Friday, August 28, 2015

Week in Review - St. Clair, MI

We had a good time in St. Clair at the Thousand Trails park there. While there, we had a special treat of Grandma Lisa, Grandpa Alan, and Grandma June coming to visit us. We learned that we like a cheap/crap pizza called Hungry Howie's- sometimes it's just easier to order food on moving days than to get setup + make food.
St. Clair, MI and Henry Ford Museum
Our Campsite at St. Clair
We had another fairly low key week, just hanging out at the camper from Tuesday to Thursday until everyone showed up. Thursday and Friday were also fairly low key "camping" kinds of days. We had fires and cooked over the grill. Good stuff - we really don't do that enough.

On Saturday, we all headed into the Henry Ford. The first part of our day was spent at The Rouge where Ford was making F150s. It was really neat, but unfortunately didn't allow photos. Seeing the use of robots was a great segue into a trip once we got into Chicago. One thing that really stuck out to me was the equal mix of men vs. women workers.

After the tour, we headed to Greenfield Village where Henry Ford had different buildings from around the country moved there. We saw the Wright Brothers' bicycle shop and really enjoyed seeing Thomas Edison's Menlo Park. One of the coolest things was hearing his Phonograph making a recording and playing it back. We didn't have quite as much time as we would have liked, but my family sort of sucks getting up and out in the morning!

On Sunday, we attended the Michigan Ride for Kids. One of the big disappointments with this trip is that we'll miss the Baltimore/Washington Ride for Kids. We have attended that one for the past 10 years since Paige was first diagnosed. the folks at the Michigan ride were really friendly. This year, we had a ton of riders- Paige rode, Alan and Logan shared a sidecar, and June rode on a motorcycle for the first time in her life. Everyone was very pleased with the ride- including Logan who fell asleep about 1/2 way into the ride.

And now, this was the beginning of the end of our original planned route. We were planning on leaving on Tuesday, but Mandie's back hurt and we stuck around until Friday.

Ok, same deal with this one- go to Flickr for photos!

Week in review - Cincinnati, OH

I'm a terrible person and have totally neglected the blog. So, you're about to get a bunch of half-assed blog entries that recap a bunch of weeks into one. Leaving Stone Mountain Park Campground in Atlanta, we headed to Cincinnati and stayed at Winton Woods Campground.
Cincinnati, OH
Happy Campers
We had a really low key week. I worked through the week and that weekend we went into the city. The kids played at the playgrounds, Paige and I rode bikes, and our fellow campers were overly friendly. For instance, we were barely backed into our site before the "welcoming committee" came over and were asking about my bike rack and telling me stories of their electrical problems and asking questions about the camper. I mean literally, they were on the way before I was done backing up and we were still hitched to the truck. Another case, a "grandfatherly" type guy offered Mandie and me $5 for us to buy the kids ice cream; not just offered- had it out and tried pressing it into my hand.

On one evening, we went out to dinner at a local BBQ place called Pit to Plate. It was another TripAdvisor recommendation and win. Good stuff. I'd gladly go back.

On Saturday, we went to the Underground Railroad Museum. This was amazing. Very moving and very informative.

On Sunday, we went to the William Howard Taft National Historic Site to help Paige fill out her Paige's National Passport Booklet. While there, Paige and Logan did the Junior Ranger program. Logan is EXTREMELY proud of his badge and has worn it since.

One of the days, we killed time at a waterfront park. Very cute area. Paige and Logan really enjoyed the water feature- even if they weren't dressed for it!

More yummy food at the old spaghetti factory.

This time, you're going to need to just go to Flickr for photos.

Week in review - Stone Mountain, GA

As it seems to be, I'm a bunch behind in my blog posts. With posting about our overnight stop at I-75 RV Park, I'm afraid I'll be a little more behind. But, such is life.

What I didn't mention before was that leaving the Escapees campground where we were weighed, we hit a torrential downpour unlike anything I've ever seen... in a construction zone, no less! I ended up with my 4-way flashers on and was driving well less than 20 mph. Once I could finally see the shoulder well enough, I pulled over. I've legit never pulled over due to rain before. We sat it out for maybe 5 minutes before we got underway again. Safety first.
Rain and road signs
Holy rain, batman! The pictures don't do it justice.

