I cannot tell y’all how much I am loving this trip right now.
It’s true that sibling disharmony is not improved by being stuck in a car for 6 hours at a time, but if they’re going to be fighting anyway, they may as well being doing it half way around the world while getting to see some of this amazing country with all it’s contrasting landscapes, cultures and accents, and learning so much about this side of their heritage, both cultural and familial.
And, as much as traveling through the West and Middle – seeing Yellowstone for the first time, and Chicago, to name just two pleasures – was awesome, it is really the time with people that I value the most.
We had plenty of that on the West coast, and now on the East – visiting with friends we hadn’t seen in over a decade, meeting people I’d only met before online, catching up with family and meeting new family (including staying with some AWESOME cousins who may be removed by a few “in-law” relationships, and have never heard of us before, but took us in at a moment’s notice anyway), and last night having dinner with a friend we saw most recently in Australia about a year and a half ago – who has now generously given us free range of his house while he is away.
We have met and reconnected with all sorts of lovely people, we have seen amazing sights and tasted all sorts of wonderful food, we have slept in a three-season tent during an unseasonably cold 19F night (that’s like -7C) and lived to tell the tale. We’ve figured out the metro in various cities, seen Washington DC from the top of the Washington Monument, marvelled over Yellowstone’s hot springs, and wept at the 9/11 memorial.
All this, and we’re only about half way through our road trip!
We had lunch at this little Puerto Rican restaurant in Chicago’s Humboldt neighbourhood yesterday. We discovered it on Yelp. It’s the sort of place you would never have discovered before the internet, unless you lived locally, and it was excellent.
The server didn’t speak much English, and my Spanish is limited to “Gracias”, but we managed to communicate sufficiently well (and then an English speaking chef came out and quickly told us what some of the food was, which did help).
We chose a selection of bits and pieces from the self-serve section and two jabaritos (sandwiches with fried green banana instead of bread), which was all excellent. Even Liam and Mikaela found enough they liked to fill them up (though Eliane mostly just ate the complementary bread). Mikaela found the sauce and/or chicken in the jabaritos a little spicy, but the even for me it was
All in all, highly recommended, should you be in the area. 🙂
When we were camping in Joseph D. Grant Santa Clara County Park the camp host told us that we were in mountain lion country. The mountain lion is a solitary creature and travels in ones or twos. When on all four legs at its highest point it is just above the knee of a man six feet tall.
The mountain lion is also know as the puma or cougar and prays mainly on deer but also feeds on smaller animals such as raccoons, porcupines and coyotes. Mountain lions are found mostly in California, Mexico and South America but are often found in Canadian forests as well.
So next time you’re camping in the Americas look out for a mountain lion, if your lucky you might just spot one!
There is so much to see in Yosemite, we didn’t spend nearly enough time there, even with Mirror Lake and most of the falls being dried up (normal, by this time of year, though with the drought they had apparently dried up earlier than usual). I’ve selected just a few photos, because the web is already rife with better ones. The enormous granite cliffs, the wildlife, the amazing trees… I couldn’t capture the half of it.
Camping with Kids, Day 9: Stanislaus National Forest – Lost Claim Campground
This is more my memory of camping in America, even though I only came up this way once. Then again, I may have camped in this very campground. I certainly spent a couple of nights up here at a very similar one.
Tall, tall trees (even if a lot of them have burned down recently), pines and ceders, and seemingly no-one around for miles.
Tomorrow we will head down into Yosemite National Park, but tonight we are up here alone among the tall pines, listening to the crickets or cicadas (I never know which is which), and hoping no bears stumble in. We’ve carefully stored all our food, dirty cloths & smelly toiletries in either the food locker or the car, so we should be okay. 🙂
The kids have started to ask me to tell ghost stories at night (my fault, I told them one last night). Have to try to keep it fairly benign!
[5 hours later]
Okay, so this is the worst of camping.* We couldn’t get a perfectly even site for our tent here, but we got a spot that mostly slopes only in one direction. Most of the tent has a mild slope towards our feet, but one end has a slope sideways as well. And of course, that just happens to be where *I* sleep. I’ve spent the night so far fighting gravity, which wants to pull me off my sleeping mat and into the wall. Not a good night!
Early morning at Lake McSwain. First time I’ve managed to be up before the kids. Torn between sitting & writing, taking a wander around the campground to enjoy the early morning light, or getting started on coffee & pancakes.
Just really enjoying the quiet, though I think I hear movement from kids in the tent. Being up before them is a joy, I think I will try to make it a common practice.
