Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Great East Coast Adventure, Day Eleven.

COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG, VA – First thing this morning, at Michelle’s insistence, the Family rushed to get to the ferry across the James River again. And lo, they got on that ferry just when Michelle wanted to get on the ferry.

“Trust me,” Greg whispered, “That is a very good thing.”

Immediately upon arrival, the Family went to story time for Ethan.

“You should note,” remarked Greg, “That we walked ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE TOWN for that because Michelle had all of us get off the bus at the wrong stop.”

“He LOVES story time back home,” Michelle noted, ignoring the barb, “so I knew he would like this!”

Little did she know that the woman telling the story was about the slowest, most mundane storyteller ever, and that there would be a horse in close proximity.

To his credit, however, Ethan sat through the longer-than-necessary story rather patiently before asking to go pet the horse.

 

He wants her to finish the damn story so he can go pet the horse Colonial Williamsburg horse

The awesome behavior was not long for the keeping, however, because immediately after leaving that area the kids found some colonial toys. Ethan, in particular, delighted in finding alternate uses for the toys.

What Ethan does with bowling pins. So embarrassing

“I’m so proud,” Michelle remarked.

Moving along, the family visited the Magazine (with original guns), and then stopped so the kids could play stickball on the green.

Williamsburg Magazine - originals Colonial stickball

Turns out, they wouldn’t have been stickball stars in colonial times, but that’s okay.

At that point, the Family split up. Laurel had a little appointment with the Scherenschnitte class. “It was a bust, it was SO EASY, it wasn’t at all what I’d hoped,” she lamented.

“You should note,” remarked Greg, “that we walked ALL THE WAY ACROSS TOWN AGAIN for that.”

Meanwhile, Michelle and Ethan journeyed over to the public gaol.

At the Williamsburg gaol

“Who knew he would love that so much?” Michelle asked. “We heard a fascinating talk about Blackbeard’s men as prisoners there, about how  the jailer earned his money, etc., and then we got to visit the building itself where Ethan tried really hard to embarrass me by pretending he was using the cell toilets.”

Posing atop the Williamsburg gaol toilets. Sigh I promise he was just 'betending'

So what did Michelle do?

“What would any parent do? I locked him in the cell,” she replied.

Afterward, Michelle and Ethan went to pick up Greg and the very disappointed Laurel.

“Yeah, Ethan and I took the shuttle,” whispered Michelle. “We don’t walk all the way across town when shuttles are available. Duh.”

And then they spent $37+ on some sandwiches.

“UGH, I don’t even want to talk about it,” said Michelle.

The day took an interesting turn when they visited the Public Hospital (ahem, Asylum).

“It was so disturbing, so sad, I can’t even imagine,” Michelle noted, “but it was also very interesting…reminded me of home. And paying $37 for sandwiches.”

Restraining chair from the Williamsburg Public Hospital
(ahem, asylum) Restraint box, Williamsburg Public Hospital (ahem, asylum)

Simple and sad

After the hospital, the Family needed cheering, so they went   over to the courthouse where they heard lots of stories about colonial life, then got the obligatory photo of the kids in the pillory.

“Hm, yeah, that did cheer me up. Maybe we should have left them,” Michelle joked.

“Wait, who said I was joking?” she added.

Kids in the pillory with Michelle photobombing in the background

It was almost time for dinner, but not before visiting the Capitol Building, where George Washington and Thomas Jefferson spent time, where felony court proceedings took place.

Capitol Bldg, WilliamsburgHigh court, capitol bldg, Williamsburg

Before long, it was time for dinner.

“It was easier than we imagined to spend an entire day in Williamsburg,” Michelle noted. “We didn’t see nearly everything we could have seen, and we had fun touring taverns and learning so much about colonial life that you can’t find in the textbooks. But we were hungry, so we went to the Kings Arm’s Tavern and had a DECENT MEAL in a FUN ATMOSPHERE.”

The evening wasn’t over yet, for the shows had yet to begin.The Family had tickets to separate shows. After deciding Ethan would behave better for Michelle, they split.

“Oh wow,” Michelle gushed, “The vaudeville show was SO FUNNY. Seriously. And Ethan was laughing so hard he was drawing attention to us and people were remarking on it after the show…which of course embarrassed him so he gave them a sour look whenever they spoke to him. Still, it was great, and then we left and Ethan was saying, ‘Mom, wow, is this what it looks like when it’s dark outside?’ because he doesn’t see the dark that much in the summer, and he was laughing about the horse manure in the road and saying things like, ‘I’m gonna eat those road apples!!’ and we just had a great time.”

That great time was cut short when they returned to the Visitor Center to meet up with Laurel and Greg.

“I asked Greg how his show was and it was just okay,” lamented Michelle. “That sucked. I didn’t want to tell him how fun our show was. I really wish I’d known, then I’d have bought tickets for everyone to go to the vaudeville thing. On the other hand, he thought he was getting the better end of the deal by sticking me with Ethan…who is four, and was tired. So maybe he got what he deserved.”

“Why are you giving me so much hell today?” asked Greg.

“Remember that little jab at the beginning of this post about me having everyone get off at the wrong stop?” responded Michelle.

So what is the final verdict on Colonial Williamsburg?

“Oh, I’d like to go again,” said Michelle.

“Yeah, me too,” seconded Greg, “but we’d probably attend different programs more appealing to us if we didn’t have the kids with us.”

“And we’d probably make use of the shuttles,” added Michelle.

Then they had to rush to make the 9:30 p.m. ferry. Did they make it?

“It was close,” Greg said, “but yes, we made it. And that’s a very good thing because not one of us would have wanted to wait another hour for the next one. So we made it on, and then the guy in the beater in front of us couldn’t start his truck to get off the ferry.”

“Poor guy,” Michelle observed. “Look, I’ve driven a few beaters around, so I know he had to be hating life. There he was, Saturday night, stuck on a ferry and he can’t start his truck so he’s holding us up…how embarrassing. So we waited for everyone else to leave so we could back up and leave the ferry ourselves. Sure hope he got that rig started.”

So, exhausted, our Family returned to camp and promptly drifted off to sleep.

“Well, yeah, THEY promptly drifted,” said Greg.

And that, friends, was Day Eleven.

The Great East Coast Adventure, Day Ten.