Now, about Stone Mountain!

In our budgeting for this adventure, I figured that we would spend an average of $50/night on RV parks which works out to about $1,500 per month (give or take, as I include my yearly Thousand Trails dues of $400 in that). Some site are more expensive (like Disney was a stupid $120/night) and some are free (Thousand Trails are pre-paid with our dues). Stone Mountain Park Campground was just over $51/night with a Good Sam discount. So, it wasn't cheap.
Stone Mountain, GA Campground and Laser Show
Our Site at Stone Mountain Park Campground
First, the bad- outside of the price, the sites here are cozy. The ones near us were deep, but fairly tight side to side- especially with our dual opposing slides in the bunkhouse. Like so cozy that we got lucky on both sides. Driver's side, the electrical post literally was under our wheel well or our slide would have hit it. Passenger's/camper's door side, our outdoor kitchen's door cleared a deck by maybe 3". And, their WiFi was terribly slow. On the upside, the deck was part of the site and it had a full-size gas grill. Back home, we would grill maybe 4 to 5 nights a week. We don't have a grill in the camper yet, so this was so nice to have!
Stone Mountain, GA Campground and Laser Show
Our Slide Over the Electrical Box
Stone Mountain, GA Campground and Laser Show
Cozy to the Deck
That's all the bad that I have. I really enjoyed it here. It really started to help me realize that I really like this lifestyle and this might actually work for us! Especially the night that I went looking for the kids and found them playing with 10-15 other kids in the field and sand volleyball court. (That night, they also got showers out on the deck!)
Stone Mountain Park
Shower on the Deck
The weather was a touch cooler than Florida was, so we were able to enjoy 3 or 4 nights of eating outside on the deck. We even just hung out outside on the chairs under the awning. And the kids were able to be outside without melting and went and played and played and played.

Stone Mountain, GA Campground and Laser Show
Dinner on the Deck
As usual, shown below is just a smattering of pictures. There are about a hundred pictures on Flickr under the Stone Mountain, GA and Fernbank Museum albums.

What We Did

Monday we got there early enough that we were able to go to the pool that afternoon. The water was definitely cooler than it was in Florida, but Mandie says it still wasn't a "refreshing cool". She's crazy- it was nice!
Stone Mountain, GA Campground and Laser Show
Tuesday was a pretty quiet day. I worked and we had dinner outside. As mentioned (and maybe gushed over a bit), having a grill and not stifling hot temperatures was pretty nice.

After dinner on Wednesday, we went to the Lasershow Spectacular as they called it. On our way in, we watched a glass blower make a couple of glass pumpkins and then caught what they claim was a parade. Mind you, we just came from Disney where their parades are elaborate- but I still don't believe that was the cause of our let down. This was literally some park guests walking down the main "street" from one end to the other in a semi-organized fashion. The funny part is that set our expectations for Stone Mountain's lasershow. And fortunately, we were blown away.

The lasershow (and fireworks) was really neat. I had low expectations, simply because I didn't know what to expect, it was free, and the terribleness of what they call a parade. But, we sang along and thoroughly enjoyed the show.
Stone Mountain, GA Campground and Laser Show
Stone Mountain Laser Show
On Thursday, I met up with a long-time online friend. Way back around 2000 or so, I "met" a couple of folks on a messageboard dedicated to a web programming technology (classic ASP). Over the years I've lost touch with all but 3 of them. Two live in the UK and one lives in Atlanta. After 10+ years, I finally got to meet my friend Erika! Unfortunately we couldn't get together with her hubby and son, but we did get together for lunch with Mandie, Paige, Logan, her, and me. She was as sweet and nice as I would have ever guessed. It's amazing to see the life changes and events that we've gone through over the years.

