knew Crate and Barrel would be just the place to find them.

bestdishestitle One of our needs were everyday dishes that were super durable, low profile and classic. I had one drawer available for storing 8 dinner plates, 8 salad plates and 8 bowls.

dishes These white melamine dishes are perfect. They are glossy on one side, which makes washing easy (no terrible stains!), they are matte on the back, which keeps them from slipping around. They stack easily for storage and fit like a glove in our drawer.

picnic I have a thing for white dishes. Remember my pretty kitchen back home? All of our everyday dishes are out in the open on display on the shelves and since they are white, they don’t feel too cluttered. White dishes are easy to decorate with and they make a great canvas for pretty food, too. I’m a fan.

cherries Another essential for our traveling kitchen were these clear acrylic glasses. I bought one for each of us, they stack up nicely, are thick and work great for camping/picnicing/outdoor entertaining.  We also grabbed two of these acrylic stemless wine glasses.

pistachios See that cute little metal cup in the cherry bowl? I’ve been wanting them for forever. I bought a stack to bring with us in the trailer and they are the cutest multi-purpose cups.

picnicclose We’ve used them for holding cherry pits and pistachio shells, filling with ranch for veggies and peanut butter for dipping apples in and, of course, as the perfect container for corralling legos.

square All trip long we’ve had breakfast, lunch and dinner – inside and out – on these great dishes.

kids-dishes And once we’re back home, I’m sure they will stay on steady rotation for everyday snacks and outdoor entertaining.

So if you’re searching for the best dishes for picnics, camping and outdoor bbq’s, may I recommend:

bestdishes

dinner plate | salad plate | bowl | condiment cup | acrylic cup | stemless wine glass

If you’re looking for something fancier than melamine, Crate and Barrel is a great resource for classic white porcelain dinnerware. These are our everyday dishes at home, my sisters both have these, and I also love the organic texture of these dishes (see the full collection of dinnerware here).

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Road Trip | Charleston

As I mentioned a few posts back, we loved New Orleans. And Savannah was as wonderful as they come. But Charleston – with its Southern charm, deep history, lovely homes, overflowing window boxes and coastal location – it won us over BIG time.

IMG_5914 We started our tour of the city with a carriage ride through town.

IMG_5898 We learned from our time in Savannah that getting a quick lay of the land and abbreviated history lesson is the best way to be introduced to the city. Our driver was a licensed tour guide who grew up in Charleston and was full of knowledge. I just soak up these types of talks. I could listen all day long. My kids, however, get a little bored so we try to mix it up.

IMG_5896 From the carriage I snapped a million photos. It seemed like everywhere I looked there was another perfectly historic home.

IMG_5904 Here’s a random thing I learned: all of the homes were built with brick (made at a local brick plantation with slave labor, sadly) but stone was perceived as more en vogue. So the builders covered the brick with plaster or stucco and drew in lines to give the appearance of a stone exterior.

IMG_5915 IMG_5909 IMG_5911 IMG_5912
IMG_5901 After our carriage tour we walked through the old street market where these sweetgrass baskets are plentiful.

IMG_5899 We ate so well in Savannah and had heard such great things about the restaurants in Charleston but we just were not in mood for fancy food that day. It was super hot, the kids needed a less-refined dining experience and so rather than Magnolias where we were planning on doing lunch, we hopped over to Fleet Landing.

IMG_5902 IMG_5903 The food was good, and the atmosphere was fun and friendly.

Fleet Landing is down on the water where there is a gorgeous park with benches and trees and a couple of fountains.

IMG_5916 Next we made our way over to The Old Exchange Building – the old center of town where all of the trade came in and out and where politicians met, entertained and performed business.

IMG_5900 The Old Exchange Building now houses a terrific museum. We met a docent who was so knowledgable about the early Colonists, the  Revolutionary and Civil Wars and how Charleston tied in with it all and he encouraged us to check out the museum.

IMG_5906 IMG_5907 IMG_5908 It ended up being so informative and enjoyable. There is a dungeon under the building that was at one time a prison for pirates, at another a secret storehouse for gun powder while under British control and the whole place was soaked in history. 

Outside the Exchange Building is where much of the slave trade occurred. Just standing at the tree marking the square was so gripping. Its so hard to even imagine what those scenes must have been like. A sad part of American history, for sure and for a girl from the Pacific Northwest where slavery feels so removed, it was powerful to hear stories and stand in places where history happened.

We took one more walk through the beautiful streets lined with gracious homes before declaring that we will for sure be back for another visit.
IMG_5910 Probably next time without the kids :)

IMG_5913 What a lovely city. We truly can’t wait to return.

