Welcome Fall

Fall has arrived and while it is bittersweet to say goodbye to Summer, I welcome Fall it all it's chilly autumn glory.


Mystic, Connecticut

"A breath of fresh air between New York and Boston."

We arrived in Mystic after driving since 3am.......correction -- Doug had been driving since 3am and I had been sleeping since 3am but whose keeping track???  We went straight to our hotel fully expecting that we would not be able to check-in this early but we were able to leave the truck and camper in the parking lot and walk the 1/4 mile to the Mystic Aquarium.  A quick stop in the tourist center scored us significantly discounted tickets to the aquarium!!  Love that!!!

The tourist center is located in Ole Mystic Village, a quaint collection of 60+ shops with meandering sidewalks and benches throughout.  The kids stopped at this old time well / water fountain trying to guess what it was...Carter had the best guess....a urinal....LOL.

Mystic Aquarium is the perfect blend of aquarium and zoo with a little bit of Sea World thrown into the mix.  I loved that it is 1/2 inside exhibits and 1/2 outside exhibits AND that the entire aquarium was very hands-on -- shark touch tank; sting ray feeding area; bird aviary.....we went to a funny sea lion show which reminded me of similar shows at Sea World and got to see some trainer interaction with the Beluga whales.  LOVE them too!! 

Did I mention I loved the opportunity for the kids to feed the stingrays?  Ariel had just mentioned recently that she remembers swimming with the stingrays on our Disney Cruise a few years ago and wanted to do that again.  What a neat opportunity.  Carter wasn't as thrilled to feed them but he did touch them every time they swam by. 

After the aquarium we were able to check into our room at The Hampton Inn.  Kudos to The Hampton Inn for being one of the few pet-friendly hotels in Mystic and for allowing us to check in early.  Doug and Riley both took naps while the kids and I went swimming and to lunch.  After lunch we decided to explore downtown Mystic and find the famous Mystic Pizza featured in the movie by the same name that stars Julia Roberts (which I watched just last night in preparation for our trip). 

 What is not to love about downtown Mystic?  Its a charming, coastal community with a rich nautical history and beautiful scenery. 
 And then there is the pizza....YUMMO!

We had 1/2 Seafood Delight and 1/2 plain cheese.  Doug and I loved it.  The kids said it was "flat"...that is their new word for any pizza that they do not like....I am not sure exactly what "flat pizza" is but in this case what they call "flat" we called "great". 

I really wanted to get one of their "Slice of Heaven" T-shirts but my frugal self won out over my "Got to Have It" self.  After dinner, we drove to the Mystic Fire Department so Doug could get a t-shirt but no one was at the station....guess new t-shirts were not meant to be today.  Back to the pool for another swim.   Tomorrow we are back on the road to Maine. 

Couldn't resist these last pictures of Riley living the "Suite Life"................

Perry Hall, Maryland to Mystic, Connecticut

311 miles......5 hours 45 minutes.......... $$$ tolls............2 pit stops............

Mile 47    Time:   3:52am                       Welcome to Delaware:  The Diamond State

Delaware occupies the northern and eastern portion of the what many of us Marylanders call the Eastern Shore and what others call the Delmarva peninsula (short for Delaware-Maryland-Virginia).  It is one of the smallest peninsulas of the United States.

Delaware was the first of the original thirteen colonies (later the first thirteen states) that won their independence from England to ratify the U.S. Constitution. *

Mile # 64  Time: 4:11 a.m.              Welcome to New Jersey:  The Garden State

    New Jersey shares its northern border with New York. Aside from that, all of its other borders are formed by water: The Delaware River to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east; and Delaware Bay to the south. Northern New Jersey is very hilly, and southern New Jersey is very flat. New Jersey is one of the smallest of the United States (only Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Delaware are smaller), but it is also one of the most populous. New Jersey ranks in the top ten of all the states in population numbers. It is very crowded in part because it is right between the huge eastern cities of Philadelphia and New York City.

Two of the most important battles of the American Revolution were fought in New Jersey.  When General Washington made his famous crossing of the Delaware he was going to none other than New Jersey!  Washington's army crossed the Delaware the night before Christmas and attacked Hessian soldiers the next morning in their camp at Trenton.  A few days later, Washington struck again, this time at Princeton, New Jersey (now home of the famous University with the same name) and again won an overwhelming victory.  These two battles were very important because the gave patriots everywhere hope that they would win independence from England. *

New Jersey has quite the reputation besides being the state that Devin always said he wanted to move too and being the state where you are not allowed to pump your own gas it is also known for not being one of the more popular states.  I stumbled upon this t-shirt on the web and thought it was pretty funny. 