JAMESTOWN, VA – Day Ten dawned sunny and hot again.

“Yes. Hot. Again!” Michelle echoed.

Our Family awoke and scurried off to catch the ferry to Jamestown. They figured the earlier, the better.

“Could you maybe not say we ‘scurried?’” interjected Greg. “That sounds…I don’t know…like something I wouldn’t do.”

Ready to board the Jamestown Ferry

“Okay, so it was hot before getting on the ferry,” Greg said, “but then you got on the ferry and it was even hotter because of course you had to shut off your engines. Whee. And the heat index was expected to easily – EASILY – top 100.”

And so it did.

But the whole group had fun at Jamestown.

Jamestown armor More Jamestown armor

There's a hen in this photo - try to find her Trying his hand at the Native American version of darts Colonial Horseshoes

“Weak,” Michelle pronounced.

“What do you mean, ‘weak?’” Greg asked.

“Those photos. They’re weak. We couldn’t take photos in the Jamestown visitor center, which is where all the cool stuff is.”

“Anyway, we did have fun, it’s true, even though we maybe rushed it a little,” Michelle continued. “I got on the first replica ship and it was so friggin’ hot that as soon as we got off we just left. We figured we’d seen about all there was to see. It was interesting, VERY interesting, don’t get me wrong… it’s just that we were more interested in celebrating Father’s Day with Greg at a tavern in town.”

So after they left, they went and got all turned around trying to find the Green Leafe. But once they found it, they had a great meal.

“Yeah, they were out of steak and I REALLY wanted that steak salad with the blue cheese,” said Michelle, “but I ended up with a burger which was okay, and fries which are hard to ruin. Plus, the beer was cold and plentiful, the kids had fun with their meal, the server was on her game, and hi, it was air-conditioned. So you know, the burger started tasting even better. Hooray!”

After their return to camp, the Family rode their bikes to the park pool.

“Have we mentioned that every day, all day long, Ethan wears his helmet and announces he will be riding his bike? That he asks over and over if someone will go on a bike ride? That he doesn’t take no for an answer?” Michelle asked. “That kid, I swear…”

Greg reported, “We were at the pool for probably 20-30 minutes before a rumble of thunder forced everyone to evacuate the pool for 15 minutes. Because we know that where we go, so too goes thunder, we knew that was probably it for the night. So we went back to camp while the kids acted like it was The Most Disappointing Thing That Had Ever Occurred. Yeah. Best part of the day.”

But that night, something really magical happened.

Ethan caught his very first lightning bug.

Proud of his first lightning bug

He and Laurel promptly squirreled it away in a clamshell container along with several others so they could “sleep with them.”

“My reaction to that little venture would surprise nobody,” Michelle said.

And of course, thanks to his infatuation with these newfound bunkmates, it was a fight to get him to bed that night.

“We were going to have a LONG, long, longlonglong day the next day,” Michelle explained. “I’ve been around him long enough to know that not enough sleep plus a long day spells disaster all around, and I was sick of the bickering and the fighting and the brouhaha that goes along with being stuck in close quarters with not enough sleep and heat. So there.”

And with that, she marched into the camper and that was that for the day.

The Great East Coast Adventure, Day Nine.

We apologize for the interruption in our documentary. It seems Michelle reserved a few campgrounds without WiFi.

“The nerve,” Greg lamented. “I’ve been without internet for way too long.”

But now we resume.

CHIPPOKES PLANTATION STATE PARK, SURRY, VA – The Family awoke bright and early this morning for a busy day.

“After all the complaints about me going by myself to see the sunrise yesterday I figured the WHOLE DAMN FAMILY would go and see it this morning,” Michelle said. “Okay, actually there was only one person complaining, but still.”

So off they went.

Waiting on sunrise Atop a dune, waiting for sunrise

 

Here she comes More sun Thankful for another day

Michelle reports: “The breeze on the Outer Banks is nearly constant…just perfect for flying kites, and we felt the kids ought to have a chance to fly their kites. Ethan and I had tried to fly before in St. Louis but had only fair luck, and I wanted him to see what it was really like with good conditions….so while Greg walked the beach with the camera, I taught the kids to fly sport kites.”

So how did they do?

Guiding Ethan's hands Just after sunrise, instructing the kids on sport kites

Doing well

Didn't take long for him to fly solo ChampLaunching for Laurel

They did well. Really well.

Soon though, it was time to go back to camp for breakfast and loading up.

“We could have stayed on the Outer Banks a lot longer,” Greg said, “but it’s hard to know these things until you’ve been. I think we’ll return someday.”

On the way out of town Michelle took a few photos of the homes.

“Yeah, true, I took several,” she said, “but I’m not so good with those from-the-truck photos, so only about, oh, ONE of them kinda sorta turned out.”

Hatteras homes...taken from the truck

“I looked up the cost of renting one of those,” Greg noted. “It was something in the neighborhood of $2400 per week. That’s when a travel trailer and a $35/night RV park is really valuable.”

True.

So on they went, north from the Outer Banks to Kill Devil Hills where they visited the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

“It was hot,” Michelle said. “It was SO hot, it was hot, hot, hot, and Ethan was restless, so he and I went on by ourselves so Greg and Laurel could actually, oh, I don’t know, READ the exhibits. Now mind you, I’d have liked to do that too, but at least I was able to sort of skim them.”

Visitors Center, Wright Brothers National Memorial Replica  Replica info

After a few minutes, Ethan had enough of that inside business, so he and Michelle went outdoors to sweat and work off some four-year-old energy. He was amazed to see planes landing just a few feet from where he stood…

One of several planes that landed at Wright Brothers while we were there

…and he had a good time pretending he was standing with Wilbur and Orville Wright:

He would only allow his photo to be taken if he could stand in profile as Wilbur and Orville did

He even liked it when Michelle read to him from plaques and pointed out where each flight landed.

Fun to imagine

After whiling away a few more minutes, Michelle and Ethan were joined by the other two members of the family and journeyed to the top of Kill Devil Hill itself to the monument at the top.

“The kids were especially fascinated by a) the cactii along the walk, and b) the fact that orange flags marked fire ant hills. We didn’t actually see any orange flags, but the idea that we might was just as appealing,” Michelle said.