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Road Trip | Savannah, Georgia

I was most excited to visit a couple of southern cities on our trip. Savannah was right up there at the top.

Our original itinerary included a stop after St. Augustine in Naples, Florida. A few things fell through, the weather wasn’t looking great, the tragedies in Orlando had just happened and we were not super excited about the long drive all the way down Florida and then all the way back up. So Naples got nixed.

Instead, we shifted our schedule and drove straight to Savannah. Surprisingly, this was only the second time we strayed from our pre-planned stops (the first was an overnight in Waco). And just like that first adjustment, we were happy with the decision to tack on a few extra days in Savannah.

airstream We stayed at a campground about 20 minutes outside of Savannah. There was lots of grass, pretty grounds, a pool, horses and a clubhouse with a big tv for watching movies and a pool table.

For most of our stops we’ve hardly had time to hang out around the campground. This time, we moved a little slower and there was more downtime which was perfect for our family.

camppond We spent two full days in Savannah. The first started with brunch at Soho South Cafe.

sohosouth The two younger boys tried chicken + waffles for the first time (and fell in love), I had the most amazing fried green tomato sandwich with a fried egg on top. It was such a great meal.

From there, we walked from square to square, looking at houses, popping into shops and getting a feel for the city.

housegarden This was the first time in Savannah for all of us and we were not exactly sure where to go and what to do. We went off of the suggestions from this book and my dear instagram friends who left helpful comments. 

houseorange We visited The Paris Market – a really pretty shop with fun displays and interesting mix of vintage and new.

parismarket A few doors down was Ryan’s favorite shop called 24e. First of all, the warehouse they are in is amazing and we all wanted to move right in. Second, the selection of furniture and lighting is well-made and unique.

24esofa After a stop into Anthropologie for a new top we moved on to Forsyth Park and the iconic fountain.

fountainpark fountain The park has a great playground where the kids played for a bit, a huge field where we threw a football until we were too sweaty and the Confederate Memorial Statue. 

statue We made our way down to the river and walked along the old cobblestone roads along River Street. There were mainly bars along the street so we didn’t spend much time down there.

bytheriver After a long, hot day with lots and lots of walking, we finished off the day at another really, really good restaurant called The Public Kitchen + Bar. Again, our food was so good, the service was great and I loved the atmosphere.

kidsdinner I snapped this photo at the table and got a little teary-eyed. These kids have been such great travel companions. We drag them all over the place and they just go along with it. We take them to restaurants where they have to stretch their tastes and use their manners and they take it like champs. We’re so proud of these four. 

The next day was Father’s Day and we decided to have a hang-out-at-the-campsite day.

ryanfathersday The kids made Ryan a surprise breakfast – a yogurt and fruit pyramid :)

Speaking of fruit, while in Georgia we ate a lot of fresh peaches.

peaches So very juicy and delicious.

Our second full day in Savannah started at another fantastic restaurant: The Collins Quarter.

collinsquarter This restaurant was my favorite of all we’ve been in during these travels. The lavender latte was amazing as was the avocado toast, the braised short rib hash, the brioche french toast … it was all so wonderful.

We spent the first day doing our own sightseeing, but we were anxious to learn more of the history of the city and so we booked a trolley tour that took us around for about an hour while our driver narrated along the way.

trolley The kids were not as into it as Ryan and I were, but they did great.

trolly I loved hearing about how the city was established, what all the squares contain, seeing old, gracious homes, gorgeous churches, learning about the dripping Spanish moss (it’s not actually moss!) and some of the city’s most famous residents.

housewhite housebrick fence After the trolley tour, there were a couple of spots we wanted to go back to and visit. One was this striking church:

church churchtall I didn’t realize that we could go inside, but Ryan opened the door and we all followed. 

When I walked in, I gasped. And then cried.

churchholywater Never have I seen a more beautiful building

churchinside Another stop we wanted to make it to was Leopold’s Ice Cream. Everyone told us it was a must-visit. We skipped it the first day because the line was super long and we figured the ice cream couldn’t be that great.

On day two, after hearing about it over and over again, we stood in the line and gave it a try.

leopolds Mmm. Very much worth it. 

One last little stop … Calhoun Square. This is the only square that has all of its original buildings intact and we wanted just a few more minutes to walk around and appreciate the architecture.

ryanphoto ironrailing stairs streetrailing street We really enjoyed Savannah. The food was so good. We loved the old homes and buildings. The trees are big and covered in that strange, romantic Spanish moss.

If we were to do it again, we would have taken the trolley tour on day one just to give us a good overview of the city before exploring on our own. Learning the history of the city made us appreciate it all the more and we would have missed so much if we didn’t have our trolley tour guide. Lesson learned.

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about the history of Savannah, this is a great resource.

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