Thursday, June 21, 2018

Imagine Dragons and Bears, Oh My!

Fresh off the Appalachian Trail, our rugged hikers were hungry for a home cooked meal and a chance to gather around the fire and celebrate the Christmas season…err wait… it’s June, right? Welcome to Wamber's house… 

Originally from Buffalo, then Naples, and now just outside of Charlotte, Wes and Amber are well known for two things: good times and good food. Enter, both.

We were welcomed into their charming neighborhood by giggling children who were running around everywhere, unsupervised, while their parents either relaxed on their porches or inside of their adorable craftsman homes. Our kids were quick to join the party, leaving us to drink wine by the glow of Wamber’s festive palm tree… which is adorned with various strands of lights and a corresponding plug for each season. We tested out Halloween and Christmas and settled on a Dec 25th theme as we lit the fire and made ourselves at home. Spaghetti and meatballs were served. At some point our kids came back. 

With incredible foresight, Wes had purchased some light-up Lego-like contraptions that kept the boys busy and grinning with pride all evening. This allowed more time for wine. Very smart, Wes, very smart. 

Charlotte fun behind us, we packed up and continued our Northern trek through Pennsylvania. 

After many miles of driving, we pulled into Echo Valley Campground (just outside of Hershey) with nervous trepidation. Google and TripAdvisor reviews described a devil-woman of an owner with a sweet, innocent husband who was left to pick up the trail of spazzy destruction that his crazy wife left behind.  Mark was familiar with the man’s plight, so he volunteered to check in at the office. Not another campground available for miles during Father’s Day weekend, April kept the children completely silent as she held her breath and awaited the verdict.

Moments later, Mark rolled out of the office with “devil woman” and hopped in this miniature truck. 

Where was she taking him? Would she murder him with her digitally-described rude stares and razor-sharp insults? At what point would April step in if the mini-truck went missing? April took the kids to the playground while she pondered Mark’s fate… 

A few minutes later, Mark returned and declared his new best friend to be a delightful human being. He then gave a mini-lecture to the entire family about not believing everything you read on the internet and the importance of making your own decisions. Our previous fear now turned to guilt, Mark shook his head at us as though he never suspected for even a moment that she might stab him.


Morning arrived at our new best friend’s campground with the promise of a great day ahead. While lounging at her parent’s house back in March, April had discovered that Imagine Dragons would be playing in Hershey on June 16. Knowing that our boys are huge fans and that they’ve never been to a real “rock” concert before, we purchased the tickets on the sly and managed to keep it a secret until we pulled into the parking lot of the event.   Upon hearing that they were going to an Imagine Dragons concert, Andrew claimed to “almost pass out” and Max just started screaming “Where are they?”

Inside the stadium, we were pleased to find out we had 12th row seats and some very excited little boys on our hands. Starkey even sent some sweet custom earmolds for the occasion! 

Morning following a late concert is never pretty, but we pulled ourselves together and wished Mark a Happy Father’s Day before kicking him out of bed and insisting he drive us around all day.  He obliged, less than trilled about the endless road construction in Pennsylvania, but willing to take one for the team in exchange for lunch at Wegman's and an overnight in Woodstock, New York.   

Once in Woodstock, Mark was fiddling with a broken jack on the Jayco when he was was alerted to some “commotion” by the inhabitants of a neighboring RV. A bear, pegged at “3 years old” by our neighbor, had come to strut his stuff around camp, and had shown particular interest in our neighbor’s grill.  

See above… Bear sniffing grill. See below… Bear is like “I want these turkey burgers” and flipped over said grill like a boss. Bear then scares himself with crash of grill and says “peace out.” 

Eagle Scout Mark did step in to save the neighbor’s dinner as best he could by banging two boards together and shouting at the bear. These “tried and true” methods did not work… obviously… and Mark came inside the RV to make himself a whiskey and comment on the fact that the bear was not afraid of him at all. He made a note to buy a fresh can of bear spray.  

Having had enough of Woodstock, we pointed our GPS toward one of our favorite states, Vermont! Here's to dreams of hiking and biking and Ben and Jerry's liking! Onward! 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega

Ahhhhhh the open road… Here’s to our 9th summer on the road with our camper, two kids and a little fuel on the fire… a puppy. 

When we last left you, Hurricane Irma had just handed Naples a solid schoolyard beating, Mark was in a sling following shoulder surgery, and our newest and fluffiest family member, Gatsby Fluff Face Royan, had just been adopted.  

We’re already busy people… running two businesses, raising two kids… and we honestly knew better than to get a puppy… but when Andrew came to us, tears in his eyes, and said “A boy without a dog is like a story without an ending” we caved… Since that moment Mark has been training this dog with a patience and understanding that April is just not capable of. He gets up at the crack of dawn to walk the dog, he works on obedience with the dog over lunch, and he spends his evenings before and after dinner playing with the dog in the backyard. Mark loves this dog. Andrew loves him too, we think.