View from the monument  At Wright Brothers Not exactly on my game that day Standing before the Wright Brothers Monument

The Family has rarely been more grateful to return to the truck for air conditioning as they were that day, despite grumbling about all the little cars taking up the RV parking spaces.

“It’s a good thing we went when we did,” Michelle observed, “or all these little cars would have taken up all the trailer spots. And mind you, I don’t have a problem with it if they double up in a spot. Two cars to a spot, no problem, if there are no more parking spaces available to the little guys. But to hog a whole space and deprive the RVs of a place to park is dirty business. So there.”

See? This reporter told you it was hot, and when it’s hot, Michelle’s a little cranky.

“What the hell are you writing about over there?” Michelle interjected.

Ahem.

Anyway, so on they went, driving driving driving, to Smithfield, VA.

“I wanted to see St. Luke’s Church,” Michelle said. “I remembered studying it in a college archite
cture course, and seeing as how it was right along the way, I thought we should go. So we did, and THIS parking lot was empty. Our guide, though, she was a trip. Very animated. And she liked my shoes.”

St. Luke's Church rafters

 

The middle one is original organ

Pulpit with original sounding board Bridger's grave marker

“Old.” Michelle said. “Really old. It was mind-boggling to even think of how many people had stood in that church.”

After a quick stint through the cemetery to admire the stones, the travelers moved just a little north to the home of the Smithfield Ham.

And true to form, they bought one.

Smithfield hams

Meanwhile, the kids had fun eating all the little candy samples in the store and hanging with their friend Ben.

Chillin' with Ben in Smithfield, VA

“Mostly it was a reason to get out of the truck,” Greg said.

“Yeah, he says that because he was freaking out a little about where to park as we were dragging that trailer down the itty-bitty streets there in Smithfield,” Michelle teased.

“Just a little. And don’t forget, it was hot.” Greg reminded her.

“Yeah, true, and I’m not the only one whose temper gets a little short in that situation…” said Michelle.

Finally, after a long, hot, exhausting day, the family arrived at Chippokes Plantation State Park.

“SWELTERING,” Laurel cried.

It’s true. It was. So the first order of business was to find somewhere to eat.

“Okay, here we go,” Michelle said. “We went to the Surrey House Restaurant over in Surry, VA. Well, we got our little waitress Britney….eventually…after she finished visiting about her new Mustang to some locals…and we’d been sitting there for a good ten minutes, crabby as hell.”

But how was the food?

“Edible. That’s about it,” said Greg.

“True,” Michelle replied, “it was quite the, um, adventure, but here’s the thing. We don’t like chain restaurants and that’s why. You win some, you lose some, and yes of course you can go to a chain and it will be the same thing no matter where you are, but what fun is that? It’s the adventure of the thing. Oh, well.”

So after that bust, the family returned to the camper, more than ready for the air-conditioning and a nice, long rest.

The Great East Coast Adventure, Day Eight.

CAPE HATTERAS, N.C. – So Michelle (hereinafter known as “The Crazy One”) got up this  morning at 5:15 in order to make it over to the ocean for the 5:46 sunrise.

“Yeah, and I did, too,” she pointed out, “but then I had to run ALL the way back to the camper because I had forgotten the memory card for my camera. GEEZ.”

So did she make it?

Yes, she did.

Sunrise over the Atlantic 1Sunrise over the Atlantic 2

She has video, too!

“Don’t tell them that,” she said. “I don’t want to deal with editing it so it looks nice right now, and I am not going to throw raw video up there.”

Sorry, folks.

So once that was done and she returned to the camper, and after Laurel finished her pouting about not being invited along on Michelle’s solo trip…

“I was NOT POUTING,” Laurel insisted.

“Yes she was,” Greg whispered…

our Family decided it was time for breakfast. So they went to this little spot way down in Buxton called the Orange Blossom Cafe, where they are known for their Apple Uglies.

Orange Blossom Bakery

“An Apple Ugly is an apple fritter on steroids,” Greg noted.

“Yes,” interjected Michelle, “and I was SO PROUD of this girl in the restaurant. Some lady was getting all impatient because she was having to wait FIFTEEN WHOLE MINUTES for her order when there were FOUR orders in front of her – I know, the very NERVE, right? – and the girl working the counter looked her square in the eye and said, ‘Sorry, there are 4 orders ahead of you. This isn’t McDonald’s.’

“YES! Now that is a girl after my own heart,” Michelle continued.

The fact is, the Family was waiting too, because the Apple Uglies sell very quickly, and they were waiting on a fresh batch from the fryer. Once it arrived, they took it over to the lighthouse area to picnic. So was it worth the wait?

“Ohhhhhhh, yes,” Greg said. “It was warm and gooey and just a little greasy and HUGE, and…”

“And I ate my ENTIRE UGLY,” Laurel boasted…which is more than Michelle could claim. “Ethan finished mine off,” she reported.

Apple Ugly

That photo doesn’t really do it justice. Suffice it to say that thing is at least 6 inches in diameter and 1.5 inches tall. Ethan, by the way, had a double-dipped donut. For the uninitiated, that’s a donut dipped in both glaze AND in chocolate. Wow.

Breakfast 

Dirty face

Needless to say, our travelers skipped lunch.

Next they climbed the 248 (!) steps of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.

“Okay, that’s actually 257 when you add in the steps at the front,” Michelle observed. “But get this – NOBODY BITCHED ABOUT IT, can you believe it?”

However, she later reported that the Ugly was sitting awfully heavy in her stomach. I think we all know the feeling.

Cape Hatteras LighthouseView from the lighthouse with the museum (left) and keeper's house (right)Where the lighthouse used to beHe loved the lighthouseHeaded back downFamily at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Back at camp, Michelle faded out quickly, which was largely due to the combination of her early morning and the Ugly, so Greg took the kids to the beach, where Laurel promptly got stung at least twice more by jellyfish.

“I joined them about an hour after they’d left,” Michelle said. “By that time she’d already been stung once, and it kept happening. Meanwhile, I kept a sharp eye out for those diabolical creatures and moved away from them whenever they were washed up. Still, the lure of the ocean kept bringing me further into the water to jump the waves. And let’s face it…how many times will I see the ocean in the next year? Probably zero.”

