Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Jack S

Since we last left you , we’ve been spending the better part of the last month gallivanting across New England… specifically Vermont, New Hampshire and, currently, Maine. 

Our New England adventures began in Stowe, Vermont. Having only visited during ski season previously, it was fun to see a green wonderland instead of a white one. Trips to our favorite winter establishments offered up fresh and fun summer offerings, most notably our favorite watering hole, Brewsters, by which the thawing of snow lead us to discover that we’ve been driving through the grass instead of the driveway for years, but ending up in the parking lot either way… whoopsies. Never fear, the beer is still cold!

Vermont is basically THE BEST for so many reasons…. Here are a few of them…

Vermont Teddy Bear Factory: A guy once wanted a teddy bear for his son but he couldn’t find one made in Vermont. Vermonters tend to think that only things made in Vermont are good (see also a few dudes named Ben and Jerry), so he started his own Teddy Bear Factory. The bears are cute, the factory is full of adorable bear fluff, and the tour ends in a super cool bear “hospital” that allows tourists to see all of the bad things that can happen to your beloved and overpriced bear if you don’t take care of it. Don’t put it in the dryer or on the stove, ok? Things will not turn out well. Never fear, however, as long as Teddy’s eyes still say Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, they’ll fix him up at the hospital for free. If that’s not enough, each tour promises at least 10 bear puns!

Cold Hollow Cider Mill: The mill is famous for it's cider and donuts, neither of which really seem to be all that great, but what they lack in basics they make up for in their killer cafe next door, where delicious paninis filled with local ingredients come drenched in homemade pesto or maple vinaigrette.  

Bingham Falls: A short hike will take you to Bingham Falls in Smugglers Notch State Park. The Falls are beautiful and the river is frigid, but our kids had a blast competing to see who could keep their feet in the icy water the longest. Andrew claimed his feet to be "frozen" long after we laced up his hiking boots and made the trek back to the car, but he couldn't wait to find his next mountain stream. 

Stowe Recreation Path: Looking for a flat, scenic bike path to cruise along with your kids... plenty of water fountains, bars, and stellar restaurants along your way? Look no further than the fairy-tale-like Stowe Recreation Path, complete with cute bridges, flowing rivers and lots and lots of available alcohol.  Heavenly! 

Nebraska Knoll Sugar Farm: These trusting folks make amazing syrup, and leave it out in their adorable shed for all to explore... along with a box full of cash and a ledger. God bless America. 

Noyes House Museum:  We stumbled upon this little nugget of history by chance, and are so glad we did. Full of amazing artifacts from a time gone by, the entire family enjoyed our private tour (because we were the only visitors) and fascinating stories.  What a find!

Vermont Renaissance Faire: By all accounts, we are a family of nerds. We love books, learning, travel, and getting out of our comfort zone. But nothing can truly prepare a person... nerdy or not... for their first mediocre Renaissance Faire.

If you were to Google "Best Renaissance Festivals in the US", you would find a plethora of fantastic photos showing Renaissance Festivals rivaling Medieval Times, showered folks with well-fitting costumes, and mugs of fresh, frosty beer in which to partake. This is what we were expecting...

Minnesota Renaissance Festival discount tickets

By contrast, this is what we got... lackluster, yes... but there is something to be said for a $7 entry fee and a free "Mexican Dime" from a "Chinese Treasure Box" on your way through the gate. Just go with it...

In short, the Renaissance Faire may have been mediocre and weird but it made for some great pics.  We also learned something... while browsing Amazon for our kids' Halloween costumes in the future we will never again wonder why the Legend of Zelda Link costume comes in a variety of adult sizes.

The very BEST part of our Vermont visit, however, was discovering our new favorite campground, Mountain View Campground in Morristown, Vermont. Complete with a snack bar serving Anthony's authentic New York Style pizza and on-site RV repair, we seriously considered abandoning our remaining summer plans and staying here all summer.

Although we love Vermont, New Hampshire was waiting for us, along with a New England heat wave. Now accustom to the 70 degree days, we almost melted as temperatures climbed into the low 90s.  Nevertheless, we did our best to beat the heat and soak up all that New Hampshire's Mount Washington area has to offer!

Hiking, hiking... so much hiking:

Joseph's Spaghetti Shed: Our favorite restaurant in Glen, NH is Joseph's Spaghetti shed, a house-turned-pasta-shack serving up 16oz portions of their famous spaghetti. Most people can't eat it all in one sitting, but most people are not Mark Royan. Mark downed 4 pounds of pasta in 4 days and still fit in his pants... maybe it's all the hiking? 

