We Made It!

All right, enough slacking on my part. We left Hopewell Furnace a month ago today and so much has happened since then that it is about time I begin filling you in. So where do I start? Well, I guess it is best to just start from the beginning…

We had a great drive from Pennsylvania to North Dakota. We had originally planned on just driving straight through, but later decided that we would take our time, stopping and enjoying places along the way. One of our favorite places was Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. As a matter of fact, we liked it there so much that we stayed for five days. The kids spent their days building sand castles and swimming in Lake Michigan, and we relaxed in the evenings with a roaring campfire, spooky stories and enough marshmallows to sink a small ship.

Another highlight was being able to visit with my cousin, whom I had not seen since 1992. The kids had a blast playing with her daughter and it was great to just be able to catch up after so many years. We enjoyed a wonderful meal and great conversation. My only hope is that it does not take another 20+ years to do it again.

As an added bonus, we were able to add several new states to our map. We cheered as we entered Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and last but not least, North Dakota. (Sorry Wisconsin! We will fill you in as soon as we can!) Almost two weeks and 2,000 miles after leaving Pennsylvania, we arrived safely in North Dakota.

We pulled onto our RV pad and settled ourselves in. We arrived two weeks before Rob was scheduled to start work, so we had some time to explore and get familiar with the area. That brings me to the next part of our story, but that will have to wait until next time…

The End of a Season

Our time here at Hopewell Furnace has just flown by, but today was Rob’s last day at work and tomorrow we are hitting the road. We have a 1,700+ mile journey ahead of us as we make our way to North Dakota. We have some stops planned along the way as well as a visit with some family. This time of year makes for some beautiful scenery and we are looking forward to everything that lies ahead.

Rob took the camera out a few mornings ago and got some beautiful pictures of the park. I though it only fitting to share some of them with you on this, our last night here. Hopewell Furnace has been incredible and it is a place that will always hold a special place for us.

 

Trifecta

Last Friday we decided to take a little trip into New York. Rob received his job offer on Thursday, so taking a drive on Friday felt like a little celebration.

I cannot remember the last time I saw such crazy traffic. Add construction on every other street, and it took us hours to get into New York. Once we finally made our way into the city, we couldn’t for the life of us find a place to park, resulting on us getting further and further into the chaos.

All we really wanted to do was make our way back out, but we weren’t having much luck doing that, so we were excited when we finally found a place to park, because at least we would be able to get out of the car for a little bit. Rob walked up and down the street looking for any signs at all that we weren’t allowed to park there. He couldn’t find anything, so we walked down to the 9/11 Memorial.

After a few hours we walked back to the car. As soon as we could see it we relaxed a little bit because at least we knew we had not been towed. That relaxation ended as soon as we saw a ticket on our window. It took us a minute to figure out what the ticket was for, seeing as how it said ‘Fire Hydrant 0 ft’ and we didn’t park by a… oh, shoot, we sure did. There, right outside the door was a fire hydrant. It was black. Right next to a black garbage can, which was next to a black park bench. We didn’t even see the darned thing. I guess we are used to them being red. Well, $115 later, lesson learned…

We were more than ready to head home, so we hit the road. It was considerably easier getting out of town than it was getting in, so that was a very good thing. Everything was going well until we missed a turn and ended up on a toll bridge. Well, crap, we didn’t even need to be there in the first place, but there was no turning around, so Rob headed toward the lane that said ‘All Cars.’ It wasn’t until it was too late that he realized he was in an EZ Pass lane, with no booth. Cameras shot pictures of our license plate, and we groaned. We parked over by the curb and Rob walked to the office, where he was given a number to call on Monday morning to pay the toll.

There was nothing we could do at the moment, so we drove on across the bridge, crossing from New Jersey back into Pennsylvania, where we ran into a ‘Sobriety Checkpoint.’ Knowing we were not drunk (although I am thinking a drink was probably sounding pretty good to Rob right about then,) we waited our turn in line, where we were instructed to have our license and registration ready. When our turn came, we were asked a quick ‘Have you been drinking tonight?‘ and then were directed into a parking lot, where we were informed we would be receiving a written warning for our cracked windshield.

This took them forever and all Rob and I wanted to do was go home. When we were finally released, written warning in hand, we were hoping like heck that we would not run into any more trouble along the way. We had had more than enough excitement for one day. We arrived home a little after 11pm.

Monday morning I called to pay the toll, just as we were told to do, and was informed there was absolutely nothing we could do. Everything was electronic, so we just have to wait for the citation to arrive in the mail, at which point we are allowed one forgiveness on an ‘accidents happen’ basis, and will only have to pay the toll amount. This seems like a lot of trouble for a $1 toll…

Needless to say, it was not the best trip we have ever had, but I suppose there are bound to be bad ones from time to time. I don’t think we have had a trip that bad since we went to Seattle back in 2006, and believe me, that trip was far worse. There were no doubts that we were going to put New York on our map. We may not have spent the night, but unless someone is going to drive us back in, we won’t be going back anytime soon.

As I mentioned earlier, we walked down to the 9/11 Memorial. They did a wonderful job of preserving the site, and it was absolutely beautiful. We would have liked to go into the museum, but it was a little out of our price range, so we just walked around the fountains.

I am glad we had the chance to go to New York, but it sure felt good to get ‘home!’