After thoroughly wearing the kids out at the ocean (“Well, not really, we kinda made them leave, but Ethan nearly fell asleep later in the truck,” Michelle said), they returned to the camper to ponder over supper. It occurred to our Family that here they were on Cape Hatteras and they had not yet done a seafood dinner. So off they went to Risky Business, a local seafood shop, to see what today’s catch was. They picked up mako shark, wahoo, shrimp, and blue crabs along with all the fixings, then excitedly returned to camp where they cooked it all up.

“Yeah, so then the flies showed up,” Greg lamented. “I had to put a plate of shells and corn cobs out to lure them away from the real food. Good thing they’re not very picky.”

As it turns out, Michelle was so busy eating she didn’t take any photos.

“I kinda remembered that halfway through the shrimp,” she said, “but sorry, I was competing with everyone else for that delicious food. You’ve all seen shrimp before, right? I mean granted, this was fresh-from-the-boat-today shrimp, but…”

And then she went back to her dinner. Meanwhile, the kids finished and went down the road to the camp playground.

“Haven’t seen them in awhile,” Greg observed, “but we’re on an island so they can’t go far.”

They may go out and find some ice cream tonight, but tomorrow our Family pulls up their stakes (‘you mean stabilizer jacks,” corrected Greg) and moves along to Virginia, where they will stay for three nights, touring Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, and whatever else strikes them at the time. For the second year in a row, they will celebrate Father’s Day while on vacation. Meanwhile, they will retain fond, very fond memories of their time on Cape Hatteras, where both adults have indicated they’d willingly return.

So stay tuned, dear readers. But be forewarned that as our Family moves further from civilization, it will likely be without internet access the remainder of the trip.

“Unless we get lucky and some fool has left theirs unsecured,” Greg said.

“Yeah, or Greg decides to violate the Terms of Service on our phones and tether them so I have internet – even then it’d probably be such a pain that I’d bellyache about it, slam the laptop, and go storming off, seeing as how I’ve been utterly and completely spoiled by his ability to circumvent security measures put into place by others,” Michelle added.

So noted. Lock down your connections, readers, and be thankful Greg uses his vast abilities for good rather than evil.

G’night, Hatteras. Thanks for the memories.

The Great East Coast Adventure, Day Seven.

CAPE HATTERAS, N.C. – Our Family awoke this morning at the KOA. A squirrel spent some time visiting Ethan, most likely because a) Ethan was in the middle of breakfast, and b) breakfast consisted largely of peanut butter.

warning off the infiltrator 

As you can see, he was quick to send the infiltrator packing.

Soon after breakfast, our group worked their way out of the campground and up through North Carolina’s interior, marveling at the tobacco fields along the way.

“It’s been many years since I’ve seen tobacco fields,” Michelle said. “I remember one farm in particular near Rocheport, Missouri when I worked on the Katy Trail, but that’s it until now…and today we saw a wealth of them.”

Today was barbecue day. After exhaustive research (“Yeah, believe me, it was exhaustive…and exhausting for the rest of us,” Greg remarked), the Family stopped at a renowned North Carolina  institution – Skylight Inn – where they go whole hog and roast the full pig over oak, then as they chop the pig up, they incorporate the cracklins right back in.

Meal from Skylight Skylight Inn, and yes I know there's a big fat powerline in the photo, SORRYsign

“It was really something,” said Michelle. “The cracklins are crunchy, which is kind of a strange thing for a Midwesterner, but they were GOOD, and once Laurel was talked into it, she tried the coleslaw and – get this – LIKED IT, despite the number of times she insisted to the contrary. I have told her and told her she should try things again and again because she might find a recipe she liked…”

At this point, Michelle fixed Laurel with a pointed look.

“Sorrrrreeeeee,” said Laurel, and went about her business.

“Anyway, the unleavened cornbread was also a chewy, tasty novelty…” Michelle added.

After  that, the Family’s bellies were full (except Ethan’s, who refused to eat his lunch), but they soldiered on to Greenville and B’s Barbecue, where Greg pulled the whole big camper over to the side of the road so Michelle could run in and get barbecue to go.

“It wasn’t air-conditioned in there. It was so hot,” Michelle observed. “Maybe that’s why there were empty tables, because I understand that is a rarity. At any rate, I frankly don’t know how those ladies keep their good humor. The fun part? It really LOOKS like a barbecue shack – that’s how you know it’s good.”

Michelle scurried back to the road with the goods, then after ensuring no traffic would flatten her, unlocked and climbed into the camper to refrigerate the food for later.

B's Barbecue

The merry misfits wound up at Cape Hatteras National Seashore around 4 p.m. where they dropped their trailer and promptly visited the beach. It was, after all, all of a block away from the camper.

Cape HatterasIntracoastal Waterway Atlantic Coast

Ethan played with his boat (he was scared of the waves, light though they were), Greg and Laurel played in the water, Michelle and Laurel played in the water….

Greg and Laurel before The IncidentKind of Sort of Wave JumpingHe loves this boat so very much

And then Michelle found this:

jellyfish

Folks, that’s a jellyfish. And after that, Ethan found 4 or 5 more, also washed ashore.

And then…

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I GOT STUNG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Yes, that was Laurel.

And she had been stung.

By a jellyfish.

See here?

Poor Laurel!

And here?

More Poor Laurel!

Ouch.

So back to the camp they went, to find something to help the welts.

“Vinegar. Pickles. Just find something,” Michelle said. Greg offered to pee on Laurel, but she declined. Ethan, too, would have stepped up to the occasion. But instead, Greg and Laurel went to the camp store for mundane meat tenderizer and the even more ho-hum vinegar.

“Laurel should thank me for Googling jellyfish stings,” Michelle said. “And here I was resistant to getting one of those candy-ass fancy-pants phones that can do that kind of thing.”

So Laurel spent quality time in her chair with her meat tenderizer.

meat tenderizer

And Michelle, so helpful, said, “Gee, Laurel…you know…you smell kinda good. Like tasty meat.”  

Granted, it was just before supper, but that was not well-received.

So as consolation, they allowed Laurel (henceforth “The Jellyfish Victim”) to choose dinner for the evening. She chose pizza. “No,” said Greg. “Not at ALL predictable.”

And pizza it was. Good pizza, even! Why? “Because I had researched things to death, of course, and everyone makes fun of me but then they are SO GLAD that they aren’t eating CRAP, and then I get to rub it in their mocking little faces,” Michelle noted. She’s a little tense right now.