 Mile # ?  Time:  6:17 a.m.             Welcome to New York:  The Empire State

 In the southeast, New York's Long Island is surrounded by three bodies of water:  Long Island Sound, the Atlantic Ocean, and New York Harbor.  Along its southern border, New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
New York has a little bit of every terrain, except for desert, within its borders.  Before European settlement, New York was the home of many different tribes of Native Americans.  The most powerful tribes were the Iroquois confederacy in western New York.  The French and Dutch were the first Europeans to visit New York.  They have left their words as place names all over the state -- Lake Champlain and the Schuylkill River.  The Dutch founded the first permanent settlement in what is now New York when they bought an island at the mouth of the Hudson River in 1626.  They paid local Native Americans with trade goods (blankets and colored beads) that would cost us about $25.00 in today's economy for what is now Manhattan Island!  After America became a nation, New York City quickly became more and more important.  It was even the national capital city for a brief time. *
For the kids..........New York State is synonymous with New York City...The Big Apple....home of the American Girl Store....FAO Schwartz....September 11th...broadway shows.....Central Park carriage rides....taxis.....Statue of Liberty...its worth pointing out that you see New York City from I-95 miles before you actually cross into New York State.  I admit, I was asleep and thus missed seeing the Statue of Liberty this time but I did hear Doug pointing it out to Carter. 
One day I want to show the kids the other parts of New York State....The Catskills....Niagara Falls....Cooperstown & The Baseball Hall of Fame....Cincinnatus where my Grandfather was born and raised...........but that must be saved for another trip because right now Connecticut awaits us. 
 Mile # 208     Time:   6:45am            Welcome to Connecticut:  The Constitution State

The Connecticut River (for which the state is named) runs through the middle of this state, cutting it in two.  The Connecticut River Valley separates Connecticut's Eastern Highland from its Western Highland. 
Connecticut was one of the original thirteen colonies that formed the early United States.  Initially, settled by Dutch traders beginning in the mid-1630s, then by Pilgrims from Plymouth Colony, and eventually by Puritans from Massachusetts Bay. 
Connecticut is an important manufacturing center.  Sewing machines, textiles, firearms and heavy machinery, including engine parts, are all made in Connecticut.  Guns have been continuously here since the American Revolution. 
Two of America's most savage Indian wars took place in Connecticut -- The Pequot War and King  Philip's War.  *
And we have arrived at our first destination....Mystic, Connecticut.  I will be the first to admit that the destination of Mystic as our mid-way point was pure happenstance.  I have heard a few people say that they loved the town of Mystic...I recalled that there was a movie about the town starring one of my favorite actresses but it wasn't until I put the destination into Google Maps that I found out it was exactly the 1/2 way point on our road trip!  What a co-inky-dink!
* Taken from The Everything Kids States Book


Night Before Road Ultimate Road Trip Thursday

"Hey, hey, easy kids. Everybody in the car. Boat leaves in two minutes... or perhaps you don't want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away?" 
                                                         -- Clark Griswold, National Lampoon's Vacation

The bags are packed; camper is ready; Bella was dropped off at the Doggie Resort and Spa aka Best Friends Furever and Doug is getting some much needed Zzzzzzz's so we can hit the road by 2:30am. 

The plan to drive the 310 miles to Mystic, Connecticut while the kids sleep (and I do, too) and there is (hopefully) little traffic on the roads. 

Ariel, Carter, and Pierce each received a special present to commemorate the start of this trip ---

An Everywhere Bear who comes with his own passport, travel stickers and United States Map. 

More updates to come from the road....................


Wordless Wednesday

Road Trip Tuesday - "An easy drive for a hard goodbye"

Goodbyes are not forever.
Goodbyes are not the end.
They simply mean I'll miss you
Until we meet again!
                     ~Author Unknown
In the wee hours of Tuesday morning we drove to the base to say "See ya later" to Dev Dev who will serve our great country in Afganistan.  We will miss him every day and anxiously await the time when we can celebrate his return home!  

Big brothers love to torment their little sisters!
Just waiting
One eye open at 2am
This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave. ~Elmer Davis


Road Trip Tuesday...just two days late

In my limited blogging experience I have noticed that my writing tends to only focus on the positive, cheerful, happy moments which may make give the wrong impression about what really takes place on our family adventures.  Maybe this is my "glass 1/2 full" personality but I am more inclined to think that  it is more my acceptance of the fact that life itself is a blend of good and bad.  Its the sad moments when you still find a way to smile and the happy moments that make you want to cry. 