[Later, same day]
We stopped at the store in Snelling, California today (population 200 odd), and it reminded me of the corner store in Mossy Point when I was a child. The only store around, so it carried a little of everything. Groceries of course, but also plumbing supplies, camping supplies, hats, toys, some seemingly decades old hair ties, sporting equipment, and more besides. Oh and Starbucks Frappaccinos and a soda & ice machine.
Everyone’s asleep except me, but I am ensconced in the tent with them.
I went out to use the restroom after finally getting Elli settled and down, and the stars tonight are amazing. Being a Sunday, everyone else packed up and left while we were at the lake today, bar one couple in an RV. So there’s no other light or noise (RV couple appearing to be asleep already too). It’s just the beautiful Milky Way, thick with stars.
It’s been hot with loads of flies, and remarkably like Australia here, but different too.We saw blue birds here in the day time, and hawks quite close, and a bat fluttering around against the sky, just as dusk was starting to give way to night.
Next stop: Stanislaus National Forest, and Yosemite.
Camping Day 7. Third campground, Lake McSwain, California.
Got out the stove to cook dinner after setting up camp. We borrowed this stove from some friends I used to go camping with back when I lived in the States, 20 years ago. We used this exact same stove back then, and it’s still going strong. It is a Coleman duel fuel stove, and works really well. Or, it did.
At camp grounds number 1 & 2 we used it to cook pancakes, hot dogs, pasta, eggs…
We got it out today, and started to pump to create some pressure in the gas compartment. And nothing happened. The little metal tube just slide in and out with no effort at all, and no pressure building.
That’s right, one week in, and we have already managed to bugger up my friends’ stove, after they’ve kept it going for over twenty years. After our very inauspicious start, I have to ask – is this road trip doomed?
The scariest part of our first day of camping was when I thought my daughter was dying in my arms.
It was just as well we decided to start our camping road-trip by having a kind of “trial” camp, right in the middle of Monterey, California, rather than setting straight off into the wild.
Otherwise the two – yes two – separate emergency visits we made within the first three days might have been more problematic. As would the call to AAA for car troubles. Although, we might have avoided the fender-bender with the BMW.
Yes, we had an eventful start to our road trip.
We had not been in camp for more than an hour or two before Ms Eight precipated the first hospital visit.
We were still finishing with setting up the tent, when she screamed.
As I turned around, I saw her land on the ground, under a tree. She landed facedown, and as I gathered her in my arms, it seemed possible that she had landed on a rock under her chest. The most scary moment was when she momentarily passed out in my arms, and seemed to start to convulse, and I thought she might be about to die from internal injuries.
It turned out that she had just been swinging from the tree branch, not actually climbing in the tree, so she hadn’t fallen from very high, and passed out probably from the shock and pain, as she did cut up her face a bit as well as hurting her chest. That was why she ended up spending the evening in Emergency at the local hospital – the cut under her lip was quite deep and we thought it might need stitches or glue, which was exactly what happened.
But I mentioned two emergency visits didn’t I?
Master 12’s first ER trip, plus a dingle with a BMW
Up until now, every emergency visit we have had has been down to Mikaela. She’s actually averaged about a year since she was 3!! But two mornings after she had her lip stitched, Mr 12 had his first ER worthy accident.
To be honest, had we been at home, we probably wouldn’t have taken him in at all, he didn’t seem in that much pain. But given we were about to set off for Yosemite, I figured it was a good idea to make sure he was okay. And it turned out, he wasn’t.
Monday morning was dewy and lovely, and Liam decided he would have a go on the swings. With his eyes shut. Which I’m sure was perfectly delightful, until his hands slipped off the wet chain ropes and he fell, landing awkwardly on his right hand.
We had not yet managed to get a compression bandage for our first aid kit (I really don’t know what it didn’t come with one!), so later that morning we made the trip into town to get one. Mr 12 was already complaining that it needed more than that, but we decided to start simple. Surely we didn’t need to make another emergency visit so soon?
It was on the way back from the shopping centre that the next two mishaps occurred. Just after I had texted my friend who was meeting us for tea at our campsite, to tell her we would be there momentarily, Chris made a right turn (Australian readers – think left turn, as we are on the other side of the road here), and didn’t see the car making a right turn into the same road. As Chris was changing lanes to avoid parked cars, the BMW was coming and and – CRASH. Except I massively exaggerate, it was the merest touch, and had it been anything other than a pristine BMW, I can’t imagine either driver being worried.
Alas, it was a pristine BMW, and insurance papers had to be exchanged. This of course, required us to pull over.
And now for the third minor distaster of the day. After all the palaver with exchanging details with the other driver was over, our car would not start! No, I am not kidding. The short time we had spent there with the engine off but the music and fan on had flattened the battery.