Folks, while adventurous with other foods, Michelle is a traditionalist when it comes to pizza and burgers. She doesn’t like pizzas that don’t have, say, pizza sauce on them. No barbecue, no pesto, no ‘white sauce,’ none of that BS. She just likes plain old pizza sauce.

Ethan, on the other hand, had just one thing in mind.

“I want pineapple!!!” he exclaimed.

“Are you sure? Do you want ham and pineapple?” Michelle asked. “That is a pretty popular pizza.”

“NO! Just pineapple,” he said.

So pineapple it was, and pineapple he ate. And ate. And ate. Probably because he didn’t eat much for breakfast, on account of the squirrel, or for lunch, on account of…well, this reporter hasn’t quite figured him out yet.

pizza

proof of the pineapple pizza 

At any rate, once they returned to the camp, Greg decided to finish off the night right, by taking the kids on a bike ride. Michelle was uninterested, but sidled up to him, whispering, “You know, if you were to come back with chocolate in your hand, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings.”

And that is what he did. Coconut M&Ms. Who knew? They’re like Mounds, but in little disc form.

So how is the vacation so far?

“Every day, at the end of the day, when we’ve finally (FINALLY) gotten the kids to settle down, when everyone is reasonably clean and the sun is setting, and I am tired, I wonder if I can handle one more day or if we should just pack it up and go home, to hell with our prepaid reservations,”Michelle observed.

“But then,” she continued, “the next morning I wake up and I can’t wait to see what the next day has in store for us.”

And with that, she headed off to get Ethan into bed. After he played with the campsite toad. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Goodnight.

*Editor’s Note, 20:43 EDT: It seems Laurel is now wearing her jellyfish stings as a badge of honor. They no longer hurt, she reports, and she cannot wait to tell all her friends that she, SHE, was the first of her group to be stung by a jellyfish. And so it goes.

*Editor’s Note, the Second: Laurel would like me to add that after visiting all those barbecue joints, she ended up with meat tenderizer up to her elbows. A fine ending to a fine day, she believes.

The Great East Coast Adventure, Day Six-Point-Five.

OVERHEARD ON THE ROAD —

“Christ.”

“What an asshole.”

“Why won’t he let me over? I can’t see because of the awning, or I’d just be aggressive and move on over.””

“Great. Now I’ve missed my exit!” [slams fist on steering wheel]

Those were the kinds of things Greg muttered repeatedly on the road as he tried to pull into / return to the right lane.

“What is wrong with people?! Why are they all assholes?”

Then the family stopped along the route for gas, and checked the right rear trailer blinker just to be sure.

And it was inoperable.

So despite their best efforts to the contrary, they were not signaling before moving into the right lane.

For up to approximately 1500 miles.

“Hahaha! Whoops. Guess we’re the ones who are the assholes,” Michelle laughed.

Guess so.

The Family would like me to apologize to everyone they have wronged on the road, and to assure all those drivers that the bulb has been changed and checked, and it shouldn’t happen again.

The Great East Coast Adventure, Day Six.

WILMINGTON, N.C. – Well. Today was an interesting day.

The Family started the day in Charleston, where it was hot and muggy, though not nearly so hot and muggy as yesterday. Their first after-breakfast order of business was a family bike ride. Why? Because during Michelle’s sweltering run the day before, she saw some fun signs next to the boathouse that needed documenting:

alligators!!

boathouse

Now folks, I don’t know about you, but this reporter doesn’t much care to go pedal-boating amongst the alligators. The Family agreed.

Unfortunately, what should have been a serene family bike ride was fraught with drama. Ethan whined and huffed whenever he was not leading the pack. Laurel got upset because everyone was ‘leaving her behind.’

This culminated in a Mother Talk inside the camper, much of which consisted of phrases such as, “I can referee you two at home, why should I have to do it on vacation? If that’s what you’re gonna make me do on vacation, why would I bother taking you on any more vacations?!” Greg was outside chillaxing in his chair, and as the kids exited the camper, he asked each child how the Talk went.

“Wonderful,” Laurel said.

“Not so good,” Ethan observed. “She was talking angry instead of nice.”

Soon our travelers were on their way to Wilmington, N.C. This too was not without its share of drama. The directions and GPS directed Greg to pull that camper (thirty feet!) through what for all appearances was a small downtown Charleston street. He did not want to do this. Michelle re-routed them, but it involved turning around, and HOLY HELL BROKE LOOSE. Greg was concerned about where the hell he would turn around with a 30-foot trailer, and his voice was rising along with his stress level; Michelle was indignant that he would think she hadn’t already considered that fact and planned accordingly, and her voice rose exponentially with her indignance.

After that particular hurricane, which consisted of such phrases as “fine, I’ll pull this fucking trailer, then!” and “I’ll just shut up until you calm down,” the truck was awfully silent for an hour or so.

evacuation sign

Uh-oh, here comes Michelle.

“Now hold on just a minute. If you’re going to put that in there, you be sure and note that I know damn good and well not ONE of that blog’s readers has never had a spat like this, and they shouldn’t even PRETEND.”

Well, you heard the lady.

Anyway, that storm blew over and the family drove through Myrtle Beach. Their impression?

“Unimpressed,” said Michelle.

“Why do they have so many Pacific Beach stores when they’re right next to the Atlantic?” Greg asked.

“Do people actually come here on purpose?” Michelle added.

Finally they made it to Wilmington.

“This may be the best campground so far,” remarked Michelle. “There is a playground right behind the camper.”

Of course, they were not content to just hang around the camper and went downtown to visit a local brewery.

“They were out of everything interesting, the waitress flat-out sucked, but by golly, Greg got some shrimp and grits,” Michelle whispered. “As for me, I had a fried green tomato BLT because Greg doesn’t like tomatoes – he doesn’t know what’s good. Oh, and the beer didn’t hold a candle to Schlafly. We’ve clearly been spoiled.”

As for tomorrow, our Family is heading to the Outer Banks via barbecue. Tonight though, the kids are playing on the playground even though it’s dark while Michelle and Greg spend some time relaxing in camp chairs. Laurel even played giant chess with another camper.

chess

“It’s not so hot here,” Greg said. “It’s really very nice and comfortable, and there is a lot to do in Wilmington that we just cannot tackle in one night…but it’s time to hit the real barbecue and the real beach.”