So, I am going to try to give an honest portrayl of Road Trip Tuesday which ended up occuring two days late on Thursday because, well, sometimes stuff happens.....Amy's car needed new brakes and Tuesday was Doug's only free day so ,well you get the picture.

My goal was to be on the road by 11am....told Amy that her wake-up call was 10am so we could be on the road by 11am but as frequently happens we started out about noon.  So an hour late and not even out of the drive-way and already we are having an argument about who is sitting in the middle of the backseat.  Ariel wins this round..........

First stop, Flavor Cupcakery.  Let me just say that not all cupcakes are created equal and nobody in good conscience should say they don't like cupcakes until they have tried one from this bakery. 

Me:  "Alright, let's go get some cupcakes" (side note, the kids love this place so this is or should be a big treat)
Ariel:  "Can I stay in the car with Pierce?"
Me:  "I Guess"
Carter:  "I will stay in the car, too"
Ariel opens door and gets out of car.
Me:  "I thought you were staying in the car?"
Ariel:  "Not if Carter is"
Me:  Sigh.......

So, we all end up in Flavor Cupcakery (which was kinda of the whole point of the stop to begin with).....and I tell the kids they can split a cupcake.  Ariel and her friend Caitlyn quickly agree on cookies n cream.  Carter wants the vanilla one.  Pierce also wants the vanilla one.  Perfect.   Or NOT........

Carter:  "I don't want to split one"
Me:  "You don't have a choice:
Carter:  "But I want my own"
Me:  "You don't have a choice.  You either split one or don't get any"
Carter:  "I don't want to split one"

I won that round and Carter and Pierce split the damn cupcake...SIGH. 

New battle ensues over who sits in middle.  Carter wins this round and off we go.......

Our destination....the Falling Branch area of Rocks State Park

 The Falling Branch Area of Rocks State Park is a 67 acre parcel of land which is home to Kilgore Falls, a scenic and tranquil section of Falling Branch, a tributary of Deer Creek, which is tucked back into the ravines of Northern Harford County, creating Maryland's second highest vertical drop waterfall. This non-developed, environmentally sensitive area has a serene hiking trail leading back to the waterfall.

The first land purchases for what is now Rocks State Park began in 1951. Originally slated to be Deer Creek State Park, these were the first land purchases made by the State of Maryland for the express purpose of creating a park.

Rocks has 855 acres of dense forests and massive boulders rising above Deer Creek. The King and Queen Seat, once a ceremonial gathering place of the Susquehannock Indians, is a natural 190 foot rock outcrop. This cliff, reached by scenic trails, affords a view of the rolling hills and farmland of Harford County. Also preserved on park property are many structural remains from the days when the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad wound its way through Rocks, helping the farms and quarries of Northern Harford County to prosper.

....with Carter and Pierce fighting in the back seat....Ariel's adjusting her IPOD volume louder and louder in the front seat that is now coming out of the truck speakers louder and LOUDER.  And me and Amy alternating turning around to the back seat and telling Pierce and Carter that this will be the last road trip we ever go on and we don't know why we keep trying this if they are going to keep misbehaving......SIGH.

We wind our way through the twisting and turning roads of Harford County only to arrive at our destination and find a full parking lot.  The good news is one car was getting ready to back out...the bad news is I am driving Doug's truck which is about as easy to whip into a small parking spot as is a Mack Truck...SIGH.  

Carter's now complaining of a headache.  Pierce is repeatedly banging something on the window....Carter is now crying about his headache and all I want is to park this Mack Truck and get out of it!

Whoever described the trail to the falls in the above description as serene obviously was not hiking it with 2 10-year-olds, an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old who keep fighting over who gets to be the "leader"....

But then we round the bend and (cue the music) we see

and just like that all the fighting and the bickering melt into the background......ok, well, actually at this point I realized that since I had not worn my bathing suit under my clothes I would need to change into it in the middle of nature backed up to a rock wall with only the 8-year-old holding up a towel and most likely poison ivy all over the place but that "glass 1/2 full" mind of mine only remembers the sun shining through the trees onto the falls....well, for the most part anyhow.

Yet despite the inncessant bickering, the tears (both mine and the kids) and headaches the pictures below can speak for themselves about why next week you will find us on the road again............

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