Monday, July 25, 2016
Accepting that we must head South and go back to work at some point, we took a cruise through Vermont and ended up randomly stopping in Manchester for the weekend.
Hot as a sack of beach balls, April immediately got on the phone with her mother and lamented over the heat. No sooner had the whiny words left her mouth when the breakers popped and the entire campground lost power. It's amazing how quickly a family from Florida can forget what 97 degrees and soul-crushing humidity feels like. Inner rage at the lack of air conditioning gave way to apathy and general grumpiness.
As night fell, we broke out the lanterns and played board games by the light. There was a faint hint of what might have been a breeze from time to time. Looks like we're boondocking, folks.
In the morning, we got out of out of the hot and sticky camper and over to Hildene, the summer home of President Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln. Robert advised many presidents and served as the 35th Secretary of War. Then he made a bunch of of dinero running the Pullman railroad car company. Robert then found himself rich enough to land a sweet little summer estate in the mountains. Not too shabby, Bobby. Not too shabby at all.
As the tour guide announced that this was Lincoln's summer home, Andrew stopped the presentation and exclaimed "THIS is his vacation home? My vacation home is a TRAILER!"
Everyone laughed. Andrew put on his Abe Lincoln hat and strolled victoriously in to the mansion. Feels good to have a laugh under your belt, doesn't it, son?
Here at Hildene Farm, they raise goats. The friendliest and cutest goats you ever have seen. These goats are so great that Mark, having forgotten that he too was doubled up with a Lincoln hat, engaged in a 30 minute goat convo with the family that tends to the farm. At the very end, April reminded him that he was wearing the extra hat. Then she laughed and laughed as Mark realized THAT was the reason that people weren't taking his questions seriously.
The kids took turns petting and brushing the furry kids for almost an hour. Goat-tastic summer fun!
One of the restored executive Pullman cars is also on display. It's very fancy, very schmancy, and has a large chalkboard at the entrance for visitors to sign in. The chalkboard is full of Feel The Bern supporters making their claims that these fancy Pullman cars are just another example of corporate greed.
The 100 year old rail car can't hear you, hippies. Relax.
We aren't at all offended by success, so we waltzed right in and enjoyed the stories of this amazing car and its history.
Max even busted out a Blue Steel face. He's never seen Zoolander but he feels it.
Back at the campground, the boys were thrilled to find us packed in like sardines as families continued to pour in to campsites for the weekend. Without power, all of the families emerged from their fancy rigs and flat screen televisions and actually spent some time outdoors. Neighbors talked. Children played. Bonfires roared. Max learned how to ride a scooter, and Andrew convinced a gaggle of children to play Andrew Ball. It was hot and sticky, but a lot of fun - and Max left the place announcing that he was going to marry Lila from the campsite next door.
The power came back on at 9pm, just in time for us all to cuddle in Andrew's top bunk and watch fireworks from the town carnival over the treetops from his tiny window.
Bring on the air conditioning and Pennsylvania.
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Maine has been good to us but the fine folks at Decibels Audiology insist that we come back to work at some point.... Sigh.... So the time has come to begin the trek back to Naples.
As Mark threw back 3 waters, half a bag of potassium bombs, half a bag of pretzels, and some VERY stale mixed nut medley that he had found in his bag from 2014, he came to the realization that we may have taken the "extremely difficult" path by accident.
Now, April is a planner to a fault. Up until now, every destination has been reserved and researched. The second half of the trip, the "fly by the seat of our pants based on how many days we have left until the kids start school" portion, is managed by the much more laid back Mark.
Mark is allergic to plans.
Do not ask him to plan a key lime festival or he will spontaneously combust. Even in planning his own demise, he has to be spontaneous: how annoying.
Anywhooooo... As we sat in the truck and debated where to head next, Max chimed in with "Because I'm happyyyyyyy. Clap along if you feel like a mummy without a hook. You know I'm happpppppppyyyyyy."
Not sure those are the lyrics Pharrell intended but it's really something, right?