My friend laughed at me when I called to tell her, but she she very, very kindly came to collect me and the kids, leaving Chris there to call AAA and get a jump start.
Oh and Liam’s wrist? Yeah, it turned out to be broken. Chris took him to the ER after dinner that evening, just in case. Happily, it wasn’t a bad break, and he got away with only wearing a brace, with the recommendation that we take him in to see another doctor in two weeks time, and again two weeks after that, at which point he *may* get away with taking it off.
Honestly folks, don’t start your road trip this way. It is beyond inauspicious.
I am sitting in a cabin in a holiday park in the Poconos, PA, rain alternately pouring down and sprinkling lightly outside, while Eliane sleeps in one of the two bedrooms.
Chris has taken the other kids into town to do some washing.
We spent a day and a half in NYC and drove up here to Gouldsboro in the Poconos late yesterday.
New York was awesome, though very short. We were incredibly lucky to stay with a friend of a friend on the Upper West Side, right across the road from Central Park.
We arrived late on Tuesday with just enough time to eat some cheerios for dinner and then get everyone to bed, after a 24+ hour day, since getting up in Athens.
Wednesday we spent exploring Central Park. We started by exploring the West end of the park, starting with a playground just inside the gates, then took the subway down to the Museum of Natural History on 81st and made our way back into the park from there.
We were all a little tired and grumpy after the previous long day of travel, but managed to enjoy ourselves all the same. We treated ourselves to hot-dogs and shared a warm pretzel.
We didn’t manage to have a bagel with cream cheese, which was one of my NYC food goals (not that we can’t do that in Berkeley, but it’s just not the same, you know?), and Central Park’s famous carousel was closed, which was disappointing.
The highlight of the day for the kids was hiring a remote control sailing boat, which cost $11 for a half hour, but I’m sure we had it for something more like an hour. We all took a turn with this, and it was harder to control than it looked!
While the big kids played with the boat, Eliane spent a happy hour pottering in a nearby sandpit (just far enough from the lake to allow me to relax and watch squirrels preparing for the winter while she played).
By the time we got close to the zoo, which we had thought of visiting, it was getting on for four o’clock, so we didn’t mention it to the kids and just kept wandering. We also didn’t go into the museum, which would have cost around $50 (I can’t remember exactly) for the lot of us.
I had thought perhaps Chris could take Liam and maybe Mikaela back there (though I think Kaely would have quickly tired of it) when I took Eliane home for a nap, but time got away from us and Elli didn’t get a nap that day.
My favorite part of the park was Bethesda Terrace, which has beautiful tiled ceilings, among other things. The kids enjoyed it too, though perhaps more for the fountain and the many stairs, than the ceilings!
We also all got a kick out of all the tunnels in the park, which have amazing acoustics. Tunnels are the sorts of things kids just love regardless, but Liam and I also got a kick out of singing in some of them, and finding the best spots for magnification.
We finished the day with ice-creams at an ice-cream shop (I think it may have been a diet ice-cream shop actually, as odd as that sounds!), on Broadway, and then caught the subway back from there (we’d made it all the way down to 57th Street).
The next morning we continued the park theme, heading up a block to explore Morningside Park. It has at least three playgrounds which the kids enjoyed, though I think they liked climbing in the rocks, both there and in Central Park, just as much.
We were planing to get up above the park to see the huge cathedral there, but we hadn’t counted on the size of the park.
By the time we made it up to the cathedral we just had time to take a few snaps from the outside, before heading back to have some lunch, pick up a rental car, and head up into Pennsylvania – and we still didn’t manage to get here before dark!
Depending on how early we get out of here on Tuesday morning, we should have another half day or so in NYC next week. We fly out early in the morning, so we’ve booked a hotel the night before close to JFK Airport.
If we get there in time, we might either take the Staten Island ferry out to see the Statue of Liberty (and by ‘see’ I don’t mean line up for four hours with a slight hope of getting in) or maybe take the subway to Times Square, which was what we were planning to do Thursday morning, but traded in for Morningside Park (which was far more fun for the kids).
All in all we had a lovely couple of days in New York with the kids. I do hope we are able to get back there sometime.
In Central Park we wandered through the Shakespeare Garden…
…which was quite picturesque with plenty of flowers despite the late season.
We then walked up to Belvedere Castle to take in the views:
We came across this statue of Alice in Wonderland sitting on the mushroom, with the Mad Hatter and White Rabbit for company.
And is this squirrel I watched run back and forth collecting nuts for the winter…
…While Eliane played in the sand and Chris and the big kids played with the remote control boats.