The Great East Coast Adventure, Days Four and Five.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Whew. After Day Five of this journey, this reporter is exhausted, to say nothing of Our Family, some members of which are clearly coming apart at the seams (see below), and only a good night’s rest will do.

Day Four began with cleaning the damp awning. “I always forget what a pain in the ass it can be to have a shady campsite,” Michelle remarked. “The shade is great, but all the leaves and twigs fall onto our awning, which then takes forever to put away because we clean it as we go. Write that down, so we remember next time.”

Nonetheless, the Family was in good spirits as they headed down the east side of the Eastern Continental Divide. “Not quite as, um, spectacular as the other one,” Greg said.

Descending the eastern side of the eastern continental divide

The drive was uneventful, with stops only at truck stops for fuel and a rest stop for lunch.

“Now THAT was when we realized the beauty of the travel trailer,” Michelle said. “We pulled into the rest stop and only had to WALK BACK TO THE TRAILER for lunch. No picnic tables in the blazing sun for us.”

“Yeah, I kinda knew it was beautiful when I was able to use the bathroom without actually going IN a building,” Greg added.

“Well, and then there’s that,” said Michelle.

After dropping their trailer at the park in Charleston, our heroes set out for Angel Oak, rumored to be 1,400 years old. It seems there is some controversy over her true age, but our group remained in awe of her grace and majesty.

The road to Angel Oak A giant among usmajesty For scale - Angel OakAnd the close-upBranches dipping into the soil and back up   

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that when the nice lady who took their photo referred to Angel Oak as “her tree,” Ethan glared at her indignantly and said, “Ahem. YOUR tree?!”

Michelle apologized profusely. “I’m so sorry, he’s so rude sometimes,” she said. “He’s a teenager in a four-year-old body.”

Fortunately, the nice lady was also mother to a four-year-old, so she was not offended.

Undaunted by the length of their journey or the heat, the Family headed out to Folly Beach where they ate at Taco Boy.

“We couldn’t hear ANYTHING for the din,” Michelle said. “I mean, I like music, okay, but this was ridiculous and hi, we’d been in cramped quarters with two kids under 12 all day. We hoped for respite, but none was to be found.”

This reporter sees her point.

But how was the food? “Really pretty good,” observed Greg. “I had a tuna taco, hehehehe.”

Ahem.

Moving right along.

The highlight, or so I’m told, is the bathroom.

Bathroom reading material Inside Taco Boy's restrooms

And that appears to be true. Cute.

After their tacos, the whole entourage set out for Folly Beach itself, where the kids played in the surf. The coolest part of the night? “Oh, easy,” Michelle noted, “that was when some guy brought up a little crab on a stick for the kids to see. I mean, really, THAT was so nice of him, to think of our kids that way just because he’d found a little crab.”

The kids also spent time looking for seashells, some of which were taken away on Day Five as punishment, but maybe we’ll get to that.

Folly Beach fishing pierFunWhat I get when I ask him to smile

Naturally, it is not a Boneblog Vacation lest several days end with ice cream, and this was one of those days.

Contemplating their Moose Tracks ice cream cones

“Yeah, great,” Michelle said. “Mention the part where Ethan flatly refused to go to sleep for hours. Think the cone had anything to do with that?”

Well, you win some and you lose some.

**************************

Day Five has quite possibly been the most exhausting day yet.

“I got the brilliant idea to go running when I woke up at 6:15 and knew I wouldn’t have any more sleep,” Michelle said. “Thing is, this morning in Charleston the heat index was 95 degrees. At 6:30 a.m.”

It seems this is unusual even for Charleston, at least this early in the year. The locals say this is record heat.

The day went kind-of-sort-of-downhill from there, at least for one member of the family.

“I have this toe thing,” Greg reported. “It hurts. I can’t figure it out. Then Hominy Grill didn’t have shrimp for their shrimp and grits. I blame BP.”

Hence the coming-apart-at-the-seams.

Yes, folks, Hominy Grill, that bastion of Charleston foods, did not have shrimp for shrimp and grits. Greg’s plan of alternating shrimp and grits with barbecue went right out the window.

“It sucked. That is all,” said Michelle. “He had to settle for the Big Nasty Biscuit, poor guy.” What is this thing? It’s a fried chicken cutlet sandwiched inside a biscuit and covered in sausage gravy. “Well, I have to admit it was good,” Michelle said. “They put pimentos in their gravy, I think, which is unusual, but also good!”

hominy grill

Afterward, our favorite Family moved on to the Ft. Sumter National Monument.

“Yeah,” Greg said, “We were at the Water Taxi early because SOMEONE had misread the schedule –“ (here he looked at Michelle) – “so we ended up at the National Monument. No matter, Ethan earned his Junior Ranger badge.”

Ethan working on his Fort Sumter Jr Ranger

Laurel worked on hers, but the Family had to run to catch the water taxi before she could finish. Disappointed as she was, she was soon enthralled by the dolphins frolicking in the waters of Charleston Harbor.

Dolphins!More dolphins!Aboard the water taxiskimming the water

And why was our Family aboard this vessel? They were on their way to Patriot’s Point to visit the USS Yorktown. Guess what? The USS Yorktown is mostly without air-conditioning.

“Well, if you want an authentic experience, THERE YOU ARE,” Michelle said. “In their defense, I guess it’d be difficult to air condition an entire aircraft carrier.”

The family also visited the USS Clamagore, a submarine. “Yeah, this is not for the feint of heart,” Michelle advised. “Claustrophobic? DO NOT ENTER.”

USS ClamagorePretty good-sized boatReassurancedental chairNice little joke in the brigpaddlesPretending to pick up lunchcookies!Ship soda fountain uuuuuuuuuuuuuglyFamily at the USS Yorktown

So who in the Family is the big military buff?

“Um, can’t say that any of us really are, though I can at least identify the planes,” Greg said. “Truth is, we thought Ethan would love to see two of his favorite modes of transport – planes and ships – brought together as one. And he really was fascinated. At one point we were all so hot and tired we asked if he’d like to go ahead and leave or soldier on, and he wanted to stay. That’s about as much of a positive recommendation as one can have from a 4-year-old.”              