Storyland: Storyland is awesome and cheap and let's you come back a second day for free if you get there too late, or if it rains, or if you ask... the entire experience reminiscent of days gone by. It was raining during our visit so we took advantage of already being soaked and rode water ride after water ride until "It's Closing Time in Storyland, There's No More Time To Play" played from the creepy storybook characters mouths. We pulled our kids away from this magical place with the promise of sparklers back at the campsite and that they could ask Siri one question on the drive home.

Any family road trip that starts with Dad yelling "Swords Down While We Drive!" is going to be a good one, and our trek to Maine was no exception. The 200 miles between Glen, New Hampshire and Southwest Harbor, Maine were nothing short of ridiculous. 

Just a few miles into the trip, a trucker rolled down his window and waved for us to do the same (never a good sign), indicating that we were "leaking fluids from our camper" (also never a good sign). We pulled over and Mark got out to inspect the damage, all the while playing Frogger with oncoming traffic. Mechanic Mark, who is super smart about everything, determined that we'd lost a clamp and our water tank was draining onto the streets. He wondered where he'd get such a clamp in the middle of nowhere... then Jesus arrived.... 

In the middle of nowhere it had just so happened that we'd pulled over next to an RV sales center. They didn't sell the part we needed but they "damn sure recognized it" and pulled one from the shop floor. A perfect match for our rig and "free of charge!" What a glorious day! We got back on the road and continued our drive. 

Lunch options are few and far between on this journey, but we knew of a place "approximately halfway" that had provided a great lunch and ample RV parking during our last Maine road trip. Unfortunately it was the same restaurant where our RV been hit and badly dented by a rouge golf cart, but we were certain that such an unfortunate incident would not happen twice in the same parking lot. 

We were wrong, of course. 

As we pulled into the restaurant parking lot, April hopped out to help Mark park. It was then she saw what appeared to be power lines... on the camper... on the ground... near her feet. 

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh we hit a power line. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Save the babies. Don't touch the car. Don't touch the doors. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

This was the scene. Panic (April) and silent terror (Mark) ensued... as we weren't really sure what was live or how electricity may or may not conduct in a towing situation. 

Mark: "Well, you're not dead so maybe it's not electricity." 
April: "Kids, don't touch anything. Crawl out of my already opened door and jump to me. I'll walk you over to the grass." 
Mark: "Again, you're not dead now so I think we're fine." 

All the while, a "helpful employee" of the golf course/restaurant looked on... suggesting only once approached that there was nothing he could do and we better call 911. 

Horrified, April took the boys into the restaurant to hide while Mark called Emergency Services. The firefighter was neither surprised nor annoyed with us, a welcome development, and informed us that he didn't know what type of line we'd destroyed, but it wasn't live. "Maybe an old line, maybe telephone or cable... who knows... happens a lot around here. Better crawl up there and pull that line out of your air conditioner, though... I'll go cut the rest down." 

The "Live Free or Die"folks of New Hampshire are bad asses who don't seem to get very worked up over anything... certainly not some too-tall-tourists and their fancy camper. Once again we were on our way as soon as the Firetruck left, very grateful to be pointing our Jayco toward Maine in anticipation of three things:

1. America's Birthday
2. April's Birthday
3. Summer Camp

It's hard to rank which is most important... but let's just say that it's hard to over-celebrate dropping your kids off for their very first summer camp.

Will they have fun? Will they be excited to go back? Dear God, please let them be excited to go back because we've pre-paid for the month.  Will they make friends? What will it be like?

These thoughts and more were put to rest as we pulled up to Camp Beech Cliff and picked up our happy, sweaty, tired campers. Our 5 mile ride back to our campground was full of excited chatter, tales of swimming in the lake, the legendary lake monster, archery, axes and of course, popsicles.

"Oh," said Andrew, "and the best part is... I made a new friend... I have to call him Jackass even though that's not his name. It's a bit weird, I prefer to call him Jack, but the counselors said we need to call him Jackass."

Ummmm.... what is happening? 

"Jackass is a real nice kid. Jackass and I swam together today at the dock and Jackass even told me some great jokes."

Mark and April exchanged frightened, silent glances as their brains started to shut down and the fear of a dreaded parent-counselor conference flashed before their eyes.

"How do you spell Jackass?" asked Max.

"It's easy," Andrew said "Jack S."

Here's to the next month in Maine and a budding friendship with Jack S... never have two parents been more happy to discover how to spell another child's name.

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