Sunday, May 25, 2014

And in the End...

 So we've been home for a few days, unpacked the stuff, got on talking terms with the cat again, and entered all the receipts in the checkbook register.

Some parting thoughts:
- Budget! We made a budget for the trip for everything from gas ($3.75 average per gallon x 10 miles/gallon x 2,544 miles) to tolls to food on the road. Even with thorough budgeting, we still missed a few things like tips (even though we were on the meal plan). Thankfully, the one thing we always put into our budget is a margin. The beauty of a budget is you can relax and enjoy your vacation without coming back to financial mayhem.

-Make peace with the fact that there is no "winging it" with Disney. My art school approach of "let's see where the project goes" will make for some frustration.

- If you're traveling with the whole crew, try to arrange for time alone with the spouse. Send the kids to the playground, give them a roll of quarters and send them to the arcade, lock them in the van, whatever you have to do to get a few hours alone to re-connect with your spouse. Because there is no privacy in an RV. We could hear the kid on the other side of the rig scratching their nose so this limited the conversation topics for the spouse and I.

-Plan for no more than three days straight driving before taking a day off to just chill-lax. This has physical and mental benefits.
The kids learning how 10,000 chicks are transported

-Take the scenic route if you can. Robert Frost was right about taking the road less travelled and having no regrets about it.

-We've found that 260 miles a day is about as much as we can do. This allows for spontaneous stops, stops for potty, fuel, iced coffee and other supplies as well as getting into camp early enough to relax and maybe enjoy some of the camp activities.

KOA selfie #smallcamperproblems

- Audio books, NPR podcasts, other podcasts are great way to pass the time.

Meet Crush - our wire sea turtle mascot

- You will still need an atlas. I don't care if you have a GPS device and an iPhone, there were still times we navigated old school because the GPS didn't understand we wanted a scenic route but only up until the next town and then the highway, but not that one, this one, etc. etc.

- Take pictures.

Like a book, we have some acknowledgments to make here:
Our thanks....
to all the friends and family who offered opinions and helpful hints about Disney
to Rousseau's RV Rental Center for making the whole rental process easy
to Newfangled for their support in allowing Bo to leave for three weeks
to the Iacobbos for letting us boondock
to Christina for cat sitting (feeding her not actually sitting on her)
to our neighbors for keeping an eye out on the ol' homestead
to WalMart for being everywhere and having everything (did you know RV's require special toilet paper?)
to our children for having a good sense of humor and patience. You are a blessing.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Signature Game

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of our favorite games to do on a road trip is the Signature Scavenger Hunt. The kids are given a sheet with a short explanation of the game and spaces for signatures. The kids are to collect as many signatures as they can and the signatures are given points based on who they are from. For example, police officers, whom we hopefully won't see as much, would be worth 10 points where as Dunkin' Donuts employees would be worth 2 points since Mom needs her iced coffee on an hourly basis.

So the results of this trip's Signature Scavenger Hunt are as follows:

Winner based on points: Princess Git Er Done
W. Bear was actually in the lead when Git Er Done saw a bunch of cadets from the local military academy getting lunch. She also scored the bonus points for the signature of a Rhode Islander obtained outside of New England.

Winner based on sheer volume: W. Bear
Dude was relentless in playing this game. Anyone who could hold a writing implement was asked to sign his paper. Alas it was not enough to compensate for Git Er Done's military score.

Winner based on sportsmanship: Tater
Things got a little touchy between the older kids as they accused one another of underhanded practises. Tater however just kept plugging along, being his charming self.

Winner based on thinking outside the box: Princess Buttercup.
Not only did she collect signatures, she sought out people she thought would add an interesting angle to her sheet. She also kept track of who the people were who signed. By this I mean: "this was the captain of the ferry at Disney!" "this was the cashier at Pez Museum!" "this was the cashier at Peach World!"

Winner based on family motto: Baby
The Kerr family motto is "Sero sed serio" which is Latin for "late but in earnest." A little lacking as far as rousing battle cries, but I didn't think it up. Anyway, Baby didn't really give the game much thought until about three days before we got back. But when he got on it, he gave it his best shot.