Michelle added, “The other fun stuff included being able to eat a galley lunch on board – and I know my military pals are cringing, reading this – and hearing the retired likely-veteran volunteers announcing tours, beginning with ‘Now Hear This’ and ending with ‘That is All.’”

“Oooh, and don’t forget the flight simulator!” cried Laurel.

“Yeah, we went in a flight simulator. If you know me, you know I’ve developed motion sickness in my old age,” said Michelle. “Fortunately, I had eaten in the not-so-recent past, which tends to help. My Dramamine was back at camp.”

Thoroughly drenched in sweat, the family disembarked to discover a thunderstorm rolling in. Following a quick visit to the gift shop, they scurried down to the water taxi which, thankfully, was still running. They managed to beat the storm…which never really came to fruition.

“Well, it rained at camp, I guess,” said Greg. “Interestingly, this is the second time that’s happened, where we’ve been dry while camp has gotten wet. The first time was in Asheville.”

Finally, our adventurers headed downtown for Moonpies. “What can I say?” asked Michelle. “Is there anything more southern than a Moonpie? I mean, except for, well…” here she whispered, “shrimp and grits…shhhh….”

Parking was difficult, so our wanderers limited their time downtown and returned to camp for some well-deserved respite from the heat.

After stewing in sweat most of the day, the Family chose to find somewhere to eat dinner rather than suffer the heat at camp. They tried the Charleston Crab House solely because Richard and Ginger from “Flip This House” remodeled it.

“Well. I can see why the Crab House needed help getting business,” Michelle said, “and it has little to do with the looks of the place.”

Still, it was preferable to eating in the sweltering heat at camp, if just barely.

“I wanted to like it. I truly did, and I don’t wish them any ill will,” explained Michelle, “but it was akin to run-of-the-mill-you-can-get-it-anywhere chain food, and while there is a place for that, its place just usually isn’t with me. Not on vacation, certainly.”

So with that, the family packed it up for the night, setting their sights ahead for a quick jaunt to Wilmington, North Carolina tomorrow before moving on to the Outer Banks.

Ethan was not so eager to settle, and while Michelle boiled water for his bath, he entertained himself with this:

stinker

“What was he doing?!” Michelle repeated when I asked, “Why, isn’t it obvious? He was turning the lights off and on with his toes, OF COURSE, DUH. I mean, who wouldn’t think of doing that when they were supposed to be waiting patiently for their bath water? I could show you what else he was doing, but it isn’t fit to print.”

And there you have it.

The Family tells me they like Charleston, and they may return someday, knowing full well they have not seen all this fine city has to offer. They tell me that despite the heat, the humidity, and Ethan’s cantankerous nature, they had a good time here. But this time Charleston is just a stop along the way.

spanish moss

Good night, Charleston. Sweet dreams.

The Great East Coast Adventure, Days Two and Three.

ASHEVILLE, NC – Our Family was without internet access on Days Two and Three, so this reporter was unable to write about their adventures, but they managed to score a campground here on Day Four with WiFi, so our journey can continue.

Day Two (Saturday) dawned with the Family packing up quickly in order to travel across Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Naturally, it was a dreary and gloomy morning, but for some reason it was dry.

“Laurel had her head out the window most of the morning,” Greg remarked. “Funny thing, she’s not the only member of the family to do that…Michelle took a similar photo just a few weeks before…”

We got a picture just like this of Vinnie a few weeks back

Vinnie on his way to the vet (he didn't know, that's why he looks so happy) 

Like any eagle-eyed reporter, I asked Greg about the different mirrors. “Don’t bring that up,” he said.

Michelle had no such hesitation. “Oh, I’ll tell you about those,” she said. “Greg bought these strap-on tow mirrors…” Here she stopped to snicker. “He’d read good reviews, but the first time we used them, when we went to Columbia, one of the damned lenses broke off in my hand, plus they generally sucked, so he had to take them back and purchase REAL tow mirrors.”

Greg pulled that 30-foot travel trailer through mountain roads, around 90-degree turns, and beneath jutting outcroppings. As you may have inferred, it was slow going. Greg pulled off at every turn-out to let motorists by. They were so grateful – everyone waved – and we know from past experience that not every slow motorist does that. At one point, a motorcyclist coming the other way raised his hand at the Family. “Oh, look,” Michelle remarked, “He’s waving. Isn’t that nice?”

“I’m not sure whether he’s being friendly or trying to warn me I’m about to peel off the top of the camper on these bluffs,” Greg lamented.

Either way, Greg pulled that trailer through the Smokies like a champ. The camper remained unscathed.

Naturally, the Family had to stop at Laurel Falls, where they endured a 2.6-mile round-trip hike. Laurel had forgotten her socks at home. Every. Single. Pair. So she wore Ethan’s in order to make the hike. “What?! They FIT!” she exclaimed.

Michelle suffered. “I don’t know if it was the beer the night before or not enough breakfast the morning of, or both, but UGH,” she said. “Walking uphill for 1.3 miles was not my idea of a good time, though I’m the only one in the family who runs recreationally.

“And then,” she continued, “as insult to injury, not ONE SINGLE PHOTO of the Falls themselves turned out. The camera was trying to overcompensate for the dreariness of the day, and Greg and I were nervous wrecks trying to keep the kids close so they wouldn’t tumble down the ravine. We did get some photos of the mountain laurel, though, so here you go.”

mountain laurel

The family piled back into the truck and Greg pulled the trailer a little further to Newfound Gap, where they miraculously found a parking spot and climbed a few steps (Michelle rejoiced) to the overlook. Newfound Gap is at the Tennessee – North Carolina state line, and the Appalachian Trail runs through, too.

Smoky Mountain National Park Dedication Plaque 

Newfound Gap

Probably not the most beautiful day the park has ever seen

Smokies

The kids posed on the Appalachian Trail:

Yeah, Ethan was 'posing' for this photo

Appalachian Trail

“By the way,” Greg said, “Could someone please tell Grandma Smith the kids are fine, that there were no murderers on the Appalachian Trail that day? Thanks.”

The family was in a big hurry to get to Asheville and drop the trailer, because they had a date with some barbecue. “Well yeah,” Greg grumbled, “Michelle only fed us cereal for breakfast. HEALTHY cereal. And we weren’t even scheduled to get to Asheville until two!”