Lunch was at Yeah! Burger (which is seriously fun to say- Paige kept asking me where we were going and I'd shout "YEAH!" and then say "burger"). Apparently they were featured on one of those eating shows- I didn't know it, or I might have changed my order up a bit. Lunch was great, but finally meeting an old friend was awesome! Score another point for this lifestyle. (smile)
Stone Mountain, GA Campground and Laser Show
Erika and Me, together at last
Lisa treated us to dinner that evening. The catch was, we had to find somewhere to eat. Let me tell you, y'all, TripAdvisor is my new best friend. As we explore new towns, I want to eat at places other than the big chains. I want to try the local foods and places. And finding them is easy. Using the TripAdvisor app, you can "Find near me" and then sort by ranking. You can even filter by food type if you wish (just did that last night, actually). We ended up at Biba's Italian Restaurant in Lawrenceville. Other than our GPS, Google Maps, and Apple Maps all having jokes and taking us 5 miles away (all to the same place- just not where we needed to be!), it was fantastic. The garlic rolls were so garlicky that it burnt your tongue a little (which was great, because it meant that the demons kids didn't eat them). Mandie got shrimp scampi, I got lasagna, and Lisa and Paige both got "tortellini gabrielle". The servings were pretty big (ok, the tortellini was huge- Lisa, Paige, and Logan could have shared a single serving!). I'd gladly go back there (if I wasn't looking out for another place to eat!).

Friday we did some errands and generally hung out around the camper.

Saturday found us at the Fernbank Museum in downtown Atlanta. This is a science-center type of place and had a really amazing exhibit on the brain. Mandie and Paige started their roadschooling this week with lessons on the brain with a side science lesson on dinosaurs (as the Fernbank also had a small section devoted to dinosaurs). We watched a pretty neat movie on the tectonic plates and how the earth's continents are moving. I think we can turn that into another science lesson.
Fernbank Museum in Atlanta, GA
Outside the Fernbank
As a family, we really enjoyed the Fernbank. As a roadschool field trip, we spent more time actually reading the plaques and trying to learn from them than we ever did before. The only negative is that they don't have any reciprocal agreements with other science centers. (We've heard that often times science centers have reciprocal agreements where you membership to one lets you get into others for free or at discounted rates).
Fernbank Museum in Atlanta, GA
Learning about brains!
After the Fernbank, we drove by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historical Site. It's a national park. Unfortunately, we got there about 4:30pm and most things close at 5:00. AND- as we were driving past and figuring out what we wanted to do- it dropped a frog stranglin' rain on us!
Stone Mountain Park & Ride the Ducks
As close as we got to the MLK Historic Site
On Sunday, we spent the day at Stone Mountain Park. Paige and I did the obstacle/ropes course, we all Rode the Ducks where Paige and Logan got to drive out on the lake, and we rode the train around the park. We tried to take the Skyride up, but the weather didn't cooperate. Instead, we took Lisa to the airport and sadly shipped her home. The weather continued to not cooperate that evening when we tried to go back.
Stone Mountain Park & Ride the Ducks
Obstacle course at Stone Mountain Park

Stone Mountain Park & Ride the Ducks
Riding the ducks
I worked Monday and then we went over to ride the Skyride up to the summit. The weather looked a little questionable and once up on top of the stone- we could see rain in the distance. Sure enough, not long after we were there, they made an announcement that the Skyride was going to be in descent-only mode and that if we didn't want to be left up on top of the mountain, they suggested we get back to the center to get in line. As we were sitting down into the truck, it started to rain.
Stone Mountain Park's Summit Skyride
Standing at the top
We finished getting the camper travel ready on Monday night. The plan was to depart bright and early Tuesday morning- no later than 8:30am. Sure enough about 9:15-9:20, we pulled out and were on our way to Cincinnati, OH. But that's for the next blog post.

Lisa's Jewelry Classes

One of the great benefits to this trip is that we get to do and experience things that we normally wouldn't. One of those came in the unexpected benefit that we would be near a jewelry maker and author that Mandie's mom (Lisa) had been following an d corresponding with named Lisa Barth. It worked out that Lisa, Mandie's mom, was able to join us for a bit in Clermont and able to setup some one-on-one classes with Lisa, the jewelry maker. Over the course of 3 days of classes, Lisa with Lisa's guidance made 3 beautiful pieces of jewelry - a pair of earrings, a pendant, and a silver clay something.

We always knew that Lisa could make beautiful work (see her blog), but under Lisa's guidance, she did an amazing job.