Meant to Be

One of Rob’s goals has been to get on with the National Park Service full-time. It is a small and competitive field, though, and can be very difficult to get into. He has worked the last two summers as a seasonal employee, with the hope of landing a permanent position. The great thing about the National Parks is that they are all over the country, so the possibilities are endless.

Rob has been applying for jobs this summer and has received a few referrals, but nothing beyond that. Until just recently…

He had applied for a position in North Dakota, and after his interview, was offered a permanent full-time job. This means a lot of things for us: benefits, no gap in the work year, retirement. We are extremely excited that Rob was able to get on with the NPS in such a short amount of time, considering how long it can take.

This does change our end-of-year plans a little bit. I found out today that I will still be able to work the beet harvest, only I have changed locations and will be working in Montana instead of North Dakota. The harvest takes place the first two to three weeks of October, depending on the weather. Also, we will not be heading down to Kansas for the peak season at Amazon. They have been a really good job for us for the last coupe of years, but a third season is not in the cards.

There is a probation period, so we will have to stay in the same park for a minimum of one-two years. From there, Rob will have the option of either staying in the same location, or transferring to another park. But you never know, it may end up being the place we call home

PS – I have a thing for dates, so here are some little side notes, just for fun: Rob received a call on his birthday to schedule an interview. On my birthday, he had his phone interview. Less than a week later he was offered the job and they asked him to start on October 5, which will be the 15th anniversary of our first date.

And since we are talking about dates, August 25, our official launch date, also happens to be the birthday of the National Park Service…

Perhaps some things are just meant to be…

Priceless Adventure

On this day, two years ago, we were down to our final hours in Great Falls. We had planned on hitting the road in the morning, but we were still waiting for something to arrive in the mail, so we waited. And while we did so, we went to the sporting goods store in search of some good walkie-talkies so Rob and I could communicate whilst driving. We picked out a great pair promising coverage for up to 30 miles. We quickly learned that that must have been a typo, and that what they really meant was 30 feet, but that is another story…

So, where was I? Ah yes, August 25, 2012. The day we were pointing Waldo’s nose away from Great Falls, with no intention of returning. The day we were driving away, literally, from what felt like the worst decision we had ever made. We were setting our restless spirits free.

August 25 just sounded like the perfect day to set out on such a journey. And so after months of planning and anticipation, we were finally ready to hit the road. I think it is safe to say that many people doubted what we were doing, they questioned our sanity. Quite honestly, I think many of them still do, and I cannot say that I blame them. After all, why on earth would a family of 5 move (voluntarily, I might add) into a motor home totaling about 240 square feet? That, my friends, is a very good question.

So here we are, celebrating two years of wandering aimlessly around this beautiful country of ours. As I look back over the last couple of years, I see a whole lot of things: new places, new states, new jobs, new friends. We have laughed and cried, been overwhelmed both with joy and frustration. We have doubted our own abilities and questioned our own sanity.

But what I do not see is regret. I do not regret taking this path. I do not regret taking chances. Or trying new things. The truth is that we were at a crossroads and a decision had to be made. I will be the first to admit that it has not all been peaches and cream, but I do not regret our choice. It is quite the opposite, really. I am extremely grateful for this priceless adventure called… life.

The Road Not Taken
By Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Rolling Right Along

Summer is rolling right along here in Pennsylvania. Somehow we are managing to stay out of trouble. (Shocking, I know.) I am not sure it is possible, but it appears as though summer is already halfway over. Many of our hot summer days have been spent down at the creek where the kids swim until they are prunes. There have been plenty of activities on the side to keep us busy as well.

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Last month we headed over to the Chester County Balloon Festival. It was a two day event, but the first day was windy and rainy so we opted to go on the second day. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day… for kite flying. They were not able to launch any of the balloons due to the wind, but there were so many people there for the show that they inflated a few at dusk so at least we could see them glow. It was a little disappointing, but there was nothing anyone could do. We will just have to find another festival to attend.

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The Fourth of July found us in Philadelphia. We figured it was the perfect place to celebrate the holiday since that is where the Declaration of Independence was signed. They put on an incredible parade that everyone enjoyed. We really wanted to see inside Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, but everyone else apparently had the same idea, so the lines were insane. We decided that since it is only a little over an hour away, we will plan another trip on a non-holiday.

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When we were on our way out to watch the fireworks, we happened upon a small town carnival. We gave the kids the choice between going to see the fireworks and staying at the carnival. Big surprise, I know, but they chose the carnival. For almost three hours they ran around together and rode every ride possible. It was small enough that Rob and I were able to walk around the circle and still keep an eye on the kids. We shared a funnel cake, played some skee ball, watched the kids get spun around every which way. We had a great time.

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In other news, we saw our very first flying squirrel! There are actually two of them (that we have seen anyway) and they visit our bird feeder every night. They are extremely fast and cute little critters. There appears to be another critter visiting us nightly as well, only he is not quite as nice to the poor feeder. I had been finding the feeder on the ground every morning so I hung it on a carabiner instead of a hook, and this morning the feeder was still hanging but the windows had both been knocked out. It is now hung back up with bands around the windows, so I am curious how it will look in the morning…

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And finally, the fireflies are back in full force. Step outside in the evening and there are hundreds of little sparks every direction you look. Being from the west, I do not think I had ever even seen fireflies until last spring, and they just amaze me. Such incredible little bugs…

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Hope everyone is having a wonderful summer!