Getting a puppy might not have been such a challenge had Hurricane Irma not handed us a concurrent down-to-the-studs remodel.  That’s right, in the last 9 months we’ve moved, in one form or another, 4 times. To one side of our house, then to the other, then out completely, then back in.

At some point during this nonsense April lost her mind when the only shower in the house collapsed on the same day that the kitchen and air conditioner became unusable. Raising the white flag at the age of 38, she loaded the kids into the minivan and moved back in with her parents. Mark and the dog stayed behind and spent 8 lonely weeks on a mattress in the hot, dusty house … streaming all 4 seasons of Bosch and each consuming their fair share of take-out.

If you’ve never moved back in with your parents as an adult… I highly recommend it.  Sure, it’s socially unacceptable and a sure sign of being a huge loser… but if you can do it while holding down and job and promising that you do indeed have somewhere else to go eventually, it’s not all that bad. Imagine a world where the people who dropped you off at college 20 years ago now once again volunteer to do all of your grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and household tasks. Imagine coming home after a long day at work to find a home cooked meal, your laundry done, and your children freshly bathed and already exhausted from a swim in the perfectly heated pool. Paradise, I tell you.

Doubling down on family time, we were even able to meet Aunt Amy at Disney World one weekend, during which she scored the impossible Pandora FastPass.  God Bless America.  

By the end of their 8 week stay, April’s parents were more than ready for her to move out and Mark was more than ready for his family to move back in. With only a week left in the remodel we celebrated the only way we know how… by traveling! Spring Break 2018 was spent on our very first, but certainly not our last, Disney Cruise! 

Back in Naples, we settled into our new home just in time to board it up for hurricane season and climb back into our trusty RV… ready for the open road. Dog in tow and contractor on speed dial should anything burst in our new walls while we’re gone, our first stop on this summer’s tour was of course the most important, the end-of-year school play in Bonita Springs (7 miles from home).

Max, the cow, and Andrew, the prince, brought the house down with their performances despite wardrobe malfunctions. The cow costume was cozy but very hot, and the price costume was itchy and refused to fasten in the back. 60 minutes later, costumes cast aside, we were on our way to Tampa.

A day at Dinosaur World with Mark’s dad, Ray, allowed the kids and pup to go back in time as the Dads planned their upcoming hike on the Appalachian Trail. April recalled that a large box had been delivered to the house earlier in the month with the wording “MRE INCLUDED” among its stars and stripes décor.  A contractor working at the house at the time commented that he sure hoped the Meals Ready to Eat were not for us, because he’d never seen them voluntarily consumed by a civilian.

MREs and backpacks readied, we made our way to Dahlonega, Georgia to set up “base camp” (April’s luxury living quarters) at the questionable Etowah Campground. 

Early on Saturday, June 9th, April drove Mark, the boys, Ray and our nephew Hayden out into the wilderness and left them there. While it seemed like the sort of punishment one might see in a movie, the men were quite agreeable to being abandon. She and the pup then spent the better part of the weekend shopping in quaint Dahlonega, eating chocolate and watching the entire second season of Victoria while rain poured down on the camper and the campground subsequently flooded. While walking the dog through Georgia “muck” was no picnic, April imagined that Mark and the boys were struggling with the rain in a far more challenging capacity than she was somewhere on the mountain above her.

On Monday, June 11th, April once again drove up the mountain, this time with Chick-fil-A in tow. She spotted the weary travelers immediately as she arrived at the Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center, a store and hostel along the Appalachian Trail. They were stinky and starving but full of interesting stories of rattlesnakes, ticks, mountain storms, searches for water and the unparalleled disgust of the MREs. Max noted that he was the “Candy Man” on the trail, having smartly stuffed his cargo pants with chocolate covered cherries back at the RV.  Everyone inhaled their Chick-fil-A as we drove back to Dahlonega to find showers and a well-deserved dinner of pizza and chocolate milkshakes.

We rounded out our time in Georgia with a gold mine tour and piles of citronella-soaked laundry. Last but not least, a birthday celebration and a haircut for Gatsby as he celebrated his first year of life with an organic dog cookie that cost more than Mark's last birthday cake and was apparently laced with cocaine based on the subsequent doggie freak out. Next year he's getting a milk bone and some kibble and that will be that. Sorry not sorry, Gatsby. 

Tomorrow we head North once again! Onward to the Carolinas!

Snarfs and Snoozes

While driving the 1772 miles home from Bar Harbor, April looked and Mark and said... "What should we call our last blog of the summer?&...