Winner in his own mind: Gummi
Didn't even try this, but still thinks he's awesome.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

End of the Road

 So we're almost to the end of the road. We're in Copake, NY tonight with a short ride to Rhode Island tomorrow. We'll also have to clean out the RV which might be kind of scary. Ending a trip like this is always bittersweet. I'll be glad to get back to larger living quarters, but I think I will miss the fun interludes in my day.

Bo and I thought we'd poll the kids for the best and least on this trip.

favorite part of Disney: the resort we stayed at (Fort Wilderness)
least favorite part of Disney: having to plan and reserve everything, the Mission Space ride
favorite part of RV trip: being together, spending time together without killing each other
least favorite part: the driving (the monkey butt issue)

favorite part of Disney: the dinners out, the train between the "lands"
least favorite part of Disney: the scheduling
favorite part of RV trip: getting to knit a lot, the little stops, Skyline Drive
least favorite part of trip: end of day crankiness

favorite part of Disney: the roller-coasters!!
least favorite part of Disney: end of the day crankiness
favorite part of RV trip: all of it (she can't decide)
least favorite part: that hour of the day when everyone is strung out

Git Er Done
favorite part of Disney: the beverages and the pool at the resort
least favorite part of Disney: Mission Space, all the walking
favorite part of RV trip: Jacksonville/St Mary's KOA (where they did the hay ride and bingo)
least favorite part: being sick and arriving late at camp

W. Bear
favorite part of Disney: going to the Japan section of Epcot, the pool at the resort
least favorite part of Disney: walking around a lot
favorite part of RV trip: the KOA's
least favorite part: the long car rides and the "ghost town" KOA (Enfield, NC)

favorite part of Disney: the pool at the resort, the all you can drink soda (even though he only had 2 cups)
least favorite part of Disney: all the walking around
favorite part of RV trip: all the KOAs we stayed at except the "ghost town" one (Enfield, NC)
least favorite part: just before we get to camp when everyone get cranky

favorite part of Disney: the pool at the resort and the pool slide
least favorite part of Disney: the Mission Space ride
favorite part of RV trip: all the KOA pools we've been in (we were only in one)
least favorite part: Charlotte, NC KOA (had a spooky castle)

favorite part of Disney: the water slide at the resort pool
least favorite part of Disney: all the walking around
favorite part of RV trip: getting the RV
least favorite part: weoirweroiu (I couldn't understand him)

The good news is everyone is still willing to do another RV trip sometime in the future. We just need to win PowerBall to finance it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Day 14

Wow. We've spent 14 days on the road. And no one has called Grandma to rescue them.

We spent last night at one of the most scenic KOAs I've been to. We didn't make it to the Luray Caverns as it would have cost a small fortune for us. We did however drive a part of the Skyline Drive through the Shenandoah National Park. If you're ever driving out this way, I highly recommend it.

Here are some photos we took:

When the kids were younger, we use to point out any and all animals to them that we saw (being city folk, and all) We'd say, "Look, kids! Cows! Moo!" Now all the kids have gotten into the habit of saying, "Look, Moo Cows!"

What is this Moo Cow you speak of?

A helpful reminder from the KOA.

Some scenery from the Skyline Drive:

A picture of the whole crew:

This time we included our intrepid driver.

After we took the picture, Baby said, "I want to climb that!"

Unfortunately, we did not have the time for that.

We also made another stop at the Wegman's in Harrisburg, PA. The kids were quite excited about it. We must be the only family who could make a vacation highlight out of going to a grocery store.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Things I've Learned.

Things I've learned after two weeks on the road (posted by Bo Hunkmeister):

1) The Luray, Virginia KOA in the Shenandoah Valley is one of the most beautiful campsites I've ever stayed in. (the KOA in Enfield, NC is for sale if anyone is interested).

2) I can't believe I'm starting to look forward to "Adventures in Odyssey" episodes during the morning drive time.

3) 100 miles of driving is about all my middle-aged legs can handle before they start cramping up.