But first, they had to navigate through the east side of the park. The east side is bordered by a Cherokee reservation, which the family enjoyed. “The street signs are all translated into Cherokee,” Michelle noted, “but of course it was kitschy and, well…”

Wouldn't be the same without Harrah's adding to the scenery

“Yeah, I think that says it all,” Greg added.

They’d heard good things about 12 Bones, and wanted to give it a shot. The weather was gorgeous, and the restaurant had its screened walls exposed. At two p.m., it was packed, but our Family got a seat and enjoyed some barbecue. How was it?

“Delicious,” Laurel said. Several times.

“The corn bread, it had sage in it,” Michelle observed. “It was SO GOOD. This is a restaurant that doesn’t consider its sides an afterthought. Oh, and that crummy photo of the facade? Yeah, taken from a moving vehicle. Sorry ‘bout that.”

12 Bones facade

Carolina BBQ, take one - 12 Bones

Afterward, on a promising tip from a generous beer connoisseur, the Family visited Bruisin’ Ales, the premier beer shop in Asheville. They intend to take photos of all the beer they bought that one cannot find in Missouri, but they’ve been too occupied ingesting it to bother posing it for a photo op. But readers should remain hopeful. “Maybe later,” Greg says. “If I want to go line it up. I know Michelle isn’t going to do it. She’s just going to keep talking about it until I do.”

“Yeah, he’s probably right,” acknowledged Michelle. “And would you quit making us sound like lushes? What will our families think?”Bruisin' Ales

And because few vacation days are complete without it, the family stopped at CinTom’s Custard before returning to camp. “It’s good, but it’s no Ted Drewes,” Greg said.

 CinTom's custardridiculous overkill

Day Three was simply gorgeous. The Family slept in, then enjoyed sausage and pancakes. “I swear,” Michelle said, “those kids would NOT quit asking for more pancakes. We thought it’d never end.” Greg agreed. “The only way to get them to quit was to tell them we were planning a bike ride.”

And they did. Our family rode bikes down to the lake, where they swam. And swam. And swam. And generally had a good time (and a picnic)!

Lake Powhatan swim beach 

“It’s funny,” Michelle noted. “Last week I told the kids that when I was young I almost never swam in a real pool. I spent my swimming time in creeks. When I told them that, Ethan said, ‘ewwwwwww,’ but he didn’t seem to have an issue with Lake Powhatan. He did, however, have an issue with a little girl who tried to touch his boat.”

“It was MY BOAT and I am the ONLY ONE who can TOUCH IT! HMPH!” he exclaimed, arms crossed, scowling.

After a leisurely swim and picnic, the family biked back (uphill) to camp, stopping only for a friendly visit with Smokey the Bear. “Some people say Smokey Bear, but I will always add ‘the,’ it’s like the Oxford comma. I cannot respect you, him or anyone else if it’s left out,” Michelle said. I cannot imagine why she shot a pointed look at this reporter when she said that.

Ahem.

Laurel preventing forest fires Don't F$&% with me With a new friend Smokey Jr Smokey Sr

After swimming in a lake, Michelle was more than ready for a good hot shower. “Yeah, I know I said I spent a lot of time in creeks as a kid, and the lake really didn’t bother me, but, well, you know,” she whispered.

Our friends needed to clean up anyway, for they were going into town. They were excited about the Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company, where one could eat pizza, drink beer, and watch a kid-friendly movie. Seeing as how that movie was “Furry Vengeance,” each family member could only muster up excitement for 2/3 of the options. Still, they had a good time.

Pay no attention to that lamp, I feel funny and rush things when I take photos in places where most people don't Waiting for a movie

Laurel even got to practice her haiku on the word art wall.

Likely the only haiku possible with the available words

Yes, the Family had a wonderful time. “Well, mostly…we ate pizza and nachos. Now, I love pizza, and I love nachos,” Michelle said, “but back at camp that night, I most assuredly DID NOT LOVE the combination.”

Even so, it was a good time, and because the Family was pulling out of Asheville the next morning for the long drive to Charleston, we turned in early. Even this reporter.

The Great East Coast Adventure, Day One.

TOWNSEND, TN – Again we will be following our Family through their summer vacation. This reporter fears there is not much to report so far. Our Family left at 5:45 a.m. CDT and finally made it to Townsend, TN at 4:30 EDT.

However, this reporter is of the opinion our Family will not be graced with WiFi the next couple of days, and so I figured I’d better toss something up.

“Hey, guess what? IT RAINED,” Michelle noted. “Thankfully it was only on the drive…we’re at the campground now and it’s dry. Muggy, yes, but otherwise dry. This is especially good because we left the emergency TV we intended to bring at home.”

A TV? For camping? This reporter asked.

“Yes, a TV, DUH.” she snapped. “Have you ever been stuck in a camper with two (2!) unruly children in a rainstorm? No? Well, I have – on multiple occasions – and my mission on Earth is to tell you a TV is not a luxury, it is a necessity.”

It is reported that the kids were good, the Family made it without incident, and they are glad to have the first (and longest, at around 9 hours) day of driving under their belts.

The kids were, in fact, excellent. Ethan woke up at 5 a.m., popped out of his room, and danced around, “It’s time for vacation?” Michelle remarked, “It’s one of the few days I want to see Ethan at 5 a.m.” Both kids were chatterboxes for the first 20 minutes or so until they were zombified by the DVD and Nintendo DS in the truck. “Best damn investment we ever made,” Greg remarked.

While sitting in camp relaxing after a long day of driving, the Baptists stopped by to invite our Family to their evening devotional. They promised a wild party. This reporter suspects the Family won’t be attending, but our more religious readers will be happy to know the Family was very nice to the ladies who came by. Even though they were Baptists.

“You know,” Michelle remarked, “We’ve been approached numerous times at campgrounds by people inviting us to church. Do they believe the campers are more sinful than the general populace? Or do we just have that immoral look about us?”

So that brings Day One to a close.

P.S. – Michelle would like this reporter to note that our Family plans to spend a lot of time in the Carolinas and Virginia this trip. She asked me to refer to this as the “Great Virgina Adventure,” (with Virgina rhyming with ‘vagina,’ naturally) but Greg put the kibosh on it. Michelle’s response? “Killjoy.”