We decided right then and there that we would not head back to the swamplands of Florida without a fight. More mountains! More adventure! We dug out an old text message from our buddy Rob Morrison and pointed our rig toward Mount Washington. Rob's fun family suggestions in tow, we were off to New Hampshire!
All that thinking made us hungry, so we listened to Trip Advisor and stopped near the Maine border at Joseph's Fireside Steakhouse for some AH-MAINE-ZING food and nice a view of the town golf course and its slew of cute ducklings. For a place in the middle of nowhere, the food was so good. Seriously, their French Onion Soup and Poppy Seed Maple Salad was the best lunch combo ever. Ever.
There are no pictures of the food. We at it all. Yum.
Bellies full, we tackled the 10 mile stretch of road construction to the New Hampshire state line. These Maine folks really know how to tear up a road and leave their passengers worse for wear. We exited the construction zone with a shattered bathroom mirror, mysterious exterior camper dent, and a severe case of "my head hurts because I've been so badly shaken for the last 30 minutes while my children scream in delight constantly from the back seat."
Please let there be wine in New Hampshire.
Alas, the clouds of travel drama parted and the beautiful mountains rose before us. New Hampshire is bad ass.
First up, we had read that it was a good idea to rent bikes and ride the Carriage Roads through White Mountian National Park. We eagerly approached the rental desk and explained the situation: 2 kids, 2 out of shape parents. "No problem!" they said. "Flat trails!" they said.
During the wee 2 mile ride up the first mountain, there were cries of "I can't do this" and "I was never meant to Mountian bike" and "I'm about to throw up!"
April whined a little bit too.
April whined a little bit too.
Mark scoured the map for an easier path back to base camp.
Mark determined that his "knees were too sweaty to continue any further up the mountain" and April told him that she'd never loved him more than at that moment when he said they could turn around and head back. Glorious, gorgeous, down-hill decent.
We made it.
Can we all just head to a theme park already?
Oh Story Land... We love you for your cheap admission, your "come back tomorrow for free" policy, your short lines and your cute storybook themes.
Mark was inappropriate everywhere in Story Land...
Notice that as Mark milks that cow and April stops to take a picture and laugh, Andrew is running off in the background.
We are utterly ridiculous parents.
The Mount Washington area offers up a variety of ski resorts, each sporting some sort of summer adventure. Attittash Mountian Resort is no exception.
We are suckers for a mountian top adventure park, and Attittash did not disappoint. The kids had a blast, as did Mom and Dad. A quick peak in to Andrew's travel journal told us that he has enjoyed the day as well - though his higlights were somewhat different than ours :)
The next day, we drove through White Mountain National Park and gawked at the jaw dropping beauty of endless tree top mountain terrain. Mark was itching for a hike, so we joined in alongside Appalacian Trail hikers for a trek up to Ripley Falls.
The hike was fun but muddy and exhausting, and we were all left worn out and starving. Never fear, Joseph's Spaghetti Shed was about to become our favorite restaurant (we just didn't know it yet).
Mark ate a full pound of spaghetti. And then we went back the next day. Mark Royan: 2 pounds of spaghetti in 2 days... And still at his goal weight. How rude :)
We spent our last day in this wonderful part of the country at Clark's Trading Post, home of Clark's Trained Bears! A novel road side stop since 1949.
We weren't sure how this was going to go, since Max states constantly that he is only afraid of two things: "I'm only afraid of two things.... Bears.... but not baby bears... and porcupines."
As the bear show started, Max snuggled in to Mom with his face covered and a strong look of concern. He warmed up, however, when he learned that this bear does tricks for ice cream! Max also loves ice cream! Fast friends!
By the end of the day, Max was a snake-wearing, bear-boot-sporting fan of Clark's Trading Post.
On the way home, we made a quick stop Franconia Notch State Park to see The Basin, huge granite pothole under a waterfall in the Pemigewasset River. Beautiful.
Alas, we had to pack up our camper and leave this mountian view behind. The kids will miss their own personal sandbox adjacent to our site, and we're going to miss the cool summer temperatures and fresh pine scented air. We can't wait to come back!
Next up, Vermont!
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