4) I'm seriously coveting my neighbor's RV (all of them).

5) I can't believe I'm going to be thankful to get 12 MPG again once I stop hauling a 25 foot trailer.

6) After 20 miles, my son in the row directly behind me who is sucking on a jaw breaker sounds like an industrial washing machine.

7) When filling a 28-gallon gas tank, one should be able to lock the pump nozzle and walk away to clear the 10 pounds of bugs that have accumulated on the windshield instead of standing next to the pump breathing in the gas fumes (I'm looking at you, Rhode Island and Massachusetts).

8) Despite my intermittent losses of temper, I'm enjoying the extended time with my family.

9) Yard sales are a great way to entertain yourself while on a road trip. And cheaper than most other roadside attractions.

10) Chick-Fil-A is the cheapest place to feed a family of eight and still feel good about the quality of food. Word of caution: go easy on the waffle fries if you're going to be together in an enclosed space afterwards.

11) Taco-in-a-bag should be the next menu item at Taco Bell. Or a new food truck.

12) A Ziplock baggie with one of the corners snipped off makes a handy funnel.

13) The peach fritters at Peach World (exit 58 off Route 95 in Georgia) are worth the stop. I'm not kidding, they're as big as your head.

14) I'm starting to learn how to take each day as it comes instead of worrying about tomorrow. I hope I can carry this over into my non-vacation life.

Day Whatever

After Disney, we were on the road for two days. The first night we were in Savannah, GA.  We decided to borrow a DVD and watch a movie that night. When we turned on the lights, the camper was swarming with tiny gnats. Then the campsite lost power so we couldn't use the air conditioning. It was almost enough to send us to a hotel room. But we killed the gnats with windex, stuffed toilet paper in the screen gaps and made the best of it.

The second night, we ended up at a KOA in Charlotte, NC. Since it was close to a residential neighborhood, the next morning, we unhitched the van and spent the morning hitting some yard sales. We scored a couple of cd's for the road: the Eagles, Tom Petty and Elton John. After loading up the RV, we moved on to our next stop.

We stopped for two days at Camp Uncle Danny near Winston-Salem, NC. This was a fun stop as we had a bonfire, a marshmallow roast, grilled pizzas, sleeping out in tents and a fun excursion to a Greek festival. And we got to hang with some cool people too! We really liked this camp and it was not just because they fed us cheesecake.

We got on our way early Monday morning, taking one of my favorite routes north - through the Shenandoah Valley. It is really just some gorgeous country out there.

Here are some pictures we took. Please excuse the iPod photography.

Camp Uncle Danny

Which of these is not like the other?

Mt. Pilot
Chimney ruins near the campsite
Some cows behind our lunch time rest stop

The view while I'm knitting

Tonight we are at a KOA in Luray, VA up in the mountains eating grilled cheese on Aunt Michele's English muffin bread. It's beautiful and quiet here. Well, except for our free-range boys.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Peach World

 Day 9

The bright side of our dinner flub the previous night was we now had sit down meals to use for breakfast. We had a nice buffet breakfast the next morning served by Donnell, who regaled us with tales of growing up as one of eight. We packed the RV and headed out happy to be on the road again.

Having stopped at Peach World on our way down, we wanted to stop on the way up for more pralines and fritters. Peach World is not really a "world" in the Disney sense, more of a house next to a gas station by the side of the road. In an effort to park in a place that would not inconvenience everyone else, Bo pulled the rig around the back of the gas station. The kids and I jumped out to go use the restrooms at the gas station and find my beloved pralines. Meanwhile, my dear Bo got out to look for my lost crochet needle on my side of the van. When he stood up, the local sheriff was approaching.

"Hey there, whatcha doin?" said the sheriff.

"Uh, I'm looking for a crochet needle." says Bo.

"Ok. Well, we normally don't have people parking behind here. May I see your driver's license?"

Bo politely obliged and the sheriff ran his license number. I suppose crocheting behind a gas station is not looked upon kindly in these parts. After realizing Bo was just a crafter traveling through, the sheriff returned Bo's license just as all the kids came running up with their signature sheets out. You see, we have a game we play on road trips where the kids collect signatures from people we meet as we travel. Certain signatures are worth more points than others. For example, military personnel are 15 points while DD employees are 2 points. So when the kids saw their dad talking to the sheriff, 15 points flashed before their eyes and they all came running with pens and papers flailing. Thankfully, the sheriff good naturedly signed all the sheets. He left on his way, I came back and we were back on the road with more pralines and a good story to tell.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Road Trip Knitting!

Here are some of the projects I've been working on.

1. The Universe is complete! I finished the shawl I was working on before we left. The finished dimension is 35". I was actually kind of hoping it would be larger.

2. Monmouth cap. This is an old fashioned hat that someone from the pirate crew mentioned to me. I like this pattern because it's based off of the study of existing historic hats. This one is actually a trial run. I need to use bigger needles.

3. Bunnies! This is a crochet pattern that I stumbled across that was just too cute to pass up. It's two bunnies, the grass mat, and a log (which I still need to make) which will all fit inside the egg. I'm not sure of it's purpose outside of just looking adorable.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hollywood! (Day 8)

So we followed the new and improved plan of lounging by the pool side on the morning of our last Disney day. I tell you, it might be worth it to just come to Disney for the resorts and skip the parks. The pool is lovely, the staff is friendly and there's less walking around.

Anyway, we ate lunch at the snack bar and afterwards I took the two little ones for a nap. The others stayed pool side and enjoyed the novelty of swimming in the rain. That is, until the thunder started. Then we reconvened at the RV.

We made it to Hollywood Studios around 3:00pm. It was pretty quiet there because the rain had chased a lot of the crowds away. We were early for our first FastPass so Buttercup, Tater and Bo did the Aerosmith roller coaster while the rest of us rode a - slow - ride through a history of movies. You've never seen a girl happier to ride a roller coaster. Tater however, apparently spent the time crouched down under the seat. Afterwards, we saw the Lights! Motors! Action! show which was pretty incredible. The kids were enthralled with the stunt driving. I think Baby discovered his vocation in life, which I wouldn't mind because I'm sure there's some cool benefits to being a Disney stunt driver (free Coke slushies?)

Or he could be a song and dance man.

Then, while wandering through a candy shop we ran into fellow Rhode Islanders who go to our church. None of this surprised any of us because, no matter where you are in the world, and perhaps the universe, you will run into a fellow Rhode Islander. I could be trekking across the outback of Australia for miles and the first cafe I walk into will be run by a former Rhode Islander. Very possibly a cousin. For such a small state, we are out in the world in force.
The candy apples were a meal unto themselves.

We hung around the park until our dinner reservations at 7:30pm. When we arrived at the restaurant, the hostess informed Bo that we had inadvertently picked a "signature restaurant" even though there was no show. Therefore, we did not have enough credits for dinner and would have to pay for half of us with cash. We asked the hostess what our other restaurant options are and she helpfully said, "Well by this time, everything is booked." Given he had six hungry, tired kids in tow and was just told there were no sit down dinner options, I'm really amazed more colorful words were not used other than, "Thank you." Rather than shelling out $150 for four additional hamburgers for the boys, we decided to skip the "signature restaurant" and find a quick serve. Now for some reason, half of the food concessions closed before the park itself does. So we stood in line behind 20 or so high school band students to wait for mac & cheese and sandwiches. Not exactly what we had planned but in the end a quicker, and therefore more appealing, end to the day.

All in all, it was a better day. Now if we just could have figured this out the first day....

Jedi in the woods.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

That Day

If there was a "wrong" way to do Epcot with the family, I think we nailed it. We took six tired children, two of whom were whining before we even left the camp ground, to a park where the main attractions were learning, shopping and various cocktails that can be made with sparking wine.

After a late start, we got to Epcot around noon time. We started to walk around the International Pavilion. Shopping in the quaint little stores and taking in the different cultures were not Baby and Gummi's idea of a fun time. Also my allergies, who decided that they had enough vacation, were ready to get back to work full strength. By the time we got to France, I was sneezing like I was looking for a world record. I finally had to go to the First Aid station to get Benedryl.

getting an autograph from one of the characters

this one didn't want to sign autographs

When we all reconnected, we went to Mitsukoshi, a Japanese department store and one of my fondest childhood memories. Bo got the three of us ladies pearls, the dear man that he is, and the kids had fun pointing out their favorite Japanese snacks. However, Tater learned a tough lesson about how when you spend money, it doesn't automatically regenerate in your wallet.

After talking Tater out of a meltdown of epic proportion, we had to make a dash to get to our FastPass reservation at the NASA space flight simulation. Now I should have know this was not a good ride for some of us when I saw the sign talking about a green version of the ride being is less strenuous. The sign also mentioned being in small dark spaces. But we put on our brave fronts and marched ahead. The preview video, starring Gary Sinise, told us that if we wanted to opt out of the ride, there was still time to do so. When I requested to do so, the ride attendant told me, "It's not that dark, it's just a big video game!" Now W. Bear had been spooked the previous night by a similar ride and was a bit unsure. However, because of the attendant's assurances, W. Bear and I decided to forge ahead. Next thing we know, we're locked in a tin can. Already I'm having regrets and I'm looking on their control panel for an "abort mission" button. Meanwhile, I'm also making funny conversation to keep W. Bear's mind off of the fact we're in a small tuna can that's about to get smaller. So the ride starts and we're shaking and jostling around, there's a video monitor two inches from my face, Gary keeps telling us to hit some buttons, and I'm trying to lean over and see how W. Bear is faring. He's leaning over to see if I've lost it yet and Gummi is whooping it up like he's Buzz Lightyear. The ride finally ends and we beat a hasty retreat. We meet up with the rest of the gang, who did the more adventurous version of the ride, outside and they all look like they're ready to toss their cookies. We sat and pondered for a while the wisdom of running halfway across the park in this heat so we could ride a vomit-tron.

At this point, Bo and I decided he should take the two little ones back for a nap at the RV. I would take the four older kids to lunch and some other, less nausea inducing rides. After a few hours of wandering around trying to find a ride that was open and bathrooms because we emphasized hydration, we all ended up reconnecting so we could go to our dinner reservation. By this time, Tater is fussing about not having money, the girls are upset with me over a missed meeting, Gummi was still fussy because he didn't nap and Bo is trying to make sure we all don't kill each other. We limped over to our dinner spot which we chose because it was one of the earlier seating times. We did not know it was a German Biergarten in the fullest sense of the term. We walked in while a rather loud leiderhosen clad band was playing the Chicken Dance. I about cried. This is where the flexibility thing comes in. On any other vacation, Bo and I would have conceded defeat, skipped dinner and took everyone home pizza and an early bed time. However, at Disney, if you cancel a dinner reservation with less than 24 hours notice, you have to pay a surcharge of $10 per person. That's $80 for us to skip dinner and go home early. So we forged ahead.

Thankfully, the food was decent, the band took a break shortly after we arrived and after dinner we took one last pleasant - slow - ride through Spaceship Earth. We got back to the RV about 10:00pm

Now I don't want to sound like a complete buzzkill. We are having some enjoyable moments. But there is the nagging feeling of how much time and effort has been spent to put this Disney portion together and in turn a pressing need to take in as much as we can. However, taking in as much as we can does not mesh well with young children, who, whether they acknowledge it or not, need a quiet time midday. There is no 2:00pm caffeine/energy drink pick me up for that set.

So we've changed our strategy for tomorrow. We're going to lounge poolside until after Gummi's nap time and then go to the Hollywood Studios park for the afternoon and evening. Our dinner time is still later than I'd like, but at least the little ones will have had a nap.

I'm so sorry, Pluto.
post script: one of my long held beliefs has been that Goofy is a cow because if he's dog then why is Pluto subjugated to walking on all fours and not talking? Bo found this poster in the art gallery yesterday which he told me was proof that Goofy is indeed a dog (or "dawg") and thus Pluto is getting the really short stick of the deal. I think part of my childhood just died.